Vol 25, No 2 (2019)

Published December 31, 2019


Editor's Notes


A Train to Castle Von Aux: Patrick deWitt’s Fiction and the Transnational Paradigm

While deWitt’s writing enjoys commercial and critical success, it has inspired very little academic scrutiny. This is perhaps due to deWitt’s avoidance of Canadian settings and themes in favor of motifs from American popular culture or European folktales. Just as The Sisters Brothers (2011) relied on deWitt’s ironic use of the Western formula, so Undermajordomo Minor (2015) constitutes a playful attempt at rejuvenating several tired genres. In the story of young Lucy Minor’s acquisition of a dubious post at the eerie Castle Von Aux there are unmistakable elements of the Gothic romance, the fable, and the Bildungsroman, all spiced up with a quirky cinematic aesthetic. Equally strong are the echoes of Walser’s Jakob von Gunten, Kafka’s The Castle, and Bernhard’s Gargoyles, themselves richly interconnected. Through these diverse allusions and a curious blurring of geographical and historical boundaries, deWitt creates transgeneric fiction, which may be understood as transnational in the sense assumed by Kit Dobson or Peter Morgan.

Levels of Discomfort: Paul Beatty’s The Sellout as the First American Novel to Win the Man Booker Prize

The essay explores the context in which the first American novel won the British Booker Prize. Paul Beatty’s novel was hailed as a comic masterpiece. The essay discusses how comedy works in this novel, how the book fits the profile of the Man Booker Prize, and how the work reads against the tradition of the English comic novel. The Sellout (2015) shows elements of standup comedy, delivered in a deadpan voice, yet referencing the latest social and intellectual theories. The topic is the silent erasure of a predominantly black community in the greater Los Angeles area, and its politically incorrect resuscitation. The novel creates an eerie feeling of being set in a vast emptiness, yet indicates a recognizable location in the congested Los Angeles area, moving between desperate satire and magic realism, with an intellectual freedom created by the level acceptance and unflinching description of the cognitive dissonances of the world depicted.

Theater within the Graphic Novel about Theater: Neil Gaiman’s Concept of the Artist in His “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

In his own version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Neil Gaiman exploits the possibilities in doubling: he presents the Shakespearean comedy as a play within the artistic space of his graphic novel and Such a reading reveals that what is a tool in Shakespeare’s play to visualize that art is capable of mirroring reality becomes a means to express the interchangeability of the realistic and the fantastic realms. Gaiman’s strategy of doubling thus suggests an understanding of life that surpasses the narrow interpretation of historical facts, and thereby it may offer a viable alternative to what we experience as reality.

The Memory of Land in Cherríe Moraga’s Heroes and Saints

Chicana playwright Cherríe Moraga attributes healing power to memory, which has an important geographical dimension in her play Heroes and Saints (1994). The play dramatizes the suffering of a community of Mexican Americans in California, whose women and children are affected by toxic poisoning as a consequence of agriculture’s overt reliance on pesticides. Whereas critical discussions have dealt extensively with the representation of the body in the play, this study argues for the recognition that the land and the particular places the individual characters inhabit have a decisive impact on the formation of the body. The memory of the land—the Mexican homeland of the immigrant people and the lands of a transnational Latino imagination—is a transformative force in the play, which impels the community to recognize the need to stand up for their rights.

Re-Running the Rising: Centenary Stagings

Drawing on his experience as an Irish Times Theatre Awards judge through 2016, the author analyzes a range of shows relating to the Easter Rising produced in Irish theatre in that centenary year. The aim is to show their variety of styles, realistic and experimental, but also the political viewpoints, whether belonging to a traditional nationalist historiography or its revisionist alternative. Some of the plays maintained the conservative representational dramaturgy so characteristic of much Irish drama, but more worked with dance, song, and video in theatrical mixed modes, including a radically innovative production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre. Site-specific shows sought to immerse audiences in the original experiences of the Rising, while the most formally experimental plays avoided direct representation altogether. The political positions were as varied as the theatrical styles from conventional nationalist hagiography to those which questioned the value and meaning of the Rising.

Irish Native Autobiography: Tomás O’Crohan’s The Islandman

The paper addresses Tomás O’Crohan’s The Islandman (1929) as a representative of Irish native autobiography. The genre, it is argued, best defines the specificity of O’Crohan’s work, since it well delineates the complexity of its creation process involving an author, an editor, and a translator. Furthermore, the reading of The Islandman as Irish native autobiography sheds a new light on the text as capturing Walter Benjamin’s media shift from oral to written tradition observable at the beginning of the twentieth century. Tomás O’Crohan manages to converge the art of storytelling with a new genre of autobiography thanks to many foreign influences, especially Maxim Gorky’s life-narratives. Consequently, The Islandman, contrary to the traditional understanding of the work as purely Irish, thus free of any outside leverage, emerges as a cosmopolitan text which, similarly to other European literary works of the time, successfully adapts the oral heritage to a new form of autobiography.  

Memorials of the Irish West: John McHugh, Paul Durcan, and Harry Clifton

The article examines John McHugh’s sculpture (1950s Boat, 2009), Paul Durcan’s poem which it inspired “1950’s Boat (after John McHugh)” (2009)—both focusing on the Achill island—and another poem referring to the Blaskets, Harry Clifton’s “The Year of the Yellow Meal” (2012), trying to answer the question in what respect they stay close to realism and in what they approach experimentation. McHugh’s sculpture takes on an experimental form made of fragments of real stories, Durcan’s poem begins with this experimental sculpture and drifts towards realistic details but triggers experimental speculations, while Clifton’s poem mediates the Blasket biography through a style akin to magical realism in prose. All three palimpsestic works investigate issues of parochialism and marginalization faced with migration and cosmopolitanism, touch on the ethics (or rather, the lack) of gender policy and globalization, and by doing so, enquire about the Irish West’s disappearing culture.

Experiments with Realism in Irish Language Short Stories by Daithí Ó Muirí

Relying on Joseph McMinn’s statement that the connection between realist and non-realist fiction is not a hierarchical relationship, this essay maintains that realism in Irish language fiction is, and has always been, an energizing force for experimentation. This is nowhere more evident than in the work of writer Daithí Ó Muirí (1954-), a native English speaker now residing in an Irish speaking area in Ireland. Much of Ó Muirí’s work is experimental due to his use of allegory and fantasy, yet many of the stories remain rooted in the realities of the world, particularly in his representations of masculinities and in works concerning the impact of war, violence, and displacement on men’s lives. The essay examines Ó Muirí’s first three collections, Seacht Lá na Díleann (1998), Cogaí (2002), and Uaigheanna agus Scéalta Eile (2002), in which he explores subjects that are classically realistic: war, death, religion, and relationships between men and women. The essay explores how Ó Muirí’s work often combines realism and magic realism, and shows that Ó Muirí’s fiction provides a fresh if somewhat bleak narrative of 21st century realism in Irish language prose fiction.

Half-Formed Modernism: Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

This paper positions Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) at the vanguard of a resurgent modernism in the 21st-century Irish novel, in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crash. It asserts the value of experimental literature to a country which has awoken from a dream of late capitalist prosperity into a sobering confrontation with late capitalist crisis.
McBride’s novel reproduces certain generic characteristics of the historical realism which was the dominant literary mode of Celtic Tiger Ireland. However, it also innovates: McBride’s new, fragmentary adaptation of Joycean stream-of-consciousness navigates its familiar themes through the internal states of its traumatized protagonist.

Doubling Dublin: Mimetic and Anti-Mimetic Use of Urban Space in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds

The article examines the use of references to the topography of Dublin in mimetic and anti-mimetic sections of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). It studies the three different layers of fiction that have been defined on the basis of their ontological status within the narrative. The article argues that references to actual Dublin locations serve as a means of building and then breaking the mimetic framework of the seemingly realistic descriptions that belong to the first two layers (“reality” and “fiction” within the novel). The strikingly anti-mimetic Western novel sections (“fiction within fiction”), which lack any credibility in their depiction of Dublin, can be seen as a radical rewriting of the urban space that does in fact have the actual city’s character at its core. O’Brien thus unsettles the conventions (and the readers’ expectations) and explores the possibilities of representing elements of the real world in fiction.


Book reviews

Alternative Readings of J. M. Synge’s Drama Predicated on Archival Material

Book review:

Collins, Christopher. Theatre and Residual Culture: J. M. Synge and Pre-Christian Ireland. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 301 pages. Hb. ISBN 978-1-349-94871-0. €106.99.

Reading in the Dark, Sleeping with the Lights On: Uses and Abuses of Horror in Children’s Literature

Book review:

McCort, Jessica R., ed. Reading in the Dark. Horror in Children’s Literature and Culture. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2016. pp. 256. ISBN 978-1496806444. Hb. $56.99.

The Curious Case of the British Avant-Garde

Book review:

Mitchell, Kaye, and Nonia Williams, eds. British Avant-Garde Fiction of the 1960s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019. 272 pages. ISBN 978147443619 9. Hb. £80.00.

Our Affairs from England

Book review:

Kiséry, András. Hamlet’s Moment. Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 340 pages. ISBN 9780198746201. Hb. £66.

Affect for Mothers and Others

Book review:

Lane, Julia and Eleonora Joensuu, eds.  Everyday World-Making: Toward an Understanding of Affect and Mothering. Bradford, ON: Demeter P, 2018. 340 pages. ISBN 978-1-77258-140-9. Pbk. $34.95.

They Dare Disturb the Universe

Book review:

Kauffman, L. A.  Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism. London: Verso, 2017. 236 pages. ISBN 978-1-78478-409-6. Pbk. $12.

The "Burden” Or What It Means to Be Black in America Today

Book review:

Riley, Rochelle, ed. The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2018. 178 pages. ISBN 978-0-8143-4514-6. Hb. Npr.

Dissolving Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Book review:

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Interspecies Dialogues in Postmillenial Filmic Fantasies, special issue of AMERICANA E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary. 13.2 (2017)

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Posthumanism in Fantastic Fiction. AMERICANA eBooks, 2018. 237 pages. ISBN 978-615-5423-46-8. EPUB. Open Access.

A Heart’s Pledge in Metaerotopoetics

Book review:

Gray, Erik. The Art of Love Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 210 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-875297-4. Hb. £50.00.

What Makes the Olfactif of Victorian Literature?

Book review:

Maxwell, Catherine. Scents and Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2017. xviii + 361 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-870175-0. Hb. £30.00.

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