Vol 24, No 2 (2018)

Published December 31, 2018


Editor's Notes


Stephen Daldry’s The Reader in Chekhov’s Mirror

This essay is devoted to a discussion of Stephen Daldry and David Hare’s film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s critically acclaimed but controversial Holocaust novel, The Reader (1995; 2008), through one of the film’s many intertexts—Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” (1899). The scenes related to this short story are crucial to the understanding of Daldry and Hare’s filmic reinterpretation of Schlink’s novel, since they form the mise en abyme of Hanna and Michael’s ambiguous story and stalled self-reflection. The parallels and contrasts of Chekhov’s and the filmmakers’ narratives call viewers’ attention to the ambivalences inherent in the main characters’ representation. Inspired by a passing reference to Chekhov in Schlink’s novel, the scenes alluding to “The Lady with the Little Dog” provide a metanarrative in The Reader, and, as such, reflect the adaptors’ heightened sensitivity to the ambivalences and complexities of reflecting the trauma of the Holocaust—not only for “the second generation” of Germans after World War II.  (AR)

The Doctor’s Anatomy: The Androgynous Performance of Gender and (Neo-)Victorian Sexual Politics in Patricia Duncker’s James Miranda Barry

Patricia Duncker’s 1999 neo-Victorian novel is a fictional biography of the legendary Victorian military surgeon, James Miranda Barry, rumored to be a hermaphrodite. Duncker’s postmodern feminist fiction recreates the medical discourse, as well as the body and sexual politics of the Victorian era by writing these nineteenth-century somatic ideologies onto the ambiguously gendered body of Barry. Interrogating the poetic and political strategies of creating medicine as a masculinized profession from a cultural studies point of view, the essay argues that Duncker’s novel can be contextualized within a recent tendency in contemporary British fiction that could be hypothesized as medico-historical metafiction, indirectly addressing twenty-first-century biopolitical questions about the cultural inscription of gender roles and bodily normality by (re)telling a Victorian narrative. These questions are examined from three aspects: the neo-Victorian historical novel as a feminist genre, the androgyne as a late-Victorian subtype of the grotesque freak, and nineteenth-century female identities as the reservoir of disempowering pseudo-choices.  (EU)

The Cultural and Intersectional Politics of Nomadism in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Zadie Smith’s most recent novel, Swing Time (2016) continues her exploration of individual identity in relation to the broader social context by telling the story of an unnamed narrator and her childhood friend, Tracey, members of the second-generation British-Jamaican diaspora in London, whose cultural and racial hybridity positions them against hegemonic discourses in contemporary British society. The text vividly portrays the consequences of their deviance, particularly how the specific intersections of race, gender, and class they embody limit either their cultural or socio-economic agency, and impair their capacity to construct a sustainable identity. Since the desire to transcend bodily determination in performative ways is as crucial a dimension of the characters’ life journey as is the experience of the effects of socio-economic stratification arising out of intersectional difference, this essay explores the complex relationship between intersectional difference and agency in Swing Time through the double theoretical lens of Rosi Braidotti’s nomadic performative model of identity and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, arguing that Smith’s novel does not simply bear out Braidotti’s theory but rather interrogates it, especially its insufficient attention to the diverse and disempowering effects resulting from certain intersections of what Braidotti calls “variables” or “axes of differentiation.”  (MK)

Reproduction and the Female Body in Anne Sexton’s Poetry

The essay focuses on two representative examples of Anne Sexton’s poems about reproduction, “In Celebration of My Uterus” and “The Abortion.” Contrary to most previous analyses which have foregrounded Sexton’s concern with personal identity, the paper claims that Sexton positions personal experience in the wider framework of cultural and social discourses. “In Celebration of My Uterus” explores the experience of the vitality of the speaker’s reproductive organ in the context of kinship with women in other geopolitical locations, also addressing how childbearing is implicated in processes of national economic production. “The Abortion” situates the termination of a pregnancy in the context of the Pennsylvanian landscape, raising questions regarding the embeddedness of the natural landscape in processes of human economic production, as well as the financial implications of the termination of a pregnancy. While questions of self-identity, personal boundaries, and physical experiences are undoubtedly central to “The Abortion” and “In Celebration of My Uterus,” they also attest to Sexton’s concern with the experience of the individual in their wider social context.  (BK)

Nature (as) Language in the Poetry of Seán Lysaght

The article focuses on a selection of poems by the Irish poet Seán Lysaght to demonstrate that in his work, Lysaght looks to explore nature’s intricate design, its pre-human and pre-linguistic layers of significance through investigations of birds, arguing that rather than offering culturally or politically inflected images of wildlife and landscape, as Irish poets from W. B. Yeats through Patrick Kavanagh all the way to Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley have been wont to do, Lysaght sets the vast natural world, which eludes apprehension in language, against the modern world and its obsession with material productivity and pragmatic efficiency. This aspect of Lysaght’s poetry is discussed against the background of Heaney, Yeats, and William Wordsworth, who are shown to share some insights with Lysaght, but from whose influence he strives to steer away.  (WP)

Drink and Alcohol Literature: Two Critical Perspectives

The essay discusses two contrasting critical perspectives on the intersection between drink/alcohol and literature, claiming that criticism concerning the literature of the British Isles (English, Scottish, and Irish authors’ work) is generally text-oriented, that is, targets literature per se and the way writers thematize drink, while criticism concentrating on the American literary scene focuses on the alcohol-dependence of writers, and/or the way their alcohol-dependence affects their work, or the way alcoholism is portrayed in literary works. Whereas the criticism on authors in the British Isles emphasizes conviviality as a key trait of the way drink/drinking is represented in literature, studies on American authors often highlight drinking alcohol as a pathology, a physical, mental, and social malfunction. Thus, the former can be labeled drink/drinking literature, and the latter can be framed as what Marcus Grants has dubbed “alcoholism literature.”  (WK)


Introduction to the thematic section "On the Sublime."

The Rhetoric of Sublime Astonishment in the Burkean and Blakean Readings of Milton

Although the Lockean clear and distinct ideas greatly influenced Burke in his writing on the sublime, Milton’s impact is emphatically displayed in the dark and obscure rhetoric of the work. Despite the fact that Burke’s text abounds in classical quotations, it is Milton’s “strong expressions” that overpower the argument. William Blake also borrows a lot from Milton, but he radically rejects Burke’s ideas. Through the revelatory power of his visionary sublime, Blake overtly criticizes Locke’s shallow empiricism and Burke’s obscure rhetoric, arguing against a simple disparity of light/clarity versus darkness/obscurity. This essay explores the Burkean and the Blakean readings of the Miltonic sublime side by side, analyzing the Miltonic quotations in Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry parallel with the verbal and visual references in Blake’s Milton, and highlighting the differences in their views.  (ÉA)

Sage, Hero, Ironist: Sublimity and Irony in Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Lectures on Heroes

The paper focuses on the complex interplay between sublimity and irony, explored through a parallel reading of Sartor Resartus and On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History by the Victorian philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle. The essay shows how a common philosophical framework, firmly based on a sublime principle, is affected by the style and structure of the analyzed works: it finds total affirmation in one case (On Heroes), while it undergoes ironic subversion in the other (Sartor Resartus). Carlyle’s transcendental ideal is dramatically at odds with what he identifies as the delusions of language and history, therefore, it requires an unusual agency and extraordinary cognitive powers defined as “heroic” to transform the common individual and ordinary collective being. The “hero” in Sartor Resartus, however, is radically different from those in the lectures On Heroes: the value of his sublime experience is repeatedly questioned through the intervention of an editorial persona and the fragmentation of the text.  (NN)

Nature, the Picturesque and the Sublime in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Travel Narratives

The article explores Mary Shelley’s approach to the sublime and the picturesque in her two travel narratives, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour and Rambles in Germany and Italy. These two accounts of her travels through France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany reveal her debt to a variety of contemporary sources aimed at exploring the nature of a sublime or picturesque experience. The analysis illustrates the complexity of Mary Shelley’s approach: while moving beyond the “egotistical sublime” typified by some key passages from William Wordsworth’s Prelude, her travel narratives reveal a variety of approaches to nature and the landscape, aimed at bridging present and past, personal experience and recent historical events.  Thus, while in History, the experience of the landscape offers a way out of the suffering caused by the Napoleonic Wars, in Rambles, Mary Shelley turns to poetry and painting, this way transforming the eighteenth-century aesthetic appreciation of landscape based on the pictorial categories of the sublime and the beautiful, and embracing a modern, cultivated sensibility nourished by guidebooks and art history manuals.  (AB)



Book reviews

“Literature on the Edge”: Austro-Modernism of the Long War

Book review:

Perloff, Marjorie. Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016. 204 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-05442-1. Hb. $23.98.

From Advocacy to Coercion: Public Opinion and Propaganda in the United States from the 1880s to the 1930s

Book review:

Auerbach, Jonathan. Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism, and American Public Opinion. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2015. xii + 220 pages. ISBN 978-1-4214-1736-3. Hb. $49.95.

Afroeuropean Studies in Perspective

Book review:

Beezmohun, Sharmilla, ed. Continental Shifts, Shifts in Perception: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. 190 pages. ISBN 9781443888240. Hb. £41.99.

Creating Nations

Book review:

Mann, Jatinder. The Search for a New National Identity: The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s-1970s. Interdisciplinary Studies in Diasporas 2. New York: Peter Lang, 2016. 339 pages. ISBN 9781433133695. Hb. $88.24.

The Figure in the Carpet

Book review:

Győri, Zsolt, and Gabriella Moise, eds. Travelling around Cultures: Collected Essays on Literature and Art. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2016. xii + 279 pages. ISBN 978-1-4438-0996-2. Hb. £52.99.

An Encore of the Greatest Show on Earth: Victorian Marvels and Monsters Revamped for the Postmillennial Times

Book review:

Davies, Helen. Neo-Victorian Freakery: The Cultural Afterlife of the Victorian Freak Show. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 239 pages. ISBN 978-1-137-40255-4. Hb. $90.

“Redemptive Reification”

Book review:

Brown, Bill. Other Things. Chicago: Chicago UP, 2015. xiv + 396 pages. ISBN 9780026076652. Hb. $40.00

Geographies of Women

Book review:

Beebe, Kathryne, and Angela Davis, eds. Space, Place and Gendered Identities: Feminist History and the Spatial Turn. London: Routledge, 2015. x + 158 pages. ISBN 978-1-138-83049-3. Hb. £110.

Switching Worlds, Facing Reality in the Landscapes of Imagination

Book review:

Limpár, Ildikó, ed. Displacing the Anxieties of Our World: Spaces of Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2017. 229 pages. ISBN 9781443817028. Hb. £52.99

Celestial Democracies

Book review:

Tamás, Nyirkos. The Tyranny of the Majority. New York: Routledge, 2018. vi + 154 pages. ISBN 978-1-351-21142-0. E-book. $56.20

Wonder vs. Sublime in Romantic and Postmodern Literature

Book review:

Economides, Louise. The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. vii + 214 pages. ISBN 978-1-137-47750-7. E-book. $84.99.


Review essay

Modernism between History and Academia

Books reviewed:

Bahun, Sanja. Modernism and Melancholia: Writing as Countermourning. Oxford: OUP, 2014. 236 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-997795-6. Hb. $45.00.

Goldstone, Andrew. Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man. Oxford: OUP, 2013. 204 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-986112-5. Hb. $73.00.


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