Vol. 23 No. 2 (2017)

Published December 31, 2017

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Editor's Notes

Articles

  • In Memoriam: Sam Shepard
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    59

    In Memoriam: Sam Shepard

  • Ali Smith’s How to be Both and the Nachleben of Aby Warburg: “Neither here nor there”
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    106

    This paper offers a reading of Ali Smith’s 2014 novel, How to Be Both, in the context of Aby Warburg’s iconological interpretation of the frescoes by Francesco del Cossa in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Having reconstructed the story behind the creation, attribution, and reading of the frescoes, the paper argues for recognizing them as a major source of inspiration for Smith’s narrative. Furthermore, the principle of “bothness” is recognized as the novel’s foremost concern; both formal—pertaining to paratextual, graphic, and typeset solutions employed by the narrative—and thematic. With the help of Warburg’s concept of Nachleben and his proposition of traveling forms and images, How to Be Both is ultimately identified as a novel vitally indebted to Warburg’s theoretical and interpretative model. Last but not least, it testifies to the “after-life” of Warburg’s ideas. (RK, WSZ)

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  • “The Third Image”: Ekphrasis and Memory in Charles Simic’s Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell
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    59

    In his collection of prose-poems, Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, Charles Simic evokes the American artist’s aesthetic practice as a form of meditation on the heterosemiotic nature of the artistic imagination. Cornell’s art, often described as “visual poetry,” becomes for Simic a pretext for exploring the multimodal and interconnected spaces of the verbal and the visual. Simic describes his creative rereading of Cornell’s work as “the third image” in which art historical discourse and ekphrasis are reinvented and transformed into a new poetic rhythm. The poet’s engagement with Cornell is also of an intensely personal character: the encounter with the artist’s work enables Simic to revisit his own past, that is, that of a lonely Manhattan flaneur whose imagination is haunted by traumatic childhood memories from war-torn Serbia. With the aid of Jacques Lacan’s concepts of the gaze and the screen, the article examines the ways in which Simic’s texts and visual intertexts probe generic boundaries and discursive identifications, showcasing the significance, function, and creative value of cross-influence between heterogeneous discourses and media. As shown, Simic’s concept of “the third image,” which finds its inspiration in the tension between containment and freedom in Cornell’s shadow boxes, offers readers a rich and personal insight into the complex interplay between discursivity, visuality, figurality, as well as personal and collective memory. (PA)

  • The Art of Erasure: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Olympias
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    219

    This essay discusses the visual shift of race and gender representation in a selection of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings. The Brooklyn graffiti artist, who was known for elevating the street energy of vernacular inscriptions into high art, reinterpreted Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) in Three-Quarters of Olympia Minus the Servant (1982) by erasing racial difference and challenging gender stereotypes in a work devoid of gender markers. In Untitled (Maid from Olympia) (1982), another version of the modernist painting, Basquiat places the figure of the black servant, formerly a colonized subject, in the center of the work; as a result, the servant “talks back” in a visual narrative functioning as a critique of colonization. Both paintings thus recast and reinterpret Manet’s Olympia and her world in a contemporary signification of race and gender by emphasis, or lack thereof, of such markers. (RMC)

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  • “Another spirit, other thoughts, another colouring”: Performances of Race in Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World
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    The Czech composer Antonín Dvořák wrote his Symphony No. 9 in E minor (From the New World) in 1893 while he served as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. In the work, he intended to portray the US and establish its musical vernacular. Dvořák believed that a truly American school of classical composition must evoke the character of its indigenous and folk music which he identified with Native American and African American styles. Through a musicological analysis, the essay offers cultural criticism of how the symphony represents these musical traditions and, in turn, the indigenous and black peoples who produced them. I argue that the symphony alludes to Native and black Americans in inaccurate and, at times, objectionable terms, but does so through a musical aesthetic that warrants a more nuanced conclusion about the racial content of the composition. (NS-Y)

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  • Action Hero vs. Tragic Hero: First Blood, Cultural Criticism, and Schelling’s Theory of Tragedy
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    The paper explores the possibility of analyzing Ted Kotcheff’s 1985 film, First Blood, the first piece of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series, from the perspective of dramatic structure as conceived in Schelling’s concept of tragedy and Schiller’s notion of the sublime. Perplexing as this critical context may appear at first, the paper argues for a reassessment of the movie’s aesthetic qualities as its protagonist is placed between Hollywood’s male-gendered stock figure of the action hero and the more complex character of the tragic hero, familiar from classical drama. Taking account of Rambo’s reception in recent cultural studies discourse regarding gender criticism and American post-Vietnam War cinema, the essay attempts to show the correlation between some of the aesthetic tenets of German idealism and the consequences of a close-reading approach to this popular classic. (BS)

  • Migrants and Disaster Subcultures in the Late Anthropocene: An Ecocritical Reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels
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    340

    Affected by a shocking concatenation of ecological, economic, and political disasters, black, white, and multiracial characters in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) seek to cope with apparently insurmountable difficulties. These Afrofuturist Parable novels render a disintegrating US society in the 2020s-2090s, which is torn by internal and external chaos: it shows visible signs of pandemonium involving the crisis of individual, communal, and ecological survival. This ecocritical reading seeks to explore how Butler’s novels make up the fictional tapestry of an evolving human risk narrative whose anthropogenic effects on the planet might threaten an “ecological holocaust” (Charles Brown) unless fundamental green changes spur radically alternative modes of thinking and living. Throughout this paper, I am interested in how Butler’s texts address and construct the interaction of the human and the non-human world to create a storyworld in which distinct characters operate not only according to the logic of the narrative in their local places and (semi)private/communal spaces, but also as distinct configurations of the Anthropocene, that is, as agents of a larger story of humans. (EF)

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  • The Image of Immigrants as Anarchists in the American Press, 1886-1888
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    The article analyzes the American press coverage of anarchism and anarchists between 1886 and 1888. The bomb explosion during the May 4, 1886, mass protest in Chicago started a wave of “anarchism scare” that swept through the United States. Anarchism and anarchists became one of the major public topics of the period. Relying on theoretical concepts such as libertarian press theory and René Girard’s idea of the scapegoat, and applying the method of critical discourse analysis, I explore how local and metropolitan US newspapers framed anarchism as a foreign ideology professed only by immigrants, making them the collective scapegoat for the social upheaval. The press set the standard of “appropriate behavior,” according to which all patriotic and loyal citizens were to accept the political and economic system and those who thought otherwise were branded anarchists and foreigners. Therefore, the American press proved to be an important pillar of the sociopolitical system. (KW)

Book reviews