Vol. 26 No. 1 (2020)

Published June 28, 2020


Editor's Notes


  • The Destructive Potential of the Imagination

    Two contrary concepts dominate our understanding about human imagination—this all-but-undefinable human faculty. While one tradition contrasts the creativity of the imagination, on the one hand, and the perception of reality, on the other—often suggesting that fact (reality) and fiction (imagination) are mutually exclusive—the counter-tradition defines imagination as integral to the creation/perception of reality, what Edith Cobb calls the “preconfigurative imagination.” Drawing on these theoretical-philosophical considerations, the essay takes an interdisciplinary approach to probe the inherently adverse nature and the destructive potential of the human imagination in action. With examples from literature, cultural history, politics, and diplomacy the analysis offers the case in point and demonstrates the ways destructive imagination, impervious to rational argument, may render our ability void; as Henry James put it in “The Art of Fiction,” “to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the piece by the pattern.” (ÉM)

  • The Female Gentleman and the Myth of Englishness in the Detective Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham

    Golden Age detective fiction by women offers insights into the competing gender ideologies of the 1930s and early 1940s. The female protagonist these novels delineate is called “the female gentleman” by Melissa Schaub, who describes her as the detective’s equal based on her intellectual abilities and independence. Although the female gentleman seems a revolutionary figure as she is forward-looking in gender politics, her strong belief in class hierarchy, her Victorian morals and relationship with the gentleman detective relocate her in the heritage of the English pastoral. This essay focuses on the female gentleman as a bridge figure whose marriage to the detective not only restores him to his masculinity but also portrays the woman embedded in the pastoral idyll of the English landscape. Her decision to accept traditional femininity reinforces the female gentleman’s role in the recreation of the stability and security of pre-war England. (RZs)

  • Telling the Untellable: Trauma and Sexuality in Big Little Lies

    The problem of sexual violence, including rape, domestic assault, sexual harassment, and molestation has recently become a topical issue both in public discourse and popular culture. The unspoken individual traumas have found their way to the world of TV series, such as HBO’s mini-series Big Little Lies. The essay explores the unique ways in which the television series treats sexuality and personal traumas. It argues that while by no means can it be regarded as a soap opera, Big Little Lies occasionally uses and rewrites the genre-specific codes of this traditionally low-prestige television genre intended for women to alter the representation of individual traumas in popular culture. The use of flashbacks and involuntary repetition as narrative elements along with the retrospective framework of a criminal investigation make the serial form much suited to examine individual traumas. The television series attempts the almost impossible: to speak of the trauma’s unspeakability, and simultaneously it seeks to maintain its high viewership. (ZsOR)

  • Eugene Havas and an Early Attempt at Personal Diplomacy to Normalize US-Hungarian Relations, 1960-1964

    After the fall of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence, communist Hungary had struggled to break out of diplomatic isolation. The government formed by Secretary General of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party János Kádár had not been recognized by the Western powers, including the United States of America. American- Hungarian bilateral relations, therefore, were rather strained, and before the restitution of Hungary’s full status in the United Nations Organization, the US minimized the communication between the two countries. To change this, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Service working under the aegis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs endeavored to engage expatriates—more or less famous or well-known professionals who still had some family connection to Hungary—as amateur gobetweens and semi-assets in order to find channels of communication with the American political elite and thus, via personal diplomacy, foster better relations between the two countries. The essay discusses the case of Eugene Havas (1899-1967), American economic expert and journalist of Hungarian decent. The representatives of the Kádár regime had great expectations towards him as an intermediary, this notwithstanding, as the essay will conclusively demonstrate the effect of Havas’s activities remained rather limited. (IP)

  • Introduction

    Introduction to the Special Section: Negotiating Aging and Ageism in English-Speaking Fiction and Theatre

  • “No country, this, for old men”: A View of the Aging Artist through Intertexts in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace

    J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) features two emblematic modernist representations of the aging artist, William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which have not been given enough critical attention. Focusing on the Romantic notions underlying David Lurie’s worldview, current critical discourse, with the notable exception of Mike Marais, suggests that Lurie’s career follows the patterns of the Bildungsroman. Taking its cue from Marais, the present intertextual reading discusses Lurie’s “anti-Bildungsroman” in the light of the novel’s non-Romantic intertexts. It argues that they highlight, on the one hand, Lurie’s chiastic thought-processes, which are likely to bracket any progress or development. On the other hand, they reveal his (self)-ageism and the entrenched ageism of the literary tradition he relies on. Those, in turn, also give a pessimistic prognosis of his discovering a protective discourse or worldview which would allow him—and post-apartheid South Africa—to “age gracefully.” Likewise, they manifest yet another aspect of the novel’s unreliable narration, which—unlike Lurie’s sexism and racism—is rooted in so universal fears that, instead of alienating readers from his perspective, it makes his bleak  vision of post-apartheid South Africa even more compelling. (AR)

  • “Life Is a Terminal Illness”: The War against Time and Aging in David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks

    David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (2014) centers on Holly Sykes, the main character whom the novel follows from her youth into old age, thus witnessing the major events of a lifetime through her. This recounting serves as the traditional plotline that is intertwined with a fantastic story of two warring organizations of quasiimmortals and a narrative of climate change that ultimately leads to “Endarkenment,” the environmental catastrophe that hits the globe in Holly’s lifetime. These three distinct stories converge on the novel’s protagonist, through whom the reader encounters questions about aging, time, and mortality. The war between two atemporal factions, the Horologists and the Anchorites in particular, sheds light on humankind’s aspirations for immortality and focuses on present society’s conceptualization of old age. The paper analyzes these three distinct but tightly connected issues for a complex view both on the aging process itself and on society’s reaction and relation to it, that is, ageism. Mitchell’s novel—fantastic and realistic at the same time—becomes an intricate statement about aging, one of the most pressing issues facing humankind. (NA)

  • Aging and Death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

    With focus on the tropes of aging and death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox (1960) and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963), the essay investigates the negotiation of the protagonists’ identity through specters of age and the means of encountering death, and it analyzes the representation of the dramas’ senior citizens with special regard to the ways in which these characters challenge mainstream cultural constructions of aging. On their deathbed, both Albee’s and Williams’s protagonists are reconnecting with their pasts in idiosyncratic ways: they build up a conscious “age autobiography” (Margaret Morgenroth Gulette) in an inventory of events and feelings assessing a complete(d) life and achieve an “agewise” (Gulette) identity that comes full circle in the very moment of grace. The characters who escort these two elderly women on their last journey reconceptualize the sense of intimacy between people. The dialogic potential of their empathy, care, and unconditional support during the end-game of the protagonists accommodates difference in various contexts by blurring the boundary between the old and the young as well as the one between men and women, because death has neither age nor gender. Thus, these intergenerational exchanges help elder characters’ agewise enterprises into the unknown gain a cathartic sense of freedom. (RMC)

  • Old Age and Aging: Presence and Absence in the Plays of Brian Friel

    Old age and aging may not seem an immediate priority in Brian Friel’s drama, yet several plays feature memorable characters of old, elderly, aging, or declining people, whose presence on stage is occasionally revealed through their absence. The growing cultural visibility of older people contrasts with their invisibility as useless members of society: they are physically present, yet invisible. In Friel’s dramaturgy, this arouses reflection on the role of old age absent from the mimetic space and relegated to the diegetic space offstage; absence as a theatrical device marks offstage characters as potential catalysts for action. If in some plays elderly characters remain in the background, in others they become pivotal to dramatic construction, ranging from dominant figures like Columba in The Enemy Within (1962), to tyrannical ones such as Manus in The Gentle Island (1971) and Father in Aristocrats (1979), to social outcasts in The Loves of Cass McGuire (1967) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990). This essay considers the variety of ways in which Friel introduces or openly deals with the issues of aging and of old age through stagecraft and varied dramatic choices as well as the manipulation of mimetic and diegetic space in terms of presence and absence in particular. (GT)

  • “No Country for Old Men”: A Poignant Portrayal of Aging and Ageism in Arthur Miller’s Mr. Peters’ Connections

    Mr. Peters’ Connections (1998) is often viewed as Arthur Miller’s most experimental late play. Yet, despite its uniqueness and evident dramatic value, scholarly
    commentary usually focuses on its likeness with Pinter and Beckett plays and sometimes on how it is an apt product of an “octogenarian” mind. Although the
    play is also an apropos depiction of the dilemma of aging in ageist America, no scholarly work has analyzed it through the lens of critical gerontology or age studies. Drawing on gerontological studies and research, the essay sheds light on the meaninglessness and disillusionment suffered by elderly adults every day of their lives—the struggles whose apt embodiment we find in Mr. Harry Peters, the central character of Miller’s play. (AS)


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