Vol 26, No 2 (2020)

Published December 31, 2020


Editor's Notes


Rewriting History: Narrative Resistance and Poetic Justice in Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter

Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter (2018) explores how the stories of exploited people have been written out of history. The play includes several storytellers, and it both replicates and deviates from the details of numerous existing narratives, including McDonagh’s own plays. Set in 1857, the play imagines that Hans C...hristian Andersen’s fairy tales were written by a pygmy woman from the Belgian Congo who has traveled back in time; Hans calls her Marjory and keeps her in a box in his attic. Eventually Marjory writes herself out of the box and departs for Africa to prevent the colonization of her people. Dark Matter compels us to question the narratives about the past that have become embedded in our culture and to uncover the facts that official accounts have altered or suppressed; rewriting history is acceptable only in imaginative storytelling, as an act of poetic justice. (JL)

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Black Flânerie, Non-White Soundscapes, and the Fantastic in Teju Cole’s Open City

This essay develops an alternative notion of Black flânerie, one that foregrounds the flâneur’s auditory experiences and practices in the city, explaining how sound patterns work as indexes of historical traumas such as slavery, colonialism, and indigenous dispossession. More specifically, it investigates how sound and space are connected a...nd what these connections may reveal about acoustical and historical conditions of urban sites. Analyses advance readings of spaces as shadowed by sonic traces, echoes, afterlives, and memories, which point to the sedimentation of sound in geographic as well as psychic structures and ruptures and hence show how different soundscapes suggest different forms of relationality: alienation, rupture, intersection, connection, and transformation. Finally, it demonstrates how sound imagery—including music, dialects, noise, voices, and silence—functions to signal fantastic spaces and places, fantastic or speculative linkages in particular, and produces a version of the non-White fantastic. (DKM)

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Squirrels, Timber, and the ‘Ecological Self’ in Faulkner’s The Bear

Reading William Faulkner’s “The Bear” with a literary ecologist perspective could shift readers from abstraction to ethical responsibility. Deep ecology, ecopsychology, and constructionist views of human development align with ethical criticism and ecocriticism to establish the basis for what Freya Mathews refers to as the “Ecological S...elf.” Mathews joins others in noting that human development must become ecologically self-aware—a state engendering emotional, ethical responses, confirming wholeness and sustainability rather than mere intellectual, theoretical acknowledgment, or worse, pathological denial. Literary ecology joins textual analysis and meta-textual information to affirm the story’s implied stewardship, despite Faulkner’s sometimes unclear, tragic view of his landscape. An optimistic ecocritical reading affirms, or surpasses, various critical approaches often used with the story—in particular, the paradise myth. Reading ecocritically affirms individual health and sustainability with human culture and nonhuman nature. (KH)

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The Finest and the Most Dangerous: Kay Redfield Jamison and Robert Lowell

Kay Redfield Jamison has spent her career as a clinical psychologist studying and writing about those afflicted with manic depression, especially artists and writers. She has been especially attentive to poets and now has completed Setting the River on Fire, her extensive study of Robert Lowell, in whose life and poetry madness went ha...nd in hand with creativity, invention and artistic genius. The result is a fascinating text at the crossroads of clinical writing, biography and literary criticism, illuminating both Lowell’s poetry and his life-long struggle with mental disorder. The most important question of the book is this: does manic depression help or hinder writing poetry? His illness was no doubt one of the most important subject matters in Lowell’s life work. The parallel demonstrated between Lowell and other “mad” poets extends the subject matter of this book so that it becomes not only Lowell’s illness, but also the relationship between mental disorder and writing poetry in general. Mania, like all mental disorders, is a synecdoche of the human psyche in general; its representation in poetry raises the problem of the mask as well as that of confession. A confessional poem, in Lowell’s view, is a text which contains (“confesses”) the subject’s psyche in its complexity and ambiguity. Mania is both a part of this psyche and a target of confession. As his poetry testifies, paradoxically, Lowell managed to be confessional while wearing the mask of the other. His illness partly explains why his life work is particularly open to readings that view it as an organic whole.

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Orson Scott Card’s Speculative Fictions: Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy

A prolific author, Orson Scott Card has written works that encompass a range of genres including a large body of commentary, Mormon drama, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and often melds elements of one into another. In particular, as John Clute notes, “a ‘feel’ of fantasy pervades much of his s[cience] f[iction] work.” In fiction...s such as Enders Game, Treason, and Wyrms, and stories like “The Originist,” his tribute to Asimov’s Second Foundation, he employs traditional elements of fantasy: its language in references to wizards, dragons, magic, and such characters as dwelfs, a portmanteau of “elf” and “dwarf”; the episodic quest narrative of escalating perils undertaken by the protagonist, who moves from isolation to community; and the conventional, often medieval, fantasyscape of fabulous forests, rivers, and mountains. Through such a strategy Card establishes a heightened significance to human experiences that both genres address, and opens another portal to the sense of wonder that informs each. (WAS)

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Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Home Planet: The “Other” in Robert Heinlein’s Juvenile Science Fiction

This essay examines Heinlein's Young Adult (YA) stories—commonly referred to as his “juveniles”—and argues that Heinlein's "Others" are not defined by race, gender, or planet of origin but by their inability to understand and deal with the changes that inter-planetary travel will bring. (CWS)

Imagined Homeland: Inummariit as the Basis for the Concept of Inuit Nationhood

The Arctic is home to many distant and distinct Inuit communities and dialects. The strength of the Inuit originates in their being tethered to the same ancient narrative harkening back to common ancestral traditions, songs, and stories that characterize the Inummariit, the “real Inuk.” The wisdom of these traditions called qua...jimajatuqangit, or Inuit knowledge, is the key to creating nationhood among the Inuit via unikkausivut, sharing stories. This paper examines how affirming shared roots, common goals, and speaking with a united voice—the credo of the Circumpolar Council, the prime Inuit organization in the North—has helped establish an Inuit national identity for all Inuit living in several different regions and countries across the Arctic. In Canada, the creation of the semi-sovereign territory of Nunavut and the acknowledgement of the Inuit Nunangat, or homeland, have further aided the Inuit in redefining themselves. (RN)

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There and Back: An Interview with Tom Hubbard

In this interview, conducted during the fourteenth ESSE Conference at Brno in the Czech Republic, Scottish academic and writer Tom Hubbard speaks about his recent work of poetry and fiction, such as The Flechitorium (2017) and Slavonic Dances (2017). He also discusses the stimulating forces behind and the stumbling blocks on t...he long road towards Scottish independence. He fears and is anxious about the consequences of Brexit on the multifaceted exchange in the arts and literature that Scots have been keen to maintain with other nations throughout the centuries. At the center of his discussion lies his view of Scotland’s place in a nexus of international exchange that would be, ideally, based on mutual and informed interest in each other’s cultural achievement—in literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. (AD)

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Introduction to the Special Thematic Block: Human Boundaries / Boundaries of the Human

Chimeric Visions: Posthuman Somaesthetics and Interspecies Communication in Contemporary Humanimal Body Art Performances

Body art performances experiment in provocative, transgressive ways with the human body that becomes, simultaneously, an instrument, a medium, an agent, and an end product of artistic creation. They invite calculated corporeal reactions from audiences in a multitude of affectively, perceptually, and politically engaging ways. A brief overview i...s given of the evolution of body art from its roots in avant-garde performance arts to current trends of carnal art to shed light on the changing cultural-historical interpretation of human embodiment. It reveals how body art’s growing dissatisfaction with anthropocentrism entails an inevitable move toward humanimal poetics and politics. The shift of focal point from humanoid embodiment to interspecies relationalities and posthuman enworldedness marks a major paradigm shift of body art. Mapping the aesthetic manifestations, ethical stakes, and corporeal experience of this shift—that extends the notion of subjectivity beyond the human species—is the main aim of the essay. (AK)

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Policing the Boundaries: The “Mission Street Station Scene” in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

The essay focuses on the “Mission Street Station” episode in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). The episode revolves around two central problems: the human/android divide and fake realities. The first part of the paper concentrates on theories of classification and analyses the problems of the Voigt-Kam...pff test understood as a classificatory apparatus. The second part focuses on the Mission Scene as a fake reality and identifies a potentially problematic race-focused reading. Dick, a prolific essayist and public speaker, expressed his preoccupation with questions that constitute the conceptual core of the scene on several occasions. Therefore, the essay also relies on the author’s nonfiction to discover and establish the importance of the oft-neglected Mission Scene in the novel’s critical reception. (DP)

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The Petrified Men and the Scarecrow: Substance, Body, and Self-image in Seamus Heaney’s Bog Poems

Seamus Heaney’s poetry was engaged with violence for decades. His artistic exploration of land and fossils revolved around the same questions: to what extent can a human being move himself away from an inherent “tribalism”? To what extent is identity inherited through history and what rights, responsibilities come with it? These questions... arose in the author's oeuvre when the horrors of civil war reached their peak in Northern Ireland. The issues of shared community not only played a significant role in the development of self-identification, they also meant the survival of the sectarian conflict. Starting with the first bog-poems, Heaney was keen on producing a mythology to serve identity, and sometimes allowed his political opinion to filter through the images of Stone Age remains from the bog. For scientists, the investigation of archeological finds means relying on methods such as the necessary carbon analysis and careful identification of evidence, as to who these bodies were, when they lived, what characterized their daily routines, and the times they lived in. The same findings, however, had a different impact on Heaney. He used the metaphor of the land of these ancient bodies, and of history, to engage with the question of identity, but criticism made him reconsider what position he should take on the morality of the given past society. At the same time the poet, who voluntarily shared common roots with these long-forgotten forbears, was the one who started deconstructing their moral heritage in the works written towards the end of his poetic oeuvre. In contrast to earlier poems on bog-bodies, “Tollund” from the 1996 collection, The Spirit Level, and “Tollund Man in Springtime” from 2006, reflect a forward-looking attitude in which Heaney left behind an apologist viewpoint for sectarian violence. (JP)

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Book reviews

Collage Was Never Gone

Book review:

Drąg, Wojciech. Collage in Twenty-First-Century Literature in English: Art of Crisis. New York and London: Routledge, 2019. 216 pages. ISBN 9780367437428. Hb. £120.00.

Modernist Bildungsroman and Biology

Book review:

Newman, Daniel Aureliano. Modernist Life Histories: Biological Theory and the Experimental Bildungsroman. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019. 234 pages. ISBN 9781474439619. Hb. £80.

Predatory Neo-Victorian Novels

Book review:

Ho, Tammy Lai-Ming. Neo-Victorian Cannibalism: A Theory of Contemporary Adaptations. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. 150 pages. ISBN 978-3-030-02558-8. Hb. €58.84.

Contemporary and Beyond?

Book review:

Acheson, James, ed. The Contemporary British Novel Since 2000. Edinburgh UP, 2017. 214 pages. ISBN 978 1 4744 0375 7. epub. £80.00.

Honoring Professor Mária Kurdi

Book review:

Csikai, Zsuzsa, and Rouse, Andrew C., eds. Critical Essays in Honour of Mária Kurdi. Tanulmányok Kurdi Mária tiszteletére. Martonfa: SPECHEL e-editions, 2017. 243 pages. ISBN 978-963-12-9291-6. E-book. 747 HUF.

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