Introduction to the Special Thematic Block: British Seaside Resorts and Their Representation in Literature and Cinema
This article analyzes how the British writers Frances Trollope (1779–1863) and William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) described the Belgian coastal resort Ostend in the 1830s and 1840s. A special focus is placed on both the British travelers passing through Ostend and the British resident communities at Ostend. The article will highlight how the assessments of Frances Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray of Ostend as a coastal resort frequented by the British can be unpacked fruitfully within two overarching themes: the theme of “genteel poverty” and “respectability” on the one hand, and the theme of “national identity” and “religious identity” on the other. These assessments by Frances Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray are contextualized against the background of contemporary British guidebooks and travel accounts on Ostend, and against some statistics on the British traveller and resident communities in mid-nineteenth century Belgium. (PF)
In the interwar period, seaside holidays had become accessible to more people in the United Kingdom than ever before. It was not least the unapologetic hedonism of the working classes that gave places like Blackpool and Scarborough their vibrant energy. However, a notable number of English travelogues in the 1930s depict seaside resorts as overcrowded, vulgar, debilitating, and in fact un-English. During the years in which the UK faced the rising threat of fascism, the seaside became a site where ideas of Englishness, popular culture, and masculinity came under scrutiny. In my paper, I explore these ambivalent constructions of the English seaside resort, from J. B. Priestley’s English Journey to the collection Beside the Seaside, in which women authors, including Yvonne Cloud and Kate O’Brian, celebrate the seaside as a catalyst of female agency. (VR)
Seaside resorts frequently served as locations of murder mysteries in Golden Age detection fiction, since these destinations could provide a diverse clientele, confined to manageably small groups essential to classic detective stories. The fictional seaside town of Wilvercombe serves as the location of Dorothy L. Sayers’s detective novel Have His Carcase (1932), in which Lord Peter Wimsey and detective-story writer Harriet Vane investigate the case of a man found dead on the beach. The location of the body turns out to be a source of confusion: while the detectives expect a traditional locked-room mystery to unfold (albeit in an open-air setting), the death cannot be resolved until the detectives realize that they are working in the wrong genre: instead of a clue-puzzle mystery, they are trapped in a Ruritanian romance, with outlandish tales of intrigue, unlikely members of the Russian aristocracy, and exaggerated and oppressive performances of heterosexual romance. (BH)
British cinema has portrayed seaside resorts throughout its history with much dedication. Films featured both residents and visitors, the providers and the consumers of the seaside experience decade after decade by focusing on the synergies between space and identity. This article explores Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1948), The Entertainer (Tony Richardson, 1960), The Birthday Party (William Friedkin, 1968), Quadrophenia (Franc Roddam, 1979), Bhaji on the Beach (Gurinder Chadha, 1993), and Last Resort (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2000) as representative examples of how the motifs of escape and entrapment—as manifested in the pursuit of various imaginations, ideals, rites of passage and identity quests—changed through the decades that also saw a gradual decline in the popularity of seaside resorts. The fading reputation and eroding image of resorts is analyzed parallel with the identity crises of characters entrapped in subcultural, diasporic, and migrant environments. (ZsGy)
This article examines representations of young people in three recent films set in British seaside resorts: Jellyfish (2018), directed by James Gardner Vs. (2018), directed by Ed Lilly, and Eaten by Lions (2018), directed by Jason Wingard, in light of the fact that in the past few decades resorts have been seen as places from which young people try to escape, rather than go to. My essay shows how the experience of those who visit the resorts is different from that of those who live there. It considers the production values, characters, stories, and locations of these films, drawing on secondary research on coastal resorts and their cinematic representations, Erving Goffman’s taxonomy of spaces into “front” and “back regions,” and Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque. The article also links the representation of the resort itself to wider discourses about England, class, and race. (EM)
John Paget’s travelogue from 1839, Hungary and Transylvania; with Remarks on their Condition, Social, Political, and Economical, makes a clear distinction between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania, both under Austrian rule at the time, and the rest of Eastern Europe. In terms of the variety and depth of the descriptions of the social, political, and economic conditions in the East-CentralEuropean country and province, Paget’s comprehensive and objective text stands out from the travelogues written about the region in the nineteenth century. This essay demonstrates that Hungary and Transylvania reveals the author’s intention to rediscover the history and culture of a neglected European nation who have attempted for centuries, successfully, and often unsuccessfully, to orient their politics toward the West rather than the East. It suggests that despite the occasional colonial discourse, Paget’s travelogue is an attempt to economically, politically, and culturally promote the integration of Hungary and Transylvania into the more “civilized” West. (MP)
American-Hungarian relations were rarely closer on the personal level than in the interwar years. Although the United States followed the path of political and diplomatic isolation from Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, and its absence in the League of Nations was conspicuous, in the financial and economic realm it remained more active, and many Americans worked in the various reconstruction projects across Europe either in their private capacities or under the auspices of the League. Royall Tyler was one such person who spent the larger part of the 1920s and 1930s in Hungary. Since the start of the financial reconstruction of Hungary in 1924, Tyler was a constant participant in Hungarian financial life, a contact between the Hungarian government and the League of Nations, and a sharp observer of events throughout the years he spent in Hungary and Europe. This essay focuses on his activities concerning Hungary’s financial and economic reconstruction and recovery. (ZP)
At the turn of the twentieth century, social theories developed in both the U.S. and Europe suggested that those at the top, or those most well endowed with good genetics, would stay that way, while those with poor genetics had little hope of changing their circumstances. Degeneration theory, as this concept was called when it took root in the United States from the late 1890s, before it had evolved to formally become eugenics in the 1910s, and beyond. While eugenics offices opened in Berlin in 1905, in England in 1907-08, and in the United States in 1910, there were many forms of it, including degeneration theory. What bound all the theories together was the notion of biology and heredity.
Westerns like Martyrs of the Alamo became a vehicle to explore these concerns because they inundated everyday Americans with illustrations of national identity. Films like these often mixed fantasy with ideology. This is clearly evident in W. Christy Cabanne’s anti-Mexican sentiment in Martyrs of the Alamo. Examining Cabanne’s film through the lens of degeneracy theory provides a greater understanding of American social concerns in the 1910s. These concerns, characterized by xenophobic depictions of immigrants, particularly Mexicans, culminated in the linking of immigrant bodies and disease with heredity and genetics, namely through theories of degeneration . Cabanne’s Martyrs of the Alamo suggests, through the reproduction of the conflict surrounding the Alamo Mission, that the alternative to “race suicide” is a fantasy of American heroism, collectivism, and cultural exclusion. (SS and TZCS)
Comparisons between hallucinatory films of the 1960s and 2000s show a conversion of the earlier utopian signifiers from benign fields of intoxicating color that celebrate and induce psychic bliss, into high-definition alarm bells for a world imploding from accelerated hyperconsumption. Paranoid, conspiracy-driven 70s commercial cinema, which appropriates editing techniques from earlier experimental films, marks a threshold of disenchantment. The entropic model of 60s hallucinatory works by Stan Brakhage, Carolee Schneemann, and others, where film material and abstract imagery are modified analagous to the intensification of bodily pleasures, is digitally exacerbated in high-definition videos of Heather Phillipson, Ed Atkins, and Benedict Drew as if collapsing under environmental and psychic degradation. This later work maximizes hallucinatory HD properties through relentlessly overlaying imagery of interpenetrating, deflating, and exploding bodies that are avatars of overindulgence, the nightmarish uncanny descendants of 60s utopian intoxications. (MH)
The three scholarly monographs published between 2017 and 2020 by Laura White, Laura Tosi and Peter Hunt, and Kiera Vaclavik, are recent contributions to Lewis Carroll scholarship. They belong to what Michael Heyman calls “the sense school” of nonsense literary criticism in so far as they attribute a specific agenda, a systematic structure, a decipherable message, and a homogenised reading to the Alice tales (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass). Each re-explores a well-known children’s classic from fresh new perspectives by relying on interdisciplinary methodologies, mingling the literary historical approach with insights of critical fashion studies, evolutionary biology, and comparative cross-cultural analysis (translation studies), respectively. Like adaptations, these critical theoretical interpretations of the Alice books are in a constant dialogue with one another within a Genettian transtextual network of multimodal narratives.
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