Vol 27, No 2 (2021)

Published December 5, 2021


Editor's Notes

Editor’s Notes

Editor's notes



Hungarian Narrato-Rhetorheme in an American Novel: Harry Houdini in E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime

The escape artist of Doctorow’s Ragtime is in close relationship with each transposed and fictitious character through an aspectual transmission system of character-motivation. The variegated and diverging perceptual and cognitive processes of the numerous characters may reveal a centrifugal system of storyworlds, but the multiform manifestations of being shackled and the desire to escape do meet in the anchoring image of the shackled Harry Houdini and his escape bravura. So Doctorow’s Houdini will be studied here as an aspectual coordinate of the novel.

On the other hand, the mentality emanating from the escape artist’s narrative function of aspectual coordination and the other characters’ positional predicaments and motivational concerns that reflect the same mentality, jointly perform the rhetorical role of suasion. Thus, Ragtime’s Houdini can be subjected to a narrato-rhetorical investigation. I propose that he is a hermeneutically coded cultural narrato-rhetorheme in the novel and the source of further narrato-rhetorhemes of storyworlds that come under his semantic sway. (I introduced the notion of the “cultural narrato-rhetorheme” in a former HJEAS issue [2014/1]). The book’s transposed Houdini is both an overt cultural narrato-rhetorheme (he is present in the narratorial discourse: the narrator actually meets him) and a covert one (embedded in the storyworld). The notions of “repeating,” “factoid,” “contextual,” “assimilative,” and “enthymematic” narrato-rhetorheme will also be introduced as descriptive of Houdini’s manifold narrato-rhetorical roles.

Ragtime’s epistemological tandem (the narrator[s] and Houdini) makes it unequivocal that the modality of the narratorial domain is epistemic. This also sets the escape artist into the novel’s focus; as does the book’s lead (deontic) modality, through the African American ragtime pianist’s defiance of racist cultural prohibition. (ZAN)

Beyond the “Raked Gardens”: Female Identity in American Suburban Poetry

The article analyzes an overlooked aspect of American suburban poetry—the writing of American women poets who deal with the problem of how to represent female identity. Drawing on the existing criticism of women’s poetry, a comprehensive survey of the suburban poems by American women poets, from the 1940s to the 2000s, is provided. The article documents the various approaches that these poets adopt in order to explore identity while resisting the gender stereotypization in American suburbia. These approaches include either embracing the suburban ideal of domestic conformity or attempting to present women suburbanites who reject the socially prescribed roles forced upon them and develop new identities of their own. (JF)

Irish History, Ethics, the Alethic, and Mise En Abîme in John Banville’s Fiction

A controversy within John Banville scholarship focuses on his seemingly ambivalent relation to his Irishness. The dominance of Banville’s philosophical topics has seemingly rendered the specifically Irish issues redundant. However, there are Irish traits that have significance for more subtle themes or motifs in certain novels. These passages often appear as side-paths in the eccentric protagonists’ meandering narration. In The Blue Guitar, Oliver Orme mentions that his “namesake Oliver Cromwell” attempted an attack upon the town in which his childhood home is situated, but eventually “the victorious Catholic garrison hanged half a dozen russet-coated captains” on the hill where the house stands and where “the Lord Protector’s tent” had been erected. Such casual remarks on violent historical incidents harbor a key to a particular Banvillean ethics. The frequently recurring prose structure of thematized mise en abîme and the mazes of signifiers indicate that no historical ontology in terms of a meta-narrative seems to exist. However, many of Banville’s novels revolve around the disclosure of a truth. This alethic element questions an all too convenient reliance on a completely constructivist understanding of history and thereby of Irish historical events appearing in the Banvillean oeuvre. (JW)

Chronotopes of the City: Spatial Injustice and Narrative Form in Helena María Viramontes’s Their Dogs Came with Them

Combining Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope and Sarah Dillon’s notion of the palimpsest, the essay highlights the dialogic relationship between narrative time and space in Chicana author Helena María Viramontes’s novel, Their Dogs Came with Them (2007). Set in East Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s—the heyday of urban renewal projects and the rapid spread of freeways—the novel registers the geographical displacement and constrained socio-economic mobility of Mexican Americans whose homes are demolished by the freeway building bulldozers. The spatial form of intersectionality characterizing the architectural structure of the freeways also describes the narrative form of the novel. The non-linear narrative is structured upon multiple intersecting plotlines, each of which portrays the social struggles of a young Chicana woman inhabiting the city. Focusing on the interplay of environmental theme and narrative form, the paper explores the narrative representation of East Los Angeles as a spatially and temporally multilayered landscape that palimpsestously overlays and interconnects the personal memory of the characters and the collective history of Mexican Americans’ socio-political oppression in North America. (BR)

Unpacked Cases: Migratory Aesthetics as a Mode of Participation and Agency

The manifold notion of migratory aesthetics serves as the critical grounding for this analysis focusing on Mohamad Hafez’s and Ahmed Badr’s multimedia installation, UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage (2017-2020), a socially and politically committed artistic project. Migratory aesthetics as a conceptual frame can encompass artifacts reflecting upon the experience of forced migration, displacement, and uprootedness. However, the concept also proposes the engendering of a platform for the confluence of art and the political. In accordance with the theories of Mieke Bal, Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, and Jacques Rancière, “political” is meant to signify a space of generative conflict, an active, communal, participatory encounter between sentient bodies and artworks. UNPACKED confronts the audience on many levels: physically, by leaving them in limbo, suspended between the inside and the outside, the private and the public, safety and threat; conceptually (owing to the phenomenal, embodied experience of the viewers), by provoking a sense of dislocation and homelessness, resulting in the potential for identification with the status of being a refugee, a migrant, and an asylum seeker. UNPACKED encapsulates, both spatially and temporally, the invisible and silenced trauma of forced migration, eventually effectuating collective understanding in the constitutive political space of art. (GM)

Reframing the New Mestiza: Identity Politics and Social Commitment in Chicana Art

This article offers an interdisciplinary approach to some of the most iconic pieces of Chicana Art using Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera. Parallels between the textual and visual representations of identity politics and social commitment in Chicana feminist art and Anzaldúa’s work, respectively, will be established through the concepts of “Borderlands” and “New Mestiza” as interpretation keys. The article begins by addressing representations of geographical borders as a unifying theme; then, it establishes a correlation between the concepts “Borderlands” and “New Mestiza,” and the reformulation of female identity represented in Chicana visual art. Finally, it will explore the purpose of the social commitment of the author/artists and how it is represented in their literary/artistic productions. The visual art of the selected Chicana visual artists, including Ester Hernández, Yolanda M. López, Alma López, Santa Barraza, and Judith Baca, accurately portray the experience of Chicana women theorized in Borderlands/La Frontera. (PAL)

Kindred Spirits: Lajos Gulácsy and Oscar Wilde

Lajos Gulácsy (1882-1932), the acknowledged Hungarian painter of the early twentieth century, was a kindred spirit to Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), sharing his love of beauty, his escapism, and his belief in the superiority of art over mundane reality. Gulácsy’s art cannot be easily described in relation to the artistic groups and tendencies of his age; however, the literary portion of his oeuvre reveals definite affinities and parallels with dominant artistic trends of the millennium. Gulácsy wrote a number of essays, short-stories and tales, and even a novel, Pauline Holseel (1910), which all give evidence to an aesthetic similar to that of Oscar Wilde. Pauline Holseel, in particular, shows close correspondences with Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Besides displaying the typical features of the Künstlerroman of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, such as the lack of a plot, artists as protagonists, or a heavy reliance on sensual experiences, they also share more particular parallels concerning structure and attitude to art. (ÉP)

Littoral Space and Self-Discovery: Stanley Middleton’s Holiday, Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, and Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach

The point of departure of this essay is that seaside resort towns and hotels function as in-between, liminal spaces for visitors, while the unknown, boundless, and mysterious sea often acquires a metaphorical meaning as a symbol of monsters, madness, death, desire, and the unconscious. Thus, the liminal space of the seaside serves as an appropriate setting that facilitates self-realization. The three novels selected for study here are set in British seaside towns in the 1960s-1970s, and present their respective protagonists’ struggle with their past memories and traumas.
In Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach (2007), the newlyweds get a chance of self-understanding, however, they fail at communicating their fears and desires. Ultimately, the seaside remains a symbol of misunderstandings and trauma as well as the dividing line between the times before and after the sexual revolution of the 1960s. By contrast, the protagonists in Stanley Middleton’s novel, Holiday (1974), and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea (1978) achieve self-awareness through either a time-travel that allows for re-living the past or a journey to the unconscious, respectively. Nevertheless, these novels also end on an ambiguous tone, and the question whether real self-understanding has been attained remains open. (EM)

Journeying Across Languages, Cultures, and Literatures: The Poetry of Mervyn Morris

The West Indian poet Mervyn Morris (1937-) is renowned for espousing the importance of a national language in creating national literature as well as for integrating European poetic heritage with Caribbean literary traditions. Through an exploration of Morris’s selected poems, the paper discusses the role language plays in shaping the themes of diasporic writing and of postcolonial identity, and argues that his works show a deep awareness of the fundamental aspects of West Indian and British culture. Since Morris “refuses to be trapped in the excesses of post-modern Romanticism or political propaganda parading as nationalism” (Thompson), the paper also looks at the presentation of eternal values like love and humanity celebrated in his poems. By foregrounding the frequent use of epiphanies in his poetry, Morris conveys human affection in the frame of colonial and postcolonial history. (PF)

Transgressions and Reterritorializations as Markers of Minor Literature in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, or Lonesome no More!

Deterritorialization and reterritorialization are transgressive techniques in literature that characterize subversive literature. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari suggest that questions about marginal literature or other forms of peripheral literatures must all be covered within the designation and definition of minor literature, not only if they are written in the language of the mainstream. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, or Lonesome no More (1976) is a set of deterritorializations and reterritorializations made possible through creative assemblage, a technique that allows a continuous flow of meaning, that is, meaning is not fixed, as language moves from one territory to another, constructing new assemblages and acquiring new meanings. Meaning changes each time a new assemblage is composed. Through the re-construction of family, love, and human relationships, the novel defies the alienating practices of the American society as presented in Vonnegut’s novel. (MM and WHRM)


Review essay

After the “Post,” in the Present: New Perspectives on Nationhood

Review essay:

Charles, Mark, and Soong-Chan Rah. Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2019. Print.

Herlihy-Mera, Jeffrey. After American Studies: Rethinking the Legacies of Transnational Exceptionalism. Routledge Advances in American History 8. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2018. Print.


Book reviews

Disruptive Domesticity in Shakespearean Drama

Book review:

Whipday, Emma. Shakespeare’s Domestic Tragedies: Violence in the Early Modern Home. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2019. 262 pages. ISBN 9781108474030. Pbk. £29.99

Vonnegut Reinvented

Book review:

McInnis, Gilbert. Kurt Vonnegut, Myth and Science in the Postmodern World. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2020. 184 pages. ISBN 978-1-4331-7435-3. Hb. CAD 42.08.

Narrating Motherhood: The Power of Storytelling

Book review:

Martin, BettyAnn, and Michelann Parr, eds. Writing Mothers: Narrative Acts of Care, Redemption, and Transformation. Bradford, ON: Demeter P, 2020. 258 pages. ISBN 978-1-77258-223-9. Pbk. $34.95.

Friendly Encounters with Literary Animals

Book review:

McHugh, Susan, et al., eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 636 pages. ISBN 978-3-030-39772-2. E-book. €117.69.

“If the world is dystopic, why fear an apocalypse?”

Book review:

MacCormack, Patricia. The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. 224 pages. ISBN 9781350081093. E-book. £15.83.

Critical Wounds, Sutured

Book review:

Veprinska, Anna. Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 203 pages. ISBN 978-3-030-34319-4. Hb. €74.89.

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