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Irish History, Ethics, the Alethic, and Mise En Abîme in John Banville’s Fiction
Published December 5, 2021

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)

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John Williams’s Stoner and Literature as Dark Matter in the Age of Educational Managerialism
Published June 24, 2020

The tension between Bildung and more utility-oriented dimensions of education is nothing new. For instance, Friedrich Nietzsche addressed the issue in a series of lectures despising nineteenth-century tendencies to let education be controlled by external forces. The contemporary literature teacher may feel inclined to endorse some of N...ietzsche’s sentiments. What will remain of the subject of literature in the age of massification, learnification, and criterion-referenced teaching in secondary and tertiary education? Through an analysis of certain aspects of John Williams’s Stoner, the article considers a few central questions: why is the devoted literature teacher forced into a hypocritical position, pretending to do a set of stated things (learning outcomes), while actually doing (or wanting to do) something completely different? Is it not precisely what cannot be put into words that is the actual driving force of the study of literature? The article suggests that this Gordian knot cannot be untied and should not be cut, but also that the attempts to untie it are in themselves vitalizing forces that ought not to be neglected within literary studies and teaching. (JW)

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