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Modernist Bildungsroman and Biology
Published January 4, 2021

Book review:

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

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“No country, this, for old men”: A View of the Aging Artist through Intertexts in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace
Published June 28, 2020

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, cu...rrent 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)

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A Train to Castle Von Aux: Patrick deWitt’s Fiction and the Transnational Paradigm
Published June 24, 2020

While deWitt’s writing enjoys commercial and critical success, it has inspired very little academic scrutiny. This is perhaps due to deWitt’s avoidance of Canadian settings and themes in favor of motifs from American popular culture or European folktales. Just as The Sisters Brothers (2011) relied on deWitt’s ironic use of the We...stern formula, so Undermajordomo Minor (2015) constitutes a playful attempt at rejuvenating several tired genres. In the story of young Lucy Minor’s acquisition of a dubious post at the eerie Castle Von Aux there are unmistakable elements of the Gothic romance, the fable, and the Bildungsroman, all spiced up with a quirky cinematic aesthetic. Equally strong are the echoes of Walser’s Jakob von Gunten, Kafka’s The Castle, and Bernhard’s Gargoyles, themselves richly interconnected. Through these diverse allusions and a curious blurring of geographical and historical boundaries, deWitt creates transgeneric fiction, which may be understood as transnational in the sense assumed by Kit Dobson or Peter Morgan.

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