Ostend through the Eyes of British Writers (1830-50): A Seaside Resort Abroad as a Home for the British Genteel Poor

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)

A New Account of Britain’s Economic Development

Book review:

Broadberry, Stephen, Bruce M. S. Campbell, Alexander Klein, Mark Overton, and Bas van Leeuwen. British Economic Growth, 1270-1870. Cambridge: CUP, 2015. 461 pages. ISBN 978-1-107-67649-7. Pbk. £25.

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 hand 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.

“If I Should Die”: Attitudes to the Dead Hero in British Poetry of the Great War

When we read the poems of the Great War today, we interpret them both as historical documents and as works of art. World War I poetry wished to open the readers’ eyes to the horror that they were unable to imagine in the home country. As a consequence, the representation of the victim position proved to be particularly important both in populist texts (such as John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”) and in poems undermining the conventional idea of heroism (such as those by Charles Sorley, Wilfred Owen, Edmund Blunden). Furthermore, a comparison between two poems about war heroes, Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and Yeats’s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” demonstrates the difference between war poetry and modernist literature. Yeats views and considers the problem of the dead hero from a distance, whereas Brooke represents his own situation from within. Both texts (although very different both in character and in artistic value) contribute to our better understanding of the war experience. (IDR)

The Seaside Resort as Entrapment and Escape in British Cinema

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)

What Will Survive of Us?

Book review:

Booth, James. Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 532 pages. ISBN 978 1 4088 5166 1. Hb. £25.00.

The Curious Case of the British Avant-Garde

Book review:

Mitchell, Kaye, and Nonia Williams, eds. British Avant-Garde Fiction of the 1960s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019. 272 pages. ISBN 978147443619 9. Hb. £80.00.

Acknowledging Hybridity

Book review:

Oliete-Aldea, Elena. Hybrid Heritage on Screen: The “Raj Revival” in the Thatcher Era. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. ix + 227 pages. ISBN 978-1-137-46396-8. $95.00.


Introduction to the Special Thematic Block: British Seaside Resorts and Their Representation in Literature and Cinema

Fame at Last! : Belated Experimentalist Revisited

Book review:

Jordan, Julia. Late Modernism and the Avant-Garde British Novel: Oblique Strategies. Oxford UP, 2020. 256 pages. ISBN 9780198857280. Hb. $80.00.

Drink and Alcohol Literature: Two Critical Perspectives

The essay discusses two contrasting critical perspectives on the intersection between drink/alcohol and literature, claiming that criticism concerning the literature of the British Isles (English, Scottish, and Irish authors’ work) is generally text-oriented, that is, targets literature per se and the way writers thematize drink, while criticism concentrating on the American literary scene focuses on the alcohol-dependence of writers, and/or the way their alcohol-dependence affects their work, or the way alcoholism is portrayed in literary works. Whereas the criticism on authors in the British Isles emphasizes conviviality as a key trait of the way drink/drinking is represented in literature, studies on American authors often highlight drinking alcohol as a pathology, a physical, mental, and social malfunction. Thus, the former can be labeled drink/drinking literature, and the latter can be framed as what Marcus Grants has dubbed “alcoholism literature.”  (WK)

The Post-millennial British Novel

Book review:

Bentley, Nick, Nick Hubble, and Leigh Wilson, eds. The 2000s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction. The Decades Series 4. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. 297 pages. ISBN 9781441112156. Pbk. £85.


The Cultural and Intersectional Politics of Nomadism in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Zadie Smith’s most recent novel, Swing Time (2016) continues her exploration of individual identity in relation to the broader social context by telling the story of an unnamed narrator and her childhood friend, Tracey, members of the second-generation British-Jamaican diaspora in London, whose cultural and racial hybridity positions them against hegemonic discourses in contemporary British society. The text vividly portrays the consequences of their deviance, particularly how the specific intersections of race, gender, and class they embody limit either their cultural or socio-economic agency, and impair their capacity to construct a sustainable identity. Since the desire to transcend bodily determination in performative ways is as crucial a dimension of the characters’ life journey as is the experience of the effects of socio-economic stratification arising out of intersectional difference, this essay explores the complex relationship between intersectional difference and agency in Swing Time through the double theoretical lens of Rosi Braidotti’s nomadic performative model of identity and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality, arguing that Smith’s novel does not simply bear out Braidotti’s theory but rather interrogates it, especially its insufficient attention to the diverse and disempowering effects resulting from certain intersections of what Braidotti calls “variables” or “axes of differentiation.”  (MK)

Ruritania by the Sea : Detection by the Seaside in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Have His Carcase

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)

Urban Space as Spatial Biography in Anthony De Sa’s Barnacle Love and Kicking the Sky

Drawing on Michel de Certeau’s insights on spatial practices the essay analyzes two works by Canadian writer Anthony De Sa, Barnacle Love (2008) and its follow-up, Kicking the Sky (2013), and maps the spatial biography of their protagonist and narrator, Antonio Rebelo, from childhood to early adulthood. De Sa’s works are set in Toronto, presented as a city in transition. Both narratives interrelate the protagonist’s story with the spatial setting of Toronto’s Little Portugal and with the cultural issue of emigration. They also delve into the complex urban social reality formed by subalternity, hard work, sexual exploitation, spectral memory, and family affects. De Sa’s interpretation of Toronto as the background of Antonio’s spatial biography constructs a complex interaction with the cityscape and its different emotionally conflicting spaces. To greater or lesser degrees in Barnacle Love and Kicking the Sky De Sa’s storytelling questions the concept of Toronto the Good and the actual city of Toronto becomes a rhetorical space—the backdrop for a coming-of-age narration that empowers Antonio Rebelo with invention and agency and launches him toward adult life. (SCB)

Novel Approaches to Understanding and Conceptualizing Diaspora

Book review:

Ilott, Sarah, Ana Cristina Mendes, and Lucinda Newns, eds. New Directions in Diaspora Studies: Cultural and Literary Approaches. London, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018. xxxiii + 165 pages. ISBN 978-1-78660-516-0. Hb. £85.

Emotional Urban Spaces: Atmosphere, Fascination, and Phantasmagoria in Sunetra Gupta’s The Glassblower’s Breath (1993)

Investigating the literary representation of urban spaces and identities the essay untangles the complex psychological and emotional relationship between the heroine and her beloved and hated cities in Sunetra Gupta’s The Glassblower’s Breath (1993). Drawing on Gernot Böhme’s (1993) theory of the atmospheric qualities of space, Steve Pile’s psychogeographical approach to reading cities, Walter Benjamin’s concept of phantasmagoria, and various interpretations of fascination, it explores the creation of atmospheres in the novel and the role of fascination in the perception of London and Gupta’s female protagonist as phantasmagorias. I argue that—as urban imaginaries—the emotional fabric and atmosphere of the cities portrayed are as much created by their spaces and places, their inhabitants and visitors, as they are manifested and formulated in emotional states of being, whether real or fictional, phantasmagoric or imaginary. (ÉP)

The Birth of Imperial Race Medicine

Book review:

Seth, Suman. Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire. Cambridge: CUP, 2018. 324 pages. ISBN 978-1-108-41830-0. Pbk. £29.99.

The Female Gentleman and the Myth of Englishness in the Detective Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham

Golden Age detective fiction by women offers insights into the competing gender ideologies of the 1930s and early 1940s. The female protagonist these novels delineate is called “the female gentleman” by Melissa Schaub, who describes her as the detective’s equal based on her intellectual abilities and independence. Although the female gentleman seems a revolutionary figure as she is forward-looking in gender politics, her strong belief in class hierarchy, her Victorian morals and relationship with the gentleman detective relocate her in the heritage of the English pastoral. This essay focuses on the female gentleman as a bridge figure whose marriage to the detective not only restores him to his masculinity but also portrays the woman embedded in the pastoral idyll of the English landscape. Her decision to accept traditional femininity reinforces the female gentleman’s role in the recreation of the stability and security of pre-war England. (RZs)

Eugene Havas and an Early Attempt at Personal Diplomacy to Normalize US-Hungarian Relations, 1960-1964

After the fall of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence, communist Hungary had struggled to break out of diplomatic isolation. The government formed by Secretary General of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party János Kádár had not been recognized by the Western powers, including the United States of America. American- Hungarian bilateral relations, therefore, were rather strained, and before the restitution of Hungary’s full status in the United Nations Organization, the US minimized the communication between the two countries. To change this, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Service working under the aegis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs endeavored to engage expatriates—more or less famous or well-known professionals who still had some family connection to Hungary—as amateur gobetweens and semi-assets in order to find channels of communication with the American political elite and thus, via personal diplomacy, foster better relations between the two countries. The essay discusses the case of Eugene Havas (1899-1967), American economic expert and journalist of Hungarian decent. The representatives of the Kádár regime had great expectations towards him as an intermediary, this notwithstanding, as the essay will conclusively demonstrate the effect of Havas’s activities remained rather limited. (IP)

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.

From Achilles’s Tent to a San Francisco Restaurant: Imaginations of the Closet in Thom Gunn’s Poetry

This essay examines Thom Gunn’s key poems, chronologically mapping Ruth E. Fassinger’s model of gay and lesbian identity development onto it. Gunn’s poetry gradually changed in terms of how he addressed his homosexuality: whereas in his early work his sexual orientation was concealed, later it became increasingly visible, to the point of unambiguously referring to himself as “queer” in a poem from the 1980s. The poems discussed in this article—“The Wound” (1954), “The Secret Sharer” (1954), “The Corridor” (1957), “The Monster” (1961), “Bravery” (1967), “Behind the Mirror” (1976), and “Talbot Road” (1982)—address the split self of the speaker accompanied by spatial division. The poems with this leitmotif form a corpus characterized by a gradual change in terms of the rigidity of the division. Identifying the spatial division as the closet and the split self as the closeted subject, the article argues that Gunn’s coming out of the closet is a recurring poetic device deliberately developed throughout his oeuvre, which demonstrates his growth as an artist. (IOH)

What Makes the Genre of Lyric Compelling?

Book review:

Culler, Jonathan. Theory of the Lyric. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2015. x + 391 pages. ISBN 978-0-674-74426-4. Hb. $41.

“Life Is a Terminal Illness”: The War against Time and Aging in David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (2014) centers on Holly Sykes, the main character whom the novel follows from her youth into old age, thus witnessing the major events of a lifetime through her. This recounting serves as the traditional plotline that is intertwined with a fantastic story of two warring organizations of quasiimmortals and a narrative of climate change that ultimately leads to “Endarkenment,” the environmental catastrophe that hits the globe in Holly’s lifetime. These three distinct stories converge on the novel’s protagonist, through whom the reader encounters questions about aging, time, and mortality. The war between two atemporal factions, the Horologists and the Anchorites in particular, sheds light on humankind’s aspirations for immortality and focuses on present society’s conceptualization of old age. The paper analyzes these three distinct but tightly connected issues for a complex view both on the aging process itself and on society’s reaction and relation to it, that is, ageism. Mitchell’s novel—fantastic and realistic at the same time—becomes an intricate statement about aging, one of the most pressing issues facing humankind. (NA)

Modernism between History and Academia

Books reviewed:

Bahun, Sanja. Modernism and Melancholia: Writing as Countermourning. Oxford: OUP, 2014. 236 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-997795-6. Hb. $45.00.

Goldstone, Andrew. Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man. Oxford: OUP, 2013. 204 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-986112-5. Hb. $73.00.


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