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 arti...cle 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)
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 critic...ism 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 paper explores the possibility of analyzing Ted Kotcheff’s 1985 film, First Blood, the first piece of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series, from the perspective of dramatic structure as conceived in Schelling’s concept of tragedy and Schiller’s notion of the sublime. Perplexing as this critical context may appear at first, the... paper argues for a reassessment of the movie’s aesthetic qualities as its protagonist is placed between Hollywood’s male-gendered stock figure of the action hero and the more complex character of the tragic hero, familiar from classical drama. Taking account of Rambo’s reception in recent cultural studies discourse regarding gender criticism and American post-Vietnam War cinema, the essay attempts to show the correlation between some of the aesthetic tenets of German idealism and the consequences of a close-reading approach to this popular classic. (BS)
Attwell, David. J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-Face with Time. New York: Viking, 2015. xxiii + 248 pages. ISBN 978-0-525-42961-6. Pbk. $27.95.
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 ha...nd 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.
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)
Although the Lockean clear and distinct ideas greatly influenced Burke in his writing on the sublime, Milton’s impact is emphatically displayed in the dark and obscure rhetoric of the work. Despite the fact that Burke’s text abounds in classical quotations, it is Milton’s “strong expressions” that overpower the argum...ent. William Blake also borrows a lot from Milton, but he radically rejects Burke’s ideas. Through the revelatory power of his visionary sublime, Blake overtly criticizes Locke’s shallow empiricism and Burke’s obscure rhetoric, arguing against a simple disparity of light/clarity versus darkness/obscurity. This essay explores the Burkean and the Blakean readings of the Miltonic sublime side by side, analyzing the Miltonic quotations in Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry parallel with the verbal and visual references in Blake’s Milton, and highlighting the differences in their views. (ÉA)
Reading William Faulkner’s “The Bear” with a literary ecologist perspective could shift readers from abstraction to ethical responsibility. Deep ecology, ecopsychology, and constructionist views of human development align with ethical criticism and ecocriticism to establish the basis for what Freya Mathews refers to as the “Ecological S...elf.” Mathews joins others in noting that human development must become ecologically self-aware—a state engendering emotional, ethical responses, confirming wholeness and sustainability rather than mere intellectual, theoretical acknowledgment, or worse, pathological denial. Literary ecology joins textual analysis and meta-textual information to affirm the story’s implied stewardship, despite Faulkner’s sometimes unclear, tragic view of his landscape. An optimistic ecocritical reading affirms, or surpasses, various critical approaches often used with the story—in particular, the paradise myth. Reading ecocritically affirms individual health and sustainability with human culture and nonhuman nature. (KH)
Introduction to the thematic section "On the Sublime."
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)
Finlayson, J. Caitlin and Amrita Sen, eds. Civic Performance. Pageantry and Entertainments in Early Modern London. Abingdon-New York: Routledge, 2020. xiv + 254 pages. ISBN 978-1-138-22839-9. Hb. £96.
Affected by a shocking concatenation of ecological, economic, and political disasters, black, white, and multiracial characters in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) seek to cope with apparently insurmountable difficulties. These Afrofuturist Parable novels render a disint...egrating US society in the 2020s-2090s, which is torn by internal and external chaos: it shows visible signs of pandemonium involving the crisis of individual, communal, and ecological survival. This ecocritical reading seeks to explore how Butler’s novels make up the fictional tapestry of an evolving human risk narrative whose anthropogenic effects on the planet might threaten an “ecological holocaust” (Charles Brown) unless fundamental green changes spur radically alternative modes of thinking and living. Throughout this paper, I am interested in how Butler’s texts address and construct the interaction of the human and the non-human world to create a storyworld in which distinct characters operate not only according to the logic of the narrative in their local places and (semi)private/communal spaces, but also as distinct configurations of the Anthropocene, that is, as agents of a larger story of humans. (EF)
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.
The article focuses on a selection of poems by the Irish poet Seán Lysaght to demonstrate that in his work, Lysaght looks to explore nature’s intricate design, its pre-human and pre-linguistic layers of significance through investigations of birds, arguing that rather than offering culturally or politically inflected images of wildlife and l...andscape, as Irish poets from W. B. Yeats through Patrick Kavanagh all the way to Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley have been wont to do, Lysaght sets the vast natural world, which eludes apprehension in language, against the modern world and its obsession with material productivity and pragmatic efficiency. This aspect of Lysaght’s poetry is discussed against the background of Heaney, Yeats, and William Wordsworth, who are shown to share some insights with Lysaght, but from whose influence he strives to steer away. (WP)
Seamus Heaney’s poetry was engaged with violence for decades. His artistic exploration of land and fossils revolved around the same questions: to what extent can a human being move himself away from an inherent “tribalism”? To what extent is identity inherited through history and what rights, responsibilities come with it? These questions... arose in the author's oeuvre when the horrors of civil war reached their peak in Northern Ireland. The issues of shared community not only played a significant role in the development of self-identification, they also meant the survival of the sectarian conflict. Starting with the first bog-poems, Heaney was keen on producing a mythology to serve identity, and sometimes allowed his political opinion to filter through the images of Stone Age remains from the bog. For scientists, the investigation of archeological finds means relying on methods such as the necessary carbon analysis and careful identification of evidence, as to who these bodies were, when they lived, what characterized their daily routines, and the times they lived in. The same findings, however, had a different impact on Heaney. He used the metaphor of the land of these ancient bodies, and of history, to engage with the question of identity, but criticism made him reconsider what position he should take on the morality of the given past society. At the same time the poet, who voluntarily shared common roots with these long-forgotten forbears, was the one who started deconstructing their moral heritage in the works written towards the end of his poetic oeuvre. In contrast to earlier poems on bog-bodies, “Tollund” from the 1996 collection, The Spirit Level, and “Tollund Man in Springtime” from 2006, reflect a forward-looking attitude in which Heaney left behind an apologist viewpoint for sectarian violence. (JP)
This essay is devoted to a discussion of Stephen Daldry and David Hare’s film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s critically acclaimed but controversial Holocaust novel, The Reader (1995; 2008), through one of the film’s many intertexts—Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” (1899). The scenes related to this short s...tory are crucial to the understanding of Daldry and Hare’s filmic reinterpretation of Schlink’s novel, since they form the mise en abyme of Hanna and Michael’s ambiguous story and stalled self-reflection. The parallels and contrasts of Chekhov’s and the filmmakers’ narratives call viewers’ attention to the ambivalences inherent in the main characters’ representation. Inspired by a passing reference to Chekhov in Schlink’s novel, the scenes alluding to “The Lady with the Little Dog” provide a metanarrative in The Reader, and, as such, reflect the adaptors’ heightened sensitivity to the ambivalences and complexities of reflecting the trauma of the Holocaust—not only for “the second generation” of Germans after World War II. (AR)
The Czech composer Antonín Dvořák wrote his Symphony No. 9 in E minor (From the New World) in 1893 while he served as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. In the work, he intended to portray the US and establish its musical vernacular. Dvořák believed that a truly American school of classical compos...ition must evoke the character of its indigenous and folk music which he identified with Native American and African American styles. Through a musicological analysis, the essay offers cultural criticism of how the symphony represents these musical traditions and, in turn, the indigenous and black peoples who produced them. I argue that the symphony alludes to Native and black Americans in inaccurate and, at times, objectionable terms, but does so through a musical aesthetic that warrants a more nuanced conclusion about the racial content of the composition. (NS-Y)
A prolific author, Orson Scott Card has written works that encompass a range of genres including a large body of commentary, Mormon drama, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and often melds elements of one into another. In particular, as John Clute notes, “a ‘feel’ of fantasy pervades much of his s[cience] f[iction] work.” In fiction...s such as Enders Game, Treason, and Wyrms, and stories like “The Originist,” his tribute to Asimov’s Second Foundation, he employs traditional elements of fantasy: its language in references to wizards, dragons, magic, and such characters as dwelfs, a portmanteau of “elf” and “dwarf”; the episodic quest narrative of escalating perils undertaken by the protagonist, who moves from isolation to community; and the conventional, often medieval, fantasyscape of fabulous forests, rivers, and mountains. Through such a strategy Card establishes a heightened significance to human experiences that both genres address, and opens another portal to the sense of wonder that informs each. (WAS)
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.