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)

Dissolving Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Book review:

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Interspecies Dialogues in Postmillenial Filmic Fantasies, special issue of AMERICANA E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary. 13.2 (2017)

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Posthumanism in Fantastic Fiction. AMERICANA eBooks, 2018. 237 pages. ISBN 978-615-5423-46-8. EPUB. Open Access.

Aging and Death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

With focus on the tropes of aging and death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox (1960) and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963), the essay investigates the negotiation of the protagonists’ identity through specters of age and the means of encountering death, and it analyzes the representation of the dramas’ senior citizens with special regard to the ways in which these characters challenge mainstream cultural constructions of aging. On their deathbed, both Albee’s and Williams’s protagonists are reconnecting with their pasts in idiosyncratic ways: they build up a conscious “age autobiography” (Margaret Morgenroth Gulette) in an inventory of events and feelings assessing a complete(d) life and achieve an “agewise” (Gulette) identity that comes full circle in the very moment of grace. The characters who escort these two elderly women on their last journey reconceptualize the sense of intimacy between people. The dialogic potential of their empathy, care, and unconditional support during the end-game of the protagonists accommodates difference in various contexts by blurring the boundary between the old and the young as well as the one between men and women, because death has neither age nor gender. Thus, these intergenerational exchanges help elder characters’ agewise enterprises into the unknown gain a cathartic sense of freedom. (RMC)


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

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.

The Formations of Masculinities

Book review:

Horlacher, Stefan, ed. Configuring Masculinity in Theory and Literary Practice. DQR Studies in Literature 58. Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2015. viii + 318 pages. ISBN 978-90-04-29899-6. Hb. $106.


The Doctor’s Anatomy: The Androgynous Performance of Gender and (Neo-)Victorian Sexual Politics in Patricia Duncker’s James Miranda Barry

Patricia Duncker’s 1999 neo-Victorian novel is a fictional biography of the legendary Victorian military surgeon, James Miranda Barry, rumored to be a hermaphrodite. Duncker’s postmodern feminist fiction recreates the medical discourse, as well as the body and sexual politics of the Victorian era by writing these nineteenth-century somatic ideologies onto the ambiguously gendered body of Barry. Interrogating the poetic and political strategies of creating medicine as a masculinized profession from a cultural studies point of view, the essay argues that Duncker’s novel can be contextualized within a recent tendency in contemporary British fiction that could be hypothesized as medico-historical metafiction, indirectly addressing twenty-first-century biopolitical questions about the cultural inscription of gender roles and bodily normality by (re)telling a Victorian narrative. These questions are examined from three aspects: the neo-Victorian historical novel as a feminist genre, the androgyne as a late-Victorian subtype of the grotesque freak, and nineteenth-century female identities as the reservoir of disempowering pseudo-choices.  (EU)

Unlearning Gender

Book review:

Repo, Jemima. The Biopolitics of Gender. Oxford: OUP, 2016. 218 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-025691-3. Hbk. Npr.

The Art of Erasure: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Olympias

This essay discusses the visual shift of race and gender representation in a selection of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings. The Brooklyn graffiti artist, who was known for elevating the street energy of vernacular inscriptions into high art, reinterpreted Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) in Three-Quarters of Olympia Minus the Servant (1982) by erasing racial difference and challenging gender stereotypes in a work devoid of gender markers. In Untitled (Maid from Olympia) (1982), another version of the modernist painting, Basquiat places the figure of the black servant, formerly a colonized subject, in the center of the work; as a result, the servant “talks back” in a visual narrative functioning as a critique of colonization. Both paintings thus recast and reinterpret Manet’s Olympia and her world in a contemporary signification of race and gender by emphasis, or lack thereof, of such markers. (RMC)

The “Latina Madwoman” at the Crossroads of Harm and Hope

Book review:

Halperin, Laura. Intersections of Harm: Narratives of Latina Deviance and Defiance. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2015. xii + 238 pages. ISBN 978-0-8135-7036-5. Pbk. $29.95.

Sexual Violence Tells Stories

Book review:

Taylor, Dianna. Sexual Violence and Humiliation: A Foucauldian-Feminist Perspective. Abingdon: Routledge, 2020. 128 pages. ISBN 9781138581432. Pbk. N.p.

Anglo-Saxon and Arab Encounters

Book review:

Stampfl, Tanja. A Century of Encounters: Writing the Other in Arab North Africa. New York: Routledge, 2019. 197 pages. ISBN 9781138363106. Pbk. $155.

The Fabulous Adventures of Alice with Fashion, Science, and Pinocchio

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.

From Poverty to Assimilation: Thomas Jefferson on Native Americans as Indigent People

Thomas Jefferson has long been noted for his vested academic interest in Native Americans, whom he considered to be a doomed, yet, through assimilation, a redeemable race—who in his view were people living in poverty; an aspect of Jefferson’s vision of the indigenous peoples of North America which has so far been ignored. This essay therefore claims that Jefferson’s general concern with them was also fueled by his understanding of Native Americans as people whose way of life relegated them into the condition of indigence by definition—a state Jefferson wished to alleviate. Drawing on Jefferson’s ideas of political economy, combined with a perspective provided by early American poverty studies, I argue that his republican ideal of free-holding male household heads was also a key to his conception of Native American poverty as well as to his solution to it. In his view, gender roles and practices within the Native communities prevented male heads from adapting to the Euro-American ideals. In Jefferson’s eyes, women’s contribution to basic activities of sustenance, thus, rendered their spouses incapable of providing for their families by the Euro-American standard of the gender division of labor. He regarded them as indigents because of their actual mode of sustenance, but a desirable shift to white ways, Jefferson implied, held the promise for them to get out of destitution. (ZV)

Migrants and Disaster Subcultures in the Late Anthropocene: An Ecocritical Reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels

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 disintegrating 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)

Normative Senses of Spaces, Radical Places of Genders

Book review:

Kovács, Ágnes Zsófia, and László B. Sári, eds. Space, Gender, and the Gaze in Literature and Art. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2017. 232 pages. ISBN 9781443831550. Hb. £52.99.

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)

Editor’s Notes

Editor’s Notes

Shaping Destinies: Women and the Hungarian Refugee Movement to Canada (1956–1958)

By December 1958, Canada had admitted almost 38,000 Hungarian refugees, forced to flee their country after Soviet forces crushed the October 1956 uprising. A rich historiography has examined this migration from a range of perspectives, but an analysis of women’s actions and attitudes represents an uncharted approach. Archival research reveals that Canadian women expressed opinions and took on a variety of roles related to the refugee movement. Examining those opinions and roles not only offers a novel perspective on Canada’s response to the refugee crisis, but it also provides insights into the evolving roles of women in Canadian society. The weight of intersectionality often muted the voices of women of Hungarian origin, both Canadians and refugees. Yet, refugee women were accorded a symbolic power that played its own role in the movement, and they found ways to exercise their agency to achieve their desired admission and settlement outcomes. (ST)

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.

Levels of Discomfort: Paul Beatty’s The Sellout as the First American Novel to Win the Man Booker Prize

The essay explores the context in which the first American novel won the British Booker Prize. Paul Beatty’s novel was hailed as a comic masterpiece. The essay discusses how comedy works in this novel, how the book fits the profile of the Man Booker Prize, and how the work reads against the tradition of the English comic novel. The Sellout (2015) shows elements of standup comedy, delivered in a deadpan voice, yet referencing the latest social and intellectual theories. The topic is the silent erasure of a predominantly black community in the greater Los Angeles area, and its politically incorrect resuscitation. The novel creates an eerie feeling of being set in a vast emptiness, yet indicates a recognizable location in the congested Los Angeles area, moving between desperate satire and magic realism, with an intellectual freedom created by the level acceptance and unflinching description of the cognitive dissonances of the world depicted.

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)

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)

Action Hero vs. Tragic Hero: First Blood, Cultural Criticism, and Schelling’s Theory of Tragedy

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)

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