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)
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 o...f 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)
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.
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)
The Arctic is home to many distant and distinct Inuit communities and dialects. The strength of the Inuit originates in their being tethered to the same ancient narrative harkening back to common ancestral traditions, songs, and stories that characterize the Inummariit, the “real Inuk.” The wisdom of these traditions called qua...jimajatuqangit, or Inuit knowledge, is the key to creating nationhood among the Inuit via unikkausivut, sharing stories. This paper examines how affirming shared roots, common goals, and speaking with a united voice—the credo of the Circumpolar Council, the prime Inuit organization in the North—has helped establish an Inuit national identity for all Inuit living in several different regions and countries across the Arctic. In Canada, the creation of the semi-sovereign territory of Nunavut and the acknowledgement of the Inuit Nunangat, or homeland, have further aided the Inuit in redefining themselves. (RN)
This essay develops an alternative notion of Black flânerie, one that foregrounds the flâneur’s auditory experiences and practices in the city, explaining how sound patterns work as indexes of historical traumas such as slavery, colonialism, and indigenous dispossession. More specifically, it investigates how sound and space are connected a...nd what these connections may reveal about acoustical and historical conditions of urban sites. Analyses advance readings of spaces as shadowed by sonic traces, echoes, afterlives, and memories, which point to the sedimentation of sound in geographic as well as psychic structures and ruptures and hence show how different soundscapes suggest different forms of relationality: alienation, rupture, intersection, connection, and transformation. Finally, it demonstrates how sound imagery—including music, dialects, noise, voices, and silence—functions to signal fantastic spaces and places, fantastic or speculative linkages in particular, and produces a version of the non-White fantastic. (DKM)
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, this essay surveys the various visions of society Canada has lived through until recently. Monocultural, bicultural and multicultural models of political identity alternated to clash over the constitution, thereby making it impossible for Aboriginal peoples and t...he Québécois to deliver nationalist arguments through the wall of liberal egalitarianism. The failure of the Meech Lake Accord (1987) pushed the country towards a federal and identity crisis inasmuch as it failed to reconcile the interests of national minorities with the interest of the nation as a whole within one legal framework. Continuing clashes over the constitution, especially in the Charlottetown Accord (1992), show that inherent cleavages in the body politic have survived, so multiculturalism has only been a partial solution to a population management problem. (GTE)
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)
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)
Mechanized and trench warfare, which dominated World War I representations and made millions of soldiers suffer, challenged the rigid gender ideals and hierarchies in the Europe of the time. As the destruction of the traditional manly ideal ran parallel with the destruction of male bodies in the war, the hegemony of traditional representational... modes of soldiers was also gradually replaced by more innovative strategies both in poetry and painting. The essay analyzes such works of art with a focus on the crisis of masculinity, manifested quite tangibly in new strategies and representations of visual art. Similarly to soldiers’ written reminiscences, works of visual art depict a sense of emasculation, powerlessness, physical and mental breakdown, testifying that the masculine ideal, which was in large part defined by the chivalric heroic tradition, became anachronistic and unattainable. The figure of the physically or mentally disabled, disempowered soldier as a new phenomenon gained a central position during and after World War I, questioning the validity of the old patriarchal order. Previously marginalized masculinities, for example, the masculinity of homosexual men, and traits previously associated exclusively with femininity such as sensitivity, found their way to open up the borders and shape the Modernist discourse of European masculinity, changing it once and for all. (EEB)
Gray, Erik. The Art of Love Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 210 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-875297-4. Hb. £50.00.
Bringing the act of artistic creation to the stage involves a multiplicity of strategies and interrogations that are not easily contained within the boundaries of the “drama of the artist” as understood in its quasi-biographical sense. This is especially true of visual art which cannot be represented by words only but requires a different k...ind of presence on stage. In many Künstlerdramas the biographical presence tends to impose recognizable limits to the fictionalization exercise, which frequently turns to the individual creator as the center of an inquiry into the problematics of artistry. This paper discusses how two contemporary Künstlerdramas, John Logan’s Red (2009) and John Murrell’s The Far Away Nearby (1996), attempt to reinvent the trope by weaving the biographical record with the performative presence of acts of staged visuality that re-center the act of artistic creation. (TB)
The essay focuses on two representative examples of Anne Sexton’s poems about reproduction, “In Celebration of My Uterus” and “The Abortion.” Contrary to most previous analyses which have foregrounded Sexton’s concern with personal identity, the paper claims that Sexton positions personal experience in the wider framework of cultura...l and social discourses. “In Celebration of My Uterus” explores the experience of the vitality of the speaker’s reproductive organ in the context of kinship with women in other geopolitical locations, also addressing how childbearing is implicated in processes of national economic production. “The Abortion” situates the termination of a pregnancy in the context of the Pennsylvanian landscape, raising questions regarding the embeddedness of the natural landscape in processes of human economic production, as well as the financial implications of the termination of a pregnancy. While questions of self-identity, personal boundaries, and physical experiences are undoubtedly central to “The Abortion” and “In Celebration of My Uterus,” they also attest to Sexton’s concern with the experience of the individual in their wider social context. (BK)
Although neither the first nor the second constitution of the United States contains any references to the role of languages in the process of nation-building, a few language-related issues emerged from time to time during the early congressional debates and deliberations. These sporadic instances mostly framed the English language as a “prag...matic instrument” rather than a “national ideological symbol.” Consequently, no serious attempts were made either to officially adopt it as the majority language or to enhance its societal role and capacity in identity formation by legislative fiat. The apocryphal accounts of disestablishing English and installing, for example, French, German, or Latin as the de jure official language after the American Revolution probably belong to the realm of language policy myths. Drawing on key legislative documents during the critical years of the founding of the United States and employing language policy classification schemes based on the works of Anderson, Wiley, and Ruiz, the essay proposes a comprehensive overview of how, when, and in what contexts language-related references appeared. (SCz)
The essay reads Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) in the context of Walter D. Mignolo’s discussion on “border thinking” and “border gnosis” in Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (2000). Through introducing the narrative voice of Sir Arthur Jen...nings Marlon James creates a link between past and present, between Caribbean and European tradition of cultures of orality and literacy, and between pre- and post-colonial times, critically engaging in the erasure of thresholds of epistemological location. Specific attention is paid to Sir Arthur’s role as a “duppy” (a ghost or spirit in the religious practice of Obeah) and as a “griot” (an African/Caribbean bard and story-teller) whose function is to narrate and document local histories and guard verbal art traditions of the community. (AMT)
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 Serva...nt (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)
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)
Tlostanova, Madina. Postcolonialism and Postsocialism in Fiction and Art: Resistance and Re-existence. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xi + 224 pages. ISBN 978-3-319-48444-0. Hb. €88.39.
Ng, Andrew Hock Soon. Women and Domestic Space in Contemporary Gothic Narratives: The House as Subject. Basingstroke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. xiii + 246 pages. ISBN 978-1-137-53681-5. Hb. $90.
Wilker, Frank. Cultural Memories of Origin: Trauma, Memory, and Imagery in African American Narratives of the Middle Passage. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2017. 302 pages. ISBN 9783825361921. Hb. $49.05.
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.
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.
García-Romero, Anne. The Fornes Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornes. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2016. xiii + 240 pages. ISBN 978-0816531448. Pbk. $24.95.