This chapter has seven sections: 1. Africa; 2. Australia; 3. Canada; 4. The Caribbean; 5. South Asia; 6. New Zealand & Pacific; 7 Southeast Asia.
Section 1 is by Margaret Daymond, Grace Musila, Tina Steiner and Madhu Krishnan; section 2 is by Michael Griffiths and Paul Sharrad; section 3 is by Paul Sharrad; section 4 is by Giselle Rampaul and Geraldine Skeete; section 5 is by Mridula Nath Chakraborty and Ira Raja; section 6 is by Dougal McNeill; section 7 is by Weihsin Gui.
(a) West Africa
This was a particularly productive year for West African literary studies. Unsurprisingly, a key focus was tributes and elegies for Chinua Achebe and Kofi Awoonor, both of whom passed away in 2013. Yaw Asante’s ‘Tribute: Kofi Awoonor (1935–2013)’ ( TvL 51:i 74–6) is a thoughtful reflection on a man whose life ‘was a commitment and dedication to a country and continent to which he felt deeply attached’ (p. 76). In spare prose, Asante foregrounds Awoonor’s legacy and the tragedy that he should have been killed in the service of education and knowledge. Elsewhere, African Literature Today 32 features a range of retrospectives on, analyses of, and poetic tributes and eulogies to, Awoonor. These items include Kofi Anyidoho’s ‘Kofi Awoonor: In Retrospect’ ( ALT 32 121–4); Ghirmai Negash’s ‘Kofi Awoonor: Poem for a Mentor & Friend’ ( ALT 32 125–36); Mawuli Adjei’s ‘Looking Death in the Eye: The Human Condition, Morbidity & Mortality in Kofi Awoonor’s Poetry’ ( ALT 32 137–50); Richard Priebe’s ‘Eulogy for an Artist, a Statesman, a Teacher & Friend: Kofi Awoonor’ ( ALT 32 151–7); Prince K. Adika’s ‘Postcolonial Trauma & the Poetics of Remembering the Novels of Kofi Awoonor’ ( ALT 32 158–72); and Kofi Anyidoho’s ‘Song for Nyidevu’ ( ALT 32 173). Awoonor’s This Earth, My Brother is one of two works discussed, along with Amma Darko’s Faceless , which is read in the concluding chapter of Ato Quayson’s masterful study of the production of postcolonial African space, Oxford Street, Accra . This must-read book uses the example of a single street in a single district in the titular city to produce an engaging account from the earliest days of empire to the present day, drawing on impressively broad archival research and exploring unexpectedly potent sites for the constitution of spatial precepts, including salsa dancing clubs, fitness studios, and the gym. The study concludes by turning its attention to literary representations of space, particularly representations of movement and traversals of the city. For Quayson, Awoonor’s novel is remarkable in the ‘peculiar and often unsettling sense of modularity by which the city is experienced’ (p. 231), realized through its boldly unconventional, modernist prose.
Awoonor’s sudden and tragic murder in Kenya’s Westgate massacre of 2013 sent shock waves across the world. Equally potent in its significance was the death in March 2013 of Chinua Achebe, so often thought of as the father of modern African literature. The strength of Achebe’s influence is apparent in the sheer volume of tributes and critical engagements with his work throughout 2014. Notable is the tribute in PMLA 129:ii, in the issue’s ‘Theories and Methodologies’ section (pp. 237–56), featuring contributions from luminaries of postcolonial and African studies. Elleke Boehmer’s contribution, ‘Chinua Achebe, a Father of Modern African Literature’ ( PMLA 129:ii 237–9), begins from the assertion that ‘the death of a literary figure bearing a reputation at once local, national, and international invariably raises questions about the writer’s legacy and the afterlife of his or her work’ (p. 237). Boehmer asserts the strong foundation to Achebe’s legacy, both as a critical commentator—notably through his now canonical critique of institutional racism in literary studies via his reading of Conrad—and as an author unto himself. Citing the enduring influence of Things Fall Apart as a classic text which ‘permanently changed perceptions of African literature on the continent and worldwide’ (p. 238), Boehmer makes a compelling case for Achebe’s larger importance as an author who found ‘success in wresting Africa into non-African frameworks of cognition through the medium of the novel form, yet, importantly, without ever compromising or substantially changing his novels’ structures of religious and cultural reference’ (p. 239). Things Fall Apart is also the starting point for Rhonda Cobham-Sander’s ‘Chasms and Silences: For Chinua Achebe’ ( PMLA 129:ii 240–3). The strategic silences embedded within that novel are a means of ‘register[ing] possibilities beyond representation’ (p. 240), and echo in the aporia underlying the work of resistance and assimilation in Achebe’s larger oeuvre. The remainder of the piece traces the many silences and ghosts which haunted Achebe in the wake of Biafra. Achebe’s prose style is the subject of the next contribution to the tribute section, Uzoma Esonwanne’s ‘ “Restraint … My Style”: Deliberate and Mournful’ ( PMLA 129:ii 243–5). Citing the twin influences of mbari and the Igbo masquerade, Esonwanne draws links between the deliberate and measured style of Achebe’s fictional writings and his non-fictional prose, making particularly important observations about how authorial control of tone challenges orthodox precepts around late style. The essay’s comparison between Things Fall Apart , Achebe’s first published work, and There Was A Country , his last, will be of particular significance for scholars. Harry Garuba, in ‘Chinua Achebe and the Struggle for Discursive Authority in the Postcolonial World’ ( PMLA 129:ii 246–8), moves beyond readings which position Achebe’s work within the context of anti-colonial nationalism and cultural colonization in order to excavate his importance for ‘this postcolonial present’ (p. 246). In so doing, Garuba characterizes Achebe’s work as a study in the simultaneous interpellation of the split postcolonial subject by two incompatible discursive orders. Eileen Julien, by contrast, approaches the reading of Things Fall Apart from a historical perspective in ‘How We Read Things Fall Apart Then’ ( PMLA 129:ii 248–50). Showing the range of reference which gave rise to that work, Julien situates Achebe as an author of the world, ‘the exemplar—if not the theorist—of early “postcolonial literature”, the one who inaugurated what would be known for fifty years as “African literature” ’ (p. 249), who, at the time that his first novel was published, was nonetheless read alternately through a teleological vision of African society moving from tradition to modernity or through the lens of ‘authenticity’. The penultimate offering in PMLA ’s tribute to Achebe, James Ogude’s ‘Reading No Longer at Ease as a Text That Performs Local Cosmopolitanism’ ( PMLA 129:ii 251–3), considers the second published novel, the story of Okonkwo’s embattled grandson. Reading the novel as emerging from a period of transition, as the nation-state of Nigeria slowly emerged, the essay traces the movements of two forms of cosmopolitanism in the novel: the idealistic and universal, and the local and situated. For Ogude, the struggle between these two modes is what characterizes Obi Okonkwo’s crisis: a desire to transcend not just his Englishness, but the traditional ways of his Igbo people as well. The section ends with Elaine Savory’s ‘Chinua Achebe’s Ecocritical Awareness’ ( PMLA 129:ii 253–6), which draws a parallel with the loss of the author and the loss of ‘the whole earth as habitable space’ (p. 253). Reading Achebe’s work against the traditional metaphysics of Igbo cosmology, carefully attuned to the earth and environment, Savory concludes with an elegy for a man who ‘understood the importance of balance in human and natural ecology’ (p. 255) in a manner which has become all too rare.
Chinua Achebe: Tributes and Reflections , edited by Nana Ayebia Clarke and James Currey, features forty-nine short essays, eulogies, and reflections by a range of international critics and writers, including both rare, previously published texts and newly commissioned work. Beginning with Lyn Innes’s tribute to Achebe, published in the Guardian as his official obituary, and ending with a reprint of Binyavanga Wainaina’s satirical essay, ‘How to Write About Africa’, the collection as a whole spans ages, generations, and perspectives on Achebe, including personal reminiscences, poetic reflections, and testaments to the author’s enduring legacy. Of particular interest to readers will be the hauntingly beautiful prose poem in his praise contributed by Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo, and Odia Ofeimun’s ‘For Chinua Achebe’. Femi Osofisan’s ‘The Discombobulation of a Rookie Patriot: A Stage Adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s Man of the People ’ is another must-read entry. The personal anecdotes are of particular value in humanizing a man who had become a legend.
Rare is a year that does not see critical attention paid to Achebe’s oeuvre, irrespective of special commemorations. Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi’s essay, ‘Cold War Sponsorships: Chinua Achebe and the Dialectics of Collaboration’ ( JPW 50:iv 410–22) is an important rereading of Man of the People not as a study in corruption and failed governance in Nigeria, but rather as part of a class of mid-century works which critique the rhetoric of the Cold War. Osinubi argues that the novel deliberately subordinates its engagement with Cold War geopolitics to localized concerns in the era of decolonization as a means of satirizing the often inflammatory language expressing fear of communism in newly independent nations. By so doing, the novel imagines a world order with space for political engagement outside a post-Second World War East–West binary. A reassessment of Achebe’s oeuvre is also the subject of Megan Cole Paustian’s ‘ “A Real Heaven on Their Own Earth”: Religious Missions, African Writers, and the Anticolonial Imagination’ ( RAL 45:ii 1–25), which sets Achebe’s memoirs and fiction alongside the work of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o to explore the ways in which missionary education, though implicated with colonial domination, served also as a site for radical self-invention via the emancipatory discourses which would drive decolonization. The essay focuses on Achebe’s Education of a British-Protected Child , Things Fall Apart , and Arrow of God in order to develop comparative readings of missionary education across genres. This mode of comparative analysis is continued in Aghogho Akpome’s ‘Ways of Telling: (Re)Writing the Nation in the Novels and Memoir of Chinua Achebe’ ( JLST 30:i 34–52), which examines the trajectory from Achebe’s earlier novelistic output to his final work, the memoir There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra , in order to argue that his thematization of the postcolonial nation betrays a narrowing of interest from Africa writ large, to the Nigerian nation, and finally to the Igbo ethno-nation. By so doing, Akpome retrospectively radicalizes Achebe’s older work. Revisionist reading continues in Oritsegbubemi Oyowe’s philosophical essay, ‘Fiction, Culture, and the Concept of a Person’ ( RAL 45:ii 46–62), which revisits Ikuenobe’s 2006 reading of Things Fall Apart as a study of normative personhood. Oyowe’s essay deftly demonstrates that, contrary to the orthodox critical position, Achebe’s work cannot be said to make any clear claims about personhood, either metaphysical or normative. Françoise Ugochukwu also turns her attention to Things Fall Apart in an absorbing essay that traces the history of film and television adaptations of the novel, notably the highly successful 1987 adaptation as a ten-part miniseries for NTA, in ‘ Things Fall Apart : Achebe’s Legacy, from Book to Screen’ ( RAL 45:ii 168–83). Finally, a chapter in Brian May’s Extravagant Postcolonialism: Modernism and Modernity in Anglophone Fiction, 1958–1988 , ‘Tradition and the Talent for Individuality’, picks up on the theme of the person, reading Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease as studies in the relationship between art and the individual. In both novels, May argues, aesthetics—and particularly beauty—serves as an indication of moral values with a significant political import. This must-read chapter centres on Obi, protagonist of No Longer At Ease , positioning his climactic abandonment of his once beloved poetry as the moment in which his ethical and moral quest fails. Drawing on the modernist aesthetic claim to art as weapon, May’s readings of both novels situate each as fundamentally about art, beauty, and the power therein.
Achebe is also subject of a chapter in Alexander Täuschel’s World English(es): On the Examples of India and Nigeria , which focuses on the use of West African English in Nigerian literature through readings of orality in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God . Linguistic criticism, particularly stylistic analysis, was a major aspect of Achebe studies in 2014. Isaac Nuokyaa-Ire Mwinlaaru’s ‘Style, Character and the Theme of Struggle and Change: Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah ’ ( RAL 45:ii 103–21) is a particularly fascinating example of this critical trend, using systemic functional linguistics to explore the narrative and linguistic transformation from fear and powerlessness in the novel to empowerment and bravery. The essay focuses particularly on the relationship between symbolism, narrative situation, and transitivity patternings, on the one hand, and on the other an underlying systemic linguistic analysis of the character of Chris as an exemplar of Achebe’s call for an enlightened citizenry to stand up to power and transform society. Aghogho Akpome continues stylistic analysis in ‘Dispersal of Narrative Point of View in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah ’ ( EARev 31:i 19–37), which argues that extant criticism of the novel has been overshadowed by socio-political and thematic readings. Akpome focuses on the narrative and linguistic innovations within the novel, particularly its use of multiple focalizers, emplotment, and temporal non-linearity. Drawing heavily on the narratological work of Jahn and Bal, Akpome convincingly demonstrates the extent to which Achebe creates a panoptic view of African society at the interstices of postcoloniality and postmodernity.
Other 2014 essays on Achebe include Zahra Sadeghi’s ‘Role of Colonial Subjects in Making Themselves Inferior in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart ’ ( AdLLS 5:vi n.p.); Ecevit Bekler’s ‘The True Face of Pre-Colonial Africa in Things Fall Apart ’ ( RPh 25:xxx 96–104); Abubakar Mohammed Sani’s ‘Literature as Tool for Sustainable Development: A Comparative Literary Analysis of Achebe’s Arrow of God and Tahir’s The Last Iman ’ ( AdLLS 5:iii); Arua E. Arua’s ‘Free Indirect Style in Three Canonical African Novels Written in English’ (in Arua, Abioye, and Ayoola, eds., Language, Literature and Style in Africa , pp. 2–21), which compares the methods of focalization and style in Anthills of the Savannah with Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Ngũgĩ’s Petals of Blood ; Aaron Bady’s chapter, ‘The Thing and the Image: Violence in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart ’ (in Peebles, ed., Violence in Literature , pp. 38–53); and Amarjeet Nayak’s ‘Reading a Culturally Different Text: Meaning Signification Process in Chinua Achebe’s Short Stories’ ( ShFTP 4:i 67–78).
Along with Achebe, Wole Soyinka stands out as a pioneer of West African literary writing, and this distinction did not go unnoticed in 2014. Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochukwu Promise’s edited collection, Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80 , speaks to the ongoing importance of his literary presence. This volume contains thirty short essays organized over six sections. The first, ‘Salutatory Musing for the Master’s Tale’, features tributes from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, Sefi Atta, Margaret Busby, Toni Morrison, and Nicholas Westcott. These contributions paint a portrait not just of a literary giant, but of an engaged, kind, and committed individual. Section II, ‘The Canvas is Universal: Philosophy, Literature and the Politics of Redemption’, comprises three more analytic reflections by Ama Ata Aidoo, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Ato Quayson, foregrounding the ethico-philosophical dynamics of Soyinka’s work. Section III, ‘Harvest of Past Seasons: Memoirs, Conversations and Palavers’, returns to a more personal idiom, with a broad array of reminiscences and anecdotes by Soyinka’s friends and family, including Femi Johnson, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Esi Sutherland-Addy, and Amowi Sutherland Phillips. Section IV, ‘The Museum, African Art and Music’, surveys Soyinka’s legacy, placing his work in the wider landscape of African cultural production through the ages. John Collins and Ivor Agyeman-Duah’s take on Soyinka and Fela in ‘The Protestants from Abeokuta: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and His Cousin’ is of particular interest, approaching Soyinka through the body of work of the infamous musician. The next section, ‘Poetry from the Threshold’, includes contributions from luminaries including Derek Walcott and Atukwei Oki. The last section of the volume, ‘Tradition and the Modernity of Governance’, highlights Soyinka’s importance as a political thinker and public figure. It concludes with a reflection by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who draws connections across Soyinka’s engaged intellectualism and the new African renaissance.
Three more essays demonstrate the ongoing literary and political import of Soyinka’s work. Solomon Omatsola Azumurana’s ‘Wole Soyinka’s Dystopian/Utopian Vision in A Dance of the Forests ’ ( TvL 51:ii 71–81) reads Soyinka’s play through the lens of temporality, arguing that, rather than simply depicting the exigencies of post-independence disillusionment, the work can be read as a linking of a hopeless past to an empty present in order to gesture towards a dystopian future in which atrocities seem inevitable. Paradoxically, however, this fatalistic vision opens the play to the possibility of a utopian future. Based on the premise that only a critical perspective on the past and present can create the space for a hopeful futurity, the essay demonstrates the interweaving of the dystopian and the utopian as a call for engagement. Andrew Barnaby turns his attention to another of Soyinka’s plays in his ‘ “The Purest Mode of Looking”: (Post)Colonial Trauma in Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman ’ ( RAL 45:i 125–49), which takes as its starting point Soyinka’s statement in his author’s note to the play that colonialism is ‘a catalytic incident merely’. Drawing on a Freudian analysis of trauma and deferred action, the essay challenges this authorial self-positioning by positioning colonialism as ‘an originary missing’ of the event itself (p. 127), a kind of not seeing which calls for an ethical project of bearing witness and enables the act of witnessing. Ultimately, Barnaby positions the play as a study in post-memory and responsibility. Mark Mathuray’s essay, ‘Intimacies between Men: Modernism, African Homosexualities and Masculinist Anxieties in Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters ’ ( JPW 50:vi 635–47), addresses what is arguably Soyinka’s most famous work of prose fiction. The essay focuses largely on a single, pivotal scene from the novel, in which Biodun Sagoe meets the mixed-race, homosexual American Joe Golder on a dark and stormy night. Mathuray thoroughly explores how the homosexual figure functions within the aesthetics of African high modernism as an ethical challenge to normative discourses of nationalism and tradition. Both marginal and central, the character of Golder destabilizes the hegemonic forms of masculinity and heteronormativity represented by the novel’s main characters, who themselves become figures embodying contemporary African nationalist leadership. Finally, a moving and personal reflection on Soyinka rounds out this year’s contribution to criticism on the author. In ‘Wole Soyinka: “Intellectuel total vs. poète citoyen”: An Antitotalitarian Theory of Power’ ( BRN 14:i 158–63), Alain Ricard ruminates on Soyinka’s centrality to his own intellectual formation, reading in his multiple engagements a radical dialogism which threatens totalitarian discourses at their foundation.
Stylistic analyses were not limited to readings of Achebe; other contributions to the developing field of stylistics and West African literature include Godwin Oko Ushie and Idaevbor Bello’s ‘Umbilical Accord and Symbiosis between Man and the Environment: A Stylistic Analysis of Selected Poems of Joe Ushie’s Hill Songs and Unima Angrey’s Drought (Ubang) ’ ( TPLS 4:vii 1327–33) and Edmund Bamiro’s ‘Stylistic Functions of “Dislocation” in Soyinka’s Novels: A Systemic-Functional Analysis’ ( TPLS 4:xii 2492–7). Most significant in this line of criticism is Daria Tunca’s wonderful Stylistic Approaches to Nigerian Fiction . Tunca’s book begins from the premise that, through a sustained engagement with the principles of stylistic analysis, new meanings and positions may be excavated from the literary text. Tunca is careful to note that this approach is not hostile to ‘traditional’ literary criticism, but rather serves as an extra set of tools. This stylistic method is outlined in the study’s first chapter, ‘Towards an “African Stylistics”? Historiographical and Methodological Considerations’. Theory is put into practice in the next chapter, ‘Of Palm Oil and Wafers: Characterization in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus ’, which convincingly analyses the novel’s formal features—particularly its use of proverbs and its recurrent grammatical patterns—to demonstrate protagonist Kambili’s awakening throughout the course of the novel. Tunca’s deployment of the concepts of mind-style and transitivity are particularly compelling, as is her use of Halliday’s systemic-functional grammar. The next chapter retains its focus on Adichie. ‘ “The Other Half of the Sun”: Ideology in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun ’ inspects under-lexicalization, repeated schemas, the use of vocatives, and the use of exemplification to unpack the ideological constructions which undergird the novel. ‘Art is a Journey: Metaphor in Ben Okri’s The Landscapes Within and Dangerous Love ’ compares these two versions of a broadly similar text, identifying the underlying use of conceptual metaphor as a major element in the reconstruction of meaning across each. The final two chapters of the study move to shorter-form fiction, examining the novellas of Chris Abani and Uzodinma Iweala. ‘ “Bi-textual” Poetics Investigating Form in Chris Abani’s Becoming Abigail ’ develops a methodical framework for understanding the often contradictory impulses which underlie Abani’s prose, creating what is often described as its haunting quality. The concluding chapter to the study, ‘Children at War: Language and Representation in Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation and Chris Abani’s Song for Night ’, addresses two difficult novels which engage, in various ways, with the figure of the child soldier and the memory of the Nigerian Civil War. The former text is read through its linguistic inaccuracy, a departure from realism in the text that enables its stylistic range, while the latter text can be described as riddled with ambiguities which result in a split between an empathic and an ironic reading. Tunca closes her study with a call for a reappraisal of the value of stylistics as a form of literary criticism, the value of which is aptly demonstrated throughout the book.
Hamish Dalley’s The Postcolonial Historical Novel: Realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts , contains two chapters of interest to scholars of West African literature. The first of these, ‘Aesthetics of Absent Causality: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun ’, positions the novel against a larger body of Nigerian Civil War literature, noting the ways in which Adichie’s text departs from certain normative features. Dalley argues that, through the use of character and plot, Adichie refuses the imperative to homogenize either victims or perpetrators of violence, instead insisting on ‘the inadequacy of historical interpretations that ignore the internal heterogenetic of Nigeria’s ethno-religious communities’ (p. 126). Citing what he terms the novel’s ‘aesthetics of absent causality’, Dalley uses close readings of the text to demonstrate how, through historical documentation intercut with imaginative elements, Adichie demands an expansion of imaginative horizon beyond the nation-state and its attendant absolutes. In his following chapter, ‘Spectres of Civil War Trauma: Chris Abani’s Song for Night ’, Dalley turns to another example of war fiction to discuss the significance and applicability of trauma theory in studies of Nigerian Civil War writing. Noting the ambiguities which pepper Abani’s novella, Dalley claims that its ‘trauma aesthetics’ unsettle orthodoxies around history and realism in the postcolonial novel.
Madhu Krishnan’s Contemporary African Literature in English: Global Locations, Postcolonial Identifications also includes a number of chapters of interest to studies of West African literature. Based upon the premise that the gap between aesthetic and material readings of African texts has led to the constriction of imaginative horizons around the image of Africa, Krishnan’s monograph considers case studies by Aminatta Forna, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chris Abani, and G.A. Agambila. In the second chapter of the study, ‘Gender and Representing the Unrepresentable’, Krishnan places Forna’s Ancestor Stones and Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun in conversation with Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins to examine the intersection of gender and conflict. Both texts subvert the trope of feminization in conflict in order to present alternative visions of engenderment which remain nonetheless under pressure from external material forms. In the following chapter, ‘Mythopoetics and Cultural Re-Creation’, Krishnan turns to Abani’s GraceLand as an example of a text which reconfigures traditional and modern mythological narratives to redefine cultural hybridity and liminality. Through its resistance against a collapse into the surreal or arcane, GraceLand , Krishnan argues, develops a vision for contemporary Africa which refuses absolutes in favour of an ever-vigilant sense of multiplicity. GraceLand and Half of a Yellow Sun are again subjects of the study’s final chapter, ‘Global African Literatures: Strategies of Address and Cultural Constraints’, which examines the use of the trope of the book within the book as an unsettling of rhetorical desire and narrative convention. By forcing the reader into a relationship of co-production through the insertion of extra-literary ‘texts’ within each novel, both subvert absolutist models of cultural identification. The chapter concludes with a discussion of locally published African literature, including Ghanaian politician and writer G.A. Agambila’s Journey , which chronicles the disillusionment of an educated member of Ghana’s burgeoning elite against the background of economic deprivation. Journey is another form of African literature beyond that published in the multinational literary market; it draws upon specific localized forms of identification to create a multi-modal narrative structure that points to limits of the ‘local’ and ‘global’ in studies of African literature today.
Amongst the most significant publications of 2014 was Matatu 45, edited by Ogaga Okuyade. Titled ‘Tradition and Change in Contemporary West and East Africa Fiction’, the volume deals with authors both canonical and less well-known and features themes of gender, sexuality, diaspora, migration, politics, and space, with a primary focus on writing from the previous decade. Iniobong I. Uko’s ‘Womanhood, Sexuality, and Work: The Dialectic of Exploitation’ ( Matatu 45 1–20) sets the writing of Flora Nwapa and Ama Ata Aidoo in dialogue with the work of Nawal El Saadawi to examine the ways in which each author intervenes in the exploitative dynamics of traditional gender relations and opens avenues towards new agendas for African women. That essay is followed by Enajite E. Ojaruega’s ‘Outgoing and Incoming Africans: Migration and Reverse Migration in Contemporary African Narratives’ ( Matatu 45 21–34), which reads a number of texts including Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus , Abani’s GraceLand , and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist to explore the often conflicting sentiments of aspiration through migration and nostalgia through return. Oluwole Coker’s ‘Development Imperatives and Transnationalism in Third-Generation Nigerian Fiction’ ( Matatu 45 35–42) addresses two seemingly dissimilar narratives, Okey Ndibe’s Arrows of Rain and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s I Do Not Come To You By Chance , in order to discuss the development quest in contemporary Nigerian fiction as the fulcrum of a transnational aesthetic which emerges in these works. Thomas Jay Lynn’s ‘Postcolonial Encounters Re-envisioned: Kojo Laing’s Woman of the Aeroplanes as Trickster Narrative’ ( Matatu 45 153–66) focuses on the Ghanaian author, reading his trickster book as offering an alternative to the historical domination of West Africa through an emphasis on personal and political modes of freedom. Christopher Ouma’s ‘Countries of the Mind: Space-Time Chronotopes in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus ’ ( Matatu 45 167–86) centres on the significance of the university town of Nsukka in Adichie’s debut novel. Defining the city as a ‘toponym’, comprising compounds, houses, and a range of material objects, the essay probes the play of belonging and non-belonging engendered through its trajectories of movement across space and time, ultimately positioning Nsukka as an aesthetic space, a country of the mind, in which a liberating topography is forged. The next essay in the volume, Brian Doherty’s ‘Writing Back with a Difference: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Headstrong Historian” as a Response to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart ’ ( Matatu 45 187–202), reads her short story as an act of literary revision set against Achebe’s canonical novel: part homage and part critique. Chitra Thrivikraman Nair’s ‘Negotiation of Socio-Ethnic Spaces: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun as a Testimonio of African National and Ethnic Identity’ ( Matatu 45 197–209), reads the novel as a negotiated articulation of Biafran and Igbo space within the landscape of twentieth-century geopolitics. Louisa Uchum Egbunike’s contribution, ‘One-Way Traffic: Renegotiating the “Been-To” Narrative in the Nigerian Novel in the Era of Military Rule’ ( Matatu 45 217–32), includes Achebe’s No Longer At Ease , Soyinka’s The Interpreters , Ekwensi’s Jagua Nana , Habila’s Waiting for an Angel , Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus , and Oguine’s A Squatter’s Tale —its broad historical sweep alone signals its merits. Egbunike’s essay makes a compelling case for a rematerialized consideration of ‘home’ and ‘abroad’ through close attention to the dynamics of a fundamentally asymmetrical system of exchange. Alexander Greer Hartwiger, ‘Strangers in/to the World: The Unhomely in Chris Abani’s GraceLand ’ ( Matatu 45 233–50), argues that Abani’s novel may be read as a reconfiguration of the grounds of world literature through the discourse of the unhomely, as tied to its embodied and spatialized instantiations, ultimately constituting a counter-hegemonic cosmopolitanism. Abani, like Adichie, is one of the better-known contemporary writers from West Africa. Less well known, however, is academic and writer Maik Nwosu, the focus of Ngozi Chuma-Udeh’s ‘Maik Nwosu’s Invisible Chapters : Investigating Psychological Fragmentation in Nigerian Literature’ ( Matatu 45 251–62). The essay is a study of character which seeks to link the ongoing social and political turmoil faced by Nigeria to the psychological fragmentation experienced by Nwosu’s characters. James Omuteche’s ‘The Global Underground and the Illegitimate Diasporas: in Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street ’ ( Matatu 45 263–94) continues the theme of socio-political critique and psychological disorientation. The essay argues that, far from its emancipatory promises, globalization in Unigwe’s novel can be linked to the perpetuation of neo-imperial structures of subordination which contribute to the displacement and dislocation of her protagonists, forced instead into exploitation via the submerged and informal channels of global flows and movements. Unigwe’s fellow contemporary Nigerian writer is the focus of the next essay in the collection, Owojecho Omoha’s ‘Fictional Narrative and the Reflective Self in Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel ’ ( Matatu 45 295–314), which turns its attention to narrative style, situating the novel as a self-reflexive manifestation of the author’s own experiences as a student in Jos in northern Nigeria. Charles Cliff Feghabo, ‘Inverting Otherness in Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow ’ ( Matatu 45 315–32), redresses the largely ecocritical readings of oil narratives, arguing instead for a more strongly gendered ecofeminist reading of despoliation and exploitation in this body of work. ‘Love’s Metamorphosis in Third-Generation African Women’s Writing: The Example of Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret lives of Baby Segi’s Wives ’ ( Matatu 45 333–64), by Olusegun Adekoya, similarly proposes a feminist reading of contemporary West African writing, reading Shoneyin’s debut as an examination of human sexuality in the twenty-first-century African context. The penultimate contribution to the collection, Nmachika Nwokeabia’s ‘Gender and (Homo)Sexuality in Third-Generation African Writing: A Reading of Unoma Azuah’s Sky-High Flames and Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows ’ ( Matatu 45 365–80), interrogates the intersectional dynamics of same-sex desire and gendered identifications as a negotiated hierarchy of value. The volume concludes with Shalini Nadaswaran’s ‘Motif/ves of Justice in Writings by Third-Generation Nigerian Women’ ( Matatu 45 381–96), which reads a range of women’s writing including Nwaubani’s I Do Not Come to You By Chance , Abidemi Sanusi’s Eyo , Akachi Ezeigbo’s Trafficked , and Sefi Atta’s Swallow as excavations of Nigeria’s socio-political dynamics and the destructive influence of transnational commerce on the ability of Nigerians to attain wellbeing and self-actualization.
Women’s writing from West Africa has long held a significant place in criticism, from the foundational work of Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, and Ama Ata Aidoo to the emergence of twenty-first-century literary stars such as Adichie and Unigwe. In ‘Gender-Based Genre Conventions and the Critical Reception of Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra ’ ( Literator 35:i n.p.), Polo B. Moji studies genre conventions in Nigerian war writing. Arguing that the reception and production of war writing present a stark binary between the feminine home front and masculine war front, Moji questions this orthodoxy. The essay unpacks Destination Biafra ’s destabilization of gender identities in favour of a radically reoriented vision of gender as fluid and multiple in its instantiation. Emecheta is also the subject of Angela M. Fubara’s ‘Figures of Pedagogy in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes and Buchi Emecheta’s Double Yoke ’ ( TvL 51:i 18–28), which takes a comparative perspective on the two novels as studies in feminist teaching. Fubara explores the ways in which each narrative engages with ‘strategies that evoke images that go beyond women’s disparagement and marginalisation to female empowerment and self-assertion’ (p. 19) through the twinned foci of economic independence and education. A final essay on Emecheta, Anegbe Endurance, Abdulhameed A. Majeed, and Gariagan Gift’s ‘Oppression of the Girl-Child in Buchi Emecheta’s The Bride Price ’ ( AdLLS 5:iv 163–7), examines the ways in which patriarchal oppression produces a replication of violence across generations in the alienated mother–daughter relationship. While Emecheta and Aidoo remain among the best known of female West African writers, first-published West African woman Flora Nwapa also attracted critical attention in 2014. Part of a special issue of Research in African Literatures on ‘Africa in the Black Atlantic’, Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi’s ‘Provincializing Slavery: Atlantic Economies in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru ’ ( RAL 45:iii 1–26) reassesses Nwapa’s canonical novel not as a text about women’s solidarity, but as part of a ‘genealogy of West African fiction on the relations between Atlantic and African slaving networks’ (p. 2). Osinubi deftly demonstrates the extent to which the novel engages with a complex and interweaving historical-spatial matrix, mediated by its eponymous character’s movements and interactions throughout the text. Readers of Efuru often overlook the importance of the Atlantic slave trade to the novel, particularly its connections with the more dominant system of debt bondage. Osinubi’s essay provides an important basis for the reappraisal of the novel’s politics as well as a keen argument for a critical return to canonical texts from the region. Naomi Nkealah’s ‘Women’s Contribution to the Development of Anglophone Cameroonian Drama: The Plays of Anne Tanyi-Tang’ ( RAL 45:ii 122–34) similarly makes a convincing call for a return to the writing of earlier generations in its sweeping survey of the work of Tanyi-Tang and her centrality in the development of women’s voices and visions in Cameroonian drama.
The new generation of women writers from West Africa was also subject to much critical attention in 2014. Two essays focused on Nigerian British author Helen Oyeyemi. Christopher Ouma’s wonderfully rich ‘Reading the Diasporic Abiku in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl ’ ( RAL 45:iii 188–205) proposes a reading of the abiku—the child who dies and is reborn repeatedly—within the context of migration, as a figure through which to ‘confront … structures of racialized interpretation’ (p. 188). Joining readings of the abiku from within its Yoruba tradition with an interpretation based upon psychoanalysis through dissociative identity disorder, Ouma argues that the trope allows the novel to reframe orthodox notions of the African diaspora in a context which moves beyond the overdetermining spectre of the Middle Passage to an African diasporic space of evolution in ‘the creative struggle for reconciliation and conjuncture’ (p. 196). The second major essay, Aspasia Stephenou’s ‘Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching and the Discourse of Consumption’ ( Callaloo 37:v 1245–59), similarly examines tensions created by the deployment of discrepant traditions in Oyeyemi’s work. Stephenou turns her attention to the use of the Caribbean soucoyant myth as a complicating supplement to the vampire narrative in the novel, centring her readings around the discursive potency of consumption as a narrative motif. Linking together the notions of race, history, melancholia, and assimilatory desire, the essay positions the novel as a study in the tension between the past and the present in the constitution of the self via the other.
Chika Unigwe was another main focus of criticism in 2014, particularly centred on her 2009 novel of sex trafficking in Antwerp, On Black Sisters’ Street . These studies ranged from the more strictly narrative and stylistic, in the vein of Tunca’s chapter, described above, to the more sociological. Chielozona Eze’s ‘Feminism with a Big “F”: Ethics and the Rebirth of African Feminism in Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street ’ ( RAL 45:iv 89–103) is a standout in the field, situating the novel as a feminist intervention in the discourse of human rights and the dignities of the bodies of women. Eze highlights the extent to which the novel makes apparent the reduction of women’s bodies to their mere use-value for men, as well as how the women unapologetically embrace feminism and women’s solidarity in their flight from ‘pain and annihilation’ (p. 90). Sarah de Mul’s ‘Becoming Black in Belgium: The Social Construction of Blackness in Chika Unigwe’s Authorial Self-Representation and On Black Sisters’ Street ’ ( JCL 49:i 11–27) sets the novel in dialogue with Unigwe’s autobiographical musings on the meaning of ethnic minority writing in Flanders. From the distinctly de Beauvoirian claim that one is not born as African or as black but rather becomes it, de Mul excavates what she terms, following Graham Huggan and Sarah Brouillette, the strategic exoticism at the heart of both Unigwe’s non-fictional writing and her novelistic output. Another essay published on Unigwe in 2014 is Rose A. Sackeyfio’s ‘Black Women’s Bodies in a Global Economy: Sex, Lies and Slavery in Trafficked and On Black Sisters’ Street ’ (in Negash, Frohne, and Zadi, eds., At the Crossroads: Readings of the Postcolonial and the Global in African Literature and Visual Art , pp. 199–210), which sets Unigwe’s novel in dialogue with Akachi Ezeigbo’s Trafficked .
No author received as much critical attention in 2014 as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In addition to works already mentioned, Jennifer Rideout, in ‘Towards a New Nigerian Womanhood: Woman as Nation in Half of a Yellow Sun ’ ( CE&S 36:ii 71–81), demonstrates the ways in which Half of a Yellow Sun uses its female characters as archetypes of the nation—defined through the two poles of Mama, who represents traditional practices of community-building bound to the ethno-nation, and Kainene, as a textual manifestation of the ‘new’, fully modernized Nigerian nation. The essay concludes that it is Olanna, an allegorical female symbol who combines the two discourses, who points to the way forward for the embattled nation-state. Despite an extant critical focus on its individualistic and libidinal dynamics, the novel is also read as a political allegory by Meredith Coffey in ‘ “She is Waiting”: Political Allegory and the Spectre of Secession in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun ’ ( RAL 45:ii 63–85). For Coffey, the novel’s allegorical potential is demonstrated in its setting of its characters’ intimate relationships against the circumstances of history. Reading the novel’s end as a refusal of closure, rather than a testament to Biafra’s failures, the essay sees the text as a counter-historical discourse that challenges the inevitability of postcolonial disillusionment. Connor Ryan’s essay, ‘Defining Diaspora in the Words of Women Writers: A Feminist Reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck and Dionne Brand’s At the Full and Change of the Moon ’ ( Callaloo 37:v 1230–44) moves its attention to Adichie’s short stories, setting these in dialogue with the work of Canadian writer Brand. Ryan argues that, as studies in migration, the stories collected in The Thing Around Your Neck still turn around a fulcrum of gender. Language becomes the site through which the subversion of gendered and racial hierarchies enacted in the diaspora manifests itself, providing a radical reconsideration of ‘what it means to be black and female in the diaspora’ (p. 1230). Adichie is also mentioned in two essays in a recent special issue of Transition on the theme of ‘What Is Africa To Me, Now?’ Louis Chude-Sokei’s ‘The Newly Black Americans: African Immigrants and Black America’ ( Transition 113 52–71), which reads Adichie’s short stories and most recent novel, Americanah , along with texts by Teju Cole and Chris Abani, as exemplars of the ‘new’ black American experience; and Madhu Krishnan’s ‘Negotiating Africa Now’ ( Transition 114 11–24), which considers Adichie’s writerly and media work along with that of writers including Chris Abani in the context of twenty-first-century, transnational African literary production. A number of other essays which draw on Adichie’s work appeared in 2014: Nneka Nora Osakwe’s chapter, ‘Internationalizing Pedagogy Using African Literature: Teaching Composition Lessons with Chimamanda Adichie’s “My Mother, the Crazy African” ’ (in Negash et al., eds., pp. 241–56); Leena Hannele Eilittä’s ‘ “The World Outside Seemed Mummified into a Sheet of Dead Whiteness”: Epiphanic Experience in the Short Stories of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’ ( ShFTP 4:i 79–92); and Londhe Sachin Vaman’s ‘ “Families in Crises” in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus ’ ( NAcad 3:ii 1–4).
Chris Abani has been mentioned several times already, particularly with reference to his critically acclaimed second novel, GraceLand . A number of other essays examine the novel as a study in place. Lauren Mason’s ‘Leaving Lagos: Intertextuality and Images in Chris Abani’s GraceLand ’ ( RAL 45:iii 206–26) asserts that ‘Abani’s novel reminds us that the inarticulable elements that constitute diaspora—beyond materiality and shared living conditions—are what written narratives want desperately to articulate’ (p. 223), and demonstrates how the transnational, cosmopolitan range of extra-literary reference in the novel—from the bright lights of Las Vegas to traditional folklore to Soviet-era cinema—forges, through bricolage, a black identity which exceeds static or orthodox notions of cultural belonging. Cosmopolitan black identity is also explored in John D. Schwetman’s ‘Leaving Lagos: Diasporic and Cosmopolitan Migrations in Chris Abani’s GraceLand ’ ( PCP 49:ii 184–202), which reads the failure of Abani’s protagonist, Elvis, to find a sense of belonging in Lagos as the instantiation of an earlier moment of diasporic estrangement in his movement from rural Igboland to the Nigerian metropolis. For Schwetman, this narrative move forcibly refuses the essentialization of origins that is so often the foundation of diasporic perspectives in favour of a cosmopolitan narrative of integration and plurality. GraceLand was not the only Abani work to receive attention in 2014. In Madhu Krishnan’s ‘The Storyteller Function in Contemporary Nigerian Narrative’ ( JCL 49:i 29–45), Abani’s 2009 novella Song for Night is read against Helon Habila’s Measuring Time . Krishnan argues that both novels rely upon the intersubjective and collective modes of address more often associated with the spoken word, particularly traditional folklore. Though neither text can be said to be hybridized, in the sense of directly transcribing proverbs or other signifiers of orality, both use a range of techniques to move beyond the strictly linguistic definition of the word in order to transform readers into active co-producers of the text. Alexandra Schultheis Moore and Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg’s ‘ “Let Us Begin with a Small Gesture”: An Ethos of Human Rights and the Possibilities of Form in Chris Abani’s Song for Night and Becoming Abigail ’ ( ArielE 45:iv 59–87) also reads both works as mediating between an embrace of human rights and a critique of its normative discourses. Both works deliberately craft aesthetic forms which allow a shared ethos to develop between reader and text, exploiting the lacuna which appears at the limits of human rights discourse and law. At the same time, both texts challenge the notion of a universal, shared humanity, instead positing a concept of human rights as a self-reflexive and continuous critique.
Gender Issues in African Literature , edited by Chin Ce and Charles Smith, covers African literatures from across the continent, and includes important essays on Achebe’s No Longer at Ease and Anthills of the Savannah , Akachi Ezeigbo’s Children of the Eagle , and Buchi Emecheta’s Destination Biafra in chapters by O. Ojeahere (‘Gender and African Modernity’, pp. 43–64), J.T. Tsaaior (‘Male Authority, Female Alterity’, pp. 90–109), and S.A. Agbor (‘Female Writers on War’, pp. 65–89), respectively. Destination Biafra is the subject, too, of a second chapter by E.N. Ngwang (‘Feminist Re-Writing’, pp. 110–36). The collection as a whole attempts to examine the ways in which Western discourses around gender and sexuality are countered and challenged in African fiction. In No Longer at Ease and Anthills of the Savannah , for instance, there is a call for women’s solidarity as a means of combating patriarchal norms amplified under colonial modernity; Ezeigbo’s novel is read as a study in negotiation, set against the complex terrain of (en)gendered power amongst the Igbo. The two essays on Destination Biafra , finally, set it alongside Nadine Gordimer’s None To Accompany Me and Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins as an exposé of the particular violence wrought against women in times of war, on the one hand, and as a symbolization of the virtues of a Negritude-inspired female resilience, on the other.
Ce and Smith edited two other volumes, Counter Discourse in African Literature and The Dark Edge of African Literature . The former volume features chapters on Femi Osofian’s Tegonni: An African Antigone (A. Van Weyemberg, ‘An African Antigone’, pp. 43–59), Osonye Tess Onwueme’s The Mission Face and Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost (K. Secovnie, ‘Cultural Translation’, pp. 61–80), and Chin Ce’s Children of Koloko (O. Okuyade, ‘The Rhetoric of Despair’, pp. 95–110). With its heavy focus on drama, the volume will be a particularly valuable resource for theatre scholars at all levels. The Dark Edge of African Literature places its emphasis on conflict and violence, featuring chapters on a range of continental African writers, of which essays on Chin Ce and Femi Osofian will be of particular interest. Similarly non-canonical essays can be found in Jessica Munns’ chapter, ‘Two Oroonokos: Behn’s and Bandele’s’ (in Richards and O’Donnell, eds., Teaching Behn’s Oroonoko , pp. 162–6; this was missed last year), which draws comparisons between the canonical text and Biyi Bandele-Thomas’s revision, and Suzanne Marie Ondrus’s chapter ‘Childhood Creative Spaces as Survival Spaces in Sade Adeniran’s Imagine This ’ (in Yenika-Agbaw and Mhando, eds., African Youth in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture: Identity Quest , pp. 35–52).
Along with its moving tribute to Kofi Awoonor, discussed above, ALT 32 includes another article on the abiku: Ikenna Kamalu’s ‘Abiku in Ben Okri’s Imagination of Nationhood: A Metaphorical Interpretation of Colonial-Postcolonial Politics’ ( ALT 32 20–32) argues that Okri’s use of this figure as a cultural metaphor serves the aims of social justice and political reform by foregrounding the once denigrated cultural values of the colonized. Okri’s aesthetics of magical realism were also subject of a number of book chapters in 2014: Jennifer Wenzel’s ‘Petro-Magic-Realism Revisited: Unimagining and Reimagining the Niger Delta’ (in Barrett and Worden, eds., Oil Culture , pp. 449–64); Durojaiye Owoeye’s ‘Going Beyond Borders: Rushdie, Okri and the Deconstruction of Realism’ (in Arua et al., eds., pp. 22–43); and Stephan Larsen’s ‘Whose Magic? Whose Realism? Reflections on Magical Realism in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road ’ (in Cullhed, Rydholm, and Myrdal, eds., True Lies Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts , pp. 275 –87).
ALT 32 also includes an insightful reading by Edward Sackey of a perhaps less well-known text in ‘Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Resolutionaries : Exoteric Fiction, the Common People & Social Change in Post-Colonial Africa—A Critical Review’ ( ALT 32 47–57), an analysis which unpacks the novel as a socially oriented mode of experimental engagement by a politically engaged author. Deborah L. Klein’s ‘ “Manhood” in Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty : Authority or Accountability?’ ( ALT 32 104–19) considers the novel through the lens of social justice by tracing the tension inherent in conceptions of manhood in times of war, engaging in a careful and methodical character analysis to support her readings.
Genre fiction became a focus of scholarly enquiry in 2014. Terri Ochiagha, in ‘The Dangerous Potency of the Crossroads: Colonial Mimicry in Chukwuemeka Ike’s The Bottled Leopard and Chike Momah’s The Shining Ones: The Umuahia School Days of Obinna Okoye ’ ( L&U 38:i 86–105), takes a long historical view of children’s literature in her examination of two Nigerian boarding-school stories. Drawing on the theoretical work of Homi K. Bhabha, Ochiagha argues that these stories provide an intricate negotiation of identity through colonial mimicry. Both replicating and subverting the generic conventions of the boarding-school novel, these two stories dramatize the simultaneous pull of the colonial school and indigenous collectivities. Moving further back in time is Rebecca Jones’s ‘Journeys to the Hinterland: Early Twentieth-Century Nigerian Domestic Travel Writing and Domestic Heterogeneity’ ( PocoT 9:iv 19 pp), which examines Yoruba- and English-language travel writing by I.B. Thomas and E.A. Akintan as a means of rethinking cosmopolitanism through its territorially specific instantiations during the era of amalgamation and nation-formation. Using translocal and regional networks, these travelogues reconfigure the centre/periphery dynamics which have dominated studies of colonialism, exposing the heterogeneity of discrepant cosmopolitan forms. Science fiction is the subject of Matthew Omelsky’s ‘ “After the End Time”: Postcrisis African Science Fiction’ ( CJPLI 1:i 33–49), which looks at Efe Okugo’s novella Proposition 23 as a post-Fanonian articulation of revolutionary subjectivity. Okugo’s work may be best read as a reconfiguration of biopolitics through its imagination of African futures beyond capital.
(b) Eastern Africa
It was a particularly remarkable year for Eastern African letters as it saw the inaugural issue of the first regional journal dedicated to Eastern African writing— Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies. The journal is additionally unique for being internationally published (through Taylor & Francis), but edited from the University of Nairobi by Kenyan literary scholars Tom Odhiambo and Godwin Siundu. In their introduction to the first issue, they not only emphasize interdisciplinary conversations, with a bias towards literary and cultural studies, but also envision an impact reminiscent of Rajat Neorgy’s Transition magazine of the 1970s, which offered cutting-edge literary-critical engagement in the region with an alert ear for debates beyond the region’s boundaries. They remark that ‘there is a need for more space to publish and disseminate research output and knowledge in the literary and cultural studies from eastern Africa’ given the growth of the number of universities in the region and the increase in young graduates ( EALCS 1:i 1–2).
The first volume offers an exciting range of material. Relevant items are ‘Edgy Edgars: The Restless Youth in Suzanna Nelson’s Nightmare along the River Nile: A Story of Twentieth Century Slavery ’ by Paul M. Mukundi ( EALCS 1:i 17–25), a welcome study of Nelson’s novel which has had little critical reception to date. Mukundi reads Nelson’s representation of the impact the Lord’s Resistance Army on Eastern Africa, specifically on youth, and elucidates some of the key themes: how youth become pawns in a war zone, how abductions happen and but also how resilient strategies of survival are forged in the face of trauma. Mukundi’s analysis is followed by Meg Samuelson’s insightful paper ‘Yvette Christiansë’s Oceanic Genealogies and the Colonial Archive: Castaways and Generations from Eastern Africa to the South Atlantic’ ( EALCS 1:i 27–38). It traces Christiansë’s tropes of dispersal and continuity from Eastern Africa, the Cape, and St Helena. Samuelson carefully shows how Christiansë focuses on subaltern characters who are marginal, displaced, and enslaved to create a narrative tension between ideas of belonging and dispersion, between the desire for home and the impossibility of home. The narratives capture this tension through a cyclical, fragmented, episodic poetics that discloses as well as withholds information and in this way eschews narrative certainty. While Christiansë’s novel Unconfessed has received sustained critical attention, Samuelson extends her analysis to the author’s two poetry collections, Castaway  and Imprehendora  which are much less well known and which illuminate Christiansë’s ‘argument with history’ (p. 30). Samuelson shows how, rather than offering a counter-history by making her marginal characters speak, Christiansë’s key narrative devices create ellipses, track absence, and as a result present the reader with a past that haunts the present. On a different variant of movement and dispersal, Tina Steiner’s ‘ “Dwelling in Travel”: Of Ships, Trains and Planes in M.G. Vassanji’s Fiction’ ( EALCS 1:i 39–50) explores the networks of travel and how they mediate memory and the formation of migrant subjectivities. Steiner argues that while Vassanji’s writing has primarily been read with an emphasis on East African Indians’ politics of belonging in the region and the dynamics of migration to the north, an important aspect of this writing relates to travel as a mode of claiming belonging. The ship connects Africa to India, the railway is the reason for indentured Indian presence in the region, and air-travel opens up possibilities of travel and connectivity to the UK and Canada.
Another paper on Vassanji appeared in JCL , ‘ “Since When Has Paper Any Value?”: Reading, Materiality, and Meaning in M.G. Vassanji’s Fiction’ by Ariel Bookman ( JCL 49:ii 198–201), focuses on The Gunny Sack and The Book of Secrets to show that Vassanji’s characters, ‘both literate and illiterate, engage paper’s physical properties to ground their everyday practices of memory, valuation and interpretation’ (p. 189). These three categories, memory, value, and interpretation represent the three subsections of this carefully argued piece, to show how paper objects, such as bills, scraps, mildewed diaries, banknotes, letters, posters, and magazines, in their ‘thingness’ interrupt, complement, and transcend attempts at reading their meaning.
Back with the new journal, M.G. Vassanji’s reflective paper ‘The New (Asian) African: Politics and Creativity in the 1960s’ ( EALCS 1:i 51–8) sheds light on an important historical moment in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in the mid-1960s in which the Asian elite creatively asserted an African identity for themselves. Vassanji recalls the post-independence enthusiasm of Asians to embrace Africanity: be it in politics, as demonstrated by the case of K.L. Jhaveri, Sophia Mustafa and Amir Jamal, A.M. Javanjee, Makhan Singh, and Pio Gama Pinto, or in the creative arts, by Rajat Neogy, editor of Transition , Bahadur Tejani, Peter Nazareth, Amin Kassam, Yusuf Kassam, Kuldip Sondhi, and Ganesh Bagchi. Vassanji draws a rich canvas of a moment in time when Asian participation flourished and new categories of Asian African identities were tested. The article ends with sketching the end of this historical window and the departure of most East African Asians from the region. Kimani Kaigai offers a nuanced reading of Abdulrazak Gurnah’s rather overlooked first novel in ‘Sexuality, Power and Transgression: Homophobia in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Memory of Departure ’ ( EALCS 1:i 59–70). The paper convincingly suggests that Gurnah’s narrative representation of embodied agency offers an insightful optic to read social, political, and economic hierarchies. Kaigai reads the body as ‘prime symbol of self, but also of society’ (p. 59) in that it is socially constituted and contained. In Gurnah’s representation of transgressive bodily behaviour, these categories are questioned yet ultimately the narrative asserts the power of societal control over individual bodies and their classification.
A number of scholars grappled with aspects of life-writing from the region. Jennifer Muchiri’s essay, ‘The Intersection of the Self and History in Kenyan Autobiographies” ( EALCS 1:i 83–93), as the title suggests, reads a selection of Kenyan autobiographies spanning both colonial and post-independence eras as important sources on the history of the nation over a fifty-year period. Muchiri argues that these life stories reveal ‘the unofficial story of a nation in the making’ (p. 90). In the same issue of the journal, Ken Walibora Waliaula focuses on Mau Mau veteran and prominent feminist politician Wambui Otieno’s 1998 memoir . In ‘The Female Condition as Double Incarceration in Wambui Otieno’s Mau Mau’s Daughter ’ ( EALCS 1:i 71–82) Waliaula underlines the importance of this memoir as one of the few—if not the only one at the time of writing—describing a woman’s experience of detention in colonial Kenya. In addition to exploring the literal and discursive incarceration as the double burden women prisoners encounter, Waliaula offers a convincing reading of Otieno’s autobiography as a classic example of the relational sensibility that informs women’s prison writing, as opposed to the emphasis on individual heroism in male prison writing. Otieno emphasizes a familial history of political engagement and resistance to colonial oppression, which she traces all the way back to her great-grandfather, Waiyaki wa Hinga. Waliaula persuasively unpacks the shared patriarchal logics of both the Mau Mau movement and the colonial prison administration in its dealings with women prisoners’ bodies; but stresses Wambui Otieno’s remarkable strength in manoeuvring around these.
Waliaula’s article is usefully complemented by Katherine Bruce-Lockhart’s less literary paper ‘ “Unsound” Minds and Broken Bodies: The Detention of “Hardcore” Mau Mau Women at Kamiti and Gitamayu Detention Camps in Kenya, 1954–1960’ ( JEAfS 8:iv 590–608). With a particular focus on gender, Bruce-Lockhart investigates how discourses of insanity seek to contain and limit the political agency of female detainees during the final years of the emergency period. This paper is significant as it considers new documentary evidence released from the Hanslope Park Archive since 2011 that sheds light on colonial carceral systems and on women not just affected by the guerrilla-style insurgency but as active participants: ‘Initially, the British had not expected women to pose a threat in the rebellion. In part, this myopia stemmed from the government’s belief that African women were passive, peaceful, and uninterested in politics, reflecting the androcentric views about violence widely held in colonial Africa’ (p. 593). These views also affected the way in which the largely ineffective rehabilitation programmes were implemented in the camps: the women who were resisting their rehabilitation were deemed deviant, as either mad or engaging in witchcraft (p. 596).
It has become something of a tradition to have Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o feature in speculation about the Nobel Prize in Literature, and 2014 was no exception. While he was not awarded it, his work remains a regular feature in the region’s literary studies bibliographies. On this list, two articles offer interesting perspectives on Ngũgĩ’s writing: Jairus Omuteche’s ‘Historification of Kenya’s Plural Identities’, which appeared in the aforementioned journal ( EALCS 1:i 107–16), and Aida Mbowa’s ‘Between Nationalism and Pan-Africanism: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Theatre and the Arts and Politics of Modernizing African Culture’ (in Bloom, Miescher, and Manuh, eds., Modernisation as Spectacle in Africa , pp. 328–48). Omuteche revisits Ngũgĩ’s Weep Not Child and Petals of Blood , arguing that his emphasis on heroism and nationalism, anchored in the Gikuyu ethno-cultural landscape, reiterates the pattern of tribal fragmentation initiated by colonial policy in Kenya and elides the role of plurality in the making of modern Kenya. Aida Mbowa offers a refreshing reading of Ngũgĩ’s theatre’s contribution to the engendering of the modern subject and a new black aesthetics in Eastern Africa. Her chapter is a welcome rereading of The Black Hermit and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi , both of which have not received as much critical attention as Ngũgĩ’s fiction and memoirs. It explores how his theatre—both onstage and offstage—reflects on modernization ‘at the intersection of discourses on liberation, development, socialism, and black aesthetics’ (p. 329). Importantly, through her reading of Ngũgĩ the playwright and theatre practitioner, Mbowa underscores cross-cultural conversations between East Africa and the black diaspora on questions of cultural liberation and black/African aesthetics.
‘Julius Nyerere, Ujamaa, and Political Morality in Contemporary Tanzania’, by Marie-Aude Fouéré ( AfrSR 57:i 1–24) is of tangential interest for detailing the iconography and discourse of government and media enshrining Nyerere’s legacy to shape ideas of moral political action. In contrast, political parties on the fringe and Zanzibari accounts of the January 1964 revolution contest this iconography in order to draw attention to the fragility of national unity. The article complements ‘The Poetry of an Orphaned Nation: Newspaper Poetry and the Death of Nyerere’ by Mary Ann Mhina ( JEAfS 8:iii 497–514). She analyses her own English translations of Swahili poetry, which appeared during the mourning period in 1999 in Uhuru , the paper established by the ruling party. All of the poems offer metaphors and similes that had been used before to describe ‘the Father of the nation’ and are resuscitated at this time of mourning. While the glorification may be a way to deal with the loss, Mhina also asserts that it foreclosed the possibility of voicing some of the controversies of his legacy (p. 503). However, some of the poets use this platform to make suggestions for the future (p. 505). Kelly Askew’s ‘Tanzanian Newspaper Poetry: A Commentary in Verse’ ( JEAfS 8:iii 515–37) argues that although poetry is a genre with deep roots on the East African coastline, the advent of newspapers in Tanzania launched a new avenue for the genre, which enjoyed even greater prominence under the newly independent socialist Tanzania’s cultural policy. Askew reads this poetry across colonial and post-independence Tanzania as a form of citizens’ assessments of governance broadly, and Nyerere’s political career specifically.
Grace A. Musila turns her attention to Kenyan writer and journalist Parselelo Kantai’s short fiction and essays, in her chapter ‘Archives of the Present in Parselelo Kantai’s Writing’ (in Newell and Okome, eds., Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday , pp. 244–265). Drawing on Karin Barber’s work on popular culture in Africa, the chapter reflects on the network of relations that mediate the ideas, production, and circulation of Kantai’s writing. It embodies a complex interface between history, fiction, and autobiography and is an example of the Kwani generation of writers whose work defies simplistic categorization by straddling the canonical-popular divide.
Youth culture and its creative articulations are the focus of Nanna Schneidermann’s article ‘ “Mic Power”: “Public” Connections through the Hip Hop Nation in Kampala’ ( Ethnography 15:i 88–105) on the Ugandan rap/hip hop movement Batuuze (meaning ‘the people’ in Luganda). In contrast to more commercially oriented groups, Batuuze developed a ‘vision of a worldwide conscious movement of hip hop’ (p. 89) giving them a sense of belonging in a global movement that offers, if limited, ‘social mobility and experiences of affluence’ (p. 102). Rather than producing an alternative public sphere, Batuuze generates connections and opportunities in the lives of the young men affiliated to this movement.
‘ Crafting Forgiveness Accounts after War: Editing for Effect in Northern Uganda’ ( AnT 30.ii 10–14) is an unusual and fascinating meditation on autobiographical narration in postwar northern Uganda and the dynamics of social repair in an atmosphere deeply poisoned by the betrayals and distrusts of war. The three authors, Lotte Meinert, Juliana A. Obika, and Susan Reynolds Whyte, reflect on their work with a community in war-torn northern Uganda, where, in collaboration with Danish installation artist Tove Nylom, they collected personal voice accounts of trauma and forgiveness and audio-edited them; then presented them to the community as part on an initiative named Timo Kica : Voices from Within. Drawing on Hannah Arendt’s work on forgiveness, the authors and the artist trace the impact of the editing choices they made—primarily to shorten the accounts and place an accent on immediacy—and the ways in which different stakeholders in the community, including members of the community, academics, and politicians, responded to, and appropriated, the narratives.
African Studies Review features tributes to Ali Mazrui, who passed away a few months after the publication of the journal, in October 2014. Mazrui was a true embodiment of multidisciplinarity, and articles are attentive to this, but for literary scholars, Seifudein Adem’s ‘Ali A Mazrui, the Postcolonial Theorist’ ( AfrSR 51:i 135–52) should be of interest. Here, Adem ponders Mazrui’s marginality in postcolonial studies, despite his perceptive scholarly contributions to the field; most memorably, his concept of Africans’ triple heritage—indigenous cultures, Islam/Christianity, and secular Western culture—which he explored both in his writings and a BBC TV series. Adem suggests that among the reasons behind his marginality is his rejection of a jargon-heavy, theoretically abstract style which was the norm at a certain point, coupled with his prolific writing and mercurial shifts of interest, which make it difficult to quickly distil his core ideas and his propensity for semi-autobiographical writing.
This year saw two landmark studies that have shaped Eastern African scholarship republished: Caroline Elkins’s Pulitzer prize-winning Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya  and Jan Blommaert’s State Ideology and Language in Tanzania . Elkins’s detailed study establishes the extent to which Britain’s colonial enterprise in Kenya, particularly during the state of emergency in the 1950s, was based on violence, coercion, and torture. She painstakingly compiles historical documents that evidence the human rights violations suffered by the more than one million Kikuyu detainees. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that this text demolishes any residual complacency regarding the ‘civilizing mission’ of British colonialism in Kenya and that it offers an important reassessment of the Mau Mau movement. Jan Blommaert’s revised and expanded second edition of his book on the historiography of Swahili in postcolonial Tanzania is not only of interest to linguists, but elucidates key points ‘in the postcolonial story of languages’ (p. ix). Blommaert has included new empirical material and expanded his theoretical framing. At the heart of this path-breaking study lies a paradox: while the Tanzanian example is seen as an exceptional case of successful language planning, with Swahili being spread to all corners of the country, this success has been accompanied by a persistent discourse of its failure. To account for this apparent contradiction, Blommaert shows how Swahili became inextricably intertwined with the political socialist project of Ujamaa. When the influence of Tanzanian socialist politics declined, Swahili was regarded similarly as a failed project, contrary to the linguistic evidence so abundantly available. Government was instrumental in the spread of Swahili, but it soon lost control over the language. The book provides significant sociolinguistic evidence to show that Swahili is a diversifying and dynamic language. Of particular interest to literary studies is chapter 5, which focuses specifically on Ujamaa literature and the way in which cultural philosophy entered the literary text (pp. 91–105).
Stephen Morton’s insightful study, States of Emergency. Colonialism, Literature and Law , examines how violent anti-colonial struggles and the legal and military techniques employed by colonial governments to contain them have been imagined in literature. Central to this containment is the suspension of the law during periods of emergency which, rather than the exception, were often the norm in how colonial governments controlled their territories. Morton traces convincingly how such techniques have informed contemporary ‘wars on terror’. The book consists of six main chapters framed by an introduction and a conclusion. The case studies in Part I deal with colonial Ireland and colonial India in the late nineteenth century; Part II considers twentieth-century states of emergency in apartheid South Africa, colonial Kenya, and Algeria. Part III, on Israel-Palestine, offers an assessment of the continuities between these colonial states of emergency and how they are reconfigured in the colonial present in Iraq, Afghanistan, and northern Pakistan. Morton compares the legal and bureaucratic rhetoric of colonial statutes and other documents with the narrative structure and imagery of the literature and culture of empire across a range of settings. These rhetorical discursive strategies, in turn, are questioned by the literatures of decolonization. The study argues that ‘colonial states of emergency cannot be understood with reference to the law alone’ but must engage with the way in which ‘colonial stereotypes and narratives have played a significant role in framing anti-colonial insurgents’ as the cause of states of emergency (p. 209). Morton’s examples are Candler’s Siri Ram Revolutionist , Ruark’s Something of Value , and Lartéguy’s Les Centurions. In contrast, writers like Wicomb, Ngũgĩ, Djebar, and Khoury have ‘tried to do justice to the fragmented and often traumatic history of the oppressed’ (p. 209). Morton ends the study by considering how stereotypical tropes are replicated in representations of Islam and Muslims in the Western media and some literary works after 9/11. He examines Begg’s memoir of his imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, Enemy Combatant , Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist , and Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows to conclude that ‘if the spatial stories and legal narratives of emergency in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq help to make sense of the relationship between violence, law and sovereignty in the colonial present, literary and cultural texts can help to shed light on the condition of possibility for justice in these contexts’ (p. 224). The book is thus highly relevant and is written in an engaging and readable style.
Historicizing Colonial Nostalgia: European Women’s Narratives of Algeria and Kenya 1900–present by Patricia M.E. Lorcin has a comparative focus as well. She analyses novels, memoirs, and letters of women settlers of both colonies in order to identify images and tropes that shape and reshape colonial nostalgia: the ‘dislocation in moving from a familiar social environment to an alien one induced them, either consciously or unconsciously, to create an image of the colony that intertwined what they loved best about the social and national spaces they had left behind with what they loved most about the space they had come to inhabit’ (p. 195). The needs of the present in which the women find themselves shape their representations and fantasies of the past. Lorcin presents her analysis chronologically and divides her study into three parts. Part I is entitled ‘1900–1930: Colonial Women and Their Imagined Selves’, and offers an overview of the settler society and the presence of women in Algeria and Kenya, before considering the lives and writing of two iconic women, Isabelle Eberhardt in Algeria and Karen Blixen in Kenya, whose romanticized views of Africa and their place in it reverberate into the postcolonial present. Part II, ‘1920–1940: Political Realities and Fictional Representations’, focuses on the development of the interweaving of narratives of nostalgia and modernity in the works of Elissa Rhaïs, Magali Boisnard, Florence Riddell, and Nora K. Strange. Lorcin argues that ‘political tensions marked the interwar period in both colonies’ (p. 199) with the consequence that women’s narratives reflected a tension between nostalgic fantasies, the local rise of nationalism, and the international loss of confidence in empire, particularly by the end of the Second World War. Part III, ‘Imperial Decline and the Reformulation of Nostalgia’, considers the period of decolonization and how nostalgia features in the perceptions of self of writers with family histories in Algeria or Kenya: she demonstrates that in the case of Algeria there has developed a veritable industry of nostalgérie that is even supported by the French government (p. 203), while nostalgic writing about Kenya is more individualistic, with memoirs like Kuki Gallman’s I Dreamed of Africa and Mirella Riccardi’s photographic record Vanishing Africa. Lorcin’s study is very accessible and offers a thoughtful analysis of an important topic.
Straddling the boundaries between storytelling, history, and ethnography, Mustafa Kema Mirzeler’s riveting book Remembering Nayeche and the Gray Bull Engiro: African Storytellers of the Karamoja Plateau and the Plains of Turkana uses the Jie and Turkana myth of origin as a springboard to exploring the place of storytelling in indexing social memory, navigating shifting realities, and articulating ethnic and individual identities. In this myth, Nayeche, a Jie woman, follows the footprints of a grey bull across the East African plateau and eventually sets up the cradle land of the pastoralist community in the Turkana plains. An important concern for the book is the role of a collectively remembered past encoded in storytelling in shaping identity and crafting unity among a community of people, which further mediates the sharing of land resources, as underwritten by shared ancestry.
(c) Southern Africa
Three important firsts and an important historical recovery make up the crop of book-length publications from Southern Africa this year. Mary Lederer has written the first survey of novels written in English by Botswana writers and by others writing about Botswana; the first book-length study of Antjie Krog’s writing in English has appeared; and a selection of Olive Schreiner’s letters written in the later years of her life has been published. Corinne Sandwith has restored to the record a hitherto forgotten but vital body of left-wing cultural and literary criticism from the very early years of apartheid.
In Novels of Botswana in English, 1930–2006 , Mary Lederer asks what insiders’ novels represent of the understanding that the people of the country have of themselves (i.e. the relationship between ethnicity, ethics, and national identity) and to what extent novels by outsiders that are set in Botswana may or may not confirm that relationship. The stark division between insiders and outsiders appears justified by her survey of the novels: she finds that many recent outsiders’ novels simply ignore the people of the country and tend to treat the land as an exotic testing place for their foreign, needy, and/or adventurous protagonists. Achebe’s criticisms of Conrad are not mentioned, but they clearly continue to be of concern to Lederer, who says that, as an American who has lived and taught literature in Botswana for many years, ‘I have been here long enough to recognize that I hardly know anything’ (p. 7). ‘Outsider’ is perhaps a description which best fits intention rather than origin, for, as Lederer shows, constructive accounts of early Botswana community identity are to be found in Mhudi by Sol Plaatje and A Bewitched Crossroad by Bessie Head—writers who were both born and raised in South Africa (although Plaatje was ethnically a Tswana). Their novels assess the way that Tswana society faced rapid socio-political change in the past, Plaatje during the time in South Africa of the ‘Great Trek and Zulu expansion’ (p. 27) in the 1830s but with clear reference to land alienation and erosion of Africans’ rights in the early twentieth century, and Head during the time in nineteenth-century Botswana when ‘land hunger was pushing British and Afrikaner settlers further north’ (p. 30) and the Tswana people feared the loss of their land too. In both cases the Tswana prevailed because their social system was ‘more consultative’ (p. 28) and therefore had a greater capacity for ‘peaceful change’ (p. 31). These democratic elements in tradition have become, says Lederer, an important part of the morality which contemporary writers in Botswana present to their readers.
The value of traditional ways is actively, if not didactically, exemplified by writers such as Andrew Sesinyi and Galesiti Baruti, neither of whose work may be known abroad. Sesinyi’s first novel, Love on the Rocks , was published in the Macmillan Pacesetter series and remains very popular in Botswana. It tells of the trials and success of a poor young man from a rural background who loves and eventually marries (when her family recovers its traditional values) a rich young urban woman. Sesinyi has written two other novels: Rassie  and Carjack . Baruti’s only novel, Mr Heartbreaker , seems to be a lurid account of sex and sin in the city, again written to advocate the ‘importance of good old Botswana values’ (p. 44). All of these novels reflect the impact on women of social change. A more positive approach to the issue comes from the country’s women writers. Unity Dow, a fairly prolific writer whose work was initially published in Australia, shares a later chapter with Bessie Head, but Mositi Torontle, who had published one novel in the period of Lederer’s survey, is placed in the chapter with Sesinyi and Baruti. The Victims  tells of a young rural woman who understands the importance of an education and who, with a ‘strong sense of self-protection and autonomy’ (p. 48), will not allow love to turn her from her goals. This novel is one of several that lead Lederer to claim that new writing by women in Botswana is breaking away from the ‘prescriptive tendency represented by Sesinyi and Baruti’ to ‘interrogate how tradition and society will adapt to new ways of understanding the world’ (p. 50).
In her following chapters, Lederer first considers writers who spent a period of their lives in Botswana and who, she says, ‘illustrate the classic “man versus nature” plot and conflict, in which the test of the self is played out against a harsh environment. The fact that other [indigenous] people live in that same environment and “conquer” it regularly is irrelevant’ (p. 52). Naomi Mitchison’s When We Become Men  is the one exception in this group, and this is probably because she enjoyed such deep ties with the BaKgatla people. Others in the group, which all have foreign protagonists, are Carolyn Slaughter’s Dreams of the Kalahari , Caitlin Davies’s Jamestown Blues , Anthony Fleischer’s Okavango Gods , William Duggan’s The Great Thirst  and Lovers of the African Night , and Norman Rush’s Mating , Mortals , and Whites . Rush worked for four years as director of the Peace Corps office in Botswana. The list could have included Hilary Mantel, who spent time in Botswana and whose novel A Change of Climate  draws on the Law Reports of Botswana as well as her observations there. Next come the simpler adventure novels set in Botswana—what Lederer calls the ‘Paper Safari’, which can, she says, trace its beginnings partly back to Meridiana  by Jules Verne, in which three Englishmen and three Russians attempt to cross the Kalahari Desert guided by a ‘Bushman’, and partly to the hunting stories of the nineteenth century. Critics such as Dan Wylie and Stephen Gray have seen this latter genre as ‘directly in the service of imperialism’ (Lederer, p. 92). The mythology of the colonial enterprise ‘in which men from England suffer countless hardships … [so as] to bring order to chaotic primitive life in other parts of the world’ (p. 96) is the ‘unashamed’ basis of Nicholas Monsarrat’s two novels, The Tribe That Lost Its Head  and its sequel, Richer Than All His Tribe . They are set in the island of Pharamaul, a thinly disguised representation of Botswana during the time of Seretse Khama’s marriage to the Englishwoman Ruth Williams. As a member of the British diplomatic corps in South Africa, Monsarrat had to deal with many of the problems that arose from resistance to that marriage and consequently, Lederer suggests, he tended to think of Botswana as always on the brink of self-destruction. A writer with a similar approach is K.R. Butler, whose first novel, A Desert of Salt , presents the vast desert around the town of Ghanzi as an ‘empty hell’ (p. 98), and whose second, The Evil Damp , does much the same for the Okavango Delta. In The Night of the Predator  by Christopher Sherlock, Botswana is a land which the protagonist dreams could become a vast game reserve, a peaceful alternative to the horrors of political turmoil in the neighbouring South Africa of the 1980s. Again it is a dream which ignores the people of the country. British journalist and satirist Nicholas Luard wrote two novels set in Botswana, Silverback  and Bloodspoor —the latter under the pseudonym James McVean. Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird  concerns a search for the lost city of the Kalahari. Two novels which depict external forces being brought in to stabilize Botswana’s democracy, conveniently imagined to be fragile, are Steve White’s Battle in Botswana  and Jeff Rovin’s Mission of Honour .
The great exception to the ‘outsider’ novelist who ignores the people of Botswana is of course Alexander McCall Smith, and in his case Lederer has to grapple with almost the opposite problem: a writer whose books are so humanly appealing that he is assumed to ‘write on behalf of Africa’, an assumption which, she suggests, ‘hinders more sensible reception of his books’ (p. 123). What the series, beginning with The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency  and built around the considerable figure of Mma Precious Ramotswe, does enable Lederer to establish is the people’s core moral sense which the protagonist articulates: ‘if you knew how a person was feeling, if you could imagine yourself in her position, then surely it would be impossible to inflict further pain’ (quoted p. 120). It is a capacity disappearing from modern life. Mma Ramotswe may be a Lady Detective, but she does not solve crimes so much as sort out problems, and novels featuring her do not tackle big issues such as AIDS but they do tackle matters such as the dishonesty that leads both to the spread of the disease and the silence that surrounds those who suffer. McCall Smith’s writing about the landscape also leads Lederer to a brief but illuminating comparison with Isak Dinesen on Kenya. A new Botswanan novelist writing crime fiction is Lauri Kubuitsile, who has published two novels to date: The Fatal Payout  and Murder for Profit . The latter appeared after Lederer’s study went to press, but is listed with other recent novels in an appendix. Her fiction is racy and escapist—the first one was written for serialization in a local newspaper—but reflects many of the issues affecting contemporary Botswana: crime, rampant materialism, sexual abuse, promiscuity, and so on.
Although born in South Africa, Bessie Head lived most of her adult life in Serowe, did most of her writing there, and gradually made it the place through which she understood and represented herself and her immediate and larger worlds. Accordingly she and Unity Dow, the other Botswana writer who is widely known abroad, occupy the culminating chapter of Lederer’s study. Both women, she says, wrote from the ‘perspective of the underdog’ (p. 135) and their cause is that of social justice, leading them to write ‘critically [but] hopefully … imagining a Botswana based on what they believe is good about the community’ (p. 136). Unity Dow is a human rights activist and a former justice of the High Court of Botswana; Bessie Head lived much of her life in obscurity and poverty. Lederer traces ways in which Head’s first novel, When Rain Clouds Gather , indicates her own gradual entry into Botswana, the land and its people—a place where she could strive for ‘belonging, continuity, a place to be alive’ (p. 141)—and, with reference to her other fiction, where she could draw on the past to imagine a society which understood the need for change. Unity Dow’s first two novels take up headline issues: Far and Beyon’  represents a woman’s efforts to help her family acknowledge and cope with the deaths from AIDS of two of their brothers. The Screaming of the Innocent  deals with ritual murder and uses a young woman protagonist who is not circumspect or tolerant of patriarchal tradition in her determination to solve a case that the police have allowed government officials to cover up. Dow’s third novel, Juggling Truths , is anecdotal in its structure and presents a young woman’s attempts to balance the truths of modernity which she learns at school with those of custom to which her home gives her access. The fourth novel, The Heavens May Fall , is episodic in telling of a young woman lawyer and the difficult cases she encounters; one is of a man, prominent in his community, who has passed as a MoNgwato all his life by hiding the fact that he has a San mother. The protagonist learns just in time that justice would probably not be served were she to reveal the truth. Lederer concludes that the idea of justice in Botswana that inspires both writers is one in which ‘morality means not just knowing what is fair and just for all, but applying that knowledge in all aspects of one’s life’ (p. 160).
Long recognized as a major writer in Afrikaans, Antjie Krog is now receiving sustained attention in English-language literary criticism in South Africa, and Antjie Krog: An Ethics of Body and Otherness indicates the level of engagement with her work. It began as a guest-edited issue of Current Writing in 2007 and now appears in expanded and more focused form, again edited by Judith Coullie and Andries Visagie. Six of the original essays have been included, with the other seven being specially commissioned. The result covers Krog’s writing from 1998 onwards with only Begging To Be Black  not drawing an essay of its own. The volume Skinned: A Selection of Translated Poetry  is also not studied because it appeared just as this volume was going to press. As the subtitle, An Ethics of Body and Otherness , suggests, the primary collective concern is a moral one which focuses particularly on Krog’s representation of her own physical body and her powerful personal presence in exploring major events and issues in South Africa’s distant and more recent past. ‘How do these events and conditions matter to me ?’ seems the most ethical, because the most engaged, approach for her to take. What is also at issue, and which might not be immediately evident from the volume’s title, is the question of translation. Exactly what Krog has tried to achieve in undertaking so much translation, and more particularly, why she has felt it so important to try to move between the country’s languages, is the subject of several essays. Broadly the reason lies in what the subtitle does denominate—‘otherness’—South Africa’s history of racial domination, of enforced separations arising from perceived differences between peoples, and the current need to develop elements of an ethical outlook which might counter the inequalities and distrust consequent on endless divisiveness: tolerance, respect, openness, mutual understanding.
While ethical principles may be general and constant, ethical action needs to be context-specific and, as many of the essays show, Krog’s approach to issues through autobiographical narrative and poetry has enabled her to bring this truth to life with great vividness. Louise Viljoen, a distinguished Krog scholar who publishes in Afrikaans as well as English, has two essays in this collection. In ‘ “I Have Body, Therefore I Am”: Grotesque, Monstrous and Abject Bodies in Antjie Krog’s Poetry’ (pp. 98–132) she establishes a point about Krog’s ethics which surfaces in many of the essays: they are usually oppositional and often combative. As Viljoen’s epithets suggest, when Krog’s topics are at their most transgressive her moral concerns are usually at their most challenging. For example, in discussing a poem which presents a ‘breathtaking crudeness of … action’ (p. 117) in its last line, Viljoen claims that the poetry both recognizes that an ‘aging and menopausal body is indeed an affront to the existing social order’ but that it is also ‘trying to confront society’s negation of the menopausal woman by making this body visible in all its abject specificity’ (p. 120). In her second essay, Viljoen takes up a related line of discussion that is also important throughout the volume: autobiographical writing and the ethics of representation. ‘The Mother as Pre-text: Autobiographical Writing in Antjie Krog’s A Change of Tongue ’ (pp. 133–56) looks at Krog’s representations of her relationship to her mother, the Afrikaans writer Dot Serfontein, as a person and as a writer. As it becomes clear that Krog will not replicate her mother’s choice to ‘rate political loyalty to her Afrikaner heritage higher than loyalty to her writing’ (p. 105), but that they share equally in the constant tussle between the claims of family life and writing life, Viljoen touches on Krog’s admission (made in a later interview) that in depicting her mother’s angry explosion when her daughter objects to being written about she had fictionalized the scene by transferring an incident that occurred between herself and her own daughter onto her mother (pp. 145–6). This leads Viljoen to wonder about the ethics of the means used to ‘ “lie the truth” [as Krog puts it] or universalise certain experiences’ (p. 153). This issue is taken up fully by Kim Rostan in ‘The Ethics of Infidelity in Country of My Skull ’ (pp. 24–43). In a sophisticated argument constructed on a series of parallels, Rostan works with Derrida’s view that quotation, in shedding its original context, is somewhat paradoxically caught in an ‘infidelity at the heart of fidelity’. The transcripted testimonies in Krog’s account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are similarly unfaithful quotations in which her narrating voice becomes one among many in a new collectivity: a collage of voices. Whereas a family relationship demands ‘loyalty’, this new, textually created entity demands, like the envisaged new nation, ‘justice’ (the two concepts and their differentiation are taken from Richard Rorty), and the requirement of justice, of being accountable to an entity larger and newer than the family in the interests of an outcome desired by all, is what Krog’s narrator brings as personal experience to the task of encountering so many narratives of atrocity and betrayal.
The sometimes unexpected demands of particularized moral issues and the insights arising from their treatment are explored by Christy Weyer in ‘The Ambiguity of the Erotic: Antjie Krog’s Down to My Last Skin ’ (pp. 157–83) in which she looks at the poems grouped under the title ‘Love Is All I Know’. To illuminate the ethical element in Krog’s poetry of the erotic body (which has met with a marked critical silence compared with, for example, the reception of her more political prose writing), Weyer turns to the ‘foundational insights’ (p. 176) of Simone de Beauvoir, who suggested that ‘the erotic experience is the one that most poignantly discloses to human beings the ambiguity of their condition; in it they are aware of themselves as flesh and as spirit [or mind], as the other and as subject’ (p. 174). This central ambiguity enables an ethical outlook to flourish, however unlikely that may at times seem. For example when, in Krog’s lyric ‘marital psalm’, the poet-speaker presents her desire for her husband as ‘connected to her desire for self-definition’ (p. 171) which only his desire for her is able to fulfil, this might seem a retrogressive step in a feminist quest for ‘ontogenesis’, but as de Beauvoir puts it, ‘subjectivity … cannot exist without inter-subjectivity’. Weyer adds that this is ‘a foundational principle of the Southern African philosophy of ubuntu ’. She takes this argument further to say that the erotic recognition of the other is ethical both in being reciprocal and in making one vulnerable, for ‘to recognise the other as really free is to understand the other as a point of resistance to me’ (Bergoffen, quoted p. 175) and it is these boundaries which Krog’s poetry seeks to open. The same dynamics, but at work in a very different context, are discussed by Judith Coullie in the last essay in the volume, ‘A Question of Ethics in There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile ’ (pp. 313–31). Coullie argues explicitly that ‘crucial to Krog’s ethical project [in all her writing] is the refusal … to take a position and hold it; rather … certainties are rendered fruitfully unstable through the relentless hunting down of ambiguities’ (p. 314). The account of their ‘pilgrimage’ (p. 320, Coullie’s term) to visit Mrs Konile in Indwe in the Eastern Cape, which they undertook as part of their effort to comprehend the ambiguities in her TRC testimony, is written by all three investigators who are colleagues at the University of the Western Cape: Nosisi Mpolweni (in the Xhosa Department), Kopano Ratele (in Psychology and Gender Studies) and Antjie Krog (in the Arts Faculty). They combine their trans-disciplinary skills to work on what the official TRC record suggested was an incomprehensible testimony given by the mother of a young man killed by the secret police. Coullie concentrates on Krog’s experience of being excluded from the conversation between her Xhosa-speaking colleagues and Mrs Konile, and particularly on her responding to her ‘complete marginalisation and effacement with both “delight and anger” ’ (quoted p. 324). The anger is not difficult to place but the delight is challenging: Coullie sees it primarily as arising from an overturning of the country’s old ‘racialised hierarchy’ (p. 325) and claims that ‘like a true pilgrim, Krog has been discomfited and demeaned so as to shed her old identity, to re-enter the community as a changed self, purged, contrite, absolved’ (p. 326). Krog’s vulnerability, her experience of othering and renewed selfhood, allows Coullie a concluding claim for Krog: ‘She admits new truths and finds, for the time being, a new way to be’ (p. 327).
As the preceding essays indicate, the matter of cultural as well as linguistic translation pervades the volume, but one or two other topics and writers warrant mention. Anthea Garman has two contributions: the first, ‘Antjie Krog and the Accumulation of “Media Meta-Capital” ’ (pp. 73–97), charts the choices and chances which have allowed Krog to move from being a respected ‘Afrikaans woman poet [to a media figure who] enjoy[s] national and international renown’ (p. 81). In the second, ‘Running with the Jackals: Antjie Krog the Journalist’ (pp. 184–214), Garman examines the relationship between Krog’s poetry-writing self and her work as a journalist, particularly in her reporting of the TRC hearings. Potentially there is considerable conflict: journalists gather material on an ‘intellectual-critical level’ providing an objective report of an ‘external, public situation’ supported by expert opinion, rather than filtering it ‘through a person as an affected receiver of the experience’ (p. 193), but Krog insists that the truth is realized via ‘encounter with the extremes of experience’ and brings ‘the discomforting contestation’ of poetic commitment to her journalism (p. 209). Susan Spearey describes her reasons for teaching Country of My Skull to students in Canada and the steps that she took to enable them to engage ethically with the harrowing TRC testimonies. In ‘ Country of My Skull , the Transmission of Testimony, and the Democratisation of Pedagogy’ (pp. 44–72) she asserts that ‘ethics is about how we inhabit uncertainty, together’ (p. 45) and expresses the hope that in joining Krog’s working ‘at affective and embodied—as well as cognitive, socio-political and ideological—levels [we will be enabled] to overcome the constraints upon our capacities as individual and social agents, as witnesses and ethical beings’ (p. 67). Also using Country of My Skull as case study, Judith Coullie’s other article examines the ‘role of memory in the creation of the post-apartheid nation’ (p. 1), but takes a less often articulated line on the issue. ‘Remembering to Forget: Testimony, Collective Memory and the Genesis of the “New” South African Nation in Country of My Skull ’ (pp. 1–23) attends to several points at which Krog begins to ‘negotiate her way out of one kind of [past] nation into another’ (p. 8), often by refusing certain of the material that came her way while reporting on the TRC. This kind of forgetting was accompanied by her decisions to foreground other material, for example, the testimony of women. Citing Ricoeur, Coullie concludes that if we are to ‘use the past as lessons for future generations … we have a duty to remember and a duty to forget’ (pp. 19–20).
In the remaining essays, processes of cultural translation become more specifically linguistic. After a sketch of Bourdieu’s ideas in ‘ “Inhabiting” the Translator’s Habitus : Antjie Krog as Translator’ (pp. 291–312), Frances Vosloo, who works on the sociology of translation, suggests that Krog as a ‘self-conscious writer’ has made a transition to being a ‘self-conscious translator’ for healing purposes. In ‘Writing the Medea Myth in a New Context: Tom Lanoye, Antjie Krog and Mamma Medea ’ (pp. 241–62), Andries Visagie discusses the decisions made by Krog in translating the Belgian’s play into Afrikaans. Lanoye’s version of the Medea myth reflects ‘the [historical] cultural and linguistic tensions between the Netherlands and Flanders’ (p. 244) by using different dialects (as well as metre and register) for the conflicting parties. In translating it, Krog uses different dialects, including ‘Engafrikaans’, standard Afrikaans, a more colloquial Cape Afrikaans, and Gariep (Namaqualand) Afrikaans. Visagie sees this as making an important political gesture. He notes too that her practice of ‘foreignisation’ as a translator has always been to counter an embedded resistance to the other, as when she translated Nelson Mandela’s autobiography so as to help ‘rid [Afrikaans] of the vocabulary of power and retribution’ (quoted p. 256).
Dan Wylie writes a subtle assessment, in ‘ “Now Strangers Walk in That Place”: Antjie Krog, Modernity, and the Making of //Kabbo’s Story’ (pp. 215–40), of the challenge that Krog, like others writing about the painting and story-telling of the San/Bushmen, has faced. She has grappled with dichotomous essentializing of ‘Bushman’ being and ‘Western’ knowing in which a Bushman sense of identity and harmonious belonging is seen as an antidote to modernity’s ‘own perceived lack’ (p. 218). Wylie argues that in Krog’s The Stars Say ‘Tsau’ (her retranslation into Afrikaans and then into English and versification of selections from the Bleek and Lloyd /Xam manuscripts), ‘the two conceptions of identity “co-construct” one another’ (p. 218). He turns to Krog’s poems in an earlier collection, Once We Were Hunters: A Journey with Africa’s Indigenous People , to trace the poetic strategies first developed there to create an inner life for an autochthonous community and also allow an interactive expression of her own experience of modernity and its malaise. The resulting voice implies ‘that modernity has united [the poet and the indigenous peoples] in their senses of dislocation and uprootedness’, largely because their identities are ‘analogously threatened’ (p. 224). For example, when //Kabbo decided to tell his story to Bleek and Lloyd, to ‘embrace literacy as a medium’ in an act of resistance rather than an acceptance of domination, he is in a situation very like Krog’s as she decides, in writing works such as Country of My Skull , to translate herself out of Afrikaans and into a hegemonic English (p. 229). In his assessment of the result of her versification of //Kabbo’s stories, Wylie moves with great delicacy, sympathetic to the difficulty of speaking about another, autochthonous, culture and to the tension between reproducing something like a vanished rhetoric while creating one that appeals to a modern reader. He doubts that the results can always have integrity but allows that ‘in the [resultant] transculturation, new and potentially fructifying perspectives are opened up’ (p. 237).
Taking its title from an article by Ortega y Gasset, ‘The Splendour and Misery of Translation: Interview with Antjie Krog’ (pp. 263–90) was conducted in 2006 by Ileana Dimitriu. In it Krog explains her long-standing wish to dissociate herself from the power that was vested in Afrikaans and, by using ‘same-language translation’ (p. 266), to bring back all the ‘impure’ features that officialdom felt had to be weeded out of the language, as well as to recognize current changes in it. Her choice of English for works such as Country of My Skull is not in order to meet English-speaking literary circles, but to reach out to ‘the rest of the country … my black colleagues (p. 271). The multi-lingual reality of the country also means, she suggests, that when authors use English, they are ‘already—at least mentally—translating from their mother tongues. So even if a book appears as a novel in English, it’s already a translated text’ (p. 277). She has found cultural translation to require ‘a complete re-education of myself’ (p. 279) and that it has frequently meant encountering the hostility of those who seek security in a monocultural mindset. In the last part of the interview both speakers lament the lack of public understanding of the complexity of the translator’s role and consider its various characteristics: missionary/educator; public intellectual; bridge-builder; creator of beauty; interpreter of stylistic challenges; social activist. Krog accepts them all and finally adds poet to the list, seeking in it the ‘potential of splendour’ (p. 289).
The World’s Great Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889–1920 , edited and introduced by Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter, selects letters written over a thirty-year period after Olive Schreiner returned to South Africa, following nearly a decade in England. There she had become influential after the success of her first novel, Story of An African Farm  and had a circle of prominent men and women at home and abroad to whom she could write in her efforts to guide the course of South Africa’s development. Thus the editors’ decision to focus on her political letters means that a representative self-portrait of this remarkable South African emerges. Mention is made of the edition of Schreiner’s letters (heavily and silently amended) published by her husband, Samuel Cronwright Schreiner, shortly after her death in 1920, but nothing is said of another collection edited by Richard Rive, Olive Schreiner: Letters 1871–99 , published by David Philip in 1987. This is a pity because Schreiner readers and new scholars should be given as much guidance as possible to what of her writing is available. It may be that, as Stanley and Salter have also been responsible for making Schreiner’s extant letters—some 5,000 in all—available online at www.oliveschreiner.org , they thought reference to the earlier volume no longer necessary. When she died, 15,000 to 20,000 letters existed, but many were destroyed by her then estranged husband after he had written a biography; the letters that survive today are scattered in archives and private collections around the world, as an appendix shows. The scholarly apparatus in this volume is meticulous, with plentiful information about Schreiner’s major correspondents and the events with which she was concerned. The thirty-year span of the letters is divided into ten sections and the editors have written informative introductions to each as well as a general biographical introduction.
The editors say that her letters show Schreiner to have been ‘an astute political commentator with an eye for spotting significant developments in political life’ and an ambition to see the creation of ‘an organised liberal movement cutting across existing territorial, political and “race” divisions’ (p. xxv). This was at a time when the country was on the brink of war between British and Boer, and virtually no one in public life gave a thought to the rights of African people. As a woman, Schreiner herself had no political rights and had to seek influence behind the scenes through her letters and her published writing. Her allegory Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland  is well known as her attack on the exploits of Cecil John Rhodes’s British South Africa Company in what would become Southern Rhodesia. It caused a furore, and the letters now offer an opportunity to read how her views on Rhodes developed. He came to be for her the ‘symbol of “oppression, injustice & moral degradation” ’ (letter of 1897, quoted p. 34). Her view is of historical and current interest in the light of the #Rhodesmustfall campaigns. At the same time as she was approaching public figures about Rhodes, Schreiner was warning members of her family not to trust him. Her brother Will, who would become prime minister of the Cape in 1898, was a Rhodes supporter until the Jameson Raid of 1895–6, and her constant fear was that he might have taken insider advice from Rhodes on how to invest his money (a favour which could easily have been called in). Shortly after being assured that this had not happened, she wrote in June 1898 to Will:
Dear Laddie, don’t have more to do with Rhodes than you can help. And the first day he gives you any lawful ground for doing so, cut him openly & forever . There are [ sic ] a certain class of human being … with whom the only course is openly & avowedly to declare war against them. I speak from the depths of bitter experience [ original emphases] …
I am a one adult one vote man. I believe that every adult inhabiting a land irrespective of race, sex, wealth or poverty should have the vote; & that it is a power more needed by the poor, the weak & feeble than the wealthy or strong. I regard the vote as a small & feeble weapon, but still a weapon by which the weak may be able to defend themselves a little against the exactions of the strong, the poor against the rich,—which I regard as the main purpose of government.
Schreiner called herself a liberal, but as her comments here indicate, her views were very different from those usually labelled ‘liberal’ in South Africa today, where a weak self-interest seems their main characteristic. This collection of letters, which includes Schreiner’s comments on the dangers of capitalism (i.e. great wealth in the hands of a few), demonstrates that liberalism can produce a courageous and principled egalitarianism.
‘The World’s Great Question’ is a phrase Schreiner used at the end of her life when writing to J.C. Smuts, then prime minister, to argue that ‘the native question’ was not limited to South Africa, but was one for the whole world. In a letter which makes an interesting link with the argument put forward by Dorothy Driver in her essay on From Man to Man (reviewed in this section), Schreiner pleaded with Smuts to be far-sighted and to realize that ‘We may crush the mass of our fellows in South Africa today, as Russia did for Generations, but today the serf is in the Palace & where is the Czar?’ (28 October 1920; p. 368). Her own far-sightedness had led Schreiner to understand oppression in class as much as in racial terms.
Two chapters on Schreiner’s fiction also appeared this year. In ‘Olive Schreiner: The Story of an African Farm ’, in Empire Girls: The Colonial Heroine Comes of Age (pp. 27–108), Mandy Treagus agrees with Rachel Blau Du Plessis that in her first published novel Schreiner rejected nineteenth-century realism because of its ‘imbrication with … ideologies of gender’ (p. 28). Treagus adds that Schreiner also ‘usurped the traditions of the English Bildungsroman ’ and those of the romantic novel because, living ‘on the edges of Empire’ she could not endorse the ‘meritocratic drive’ and its promise of ‘order, meaning and justice for all’ (pp. 28–9) integral to the Victorian novel about successful entry into adult life. Schreiner was, suggests Treagus, much closer to the ‘ambivalences and ambiguities [of] the spiritual quest … of the German Bildungsroman ’ (p. 29) but ultimately departed from its distribution of ‘rewards and punishments’ (p. 31).
As she discusses each aspect of the plot, Treagus reports on the reception then and since of Schreiner’s creative decisions, thus giving considerable historical depth to her account of what the genre choices reflect of her world, and of their impact on it. Treagus sees Schreiner shifting from utter rejection of Victorian literary and spiritual values to a profound ambivalence in which the writer is both compliant with and resistant to patriarchy and imperialism. Treagus explores first Waldo’s (ultimately rejected) quest story and then the (again, ultimately rejected) romantic story of Lyndall, having placed them as a male-female double protagonist. Waldo’s spiritual journey reflects Schreiner’s own search for ‘models for reading the scriptures’ (p. 41) that would take her beyond the views of her Calvinist community. And yet, says Treagus, Calvinist discourses continued to work strongly in Schreiner, as can be seen in the allegorical tale told to Waldo by his Stranger (later published as ‘The Hunter’ in Dreams , and extremely popular in its day), which carries a belief in suffering and self-denial, but also teaches, in its conclusion, the ‘abandonment of Christian belief’ (p. 52).
The plot of the English Bildungsroman ‘encapsulates a culture’s belief in the certainty of justice’ but ‘is meaningless in this new [colonial frontier] environment’ (p. 56). Protagonists are not rescued via the form’s usual devices: ‘strangers, vocation, romance or inheritance’ (p. 56), although the Waldo–Lyndall story does touch on them when each leaves the farm. At this point, says Treagus, Schreiner’s characters cease to stand in contrast to those of Dickens, for example, and move closer to George Eliot, and to Middlemarch in particular, with its several failed quests—failures that nevertheless leave the idea of a vocation unquestioned. However, ‘growing up as the orphans of Empire in the Karroo … vocation becomes impossible, and irrelevant’ (p. 62) and Waldo and Lyndall both give up the idea before they reach adulthood.
Nonetheless, Lyndall’s story, from its first appearance, was appreciated in England for its representation of ‘The Woman Question’. ‘[Lyndall] begins as a hero but finishes as a heroine, ultimately choosing the role that the romance plot thrusts upon her’ (p. 65), is Treagus’s summary of Lyndall’s loss of faith, and of confidence that she can make a difference in her world. Schreiner’s critique of the construction of gender ‘remains a masterly piece of analysis [which] had an impact in [its] day’ (p. 70), and yet it does not help her to escape the plot for women of her time. When a pregnant Lyndall refuses to marry her Stranger, the story invokes debate on marriage as legalized prostitution and garnered considerable support from women and men reviewers alike, even though current critics have questioned the balance of power in her sexual relationship because it seems so conventional. Treagus suggests that Lyndall is submissive because she has no ‘independent labour’ available to her, and there are no ‘examples of equal heterosexual relationships’ in the colony (p. 78). Treagus turns to Lyndall’s death and considers the literary precedents on which Schreiner might have drawn (Goethe, for example), its critical interpretation, and the value placed on deathbed scenes in Victorian fiction. Gregory Rose, in his transvestite nursing of the dying Lyndall, is one of the most puzzling features of the novel. Schreiner makes both him and the reader into a voyeur as she ‘indulges in the Victorian displacement of sensuality from sex to death’ (p. 91). Although many readers will not recognize the connection, Treagus says much can be understood about Gregory Rose by considering his being named after a fourth-century saint, Gregory Nazianzen, who was much concerned with the maintenance of gender boundaries (p. 96). Her other comment, that ‘When roles are so limited that there is only one way of being male, and one way of being female, Gregory actually has to assume another gender in order to act out a different role’ (p. 99), seems more directly helpful and more closely related to Schreiner’s colonial context. In this context, Lyndall ‘forgoes repentance in favour of self-reliance’ but also dies, leaving the text both resisting and complying with the dominant discourses of the time.
In anticipation of a new edition of Schreiner’s unfinished last novel, From Man to Man , which she has edited, introduced, and annotated, Dorothy Driver wants her chapter ‘Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man and “the Copy Within” ’ (in Tonkin, Treagus, Seys, and Crozier-De Rosa, eds., Changing the Victorian Subject , pp. 123–50) to ‘open discussion on … the novel’s narrative and poetic treatment of what Schreiner saw as the human ideal, and its relation to what [in her novel she] called “the copy within” in the context of evolutionary process’ (p. 125). To amplify Schreiner’s thinking, Driver draws on her unfinished introduction to Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , as well as on Schreiner’s reading of Darwin and Plato. From the latter she took her phrase ‘the copy within’ (a quasi-divine ideal, both origin and end) which allowed her to ‘introduce the notion of progress into an evolutionary science that was generally non-teleological’ (p. 125).
Driver’s discussion of From Man to Man rests chiefly on Rebekah, the sister who marries and lives in Cape Town, rather than on Bertie, who is seduced and ends up in prostitution in London. The story of each woman raises issues that were important to Schreiner, but it is through Rebekah that Driver can trace the culmination of Schreiner’s thinking about the ‘entanglement of gender and racial subordination’ (p. 128). Driver traces the maturation of Schreiner’s own racial attitudes after The Story of an African Farm , both in her writing (the introduction to Wollstonecraft) and her actions (withdrawing from the South African Women’s Enfranchisement League, for example, when the majority decided that their demand for the vote for women would not include black women). After noting Schreiner’s approving account of an African woman who submitted to her own subordination in the interests of the greater good at that moment in history, Driver suggests that what Schreiner sought was a world in which women could be physically and intellectually powerful and retain their deep-rooted sense of social duty without its leading to their subordination.
From Man to Man works with these pointers from the Wollstonecraft essay: ‘the restoration of women to a social function beyond the familial; the importance of women’s physical and mental labour; the contribution of African culture towards modern civilization; the bringing back to life of the seemingly dead; and the knitting together of vastly disparate times and spaces’ (p. 138). Driver discusses the novel’s last chapter, in which Rebekah and Drummond, the man to whom Rebekah is drawn but with whom she has refused to conduct a conventional love affair, converse about the creative process. Here ‘the copy within’ returns as the idea that inspires the artist. It is expressed as Platonic—‘the knowledge that the soul attains when in the company of the gods’—and was, Driver says, supported and extended by Schreiner’s reading of German literature and philosophy as well as by Darwin, from whom she took the idea that ‘the evolutionary history of any organism was retained in that organism and might re-emerge’ (p. 142). The essay closes with an account of the imagery which Schreiner threaded through From Man to Man in order to draw her reader in to her understanding of the human ideal, recognition of which might ‘ward off the disasters consequent on white racism and capitalist greed’ (p. 145).
A ‘vigorous, non-academic and above all public discussion of literature and culture in pre- and early apartheid South Africa, a tradition that has largely been lost to the historical record’ (p. 3) is what Corinne Sandwith sets out to recover and investigate in World of Letters: Reading Communities and Cultural Debates in Early Apartheid South Africa . The tradition is that of liberal/left and Marxist oppositional critique conducted largely in periodicals from the 1930s to the 1960s but subsequently forgotten to the extent that when Marxism re-entered the South African academy in the 1970s, those who espoused the ideology wrote without any apparent knowledge of their local forebears. Sandwith gives a subtle, probing, and wide-ranging theoretical analysis of early critical methods which, along the way, reveals its relevance to debates of today. Her work will be invaluable not just to those wanting to know more about the publications and writers she has studied but also to those interested in following the carefully theorized and historically situated analysis of an intellectual movement. The texts and public forums that provide the material with which Sandwith works are magazines from the 1940s such as South African Opinion and Trek ; the forums and publications linked to the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM); the newspapers and forums that reflect the views of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA); a small community news-sheet, The Voice of Africa ; and a number of 1950s newspapers and magazines that reflect the views of the Congress Alliance. The South African public sphere in the decades covered is presented as a ‘discontinuous, fractured terrain of dissonant and contradictory discourses, encompassing a range of parallel or competing circuits of knowledge-production, which co-exist alongside and within the dominant public sphere’ and reconfigure the history of South African literary culture (p. 5).
In the connectedness of politics and culture, Sandwith sees her work as complementing Laura Chrisman’s Postcolonial Contraventions . In taking up the influence of ‘new interpretative communities on the reading and evaluation of texts’, she aligns her work with feminist and working-class reappraisals in general and, in the South African/postcolonial context, with the work of Stephanie Newell in Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana , Isabel Hofmeyr in The Portable Bunyan , and David Attwell in Rewriting Modernity . Her study also draws on book history and the history of reading. Sandwith argues that current work on the ‘tensions between political and other kinds of analytical frameworks’ has its precedents in the period which she studies, and that what may manifest as a new concern today ‘is also, in part, a reinscription’ of the ‘knots, overlaps and interconnections in what is never a seamless discourse’ (p. 13).
In her first two chapters Sandwith reads the late 1930s and early 1940s through SA Opinion and Trek : ‘founding moments in the articulation of leftist cultural discourse in South Africa’ (p. 15). SA Opinion debated the creation of a South African literature in English, the proper subjects of art, and the social role of the artist. Politically, it took a position between the extremes of international communism and fascism, locally between nationalism (Afrikaner) and jingoistic imperialism; artistically its liberal-Enlightenment values were aligned with ‘highbrow’ tastes and opposed to crass colonial fare. Sandwith shows that the periodical’s sometimes contradictory understanding of its economic context was matched by a similarly strained response to cultural and literary matters. The periodical ceased publication during the war, and when it reappeared its politics had changed in the sense that ‘African wage earners … are now positioned outside capitalist-democratic structures in the zone of pure culture’ (p. 28) and there was much discussion about preserving ‘the native way of life’. The new literary editor was Herman Charles Bosman (now mostly remembered for his short stories), and much attention was given to forging a truly South African culture. For writers in English, this project gradually centred on the concrete particularities of place, and Sandwith gives a brief but fascinating account of what transpired (and what was omitted) in their desire to capture a symbolic landscape. There were some socially conscious, left-leaning critics who objected, in SA Opinion , to the occlusion of African modernities from this preoccupation with landscape and the reification of African rural life in painting as in poetry, but their comments were largely ignored by Bosman who, in a time of growing postwar conservatism, was crusading for artistic freedom, autonomy, and individuality.
In the mid-1940s, Trek , under the iconoclastic editorship of Jacques Malan, hosted an energetic public discussion of the value of Marxist criticism, the relationship between culture and social justice, and the role of the artist in social change. It became essential reading for South Africa’s intelligentsia, black and white, and achieved a wartime circulation of 5,000. Despite this achievement, its role in the country’s political and cultural history has, says Sandwith, ‘been almost completely overlooked’ (p. 49). The Great Depression, followed by the Second World War, turned the public mind to questions of the country’s future, and Trek radically placed the African proletariat as equals in a common culture. Simultaneously it opposed Stalinism and Hitler’s national socialism, and denounced the false wartime promises of ‘a better life for all’ made by local politicians. Echoing international debates, its cultural criticism diverged from the canons of Soviet socialist realism (p. 66), but ‘reflected the energy and inclusiveness of the Popular Front period when left-wing arguments enjoyed a brief legitimacy [and] literary criticism was fashioned as a means of social intervention’ (p. 64). Writing from Britain and America received attention, as did the literary left of Europe although literary modernism was not enthusiastically viewed.
Trek also developed its general ideological position in dialogue with social commentary in South Africa, and Sandwith gives particular attention to the debates in its pages between regular contributors and certain academics espousing the literary and cultural approach of F.R. Leavis. Politics again emerges as a nodal point: antagonists saw, for example, a critic’s ideological objection to Sarah Gertrude Millin’s views on race as an attempt to force on a writer what would today be called political correctness. Leavisites espoused the essential autonomy of a work of art, while others supported art’s having explicit political content. Sandwith does not take sides, although her sympathies are clearly left-wing; she indicates the complexity of the positions actually taken as well as their underlying assumptions and values, describing her approach as ‘combining appreciation and scepticism (rather than either reverence or repudiation)’ (p. 168). Trek ended its life shortly after Rand Mines brought a massive libel action against it over two articles about the conditions of employment of African mineworkers. Malan resigned rather than submit to an editorial board of control. A reincarnated Trek continued for some time under the editorship of Lily Rabkin (who had been Malan’s co-editor) but dropped all political content in 1950.
Dora Taylor, who is the subject of chapter 3, was the most prolific of the contributors to Trek during the 1940s. Recently Taylor has become better known in South Africa as a novelist (all posthumously published), a literary journalist (some essays have been republished), and for her role in intellectual political life, but the full contribution that she made to ‘a complex and heterogeneous struggle tradition’ (p. 87) has yet to be recognized. Her focus on tracing connections between culture and its social roots provoked accusations of ‘ideological policing, mistaking literary texts for political pamphlets and applying ready-made formulas to the undecidability of art’ (p. 86), but, while there might be some justice in aspects of this reaction, Taylor was influenced not by Stalinism but by Marx himself, Engels and, above all, by Trotsky. Sandwith also gives attention to the similarities of approach between Taylor and Georg Lukács.
On arrival in Cape Town from Scotland, Taylor and her husband joined the city’s left-wing intellectual circles, and by 1938 she had become a member of the Workers’ Party of South Africa; in the next decade she was deeply involved in the Non-European Unity Movement and collaborated with I.B. Tabata on his projects. Membership of these groups meant that her writing and teaching on cultural and literary matters was done largely at their behest. Facing the threat of fascism and the seduction of the masses by commerce, Taylor emphasized the value of education and the recovery of individual discrimination, but hers was not, argues Sandwith, a reactionary position akin to ‘Kulturkritik’, for she also turned to a materialist frame in order to understand the forces at work, insisting, with vital importance for her context, on the ‘determining influence of entrenched economic inequality’ (p. 95). In her literary reviewing, Taylor introduced her readers to the classics of the European, American, and British traditions, using a Trotskyite perspective to indicate their value, and she assessed the writing of South Africans, black and white. Her perspective enabled her to argue that, ‘while the economic base is an invaluable and essential guide in tracing the rise of certain ideological concepts, literature at the same time has its own laws of growth, change, assimilation, imitation and revolt … The laws of uneven development would seem to hold in literature as well as economics’ ( Trek 1944; quoted, with ellipsis, p. 103).
Olive Schreiner was one of the writers Taylor admired for her unending questioning of received dogma and opposition to the authoritarianism of colonial life. The isolation in which Schreiner conducted her quest for the truth was in stark contrast to the community of ideas (p. 104) that Taylor believed socialism would bring. In espousing literature’s truth-telling capacity, Taylor was influenced by nineteenth-century Russian literary criticism, which also led her to espouse a realist aesthetic in order to heighten social consciousness in South Africa. She did not, however, believe that culture could be a weapon in the revolutionary struggle, for that would be to force art to solve problems outside its legitimate sphere (p. 111). Sandwith gives a careful account of Taylor’s objections to writers such as Sarah Gertrude Millin, Alan Paton, and Phyllis Altman ( The Law of the Vultures ), and to her assessment of writers such as H.I.E. Dhlomo and R.R.R. Dhlomo; in the latter, ‘incipient social critique is undone by an insistent preoccupation with individual morality and Christian themes of sin and repentance’ (p. 117). The Dhlomo brothers were mission-educated, and about this time Dora Taylor published, under the pseudonym Nosipho Majeke, The Role of the Missionaries in Conquest .
After the narrower focus on Dora Taylor, Sandwith broadens out her discussion again to consider the tensions in the WPSA and the New Era Fellowship (both of which would play a role in NEUM) between demands for citizenship based on merit (i.e. those deemed ‘civilized’) and political representation as a right accorded to all people. While this debate tended to map onto a class hierarchy in Europe, in South Africa it also had the potential for a racialized hierarchy within the coloured group and a sharp division between coloured and African peoples. Tensions played out in the field of education in particular; when in the early 1940s the government created a separate Department for Coloured Affairs, antagonisms grew and, as a differentiated education was portended, the Teachers’ League split. The local press supported the educationalists’ argument for merit, and Sandwith records many letters to the editor which expressed the elites’ ‘enormous sense of (always patronising) responsibility’ (p. 141) towards their less fortunate brethren. Younger activists took exception to this moderate position. In The Torch the NEUM developed its educational policy of ‘nurturing a critical, independent and enlightened black intelligentsia that would act as a vanguard for the developing liberation movement’ (p. 147) and, rather than following a ‘civilizing’ mission, would develop a culture of resistance. Sandwith instances A.C. Jordan’s use of The Tempest to argue what education should and should not provide, in which he, working with ideas of hybridity, cultural transmission, and affiliation, debunked the idea of exclusivity in white culture. In NEUM circles, people were encouraged to become what would later be termed ‘resistant readers’, a stance which led to ‘vigorous, public political argumentation and critique, in marked contrast to the solitary reading practices of the academic mainstream’ (p. 161).
Sandwith next turns her attention to the South African Communist Party and the relationship between politics and culture in its 1940s publications. Again, it is a ‘shifting and expansive debate [among] a loose group of individuals around several common themes … protocols of reading … favoured hermeneutic styles and valued texts (pp. 174–5), this time inspired by a Stalinist left. Sandwith gives particular attention to the ‘point where Soviet cultural theory encounters the complexities and constraints of semi-colonial and apartheid South Africa’ (p. 175). The Left Book Club and the Guardian newspaper were two of the chief means by which a favoured ideology and cultural activities were promoted. The former included very little fiction in its lists of recommended reading and, says Sandwith, seems to have held ‘an instrumentalist view of writing and a conception of reading as a means of acquiring knowledge and political insight’ (p. 184); this mutated into an acceptance of the heroics of Soviet socialist realism and a concern with ‘ “positive” endings and popular inspiration’ (p. 187). Sandwith cites Brian Bunting’s disapproval of the short-story collection, Man Must Live , by Es’kia Mphahlele: for failing to comply with party criteria, the writer is charged (ironically, in the light of his African nationalist views expressed in The Voice , discussed below) with forgetting that he is an African!
After a brief account of attempts to foster a people’s theatre in Johannesburg, Sandwith considers the early career of Jack Cope who, some years before he launched and edited the long-running liberal arts journal Contrast (still in existence), was a novelist and a vigorous Marxist literary journalist writing chiefly for the Guardian and Trek . Although never a card-carrying member, styling himself an independent revolutionary, Cope was a presence in party activities as a writer, lecturer, and public speaker; he wrote a biography of veteran trade unionist W.H. Andrews and, after the voluntary dissolution of the party, he continued to be active in the various organizations that took its place. Cope combined, says Sandwith, ‘the Romantic-radicalism of the British communists … the aesthetic preoccupations of Soviet socialist realism and the cultural pessimism of the Scrutiny school’ (p. 200). This aspect of Cope’s work has, like the early politico-cultural debates in CPSA circles, unaccountably disappeared from South Africa’s broader intellectual history.
To this point, most of the publications and other records that Sandwith has studied are from the Cape, but in her last chapter she turns to Johannesburg, first to a publication from Orlando (now in Soweto) which appeared from September 1949 to June 1952. The Voice was an independent, African-owned monthly news-sheet, published on a shoestring and focused on community issues while, in its columns on culture, espousing a distinctive ‘energetic African nationalist project in the interests of radical political change’ (p. 217). This nationalism was not based on an ‘exclusive cultural or ethnic ‘family’ identity … but rather on the bonds of an oppositional political practice’ (p. 225). Its nationalism was more militant than that of the then moderate African National Congress, and its claims to Western cultural access were accompanied by rejection of the ‘tribal life’ being promoted in the segregation policies of the newly elected white Nationalist government. Among the group of editors and writers who also funded the paper was Es’kia Mphahlele and, although most of the articles and reviews appeared under pseudonyms, Sandwith has been able to identify many of the pieces that he wrote. She shows in some fascinating analysis why Mphahlele’s trajectory as a resistant intellectual was different from that outlined by Fanon and why he did not align himself with negritude . Satirical parody of English literary classics was a favoured weapon in The Voice , and Sandwith outlines all the postcolonial complexity in which ‘Western morality is both idealised and contested, Western culture is simultaneously performed and mimicked, inhabited and undermined, claimed and disavowed’ (p. 240).
The second Johannesburg focus is on a cluster of publications circulating the views of the Congress Alliance: Spark , Liberation , and Fighting Talk (1942–63). The last was most explicitly engaged with cultural matters (it also published short fiction and poetry), and was for some time edited by Ruth First. Its contributors were concerned with a history of African literary forms and with contemporary writing, with one critic complaining in 1957 that African writers evade ‘interpret[ing]African life as it truly obtains today … they have not yet characterised a Mandela, educated, independent and politically victimised’ (quoted p. 247). Such a call for a truthful representation of African modernity is linked, says Sandwith, ‘to a view of indigenous culture as inherently adaptive, provisional and dynamic’ (p. 247). These publications theorized cultural entanglement and the formation of hybridized identities. This was possible in the early years of apartheid when material co-operation and alliances against the divisions of apartheid were still functioning.
Among the journal articles from South Africa this year we have two on the evergreen Heart of Darkness . In ‘Joseph Conrad in the Popular Imaginary: The Case of Heart of Darkness ’ ( JLS 30:ii 17–34) Harry Sewlall revisits Achebe’s denunciation of the novel and gives reasons, from close reading of the text, why it should not simply and unthinkingly be perpetuated. In ‘Locating the Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness ’ ( CW 26:i 12–17), Feston Kalua concentrates on Marlow ‘not only as a metaphor for the ironies and contradictions of the colonial enterprise, but also as challenging all the seeming foundational notions upon which such a markedly flawed edifice was predicated’ (p. 13). J.M. Coetzee also continues to feature in South African literary criticism, but in the first instance the focus is on autobiography and philosophical content rather than on any localized reference. ‘The Grounds of Cynical Self-Doubt: J.M. Coetzee’s Boyhood , Youth and Summertime ’ ( JLS 30:i 94–112) by Sam Cardoen looks at the trilogy as an extension of Coetzee’s writing on secular confession from the mid-1980s. The scepticism in Coetzee’s earlier writing is seen to be something that the autobiographies replicate, analyse, and seek to move beyond by setting up as a possibility, but not enacting, writing as a condition of gossip. ‘J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus : A Postmodern Allegory?’ by Ileana Dimitriu ( CW 26:i 70–81) also has a philosophical emphasis. Dimitriu suggests that Coetzee is exploring the oxymoron of secular spirituality as apt to our uncertain times. Dimitriu, quoting Deborah Madsen, says that ‘allegory tends to come into its own during periods of uncertainty about the nature of communications, the reliability of language and the authenticity of culturally important texts [because] allegory is … focused on the complexities and difficulties inherent in the act of interpretation’ (p. 75).
Cheryl Stobie’s ‘ “The Devil Slapped on the Genitals”: Religion and Spirituality in Queer South Africans’ Lives’ ( JLS 30:i 1–19) examines autobiographical writing in three recently published books: Reclaiming the L-Word: Sappho’s Daughters Out in Africa , edited by Alleyn Diesel , Yes I Am! Writing by South African Gay Men , edited by Robin Malan and Ashraf Johaardien , and Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa , edited by Ruth Morgan, Charl Marais, and Joy Rosemary Wellbeloved . She argues that, while the various forms of religion in South Africa can constrain the rights of sexually nonconforming believers, and while oppression arises from the fact that public opinion lags behind the rights granted in the constitution to individual sexual orientation, these texts also reveal that such believers can establish meaningful spiritual and intimate lives.
‘ “You Are Suffering from Literary Kwashiorkor”: Transculturation at the Confluence of African Literature, Vegetarianism and Indigenous Ritual Practice in Nape’a Motana’s Son-in-Law of the Boere ’ ( JLS 30:i 53–69), by Dave Nel, argues that Motana’s novel should be read as representing the transculturation of three veins of social discourse, a process which arises out of the collision of differentiated civilizations. These veins are: a changed historiography of African literature (the novel is set in a high school where an African teacher attempts to instil a love of writing by Africans in his pupils, and the author uses intertextuality to thicken the implications of this process); becoming a vegetarian as a metaphor for individual change (to abstain from eating meat is a difficult decision for the teacher protagonist as animal slaughter plays a central part in his culture’s rituals); and indigenous ritual practice in the context of modernity in South Africa (resolution of this conundrum is presented in the novel in individual physical and psychic terms).
Two accounts of migrants’ reception in South Africa are examined by Rebecca Fasselt in ‘ “Opening Up to the Rest of Africa”? Continental Connections and Literary (Dis)Continuities in Simão Kikamba’s Going Home and Jonathan Nkala’s The Crossing ’ ( JLS 30:i 70–93). The former is a semi-autobiographical novel about a political refugee from Angola and the latter a one-man play about an economic migrant from Zimbabwe. While they join a growing number of texts featuring migrancy to and in South Africa (Fasselt mentions some fifteen titles), they are unusual in presenting matters from the point of view of the migrants themselves. Fasselt considers the potential for this narrative angle to be liberatory and to invoke a spirit of Afropolitanism, but says that on the whole xenophobia continues to divide South Africa from the continent, state functionaries are depicted as still brutal in their exercise of power, and practices of exclusion continue. In Kikamba’s novel, music and dance offer one small space in which commonality can be felt.
Tony Voss in ‘Notes on Joyce and South Africa: Coincidence and Concordance’ ( CW 26:i 19–28) traces the knowledge that James Joyce had of the country and events in South Africa, based on Dubliners , Ulysses , and records from Joyce’s life. Working from the early comments of the Afrikaans poet N.P. van Wyk Louw, he also traces the influence of Joyce on South African writers in Afrikaans and English.
Stephen Gray, continuing his articles on writers that he considers unjustly neglected, writes about the once celebrated poet-painter of the 1960s and 1970s, Wopko Jensma in ‘Losing His Head: The Poetry of Wopko Jensma and His Reputation’ ( CW 26:i 29–40). The title is an allusion to the judgement of some that Jensma was deranged, and to the rumour that after his disappearance in the early 1990s he was executed in an unknown spot.
In ‘ “Storytellers, Not Just Case Makers”? A Study of Storytelling in the Essays of Njabulo S. Ndebele’ ( CW 26:i 41–50), Sara Thackwray revisits the 1991 essay in which Ndebele criticized 1970s black protest writing on the grounds that the short stories in particular were overly diagrammatic in their staging of racial oppression. Tracing his understanding of storytelling to Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Storyteller’, she compares Ndebele’s views with those of Michael Kirkwood and Michael Vaughan, both also strongly influenced by Benjamin in the 1990s, in order to assess the value of this debate for present literary studies.
Belinda du Plooy takes up Foucault’s concepts of ‘subjugated’ or ‘rejected’ knowledges in ‘A Foucauldian Reading of Power Dynamics in Two Afrikaans Historical Novels: Daleen Matthee’s Fiela’s Child and Micki Pistorius’s Sorg ’ ( CW 26:i 51–8). The latter title is translated as ‘Care’. The novels are set in the latter years of the nineteenth century but reflect the socio-political concerns of the time in which they were written: chiefly the smaller stories of marginalized people. Du Plooy argues that the novels ‘unravel … the practical realities and implications of social control, resistance, power and individual autonomy’ (p. 57), both in the fictionalized time and in our own.
In ‘ “Every Place Is Three Places”: Bursting Seams in Recent Fiction by Diane Awerbuck and Henrietta Rose-Innes’ ( CW 26:i 59–69) Ken Barris looks at the creation of a new literary space in which city and nature interpenetrate to form a zone of instability in two short stories: ‘Phosphorescence’ and ‘The Keeper’ by Diane Awerbuck, and a novel, Nineveh , by Henrietta Rose-Innes. This interpenetration, or collapse, gives rise to a new genre, the urban pastoral, and, in the short stories, invites the presence of a flâneur figure in the Baudelaire or Benjamin mould.
A novel by the Zimbabwean novelist Chenjerai Hove is the subject of Muchativugwa Liberty Hove’s ‘Reversions and Revisions: Displacement, Heritage and History in Chenjerai Hove’s Ancestors ’ ( CW 26:i 82–90). He observes that it is a neglected text and argues that it interrogates the position of women—motherhood, forced marriage, girlhood, exile, and voicelessness—silenced under patriarchy. Another article concerning Zimbabwe, but about a much more difficult claim to that identity, is Syned Mthatiwa’s ‘Subjectivity and Belonging in the Poetry of Bart Wolffe’ ( CW 26:i 91–106), where the poems of childhood are shown to express a profound and innocent nostalgia, but the later poems, especially those written in exile, reveal a more complex and sometimes self-contradictory sense of identity.
The second issue of Journal of Literary Studies , guest-edited by Maurice Taonezvi Vambe and Urther Rwafa, has as its theme ‘Violence and Genocide in African Literature and Film’. Nyasha Mboti, in ‘Violence in Postcolonial African Film’ ( JLS 30:ii 38–48), focuses on Bamako by the Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako in order to argue that, for African filmmakers, the vital subject is ‘the hidden, hegemonic sinister … form of violence one may call systemic violence … which enables all other violences’ (p. 42). Maurice Vambe argues, in ‘Violence, Cynicism and the Cinematic Spectacle of (Mis)Representing African Child Soldiers in Black Hawk Down and Blood Diamond ’ ( JLS 30:ii 49–68) that although in these American-made films child soldiers are superficially depicted as reluctant recruits and victims, they are contextually and symbolically constituted as the enemy, as ‘other’, and as ‘ungrievable’, in Butler’s term. An approach using Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar is taken to film by Macaulay Mowarin in ‘A Linguistic Reading of the Metaphor of Genocide in Hotel Rwanda ’ ( JLS 30:ii 69–85). He analyses the film’s representation of lexical choices and syntactic selections made in radio broadcasts in order to inflame the killing in Rwanda of Tutsis by Hutu extremists. He also discusses the protagonist’s uses of language in trying to protect those who take refuge in the Sabana hotel, and the role of language in the inertia of the West and its perceptions of the genocide. Urther Rwafa’s article ‘Playing the Politics of Erasure: (Post)Colonial Film Images and Cultural Genocide in Zimbabwe’ ( JLS 30:ii 104–14) uses the South African-made film Strike Back Zimbabwe as an example of cultural genocide. In ‘Rethinking Marikana: Warm and Cold Lenses in Plea for Humanity’ ( JLS 30:ii 115–34), his consideration of the documentary The Marikana Massacre: Through the Lens , Lesibana Rafapa discusses both the ‘warm lenses of the eyes of the film-maker, and of the film-viewer [and the material’s being] commonly mediated by the cold lens of the camera’ (p. 118). After a careful account of the filmic techniques, emphases, and silences, Rafapa concludes that the documentary creates an understanding that all of those involved ‘are all human beings irrespective of social, political or economic status and deserve to be treated with humanity at all times’ (p. 132). There are two articles on novels in this special issue. One is Tendayi Sithole’s ‘Violence: The (Un)real, Power and Excess in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow ’ ( JLS 30:ii 86–103) and the other is Ogaga Okuyade’s ‘Body as Battlefield: Genocide, and the Family in Goretti Kyomuhendo’s Secrets No More ’ ( JLS 30:ii 135–51). In the latter Okuyade summarizes the ethnicized origins of the Rwanda genocide and then focuses on Kyomuhendo’s novel, which uses violence against a particular family, particularly the rape of women, to figure the attempted destruction of a people.
The second number of Current Writing in 2014, guest-edited by Margaret Daymond, celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Bessie Head’s novel, A Question of Power. Many of the contributors are established Head scholars, some of them pioneers in the field. Among the newer scholars is Grant Lilford, who argues, in ‘Madness or Mysticism? The Unconscious Ascetics of Power and Hunger’ ( CW 26:ii 169–80), that in Head’s novel and in The House of Hunger by Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marechera, the protagonist’s battle is of a psychic rather than a psychological nature. He suggests that from a traditional African perspective and from that of the mystic Desert Fathers of North Africa, the kind of consciousness presented in the novel would not seem strange. He uses Foucault to suggest that a diagnosis of madness should obscure the validity of the critique of power in Head’s novel. Another scholar new to the field is Nyasha Mboti who, in ‘Questions of Adaptation: Bessie Head’s A Question of Power and Ingrid Sinclair’s Riches ’ ( CW 26:ii 181–92), looks at how Sinclair’s film creatively reimagines the protagonist’s story in Head’s novel. Annie Gagiano, ‘Topographies of Power and Pain in A Question of Power ’ ( CW 26:ii 113–22), focuses on the discourses of outer and inner location in the novel in order to trace the psychic and social journey that the protagonist, Elizabeth, has to undergo. Bessie Head’s biographer, Gillian Stead Eilersen, asks herself, in ‘Creative Ferment: A Question of Power in the 21st Century: Some Thoughts for New Readers’ ( CW 26:ii 156–61), what advice she would give to readers tackling the novel today. Starting with the idea of a nightmare soul journey, she finds several other signposts, as well as the image of fermentation in which creative and disintegrative elements are inseparably combined, which might act as a guide to the conflict between good and evil that occupies the narrative. Craig MacKenzie, one of Head’s editors, reflects on years of reading her fiction in ‘A Question of Madness: Re-reading Bessie Head’s A Question of Power ’ ( CW 26:ii 148–56). After looking at records of her life at the time she was writing the novel, MacKenzie turns to what he considers some of the more perplexing features of the novel and focuses on the protagonist’s struggle to distinguish what is ‘real’ in her life and what belongs in her ‘dream’ world. This struggle means that the narrative technique cannot be ‘a triumph of the ordering power of the individual intellect [but is] one of witness’ (p. 151) and it remains a ‘landmark work in African fiction’ (p. 155). Mary S. Lederer, who has a monograph on Head’s fiction forthcoming, considers the requirements for producing an annotated edition of Head’s novel in ‘Annotating Bessie Head’s A Question of Power ’ ( CW 26:ii 162–8). Since so much of Head’s writing and philosophy involves uncertainty and open-endedness, annotations of her fictional text are particularly important, not least in order to make accurate distinctions between the protagonist’s life story and Head’s own biography. Annotations could also support Head’s claim that the novel represents her Botswana experiences rather than her South African background. Given questions of copyright, Lederer proposes that a reader’s companion to the novel would be the best way to provide the necessary assistance to readers. Bessie Head’s letters, some published, some collected in the archive in the Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe, and some still privately owned, form the basis of three articles. Linda Susan Beard, who has edited a comprehensive selection of the letters for publication, writes ‘Head on Head, Metacritically Speaking: Bessie Head’s Epistolary Critique of A Question of Power ’ ( CW 26:ii 123–34). Head was a prolific letter-writer who kept copies of everything; Beard has constructed Head’s aesthetic from the correspondence, sets out her commentary on stages of the novel’s development, and assembles her account of the narrative methods used, showing the novelist as a considerable literary critic. M.J. Daymond takes Head’s letters to the English novelist Paddy Kitchen, to whom Head wrote for nearly twenty years, and with particular intensity during the writing of A Question of Power . This correspondence has subsequently been published in Everyday Matters: Selected Letters of Dora Taylor, Bessie Head and Lilian Ngoyi , edited by M.J. Daymond . In ‘ “I Want to Feel That I Saw and Thought All Those Things for a Purpose”: Bessie Head’s Letters to Paddy Kitchen about Writing A Question of Power ’ ( CW 26:ii 135–47), the letters are used to show that Head worked to turn what might have been inchoate and profoundly disturbing raw experience into a visionary work of art. Stephen Gray, also one of Head’s editors, looks at some personal aspects of Head’s life, correspondence, and publishing career in ‘Some Publishing Personalia Concerning Bessie Head’ ( CW 26:ii 193–202). He includes several unpublished letters between himself and Head concerning the inclusion of certain of her stories in anthologies, her joy on receiving a copy of Plaatje’s novel Mhudi , and her going to Iowa City to join the university’s International Writing Program.
Australian literary studies in 2014 saw recently popular areas of interest (David Malouf) sustained, older areas (Patrick White) renewed, and a surprising assortment of new approaches moving beyond textual analysis to consideration of theatre-making and varying kinds of print culture, book history, and reception studies.
Colonial Psychosocial: Reading William Lane presents its subject as a ‘rabid preacher coughing forth racist bile’, a unionist, an ‘aspirant dictator’ leading Australians to a workers’ commune in Paraguay, and a writer of futuristic fiction (p. 7). David Crouch gives us a dramatic sketch of the man and his historical context, treating him as symptomatic of a pathology of white settler colonial utopian dreams and paranoid fears—a ‘hypochondria of identity’ (p. 15). Claims for Lane’s ongoing influence on ‘the racially driven violence of subsequent political formations’ are perhaps overreaching, though the comments on the Cronulla riot and invasion fiction are of interest. The study is an important corrective to the romance of democratic labour history, with lots of colourful if unedifying scenes of anti-Chinese prejudice in Queensland, partly fuelled by Lane’s paper The Boomerang: The Workingman’s Paradise , written in support of striking shearers in 1891, which envisioned a perfected new society that carried with it ‘a pervasive air of disillusionment’ (p. 111) linked to mechanized capitalism and city slums. The final chapter shows us what we have not often seen: the ‘morbid’ prophet working out restless days on a New Zealand newspaper, still spouting ‘images of glorified violence’ (p. 145).
You can read the first 125 pages of Michael Wilding’s ‘documentary’ Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall before hearing mention of what ties them: the founding of Melbourne’s Yorick Club. Indeed, if you are looking for an academic study of late nineteenth-century Australian literary bohemia, you won’t find it; nor will you find an accessible, prosaic cultural history; the book is meticulously researched. Wild Bleak Bohemia feels uncomfortably stuck between the academic and the popular. It forgoes chapter divisions, substituting short sketches, each tied to specific archival and documentary accounts of events (which range from the rollicking to the curious to the banal). It would be a shame, though, for this fascinating book to be ignored. Wilding patiently draws an account of each of its subjects, from expatriate (Clarke), or jockey (Gordon) to the progeny of missionaries (Kendall) and their progress to becoming men of letters. The resulting ‘documentary’ becomes increasingly layered and (as the reader becomes accustomed to its unusual style) fascinating.
Philip Butterss’s An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C.J. Dennis aims to tell this later story fairly comprehensively, and largely succeeds. From a child born in a pub, coddled by aunties, Dennis wrote his first verses as a boy, before proceeding to a literary apprenticeship writing for and then running such journals as the Critic and the Gadfly . Butterss’s book is an insight into many things: the enduring influence of Kipling on Dennis, his abandoned foray into a dictionary of Australian slang, and the numerous sources for Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (though Butterss makes a case for its originality) and much besides.
If Wilding’s Wild Bleak Bohemia is a documentary in a playful sense, Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver have compiled a literal documentary in The Colonial Journals: The Emergence of Australian Literary Culture . Divided into ten sections, the book provides snapshots of fiction and poetry, reviews, art, and several exemplary ‘colonial types’ imagined in the press. Canons and taste formation seem to be at the forefront of the authors’ sampling of excerpts, as well as the well-argued case that ‘the investment in “Australian literature” as an identifiable field of writing happens … early on’—as early as the 1860s, in fact.
Igor Maver has read postcolonial literature from his base in Ljubljana, Slovenia. On the one hand, his Selected Essays on Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Literatures revisit familiar texts (A.D. Hope’s vision of Australia versus Europe in relation to Byron); on the other, it can produce unusual slants and selections. There is an interesting reading of Ouyang Yu’s The Knightsbury Tales , for example, and the author’s interest in diasporic work also has him read Andrew Riemer’s The Hapsburg Café and catalogue Slovenian writing in Australia (the strongest chapter and important for cataloguing non-English transnational work overlooked in Australia). In addition he looks at poems set in Slovenia by Andrew Taylor and Susan Hampton, and the work of Christopher Koch. These essays often fail to rise above the level of a book review. Many anglophone scholars will, however, find the work of 1920s globetrotter Alma Karlin a revelation, and the Slovenian perspective that shapes the whole book is itself a significant intervention in the field.
As a former student of writer and teacher Margaret Scott, Janet Upcher offers an appreciative thematic reading of the Tasmanian’s poetry and prose, emphasizing her migration from England, her feminism, her ‘indomitable approach to most things … isolation, divorce, bushfire, bereavement, emphysema’ (p. 7) mixed with tones of despair and irony, and a juxtaposition of ‘the ordinary and the grotesque’ (p. 13). Changing Countries, Bridging Worlds is a close reading of poems set against biographical information; it points to Scott’s handling of sound effects, rhythm, and image as evidence that her verse is more poetic than some critics have allowed (pp. 27–30) and notes her ‘emphasis on the regenerative power of memory’ (p. 39) and attentiveness to everyday realities. The section on prose takes this icon of regional identity and makes her a universal philosopher, acknowledging her ‘fierce social conscience’ and historical writings. The book is a good introduction to Scott’s work, though a more bracing critical analysis remains to be written.
It is a familiar trope to claim that your favourite writer is not given his or her due by critics, but in Tim Winton’s case, it does seem to be true: despite his evident popularity and his work being enshrined in school curricula, he attracts fewer essays than either Carey or Malouf, and those there are, are often attacks on his representations of gender, complaints about lack of attention to Aborigines, or laments about his supposedly conservative Christian outlook. Tim Winton: Critical Essays , edited by Lyn McCredden and Nathanael O’Reilly, argues for complexity (‘ambivalence’ is a common term) and even radical questioning behind the facade of easy-going Aussie norms and romantic stories. The limitation of this is that the familiar themes (realism, masculinity, spirituality, settler colonialism) are again rehearsed. However, most of the chapters provide clear and useful readings of the main texts and a few give interesting extensions to existing critical opinion. Bill Ashcroft (‘Water’, pp. 16–48) folds Winton into his own interests in Heimat and the utopian sublime via a run-through of archetypes (passage to different states of being: epiphany, dream, death, rebirth). Fiona Morrison (‘ “Bursting with Voice and Doubleness”: Vernacular Presence and Visions of Inclusiveness in Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet ’, pp. 49–74) makes a good case for the innovative complexity of narration and vernacular idiom. She values the novel’s comic mode over its pastoral elegy and emphasizes the centrality of class. In ‘Winton’s Spectralities or What Haunts Cloudstreet ?’ (pp. 75–95) Michael Griffiths (aided by Derrida) uses the novel’s ghosts and some more direct references to Aborigines to show that the author has not ignored the dark colonial past, but echoes Western Australian history so that its haunting of the story’s present displays the originary unsettlement of the ‘inheritance’ in both the novel and settler colonialism, even if it does not envisage Aboriginal land rights. Hannah Schürholz’s ‘ “Over the Cliff and into the Water”: Love, Death and Confession in Tim Winton’s Fiction’ (pp. 96–121) notes that Winton’s women tend to suffer self-harm, ‘transience and ferocity’, and death. Male insecurities (expressed as confessions) are vented or resolved on the bodies of female partners, represented as ambiguous, unknowable others. One foray into statistics and book history (Per Henningsgaard, ‘The Editing and Publishing of Tim Winton in the United States’, pp. 122–60) uncovers one point of interest: that later American editions which reset all of the novels do not alter Winton’s Australian idioms. The point is left hanging, but a bit of historical context would show how Keneally and Carey, film and tourist promotions had prepared the way for such an unusual US tolerance of the foreign. There’s some interesting commentary on epigraphs and intertextual debts and some useful US sales figures. Editors often have to take what they can get from contributors, and there are some gaps in this collection: nothing on Winton’s two plays or on An Open Swimmer or In the Winter Dark , and only passing mention of The Riders . Nathanael O’Reilly makes good the general emphasis on Cloudstreet and Breath in ‘From Father to Son: Fatherhood and Father–son Relationships in Scission ’ (pp. 161–82), noting the mutual miscommunications founded on feelings of disappointment about children and fear/hero-worship of parents and the search for intimacy and alternative masculinities. Tanya Dalziell covers ‘Writing Childhood in Tim Winton’s Fiction’ (pp. 183–98), reading against a general view of children’s literature a story from Scission , Lockie Leonard , Human Torpedo , and, briefly, the protagonists in That Eye , The Sky , and Breath . In ‘The Cycle of Love and Loss: Melancholic Masculinity in The Turning ’ (pp. 199–220), Bridget Grogan tracks the workings of Winton’s sequence of stories to show how ‘loss is inherent in character formation’ but fragmentation from grief is held in check by ‘the cohesive force of love’ (pp. 206–7), concluding with a reading of the book’s citation of ‘Ash Wednesday’. Sissy Helff (‘Transcultural Winton: Mnemonic Landscapes of Australia’, pp. 221–40) begins with Ricoeur’s call for ‘translation, exchange of memories and forgiveness’ as a way out of Cold War and genocidal hostilities. Winton’s popular side (the beach, colourful landscapes) masks a more serious ‘oscillation between various temporalities connecting distinct local histories and cross-cultural memories’ (p. 223). Romantic Australia is cross-cut with images of industrial modernity and globalization, as in The Shallows , in which Queenie is ‘the key to a transcultural solidarity that reaches far beyond any given notion of multiculturalism’ (p. 229). The Turning relies on ‘chains of memory’ in its structuring and content. Brigid Rooney takes us ‘From the Sublime to the Uncanny in Tim Winton’s Breath ’ (pp. 221–40). She argues that ‘Winton’s characters often find themselves unable to resolve or banish the oppositions that divide their world; they can only ward them off or simply survive.’ This ambivalence stems from both the author’s early experience of Christianity and ‘the rootlessness of settler-colonial modernity’ (pp. 243–4) and is reflected in the shuttling between sublime surfing and domestic interiors, foreground and background, that produces uncanny repetitions and interruptions, where ‘hard work and humble service to what is left of family’ sit alongside ‘a troubling sense of fatalism’ (p. 259). The monotony of repetition, suffocation of the female, and worldly struggle after the sublime are brought together in the most inspiring chapter, Nick Birns’s reading of risk in Breath sees it as tied to a neoliberal economics that strips bare the prelapsarian idyll, the sublime romance of surfing, sexual adventure, and individual autonomy (‘A Not Completely Pointless Beauty: Breath , Exceptionality and Neoliberalism’, pp. 263–83). A little overreaching but nonetheless interesting as a more nuanced proposition is Hou Fei’s connection between Breath and the period of change tied with Australia’s involvement in Vietnam (‘Extreme Games, Hegemony and Narration: An Interpretation of Tim Winton’s Breath ’, pp. 283–305), and editor McCredden rounds off the collection with ‘ “Intolerable Significance”: Tim Winton’s Eyrie ” (pp. 306–29). She sees family as a core value in Winton but goes on to consider ‘the ability or failure of signs’—of fiction, of art—in his latest work. Kristeva is invoked to point to a reduction to ‘intolerable insignificance the loss of faith in meaning making and ontological power’ (p. 309) and to the novel’s play with signs (Scrabble, threatening letters) to posit a ‘theology’ of humble improvisations of meaning in the face of abject instability.
Shirley Hazzard garners well-deserved attention in a new volume edited by Brigitta Olubas. Like Winton, Hazzard is a successful writer who remains an under-investigated scholarly resource. The opening section of Olubas’s Shirley Hazzard considers the transition from early works of short fiction to later novels. John Frow identifies The Evening of the Holiday as something of a threshold between early short stories and the mature novels, beginning with The Bay of Noon , giving an intricate close reading of the temporality of the early work (‘Future Anterior: The Evening of the Holiday’, pp. 3–11). Fiona Morrison supports Frow’s views and goes further, seeing The Evening of the Holiday as placing Hazzard amongst poetic pastoral elegists like Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop even as her use of narrative mode suggests a continuity with British novelists like Graham Greene and E.M. Forster (‘ “This Intricate Lasting Nature”: Passage, Pastoral Elegy and the Pedagogy of Loss in The Evening of a Holiday ’, pp. 13–23). Morrison also finds intriguing structural connections with Keats and charts matrilineal inheritance in the text’s complex play with aunt-figures. Shirley Hazzard devotes two sections of two to three essays each to the major mid-career works of the author— The Bay of Noon and The Transit of Venus . Lucy Dougan continues the penchant for contextualizing Hazzard through her intertexts and contemporaries, this time in film (‘Another Journey to Italy: The Bay of Noon’, pp. 27–40). Dougan argues that The Bay of Noon  could not escape resonating with Roberto Rossellini’s by then canonical Journey to Italy . Intertexts show that the fascist past of Italy must be grappled with, even in a contemporary celebration of its cultural contribution. Thus, ‘Hazzard links the long tradition of intertextual exchange and formal transposition in the art romance to a discourse of cultural urgent recovery and rescue’ (p. 31). Brigid Rooney continues the emphasis on formal and narratological concerns, building on Olubas’s 2012 monograph with a reading of The Bay of Noon ’s proleptic qualities—qualities that no doubt accrue in The Transit of Venus (‘ “No-One Had Thought of Looking Close to Home”: Reading the Province in The Bay of Noon ’, pp. 41–53). Sharon Ouditt remains with regional space: thickly contextualizing it and its place in Hazzard’s imaginary (‘ “Naples Is a Leap”: Time, Space and Consciousness in Shirley Hazzard’s Naples’, pp. 55–61). Gail Jones and Robert Dixon take on The Transit of Venus , each with virtuosic, speculative essays. Jones stages a panoply of generic, stylistic, and formal concerns in Hazzard’s celebrated novel, limning interiority, Hazzard’s modernism (or refusal thereof) and her attachment to the antique, prolepsis (once more), and how they reflect a concern with vision (‘Glasses and Speculations: On Hazzard’s Transits’, pp. 65–76). Dixon also identifies prolepsis as a central formal quality, but his crucial move is to insist on the technique’s ‘forensic ethical intelligence’ (p. 81) in Hazzard’s hands (‘Returning to the Scene of the Crime: On Re-reading The Transit of Venus ’, pp. 79–93). The Great Fire (despite its Miles Franklin Award) does not have a doubled section of its own like The Transit of Venus and The Bay of Noon . Instead, Claire Seiler’s ‘The Mid-Century Method of The Great Fire ’ (pp. 97–110) is grouped with Nicholas Birns’s ‘Does Idealism Preclude Heroism? Shirley Hazzard’s United Nations Writings’ (pp. 111–20). Seiler positions The Great Fire as a strange instance of late style (in Said’s sense). Hazzard’s final novel (the novelist, still living, has designated it as such) remains concerned with the immediate post-Second World War moment. With such a long-standing focus and centred on a love story unironically narrated, Seiler positions the novel as one that ‘performs the kind of benign artistic lateness over which Said passes’ (p. 98). Birns’s essay claims Hazzard’s satirical take on the UN is an idealistic embrace of that organization’s cosmopolitan project, one that unexpectedly reflects her identity as an Australian writer who emerges from the end of older imperialisms into the new liberal transnational order. Olubas’s book closes with two biographical investigations, one heavily researched, the other drawn from personal reflection. In ‘The Transit of Shirley Hazzard’ (pp. 123–36), Jan McGuinness draws on interviews with Hazzard and numerous acquaintances to construct a portrait of the writer that sheds light on repeated settings and concerns in her fiction from maternal neurosis in Sydney to vivid recollections of Hiroshima. Martin Stannard’s ‘Meeting Shirley Hazzard’ (pp. 137–43) is a sensitive portrayal of Hazzard and her husband Francis Steegmuller drawn from a meeting in the early 1990s when Stannard was researching Hazzard’s friend, British writer Muriel Spark.
If Australian literary figures are under-studied, we might expect popular genre writers to be neglected by scholars also. Nonetheless, we find a book-length study of Australian-born science fiction writer Greg Egan in which his nationality is irrelevant. Instead, it is his place in ‘hard SF’—a subgenre that deals in plausible elaborations of physics and the other hard sciences—that matters most. Author Karen Burnham, in Greg Egan , says that ‘the precision of science has always been an integral part of Egan’s worldview’ (p. 22). Burnham is a NASA electrical engineer. She eschews biography in favour of a survey of works according to genre and devotes chapter 4 to assessing the scientific accuracy of Egan’s plot devices. However, Burnham often aims at establishing the kind of cohesive world-view one might find in a living subject rather than the contradictory trajectory that can make up a career or oeuvre. This is certainly true of the final chapter, on Egan’s relation to the culture wars of the 1990s. The writer’s status as an outsider to literary criticism is what makes Burnham’s Greg Egan fresh and intriguing, even as it is limited by its concern with the empirical.
Like the 2012 conference on Hazzard that led to Olubas’s book, the 2012 Association for the Study of Australia in Asia conference, held in India, revisited Patrick White, and generated Patrick White Centenary: The Legacy of a Prodigal Son , edited by Cynthia vanden Driesen and Bill Ashcroft. The book is divided into thematic sections. The first, ‘Revaluations’, is framed by a personal recollection by John Barnes that extends to an overview of White’s career (‘Australia’s Prodigal Son’, pp. 2–22). Barnes recalls meeting a frail White when the latter spoke at La Trobe University in the 1980s, complaining that academics seemed only to teach Voss . Barnes goes on to distinguish White from such predecessors and contemporaries as Henry Handel Richardson, Martin Boyd, and Christina Stead. White’s thematization of Australian history, Barnes contends, is unique because he departs from the form of the historical novel. Bill Ashcroft situates White in theoretical and postcolonial terms (‘Horizons of Hope’, pp. 22–42). Ashcroft notes that White entered the Australian literary scene when the country was experiencing a resurgence of nationalist valuation of its literature (signalled by the first chair in Australian literature being founded at Sydney University). Yet White’s influence seems to have waned after his death even as the study of Australian literature has grown. Ashcroft draws on Foucault’s notion of heterotopia and Ernst Bloch’s idea of Heimat to relate White and homeliness in a similarly paradoxical way, arguing that the acceptance of not being at home is itself the horizon of possibility for a potentially utopian homeliness. Lyn McCredden (‘ “Splintering and Coalescing”: Language and the Sacred in Patrick White’s Novels’, pp. 43–62) draws on Bataille and Levinas to interrogate the degree to which White’s writing—particularly in The Solid Mandala and Riders in the Chariot— thematizes the limits of language in relation to the sacred. Bridget Grogan continues the section on ‘Revaluations’ with a critical appraisal of the depiction of corporeality in White’s novels, animated by Julia Kristeva’s ideas (‘Corporeality, Abjection and the Role of Laura Trevelyan in Voss ’, pp. 63–81). Grogan generalizes her account with reference to Elizabeth Hunter in Eye of the Storm and Ellen Roxburgh in A Fringe of Leaves . John McLaren argues that, while White and his characters are able to escape geographical boundaries, gender remains a solid frame in much of his work (‘Patrick White: Crossing the Boundaries’, pp. 83–97). Nathanael O’Reilly critiques lingering assumptions that White’s novels are anti-suburban, suggesting instead a deep ambivalence about this under-appreciated setting in Australian literature (‘The Myth of Patrick White’s Anti-Suburbanism’, pp. 98–109). O’Reilly’s essay expands on his earlier work on the topic by focusing on Riders in the Chariot . Satendra Nandan’s essay, ‘Patrick White: The Quest of the Artist’, ties White’s vision of artistic inspiration to suffering (pp. 110–24). Pavithra Narayanan’s ‘Patrick White and Australia: Perspective of an Outsider’ connects White’s relation to Australia to his activism (pp. 125–40). Like Grogan, Jessica White—who happens to be a relation of the author—foregrounds the role of the body in his fiction (‘Inscribing Landscape in Patrick White’s Novels’, pp. 141–50). Skin and hands, for example, are shown to weather in keeping with a profoundly gradual process of becoming Australian.
The second part of Patrick White Centenary is dedicated to ‘Genre’. May-Brit Akerholt’s ‘ “A Glorious, Terrible Life”: The Dual Image in Patrick White’s Dramatic Language’ (pp. 152–63) reflects on the role of show-specific choices developed from White’s language in plays including The Cheery Soul , The Night on Bald Mountain , and The Ham Funeral . Greg Battye looks at portraits and technically reproduced images of White, offering valuable insights into White’s friendships with William Yang and Brett Whiteley (‘Looking at Patrick White Looking: Portraits in Pain and on Film’, pp. 164–80). Sissy Helff draws on Linda Hutcheon’s sense of adaptation as innovative in order to show the specificity of one cinematic version of a White novel (‘Patrick White-Lite: Fred Schepisi’s Filmic Adaptation of The Eye of the Storm ’, pp. 181–95). Glen Phillips closes the section on genre with an intriguing connection: ‘The Novelist as Occasional Poet: Patrick White and Katharine Susannah Prichard’ (pp. 196–207). As well as reflecting more widely on the role poetry has in the career of novelists, Phillips detects in the poetry of both writers Georgian tendencies, reminding us that these eclipsed such modernist experiments as Imagism in their time.
The third part of vanden Driesen and Ashcroft’s book focuses on individual works, though not all the essays are analytic. Indeed, the section opens with an essay by novelist Meira Chand, ‘In the Shadow of Patrick White’ (pp. 210–21), in which she charts the writing of her historical novel Brave Sisters against her reading and interpretation of A Fringe of Leaves . Antonella Riem follows with a more conventional essay that nonetheless proceeds from unexpected sources: ‘The Spirit of the Creative Word in Patrick White’s Voss ’ (pp. 222–40) charts the relation between indigenous and non-indigenous figures through Riane Eisler’s dominator and partnership understanding of cultural paradigms. Another contribution on Voss follows from Harish Mehta, who seeks to show how the novel’s subversion of the benign affective status of its white characters offers an alternative version of Australian history (‘ “Violent” Aboriginals and “Benign” White Men’, pp. 241–56). Treatment of indigeneity in White most forcefully comes to the fore with Jeanine Leane’s ‘White’s Tribe: Patrick White’s Representation of the Australian Aborigine in A Fringe of Leaves ’ (pp. 257–67). For Leane, White’s narration moves the novel’s protagonist Ellen (and by implication the white reader who identifies with her) from a stereotypical apperception of the savagery of ‘the tribe’ to a ‘transformed consciousness of themselves and where they belong’ (p. 266). Nonetheless, Leane notes that this is hardly what Veronica Brady or vanden Driesen have found in the text but instead is an example of white Australian literature’s project to normalize white settlement through an imaginary vested in appropriation (p. 257). Elizabeth Webby and Margaret Harris contribute an intriguing and detailed reflection on childhood in an early novel and the posthumously published The Hanging Garden , appearing in 2012 in part because of the pair’s research grant (‘Patrick White’s Children: Juvenile Portraits in Happy Valley and The Hanging Garden ’, pp. 269–79). Alastair Niven continues with The Hanging Garden , suggesting that it is less profitable to think of the text as unfinished than is commonly the case (‘ The Hanging Garden ’, pp. 280–90). Instead, ‘White, whilst realising that it needed major editorial attention, had achieved what he wanted to do with his story’ (p. 289). Brian Kiernan nicely rounds out the section with an intriguing thought experiment about the potential reception of White by younger Australia scholars more familiar with Anglo-American New Criticism or Continental theory than with White’s earlier work (‘Patrick White: Twyborn Moments of Grace’, pp. 291–9). The Twyborn Affair deploys ‘indeterminacy of signifiers, linguistic and sexual, and the indeterminacy of gender itself’ to produce a subversive strategy that relies on both proto-postmodernist concerns and a knowledge of the ‘old fashioned’ canonical (pp. 293, 298). Kiernan closes by noting that the White canon can inspire readings either of the old-fashioned novelist of the Bildungsroman and historical novel, or of the self-conscious postmodern writer.
Part IV of the White collection focuses on ‘Comparative Studies’. Isabel Alonso-Breto takes issue with Debjani Ganguly’s caveats about world literature and reads White’s earliest story alongside a novel by a Sri Lankan (‘The Shift from Commonwealth to Postcolonial Literatures: Patrick White’s “The Twitching Colonel” and Manuka Wijesinghe’s Theravada Man ’, pp. 302–18). Gusharan Aurora attempts to connect White’s ‘religious vision’ to traditions beyond the Judaeo-theistic (‘The Unity of Being-Synergies between White’s Mystic Vision and the Indian Religio-Spiritual Tradition’, pp. 319–38). Similarly, Ishmeet Kaur sets up echoes of Sikh religious tradition in White’s work (‘Establishing a Connection: Resonances in Guru Granth Sahib and Works of Patrick White’, pp. 339–51). Mark Williams compares White with several New Zealand writers, primarily James K. Baxter and Bill Pearson, on the basis of their depiction of indigenous peoples (‘Patrick White and James K. Baxter: Public Intellectuals or Suburban Jeremiahs’, pp. 354–67). Julie Mehta focuses on the abject body to compare Alf Dubbo with David Malouf’s Gemmy and Velutha in Roy’s The God of Small Things (‘Smelly Martyrs: Patrick White’s Dubbo Ushers in Roy’s Velutha and Malouf’s Gemmy’, pp. 368–81).
Part V of this extensive publication is devoted to ‘Socio-Political Issues’. It opens with the conference’s plenary address by the politician Fred Chaney, a key player in reconciliation politics for a decade or more. Chaney’s overview of ‘Australia and Its First Peoples’ (pp. 384–99) was no doubt intended to cater for mixed levels of expertise, and relates to Patrick White ‘only in passing’. Anne de Soyza’s ‘Aboriginal Progress in the Native Title Era: Truth and Substantive Equality in Terra Australis ’ (pp. 400–12) does link to White, though it is mainly an overview of the process that errs on the side of remedying disadvantage in the vein of Noel Pearson and anthropologist Peter Sutton. Kieran Dolin brings the no doubt necessary legal surveys back to the literary, situating White (following Russell West-Pavlov) in post-Mabo social space and connecting him to Kim Scott’s texts, particularly That Deadman Dance (‘Rewriting Australia’s Foundation Narrative: White, Scott and the Mabo Case’, pp. 413–28). Vicki Grieves situates the relation between indigeneity and settler colonialism in even more poignant and particular terms, exposing the history of white male exploitation of indigenous women on the White property ‘Belltrees’ (‘Patrick White, “Belltrees” and the “Station Complex”: Some Reflections’, pp. 429–42). Keith Truscott connects White, Australia after Mabo, and writers such as Kim Scott through an elemental interpretation of indigenous knowledge (‘ Mabo— Twenty Years On: An Indigenous Perspective’, pp. 443–57). Jane Stafford contributes an analysis of the Māori poet Robert Sullivan (‘This Poem is a Sea Anchor’: Robert Sullivan’s Anchor’, pp. 458–69). Stephen Alomes reflects on White’s legacy and the failure of Australian republicanism (‘Flaws in the Glass: Why Australia Did Not Become a Republic … After Patrick White’, pp. 470–85). Ameer Ali closes the collection with a consideration of attitudes towards Muslims in Australia, briefly linking this history with Patrick White’s account of Australian xenophobia (‘Negotiating “Otherness”: The Muslim Community in Australia’, pp. 486–95).
Marion May Campbell’s book Poetic Revolutionaries: Intertextuality and Subversion adds to the loose trend in 2014 of reassessing critical orthodoxies. Her concern is to connect questions of avant-garde metafictive, intertextual, and transtextual writing and criticism to Australian literature. Campbell unravels a genealogy linking the Tel Quel critics (Derrida, Sollers, Irigaray, etc.) to an eccentric arrangement of post-1980 Australian writers (along with some French and British ones). Chief among these are Kathleen Mary Fallon and Kim Scott. Given that Campbell’s book is so concerned with French-inflected experimentation, it is unsurprising that Brian Castro also features. While such a broad reconfiguring of Australian literature should be welcomed, Campbell’s omissions ring loudly. For instance, Scott’s more humble concern with those ‘most local histories’ is largely ignored in favour of his trans-meta-intertextualist work. Setting out to prove Fredric Jameson wrong about pastiche and its apolitical nature, Campbell sets up pastiche as something of an end in itself and in doing so perhaps inflates its case. Nonetheless it is an entertaining argument and merits attention.
Owing more to an older-style of literary and feminist work, Mandy Treagus’s Empire Girls: The Colonial Heroine Comes of Age continues the Victorian studies focus of work over recent years from Adelaide University and echoes the emphasis on women’s writing in Changing the Victorian Subject (see below), to which Treagus also contributes. Treagus takes the Bildungsroman as her particular focus, asking how gender modulates the form, then how it alters when transported to the colonies and to what extent it carries with it structures of empire and patriarchy. Treagus suggests that Henry Handel Richardson’s English context has not been as well explored as her European intellectual connections, and echoes other work on white women displaced under colonialism in tracking contradictions and a shared ‘ambivalence of voice’ (p. 6). Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom carries over Victorian attitudes of femininity to an Edwardian colonial girls’ school, placing them in conflict with ideas about the New Woman. The author was placed at the edge of British literary society and beyond the bounds of Australian cultural nationalism, and was read in relation to Zola’s discomforting realism, though she is able to allow her heroine an open future while still depicting the constraints on her. Treagus seeks to show that HHR’s marginal position as a ‘proto-modernist’ expatriate colonial gave her work a subversive generic edge, but she allows ‘ambivalence’ to water down definite conclusions. The book’s declared focus on the Bildungsroman suggests a formalist/structuralist framework that the largely thematic-discursive explication cannot throw more than a diffuse light on, though the argument that HHR was countering the ‘sexology’ of her day is of interest.
Robert Dixon renews his interest in Alex Miller’s work with a monograph, Alex Miller: The Ruin of Time , complementing an edited collection of 2012. Dixon insists on Miller’s ‘high literary seriousness’ (p. xviii) and constructs a theory of history and its spatialization. He sees Miller as providing an Australian equivalent to a W.G. Sebald in their shared relation to Benjamin’s vision of entropy and ruin. This manifests in Miller’s concern with the alienation of the migrant artist, the culpability that the Western subject feels owing to historical genocides, and its Australian localization as the ‘failed project of the pastoral settlement in Australia’ (pp. 102–3). As with the book on Hazzard, Dixon’s scholarly analysis goes some way to build an adequate critical reception of a ‘quiet achiever’ in Australian fiction.
Drawing on nearly ten years with the Melbourne Theatre Company amidst much other industry experience, Julian Meyrick aims to identify strategies for fostering Australian drama in his Platform Papers essay for drama publisher Currency Press. In The Retreat of Our National Drama . Meyrick gives a brief account of Australian theatre history from the late nineteenth century to the emergence of a viable home-grown theatre in the 1970s New Wave. While Meyrick is keen to show via statistics and anecdote that Australian theatre remained commercially viable, he also sees it as disproportionately dominated by classic and recent international adaptations. Although he sees a place for such adaptations, he points to an ‘unconscious industry agenda’ that refuses to let viable Australian-written plays move from small to large companies (pp. 70–1). Lucid and surprisingly entertaining, Meyrick’s account will be as intriguing to those outside the industry as it is potentially controversial for those within it.
Perhaps the most striking book of the year is edited by Vanessa Castejon, Anna Cole, Oliver Haag, and Karen Hughes. Ngapartji Ngapartji: In Turn in Turn: Ego-Histoire, Europe and Indigenous Australia takes its title from the Ananga word for mutual reciprocity (p. 9). It brings together ethnographers and historians from indigenous and settler Australian backgrounds as well as from across Europe to address the question of why European scholars of indigenous studies ‘are committed to a field so geographically removed from Europe’, asking ‘could the distance between Europe and Australia also be productive?’ (p. 8). Aware of (even self-conscious about) European scholars being accused of exoticization, the editors have invoked Pierre Nora’s rubric of ego-histoire , which seeks to combine ‘a personal history, a broader social history and historiographical reflection’ to, in Nora’s words, ‘ “set down one’s own story [ histoire ] as one would write someone else’s; to try to apply to oneself … the same cool, encompassing and explanatory gaze that one so often directs towards others” ’ (p. 22). Bruce Pascoe provides a short preface which pithily warns us: ‘Winners write history … but colonists … most often write an excuse’ (p. xv). Victoria Greaves describes growing up in northern-central New South Wales as an experience of (re)discovery of her aboriginality, shaped in relation to such key contemporary events as the Freedom Rides (‘Ngarranga Barrangang: Self and History, a Contemporary Aboriginal Journey’, pp. 25–40). Some stories recall the mission experience of the Stolen Generations, as in Bill Edwards’s recollections of Ernabella and beyond (‘A Personal Journey with Anangu History’, pp. 41–60). Stephen Muecke reflects on the ‘Gardiya’ or white outsider labelled by a group into which the researcher is partly accepted (‘Turning into a Gardiya’, pp. 259–70). Contemporary Aboriginal painter Julie Dowling’s painting of Noongar hero Yagan enters the frame in Jan Idle’s reflection on being a wadjela or white person in the south-west of Western Australia (‘Yagan, Mrs Dance and Whiteness’, pp. 109–25). Jeanine Leane’s ‘Home Talk’ deals with her relationship with being raised by her aunties (pp. 211–25). Yet, while it is rightly the dominant theme, the collection is not only concerned with indigeneity: diaspora comes into the mix as well, with John Docker’s account of his research into his own heritage. He connects settler colonial histories in Palestine and questions of the history of partition in South Asia with his own experience as a Jewish Australian (or, ‘non-Australian Australian’, as he puts it) growing up in Bondi (‘Genealogy and Derangement’, pp. 173–88). Nora’s indirect contribution to indigenous studies produces remarkable reflections though, for better or for worse, it seems unlikely to completely change the field or how it is examined.
(b) Book Chapters
Changing the Victorian Subject , edited by Maggie Tonkin et al., crosses British negotiations of being ‘Victorian’ with race, gender, and nation concerns at the colonial margins. They join the trend away from narrow cultural nationalism to transnational approaches to Australian literature combined with the ‘proximate reading’ that Ken Gelder proposes as a complement to ‘distant reading’. Amanda Nettlebeck (‘Queen Victoria’s Aboriginal subjects’, pp. 21–35) outlines the 1837 report of the British House of Commons Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes legislating Crown protection for Aboriginal subjects, relating it to white colonial resistance and the lack of treaty with indigenous Australians, reading a Western Australian trial of frontier murder as a case study. Sharon Crozier-De Rosa (‘Identifying with the Frontier: Federation New Woman, Nation and Empire’, pp. 37–58) shows how Catherine Martin’s novel An Australian Girl refused traditional Victorian female domesticity and made both the bush and nation-building places where the New Woman could play an active role. The book contrasts with Francis Adams’s popularizing of the Australian Bushman in England and disturbs overly fixed notions of the Australian frontier, blending colonial aspirations to nationhood with mixed views on Aborigines and positive ones about multicultural immigration. Critics complained of Martin’s introducing serious matter to the romance form, with British reviewers approving of the ‘Girl’ and colonial ones favouring the ‘Australian’. Margaret Allen also deals with a South Australian writer, showing how Kooroona  contested the image of that state as a liberal home for dissenting Protestants and enlightened in its treatment of Aborigines (‘A “Tigress” in the Paradise of Dissent’, pp. 59–81). ‘Maud Jean Franc’ (Matilda Jane Evans) propagated these foundation myths in her novels but ‘Iota’ (Mrs Mary Meredith), who lived in the mining towns of Moonta and Burra with her surgeon husband, returned to England to write Kooroona as a ‘high church’ critique of lower-class Protestant money-grubbing and of the poor treatment of Aborigines (who unusually are all given indigenous names). Rosemary Moore turns to a better-known figure in considering ‘The Making of Barbara Baynton’ (pp. 83–103). Acknowledging the ‘difficult’ aspects of Baynton’s work (her fractured narratives plus her challenge to the masculinist bush myth), Moore turns to Freud and biographical uncertainties to account for Baynton’s obscuring symbolism and bleak view of human animality. Human Toll  reflects anxieties about illegitimacy and fears of male lust. Biblical guilts and trials intersect with infanticide, incest, adultery, and violence, and ‘women find in hysterical conversion and the language of the bodily symptom the means of making their feelings known’, but reviewers, though impressed, were puzzled (p. 90). Bush Studies had a more favourable reception (in Britain more than in Australia) though it deploys the same themes, investing them with the same powerful hysterical indirection. A more popular writer was Mary Fortune, whose forty or so works, mostly serialized and many under pseudonyms, provided a panorama of colonial society, including ‘the way women experienced the transition from immigrant to colonist’ (p. 106) on the Victorian goldfields (Megan Brown, ‘A Literary Fortune’, pp. 105–22). Fortune’s Victorian woman had to be adaptable, tough-minded, and willing to dispense with old-world convention, as Fortune herself was in carving out a professional writing career. The Australian component of this collection ends with Ailise Bulfin’s ‘Guy Boothby’s “Bid for Fortune”: Constructing an Anglo-Australian Colonial Identity for the Fin-de-Siècle London Literary Marketplace’ (pp. 151–76). Boothby’s migration to England and celebrity status there well illustrate claims for the transnational nature of both Australian and Victorian literature. Bulfin places him with Rider Haggard and Kipling as people who use a colonial identity to give them an edge in the metropolitan publishing world. She notes that Boothby’s display of cosmopolitan knowledge did not preclude egregious colonial racial stereotypes, and shows his championing of the colonial ‘coming man’ as opposed to the English gentleman. The collection as a whole will not radically change our view of colonial Australian or general Victorian literature, but it provides interesting embroideries around the edges of the cloths we know.
Since 2014 was on the threshold of the centenary of the event ostensibly consolidating settler Australian national identity—Gallipoli—it is unsurprising that some mention of this appears in Australian literary criticism. We can probably expect more as well. Several articles on Australian First World War representation appear in The Great War in Post-Memory Literature and Film , edited by Martin Löschnigg and Marzena Sokołowska-Paryż. Christina Spittel suggests that the post-1970 increase in novels about the war reflects the thick atmosphere of the Vietnam War and its objectors (‘Nostalgia for the Nation? The First World War in Australian Novels of the 1970s and 1980s’, pp. 255–72). Spittel surveys novels by Thomas Keneally, Roger McDonald, David Malouf, Gwen Kelly, and Geoff Page that come in the wake of histories by Bill Gammage and Patsy Adam-Smith. She also touches on various ANZAC novels by ANZACs themselves, recovered in the 1970s and 1980s from the archives. Claire Rhoden’s chapter follows, with a consideration of more recent writing (‘Even More Australian: Australian Great War Novels in the Twentieth Century’, pp. 273–88)—Peter Yeldham’s Barbed Wire and Roses , Brenda Walker’s Wing of Night , and Chris Womersley’s Bereft .
In the Dramaturgies series issued by Peter Lang, Birgit Däwes and Marc Maufort have edited Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance . The collection, though it includes only one clearly identified indigenous contributor, mostly features scholars and practitioners with a solid history of working with indigenous theatre groups and overtly intends to break down idealized constructions (p. 12), although an insufficiently examined subscription to ‘ecospirituality’ (p. 14) could well permit the reintroduction of old distortions. The editors’ introduction looks for ‘interculturally sensitive understandings of specific places’ (p. 11) in theatre as a pathway towards ethical and sustainable relationships with the environment. Apart from the US, Canadian, and New Zealand chapters, Australia is represented by Maryrose Casey (‘Serving the Living Land. Place and Belonging in Australian Aboriginal Drama’, pp. 151–64) and Rachael Swain (‘Dance, History and Country: An Uneasy Ecology in Australia’, pp. 165–82). Casey reads Wesley Enoch’s The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table and Black Medea and David Milroy’s Windmill Baby to discover what minority writing can bring to the national cultural table (p. 152). She points to Aboriginal writing treating the natural world as an active participant in human drama rather than a passive backdrop to it, and emphasizes ‘connection through family to country’ (p. 156) as a distinctive indigenous characteristic that comes out in Enoch’s figuring of wind and fire as cleansing forces in post-contact disruptions (as in mining) of reciprocal ties between humans and country. Swain takes on a more temporal framework in her focus on how Western history intrudes into indigenous ‘dreaming’ consciousness (p. 168). Her fascinating composition of multi-modal theatre in dialogue with indigenous peoples in northern Australia and for local audiences mixes historical events and legendary versions of them recorded in dance in a transformation of the tribal ‘clever man’ role so that theatre might exorcize past trauma. Not exactly an ecocritical project, the account of the plays is compelling, and ‘paying attention to country’ is clearly an important part of the story. This idea is taken up by Marc Maufort in his comparative study (‘Performing the Spirit of the Earth’, pp. 235–54), which includes discussion of Andrea James’s Yanagai! Yanagai! , a play aimed at refuting the white judge who dismissed the Yorta Yorta land claim on the grounds that history had erased any trace of continuous Aboriginal ties to land. Again, on one level a political play about historical claims is not necessarily engaged in ecocritical questions—and magic realism is not a universal ethical solvent—but, like the other plays mentioned, family, land, history, and dreaming coalesce as a cultural ecology of ‘country’ that is one’s being, expressed in unusual mixed-media and poly-stranded storytelling.
Sascha Morell includes an interesting comparative study, ‘Soft Drink, Hard Drink and Literary (Re)production in Flann O’Brien and Frank Moorhouse’ (in Murphet, McDonald, and Morell, eds., Flann O’Brien and Modernism , pp. 175–94). Though there was no direct link between the writers, both Moorhouse (soft-drink manufacture in The Electrical Experience ) and O’Brien (Guinness) explore connections between commodity culture, literature, and subject formation—and both ‘had a close relationship with alcohol’ (p. 186). ‘Whereas O’Brien tends to apply the language of labour relations to the production of literary art, Moorhouse generally does the opposite, with [character] McDowell conceiving of his business as a kind of artistry’ (p. 176). US Coca Cola salesman Becker stresses the ‘everyday’ nature of his product and himself, while McDowell and advertising offsider Scribner tout the ‘poetry’ of local manufacture, suggesting pop art as reflected in the magazine design of Moorhouse’s book. McDowell, the ‘self-made man’, sees himself as a worker, but his real workers are invisible and he imbibes Zane Gray’s American culture while asserting Australian identity, suggesting a universal commodification of the individual.
Write in Tune: Contemporary Music in Fiction , edited by Erich Hertz and Jeffrey Roessner, contains ‘A Novel Idea for a Soundtrack: Tim Winton’s Dirt Music ’ by Tanya Dalziell (pp. 43–54). Dalziell notes that although Winton’s central character is fleeing north to avoid ‘facing the music’ of his misdemeanours and also the music that reminds him of a fatal car accident involving his family, the novel has been supplemented with a CD set, Dirt Music: Music for a Novel : one disc a compilation of blues-related tunes, another, symphonic pieces, one—Peter Sculthorpe’s—derived from Aboriginal music from the northern setting of the book. Originating in the author’s untutored enthusiasm for music, the novel and its companion discs are curiously connected in that for the former (unlike the latest e-books that can include soundtracks) one requires no knowledge of the other, though the CDs clearly refer to the novel. Dalziell brings out the book’s use of musical topoi connected to affect and memory, showing us aspects of character, and pointing to ‘realms of experience beyond the reach of language’ (p. 46). Music (and its copying) also generate a theme of authenticity and ‘orchestrate’ the representation of loss and mourning. A stimulating reading of a work sometimes dismissed as simple formula fiction.
Tamara S. Wagner sets out the complicated but compelling concept of ‘home’ in settler colonial worlds, especially those in the Antipodes, where ‘portable domesticity’ had to overcome or adjust to limits of distance, environment, and culture at the same time as colonial literature touted the promise of a new home. Wagner’s compilation of essays, Domestic Fiction in Colonial Australia and New Zealand , focuses on how women represented this situation. She provides a historical survey of primary and scholarly writing in her introduction, ‘Victorian Domestic Fiction Down Under’ (pp. 1–20), noting key differences between Australia and New Zealand, shared patterns of migration (around gold rushes, for example), and the intermediary role of North America in imaginative engagement with the new lands.
After some treatment of British writing about the colonies, we find Grace Moore (‘ “The Heavens Were on Fire’: Incendiarism and the Defence of the Home’, pp. 63–73) reading Trollope’s Harry Heathcote of Gangoil against Melbourne journalism from the increasingly studied Mary Fortune and a short story by J.S. Borlase. Early settlers (as in Trollope’s book) were terrified of bushfire, often ignorant of Aboriginal grassland management, and scared of attack, but bush campfires could represent comfort and conviviality and some bushfires were occasions for male bravado. Householders, however, were apprehensive of fire and of high rates of arson (caused by hostile neighbours, or randomly appearing disaffected bush travellers). Mary Fortune, however, allows a female character to use fire as a tool to liberate herself from her father. Borlase allows her female protagonist a romantic rescue from the flames, but leaves her realistically unable to settle back into domestic peace.
Michelle J. Smith considers ‘ “The Australian Girl” and the Domestic Ideal in Colonial Women’s Fiction’ (pp. 75–89), reading standard titles by Rosa Praed, Catherine Martin, Ethel Turner, and Miles Franklin. Smith takes up Praed’s praise of the squatter’s daughter as a ‘natural little gentlewoman’ regardless of her wild life by British standards, finding in her An Australian Heroine and three other colonial novels by Australian women that if British writers used colonial locations to free their women from marriage, Praed, Catherine Martin, Ethel Turner, and Miles Franklin, while celebrating the virtues of bush independence, proved unable ‘to accommodate the bracing figure of the Australian Girl (not the New Woman, but a national icon of health and practical abilities), postulating ambiguous or tragic outcomes at best for heroines who deviate from … the domestic ideal’ (p. 76). The first two authors place their protagonists in unhappy marriages, while Turner kills off her non-conformist, and Franklin allows hers to escape the role of cheerful peasant drudge into an uncertain future in the ‘useless’ arts.
Tamara Wagner also looks at Turner’s less well-known works, The Wonder Child , That Girl , and Fugitives from Fortune , in ‘Fugitive Homes: Multiple Migrations in Ethel Turner’s Fiction’ (pp. 91–110). She points out that despite the author’s nationalist sympathies and critics’ common focus on the positive aspects of Seven Little Australians , Turner’s migrants do not always settle in Australia, or they settle but not entirely happily: children often face hardship and squalor. Turner ‘writes back to’ the British colonial romance, and engages with US New World visions via Louisa May Alcott, such that ‘the resulting triangulation of metropole and settler colony with America becomes a means to articulate anxieties about homemaking at a time of unprecedented transoceanic movement’ (p. 92).
If we are familiar with the carefree Bush Girl figure, it is worth being reminded of the mass of religious writing in Victorian times, and bracing Christian temperance is discussed by Susan K. Martin in ‘Devout Domesticity and Extreme Evangelicalism: The Unsettled Australian Domestic in Maud Jean Franc’ (pp. 111–24). Matilda Jane Evans, under her pseudonym, consolidated free-settler Adelaide’s reputation as the (Puritan) ‘city of churches’ and her work circulated for seventy years across Australia, Britain, and North America, but her books did not always end with Christian marriage, even if they aimed to produce a Christian home-making female subject. Franc’s ideal home was marked by aesthetic civility, with a garden, distinct from the frontier emphasis on utility and money; evangelical conversion results in a heart that is ‘ “swept, garnished, newly furnished” ’ (p. 115), but a passion for temperance reform could make the female protagonist much less of a genteel domestic angel.
Melissa Purdue concludes the Australian section with a reprise on Praed: ‘ “That’s What Children Are—Nought but Leg-Ropes”: Motherhood in Rosa Praed’s Mrs Tregaskiss ’ (pp. 125–33). Against a general fin-de-siècle background of promoting motherhood as national duty and brake on unbridled female emancipation, in the outback ‘Praed expressed scepticism about the existence of the maternal instinct and frustration with the expectation that all women should want to become mothers’ (p. 125). Her work countered novels of emigration in which single women find marriage and happiness in the colonies. Raised in England, Clare is too refined for the bush, unhappy with her husband, and fails to nurture her children, who run wild and mix with Aborigines. The natural landscape offers space for rebellion against domesticity and indulgence in romantic passion, but also threatens (fire, illness) and finally punishes (taking the eldest child of the failed mother). Complicating this is the gift Clare receives via an old squatter’s bequest to her daughter—a kind of consolation for chastened return to being a wife and mother with little prospect of personal happiness.
Andrew Milner, ‘The Sea and Summer: An Australian Apocalypse ’ (in Canavan and Stanley Robinson, eds., Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction , pp. 115–26), surveys the long history of utopian and satirical dystopian writing based on Australia, from Joseph Hall in 1605 to contemporary writers like Greg Egan. Milner singles out Denis Veira and notes Marx’s vision of non-capitalist space in Australia. Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and George Turner’s The Sea and Eternal Summer are modern examples of nuclear-destruction and global-warming cautionary tales. These function as ‘implicitly utopian warnings’ rather than anti-utopian critiques (p. 116). Turner’s output and his best-known novel are described, the novel centring on social stratification under pressure from global bankruptcy and rising oceans. Turner inherits the ‘island nation’ trope of Australian and utopian thinking so that global corporations are ignored.
In Christopher Conti and James Gourley’s collection of papers, Literature as Translation / Translation as Literature , Nicholas Jose pursues his interest in ‘Australian Literature as Translation’ (pp. 1–15). He tracks material ‘translated’ from one culture into another (European classics into Australian texts, Aboriginal stories, work by writers of Chinese ancestry) if not also across languages, in The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature  that he co-edited. He points to writing as an ongoing process of ‘imitation and adaptation’ and translation as ‘an index of incommensurability’ provoking fresh inventions. Some writers given more than passing attention include Ouyang Yu, Chi Vu, John Shaw Neilson, Bill Neidjie, and Alexis Wright, plus the hoax poet Ern Malley reborn in Peter Carey’s My Life as a Fake. Seeing Australian literature as polymorphous but also as resisting translation, worldly but on the margins of world literature, might be a kind of ‘Damage Control’ (the chapter’s title) against bland universalizing.
Editor Conti adopts a more specific focus in examining ‘Mystical Translation in Patrick White’s Voss ’ (pp. 30–46). Humans translate landscape and are translated by their experience from the mundane to some kind of transcendence: words communicate their inability to express such translation and thereby point via symbols to the spiritual—negation opens space for ‘an exchange of souls’ (p. 31). Conti usefully analyses critical reactions to Voss (praise for mysticism redeeming suburban materialism, criticism for racism and breaking with realism) and asks, ‘Does the riddle of the novel hold the secret to the modern search for meaning or clumsily impose the passion play over it?’ (p. 33). His answer accuses postcolonial correctness (manifest in Simon During) of sidetracking attention from the central metaphysical concerns of the novel: ‘White’s intention … is to redeem the mythopoetic relevance of Aboriginal culture, not fictionalise it away’, he claims, citing LeMesurier’s poems as ‘examples of “mystical translation” that bear the potential for intercultural understanding … implying that the Rainbow Serpent and Christ are masks of the same God’ (p. 37). Voss ‘translates’ the Faust myth into a critique of Romanticism, though mirages in and of the text blur any fixed vision, even as such translations become the medium by which we gain some intimation of the foreign and some new view of the familiar.
In the same collection, Joy Wallace (‘Flagging Down the Flâneuse in Hazel Smith’s City Poems ’, pp. 67–80) considers the ‘translation’ of Baudelaire’s flâneur into a more contemporary female figure in London and Sydney, arguing that the tradition carries over ‘aspects of modernism that will prove impervious to a feminist exploration of being in the city’ (p. 68), but finding in ‘Returning the Angles’ and poems in Keys Round Her Tongue a ‘tentative interruption’ of the city of Baudelaire and Eliot through reconfigured subject–object relations. The female in the city finds a space neither aristocratic nor sterile; she cannot retreat ‘behind an allegorising tendency that transmutes sexually disturbing sights into fantasies of genealogy in which [the writer] figures as either absent husband or father’ (p. 72) and recoils. Wallace notes Smith’s work on Frank O’Hara and her debts to geographer David Harvey and tracks a journey back into Lithuanian and Jewish origins and self-discovery through the father’s life and death.
Comparison of poems by Greek Yannis Ritsos and Australian Greek Gail Holst-Warhaft, in the context of modern reworkings of the Homeric myth of return and the figure of Penelope, shows a common suspicion of happy endings, with Holst-Warhaft’s Penelope’s Confession supporting the turn in classical scholarship wherein the wife assumes a more central and problematized role in the sequence of ‘recognition’ scenes leading to homecoming. Ritsos attributes both surprise and despair to Penelope, leaving us uncertain of our reading of her and the epic’s end. Holst-Warhaft gives us access to Penelope’s thoughts, but her moments of memory leave us uncertain of her fidelity and conscious of gaps and inconsistencies in her own and other narratives. Play between modern and ancient versions of the woman points to a feminist anchoring of meaning around personal agency: being faithful to one’s body and desire, rather than to official/Homeric record. The violent male revenge for ‘property damage’ and the hanging of the unfaithful maids, and Homer’s acceptance of its probity, are questioned by both the contemporary poet and her Penelope, who reweaves her own odyssey, figuring herself as sailor-siren: Victoria Reuter, ‘A Penelopean Return: Desire, Recognition, and Nostos in the Poems of Yannis Ritsos and Gail Host-Warhaft’ (in Gardner and Murnaghan, eds., Odyssean Identities in Modern Cultures: The Journey Home , pp. 89–111).
J.M. Coetzee’s corpus remains fundamentally South African, and is taught as such, though he himself has been now enthusiastically adopted by literary circles in Australia, his home since 2002. Approaches to Teaching Coetzee’s Disgrace and Other Works , edited by Laura Wright, Jane Poyner, and Elleke Boehmer, Boehmer includes a chapter on ‘Teaching Coetzee and Australia’ (pp. 117–22), exploring ‘what it is to teach his Australian work and how that work composes … its Australian context’ (p. 117). Boehmer sees him as responding to a masculine mainstream in Australian writing, charts some historical parallels between Australia and South Africa, notes that he no longer addresses racial otherness but concentrates on ‘the how rather than the what of his representation’ and fluctuates in his ‘perfunctory’ evocation of Australian space ‘as a means of both disconnection and affiliation to his new country’ (p. 118). Elizabeth Costello does not alter his ‘stripped-down, standardized global English’, but there is a more definite sense of Australian location than in the South African novels. Coetzee may shift to a more ‘heart-based’ art, but continues to wrestle with how writing produces truth, and in Slow Man he engages with Australia’s literary fascination with the fake and, having ‘been involved in rounding up the various standard referents of a colonial dystopia … . [he] discards them as inadequate to embody a true Australian reality’ (p. 122).
Marc Maufort’s chapter, ‘Forging Native Idioms: Canadian and Australasian Performances of Indigeneity in an Age of Globalization’ (in Moser and Simonis, eds., Figuren des Globalen: Weltbezug und Welterzeugung in Literatur, Kunst und Medie , pp. 703–15), with some mention of Jack Davis, deals with Wesley Enoch’s Black Medea along with New Zealand and Canadian plays by George Miria and Kevin Loring.
There are several special themed issues and otherwise a variety of topics here such that organizing articles by theme or author discussed would be confusing and inefficient. Entries are therefore listed under their publications, alphabetically by journal title.
Beginning with a problematic distinction between ‘Western’ and ‘postcolonial’ writers, based on the notion that the latter are culturally hybrid whereas the former are not, Stephen Rankin considers how a ‘Western’ writer might represent the cultural other, using Inez Baranay’s novel The Edge of Bali and a story by Gerson Poyk, ‘Kuta, here my love flickers brightly’: ‘Crossing into the Cultural Other: A Dialogic Reading Strategy’ ( ArielE 45:i–ii 79–102). Rankin espouses Todorov’s ‘dialogic’ counterpointing of Spanish and Aztec texts, adding, in an idea derived from Bhabha, that the hybridized colonial margins acquire a wider knowledge of cultures than the colonial centre. Whether Poyk (Indonesian but not Balinese) is any more ‘postcolonial’ or sympathetically hybridized than Baranay (Australian but with lengthy sojourns in PNG and India), and thus more able to ‘dialogue’ with Balinese society, or whether we are able to do so more through reading of either text is at least open to question.
Australian Literary Studies 29:iii features a special issue on ‘Reading Communities and the Circulation of Print’. Lydia Wevers expands the idea of literary communities beyond formal book clubs and literary societies in ‘Reading Dickens’ ( ALS 29:iii 1–14). Following her 2010 study of reading on a farm in New Zealand in the nineteenth century, she tracks the assertion of social and racial distinctions through reading the popular novelist. Jon Mee draws from arguments made in science studies and book history to shed light on the Philosophical Society of Australasia and the Useful Book Society, which flourished from 1820 to the early 1830s, in ‘ “A Reading People?”: Global Knowledge Networks and Two Australian Societies of the 1820s’ ( ALS 29:iii 74–86). Julieanne Lamond examines what Franco Moretti has called the ‘slaughterhouse of literature’—those texts now unread despite their popularity within their era—by mining the archive of a NSW regional library, in ‘Forgotten Books and Local Readers: Popular Fiction at the Turn of the Twentieth Century’ ( ALS 29:iii 87–100). Patrick Buckridge’s ‘Rescuing Reading: Strategies for Arresting the Decline of Reading in Western Australian Newspapers between the Wars’ ( ALS 29:iii 101–15) makes an argument for the advantages of researching supposedly marginal print cultures from regional spaces on the basis of their relative manageability, permitting detailed analysis. The flaw here is that small local datasets often do not map tidily onto larger cultural spaces. Nonetheless, the content of Buckridge’s article is highly intriguing. Helen Groth tracks the interest in phonographic libraries—books recorded on phonograph records—from their inventor Thomas Edison to Australian newspaper articles of the 1930s. The issue’s eclectic new approaches to book history, while fascinating, risk remaining intriguing curiosities until some broad study can integrate their vignettes into a comprehensive panorama.
Susan K. Martin also offers a fascinating piece of book-historical work. She reads colonial women’s diaries to see how categories such as the ordinary and the domestic, class, cultural capital, and reading practices are revealed in ‘Tracking Reading in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne Diaries’ ( AHR 56 27–54). Martin insists on the necessity of close reading, echoing Gayatri Spivak, while supporting its conjunction with ‘distant reading’. Martin admits that tiny samples of wider phenomena such as diaries ‘may not offer the same depth or breadth of data’ as Moretti’s large-scale digital humanities, but contends that they ‘do offer the grain of reading detail’ (p. 29). In the same issue, Robert Clarke and Marguerite Nolan offer a reader response analysis of white middle-class reception of novels themed on reconciliation. While they lump Kim Scott’s Benang (arguably not at all reconciliation-oriented) with more obvious selection such as The Secret River or Journey to the Stone Country , they do produce some intriguing perceptions about book club readers and their social attitudes: ‘Book Clubs and Reconciliation: A Pilot Study on Book Clubs Reading the “Fictions of Reconciliation” ’ ( AHR 56 121–40). In AHR 57, Ruth A. Morgan explores the cultural milieu of climate change in the 1980s—reminding us that this was the cultural moment when scientific apperception of greenhouse thinking was taking off: ‘Imagining a Greenhouse Future: Scientific and Literary Depictions of Climate Change in 1980s Australia’ ( AHR 57 43–60). Morgan relates this to, amongst other reference points, George Turner’s novel The Sea and Summer .
Alyson Miller, ‘Stylised Configurations of Trauma: Faking Identity in Holocaust Memoirs’ ( Arcadia 49:ii 229–53), compares three falsified Holocaust memoirs, including Helen Demidenko’s The Hand That Signed the Paper . Such memoirs are defended as parodic in terms that draw from postmodern theorists such as Baudrillard.
Kevin Rabelais’s ‘George Johnston’s “ My Brother Jack at Fifty” ’ ( ABR 363 46–8) is a reflection on the popular text reveals Johnston’s craft—the work of an experienced journalist and skilled storyteller. Rabelais predicts continuing appreciation for the work.
In Australasian Drama Studies Paul Davies considers the site-specific theatre of Melbourne, largely with attention to the company TheatreWorks, in ‘Dramatic Tales Stir the Suburb: Melbourne’s Location Theatre Movement 1979–90’ ( ADS 64 39–70). David Hicks—the Australian Guantánamo Bay detainee—was something of a cultural obsession for the post-9/11 Australian media until his 2007 release. There have been several plays and a documentary directly dramatizing Hicks’s story. Russell Fewster considers the most experimental of these— Honour Bound— a dance theatre work, which toured Sydney, Melbourne, and Europe while Hicks was still incarcerated, in ‘Staging David Hicks’ ( ADS 65 12–36). In ‘Digital Alchemy: The Posthuman Drama of Adam J.A. Cass’s I Love You, Bro ’ ( ADS 65 37–52), Richard Jordan reconsiders extant definitions of ‘digital performance’. For Jordan, there needn’t be a direct use of computer technologies in ‘delivery forms’, but rather, a play like I Love You, Bro can be considered digital performance because of its ‘construction of identity within a technoscientific narrative’ through the ‘gradual unravelling into a posthuman subject’ of its protagonist (pp. 38, 52). Anyone who takes on the staging of both Tristram Shandy and Manning Clark’s History of Australia is ambitious. Such a person was Tim Robertson, who, with his partner Don Watson, set out to adapt Clark’s multiple volumes into a play in the 1980s. Alison Richards, ‘Your History: Manning Clark’s History of Australia and the End of the New Wave’ ( ADS 65 177–98), considers the work, the Carlton theatre scene, and national theatre history: ‘ History can be seen … both as an apotheosis of Australian theatre that began in the 1960s, and as a marker of its end’ (p. 179). Finally, ADS paid tribute to Geoffrey Milne, who passed away in 2013, by publishing his ‘chronicle of some of the major developments’ of Australian theatre in the 1980s.
Ihab Hassan presents a virtuosic, slightly grandiose panorama of Australian literature in ‘Australia Ascending: In the Mirror of David Malouf’ ( AR 72:ii 235–44). The superlatives in Hassan’s essay are thick on the ground: Les Murray is a ‘titan of antipodean poets’ (p. 236), Malouf ‘has set the pace for writers down under’ while being also ‘a measure of literary value everywhere’ (p. 242). Hassan’s essay refreshingly pays attention to Malouf’s poetry.
Winton, we noted, is popular but not so frequently addressed in academic criticism. This is also true of John Marsden, best known for his young adult ‘Tomorrow’ series and for his picture book with famed illustrator Shaun Tan, The Rabbits . Theodore Scheckels provides a nuanced reading of the discrepancy between these two invasion narratives in ‘The Complex Politics and Rhetoric of John Marsden’s “Tomorrow” Series’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 436–49). Where The Rabbits operates as an allegory of settler colonial invasion and genocide, Marsden stages his young adult text through an imagined ‘Asian invasion’. In the same issue, Dorothy Simmons argues that myth is a mobile narrative mode and provides justification for a comparison of Julian Assange and Ned Kelly, in ‘Our Ned: The Makeup of Myth’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 416–25). Amit Sarwal argues that ‘South Asian diaspora family narratives belong to the genre of Australian family histories’ (p. 388) in an essay focusing on writers such as Mena Abdullah: ‘Beyond Home and into the World: Family in the Short Stories of the South Asian Diaspora in Australia’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 379–91). Laetitia Nanquette covers under-studied territory in multicultural Australian literature with her ‘Iranian Exilic Poetry in Australia: Reinventing the Third Space’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 393–403). Focusing on Grânâz Moussavi, Nanquette argues that the novelty of this Melbourne-based poet and filmmaker lies in a recalibration of Bhabha’s idea of the Third Space ‘to preserve the continuity of the Self through nature and belonging to its unchanging world’ (p. 401). Michael Wilding is both critic and object of analysis this year as Don Graham engages with a story of Wilding’s from the early 1970s in ‘Michael Wilding’s Texas Story’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 426–35). Fiona Duthie explores the generic complexity and a key motif of Christopher Koch’s fiction in ‘Spies in the Shadows: Intelligence and Secret Agents in the Novels of Christopher Koch’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 456–67). A North American complement to the interest in Hazzard comes from Christine De Vinne, who compares US and UK editions of The Great Fire in ‘Branded by Fire: Postcolonial Naming in Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire ’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 289–99). Another article advocating a critically unrepresented writer is John Beston’s ‘Complexity of Thought and Clarity of Expression: The Poetry of Suzanne Edgar’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 341–50). Beston’s close reading illuminates Edgar’s unique prosody. Angshuman Kar wisely foregrounds his speaking position as ‘an educated, privileged, upper-caste Indian’ ‘who teaches Australian Aboriginal poetry to Indian students’ (p. 370) in ‘Where To? An Indian Perspective on Australian Aboriginal Poetry in English’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 369–70). Surveying widely from Oodgeroo to Anita Heiss to Jack Davis to Alf Taylor, Kar foregrounds the ‘plural affiliations’ of Aboriginal poets. Antipodes also includes a note on Patrick White by Rodney Stenning Edgecombe. Edgecombe augments previous perceptions of the connection between The Eye of the Storm and Stendhal by noting resonances with Victor Hugo’s Les Travailleurs de la mer . The Vivisector is similarly connected to Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther and also to Wordsworth ( Antipodes 28:ii 513–17).
Dolores Herrero revisits well-trodden territory in ‘Crossing The Secret River : From Victim to Perpetrator of the Silent/Dark Side of the Australian Settlement’ ( Atlantis 36:i 87–105). On the one hand Herrero agrees with critiques of the novel by people like Melissa Lucaschenko and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, which admonish its complicity with dispossession resulting from sympathy with the protagonist; on the other, Herrero wants to vindicate the novel for acknowledging genocidal aspects of Australian history.
Xavier Pons discusses Steven Carroll’s quartet of ‘Glenroy’ novels, highlighting their interest in temporal in-betweenness and social exclusion, in ‘ “On the Threshold of Change”: Liminality and Marginality in Steven Carroll’s Fiction’ ( CE&S 37:i 11–23).
Laura Singeot takes on a rarely analysed text in ‘An Odyssey into the “Black Pacific”: A Reassessment of Mudrooroo’s The Undying ’ ( CE&S 37:i 88–99). Singeot somewhat cryptically goes back to DuBois’s identification of a double consciousness in the black diaspora in an effort to move discussion of Australian literature away from binaries of black/white, antipodean/European, and relates Mudrooroo’s work to ‘a tradition of Atlantic writing’ and fluid identity construction as mapped by Gilroy and Glissant. The novel reflects questions about what it means to be black arising from Aboriginal links with the US Black Power Movement, and debates over Mudrooroo’s genetic origins. Its multiple intertextualities produce a hybrid poetics that backs the formation of a new trans-tribal and transnational black identity.
John Barnes discusses White’s vexed relationship with the Australian academy in ‘On Reading and Re-Reading Patrick White’ ( CQ 43:iii 212–30). It is an illuminating supplement to Barnes’s recollection in the centenary edited collection. It combines a rich sifting of White’s correspondence with a strong articulation of his initially tepid reception by such scholars, and adds insightful comment on his characters as alter egos and Madame Bovary-type doubles.
Other texts long disregarded and recently coming back into the scholarly limelight are by Antigone Kefala. Catalina Ribas Segura considers ‘Language and Bilingualism in Antigone Kefala’s Alexia (1995) and The Island (2002)’ ( Coolabah 13 118–36), canvassing the theories around multilingualism and the cultural politics of migrants’ second-language acquisition. The author argues for Kefala having a ‘not quite’ English style owing to her knowledge of several languages, but attends more to characters’ experience of language differences within the works than to stylistic linguistic analysis.
Foreign Literature Studies / Wai Guo Wen Xue Yan Jiu ( FLS ) an online journal from China, carries a wide range of articles of varying length and sophistication. Australian texts feature fairly regularly and issue 36:i has ‘The Problem of Hospitality in J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus ’ by Eun Chull Wang ( FLS 36:i 35–44) and ‘Disoriented and Lonely Dance: Reading Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing ’ by Ma Lilli and Chen Baozhu ( FLS 36:i 163–6). The next issue contains ‘Contextualizing Gambling: Why Critics Maligned Frank Hardy’s Works’ by Danica Cerce ( FLS 36:ii 125–35). It is interesting to see Hardy getting some attention, the argument here being that his use of gambling motifs was an unpalatable attack on capitalism. Most interesting, perhaps, is Wang’s use of Derrida to suggest that Coetzee is objecting to any distinction between conditional and unconditional hospitality and promoting a return to an unconditional Platonic ideal.
Deleuze and Guattari, via Jaspir Puar, become an anchor for Ellen Smith’s argument about Xavier Herbert in ‘White Aborigines’ ( Interventions 16:i 97–116). Many scholars have found the 1930s a perplexing intersection of advocacy for Aboriginal rights, on the one hand, and support for fascistic state controls on the other. Smith looks at this phenomenon within Herbert and related figures from the Publicist such as P.R. Stephensen. Herbert and the anthropologist who most influenced him, A.P. Elkin (who goes unmentioned) understood themselves to be liberals but consorted with Stephensen and Miles, who were far more sympathetic to fascism.
The Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature published five issues this year. The first, ‘DisLocated Readings: Translation and Transnationalism’ ( JASAL 14:i), addresses the idea of the transnational with a linguistic focus and an emphasis on European receptions of Australian writing. It is co-edited by Leah Gerber and Rita Wilson. The issue opens with a conversation between Alice Pung and Italian academic Adele D’Arcangelo, ‘ Unpolished Gem/Gemma Impure : The Journey from Australia to Italy of Alice Pung’s Bestselling Novel’ ( JASAL 14:i 10 pp.). Pung positions her book in relation to Australian ‘ “migrant” or “ethnic” ’ literatures (her terms) and D’Arcangelo makes readers aware of the way it was packaged for and to some degree received by an Italian readership. Colleen Smee gives an account of Amy Witting’s writing, focused largely on Maria’s War , in ‘An Exploration of the Transnational Literary Journeys of the Australian Writer Amy Witting and Elena Jonaitis, a Lithuanian Migrant’ ( JASAL 14:i 10 pp.). Smee uncovers the relation between Witting—a working-class white Australian woman—and the migrants whose lives influenced her own writing and were influenced by her advocacy—notably Jonaitis, inspired by Witting to write her own memoir. In ‘Reincarnation: The Orientalist Stereotypes’ ( JASAL 14:i 10 pp.), Amelberga Vita Astuti uses the US writer Amy Tan’s treatment of Orientalism to unpack such Australian writers concerned with similar themes as Lilian Ng and Dewi Anggraeni. Anna Gadd draws from a doctoral thesis on Elizabeth Jolley to make narratological observations about the mode of translation inscribed in Mr Scobie’s Riddle in ‘Space and Language in Mr Scobie’s Riddle : Translating Displacement into Italian’ ( JASAL 14:i 13 pp.). For Jean Page, James McAuley does the work of bridging old and new, colonial and metropolitan, postcolonial and transnational, crossing such boundaries via translations of his oeuvre, in ‘Writing from the Periphery: The Haunted Landscapes of James McAuley’ ( JASAL 14:i 14 pp.). Janette Turner Hospital is convincingly annexed to the transnational by Jessica Trevitt in ‘Of Frames and Wonders: Translation and Transnationalism in the Work of Janette Turner Hospital’ ( JASAL 14:i 9 pp.). Nataŝa Kampmark, ‘Australian Literature in Serbian Translation’ ( JASAL 14:i 14 pp.), comments that ‘the reception of Australian literature may have been dependent on the efforts of individual enthusiasts and the number of translations may not have been impressive, but those enthusiasts were often distinguished authors, literary scholars and critics, philologists and translators who made sure that what little Australian literature was served to the readers in Yugoslavia/Serbia was fresh, delectable and nutritious’ (p. 12). The closing essay in this special issue brings together texts about Aboriginal characters with texts by Aboriginal authors. In ‘Traversing the Unfamiliar: German Translations of Aboriginality in James Vance Marshall’s The Children and Phillip Gwynne’s Deadly Unna? and Nukkin Ya ’ ( JASAL 14:i 14 pp.), Leah Gerber explores the choices of German translators in rendering Australian colloquialisms and words in Aboriginal languages.
JASAL ’s second issue for 2014 is a special issue edited by Elaine Lindsay and Michael Griffith stemming from a symposium held the previous year on the occasion of David Malouf’s eightieth birthday. Yvonne Smith’s ‘The Long Breath of a Young Writer’ ( JASAL 14:ii 11 pp.) opens the issue with close readings of Malouf’s early poems to signal elements connected to his beginnings. Dennis Haskell follows with a brief but detailed account of Malouf’s under-appreciated forays into essays and poetry, in ‘Silence and Poetic Inwardness in the Writings of David Malouf’ ( JASAL 14:ii 6 pp.). Haskell shows that poetry was not merely an apprenticeship for prose (especially since Malouf has also written a play and libretti). Harland’s Half-Acre was republished in 2013, fuelling renewed interest, and Carolyn Masel, ‘Closure, Completion and Memory in Harland’s Half-Acre : Phil’s Story’ ( JASAL 14:ii 10 pp.) explicitly contrasts it to Malouf’s more studied Remembering Babylon . Focusing on voice, she notes that while the latter ‘seeks to co-opt us, Harland’s Half-Acre only requires us to listen to an account’ (p. 3). Bill Ashcroft, ‘David Malouf and the Poetics of Possibility’ ( JASAL 14:ii 11 pp.), uses The Great World , An Imaginary Life , and other novels to foreground how Malouf’s novels present ‘the ways in which art and literature continually push the boundaries of our understanding, the limits of our ability to imagine a different world’. Ashcroft vigorously insists that this utopian drive is both Malouf’s own and, more convincingly, not the pie-in-the-sky idea that many assume it to be. Clare Rhoden, ‘Only We Humans Can Know: David Malouf and War’ ( JASAL 14:ii 10 pp.), tracks the increasingly complex account of war that emerges from Fly Away, Peter through to The Great World and finally Ransom . Nicholas Birns is always novel in his perspective and panoramic in scope. Here he considers ‘History as “Precarious Gift”: Harland’s Half-Acre and The Great World as Malouf’s Not-So-Historical Novels’ ( JASAL 14:ii 9 pp.), suggesting that the personal always pervades the sweeping arcs of such novels. Both Shirley Hazzard and Malouf are vexed by Australia’s place in the wings of a tumultuous world stage: ‘the adjective “great” indicates that the small world of Australia can no longer be self-sufficient, that it is inflected and scarred by larger realities’ (p. 8). Remembering Babylon is accounted for in Clare Archer-Lean’s ‘David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon as a Reconsideration of Pastoral Idealisation’ ( JASAL 14:ii 12 pp.). It is a shame that many readings of Malouf that do address his multiple accounts of gay male desire find ‘homoeroticism positioned as apolitical, as placed outside of time and history in a kind of prediscursive and primitive state’ (p. 1); in ‘ “As if My Bones Had Been Changed into Clouds”: Queer Epiphanies in David Malouf’s Fiction’ ( JASAL 14:ii 10 pp.), Damien Barlow offers a richer alternative, indeed, a reversal. For Barlow, awakenings to same-sex sexuality are political in their conceptual shift: ‘Malouf’s queer epiphanies posit a different type of epistemology or way of seeing and experiencing life that is not limited by binaries and either/or options’ (p. 8). John Scheckter, ‘A World of Feeling: David Malouf and the Public Conversation’ ( JASAL 14:ii 11 pp.), uses Malouf’s The Happy Life —a recent Quarterly Essay—to debunk the ease with which Australians blame Americans for the world’s ills while not thinking of their own growing contribution to them. Kay Ferres rounds out the issue with a reflective account of Malouf’s position in the public sphere and the literary communities that foster him. In conferences on Australian literature, you will often hear complaints that there is too much written on certain writers. If Malouf is sometimes mentioned in this way, this issue shows that in his case it is justified.
JASAL ’s third issue is themed on ‘Country’ and edited by Brigitta Olubas and David Gilbey. It arises out of the 2013 ASAL conference and ranges from Aboriginal relations to land to ecocritical topics. Kerry Kilner and Peter Minter, ‘The BlackWords Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature’ ( JASAL 14:iii 8 pp.), provide a comprehensive perspective on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature in their article on the BlackWords symposium. The article also analyses the shifting keywords by which scholars have navigated the BlackWords AustLit database. Bruce Pascoe, ‘Peek-a Boo Australia’ ( JASAL 14:iii 5 pp.), provides a playful yet serious preface to the ‘Country’ issue, drawn from his recent book Dark Emu , which challenges the common idea in Australian history that Aboriginal people were nomads lacking technologies of sedentary land custodianship. Jared Thomas, ‘Respecting Protocols for Representing Aboriginal cultures’ ( JASAL 14:iii 13 pp.), surveys the shifting degree to which Aboriginal protocols are being pursued by non-Aboriginal authors before moving to an account of his own novel, Calypso Summer , and its construction. Anita Heiss, ‘BLACKWORDS: Writers on Identity’ ( JASAL 14:iii 13 pp.), surveys Aboriginal poetry to foreground the range of responses to white attempts to frame identity. She also highlights the importance of Aboriginal children’s writing, theatre (Davis’s Honey Spot ) and the wide range of prose works—often ignored in academia but important in understanding Aboriginal cultural practices of reading and sharing stories. Natalie Harkin’s essay ‘The Poetics of (Re)Mapping Archives: Memory in the Blood’ ( JASAL 14:iii 14 pp.) is a stimulating mix of the fictocritical and the analytic, recounting Harkin’s own researches into her grandmother’s Native Affairs file from the late 1930s and the early 1940s. Harkin effectively draws from Derrida’s ‘Archive Fever’ in a personal vein as well as taking it transnational, through Native America (Kiowa) writer N. Scott Momaday. In ‘Writing Forward, Writing Back, Writing Black: Work Process and Work-in-Progress’ ( JASAL 14:iii 14 pp.), Gus Worby, Simone Ulalka Tur, and Faye Rosas Blanch explore reciprocity in academic collaboration, combining co-authored text with interview-style orthography. Linda McBride-Yuke, in culturally appropriate oral style, shares a personal story which subtly delineates her position as an Aboriginal editor at the State Library of Queensland, in ‘Journey of a Lifetime: From the Sticks to the State Library—An Aboriginal Editor’s Story’ ( JASAL 14:iii 8 pp.). Irene Howe similarly provides her ‘memoir of an indexer’, rounding out the BlackWords symposium section of the ‘Country’ issue by shedding light on, amidst much else, David Unaipon, in ‘The Uniqueness of the BlackWords Resource: Memoir of an Indexer’ ( JASAL 14:iii 12 pp.).
Jeanine Leane gave the Dorothy Green Memorial Lecture for 2013. This also appears in this issue, and scans with great intellectual agility across settler representations of Aboriginal characters, covering Pritchard, Herbert, White, Malouf, and, briefly, Grenville: ‘Tracking Our Country in Settler Literature’ ( JASAL 14:iii 17 pp.). Leane draws on Heidegger, for whom boundaries are ‘spaces not where something ends but where something else begins its presencing’ (p. 2). Presence is possible in these writers, but continually thwarted and distorted by racial discourses. Leane takes up Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark as an inspiration.
Alison Ravenscroft opens the regular articles section of the ‘Country’ issue with an account of travelling to the Warlpiri community of Utopia with two Aboriginal friends from other country than that destination, in ‘Sovereign Bodies of Feeling—“Making Sense” of Country’ ( JASAL 14:iii 17 pp.). Ravenscroft’s concern is the different ways in which worlds are made sense of in indigenous country by indigenous or non-indigenous people. She deftly manages the difficult task of balancing theoretical insight with a fictocritical account of experience. Helena Kadmos, in ‘ “Look What They Done To This Ground Girl!”: Country and Identity in Jeanine Leane’s Purple Threads ’ ( JASAL 14:iii 11 pp.), argues for the classification of Jeanine Leane’s 2012 Purple Threads as a ‘short-story cycle’—a much-needed category for this form of work and one that might also apply to Tony Birch’s Shadowboxing . Natalie Quinlivan draws from Kim Scott’s paratexts as well as much of the published material on his work in order to position his novels in relation to the wider projects of cultural reclamation in which he is involved, in ‘Finding a Place in Story: Kim Scott’s Writing and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project’ ( JASAL 14:iii 12 pp.). Clare Hooper’s journalistic account The Tall Man fascinates many readers today because of its concern with the shocking and brutal death in custody on Palm Island, Queensland, of Moordinyi (or Cameron Doomadgee). Jane Stenning analyses the rhetorical devices employed in Hooper’s text in ‘ “Why Raise Them to Die so Young?”: The Aesthetics of Fatalism in The Tall Man ’ ( JASAL 14:iii 11 pp.). She shows how reference to Joseph Conrad and the Bible, for instance, functions to frame specific community concerns in problematically global and canonical ways. Elizabeth Webby speculates on some resonances between nineteenth-century poet Charles Harpur and Dick, the youngest son in Grenville’s The Secret River , before moving to a fuller reading of early meanings of the trope of ‘the bush’, in ‘Representations of “The Bush” in the Poetry of Charles Harpur’ ( JASAL 14:iii 8 pp.). Peter Crabb recuperates the work of Charles Edward Augustus de Boos beyond the few texts of his that do the rounds, such as his 1867 Fifty Years Ago , in ‘Charles Edward Augustus de Boos 1819–1900: His Life, Work, and Writing’ ( JASAL 14:iii 12 pp.). Susan Sheridan and Emma Maguire survey Nan Chauncy’s 1950s children’s novels, sketching nascent ecological concerns and asserting their interest in indigenous presence in ‘Relationships to the Bush in Nan Chauncy’s Early Novels for Children’ ( JASAL 14:iii 10 pp.). While others talk of the anxiety of influence that gripped Randolph Stow in relation to Patrick White, Bernadette Brennan, ‘Heriot’s Ithaka: Soul, Country and the Possibility of Home in To the Islands ’ ( JASAL 14:iii 10 pp.), focuses on Stow’s depictions of anima vis-à-vis White’s (mainly in Voss ) to suggest that they render them proximate to and distinct from each other. Kieran Dolin, ‘Place and Property in Post-Mabo Fiction by Dorothy Hewett, Alex Miller and Andrew McGahan’ ( JASAL 14:iii 12 pp.), expands on his identification of post-Mabo fiction in the aforementioned White Centenary Collection by adding Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country alongside rethinkings of Dorothy Hewett and Andrew McGahan. Dolin’s references are astute in their account of legal cases, drawing from scholars in anthropology and cultural studies—bolstered by the wisdom of Ruby Langford Ginibi—to show the way settler colonial Australia is blind to its own investment in the relation between land and law. Grenville’s Lilian’s Story is clearly overshadowed in academic articles these days by The Secret River . Yet, as Laura Deane shows in ‘Cannibalism and Colonialism: Lilian’s Story and (White) Women’s Belonging’ ( JASAL 14:iii 13 pp.), the manner in which Lilian is represented as atavistic racializes her, opening up discourses of disability to those of settler colonialism. Lachlan Brown, ‘ “An Asian Dummy with an Aussie Voice”: Ventriloquism and Authenticity in Nam Le’s The Boat and Tim Winton’s The Turning ’ ( JASAL 14:iii 9 pp.), provides a nuanced reading of the representation of race as ventriloquism between Nam Le’s and Tim Winton’s short stories—a reading that playfully and appropriately takes the Turing test as its conjoining metaphor. Stuart Cooke close-reads the cartography of ‘Country’ in ‘Country Escaping Line in the Poetry of Philip Hodgins’ ( JASAL 14:iii 10 pp.). The poems of contemporary Sydney writer Jill Jones are described by thick layers of irony, not unlike the crud which—according to contributor Caroline Williamson—she punningly associates with former Australian prime minister Rudd, in ‘Beyond Generation Green: Jill Jones and the Ecopoetic Process’ ( JASAL 14:iii 9 pp.). This layering of irony produces an aporia that leads Williamson to seek a stance on the ecopoetic in Jones’s work, conscripting Benjamin’s readings of revolution, modernity, and the machinal to her cause. In the same issue, Helen Ramoutsaki reflects on her own performative practice in ‘A Continuity of Country: Enlivenment in a Live Evocation of Place’ ( JASAL 14:iii 16 pp.), while Keri Glastonbury ventriloquizes Wiradjuri psychogeography in her ‘Lost Wagga Wagga’ ( JASAL 14:iii 9 pp.). There is unexpected but welcome attention to the long verse text provided by Linda Weste in ‘ “Country” in Australian Contemporary Verse Novels’ ( JASAL 14:iii 9 pp.), and Heidegger’s Dasein returns to tarry with Gerald Murnane in Julian Murphy’s contribution, ‘Being-in-Landscape: A Heideggerian Reading of Landscape in Gerard Murnane’s Inland ’ ( JASAL 14:iii 11 pp.), which closes the regular articles section of this impressive issue.
Brian Castro’s Barry Andrews Lecture, ‘Writing Country: Lightning, Agony, and Vertigo’ ( JASAL 14:iii 11 pp.), is also reproduced in the 2014 JASAL ‘Country’ issue. Castro’s tremendously diverse experience contributes to a reflection that characteristically positions Australian literature in relation to transnational examples—from Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie to J.M. Coetzee to Jeanette Winterson back to Faulkner, who is cited as one in a succession of writers with an imaginative sense of country. Castro’s resonances are both erratic and agile, but they are grounded in a characteristically intriguing thesis: ‘Australian writers are therefore the most melancholic of writers, turned inward from lack of recognition, not least because of the fear of the difficulty of reception, many of whom eat themselves up from the inside, and in the present era, are supine before sales, overseas notice, and the theodicy of publicity and marketing’ (p. 3). He posits that the ‘Complexity’ that is usually the ‘obvious path for a writer of exile’ is forestalled by extant cultural positions such as the ‘victimage’ of the ‘little Aussie battler’ (p. 9). Castro is provocative as he inserts himself into the company of Adorno and Said. The point, which he knows so well, is that such gestures to transnational exiles as his preferred company are unavoidably silenced in advance by the melancholic inheritance itself.
Laurie Clancy is remembered in the fourth issue of JASAL for 2014: ‘Man of Many Letters: Essays on Laurie Clancy and His Work’. From his founding association with the short-lived yet lively Melbourne Partisan to a remembrance from the legendary literary agent Tim Curnow to recollections by John Barnes and Peter Pierce among others, Clancy’s legacy is honoured and, with luck, will spur more academic interest.
JASAL ’s fifth issue for 2014 is themed on the idea of world literature and continues the conversation from Robert Dixon and Brigid Rooney’s Scenes of Reading . Titled ‘The Nation or the Globe? Australian Literature and/in the World’ Tony Simoes Da Silva’s introduction ( JASAL 14:v 6 pp.) draws on Philip Mead to point up the irony that the desired end of the nationalist turn in literary studies is voiced by people and in places owing much to structures of nation. Much disagreement ensues about the worldliness of the Nation and the usefulness of the World. Amanda Johnson opens the issue proper with a literary and art-historical account of Tasmania’s worldliness, ‘Making an Expedition of Herself: Lady Jane Franklin as Queen of the Tasmanian Extinction Narrative’ ( JASAL 14:v 21 pp.). Several articles concerned with magical realism follow. Richard Flanagan inspires Ben Holgate to argue for magical realism’s ironic potential to deal with settler colonial violence in ‘Developing Magical Realism’s Irony in Gould’s Book of Fish ’ ( JASAL 14:v 11 pp.). Indigenous catharsis, for Maria Takolander, is also enabled through magical realist irony in ‘Magical Realism and Irony’s “Edge”: Rereading Magical Realism and Kim Scott’s Benang ’ ( JASAL 14:v 11 pp.). Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver draw from research for their Colonial Journals book to look at the early years of the twentieth century in ‘Literary Journals and Literary Aesthetics in Early Post-Federation Australia’ ( JASAL 14:v 15 pp.). Manoly Lascaris and Flaws in the Glass become Shaun Bell’s anchor-points in a playful thought experiment about Patrick White’s possible literary identity, ‘Greece—Patrick White’s Country: Is Patrick White a Greek Author?’ ( JASAL 14:v 14 pp.). Like Bernadette Brennan in the ‘Country’ issue, Kathleen Steele is interested in the relation between White and Stow in ‘Splendid Masculinity: The Wanderer in Voss and To The Islands ’ ( JASAL 14:v 12 pp.). Guy and Joe Lynch were brothers from New Zealand who, from the 1920s, lived in Sydney and edited Smith’s Weekly , which Martin Edmond sees as ‘in many respects the heir to ephemeral wartime miscellanies like The Anzac Book , edited by Charles Bean in a bunker at Gallipoli’ (p. 3): ‘On Tasman Shores—Guy & Joe Lynch in Australasia’ ( JASAL 14:v 10 pp.). Edmond also sketches broader patterns of cross-Tasman literary reputation. Robyn Greaves provides a factual account of Walkabout , important for culturally significant figures such as Henrietta Drake-Brockman and more popular writers like Ion L. Idriess and Mary Durack, in ‘A “Grim And Fascinating” Land of Opportunity: The Walkabout Women and Australia’ ( JASAL 14:v 14 pp.). Contemporary poet Laurie Duggan is given well-deserved attention by Cameron Lowe in his detailed reading focused through an almost psycho-geographic lens, ‘Anthropologist of Space: The Poetics of Representation in Laurie Duggan’s Crab & Winkle ’ ( JASAL 14:v 12 pp.). Cheryl Taylor makes the case for paying more attention to Ronald McKie—she contextualizes him back to the Jindyworobaks and forward to Thea Astley, amongst others in ‘Late Retrospectives on Twentieth-Century Catastrophes: The Novels of Ronald McKie’ ( JASAL 14:v 12 pp.). Theresa Holtby is ambitious in taking on a difficult aspect of Stead’s popular novel in ‘Hurts So Good: Masochism in Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children ’ ( JASAL 14:v 12 pp.).
Joseph Cummins attends to one of Australia’s favourite sites for positing the existence of regional literatures and continues a long tradition of relating it to its dark colonial past and the Gothic in ‘Echoes between Van Diemen’s Land and Tasmania: Sound and the Space of the Island in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide and Carmel Bird’s Cape Grim ’ ( JCL 49:ii 257–70). Both novels work with revisionist history and ‘embed genealogical narratives’ (p. 257), connecting past to present via resonating soundscapes. Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘refrain’ and Paul Carter’s ‘sound in between’ provide a conceptual frame. In the novels, extinction is a common theme: relating to violent Aboriginal–White first contacts and to modern mass murder.
Pilar Baines writes ‘Down in Elizabeth Jolley’s The Well : An Essay on Repression’ in what was formerly AUMLA and is now the Journal of Language, Literature and Culture ( JLLC 61:i 46–59). The well is read as a site of female struggle against patriarchy, as a sign of repressed sexuality and the female abject and as ‘a place where meanings collapse, forming a metaphor for both oppression and freedom’ (p. 46). The Gothic mode helps hold together the novella’s social and psychological aspects. Baines sets out archetypal symbolism and textual metaphors of theft and entrapment. Staying close to existing scholarship, she focuses on Hester and her repression of desire, noting how the male closure of the well leaves the mystery and female revolt unresolved.
Bridget Grogan, ‘The Decorative Voice of Hidden, Secret Flesh: Corporeal Dynamics in Patrick White’s Fiction’ ( JLST 30:ii 1–16), uses Barthes and Kristeva to examine the way Patrick White presents artistic representation as a bodily force, his style seeking a balance of ‘semiotic’ and ‘symbolic’ elements though driven by the former. The article provides examples from author comments, Voss , The Vivisector , The Solid Mandala , The Twyborn Affair , and ‘Five-Twenty’, a story from The Cockatoos , also looking at the use of visual art and music as a means of expressing both the materiality of language and its drive to reach beyond its expressive limits. It is a productive reading, even if Barthes’s proposition about the origins of style is dubious.
Hwang, Hoon-sung considers Pledger’s play and its adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial in ‘From a Modern Absurd to a Postmodern Absurd Staged in David Pledger’s K’ ( JMED 27:ii 245–66).
In Kill Your Darlings Ambelin Kwaymullina, ‘Edges, Centres and Futures’ ( KYD 18 22–33), writes about her work as an Aboriginal writer producing speculative fiction for young adults. She connects with indigenous thinkers from North America and Scandinavia to posit the need to break with standard Western genres, noting pithily that ‘Indigenous peoples everywhere are familiar with fantasy because we have long been the subjects of it’ (p. 29) and have survived apocalyptic upheavals. She advocates more (equitable) partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous writers.
In the same issue, Tim Byrne assesses the ‘Rise of the Independents: The Rallying of Theatre in Melbourne’ ( KYD 18 34–45), charting the ‘potholed and piecemeal’ histories of smaller companies and hailing a new spirit of collaboration from major players (Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse) and well attended multi-venue festivals. Byrne gives a quick overview of activity and calls for ‘more radical, even revolutionary, staging from independents’ (p. 45).
On the international front, Iva Polak has an article (in Croatian) dealing with Archie Weller in the journal Književna Smotra ( KS 46.i 101–10.
Life Writing 11:i, edited by Stephen Mansfield, focuses on ‘writing the father’. In it Bernadette Brennan, ‘Kim Cheng Boey’s Between Stations : “The Architecture of Memory” ’ ( LW 11:i 39–54), relates the work to ideas of translation and displacement in Rushdie and Heaney to argue that Boey’s narrative uses travel to look forwards and backwards, evoking childhood memory and reflecting on writing and reading and creating a life story of mourning and desire. Laura Buzo contributes a personal piece on her father, the playwright Alex Buzo: ‘ “I Will Go Before You in a Pillar of Fire”: Writing the Father. Father the Writer’ ( LW 11:i 121–6).
Life Writing 11:iv is a special issue titled ‘Displaced Women: Eastern European Post-War Narratives in Australia’. In it eastern Europe seems to spread from Latvia to the Ukraine, and many of the writers included have been overlooked because their narratives were not literary or were not in English. They are increasingly becoming recognized as part of a properly transnational Australian literary history. One novel in English (which also inspired Amy Witting’s novel Maria’s War ) is by Elena Jonaitis, and is treated in Sonia Mycak’s ‘Literary Cultures of Eastern European “Displaced Persons” in Australia: Elena Jonaitis, Helen Boris, Pavla Gruden and Elga Rodze-Kisele’ ( LW 11:vi 423–35). Another is Maria Lewitt, whose autobiographical fiction prompts Nina Fischer to argue for discussion of Holocaust literature in relation to the specific times and places where it appears: ‘Writing a Whole Life: Maria Lewitt’s Holocaust/Migration Narratives in “Multicultural” Australia’ ( LW 11:iv 391–42).
Lyn McCredden continues her work on the sacred in ‘Tim Winton’s Poetics of Resurrection’ ( L&T  12 pp.), defending the writer against charges of blindness to race and gender issues owing to his Christian beliefs and arguing that he sees the sacred ‘entwined in an earthed, embodied, and material vision of the human’ realized by characters testing their limits. Winton is located in a tradition of writers invoking the sacred within and against Australia’s dominant secular culture (White, Murray, Hart), and McCredden argues that risk-taking in Winton’s fiction is more than a desire to be exceptional, seeking after joy, beauty, and terror as intimations of resurrection.
Literary material in Meanjin for 2014 begins with an essay by Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell: ‘Charmian Clift and George Johnston, Hydra 1960: The “Lost” Photographs of James Burke’ ( Meanjin 73:i 18–37). Clift’s travel books, Mermaid Singing and Peel Me a Lotus , are ‘pictures’ of time spent in the Greek islands, also recorded by James Burke, a Life magazine photographer. Bio-historical commentary supplements readings of how the photos relate to other accounts of Clift and Johnston. Jim Davidson’s ‘The Biography as Periscope: Exploring Australian Ambiences’ ( Meanjin 73:i 94–103) is a personal reflection on writing biographies, including on the two major editors of Overland and Meanjin , Stephen Murray-Smith and Clem Christesen. Davidson posits ambience/milieu as the key driver of biography and concludes with some gloomy comments on the ambience of literary culture in Australia today. Martin Langford provides an extended review of poetry books by Lisa Gorton, Sarah Day, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Jacob Zigura, Christopher (Kit) Kelen, and Contemporary Asian Australian Poets , edited by Adam Aitken, Kim Cheng Boey, and Michelle Cahill, in ‘The Pleasure of Well-Made Rooms: Poetry in Review’ ( Meanjin 73:i 42–51), including some thoughtful comments on Wallace-Crabbe.
In the next issue, Peter Kirkpatrick continues his entertaining forays into popular culture to show links between Wild West shows and the Bush Balladists, notably Paterson and his ‘Man from Snowy River’: ‘Hellbound for Snowy River’ ( Meanjin 73:ii 32–41).
Trevor Shearston, ‘Head in a Jar’ ( Meanjin 73:iii 18–28), sketches the historical background to his novel Dead Birds , and the subsequent hunt for the actual head of his narrator, taken by explorer Luigi D’Albertis from Papua to Italy.
Meanjin 73:iv has poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe humorously reflecting on the British culture of his childhood and his gradual incorporation of Australian and European reading. He comments that he has written a lot of poems about food: ‘Unemployed at Last, Again’ ( Meanjin 73:iv 162–7). Cathy Perkins looks into the connections between poet Zora Cross and the First World War, in particular her elegy for her soldier brother, in ‘A Spoonful of Blood’ ( Meanjin 73:iv 18–26).
Jopi Nyman, ‘Gillian Mears’s Foal’s Bread as a Postcolonial Pastoral: Land, Humans, and Animals’ ( OrbisLit 69:v 390–410), not only shows how the novel about horse-jumping and bush life counters positive pastoral myths of nation, it also argues that Mears reshapes relations to the natural environment in accordance with the theoretical trajectory from postcolonial studies to ecocriticism traced by Graham Huggan, Helen Tiffin, and others. Pastoral sceptics (Xavier Herbert, Patrick White, J.M. Coetzee, John Kinsella) frame Mears’s ironic exposé of rural sexism, hard slog, and violence, which also confuses human and animal characteristics, thereby suggesting a non-anthropocentric connection to nature. ‘By presenting the textual space of the novel as a form of nature, as a space to be ridden and explored, the novel questions the division into culture and nature’ (p. 408).
Overland includes an essay by John McLaren, ‘Bias Australian’ ( Overland 217[Summer 2014] 86–93), responding to Jim Davidson’s account of Overland ’s editor Stephen Murray-Smith and tracking the conflicts in and around the journal between nationalists and communists. He notes Patrick White’s challenge to realism and Dorothy Hewett’s break with populism to write her feminist poetry, and the journal’s shift from John Morrison and Alan Marshall to writers like Peter Mathers and Gerald Murnane, and concludes that ‘the easy image of the Australian is both the strength and the weakness’ of the journal’s nationalism. The same issue has short personal pieces from Somali Australian Khalid Warsame on finding a position and subject to write about and novelist Kirsten Tranter on her feelings about reviews.
Kate Grenville’s The Secret River continues to attract analysis. Anouk Lang, ‘Going Against the Flow: The Secret River and Colonialism’s Structuring Oppositions’ ( PocoT 9:i 16 pp.), picks up Benita Parry’s comments on anti-colonial undoing of received narratives to ask what changes have occurred in post-bicentennial Australian fiction. She argues that Grenville succeeds ‘in reconfiguring the signifying relations between Australian settlers and the original inhabitants’ (p. 2) by reworking national myths of the hard-done-by convict, the battling pioneer, and the first contact story so as to show the untenable racist binaries beneath. Lang usefully connects the book to Canadian theories of ‘historiographic metafiction’ and provides an intelligent defence of its countering of colonial stereotypes and avoiding an easy humanist blurring of difference.
In the same issue, Christopher Kelen surveys the lyrics of national anthems to investigate how the emergent postcolonial nation-state reproduces colonial tropes: ‘Meet the New Boss—Same as the Old’ ( PocoT 9:i 27 pp.), and Craig Mitchell Smith considers the underwhelming responses to Coetzee’s first Australian novel in ‘On Not Being Christian: J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man and the Ethics of Being (Un)Interesting’ ( PocoT 9:i 18 pp.), and argues (via contrast with Diary of a Bad Year ) that the book is intended not to appeal to either activists or those seeking action in a story. The humiliation of being aged and infirm, and Rayment’s musing on the slogan ‘What would Jesus do?’ imply ethical interest, and Costello’s exhortations to the passive Rayment (larded with literary references) highlight how active heroes are an expected but not a necessary feature in fiction, so that the novel becomes a provocation to the reader and to secularist society. It is a clear and compelling discussion.
Quadrant has Nicholas Hasluck’s launch speech, ‘Geoffrey Lehmann’s Journey’, for the latter’s Poems 1957–2013 ( Quadrant 59:xi 72–5). Hasluck recalls the important influence of The Ilex Tree , co-authored by Les Murray, Lehmann’s undergraduate ‘stoush’ with Robert Hughes, notes the poet’s ability to take on the personae of quirky figures from history, his farmer father-in-law and others, and mentions the poems of travel, domestic life, and ageing, asserting that ‘we can sense within the poet’s tone unsettling intimations of what lies ahead in changing times, or the real value of what we long for, or have left behind’ (p. 75). In the same issue, Jenny Stewart revisits Kate Grenville’s The Secret River ( Quadrant 59:xi 76–9), contrasting it to books that reimagine real historical figures, noting the clash with historians over the author’s claim to get beyond raw facts to richer truths, and defending it as the best of the trilogy because of its gripping vicissitudes and troubled characters (unlike their real antecedents, who most likely felt no guilt for their actions). Novelists risk reading the past through the lens of the present, and readers have taken up the book, ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable’ (p. 79). The final Quadrant issue includes the text of Alan Gould’s first Axel Clark Memorial Literary Oration, ‘Chimaeric David Campbell’ ( Quadrant 58:xii 88–94). Gould mentions Campbell’s long correspondence with his tutor Dr Tillyard. The Collected Poems and personal anecdotes are adduced in an attempt to know better the multifaceted writer, whose ‘key lay in this acute insight: that mirage was innate to the very fabric of consciousness’ (p. 89). Plato and a non-religious quest for grace, painterliness, and humour are some attributes claimed for the work.
In an issue of Southerly devoted to ideas on utopia and dystopia, Bill Ashcroft provides an introductory essay, including brief mentions of Banjo Paterson, Henry Kendall, Ada Cambridge, Randolph Stow, Les Murray, Lee Cataldi, Patrick White, and more on David Malouf: ‘The Horizon of the Future’ ( Southerly 74:i 12–35). He asserts via Ricoeur that utopian thinking is not the imagining of perfection but speaking to the present from nowhere, critiquing and offering alternatives (p. 13), and uses Ernst Bloch’s Heimat and Husserl’s notion of the horizon to posit the bounded but open prospects that literature sets forth, disturbing fixed nation-thinking. Lucy Sussex, ‘Apocalypse vs Utopia: A Writer’s Guide’ ( Southerly 74:i 90–8), reflects on her own work, with mention of George Turner’s The Sea and Summer , M. Barnard Eldershaw’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow , and, briefly, the work of a few others. Jessica White examines ‘Fluid Worlds: Reflecting Climate Change in The Swan Book and The Sunlit Zone ’ ( Southerly 74:i 142–63). She notes the paucity of fiction about global warming, citing Vance Palmer, George Turner, and Andrew McGahan as Australian exceptions, along with Ian Meadows, James Bradley, and Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria , with its apocalyptic cyclone. Apocalypse is easier to represent than gradual change, and White looks at how characters respond to the latter in Wright’s third novel and Lisa Jacobson’s verse novel. While one is about trauma from loss of country, the other deals with genetic modification, loss of species, and echoing absence, and White suggests that speculative climate-change fiction is more effective in raising our awareness than apocalyptic stories. The later work reflects the Australian author’s involvement with refugee interests in moving settings to oceans around Indonesia and Iran, and to the Pacific, and imagines ‘techno-liberation’ as a utopian counter to recognizable geopolitical situations.
It seems that science fiction writer Greg Egan is coming into his own as a subject for scholarly attention. Apart from the book already cited, Darren Jorgensen examines ‘Geopolitics in Greg Egan’s Science Fiction’ ( Southerly 74:i 186–98). After a short list of Australian SF writers of note, Jorgensen surveys Egan’s ‘hard’ speculative fiction and its central engagement with quantum physics and ‘post-human possibilities’ (p. 186). He measures Egan’s international reach against Australian aspects of his writing and places him amongst post-cyberpunk subversions of global capitalism: ‘ Permutation City is a riposte to the disembodied fantasies of techno-utopianism’ manifest in virtual personae uploaded in nano-space (p. 190). Unlike Asimov’s human/machine distinctions, Egan’s work merges the opposing terms and engages with the ethics of copies and virtual selves.
Danny Anwar writes of ‘The Island Called Utopia in Patrick White’s The Tree of Man ’ ( Southerly 74:i 217–34). In ‘the age of foolishness in the era of late capitalism’ (p. 217), rethinking space reflects utopian hope, and White’s novel can be read as reimagining Australia to show ‘the loss of the universally sacred’ as located in the myth of the pioneer. Established readings depict a ‘trajectory of the sacred’ culminating in Stan Parker’s epiphany, but later ones shift transcendence to immanence and future possibility. Anwar might be seen as an instance of Brian Kiernan’s new-generation reader of White (see above). Drawing on Jameson, Veronica Brady, Deleuze and Guattari, Benjamin and Lefebvre, Anwar seeks to rethink the melancholy of pastness others find in The Tree of Man , tracking a dialectic of spatiality (sacred universal versus profane particular) through which ‘a utopian enclave, or island, is given definition’ in the last stages of the novel (p. 230). The reading is engaging and ingenious, though the utopian wish of the postmodern critic may be an imposition on the modernist project of White’s ‘Great Australian Novel’ as an island/artwork imaging forth an island/nation.
In the next issue, Michelle Cahill, in ‘The Colour of the Dream: Unmasking Whiteness’ ( Southerly 74:ii 196–211), thinks about whiteness and how it operates to dismiss, contain, or assimilate writing and identities other than those centrally hegemonic. She provides personal ‘flashbacks’ relating to refugees and migrants and alludes to a range of contemporary ‘third space’ writing.
J.H. Crone takes up Philip Butterss’s call to revalue the verse of C.J. Dennis in the light of its importance amongst soldiers in the First World War, in ‘Dreaming Verse: C.J. Dennis and the ANZAC Tradition’ ( Southerly 74:iii 158–80). Dennis’s larrikin figures sound the same populist notes as Prime Minister Howard, who resuscitated old patriotic narratives, while his art harked back to Bernard O’Dowd and Wordsworth in notions of the common man and the bush. Crone attends to poetic technique, claiming post-Adorno reading has neglected this, and that common technique and combative motifs (‘stoushing’) unify The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and The Moods of Ginger Mick ( contra Butterss and Robin Gerster) and fit with a post-9/11 militarism.
Also in Southerly , Anna Poletti and Ali Alizadeh consider ‘The Dream of Love in Tsiolkas’ The Slap ’ ( Southerly 74:iii 212–25). Love and middle-class marriage allow the novelist to dramatize ‘ambivalence about the multicultural project of Australian society’ (p. 212) and the politics of intimacy. Using Alain Badiou and Lauren Berlant (love as a genre offering both social stability and ambivalence), they inspect character Aisha’s conflicted loyalties when her husband slaps the brattish son of friends: formal bindings of family versus (gendered) personal feelings. Tsiolkas shows—in contrasting romance elements with gritty realism—that conflict is never avoidable and that love (cross-cultural/ cross-class marriage) of itself does not solve interpersonal or inter-ethnic tensions.
Jeremy Fisher considers a popular West Australian writer’s career in ‘A Professional Author: How G.M. Glaskin Earned a Living’ ( S&P 38:i 39–56). Using papers from both author and publisher, Fisher tracks Glaskin’s output and income, concluding that he made his fiction out of his life and (because Glaskin was gay before the term had been coined or the sexuality decriminalized) that his life eventually pushed him out of the literary mainstream. Glaskin was involved in the Fellowship of Australian Writers and kept logbooks of multiple attempts to place stories across the country and overseas and the income derived therefrom. From 1949 he strove to survive solely on his writing, successfully doing so a decade later, then falling back on pensions as his career faded and he returned to Australia. Details of his contracts reveal how he was popular in Germany and Norway as well as selling well in England, courted the French and Dutch markets, and sold best as an adventure romance writer with a touch of the erotic, based on Australian and Southeast Asian settings.
Script & Print continues the work of Katherine Bode and Carol Hetherington in correcting the often distorted picture we have of Australian literature. In ‘Retrieving a World of Fiction: Building an Index—and an Archive—of Novels in Australian Newspapers, 1850–1914’ ( S&P 38:iv 197–211), they take up Elizabeth Morrison’s twenty-five-year-old cross-section of Victorian papers from one day in 1891 and her ‘drilling down’ into Melbourne’s Age , which produced, respectively, twenty-eight and sixty serialized novels. With the added resource of digitized newspapers in the Trove archive, Bode and Hetherington painstakingly search, cross-check terms, consider the gaps in original materials, and note the chaotic international plundering of copy in which fiction ‘as it moved across national borders … was often plagiarised and rewritten, re-badged and localised’ (p. 203). Comparison of some texts allows attribution of original authorship, though much remains uncertain and the authors note inherent problems in electronic searches. They support Paul Eggert’s contention that newspaper fiction is a fluid phenomenon that calls into question the notions of both ‘the work’ and ‘the author’ and leaves archival research as always a provisional ongoing process.
In the same issue, Rachel Solomon offers ‘Two Studies: Henry Handel Richardson and the Great Extractor’ ( S&P 38:iv 229–48), an investigation of the author’s relationship with the Ulysses Bookshop, which solicited a fine limited edition of her stories. The unexpected success of her final volume of the Mahony trilogy came too late for Richardson to be enthused, but she used the opportunity to reissue old novels and place stories in magazines. Jacob Schwartz obtained two stories and regaled Richardson with presents of rare editions of books and music, receiving signed copies of her work in exchange. Solomon traces the provenance of the stories, the role of agents, and issues over the printing and editing, then tracks the fate of some of the copies. Schwartz’s support and a good review from T.E. Lawrence may have encouraged Richardson eventually to allow publication of her collected stories by Heinemann and Norton in 1934.
Robyn Greaves offers a study of ‘Australian Author Marion Halligan—Word Artist’ ( TransL 6:ii 11 pp.). The novelist’s attention to the details of everyday life, dismissed by sexist critics as trivial and female, is appraised in relation to Woolf, and Garry Kinnane’s 1998 call for Australian writers to deal with suburban realities. Discussion—ranging across the whole oeuvre—covers Halligan’s themes of death, art (painting, photography, tapestry), webs of migration stories, and the need for fiction to give a distancing shaping to memoir.
Apart from Akerholt’s article on White mentioned above and the Meyrick piece on theatre, Australian drama features across several journals. Grounded in Bourdieu’s work on distinction and taste, ‘Reimagining the Wheel: The Implications of Cultural Diversity for Mainstream Theatre Programming in Australia’, by Josephine Fleming, Robyn Ewing Michael Anderson and Helen Klieve ( TRI 39 133–48), draws on interviews of 726 young people (part of a much larger survey project) asking why they chose to engage or not with theatre. Many were at performances as a school activity and had little idea of what theatre was, had another mother tongue than English, and were part of a popular culture scene that did not include ‘formal’ staged theatre.
Musing about how neoliberalism’s push to efficiencies of system operates against interpersonal communication (voice), Caroline Wake, in ‘The Politics and Poetics of Listening: Attending Headphone Verbatim Theatre in Post-Cronulla Australia’ ( TRI 39 82–100), wonders how theatre can intervene in a mediatized mix of chaos and conservatism without reproducing its structures. She looks at Roslyn Oades’s ‘headphone verbatim’ performance Stories of Love and Hate —ordinary voices recounting the 2005 Cronulla race riots—to explore how the medium provokes reflection on how the media produce our communications. Media images of the beach mob violence emphasized the smaller retaliations of Lebanese youth over the large white crowd attacking a few people of Middle Eastern appearance. Oades reduced eighty hours of interviews with both communities to a sixty-five-minute audio script of ten narrative lines and performed to both Bankstown and Cronulla-region audiences. Noting the dangers of ‘therapeutic listening’ (attending to injury rather than reform in hearing testimonies; sentimental self-validation rather than hearing the other), Wake argues that Oades turns the audience towards ‘ethical eavesdropping’ where we are visible as listeners to actors listening to people ‘talking amongst themselves’. As characters call up radio stations, we also see how stories are processed or left out, and are made aware of how our listening is also part of a media-constructed story and of how we ourselves listen (or not) to events.
Westerly 59:ii celebrates sixty years of publication. Its contents reflect the mix of Australian and Asian prose and poetry that has characterized the journal since its inception as a student magazine. Descriptive histories of each decade are provided by John Barnes, Elizabeth Webby, Dennis Haskell, Delys Bird, Paul Genoni, and Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, several of these being past editors. They serve up a roll-call of Australian writers of note, marking the effort to extend beyond local names (Randolph Stow, Elizabeth Jolley, Fay Zwicky, Dorothy Hewett) to cover good writing from across the nation and then the immediate region. The importance of Peter Cowan as editor and critic and the magazine’s attention to other art forms (painting, sculpture, theatre, film) from all around the world are some of the main points of interest. Hughes-d’Aeth includes some thought-provoking observations on how contemporary electronic media aggregate and atomize content through mega-repositories, thereby challenging the magazine format, though this can survive as Web pages.
The preceding issue includes review essays on a year of Australian fiction (by Robyn Mundy) and poetry (by John Hawke). What impresses from these is just how many presses (well-established ones, not the covers for self-publishing) continue to publish poetry despite all the laments about their disappearance from the field. Critical articles include a discussion of the ‘Anxiety of Reference in That Deadman Dance ’ ( Westerly 59:i 70–85) by Rohan Wilson. Following de Man, and the analysis of postcolonialism’s intersection with deconstruction by Linda Hutcheon, one historical novelist considers another’s (Kim Scott’s) use of history and its imaginative reconstruction to rehearse ‘ways in which the ethical contract can be made and unmade’ in plays between literal and metaphorical textual elements, oral and written record, mimesis and sly mimicry, military drill and Noongar dance. John Burbidge, in ‘Gerald Glaskin Revisited’ ( Westerly 59:i 86–91), provides a version of the preface to his book on G.M. Glaskin in which he discovers the real identity of Neville Jackson, author of a pioneering gay novel, No End to the Way , and sets out the questions about Glaskin’s career that drove his biography, noting the novelist’s unusual early engagement with Asian material. Jane Vaughan investigates ‘Form, Artifice and Contemporary Australian Poetics: John Tranter’s “The Anaglyph” ’ ( Westerly 59:i 104–22). Tranter’s 2010 collection Starlight owes much to John Ashbery and showcases experiments with computer-generated verse and recombinations of lines from other poets. Stylistically different from Ashbery’s ‘Clepsydra’, ‘The Anaglyph’ shares its focus on the process of making poetry and ‘the materiality of language and medium’ (p. 105). Tranter takes end words from Ashbery’s poem as the basis for his own lines, evoking Ern Malley at times and drawing on surrealism and the Oulipo group to challenge ‘traditional notions of formal inventiveness’ by rejecting ‘ “heroic” compositional methods’ (p. 114).
The interview has been given specific attention in a new journal, Writers in Conversation ( WriC ). Australian authors Marion Halligan, Rob Harle, Claire Corbett, Jane Montgomery Griffiths, Hannah Kent, Christos Tsiolkas, and Andrea Goldsmith are included in the two 2014 online issues. Also interviewed by Laurie Glover and Nathaniel Williams are the SF writers Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld in Writing on the Edge ( WE 24 96–106).
There are shortcomings in our supposedly global Web. In this case, two databases listing theses on Canadian literature record only work done in Canada and the United States, despite there being sites of Canadian literary studies in Britain, across Europe, in India, Australia, and beyond.
The good news is that Canadian writers are strongly represented in postgraduate work in North America. In no particular order, we find Jean Elizabeth O’Hara’s queer indigenous studies work ‘Up/Staging Two Spirit Plays: Unsettling Sexuality and Gender’ (York U, DANS00128); Marrissa McHugh’s ‘The Invasion of the Home Front: Revisiting, Rewriting and Replaying the First World War in Contemporary Canadian Plays’ (U Ottawa DANR98421); Emilia A. Rollie, also working on theatre, ‘Women of the Northern Stage: Gender, Nationality and Identity in the Work of Canadian Women Stage Directors’ (U Missouri, DA3577976); Jason Woodman Simmonds, ‘Aboriginal Shakespeares as Communal Self-Fashioning’ (U New Brunswick, DANR95395), along with Rebecca P. Huffman’s ‘ Othello , Narrative and the Material Construction of Subjectivity in Early Modern British Literature and Postcolonial Adaptations’, which includes Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet (U Kentucky DA 3579744);
Shirley Anne McDonald examined ‘Georgic Ideals and Claims of Entitlement in the Life Writing of Alberta Settlers’ (U Alberta, DANR92596), and Josephene Kealey’s ‘The Mythology of the Small Community in Eight American and Canadian Short Story Cycles’ covered Leacock, Duncan Campbell Scott, George Elliott, and Alice Munro (U Ottawa, DANR98206). Kathleen Margaret Patchell looked at ‘Faith Fiction and Fame: Sowing Seeds in Danny and Anne of Green Gables ’ (U Ottawa, DANR98216), and from the same university Suzanne Bowness submitted ‘In Their Own Words: Prefaces and Other Sites of Editorial Interactions in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Magazines’ (DANR97996). Continuing the nineteenth-century connection, Abigail Ruth Heiniger wrote on ‘ Jane Eyre and Her Transatlantic Literary Descendants: The Heroic Female Bildungsroman and Constructions of National Identity’, which also included a reading of Anne of Green Gables (Wayne State U, DA3558169).
A more contemporary focus with some Canadian reference comes from Julie Ha Tran, ‘Alien Cities: Anxieties about Race, Space, and the Body Politic in the Science Fiction City’ (U California, Davis, DA3565566), while other anxieties are rehearsed in theses centred on diasporic writing: Jessica Marisol Brown-Velez, ‘Travel, Migration, History, Identity and Place: Four Contemporary Ugandan Playwrights Abroad’—including George Seremba (U Wisconsin, Madison, DA3604289); ‘Arab Pluralities and Transnationality: “A Crisis of Conscience” in Arab North American Fiction’ by Sylvia Terziman (Wilfred Laurier U, DANR94201); Jeanette Taiyon Coleman includes Nalo Hopkinson in ‘Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: Narrative Past-Time as a Temporal Site of Racialized Identity Deconstruction’ (U Minnesota, DA3567411) and Jessica Marie Best (U California, Riverside, DA3610895) writes ‘ “Suspended Nameless in the Limbo State”: Neoliberalism and Queer Caribbean Diasporas’, including Shani Mootoo.
Gender and sexuality provide focus for several works. Lisa Robertson is amongst those discussed by Laurel Peacock in ‘The Poetics of Affect in Contemporary Feminist Poetry’ (U California, Santa Cruz, DA3589351). Naomi R. Mercer (U Wisconsin, Madison, DA3589098) considers ‘ “Subversive Feminist Thrusts”: Feminist Dystopian Writing and Religious Fundamentalism in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale , Louise Marley’s The Terrorists of Irustan , Marge Piercy’s He, She and It , and Sheri S. Tepper’s Raising the Stones ’ . Nicole Lynn Sparling also examines The Handmaid’s Tale in ‘Womb Genealogies: Conceiving the New World’ (Pennsylvania State U, DA3577721). Heather Hillsburg widens the scope in ‘Furious Females: Women’s Writing as an Archive of Anger’ (U Ottawa, DANR98515) and Libe García Zarranz (U Alberta, DANS27546) brings together queer, gender, and diasporic elements in ‘Queer TransCanadian Women’s Writing in the Twenty-First Century: Assembling a New Cross-Border Ethic’, reading Dionne Brand, Emma Donoghue, and Hiromi Goto.
Ethics are also at the heart of three quite different works: Jodi Giesbrecht’s ‘Killing the Beast: Animal Death in Canadian Literature, Hunting, Photography, Taxidermy and Slaughterhouses, 1865–1920’ (U Toronto, DANR97007); ‘Mourning from a Distance: Traumatic Post-Memory and the Ethics of Engagement’ by Dragoslav Momcilovic, who includes treatment of Joy Kogawa’s Obasan (U Wisconsin, Madison, DA3588525); and Michael Roberson’s ‘After Language Writing: In Defense of a Provision Poetics’ (U Calgary, DANR96765).
(b) Themes and Debates
The major work of recent times comes from the TransCanada project, directed by Smaro Kamboureli. It investigates new directions for Canadian literary studies in the light of social changes and shifts in university systems. Kamboureli and Christl Verduyn have edited the final of three books, Critical Collaborations: Indigeneity, Diaspora, and Ecology in Canadian Literary Studies. Kamboureli supplies the introduction (pp. 1–28), moving from Northrop Frye’s nation/family-based model of CanLit to a field of epistemic breaks, ‘twisted intimacy’, and new kinships beyond the filiative/complicit dualities of settler culture. Roy Miki follows with ‘Belief as/in Methodology as/in Form: Doing Justice to CanLit Studies’ (pp. 29–48). He notes that Frye did not attend to how state processes produced culture, and laments corporatized universities sidelining creative texts. Miki calls for creative critical reading in which the imagination is encountered both in texts and in readers as an unstable, affective whirlpool. The older ethical project of including minority texts in studies becomes a process of ‘recognizing conditions producing differential relations from which we benefit or not depending on our access to dominant representational schemata’ (p. 41). His analysis of work by Roy Kiyooka demonstrates how CanLit is a provisional and ongoing construction. Julia Emberley (‘The Accidental Witness: Indigenous Epistemologies and Spirituality as Resistance in Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach ’, pp. 69–81) considers readers’ relation to unsettling testimony narrative, positioning them as ‘accidental witnesses’ to the violence in both subject and writing in work telling of residential schools trauma. She then teases out underlying patterns of kinship and Haisla spirit canoe journeying to argue for an indigenous psychodrama of healing in contrast to Western theories of unrepresentable trauma. A challenging chapter more closely related to the institutional questions behind the book is not about literature, but indigenous legal rights to land and nation (Sa’ke’j Henderson, ‘Trans-Systemic Constitutionalism: Indigenous Law and Knowledge’, pp. 49–68). Marie Battiste provides a more personal reflection on the developments in indigenous activism in ‘Ambidextrous Epistemologies: Indigenous Knowledge within the Indigenous Renaissance’ (pp. 83–98). These two chapters inform Larissa Lai’s search for ‘Epistemologies of Respect: A Poetic of Asian/Indigenous Relation’ (pp. 99–126). Rejecting any neat apology that closes off history, Lai acknowledges that minority writing often gains acceptance at the expense of indigenous work, and adduces examples from performative collaborations (the 2008 Movement Project, David Khang’s How to Feed a Piano , and Marie Clements’s Burning Vision ) to show how privilege can be undone, community invoked, and issues of social justice collectively addressed in a messy, open-ended assumption of relation and responsibility. As with many other chapters, Lai draws on Glissant, Lee Maracle, SKY Lee, and Daniel Heath-Justice. Law, politics, and culture come together in environmental studies, and three chapters—Catriona Sandilands, ‘Acts of Nature: Literature, Excess and Environmental Politics’ (pp. 127–42); Cheryl Lousley, ‘Ecocriticism in the Unregulated Zone’ (pp. 143–60); and Laurie Ricou, ‘Disturbance-Loving Species: Habitat Studies, Ecocritical Pedagogy and Canadian Literature’ (pp. 161–74)—look respectively at Dionne Brand’s Land to Light On , Larissa Lai’s Saltfish Girl , and a poem, ‘Pond’, by Don McKay. They posit the expression of a different kind of awe that disrupts universalist ideas of nature, the mix of unregimented hope and chaotic dystopia in which literature is not a barrier but an immersive experience, and attending to locations and linkages from an animal’s or plant’s perspective. Julie Rak (‘Translocal Representation: Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, Nello “Tex” Vernon-Wood and CanLit’, pp. 175–98) crosses cultural studies with literature to examine celebrity figures that cross racial and state boundaries. Problems of belonging and not belonging for people who ‘pass’ in order to inhabit dominant national spaces lead Rak to reject the transnational in favour of a more nuanced and site-specific translocal. Winfried Siemerling goes translocal by delving into ‘Jazz, Diaspora and the History and Writing of Black Anglophone Montreal’ (pp. 199–213), citing novels by Callaghan, MacLennan, Gabrielle Roy, Ernest Tucker, Nigel Thomas, and Mairuth Sarsfield. Local, but beyond the anglophone bounds of this review, is François Paré’s ‘Tradition and Pluralism in Contemporary Acadia’ (pp. 215–25). Chrystl Verduyn closes the collection with ‘Critical Allegiances’ (pp. 227–39), a summation of the TransCanada project and its focus on ‘shifts that undiscipline the discipline’ and generate ‘multiple constituencies’ within and beyond the nation construct. The book disappoints in often appearing to merely add on new groups and approaches to the established body of work, but it does set up the parameters for an ongoing questioning and revision of structures.
Contemporary interest in book history and the supporting mechanisms of literary production produces ‘Modernism and the Magazines: North America’ by Christopher MacGowan ( Mo/Mo 21:iii 843–9). This focus is given a gender twist in Michelle Smith’s ‘Fiction and the Nation: The Construction of Canadian Identity in Chatelaine and Canadian Home Journal during the 1930s and 1940s’ ( BJCS 27:i 37–53), while Jody Mason adds a class perspective from a decade earlier: ‘ “Rebel Woman”, “Little Woman” and the Eclectic Print Culture of Protest in The Woman Worker 1926–1929’ ( CanL 220 17–35). This is preceded by Laura Moss’s ‘distant reading’ approach in ‘Auditing, Counting, and Tracking CanLit’ ( CanL 220 6–15). Moss details the ‘audit culture’ we are all subject to these days at national level and within our institutions. She makes the point that numbers can tell a story and provide a basis for useful knowledge and getting good things done, giving stats on reader patterns in relation to Canadian Literature to prove her point, though she also warns that numbers do not tell us how a text affects a reader and are not the full story. Michael Ross in the same issue considers ‘Imperial Commerce and the Canadian Muse: The Hudson Bay Company’s Poetic Advertising Campaign of 1966–1972’ ( CanL 220 37–53). More in line with Moss’s big picture schema is Anouk Lang’s ‘Canadian Magazines and Their Spatial Contexts: Digital Possibilities and Practical Realities’ ( IJCS 48 213–32). Pushing on from the kind of mapping of texts initiated by Franco Moretti, Lang looks at little magazines, mapping the places they come from and the places mentioned in them as imaginative sites, and reflecting on when it is actually useful to spend time digitizing and mapping texts. The critical question behind attention to popular forms of literary dissemination is addressed by Albert Raimundo Braz: ‘The Good and the Read: Literary Value and Readership in Canadian Literature’ ( CRCL 41:ii 174–82).
Literary value is a question driving contemporary attention to the middlebrow. This intersects with book history and cultural studies and is the focus of a special issue of the International Journal of Canadian Studies 48, edited by Faye Hammill and Michelle Smith. Wendy Roy looks at ‘Home as Middle Ground in Adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and Jalna ’ ( IJCS 48 9–31), using Homi Bhabha’s ‘The World and the Home’ to reflect on how international screen adaptations of the two middlebrow novels make the homely nation-home into an unhomely imagined middle ground, not quite Canada, not quite anywhere else. Gillian Roberts, ‘ The Book of Negroes Illustrated Edition: Circulating African-Canadian History through the Middlebrow’ ( IJCS 48 53–66) reflects on how the prize-winning novel becomes a medium for pleasurable learning of subaltern history via the Canada Reads programme, a television version, and a ‘souvenir edition’ laden with photographs. Roberts notes Henry James’s scorn of illustrations as relegating novels to middlebrow rank and analyses the complex circulations between historical documents and novel text: how some pictures provide insights into the novel’s story, while decorative African pictures make it into a safe ‘National Geographic’ aestheticized pedagogy. Hannah McGregor and Michelle Smith consider ‘Martha Ostenso, Periodical Culture and the Middlebrow’ ( IJCS 48 67–83), looking at how the ‘frame’ of Chatelaine magazine interacts with the writer’s short stories about femininity, national identity, and consumerism. ‘ “A Sweet Canadian Girl”: English-Canadian Actresses’ Transatlantic Careers through the Lenses of Canadian Magazines’ ( IJCS 48 119–35) has Cecilia Morgan assessing how glamour was exchanged between actress and magazine in negotiations between local cultural production and transnational circuits. Marie Vautier reviews English- and French-language Canadian fiction, their interactions and their common ‘dialogue’ with Europe. She then posits a major shift towards literary engagement with South America, turning from Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague and L’Influence d’un livre by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé fils to Nicolas Dickner’s Nikolski in ‘Hemispheric Travel from Europe to las Américas: The Imaginary and the Novel in Québec and Canada’ ( IJCS 48 191–212).
Jordan Stouck analyses critical practice in ‘The Ghosts of Canadian Criticism: History and Social Justice’ ( CLIO 43:iii 385–95). One revenant ghost is Northrop Frye, summoned forth by Brett David Potter in ‘A Word Not Our Own: Northrop Frye and Karl Barth on Revelation and Imagination’ ( L&T 28:iv 438–56), while Miriam Wallraven also charts connections between literature and history: ‘ “To Make a History from This Kind of Material is Not Easy”: The Narrative Construction of Cultural History in Contemporary Fiction’ ( ZAA 62:ii 131–48). Her generalized title covers some treatment of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. General narrative analysis comes from Heilna du Plooy, who includes a reading of Anne Michaels in ‘Between Past and Future: Temporal Thresholds in Narrative Texts’ ( JLST 30:iii 1–24).
Early Canadian texts don’t feature as much as in other years, but from Australia, Mandy Treagus provides two takes on Sara Jeannette Duncan, one a chapter in Changing the Victorian Subject , edited by herself, Maggie Tonkin, Madeleine Seys, and Sharon Crozier-de Rosa, the other a section in her own Empire Girls: The Colonial Heroine Comes of Age . ‘The Woman Artist and Narrative Ends in Late-Victorian Writing’ (pp. 201–15) claims that Elfrida in A Daughter of To-day  shows none of the ‘sense of self-sacrificing duty’ common to female protagonists of the time but ambitiously pursues artistic success and derives her assertiveness from Le Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff [1887; translated 1890]. The same text and its depiction of the New Woman in a female Künstlerroman is the subject of a more detailed and wider-ranging reading in Empire Girls (pp. 109–72). Duncan’s own position as a Canadian married to an Englishman and living in Calcutta, with experience in journalism, is explored for its complex negotiations of social position, and Elfrida’s struggle to be an artist reflects the author’s quest to gain recognition as a novelist independent of male standards. Elfrida’s suicide is taken as the necessary ultimate expression of female bohemian selfhood prevented from succeeding at either Bildung or romance. Duncan’s acceptance of ties between nationality and character is offset by her use of ironic exposure of contradictions. The same novel is examined by Cecily Devereux for how it deploys burlesque, in ‘An Adventure in Stageland: Sara Jeannette Duncan, Imperial Burlesque, and the Performance of White Femininity in A Daughter of To-day ’ ( NCC 36:i 35–51). Women’s life writing from Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth and early twentieth century is collected and examined by Mary McDonald-Rissanen in In the Interval of the Wave. Cecily Devereux provides the afterword to a reissue of Nellie McClung’s 1925 Painted Fires , which has a foreword by Benjamin Lefebvre, who also introduces a new edition of Ralph Connor (Charles William Gordon)’s 1909 The Foreigner: A Tale of Saskatchewan (afterword from Daniel Coleman). These titles are in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Early Canadian Literature series.
Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy, ‘Creole Frontiers: Imperial Ambiguities in John Richardson’s and James Fenimore Cooper’s Fiction’ ( EAL 49:iii 741–70), invokes settler theory (after Edward Watts) to break from reading these works in a nation-building framework, and open up complexities of negotiation between indigeneity and ‘creole’ settler relations to land, empire, and whiteness. Cooper is more national and Richardson more colonial. Transnational publishing networks entailed three audiences: European, North American, ‘and the new Creole political communities that identified with both’ (p. 4). ‘Creole’ is moved out of a purely racialized understanding to position the two authors in relation to the politics of the time such that, while Cooper uses ‘the frontier and the natives to articulate a national form of indigeneity that marks the separation of American culture from its imperial roots, Richardson uses the same material to create a continuous and legitimate imperial past for Canada’s colonial present’ (p. 9). Richardson also has none of Cooper’s nostalgia for a vanishing frontier: nature is a distinct threat; he also values submission to communal civility more than individualist liberty. His Britons are an ethnically and racially diverse group and there is less concern over miscegenation, although crossing the racial divide is avoided.
As departments of comparative literature (and world literature) resist or struggle to accommodate the genuine global variety of writing, new frameworks and pedagogies are sought. The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature issued two numbers in 2014 that canvas what is happening and what might happen in Canadian classrooms. There’s a lot of ‘theorese’ peppered throughout and some broad-brush thinking, but how to integrate postcolonial cultural dynamics and indigenous writing into existing structures and practices is a question properly addressed. In volume 41:ii, this issue is tackled by Lindsay R. Parker, and by Pushpa Acharya’s advocacy for ‘critical regionalism’, by Avishek Ray, and by Asma Sayed’s ‘globalectic reading’ of the current situation. ‘(Non-)Geographical Futures of Comparative Literature’, edited by Daniel Fried and Zhang Hui, includes Yulia Pushkarevskaya Naughton’s ‘ “In Transit”: Taxi Driving as a Mini Paradigm in Gaito Gazdanov’s Night Roads and Helen Potrebenko’s Taxi! ’ ( CRCL 41:iii 242–53).
English Studies in Canada in 2014 included a special edition, ‘The Dirt on Dirt Today’, with an introduction by Mark Simpson taking us through biochemical citizen science to environmental issues, discursive patterns of representation, affect, and so on. ‘Feeling dirty’ has both social and somatic implications, as Cara Fabre makes clear in her reading of a novel on anorexia, ‘This Hunger Is DNA You Cannot Undo: Anorexia and Economically Oriented Subjects in Ibi Kaslik’s Skinny ’ ( ESC  83–107). Other literary-related articles are Linda Morra’s on getting dirty in archives to ‘tell the dirt’ on our cleaned-up literary canons. She focuses on Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s documents and an extraordinary ‘shock-jock’ attack on her by Michael Coren in 1995 in ‘ “I’m a Dirty Girl” ( ESC  5–8). Travis V. Mason, ‘Valuing the Devalued, or Dirty Apprehension’ ( ESC  14–18), looks at poetry by Ken Babstock and Alden Nowlan, starting with the figuring of excess and rubbish dumps versus the representation of nature as ‘dirty’ by contrast to human civilization. Owing something to Don McKay’s 1993 essay on ravens and other ecocritical work, Mason considers poems about gulls (resilient scavengers; mirrors of our own qualities and violence). Cheryl Lousley charts ‘Slow Violence and Dirty Mourning’ ( ESC  31–6) in three versions of the dirty work of coalminers: Sheldon Currie’s story, ‘The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum’ , Wendy Lill’s 1991 stage version of it, and Mort Ransen’s film adaptation, Margaret’s Museum . All centre on Margaret’s ‘dirty’ memorializing of dead relatives, preserving body parts for public display to make clear the dirty business of a mining industry that chews up its workers and leaves women to eke out a living in slums. Patrick Lane’s novel is the subject of George Grinnell’s piece, ‘ “There Is Another Story, There Always Is” … Red Dog, Red Dog and the Okanagan’ ( ESC  109–31). Grinnell notes the despair in the family history in the book and shows how it reveals ‘the ways in which memory and grief are attached to the land’, revealing a history of environmental degradation and violence behind the tourist facade of the Okanagan valley today. At the same time, the land is romantically figured as an abiding potentially redemptive strength. Playing across looking at and looking away, the novel’s uncertainty leads the writer to think about species loss and loss of land in the valley and the dangers of ecological ‘improvement’. The article draws upon Timothy Morton’s ecological writings. Sarah Wylie Krotz considers the deployment of maps within and around literary texts, noting the turn to ‘geocritical’ examinations of textual evocations of place, and analysing the exhibition on the Library and Archives Canada website, ‘Canada: A Literary Tour’. The ‘emplacement’ of writers is made problematic in an age of transnational movements (Dionne Brand is cited as an example), but new digital cartographies might provide new ways of remapping literary Canada. This article is fascinating to the non-Canadian reader for the density of attention across time to fixing literary works and writers on the national map. Australian efforts, by contrast, have been mere sporadic sketches.
The First World War has had a lot of attention lately, due in part to the centenary of its beginnings. In The Great War in Post-Memory and Film , edited by Martin Löschnigg and Marzena Sokołowska-Paryż, Löschnigg writes ‘ “Like Dying on Stage”: Theatricality and Remembrance in Anglo-Canadian Drama on the First World War’ (pp. 153–69); Cherrill Grace is ‘Remembering The Wars ’ (pp. 220–37), while Hanna Teichler considers ‘Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road : Transcultural (Post-)Memory and Identity in Canadian World War I Fiction’ (pp. 239–53). In a later section of the book, Alicia Fahey contributes ‘Voices from the Edge: De-centering Master Narratives in Jane Urquhart’s The Stone Carvers ’ (pp. 411–26). Brigitte Johanna Glaser also provides a comparative study of six novels, including Urquhart’s and Frances Itani’s Deafening , in ‘Women and World War I: “Postcolonial” Imaginative rewritings of the Great War’ (pp. 425–42).
Löschnigg notes that critical attention to Findley, Hodgkins, and Boyden in fiction has not been matched by work on theatre, and surveys ten or so works that range from tragedy to burlesque, using Nora’s lieu de mémoire as a framing concept and following Sherrill Grace’s identification of a shift towards examining the process of remembering and away from the historical events themselves. The plays depict Canada’s ‘loss of innocence’ while critiquing the legend of the war as a catalyst for national self-realization. Gray and Peterson’s music-hall-style Billy Bishop Goes to War , Vern Thiessen’s Vimy , set in a field hospital, two Newfoundland works, David French’s Soldier’s Heart and Kevin Major’s No Man’s Land , and Wendy Lill’s The Fighting Days depict divisions of ethnicity, region, and gender behind the new collective sense of national identity. Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding , Vanderhaeghe’s Dancock’s Dance , and Anne Chislett’s Quiet in the Land variously show the madness of war, and R.H. Thomson’s The Lost Boys , based on real letters from the Front, shows the lasting traumas of war memory—a theme worked in French and by Vanderhaeghe as well. Presenting the war as theatrical in a theatre context reminds audiences of the constructed drama of war and nation.
Grace presents Findley’s 1977 novel as a pioneer of the turn to cultural memory and puts it into biographical context. She sketches critical responses, highlighting Diana Brydon’s focus on bearing witness, and discussing the book’s mix of biography and fiction: constructed intimacy and documentary distance; varying witness reports of one event; the ethics of remembering/shaping memory. ‘For Findley, nothing is born on the battlefield. It is what we do with the remembering of that obscene past that matters (p. 234).
Teichler considers how Boyden’s Three Day Road reflects on identity formation, reconstruction, and the nation’s process of reconciliation with First Nations people. Anglo-Canada’s ‘grand narrative’ of the birth of a nation hides the involvement of indigenous soldiers in the First World War, and the novel depicts (in its mix of oral forms, indigenous myth, and modernist historical writing) complexities in their negotiation of traditional identities and the machineries of Western conflict, mapping these onto Canada’s ‘in-between’ status as not quite British, not quite independent. For Native soldiers, home turns into another battleground as they struggle to reconnect with both nation and indigenous society. The hope of healing echoes in all returnees and readers remembering wartime loss, as the book’s connection with ‘mainstream’ writing through the shared narratives of war inserts an indigenous story into the national one.
Alicia Fahey looks at Urquhart presenting women telling stories about their village’s origins, including some of the battle of Vimy Ridge. Like Findley, Urquhart had absorbed the ‘post-memory’ of war through family stories and documents and (in line with Lyotard’s questioning of grand narratives) inserts multiple marginalized voices into the official national history, interrogating through the image of the monument the way we commemorate war. Urquhart reworks Walter Allward’s grand commemorative statue as a more personal work by a woman mourning a lost lover, and concludes by indicating the need to continue memory work and the inability of a fixed monument to preserve the memory of its meanings.
Citing Stewart Hall on the positional nature of all claims, Brigitte Glaser works from postcolonial insistence on local situatedness in relation to world history to look at how marginal colonial sites and marginalized women’s voices are deployed to reposition centre/margin dichotomies. Frances Itani’s Deafening shows how women were kept away from the front but had their domestic peace shattered when they had to become nurses to the traumatized and wounded returnees. Urquhart’s Klara, another woman left behind, shows how differences of ethnicity, gender, and individual experience make up the collective story as she shifts attention from battles to memories of loss.
Neta Gordon has produced Catching the Torch: Contemporary Canadian Literary Responses to World War I. The introduction rehearses the paradox of Canada’s defining itself as a peace-keeping nation by invoking a ‘coming of age in battle’ myth. Gordon positions her studies around the tropes first worked by John McRae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem, the memory work that attends the Great War, and concepts of sacrifice, nation, commemoration, and unity. Texts show that the national character (quiet duty, tolerance) emerges not in spite of reluctance to fight but as a product of that reluctance (pp. 5, 15), remarking that few of the texts analysed actually concentrate on battlefield action and none ends in pessimism or in denouncing participation in the war (pp. 21, 79), even while working the ‘war is hell’ motif. Chapter 1 considers the device of having the dead speak in McRae’s poem, the plays Dancock’s Dance and Mary’s Wedding , and a novella, The Deep. The mask in Vanderhaeghe undoes traditional elegy in which soldiers die so that we might live, substituting a mourning for old values of honour (p. 35); Massicotte shows the irrelevance of elegy in generations separated from the actual deaths and how we are inspired to live through performing memory at a remove. Swan’s book is also about how the present makes the dead into what it needs them to be. Chapter 2 deals with concepts of nation in Jack Hodgins’s Broken Ground and Frances Itani’s Deafening . Hodgins’s early work suggests the war is so morally questionable that it cannot sustain narratives of sacrifice and progress, showing the counter-battle of returned soldiers struggling to conquer their assigned plots of land, whereas Itani allows a national romance based on grief being personal rather than political and community being affirmed through wartime loss. Chapter 3 takes up Dagmar Novak’s work on war fiction and her three-stage model in which Findley’s The Wars is the apex for its presentation of heroism as personal rather than collective and of documentary claims to truth-telling as being unreliable. Alan Cumyn ( The Sojourn , The Famished Lover ) and Jane Urquhart ( The Underpainter , The Stone Carvers ) are less interested in how to use historical record: ‘both authors promote the idea that war insiders have a private narrative, one that they either wish to protect from outsiders or forget’, whereas outsiders often exploit their narratives for their own purposes (p. 86). There are interesting observations on how Cumyn’s novels differ from similar British work and on how he ‘willingly rejects the rhetoric of national or ideological sacrifice [but] leaves a space for the type of warfare that a man can still be proud of’ (p. 105). Neither Cumyn nor Urquhart is a postmodernist; the latter uses artist figures who try to transcend the details of history but do not deny historical authority. Chapter 4 looks at depictions of war of ‘Other Canadians’. If the war forged a national identity, how did First Nations, Québecois, Newfoundland, or German Canadian communities feel about that? Two plays (Vern Thiessen’s Vimy and Kevin Kerr’s Unity ) and two novels (Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road and Daniel Poliquin’s A Secret Between Us / La Kermesse ) are examined here. Gordon claims that Thiessen undermines his interest in diversity and individuals by presenting a fighting unit melded by battle, whereas Kerr (staging a home-front hospital threatened by the Spanish flu—the contagion of war) more critically inspects how unity is constructed. Boyden writes marginalized dysfunction into potentially redemptive living story while Poliquin ‘skewers almost every sacred myth’ about the war. ‘Together what these texts seem to suggest is that even though the national collective is an illusion, it is still—for better or worse—an ideal’ (p. 125). There are interesting observations on the ‘structural and figurative doublings’ in Boyden’s book (p. 141) and the problematic connection of sacred time to historical time. Like all the others, Poliquin examines what is worth remembering versus what is chosen to be remembered, and most radically presents an ignoble impersonator in place of the soldier hero. Comments on the function and reception of the translated work suggest further discussion. This is a bare-bones account of a solid set of essays that draw on a wide range of criticism and theory. At times it sounds as though there is an implicit postmodern, post-national standard against which works are found wanting due to some conservative recuperation of a national/communal ideal. The book closes with analysis of the movie Passchendaele , contrasting its generic typicality with some of the more complex moves of the plays and novels, and sketching shifts in the national myth following Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan.
A book that moves us tidily from McRae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ to Joseph Boyden and indigenous writing is Cynthia Sugars’s Canadian Gothic: Literature, History and the Spectre of Self-Invention. Like Neta Gordon, Sugars begins with the dead voices animated by McRae’s poem to map out a white settler desire for ghosts to fill the absence of a new world, mixed with fear of the haunting wilderness and native Other. Canadian Gothic, she says, is about settlers being haunted by their relationship to the Gothic itself (p. 75) as an uncanny import used to render homely their unsettled settlement. Sugars looks at the classic works of ‘Wilderness Gothic’ and charts how French Canadian figures are deployed to anchor an Anglo and European presence. She examines settler representations and appropriations of indigeneity and postcolonial invocations of haunting as both confessions of usurpation and reinscriptions of self in the land and its history (Atwood, Munro, Reaney, Robertson Davies, Findley, and Jane Urquhart are discussed). ‘Strangers Within’ considers how ethnic minority writers (Brand, Goto, Chariandy, Mayr, Ondaatje) work with ‘hauntings of Canadian hauntings’ and figures of ‘genealogical monstrosity’ (p. 180) to disrupt national myths, and ends with a chapter on indigenous writers using ‘ghost’ figures to teach about the present and undo their own gothicizing by white settler culture. The book carries its theoretical underpinnings lightly and provides a well-structured and clearly argued reading of works mostly familiar by now in Canadian literary studies. Its general propositions are applicable also to other settler nations’ writing.
Indigenous studies are well represented in 2014. The main and excitingly important work is Indigenous Poetics in Canada , edited by Cree poet Neal McLeod. Arranged in four sections mapping the poetics of memory, performance, place and space, and medicine, the book points to aesthetic practices such as indirect reference, counselling narratives, and the linking together of stories. A second volume will follow. Journals include a philosophical ethics discussion: ‘ “Just Say No”: Eden Robinson and Gabor Maté on Moral Luck and Addiction’ by Sabrina Reed ( Mosaic 47:iv 151–66), and Roshaya Rodness examines the social function of the writer and its media production in ‘Thomas King’s National Literary Celebrity and the Cultural Ambassadorship of a Native Canadian Writer’ ( CanL 220 55–72). Identity and performativity frame Laura Beard’s ‘Playing Indian in the Works of Rebecca Belmore, Marilyn Dumont, and Ray Young Bear’ ( AIQ 38:iv 492–511). The graphic novel seems to be a particular innovation amongst indigenous Canadian authors and is examined in one manifestation by Miriam Brown Spiers in ‘Creating a Haida Manga: The Formline of Social Responsibility in Red ’ ( SAIL 26:iii 41–61). Angela Van Essen begins with classroom experience to think through modes of English and storytelling and the cultural politics thereof in ‘Circling Stories: Cree Discourse and Narrative Ways of Knowing’ ( WE 25:i 44–55). Not seen in time for this review, there is ‘Games with Kitsch in the Works of Sherman Alexie and Thomas King’ by Monika Kocot in Justyna Stępień’s collection, Redefining Kitsch and Camp in Literature and Culture (pp. 99–122).
Indigenous Perspectives of North America: A Collection of Studies , edited by Enikö Sepsi, Judit Nagy, Miklos Vassányi, and János Kenyeresl, is not a collection of writing by indigenous North Americans but a compendium of essays about them, their writing, and the politics of race relations, mostly from Canadian studies scholars in Europe (and mostly from Hungary). Hartmut Lutz provides a survey of the emergence of indigenous writing in Canada, setting its ‘writing back’ and ‘writing home’ against multiculturalism and giving readings of short extracts to illustrate general points. There are also short readings of Daniel David Moses’ play Kyotopolis (by Martin Kuestler, pp. 102–10), Aboriginal and Métis work read through a postcolonial lens (Cristina-Georgiana Voicu, pp. 125–31), Thomas King’s attempt to counter representations of First Nations people and culture in school textbooks in his picture book for children (Fátima Susana Amante, pp. 132–42), Jeannette Armstrong’s Breath Tracks and land memory (Anna Mongibello, pp. 143–59), Thomas King’s The Truth about Stories (Éva Zsizsmann, pp. 160–9), Halfbreed and In Search of April Raintree (Eszter Szenczi, pp. 170–7), and Emily Carr’s painting and writing about indigenous subjects (Katalina Kürtosi, pp. 178–8). János Kenyeres looks at non-indigenous attraction to Native culture in art and literature, with some attention to Jack Hodgins (pp. 264–79). The collection does not offer many new insights to scholars familiar with the field, but it will be a useful reference book for anyone starting to study it.
Marc Maufort has produced a chapter, ‘Forging Native Idioms: Canadian and Australasian Performances of Indigeneity in an Age of Globalization’ (in Moser and Simonis, eds., Figuren des Globalen , pp. 703–15). It covers Canadian Kevin Loring’s Where the Blood Mixes , New Zealander Miria George’s Urban Hymns , and Australian Wesley Enoch’s Black Medea .
Lynne Wiltse, Ingrid Johnston, and Kylie Yang, ‘Pushing Comfort Zones: Promoting Social Justice through the Teaching of Canadian Literature’ ( ChE 21:iii 264–77), bring Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach and Richard Wagamese’s Keeper ’n Me together with a ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ to discuss two instances of classroom interrogation of assumptions and marginalizations in relation to diversity in schools.
Indigenous, mixed-race, and black diasporic studies can become tied together in problematic but productive ways. Petra Fachinger, ‘Intersections of Diaspora and Indigeneity: The Standoff at Kahnesatake in Lee Maracle’s Sundogs and Tessa McWatt’s Out of My Skin ’ ( CanL 220 74–91), notes how few works there are on the ‘Oka uprising’ and, in the context of a general shift from considering white appropriation of indigenous work to looking for more complex interactions, invokes solidarities (and differences) between indigenous and diasporic minority groups. Maracle depicts an internal diaspora of the Native to the city and the rebirth of self-assertive community there under female leadership, while McWatt explores new ideas of home that also challenge standard dichotomies of the national imaginary. Both books have their central characters use old myths to anchor themselves and critique media manipulation of the Oka standoff. McWatt’s protagonist bonds with another adoptee of indigenous origin, but does not altogether confront diasporic complicity in settler colonialism.
In the same issue, the Caribbean and Canada are linked in Andrea Medovarski’s ‘Roughing it in Bermuda: Mary Prince, Susanna Strickland Moodie, Dionne Brand, and the Black Diaspora’ ( CanL 220 94–114). Moodie in England advocated abolition and read Mary Prince. The author uses this detail to reread Moodie as ‘diasporic’ rather than ‘settler’ in an effort to open up a conceptual space for a ‘black Canada’ to emerge. She exposes the (contradictory) racism in Roughing it in the Bush as an index to the nation’s exclusion of blackness from its narrative, and brings in Dionne Brand’s work ( A Map to the Door of No Return and Land to Light On ) as rewriting the nation/landscape to show its historical complexities—with some interesting parallels to Moodie.
Brand’s work is also examined by Erica L. Johnson in ‘Building the Neo-Archive: Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return ’ ( MFRT 12:i 149–71). The central interest is the rich mix of intertextual reference: exploration and slavery-era accounts, contemporary archives of papers and journals, and the ‘neo-archive’ of postcolonial writers. The interest is in ‘how Brand structures something as intimate as personal memory and identity as an intervention in the archive’, in part as protest against having to deploy the archive to prove one’s humanity (p. 149). Hersch’s ‘postmemory’ is invoked to mark the fusion of individual and collective immersion in history. Affective memory and inspiration from Toni Morrison, Césaire, Naipaul, Coetzee, and others are ways of escaping captivity in the colonialist archive.
Caribbean–Canadian connections are further delineated by Heather Smyth in ‘The Black Atlantic Meets the Black Pacific: Multimodality in Kamau Brathwaite and Wayde Compton’ ( Callaloo 37:ii 389–403). Compton cites Brathwaite as part of a network of connections within black diasporic culture that render black Vancouver life as more than just peripheral to nation and dominant notions of diaspora. Compton shares with Brathwaite a ‘mash-up’ of language, music, ‘turntabling’ feedback video-style to bring out multiple meanings and ‘tidalectic’ flows.
In ‘The Transcultural Intertextuality of George Elliott Clarke’s African Canadianité: (African) American Models Shaping George & Rue ’ ( AAR 47:i 113–28), Ana María Fraile-Marcos attends to the echoes of Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Styron to illustrate Clarke’s theory of black Canadian writers having to both repeat and reject not just white North American but also African American writing in order to discover a complex and different identity.
A different Afro-Canadian identity is worked at by Esi Edugyan in Molly Littlewood McKibbin’s ‘Subverting the German Volk: Racial and Musical Impurity in Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues ’ ( Callaloo 37:ii 413–31). McKibbin traces Nazi constructions of purity in both race and music to then show how Edugyan undoes them in his novel featuring a black German musician ‘unhoused’ in both France and Germany during the war, who reworks ‘Horst Wessel’ as a blues tune.
Black diaspora slides over into ‘brown’ diaspora and the broader category of the ‘multicultural’. Alejandra Moreno Álvarez compares two stories, ‘Squatter’ by Rohinton Mistry, and ‘One out of Many’ by V.S. Naipaul, in ‘Somatic Effects of Migration: R. Mistry and V.S. Naipaul’ (in Francisco Fernández and Moreno Álvarez, eds., A Rich Field Full of Pleasant Surprises: Essays on Contemporary Literature in Honour of Professor Socorro Suárez Lafuente , pp. 38–49). Both stories feature migrant protagonists crouched on toilets as they move from one country to another; one to Canada only to return to India and find himself doubly displaced, the other to settle in the US. There is mention of Family Matters and Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands , the focus being on physical discomforts of the body in transit and Bergson’s idea of beings in process.
Robert Zacharias examines ambiguities of location in ‘In-Between World and Worlds Within: Reading Diasporic Return in Vassanji and Bissoondath’ ( CJPLI 1:ii 207–21. The In-Between World of Vikram Lall and The Worlds Within Her show characters escaping the traps of national politics to return at some point either to redeem or exorcize the past. Vassanji’s character expects Canada to be an isolated safe haven, but railway history and the Internet link it with his Kenyan origins; Bissoondath’s protagonist critiques the ethno-politics of diasporic Indians, but leaves Canada as an ‘ontological emptiness’ neglecting its own historical and contemporary politics. The readings are of interest, though the critical framework (which faults diaspora studies for not attending to returns and suggests this arises from nation-based methodologies inherited from postcolonial literary studies) seems to forget the body of work on the ‘been-to’ figure, and to put aside the turn to the ‘transnational’ that responds to the limitations in recent times of the diaspora model. In the new journal of literary interviews Writers in Conversation , Asma Sayed contributes ‘Between Nepal and Canada: In Conversation with Pushpa Raj Acharya, Edmonton’s 2014–14 Writer-in-Exile’ ( WriC 1:ii 11 pp.).
Jumana Bayeh’s book The Literature of the Lebanese Diaspora: Representations of Place and National Identity includes a chapter on Rawi Hage’s novel De Niro’s Game (pp. 101–38) in a section on the city and war. Asserting that the Maronite community has exercised strategic amnesia about its militia’s involvement in atrocities, the author reads the opposing attitudes of Hage’s two central characters as a challenge to such a tidied-up history and ghettoized view of Beirut. Said, Adorno, and Camus are invoked in the process.
Two book chapters provide thematic readings of texts that are adequately summed up in their titles. Judith Misrahi-Barak looks at ‘Rifts and Riffs, Roots and Routes: Ramabai Espinet’s The Swinging Bridge ’ (in Dwivedi, ed., Tracing the New Indian Diaspora , pp. 235–51), and Christine Vogt-William charts ‘Masculinities Out of Line: Navigating Queerness and Diasporic Identity in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night ’ (in Misrahi-Barak and Reynaud, eds., Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’, I: Diasporas and Cultures of Migrations , pp. 323–44).
Pluri-culture et écrits migratoires / Pluri-Culture and Migrant Writings , edited by Elizabeth Sabiston and Robert Drummond, includes an interesting assessment by Olga Stein of the dual function of prizes as affecting ethnic minority writing, ‘Literary Prizes and Diasporic Writers in Canada: Valorization or Containment’ (pp. 315–25).
The most important 2014 work on minority ethnic literary production is Larissa Lai’s Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s , which proposes that Asian Canadian writing and commentary post-1970s, while drawing on older narratives of oppositional heroic emergence, is characterized by ruptures and relationality, informed by poststructuralist theory and works in solidarity with other marginalized cultural groups across paradoxical spaces and different temporalities. Lai provides a strategic genealogy of key moments in literature, film, criticism, and social activism, invoking Foucault, Bhabha, Spivak, Roy Miki, Monika Kin Gagnon, Himani Bannerjee, Smaro Kamboureli, and others to problematize any simplistic understanding of this. Concentrating on the 1980s and 1990s, she mentions ongoing tussles over appropriation that operate across racial lines but also cut across finer lines of nation, class, history, sexuality, and language. Judith Butler’s focus on embodiment and iterative sedimentation is applied to these struggles in a careful tracking of how power works, showing how the concept of ‘Asian Canadian literature’ is an unstable category performing different functions as its contexts of use shift.
Lai’s first chapter looks at Wayson Choy and Evelyn Lau ‘breaking the silence’ around an Asian presence in Canadian culture and the need to retain some ‘silence’ about subjectivity to escape conscription into the national story. Chapter 2 surveys special ‘Asian’ issues of journals that are ‘exalted in their specialness but debased in the sense that as interruptions to the regular stream … they never constitute the regular stream’ (p. 33). Chapter 3 considers key anthologies of Asian Canadian writing in the context of state movements from liberal democracy to neoliberal economics. Anthologies enable entry to institutions but thereby run the risk of promoting the containment of political and creative energies and the ossification of the dynamic category of the Asian Canadian. Representational strategies of ‘radical carnival’ in the major texts of Hiromi Goto are analysed in chapter 4, and chapter 5 presents Rita Wong and jam ismail as working excess to maintain radical edginess in naming and breaking race. In keeping with the idea of Asian Canadian cultural work being relational, the final chapter looks at characters in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Brand’s What We All Long For and their attempt to escape Enlightenment liberal subjectivity in abjection. Brand offers a glimpse of positive solidarity with those excluded as exceptional by the state, whereas Atwood ends up supporting the status quo. The book is very good at drawing situational complexities in flows of affect and of power. It may be summed up in a passage from the chapter ‘queering’ anthologies: ‘ “becoming” is important because it does not require the truth of any essence in order to be productive… . But if [endpoints] cease to be important, if instead what leads to an open-ended future is the flow between intensities, then liberation resides not in any revolution or any institution, but in the imperfect moment of flow, in the unruly present. What becomes necessary for this kind of liberation is not a polemic, but rather a catalyst’ (p. 125). What I would like to suggest here is that the so-called identity-based texts of the late 1980s and early 1990s, that have fallen so out of favour of late, were doing, and continue to do, that catalytic work.
Popular genre scholarship is represented by Adam Glaz writing on alien communication and how we would recognize it at all in a classic SF work and Peter Watt’s 2006 novel: ‘Rorschach, We Have a Problem! The Linguistics of First Contact in Watt’s Blindsight and Lem’s His Master’s Voice ’ ( SFS 41:ii 364–91). Lem is rigorously pessimistic about the possibility, and his work shows up some of the shortcuts adopted by Watt in allowing for machine communication, despite the later novel’s long list of references on the topic. James Campbell turns to more sensational matters in ‘Fear of a Stupid Planet: Sexuality, SF, and Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons’ Extrapolation (55:i 51–71). It contains mention of A.E. Van Vogt’s Slan . Patricia Gouthro’s ‘Women of Mystery: Investigating Learning Pathways of Canadian and American Female Crime Fiction Writers’ ( AEQ 64:iv 356–73) is of interest but not really literary, as indicated by its place of publication: Adult Education Quarterly . Sebastian Domsch analyses Dave Sim’s graphic novel in ‘From Hyper-Make Aardvarks to the Female Void: Gender Politics in Cerebus ’ (in Sedlmayr and Waller, eds., Politics in Fantasy Media: Essays on Ideology and Gender in Fiction, Film, Television and Games , pp. 72–84). Lauren J. Lacey has published The Past That Might Have Been, the Future That May Come: Women Writing Fantastic Fiction, 1960s to the Present . Chapters deal with revisionary fairy tales, historical fiction in which time is messed with, dystopian fiction, and ‘becoming alien in feminist space fiction’. Margaret Atwood is the Canadian discussed. Brett Josef Grubisic, Gisèle M. Baxter, and Tara Lee have edited Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature. This comprises twenty-five chapters covering Mexico to Canada and includes, along with more general surveys, readings of William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Larissa Lai, Lisa Robertson, Douglas Coupland, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nicole Brossard.
Jeannette Sloniowski and Marilyn Rose have edited what already looks to be a standard reference: Detecting Canada: Essays on Canadian Crime Fiction, Television and Film. The editors provide an introduction and follow with a wide coverage of sub-genres within the print corpus, plus three essays on TV and film. Chapter titles provide a fair indication of the usefulness of the book. Beryl Langer contributes ‘Coca-Colonialists Write Back: Localizing the Global in Canadian Crime Fiction’; David Skene-Melvin surveys ‘Canadian Crime Writing in English’; and Brian Johnson narrows the focus with ‘Canadian Psycho: Genre, Nation, and Colonial Violence in Michael Slade’s Gothic RCMP Procedurals’. Single-author studies continue, with Manina Jones’s ‘Northern Procedures: Policing the Nation in Giles Blunt’s The Delicate Storm ’; ‘Revisioning the Dick: Reading Thomas King’s Thumps Dreadfulwater Mysteries’ by Jennifer Andrews and Priscilla L. Walton; Jeannette Sloniowski’s ‘Generic Play and Gender Trouble in Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season ’; Pamela Bedore’s ‘A Colder Kind of Gender Politics: Intersections of Feminism and Detection in Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Series’; Péter Balogh’s ‘Queer Eye for the Private Eye: Homonationalism and the Regulation of Queer Difference in Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant Mystery Series’; and Marilyn Rose’s ‘Under/Cover: Strategies of Detection and Evasion in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace ’. The visual media are covered by Sarah A. Matheson, ‘Televising Toronto in the 1960s: Wojeck and the Urban Crime Genre’; Lindsay Steenberg and Yvonne Tasker, ‘North of Quality? “Quality” Television and the Suburban Crimeworld of Durham County ’; and Patricia Gruben, ‘Mounties and Metaphysics in Canadian Film and Television’.
Interest in women characters in Gail Bowen and Margaret Atwood is continued by K.J. Verwaayen, in ‘Ethical Relations, Intertextuality and the Im/possibilities of an “Intersubjective Third” in Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie ’ ( CWW 8:iii 300–18), and by Helen Davies, ‘Uncomfortable Questions? Conjoined Sisterhood in Contemporary Women’s Writing’ ( CWW 8:iii 409–27). To this we can add an essay on the online serial by Margaret Atwood and Naomi Alderman, ‘Ageing, Disability, and Zombies: The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home ’ by Elizabeth Switaj ( FEMSPEC 14:ii 27–40). The zombies figure forth a horror of ageing and dementia and close reading of the representations in the story suggests that its feminist aspects are compromised by how age and disability are handled.
Animal studies are becoming a significant aspect of literary scholarship. Canada (once characterized by Atwood by its tales of wild animals and survival—or not—in their territory) is no exception to the rule, Paul Barrett inspecting ‘ “Animal Tracks in the Margin”: Tracing the Absent Referent in Marian Engel’s Bear and J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals ’ ( ArielE 45:iii 123–49).
Children’s and young adult writing has always been a feature of Canadian letters, and L.M. Montgomery remains a staple of its scholarship. Paige Gray, ‘ “Bloom in the Moonshine”: Imagination as Liberation in Anne of Green Gables ’ ( ChildL 42 169–96), argues against those who see the novel as wholly confirming traditional gender roles, placing its use of imagination centred on Tennyson and Arthurian tales alongside images from suffrage literature and allowing Anne some opening towards the ‘new woman’ future that Montgomery herself never found.
Heather Snell, ‘Outward Bound: Adventures in Cross-Cultural Reading and Global Citizenship in North American Young Adult Literatures’ ( CLAQ 39:ii 252–74), sees books for young adults responding to multicultural and cosmopolitan impulses arising out of globalization. She follows Tim Brennan in asking ‘to whom the benefits of particular cosmopolitanisms accrue’ (p. 255) and argues that well-meaning promotion of cosmopolitanism relies on a ‘rhetoric of deflection’ that leaves white, middle-class readers having self-improving adventures in ‘othered’ spaces that figure as Third World (black) recipients of First World (white) aid. She includes discussion of Beryl Young’s Follow the Elephant and two titles by Eric Walters: Alexandria of Africa and Beverly Hills Maasai , neatly labelling them ‘diversity conscious but without actually engaging in any critique of how that diversity is constructed, disciplined and manipulated’ (p. 261), though Walters does allow some parodic critical humour. By contrast, US writer Kashmira Sheth ( Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet ) provides a more nuanced view of India and diasporic life in America.
‘Everything You Do: Young Adult Fiction and Surveillance in an Age of Security’ ( IRCL 7:i 1–17), by Kerry Mallan, looks at Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother alongside the American Hunger Games and Article 5 (by Suzanne Collins and Kristen Simmons respectively). Mallan makes the inevitable link to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four , but argues that contemporary surveillance methods and global terror threats take stories of intrigue into a new realm, more complex than Cold War espionage fiction, and more blurring of the reality–illusion boundary. This presents ethical challenges to young readers.
In the same issue, Doris Wolf considers ‘The Suffering of the Perpetrators: The Ethics of Traumatic German Historicity in Karen Bass’s Young Adult World War II Novels’ ( IRCL 7:i 64–77). She reads Run Like Jäger and Summer of Fire , which depict German adolescents during the Allied occupation and how their history is used by contemporary youth to build their own identities. What arises is a narrative of victimhood and suffering that slides away from guilt and the ethical challenges of history.
‘Going Down the Rabbit-Hole: Teachers’ Engagements with “Dialectical Images” in Canadian Children’s Literature on Social Justice’ ( ChE 21:i 79–93), by Teresa Strong-Wilson, Amarou Yoder, and Heather Phipps, studies teaching strategies in elementary school for handling testimonies of trauma by First Nations writers. It draws on Roger Simon’s use of Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image, pointing to the classroom as a ‘contact zone’ between mainstream and marginal and espousing a ‘critical nostalgia’ approach based on memory and trauma studies.
Mervyn Nicholson examines child–adult relationships as located around work and shaped by class. He covers prose and poetry from Britain, Ireland, the United States, and Canada in ‘Class/ic Aggression in Children’s Literature’ (in Hubler, ed., Little Red Readings: Historical Materialist Perspectives on Children’s Literature , pp. 3–30). Adrienne Kertzer compares Monique Polak’s What World Is Left? with other junior reader books by Australian Morris Gleitzman and Irish writer John Boyne in ‘ “Don’t You Know Anything?”: Childhood and the Holocaust’ (in Adams, ed., The Bloomsbury Companion to Holocaust Literature , pp. 121–38).
(c) Author Studies
Author-centred work this year shows some belated attention to Robertson Davies, a predictable bout of Munro fever, and a turn to Anne Carson and Anne Michaels. ‘The Last Mythopoet’ ( PNR 41:i 21–4), by Amanda Jernigan, examines poetry by Mark Callanan, Jason Guriel, Steven Heighton, Jernigan, Jay McPherson, Peter Sanger, and David West in the light of Northrop Frye’s work.
In alphabetical order of subject we find Shahar Bram’s ‘Postcard Poem, Ekphrastic Delusion: On Margaret Atwood’s Poem “Postcard” ’ ( UTQ 83:i 28–38). Also on Atwood, but concentrating on The Edible Woman , Life before Man , and The Robber Bride , K.S. Balaji’s ‘The Man Haters: The Depiction of Extremist Feminists in the Novels of Margaret Atwood’ ( NAcad 3:iv 9 pp.), argues that the transgressive women take on masculine oppressive roles and fail to win approval (including Atwood’s) as truly feminist figures. This appears in a new online journal, New Academia , which claims peer review, but could polish up its English copy-editing. In ‘Food for Critical Thought: Teaching the Science Fiction of Margaret Atwood’ ( Pedagogy 14:iii 475–98) Sean Murray deals with Oryx and Crake , The Year of the Flood , and The Edible Woman as tools for a critical pedagogy around the politics of food, challenging an individualist freedom-of-choice ethic by showing the systemic nature of food production and consumption. Links to other texts are canvassed as the basis for constructing a course on food fiction.
Kym Brindle brings together chapters on a variety of authors as Epistolary Encounters in New-Victorian Fiction: Diaries and Letters . She is interested in how and to what purpose contemporary writers present the Victorian era to us through ‘fragmented and found material traces’ (p. 19) and includes ‘A Deviant Device: Diary Dissembling in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace ’ (pp. 91–117), in which she argues that in the novel Atwood revises her earlier position on Grace Marks. She does not create an actual diary, but simulates one as a diary-like voice, thus avoiding any authoritative textual source. The voice provides commentary on Grace’s examiners, who are shown through letters to have an unreliable hold on the truth, and the result is that all are imprisoned in doubt.
Two essays on Atwood were not seen: Louise Nuttall’s stylistic analysis ‘Constructing a Text World for The Handmaid’s Tale ’ (in Harrison, Nuttall, et al., eds., Cognitive Grammar in Literature , pp. 83–99), and Karin Höpker’s ‘A Sense of an Ending—Risk, Catastrophe and Precarious Humanity in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake ’ (in Mayer and Weik von Mossner, eds., The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture , pp. 161–80). Also coming at the literary from a disciplinary tangent, Patrick Colm Hogan, in ‘National Identity, Narrative Universals, and Guilt: Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing ’ (in Bruhn and Wehrs, eds., Cognition, Literature and History , pp. 134–49), uses cognitive theory’s ideas of human meaning-making through emplotment of ‘narrative prototypes’—heroic, sacrificial, romantic—in order to look at the intersections of nation, race, gender, and white guilt around references to indigenous culture in Atwood’s early novel. With a fairly broad brush, Hogan sketches allegorical connections between the narrator’s abortion, her emphasis on place, and the ‘still-born’ hopes for a nation founded on some mix of indigenous and white cultures. He still manages to arrive at a positive reading of the book, envisioning a nation founded not on genocide but on the possibility of such a cultural reconciliation. Suparna Banerjee has produced a comparative study of apocalyptic and dystopian visions based on science and technology, Science, Gender and History: The Fantastic in Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood . She concentrates on The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake .
The correspondence of two stalwarts of a generation of Canadian letters has been collected and edited by Nicolas Bradley as We Go Far Back in Time: The Letters of Earle Birney and Al Purdy. Bradley supplies a critical introduction. ‘Rummagings 15: Thomas Cary’s Work for the “Peace and Good Order of a Well-Regulated Society” ’ ( CanPo 74 5–11) is a survey of Cary’s journalism and poetry and their engagement with social issues.
Three articles look at Anne Carson’s work. Roy Scranton’s ‘Estranged Pain: Anne Carson’s Red Doc> ’ ( ConL 55:i 202–14) also considers Eros the Bittersweet . Maya Linden’s ‘ “Metaphors of War”: Desire, Danger and Ambivalence in Anne Carson’s Poetic Form’ ( WS 43:ii 230–45) examines masochistic fixation in self-destructive feminine romantic tragedy, working on The Glass Essay , Plainwater , and The Beauty of the Husband , and asking how Carson’s depictions of female passivity escape the distaste such representations usually evoke in feminist critics. Linden argues that theory has often slid across text, life experience, and the political, whereas Carson’s historical reach and ironic bricolage insists on the text, sidetracks critics from easy political correctness, and suggests in postmodern poetics ambiguous possibilities for escape from entrapment. Tony Hagland’s ‘Towards a Postmodern Humanism: Information, Layering and the Composite Poem’ ( APR 43:ii 37–41) is not dissimilar in its argument and includes a reading of Carson’s ‘Strange Hour Outcast Hour’.
Robert David Stacey, ‘Mad Translation in Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and Douglas Glover’s Elle ’ ( ESC 40:ii–iii 173–97), compares two accounts of destabilizing culture shock in the early phases of colonial contacts via the trope of translation and using R.D. Laing’s ideas on schizophrenia. Translation at its extremity generates transformation; across cultures this can manifest as a kind of madness, a breaking through to comprehending otherness that is a breaking down of previous stable forms. Cohen works with translation and prayer (a kind of translation). Glover writes on Cohen and Laing, and takes shamanic transformation as a translation of his transgressive historical character who presents history as a process translating person and culture. We can also note for Cohen fans the publication of Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters , edited by Jeff Burger, with a foreword by Suzanne Vega.
George Core writes an overview, ‘Revaluation: A Salute to Robertson Davies’, equating him with Patrick White and Nobel Prize quality ( SR 122:iii 519–21) and John Saumarez Smith provides a narrower biographical focus in ‘Robertson Davies and the Introduction Fee’ ( BC 63:i 103–7).
Another influential figure in Canadian writing is given some attention by Graham H. Jensen. ‘An “Architecture of Contradictions”: Continuations and the Late Meta-Poetry of Louis Dudek’ ( CanPo 74 30–59) takes on the three ‘Continuations’ sequences.
Jinny Huh, ‘Detecting Winnifred Eaton’ ( MELUS 39:i 82–105), puts forwards a case for Winnifred Eaton being a pioneer of Asian American fiction on the basis of her ‘Japanese’ novels written under the name Onoto Watanna in the early twentieth century. Despite Eaton’s Montreal origins, the discussion is entirely in relation to US literature and to the idea of ‘passing’ narratives in connection with the novelist’s mixed Chinese–British background.
Brick 93 11–18 contains a set of tributes to Mavis Gallant from Michael Helm, Francine Prose, Alison Harris, and Michael Ondaatje.
Capilano Review provides a substantial interview on a contemporary writer: ‘ “A Portrait of Thinking”: Sheila Heti and Thea Bowering on the Phone’ ( CapR 3:xxii 7–25), while Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan, in ‘Notation After the “Reality Effect”: Remaking Reference with Roland Barthes and Sheila Heti’ ( Representations 125 80–102), discuss Heti’s 2010 novel How Should a Person Be? in relation to Barthes’s revision of his pronouncements about realism, moving from a ‘solid’ conception of its ideological function to a more provisional one. Heti’s ‘novel of commission’ incorporates reference to preparations for the novel-writing to show how the text and the writing process are socially and institutionally shaped.
Leif Sorensen, ‘Dubwise into the Future: Versioning Modernity in Nalo Hopkinson’ ( AAR 47:ii–iii 267–83, 446) looks at The Midnight Robber and The Salt Roads , suggesting reggae and dub poetry influences on narrative and form in both works, history and futurist visions being flip sides of each other, like the A and B sides of dub versions. Sampling and mixing breaks open the genres of science fiction and historical fiction and talk back to binaries in Donna Haraway’s cyborg work.
Allan Weiss examines the politics of cross-cultural experiences in ‘ “The Culpability of Innocence”: The Encounter of Canadian Women in Africa in the Short Stories of Isabel Huggan’ (in Sabiston and Drummond, eds., pp. 491–503; not seen for review).
‘A Very Fine View of Canada’ by Jeffrey Simpson ( QQ 121:i 60–71) looks at depictions of the nation in Bruce Hutchinson’s The Unknown Country  and The Unfinished Country .
Another piece in New Academia is Shilpa Bhat’s ‘A Flight of Her Own: Ruminations and Struggles in Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel ’ ( NAcad 3:ii 5 pp.), which tracks Hagar’s escape as a battle of the spirit to overcome age and infirmity. It stays very close to the text and thus adds very little to existing scholarship. Clearly the editorial processes are not as rigorously selective as the website suggests.
Susan Knutson has brought back to our attention the work of a major poet. She makes the selections and provides a critical introduction in Rivering: The Poetry of Daphne Marlatt. Marlatt follows up the poems with an essay, ‘Immediacies of Writing’.
Sarah E. McFarland writes on ‘Animal Studies, Literary Animals, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi ’ (in Westling, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment , pp. 152–65). Noting the bio-tech gene manipulations of mosquitoes in the context of disease and the extinction of birds, the author deploys Haraway, Levinas, and Jakob von Uexküll’s and Thomas Nagel’s animal-centred phenomenology to reflect on Martel’s ‘layered narrative that on the one hand defends zoo practices and the study of science but on the other exposes their very flaws, finally privileging imagination over blind fact’ (p. 155) by blurring the boundaries between human and animal. The tiger assumes an identity (and his story credibility) when he passes as ‘Richard Parker’, but remains an animal agent, keeping Pi alive as Pi in turn keeps him alive. The boat is read in terms of zoo politics (protection versus freedom), and the book’s ambivalence is resolved as a call to ‘shift personhood towards behavior instead of locating it in the human species’ (p. 163). Adriana Teodorescu explores ‘How a Fantastic Novel Constructs the Enemy Figure: The Untamed Other and the Role of Fantasy in The Life of Pi ’, appearing in the Romanian journal Caietele Echinox ( CEch 26 181–93).
André Dodeman assesses Scots history in ‘Clans and Clashes: Heritage and Authenticity in Alistair McLeod’s No Great Mischief ’ ( Ranam 47 219–31, 279).
Anne Michaels is interviewed by Sam Solecki: ‘A Conversation about Anne Michaels’ Correspondences ’ ( CanPo 74 60–7), and Mei-yu Tsai finds ‘A Poetics of Testimony and Healing in Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces ’ ( Shofar 32:iii 50–71), drawing on Dori Laub and Marianne Hirsch. Amid a seeming explosion of European attention to Canadian writing, Orlana Palusci, ‘Anne Michaels e le ferite di linguaggio’ ( AltMo  186–99) writes about the ‘wounds of language’, also reading Fugitive Pieces for the work of scientific discourse (geology, meteorology, archaeology) as a means of holding traumatic emotion at bay while pointing to the horrors of technology and history. Palusci opens with a survey of Jewish Canadian writing and some detailing of the narrative strands of the novel, and closes with attention to music and allusions to writing and reading and poetry and translation as ways through suffering. Sabine Strümper-Krobb contributes ‘Witnessing, Remembering, Translating: Translation and Translation Figures in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated and Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces ’ (in Kaindl and Spitzl, eds., Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation , pp. 247–59).
Rohinton Mistry is represented this year by two essays, neither of which was available to the reviewer. Uma Jayaraman considers ‘Boundary Marking in the Diaspora: An Analysis of Women Characters in Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters ’ (in Dwivedi, ed., pp. 253–70) and the Serbo-Croat journal Književna Smotra contains a reading of Rohinton Mistry’s short story ‘Swimming Lessons’ by Vanja Polić: ‘Problem multikulturalnosti u noveli “Poduka plivanja” Rohintona Mistryja’ ( KS 46:ii 65–9).
Alaa Alghamdi adopts a feminist approach to depictions of working-class women, widows, and mourning in ‘Different Spheres: Clashing Realities and the Transformative Reprising of “Women’s Work” in Lisa Moore’s February ’ ( PCP 49:i 41–57).
Shani Mootoo is the subject of Catriona Sandilands’ ‘Violent Affinities: Sex, Gender, and Species in Cereus Blooms at Night ’ (in Westling, ed., pp. 90–103). The novel’s mix of violence and jouissance , fantasy and reality, asks questions about how we bring together ecocritical politics, feminism, and queer studies to address and even flourish amid endemic violence. Mala’s oppressed condition is set against her positive connections with plants and animals, abuse is permeated with empathy, nature brings decay together with beauty. Relationality and becoming matter more than identity, as figured through the cereus plant’s role in the narrative, and Mootoo ‘points in the direction of a posthumanist performativity, in which different manners of materialization are revealed to be inseparable’ (p. 95).
The wheels of the critical Munro industry are turning faster and have produced ‘ “Deep Deep into the River of Her Mind”: “Meneseteung” and the Archival Hysteric’ by Katrine Raymond ( ESC 40:i 95–122); ‘To Be Continued: The Story of Short Story Theory and Other Narrative Theory’ ( Narrative 22:i 132–49) by Sarah Copland, centred on epiphany in the story ‘Passion’; Vanja Polić again, with ‘Starost u “Zimskom vrtu” Alice Munro’ ( KS 46:i 93–9), a reading of ‘The Bear Came over the Mountain’; and, on the same text, Sara Jamieson’s ‘Reading the Spaces of Age in Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came over the Mountain” ’ ( Mosaic 47:iii 1–17). Reingard M. Nischik’s ‘Alice Munro: Nobelpreisgekrönte Maisterin der Short Story aus Kanada’ ( ZAA 62:iv 359–77) is a descriptive introduction, and Isla Duncan contributes ‘Loss and Longing in Alice Munro’s “Queenie” ’ ( BJCS 27:i 21–36). Of these, the most noteworthy are Raymond’s setting of Munro alongside work by Urquhart and Atwood to ‘explore how and why the hysterical mindbody acts as an archive of past emotional traumas and how this might suggest a mode of recovery’ (p. 95), though the foundational story is itself made to bear a very heavy superstructure of the medical/feminist archive; also Copland’s essay (which responds to five other readings of Munro’s story from 2012 and connects with Duncan’s narratological approach) opens up short-story analysis to the broader operations of narrative theory and internal focalization without filling in the ‘gaps’ in the story itself. From a conference in Japan (hence the book title) on region and nation, Marie-Anne Hansen-Pauly’s paper on the short story ‘Too Much Happiness’, ‘Regional Voices and Cultural Translation: The Example of Alice Munro’, is published in East Meets West , edited by J.U. Jacobs, Derrick McLure, and Reiko Aiura (pp. 191–210).
Paolo Javier, ‘Some Notes on bpNichol, (Captain) Poetry, and Comics’ (in Fink and Haden-Sullivan, eds., Reading the Difficulties: Dialogues with Contemporary American Innovative Poetry , pp. 178–87), provides us with a rapid tour of comic-strip art and its ties to contemporary writing, starting with Canadian cartoonist Seth’s comments on how comics have a haiku element of structuring and, like much contemporary poetry, involve design as moving shapes around. He charts bpNichol’s interest in and use of comics, particularly in The Martyrology and The Captain Poetry Poems , noting the quest for non-linear modes of communication and the parodic debunking of Canadian poetry’s macho aspect.
Michael Ondaatje is the most popular subject in the journals this year. David Babcock, ‘Professional Intimacies: Human Rights and Specialized Bodies in Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost ’ ( CulC 87 60–83), tracks how disciplinary and personal differences get in the way of UN human rights ideals but also how the embodiment of the professional provides some means of negotiation. Christopher McVey, ‘Reclaiming the Past: Michael Ondaatje and the Body of History’ ( JML 37:ii 141–60), looks at the escapes and returns around the nation in The English Patient as registered in relation to the body. In ‘Rites of Passage: Moving Hearts and Transforming Memories in Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table ’ ( ArielE 45:i–ii 35–57), Laura Savu Walker considers two modes of memory work: sensory and affective versus verbal and reflective, showing how they mix in this reprise on autobiography, and how the protagonist’s memories becomes linked with stories of others on the voyage to produce an intersubjective identity. Transpersonal relations are also the subject of Shou-Nan Hsu’s ‘From Sexual Love to Peace: Endless Care and Respect for Strangers in Michael Ondaatje’s Secular Love ’ ( CollL 41:iv 111–28). Multicultural identity figured in relation to metaphors of ships and journeys is the focus of Lesley Higgins and Marie-Christine Leps’s ‘Becoming Pluricultural in Ondaatje’s Oronsay’ (in Sabiston and Drummond, eds., pp. 383–94). They focus on The Cat’s Table and Anil’s Ghost . Anil’s Ghost is also one of the texts discussed in ‘The World Novel, Mediated Wars and Exorbitant Witnessing’ by Debjani Ganguly ( CJPLI 1:i 11–31).
Hung Min-Hsiou employs Deleuze and Guattari to read a poem as ‘an artistic model for understanding visual imagery’ in ‘Autopoiesis in P. K. Page’s “Arras”: The Peacock Image as a Vision Machine’ ( TkR 44:ii 123–45). Only the abstract was available, but the typically dense D&G-ese seems to indicate that the article works binaries of new/classical, transformative/machinic, and images of peacock and habit to suggest an ‘ecological’ revisioning.
Robert G. May considers some aspects of social change and how they affected national symbols in ‘ “The Selfsame Welkin Ringing”: F.R. Scott and the Rewriting of “O Canada” ’ ( CanPo 74 12–29).
Louis Cabri also deals with poetry in ‘Concealment and Disclosure: Nancy Shaw’s Scoptocratic ’ ( CapR 3:xxii 120–4). This article was not available to the reviewer at the time of writing.
Kate Marantz, ‘The Work of Ambiguity: Writerly and Readerly Labor in Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries ’ ( Narrative 3:xxii 354–71), details the complexities of fictional autobiography and narrative arrangement and asks, ‘What, finally, do these unstable representations and elusive inconsistencies have to do with Shields’s writerly project in The Stone Diaries , and where do we as readers fit into that project?’ (p. 355). She argues that the gaps and inconsistencies force us to consider what it means to work with text, both as writers and readers, and especially in terms of women’s work and writing new selves.
Meera Atkinson reads Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept against Marguerite Duras’s L’Amour in the context of autobiographical novels in ‘Strange Body Bedfellows: Ecriture Feminine and the Poetics of Trans-Trauma’ ( TextJW 18:i n.p.).
Ruth Panovsky has laboured extensively to produce The Collected Poems of Miriam Waddington: A Critical Edition. Panovsky supplies a critical introduction plus notes on over one thousand pages of Waddington’s work in what will evidently be a standard source for scholarship.
In the Laurier Poetry series, Percy Owen has edited and introduced the work of Tom Wayman under the title The Order in Which We Do Things. Wayman supplies an afterword entitled ‘Work and Silence’—a title interestingly at odds with the poet’s public presence as a writer of social change and co-founder of the Vancouver Industrial Writers’ Union.
Starting with the writer’s defence of small details of text against the depredations of editors, Misao Dean, in ‘I Just Love Ethel Wilson: A Reparative Reading of The Innocent Traveller ’ ( ESC 40:ii-iii 65–81), sets the alleged loss of literary focus in teaching texts against recovering the joy of the well-crafted sentence in Ethel Wilson’s work. Close reading of grammar and style pointing to the tussle between classical realism and modernist disruptions is framed by an engaging personal voice and conceptual underpinning by Sedgwick and Barthes. Dean concludes by saying she cannot teach students to love their texts, but she can ‘perform the rituals of care’ that Wilson herself exercises in her writing
Dennis Duffy takes a bigger-picture literary-historical approach in his ‘ “The High Priest of Trinity College”: Milton Wilson’s Role as Canadian Poetry’s Gatekeeper, 1957–1968’ ( CanL 220 198–202). Wilson published a host of poets in Canadian Forum , and corresponded with many. His relationship with Irving Layton is a focus.
James Bailey provides us with ‘ “Setting Off Fireworks over a Mysterious City”: An Interview with Kathleen Winter’ ( WriC 1:i 7 pp.).
Apart from the theses already cited, work on theatre in 2014 covered a variety of topics. Gint Derk countered the apparent loss of visible interest in AIDS by looking at two plays on the subject: ‘Queer Embodies Absence: HIV/AIDS and the Creation of Cultural Memory in Gordon Armstrong’s Blue Dragons and Daniel McIvor’s The Soldier Dreams ’ ( JCSR 48:ii 122–45), while Ji, Seung-a produced a comparative study of Djanet Sears’s reworking of Shakespeare: ‘A Ghost Named Othello: Race, Women and Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet ’ ( JMED 27:i 93–122). The article is in Korean.
Theatre Survey , despite its subtitle as The Journal of the American Society for Theatre Research , contains commentary of Canadian theatre people and plays. Issue 55:ii includes Joshua Chambers-Letson’s ‘The Inoperative Iphigenia: Race, Law and Emancipation in Michi Barall’s Rescue Me ’ ( ThS 55:ii 145–64), Aaron C. Thomas’s ‘The Queen’s Cell: Fortune and Men’s Eyes and the New Prison Drama’ ( ThS 55:ii 165–84), and Peter Dickinson’s ‘Murdered and Missing Women: Performing Indigenous Cultural Memory in British Columbia and Beyond’ ( ThS 55:ii 202–32). The first deals with how Rescue Me , an Asian American reworking of Iphigenia in Aulis , inserts contemporary issues of race and identity. The second examines the handling of prison culture, homosexuality, and rape in John Herbert Brundage’s 1967 play. The third compares the grim fate of women in George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and The Unnatural and Accidental Woman by Yvette Nolan and Marie Clements with video art by Rebecca Belmore.
‘Ecologies of Dramaturgy’ by Beth Blickers ( ThTop 24:iii 249–53) assesses the work of Brian Quirt, and Klara Kolinska outlines government policies and the historiography of settler–indigenous conflict as background to a textual reading in ‘ “Borders to Freedom”: Sitting Bull’s Precarious Refuge in Sharon Pollack’s Play Walsh ’ ( Interactions 23:i 161–8).
The journal alt.theatre concentrates on community work and in issue 11:ii Will Wiegler discusses theatre work in British Columbia dealing with settler–indigenous reconciliation ( AltT 11:ii 10–15), Diane Conrad interviews David Diamond of Theatre for Living about the touring of the interactive piece, Corporations in Our Heads ( AltT 11:ii 16–20), and Ingrid Hansen looks at the creation of puppet theatre in prisons ( AltT 11:ii 21–5).
Canadian Theatre Review 157, in a section on ‘alternative globalizations’, also canvases plays of social activism, with Susanne Shawyer’s ‘Occupy Newfoundland and the Dramaturgy of Endurance’ ( CTR 157 1, 7–11), Barry Freeman’s interview with Joe Osawabine and Ron Berti of the Debajehmujig Storytellers, ‘On the Road with the Global savages’ ( CTR 157 1, 12–16), and Matt Jones’s ‘After Kandahar: Canadian Theatre’s Engagement with the War in Afghanistan’ ( CTR 157 2, 26–9). The two subsequent issues of Canadian Theatre Review focus on burlesque and digital performance respectively.
4. The Caribbean
Paule Morgan’s monograph The Terror and the Time: Banal Violence and Trauma in Caribbean Discourse , which is ‘historically grounded and socially situated’ (p. 18), is her latest publication related to her interest in trauma theory and Caribbean trauma narratives. Having co-authored the book Writing Rage: Unmasking Violence in Caribbean Discourse , co-edited the journal special issue The Culture of Violence in Trinidad and Tobago , and co-lectured the course ‘Gender Violence and Trauma’, Morgan in The Terror and the Time continues her examination of how the discourses of literature, print media, popular culture, and personal narrative address the traumatic legacies of migration and colonization experienced by New World peoples in the Caribbean. Morgan investigates, too, how these are discourses not only of suffering, violence, rupture, subjugation, and amnesia but also of resistance, recuperation, empowerment, and creativity. ‘Caribbean Narratives of Trauma’ (pp. 2–9), the introductory chapter, references seminal texts by Jean Rhys, George Lamming, Derek Walcott, Erna Brodber, V.S. Naipaul, and Harold Sonny Ladoo, and includes work by Opal Palmer Adisa and Shani Mootoo. Her theoretical frameworks draw upon, among others, Paul Crosthwaite, Laurie Vickroy, Jonathan Boulter, Ron Eyerman, Alexandre Dauge-Roth, Stef Craps, Gert Buelen, Michelle Balaev, Michael Rothberg, and Irene Visser.
The Terror and the Time is divided into two parts. There are four chapters in ‘Ontologies’ which comprise analyses of the slave narrative Zong by M. NourbeSe Philip; the short stories ‘The View from the Terrace’ by Olive Senior and ‘Barbados’ by Paule Marshall, which centre on the ‘persistent personal and institutional legacy of racism and the mechanisms by which it infiltrated and embedded itself in the emerging Caribbean nation’ (p. 20); as well as works by V.S. Naipaul that focus on the Indo-Caribbean immigrant and by Derek Walcott which focus on the aftermath of the Middle Passage. In ‘Social Issues’ myriad topics are addressed: the social impact of poverty; state criminality in fiction by Edwidge Danticat; ageing and Alzheimer’s disease in the novels Cascade by Barbara Lalla and Soucouyant by David Chariandy; childhood trauma, as well as child-shifting as represented in Olive Senior’s short story ‘Bright Thursdays’; and discourses of alcoholism and death, since the ‘pivotal location of rum within Caribbean societies and economies has made it a powerful literary trope’ in popular culture, ‘particularly calypso and chutney rum lyrics’. Analysis of this last topic is supported by interviews with members of Alcoholics Anonymous and fictional texts ‘using phenomenological approaches’ (p. 162). In her afterword, Morgan concludes that ‘Cultural and creative workers, explored in this text among countless others, have intuitively plumbed the deep-rooted, often irrational traumatizing forces at work within the contemporary social order’ (p. 205), yet affirms the existence of a ‘restorative process’, ‘survivors’, ‘cultural certitude’, ‘works of faith’, and a ‘social order of resilient Caribbean nation-states and their diasporic communities’ (p. 206).
The language of literature is the primary focus of Caribbean Literary Discourse: Voice and Cultural Identity in the Anglophone Caribbean co-authored by Barbara Lalla, Jean D’Costa, and Velma Pollard—all creative writers and well published in the areas of linguistics and literary criticism. The text in two parts—‘Fusing Forms and Languages: The Jamaican Experience’ and ‘Language and Discourse in Caribbean Literary Texts’—draws on essays written individually by the three writers, some having previously been published elsewhere. Caribbean Literary Discourse examines the development of vernacular discourses by creative writers within the colonizing context in which official Standard English was used in government, economics, and high culture. Among the authors’ major concerns are how language choice and code-switching between Standard English and English-lexicon creole convey nationalist and identity politics, and self-representation; the challenges of teaching code-switching’s rhetorical and literary effects in the traditional education system, as well as code-switching’s implications for identity in a postcolonial society that is multilingual and multicultural. They also consider intertextual linkages in postcolonial and diasporic literatures and the well-established oral-scribal culture in the region. The five chapters of Part I include two by D’Costa on literature as a survival technique in eighteenth-century Jamaica (pp. 17–41), and the Caribbean novelist’s use of language as forming ‘A Search for a Literary Medium’ (pp. 68–92); two by Lalla on the development phases of Jamaican literary discourse (pp. 42–67), which include ventriloquism, censorship, alternation, and expansion (p. 57), and ‘Authority and Identity in the Development of Caribbean Literary Discourse’ in terms of the respectability of creole usage (pp. 101–12); and one by Pollard on ‘Writing Ourselves into the Literature of the Caribbean’ (pp. 93–100).
Part II comprises ten chapters in which D’Costa addresses problems faced in writing children’s fiction as they relate to genre, audience, and artistic imagination (pp. 113–21), and language variation in the dialect poetry of famed Jamaican performance poet Louise Bennett (pp. 157–90). Pollard’s four chapters deal with ‘A Tribute to the Folk’ (pp. 122–30), an analysis of the cultural connections in the novel Praise Song for the Widow by Paule Marshall, who is of Barbadian ancestry (pp. 143–56); ‘Mixing Codes and Mixing Voices’ in Trinidadian Earl Lovelace’s Commonwealth Prize-winning novel Salt (pp. 203–12), and the ‘Mothertongue Voices’ in the prose and poetic fiction, respectively, of Jamaicans Olive Senior and Lorna Goodison (pp. 221–31). Lalla’s chapters examine ‘Collapsing Certainty and the Discourse of Re-Memberment’ in Trinidadian Merle Hodge’s novels For the Life of Laetitia and the classic Bildungsroman , Crick Crack, Monkey (pp. 131–42), Guyanese poet Martin Carter’s ‘University of Hunger’ as regards ‘Conceptual Perspectives on Time and Timelessness’ (pp. 191–212), the ‘Oral-Scribal Continuum’ in Lovelace’s Salt (pp. 213–20), and ‘The Facetiness Factor: Theorizing Caribbean Space in Narrative’ (pp. 232–50), which deals primarily with Nalo Hopkinson’s speculative fiction Midnight Robber and in which the ‘Jamaican term, facetiness , [is] an essential attitudinal position in Caribbean literature [and] expresses a deep-in-the-bone sense of self that vividly resists any outside inducements to conform because conformity is felt to require a denial of the self’ (p. 232).
The anglophone Caribbean has a strong tradition of literary production that creates indelible intertextual linkages between the region’s oral and scribal cultures. Carol Bailey’s A Poetics of Performance: The Oral-Scribal Aesthetic in Anglophone Caribbean Fiction brings together work by literary and cultural theorist Gordon Rohlehr, linguist and literary scholar Barbara Lalla, and others to provide an authoritative work on the subject. It explores the ways in which novels and short stories are impacted by and infused with the region’s culture of orature-performance which includes storytelling, calypso, and reggae. These are born of the folk and the urban working-class, and Bailey—working with the terms ‘poetics of performance’ and ‘performing fiction’—demonstrates how they are used as devices which structurally underpin Caribbean prose fiction and how they are grounded in a woman-centred poetics.
The five body chapters are framed by an introduction and afterword. ‘Opening Acts: Scholarly and Literary Precursors to Performing Fiction’ discusses Samuel Selvon’s classic novel of migration The Lonely Londoners  and Vic Reid’s New Day . Thenceforth, Bailey analyses selected works of Earl Lovelace, Marlon James, Merle Collins, Marie-Elena John, and Colin Channer, namely, The Wine of Astonishment , The Dragon Can’t Dance , ‘Joebell and America’, The Book of Night Women , The Colour of Forgetting , Unburnable , and ‘How to Beat a Child the Right and Proper Way’. Lovelace’s three texts are each examined in separate chapters. Collins’s and John’s novels are studied in ‘(Re)membering: The Power of Stories’, and attention is given to James’s novel and Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment in ‘Inter-Performance and the Woman-Centred Poetics’, while the latter’s most popular and canonical novel, The Dragon Can’t Dance , is addressed in ‘Affirming the Female “Subject Person”: Rereading Gender Discourses’. Lastly, the concept of the ‘Globalizing Yard’ in the short stories by Lovelace and Channer is examined.
Of his thirteen chapters in Caribbean Empire: The Impact of Culture, Literature and History historian Jerome Teelucksingh dedicates two to a discussion on Caribbean literature and one on the collected essays of a Caribbean-born British writer: ‘Spirituality and Superstition in West Indian Novels’ (pp. 29–40), ‘West Indian Writers and Cultural Chauvinism’ (pp. 189–96), and ‘Distorted Portrayals in Caryl Phillips’s A New World Order ’ (pp. 177–88). In what amounts to a justification for his multidisciplinary book—and for its title Caribbean Empire , which may seem oxymoronic—Teelucksingh affirms in his two-page introduction that: ‘Culture, activism, academia and religion have not been on separate paths of development. These spheres regularly intersect and have enriched the West Indies’ (p. 2); and ‘For centuries, the Caribbean (or West Indies) has been a major contributor to global developments and progress’ (p. 1). Since religion and spirituality constitute the ethos of all civilizations and empires of the world, Teelucksingh’s approach is apropos since ‘In the Caribbean there is a widespread belief in superstitions, folklore and myths [and] West Indian novelists have captured some of the superstition and spirituality which is prevalent in the region. The Caribbean society is one of adaptation, acculturation and assimilation. This could explain the mixture of religious beliefs with superstitions and local practices’ (p. 29).
Chosen texts in which these elements and processes are depicted are V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas , The Mystic Masseur , and A Flag on the Island ; Jan Carew’s Black Midas ; Ismith Khan’s The Jumbie Bird and The Obeah Man ; Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment , and Ian McDonald’s The Humming-Bird Tree . Naipaul and Khan reappear alongside C.L.R. James, Edgar Mittleholzer, Samuel Selvon, Dionne Brand, Lawrence Scott, Roger Mais, and Michael Anthony in Teelucksingh’s outlining of the various forms of Caribbean masculinity and male chauvinism portrayed in the literature. It is unsurprising that Teelucksingh devotes an entire chapter to this topic in his exploration of ‘empire’ since the construction of Caribbean masculinities and chauvinistic behaviour is a legacy of the region’s history of slavery, indentureship, and British colonialism. In his chapter on St Kittian-born Phillips, who is ‘based outside the Caribbean [and] views the world through a postcolonial lens’ (p. 177), Teelucksingh’s objective is to offer alternative viewpoints. He begins with the questionable statement that ‘Caryl Phillips is not well known among Caribbean readers’ (p. 177) and critiques what he sees as the many shortcomings in Phillips’s vision for a new world order in terms of ‘Race/Ethnicity and Racism’, ‘Gender, Class and Culture’, and ‘Pie in the Sky? Practical Solutions?’, even though he acknowledges ‘ A New World Order skilfully dissects the challenges to the status quo embedded in the mediums of activism, song, literature, ideology and film’ (p. 177).
In Jason Frydman’s Sounding the Break: African American and Caribbean Routes to World Literature , the chapter devoted to Caribbean literature in English is ‘Dialectics of World Literature: Derek Walcott between Intimacy and Iconicity’ (pp. 82–98). Frydman begins by citing ‘Venerable Walcott critic Edward Baugh’ as an example of a reader who is exhausted ‘with the critical debates that frame’ Walcott’s work (p. 82). These debates include a focus on ‘critical oppositions he dutifully enumerates: Europe and Africa; oral traditions and literary canons; provincialism and cosmopolitanism; poetic myth and positivist history’ (p. 82). The chapter then ‘tracks how [Walcott] lays bare, as well as fashions his participation in, a commodified field of world literature that constantly threatens to reduce his work to its most exchangeable, emblematic aspects [and how he] recuperates a recalcitrant intimacy in the longue durée of world literature, embodied in practices of recitation recursively shuttling, “from hand to mouth,” between elite and vernacular idioms and contexts’ (pp. 82–3). Frydman argues his point by providing examples of Walcott’s poetry, drama, and essays as well as interviews, and by charting his Irish, Greek, Caribbean, and other influences.
An entire chapter is also dedicated to a discussion on Walcott in The Haitian Revolution in the Literary Imagination: Radical Horizons, Conservative Constraints by Philip Kaisary. ‘The Aesthetics of Cyclical Pessimism: Derek Walcott’s Haitian Trilogy ’ (pp. 135–56) examines the plays Henri Christophe , Drums and Colours , and The Haitian Earth , which before their 2002 publication in a single volume ‘were largely forgotten works and hard to find’ (p. 135). Kaisary examines how these three plays (packaged as ‘Revolution as Endless Tyranny and the High Style of Henri Christophe ’, ‘ Drums and Colours : The Great Tapestry of Caribbean History’, and ‘ The Haitian Earth : Independence Discredited’) exemplify Walcott’s ‘reading of Haitian history as an endlessly repeating cycle of tragic violence and tyranny’ (p. 135) and his ‘profound scepticism about revolution’, unlike Aimé Césaire, C.L.R. James, Langston Hughes, and René Depestre, who portrayed the Haitian Revolution as ‘open[ing] the gates of black liberation and serv[ing] as an example to anticolonial movements’ (p. 137). James’s The Black Jacobins is analysed in the chapter ‘Radical Universalism: The Haitian Revolution, Aimé Césaire and C.L.R. James’ (pp. 21–36) as recuperating the revolution, which exemplified agency for black intellectuals and activists engaged in anti-colonial movements and struggles for liberation (p. 36).
The significance of place, space, and geography in Caribbean literature is well established as it relates to notions such as contestation, self-determination, belonging, home, and forced and voluntary migration. Locating the Destitute: Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction by Stanka Radović employs spatial theory to investigate representations of space and place, and the literal and metaphorical meanings of the house in selected texts. Those from the anglophone Caribbean are analysed in the chapters ‘ “No Admittance”: V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas ’ (pp. 77–104) and ‘Heterotopia of Old Age in Beryl Gilroy’s Frangipani House ’ (pp. 128–53). Preceding chapters are ‘Caribbean Spatial Metaphors’ (pp. 27–47) and ‘A House of One’s Own: Individual and Communal Spaces in the Caribbean “Yard Novel” ’ (pp. 48–76). Radović explores how representations of Caribbean space in the novels she analyses ‘are always “both/and” rather than “either/or” [and how space is] a representative image and … a specific material fact [and] Caribbean discourse, with its persistent focus on its own contested spatiality, opens a unique possibility for reconsidering and broadening the scope of spatial theory’. She adds: ‘As they reflect on their region and its history, Caribbean authors and theorists address the inherent complexity of space itself—as image, concept, and experience; projection, utopia, and fact’ (p. 27). For her analysis of the ‘yard novel’, with its destitute, socially disadvantaged characters who live in slum environments, Radović discusses C.L.R. James’s seminal Minty Alley and necessarily includes his short story ‘Triumph’ as well; V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas , The Enigma of Arrival , and Miguel Street ; Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance ; and Roger Mais’s The Hills Were Joyful Together . For Beryl Gilroy’s Frangipani House , focus is placed on the house as an ‘exclusionary space’ for the aged ‘unproductive’ and ‘isolated’ body. The book overall explores heterotopias of space, social reality, and identity.
In Bodies and Bones: Feminist Rehearsal and Imagining Caribbean Belonging Tanya L. Shields uses her own methodology, called ‘feminist rehearsal’. In ‘Reading Caribbean Resistance through Feminist Rehearsal’, ‘Rehearsing with Ghosts’, ‘Their Bones Would Reject Yours’, ‘Hope and Infinity’, ‘Signs of Sycorax’, ‘Rehearsing Indigeneity’, and ‘Rehearsal and Proxy-formance’ she draws on sources that include prose, poetry, drama, and the visual arts and on anglophone Caribbean writers like Pauline Melville, Fred D’Aguiar, and Grace Nichols. Privileging ‘multiple readings of resistance, rebellion and challenge in the Caribbean context through a feminist analytical lens’ (p. 1) that uses the various meanings of ‘rehearsal’ as repetition, re-examination, revision, and orality/physicality (p. 2), Shields examines the intersectionalities of Caribbean gendered and racialized bodies, particularly those of black women. She claims: ‘I invoke bodies and bones as a vivid reminder of the ways in which Caribbean bodies matter; how the tensions that arise in and between those gendered, classed, colored, and sexualized bodies alter, sometimes disappear, and often are reshuffled, lost, and reclaimed’ (p. 2).
Rachel L. Mordecai’s Citizenship Under Pressure: The 1970s in Jamaican Literature and Culture is the first in-depth examination of a definitive period in Jamaican history that saw a stark increase in crime and violence, political and class upheavals, race tensions, black consciousness, emigration by the middle and upper strata of the society, and cultural production. As Curdella Forbes notes in the book’s blurb, it is the ‘period [that] remains the most significant historical moment in the consciousness of Jamaicans at home and in diaspora’. In providing examples of literary representations of this period, Mordecai discusses Michelle Cliff’s novel in ‘Exile, Race and Revolution: No Telephone to Heaven ’, Brian Meeks’s in ‘The Heady Logic of Boundary-Crossing: Paint the Town Red ’, Garfield Ellis’s in ‘Friends, Fathers, and Tribal Politics: For Nothing At All ’, and devotes an entire chapter to homosexuality and sexual citizenship in ‘Sexuality and the Jamaican Citizen’. In one section of this chapter she analyses Patricia Powell’s novel under the heading ‘Masculinity and Marriage in the 1970s: A Small Gathering of Bones ’, a novel that addresses not only same-sex partnerships, public sex, and homophobia but also HIV/AIDS.
(b) Collections of Essays
The Cross-Dressed Caribbean: Writing, Politics, Sexualities , edited by Maria Cristina Fumagalli, Bénédicte Ledent, and Roberto del Valle Alcalá, studies a region where the ‘politics of clothing have always had a strong symbolic function’ (p. 3) and where ‘Cross-dressers, hermaphrodites, transgendered people, and transsexuals haunt Caribbean literature’ (p. 14). The collection of essays covers all the linguistic blocs of the region. Four essays discuss the literature of the English-speaking Caribbean. In the first section of the text, entitled ‘Revolutions in Drag’, Chantal Zabus’s ‘ “Cyaan Live Split”: Under-Dressing, Over-Performing, Transgendering, and the Uses of Camouflage in Michelle Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven ’ (pp. 57–73) takes a look at how ‘nationalism, construed as a resistance to American imperialism, is performed by a “queer” faction, whose bathetic attempts to engender a new nation fail yet augur multiple transfigurations’ (p. 57). This is followed by the section ‘ “Passing” through Time’, which includes Lee Easton and Kelly Hewson’s ‘ “Love the Drag … but Your Purse Is on Fire!”: Cross-Dressings in the Religious Imaginary of Aelred’s Sin ’ (pp. 108–26), which examines how the novel ‘allows for cross-dressing to be viewed also as a means for repair and redemption, which might counter-balance the forms of hegemonic masculinities that dominate the heteropatriarchal space of the Caribbean’ (p. 111). In this section, too, ‘Cross-Dressing and the Caribbean Imaginary in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber ’ by Wendy Knepper (pp. 140–58) investigates how ‘Hopkinson’s queer fictions not only challenge hegemonic constructions of gender and sexuality but also explore new frontiers for identity formation, citizenship, and community [and how] Hopkinson’s narrative employs the motif of nomadic cross-dressing to express alternative constructions of identity and community through a virtualized Caribbean queer imaginary’ (pp. 140, 141). Lizabeth Paravisini’s ‘Helen in Her Yellow Dress: Dressing, Undressing, and Cross-Dressing in the Literature of the Contemporary Caribbean’ (p. 220–38), in which Derek Walcott’s Omeros and Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother are among the texts analysed, is found in the fourth section, ‘Symptoms and Detours’. Paravisini cites Christine M.E. Guth when she says that the cross-dressing presented in these texts is a ‘creative tool for subverting social and racial stereotypes and creating individual identity’ (p. 221).
In Section III, ‘Theories in the Flesh’, two creative writers offer a fictional piece and an autobiographical essay: Lawrence Scott, whose novel Aelred’s Sin is mentioned above, writes about young boys’ erotic playfulness and crossings-over in ‘Tales Told under the San Fernando Hill’ (pp. 186–202) and Shani Mootoo reminisces about the ‘queer’ East Indian experience in ‘On Becoming an Indian Starboy’ (pp. 167–72). In setting the background for the study, the introduction outlines topics such as ‘Caribbean Cross-Dressing and the Politics of Clothing’, ‘Caribbean Cross-Dressing, Masquerading, and Carnival’, ‘Caribbean Cross-Dressing, Biopolitics, Mimicry, and Performance’, and ‘Caribbean Cross-Dressing: Repetition with a Difference’. The book argues that cross-dressing is integrally linked to challenging oppressions arising from the region’s history of slavery, indentureship, colonialism, and patriarchy.
Giselle Rampaul and Barbara Lalla’s edited publication, Postscripts: Caribbean Perspectives on the British Canon from Shakespeare to Dickens , contributes to a growing interest in Caribbean rereadings of British literature. It follows on from Lalla’s Postcolonialisms: Caribbean Rereading of Medieval English Discourse and focuses on poetry and prose fiction published by writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, James Froude, Charles Kingsley, Anthony Trollope, John Edwards Jenkins, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens. Postscripts comprises seven chapters preceded by an introduction co-written by the editors in which they argue that, although ‘Caribbean re-visioning of British literature is well established in creative works where it expresses itself in rewriting and writing back’, Postscripts provides a unique and valuable contribution because for ‘the most part … critique of the British canon has been treated as irrelevant to Caribbean literary theory … [A] Caribbean approach to a range of works in the British canon is yet to be produced [and] little has been done to integrate Caribbean approaches to British literature or any other canon into the body of Caribbean letters’ (p. 2).
Lalla’s individual chapter is on ‘Dickens and Others: Metastance and Re-membering’ (pp. 8–26), while Rampaul offers two: ‘ “How Blest Am I … !”: Colonial Desire in Selected Poetry by John Donne’ (pp. 27–42) and ‘Strange Creatures and Fantastic Worlds: The Other in Selected Nineteenth-Century Children’s Texts’ (pp. 154–86). Genevieve Ruth Phagoo takes a look at the ‘Recovering Nation, Recovering Woman: Shakespeare’s Cressida and the Imperial Attic’ (pp. 43–76), and Rhonda Kareen Harrison explores ‘Far-Off Places and the Invention of Englishness: Rereading Robinson Crusoe as Romance’ (pp. 79–97). Jak Peake’s ‘Froude, Kingsley and Trollope: Wandering Eyes in a Trinidadian Landscape’ (pp. 98–123) and J. Vijay Maharaj’s ‘A Study of the Imperial Gaze. Jenkins’s Lutchmee and Dilloo: A Study of West Indian Life’ (pp. 124–53) are the other essays in the collection. Postscripts reveals how Shakespearian to Victorian representations of the Caribbean were part of the British imperialist, nation- and empire-building enterprise. With Caribbean rereadings of these texts as those presented in Postscripts scholars are offered ‘new critical perspectives on the process and meaning of canon formation, and on early representations of the Caribbean in the British literary tradition’ (p. 7).
In Extravagant Postcolonialism: Modernism and Modernity in Anglophone Fiction 1958–1988 , Brian May challenges the assumption that postcolonial texts fit a certain model. Instead, these texts treat with their protagonists’ subjectivities, and they do so by refashioning modernism in individual ways. In chapter 1, ‘Memorials to Modernity: Postcolonial Pilgrimage in V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie’ (pp. 56–75), May compares the ways in which An Area of Darkness and The Satanic Verses ‘depict contemporary pilgrimages that bring the issue of individuality into sharp relief’ giving an opportunity to examine ‘the Westernized, modernized self’ (p. 58). Chapter 3, ‘Modernism Re(d-)dressed: Interrogativity and Individuality in Jean Rhys’ (pp. 104–30), moves to an examination of the characters of, and the interactions between, Antoinette and the Rochester in Wide Sargasso Sea . May argues that their ‘healthy individuality’ is the ‘fruit of social dialectic—significant personal relations with an authentic and challenging other’ (p. 104). He also explores the ways in which two characters from such different backgrounds and world-views react to each other through the medium of dress.
In What Is a Classic? Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon , Ankhi Mukherjee examines so-called ‘classic’ texts alongside postcolonial texts directly influenced by them. She shows the ways in which the idea of the ‘classic’ is formed and perpetuated by its relationships with other texts that eventually contribute to the emergence of another canon. In her chapter 2, ‘What Is a Novel? Conrad, Said, Naipaul’ (pp. 50–78), Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is examined alongside Wilson Harris’s Palace of the Peacock and several of V.S. Naipaul’s novels. Chapter 3, ‘ “Best of the World’s Classics”: Derek Walcott between Classics and the Classic’ (pp. 79–108), Walcott’s oeuvre forms the basis of an examination of canonical texts such as The Odyssey and Robinson Crusoe . In discussing Walcott’s allusions to these ‘classic’ texts, Mukherjee establishes some of the criteria for the establishment of literary canons.
Naipaul is again the subject of Annabel Patterson’s chapter, ‘V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River ’, in The International Novel (pp. 111–29). Here, Naipaul’s ‘nuanced and even sympathetic’ (p. 117) construction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is discussed. His travel novel, Patterson argues, allows for an ‘extraordinary mixture of minute observation and broad sociological analysis’ (p. 124), even if there is also a certain characteristic pessimism about Africa in Naipaul’s writing.
Two chapters on Caribbean literature also appeared in Kinana Hamam’s Confining Spaces, Resistant Subjectivities: Towards a Metachronous Discourse of Literary Mapping and Transformation in Postcolonial Women’s Writing . Chapter 4, ‘Erna Brodber’s Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home’ (pp. 48–74), ‘focuses on issues of diversity, complexity, and the non-linearity of women’s transition’ (p. 48). Hamam considers the repressive spaces that women inhabit and the ways in which their attempts at resistance and subversion manifest in complex narratives that move from fragmentation to coherence. Theme and style are revealed to be interrelated in the novel. Chapter 6, ‘Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea’ (pp. 104–36), also examines Antoinette’s attempts to transcend the confines of her gender and race in a repressive society. Issues of ‘female dislocation, hybridity, internal and external colonialism, and preoccupation with liminal identities’ (pp. 135–6) are the focus of this chapter.
Susana M. Morris’s Close Kin and Distant Relatives: The Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature discusses ‘family, ambivalence, and notions of respectability’ (p. 4) and devotes three chapters to Caribbean writing. In chapter 1, ‘A Wide Confraternity: Diaspora and Family in Paula Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow ’ (pp. 17–44), Morris argues for ‘an ethic of community’ (p. 19) that comes in the form of female familial support and a heritage that grounds the characters despite their move to diasporic spaces and their encounters with ‘racism, sexism, and classism in the post-civil rights era’ (p. 44). Chapter 2, ‘Sins of the Mother? Ambivalence, Agency, and the Family Romance in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John ’ (pp. 45–73), focuses on family relationships that often result in alienation as much as in affection. Morris explores this through the fraught mother–daughter relationship in Kincaid’s semi-autobiographical novel. Finally, chapter 3, ‘Daughters of This Land: Genealogies of Resistance in Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory ’ (pp. 74–102), draws attention to the ways in which ‘the cult of virginity’ (p. 76) was used to perpetuate dominant and repressive patriarchal structures even in matriarchal families in post-Duvalier Haiti.
There are two chapters on Caribbean literature in Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’: 1. Diasporas and Cultures of Migrations , edited by Judith Misrahi-Barak and Claudine Raynaud. Bénédicte Ledent’s ‘Mind the Gaps: Caryl Phillips’s In the Falling Snow (2009) and the Generational Approach to the Black Diaspora’ (pp. 161–75) uses Phillips’s novel to reflect upon and interrogate concepts deployed in diaspora studies such as ‘migration, displacement, and unbelonging’ (p. 162), especially as they manifest in intergenerational gaps. In ‘Masculinities Out of Line: Navigating Queerness and Diasporic Identity in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night (pp. 323–44), Christine Vogt-William examines the similarities between the Sri Lankan and Trinidadian novels’ treatment of queerness in the diasporic context. The marginalization that stems from the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and the movements across boundaries associated with migration, allow for comparisons to be made with the situation of characters who do not conform to heteronormative sexual identities. However, as Vogt-William argues, ‘alternative readings of masculinity’ can result in ‘new forms of agency’ and help to shape ‘more inclusive and empowering spaces for those heretofore marginalized and disenfranchised’ (p. 343).
(c) Journal Articles
The preoccupation with history among Caribbean writers continues to influence scholastic studies. These works often centre on the intersections between writing and memory, as well as the various kinds of discourses that contribute to a sense of self. For example, in ‘Building the Neo-Archive: Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return ’ ( Meridians 12:i 149–71), Erica L. Johnson explores the importance of the archives as a gateway to memory in Brand’s memoir about her childhood in Trinidad and her move to Canada. By examining the ways in which various types of discourse (including journal entries, missives, newspapers, geographers’ logs, popular culture, films, and postcolonial writing) speak to one another, Johnson shows how texts influence and construct not only personal memory, but also colonial historiography. April Shemak’s article, ‘Re/writing Reconciliation in Merle Collins’s Angel ’ ( CarQ 60:i 42–60), also examines Collins’s rewriting of the Grenada revolution as a ‘textual confrontation of trauma and memory’ (p. 45). Zetta Elliott’s memoir-essay, ‘ “All Land is One Land Under the Sea”: Mapping Memory in Canada and the Caribbean’ ( CarQ 60:i 61–73), is a personal account of the influence of both geographical spaces on her own life and writing.
In her article, ‘Writing Possibilities of the Past: Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr Potter ’ ( Discourse 36:i 71–86), Antonia Purk argues that following the mandate from Edouard Glissant to pursue the colonial past that has not yet been written into history, Kincaid’s narrator becomes an author of the text that re-creates her past, her family history, and Antigua’s colonial history according to her own terms. Through historiopoesis, the re-creation of a past that has been lost ‘produces space for contemporary identity, which bestows a validity on the fictional narrative equal to actual recoveries of the past’ (p. 73). Similar arguments are made in another article by Purk, ‘Multiplying Perspectives through Text and Time: Jamaica Kincaid’s Writing of the Collective’ ( COPAS 15:i 1–14). In this article, however, a greater range of Kincaid’s texts is examined to show how ‘narrative repetition and revision’ (p. 12) are used as strategies for engaging with the past. In another article, ‘What’s in a Name? The Resurrection of the Author in Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother ’ ( CSLT 12 44–52), Luciano Cabral also focuses on Kincaid’s Autobiography of My Mother , drawing attention to the challenges of reading autobiography especially in the face of Roland Barthes’s call for the death of the author.
In ‘ “Dead Might Not Be Dead”: Milton in the Americas and Jamaica Kincaid’s Flat World’ ( MP 111:iv 862–78), Ian Bickford examines the influence of Milton on Kincaid’s writing. Although he argues that Kincaid’s understanding of the seventeenth-century poet is shaped by American reception of his work, he also reverses the gaze to examine how Kincaid’s writing affects American readings of Milton. Both writers’ work can therefore be seen as a ‘palimpsest, a writing-over’ (p. 878). Also focusing on Kincaid, but comparing her work to that of Toni Morrison, Sam Vásquez, in ‘In Her Own Image: Literary and Visual Representations of Girlhood in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John ’ ( Meridians 12:i 58–87), examines the ways in which these two writers engage in expanding critical discourses on gender, identity, and visual culture in transnational narratives. By comparing the work of an African American writer with that of an Afro-Caribbean one, Vasquez argues that ‘both authors demonstrate how black women in different cultural contexts write themselves into visual and historical records’ (p. 60).
A 2004 interview with Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison, ‘Swaddling: On Lorna Goodison’s Womanly Poetics’ ( JWIL 22:ii 26–41), provides the framework for Christian Campbell’s musings on her ‘womanly poetics’ since, unlike other Caribbean writers who write critical work thereby providing ‘a context and a lexicon in which their creative work can be assessed’ (p. 26), Goodison only does creative writing.
Issues of national identity, especially in the context of multicultural and multiracial populations, were also the subject of some studies in 2014. In ‘Translative and Opaque: Multilingual Caribbean Writing in Derek Walcott and Monchoachi’ ( SmAx 18:iii 90–106), for example, Kavita Ashana Singh challenges the assumption and widely touted ideal of seamless multiculturalism in the Caribbean by showing how multilingualism and translation expose the problem at the heart of this mixing. Caribbean writers’ deployment of creoles in their works demands ‘constant translation’ (p. 91) by their readers. By comparing the work of Walcott, an anglophone writer, with that of Monchoachi, a francophone writer, Singh shows how the sometimes opaque quality of both writers’ literary creoles demands a more rigorous approach to thinking about Caribbean multiculturalism and decolonization.
Tzarina T. Prater focuses on the ways in which Chinese Jamaicans negotiate their identities in the context of Jamaican nationalism in ‘Labrish and Mooncakes: The Meeting of Vernaculars in the Work of Easton Lee’ ( SmAx 8:i 149–60). Taking as its focus the cultural interactions at the Chinese shop, this essay examines the challenges of maintaining individuality while also participating in the wider context of a national identity that participates in ‘site-specific orientalis[m]’ (p. 150). More specifically, Prater examines Lee’s use of rhetorical strategies and vernaculars that reflect and complicate the position of the Chinese diasporic subject in Jamaica.
Child abuse, family violence, and homophobia in Jamaica are put against the backdrop of the nation’s colonial past of slavery and colonial violence in Staceyann Chin’s memoir. Jocelyn Fenton Stitt, ‘Disciplining the Unruly (National) Body in Staceyann Chin’s The Other Side of Paradise ’ ( SmAx 18:iii 1–17), explores Chin’s precarious subject positions of liminality through her biracial heritage and her lesbian identity. The question of where such subjects fit into wider national discourses ‘dominated by a larger interconnected system of power and control’ (p. 17) is the focus of the article.
Laura Barrio-Vilar, ‘ “All o’ We is One”? Migration, Citizenship, and Black Nativism in the Postcolonial Era’ ( Callaloo 37:i 89–111), uses the African diaspora as a case study to explore issues of citizenship and belonging in a globalized society founded on migration, naturalization, and blurred cultural and political borders. Focusing on Paule Marshall’s Daughters , she argues that ‘Marshall’s story … confronts us with new trends of Black nativism and the urge to develop a diasporic subjectivity that can overcome the challenges of transnational experiences’ (p. 89). In ‘Caribbean Women Writing: Social Media, Spirituality and the Arts of Solitude in Edwidge Danticat’s Haiti’ ( CQ 60:i 1–22), Curdella Forbes also examines the traumas that arise out of several kinds of ‘crossings’ (p. 3) associated with globalization. Taking the 2010 Haiti earthquake as her point of departure, Forbes ponders on ‘spaces of isolation’ and solitude in Danticat’s memoir, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.
The relationship between capitalism and the environment was explored in 2014 as well. In ‘Spectres in the Forest: Gothic Form and World-Ecology in Edgar Mittelholzer’s My Bones and My Flute ’ ( SmAx 18:ii 53–68), Michael Niblett extends previous readings of the novel. Mittelholzer’s use of ‘Euro-American gothic tropes’ (p. 54) in his Caribbean novel ‘illuminates the particular inflection of capitalist modernity in Guyana’ (p. 54) as it reproduces but also challenges stereotypes about the Caribbean. Through its particular engagement with the Guyanese landscape, the political regime of the plantation system, and the sugar industry, the novel also allows for more general observations about how it fits into the world ecological systems of capitalist modernity. Examining representations of the Caribbean landscape in the work of Jamaica Kincaid and Jean Rhys in ‘On Representations of Nature and Women in Caribbean Literature’ ( Hitotsubashi 55 27–33), Midori Saito also argues that ‘the workings of capitalism’ are responsible for ‘the dichotomy between nature and civilization’ as much as they are for gender and racial categories (p. 27).
In ‘The Clothing Economy of Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance ’ ( JCL 49:i 81–98), Hella Bloom Cohen focuses on the novel’s chapter 3 to explore the significance of the handicraft tradition of Carnival costume-making in the context of a growing capitalist economy. Placing her emphasis on the dragon costume in the novel, Cohen argues that clothing reflects the social condition in its role as symbolic currency where real capital is absent. The dragon costume is read not only as symbol of ancestral memory, but also as a gateway to understanding how issues of production, power, and the global capitalist economy affect the society of Lovelace’s novel.
Revisionist readings of early anglophone Caribbean literature also featured in 2014. In ‘Amongst the Unbelievable: Race, Faith and Reason in Selected Writings by V.S. Naipaul’ ( Literator 35:i 1–9), Robert Balfour reconsiders four of the writer’s travelogues, arguing that Naipaul’s own subject positioning problematizes representations of Islam. For Balfour, Naipaul offers a ‘more compassionate perspective on the relationship between faith and political transition in developing societies’ (p. 1). The figure of Annie Palmer is revisited in Jennifer Donahue’s examination of four textual representations of her: ‘The Ghost of Annie Palmer: Giving Voice to Jamaica’s “White Witch of Rose Hall” ’ ( JCL 49:ii 243–56). Looking at folklore and obeah as Palmer’s instruments of manipulation especially in a context of violence and sexual repression, Donahue argues that she was a symbol of resistance, subversion, and female power.
Jane Bryce’s ‘Adventures in Form: “Outsider” Fiction in the Caribbean’ ( JWIL 22:ii 7–25) interrogates the West Indian canon that was formed in the early years of independence and tended to include anti-colonial realist novels. She argues that, with the emergence of new writers and the development and proliferation of other genres of writing (including ‘popular’ genres such as the romance, crime fiction, and speculative fiction), the canon has to be re-examined and understood, especially in the context of the publishing industry.
A few articles also made connections between Caribbean and Canadian writing in the context of diaspora cultures. In ‘The Black Atlantic Meets the Black Pacific: Multimodality in Kamau Brathwaite and Wayde Compton’ ( Callaloo 37:ii 389–403), Heather Smyth compares the work of a Caribbean and a Canadian poet. She draws attention to the ways in which their similar multimodal approaches (their mixing of the sound, textual, visual, and performative aspects of the work) contribute to ‘the ongoing evolution of concepts of “race,” culture, and diaspora’ (p. 389). The relationship between poetry and sound in Brathwaite’s work was also the subject of Andrew Rippeon’s article, ‘Bebop, Broadcast, Podcast, Audioglyph: Scanning Kamau Braithwaite’s Mediated Sounds’ ( ConL 55:ii 369–401).
The presence and significance of Jews in slave and neo-slave narratives is the subject of Sarah Phillips Casteel’s ‘Port and Plantation Jews in Contemporary Slave Fiction of the Americas’ ( Callaloo 37:i 112–29). By comparing the slave experience of victimization and exploitation with that of the Jews who owned them, Casteel adopts a ‘multidirectional’ (p. 112) approach to understanding the relationship between these two groups in works by Caribbean and Canadian writers.
Taking as her study Michelle Cliff’s and Caryl Phillips’s ‘cross-cultural engagements with the Holocaust’ (p. 813), Sarah Phillips Casteel, ‘Writing Under the Sign of Anne Frank: Creolized Holocaust Memory in Michelle Cliff and Caryl Phillips’ ( MFS 60:iv 796–820), also compares the ways in which these Caribbean-born writers’ invocations of Anne Frank are localized to Caribbean and diaspora settings (especially as they relate to histories of oppression), but also add to the ‘cosmopolitization’ (p. 797) of the Holocaust. She also draws attention to ‘the deep historical presence of the Sephardic Jews in the Dutch and British Caribbean’ (p. 813) as another important frame of reference for her analysis.
The comparative thrust through multimodality continues in Wai Chee Dimock’s ‘Epic Relays: C.L.R. James, Herman Melville, Frank Stella’ ( Comparatist 38[Oct. 2014] 148–57). Dimock argues that literary texts can be read as ‘an open-ended input network’ (p. 148). Because texts arise in the context of a literary history and have relationships with other texts, no text is ever complete or discrete, but rather is one phase in a relay. Using the epic as a model through which to link texts by James, Melville, and Stella, Dimock shows how their structures that follow certain patterns of mixed media can allow for intertextual readings.
Also using genre as a way to understand James, Raj G. Chetty, in ‘The Tragicomedy of Anticolonial Overcoming: Toussaint Louverture and The Black Jacobins on Stage’ ( Callaloo 37:i 69–88), argues that the use of tragicomedy in C.L.R. James’s play prevents it from being caught in its context of anti-colonialism. Instead, the play takes on wider relevance even ‘in the face of tragic postcolonial failures’ (p. 71).
In ‘Metafictions of Development: The Enigma of Arrival , You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town , and the Place of the World in World Literature’ ( JCL 49:i 63–80), Kara Lee Donnelly compares the work of V.S. Naipaul and Zoë Wicomb, arguing that both writers use the Bildungsroman genre and their literary protagonists to reflect their own lives as writers. The literary market reflects global inequalities but still incorporates work from different parts of the globe allowing for a genuine ‘World Literature’.
Using Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners as a ‘canonical postcolonial model’ (p. 235) through which to examine Samuel Beckett’s Murphy , Richard McGuire points out the similarities between the two novels, especially in their treatment of migration, in ‘Migrant Drifters: Samuel Beckett’s Murphy and Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners in a Postcolonial Comparative Context’ ( CCS 11:ii–iii 235–48). The article thus reveals interesting parallels between the Caribbean and Irish migrant experience in London. Alice Ridout’s article, ‘Of Pigeons and Expats: Doris Lessing, Sam Selvon, and Zadie Smith’ ( DLS 32 26–9), compares these three writers’ use of the pigeon to also reflect immigrant concerns and their relationship with London.
By examining Caribbean revisionings of Shakespeare’s The Tempest , Kristin M.S. Bezio draws attention to the ways in which leadership transforms according to time and place. Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest and Elizabeth Nuñez’s Prospero’s Daughter are the primary texts analysed in ‘Bringing Down the Island: Rebellion, Colonial Hierarchy, and Individualized Leadership in Nuñez novel Prospero’s Daughter ’ ( JLAE 11:iii 126–40).
The interdisciplinary approach of two ‘colonial poet-physicians’ (p. 300) is the subject of Kelly Wisecup’s ‘ “All Apollo’s Arts”: Divine Cures, Afro-Caribbean Knowledge, and Healing Poetry in the British West Indies’ ( L&M 32:ii 299–324). Wisecup draws upon the Greek god of poetry and medicine to explore the connections between the two, especially in the context of colonization in the Caribbean. The work of James Kirkpatrick and James Grainger and their use of ‘multiple religious and medical traditions in order to confront the challenges involved in using poetry to heal disease in the Americas’ (p. 300) is at the core of this unique study. The tensions between, and intersections of, European and African epistemology made for new ways of thinking about disease and healing in the New World.
In ‘Consciousness, the Epistolary Novel and the Anglophone Caribbean Writer: Paulette Ramsay’s Aunt Jen ’ ( JWIL 22:ii 59–72), Milt Moise examines the ways in which the consciousness of characters is conveyed. By examining a series of letters in the (rare) single-voiced epistolary novel, Moise argues that ‘while its focus on the consciousness and voice of the protagonist may initially appear as a limitation, there is ample room to flourish within its spaces’ (pp. 70–1). An interview with Paulette Ramsay also appeared in this issue of the Journal of West Indian Literature : Carrie J. Walker, ‘Out of Many, One Voice: An Interview with Paulette Ramsay’ ( JWIL 22:ii 42–58).
A few articles also centred on the work of Jean Rhys. In ‘Jean Rhys and the Fiction of Failed Reciprocity’ ( JML 37:ii 92–108), Rebecca Colesworthy, uses theories of the gift to examine Rhys’s second novel, After Leaving Mr McKenzie . The inequality of gift exchange becomes a way of understanding gender inequalities. In ‘The Law of Language and the Law of Structure in the Dominant Masculine Discourse of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea ’ ( LPI 13 454–60), Cristina-Georgiana Voicu argues that alternative epistemologies and ontologies in the Caribbean challenge the subject position and masculine, colonial discourse of the Rochester character in Rhys’s novel. Kristy Butler examines the intertextual relationship between Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea using Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology in ‘Kristeva, Intertextuality, and Re-imagining “The Madwoman in the Attic” ’ ( SLI 47:i 129–47). This reading exposes the ‘loops’ in the narratives as one text ‘haunts’ the other (p. 130). In ‘Victims and Victimizers in the Fiction of Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 315–26), Jane Nardin examines the artistic challenges that ‘plagued’ (p. 315) women writers in the modernist period and led them to create ‘a modernism of their own’ (p. 325). Neşe Şenel’s ‘A Postcolonial Reading of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys’ ( JLLE 11 38–45) examines the orientalist perspectives of Caribbean creoles that are exposed in Rhys’s novel.
5. South Asia
Perhaps the most interesting book available for review in the last year was Laetitia Zecchini’s study of the Indian poet Arun Kolatkar, Moving Lines: Arun Kolatkar and Literary Modernism in India . Zecchini’s meticulous framing of Kolatkar’s work in its local and international contexts, as well as her astute readings of individual poems, not only compensate for years of critical neglect, but also contribute to widening the debate on literary modernism beyond its recognized locations in England and America. This is an important book, grounded in the belief that modernism and postcoloniality can be read fruitfully in relation to each other, and that literary modernism remains a useful paradigm for reading non-Western literatures, and Kolatkar in particular. Chapter 1 gives a vivid account of the bohemianism and cosmopolitanism characteristic of the anti-establishment community of artists who came together in the cafes of Kala Ghoda, as well as the creative group practice characteristic of the little magazines and small presses that were thriving in the Bombay of the 1960s. While drawing out the cosmopolitan dimension of these publications, demonstrating how the world came to Bombay, Zecchini also carefully pieces together evidence to show how ‘Bombay materialized on the global map of modernism’ (p. 55).
Kolatkar constituted an influential presence in the underground, anti-commercial, and experimental publications of the time, both in English and Marathi. Together with contemporaries such as Dilip Chitre and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, he forged a conception of art as defiantly ‘ “little” and lower case’ (p. 48), while his context and the city in which he wrote systematically confused the binaries of local vs. cosmopolitan, Indian vs. Western, modern vs. traditional. The poet’s bilingualism enabled unorthodoxy. If Marathi was supposedly local, traditional, and authentic, then English was global, modern, and foreign. Kolatkar embodied the give and take between the two—so intense he could not decide which version of a poem was original and which the translation. It is these ‘overlapping multilingualities and the transactions’ between his two bodies of work in Marathi and English which are the subject of chapter 2. Chapter 3 draws on Kolatkar’s diaries, unpublished texts, and some of his best-known works, such as the Kala Ghoda Poems and the award-winning Jejuri , to make a case for the significance of the poet’s visual imagination, and the thematic importance of seeing and sight in his writing. Chapter 4 extends this line of argument to show how the transformation of the ordinary into art is at the centre of Kolatkar’s literary practice. As a flâneur in Bombay, Kolatkar’s domain of vision and exploration remains the city street and that which is literally swept aside or metaphorically abandoned on the wayside of perception. His tendency to ignore the great events of his time to focus instead on the everyday arguably constitutes an alternative lineage for Indian writing in English, which Zecchini identifies as ‘definitely modernist’ (pp. 92–3). Chapters 5 and 6 deal with the political dimension that lies behind the poetry’s deceptively simple surface. As Zecchini observes, the powerful recurrent metaphor of rubbish also stands for the poor, migrants, and literal outcastes who throng the pavements of Bombay. In making filth the subject of his poetry, Kolatkar challenges not only brahminical ideals of purity, characterized by a systematic attitude of repulsion towards what is left over, but also the rhetoric of Hindu nationalism wherein physical pollution is comparable to cultural pollution and in which cleansing space is readable as code for cleansing India of its ‘foreign’ elements.
Another book that turns its attention to hitherto under-studied Indian English writers is Bruce King’s Rewriting India: Eight Writers , a collection of essays on Arun Kolatkar, Keki Daruwalla, Amit Chaudhuri, Pankaj Mishra, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Tabish Khair, Susan Visvanathan, and Jeet Thayil. King finds them central to an understanding of how Indian literature has developed over the decades. The volume starts off with a discussion of Kolatkar and Daruwalla, whose poetry laid the foundations for a whole generation of prose writers to come, who form the subject of the next five chapters. The last chapter undertakes an intensive analysis of the writings of Jeet Thayil, whose literary style and thematic preoccupations, as both poet and novelist, allow King to measure the distance that Indian writing in English has travelled since Kolatkar first set the agenda.
Resonating with Zecchini’s book, King recounts the 1960s as the period of such counter-culture journals as Bombay Duck and Damn You: A Magazine of the Arts , and volumes of verse preoccupied not so much with the British, the West, Pakistan, or feudal landlords oppressing peasants, but rather with the writer’s immediate context and a self defined against an other comprising, in the first instance, Indians who did not subscribe to the modern secular urban values of the writers themselves. Like Zecchini, King challenges the critical assessment of Kolatkar as an aesthete detached from notions of literature as engagement. Arguing for Kolatkar’s poetry to be understood as a cultural statement that is at the same time also political, King draws attention to his defiance of the idealization of traditions, of symbols of official Indian cultural nationalism, and the Hindu revivalist movement with its militant politics, while privileging a poetry of reality, of places and people, of colloquial language and the present (p. 54). Kolatkar’s poetry, he argues, pays a unique tribute to the dynamism found on the streets of Bombay as well as in nature, as opposed to a moribund Sanskritic culture that had been used as a basis for social injustice, Hindu extremism, and for a poetic diction that meant little to most people.
The essay on Keki Daruwalla traces the poet’s evolution over a lifetime to reveal the struggle that was faced by Indian writing in English before it could develop a voice on the world stage. In the process, his subject matter changed from the observed to the inner self, generalizations about life, and his readings in the literature and history of the world (p. 57). His first three volumes of poetry drew on the world he knew best—his experience as a police officer patrolling a riot-torn city and battling against criminal gangs, his knowledge of Muslim culture, trekking in the far north, and feeling reluctantly distant from peoples and traditions. By contrast, his later work, especially the four volumes of poetry that emerged from the highly productive decade after retirement in 1995, engages with non-Indian subjects that the poet had once feared to approach. These volumes draw upon themes from around the world, especially from history and literature. Often present as the narrative ‘I’ which sees or imagines, discusses, and pronounces, the later volumes reveal the poet to be familiar with many cultures and feeling part of a poetic community that he can address as an equal (p. 72).
The writings of Amit Chaudhuri, Pankaj Mishra, and Upamanyu Chatterjee reveal a shared set of anxieties about north Indian brahminism being challenged by social change, contemporary mass culture, and the effects of national independence. If Chaudhuri’s nostalgia for Bengali high culture was partly the result of his uprooting from Calcutta, Mishra’s fiction reveals the frustration of small-town Brahmins who have come down in the world, while the English-speaking Bengali Brahmins of Chatterjee’s fiction struggle to make sense of their lives in an India where the power has shifted to governmental organizations, where castes and regions wrestle for social and financial benefits from the state, and where the ideals of patriarchy are being contested by individualism and the nuclear family (p. 136). King rightly observes that, notwithstanding the natural beauty of Chatterjee’s prose, it tends to draw too much attention to itself. While part of this self-consciousness may be read as strategic, at least a part may also be read as unwittingly overwrought and exaggerated. Like many satirists, Chatterjee also tends to be a conservative, peddling a vision of India that apparently lacks any sense of shared values, or any consistency of actions and morals (p. 151). Insightful as this account is of Chatterjee’s work, King’s own observations can sometimes sound rather baldly judgemental. His comments on the characters of Urmila and Shyamanand, for instance (‘Like her husband she hoards money; after her death it is revealed that she took and hid in her trunk the silver rattle of a grandson. Like her husband she wants continual attention; she uses the discomforts of age and illness as excuses to bother others’, p. 142), do less than justice to the nuanced, individualized, ageing couple who speak to a whole generation after independence brought up on the virtues of thrift, and to a culture where illness in old age has by all accounts a more complex aetiology than suggested by the passing observation about attention-seeking behaviour.
The final chapter, on Jeet Thayil, engages closely with the four volumes of poetry, Gemini , Apocalypso , English , and These Errors Are Correct , and the novel Narcopolis . As someone who travelled extensively during the formative years of his life, lament for a lost home or the sense of feeling displaced do not figure prominently in Thayil’s writing. His powerful and occasionally obscure verse is mostly autobiographical, beginning with the pleasure, pains, and obsessions of decades of drug addiction, then a religious conversion as he cured his addiction, and later the courtship, marriage, and loss of his wife when she was only 27. That Thayil risks obscurity indicates, for King, how far Indian poetry in English has come since the seeming directness of Ezekiel, Daruwalla, Kamala Das, and others, who wrote as if they feared losing the reader (p. 228). While settings are not really significant in Thayil’s poetry, his novel focuses on a small area of Bombay: the drug culture of Shuklaji street in the 1970s and 1980s. Whether this makes it an Indian novel, however, remains an open question.
Needless to say, the easy cosmopolitanism of writers like Kolatkar and Thayil is not available to everyone. For the characters of Salman Rushdie’s novels from the post-fatwa period, in fact, there is nothing easy about cosmopolitanism. Rushdie’s fiction foregrounds a complex response to the very personal and extended experience of persecution by religious fundamentalists opposed to the writer’s world-view. Justin Neuman’s Fiction Beyond Secularism opens with a chapter titled ‘Salman Rushdie’s Wounded Secularism’ (pp. 19–48), in which Neuman explores a range of stories that Rushdie tells about secularity. Neuman identifies two distinct trajectories that appear to be mutually contradictory: on the one hand, his essays tend to follow a familiar tradition that self-consciously inherits the Enlightenment’s rationalism and faith in progress (even as his fiction at the time displays a growing dissatisfaction with the assumption that secularism and pluralism go hand in hand, and that the genealogies of secularism are exclusively Judaeo-Christian); on the other hand, Rushdie tells another set of stories about the way contemporary secularist ideologies produce people who are wounded and vulnerable, shot through with what he calls ‘a God-shaped hole’. As a replacement for religion, the literary provides a benign conception of enchantment. Through close readings of Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence , Neuman shows how Rushdie’s fiction interrogates some of the most fundamental premises of his secularist commitments, including the assumption that cosmopolitan pluralism and the secularization of the public sphere always go hand in hand. As depicted in Shalimar the Clown , the Hindu/Muslim divide and communitarian violence so typical of the subcontinent during decolonization were largely avoided in Muslim-majority Kashmir because of a form of religious cosmopolitanism ( Kashmiriyat ) established not by banishing religion to the private sphere but by actively promoting public religions and nurturing religious attachments. In an insightful analysis of current theories of cosmopolitanism, Neuman notes that, while cosmopolitan ideals were conceived historically in opposition to the nation-state, in recent years they have become increasingly complicit with nationalism and global capital. Beginning with events like the fatwa, religion has come to replace nationalisms as the ideological antithesis of cosmopolitanism. And yet to the extent that some of the most violent flashpoints of the modern world system have less to do with nationalism and more to do with religious and economic differences within and beyond the nation-state, any meaningful understanding of cosmopolitanism must offer a model of inclusivity and universalism that accounts for the substantive differences between religious and non-religious modes of life. The world that Rushdie brings to life in his fiction appears to take on board this criticism of the cosmopolitan as well as to point towards alternative, non-Western ways in which cosmopolitanism has been historically imagined.
Rushdie’s critique of the myth of secularism’s exclusively Western origins is continued in The Enchantress of Florence . Not only does the novel delink humanism from classicism, but by depicting the encounter with fiction through the lens of enchantment it also dissociates secularism from its traditional allies: scepticism, reason, and dispassionate analysis. While the novel shows the cities of Sikri and Florence as being humanist and secular in some limited sense, they are emphatically not places where the retreat of religion corresponds to a fading of the so-called enchanted world of the post-secular imagination. The refusal of militant religiosity in Rushdie’s novels does not seem to call for a parallel refusal of magic and credulity. Neither does it imply an epistemological move away from an attitude of faith towards one of scepticism. As Neuman observes, secular humanism in The Enchantress of Florence requires and reflects a ‘novelistic imagination’ that enables the successful storyteller in the novel to ‘usurp the prerogative of the gods’ in ‘the creation of a real life from a dream’ (p. 47).
Fiction Beyond Secularism finally puts paid to the critical commonplace that the novel as genre is antithetical to religion. Through a series of engagingly written and rigorously argued chapters on major writers known for their avowedly non-religious orientation, including, apart from Rushdie himself, John Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Haruki Murakami, Nadine Gordimer, Don DeLillo, and Ian McEwan, Neuman argues for contemporary fiction to be read for a more systematic, sympathetic, and imaginative response to religion than has been hitherto acknowledged.
The conflict between Western and non-Western modes of knowing and being is also at the heart of Rachel Lee’s chapter on Amitav Ghosh’s science fiction novel, The Calcutta Chromosome in her book The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosociality and Posthuman Ecologies . Titled ‘Everybody’s Novel Protist’ (pp. 126– 60) Lee’s essay shows the novel’s clashes between scientific method and counter-science as non-Western belief systems as Ghosh’s critique of how Western modernity denigrates Asian and African cosmologies in order to promote its culturally specific science as the most authorized, universal way of knowing. Ghosh’s novel counters this ‘carved up epistemology’ by adopting insights from the life sciences, in particular microbiology. Singling out for attention the parasite responsible for causing malaria (Plasmodium), Ghosh focuses on its multiple migrations of cells, from the intestinal wall of the malarial mosquito to its salivary glands, to the liver and the red blood cells of the vertebrate. As the novel observes, these migrations would not be possible without Plasmodium’s ability to transform itself in ways that are designed to identify and enter specific host cells. Lee uses ‘this polymorphism’, which according to parasite biologists comprises an ‘important survival strategy in Plasmodium’, to understand the transmission of ‘person’ across characters inhabiting different spaces and historical times: the mysterious dust sweeper, Mangala, employed in Ronald Ross’s malaria research lab in Calcutta c. 1898, the journalist Urmila Roy living in Calcutta c. 1995; and the Armenian proprietor Mrs Aratounian, also living in Calcutta c. 1995. They represent various phases of a single biological entity who in the narrative present appears as Tara, the undocumented nanny living in New York in the late twentieth/early twenty-first centuries.
In an interesting move, Lee uses the multiple embodiments of Plasmodium as a template for comprehending human migration and colonialism, both being suggestive of an encounter between a host body that is relatively static and large-scale and the guest organism which is mobile and microscopic. To the extent that hosting, at both micro and macro levels, raises issues of the entanglement of the natal and the alien, of spatial boundaries that are unclear and involuted (p. 139), it also calls to mind the various kinds of labour that women perform in many cultures, including hosting, caretaking, and reproduction. In contrast to the conventional liberal narrative which equates growth with the leaving behind of obligations of descent and biological dependencies of nurture and care, Lee draws on a feminist framework attentive to caretaking—a form of labour disavowed in the fetishizing of autonomy. The novel’s disillusionment with this fragmented world of autonomous individuality further impels Lee to seek the ways in which it extends the meaning of reproduction beyond sexual intercourse, embryogenesis, parturition, and neonatal care to encompass not just the life-cycle of an organism but sometimes the life-cycles of other species as well, finally preparing the protagonists of the novel for crossing over into an ‘onto-epistemological realization of collective and cross species enmeshment’ (p. 143).
In Adriana Raducanu’s Speaking the Language of the Night: Aspects of the Gothic in Selected Contemporary Novels , the critique of postcolonial reason evident in the writings of Rushdie and Ghosh is extended to Gothic motifs in non-Western literatures and cultures. The book is written on the premise that the Gothic, although undoubtedly a Western genre, presents characteristics found in literatures produced in historically and geographically remote territories. At least three chapters from this study are relevant here. In ‘Tales of the Labyrinths— The White Tiger and the Postcolonial Metamorphosis of Gothic’ (pp. 25–46), Raducanu looks at how the Gothic is extended beyond its familiar critical domains of psychoanalysis, Marxism, and feminism to engage with postcolonialism. Gothic conventions and postcolonialism share an interest in challenging Enlightenment Reason. To the extent that The White Tiger appears to celebrate what is irrational, outside law, and marked by social and cultural dispossession, it lends itself to analysis from the twin perspectives of postcolonialism and the Gothic. The life story of Balram, the novel’s protagonist, has obvious similarities to the typical Gothic plots focused on usurpation, intrigue, betrayal, and murder, selfish ambition, and a licentious performance of carnal desire. Raducanu identifies ‘a Gothic flavor’ in Adiga’s disregard of boundaries and his valorization of liminality. Following Julie Hakim Azam’s contention about the postcolonial Gothic, Raducanu strives to show how Adiga’s novel is less an intertextual writing back to empire than it is a commentary on the politics of home, posing fundamental questions about the relations of personal, family, and public life (p. 40). The second chapter, ‘The Sublime of the Intimate Others’ (pp. 129–50), offers an altogether less compelling reading of Rushdie’s articulation in Shame of the various ‘dimensions of monstrosity’ via the lens of the ‘Gothic sublime’, while the third, ‘Refracting Spaces in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Anita Desai’s Fire on the Mountain ’ (pp. 151–74), focuses on themes and motifs common to the two novels, placing emphasis on how in the Gothic genre the space of the house, shaped by historical, political, social, and psychological co-ordinates, is endowed with a life of its own, establishing a dialectical relationship between interiority and/or entrapment.
(b) Chapters in Edited Volumes
Trauma studies received a fair amount of attention in 2014. Essays in Michelle Balaev’s Contemporary Approaches in Literary Trauma Theory challenge the classic model of trauma theory, as articulated by Cathy Caruth, wherein trauma is defined as a deferred, recurrent wounding. As Balaev argues in her introduction, the traditional concept of trauma rotates around an assumed paradox: ‘that the most direct seeing of a violent event may occur as an absolute inability to know it’ (p. 6) Balaev makes a case for moving away from trauma as unrepresentable towards a trauma that finds meaning in the social and cultural specifics of traumatic experience (p. 3). Special mention must be made of Greg Forter’s chapter on ‘Colonial Trauma, Utopian Carnality, Modernist Form’ (pp. 70–105) for its attempt to extend the boundaries of postcolonial and psychoanalytical theories. Through a close comparison of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things , Forter seeks to show how both novelists employ modernist techniques to convey a concept of trauma in which remembrance does not produce a repetitive foreclosure of knowledge, but rather produces understanding and healing within a modern postcolonial reality. He argues that theoretical attempts to locate trauma at the heart of postcolonial literature have tended to revolve around two opposing poles. On the one hand the therapeutic approach tends towards an over-optimism about ‘recovery’ that is based on a tacit acceptance of the health of postcolonial modernity. To recover from colonial trauma within this narrative is to accept the cure of identifying one’s interests with those of the modern nation-state (pp. 72–5). On the other hand, the anti-therapeutic strand urges readers to challenge this forgetful attachment to the modern. The anti-therapeutic model exhibits excessive pessimism based on a tendency to conflate the historical (and thus remediable) unhealth of colonialism with the original and irremediable ‘injuries of subject formation’. A good amount of work in this strand conceptualizes trauma as being so thoroughly grounded in sociality per se that it becomes difficult to see how it might be overcome (p. 73). In both cases the recourse to analogy undermines the effort to redress injuries inflicted by colonialism. Roy’s novel by contrast, as Forter shows in his highly productive and original reading, links the social and the psychic dialectically rather than analogically, showing a commitment to the problem of causation, that is, to exploring how trauma is produced and reproduced, induced and transmitted, through the institutions of colonialism and postcolonial societies. In Roy’s novel, colonial trauma is comprehensible only through attention to specific bodies and psyches that occupy specific social locations and through a depiction of historically explicable instances of colonial violence. The unrepresentable character of trauma in the novels is not located in its ‘originary’ status and thus placed beyond history and representation; rather, it has to do with its forcible disjuncture from pre-colonial pasts and the prohibitions against remembrance enforced by particular regimes of power. While this means that these pasts are theoretically recoverable, representable, and narratable, Forter’s reading is at the same time equally attentive to the difficulties and ethical challenges of remembrance posed by the novelist (p. 77).
Trauma and representation figure again as categories of analysis in Narrating ‘Precariousness’: Modes, Media, Ethics , a collection of essays edited by Barbara Korte and Frederic Regard. The volume draws on the terms used by Judith Butler in Precarious Lives to examine how lives that are insecure, unpredictable, endangered, on the edge, and out of balance, threatened in their corporeal and mental integrity and therefore often bound up in trauma, do not just pose an ethical challenge but also a challenge to representation. A leading question of this volume is how precarious lives can be represented even when their circumstances seem literally and metaphorically unspeakable (p. 7). Ellen Dengel-Janic’s ‘The Precariousness of Postcolonial Geographies’ (pp. 71–84) examines two kinds of spatial precariousness in the novels of Amitav Ghosh. Firstly, in The Shadow Lines , the image of the map shows the forces of exclusion and danger deriving from borders. If the grandmother’s expectation of being able to see a visible line of separation between India and East Pakistan highlights the abstract and arbitrary nature of national borders, the death of Tridib, the experienced citizen of the world, in inter-religious riots serves as a painfully concrete reminder of the border’s violent history. In The Hungry Tide , precariousness lies both in the socio-political organization and in the natural environment of the Sunderbans. Geographically as well as symbolically the unsettled tide country of the Ganges delta naturally gives rise to stories of struggle, survival, and suffering. At the same time, however, the narrative also takes into account the socio-political impact on this space as a means of underscoring how human existence is always shaped by the complex interrelationships between the geographical and the social aspects of space (p. 78).
In The Indian Partition in Literature and Films: History, Politics and Aesthetics , editors Rini Bhattacharya Mehta and Debali Mookerjea-Leonard rightly observe that even as scholarship on Partition and its aftermath has enriched our understanding of how historical trauma, collective memory, and cultural processes are linked, the scope and potential of this work remain constrained by its focus on anglophone writings from the 1980s and 1990s. The present collection attempts to bring together such studies with those on the largely unexplored vernacular works. One chapter of particular interest is Shumona Dasgupta’s ‘The Extraordinary and the Everyday: Locating Violence in Women’s Narratives of the Partition’ (pp. 36–51) for its juxtaposition of Amrita Pritam’s Punjabi novel Pinjar with Shauna Singh Baldwin’s anglophone text What the Body Remembers. While collective memory of the Partition constructs the aggressors as outsiders, women were sometimes also targeted by men from within their own communities who used the opportunity offered by the chaos to abduct and rape them. Dasgupta’s analysis of these two novels strives to resist the tendency to normalize forms of intimate violence enacted against women within the private sphere. By locating women’s experience of violence at the crossroads of public and private, personal and political, both Pritam and Baldwin succeed in disrupting the ‘othering’ of violence. Pinjar is a radical feminist text which generates a trenchant critique of the position of women within the institutions of the family and the postcolonial nation. One of the earliest female-authored Partition texts to focus upon the figure of the abducted woman, Pinjar underscores the literal and symbolic violence undergirding the female subject’s experience of the postcolonial Indian state, and the intimate and interior spaces of the home, paving the way for an ultimate rejection of particular framings of both the home and the nation. Written almost fifty years after Pritam’s novella, Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers revisits the mass deaths of Sikh women during the Partition in the name of saving family and community honour, and juxtaposes these ‘suicides’ with men bragging about having martyred their women. The extraordinary violence experienced by women during Partition is then tied to the everyday violence experienced by them as a consequence of their desire to be the ideal daughter, wife, and mother. Hence Baldwin also refuses to perpetuate the narrative of women’s trauma as a collective, political aggression by ‘other men’, instead locating the experience of violence firmly within community, and perpetuated by fathers, brothers, husbands, sometimes even by other women. Dasgupta is, however, critical of how the construction of Sikh identity in the texts occurs by opposing self to an ‘ethnic’ other, perpetuating negative stereotypes about Muslims. For example, the purdah, while it affords Sikh women mobility and safety within the public domain, remains symbolic of the oppression of Muslim women in the novel.
Chetan Deshmane’s edited collection Muses India includes fifteen essays on a range of writers from India and the Indian diaspora. These include Dean Mahomet, Toru Dutt, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande, Arundhati Roy, Suniti Namjoshi, Bharati Mukherjee, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, and Salman Rushdie. Several essays stand out for their originality and perspective. Anne Paige Rogers’s wonderful ‘Excessive Desire, Shattered Identities’ (pp. 146–63) on Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things argues that, despite the frequency with which resistance is met with violence and loss, the novel nonetheless shows the way for reading transgression as agency. Sukjoo Sohn’s ‘Suicide and Rebirth of Community in Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance ’ (pp. 101–12) makes a similar attempt to read agency in oppression and abjection. Maneck’s suicide at the end of the novel, frequently cited as evidence of the novel’s bleak perspective on India, shows that what he really wants to achieve is not ‘a fine balance’ for personal survival; he would like to see a destabilization and subversion of the essentialist hegemonic concept of ‘timeless balance’. The argument is interesting, even if Sohn’s writing becomes opaque from time to time. Serena Guarracino’s ‘Identity, Language and Power in Suniti Namjoshi’ (pp. 134–45) contends that, although Namjoshi advocates a feminist genealogy for her writing, her perspective is complicated by deep awareness of the falsity of binaries such as male-female and colonizer-colonized. The essay shows how, in works like Goja , Building Babel , and Sycorax , Namjoshi consolidates an anti-canon that hybridizes the English language with all the different traditions that Namjoshi, as a postcolonial writer, can legitimately claim as her own.
There has been a turn in the last decade towards exploring the role of translation and vernacular writing in South Asian literature. Scholars like Meenakshi Mukherjee have been calling for more comparative work across anglophone and other national languages in India, and the general critical shifts to transnational and world literature formations also suggest a wider base is needed to understand Indian English literature properly. For example, Indian English writing sits uneasily alongside the narrow idea of national culture and the increasing censorship on scholarship under a resurgent Hindu fundamentalism. In a special issue of South Asia , Greg Bailey, ‘Indology after Hindutva’ ( SA 37:iv 700–7), teases out the contradictions and uneasy similarities between the attitudes of current political regimes seeking to communicate their own versions of culture and religion to Westerners and insiders alike, and the attempts of subaltern approaches to history and postcolonial theory that also aim to provide an authentic account of Indian culture. Bailey posits a new focus on Indological studies that straddles a fine line between ‘objective’ knowledge production and an ‘indigenous’ view of things. The colonial literary interest in race and eugenics is framed anew by Luzia Savary’s ‘Vernacular Eugenics? Santati-Sastra in Popular Hindi Advisory Literature (1900–1940)’ ( SA 37:iii 381–97). Tracing the emergence of the ‘science of progeny’ and Indian eugenics to Ayurveda , rati-sastra , and a single New York-based fringe scientist/practical phrenologist, Orson Squire Fowler (1809–87), Savary presents a fascinating account of the vernacularization of Western science, in the process minting new terminology, and differing from the English-language ‘Hindu science’ discourses promulgated mainly by elite nationalists. Within such a narrative, Western ‘fringe science’ works as an authoritative ‘Western’ scientific source. Savary calls for more studies of other vernacular public spheres to fully map the process of legitimizing ‘science’ in colonial times and the role of translation, readaptation, and modification of ‘foreign’ and ‘local’ content that constitutes South Asian modernity. The article might productively be read alongside Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome .
In a masterful essay that breaks out of postcolonial binaries, Sambuddha Sen engages with Ranajit Guha’s investment in Hootum Pyanchar Nakhsa , a foundational text in the development of Bengali prose. ‘Revisioning the Colonial City: Local Autonomy versus the Aesthetics of Intermixtures in the Age of Circulating Print Culture’ ( LitComp 11:i 26–35) turns from Guha’s analysis of the text’s handling of time to its use of nineteenth-century visual traditions (building on its citing of Dickens) to show how local writers and artists entered a place of multiple negotiations, of borrowing, erasures, displacements, citations, which unfolded within a mutating field and pushed against the autonomy afforded by traditional practices. This underpinning for work on early anglophone literary production in India is complemented by Robert Phillips, who traces the material history of the shift from a local and located courtly economy to an emergent, proto-national, print-commercial one in ‘The Urdu-Language Khushtar Ramayan : Verbal- and Visual-Narrative Repertoires and “Sense of Place” ’ ( SA 37:iii 454–73).
Three diverse essays in Modern Asian Studies excavate the fascinating history of print culture in the subcontinent. While Brannon D. Ingram teases out tension between the exploitation and suspicion of print’s possibilities in ‘The Portable Madrasa: Print, Publics and the Authority of the Deobandi “Ulama” ’ ( MAS 48:iv 845–71), Hayden Bellenoit looks at the paper- and record-based mechanisms by which wealth was extracted in the Indian hinterlands in ‘Between Qanungos and Clerks: The Cultural and Service-Worlds of Hindustan’s Pensmen, c.1750–1850’ ( MAS 48:iv 872–910). Sarah Waheed locates the courtesan at the centre of moral, ethical, legal, and aesthetic discourses of Muslim respectability, and her invocation in later nationalist and ‘progressive’ debates, in ‘Women of “Ill Repute”: Ethics and Urdu Literature in Colonial India’ ( MAS 48:iv 986–1023). The last has relevance for studies of the several Indian English novels depicting courtesan figures.
In ‘Recovering a Demotic Tradition, Challenging Nativism, Fashioning Modernism in Indian Poetry’ ( Interventions 16:ii 257–76), Laetitia Zecchini reads Arun Kolatkar, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and Dilip Chitre for their ‘translation’ of medieval bhakti compositions into a modernist idiom. Creative adaptation is a transgressive and dissident practice for these poets, who bring together the global and the local, folk music and poetry, English and other Indian languages, thereby subverting the quest for territorial origins. Critical Endeavour takes up similar issues in K. Satchidanandan’s ‘Indian Literature or the Tower of Babel: The Role of Translation in Indian Literature’ ( CritE 20 383–6) and Ravi Nandan Sinha’s ‘The Theory of Rasa’ ( CritE 20 368–72). Rositta Joseph Valiyamattam considers the traffic from the other direction in ‘Translating Indian Literatures into English: Theory and Praxis’ ( Quest 28:i 10–32).
Hari M.G. and H.S. Komalesha expand upon ‘Inscribing Our Times in an Epic: Arun Kolatkar’s Sarpa Satra ’ ( JPP 2:ix), on the one hand, and on the other consider the subversive poetics of saint poets and their contemporary reincarnation in ‘Sacred Without God: Bhakti in the Poetry of Arun Kolatkar’ ( Asiatic 8:ii 149–63). This theme finds an echo in a Tamil article with relevance to Ramanujan’s and R. Parthasarathy’s verse: Vasu Renganathan’s ‘Being Krsna’s Gopi: Songs of Antal, Ritual Practices and the Power Relations between God and Devotee in the Contemporary Tamil Nadu’ ( FWLS 6:iv 649–74). Vidyan Ravinthran explores stylistic texture as historically expressive in ‘Arun Kolatkar’s description of India’ ( JCL 49:iii 359–77). Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, on the other hand, traces the stride of the global in three Indian poet-translators, Toru Dutt, A.K. Ramanujan, and Arun Kolatkar, in ‘Translating the Indian Past: The Poets’ Experience’ ( JCL 49:iii 427–39). Mehrotra’s rich textual readings prompt the question as to what constitutes the global in the first place: do vernacular transformations bring poetry into the realm of world literature or relegate it to a narrower ‘Indian’ space?
Contemporary interest in dalit writing permeates anglophone Indian scholarship and has to be informed by studies of its vernacular origins. Dominic Vendell grapples with the ethical, eschatological, philosophical, and practical points of difference between the lower-caste Marathi social reformer and educator and his Brahmin critics in ‘Jotirao Phule’s Satyashodh and the Problem of Subaltern Consciousness’ ( CSSAM 34:i 52–66). Dwaipayan Sen reads Legislative Assembly papers in ‘Representation, Education and Agrarian Reform: Jogendranath Mandal and the Nature of Scheduled Caste Politics, 1937–1943’ ( MAS 48 77–119) and attempts to understand why reforms were frustrated. Alessandro Marino offers a genealogy of Adivasi marginalization in ‘ “Where’s the Time to Sleep?”: Orientalism and Citizenship in Mahasweta Devi’s Writing’ ( JPW 50:vi 688–700), while Sadhu Charan Pradhan questions the linearity of ‘Time in Autobiographical Fiction: A Note on Maitreyi Devi’ ( JCLA 37:i–ii 85–8).
In an elegant, erudite, and engaged personalized narrative, Fernando Rosa ponders ‘On Not Being Able to Read or Speak Malayalam: Language and Region in Kerala’ ( IACS 15:ii 214–34). He traces, in a comparative frame with Brazil, intersections of region, nation, and globe (Kerala’s Indian Ocean links and the influence of South American writing there), considering the pioneering work of writers like Paremmakkal Tommakattannar, Chandu Menon, C.V. Raman Pillai, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, who forged a modern regional identity in one of the most syncretic and complex states of India. Pillai’s work has influenced anglophone writing, and Kerala is the source of many Indian English texts. Maya Vinai and Jayashree Hazarika examine ‘Caste Hegemony versus Communism: The Kerala Society in Anita Nair’s Novels’ ( Quest 28:ii 59–65).
Shital Pravinchandra argues for the centrality and critical importance of the vernacular short story in considerations of the postcolonial anglophone South Asian novel in ‘Not Just Prose: The Calcutta Chromosome , the South Asian Short Story and the Limitations of Postcolonial Studies’ ( Interventions 16:iii 424–44). The essay makes the case for locating the non-anglophone regional language short story as the pivotal genre around which postcolonial studies could reinvigorate itself, by providing an unfamiliar literary lens through which to analyse its typical assumptions of imagined nationhoods, hybrid identities, and historical narrativizations. Pravinchandra persuades us that the quintessential project of postcolonialism, that of re writing, is thrown into productive disarray by the inscription of vernacular prose forms into the postcolonial narrative, whereby they become the master-texts to be rewritten rather than the usual preoccupation with anglophone literature of/from the empire.
Binayak Roy looks at the way in which the ethnographer/historian/writer steps outside the bounds of postmodern diktats even while utilizing their devices, in ‘Exploring the Orient from Within: Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke ’ ( PocoT 9:i 21 pp.). Roy applauds Ghosh’s sustained efforts to chart an ethical criticism of epistemological divides in his discursive exploration of the other, while retaining its ultimate alterity. The Quest contains Shivangi Srivastava’s ‘Language, History and Society: An Assessment of Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace ’ ( Quest 28:ii 84–90) and Swati Kumari’s ‘Migration as Subversion of History: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land ’ ( Quest 28:ii 116–22), while Literary Criterion offers Sujatha S.’s ‘Inheritors of Imaginary Homelands: A Study of Amitav Ghosh’s fiction’ ( LCrit 40:ii 131–7).
Following the path-breaking work of Christopher Bayly in excavating the imperial information order, Barbara Watson Andaya offers a nuanced reading of the correspondence of a young British trader in Asia in ‘ “Gathering ‘Knowledge” in the Bay of Bengal: The Letters of John Adolphus Pope (1785–1788)’ ( JMBRAS 87/2:ccvii 1–19). Published in 1992, these letters are seen as critical cross-cultural communication, and not just trading in orientalism and local information for commercial purposes. James Staples complicates the oversimplified histories of relations between missionaries, converts, and the colonial state in ‘Putting Indian Christianities into Context: Biographies of Christian Conversion in a Leprosy Colony’ ( MAS 48:iv 1134–59). The work provides useful comparisons in reading some early proselytizing novels and contemporary dalit Christian narratives.
Aparajita Mukhopadhyay analyses Bengali and Hindi travelogues by Indian railway travellers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in ‘Colonized Gaze: Guidebooks and Journeying in Colonial India’ ( SA 37:iv 656–69). The essay demonstrates that despite being influenced by European guidebooks of the period, Indian writers created a distinct and critical narrative tailored to their own envisioning of India. This essay supplements the attention to post/colonial travel literature in English, enhancing its awareness of social contexts and the politics of representation. Swaralipi Nandi also considers vernacular travel narratives in the Western metropolis in ‘When the Clown Laughs Back: Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s Global Travel and the Dynamics of Humour’ ( StTN 18:iii 264–78). Nandi sees Dev Sen subverting the ‘knowing’ and cosmopolitan perspective of the traditional Western traveller in the East by humorously deprecating the naive Bengali traveller in the West who gains awkward, if risible, agency under pressure to be a global citizen.
Sayan Chattopadhyay takes a ‘Homeward Journey Abroad: Nirad C. Chaudhuri and the Tradition of Twentieth-Century Indian National Autobiographies’ ( JCL 49:v 157–72) and demonstrates that ‘the unknown Indian’s’ work deconstructs East/West and village/city binaries by reorienting the conventional spatial directions of an exile’s homecoming. Sonali Das ponders ‘An Outsider’s Inwardness with India: The Case of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust ’ ( CritE 20 260–72) while Nishtha Saxena examines ‘Narrating the Idea of India with Special Reference to Dean Mohamed’s Travels and Salman Rushdie’s Non-Fictional Work’ ( LCrit 40:ii 99–107).
In ‘Anticipatory Anti-Colonial Writing in R.K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends and Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable ’ ( JPW 50:vi 730–42), Veronica Barnsley valorizes the transnational literary forms and socially committed vision adopted by the latter over the ironic localisms of the former. The former’s work is examined by Subismita Lenka in ‘Myth, Tradition and the Individual Talent in R K Narayan’s The Guide ’ ( CritE 20 109–18) and Christina Mahainim in ‘Patriarchy and the Predicament of a Woman in R.K. Narayan’s The Dark Room ’ ( Quest 28:i 97–102). B Parvathi analyses the latter in ‘Religiosity and Revolution in Mulk Raj Anand’s The Big Heart ’ ( CritE 20 83–97).
Andrew Goldstone enters the world of hallucinatory projections in ‘Hatterr Abroad: G.V. Desani on the Stage of World Literature’ ( ConL 55:iii 466–500) and reclaims the 1948 picaresque, satirical novel, All About H. Hatterr , as a unique exposé of the cultural machinations of the postwar global anglophone literary field. The essay makes the salutary point that close readings of such hybrid examples of the global novel need to be informed by the histories of publishing, reviewing, and canon-making that constitute the literary circulations of such texts.
Krupa Shandilya explores visions of the apocalyptic in ‘The Sacred and the Secular: Spirituality, Aesthetics, and Politics in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games ’ ( MFS 60:ii 345–65). Shandilya suggests that Chandra’s novel subverts the colonial ideology of racial superiority and the exoticized spirituality that underlies Kipling’s idea of the Great Game. Rob Ivermee interprets Wali Dad, the central character in the short story ‘On the City Wall’, as a product of the liberal imperial discourse on English education and as a figure of the religious minority put to use in the writing of the empire in ‘Kipling, the “Backward” Muslim and the Ends of Colonial Pedagogy’ ( NCC 36:iii 251–68).
A special issue looks at ‘Literature: The Antidote to Pakistan’s Identity Crisis’ ( JCL 49:i), a theme also invoked elsewhere in Madeline Clements’s ‘Reframing “Violence”, Transforming Impressions: Images in Contemporary Pakistani Visual Art and English-Language Fiction’ ( Wasafiri 29:i 46–55). Humaira Saeed explores the repression of emotions and the violence of the bureaucratic nation brought into existence by Partition in ‘Affecting Phantasm: The Genesis of Pakistan in The Heart Divided ’ ( JPW 50:v 535–46). Saeed weighs the implications of reading Mumtaz Shah Nawaz’s novel (written 1947–8, but not published until 1957) as Partition fiction by comparing it with Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy Man  and Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan . Nazia Akhter offers a historical analysis of intergenerational trauma and haunting memories in ‘Rape and the Imprint of Partition in Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Days ’ ( PocoT 9:ii 20 pp.). It addresses the critical role of gendered violence in connecting the personal/individual to the public/collective in postcolonial contexts, and also of the diaspora in shaping alternative narratives of history and memory.
Sarah Illot treads similar ground in the context of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, through the lens of interrelated processes of psycho-corporeal and national abjection, in ‘ “We Are Here to Speak the Unspeakable”: Voicing Abjection in Raj Kamal Jha’s Fireproof ’ ( JPW 50:vi 664–74). K. Nirupa Rani laments ‘Paradise Lost on the Shores of The Sea of Innocence : Kishwar Desai’s Angst about the Victims of Power Politics’ ( CritE 20 172–81). Vemuri Rupa and C.L.L. Jayaprada look at the ‘Deconstruction of Misogynous and Colonial Discourse in Githa Hariharan’s When Dreams Travel ’ ( LCrit 49:i–ii 51–64), and Nandini Kumari reads Kamala Markandeya’s work in ‘Rukmani’s Identity and Survival in Nectar in a Sieve ’ ( Approaches 1:i 122–31).
Cecile Sandston posits that ‘ “Home Was Always Far Away”: Intertextual and Intermedial Poetic Appropriations of Double Consciousness in Sujata Bhatt’s Pure Lizard ’ ( SasD 6:i 7–18), and Divya Girishkumar analyses ‘Celebratory Discourse of the Dispossessed: Diasporic Identities in Meera Syal’s Anita and Me ’ ( Quest 28:ii 1–7). Cassandra Bausman examines the utopian, liminal, public/private sphere offered by ladies compartments on Indian rail journeys and the limitations of the figurative arrivals into selfhood in ‘ “Into a Horizon I Will Not Recognize”: Female Identity and Transitional Space Aboard Nair’s Ladies Coupé ’ ( IoJCS 15 56–79).
Rashmi Luthra contends that the creative appropriations of main female characters from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata , by ordinary women in folk art and literature and by women writers and artists in the feminist domain, articulate a necessary space for postcolonial feminisms while running the risk of unintentional complicity with right-wing conservative projects, in ‘Clearing Sacred Ground: Women-Centred Interpretations of the Indian Epics’ ( FemF 26:ii 135–61). Shushila Singh weighs ‘Moral Dilemma and Lack of Resolutions: Rendering of the Mahabharata in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions ’ ( CritE 20 155–71).
Elsewhere in The Critical Endeavour , Bijay Kumar Das considers ‘Glocalization and the Eclipse of Postcolonial Theory’ ( CritE 20 14–25) and P. Balaswamy peruses ‘Images of India as Slumdog Millionaire: Trends in Post-Rushdie Indian English Fiction’ ( CritE 20 83–96). Shymasree Basu writes engagingly on ‘Food, Dieting and Questions of Female Self-Esteem: A Comparative Study of Elizabeth Berg’s “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted” and Bulbul Sharma’s “Sweet Nothings” ’ ( CCW 1:ii 27–38).
Isabelle Hesse opens up comparative frames between Jewish and postcolonial identities in ‘Colonizing Jewishness? Minority, Exile and Belonging in Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay and Caryl Phillips’s The Nature of Blood ’ ( TPr 28:v 881–99). She argues that, rather than facile tropes of the cosmopolitan Jew, or the Jew as index of universal exile, the figure of the Jew as minority is used by Desai and Philips as a better basis for comparisons of postcolonial (un)belonging. Preserving political and historical specificities is a necessary condition for productive analysis of minority/majority power-plays across postcolonial and Jewish studies.
In another comparative context, Osayimwense Osa challenges the persistent parochialism in contemporary world literature studies, arguing for the inclusion of masterpieces from a variety of literary traditions in a globalized version of the Great Books syllabus, in ‘From Spiritual Comfort to Spiritual Combat: Ezeulu in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God and Pranesharcharya in U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Samskara ’ ( JCLA 37:i–ii 33–48). The latter novel has had some impact on Indian English literary scholarship, and Sharon Pillai takes us ‘Back to the Future: Tracking the Moral Imperative in, of and through Samskara ’ ( CollL 41:ii 97–119). Also opening up Indian English literary studies, Rashi Rohatgi, ‘World Poetry at the Periphery: Poetic Language in Abhimanyu Unnuth and Octavio Paz’ ( CCS electronic supplement  9–27), gives us a fascinating account of the Hindi Indo-Mauritian writer, whose work The Teeth of the Cactus  enjoyed wide circulation in India and shows how little-known local works can sometimes interact in surprising ways with a wider global literary sphere.
Angelia Poon examines the private narratives of postcolonial globalizations in ‘(In)visible Scripts, Hidden Costs: Narrating the Postcolonial Globe in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss ’ ( JPW 50:v 547–58) and generously concludes that the diminishment of the self of central character Sai to allow room for the narratives of others indicates a political commitment to the world and some small degree of optimism. Ipsita Nayak muses on ‘Social Exclusion in the Novels of Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai’ ( CritE 20 147–54). In the same issue, Jitendra Narayan Patnaik remembers ‘The Tale of Monkey Baba: Reading Kiran Desai’s Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard ’ ( CritE 20 130–6). Teresa J. Heloise sheds light on Anita Desai in ‘Multicultural Myths in Journey to Ithaca ’ ( Quest 28:ii 19–25). Jennifer Randall explores the limits of border-crossing and cultural performativities in hybrid postcolonial texts in ‘Jostling with Borders: Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? ’ ( CE&S 36:ii 33–40). She suggests that the generic liminality of the postcolonial novel, blending fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, idealism and humour, is a sign of modernity’s disruption of history.
Joseph Darda harnesses critical global literature to the cause of understanding and coalitions of struggle in ‘Precarious World: Rethinking Global Fiction in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist ’ ( Mosaic 47:iii 107–22). Using Judith Butler’s theorizing of recognizability and the social ontology of inclusion and exclusion, Darda reads Hamid’s work as a challenge to the logic of the ‘war on terror’ and a call for international solidarity. Sarah Illott looks at the way the dramatic monologue and second-person narrative activate discernment in the reader-as-judge in ‘Generic Frameworks and Active Readerships in The Reluctant Fundamentalist ’ ( JPW 50:v 571–83).
In ‘Postcolonial Servitude: Interiority and System in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders ’ ( ArielE 45:iii 33–73), Ambreen Hai shows the Pakistani American writer according centrality and agency to the subaltern figure of the domestic servant in contemporary feudal society while also revealing the intersections of history, class, and gender that keep the underclass under. Krupa Shandilya analyses attempts to recover the voice of the subaltern: ‘Writing/Reading the Subaltern Woman: Narrative Voice and Subaltern Agency in Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English August ’ ( PocoT 9:iii 16 pp.). She suggests that fiction must be read for its elite class position so that we can see how the tribal woman is both rendered subaltern but also has the capacity to act and disturb the political space from which she is otherwise excluded.
Snehal Shingavi, ‘Capitalism, Caste and Con-Games in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger ’ ( PocoT 9:iii 16 pp.), takes up the controversy over the linguistic verisimilitude of the novel and the ability of a random individual repertoire to convey the ‘condition of India’. Shingavi shows how Adiga shifts the ideology of caste into one of class, and exposes the interplay between innocence and criminality in bourgeois interpretations of poverty, to uncover the limits of slumming and passing in narratives of social transformation. The novel also receives attention in Raj Kumar Sharma’s ‘A Postmodern Reading of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger ’ ( Approaches 1:i 63–72); C.G. Shyamala’s ‘ The White Tiger : The Narrative Manoeuvres’ ( LCrit 40:ii 108–17); and Kavita Arya’s ‘Irrelevance of Morality: The White Tiger and The 3 Mistakes of My Life ’ ( Quest 28:ii 54–8).
In ‘ “A Revolution in Code”? Hari Kunzru’s Transmission and the Cultural Politics of Hacking’ ( TPr 28:ii 267–87), Philip Leonard considers hacking as an alternative practice of social intervention involving ethical, political, and personal imperatives whereby ‘criminal’ activities resist and subvert national and multilateral protocols. Jason D. Price also demands an ethical treatment of subjectivity and the materiality of the non-human. He uses another Kunzru book to take us from Bhabha-derived discussions of hybridity and in-betweenness that lack ethical investment to Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of ‘becoming animal’ in ‘Resisting Colonial Mastery: Becoming Animal, Becoming Ethical in The Impressionist ’ ( ArielE 45:i–ii 1–34).
Ahmed Mulla examines the complicated texture of diasporic hospitality and denaturalizes the relationship between host and guest in ‘Accommodating the Other or the Self: The Illusions of Hospitality in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Hema and Kaushik” ’ ( CE&S 36:ii 41–9). Yun Ling undertakes a predictable examination of hybridity in ‘Restorative Nostalgia and Reconstruction of Imaginary Homeland in The Namesake ’ ( SLL 8:ii 73–6), while Monica Dahiya offers a comparative analysis in ‘Mirroring India: A Cultural Study of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine ’ ( LCrit 40 92–8). Madhurima Chakraborty, ‘Adaptation and the Shifting Allegiances of the Indian Diaspora: Jhumpa Lahiri’s and Mira Nair’s The Namesake (s)’ ( LFQ 42:iv 609–21), compares film version with novel, and much more astutely points out that Nair’s interpretation of diasporic/national belonging is not only divergent from, but the reverse of, rootedness in the ‘original’ culture that Lahiri repudiates.
Melanie Heydari-Malayeri interrogates some of the foundational assumptions of postcolonial belonging which demand an antagonistic negotiation with European cultural legacy in ‘ “Almost the Same, But Not Quite”: Masks and Mimicry in Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music ’ ( CE&S 36:ii 83–92). By virtue of the almost Eurocentric preoccupations of writers like Seth and Ishiguro, she labels them as ‘global’ or ‘international’ writers. Sam Knowles credits the nomadic experience and expression of the writer, the entertaining—if limited—authorial performance, with his later literary success in ‘The Performing Wanderer: The Travel Writing of Vikram Seth’ ( StTW 18:i 57–73).
No year can go by without tribute to Rushdie’s enduring oeuvre. Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan believes that the novel affords us a singular, defining spirit of the times in ‘Zeitgeist and the Literary Text: India, 1947, in Qurratulain Hyder’s My Temples, Too and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children ’ ( CritI 40:iv 439–65), and Adrienne D. Vivian thinks time itself becomes a narrative device for postcolonial identity in ‘Temporal Spaces in Garcia Marquez’s, Salih’s and Rushdie’s Novels’ ( CLCWeb 16:iii 1–9). Andrew Gaedtke is interested in delirium and disability in ‘Halluci-nation: Mental Illness, Modernity and Metaphoricity in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children ’ ( ConL 55:iv 701–25), while Madhumita Roy and Anjali Gera Roy draw forth the influences of One Thousand and One Nights , Kathasaritsagar , Panchatantra and Myth in ‘ Haroun and Luka : A Study of Rushdie’s Talismanic Stories’ ( JCL 49:ii 173–87).
Anna Guttman examines the networks of class hierarchies and caste divisions in ‘Loving India: Same-Sex Desire, Hinduism, and the Nation-State in Abha Dawesar’s Babyji ’ ( FWLS 6:iv 692–707). The essay offers an important corrective to the usual trajectory in contemporary theory and creative writing that privileges the diaspora as the site of emancipatory narratives for South Asian queer voices. Instead, it explores the queering of the Indian nation-state itself both through localized and located reading practices and by reterritorializing South Asian queer discourse in the Kamasutra . Critical Endeavour 20 gives us Premlata Rout’s ‘Critiquing Kamala Das’s Love Poetry in the Light of Queer Theory’ ( CritE 20 314–23) and C.N. Srinath’s ‘Indian Erotic Poetry in English: Kamala Das and After’ ( CritE 20 387–92).
Poetry is covered well in 2014. Asha Viswas reflects on ‘Landscapes of Self: Contemporary Indian Women’s Poetry’ ( KB 26 121–39). Three essays on Sri Aurobindo explore his aesthetics and poetics: A.K. Jha’s ‘The Petrarchan Sonnet in Sri Aurobindo’ ( Approaches 1:i 16–19); Haladhar Panda’s ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Critique of English Poetry’ ( CritE 20 347–67); and Rudrasis Dutta’s ‘Who Evolves? A Note on Sri Aurobindo’s Sonnets on Evolution’ ( CCW 1:i 8–14). Satyasindhu Ghosh reads ‘Nissim Ezekiel’s Poetry: Theory and Practice’ ( CritE 20 299–313) and Sumana Ghosh offers ‘Nissim Ezekiel’s Night of the Scorpion : A Critical Analysis’ ( Quest 28:ii 91–6). Anita Myles favours ‘Gynocentric Leanings in the Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra’ ( Quest 28:i 1–9); Gagan Bihari Purohit writes on ‘Jayanta Mahapatra’s Land and the Question of Reader Response’ ( CCW 1:ii 73–85).
‘Tabish Khair in Conversation’ ( Wasafiri 29:i 33–8) has Imtiaz Dharker drawing out the writer’s views on small-town cosmopolitanism, Babu culture, the importance of vernacular languages, the urgency of political literature in the contemporary world, the continuation of a Victorian sensibility in his work, and Muslim societies. ‘Against Stenography for the Powerful: An Interview with P Sainath’ by Cynthia G. Franklin and S. Shankar ( Biography 37:i 300–19) discusses the multiple award-winning documentary journalist’s writing in Everybody Loves a Good Drought and other works. It addresses the nature, ‘personhood’, and legal liabilities of corporate entity and contemporary practices of oppression, with acute attention to words and how they get distorted by everyday usage and naturalizing media. ‘Manoj Das [is] in Conversation with Bijay Kumar Das’ ( LCrit 49:iii–iv), while Ruskin Bond is interviewed by S.G. Puri and Arun Kumar Yadav ( Quest 28:ii 33–6). Arti Nirmal proffers a reading of ‘The Cinematic Translation of Ruskin Bond’s The Blue Umbrella ’ ( Quest 28:i 42–50). Rajvinder Singh is sure that ‘There Is So Much More To Say about Khushwant [Singh]’ ( IndLit 280 147–51).
Auritro Majumder traces the influence of leftist and Black Power movements on vernacular Indian theatre traditions against the grain of nationalist discourses in ‘The Poetics and Politics of Blackness: Literature as a Site of Transnational Contestation in Chanakya Sen’s The Morning After and Utpal Dutt’s The Rights of Man ’ ( JPW 50:iv 423–36). Theatre receives further attention in Pravat Kumar Mishra’s ‘Contextualising Myths, Folklores and Legends in the Plays of Girish Karnad’ ( CritE 20 260–72) and Kamalakar Bhat’s ‘Locating the Postcolonial Modern in Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq ’ ( LCrit 40:ii 74–81). Jnanranjan Padhi considers ‘The Ambivalence of Gender in Mahesh Dattani’s Seven Steps Around the Fire : A Theoretical Approach’ ( CritE 20 273–80).
English Literature from the north-east is slowly garnering critical respect. The inaugural special issue on ‘Terror’ of Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Critical Inquiry features I. Watitula Longkumer’s ‘Reading Terror in Literature: Exploring Insurgency in Nagaland through Temsula Ao’s These Hills Called Home: Stories from a War Zone ’ ( Sanglap 1:i 115–28). Rositta Joseph Valiyamattam interrogates ‘Woman as Historian: Personal and National Destinies in Temsula Ao’s These Hills Called Home ’ ( Quest 28:ii 66–76). Shanu Shukla and Amarjeet Nayak address ‘Splitting of Identity and in Time and Place: An Exploration of North-East Indian Writings through Their Use of Flashbacks and Reminiscences’ ( Galaxy 7).
The life and writings of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi have always been studied alongside discussions of Indian English literature. In ‘Speaking through Bodies, Exhibiting the Limits: British Colonialism and Gandhian Nationalism’ ( FWLS 6:iv 675–91), Chandrima Chakraborty presents a nuanced consideration of Gandhi’s views on gender that were powerfully influenced and disturbed by the British narrative of India as effeminate, apathetic, and deviant. She argues that Gandhi’s experiments with himself and the body disrupt hegemonic histories and present instead a novel, anti-colonial representational practice. In inventing an ascetic discipline in service of the nation, Gandhian methods contest colonialist views of Hindu religion and masculinity and, at the same time, become modes of dominating marginalized castes, classes, genders, and religions. N. Prateebha and G. Baskaran assess the ‘Impact of Gandhian Philosophy on the Novels of Nayantara Sahgal’ ( Quest 28:i 88–94).
Aradhana Sharma argues for the contemporary relevance of the Mahatma in ‘Epic Fasts and Shallow Spectacles: the “India against Corruption” Movement, Its Critics, and the Remaking of “Gandhi” ’ ( SA 37:iii 365–80). Siobhan Lambert-Hurley takes up the little-known work of a Muslim disciple of Gandhi in ‘ The Heart of a Gopi : Raihana Tyabji’s Bhakti Devotionalism as Self-Representation’ ( MAS 48:iii 569–95), and Shvetal Vyas Pare focuses on the entanglement between personal and political identity in ‘Writing Fiction, Living History: Kanhaiyalal Munshi’s Historical Trilogy’ ( MAS 48:iii 596–616), Munshi being a close associate of Gandhi and pre-eminent Gujarati freedom-fighter. J. Daniel Frame scrutinizes the work of the Gadr Party, whose members were dissatisfied with nonviolence and posed a serious threat to the Mahatma’s popularity, in ‘Echoes of Ghadr: Lala Har Dayal and the Time of Anticolonialism’ ( CSSAM 34:i 9–23).
Saswat S. Das, Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha, and Sandeep Sarkar attempt a deconstructive intervention in the foundational texts of Indian nationalists like Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda, and Nehru in ‘Defamiliarising Nationalist Discourses: Performative Ironies of the Normative Indian Episteme’ ( Asiatic 8:ii 176–94). They argue that these thinkers offered only mythic abstractions and religious normativities, thereby fostering a collective cultural amnesia that saw the birth of a nation both as an intangible site and ominous threat. The writers instead offer Homi Bhabha’s conceptualization of Dissemin/Nation as a corrective. Dipesh Chakrabarty provides the historical backdrop to ‘Friendship in the Shadow of Empire: Tagore’s Reception in Chicago, circa 1913–1932’ ( MAS 48:v 1161–87) and shows how the theme of ‘civilization’ influenced the poet’s overseas reception.
6. New Zealand and Pacific
This year saw something of a bumper harvest for New Zealand and Pacific English studies, with several important articles treating little-discussed topics or pushing existing work in new directions. Like the El Niño weather patterns the region’s farmers work around, these critical gusts of heat seem unpredictable and inexplicable. One attractive crop is Murray Edmond’s Then It Was Now Again , a selection of forty years’ worth of literary critical writing usefully contextualized by the author and Scott Hamilton. Edmond positions himself as part of the ‘other tradition’ (p. 91) in New Zealand writing, and his interests—in literature and committed politics, and in drama especially—give this collection a set of bearings and a critical assumption quite different, in its partisan, sometimes polemical outlook, to most accounts of postwar writing. All the pieces in Then It Was Now Again have previously been published elsewhere, but many were in hard-to-locate small journals and avant-garde periodicals; Atuanui Press is to be congratulated on bringing them accessibly together.
Although it may look more conventional in approach, Helen Lucy Blythe’s The Victorian Colonial Romance with the Antipodes is, in its way, as unusually ordered and combatively framed as Edmond’s collection. Blythe begins with an epigraph from Darwin—‘these Antipodes call to one’s mind old recollections of childish doubt and wonder’ (p. 1)—and proceeds to offer a dialectical account of the doubt and wonder evoked in and produced by European readings of antipodean New Zealand. Victorian colonial imagination takes place, Blythe suggests, in a topsy-turvy world ‘characterized by inversion, fancy, impossibility and asymmetry’, offering ‘a distinctive narrative path for writers, providing a symbolic architecture for investigating the tensions between proximity and distance’ (p. 4). Her own study proceeds using similarly imaginative inversions, clashing together biographical studies with close reading, historical contextualization with genre theory, especially by way of conversation with Northrop Frye, and giving subtle attention to the ways in which colonial narratives ‘highlighted and destabilized generic as well as social categories’ (p. 5). There are thoughtful chapters on Tom Arnold and Mary Taylor. Most refreshing, however, are Blythe’s chapters on Alfred Domett’s strange epic Ranolf and Amohia , its ‘lethal Antipodes’ read as ‘gothic landscape signifying the horror of immanent violence and death in a displacement of the hostilities’ of historical struggle with Māori (p. 99), and on Samuel Butler, whose The Way of All Flesh , on this reading, develops out of and is facilitated by ‘Butler’s experiences among settlers and Māori’ as they ‘highlighted the resemblance of colonial to familial machinations of power’ (p. 123). Blythe’s intellectually curious and agile book has many virtues; its vice is a tendency to ladle the sauce of ‘Theory’ so thickly it loses analytical bite. There are also too many simple errors and repetitions, and these ought to have been picked up by Palgrave’s copy-editors.
Valérie Baisnée’s ‘Through the Long Corridor of Distance’: Space and Self in Contemporary New Zealand’s Women’s Autobiographies offers interesting local readings of Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Barbara Anderson, Fiona Kidman, Lauris Edmond, and Janet Frame. Baisnée’s readings are attentive, but readers will need to persevere through quite a bit of theoretical language. The study, Baisnée tells us, ‘has sought to skirt the pitfalls of exalting or humiliating the self, or treating it solely as a performance in the narrative’ while outlining ‘some ethical implications of the hermeneutics of the autobiographical self’ (p. 129). More concrete work is, thankfully, carried out along the way. Elizabeth Hale’s collection Maurice Gee, a Literary Companion: The Fiction for Young Readers , the first of a projected two-part literary companion, sets out to redress the relative paucity of critical commentary around Gee’s substantial body of creative work. Hale’s contributors set out to ‘show the range and depth of Gee’s works for young readers’ (p. 22) and, if the collection is never quite sure of its status as a survey, an entrée, or a critical companion, its results are nevertheless engaging. Chapters from Claudia Marquis on the early fantasy novels (pp. 25–54), Diane Hebley on the historical quintet (pp. 55–82) and Elizabeth Hale on Salt , Gool , and The Limping Man chart Gee’s career; other chapters offer more analytical treatment, with Kathryn Walls studying the influence of Lyndhal Gee’s writings on her son’s novels (pp. 101–21), Louise Clark on his use of the fantasy form (pp. 123–46), and Vivien van Rij (pp. 147–61) on Gee’s use of character types. Children’s literature is now an established and respectable topic for literary study, and this Literary Companion offers resources for further scholarship.
Two contemporary authors, Fiona Kidman and Witi Ihimaera, are discussed in Hamish Dalley’s The Postcolonial Historical Novel: Realism, Allegory, and the Representation of Contested Pasts , a study suggesting, across chapters covering novels produced in Australia, New Zealand, and Nigeria, that a ‘realist imperative shapes the contemporary postcolonial historical novel’ (p. 103). Dalley’s chapter on Kidman’s The Captive Wife  (pp. 70–94) and its multi-perspectival exploration of the ‘limitations of historical knowledge’ (p. 70) and the memory of settlement is a competent treatment of an under-discussed text. His argument is twofold. The Captive Wife ’s ‘formal heterogeneity and exploration of events from multiple, sometimes contradictory perspectives’ (p. 73) is, Dalley suggests, both a way of engaging ‘with public debates about colonial history’ by ‘foregrounding the putative typicality or representativeness of the documented figures themselves’ (p. 70), and thus also an implied commentary on the normative Lukácsian model of realism, and a form of ‘allegory in which sex and settlement form two halves of a metaphorical comparison’ (p. 71). This formal argument is then linked to a contextual, if sometimes too summary, account of mid-decade controversies over official biculturalism that ran in parallel to the novel’s moment of publication. Arguing along similar lines, Doreen D’Cruz’s ‘Gendering the Colonial Narrative: Fictional Historiography in Fiona Kidman’s The Captive Wife ’ ( JPW 50:iii 341–53) stresses also the ‘reclaimed female historiography’ (p. 352) made possible by Kidman’s narrative technique. Less successful, and more awkwardly uncertain of its claims, is Dalley’s chapter on Ihimaera’s The Trowenna Sea  (pp. 97–120). Ihimaera’s novel has, Dalley claims, ‘a vastly expanded spatio-historical frame’ (p. 96) compared to Kidman’s, and he reads it as a departure, in Ihimaera’s oeuvre and in postcolonial literature more generally, opening ‘the representation of history to principles not predicated on unity, progressive temporality, or the establishment of continuity between people and places’ (p. 99). This argument is detailed, and with a roll-call of familiar critics and theorists produced as sympathetic witnesses; the novel itself, however, is all but kept from the witness box. This may be—although Dalley is too tactful to address the point directly—to do with problems of literary evaluation. A host of carefully indirect and agentless formulations (‘disquiet emerged in a magazine review by Jolisa Gracewood’, p. 102) half-acknowledge the ‘alleged violation’ (p. 102) in the text’s plagiarisms, but Dalley manages to discuss this text without considering whether it is good enough to support his argument. The chapter shows signs of insufficient editing between composition and publication, too; The Trowenna Sea is Ihimaera’s ‘latest novel’ (p. 98) but then a ‘subsequent publication’ (p. 103) appears. For a book about the historical novel, there’s a curious indifference to critical history in Dalley’s account, and he makes little of Ihimaera’s thirty-year publishing history before The Trowenna Sea , and much less again of the rich, contentious archive of postcolonial debates on realism stretching back across the postwar period.
The outstanding publication for 2014 must be, however, Diana Looser’s triumphant Remaking Pacific Pasts: History, Memory and Identity in Contemporary Theater from Oceania . Bristling with critical insights, sensitive to local material and particular texts, as well as synoptic and synthesizing in its range, Looser’s study is multilingual, multi-disciplinary, and hugely ambitious. The number of playtexts and performances Remaking Pacific Pasts considers is impressive, reaching from New Zealand to Fiji, Hawai’i to New Caledonia. Looser has read carefully and discerningly across several complex and nationally specific theatre contexts. Her writing is learned, lively, and accessible, and there is a generous provision of illustrations, and a very helpful index of Pacific plays, their year of first performance, and publication date, making this a volume well suited for the advanced undergraduate as much as the scholar and researcher.
Part of the frustration when encountering a work as assured and exacting as Remaking Pacific Pasts is to do with the paucity of the critical archive surrounding these texts. Who to argue alongside? Critical controversy and conversation need a body of work for scholars to negotiate their way amongst, and chapters in Birgit Däwes and Marc Beaufort’s collection Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance add nutritious topsoil to the scholarly fields. The term ecocritical is, in this collection, as vague and free-floatingly pious as it is elsewhere; the collection’s value, however, is in the specific readings and performance contextualizations generated. Hilary Halba’s ‘Cleansing the Tapu: Nature, Landscape and Transformation in Three Works by Māori Playwrights’ (pp. 219–34) surveys political-ecological responses in texts by Witi Ihimaera and Briar Grace-Smith, and posits nature as in a ‘sibling’ (p. 231) relationship to humanity, rather than as a more traditionally romantic metaphor for the human condition, in the world-view of these two authors. Halba’s local readings are careful, but her wider frame—contrasting monolithic Māori and Pākehā world-views as expressive totalities realized in these individual playtexts—can be constricting. Lisa Warrington and David O’Donnell’s ‘Unfolding the Cloth: Patterns of Landscape and Identity in The Conch’s Masi ’ (pp. 199–218), after the inevitable, and tiresome, detour through Homi Bhabha’s work, provides a fascinating account of the ‘new theatrical language’ (p. 200) pioneered by The Conch. Their performances and compositions use cloth, stance, natural materials, translation, and sound to create theatrical works in which the playscript is decentred and ends up one element among many. How, then, ought criticism to conduct itself? The Conch’s work is imaginatively border-crossing in ways literal and figurative, too; a Fijian story in their Vula  ended up with Samoan-language elements in performance due to the exigencies of casting and actors’ availability, and then this in turn becomes an important element of the work. Warrington and O’Donnell make creative use of Albert Wendt’s celebrated discussion of the ’va , that space between things and concepts so important in Samoan intellectual life, and draw on interviews they conducted with collaborators and performers. Although on francophone Pacific literature and thus not within the realms of English studies, another notable chapter is Diana Looser’s ‘Je te parle d’harmonie entre les plantes: Ecologies of New Caledonian Nationhood in Pierre Gope’s La Parenthèse ’ (pp. 186–98). Using similar comparative theatre studies to Looser, Melissa Kennedy’s ‘Early Ainu and Māori Postcolonial Theatre: Postman Heijiro and Te Raukura ’ ( JPW 50:iii 329–40) reads the first Ainu play, performed in 2005, against Harry Dansey’s Te Raukura , first performed in 1972, in order to find ‘thematic and staging similarities between the plays’ and ‘common motivations, techniques and difficulties for indigenous cultures that wish to iterate resistance’ (p. 331). Kennedy concludes her essay with suggestions for further research in Ainu theatre based on the Māori experience: the forty years since Dansey’s first production have generated a rich body of work with which to compare and contextualize, whereas Postman Heijiro lacks ‘a body of Ainu work with which to compare’ it (p. 337). Kennedy’s essay demonstrates some of the exciting directions this new generation of trans- or internationalizing postcolonial criticism can point towards.
Less successful are two essays on sexuality in contemporary Māori writing. Jana Fedtke’s ‘ “What to Call That Sport, the Neuter Human …”: Asexual Subjectivity in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People ’ (in Cerankowski and Milks, eds., Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives , pp. 329–43) treats Hulme’s novel as a ‘safe space for asexual identities’ (p. 330) rather than as a literary work. Kerewin, Hulme’s protagonist, seems, Fedtke worries, ‘lonely and does not have anybody around her who feels the way she does or who understands her attitude towards sexuality’ (p. 333). She is also, most damagingly of all for her viability as a thinker, a paper being, although Fedtke nowhere acknowledge or considers this. Yanwei Tan in turn scolds Michael, protagonist of Witi Ihimaera’s The Uncle’s Story  for his lack of ‘willingness to embrace mutually respectful recognition on an interpersonal basis’ (p. 367). Tan’s ‘Recognition, Political and Interpersonal: Gay Tribalism in Witi Ihimaera’s The Uncle’s Tale ’ ( MFS 60:ii 366–86) is disappointed in poor Michael, with his ‘lack of spontaneity in his interpersonal relations and intersubjective exchange’ (p. 383), and more disappointed still in his naughty author, Ihimaera, who has ‘not come up with an adequate answer to the vexed question of interpersonal relations, both intraracial and interracial’ (p. 383). The anti-literary and reductionist drift in criticism is dispiriting.
The situation is not hopeless, however, and three other texts, with their focus on teaching and textuality, show what can be done when Māori writing is approached as a sophisticated and rewarding body of literary work. Julia V. Emberley, in her The Testimonial Uncanny: Indigenous Storytelling, Knowledge, and Reparative Practices (pp. 254–88), reads Patricia Grace’s Potiki and Baby No-Eyes as examples of the ‘indigenous uncanny’, a form she sees working in ‘a struggle against immobility, stagnation and conservatism’ (p. 254). ‘Storytelling represents a formation for the transmission of knowledge’ (p. 254), Emberley argues, and her political appreciation for Grace’s ‘Indigenous ethics’ (p. 282) is linked throughout the chapter to detailed, attentive readings of her narratives as narratives. Taking up these connections between literary form and ethical and political questions, Matthew Packer’s ‘ E Tu : On Teaching Patricia Grace’s Novel of the Māori Battalion’ ( Antipodes 28:i 62–73) and Emily R. Johnston’s ‘Trauma Theory as Activist Pedagogy: Engaging Students as Reader-Witnesses of Colonial Trauma in Once Were Warriors ’ ( Antipodes 28:i 5–17) both pleasingly blend practical classroom questions with literary analysis and postcolonial theory. Jane Stafford’s ‘ “This Poem is a Sea Anchor”: Robert Sullivan’s Anchor’ (in vanden Driesen and Ashcroft, eds., Patrick White Centenary Essays , pp. 458–69) adds to a growing body of scholarship around Sullivan’s important Star Waka  sequence, following the lines of his collection as they link together European inheritances reworked for indigenous ends. Star Waka is, Stafford contends, one of ‘the most significant works of the second generation of Māori Renaissance writers’ (p. 460).
As Looser’s Remaking Pacific Pasts is for criticism, the landmark publication for 2014 in editorial scholarly work must surely be Gerri Kimber and Angela Smith’s third volume of the Edinburgh edition of Katherine Mansfield’s collected works, The Poetry and Critical Writings of Katherine Mansfield . This volume, prepared with the editorial assistance of Anna Plumridge, is bound, along with the Edinburgh edition as a whole, to redefine our sense of Mansfield’s achievement and significance in the same way the O’Sullivan and Scott edition of the Letters [1984–2008] made new biographical readings thinkable. Kimber and Smith have brought together every piece of non-fiction Mansfield wrote, and include scores of recently discovered items, including poetry, aphorisms, impressions, and translations. Editorial diligence and archival sleuthing bring their rewards here, in a handsome edition both useful and user-friendly as a scholarly resource and pleasing to the eye of the general reader. Claire Davison’s substantial introduction to the translations (pp. 141–51) is particularly illuminating, and the opportunity to trace images and motifs across Mansfield’s career made all the easier by the bulk of poetry brought together into one volume. With 179 poems, this book contains more than twice the number collected in the last edition  of Mansfield’s poetry.
Maurizio Ascari’s lively little Cinema and the Imagination in Katherine Mansfield’s Writing , one of Palgrave’s new Pivot series of mini-monographs, usefully supplements the existing literature on Mansfield and cinema by ‘using silent cinema as a critical lens’ (p. 5) and by paying particular attention to the ways in which Mansfield was ‘daring enough to grasp the liberating potential of the narrative syntax of film’ (p. 28). Ascari pursues this through both close readings of Mansfield stories in which cinema or cinematic techniques are thematized and accounts of her diary and journalistic entries on cinema, as well as by tracing the development of her circle’s approach to cinema from the initially dismissive stance of Rhythm and The Blue Review through to acceptance and enthusiasm and then into suspicions of mass culture in the age of Chaplin. Ascari’s account, delivered across five short and accessible chapters, is, if a little slight, revealing.
‘There has been’, Alice Kelly suggests in her introduction to this year’s edition of Katherine Mansfield Studies , edited by Gerri Kimber, Todd Martin, Delia da Sousa Correa, Isobel Martin, and Alice Kelly as Katherine Mansfield and World War One , ‘a surprising reluctance to view Mansfield as a war writer’ (p. 4). Mansfield, after all, lost a close family member and several friends in the war, and saw more of the disruption in France than many of her female contemporaries. The reason for this reluctance, Kelly suggests, may be as much to do with the marginal position of Mansfield’s favoured form, the short story, and the novel’s associated connection with larger social questions, as with any biographical considerations. The essays collected in the yearbook seek to redress this imbalance, with stimulating results. Josiane Paccaud-Huguet’s ‘By What Name Are We To Call Death? The Case of “An Indiscreet Journey” ’ (pp. 13–25) subjects this well-known story to a psychoanalytic reading, treating together the evocations of Eros and Thanatos in its account of a woman’s visit to her lover at the front. Paccaud-Huguet wears her Lacanianism lightly, and the result is a sprightly, intellectually stimulating new reading. J. Lawrence Mitchell’s informal, almost chatty ‘Katherine Mansfield’s War’ (pp. 27–41) gathers together biographical details in order to challenge the view that Mansfield ‘did her best to ignore the 1914–1918 war’ (p. 27); in the process, he demonstrates that there are yet further depths into which John Middleton Murry’s reputation for ‘shameful cravenness’ (p. 29) might still plunge. Blending biographical material with close readings of Mansfield’s ‘Pension Sketches’, Isobel Maddison’s ‘Mansfield’s “Writing Game” and World War One’ (pp. 42–54) demonstrates how these stories both participated in and, at times, qualified and corrected ‘the discourse of anti-invasion’ literature (p. 50) popular in the years before the war. Maddison’s comparisons of stories as they first appeared in the New Age with their later book form is especially intriguing; seemingly minor alterations, made to give the collection coherence, are shown, in her hands, as subtly shifting and making more complex the stories’ political positions. Helen Rydstrand’s ‘Ordinary Discordance: Katherine Mansfield and the First World War’ (pp. 55–68) employs a similarly successful combination of biographical and textual approaches, taking the critical commonplace that modernism’s ‘intensification and illumination of the everyday’ was prompted by ‘the cataclysm of the war’ (p. 55) and looking for examples of this ‘radical discontinuity’ (p. 55) in Mansfield’s immediate responses to the conflict. Alex Moffett, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Home Front: Submerging the Martial Metaphors of “The Aloe” ’ (pp. 69–83), deploys genetic criticism to uncover some of the traces of the war submerged in ‘The Aloe’, traces written out in subsequent drafts. ‘The war moves’, Moffett suggests, ‘from a metaphorical yet tangible presence in the text, to a seeming and signifying absence’ (p. 70). Richard Cappuccio’s reading of ‘The Aloe’, by contrast, looks for martial metaphors and war terms in Kezia’s attempts to cope with the disruptive army of Samuel Josephs crowding her out (‘War Thoughts and Home: Katherine Mansfield’s Model of a Hardened Heart in a Broken World’, pp. 84–97). Rounding off the collection, Erika Baldt’s ‘Mythology and/of the Great War in Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” ’ (pp. 98–112) takes a scene of fly-torturing capriciousness as an intertextual borrowing from Titus Andronicus , and proceeds to read Mansfield’s story for the way its classical and mythological references both separate and connect readers’ historical sense with their understanding of the war’s significance. The yearbook taken as a whole is a welcome and fresh account of a curiously under-familiar aspect of this much-read writer.
‘Katherine Mansfield Masked and Unmasked’, this year’s special issue of the JNZL , edited by Charles Ferrall, Anna Jackson, Harry Ricketts, Marco Sonzogni and Peter Whiteford, opens with a response to Mansfield’s fiction and its ‘silent dialogue between author and reader’ (p. 26) from the acclaimed novelist Emily Perkins. Other articles, all drawn from a 2013 conference on Mansfield held at Victoria University, include Aimee Gasston’s witty ‘Phenomenology Begins at Home’ ( JNZL 32:ii 31–51), a rumination on the ‘material focus’ of Mansfield’s short fiction: ‘sitting at the border between subject and object, the hand undergoes sensory experience before transcribing that experience from a liminal hinterland’ (p. 31). Gasston is astute and adventurous in her account of the ‘material sensibility’ (p. 32) enlivening Mansfield’s stories, sensitive as they are to the ways in which the associations of the domestic environment can work up ‘the vivification of the insensate’ (p. 37). Another highlight is Sarah Shieff’s ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Fairytale Food’ ( JNZL 32:ii 68–84), a reading, by way of a stray comment by Frank Sargeson on the ‘fairy tale passages’ (p. 68) in Mansfield, of the strange, uncanny, and excessive qualities food is given in Mansfield’s stories. Not all the essays collected are of this quality, although there are useful pieces on the process of rewriting: Davide Manenti, ‘From the Store to the Story: Katherine Mansfield and the Process of Rewriting’ ( JNZL 32:ii 167–81), on the poetry of Rhythm ; Richard Cappuccio, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Mask’ ( JNZL 32:ii 182–202); and on abjection, neurasthenia, and children. Erin Mercer’s ‘Manuka Bushes Covered with Thick Spider Webs: Katherine Mansfield and the Colonial Gothic Tradition’ ( JNZL 32:ii 85–105) continues Gothic literary studies’ long colonizing march through the discipline, drawing together examples of something called ‘the Gothic mode’ (p. 107) to be found in Mansfield’s work. Charles Ferrall’s ‘Katherine Mansfield and the Working Classes’ ( JNZL 32:ii 106–20) offers a very useful first survey of class positions and attitudes towards labour in Mansfield’s fiction, only to undercut somewhat this work by leaving his central term—and its ambiguous plural form in his title—under-theorized and under-defined.
Colonial literature continues to provoke some of the most stimulating criticism. Clara Cheeseman’s massive A Rolling Stone , if discussed at all, is usually dismissed by critics as pointless melodrama, but Philip Steer’s ingenious ‘Antipodal Home Economics: International Debt and Settler Domesticity in Clara Cheeseman’s A Rolling Stone ’ (in Wagner, ed., Domestic Fiction in Colonial Australia and New Zealand , pp. 145–59) suggests the enormous condescension of posterity may be misplaced. Arguing for an expansion of critical horizons beyond narrowly national boundaries, Steer argues that ‘contextualising domestic settler fiction in light of shifting colonial and imperial economic conditions allows such texts … to be recognized as having much broader thematic and geographic horizons than has hitherto been assumed’ (p. 145). Taking Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s economic theories and settler plans as the novel’s polemical silent partner, Steer follows the plots of ‘economic downturn’ (p. 152) through the novel to consider Cheeseman’s achievement as a comment on mid-Victorian debates around investment, debt, and settlement. He extends this argument to the novel’s bulky form itself, concluding that its formal qualities ‘can be seen as final contributions to the novel’s reflections on the colony’s viability’ (p. 158) as a form of dignifying aesthetic labour in ‘solidity and length promising a profitable return on the reader’s investment’ (p. 159). Steer’s is a rich and pleasing chapter on a little-read text. Also in Domestic Fiction in Colonial Australia and New Zealand (pp. 161–76), Kirstine Moffat’s ‘ “What Is in the Blood Will Come Out”: Belonging, Expulsion and the New Zealand Settler Home in Jessie Weston’s Ko Méri ’ connects ideological fantasies of Māori as a dying race with fictional ‘expulsions’ (p. 163) from the family home.
Lydia Wevers’s important Reading on the Farm  initiated a turn to book history and a concentration on material cultures in New Zealand literary studies. This continues unabated in 2014, with fine essays by Peter Simpson on ‘The Odd Couple: Denis Glover, Leo Bensemann and the Caxton Press’ ( JNZL 32 31–68), and Kirstine Moffat on Alfred Nesbit Brown’s book collection, ‘ “A Habit of Walking with God”: The Books of Alfred Nesbit Brown’ ( JNZS 17 73–92). Dougal McNeill’s ‘Reading Nowhere in Erewhon: Bellamy, Morris, and New Zealand’ ( Kotare  1–13) attempts similar work.
Articles of note on modern and contemporary authors covered a wider range of topics than in previous years. Daniel McKay’s ‘The Japanese Tourist Survival Guide: Undead Tropes of the Pacific War in Contemporary New Zealand Literature’ ( JCL 49:i 127–41) contains interesting discussions but, bafflingly, makes no mention of Carl Shuker’s The Method Actors , surely the signal example of its thesis. Marc Delrez’s lively ‘Fossil Capacities in the Work of Janet Frame’ ( JNZPS 2:i 69–81) riffs off suggestive lines from Wilson Harris in order to follow some of the ‘lampooning of New Zealand parochialism and anti-intellectualism’ (p. 74) at work in Frame’s posthumously published Towards Another Summer . Delrez’s Frame is a funnier and looser writer than criticism is used to presenting, alive to the clichés of national identity and making, in Delrez’s case, space for ‘decentrings’ of the ‘discourse of national identity’ (p. 70). His is a stimulating, original, and thoughtful account. Cyrena Mazlin carries out a similar political or materialist turn, long overdue in Frame studies, in her ‘Returned Soldiers in Owls Do Cry, A State of Siege , and The Carpathians : Janet Frame’s Subversive Representations’ ( Antipodes 28:ii 327–38). Mazlin notes the presence of returned soldiers and victims of war in all of Frame’s longer works, and considers what they might say about postwar masculine cultures. The ‘border between the brave and noble soldier celebrated in public memory and the conflicted and haunted solider, represented as a harbinger of dis-ease in a domestic setting’ is, Mazlin suggests, ‘permeable’ (p. 337), and Frame is the master-explorer of permeable boundaries.
I have had reason to complain in previous years that New Zealand literary studies can seem dominated by Frame and Mansfield. In a welcome shift, 2014 saw a cluster of worthwhile publications on contemporary poetry and poetics. Nicholas Wright’s ‘The Disenchanted Romanticism of James Brown’ ( JNZL 32 119–40) offers a first scholarly assessment of this writer, and places him as both an exemplary member of a generation of poets engaged in ‘wary avoidance of … the tricky business of authority’ in their writing of ‘the poetry of not-writing-poetry’ (pp. 130–1), and as an original explorer of the ‘romantic sense of disenchantment’ (p. 127). This sense, Wright suggests, has, in its mixture of laconic recognition that poetry ‘makes nothing happen’ and continuing commitment to produce, linked Brown both to long-standing trends in New Zealand verse and to international contemporary critical thought. Another writer only now finding critical attention is the late Leigh Davis, and Roger Horrocks’s ‘Leigh Davis: From Willy’s Gazette to Nameless ’ ( JNZL 32 69–106), a moving combination of biographical account from a friend and insightful critical acclamation of his work, is an excellent introduction to this complex poet’s writings. Davis has been neglected, Horrocks suggests, because of local literary prejudice against his career in finance and critical hostility towards his anti-realist and openly intellectual poetics. But, after all, Eliot and Stevens were businessmen-poets, and there is something salutary in the challenge for writers to be ‘worthy of their modernist ancestors’ (p. 99). A loving and astute survey of this inheritor of the ‘modern Symbolist tradition’ (p. 99), Horrocks’s essay ought to send readers to Davis’s innovative collections. It’s a particular pleasure to note a fine essay on Allen Curnow, a major poet still too little discussed in all his complexity. Tam Vosper, ‘Reconnecting with Nature and Place: Place and Self-Construal in the Poetry of Allen Curnow’ ( JNZL 32 141–60), reads three canonical poems in order to consider the ‘interdependent dynamic of place and self-construal’ (p. 146) in Curnow’s work. This ‘conscious place-making’ (p. 142) is not, thankfully, to do with yet another rehearsal of the old arguments about national identity and cultural nationalism but is, rather, a way of reading ‘Steely, cold, apocalyptic, impersonal Curnow’ (p. 157) as a poet of the ‘local’ and ‘wild’ (p. 144), newly approachable now in the light of ecocritical insights. Pairing extended close reading with environmental reflection, Vosper reminds us that ecocriticism need not be all vagueness and platitudes. Mark Williams’s ‘When You’re Dead You Go on Television: Sex, Death and Household Objects in Some Recent New Zealand Poetry’ ( Sport 42 149–73) is in part an extended reading and appreciation of Bill Manhire’s verse, and in part a consideration of the ways ‘in our own post-religious culture the words of the older one in which religious ideas were widely shared still speaks to us, even if we have lost faith in or forgotten the meanings they once signified’ (p. 163). Williams detects a ‘new richness in the language of our poetry, even where it embraces a severe plainness of expression’ (p. 167), and he makes generous use of extended quotation to demonstrate this richness and growth.
Finally, confusion, as much as clarity, has its scholarly uses, and Vincent O’Sullivan brings all his remarkable erudition to play in ‘On the Beach at Stresa, in “The Whitesheaf” in Soho’ ( JNZL 32 11–30) to muddy and mess around some too-simple critical divisions and histories. Tracking Dan Davin and Frank Sargeson’s relationship and literary evaluations of each other and themselves, O’Sullivan then ponders each writer’s response to Mansfield and Mulgan. If this ‘had muddied the waters a little as we think about our writing forebears, then good. We are not part of a straightforward, consistent stream, although one might think at times that critical discourse would rather like us to be’ (p. 27). O’Sullivan’s own meandering journey through tributary and shoal, drawing on unpublished as well as published letters and talks, sends off its own insights for that very critical discourse he is at pains, a trifle disingenuously, to keep at a distance. The results are a pleasure to read and a spur to further critical thought.
7. Southeast Asia
(a) The Philippines
Scholarship about literature in English from the Philippines published in 2014 can be broadly divided into two strands: the first focuses on the effects of Spanish and American colonialism on national identity and the politics of language and literature, while the second examines specific writers, literary texts, and critical concepts in the context of transnational movements and globalizing currents, especially with regard to the Philippines’ relationship with the United States.
Eugenio Matibag’s book chapter ‘Long-Distance Nationalism: The Filipino Ilustrados Abroad’ (in Menon and Preziuso, eds., Migrant Identities of ‘Creole Cosmopolitans’: Transcultural Narratives of Contemporary Postcoloniality , pp. 95–106) examines the influence of nineteenth-century ilustrados (young male Filipinos studying in France and Spain) on the work of contemporary writers. Matibag interweaves an analysis of Miguel Syjuco’s novel Ilustrado with a detailed discussion of the life and work of historical ilustrados such as José Rizal to show how Syjuco, as ‘a modern-day ilustrado’, is writing a new form of ‘world literature with a decidedly Filipino imprimatur’ (p. 105). José Rizal is also an important part of Maria Theresa Valenzuela’s essay ‘Constructing National Heroes: Postcolonial Philippine and Cuban Biographies of José Rizal and José Marti’ ( Biography 37:iii 745–61). Valenzuela uses ‘a metacritical analysis’ to discuss how Rizal’s anti-colonial martyrdom was re-created and retold by different biographers and fiction writers for their ‘particular nationalizing projects’ (p. 746).
Moving from Spanish to American colonialism, in ‘Colonial Management, Collaborative Dissent: English Readers in the Philippines and Camilo Osias, 1905–1932’ ( JAAS 17:ii 161–98), Malini Johar Schueller discusses the pivotal role played by English-language textbooks designed by American publishers in educating Filipino students to be good colonial subjects. Schueller focuses on Camilo Osias, the first Filipino superintendent of schools in the islands, and the series of readers he edited and published. Osias’s textbooks, although written within the framework of American colonial hegemony, nonetheless contained visual and textual elements that subvert American authority and gesture towards Filipino independence. The effect of English-language education on the Philippines and the varied responses by two different Filipino intellectuals during the 1960s are further examined by Vicente Rafael in his ‘Mis-education, Translation and the Barkada of Languages: Reading Renato Constatino with Nick Joaquin’ ( KK 21/22[2013–2014] 40–68). Rafael points out that Constatino condemned English as a sign of American colonialism producing historical and cultural amnesia. Nick Joaquin, on the other hand, departs from a zero-sum view of language use and argues that Tagalog slang hybridizes the colonial linguistic legacies of Spanish and English into a vital and creative vernacular. The context of US colonialism is also key to Jonathan Chua’s ‘The Making of Jose Garcia Villa’s Footnote to Youth ’ ( KK 21/22[2013–2014] 9–39). Villa’s only short-story collection faced a troubled publication process due to American perceptions of exoticism and otherness. Ironically, Chua observes, getting published by an American press actually consolidated Villa’s position in the Philippines as an important man of letters, and his name was ‘appropriated for extra-literary and arguably anti-colonial ends’ (p. 30).
J. Neil C. Garcia’s ‘Translation and the Problem of Realism in Philippine Literature in English’ ( KK 23 99–127) warns against applying the conceptual binaries of realism/modernism and mimetic/non-mimetic representation to anglophone writing from the Philippines. Garcia sees realism as a fraught term because writers must translate different local languages and linguistic registers into English, thus the texts lack a degree of verisimilitude to begin with. He argues instead that the very translatedness of such writing in a language that bears the traces of American imperialism should compel critics to ‘specify the postcolonial difference of the different aesthetic claims, posturings, and gestures of Filipino writers’ (p. 121).
Garcia also published a book of essays, Homeless in Unhomeliness: Postcolonial Critiques of Philippine Literature , which contains a slightly different version of the piece discussed above. The essays in this collection dwell on the paradox signalled by the title, which refers to one of the key psychoanalytical concepts used in postcolonial theory: unhomeliness. Garcia examines topics such as transnational poetry/poetics, LGBT discourse, camp performativity, and city spaces from a perspective that engages with postcolonial theory but also with an eye on how the particular circumstances of the Philippines resist and reconfigure such theory. In Garcia’s words, while it is possible to ‘celebrate the instances of transcultural agency’ and ‘postcolonial performances’ in Philippine letters, it is important to remember ‘the historical determinations within which this agency precariously exists’ (p. xviii). Garcia’s collection shows that an attention to local or regional specificities can be in dialogue with and transform theoretical axioms.
The second strand of essays, which focuses on specific writers or concepts within a broadly transnational framework, is exemplified by Louie Jon A. Sanchez’s ‘Archipeligiality as a Southeast Asian Poetic in Cirilo F. Bautista’s Sunlight on Broken Stones’ ( Suvannabhumi 6:i 193–221). Sanchez performs detailed close readings of Bautista’s epic poem, The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus . Although the poems are focused on the history and socio-political situation of the Philippines, Sanchez argues for a broader, transnational relevance of what he calls Bautista’s ‘archipeligiality’ (the creative positioning and writing of histories and memories through geographical places and metaphorical spaces) to other Southeast Asian literary cultures.
Myra Mendible highlights the work of Ninotchka Rosca in ‘Literature as Activism: Ninotchka Rosca’s Political Aesthetic’ ( JPW 50:iii 354–67). Emigrating to the USA in 1977 after being detained by Ferdinand Marcos’s authoritarian regime, Rosca continues to write fiction about and advocate for social justice and political freedom in her home country. In Mendible’s analysis, Rosca ‘often assumes the ideological role of the historian’ even as a writer, ‘imagining and recording her nation’s past in an effort to interpret its present conditions’ (p. 357).
A special issue of Kritika Kultura on Carlos Bulosan brings together the anti-colonial and transnational strands of criticism. Although Bulosan moved to the United States in 1930 and never returned to the Philippines, his influence is still deeply felt in Filipino letters and contributes to anti-colonial and anti-imperial criticism and a growing conjunction between Asian and Asian American studies. E. San Juan’s polemical piece, ‘Excavating the Bulosan Ruins: What Is at Stake in Re-discovering the Anti-Imperialist Writer in the Age of US Global Terrorism?’ ( KK 23 154–67), argues against seeing Bulosan as an immigrant who assimilated into American society because he was a colonial subject and not just a migrant worker. San Juan thus highlights the anti-colonial aspects of Bulosan’s life. Tim Libretti makes almost the same point in ‘Beyond the Innocence of Globalization: The Abiding Necessity of Carlos Bulosan’s Anti-Imperialist Imagination’ ( KK 23 236–54), but focuses more on Bulosan’s use of literary aesthetics in his prose to challenge and interrogate imperialist ideology. Marilyn C. Alquizola and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi discuss newly discovered archival correspondence in ‘Carlos Bulosan on Writing: The Role of Letters’ ( KK 23 168–88). They suggest that the set of letters sent and received in 1955 between Bulosan and his colleague Florentino B. Valeros (who was in the Philippines) shows that, even just before his death, Bulosan was unwavering in his political commitments. Monica Feria traces the connections between Bulosan and her mother in her essay ‘Writers and Exile: Carlos Bulosan and Dolores Stephens Feria’ ( KK 23 189–209) and argues that even though Dolores, or Dee, was a white American woman who migrated to the Philippines, she encountered a similar experience of exile as Bulosan did after he moved to the United States. Exile, Feria suggests, becomes a defining characteristic of literature from the Philippines, even by writers who have not physically left the islands, because of decades of socio-political unrest and authoritarian government. Turning from Bulosan himself to the reception of his most famous work, America Is in the Heart , John Streamas shares his insights teaching this genre-blurring text to American undergraduates. In ‘Organic and Multicultural Ways of Reading Bulosan’ ( KK 23 210–20) Streamas points out that first-year students who are not hampered by the need to fit Bulosan’s text into a generic category (such as the immigrant novel or a multicultural coming-to-America autobiography) are more alive to the complex historical experiences and class conflicts depicted. Also taking issue with the incorporation of Bulosan’s life and work under a depoliticized multicultural rubric is Amanda Solomon Amorao. ‘The Manong’s “Songs of Love”: Gendered and Sexualised Dimensions of Carlos Bulosan’s Literature and Labor Activism’ ( KK 23 221–35) Amorao reads Bulosan’s prose narratives, revealing ‘how the Filipino immigrant’s status as racialized labor is also gendered and sexualized’, and that his writing also points towards the need for ‘an intersectional liberatory praxis that is both anticolonial and anticapitalist’ (p. 224). Bulosan’s emphasis on the violence wrought by the divisions of race, class, and gender in the United States prevents his writing from being seamlessly included in a multicultural canon. Finally, Michael Viola, Valerie Francisco, and Amanda Solomon Amorao, who are scholar-activist members of the Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies Collective (CFFSC), discuss Bulosan’s importance for their work in ‘Carlos Bulosan and a Collective Outline for Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies’ ( KK 23 255–76). They focus on America Is in the Heart and on how Bulosan’s insights in that text can advance ‘a structural critique of neoliberal globalization in the Philippines and in the US’ (p. 270).
Perhaps the most notable publication regarding Malaysian literature in English this year is Asiatic 8:i, devoted to the work of Shirley Geok-lin Lim. Lim, who was born and raised in Malaysia, lived and worked in Singapore for many years, now resides in the United States, and has become a renowned Asian American scholar and creative writer. Of the fourteen essays in the special issue, quite a number revisit topics in earlier scholarship, such as Lim’s representations of migration, exile, and transnational subjectivity, her feminist interrogations of heroic and paternalistic national and cultural narratives, and her contributions to Asian American literature and scholarship. This entry will focus on the essays presenting fresh perspectives on Lim’s work, such as Sneja Gunew’s ‘ “A Multilingual Life”: The Cosmopolitan and Globalectic Dimensions of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Writings’ ( Asiatic 8:i12–24). Gunew interprets Lim’s critical use of language in her memoir, poetry, and scholarship as evidence of a revised and renewed cosmopolitan stance. This stance is in line with recent scholarship conceptualizing cosmopolitanism as a subjectivity attentive to inequalities caused by economic globalization rather than one of detached privilege and transnational mobility. In ‘ “How Can I Prove That I Am Not Who I Am?”: Layered Identities and Genres in the Work of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’ ( Asiatic 8:i 25–39) Katrina M. Powell looks at how Lim’s crossing of geographical borders is related to her intellectual crossing of generic borders as she moves between poetry, prose fiction, memoir, and criticism. Powell then focuses on Lim’s memoir Among the White Moon Faces as an example of what she calls a ‘performative autobiography’ that mobilizes readers with ‘a call to action’ (p. 26). Silvia Schultermandl observes Lim’s work making an aesthetic turn in ‘ “Imagination Is a Tricky Power”: Transnationalism and Aesthetic Education in Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Work’ ( Asiatic 8:i 40–54). Schultermandl proposes that aesthetic education appears in Lim’s work as a double-edged sword: the characters in Lim’s first novel Joss and Gold ‘gain agency precisely because of the tension between universal ideas of beauty and particular circumstances of lived experience’ in Malaysia and Singapore (p. 49). Tracing a similar aesthetic thread in Lim’s novel, Chitra Sankaran, ‘Writing Back: Ethics and Aesthetics in Joss and Gold ’ ( Asiatic 8:i 173–84), contends that Lim creates an intertwined ethical and aesthetic structure in order to interrogate Western stereotypes about Asians, especially Asian women. However, the novel refuses to simply generate alternative stereotypes; instead of inverting a binary opposition, Lim is actually ‘showing the rift between autonomy and relational ethics’ through her Malaysian, Singaporean, and American characters who are embedded in contested situations (p. 183). Moving from aesthetic to alimentary matters, Andrew Hock Soon Ng’s essay ‘ “Eating Words”: Alimentary Motifs in Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Poetry’ ( Asiatic 8:i 55–71) relates Lim’s use of food and eating to diaspora, gender, and nostalgia studies. Even though alimentary motifs are inextricable from a nostalgia that ambivalently connects diasporic subjects to the ancestral homeland, Ng argues that Lim is able to use them to illuminate and interrogate ‘the status of women as valuable commodity within patriarchal economy’ (p. 64).
The problems and possibilities of writing from a diasporic perspective are also a common thematic in three other essays. Guat Eng Chuah advances an intriguing argument in ‘The Art of Fiction: Indian Diaspora’s Gift to Malaysian Fiction-Writing Descendants of Other Diasporas’ ( DiaS 7:i 18–27), which reads three novels by Malaysian writers who are of non-Indian ancestry through the narrative logic of Indian (specifically Hindu) intellectual and spiritual thinking. Such an approach, Chuah proposes, departs from Eurocentric reading practices that interpret characteristics such as non-linear narrative and metafictional commentary as poststructuralist writing. Diasporic writers may be physically distanced but not emotionally estranged from their homeland, as Carol Leon and Gladys Koh reveal in their essay ‘Retrieving Lost Histories: Spaces of Healing, Spaces of Liberation’ ( Asiatic 8:ii 110–24), which focuses on Twan Eng Tan’s first novel The Gift of Rain . A work of historical fiction, Tan’s novel ‘reconstructs the narrative of [Tan’s] homeland Malaysia’ but develops its characters’ ‘sense of belonging and self in the spaces prised open by history and memory’ rather than rewriting the historical record with new-found facts or verifiable events (p. 111). Tan’s protagonist Philip Khoo’s eventual reconciliation with his troubled past points towards the potential for healing and liberation for individuals who have suffered through colonial history. Similarly, although Preeta Samarasan writes from outside Malaysia, her novel is still an interrogation of class and racial discrimination in the country. In ‘Class and the Time of the Nation in Preeta Samarasan’s Evening Is the Whole Day ’ ( ArielE 45:i–ii 195–220) Lee Erwin employs Homi Bhabha’s distinction between the pedagogical and the performative aspects of nationalism to analyse the novels’ doubled structure. Samarasan’s novel not only takes issue with the patriarchal and racialized nature of the country’s postcolonial nationalist discourse, but also highlights how the fate of Chellam the servant girl represents the class distinctions within an ethnic minority group such as the Indian community in Malaysia.
Connections between problems of race, class, and gender are highlighted in another three essays. Wai Chew Sim argues, in ‘Beyond the Color Line: Intersectional Considerations in Chuah Guat Eng’s Fiction’ ( KK 23 33–46), that Chuah’s writing moves beyond identity politics in Malaysia to link ethnicity with the struggle for social justice and politico-economic equality. Sim claims that a reading practice attentive to national and regional contexts is needed to trace the intertwining of identity politics with problems of redistribution of power and wealth in the works of other Malaysian and Southeast Asian writers. Madiha Ramlan makes a similar point by showing how ‘Malay Characters in Lloyd Fernando’s Green is the Colour ’ ( Asiatic 8:ii 125–36) occupy different subject positions, some of which are in conflict. Such a heterogeneous cast of Malay characters departs from a state-sponsored narrative stressing a national identity premised on a more or less homogeneous ethnic and cultural identity. Looking at Chinese rather than Malay subject formation, Fiona Lee, ‘Epistemological Checkpoint: Reading Fiction as a Translation of History’ ( PocoT 9:i 21 pp.), discusses Han Suyin’s And the Rain My Drink as a novel that shows how ethnic Chinese subjectivity was shaped and incorporated by British colonial authorities during the 1948–60 Malayan Emergency. Lee focuses on the crucial role that translation plays in shaping both communicative practices between characters and the racialized subject positions they are placed in or assume. Also, the novel’s constant shifting between third- and first-person narration ‘can be read as a strategy for coping with the consequences of critiquing colonial power’ (p. 17), which was Han’s intention as a doctor who witnessed at first hand the human cost of British anti-communist counterinsurgency efforts.
This year saw the publication of Common Lines and City Spaces , a set of essays edited by Weihsin Gui dedicated to the work of Arthur Yap. Yap, who died in 2006, was a poet, painter, and scholar of linguistics who taught for many years at the National University of Singapore. Although he is regarded as one of the pioneers of anglophone Singaporean literature, relatively little critical attention has been paid to him compared to contemporaries such as Edwin Thumboo and Robert Yeo. This collection offers diverse and provocative perspectives on Yap’s poetry, fiction, and visual art. In ‘The Transformation of Objects into Things in Arthur Yap’s Poetry’, Weihsin Gui shows how Yap’s poetic language defamiliarizes commonplace objects and conceptual terms from their habitual usage, illuminating commodifying and disciplinary processes that subject Singaporeans’ everyday experience. Kim Cheng Boey examines Yap’s paintings in ‘ “The Same Tableau, Intrinsically Still”: Arthur Yap, Poet-Painter’, some of which appear as illustrations in his poetry collections. Boey discusses how his poetic and visual imaginations are intertwined; the abstract shapes and lines on his canvas work their way into the characteristic brevity and irony of his verse. Angus Whitehead’s essay ‘ “Go to Bedok, You Bodoh”: Arthur Yap’s Mapping of Singaporean Space’ focuses on Yap’s poetic allusions to specific urban spaces and landmarks in Singapore. He suggests that Yap’s attention to local details offers an alternative mapping of the country’s social and cultural memory to those offered by official state narratives. Also highlighting the urban context in Yap’s verse is Eddie Tay. In ‘On Places and Spaces: The Possibilities of Teaching Arthur Yap’, Tay uses Henri Lefebvre’s analysis of the politics of urban spaces as a framework to discuss his own experiences teaching Yap’s poetry to undergraduates in Hong Kong. From an ecocritical perspective, Xiaojing Zhou traces how Yap reconfigures the relationship between humans, their socio-cultural milieu and the natural environment in ‘Arthur Yap’s Ecological Poetics of the Daily’. Zhou points out how Yap’s poems disrupt conventional hierarchies that position humans as agents who shape and control the cultural and natural worlds. Cyril Wong’s detailed analysis of camp aesthetics in Yap’s poems in ‘ “Except for a Word”: Arthur Yap’s Unspoken Homoeroticism’ marks the first critical discussion of Yap’s sexual identity. Although Yap never came out as a gay man, Wong’s readings highlight the homoeroticism and emotional intimacy present in several poems, especially those dedicated to his long-time partner. In the closing co-authored essay, ‘ “A Long Way From What?”: Folkways and Social Commentary in Arthur Yap’s Short Stories’, Angus Whitehead and Joel Gwynne discuss Yap’s short fiction, which has hitherto been neglected due to his larger poetic output. Whitehead and Gwynne argue that Yap’s short stories offer social commentary through an emphasis on local folkways that push back against state policies of racial and linguistic standardization in a rapidly modernizing Singapore.
Kim Cheng Boey, who wrote the chapter on Yap’s paintings and poetry, is himself the focus of Bernadette Bernard’s essay, ‘Kim Cheng Boey’s Between Stations : “The Architecture of Memory” ’ ( LW 11:i 39–54). Although Boey is the author of four poetry collections, Between Stations is his first collection of prose. It began as a travel-writing project but ended up becoming ‘a layered memoir of loss and mourning’ (p. 40). Bernard discusses how Boey’s travels to cities such as Calcutta and Alexandria evoke memories of his childhood and time spent with his estranged and recently deceased father in the urban environment of Singapore. Between Stations is therefore Boey’s meditation on both the loss of a parent and the role of writing as imaginative, geographical, and temporal border crossing.
The topic of loss is also central to Harry Aveling’s essay ‘ 1819 : Isa Kamari on the Foundation of Singapore’ ( Asiatic 8:ii 88–109). Isa’s novel was originally written and published in Malay with the title Duka Tuan Bertakha , which means Sadly You Rule , but its English translation is worth noting. 1819 is commonly regarded as the year modern Singapore was established, when British East India Company official Thomas Stamford Raffles set up a trading port on the island. Aveling argues that Isa’s 1819 is a subversive retelling of the events culminating in the British colonial takeover of Singapore that highlights how the Malay community on the island was socially and politically marginalized in ways that persisted even after Singapore achieved its independence.
Four essays published this year examine globalization and cosmopolitanism and their effects and possibilities for thinking about the politics of using language and reading literature in Singapore. Lionel Wee’s ‘Linguistic Chutzpah and the Speak Good Singlish Movement’ ( WEn 33:i 85–99) highlights how the state-sponsored Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) generated a resistant counterpart, the Speak Good Singlish Movement (SSGM), on social media. Whereas the former disciplines Singaporeans to speak grammatically correct standard English, the latter encourages the use of vernacular Singaporean English or Singlish. Wee coins the term ‘linguistic chutzpah’ to describe not only ‘confidence in one’s linguistic choices in the face of criticism’ but also ‘drawing upon linguistic knowledge to justify these choices’ (p. 86). He argues that SSGM displays such chutzpah, which is salutary as language use in Singapore becomes ever more hybridized and fluid. As Wee points out in another essay, ‘Language Politics and Global City’ ( DSCP 35:v 649–60), Singapore’s self-presentation as a cosmopolitan city affects its long-standing bilingual policies that cast English as a language of business and administration and other languages as mother tongues or cultural anchors for the country’s multiethnic population. Wee suggests that an ‘open bilingual policy’ (p. 655) based on individual choice is more suitable for developing more inclusive and diverse forms of citizenship in a globalized world.
In a similar vein, Suzanne S. Choo’s ‘Toward a Cosmopolitan Vision of English Education in Singapore’ ( DSCP 35:v 677–91) draws on Jürgen Habermas’s tripartite distinction of cognitive, aesthetic, and moral domains in language to analyse how English language and English literature have been taught in Singapore’s school system. Choo argues that splitting off the study of English language from literature has led to the former becoming associated with cognitive and instrumental usage while literature is studied aesthetically, separated from socio-political issues and Singapore’s cultural context. Choo advocates an integrated approach to English studies driven by a ‘communicative cosmopolitanism’ to help Singaporeans develop ‘responsiveness and responsibility toward the other’ (p. 679) both within and beyond the nation-state. Choo’s vision resonates with Philip Holden’s argument in ‘Cosmopolitan Pedagogies: Revisiting Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Short Fiction’ ( Asiatic 8:i 195–208; the special issue mentioned earlier). Drawing on his experiences teaching Lim’s short stories to Singaporean undergraduates, Holden offers an intriguing argument: younger readers who are not familiar with the historical settings and contexts of Lim’s short stories might actually gain more from them. Because Lim’s stories have the ‘potential to defamiliarise: to challenge normative assumptions regarding sexuality and race that students have learned’ (p. 197), they compel readers to think in cosmopolitan terms, beyond their own experiences, and to consider other kinds of subject positions and relations.