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R. S. Thomas's mythic poems reflect primarily a deistic understanding, that is, they set forth a distant and, for the most part, impersonal creator-God. While Bishop Robinson argues for the 'ground of being' as a move towards a personal God of relationship, Thomas emphasises the phrase as indicating that God is not a 'being' at all. Thomas's poem entitled 'Via Negativa', from the collection H'm, is a good example of this, depicting the sensation of painful absence as itself indicative of divine presence. Thomas's depictions of the via negativa are primarily concerned with the experience of absence rather than with the technique of asceticism. This chapter discusses the root of the paradox out of which the via negativa emerges, and explains the poems 'Shadows', 'Adjustments' and 'The Absence', all from Frequencies, in order to examine it more closely.

in R. S. Thomas

The Cambridge mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was able to articulate with extraordinary clarity a fully humanistic opposition to the Great War. At times during the war's course, Russell was truly a man alone, despite his seemingly secure position in 1914 amidst the Cambridge University establishment. To Russell, armed conflict was ‘so irrational as to be literally unthinkable’. Although later in the war he might rethink and reshape his particular pacifism and his views on the pacifism of those around him, Russell's basic opposition to the war from the outbreak of hostilities was fundamental and stemmed directly from deep personal conviction. Russell was always distrustful of politics, especially during war. Once he realised that there was little chance of bringing an early end to the war, he commenced his work on the psychology behind not only the war in progress, but also war in general. For Russell, the ‘ideal’ of patriotism was only partial and inadequate, and hence not valid.

in A war of individuals
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Cultural identity and change in the Atlantic archipelago

The concept of 'margins' denotes geographical, economic, demographic, cultural and political positioning in relation to a perceived centre. This book aims to question the term 'marginal' itself, to hear the voices talking 'across' borders and not only to or through an English centre. The first part of the book examines debates on the political and poetic choice of language, drawing attention to significant differences between the Irish and Scottish strategies. It includes a discussion of the complicated dynamic of woman and nation by Aileen Christianson, which explores the work of twentieth-century Scottish and Irish women writers. The book also explores masculinities in both English and Scottish writing from Berthold Schoene, which deploys sexual difference as a means of testing postcolonial theorizing. A different perspective on the notion of marginality is offered by addressing 'Englishness' in relation to 'migrant' writing in prose concerned with India and England after Independence. The second part of the book focuses on a wide range of new poetry to question simplified margin/centre relations. It discusses a historicising perspective on the work of cultural studies and its responses to the relationship between ethnicity and second-generation Irish musicians from Sean Campbell. The comparison of contemporary Irish and Scottish fiction which identifies similarities and differences in recent developments is also considered. In each instance the writers take on the task of examining and assessing points of connection and diversity across a particular body of work, while moving away from contrasts which focus on an English 'norm'.

Culture' would now be the name that we give to the inhabiting of the potentiality; and intrinsic to the culture would be a fundamental aesthetic education. For Montesquieu, education depends on the aesthetic experience. In his famous 'Theses on the philosophy of history', Walter Benjamin proposed what has become a major insight for contemporary criticism, when he indicates the doublesided nature of 'cultural treasures' that embody what we call 'civilisation'. The text 'always-already-read' by elders/teachers such as F. Jameson is the text paralysed; and it is also the reader/student blinded, the cultural event or history arrested. Play is seen as a waste of time by politicians who regard children simply as fodder for political statistics or the achievement of targets. Isobel Armstrong considers childhood play, in which 'things lose their determining force', or, where things become pure potentiality.

in The new aestheticism
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Between Adorno and Heidegger

Aesthetic theory for T. W. Adorno marks out a domain of experience relatively immune from the impact of the banalisation of evil, indicated by Hannah Arendt to be distinctive of the latter part of the twentieth century. The differences between Adorno and Martin Heidegger, then, concerning politics and language, aesthetic analysis and its philosophical significance are clear cut. Lacoue-Labarthe argues in Heidegger, Art and Politics: The Fiction of the Political that Heidegger's political affirmation fictionalises politics, under the aegis of Hoelderlin. Walter Benjamin's version of antinomy which is to be evoked, for both Adorno and Heidegger work in philosophy for its own sake but also with an eye to a political transformation. Heidegger's notions of authenticity and historicality provide a challenge to the apparently dehistoricised notions of politics and aesthetics, which are in fact burdened with an unthought-through reception of the Greek notions of order and community.

in The new aestheticism

Walter Benjamin's alignment of the allegorical aesthetic with the ascetic mortification of the body in the Origin of German Tragic Drama rehearses the Alexandrian origins of allegory. The parallels that Giuseppe Ungaretti draws between Alexandria and the landscape of modern warfare are most evident in the earlier versions of L'Allegria. The self-destructive movements of Christian allegory that Benjamin identified in the baroque prefigure the attempt to dissolve aisthesis into ascesis that informs modern aesthetics. Baumgarten introduced rational ascesis into modern aesthetics through the notion of the education of sensibility, a tendency advanced by Schiller in his Aesthetic Education. If Ungaretti's Alexandrian poems consummately explore the complex movements of exile, homelessness and return that are central to the Alexandrian aesthetic, those of his fellow Alexandrian C. P. Cavafy focus on the aspect of pleasure and its embalmment in art.

in The new aestheticism
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Blasons d’un corps masculin, L’Ecrivaillon and La Ligne âpre by Régine Detambel

Régine Detambel is a monster' claimed the September 1999 issue of the French magazine Marie-Claire, referring to her prolific output, which includes over 20 novels by the age of 36. Like Susan Faludi in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the Modern Man, Detambel turns her gaze in Blasons d'un corps masculin to the representation of masculinity. In La Ligne âpre, Detambel revivifies the genre of the blazons of female and male bodies by dissecting and reassembling the bone structure of the body. Detambel's dissection of the writer's body, with its attention to precise definitions, refined and renewed adjectives, and striking metaphors, is in fact a dissection of language. The writing of the writer's vocation in the novel L'Ecrivaillon ou l'enfance de l'écriture is intermingled with the writing of body parts, focusing on the writer's hands, the veins and the passion and pain flowing through the long apprenticeship of the literary profession.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
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Towards a contemporary aesthetic

This chapter refers not just to the literary encounter with war, but the way wars in the last century compelled artists and intellectuals into rethinking the aesthetic its scope, its power and its dangers. The Second World War confirmed the bankruptcy of Enlightenment humanism. For Hermann Hesse and numerous others in earlier generations, the humanist aesthetic was a liberating expression of profoundly civilising sympathies. The chapter argues that modernists like W. B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence, under the influence of F. Nietzsche, offer an exhilarating celebration of an amoral aesthetics of energy. The importance of Nietzsche contrasting the Dionysiac conception of art with the humanitarian is in terms of two distinct kinds of sufferer, those who suffer from a superabundance of life and those who suffer from an impoverishment of life.

in The new aestheticism

This chapter examines the work of three beur women writers. It examines the work to establish the extent to which the highly specific socio-historical locus of the beur writer, when combined with her female subject position, may produce narrative similarities, whether formal or thematic. The works include Georgette! by Farida Belghoul, Beur's story by Ferrudja Kessas and Ils disent que je suis une beurette by Soraya Nini. By their focus on the education system, all three texts point up the pivotal role played by the socialisation process and formation of identity in beur women's writing. Beur literature only began to enjoy commercial success in the early 1980s, when a substantial number of the children of North African immigrants first reached adulthood. The designation beur is considered an example of verlan, a form of French slang involving the inversion of syllables.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
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Henry James reads George Eliot

This chapter traces the progress of an important and far-reaching lesson Henry James drew from this literary mentor along a trail to be found in his essays and reviews of the older novelist. The anxiety of the young, male, would-be novelist in mid-century America arose from a painful mixture of morality, financial necessity and gender role-modelling. Well beyond the Americana, James showed that he had learned to place a woman, in her own right, in the centre of his stage, and through her begin to dramatise the growth and transformation of consciousness itself. In James's account of his own growth in both Notes of a Son and Brother and The Middle Years and in his notebooks, George Eliot and her work were very early part of his emotional and aesthetic consciousness. In October 1856, Eliot reviewed a very different group of texts: novels which included Harriet Beecher Stowe's Dred.

in Special relationships