Literature and Theatre

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Introduction

Crossing the margins

Glenda Norquay and Gerry Smyth

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on the history of the Atlantic archipelago. It explores paradoxes in relation to different definitions of 'the margins', a spatial concept which has had much currency but which might increasingly be questioned on theoretical, geographical and political grounds. The book offers a different perspective on the notion of marginality by addressing 'Englishness' in relation to 'migrant' writing in prose concerned with India and England after Independence. It presents the broader critical implications of postcolonial theory through analysis of its application in a specific context. The book draws on a wide range of new poetry to question simplified margin/centre relations. It also focuses on the work of cultural studies and its responses to the relationship between ethnicity and second-generation Irish musicians from Sean Campbell.

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Christopher Morgan

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book treats the themes of identity, environment, and deity that reflect the major preoccupations of R. S. Thomas's life and work. It sets out a detailed and comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre. While at the same time of the examination of major themes, the book provides an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be more profitably explored. It argues that underpinning Thomas's oeuvre is a 'project' in autobiography which is rooted in the question of the poet's own elusive identities. The book explores Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work. It reveals an often-underestimated intellectual breadth and sophistication in Thomas's philosophical grounding and poetic experimentation.

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Janet Beer and Bridget Bennett

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers a series of cultural and literary relationships that took place across the Atlantic. It reveals a set of borrowings, shared considerations and preoccupations, rivalries and friendships that took place between creative writers and cultural commentators on both sides of the Atlantic from the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The book discusses Donald Macleod's 'furious riposte' to that which he read as a poorly informed American intervention in Scottish politics, all the more shocking coming from the world-famous author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It engages with manifestations of the Gothic imagination. The book considers the inventive use that Harriet Wilson makes of the slave narrative in Our Nig. The book argues that Alison Easton used Walter Scott in order to situate the American Revolution in the national imagination.

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Gill Rye and Michael Worton

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book concerns with pain, loss or death and throws into relief a darker side to women's writing in the 1990s. The 1990s proved to be an exciting period for women's writing in France. The book shows how Christiane Baroche's use of uncertainty avoids the fixing of identities and self-other relations in a none the less realist mode of writing. It includes essays on writers whose work began to gather interest in the preceding decade but who, in the 1990s, were still in the process of becoming firmly established, like Paule Constant, Sylvie Germain, Marie Redonnet and Leila Sebbar. The book charts the ways in which contemporary women writers are themselves in the process of shaping wider literary debates.

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Sara Haslam

Isaiah Berlin writes in Four Essays on Liberty that ‘historians of ideas cannot avoid perceiving their material in terms of some kind of pattern’. Where modernism is credited with a pattern, and it usually is, it is more than likely that the concept of fragmentation is prominent in it. This book puts novelist, poet, editor and critic Ford Madox Ford in context, placing him in the context of literary modernism, in which, as editor of the English Review, author of The Good Soldier and transformer of Ezra Pound's verse, he performed a vital part. Indeed, in his magisterial biography of Ford, Max Saunders writes that ‘the period of literary modernism is “the Ford era” as much as it is Pound's, or T. S. Eliot's, or James Joyce's’; Ford was ‘at the centre of the three most innovative groups of writers this century’. In addition, the language of decline, collapse and fragmentation is commonly applied by historical analysts to events and developments of the early twentieth century.

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Series:

Bronwen Price

This chapter presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book reflects a concern to locate the New Atlantis in reference to Francis Bacon's oeuvre specifically, and to the broader cultural and historical context in which it intervenes. It examines the significance of the New Atlantis's uses of literary forms and also its relation to Sylva Sylvarum. The book argues that Bensalem represents a thoroughly technological society, whose project for the mastery of nature places religion's function in an ambiguous position. It relates the politics of the New Atlantis more directly to the immediate context of Jacobean England. The book explores the colonial expansion and Jewish toleration. It provides an analysis of the complex formulation of gender in Bacon's text, arguing against the tendency of feminist criticism to view Bacon as the founding father of a thoroughly masculinised science.

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Jonathan Atkin

The Great War of 1914–1918 was the first ‘modern’ war, involving more spheres of human experience than perhaps any previous conflict. Whole populations were caught up in it and exhibited myriad shades of reaction to it – including, naturally, opposition. This book concentrates on those individualistic British citizens whose motivation for opposition in thought or deed was grounded upon moral, humanistic or aesthetic precepts. In his Pacifism in Britain 1914–1945: The Defining of a Faith, the historian Martin Ceadel singles out what he terms ‘humanitarian pacifism’ as a valid form of anti-war feeling, stating that it is ‘no less a dogma’ than religious or political pacifism. The years of the Great War were the formative ones that helped to mould the Bloomsbury Group into the image which would be recast by the public imagination in succeeding generations. This book explores both the past itself and the personalities of bohemian Bloomsbury, from Bertrand Russell and Ottoline Morrell to Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Paul Nash, Ivor Gurney, Mabel St Clair Stobart, Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey.

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Suzanne Conklin Akbari

In the debate concerning precisely what constitutes a medieval ‘romance’, the Siege of Melayne occupies a special position. This poem participates in the conventions both of romance and of hagiography. The focus of such cross-generic readings is usually the character of Archbishop Turpin who has ‘as much of the saint as of the soldier in his nature’. This chapter explicates the religious content of the Siege of Melayne, exploring how hagiographic, devotional, and eucharistic themes are used to depict a Christian community characterised by strength in the face of adversity, and wholeness in the face of efforts to fragment the community. The body of Turpin, the image of the crucified Christ, and the Host each represent the Corpus Christi, the body of Christ which stands for the community of Christian souls.

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Including transformation

Notes on the art of the contemporary

Andrew Benjamin

Central to any understanding of contemporary art and therefore central to any engagement with a contemporary politics of art is the question of the nature of the contemporary. The locus of engagement is that specific conception of the contemporary within which art is taken to announce the impossibility of transformation. This chapter argues that the divisions within reception, and the presence of at least two different modes of inclusion, that are inextricably bound up with what has been identified above as the truth of the work of art. Once art and criticism are interarticulated, art is able to maintain the same position. The obvious counter to the argument that policy depends on a decision concerning the truth of art is that such a position overstates the needs of policy makers and confuses philosophical argumentation with the 'hard-nosed' practice of decision making.

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Sara Haslam

Ford Madox Ford admired Ivan Turgenev, so it is not surprising that one comes across ideas borrowed, perhaps, from him in the later writer's work. In this case, though, there is a development at work; a development precipitated by World War I. Turgenev's self-confessed nihilist Bazarov expresses amazement at the tenacity of human belief in words – words that, in his example, can diminish and deaden a feeling of catastrophe. Were he to find himself instead in the volumes of Parade's End (or one of a number of other war novels), Bazarov's amazement would be tempered. Ford, post-war, has lost belief in words. He is often unsatisfied with the capacity of language to express the totality of thought or experience; speech constantly ‘gives out’, to be replaced by his most characteristic grammatical tool: ellipsis. Two quotations provide a framework for an exploration into how and why sight functions in the fragmentation of war. The first is from John Keegan's book, The Face of Battle; the second from Frederic Manning's novel, The Middle Parts of Fortune.