Literature and Theatre

Opposition to the Great War took many forms. Of a wartime total of 3,964 conscientious objectors referred to the adjudicating Pelham Committee by local tribunals, 1,716 declared themselves Christadelphians and hence possessed a religious objection to the war. There existed, of course, other denominations of religious opposition within the almost 4,000 declared conscientious objectors in Great Britain – in particular the Quakers. It is worth pointing out how even within the ‘organised’ forms of anti-war protest, there was a great variety of personal response. While religion of all denominations played a large part in determining responses to the war, both for and against, in many cases the boundaries between ‘recognised’ opposition and humanistic anti-war reaction could become blurred. There were individuals who exhibited a drier, more ‘rational’ and (especially) moral stance in relation to the war. Some examples show that the existence of a moral element to objection to war and military compulsion was not only documented in post-war studies but also in contemporary publications.

in A war of individuals
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Greeks and Saracens inGuy of Warwick

The fourteenth-century popular romance Guy of Warwick engages contemporary socio-political concerns in critical and transformative ways. Guy's fantastic reworking of England's past through its titular hero both recognises England's historic culpabilities in its interactions with other countries and transforms these culpabilities into redeeming alternative possibilities for remembering the past and for performing the future. This chapter argues that at the centre of each of Guy's two cycles, the hero finds himself on a formative adventure in a fantastically imagined East; Guy devotes so much narrative attention to the East because the romance responds to and reimagines the West's conflicts with the East during the Crusades. Guy simultaneously asserts Latin dominance in both Christian and Muslim settings and rejects the most egregious moral error of the Crusades—the sack of Constantinople—by creating an alternative outcome in which the hero chooses not to seize control of the Byzantine Empire.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
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Identities in crisis in the early novels of Marie Darrieussecq

When Marie Darrieussecq's first novel Truismes exploded on to the French literary scene, it was clear that she was a young writer intent on taking the reader to disturbing places. Truismes launched the single-minded fascination with identity crises and altered states which would be confirmed by the subsequent novels, Naissance des fantômes and Le Mal de mer. Although in this first novel feminine identity is explored within an oppressive, patriarchal context, the following works constitute much more elliptical examinations of the self in crisis with no overtly political dimension and Darrieussecq's ambitions are less ideological than literary. This chapter focuses on three themes: monstrous bodies, missing others and fantastic landscapes. It suggests that the heroine's porcine transformations keep the struggle over the meanings of the female body firmly at the centre of the complex text.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France

The fourteenth-century alliterative narrative The Siege of Jerusalemhas recently begun to generate the kind of interest associated with more canonical Middle English works. Scholarly studies have emerged to fill the lacunae of response and readings, and a new edition is forthcoming. This chapter argues that this new attention to Jerusalem is well deserved and long overdue, inhibited more by scholarly distaste for the poem's perceived relentless and violent anti-Judaism, than by any intrinsic lack of literary or cultural value. The argument concerning the poem is predicated on a recuperative reading in another sense of the word. It suggests that the virulent anti-Judaism from which scholars recoil is neither as unambiguous nor singular as is commonly claimed.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
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What lovers want

According to Sir Degrevant, an early fifteenth-century romance with a lively plot and remarkable density of description, what women want is a handsome, valiant, wealthy and noble lover, triumph over fierce paternal opposition, a splendid wardrobe, and a fabulous room of their own. Degrevant is written in the sixteen-line tail-rhyme stanza often characteristic of popular romances, and, although it has no identifiable main source or close analogues, it also incorporates a number of conventional thematic and verbal formulas. It argues that the term landowning class tends to occlude women's social and cultural activities. In the getting and maintaining of wealth and power, a particularly demanding task in the political and economic upheavals of the fifteenth century, the making of marriages was a way of brokering alliances and providing for the orderly transfer of wealth.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
Open Access (free)
Ethnicity and popular music in British cultural studies

This chapter considers the ways in which Britain's multi-ethnic margins have been handled in British cultural studies, and particularly that strand associated with the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. It also considers popular music as a case study to explore the field's reception of immigrant-descended cultural practitioners, focusing specifically on its treatment of second-generation Irish rock musicians. The chapter re-examines Dick Hebdige's Subculture, a formative endeavour in the field's engagement with questions of race, ethnicity and popular music. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that many second-generation African-Caribbean and South Asian musicians have expressed particular concerns about the racial connotations of Britpop. Britpop's incorporation of the descendants of post-war Irish Catholic labour migrants suggests that its principles of exclusion were determined less by the historical fact of having an immigrant background, than by a discursive conflation of race and nation.

in Across the margins

The romance of Sir Percyvell of Gales was probably composed in the north of England early in the fourteenth century but obviously enjoyed widespread popularity in medieval England. This chapter notes that the Percyvell-poet is a master of the proairetic code: he is clear about where the story is going, and makes sure that we are clear about it too. In the fourteenth century, however, Percyvell owed most of its popularity not to being read, but to being told and re-told, possibly from memory. The discussion of the poet's reshaping of his source is in two sections. The first deals with the Percyvell-poet's ‘unscrambling’ of Chretien's plot, and considers how this affects the mood of the story. The second deals with the poet's happy ending and asks what makes it, in all senses of the word, fulfilling.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
Gender, sexual difference and knowledge in Bacon’s New Atlantis

This chapter raises few theoretical issues about the New Atlantis, Francis Bacon's epistemology and its link to gender and sexual difference. It aims to re-historicise the marshalling of gender in the New Atlantis. The chapter argues that the structural placing of gender issues crucially determines our interpretations. It then assesses Bacon's literal and symbolic use of gender difference in the light of his utopian discourse. Bacon uses a consistent rhetorical technique for the inversions: travelogue narrative conventions, followed by a shift of perspective through purportive new eye-witness evidence. By masculinising what is usually female, Bacon continues to displace the Euro-centric construction of the relationship of man to land, and additionally asserts the island's impenetrable status. The Baconian parallel between children and technology offers an additional symbolic frame for sexual reproduction in Bensalem.

in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis
Shérazade and other women in the work of Leïla Sebbar

Of mixed Franco-Algerian parentage, Leïla Sebbar spans a variety of genres in her writing, including short stories, journalism, essays, children's writing and contributions to collaborative works, including collections of visual material. Images constitute a rich thematic seam running through all of Sebbar's books, where they feature in different ways. They may be official markers, for identification purposes, as with the hostages in Le Fou de Shérazade. Sebbar often uses the unmediated gaze to convey something about a particular moment in a personal relationship. Her recent work, such as Soldats, is marked by a preoccupation with war and the images are used to represent conflicts, wherever they may be. The subversion of the gaze is just one stage in the process of self-determination, but none the less a crucial part of Sebbar's complicated textual universe.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
Le Bone Florence of Rome and bourgeois self-making

The earliest surviving representation of an English bourgeois family at prayer appears in a fifteenth-century book of hours, now known as the Bolton Hours, made for members of a York mercantile family. The family's whole prayer, cast as it is in that form of the future that imperatives bring into being opens up a space for narrative. The family is represented around the issue of sexual conduct and good name of its female members. There was more than one late-medieval discourse of virginity. On the one hand, virginity was represented as a sacred vocation that was placed highest in the triad virginity-widowhood-marriage. This way of categorizing female sexuality had been a commonplace of Christian thought since the fourth century.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England