Literature and Theatre

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Sara Haslam

This chapter introduces the concept of Ford Madox Ford's ‘positive fictions’, and offers a way of reading Ford's dedication to his grandfather as well as to his grandfather's circle (especially the Pre-Raphaelites) that feeds into the content and the visual style of these texts. It also reintroduces the ‘woman question’, focusing on four novels that reconstruct worlds of alternative systems which emanate from the fragmented consciousness of men such as Grimshaw. These novels are The ‘Half Moon’ (1909), Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911), The New Humpty Dumpty (1912) and The Young Lovell (1913). In some texts, Ford investigates the contemporary rage/fear in male reactions to women, together with the healing qualities of what Carl Jung termed the female archetypes. Jung's theories, and Robert Graves's writings, are used as part of an illuminatory test of Jung's assertion that ‘our world seems to be dis-infected of witches’, when the world is Ford's positive fictions. These fictions possess roots that mean the multiple perspectives central to modernism often regenerate as well as destroy.

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'Il n’y a pas de troisième voie’ (There is no third way)

Sylvie Germain and the generic problems of the Christian novel

Margaret-Anne Hutton

Sylvie Germain is an unusual phenomenon on the French literary scene. Having studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, she entered the audiovisual section of the Ministère de la culture in 1981, securing immediate literary success four years later with her first novel, Le Livre des nuits. Le Livre des nuits, the opening volume of Germain's diptych, traces the ebb and flow of faith within the Péniel family, centring on the principal character, Victor-Flandrin, and the suffering he endures. 'Il n'y a pas de troisième voie' (There is no third way) refers to the words of Prokop, principal character of Germain's Immensités, as he ponders his perceived need to settle the question of the existence of God. Germain's engagement with Christianity is unusual in a French female author; she follows in a predominantly male tradition of novelists, most notably François Mauriac and Bernanos.

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‘If I Were a Man’

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Grand and the sexual education of girls

Janet Beer and Ann Heilmann

Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sarah Grand were, throughout their writing lives, exercised by the social and economic costs of the enforced ignorance of women and girls in matters of sexual hygiene. Grand and Gilman made central to their sociological writings and their fiction the terrible social consequences of the maintenance of girls in a state of ignorance. In 1893 in Great Britain the writer Grand had argued that human advancement was dependent upon 'the attributes of both minds, masculine and feminine, perfectly united in one person of either sex'. Since the state continued to ignore women's demands, Grand believed that it was up to feminist writers like herself to take charge of the neglected sex education of their readers. The association between the ill-health of the individual and the nation were, they contended, intimately connected with the paucity of educational opportunities for girls.

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Gritty realism

Reading Half-Life

Barry Atkins

This chapter seeks not so much to support the more hyperbolic claims for Half Life's radicalism as a groundbreaking text, but to look at the mechanics of its storytelling processes to interrogate the ways in which it works as a supposedly interactive form of text that makes the most of this point of intersection. Half-Life is offered as an example of ‘first-person’ game-fictions through which some of the more extreme claims for the future of game-fictions — that they represent something through which it is increasingly possible to see the elision of the distinction between simulation and real — can be evaluated in a critical manner.

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‘Green asylum’

The natural world

Christopher Morgan

R. S. Thomas can often be found wrestling in the poems with the paradox of a Christian God of love having created a natural economy based upon cycles of violence and consumption. This is what Alfred Tennyson in In Memoriam refers to as 'Nature, red in tooth and claw'. This chapter highlights and explores this paradox as it emerges in Thomas's work, examining it first in relation to certain statements by Tennyson in his In Memoriam, and then detailing each poet's ultimate response to the problem. It examines closely Thomas's own concern with and depictions of the natural violence in the poems. One of the characteristic of Thomas's poetic engagement with nature concerns what he refers to as 'the problem of killing as part of the economy of the God of love'. The chapter ends by looking briefly at the little-known poem 'Islandmen', from Thomas's 1972 collection Young and Old.

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Gothic legacies

Jane Eyre in Elizabeth Stoddard’s New England

Anne-Marie Ford

This chapter explores the way in which Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Stoddard deploy Gothic conventions. It considers common and varied representations of woman's psycho-social oppression, and erotic nature. The chapter shows the ways in which the transatlantic borrowings of Stoddard create a rich and unnerving novel that refuses to embrace conventional models of femininity. Stoddard out of a New England world in some ways less socially restrictive than that of Brontë's native Yorkshire, was to celebrate the sensual nature of her heroine with a marked independence. Stoddard's use of British and American Gothic traditions and her engagement with Jane Eyre result in an extraordinarily candid and surprising novel, which still resonates with readers. Brontë and Stoddard both borrow from, and adapt, the romantic Gothic tradition of the British writer Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho.

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Gender and nation

Debatable lands and passable boundaries

Aileen Christianson

Debatable lands' and 'passable boundaries': both concepts are emblematic of the kind of inevitably shifting, multi-dimensional perspectives that are found in any consideration of nation and gender. Within Scotland's boundaries there are regional communities demanding a loyalty and recognition as strong as a nationalist commitment with the same shifting perspective of commitment between nation and region as there is between gender and nation. Scottish women's fiction mapped out the infinite possibilities of the imagination: through education, through reading, through landscape. Landscape in Scotland incorporates light and infinity. Hugh MacDiarmid, the writer who bestrode the Scottish literary renaissance, had an iconographic function similar to Robert Burns in Scottish intellectual and literary life after the Second World War. The universalised male centre such as MacDiarmid (or Burns) beloved of traditional (male) Scottish culture, is limiting.

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Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis

New interdisciplinary essays


Edited by: Bronwen Price

Francis Bacon produced his final draft of the New Atlantis around the years 1624-1625. Standing at the threshold of early modern thought, Bacon's text operates at the interstices of its contemporary culture and does indeed signal a desire to 'illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge'. This book presents a collection of essays that show how the New Atlantis negotiates a variety of contexts, namely literary, philosophical, political, religious and social, in order to achieve this. The narrative begins with a standard literary device. When Bacon wrote the New Atlantis, he clearly had More's Utopia in mind as a model. For all his strictures on the use of language for rhetorical effect, Francis Bacon was thoroughly grounded in the Renaissance art of rhetoric. He consciously drew on his rhetorical skill in his writings, adapting his style as occasion demanded. The New Atlantis is a text about natural philosophy which seems to offer connections at almost every point with moral and political philosophy. The book discusses two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up and develops in the New Atlantis: natural magic, and medicine. The modern project is crucially dependent on two fundamental miracles: the miracle of creation and the miracle of divine revelation. The book also analyses Bacon's representations of colonialism and Jewishness in the New Atlantis has revealed. The New Atlantis raises questions concerning the relationship between censorship and knowledge.

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Fragmenting modernism

Ford Madox Ford, the novel and the Great War

Sara Haslam

This book is about Ford Madox Ford, a hero of the modernist literary revolution. Ford is a fascinating and fundamental figure of the time; not only because, as a friend and critic of Ezra Pound and Joseph Conrad, editor of the English Review and author of The Good Soldier, he shaped the development of literary modernism. But, as the grandson of Ford Madox Brown and son of a German music critic, he also manifested formative links with mainland European culture and the visual arts. In Ford there is the chance to explore continuity in artistic life at the turn of the last century, as well as the more commonly identified pattern of crisis in the time. The argument throughout the book is that modernism possesses more than one face. Setting Ford in his cultural and historical context, the opening chapter debates the concept of fragmentation in modernism; later chapters discuss the notion of the personal narrative, and war writing. Ford's literary technique is studied comparatively and plot summaries of his major books (The Good Soldier and Parade's End) are provided, as is a brief biography.

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Murdo Macdonald

Nations are identifiable as meaningful cultural units as a result of their internal cultural diversity, not as a result of an internal homogeneity. An interesting example of the cultural diversity that characterises Scotland is the 'division' between Highland Gaelic culture and Lowland Scots culture. By applying this idea of diversity to a particular area of activity such as art, one can see that it is only by appreciating an interplay of different currents that one can appreciate the Scottishness of Scottish art. It is equally interesting to consider how a Scottish artist or architect is considered when no stereotypical interpretation can be put on his work. In 1996 the British Broadcasting Corporation showed a series of programmes entitled A History of British Art. This series provides an interesting example of the problematic use of the word 'British' with respect to Scottish culture.