Literature and Theatre

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A war of individuals

Bloomsbury attitudes to the Great War

Jonathan Atkin

The Great War still haunts us. This book draws together examples of the ‘aesthetic pacifism’ practised during the Great War by such celebrated individuals as Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sassoon and Bertrand Russell. It also tells the stories of those less well known who shared the attitudes of the Bloomsbury Group when it came to facing the first ‘total war’. The five-year research for this study gathered evidence from all the major archives in Great Britain and abroad in order to paint a complete picture of this unique form of anti-war expression. The narrative begins with the Great War's effect on philosopher-pacifist Bertrand Russell and Cambridge University.

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Waking up in a different place

Contemporary Irish and Scottish fiction

Glenda Norquay and Gerry Smyth

This chapter presents an alternative critical project: an analysis of contemporary Scottish and Irish fiction through a comparison of the ways in which relations between cultural representation and spatial construction are negotiated to produce places called 'Scotland' and 'Ireland'. Both 'Scotland' and 'Ireland' trailed an array of well-established connotations from earlier points in their cultural history. One means of reading Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh together, but without reinforcing their function within a centralising metropolitan culture, is to place them within the context of other contemporary writers in Scotland and Ireland. Reading Doyle and Welsh in relation to other writers, a more complex process of spatial reconfiguration and cultural representation emerges. Perhaps the most striking difference between fictions produced in Ireland and Scotland has continued to be in their confrontations with history.

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Sara Haslam

Developing the discussion of religion, this chapter compares Ford Madox Ford's fantasy novel, The Young Lovell (1913), with the poem ‘On Heaven’, written at the same period. It seeks the religious equivalent of the symbolic healing of women and investigates the peculiarly Fordian notion of peace. ‘Fantasies are scenarios of desire’, according to Peter Gay; they are ‘in touch with the deepest motions of the mind, principally its unmet needs’. In ‘Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming’, Sigmund Freud examines the often ordinarily sublimated extension of the childhood need for fantasy and play as expressed in creative writing. In The Young Lovell and ‘On Heaven’, Ford's desire, his fantasy, is to do with being seen. Not for these characters Dowell's ‘mortifying’ experience of having Leonora's ‘lighthouse glare’ turned upon him (The Good Soldier); here characters are seen and known in their entirety, in their complexity, and in this there is peace.

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Unreal cities and undead legacies

T.S. Eliot and Gothic hauntings in Waugh’s A Handful of Dust and Barnes’s Nightwood

Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik

T. S. Eliot's embrace of European high culture, so evident in his critical writings, is accompanied by an elision of the American and the popular, including the Gothic, despite the fact that his own poetry contains powerful Gothic resonances. Eliot's critical appraisal of Djuna Barnes's work is shown to be informed by a perspective which reveals an American anxiety concerning tradition and the individual talent. The coupling of A Handful of Dust and Barnes's Nightwood might initially seem a strange one, given Evelyn Waugh's image as an essentially conservative satirist of English society and the recent retrieval of Barnes as a radical lesbian Modernist. The title evokes not only the wilderness of Modernist preoccupation but also the tradition of American Gothic in which the haunted forest and the haunted cave were substituted for the haunted castles, ruined abbeys and dungeons of its European precursor.

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Unnatural women and uncomfortable readers?

Clotilde Escalle’s tales of transgression

Michael Worton

Clotilde Escalle is remarkable among new writers for the dispassionate way in which she presents violent sexual and familial dramas. This chapter talks about her four novels: Un long baiser, Pulsion, Herbert jouit and Où est-il cet amour. Each one of her four novels challenges the reader to bear with her as she relentlessly anatomises the lives of women who have lost their way, both figuratively and literally. These novels are tales of oppression, of violence and abuse, of masochism, of cruelty and despair, of lancinating indifference, and ultimately of transgression. Georges Bataille's reading of feminine sexuality seems appropriate when reading Escalle's work. Since many of her characters are highly promiscuous, having easy sex with many men and putting themselves in the role of passive recipient of male desire, violence and abuse is shown. Bataille's analysis of eroticism offers a useful perspective on how one lives an intense sexuality.

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The Union and Jack

British masculinities, pomophobia, and the post-nation

Berthold Schoene

This chapter starts with a general theoretical investigation into nationalist imageries of masculine and feminine embodiment. It offers a tentative outline of some of the most problematic shifts in the conceptualisation and literary representation of man, self and nation in Britain throughout the twentieth century. The chapter presents a close reading of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, which is to illustrate the syndromic inextricability of masculinist and nationalist discourses within a patriarchal context. It highlights the utopian potentialities of subnational emancipation; at the same time, it questions the ultimate political viability of any devolutionary attempt to move beyond masculinist notions of man, self and nation. Osborne's Jimmy Porter epitomises a crisis in self-authentication that seems endemic to post-war British culture in its entirety. Writing Men, illustrates that there are a number of contemporary British men writers who have become highly self-conscious of the gender-specificity of their writing.

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Alcuin Blamires

Sir Gowther is a 700-line narrative probably originating about 1400 in the North Midlands. It is conspicuous for that surface crankiness and drastic speed which are often found in medieval English verse romances. The peculiarity of Sir Gowther is that it focuses key anxieties of society's dominant group at such a pitch as to project a kind of worst-case threat to dynastic stability. The questions that loom dramatically in this narrative concern the state of society as well as the state of the soul. It begins with warnings about the power of the devil. It then introduces a society wedding between a Duke and a bride who seem to have stereotypical credentials for producing noble heirs.

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Touching art

Aesthetics, fragmentation and community

Simon Malpas

This chapter aims to open a space for the investigation of the place of the aesthetic in the contemporary world. It takes as its object the notion of the artistic fragment that emerges within modernity, and considers the ways in which modern art functions as a fragmentary form. By tracing a genealogy of the fragmentation in the writings of Friedrich Schlegel and the critique launched against it by G. W. F. Hegel, the chapter identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The chapter argues that the issues that are at stake in the disagreement between these two key thinkers have not passed away into history but continue to provoke the most profound questions about the value and role that art holds. It explores the Schlegelian/Hegelian conflict in order to think art's relation to community.

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Jonathan Atkin

For some, the effects of the Great War seemed to turn time in upon itself, thereby unwinding the clock of human development to a darker age peopled by trench-dwelling brutes who had lost comprehension of what they were fighting over. This ‘throw-back’ concept was highlighted by H. S. Innes of the 23rd Battalion (later 20th), the Middlesex Regiment, whose awareness of the ‘abomination of desolation’ at the front mirrored the bleakness of the ‘conscript country’ that he felt Britain had become. Frederic Hillersdon Keeling is not remembered to any great extent as one of the major figures of the war, but after his death on August 18, 1916, he was mourned by those that had known him as a perfect example of the ‘gentleman-soldier’ and as ‘one of the most remarkable men in the army’. Just as Keeling expressed a moral objection to the introduction of compulsion, D. H. Calcutt of the Queen's Westminster Rifles deplored the general lowering of former standards of morality by which he had fixed his life and values.

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Sara Haslam

The enriching and rewarding aspects of modernism (such as myth and self-discovery), as presented in Ford Madox Ford's positive fictions, were the subject of the previous two chapters. This chapter examines which aspects of modernism are manifested in Ford's faith in the act of writing itself – the regenerative or the terrible – and considers Ford's creative dynamic, his techniques and his literary rules for the writing of prose. Using a range of Ford's writing, it addresses the question of which aspects of modernism ultimately hold sway in Ford's oeuvre. The chapter also analyses Ford's theoretical, modernist stances and considers impressionism as well as Ford's position in the modernist subjectivity versus objectivity debate. Concluding with an analysis of memory and its role in the modernist quest, it also returns the book to its beginnings, and a writer who believed in pictures of the past, and the present, and sought to write them, however difficult.