Literature and Theatre

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Ford Madox Ford, the novel and the Great War

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.

New interdisciplinary essays
Editor: 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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Debatable lands and passable boundaries

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.

in Across the margins
Sylvie Germain and the generic problems of the Christian novel

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.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
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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.

in Fragmenting modernism
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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.

in Fragmenting modernism

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.

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
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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.

in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis
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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.

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
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Crossing the margins

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.

in Across the margins