Literature and Theatre

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Sarah Alyn Stacey

In the first three of the four novels Agnès Desarthe has published at the time of writing, the binary opposition understanding-misunderstanding stands out as a central issue, particularly with regard to identity. The four novels are Quelques minutes de bonheur absolu, Un secret sans importance, Cinq photos de ma femme and Les Bonnes Intentions. In these novels, the tension between subjectivity and objectivity is central to the construction of identity. The recontextualisation of this problem in each text has a twofold effect. First, it creates a schematic effect which serves to emphasise that it is a commonplace, not confined to one universe. Second, it unites the three texts in a tryptych, each panel of which foregrounds the understanding-misunderstanding issue.

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Jonathan Atkin

Will the anti-war reactions of further obscurer individuals still be linked by the familiar and recurring themes experienced among the more celebrated? A particular expression of personal disquiet with the Great War ‘in its operation’ and involving a contrasted appreciation of nature and landscape was exhibited by Captain Arthur Innes Adams of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, one of the first individuals included in critic Laurence Housman's edited collection of war letters. This chapter examines the personal narratives, diaries and memoirs of various obscure individuals expressing their views about the Great War and how it affected morality and individuality, including W. Beach Thomas, Stephen Graham, Sergeant James Duncan, Corporal H. L. Currall, 2nd Lieutenant J. B. Herbert, W. B. Kitching, Norman Cliff, Charles Douie, Patrick MacGill, 2nd Lieutenant William Ratcliffe, Guy Chapman, Captain J. E. Crombie and Arthur Osburn.

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Sara Haslam

D. H. Lawrence's essay ‘Why the Novel Matters’ focuses on issues of communication and plurality as displayed by the effective novel. The relationship between Lawrence and Ford Madox Ford was sometimes close, and at times was difficult. It began when Ford first published Lawrence in the English Review and ‘introduced him to literary London’. What is communicated in Ford's novels, and how? This chapter examines the resultant dramatic thrust of the contemporary Fifth Queen trilogy, the eye for colour, for detail, for patterns. The psycho-political geography of Ford's writing is thus confirmed in its period of relative certainty, especially when compared with the suicides of Edward and Florence in The Good Soldier and the suicide of Christopher Tietjens's father in Parade's End. These later novels are distinguishable from the Fifth Queen trilogy primarily due to their more complex interweaving of levels. As another manifestation of modernist fragmentation, one fomented by psychoanalysis and sexology, the four main characters are read partly as four parts of the same psyche, individually and oppositionally gaining (at times violent) expression.

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Christopher Morgan

This chapter considers a detailed investigation of R. S. Thomas's poems as a guide to the crucial aspects of his own project of poetic autobiography. In his autobiography, No-one, R. S. Thomas recounts his reaction to the sight of his shadow falling on the pre-Cambrian rocks at Braich y Pwll on the Llyn peninsula. A no-one with a crown of light about his head is clearly not merely someone, but someone of importance, a glorified someone, a saint or a god. The chapter discusses ideas that comprise the points of departure in a study of Thomas's poetry as autobiography. These points are more particular and subtle elements which can be seen to arise from some foundations of Thomas's project that are discussed.

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The new aestheticism

An introduction

John J. Joughin and Simon Malpas

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book argues that the role of aesthetic experience in education is to extend the possibility of thinking otherwise: a form of critical thinking which remains 'eventful' insofar as it refuses to be prescribed by predetermined categories. It offers a genealogy of aesthetic humanism that was always already internally riven: fascinated with the possibility of an aesthetic vision that contravenes its own imperative. The book interrogates the recent history of feminist aesthetics and in a post-culturalist reading which draws upon advances within post-colonialism and feminism, including the theories of female masquerade and colonial mimicry of Joan Riviere, Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha. It offers a reformulation of Theodor Adorno's social history of mimesis in the context of a 'gendered and racial politics of modernity'.

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Edited by: John J. Joughin and Simon Malpas

The interest in aesthetics in philosophy, literary and cultural studies is growing rapidly. This book contains exemplary essays by key practitioners in these fields which demonstrate the importance of this area of enquiry. New aestheticism remains a troubled term and in current parlance it already comes loaded with the baggage of the 'philistine controversy' which first emerged in an exchange that originally that took place in the New Left Review during the mid-1990s. A serious aesthetic education is necessary for resisting the advance of 'philistinism'. Contemporary aesthetic production may be decentred and belonging to the past, but that is not a reason to underestimate what great works do that nothing else can. Despite well-established feminist work in literary criticism, film theory and art history, feminist aesthetics 'is a relatively young discipline, dating from the early 1990s'. The book focuses on the critical interrogation of the historical status of mimesis in the context of a gendered and racial politics of modernity. Throughout the history of literary and art criticism the focus has fallen on the creation or reception of works and texts. The book also identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The Alexandrian aesthetic underlies the experience of the 'allegorical'. 'Cultural poetics' makes clear the expansion of 'poetics' into a domain that is no longer strictly associated with 'poetry'. The book also presents an account of a Kantian aesthetic criticism, discussing Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and Critique of Judgement.

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Richard Serjeantson

J. Peter Zetterberg emphasises the ways in which Francis Bacon's New Atlantis picks up on a large literature and a substantial body of practice about ways of making art imitate nature. Scholars in the past have been a little quick to see Bacon as a 'modern scientist', and indeed even to see the New Atlantis as a key text in 'the emergence of modern scientific practices from within late Renaissance culture'. Bacon was well acquainted with late Renaissance works on natural magic, and in particular with one of the most important of these, the Natural Magic of the Neapolitan magus Giovan Battista della Porta. The area of medicine that Bacon develops most thoroughly in the New Atlantis is the realm of hygiene. The New Atlantans are superior to their European visitors in terms of material wealth, medicine, technology, and learning generally; they are also chaster and religiously much more peaceable.

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Nation making and fiction making

Sarah Orne Jewett, The Tory Lover, and Walter Scott, Waverley

Alison Easton

Sarah Orne Jewett writes of her involvement with the Loyalist Wallingford family, both Roger and his mother, who remains throughout fiercely loyal to the British Crown. Jewett was a regional writer for all her long writing career, and The Tory Lover retains the local in its turn to the historical, even as late-nineteenth-century academic historians themselves turned to the local. Walter Scott himself combined support for the 1707 Union of Scotland and England with a Scottish cultural nationalism that required identifying images and stories. Scott's clearest message in Waverley in a journey north past bodies left on battlefields and destroyed homes is that civil war is dreadful and worth most prices to avoid. Making a fiction of past lives is effected by Jewett through an attention to the actual land shaped by human activity something that Waverley had pioneered.

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Sara Haslam

This chapter explores the relationship between fragmentation, repression and writing, focusing on some of the less-obvious contributing factors for Ford Madox Ford's first volume of autobiography, Ancient Lights. It describes Sigmund Freud as ‘at least emblematic’ of modernism, and pursues the idea of a relationship between psychoanalysis and modernist literary subject matter and techniques. The attempt to recognise gaps between parts of the self is powerfully resonant in the early modernist era: ‘For both Henry James and Fyodor Dostoevsky, reality lay in human consciousness and the fathomless workings of the mind’. We know from James's ‘Chamber of Consciousness’, in which suspends the spider-web of experience ‘catching every air-borne particle’, that consciousness alone manifests multiple and distinct strands. Psychoanalysis emerged as simply ‘a psychology that emphasised the unconscious mind’, rather than its conscious counterpart. Freud writes on the experience of the closeness of death in war as a unification of the civilised man with the primitive urge to kill – now he can, and with impunity.

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Paul Salzman

Susan Bruce argues that in Francis Bacon's utopia of Bensalem, St Thomas More's male gaze of desire is replaced by a scientific elaboration of the value of male potency and procreation as a kind of state enterprise. In the New Atlantis, the voyage allows Bacon to incorporate his scientific ideal within the society of Bensalem. The plain style of the travel narrative accorded well with Bacon's own ideal prose. As a travel narrative, the New Atlantis is full of allusions to the significance of colonial endeavours by England and its competing European powers in the quest for possession, as well as knowledge. Pedro Fernandez de Quiros' Terra Australis Incognita is his account of a Portuguese voyage which reached Vanuatu, but Quiros was convinced that he had reached the Great South Land and campaigned constantly for a colonising expedition.