Literature and Theatre

Open Access (free)

Barry Atkins

This chapter begins with a discussion of the three-way intersection between simulation, game, and real. It argues that we are so blinded by the sheen reflecting off our consoles and computers and by the hype of their public relations machines that we no longer see just how traditional the narratives on offer really are. We are always in danger of prioritising ‘computer’ over ‘game’, ‘game’ over ‘fiction’, and making too many assumptions about the ‘virtual’ that we do not take proper account of the ‘real’. The computer game as fictional form is also discussed.

Open Access (free)

More than a game

The computer game as fictional form

Barry Atkins

This book is dedicated to the study of computer games in terms of the stories they tell and the manner of their telling. It applies practices of reading texts from literary and cultural studies to consider the computer game as an emerging mode of contemporary storytelling. The book contains detailed discussion of narrative and realism in four of the most significant games of the last decade: ‘Tomb Raider’, ‘Half-Life’, ‘Close Combat’, and ‘Sim City’. It recognises the excitement and pleasure that has made the computer game such a massive global phenomenon.

Open Access (free)

Mimesis in black and white

Feminist aesthetics, negativity and semblance

Ewa Plonowska Ziarek

Rita Felski associates the project of feminist aesthetics with a desire to ascribe immanent gendered meanings to literary forms and styles, and thus with a problematic conflation of literary and political values. The ambiguity of mimetic semblance is compounded by its subtext of racist fantasies. Like Theodor Adorno, Homi Bhabha argues that the contradictory political regulation of mimetic semblance is motivated by the fear and subjugation of alterity. The central figures of the political regulation are paranoid projection, Negrophobia and the abjection of the black body. By reading Adorno, Joan Riviere, Bhabha and Frantz Fanon together, the chapter shows that the new psychic economies and social regulations of mimetic semblance in modernity provide a dubious and ideologically suspect alternative to instrumental rationality. Riviere focuses on the case of the white, intellectual, ambiguously homosexual woman.

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Melancholy as form

Towards an archaeology of modernism

Jay Bernstein

In order to begin prosecuting the conception of modernism, this chapter sketches out the central lineaments of the dialectic of spleen and ideal as they are presented in T . W. Adorno's modernist philosophical aesthetics.American Pastoral can be conceived as performing an archaeology of American modernism, the spleen incumbent upon, or proper to, our ideals. The beauty of the American dream as exemplified by Seymour Levov physically and practically is the charismatic authority of 'America', the idea of America. Tracing the fate of secular normativity as integral to the character and meaning of aesthetic normativity is very much the burden of P. Roth's American Pastoral. The role of beauty in history, its failure, to state the thought at its weakest, is the condition for an art of spleen, for American novelistic modernism. Modernist art is autonomous art, but autonomous art must always be understood as possessing a 'double character'.

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Managing the real

Reading SimCity

Barry Atkins

This chapter discusses how SimCity sheds light on how the narratives through which we now explain the world to ourselves are beginning to change in their encounter with the computer and the computer game. It argues that SimCity works as a game, and as a narrative, because we already know the story we are supposed to tell and already accept that the narrative reference made is not to the historical, but to the myth of American utopian futures. SimCity does not attempt to use British imperialism and colonialism or Nazi militarism as its model, but however the expectations of the game are communicated, whether in its title or not, they establish limits above all else.

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Louise L. Lambrichs

Trauma, dream and narrative

Victoria Best

The novels of Louise L. Lambrichs are brilliant but troubling psychological dramas focusing on the traumas that inhabit the family romance: incest, sterility, the death of those we love and the terrible legacy of mourning. Louise Lambrichs's œuvre comprises five novels but also a number of factual or biographical works on medical issues such as cancer, dyslexia and sterility. These concerns are reflected in her novels which often deal with the pain of having, losing and desiring children. This chapter focuses on two novels, Journal d'Hannah and A ton image. Journal d'Hannah concerns a woman forced to abort a much-wanted second child and subsequently rendered sterile, while A ton image deals with the issues of cloning and incest. However, the fascination of Lambrichs's novels lies less with the medical issues than in the psychological perspective she adopts.

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Lost and found

Mother–daughter relations in Paule Constant’s fiction

Gill Rye

This chapter places Confidence pour confidence within Paule Constant's œuvre as a whole and argues for a more positive reading of the novel. The reading throws light on the trajectory of mother-daughter relations in her fiction. Her novels had been shortlisted for the Goncourt several times before, and she had gained many other literary prizes. The chapter focuses on the specific connections between Confidence pour confidence and four of the earlier novels, Ouregano, Propriété privée, Balta and La Fille du Gobernator, making links between three female characters. They are Tiffany, a 7-year old in Ouregano, growing up to her teenage years in Propriété privée and an adult in Balta, Chrétienne, the little-girl character of La Fille du Gobernator and Aurore, a French writer and one of the four principal women characters of Confidence pour confidence.

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‘Lenses to bear’

The scientific world

Christopher Morgan

This chapter examines the source and nature of R. S. Thomas's position on science, his path to that position, and, throughout both of these, the rich poetic manifestations of that position. It also examines Thomas's prose-writing as, in some ways, the clearest articulation of that position on science. By turning to these 'prose sources', one can understand more easily the sometimes hidden lines of continuity which thread these often radically forward-looking poems. Ned Thomas's 1992 article for Planet entitled 'R. S. Thomas: The Question about Technology' provides a rare and useful point of departure into the subject of science in Thomas's poetry. The chapter takes up Thomas's early position, as he argues it in the prosework, on the theoretical use of scientific language in poetry, turning to the poems themselves to illustrate his practice of that theory.

Open Access (free)

Gary Banham

This chapter presents an account of Immanuel Kant's 'invention' of aesthetics that allows its terms to become both operative within and yet also transformed by the practice of critical engagement with literary and visual works of art. The sense of a struggle between mechanism and life is Wyndham Lewis's version of the relationship between teleology and mechanism elaborated within Kant's Critique of Teleological Judgement. The chapter also presents an account of aesthetic criticism that makes clear the nature of its historical purchase. Criticism's ends can include the destruction of a work just as easily as its perpetuation and reproduction. The arrival of cinema and photography as contemporary means of production altered the condition of literature in terms of both its production and its criticism. The photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe are a reference of some import for discussing the nature of visual media.

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Ireland, verses, Scotland

Crossing the (English) language barrier

Willy Maley

Ireland and Scotland are marginalised and minoritised, but the experience of Marilyn Reizbaum has provoked different reactions from writers in the two countries. There are very good historical reasons for Scotland and Ireland being averse to one another, to do with Empire and Union. This chapter explores the missing middle of the vernacular in Irish writing, drawing on Edna Longley's perceptive to remark about Tom Paulin's poetic project and the vexed issue of Ulster-Scots. It is ironic that at a time when Edwin Muir was arguing for a Yeatsian model of national literature for Scotland, Irish writers were pursuing a more local/regional line, but with one difference from Scottish writers. Irish writers appear to have adhered more to Muir's insistence on English as the proper language of literary renaissance and resistance than to the opposing view of Hugh MacDiarmid, who championed the vernacular.