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Teaching Jessica: race, religion, and gender in The Merchant of Venice

Abstract

The Jew’s “fair daughter” in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice converts and marries a Christian, Lorenzo. Recent attention, however, to changing ideas of race and identity in the early modern period has brought into question the divisions of Christian/Jew/Moor. Can Jessica convert and no longer be considered the Jew’s daughter? As “gentle” and “fair” is she to be considered gentile and in no way dark (spiritually or racially)? Jessica’s conversion has apparently little religious meaning, but rather she is saved from the Jew her father by marriage to Lorenzo, who becomes Shylock’s heir. Is Jessica’s conversion to be considered a matter of convenience that might, as Launcelot quips, raise the price of hogs, or is it also to be counted as an ideological and racial conversion that reveals underlying anxieties about gender, sexuality, and religious identity? This essay attempts to argue against the grain of the performance history of The Merchant History, which often downplays the role of Jessica or revises the text of the play, and returns to the text in order to contextualize the conversion of Jessica in contemporary discourses of gender, race, and religion in England’s expansionist colonialism and proto-capitalist commerce. The conversion of Jessica can be seen in that context as an exchange of monetary and ethical value, in which women’s sexuality also had a price-tag. These questions have implications for the teaching of the play and for the understanding of its concerns with unstable sexual, religious, and national identities.

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TEFL teachers’ and non-TEFL teachers’ perceptions on the relationship between SLA research and language pedagogy

Abstract

This study explores TEFL teachers’ and non-TEFL teachers’ perceptions about the relationship between second language acquisition (SLA) research and language pedagogy with regard to familiarity, involvement, accessibility, consultation, relevance, and usefulness of SLA research in L2 pedagogy. To this end, 83 teachers, 40 TEFL teachers and 43 non-TEFL teachers, participated in this study. They filled out a questionnaire addressing their perceptions about SLA research and language pedagogy. The results revealed that the majority of TEFL teachers involved in doing research, at least as their educational term projects, while mostly no contribution was reported by non-TEFL teachers. In addition, TEFL teachers insisted that L2 teachers need to be involved in SLA research to be successful in their teaching career, while non-TEFL teachers were of the opposite opinion. Moreover, it was revealed that TEFL teachers considered the knowledge gained from research studies relevant and useful to their classroom actions, whereas non-TEFL teachers saw their experience more important for managing their classroom actions. Although both groups had contradictory perceptions of the relationship between SLA research and language pedagogy, they showed some common points in this regard. That is, both groups reported on their difficulty in having access to the research materials; they also expressed their willingness to do research.

Open access
The Early Welsh Cult of Arthur: Some Points at Issue

Abstract

A recent discussion of Arthur and Wales prompts a reply, using up-to-date research. It offers these surprising conclusions. Arthur really existed: he is not a myth or a legend, but historical. He will not have been Welsh, but a North Briton, and perhaps a Strathclyder. His battles, fought against other Britons and not the English, can all be located in southern Scotland and the Borders. Camlan, where Arthur fell, can be securely dated to 537 (after the Welsh annals) and situated north of Carlisle on Hadrian’s Wall (as proposed in 1935 by O. S. G. Crawford). The battle of Mount Badon in 493 will, however, have nothing to do with Arthur or North Britain. It was a British victory over the English, fought near Swindon and perhaps at the hillfort of Ringsbury overlooking Braydon Forest. Proponents of a Northern Arthur, like Rachel Bromwich (1915-2010) and Charles Thomas (1928-2016) can thus be vindicated against those rejecting a Northern Arthur, like Professor Kenneth Jackson (1909-91) of Edinburgh.

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Efnisien’s Trickster Wiles: Meanings, Motives, and Mental Illness in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi

Abstract

This article examines the character of Efnisien in the Second Branch of the medieval Welsh collection of stories known as the Mabinogi. From the mid-nineteenth century until the present day, Efnisien has proved a troubling character for critical analysis. A preliminary examination shows that typologically, due to his antagonistic irrationality, he shares traits with both trickster and psychopathic figures. After highlighting these aspects of his characterisation, the article moves on to an analysis of Efnisien’s function in the text. It is observed that Efnisien’s irrationality is incongruous with the contingency and social relevance of the other characters’ actions. He is shown to be the erratic, motivational force within catastrophe, and as such, to personify the inexplicable nature of such life-altering events and lend meaning to uncertain circumstances. From a Žižekian analytic perspective, he functions as a repository figure of ideological excess enabling the rationalization of incomprehensible trauma and securing the fictive narrative in which meaning is produced. Efnisien – trickster, psychopath, figure of excess – is thus shown to be vital to the production of meaning in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi.

Open access
Motivational Factors in the Acquisition of Welsh in Poland

Abstract

For some years now, Welsh has been taught as a foreign language outside Wales, most especially in other Celtic countries, central Europe – and Poland. The first courses were established in the Catholic University of Lublin in the 1980s, and this provision has expanded over the years to include a Celtic language specialisation within the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Relying at first on teachers from Wales to provide instruction in Welsh, the Centre for Celtic Studies is increasingly producing new, competent speakers/users of Welsh among the Poles. An obvious question to be asked concerns motivational issues – why, on the eastern edges of the European Union, are there people willing to put the effort into learning a language from the far west of Europe, when they have, in some cases, little contact with regular users of Welsh? Through the use of focus group interviews, the present study attempts to discover what motivates Polish students to study Welsh in a context of limited direct contact with the speakers of the language and limited, indirect access to Welsh language and culture.

Open access
Polish Migration’s Socio-Cultural Impact on Wales in the Aftermath of 2004 – Preliminary Findings from Western Wales: An Aberystwyth Case Study

Abstract

This papers looks at the societal and cultural impact of the post-2004 Polish migration to Wales. The history of Polish migration to the UK is introduced together with the relevant statistics and their rationale behind choosing cosmopolitan Wales as their new country of residence. Even though the focus of the paper is rather on the UK as a whole, it is Wales that is central to the investigation. Wales was particularly neglected in the study of migration in the aftermath of the 2004 European Union (EU) enlargement and surprisingly little attention was given to it. Focusing on Polish diaspora is important as it is the most numerous external migration wave to Wales (ONS 2011). The case study of Aberystwyth is introduced as a good example of a semi-urban area to which Poles migrated after 2004. Moreover, the paper elaborates on the characteristics of the Polish newcomers by analysing their distinctive features, migration patterns as well as adaptation processes. Mutual relations between post-1945 and post-2004 immigration waves are investigated, together with Poles’ own image and perception. This paper gives a deeper understanding and provides an insight into the nature of the Polish migrants’ impact on the cultural and societal life of Wales.

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Review
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Stories from Poland by a Welsh Soldier–John Elwyn Jones’s Translations

Abstract

The majority of translations from Polish into Welsh published so far are the works of John Elwyn Jones (1921-2008), who learned Polish in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. His translations include Storiâu Byr o’r Bwyleg, a collection of short stories by two of the classic authors of the Polish Positivist period, Bolesław Prus and Henryk Sienkiewicz. This paper analyses two stories from the collection, Ianco’r Cerddor “Janko Muzykant” and Y Wasgod “Kamizelka”, within a comparative functional model of translation criticism. The texts are analysed in the light of lexical-semantic, cultural and aesthetic codes. A great number of modifications to the source texts introduced in the Welsh translation places them on the border between free translations and adaptations. While some of the alterations are tokens of a specific translation strategy, others can be regarded as translation errors. Although the Welsh version retains the primary message of the original stories, much of their culture-specific dimension, historical context and artistic value is not conveyed in the translation.

Open access
Successful Learners of Irish as an L2: Motivation, Identity and Linguistic Mudes

Abstract

This article presents the results of a small-scale research conducted for a master’s thesis on the motivation to learn Irish on the part of university students and members of the Gaelic society An Cumann Gaelach. In the light of questionnaires’ results and interviews, the emphasis is placed on the links between motivation, identity, and potential key moments in learners’ lives. Using an AMTB-type questionnaire (n=45), the author puts to the test Dörnyei’s Motivational Self System theory (2005) in the context of the learning of Irish by looking at the correlation between the motivational intensity of 45 students and six variables (Ideal L2 Self, Ought to Self, Ideal L2 Community, Instrumentality, Parental encouragement, and Role of teachers). The notion of Ideal L2 Self, or the capacity to picture oneself speaking an L2 in the future, clearly appears to be strongly correlated with the respondents’ motivational intensity (r=.75 p<.01), in accordance with Dörnyei’s model. However results concerning extrinsic factors differ from previous research, putting forward distinctive features of the learning of minority languages. The second phase of the research looks at the language learning narratives of three An Cumann Gaelach’s members through the qualitative analysis of three interview transcripts. The results clearly show that time spent in Irish summer colleges are linguistic mudes (Pujolar and Puigdevall 2015), or key-moments, which triggered the interest in the language for the three students interviewed.

Open access
A cross-cultural study of the smile in the Russian- and English-speaking world

Abstract

Although the smile is a universal facial expression, the use of smiles in communication varies across cultures. This may lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Both Americans and Europeans experience the same frustration and communication failure when they do not find smiling faces in Russia. At the same time, it is common for Russian people to perceive the smiles of Westerners as artificial and insincere. What is the reason for such a difference in perception? Why don’t Russians smile in some situations?

The study of the use of the smile as a non-verbal sign in a few chosen communicative contexts across Russian, European and American cultures showed the difference in its meaning and distribution according to the cultural tradition. The reason could stem from the difference of Russia’s history when compared to that of Western Europe, as well as in the specific restrictions in Russian Orthodox Christianity and the traditions of laughter in Russia. All the meanings and specific cases of distribution are clearly retained and expressed in the languages. If we compare the Russian улыбка and улыбаться with the English smile, we can see both common and distinctive semantic elements and different connotations.

Open access