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Dodging the Literary Undertaker – Biographic Metafiction in Hanif Kureishi’s The Last Word

Abstract

Hanif Kureishi’s 2014 novel, The Last Word, involves most of the author’s idiosyncratic themes, such as ethnicity, racism, sexual identity, examination of interpersonal relationships and the crucial role of the creative imagination in human life. Its focal concern, however, is to explore the process of writing a literary biography of a living person and the character and dynamics of the relationship between the biographer and his subject - a writer. As such, the novel can be taken as being representative of biographic metafiction, a subcategory of historiographic metafiction, which, following the postmodernist questioning of our ability to know and textually represent historical truth, presents biographic writing critically or even mockingly, rendering its enthusiastic practitioners’ efforts with ironic scepticism. The aim of this article is to present The Last Word as a particular example of biographic metafiction that has all the crucial features of this genre, yet which differs from its predecessors through the complexity and thoroughness of its portrayal of the biographer-biographee relationship.

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The Dramatic Arc of the Theory of FSP: A Tentative Diachronic Excursion

Abstract

The theory of functional sentence perspective (FSP) and its research methods have been considered one of the prominent tools of discourse analysis and information processing. It is widely known that, combining the approaches adopted both by formalists and functionalists, the theory of FSP draws on the findings presented by the scholars of the Prague Circle. The father of FSP himself - Jan Firbas - drew on the findings of his predecessor, Vilem Mathesius, who formulated the basic principles of what was to be labelled FSP only later. Apart from the principal FSP representatives and more recent followers (as a rule associated with Prague or Brno universities), this homage paper overviews somewhat less familiar - yet significant - pioneers in the field of theories of information structure, viz. Henri Weil, Samuel Brassai, Georg von der Gabelentz and Anton Marty. It will discuss some of their writings and achievements that were forming (and inspiring) the theory of FSP.

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Healing Trauma and Reasserting Identity through Remembrance in Joanne Fedler’s The Dreamcloth

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse the role of memory in generating, transmitting and coming to terms with trauma, and the importance of exploring history, and talking about and sharing traumatic events in the process of healing in Joan Fedler’s The Dreamcloth (2005). In the novel, Maya’s memories of her unrequited lesbian relationship with her beloved Rochel, oppression by the traditional structures of her family and Jewish community, her forced marriage with Yankel, and her being raped by him are responsible for her trauma on a personal level, whereas her forced relocation to South Africa in order to flee from the Holocaust is responsible for her trauma on a communal level. Mia, the protagonist and the grand-daughter of Maya, suffers from the transgenerational trauma of her grandmother, is haunted by her ghost, and also symbolically represents the traumatized Jewish community. She cannot relate to her own Jewish South African identity and thus tries to avoid being reminded of her historical background. Mia recovers from her trauma by exploring her history, solving the riddles of the past and sharing the traumatic memories of the past.

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Literature and Learning in Marilynne Robinson’s Novel Gilead

Abstract

Literature and learning play an important role in Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004). By focusing on the author’s many references to books, literature and learning, the present paper attempts to study their individual contextual occurrences and explores how they saturate the discursive substratum of the novel’s major themes. The paper claims that a special role attributed to books and learning, and particularly to the Greek New Testament, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and The Essence of Christianity, sheds significant light on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the meaning of life, one of the novel’s central concerns.

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New Transatlantic African Writing: Translation, Transculturation and Diasporic Images in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck and Americanah

Abstract

Described as one of the leading voices of her generation, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become one of the many African authors who through their narratives have succeeded in challenging the literary canon both in Europe and North America while redefining African literature from the diaspora. Her specific use of the English language as well as transcultural writing strategies allow Adichie to skilfully represent what it means to live as a “translated being”. In her collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and her latest novel, Americanah (2013), which were greatly influenced by her own experiences as what she has referred to as “an inhabitant of the periphery”, Adichie depicts the way in which different Nigerian characters live in-between Nigeria and America. In this regard, her characters’ transatlantic journeys imply a constant movement between several languages and cultural backgrounds which result in cultural and linguistic translation.

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The Poet at the Teacher’s Desk: W.H. Auden on Education, Democracy and Humanity

Abstract

In the 1930s W.H. Auden taught at several public schools in Britain while simultaneously embarking on his poetic career. Later in life, he lectured at various educational institutions and returned to Oxford, his alma mater, in the 1950s as Oxford Professor of Poetry. His experience of teaching allowed Auden to reflect upon the pitfalls of Britain’s interwar educational system and its social function. Therefore, this article diverts attention from the prevailing scholarly focus on Auden’s poetry to his critical prose in order to examine the poet’s concerns about the content, purpose and role of education in society, his views on the structure of the educational system and disquiet about the tension between the utilitarian and humanistic dimensions of the educational process. At a more general level, the paper points out the relation that Auden maintained existed between education, democracy, art and the “crystallizing” power of poetry.

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William Golding’s Apocalyptic Vision in Lord of the Flies and Pincher Martin

Abstract

Humanity has long been haunted by the notions of Armageddon and the coming of a Golden Age. While the English Romantic poets like Shelley saw hopes of a new millennium in poems like “Queen Mab” and “The Revolt of Islam”, others like Blake developed their own unique “cosmology” in their longer poems that were nevertheless coloured with their vision of redemption and damnation. Even Hollywood movies, like The Book of Eli (2010), rehearse this theme of salvation in the face of imminent annihilation time and again. Keeping with such trends, this paper would like to trace this line of apocalyptic vision and subsequent hopes of renewal with reference to William Golding’s debut novel Lord of the Flies (1954) and his Pincher Martin (1956). While in the former, a group of young school boys indulge in violence, firstly for survival, and then for its own sake, in the latter, a lonely, shipwrecked survivor of a torpedoed destroyer clings to his own hard, rock-like ego that subsequently is a hurdle for his salvation and redemption, as he is motivated by a lust for life that makes him exist in a different moral and physical dimension. In Lord of the Flies, the entire action takes place with nuclear warfare presumably as its backdrop, while Pincher Martin has long been interpreted as an allegory of the Cold War and the resultant fear of annihilation from nuclear fallout (this applies to Golding’s debut novel as well). Thus, this paper would argue how Golding weaves his own vision of social, spiritual, and metaphysical dissolution, and hopes for redemption, if any, through these two novels.

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A Woman Traveller in the Moorish Sanctum: A Look at Emily Keene, Shareefa of Wazzan’s My Life Story

Abstract

Emily Keene’s My Life Story (1911) is a unique travel account as it is written by an Englishwoman, which puts the travelogue in the ambit of female travel narratives. She married a Moorish notable, Sidi Al-Hadj Abd al-Salam, the Shareef of Wazzan, spending, hence, more than four decades amongst the Moors in pre-protectorate Morocco or the “Land of the Furthest West”. For more than four decades, Keene managed to live on the cusp of two starkly different cultures, civilizations, religions and societies. Keene was fascinated by the atavistic Moroccan customs and the metaphysical world of the Moors. The man she married epitomized these purely aspired elements. Keene was mesmerized and enchanted by the Moors, their culture and traditions, but at the same time she adhered to her own culture, moving, hence, between two acutely different identities. As an Englishwoman in the Moorish sanctum, Keene was virtually seen by most of the Moors as a Christian from “Bilad al-Nassara” or an “Abode of Disbelief”.

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Assimilating American Indians in James Fenimore Cooper’s Novels?

Abstract

The article employs critical concepts from sociology and anthropology to examine the stereotype of the Vanishing Indian and disclose its contradictory character. The article argues that in James Fenimore Cooper’s late novels from the 1840s a type of American Indian appears who can be regarded as a Vanishing Indian in many respects as he displays some slight degree of assimilation but at the same time he can be found to reveal a surprising amount of resistance to the process of vanishing and marginalization. His peculiar mode of survival and his mode of living demonstrate a certain degree of acculturation, which comes close to Gerald Vizenor’s survivance and for which I propose a term critical integration. I base my study on Susquesus (alias Trackless), Cooper’s less well-known character from The Littlepage Manuscripts, a three-book family saga.

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