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The devil inside that won’t be caged or fixed by words: Fluidity and ethics in Ian McGuire’s The North Water

Abstract

In Ian McGuire’s novel The North Water (2016), Patrick Sumner, a young medical doctor recently dismissedfrom the British Army with his reputation and professional prospects in ruins, accepts a poorly paid position as a surgeon on a whaling ship in his attempt to flee from his past and his troubled conscience. However, contrary to his expectations, in the Arctic Circle he faces an ordeal far more demanding than anything he has hitherto endured in the form of the harpooner Henry Drax, a dangerous psychopath who is ready to abuse and murder anyone who is an obstacle to the satisfaction of his brutish physical needs. Confronted with violence and cruelty beyond understanding, within the fluid framework of the distorted ethical norms and values of the heterogeneous crew, the embittered Sumner is gradually forced to abandon his protective shell of resigned indifference and reassess the moral stances and responsibilities of a civilized person when faced with human wickedness. Though McGuire acknowledges primarily the inspiration of Herman Melville and Cormac McCarthy, this paper argues that in ethical terms the novel responds to Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, pushing the protagonist’s relationship to the other to an extreme by making the other an embodiment of pure evil.

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Doctor Who meets Loving Vincent Van Gogh (A case study of the “tortured artist” stock character in popular culture)

Abstract

Methodologically connecting at its core the experience-based and interpretation-based aesthetic approach to popular culture/popular art(s) on one hand and the basis-building views of what is called arch-textual thematology on the other, the paper seeks to examine, following its particular embodiment, one of the most stable, recurring and probably therefore one of the most iconic stock characters - the “tortured artist” stock character. This example of a “stereotyped character easily recognized by readers or audiences from recurrent appearances in literary or folk tradition” (Baldick, 2008, p. 317) can be - besides other principal and distinctive examples such as the “mad scientist”, the “lady/damsel in distress” or, let’s say, the “everyman” - witnessed all across culture, including the sub-sphere of popular culture, and the arts. The implied cultural significance and “omnipresence” of the “tortured artist” stock character can be aptly illustrated by Vincent Van Gogh and not only as a real-life tortured artist prototype or even archetype but also as a popular model for numerous and various cultural depictions - from poems by Charles Bukowski through the “moving pictures” of Loving Vincent to an episode of the well-recognized British TV show Doctor Who.

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Narrating the extremes: The language of suffering and survival in Laila Lalami’s The Moor's Account

Abstract

In the 16th century, the tragic Narvaez expedition to the New World ended with only four survivors: three Spaniard masters and a Moor slave who had never been given a chance to give his testimony as his companions had. In the fictional memoir The Moor’s Account (2014), Laila Lalami gives voice to Mustafa/Estebanico to narrate the hardships they went through from his perspective, which reflects his Arabic and Islamic identity. His story depicts several forms of human suffering: deprivation and poverty in his home country Morocco under the Portuguese occupation, slavery and torment while in Spain, and eight years of privation and wandering in the wilderness of North America. The paper will employ postcolonial poetics to reveal the literary devices used to recount these forms of human suffering as they are represented through the ethnicity of the narrator. This in-text analysis will link linguistic and aesthetic signs in the text to their interpretative functions in cultural reconciliation. Therefore, it will highlight the ideological and aesthetic aspects which classify the novel as postcolonial writing. Then, it will focus on the suffering-survival dichotomy and its representation in the narrative discourse.

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The typology of backstory inter-character conflicts as a core action in the plot

Abstract

Using material from classic fairy tales, the author defines three fundamental types of conflict between literary characters in the text model of the fairy-tale world: overt, covert and potential. Their attributes are evidenced and demonstrated via specific texts and their universal (transcultural) analogues are shown in the archnarratives, which go beyond the classic fairy tale genre. At the end of the interpretation, the author proposes a (hypo)thesis that the presented typology could be a starting point for creating a backstory of conflicts as an action-formative factor also in other art genres, and that it can be used as a source for a much broader and modern (and current in contemporary art) diapason of “dramatic” storylines.

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The verbalization of grief in David Grossman’s Falling Out of Time

Abstract

David Grossman’s experimental text Falling Out of Time (2011) examines the theme of the death of a child and parents’ attempts to understand and cope with the loss. In order to represent and articulate the sense of unbearable pain and grief, Grossman employs several strategies and techniques related to both content and form which allow for a perspective that is both artistically engaging and sensitive. One of the obvious formal features of the text is his use of poetry, which seemingly represents the most natural means to express the raw emotions and pain of his characters. The paper seeks to examine Grossman’s techniques that help him verbalize the grieving experience of his characters while focusing on his use of poetic language. It seems that the capacity of poetry to rely on meaningful silences and a multilayered interpretive potential enables one to create a healing space which facilitates the process of reconciliation.

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A voyage from Apollonian Munich to Dionysian Venice in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

Abstract

This paper explores the intersection of cities and the protagonist’s Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy in Thomas Mann’s preeminent semi-autobiographical novella Death in Venice (1912) within the cultural and contextual considerations of 20th-century Munich and Venice. The protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach’s oscillation between artistic appreciation and sensual desire is personified by the contrasts Munich draws as a city of enlightenment against Venice which is the city of sensuality and freedom. The article indicates that the narrator associates Nietzsche’s conceptions of the Apollonian and Dionysian parts of human nature with Venice, which acts as a character providing crucial elucidation in regards to the mental state of the protagonist throughout the novella. Thus, the study sheds light upon the symbolic voyage Aschenbach embarks upon - from Apollonian nature to Dionysian nature; from Munich to Venice, where his predominating Dionysian nature burst out through the city, luring him to his own demise.

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Being “completely half afraid to think”: Confronting the Absurd in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman

Abstract

In order to demonstrate an aspect in which the novel is relatable to the canon of absurdism and enrich the view of dimensions in which it functions, the purpose of the following article is a reading of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman in relation to the Absurd as an ontological category of existentialism and absurdism. Firstly, some assumptions already made on account of the novel are introduced. Secondly, the relevant and chosen characteristics of the Absurd are summarized in relation to Kierkegaard’s and Camus’s conceptions of the Absurd. Then, the novel is interpreted in relation to the insufficiency of human knowledge and rational thought in terms of achieving comprehension transcending existence. Lastly, the novel is interpreted in relation to the narrator’s fear of death, with death as an element transcending existence and adding to its irrationality. Overall, the way in which the novel depicts a specific contraction resulting in the Absurd is illustrated.

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The concept of happiness in Night Zoo

Abstract

This paper deals with a psychoanalytic interpretation of the titular story. It is part of the first volume in the Hungarian anthology series entitled Night Zoo – An Anthology of Women’s Sexuality (‘Éjszakai Állatkert – Antológia a női szexualitásról’). The analysis focuses on the story Night Zoo (‘Éjszakai Állatkert’) written by Zsófia Bán according to Freud’s personality theory. The theory regards our psyche as divided into three parts. The id is the instinctual part of our mind that represents our sexual and hidden desires, the superego contains the moral conscience and the norms, and the ego mediates between the wishes of the id and the rules of the superego. The chosen short story seems to revolve around unfulfilled love between two people. But after critical reading, it is obvious that this is not a love story of two people, but the relationship lies between the narrator and her unfulfilled desires. There is an immense conflict between instincts and social expectations. The narrator’s id has a desire; she just wants to be happy and have harmony in her life. But the superego does not allow her to fulfill the desire. The ego is therefore instrumental in deciding what the correct decision is.

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Literary space in Ismail Kadare’s novel The Palace of Dreams (A semiotic approach)

Abstract

This research study focuses on a social semiotic approach to Ismail Kadare’s novel The Palace of Dreams. The novel was chosen for study and analysis because it is considered to be one of the Kadare’s most important works. The Palace of Dreams reflects many aspects of Albanian society including governmental abuse of power during the period of the communist regime. The analysis of literary space in this novel focuses on locating the literary discourse in the text and the spaces of the text that produce discourse with their shape, presence and extension. The purpose of this research study is to see how and in what way meaning is conveyed through spaces, and also how and in what shape it serves the comprehensive ideas of the novel. Our purpose is not only to highlight the values of this novel, but rather enable to understand the great importance that space plays in people’s work environments and in their private lives (the characters), and how crucial the space is for their lives and destinies.

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The motifs of happiness, distress, anger and misery in the tales of Magda Szécsi

Abstract

The present study focuses on the tales of Hungarian-Roma writer Magda Szécsi, which were studied using the content analysis method. This study constitutes part of a larger research project that aims to provide methodological guidance for the integration of Roma pupils in schools that use Hungarian as the language of instruction. The types of function of primary socialization and the types of intra- and extra-familial interaction are illustrated via examples in the study. The motifs of happiness, anxiety, anger and misery in the tales of Magda Szécsi’s two books, Madarak aranyhegedűn (Birds on the Golden Violin [1996]) and Az aranyhalas lószem tükre (Mirror of the Horse Eye with the Gold Fish [1988]), are analysed in light of the aforementioned aspects. I applied the research method of qualitative content analysis and explained the forms of happiness and unhappiness in the books. There are many examples in the tales under discussion of the conditions of happiness and the reasons for misery in Roma culture. The three components determining the characters’ happiness or unhappiness are faith in God, idolatry and Gypsy law.

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