Aesthetic theory, as reflected in both contemporary cognitive (Patrick Colm Hogan) and more traditional structuralist criticism (H.G. Widdowson), points to the dynamics between familiarity and surprise as the driving force behind the pleasure we derive from reading fiction. This paper explains how Neil Gaiman’s works, particularly his novel Neverwhere, utilize genre expectations and reinvent mythologies in order to captivate audiences in the current age of unprecedented access to information and a rather superficial intertextuality. The paper draws on Brian Attebery’s analyses of the literature of the fantastic to place Gaiman within the context of both modernist and postmodernist legacies, while proposing that his works could be best understood as representative of the current cultural paradigm, sometimes labelled as the pseudo-modern or post-postmodernism. The discussion of the shifting paradigm is used as a backdrop for the scrutiny of the devices employed in Gaiman’s writing: the pre-modern focus on storytelling, prototypicality, modernist “mythic principle”, postmodernist textual strategies, and utilization of current technologies and mass-communication media.
Alienation is a recurring literary subject in the United States. Its peculiarity is occasioned by the phenomenon of racial segregation, among others, with which the society is characterized. Thus, considerable critical attention has been given to the causes as well as the attendant socio-political, economic and psychological imports on the victims. From a psychological perspective, specifically, this paper engages in a comparative analysis of the effects of alienation on characters of African American and Native American origins produced by the same system in two novels which have African American and Native American roots – Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, respectively. In order to understand the variance and/or convergence in the personality formations of the African American and Native American characters in the narratives, consequent upon the racially alienating system, the paper adopts Carl Jung’s psychological theory of personality typology, labelled introversion and extraversion, with a view to assessing how, typically, persons of these origins are more likely to react to the socio-political, cultural and economic situations affecting them as minority ethnic groups in the United States.
This paper is concerned with Christopher Isherwood’s portrayal of his guru-disciple relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, situating it in the tradition of discipleship, which dates back to antiquity. It discusses Isherwood’s (auto)biographical works as records of his spiritual journey, influenced by his guru. The main focus of the study is My Guru and His Disciple, a memoir of the author and his spiritual master, which is one of Isherwood’s lesser-known books. The paper attempts to examine the way in which a commemorative portrait of the guru, suggested by the title, is incorporated into an account of Isherwood’s own spiritual development. It discusses the sources of Isherwood’s initial prejudice against religion, as well as his journey towards embracing it. It also analyses the facets of Isherwood and Prabhavananda’s guru-disciple relationship, which went beyond a purely religious arrangement. Moreover, the paper examines the relationship between homosexuality and religion and intellectualism and religion, the role of E. M. Forster as Isherwood’s secular guru, the question of colonial prejudice, as well as the reception of Isherwood’s conversion to Vedanta and his religious works.
As a contribution to the discussion of Shakespeare’s “appropriability” (Stanley Cavell), this paper examines some aspects of the cultural position of Hamlet on the Jacobean entertainment market, as they are indicated in Ben Jonson’s comedy Bartholomew Fair (1614). The metatheatrical features of Bartholomew Fair may be said to measure the play’s resistance against appropriating the unique and problematic aspects of Hamlet, such as the Ghost or The Mousetrap. These are deconstructed in Jonson’s comedy, which anticipates the Enlightenment views of the social functioning of theatre as a “moral institution”.
This paper analyses Richard Flanagan’s novel Wanting (2008) as a narrative informed by a revisionary and critical attitude to nineteenth-century ideologies, which is common to, and, indeed, stereotypical in much neo-Victorian fiction. Drawing on the biographies of two eminent Victorians: Charles Dickens and Sir John Franklin, Flanagan constructs their fictional counterparts as split between a respectable, public persona and a dark, inner self. While all the Victorian characters are represented as “other” than their public image, the focus in the novel, and in this paper, is on Dickens’s struggle to reconcile social propriety with his personal discontent. Flanagan represents this conflict through Dickens’s response to the allegations that starving survivors of Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition resorted to cannibalism. The zeal with which the Victorian writer refuted such reports reveals his own difficulty in living up to social and moral norms. The paper argues that the main link between the different narrative strands in the novel is the challenge they collectively pose to the distinction between the notions of civilization and savagery.
This paper deals with the reflection of Lacanian post-structuralist psychoanalysis in Paul Auster’s novel Oracle Night, with respect to the phenomenon of writer’s block. The paper argues that Auster’s novel is remarkably synchronized with the theoretical perspectives proposed by the noted psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, as the root of his protagonist’s inability to write is linked to the medium of written discourse, and the obstacles which the protagonist of his story faces are thus put within the confines of the protagonist’s psyche. Writer’s block is thus being examined with respect to the Lacanian concept known as the chain of signification, as it is much more noticeable in writers because their primary conduit for describing the exterior and interior world is discourse in its written form. Auster exceptionally mirrors Lacan’s view of a writer’s psyche and vividly explores the foundation of the inability to write with respect to the symbolic realm of human experience.
This paper attempts to evaluate the legacy of James Joyce’s avant-gardism for the literary experimentation of Mark Amerika, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Mark Z. Danielewski, three contemporary American writers and artists, working a hundred years after the first of Joyce’s crucial four “shocks of the new” shook the foundations of fiction. In doing so, the paper attempts to bridge the divide between the historical avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde as defined by Renato Poggioli and Peter Bürger, and regarded disparagingly by critics like Robert Hughes. Positing a threefold legacy of Joyce’s “revolution of the word” in its treatment of writing as trace, forgery, and idiom, the paper discusses Amerika’s Grammatron, Goldsmith’s uncreative writing, and Danielewski’s House of Leaves as continuing in and expanding on the achievements of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. This they achieve by pursuing what Marjorie Perloff has termed “differential poetics” and N. Katherine Hayles has rethought as “Assemblage” – two poetic strategies dominant at the beginning of the 21st century.
Iris Murdoch’s novel A Severed Head (1961) is an example of convoluted relationships that may appear hilarious upon superficial analysis. A close reading, however, reveals the suffering triggered by the behaviour of the central characters. The most mysterious female protagonist, the sexually ambivalent Honor Klein, deploys a wide range of possible interpretations. Honor’s powerful figure is like an axis around which the rest of the characters rotate and without whom the plot would fall apart. The question is, nonetheless, if she is a real figure or not. This paper argues that this pivotal character is not a real person but a dreamy and ghostly concentration of elements in relation to the protagonist Martin Lynch-Gibbon. Honor Klein is a force, is suspicion, and fear, and seems to be an external projection of Martin’s subconscious imaginary fears and trauma. She has a similar narrative function as Shakespeare‘s ghosts in, e.g., Macbeth, Hamlet and Julius Caesar.
This paper provides a close reading of a representative selection of suburban poems by the American writer John Updike (1932–2009). It also draws upon the existing scholarship by suburban studies historians (including Kenneth Jackson, Dolores Hayden, John Archer, and James Howard Kunstler), who have argued for the cultural importance of American suburbia in fostering identity, and develops the argument by literary critics including Jo Gill, Peter Monacell, and Robert von Hallberg, who have championed the existence of a viable suburban tradition in postwar American poetry. By scrutinizing poems from Updike’s early poetry, represented by “Shillington”, up to his closing lyric opus, “Endpoint”, the paper argues that Updike’s unrecognized importance is that of a major postwar poet whose lyric work chronicles, in memorable, diverse, and important ways, the construction of individual identity within suburbia, in a dominant setting for most Americans from the 1950s up to the present.
This paper examines the appropriation of writing as an integral part of the colonial encounter in Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964). Achebe’s hero (Ezeulu) realizes the pitfalls of orality in the confrontation with Europeans who are equipped with writing and its accompaniments. The coming of the West is therefore welcomed as Ezeulu quickly sides with them to empower himself against the contending forces of a disintegrating society. I argue that, as the Chief Priest of Ulu, Ezeulu is aware of the flaws in the oral nature of his religious pantheon and by sending his son Oduche to learn the art of writing he appropriates the technology of writing in order to prevail against his enemies and ineluctably allows his god’s surrender to the Christian God. This absorption into a greater pantheon is facilitated through the appropriation of writing and the sacred book.