In May 2001, a traveling party of 26 Mexican citizens tried to cross the Arizonan desert in order to enter the United States illegally. Their attempt turned into a front-page news event after 14 died and 12 barely made it across the border due to Border Patrol intervention. Against the background of consistent tightening of anti-immigration laws in the United States, my essay aims to examine the manner in which Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (2004) reenacts the group’s journey from Mexico through the “vast trickery of sand” to the United States in a rather poetic and mythical rendition of the travel north. Written to include multiple perspectives (of the immigrants and their coyotes, the immigration authorities, Border Patrol agents, high officials on both sides of the border), Urrea’s account, I argue, stands witness to and casts light on the often invisible plight of those attempting illegal passage to the United States across the desert. It thus humanizes the otherwise dry statistics of immigration control by focusing on the everyday realities of human-smuggling operations and their economic and social consequences in the borderland region. At the same time, my paper highlights the impact of the Wellton 26 case on the (re)negotiation of identity politics and death politics at the US-Mexican border.
This article studies comparatively references to tables in Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse and two films, Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love. Greenaway announces from the title a concern with a cook, which the film duly elaborates by setting its action mostly in a restaurant and its kitchen; tables as the central part of the set visualise power configurations. In Wong’s film about failed love, the kitchen and/or tables as part of the décor reinforce mainstream notions of middle-class domesticity. Woolf challenges middle-class views of gender in two episodes from Part I – Mrs Ramsay’s dinner party and the dialogue between Lily Briscoe and Andrew Ramsay about the object of his father’s philosophy books – by defamiliarising respectively the dining-and kitchen tables. The latter scene, which repurposes the idea of the kitchen table as an analogon for philosophy’s construal of the nature of reality, opens up an epistemic avenue: thinking with the kitchen table. My general frame for analysis is Edmund Husserl’s concept of orientation, sustained by Bertrand Russell’s propositions about unobserved objects and unoccupied perspectives. However, I twist these conceptual tools intersectionally to unravel the social grounds of philosophical and artistic positions that obfuscate gendered contributions to knowledge, sustenance and general well-being.
William Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “Sympathy,” peer through black naturalism’s socially deterministic lens, despite conflicts in time, geopolitics, social norms, and literary imagination. Specifically, Don John’s truculent reference about “sing[ing] in his cage” (1.3.32) inspired investigation into whether Dunbar’s famed line, “I know why the caged bird sings” (21), intentionally alludes to Shakespeare’s work. While the research is inconclusive, the references provide clarity for Don John’s character particularly. Essentially, Don John’s foolhardy evil meets society’s standards for masking social truths, just as Dunbar’s poem has been reduced to a sweet and imaginative ditty over time. Thus, this article broadly explores society’s tendency to recycle oppression under expedient pretenses. Although Don John self-proclaims inherent evil, closer scrutiny of his figurative scar – coat of arms, representing illegitimacy – reveals a socially determined position, more consistent with Dunbar’s second-rate life based on skin color and his naturalism based on whiteness. Because Mowat and Werstine suggest that Don John’s ill-intentioned behaviors are less about biology (blood) than impassioned human response to social injustice (Blood), naturalism links the unlikely pair. As such, the article uses Dunbar’s black naturalism to exemplify societal “caging” in Much Ado and “Sympathy.”
Nobel-prize winning poet Seamus Heaney is celebrated for his rich verses recalling his home in the Northern Irish countryside of County Derry. Yet while the imaginative links to nature in his poetry have already been critically explored, little attention has been paid so far to his rendering of local food and foodways. From ploughing, digging potatoes and butter-churning to picking blackberries, Heaney sketches not only the everyday activities of mid-20th century rural Ireland, but also the social dynamics of community and identity and the socio-natural symbiosis embedded in those practices. Larger questions of love, life and death also infiltrate the scenes, as they might in life, through hints of sectarian divisions and memories of famine.
This essay proposes a gastrocritical reading of Heaney’s poetry to study these topics in particularly meaningful ways. Gastrocriticism is a nascent critical approach to literature that applies the insights gained in Food Studies to literary writings, investigating the relationship of humans to each other and to nature as played out through the prism of food, or as Heaney wrote: “Things looming large and at the same time [...] pinned down in the smallest detail.”
This essay examines the perspectives on food, cooking and commensality offered by three highly dissimilar works: Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse (1927), Peter Greenaway’s film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) and, as a cultural foil for the two British works, a Chinese film, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000). Food or eating is not the central topic of any of them, save Greenaway’s film. Rather, their common denominator is the interplay of visuality and its implicit or explicit social reference, for all three works engage, however differently, with the class differential entailed in scenes featuring food or eating. I use Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological concept of orientation – amended in intersectional terms – to examine the cook figures and instances of representing food or eating in the three works. My working hypothesis is that such representations may reveal both the permanent negotiation of cultural values attached to culinary practices, including to the agents involved, and what they conceal socially.
On the British stage, political theatre, which emerged in the twentieth century, has been linked with the problems of the working class as initiated in the 1920s until the early 1960s. With the end of the official censorship of theatre in 1968, political theatre in Britain experienced a period in which socialist works marked the stage. Nevertheless, the 1990s challenged the association of political theatre with the conditions of the working class. Considering the current political and social events in Britain and around the world, it is appropriate to underline that political theatre is not only in a constant flux, but its definition has been once again challenged. In this regard, Brexit can be considered as one of the most significant movements to influence the understanding of political theatre in the twenty-first century. Consequently, this study aims to analyse Brexit Shorts: Dramas from a Divided Nation (2017), a co-production by the Guardian and Headlong Theatre Company and discuss their contribution to the changing definition of political theatre. Brexit Shorts will be further explored regarding their influence on the popularity of monologues as a mode of performance.
This article places Royall Tyler’s novel, The Algerine Captive, within the socio-political context of the early American Republic which was acutely concerned with the problem of defining its national identity. As a multi-genre text juxtaposing the picaresque format patterned after Henry Fielding’ Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones with the travelogue and the Barbary captivity narrative, The Algerine Captive is a novel which mirrors the incoherent and disjointed character of America in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, in formal as well as generic terms. By the same token, the variegated adventures of the protagonist/narrator Updike Underhill both at home and abroad reveal social, political, legal, religious and racial differences meant to challenge the Federal meaning of nation as an isolated and self-reliant land under the John Adams government. I examine the link between Tyler’s critique of Federalism taken as national insularity and the status of Updike Underhill as a quixotic character. His return to America as a patriotic citizen after escaping from slavery in Algiers is not a traditional quixotic “cure,” i.e. a return to the Federalist status quo. Underhill’s return to his native country enables him to make American society better, not by simply parroting federalist principles, but by upholding and testing cross-cultural differences and global experiences on native soil as a cosmopolitan citizen.
This essay turns to LaDuke’s literature and activism to explore ways in which contemporary Native American writers center their work around issues of food sovereignty, environmental protection, and economic self-determination as essential platforms for community regeneration, renewal, and survival. I argue that Last Standing Woman (1997), Anishinaabe writer Winona LaDuke’s first novel, dramatizes many of these concerns at the heart of her activist and political work. Central to the novel Last Standing Woman is the significance of wild rice for the White Earth Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people of Minnesota. In Last Standing Woman, wild rice is not only a traditional and sustainable crop but also one that can ensure the livelihood of the community. At the heart of a feminist and activist novel like Last Standing Woman – as well as Winona LaDuke’s activist work, more broadly – is a twofold challenge, which resonates across much Native American writing: on the one hand, the challenge to preserve (existing resources, cultural practices, etc.); on the other, to recover the losses Native communities have suffered historically through colonization and its many consequences, such as the enormous loss of land suffered by the White Earth community. The turn to literature provides Winona LaDuke with a powerful site of political engagement, where she foregrounds issues of gender, tribal politics, and the environment at the same time as she tells a powerful story about Anishinaabe continued resilience.