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The suffering of existence in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

Abstract

This paper deals with the British dystopian novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, in which human clones are forced to donate their organs in an alternate reality set in 1990s England. Through the characters of the novel, various manifestations of suffering are examined from the viewpoint of existentialism. The whole concept of donation might be understood as a metaphorical expression for human life, as well as the omnipresent consciousness of its finitude. Ishiguro has prepared the ground for disturbing discussion where two ostensibly different groups of people – clones, whose only purpose is to donate their vital organs, and “normal people” as the recipients – suddenly appear to be indistinguishable in terms of mortality and the general experience of human existence. This paper focuses on the concept of existential anguish in the context of the novel’s story. Using an unobtrusive science fiction narrative, Never Let Me Go encourages readers to contemplate the essence, meaning and purpose of human life, and it quietly points to topics that are usually treated as highly sensitive: the inevitability of death and apparent absurdity of human existence.

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Traumatized selves in Janice Galloway’s The Trick Is to Keep Breathing and A. L. Kennedy’s Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains

Abstract

This paper presents the case of Scotland as a traumatized nation haunted by ghosts of the past. Scottish national identity has been profoundly influenced by the country’s loss of sovereignty in the 1707 Act of Union. As a result, the stateless nation deprived of agency built its literature on the foundations of idealized stories of its heroic past. It was not until the 1980s that Scottish literature started to tackle the collective trauma and gave rise to works focusing on the weak and the exploited rather than the brave. Janice Galloway and A. L. Kennedy both epitomize this new vein of literature of trauma and explore the links between national and individual experience and strategies for healing the trauma.

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What punishments of God are not gifts?” The meaning of suffering in Tolkien’s life and work

Abstract

J. R. R. Tolkien, as somebody who experienced a difficult early life as an orphan and then as a World War I soldier, endured enough trauma and suffering in his life for it to become a significant element in almost all of his fictional works. This paper explores Tolkien’s understanding of the effects of suffering in human life, which was shaped by his religious belief. He presents pain as an inevitable and essential part of the nature of the Fallen World; yet while it may seem at first as a form of punishment, if treated appropriately, it turns into a powerful means of achieving personal or societal salvation.

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Foreign in London: Diaspora as a traumatic experience in Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners

Abstract

Stuart Hall in Black Britain claims that “the experience of black settlement has been a long, difficult, sometimes bitterly contested and unfinished story.” Such is the case in Samuel Selvon’s 1956 novel The Lonely Londoners, which depicts the trauma of diaspora for West Indian newcomers. People from the Caribbean who settle in the “mother country” experience total disillusion because they are not welcomed by the white British. The paper focuses on the influence British politics has had upon the Windrush generation of immigrants. It shows how the characters cope with animosity, loneliness and the sense of failed promise that all lead to the traumatic experience of living in total isolation in a foreign city far from their native islands. The immigrants face xenophobia, suffer from being the “other”, invisible and segregated. They try to cope with the trauma of “not belonging anywhere”, i.e. being uprooted from their homes in the West Indies. In the aftermath of the decolonization process they fail to come to terms with their new living conditions, and as there is no return ticket to the Caribbean, they experience the ever-growing trauma of unsuccessful resettlement.

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Hate crime trauma and pain: Affiliation, becoming and in-Betweenness in The Laramie Project

Abstract

Tectonic Theater Project’s documentary/verbatim theatre work entitled The Laramie Project charts the intricacies of the process of a hate crime victim’s search for and acquisition of identity (becoming) and the concurrent success and failure of the community to engage in this process (affiliation). The productions, as well as the film version, of The Laramie Project tackle the crucial importance of understanding the grey area between the state of becoming (part of) something and being excluded from it (in-betweenness). This liminality, reflecting Victor Turner’s illustrious ideas of “betwixt and between”, shall serve to explore The Laramie Project as an attempt to show the facets of social and cultural affiliation and becoming, as well as an instrument to put them to use in socially and politically relevant theatre. The paper will seek to show how Tectonic Theater Project’s work scrutinizes the significance of “in-betweenness” and employs it to communicate a message that is both humanistic and aesthetic.

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Iconization of the deathly affliction in Andersen’s Fairytales1

Abstract

The contribution focuses on a thematological interpretation of the existentials of misery and extinction, using a corpus of selected fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. In explaining the specificity of Andersen’s concept and presenting life’s givenness (the parameters of being-in-the-world) he verifies the relevance of several existentials which were explained by Heidegger in connection with the use of factual existence (Dasein). The use of existentials as real facts in describing a textual model of the world is justified by the thematic concept as a proposition of modes of existence by Ricouer.

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The landscape of trauma, pain and hope in Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse

Abstract

Jim Crace likes to refer to himself as a “landscape writer” and indeed, in each of his eleven novels he has created a distinct yet recognizable imaginary landscape or cityscape. This has led critics to coin the term “Craceland” to describe the idiosyncratic milieux he creates, which, through his remarkably authentic and poetic rendering of geography and topography, appear to be both other and familiar at the same time. In The Pesthouse 2007, the milieu is the devastated America of an imagined future, a country which has deteriorated into a pre-modern and pre-industrial wasteland so hostile to sustainable existence that most of its inhabitants have become refugees travelling eastwards to sail to a new life on another continent. Franklin and Margaret, two such refugees, are leaving their homes not only to flee misery and destitution, but also the trauma and pain occasioned by the loss of their relatives. Using geocriticism as a practice and theoretical point of departure, this article presents and analyses the various ways in which Crace’s novel renders and explores its spaces, landscapes and places, as well as how it links them with the transformation of the protagonists’ psyches and mental worlds.

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Media, simulation, freedom and control in Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist 2006

Abstract

Richard Flanagan’s novel, The Unknown Terrorist, does not only depict terrorism and violence but especially contemporary postmodern life in an Australian urban setting influenced by media, information technologies and consumerism. Drawing on Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra and simulation, this paper analyses Flanagan’s depiction especially of the main character, the Doll, and the way she symbolically represents various aspects of the process of simulation as understood by Baudrillard. In this context, the Doll and other characters are understood as subjects both manipulating and manipulated by the simulated image of reality represented by media and technology, the image which replaces physical reality. The imagery of manipulation is understood as a metaphor implying a critique of hypocrisy and consumerism of the contemporary urban setting in the technologically advanced society represented by the Australian city of Sydney.

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Romancing the crucifixion in biblical rewritings by Phillip Pullman and Colm Tóibín

Abstract

This paper focuses on how the romance mode is used to re-narrativize the trauma of Jesus’s crucifixion in two contemporary biblical rewritings: Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 2010 and Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary 2012. Reflecting on the process of the composition of the Bible, these novels resort to romance in order to invite a critical reflection on different narrativizations of the traumatic event, dependent as they are on both conservative and more subversive effects of romance. As some characters rely on the strategies of traditional spiritual romance in order to alleviate their pain, others cynically resort to a dualistic vision to establish and consolidate power, and still others make use of the excess and disarticulation of romance to do justice to the absolute horror of the event, the novels draw attention both to the comforting and subversive function of Christian scripture. Adding a metafictional dimension to the narrative of crucifixion, the novels expose the way in which religious scriptures can become ideological instruments, and signal the potentially dangerous effects of the renewed significance of religion today.

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Emergence of living language: ontogeny–phylogeny framework and other parallels of linguistics and biology

Abstract

Although language is something deeply embedded in our nature, the question of its origin is of the same order as the misty question of the origin of life. I point out that the core of the problem can be rooted in the dichotomy between language and speech, similar to the dichotomy of genotype and phenotype in biology. Following the ontogeny–phylogeny framework, I propose that studies of language ontogeny, especially its early stages, can bring a new understanding to language, same as the study of communication in non-human primates.

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