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Monika Kocot

Abstract

The article will attempt a reading of Alan Spence’s play No Nothing (2015). Special attention will be given to the issue of literal and metaphorical space(s), a peculiar, liminal setting of the play, and the ways it determines the flyting between the two characters, two iconic Glaswegians: Edwin Morgan and Jimmy Reid. It seems that in this theatrical space history, politics and poetry inter-are. We may notice how two completely different masters of speech (a poet and a trade union leader) exchange their views on life, how they reflect upon the meaning of their achievements, and how they find a space of convergence in their affirmation of life. As their flyting is “about life, the Universe and everything—from Glasgow to Infinity and beyond,” the article will also address the space of dialogue between Spence’s and Morgan’s poetry. The metaphor of Indra’s net will serve as a useful tool in exploring spatial dimensions of the play and the issue of interconnectedness.

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Dorota Filipczak

Abstract

The article focuses on the eponymous protagonist of Isobel Gunn, a Canadian feminist historical novel by Audrey Thomas, published in 1999. Based on a real story, the novel fictionalizes the life of an Orcadian woman who made her transit from the Orkney Islands to the Canadian north in male disguise, and was only identified as a woman when she went into labour. The article juxtaposes the novel against its poetic antecedent The Ballad of Isabel Gunn, published by Stephen Scobie in 1983. In the article Gunn’s fate as a unique transvestite m(other) in the Canadian north is compared to the fate of famous transvestite saint Joan of Arc. Though removed from each another historically and geographically, both women are shown to have suffered similar consequences as a result of violating the biblical taboo on cross-dressing. Isobel’s sudden change of status from a young male colonizer to the defenseless colonized is seen in the context of managing the female resources by colonial authorities. At the same time, the fact that Isobel allows herself to be deprived of her son is analyzed in the light of insights on the maternal by Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. The absence of the mother and the ensuing condition of her offspring’s orphanhood are shown as a consequence of reducing the position of the mother to that of an imperial servant, the fruit of whose body can be freely used and abused by the male imperial authority.

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Sherrill Grace

Abstract

In this paper, Sherrill Grace, Findley’s biographer, will examine her biographical practices in the context of Findley’s own memoir, Inside Memory, and his interest in creating fictional auto/biographers and auto/biography in several of his major novels (notably The Wars, Famous Last Words, The Telling of Lies, and The Piano Man’s Daughter). His fictional auto/biographers often use the same categories of document that Findley himself used—journals, diaries, archives—and this reality produces some fascinating challenges for a Findley biographer, not least the difficulty of separating fact from fiction, or, as Mauberley says in Famous Last Words, truth from lies. Like many writers, Findley kept journals all his life, and they are a key source of information for his biographer; however, his way of recording information and his creation of fictional journals means that a biographer (like the readers of his fictional auto/biographers) must tread carefully. While not a theoretical study of auto/biography, in this paper Grace will offer insights into the traps that lie in waiting for a biographer, especially when dealing with a biographee who is as self-conscious an auto/biographer as Findley.

Open access

Katarzyna Ostalska

Abstract

This paper examines the literary representation of the beginnings of the Northern Irish Troubles with regard to a gender variable (women’s roles and functions ascribed to them, mostly punitively, by men), in the selected poems by Heaney, Durcan, Boland, Meehan and Morrissey. The reading of Heaney’s “Punishment” will attempt to focus not solely on the poem’s repeatedly criticized misogyny but on analyzing it in a broader, historical context of the North’s conflict. In Durcan’s case, his prominent nationalist descent or his declared contempt for any form of paramilitary terrorism (including the IRA) do not seem to prevent him entirely from immortalizing female victims of the Troubles. Boland’s attitude seems the most unequivocal: the clear aversion to the language of death and rendering Irish women’s experiences (and children’s) in this discourse. The article concludes with analysis of Meehan’s “Southern” guilt for the situation of Catholics in the North with the simultaneous critique of perpetrated violence and Morrissey’s complicated standpoint: atheist/neutral/Protestant/communist and her striving for the impossible impartiality in a war-ridden and politically divided country. Trying to avoid systemic victimization of Irish women, the paper intends to analyze the historical and political circumstances which made them more susceptible to various forms of attacks at the beginnings of the Troubles, as reflected in the titular labels.

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Camelia Raghinaru

Abstract

Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel Brooklyn accompanies Eilis Lacey, a native of Enniscorthy, Ireland of the 1950s on a reluctant voyage across the Atlantic. Her passage reconstructs a common experience of immigration and exile to New York for the Irish working class seeking to escape the lack of prospects in small-town Ireland after the Second World War. Caught as she is between two homes—the traditional Irish culture she emerges from and the new capitalist society of America to which she emigrates—Eilis is placed in a polemical relationship to the public sphere, staked on multiple grounds of in-betweenness: she is a woman, Irish, and an exile. Belonging, for her, is posited on a complex understanding of the tensions between national and transnational identities. Eilis’s parochialism, at first, and cosmopolitanism, later on, are both decisive characteristics that become driving forces behind her social integration and marriage prospects. She is initially barred from promising job and marriage opportunities due to her naivety and lack of sophistication. As an Irish female immigrant, Eilis becomes in the course of the novel a cosmopolitan from the margins, one of the newly uprooted, and ultimately a split self.

Open access

Michael McAteer

Abstract

This essay considers a historical novel of recent times in revisionist terms, Kevin McCarthy’s debut novel of 2010, Peeler. In doing so, I also address the limitations that the novel exposes within Irish revisionism. I propose that McCarthy’s novel should be regarded more properly as a post-revisionist work of literature. A piece of detective fiction that is set during the Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921, Peeler challenges the romantic nationalist understanding of the War as one of heroic struggle by focusing its attention on a Catholic member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. In considering the circumstances in which Sergeant Seán O’Keefe finds himself as a policeman serving a community within which support for the IRA campaign against British rule is strong, the novel sheds sympathetic light on the experience of Catholic men who were members of the Royal Irish Constabulary until the force was eventually disbanded in 1922. At the same time, it demonstrates that the ambivalence in Sergeant O’Keefe’s attitudes ultimately proves unsustainable, thereby challenging the value that Irish revisionism has laid upon the ambivalent nature of political and cultural circumstances in Ireland with regard to Irish-British relations. In the process, I draw attention to important connections that McCarthy’s Peeler carries to Elizabeth Bowen’s celebrated novel of life in Anglo-Irish society in County Cork during the period of the Irish War of Independence: The Last September of 1929.

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Niklas Salmose

Abstract

This essay explores the modernist aesthetic involved in creating a fictive, nostalgic, childhood experience. Evoking the experience of childhood through fiction is as close to actually reliving childhood as we can get. The author argues that it is possible to actually transport the reader into not only the idealized world of childhood, but more so into an embodied experience of childhood through the use of different kinds of narrative and stylistic configurations. In a stylistic and narratological analysis of three modernist novels, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931), Tarjei Vesaas’ The Ice Palace [Is-slottet] (1963) and William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929), the author explores the different ways that literature can create (or re-create) the very experience of childhood through literary style. The strategies involved in establishing a fictive experience of childhood extend from narratological choices such as free indirect style, strict focalization through a child in the narrative (which implies limitations in perception and cognitive abilities, as well as in linguistic terms) to the use of a child-like temporality, the hyperbolic use of phenomena, and an emphasis of the sensorial aspects of perception.

Open access

Susana María Jiménez-Placer

Abstract

Virginia Foster Durr was born in 1903 in Birmingham, Alabama in a former planter class family, and in spite of the gradual decline in the family fortune, she was brought up as a traditional southern belle, utterly subjected to the demands of the ideology of white male supremacy that ruled the Jim Crow South. Thus, she soon learnt that in the South a black woman could not be a lady, and that as a young southern woman she was desperately in need of a husband. It was not until she had fulfilled this duty that she began to open her eyes to the reality of poverty, injustice, discrimination, sexism and racism ensuing from the set of rules she had so easily embraced until then. In Outside the Magic Circle, Durr describes the process that made her aware of the gender discrimination implicit in the patriarchal southern ideology, and how this realization eventually led her to abhor racial segregation and the ideology of white male supremacy. As a consequence, in her memoirs she presents herself as a rebel facing the social ostracism resulting from her determination to fight against gender and racial discrimination in the Jim Crow South. This article delves into Durr’s composed textual self as a rebel, and suggests the existence of a crack in it, rooted in her inability to discern the real effects of white male supremacy on the domestic realm and in her subsequent blindness to the reality behind the mammy stereotype.

Open access

Klara Szmańko

Abstract

Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress contributes significantly to the literary debate on the definition of whiteness. The socio-historical construction of whiteness emerging from the novel is amplified by white imagery dovetailing with the claims made about white people directly. For the African American first person narrator, Easy Rawlins, living in post-World War II Los Angeles, whiteness mostly spells terror. The oppressive faces of whiteness consist in the following trajectories: property relations, economic exploitation, labour relations, the legal system, different miens of oppressive white masculinity denigrating blackness, spatial dynamics of post-World War II Los Angeles and the white apparatus of power that the narrator needs to confront throughout the novel. White imagery carried to the extreme magnifies the terrorizing aspect of whiteness in the narrative. Like many authors of colour, Mosley associates whiteness with death. Whiteness inundates Easy Rawlins from all sides, entailing insincerity, dishonesty, interestedness and hypocrisy.