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Suburban Identity in the Poetry of John Updike

Abstract

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.

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Reclaiming the Past: Restoration of Personal and Communal History in Petals of Blood

Abstract

The implications of the colonialist discourse, which suggested that the colonized is a person “whose historical, physical, and metaphysical geography begins with European memory” (Thiong’o, 2009), urged postcolonial writers to correct these views by addressing the issues from their own perspectives. The themes of history and communal/national past thus play a prominent role in postcolonial literature as they are inevitably interwoven with the concept of communal identity. In Petals of Blood (1977), the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o explores the implications of social change as brought about by the political and economic development during the post-independence period. This paper seeks to examine the crucial relation between personal and communal/national history and relate it to the writer’s views of principal legacies of colonialism. As Thiong’o states: “My interest in the past is because of the present and there is no way to discuss the future or present separate from the past” (Thiong’o, 1975). Clearly, the grasping of the past and one’s identification with it seems fundamental in discussing national development. As Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s narratives are always situated in the realm of political and historical context, blending fiction with fact, this paper also aims to elaborate on the implications of his vision.

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Two Oral Histories of the Two First Ladies: Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson

Abstract

Two successful women, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, influenced and were in turn influenced by the political careers of their husbands. An analysis of their oral histories, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (released in 2011) and Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History (2012), demonstrates that John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson became the first men of the American nation not only through their personal virtues, but also through the influence of their wives and who had a significant impact on their careers. Granted, both Jackie and Lady Bird extolled their husbands’ merits, stressing that they were “only” their wives; however, both First Ladies played an essential diplomatic and political role, ensuring their husbands’ physical and emotional well-being in private and public life. The article demonstrates how Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson promoted the positive images of their husbands’ terms in office via their oral histories and continued to do so after their deaths. Moreover, the article considers some important differences between the two histories. Jacqueline did not edit her previously authorized interviews, whereas Lady Bird made important changes to hers; furthermore, in direct contrast to Lady Bird, Jacqueline never wrote a memoir or autobiography, which makes her oral history the most valuable source on her views about her life and her husband’s career.

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Identity and War in Michael Ondaatje’s
The English Patient

Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of identity in relation to war through a close reading of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. It investigates the connections between war and the construction of identity, focusing on aspects such as violence and death. In his novel Ondaatje uncovers private histories alongside the framing events of World War Two. Kip’s perception of war and his way of living through it suggest that the engagement on the world’s battlefield is riddled with inner conflicts separating people or bringing them together. In The English Patient what is at issue is the quest for a redefinition of the self: Hanna, Kirpal Singh and Almásy attempt to liberate the self through an investigation of the past. Thus, the novel problematizes the convolutions of human interaction zooming in on ideas of movement and metamorphosis as thematized in the war plot, functioning as the fundamental mechanisms that shape identity.

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American Indian Languages in the Eyes of 17th-Century French and British Missionaries

Abstract

This paper examines 17th-century descriptions of Algonquian and Iroquoian languages by French and British missionaries as well as their subsequent reinterpretations. Focusing on such representative studies as Paul Le Jeune’s (1592–1664) sketch of Montagnais, John Eliot’s (1604–1690) grammar of Massachusett, and the accounts of Huron by Jean de Brébeuf (1593–1649) and Gabriel Sagard-Théodat (c.1600–1650), I discuss their analysis of the sound systems, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. In addition, I examine the reception of early missionary accounts in European scholarship, focusing on the role they played in the shaping of the notion of ‘primitive’ languages and their speakers in the 18th and 19th centuries. I also discuss the impressionistic nature of evaluations of phonetic, lexical, and grammatical properties in terms of complexity and richness. Based on examples of the early accounts of the lexicon and structure of Algonquian and Iroquoian languages, I show that even though these accounts were preliminary in their character, they frequently provided detailed and insightful representations of unfamiliar languages. The reception and subsequent transmission of the linguistic examples they illustrated was however influenced by the changing theoretical and ideological context, resulting in interpretations that were often contradictory to those intended in the original descriptions.

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“A Pattern for Princes to Live by”: Popery and Elizabethan History During England’s Exclusion Crisis, 1679-1681

Abstract

This article investigates the intersections of historical memory and political behavior during England’s “Exclusion Crisis” of 1679-1681. In doing so, I bring together theorists of social and historical memory in interpreting the Exclusion Crisis polemic. Between 1679 and 1681, opposition Whigs and Loyalist Tories rehashed sixteenth-century Elizabethan history because it provided potent analogues to the contemporary crisis over the succession. Through an analysis of parliamentary debates and historical writing, I argue that England’s sixteenth-century history was an integral part of the contemporary political debate. The context of Elizabeth’s Treason Act and the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots provided historical parallels that opposition writers used to justify the exclusion of the Duke of York as well as make claims for parliamentary sovereignty in determining the succession. The Elizabethan era provided a wellspring of historical examples that could be culled to refute arguments for monarchial divineright absolutism. Rather than foreground the role of political theory in structuring attitudes and assumptions about the monarchy and parliament, this article sets out to show that sixteenth-century historical polemic set the terms of contemporary debate and, thus, influenced political outcomes.

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COMING TO TERMS WITH A PAGAN PAST: THE STORY OF ST ERKENWALD

ABSTRACT

The poem of St Erkenwald and his encounter with the body of a pagan judge preserved in a tomb underneath St Paul's Cathedral has never provoked an intense scholarly discussion. During the past two decades, however, the poem has altogether lost the scarce attention it used to receive. This is surprising in regards to its outstanding quality but also because of a number of peculiar characteristics the text has in comparison with other works written during the Middle Ages. Arguing for the importance of the historical details provided by the poem, my article takes a number of these peculiarities into account and suggests a new reading of the poem. In this approach, I do not dismiss the major topics of the earlier scholarly discussions, mostly focused on the poem's theological and stylistic topics or its presumed sources. My article rather presents an additional reading from the perspective of a literary history, thus arguing that the poem of St Erkenwald can be placed within a discourse tradition to which a number of earlier authors contributed, the most famous among them being the Venerable Bede. While the poem addresses a variety of theological and stylistic topics and is of course influenced by its contemporary religious and social developments, it also contributes to one of the fundamental problems of English identity in the Middle Ages: coming to terms with a pagan origin.

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