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“But what a place / to put a piano”: Nostalgic Objects in Robert Minhinnick’s Diary of the Last Man

Abstract

In 2003, Martin Rees referred to the present as “mankind’s final century.” A few years later, Slavoj Žižek wrote that humankind is heading towards “apocalyptic zero-point,” when the ecological crisis will most probably lead to our complete destruction. In his 2017 collection, Diary of the Last Man, Welsh poet Robert Minhinnick offers readers a meditation upon Earth at a liminal moment—on the brink of becoming completely unpopulated.

Imagining a solitary human being, living in the midst of environmental collapse, Minhinnick yet entwines different voices—human and non-human—operating across vast spans of time. The speaker of the poems moves freely through different geographies and cultural contexts, but the voice that starts and ends the journey, seems to be the voice of the poet himself: he is the last man on earth, a survivor of ecological disaster.

The paper discusses Minhinnick’s collection as a projection of the world we now inhabit into a future where it will exist only in the form of nostalgic memories. The analysis focuses on the role of objects in the construction of the world-within-the poem, where the fragments of human civilization are being claimed by forces of the environment—engulfing sand, progressive erosion—forming a retrospective vision of our “now” which will inevitably become our “past.”

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Finding the best fit for direct and indirect causation: a typological study

Abstract

The contrast between direct and indirect causation is the most widely discussed semantic distinction in the literature on causative constructions. This distinction has been claimed to correlate with a number of formal parameters, such as formal distance, productivity and length, which are linked to different functional and diachronic explanations based on the principles of iconicity and economy. The present study tests these claims on a typologically representative sample of languages from 46 diverse families, examining four formal variables and their association with (in)directness of causation. According to the data, formal length displays the most pervasive association with the semantic distinction in question, which supports the economy-based explanation. In addition, the relative prominence of the other formal parameters depends on the type of causatives and their stage of grammaticalization.

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From bodily posture to progressive aspect marker

Abstract

The fact that posture verbs tend to grammaticalize into aspectual markers of progressivity in a wide-range of (un)related languages makes them particularly interesting objects of study. The present paper aims to contribute to our understanding of how the active posture participle “yālis” (sitting) plus imperfective verb have come to express the progressive aspect in Emirati Arabic. The proposed answer to this puzzling question involves the claim that, crosslinguistically, progressive constructions are known to originate from locative constructions in which the agent is described as in the midst of an activity. The function of “yālis” (sitting) as an auxiliary verb - like appears to be the result of a grammaticalization process, as certain principles of grammaticalization such as desemanticization, extension, and decategorialization were found to apply to it. Data from Emirati Arabic variety suggest that the construction has undergone semantic and morphosyntatctic changes but retained its phonetic content. As part of the new construction, the active participle “yālis” (sitting) has also changed its argument structure.

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Does the Genitive Operate in the Hungarian Case System?: I. The é-Genitive

Does the Genitive Operate in the Hungarian Case System?: I. The é-Genitive

After three centuries of discussion concerning the genitive case in Hungarian, the authors of the latest academic grammars - in contrast to many of their predecessors - no longer distinguish this casal category. Different cases in Hungarian should, according to them, be distinguished only on the basis of their forms (endings). Such an extreme unilateral approach to this category seems to have simplified at first sight the description of the Hungarian language, erasing from it any case syncretism. From the point of the view defended in the present paper, however, talking about linguistic entities without taking into account their meaning is illusory; even in the case of meaningless speech segments such as phonemes it is the meaning of the segments in which they occur that constitutes the ultimate instance allowing them to be distinguished at all. The same applies to case. The moderate approach to the category of case adopted here, taking simultaneously into account its (i) morphological, (ii) semantic and (iii) syntactic properties, leads irrevocably to the restoration of the genitive in the description of the Hungarian language. As a specific feature of this language one should consider the sharp distinction between two subclasses of the genitive case: (i) the non-attributive (é-genitive) and (ii) the attributive genitive (Ø-/nak-/nek-genitive). Only the first of these (the é-genitive) will be discussed in detail. The second (the Ø-/nak-/nek-genitive) will be the subject of a continuation of the present paper. Recognition of the é-genitive seems to have been blocked by those of its properties which seem to be quite incongruous with those of other Hungarian cases. It is claimed, for example, that the marker -é - unlike the markers of other cases - seems not to express any syntagmatic function. This function is expressed by the case marker attached after the morpheme -é (A diákét (láttam) '(I saw) The student's one'). In the view of the author, however, the lack of syntagmatic function in the case of the morpheme -é is not so obvious. On the other hand, such "discrediting" properties for a case marker candidate, as the property of not occupying the final morphotactical position (diákét), can be viewed as entirely irrelevant for the category of case. The adopted approach seems to make possible a description of this fragment of the Hungarian case system from a more homogenous perspective, showing the interplay of different casal meanings within the boundaries of one word.

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Cross-Cultural Casting in Britain: The Path to Inclusion, 1972-2012

Abstract

This essay uses three productions to chart the progress of the integration of performers of African and Afro-Caribbean descent in professional British Shakespearean theatre. It argues that the three productions―from 1972, 1988 and 2012―each use cross-cultural casting in ways that illuminate the phases of inclusion for British performers of colour. Peter Coe’s 1972 The Black Macbeth was staged at a time when an implicit colour bar in Shakespeare was in place, but black performers were included in the production in ways that reinforced dominant racial stereotypes. Temba’s 1988 Romeo and Juliet used its Cuban setting to challenge stereotypes by presenting black actors in an environment that was meant to show them as “real human beings”. The RSC’s 2012 Julius Caesar was a black British staging of Shakespeare that allowed black actors to use their cultural heritages to claim Shakespeare, signalling the performers’ greater inclusion into British Shakespearean theatre.

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Oppressive Faces of Whiteness in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress

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.

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“When China Meets China”: Sinéad Morrissey’s Figurations of the Orient, or the Function of Alterity in Julia Kristeva and Paul Ricoeur

Abstract

This article attempts to investigate the potential resonances between Paul Ricoeur’s and Julia Kristeva’s theories of otherness as applied to the study of poetry by the Northern-Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey. In all of her five poetry books she explores various forms of otherness and attempts to sketch them in verse. She confronts alterity in many ways, approaching such subjects as the relationship with the body and children, encounters with foreigners, and coming to terms with what is foreign within us. This article engages primarily with her experiences of China, which she recorded in the long poem “China” from her third collection, The State of Prisons (2005). Firstly, this article tackles the question of the body, which is interpreted on the basis of Morrissey’s “post-mortem” poems. Their reading prepares the ground for further explorations of otherness, which Morrissey locates at the very heart of human subjectivity. In this way, she also manages to establish a poetic framework for an ethical consideration of otherness. By investigating the working of the human psyche, Morrissey seems to go along the lines of Kristeva and Ricoeur, who claim that otherness is inextricably linked with the formation of human subjectivity. Taking a cue from their philosophical enquiries, the article also attempts to establish where Kristeva’s and Ricoeur’s philosophies overlap.

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“Being Human”: Edward Bond’s Theories of Drama

Abstract

The playwright Edward Bond has recalled the impact of seeing photographs of Nazi atrocities at the end of World War Two: “It was the ground zero of the human soul.” He argues we need a different kind of drama, based in “a new interpretation of what it means to be human.” He has developed an extensive body of theoretical writings to set alongside his plays. Arguably, his own reflections on “what it means to be human” are based in his reaction to the Holocaust, and his attempt to confront “the totality of evil.”

Bond argues we are born “radically innocent.” There is a “pre-psychological” state of being. The neonate does not “read” ideology; it has to use its own imagination to make sense of the world. To enter society, however, the child must be corrupted; its imagination is “ideologized.” Bond claims that “radical innocence” can never wholly be lost. Through drama, we can escape “ideology” and recover our “autonomy.” It leads us to confront extreme situations, and to define for ourselves “what it means to be human.”

The terms of Bond’s theory are Manichean (innocent-corrupt, autonomous-ideologized etc.). His arguments are based in the assumption that there is a fundamental “humanity” that exists prior to socialization. In fact, the process of socialization begins at birth. As an account of child development, “radical innocence” does not stand up to close scrutiny. Arguably, however, Bond’s work escapes the confines of his own theory. It can be read, not in terms of the “ideologized” vs. the “autonomous” mind, but rather, in terms of “conscious” and “unconscious.” In Coffee (2000), Bond takes character of Nold on a journey into the Dantean hell of his own unconscious. He does not recover his “innocence,” but, rather, he has to face the darkness of both history and the psyche.

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Women's Power To Be Loud: The Authority of the Discourse and Authority of the Text in Mary Dorcey's Irish Lesbian Poetic Manifesto "Come Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear"

Women's Power To Be Loud: The Authority of the Discourse and Authority of the Text in Mary Dorcey's Irish Lesbian Poetic Manifesto "Come Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear"

The following article aims to examine Mary Dorcey's poem "Come Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear," included in the 1991 volume Moving into the Space Cleared by Our Mothers. Apart from being a well-known and critically acclaimed Irish poet and fiction writer, the author of the poem has been, from its beginnings, actively involved in lesbian rights movement. Dorcey's poem "Come Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear" is to be construed from a perspective of lesbian and feminist discourse, as well as a cultural, sociological and political context in which it was created. While analyzing the poem, the emphasis is being paid to the intertwining of various ideological and subversive assumptions (dominant and the implied ones), their competing for importance and asserting authority over one another, in line with, and sometimes, against the grain of the textual framework. In other words, Dorcey's poem introduces a multilayered framework that draws heavily on various sources: the popular culture idiom, religious discourse (the references to the Virgin Mary and the biblical annunciation imagery), the text even employs, in some parts, crime and legal jargon, but, above all, it relies upon sensuous lesbian experience where desire and respect for the other woman opens the emancipating space allowing for redefining of one's personal and textual location. As a result of such a multifarious interaction, unrepresented and unacknowledged Irish women's standpoints may come to the surface and become articulated, disrupting their enforced muteness that the controlling heteronormative discourse has attempted to ensure. In Dorcey's poem, the operating metaphor of women's silence (or rather—silencing women), conceived of, at first, as the need to conceal one's sexual (lesbian) identity in fear of social ostracism and contempt of the "neighbours," is further equated with the noiseless, solitary and violent death of the anonymous woman, the finding of whose body was reported on the news. In both cases, the unwanted Irish women's voices of either agony, during the unregistered by anybody misogynist bloodshed that took place inside the flat, or the forbidden sounds of lesbian sexual excitement, need to be (self) censored and stifled, not to disrupt an idealized image of the well-established family and heteronormative patterns. In the light of the aforementioned parallel, empowered by the shared bodily and emotional closeness with her female lover, and already bitterly aware that silence in discourse is synonymous with textual, or even, actual death, the speaker in "Come Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear" comes to claim her own agency and makes her voice heard by others and taken into account.

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Michèle Roberts: Female Genius and the Theology of an English Novelist

Michèle Roberts: Female Genius and the Theology of an English Novelist

Since Simone de Beauvoir published The Second Sex in 1949, feminist analysis has tended to assume that the conditions of male normativity—reducing woman to the merely excluded "Other" of man—holds true in the experience of all women, not the least, women in the context of Christian praxis and theology. Beauvoir's powerful analysis—showing us how problematic it is to establish a position outside patriarchy's dominance of our conceptual fields—has helped to explain the resilience of sexism and forms of male violence that continue to diminish and destroy women's lives because they cannot be seen as questionable. It has also, I would argue, had the unintended consequence of intensifying the sense of limitation, so that it becomes problematic to account for the work and lives of effective, innovative and responsible women in these contexts. In order to address this problematic issue, I use the life and work of novelist Michèle Roberts, as a case study in female genius within an interdisciplinary field, in order to acknowledge the conditions that have limited a singular woman's literary and theological aspirations but also to claim that she is able to give voice to something creative of her own.

The key concept of female genius within this project draws on Julia Kristeva's notion of being a subject without implicitly excluding embodiment and female desire as in normative male theology, or in notions of genius derived from Romanticism. Roberts' work as a writer qualifies her as female genius in so far as it challenges aspects of traditional Christianity, bringing to birth new relationships between theological themes and scriptural narratives without excluding her singular female desires and pleasures as a writer. This paper—as part of a more inclusive, historical survey of the work of women writers crossing the disciplinary boundaries between literature and Christian theology over the last several centuries also asks whether, in order to do proper justice to the real and proven limitations imposed on countless women in these fields across global and historical contexts, we need, at the same time, to reduce the Christian tradition to something that is always antithetical or for which women can take absolutely no credit or bear no responsibility.

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