Issue #5 – Abstracts

Amara Graf

The State University of New York at Old Westbury

The Power of Poetic Praxis in the Literature of Pat Mora and Ana Castillo[1]

Chicana literary work is predominantly characterized by poetry. Lyrical poetic phrases are interwoven into Chicanas’ short stories, novels, theoretical, and critical essays. Why poetry? What is distinct about poetry as a literary genre or the process of writing poetry that facilitates Chicanas’ self-expression? Various Chicana writers refer to the process of writing poetry as essential to the (trans)formation of identity and society. Poetry allows Chicanas to transform their own identities and to re-define the contours of the world by creating a new or distinct reality from which to act. Collectively, Chicana writers produce a corpus of literary work that is characterized by the commingling of poetry, theory, and criticism. In this article I illustrate that these three phenomena are inextricably linked and that theoretical and critical essays written by and about Chicanas often grow out of and through their more creative, poetic literary work. My analysis focuses primarily on two Chicana authors, Pat Mora and Ana Castillo, and examines how their poetry exemplifies and contextualizes some of their abstract claims and critical theories, as well as how the blending of poetry, theory, and criticism functions as a powerful tool to create socio-political change both in the academy and beyond.

key words: Chicana, poetry, politics, Castillo, Mora

[1] This article is part of a much longer analysis of their work in my Master’s Report, Intersection of Theory and Poetics in the Literature of Pat Mora and Ana Castillo, The University of Texas at Austin 2003.


Shawna Guenther

Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Roll a Hard Six: Losing Your Noodle in Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing

Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing is a convoluted representation of the mentally-unstable mind existing as a series of six characters that are at once separate and conjoined: the horrors and traumatic events of the narrative past dismantle the unified subject into a series of schizophrenic sub-personalities, parts of the destabilized Author’s psyche, existing as separate fragments that eventually collide. Further, the imaginary room emerges as the Fifth Person, promising, but failing, to be a central stabilizer of the other fractured selves. Finally, the design of the text echoes the patterns of the traumatized mind, illustrating the inability of a narrative to construct a stable, unified subject and demonstrating the inadequacy of traditional narrative forms. The text, with its obliterations, cropped phrases, and pictorial manifestations, becomes the Sixth Person. However, in the end, the text shows that the past cannot be erased, explained, or reversed; neither can the experimental nature of the novel reach beyond the traumatized, schizoid subject to represent the horrors of the past that caused the Author’s psychotic breach. Federman has rolled a hard six that will repeatedly fragment and unite, just as the traumatic past continues to repeat itself as one that defies representation.

key words: surfiction, Holocaust, concrete novel, psychology.


Jodi McAlister

Macquarie University

Breaking the Hard Limits: Romance, Pornography, and the Question of Genre in the Fifty Shades Trilogy

The Fifty Shades series has brought erotic fiction to a broader and more mainstream audience than ever before. In its wake, a number of erotic romance series have achieved unprecedented popularity, such as Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series and Lisa Renee Jones’ Inside Out series. These books do not fit comfortably into the genres of romance or pornography: rather, they fuse the romantic and pornographic together. This locates the multiple climaxes of pornography within the overarching emotional climax of romance and creates a structure that is both finite and infinite, allowing the books to create both instant and delayed gratification. This article examines The Sheik as a textual forebear to Fifty Shades before moving on to examine the ways in which romance and pornography are fused, overcoming the limits of serialization in romance, and creating a romantic “pornotopia.”

key words: romance, pornography, Fifty Shades, erotic romance, genre.


Małgorzata Myk

University of Łódź

Towards a Non-hierarchical Space of Thought: Reading Roland Barthes’ The Neutral

The article is devoted to The Neutral: the 1977-1978 lecture course developed and taught by Roland Barthes at the Collège de France. I argue that The Neutral is firmly rooted in the tradition that Brian Massumi defined as “nomad thought” in his foreword to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. The essay traces the genealogy of this tradition and the term of the neutral, beginning with Maurice Blanchot’s work and his own concept of the neutral and ending with Barthes’ so far largely unexplored engagement with the texts of Deleuze. Elusive as the neutral figure is meant to remain, it emerges as a theorist’s effort to exercise a form of non-dualistic and non-hierarchical thinking.

key words: nomad thought, neutral, space of literature, non-dualistic thinking, writing


Peggy D. Otto

Western Kentucky University

Vision and Violence in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

Virginia Woolf describes her artistic goal in The Waves as an attempt to create “an abstract mystical eyeless book.” Yet, in creating her eyeless book, one that eschews a single narrative perspective, Woolf amasses abundant visual details. For each of her six characters, visual images mark significant moments of being. In fact, Woolf emphasizes the characters’ capacity for sight as a vulnerability that allows them to be violated and wounded over and over. This article analyzes connections between visual imagery and themes of violence in the novel to demonstrate how they cohere into an extended metaphor for the ways in which acts of looking can elicit powerful emotions that threaten to fragment individual identity in painful ways. While Woolf’s novel has received critical commentary that focuses on the role of vision in the narrative and critics have also noted how violence in the text supports other themes, the explicit relationship between sight and violence has not yet been fully explored. A close examination of the visual imagery in key scenes of the novel demonstrates how Woolf engages the reader to participate in the characters’ deepening sense of fragmentation as they are repeatedly assaulted by experience, as the eyes themselves become symbols of the twin dynamics of desire and destruction.

key words: Virginia Woolf, The Waves, visual imagery, violence


Gabriel Quigley

University of Toronto

Laying Bare: Agamben, Chandler, and The Responsibility to Protect

This paper demonstrates the hidden similarities between Raymond Chandler’s prototypical noir The Big Sleep, and the United Nations Responsibility to Protect (R2P) document. By taking up the work of philosopher Giorgio Agamben, this paper shows that the bare life produces the form of protection embodied by Philip Marlowe in Chandler’s novel and by the United Nations Security Council in R2P. Agamben’s theorizing of the extra-legal status of the sovereign pertains to both texts, in which the protector exists outside of the law. Philip Marlowe, tasked with preventing the distribution of pornographic images, commits breaking-and-entering, withholding evidence, and murder. Analogously, R2P advocates for the Security Council’s ability to trespass laws that safeguard national sovereignty in order to prevent “bare” atrocities against human life. As Agamben demonstrates, the extra-legal position of the protector is made possible by “stripping bare” human life. This paper also gestures towards limitations of Agamben’s thought by indicating, through a comparison of these two texts, that bare life produces states of exception as the object of protection rather than punishment.

key words: The Big Sleep; R2P; Agamben; Bare Life; States of Exception


Alison Van Nyhuis

Fayetteville State University

The American Dream and American Greed in Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall: Sentimental and Satirical Christian Discourse in the Popular Domestic Tale

Although Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time originally was a widely popular book in the nineteenth century, Fern and Ruth Hall were criticized after readers learned about the similarities among Fern’s life and book. Contemporary critics have recovered Ruth Hall from the literary margins and situated Ruth’s story in the context of the popular American dream story while emphasizing the book’s satirical elements. Reexamining the novel’s originally popular sentimental elements alongside the novel’s more recently popular satirical elements expands the literary critical focus from Ruth’s sentimental struggles and Fern’s satirical accomplishments to Ruth Hall’s equally important critique of American greed, especially among wealthy and socially-conscious Christians.

key words: domesticity; literary marketplace; sentimentality; social class