Issue #6 – Abstracts

Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai

Michigan State University

Secularism and Its Discontents: The Moor’s Last Sigh and Riot

The recurrent theme of dropping frontiers in a world which has become increasingly heterogeneous but intolerant is the leitmotif of Sashi Tharoor’s Riot and Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh. The figure of the Moor and his hybrid genealogy is central to Rushdie’s vision, as he reconstructs a syncretic, tolerant Moorish Spain and juxtaposes it with Bombay, his haven of pluralism. He celebrates Nehru’s vision of a new Indian nation which, in keeping with the traditions of western modernity, promised to be above religion, clan, and narrow parochial considerations.

With the vanishing of such ideals and hopes, as boundaries and religious communalism are getting intensified these diasporic cosmopolitan writers make a case for a boundless world. Their response is a human subjectivity which transcends color, class, narrow parochialism, tribalism and fundamentalism. Secularism is the very base of their humane approach. This essay, therefore, analyzes the theme of secularism and its discontents, particularly in the context of the coexistence of Hindus and Muslims in India, as it runs through Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh and Tharoor’s Riot by exploring the various layers of allegories related to pluralism and the critique of fundamentalism in them. Toward this end, it will focus on the recent debates on Indian secularism by scholars to interrogate the relevance of the European model of secularism which argues for the separation of state and religion.

 

key words: Secularism, Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh, Sashi Tharoor, State and Religion

 

Katarzyna Filutowska

University of Warsaw

The Narrator’s Identity and the Pursuit of Trespassing Boundaries in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

The article focuses on the problem of the narrator’s and the author’s identity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. According to Charles Taylor’s philosophy of subjectivity in order to have an identity we have to know what kind of good we would like to fulfil in our life. Such an orientation to the good (an orientation in moral space) and an endeavour after realizing this main value defines us as ourselves. In the paper it is argued that the pursuit of trespassing boundaries is constitutive to the narrator’s identity in the novel as it is such kind of an aim without which they could not have been themselves. It is also the key to the author’s identity. Through the medium of the stories of her male story-tellers she confronts her own demons, explores the territories of the subconscious beyond the bounds of understanding and depicts her struggle with the limitations she overcame as a woman in a patriarchal society and as a person who invented a new literary genre – science-fiction literature.

 

key words: identity, narrator, trespassing of boundaries, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

 

Susan Flynn

University of the Arts, London

Ambiguous Bodies, Biopower and the Ideologies of Science Fiction

Contemporary Hollywood film narrates the fear of monstrous science; attending to the modulations of medicine, capital and the body. The filmic body is employed to illustrate the power of the new biotechnologies to create and sustain life and the new sets of social relations which are a consequence of the marriage of capital and medicine. In the Hollywood film, persons who do not fit the ideal healthy persona have a moral duty to pursue repair and transformation. Constructed as inherently lacking, the unhealthy body becomes a repository for social anxieties about control and vulnerability, vis-à-vis the enormous and exponentially expanding science and technology fields. Hierarchies of embodiment are played out on the Big Screen as imperfect bodies are excluded from public life, power and status and urged to strive for “optimization”. Late modern societies present the possibility of new technologies which have the potential to radicalize bodies. However, these potential modulations are ultimately derived from a set of ideologies around the body and the power of the individual to enact an individualized solution. Contemporary narratives circulate around ownership of capital and the price of “repair.” This marriage of science and capital in popular narratives may be indicative of concerns for our future, as the power to make and repair life seems to rest increasingly in the hands of an elite.

 

key words: Science fiction, Foucault, biopower, biotechnology, ideology

 

Stephanie Johnson

Emory University

“Reread me backwards”: Deciphering the Past in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day

Set during the midst of the London Blitz, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day revolves around a narrative of espionage, but unlike many novels from the spy genre, it refuses to disclose all of its secrets. Instead, the novel’s dense and complex language, which so effectively expresses the dislocating effects of a city under attack, resists an easy or uncomplicated reading. This article examines the motif of reading within the novel, which manifests when its protagonist, Stella Rodney, learns her lover Robert is a Nazi spy. In her efforts to locate proof of his defection, Stella becomes caught in a recurrent but indeterminable task of rereading past events, a movement which attempts to remember the past but also foregrounds a fundamental inability to ever wholly resolve its enigmas. When Stella fails to read her past for lost clues, she is prevented from viewing the events of her life as a coherent and meaningful narrative. The novel’s difficult language reflects this lack of resolution, refusing to assimilate the events it depicts into a straightforward account. With its wartime setting as a disorienting backdrop, The Heat of the Day undermines the purpose of reading as the discovery of sense and meaning, producing instead only more questions and mysteries.

 

key words: Bowen, spy novel, reading, Blitz

 

Stefania Porcelli

The Graduate Center, CUNY

Shakespeare’s Exceptional Violence: Reading Titus Andronicus with Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben

In this paper I explore the multifaceted relationship between violence, speech and power in the most graphic of Shakespeare’s plays, Titus Andronicus. I take my cue from Hannah Arendt’s reflections on violence as opposed to power, and as something “incapable of speech,” but I read the play through the lens of Giorgio Agamben’s notion of sovereignty as the suspension of the law. I consider the dichotomy speech/muteness as an example not only of the dichotomy power/violence (Arendt) but also of the opposition between bios and zoe, that is the difference between a life worth to be included in the political realm and a life understood as the mere condition of being alive, a condition common to human beings and beasts (according to classical philosophy). In Titus Andronicus, these distinctions are blurred, and zoe becomes fully exposed to the sovereign decision. While the image of a mutilated and mute body cannot match Arendt’s idea of politics as the combination of speech and action bereft of violence, Agamben has developed the notion of a politics that renders life disposable, mute, bare, and can still be called politics or power, and precisely biopower. From this perspective, I argue, Lavinia and the other characters of Titus Andronicus are the embodiment of the concept of “bare life” as developed by Agamben, and Shakespeare’s Rome is a State of exception and of exceptional violence.

 

key words: Titus Andronicus, violence and power, biopolitics, Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt

 

Jędrzej Tazbir

University of Łódź

Communality and the Individual in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

The subject of the article is the analysis of the notion of communality in the relation between the two protagonists of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Traversing the post-apocalyptic landscape populated mostly by wretched savages harbouring ill intent towards other human beings, the heroes ostensibly seek a place where establishing a sustainable society composed of the “good guys” can still be possible. However, while for the young son this goal implies the necessity of maintaining a sense of openness and hospitality towards the other, for the father it is the matter of day-to-day survival that takes precedence, which leads to repeated instances of withdrawing help from destitute survivors and avoiding human contact. The boy objects to this behavior, despite being wholly dependent on his father, as his sense of responsibility seems innate and unconditional. The man, on the other hand, gradually recognizes that he was so profoundly afflicted by the experience of losing his world that he cannot overcome his radical pessimism and distrust of the other. Therefore, when the man arrives at the end of his life, he comes to understand that it is only without him at his side that the son can enter a larger community.

 

key words: postapocalypse, hospitality, the other, individual, American literature.

 

Timothy J. Viator

Rowan University

A Sociosemiotic Analysis of Fugard’s My Children! My Africa!

This essay presents a sociosemiotic analysis of My Children! My Africa! (1989) by Athol Fugard. By considering the characters’ views about self, community, education, and time, it points to the Fugard’s anxious attempt to offer liberalism as the solution to apartheid in South Africa instead of oppositional politics, especially blacks’ calls for activism and communalism. Sociosemiotics is suitable to plays overtly political; it holds that political writers are troubled by political changes that do not correspond to a firmly held ideology—a tension between what a playwright believes is absolute and what s/he senses and perhaps fears is happening. Keys to the analysis are contemporary texts, including essays from leading Black writers and journalists and from studies and essays from attendees of a 1986 conference on liberal solutions to the unrest in South Africa.

 

key words: Sociosemiotics, Fugurd, South African Literature, drama, political theatre.

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