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Wild Abandon’s introduction establishes the book’s methodology, introduces key terms (identity politics of ecology, ecological authenticity, and dissolution), and traces the origins of environmentalist identity politics to the American New Left. Movement radicals sought “natural” alternatives to the “artificial” postwar liberal order, often articulating this opposition in terms of repression and elevating self-liberation to the forefront of their program. However, ecology’s simultaneous political debut, and the field’s attention to the biophysical interrelationships that both constitute and undermine individuals, challenged selfhood’s apparent sanctity. For some radicals, ecology suggested that self-identity merely constitutes yet another repressive formation to discard. Because selfhood is socially constructed, the ecosystem as a whole comprises one’s most essential identity. This appeal to ecological rather than personal authenticity constitutes the identity politics of ecology, which is less a movement than a rhetorical tendency. Conversations between adherents to this perspective and a variety of other identity positions play out in literary texts from the 1960s to the present.
This chapter examines further changes in elite honor and shame in the Eastern Han. First, it traces the elevation of writing, earlier treated as consolation for a failed political career or entertainment that demeaned the author. During the late Western and Eastern Han, several writers invoked the ideal of the hermit to justify a life of retirement devoted to study and writing. Historical figures such as Confucius or the Duke of Zhou were portrayed as writers, as were the hidden sages of the Zhuangzi. This facilitated new genres—funeral inscription, critical essay, and shorter verse forms for self-expression—where the late Han sought honor through writing. Second, it examines the emergence in the late Han of “factions (dang ?)” defined in part through the practice of “pure discussion (qing yi ??).” These groups, like the newly celebrated writers, cited the ideal of “social eremitism” to justify refusing government offices. They criticized eunuchs and imperial affines, as well as leading officials and scholars who still served the state.
The Conclusion draws connections between the Archaic and Classical discourse outlined in this book and the representation of dance, especially pantomime, in the Roman Imperial period. It focuses on a set of key passages in Lucian’s treatise On the Dance, suggesting that by reading dance with Lucian, we can further refine our perspective on the complex interplay between literature, culture, and the potential of the dancing body. I choose to conclude with Lucian in part because his character Lycinus offers an illuminating model for the creative, subversive, and provocative reading of dance. I show that Lycinus uses familiar forms in new ways and rescripts stories about dance encoded within earlier literature, yet in doing so, he also continues a tradition of using the description of solo dance to foreground generic exploration and experimentation – of bringing the unruly body into contact with the workings of a literary text. Reading dance with Lucian and Lycinus thus reveals how the collision of dance and literature bears fruit across diverse creative and cultural contexts.
The Introduction outlines the theoretical work that undergirds my analysis and defines the key terms and scope of my discussion. It explains that the bodies discussed in this book are “unruly” in two senses. On one level, the pervasive representation of the solo dancer as a disruptive, marginal, or vulnerable figure is inextricably linked with the historical role of choral dance as a communal, socializing practice in Greek culture. On another, the conceptual unruliness of the individual, idiosyncratic dancer emerges as a way to foreground how the work of putting dance into words generates both creative opportunities and certain forms of instability and risk. Engaging with recent work in both Classics and Dance Studies, this Introduction sets out the contextual and comparative approach that defines the book. It also offers a brief overview of Greek dance and performance culture as a backdrop to my more focused readings of individual texts and figures in the chapters to come.
The introduction to Victorian Women and Wayward Reading traces the vexed literary and philosophical history of identification as a feminized reading response and uncovers a concurrent history of wayward reading in the Victorian era. The eponymous heroine of Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752) embodied identification as a feminine mode of delusional and egoistic reading, in contrast to the philosophically valorized response of sympathy. Through her fictional heroine, Lennox created a convenient archetype for female susceptibility that would recur over the next 150 years in criticism, cartoons, and novels, from Northanger Abbey to Madame Bovary and beyond. The introduction explicates how various modern conceptions and critiques of literary identification possess nineteenth-century forebears in explicit disapproval and tacit endorsement of stereotypically feminine reading practices. While Victorian critics and modern scholars alike have concentrated on sympathy and empathy as redemptive readerly affects, the introduction shifts focus to Victorian women’s intentional identification, beyond the stereotypically feminine arenas of emotion and interpersonal relationships. This introduction refines and clarifies an active definition of literary identification based in cognitive psychology, to demonstrate how identification can be intentionally directed by the reader and illuminate possibilities for wayward reading in the past and present.
The Introduction explains what we are doing when we claim to write American puritan literary history. It shows the development of that field – particularly as it was rooted in American exceptionalism and guided the construction of American literature anthologies – then explains the turn away from exceptionalism and the current state of the field. In the process we define each of the key terms in the title of this book: “American,” “puritan,” “literary,” and “history,” offering a general overview and summary of puritanism. Finally, the introduction lays out the three broader goals of the volume: (1) to introduce teachers, scholars, and new students to the complicated and nuanced tradition of puritan literature in America, set within broad historical, methodological, and geographical contexts; (2) to bring together new methodologies for, approaches to, and analyses of this literature; and (3) to suggest new directions and next steps in the field, including what the contours of such a field ought to include.
Our contemporary moment sees a new impetus toward commemoration, fueled by the government-sponsored “Decade of Centenaries” program, spanning the years 1912–1922, from the centenary of the Ulster Covenant to the Irish Civil War. From the diverse cultural initiatives that have resulted to date, an imperative to expose and question what is memorialized, or what has been allowed to be of public matter, is already proving to be the most powerful feature of this commemorative decade. What has also become evident is the importance of new technologies and new modes of communication that look backward and forward: They invite new ways of thinking about the past that are already proving to be transformative in the present. Central to these activities is the development of new audiences and networks for the reception of Irish culture and, as this chapter also demonstrates, many offer the individual artist and their works a newly invigorated public role.
In the years since its inception, Wagner’s Ring has generated significant commentary and controversy. Critics of the Ring asserted its influence in public discourse (beyond music criticism of the work and its performances) and generated ambitious intellectual and ideological debates about art, society, and politics. This chapter charts some milestones in these debates, including the contributions of well-known thinkers such as Nietzsche, Shaw, and Adorno, but also some of their French, German, or Russian contemporaries whose influence has waned since the fin de siècle. In the twentieth century, seminal musicological approaches emerged that transcend analytical-technical matters, such as Alfred Lorenz’s ideologically charged investigations of Wagnerian form or Richard Donington’s psychoanalytic explanations. More recently the task of interpreting the Ring has shifted from the written word to the operatic stage, where directors explore and expose its various and conflicting layers of meaning. Whether formulated by philosophers, writers, musicologists, or artists, two basic approaches emerge from these interpretations: They either develop a social or political interpretation from the Ring outward, or they insert the tetralogy into a preexisting worldview.
Allusions to and citations of Richard Wagner abound in popular culture, but allusions to the Ring cycle are uniquely fraught. They assume some familiarity with a monumental work that resists easy pop cultural grinding up. This chapter traces different strategies employed by writers, performers, directors, and film composers to engage, whether humorously or seriously, with a work that is as difficult to cite as it is tempting to make grist for the pop-cultural mill.
Chapter 5 brings analysis to more recent times with its focus on Tuina (Massage, 2008) by Bi Feiyu (b. 1964), a novel that explores the world of blind tuina massage therapists in Nanjing and is, ostensibly, based on conversations with real-life therapists there. Although a non-disabled person, Bi Feiyu argues that Tuina breaks away from received ways of writing about blindness and impairment more broadly to show the ‘human’ experience of blindness from within the experience of disability. The novel reveals the surprising (to the able-bodied gaze at least) ‘normalcy’ of disabled lives and emotions – greed, ambition, fear, despair, anger, love, desire and everything in between – debunking, as it does, the various prejudices surrounding the ‘world of darkness’. The way in which the novel highlights the individual/particular over the public/metaphoric certainly demonstrates its potential for the sharing of marginal perspectives and the personal reinterpretation of ‘difference’ and belonging; but, as the chapter also reveals, this does not mean that it can produce literature that fully avoids symbolism and allegory, or many of the more obvious pitfalls of the ‘narrative prosthesis’.
With the loosening of control over cultural production from 1976 onwards, authors were also freed to focus on concerns of a more social and personal nature as well as to explore the aesthetic potential of disability. In fiction, two relevant strands emerged. In the first, we see the appearance of semi-autobiographical works produced by writers with direct experience of disability, such as Shi Tiesheng (1951–2010), arguably China’s most famous disabled author. In the second, we see the rise of explicitly fictional works, exemplified by the works of two of his key contemporaries Han Shaogong (b. 1953) and Yan Lianke (b. 1958). Chapter 4 demonstrates that, while the inclusion of disability has subverted and challenged the conventions of socialist realism to reveal hopes and aspirations for enhanced inclusion and intimacy, it has more often become the ‘narrative prosthesis’ that reinforces tropes and stereotypes. Disabled people here are variously portrayed as isolated, pitiful, grotesque, sub-human even. Exposure of and violence against the female body in particular by male authors, re-establishes power relationships and offers reassurance to able-bodied male audiences of their superiority.
In 1852, Wagner described his text for the Ring cycle as “the greatest poem that has ever been written.” This chapter asks to what extent the musical innovations – responding to historical linguistics – were formative for a generation of writers as well as composers. To what extent did innovation in one medium engender innovative techniques in another? After contextualizing Wagner’s operatic reforms within his early writings and related moments within the history of the genre, it explores a cornucopia of modernist writers working in the shadow of the Ring cycle: from Wilde, D. H. Lawrence, and Aubrey Beardsley, to Yeats, Mann, and Beckett; from Mallarmé and Dujardin to Zola and Proust, to name but a few. It traces the profound influence on literature of leifmotivic techniques, as “carriers of feeling,” amid the shift to words as a dereferentialized system of signs. The role of alliteration, direct parody, interior monologue, and involuntary memory all contribute to the overall view that appropriation and influence of “reformist” techniques in literature and linguistics remained in the hands of authors, regardless of Wagner’s predictions for his own literary greatness.
This article draws attention to the understudied literary career of one of Italy's most famous patriots, Giuseppe Garibaldi. From 1868 to 1874, Garibaldi wrote and published three novels: Clelia (1870), Cantoni (1870), and I Mille (1874). Scholars have recognised the works as evidence of Garibaldi's anticlericalism and dissatisfaction with Italy's political moderatism, but have not yet sufficiently shown how the novels reveal the influence of Garibaldi's involvement with the female emancipation movement and his personal relationships with unconventional women. While Garibaldi is less well-known for his feminism than other men of the left, like Giuseppe Mazzini, his fictional heroines celebrate female physical strength and violence, offer women a means of participating in the nation outside the home, and challenge the predominant sexual double standard. While acknowledging that Garibaldi often conformed to prevailing patriarchal literary conventions, this article argues that his novels simultaneously offer support for the values of female emancipation.
Louise Erdrich’s 2010 novel Shadow Tag, a story about an artist who obsessively paints his Native wife, emphasizes the connections among gender, colonialism, and representation at the heart of indigenous feminism. In the novel, this essay argues, the relationship between Gil and Irene, along with the ways that Gil paints Irene’s body, underscores the centrality of gender in colonialism, the ways that patriarchy has served as both instrument and rationale for colonial processes that carry particular consequences for indigenous women. The novel thus gestures towards the consequent necessity of feminism in anticolonial projects and scrutinizes the role of representation in colonial power and Native resistance. In Erdrich’s story, contests over power and possession unfold in part as contests over representation, and by illustrating the ways that representation is bound up with social power, Shadow Tag ultimately reflects on the political possibilities of Native American literature itself.
This chapter examines the numerous meanings of ‘Gothic’ in the period before 1800 to explain how it was understood in a variety of contexts, from politics and Protestantism to architectural heritage and literary style. The ancient Goths were simultaneously seen as the barbarian destroyers of Classical civilisation, and as the northern champions of liberty against Roman tyranny and corruption. The reputed organisation of ancient Gothic society was understood to have provided the foundations for post-Roman English and later British systems of government, so influencing both the constitution and contemporary politics, especially among Whigs. The perceived links between the Goths of antiquity and the history and society of the Middle Ages and the Reformation in turn provided the basis of a national cultural identity that was increasingly celebrated and revived in the eighteenth century, and the term was adopted in broader debates on governance, cultural values, national character and the environment. The literary dimensions of Gothicism, inspired by medieval romances, added further characteristics of the supernatural and the mysterious to the term's changing meanings.
This introductory chapter charts the major directions that the Gothic aesthetic took in Britain, America and Europe over the course of the nineteenth century. Commencing with an account of the critical formation and consolidation of the notion of ‘Gothic literature’ itself, it discusses the critical work of figures such as Nathan Drake, Walter Scott, George Stillman Hillard and Edmund Gosse. Showing the extent to which this literary-historical category was defined against, and in relation to, canonical British Romanticism, it surveys the anti-Gothic rhetoric of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt and others. Through consideration of the work of Thomas B. Shaw, William John Courthope and Edward Dowden, it tracks the persistence of such Romantic attitudes in the literary historiography of the nineteenth century. Exploring, in its final sections, the volume’s contents, the Introduction situates the chapters that follow in relation to some of the major developments in literary, historiographical and architectural Gothic culture across the nineteenth century.
Chapter 2 focuses on literary representations of the consumption of such mediated crime stories. I analyze Moderato cantabile (1958) and Dix heures et demie du soir en été (1960), to illustrate how Duras thematizes reader identification with sensational crimes in the media by staging the identification of her heroines with fait divers-style crimes of her own invention. Where in “La Maladie de la douleur” [The Malady of Grief] Julia Kristeva (Soleil noir,1987) claims that Duras’s work is non-cathartic, I contend that Duras uses the model of an anonymous fait divers to demonstrate how reader/witness identification with “true” crime and its aftermath can occasion the processing and purging of the intense affective responses they inspire.
Chapter 4 studies what have come to be known as Duras’s “erotic texts:” L’Homme assis dans le couloir (1980) and La Maladie de la mort (1982). In these brief but provocative works, Duras combines the lurid sensationalism of the tabloids with the transgressive philosophy and literature of writers such as Sade or Bataille. After a close reading of the intricate interplay between gender, violence, and erotics, this chapter argues that Duras takes advantage of these audacious texts as springboards to expose her own personal sexual scandals in the media and to make provocative public remarks about sexuality more broadly. She even goes so far as to deride homosexuality as a diminished form of desire as she attacks Roland Barthes, among others, in a series of unsettling homophobic remarks in the media.
The introduction considers Duras as an important literary persona in a critical period where rapidly changing media helped to enhance and alter the already elevated status of the French public intellectual. I argue that despite the apparent rise in media attention accorded the author after the publication of The Lover in 1984, Duras had in fact been extremely attentive to the media throughout her career. I outline how her oeuvre can be characterized as a porous interface between literature and mass media, reflecting the changing media landscape in the twentieth century. After an overview of the distinguishing characteristics and the cultural significance of the fait divers, I trace the rubric’s critical role as an inspiration in ninteenth- and twentieth-century French fiction. My interdisciplinary methodology allows us to see the compatibility between high literature and mass media and to imagine the future of serious thought in the public sphere.
Chapter 5 studies one particularly famous and controversial rewriting of a fait divers in Libération in 1985: “Sublime, forcément sublime Christine V.” Here Duras rewrites a very famous, ongoing true crime case, transforming the suspect, Christine Villemin, into a prototypical Durassian heroine who kills her own son in revolt against a brutal, patriarchal order. Because of the way that Duras accuses (and absolves) the woman in public before her trial, and, significantly, because the media was saturated with images of the author during this time, the article caused a major scandal, and Duras became a sort of sensational fait divers in her own right.