Abstracts from Recent Issues
Fall 2017, Volume 50, Number 2
"The Waters and the Wild": W.B. Yeats, Julia De Burgos, and Romantic Wilderness
Abstract: This paper compares for the first time William Butler Yeats with Julia de Burgos, the twentieth-century national poets of Ireland and of Puerto Rico respectively, two islands that have long served as the colonial possessions of neighboring Anglocentric superpowers. I open by examining how the authors’ two earliest and most popular poems—Yeats’s “The Stolen Child” (1886) and Burgos’s “Río Grande de Loíza” (1935)—imagine untamed wilderness as a sanctuary from imperial jurisdiction, a space where young children are led away to protect them from the tears of this world. “For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand,” sing the faeries to Yeats’s stolen child, while Burgos calls the Río Grande itself “Great flood of tears. / The greatest of all our island’s tears / save those greater that come from the eyes / of my soul for my enslaved people.” Given the centrality of wilderness to these poems, this essay draws on the works of Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Elaine Savory, who argue that ecocriticism and postcolonialism, far from possessing competing priorities as many critics have long assumed, are instead natural allies in their shared resistance against economic exploitation. Wilderness can likewise function to preserve a protonationalist independent space, hidden away from colonial regimes. I conclude this paper by examining the resurrection motif in Yeats’s and Burgos’s midperiod poems “Easter 1916” and “23 de septiembre,”wherein these protonationalist spaces appear to return from the dead, cast off their wilderness exile, and fulfill their long-deferred revolutionary projects.
Searching for "Free Territory" in Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother
Tisha M. Brooks
Abstract: This essay locates Saidiya Hartman’s travel and writing in relationship to a longer and multifaceted legacy of black travel that includes the coerced movement of black people across the Atlantic during the slave trade, the migratory travel of black diasporic peoples, and African American tourism to Africa, Ghana in particular. Moreover, this paper argues that Hartman's text challenges us to build bridges across the boundaries we often construct between these various types of movement, enabling us to see the tenuous ways in which these journeys intersect. Pushing beyond narrow definitions of travel, this essay questions singular frameworks that focus on a single type of journey, as they lead to incomplete readings of African American travel texts, like Hartman’s Lose Your Mother, that foreground a wide range of journeys—forced journeys of slavery, journeys of flight and displacement, as well as voluntary journeys of privilege. This study expands scholarship on Hartman by tending to the fluid and multiple geographies and itineraries at the center of her travel text, making visible the complexities of black people's journeys in the past and present and illustrating how those complex journeys produce varying perspectives on slavery and freedom.
Unsettled Homes: Borders and Belonging in Emma Donoghue's Astray
Moira Casey and Eva Roa White
Abstract: This article places the work of Emma Donoghue's 2012 short story collection, Astray, within the context of Donoghue's larger oeuvre of historical writing to show how Donoghue comments on the contemporary world via historical contexts. The Derridean concepts of "différance" and "hospitality," along with theory from Ryan Trimm and Susan Strehle, are applied to the analysis of three stories: "Onward," "The Long Way Home," and "The Lost Seed." These analyses reveal how Donoghue uses themes of movement, migration, and settlement to destabilize traditional notions of "home" and the traditional boundaries of domestic spaces.
“The Juvenile and Erudite: A Study of the Marginalia and Ownership History of Newberry Case Y 12.T219”
Abstract: Examining the Early Modern marginalia wrought by two hands within Newberry Case Y12.T219, also known as the Duke of Roxburghe’s copy of All the Workes of John Taylor (1630), reveals how an old man and a young child respectively engaged with the same volume as both text and object shortly after its publication. Furthermore, the identities of the two writers are deduced based on the book’s subsequent ownership by the illustrious John Ker, third Duke of Roxburghe, and indicative marginalia, demonstrating how such a text can still function as speaking, historical object. To guarantee the authenticity and exclusivity of the Roxburghe copy’s marginalia, each image or page of text has been compared to a copy of the same edition owned by Loyola University Chicago, which is in significantly better repair and contains fewer marginalia. While some adult marginalia indicate political or moral perspectives by expressing approbation with marks, thus subjecting the folio to a selective and personal reading process, the child’s marginalia rewrite, imitate, mock, and even alter Taylor’s text. These instances provide physical evidence of how two readers of a work separately constructed their own physical paratexts in order to respond to or resist the author’s original literary meanings. Interpreting ownership labels and tracing the Roxburghe copy’s record of sale from its printing until its acquisition by the Newberry Library establishes a likely ownership genealogy for Newberry Case Y12.T219, illuminating developing perspectives on book-collecting over the centuries.
States of Perception and Personal Agency in Alice Munro's Dear Life
Abstract: Alice Munro’s 2012 collection Dear Life offers a riveting meditation on states of perception throughout the life cycle in fictional and autobiographical contexts. Munro reaches beyond the typical adult processing of reality and takes readers into minds either developing or declining. Prominent in the collection are issues of being and consciousness, crucial to ontology and phenomenology respectively, as well as questions of selfhood explored in autobiographical theory. Two fictional stories stand out with regard to perception: the child's perspective in "Gravel" and the elderly woman's understanding in "In Sight of the Lake" express visions of reality at two ends of a spectrum. As Munro highlights the mind’s functioning, we understand the limits of youth, the imperfections of memory, and the impact of age. Because these and other stories in the collection evoke the life span, they anticipate the autobiographical finale, or last four stories that close Dear Life. In this dénouement, Munro blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. Yet her intentional playfulness goes beyond the typical selectivity, exaggeration, and denial that all play a role in composing life stories. The closing sketches culminate in the privileged final piece, fittingly entitled “Dear Life.” By appropriating different versions of life events into “Dear Life,” Munro emphasizes personal agency and the creative process. Echoing the collection title, “Dear Life” takes us back to earlier stories by highlighting the types of cognitive issues raised in “Gravel” and “In Sight of the Lake.” Taken together, these three pieces, along with the author’s preamble to the finale, invite readers to discern multiple forms of insight and to ponder the deliberate ambiguity of Munro’s autobiographical project. In a collection that highlights states of perception throughout the life cycle, this elderly author asserts the primacy of her own perceptions about her life. She has the final word, whether this be truth, fiction, or somewhere in the middle. In her intense interest in character portraits and in her foray into self-portrait, Munro is fascinated by the mechanisms of the mind. We are invited to commune with her characters, consider human nature, and feel the experiences and traumas that shape us. Munro seeks to portray all of this in the young, the old, and those in between.
Language Instruction in the Expanding Borderlands: Teaching Heritage Language Learners Enrolled in L2 Classrooms
Abstract: As the population of immigrant children and young adults increases throughout the United States, many experts have advocated for the establishment of courses designed specifically for speakers of languages other than English (LOTE) to maintain their proficiency and build literacy. But for various reasons many LOTE speakers end up in secondary and university courses designed to teach their home languages to second language (L2) learners, classrooms where too often their linguistic needs are not met. This paper proposes a set of guidelines for effectively teaching heritage language learners (HLLs) enrolled in L2 classrooms. Among the recommendations are the use of differentiated instruction, the use of varied levels of input during class and the creation of a portfolio of extra materials that includes readings at the appropriate level for HLLs. Also presented are strategies for using activities that sometimes bring heritage learners together in pairs or groups and sometimes pair them with L2 learners, depending upon the academic goals and the levels of the students.
Violated Boundaries and Accomplice Spaces in Zola’s The Kill and Nana
Abstract: This article examines the function and dynamic of the domestic spaces described in two of Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels as panoptic devices whose function it is to suppress not only the domestically bound female but the male as well. The misuse of physical spaces that provide the settings of La Curée and Nana highlights the loss of patriarchal control as the physical spaces fail to perform their intended functions. By reading architectural intent as an extension of the will and law of the father, the subsequent betrayals of class, family, and assumed control are arguably failures of the architecture and, by extension, failures of social practice reliant upon containment and surveillance.
Spring 2017, Volume 50, Number 1
Marilyn Chin's Revenge: Rewriting the Racial Shadow
Abstract: In this paper I discuss the trope of the racial shadow in Asian American literature, as first defined by Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong, and then demonstrate how Marilyn Chin’s Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen: A Manifesto in 41 Tales (2009) disrupts and repositions the trope via her inter-ethnic twin protagonists. Instead of an internal battle with the racial shadow, Chin’s twins battle the systematic inequities they encounter in a society that privileges young, white, educated, Christian, able-bodied men. Moonie and Mei Ling Wong fight back physically and mentally against their oppressors, while Chin demonstrates their individuality further by crafting a unique (and very humorous) narrative form. I argue that Chin uses the suggestion of a racial shadow to express the possibilities of identity. By this I mean that the palimpsest of a racial shadow underlying much of the narrative undercuts and redefines our image of the stable relationship between the “traditional” ethnic and the “modern” American. The suggestion of a racial shadow reminds readers of an Asian American literary history populated by alienated binary identities, while simultaneously showcasing the exciting possibilities that arise from interethnic encounters.
A Long Way from Prague: The Harlem Renaissance and Czechoslovakia
Abstract: The connections between Europe’s small nations and America’s minorities offer marginalized perspectives on modernist cultural development that have so far remained largely unexplored. During the period of the Harlem Renaissance, African-American intellectuals were keenly aware of global political developments, but their models of liberation were drawn less from colonized Africa than from territories such as Central and Eastern Europe that had recently been freed from imperial rule. Democratic and multicultural Czechoslovakia, in particular, provided these writers with an example of self-determination that was later obscured by the Cold War division of Europe. Locke’s comparison of Harlem as the capital of the “New Negro” with Prague as the capital of the “New Czechoslovakia,” which is frequently cited but rarely interpreted, can be traced to the journal Survey Graphic, which featured special issues on both cities. Langston Hughes features a poet from Prague in one of his most enigmatic short stories, “Luani of the Jungles,” and evokes the wartime suffering of the Czechs in his later politically engaged writing. Together with Hughes's influence on the Czech poet Ivan Blatný, these references demonstrate that the relationship of the Czechs and other small nations to the European powers, and the struggle of African-Americans within American society, had inter-ethnic parallels that were familiar to the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
The Language of Pained Bodies: History, Translation, and Prostitution in Cristina Rivera Garza's Nadie me verá llorar (1999)
Abstract: In Nadie me verá llorar, novelist Cristina Rivera Garza rewrites fin de siècle Mexico by appropriating ruined objects from Mexican history. In doing so, Rivera Garza reimagines the assumptions novelists Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera and Federico Gamboa make about the prostitute in their fiction. Moreover, when Rivera Garza incorporates the narratives of marginalized people into her body of work—specifically the stories of the insane, the indigenous poor, and the prostitutes found in obscure and virtually forgotten medical records—she destabilizes the commonly accepted historical narratives of this period. This essay brings together prior critical conversations that have treated Rivera Garza's use of history and the figure of the prostitute separately. I further these two approaches by bringing them together, seeing Rivera Garza's emphasis on the abject of Mexico—and on the prostitute in particular—as a particularly powerful undoing of the master narratives of Mexican history. I propose that in Rivera Garza's novel, the echo of history and of translation that persists across the iterations of language, gender, and history is the voice of pained bodies. For her, texts are bodies, and she acts as a forensic surgeon who, when confronted by these textual bodies, reads them carefully, makes them speak, interrogates them about the past trapped within them, remixes them, and recontextualizes them by recycling, copying, and excavating them. For her, this textual forensics is a political act.
Perishability and Desolation: Disaster and the Racialization of Suffering in the Neoliberal Therapeutic Memoir
Abstract: This essay examines several memoirs written by Americans visiting disaster zones in Haiti and Japan after their 2010 and 2011 respective natural disasters. Depictions of both Haitian and Japanese suffering are diagnosed in accordance with American racial fantasies, wherein Haitians are ill adapted to the neoliberal order and Japanese are hyperadapted. The ways in which race is deployed in these texts challenges Walter Benn Michaels’s contention that attention to racism in the neoliberal memoir distracts us from the class inequalities wrought by neoliberalism. Race is, instead, an explanatory rubric for the neoliberal order, one that forces neoliberalism to make sense by naturalizing suffering. The retreat from geopolitical redress, in turn, allows neoliberal writers to transform these devastated spaces into fertile ground for their own aesthetic and therapeutic uses. Haiti and Japan—and the suffering in both places—are commodities to be mined for meaning and personal identity, as well as for capitalist development and away from governmental intervention.