Transcendence and healing in Deirdre Madden’s Hidden Symptoms
This chapter on Deirdre Madden’s debut novel attends to her inaugural exploration of a theme which would become recurrent in Madden’s work: how responses to major loss resulting from personal and political mischance, betrayal, and failure may offer directions towards hope and transformative long-term growth, notwithstanding the despair and attrition also involved. Written and set more than a decade before the Northern Irish peace process began, the finely drawn psychological Bildungsroman, Hidden Symptoms (1986), presents the story of a young Belfast woman’s difficult and never-complete journey towards healing, following the random and brutal sectarian murder of her beloved twin brother. Carrying clear implications for Ireland’s larger tribally divided communities of interest, this narrative of complicated sibling grief involving reactive self-isolation and its gradual overcoming through (self-)compassion, develops through Madden’s portrait of complexly interacting communities of friends, family, locality, vocation, and socio-political and religious affiliations. In Hidden Symptoms, this process is also mediated through the protagonists’ evolving understanding of art’s imperfect relationship to reality. This chapter therefore tracks the novel’s leitmotif of responses to a variety of visual art objects, drawn both from the realms of everyday life and the fine-art tradition. It pays particular attention to the trope of the mirror, through which Madden communicates the difference between ideals and reality, reflection and actuality, and between states of destructive fixity and those of creative fluidity. However, the novel also powerfully proposes that in contexts of betrayal, grief, and human weakness, our ongoing active engagement with concepts of perfection remains vital for human flourishing.
Anastasia Karlsson, Håkan Lundström, and Jan-Olof Svantesson
This chapter deals with a number of vocal expressions in the tradition of the Kammu (or Khmu) people in northern Laos. The analysis of the performance templates shows how they are constructed and that most Kammu vocal genres can be explained by them. Vocal expressions typically include a degree of improvisation, and they are re-created in performance. The results include an overview of the types of interplay between music and language that occur. It is also shown that the two lexical tones in Kammu are handled differently in the various vocal genres.
Deirdre Madden’s Authenticity, Molly Fox’s Birthday, Time Present and Time Past, and the Irish Celtic Tiger novel
This article argues that the Celtic Tiger period in Ireland 1994–2010 was a time of rapid social, cultural, and economic change. The certainties of an older world had disappeared, and new realities had to be confronted. This article focuses on three novels by Deirdre Madden – Authenticity (2002), Molly Fox’s Birthday (2008), and Time Present and Time Past (2013) – suggesting that each is a literary response to this moment of transformation. They can be read individually but are best understood as a triptych, offering a developing engagement with the link between art and a changing Ireland. Aligned with their meditation on private lives, these three novels are concerned with the nature of art and language and their relevance in the contemporary moment. Via painting in Authenticity, acting in Molly Fox’s Birthday, and photography in Time Present and Time Past, Madden probes how art, language, and the imagination respond to a world where they are now under serious pressure to perform and enact that rapid transformation into the future that underpins the Irish Celtic Tiger experience. Madden argues for an engaged art that is always born out of the everyday and the ordinary but aware of how strange and extraordinary that realm may actually be. Through art her characters come to know themselves and something of the world they live in.
While Deirdre Madden’s twenty-first-century children’s books recall the Big House subject matter found in the earlier occasional ventures into children’s literature by Edith Somerville and Elizabeth Bowen, they also reflect more broadly her own vision about childhood explored in some of her adult fiction, such as Remembering Light and Stone (1992). This chapter examines the interaction of Madden’s adult and children’s fiction while situating Snakes’ Elbows (2005), Thanks for Telling Me, Emily (2007), and Jasper and the Green Marvel (2011) in the context of children’s literature on the discursive nature of childhood. The chapter argues that Madden’s ironic and parodic children’s writing reflects notions of childhood as being unfixed, a kind of shifting terrain. At the same time, her strong interest in material reality and in game playing reflects some of the central themes of much children’s writing. Her children’s books also respond to Irish reality during the Celtic Tiger period, and they concentrate on animals or pictures in ways that, on the one hand, recall earlier texts for children by Irish women writers but, on the other, are very much concerned with contemporary arguments about animals and their treatment as merchandise or as objects in a capitalist world. Both the adult novels and the children’s books show the potency of objects and animals: their ability to invoke childhood memory or to suggest a much larger past.
Spenser centers his moral project around the virtue ‘magnificence’, positing the expansive and transformative project of empire building as the privileged form of moral agency in a mutable world. Chapter 3 first traces a brief history of the ways in which Elizabethan vernacular and popular moral discourses align magnificence with specifically secular and political imperatives, while privileging the temporal and mutable body as the origin and end of magnificent activity. Such a shift constitutes a basic rift with received Aristotelian accounts of human excellence’s self-transcending orientation, a rift modeled in the narratives of Redcrosse and Arthur. Both of their quests are organized by a recognition that the ultimate scope and teleological orientation of virtue is fundamentally concerned with establishing a politically viable mode of embodied life in historical time, one whose ultimate goal and material instantiation is the imperial commonwealth.
This chapter seeks to capture the vitality of community oral history projects in all four cities and shows how important the queer past is to many of their LGBT residents. Contributors to these projects felt that recording the queer past helped to bring together different generations of LGBT people and created political lessons about changes over time in LGBT experience and the importance of safeguarding gains made. The feelings accompanying recollections of the queer past varied considerably between the four cities, partly reflecting the ‘present day’ in which oral interviews were recorded. Interviewees looking back from the difficult Clause 28 years in the late 1980s and 1990s viewed Brighton in the 1960s with nostalgia, as an easier time to be lesbian or gay. Plymouthians recalled the 1980s and 1990s as the heyday of their queer city, regretting the closure of venues. In the 2000s, however, contributors in other cities were more likely to feel that their present day was an improvement on a darker past, though there were concerns about the commercialization of queer culture. The aims and organization of the projects themselves also reflect the different queer cultures of the four cities. In Leeds, the older community histories tended to be single sex, while in Brighton they aimed to be inclusive of different LGBT communities. The most recent community projects sought diverse contributors and have adopted a more playful and creative turn in their approach to the past and how they represent it.
Time, change, and flourishing in the Gardens of Adonis
Chapter 4’s analysis pivots towards the metaphysical questions such an account of virtue entails. It argues that Spenser’s central image of worldly flourishing, the Gardens of Adonis, describes the metaphysical crux of moral life as Spenser understands it – rendering the good within the material facts of time, death, and decay. The Garden’s iconic exemplar of virtue is Adonis, who represents the instrumentalization of the organic body’s substance by embodying death’s conversion into the infinite potentiality of a form-making life. The image of Adonis in the Garden describes how deathly and temporal bodies become procreant, generative, and expansive forms of life. I argue that such a body stands as the ethical core of this poem and its account of human flourishing. To extend the image beyond the poetic bounds of the Gardens of Adonis and into the critical agendas of the poem writ large, the scene’s images of mortality offer a crucial metaphor for understanding the ways we productively inhabit the mutable world by figuring the point where our poetic, moral, and political lives shape and sustain one another in the task of carving out niches of civilization against the incursions of time and loss.
An overview of Spenser’s basic ethical assumptions is revealed through a reading of what remains the most pointed and vigorous claim for Spenser’s status as an innovator in moral theory: John Milton’s account of Spenser’s ethical poetics in Areopagitica. The image of Spenserian virtue advanced by Milton renders a broad-strokes outline both of Spenser’s moral thought and its particular divergences from key norms and assumptions of the classical and humanist virtue-ethics traditions, depicting Spenser as, above all, a theorist of the problem of virtue in a metaphysically fallen world. We see here an ethics centered in an agent that is necessarily imperfectible, thereby complicating virtue ethics’ foundational centering figure of the perfectible human character and instead making political action and association the normative point of reference for moral agency, life, and being. By construing the human not as a normative center, but as itself an object of speculation, and making social interaction and obligation the normative frame of reference for ethical action, Milton reveals how Spenser offers both a key departure from ancient ethical frameworks and, in turn, a crucial anticipation of modern moral philosophy.