The Bible and British Maritime Empire

While historians of early modern Britain have long noted the ubiquity of Old Testament typology in religious-political discourse, its enduring potency thereafter has received much less attention. In part this is because of the flexibility of such rhetoric, for while posing as a ‘new Israel’ worked for embattled states like sixteenth-century England, this was not the only rhetorical option available; nor was it always the most apposite comparison, especially in the era of British global hegemony. This chapter argues that maritime imperial expansion lent particular weight to one set of passages, those concerning ancient seagoing Tyre and Tarshish. What they stood for was seldom stable: they were read prophetically, as literally presaging Britain’s current greatness; typologically, as warnings against the besetting sins of commercial greed and pride; and moralistically, as examples of the problems caused by imperial overstretch. I seek to show that British people in the nineteenth century continued to map the world and their place in it in biblical terms, to an extent that has sometimes been underplayed. What that meant, however, was increasingly open to interpretation.

in Chosen peoples
Seeking help against intimate partner violence in lesbian and queer relationships

This chapter explores the concept of bioprecarity in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV) in LBTQ relationships by focusing on help-seeking as crossing encounters. Judith Butler (2004: 44) discusses the body as a site of human vulnerability, emphasizing that ‘this vulnerability is always articulated differently, that it cannot be properly thought of outside a differentiated field of power and, specifically, the differential operation of norms of recognition’. Eve Sedgwick (1990: 71) describes the invisibility sustaining the figure of the closet as the defining structure of gay oppression. Following this line of thought, Beverly Skeggs and Leslie Moran (2014: 5) address the need to produce ‘new visibilities’ claims for protection against violence. Drawing on these theorizations and on original empirical data, in this chapter I analyse the concept of help-seeking as crossing encounters of intimacy, not only in the sense of the private–public realms, but also regarding community and cultural boundaries, as the embodied LBTQ victim-survivor transgresses the cultural perceptions of victimhood when meeting help providers in an institutional context.

in Bodily interventions and intimate labour
Chinese Hell deity worship in contemporary Singapore and Malaysia

This study investigates contemporary Chinese Underworld traditions in Singapore and Malaysia, where the veneration of Hell deities is particularly popular. Highlighting the Taoist and Buddhist cosmologies on which present-day beliefs and practices are based, the book provides unique insights into the lived tradition, taking alterity seriously and interpreting practitioners’ beliefs without bias. First-person dialogues between the author and channelled Underworld deities challenge wider discourses concerning the interrelationships between sociocultural and spiritual worlds, promoting the de-stigmatisation of spirit possession and non-physical phenomena in the academic study of mystical and religious traditions.

Setting a baseline of comparison

Chapter 4 begins by contextualising Underworld deity worship within the broader context of vernacular religion in the Chinese diaspora, and then presents a compendium of Tua Ya Pek and Di Ya Pek’s contrasting mythologies. The ethnographic narrative begins with an ‘oil wok’ ritual to prepare medicines for the elderly in Jurong, Singapore, and introduces the Underworld tradition’s material and ritual cultures, emic perceptions of Hell, and presents a detailed description of a tang-ki entering a state of trance possession. The analysis focuses on alcohol consumption and gambling as self-perpetuating mechanisms and, contrasting ethical codes, draws comparisons with Taiwan’s ghost temples which became popularised during a similar time period.

in Voices from the Underworld
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The disposal of the war’s dead

This chapter argues that the dead body can continue to work for the wartime nation, but that it also has the power to extraordinarily disruptive. In the ‘people’s war’, this meant the bodies of ‘ordinary’ citizens, both military and civilian. While the army and navy were able to adapt pre-existing traditions of burial to manage and honour the bodies of combatants killed in action, there were no such traditions in place for the burial of civilians killed by aerial warfare, or for the many thousands of air crew who died in bombing raids over mainland Europe. Beginning with a survey of debates about the amount of compensation that should be paid to the relatives of the dead, the chapter considers, firstly, the management of the military dead, including postwar attempts to identify the dead of the RAF, and secondly, the management of the civilian dead, looking at the collective burial of those killed in Coventry, Belfast and Clydebank.

in Dying for the nation
The sound of the cinematic werewolf

The aim of this chapter is to consider the role that sound plays in the construction of the Gothic and horror genres, in particular through the soundscape of the werewolf film. Whilst there is a growing body of work on music in relation to horror and the Gothic, sound still remains a too-often overlooked area of film aesthetics. I therefore focus my discussion on the sound effects of animality and wildness within these films, particularly the snarls, growls and howls of the wolf and the sound of bodily transformation, alongside the musical scores that accompany the werewolf. In particular, a close analysis of Universal’s first werewolf film, Werewolf of London (1935), and John Landis’s re-imagining of the werewolf in An American Werewolf in London (1981) will examine how the werewolf draws upon a tension embedded within the sound of the wolf that causes it to embody both horror and melancholy while also blurring the lines between animal and human. This duality, from the werewolf’s earliest appearance through to its modern incarnations, complicates the audience’s relationship to horror and the monster within the genre, thus highlighting kinship rather than difference between classic and modern approaches to cinematic horror.

in In the company of wolves
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The personal and the political

The conclusion argues death is central to war. Not only for individuals, who have to find ways to cope with the threat of death and the loss of loved ones, but for nation states, that have to manage the dead, and the grief of the bereaved, in order to ensure that these most disruptive of emotions and experiences don’t undermine wartime morale, but also in order that they be put to work for the national war effort.

in Dying for the nation
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Belief and agency in wartime

The British people, faced with the prospect of a second, devastating ‘total’ war for the second time in just over twenty years, drew on a wide range of beliefs, rituals and superstitions as they attempted to cope with the demands of this new conflict. This chapter surveys religious practice and religious belief during the war years, including the widespread interest in spiritualism and the possibilities of continued contact with the dead. It goes on to look at other rituals and everyday beliefs, such as astrology, superstition and the development of particular rituals by individuals and by groups. It concludes with an examination of beliefs about death, drawing on material collected by Mass Observation during the war years.

in Dying for the nation
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Revisiting the ‘cellarage scene’ in Hamlet

The ‘cellarage scene’, which follows Hamlet’s interview with the Ghost, stages the latter in a very ambiguous and disconcerting way. This chapter turns to more popular, medieval, intertextual antecedents of Hamlet’s ghostly figure, arguing that this sequence looks back towards medieval stage traditions that survived into the late-sixteenth century, not only because the couple formed by the subterranean Ghost and Hamlet is reminiscent of that of the Devil and the Vice in morality plays, but also because of other, more specific elements like the plurality of the oath, Hamlet’s disrespectful tone and the nicknames given by Hamlet to the Ghost. The whole sequence may be seen both as a living tableau on the stage and as comic relief, part of Hamlet’s wider propensity for puns.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
Double Ariel in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest (2017)

Recent puppet theory engages with how this ancient form exists in dialogue with contemporary digital technologies. In 2017, the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted an ambitious production of The Tempest in which Mark Quarterly’s performance as Ariel was rendered alongside a digital puppet through the use of live motion capture technology. This chapter examines how the hardware and software used by the RSC and Intel to render Quarterly’s ‘Double Ariel’ engages with The Tempest’s themes of liminality, and specifically Ariel’s liminal textual status as a supernatural entity. By deconstructing the technical systems used to render Ariel’s avatar in this production, the chapter also explores processes of iterative ‘technodramaturgy’ – the interplay between traditional dramaturgies and the innate, often concealed dramaturgies of technical systems themselves (software, hardware or mechanical). In the RSC Tempest, this technodramaturgy heightened the wonder and spectacle of Shakespeare’s sprite, leading to theatrical discoveries around rendering the supernatural through digital puppetry.

in Shakespeare and the supernatural