Space and the Speculative in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”
In a 1961 interview with the journalist Studs Terkel, James Baldwin offered a riveting assessment of Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues.” “It’s a fantastic kind of understatement,” Baldwin tells Terkel. “It’s the way I want to write.” Baldwin hears something in Bessie, a sonic and discursive quality he aspires to and identifies as “fantastic.” This essay considers the speculative undertones of Bessie’s blues and Baldwin’s literary realism. I argue that Bessie’s doubled vocalization in “Backwater Blues” lyrically declares her immobility and circumscription, while tonally staging freedom and boundlessness. Baldwin is drawn to this dual orientation and enunciation, a vocalization that in its iteration of the real transcends the social, spatial, and imaginative limitations of that order. If we read “Sonny’s Blues” the way Baldwin hears Bessie, as a fantastic kind of understatement, we discern subtle sonic and spatial iterations of the irreal. Attending to microtonal sounds in “Sonny’s Blues”—screams, whistling, jukeboxes—I show that the speculative emerges in Baldwin’s story when the sonic overrides the racialized inscription of space.
Conspiracy and Narrative Masquerade in Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann
This essay brings together the popularity of Venice in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century as a setting for horror, terror and fantasy, and the narrative conventions of the Gothic. Focusing on Schiller, Zschokke, Lewis and Hoffmann, the article studies the representation of Venice as a Gothic labyrinth, in the context of the city‘s changing reputation as a political structure. ‘Venice’ is treated as a common set of signs which overlap between the literary field and the field of cultural politics: ‘plots’ are both political conspiracies and (carnivalised: doubled and disguised) narrative forms. All is given over to the dynamics of masquerade. The topography of the Venetian Republic is itself a political text, which carnivalises the ‘separation of powers’, while the texts of the Gothic writers are narrative masquerades which choose popular hybrid forms of comedy, folktale and horror, rather than Tragedy or Realism, to respond to Venice‘s tension between law and anarchy and the conflicting pressures of Enlightenment, Republicanism and Empire.
once authored, not
because of his own idiosyncratic way of doing politics but because of the strategic realignment
that his presidency represents.
According to Trump, his administration’s security strategy is guided by
‘principled realism’. The apparent incoherence of his foreign policy is as
indicative of what this entails as his specific interactions with other governments. With every
diplomatic encounter imagined as a stand-alone opportunity to strike a winning
‘deal’, the norms-based, multilateral system of global governance becomes
ecological degradation who should be most deserving of our respect and attention.
Violence Comes Easily to Humans
A picture of impending dystopian realism is part of the contemporary reckoning 4 . Collapse, anarchy, violence – the surest signs the explosive potential was always there. We might make a crude point here and say that if our basic level instinct is survivalist, and this in turn has shaped the prevailing account of politics as a means to protect life from its unmediated desires, then every human has a violent impulse deeply woven into consciousness and
in world-experience. What is often called post-humanism ( Braidotti, 2013 ) brings several contemporary positivist stands together.
These include the new empiricism, speculative realism and actor network theory. Post-humanist
thought draws on process-oriented behavioural ontologies of becoming. These privilege
individuals understood as cognitively limited by their unmediated relationship with their
enfolding environments ( Galloway, 2013 ; Chandler, 2015 ). An individual’s
‘world’ reduces to the immediate who, where and when of their
violence to economic prosperity, are ‘presented as unambiguous and
objective’ because they ‘are grounded in the certainty of
numbers’. Such a conception of numbers is encapsulated by Desrosières (2001 : 348) when he
talks of ‘metrological realism’. This viewpoint holds that
‘computed moments (averages, variances, correlations) have a substance that
reflects an underlying macrosocial reality, revealed by those computations’.
In other words, numbers reveal something about the
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137 – 53 .
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‘ Problems in Photojournalism: Realism, the Nature of News and the
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1 : 1 ,
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and Scum: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Ax Murder in America’s First Mass
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‘ Framing Atrocity ’, in Fehrenbach ,
H. and Rodogno
Visual Advocacy in the Early Decades of Humanitarian Cinema
pictures to produce an immersive spectacle, relying on the cinematic realism of non-fiction movies to increase the ‘perceptual experience’ and the ‘aesthetics of astonishment’ of the viewers ( Crawford-Holland, 2018 ). Back in the 1920s, ‘cinema … “virtually” extended human perceptions to events and locations beyond their physical and temporal bounds’ ( Uricchio, 1997 : 119). Humanitarian cinema thus participated in transnational campaigns aiming to mobilize and sensitize national audiences. More specifically, these movies also advocated on behalf of distant
Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Refugees for the American Red Cross, 1918–20
Sonya de Laat
‘his realism corresponds to the status of the photograph as report, [and] his mysticism corresponds to its status as spiritual expression’ ( 1975 : 45). Hine was certainly aware of, and in many ways appeared comfortable with, the realist and sentimental rhetorical aspects of photography. He himself had said in a Photographic Times article in 1908 that ‘good photography is a question of art’ ( Gutman, 1967 : 27). In his pre-war child labor and immigration work that generated passionate social and political debates, Hine recognized his photographs had to be affective
Until recently, little work had been conducted on television acting per se, let alone the various coalescing factors that underpin and help shape it. This book addresses that lack, utilising a selection of science fiction case studies from the world of BBC television drama to investigate how small screen performance has altered since the days of live production. This then-and-now comparison of performing for British television drama focuses on science fiction case studies to provide a multi-perspectival examination of the historical development of acting in UK television drama. By the mid-1970s, studio realism might be expected to have reached its apotheosis, yet it was by no means all-encompassing as a style of television acting. A new approach was therefore required, with much of the performance preparation now taking place on location rather than being perfected beforehand in a separate rehearsal space: the seeds of location realism. One of the most notable contrasts between early television drama and the modern day is the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location filming. Comparing the original versions of The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors with their respective modern-day re-makes, the book unpacks the developments that have resulted from the shift from multi-camera studio to single camera location production. Examining changing acting styles from distinct eras of television production, the book makes a unique contribution to both television and performance studies, unpacking the various determinants that have combined to influence how performers work in the medium.