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Space and the Speculative in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”
Maleda Belilgne

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.

James Baldwin Review
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This book provides a lucid, wide-ranging and up-to-date critical introduction to the writings of Hélène Cixous (1937–). Cixous is often considered ‘difficult’. Moreover she is extraordinarily prolific, having published dozens of books, essays, plays and other texts. Royle avoids any pretence of a comprehensive survey, instead offering a rich and diverse sampling. At once expository and playful, original and funny, this micrological approach enables a new critical understanding and appreciation of Cixous’s writing. If there is complexity in her work, Royle suggests, there is also uncanny simplicity and great pleasure. The book focuses on key motifs such as dreams, the supernatural, literature, psychoanalysis, creative writing, realism, sexual differences, laughter, secrets, the ‘Mother unconscious’, drawing, painting, autobiography as ‘double life writing’, unidentifiable literary objects (ULOs), telephones, non-human animals, telepathy and the ‘art of cutting’. Particular stress is given to Cixous’s work in relation to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida, as well as to her importance in the context of ‘English literature’. There are close readings of Shakespeare, Emily Brontë, P. B. Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, for example, alongside in-depth explorations of her own writings, from Inside (1969) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) up to the present. Royle’s book will be of particular interest to students and academics coming to Cixous’s work for the first time, but it will also appeal to readers interested in contemporary literature, creative writing, life writing, narrative theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory, ecology, drawing and painting.

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The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization

Through an extensive study of Dickens’s “new art form,” the illustrated novel, Spectral Dickens sets out to transform certain fundamental assumptions about realism, literary forms, and imitation of personhood that have long defined the discourse of novel criticism and character studies. This book redefines and expands the critical discourse on fictional character by bringing a wider range of modern critical theory to the study of Dickens’s characterization, using in particular the three “hauntological” concepts of the Freudian uncanny, Derridean spectrality, and the Lacanian Real to give new ontological dimensions to the basic question: “What is a character?” By taking into account visual forms of representation and emphasizing the importance of form in rethinking the strict opposition between real person and fictional character, Spectral Dickens shifts the focus of character studies from long-entrenched values like “realism,” “depth,” and “lifelikeness,” to nonmimetic critical concepts like effigy, anamorphosis, visuality, and distortion. Ultimately, the “spectral” forms and concepts developed here in relation to Dickens’s unique and innovative characters—characters that have, in fact, always challenged implicit assumptions about the line between fictional character and real person—should have broader applications beyond Dickens’s novels and the Victorian era. The aim here is to provide a richer and more nuanced framework though which to understand fictional characters not as imitations of reality, but as specters of the real.

Angie Blumberg

experts are often provocatively aligned with fin-de-siècle discussions of the aesthetic modes of realism and aestheticism, and reveal how fakes transformed the language of archaeological and aesthetic authenticity. Moving beyond the centres of academic authority, the next section addresses the outliers—the artists, blue-collar craftsmen, and radicals who saw an opportunity in archaeology

in British literature and archaeology, 1880– 1930
Open Access (free)
Peter Morey

overview 157 of exploitation, and even she begins to forego its trappings for a closer relationship with her employees. Viswanath is undeterred, however, bemoaning the ‘defeatist end constructed by a male writer for Dina … [wherein she is] reduced from female individualist to feminine subject’, as the author ‘offers his text on the altar of realism’21 [emphases added]. Viswanath’s is a strange, essentialist reading. Needless to say, the other two authors she examines in her comparative study get a better press. This is disappointing, particularly because there are

in Rohinton Mistry
The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life
Alexa Alfer
Amy J. Edwards de Campos

In her 1979 survey of contemporary fiction, ‘People in Paper Houses’, A. S. Byatt ponders the ‘curiously symbiotic relationship between old realism and new experiment’ perceived to be at the heart of the English postwar novel ( PM: 170). The conflict between literary experimentation and realist allegiances, with all its connotations of avant-garde innovation and

in A. S. Byatt
Marilynne Robinson and Stanley Cavell
Paul Jenner

assumptions about these contexts. Such contexts are seen to be newly at stake in each experience and thought, Cavell's modernism, for instance, finding the self newly responsible for meaning and its renewal. It will help if you are Shakespeare: ‘If there is an Elizabethan world picture, Shakespeare questions it, so shatters it, as surely as the new science did’ ( Disowning 36). In the rebuke of cynicism towards festive gift giving found in Robinson's essay “Realism”, interestingly, the self's independence from its contexts involves an affirmation of its very commonness, in

in Marilynne Robinson
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Free indirect discourse in Chaucer’s General Prologue
Helen Fulton

in their own voice. The discourse is ‘free’ because there are no authorial signposts such as ‘She said that …’. The device is associated particularly with the mode of realism in the modern novel (since the eighteenth century), and its early appearance in Chaucer’s work indicates the incipient emergence of realist narrative in medieval English writing. As a

in Medieval literary voices
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Medieval voice – a tribute to David Lawton
John M. Ganim

cultural perspective, emphasising the comedy and realism of even obviously devotional religious writings. This lack was partly a result of the value that the New Criticism placed on irony and scepticism, so that only works that seemed to question religious orthodoxy were considered worthy of attention. One of the oddities of the study of Middle English literature during the middle of the twentieth century was

in Medieval literary voices
Robinson as professor and defender of ‘America’s best idea’
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff
Kathryn E. Engebretson

and individuality’ (‘Graduate Program’). This is headed on the webpage by a photo of Robinson leading a class with a white man and woman and an African American woman facing the camera, advertising both the famed professor emeritus and a combination of gender and racial inclusivity. Despite this, some have criticised the Workshop for its rigid stylistic preference for fiction that has been labelled, perhaps sarcastically, prairie realism. When Kurt Vonnegut, who taught there in the 1960s, spoke in Iowa City in September

in Marilynne Robinson