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Orphanhood, kinship, and cultural memory in contemporary American novels

Making Home explores the orphan child as a trope in contemporary US fiction, arguing that in times of perceived national crisis concerns about American identity, family, and literary history are articulated around this literary figure. The book focuses on orphan figures in a broad, multi-ethnic range of contemporary fiction by Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Safran Foer, John Irving, Kaye Gibbons, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Toni Morrison. It also investigates genres as carriers of cultural memory, looking particularly at the captivity narrative, historical fiction, speculative fiction, the sentimental novel, and the bildungsroman. From a decisively literary perspective, Making Home engages socio-political concerns such as mixed-race families, child welfare, multiculturalism, and racial and national identity, as well as shifting definitions of familial, national, and literary home. By analyzing how contemporary novels both incorporate and resist gendered and raced literary conventions, how they elaborate on symbolic and factual meanings of orphanhood, and how they explore kinship beyond the nuclear and/or adoptive family, this book offers something distinctly new in American literary studies. It is a crucial study for students and scholars interested in the links between literature and identity, questions of inclusion and exclusion in national ideology, and definitions of family and childhood.

The Journey North in Contemporary Scottish Gothic
Kirsty Macdonald

The journey North is a recurrent motif throughout the Gothic literary tradition, often representing a journey back in time to a more primitive location where conventional rules do not apply. Within the context of contemporary Scottish Gothic this journey continues to involve a temporal regression. The North of Scotland, and specifically the Highlands, is still a Gothic location, allowing for an interrogation of the homogenising notion of ‘national identity’. In this article the journey North is explored in the work of contemporary writers and film directors including Iain Banks, Alan Warner, David Mackenzie, and Neil Marshall.

Gothic Studies
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Excess, Pleasure and Cloning
Monica Germanà

This essay examines the proliferation of visual representations of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), considering the question of what links contemporary (Scottish?) Gothic to its problematic origins. After a survey of cinematic and graphic adaptations, the essay focuses on Steven Moffatt‘s Jekyll (BBC, 2007), which combines the post-Darwinian anxieties surrounding Stevensons tale of human regression with a much more contemporary interrogation of the ‘human’ against the backdrop of complex globalised scientific conspiracies. Significantly, the production draws on the Scottish origin of the text, re-proposing the question of (national) identity and authenticity against the threat of globalisation.

Gothic Studies
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Bram Stoker‘s ‘Carpet of Death’ and Ireland‘s Horrible Beauty
Derek Gladwin

This article examines Irish bogland as Gothic landscapes in Bram Stoker‘s The Snake‘s Pass (1890). Conjoining the constituent elements of the Irish bog with the EcoGothic as a literary and cultural mode, the ‘Bog Gothic’ illustrates bogland as untamed wasteland that resists incorporation into modernity and colonialism. This article argues that investigating bogland in The Snakes Pass will draw attention to the ways in which Irish bogs are situated precariously among issues of national identity, colonial consciousness and environmental history, which ultimately results in the marginalisation and degradation of these ubiquitous and emblematic landscapes of Ireland.

Gothic Studies
Open Access (free)
James Baldwin and the "Closeted-ness" of American Power
David Jones

This article reads the work of James Baldwin in dialogue with that of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Taking its cue from Baldwin’s claim that Americans “live […] with something in [their] closet” that they “pretend […] is not there,” it explores his depiction of a United States characterized by the “closeted-ness” of its racial discourse. In doing so, the article draws on Sedgwick’s work concerning how the containment of discourses pertaining to sexuality hinges on the closeting of non-heteronormative sexual practices. Reconceptualizing Sedgwick’s ideas in the context of a black, queer writer like Baldwin, however, problematizes her own insistence on the “historical gay specificity” of the epistemology she traces. To this end, this article does not simply posit a racial counterpart to the homosexual closet. Rather, reflecting Baldwin’s insistence that “the sexual question and the racial question have always been entwined,” I highlight here the interpretive possibilities opened up by intersectional analyses that view race, sexuality, and national identity as coextensive, reciprocal epistemologies.  

James Baldwin Review
Searching for Black Queer Domesticity at Chez Baldwin
Magdalena J. Zaborowska

This essay argues for the importance of James Baldwin’s last house, located in St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, to his late works written during the productive period of 1971–87: No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987). That period ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, who became disillusioned while growing older as a black queer American who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. Having established his most enduring household at “Chez Baldwin,” as the property was known locally, the writer engaged in literary genre experimentation and challenged normative binaries of race, gender, and sexuality with his conceptions of spatially contingent national identity. The late Baldwin created unprecedented models of black queer domesticity and humanism that, having been excluded from U.S. cultural narratives until recently, offer novel ways to reconceptualize what it means to be an American intellectual in the twenty-first-century world.

James Baldwin Review
James Pereiro

The article explores some aspects of the intellectual climate of the first half of the nineteenth century and the new ideas about race and national identity. These in turn help to explain contemporary changes in historical perspective, particularly in respect to the English Reformation. Disraeli‘s novels reflect the ideas of the time on the above topics and echo contemporary historians in their views on the Reformation, its causes, and the religious and social changes that it brought about.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Debra Higgs Strickland

Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum (1493), better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, pictures and describes world civilisations and illustrious individuals from Creation to 1493. Although its sources and circumstances of production have been extensively explored, the cultural significance of its many woodcut images has received far less attention. This preliminary study highlights relationships between images, audience and the humanist agenda of Schedel and his milieu by examining selected representations of cultural outsiders with reference to external illustrated genres that demonstrated the centrality of Others in German Christian culture. I argue that the Chronicle’s images of ‘foreign bodies’ harnessed their audience’s established fascination with monsters, wonders, witchcraft, Jews and the Ottoman Turks to advance the German humanist goal of elevating the position of Germania on the world historical stage and in so doing, contributed to the emerging idea of a German national identity.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Editors: Willy Maley and Andrew Murphy

This book explores, from a variety of critical perspectives, the playwright's place in Scotland and the place of Scotland in his work. The influence of Scotland on William Shakespeare's writing, and later on his reception, is set alongside the dramatic effects that Shakespeare's work had on the development of Scottish literature. The Shakespeare's work of Scottish literature stretches from the Globe to globalisation, and from Captain Jamy and King James to radical productions at the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow. Shakespeare have strong Scottish connections by virtue of his theatre company's being brought under the sponsorship of the Scottish king James VI immediately after his accession to the English throne in 1603. Jonathan Goldberg and Alvin Kernan have traced the impact of royal patronage on Shakespeare's work after the Union, finding Scottish themes at play not just in Macbeth, but also in Cymbeline, King Lear, Hamlet, and in other plays. Then, the book outlines some of the issues and problems raised by Scotland and Scottish history for English readers in the last decade of Elizabeth's reign. Shakespeare wrote his English plays in Elizabeth's reign and his British plays after 1603, though Henry V, first performed in 1599, might be regarded as a proto-British play. Unlike Henry V, Shakespeare's most English play, where national identity is of the essence, in Macbeth, Scotland is a blot on the landscape. Shakespeare's political drama moves from a sense of England and Scotland as independent kingdoms into an alignment with the views of Unionist King James.

Twenty-first-century voices
Author: Sara Upstone

This text focuses solely on the writing of British writers of South Asian descent born or raised in Britain. Exploring the unique contribution of these writers, it positions their work within debates surrounding black British, diasporic, migrant and postcolonial literature in order to foreground both the continuities and tensions embedded in their relationship to such terms, engaging in particular with the ways in which this ‘new’ generation has been denied the right to a distinctive theoretical framework through absorption into pre-existing frames of reference. Focusing on the diversity of contemporary British Asian experience, the book deals with themes including gender, national and religious identity, the reality of post-9/11 Britain, the post-ethnic self, urban belonging, generational difference and youth identities, as well as indicating how these writers manipulate genre and the novel form in support of their thematic concerns.