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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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The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization
Author: Alexander Bove

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.

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Author: Nicholas Royle

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.

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 and 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
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Marlow, realism, hermeneutics
Paul Wake

Introduction: Marlow, realism, hermeneutics To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot. (Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes) Marlow, realism, hermeneutics Charlie Marlow, whose forename is given on only two occasions, is the most celebrated of Conrad’s narrator-characters. Variously described as ‘not in the least typical’, ‘the average pilgrim’, a ‘wanderer’, and ‘a Buddha preaching in European clothes’, Marlow is the voice behind ‘Youth

in Conrad’s Marlow
Generic experimentation in My Life as a Man, The Counterlife, The Facts, Deception and Operation Shylock
David Brauner

Lurie, Jayne Anne Phillips, Anne Tyler and Carol Shields. There are of course a number of writers who don’t fit easily into these categories, or who straddle the two. Many ethnic minority American women writers, for example Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Louise Erdrich and Maxine Hong Kingston, write fiction that has certain affinities with the magical realism popularised by South American writers such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Others, such as Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy, seem to have more in common with the

in Philip Roth
A critical blindspot
Glyn White

discussion of defamiliarisation and automatisation we have already dealt with the perceptual mechanisms which mean that in reading a text there might be several degrees of awareness of the relationship between the world and the book; automatised, defamiliarised, intertextual, subjective. In what follows I will be using ‘representation’ and ‘mimesis’ rather than ‘realism’, for

in Reading the graphic surface
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

collapse of national grand narratives and, in general, of the possibility of achieving a unitary identity at the end of adolescence. 3 In their attempts to explain the novel’s workings, critics have resorted to different narrative moods and genres spanning magical realism and even modernism. 4 While less enthusiastic critics have described GraceLand ’s mixing of styles and influences as an example of bad realism, Yogita Goyal has greeted GraceLand as an example of a global novel, because of the weight of the

in Chris Abani
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