A Hollywood Love Story (as Written by James Baldwin)
D. Quentin Miller
Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work (1976) has proven challenging since its publication because readers and critics have trouble classifying it. The challenge may be related to a common feature of Baldwin criticism, namely a tendency to compare late career works to early ones and to find them lacking: the experimental nature of later works of nonfiction like No Name in the Street (1972), The Devil Finds Work, and The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985) does not square easily with the more conventional essays that made Baldwin famous in his early years. I attempt to reframe The Devil Finds Work not through a comparison to other Baldwin essays, but rather through a comparison to his fiction, specifically the novel Giovanni’s Room. I posit that a greater appreciation for Devil can result from thinking of it as a story, specifically the story of a failed love affair.
The author travels to St.-Paul-de-Vence, the site of Baldwin’s final decades, with the
intention of understanding expatriation and/or exile more deeply. The intention of this
visit is to fill in some of the gaps in Baldwin’s official biographies, which do not tend
to dwell on his time spent in Provence as much as his time in Paris, Turkey, New York, and
elsewhere. By interviewing a woman who knew Baldwin well during those years, the author
manages to add new layers to his understanding of Baldwin’s late years, but finally
arrives at the understanding that writing (rather than analyzing) is the main goal of the
expatriate writer. Inspired by Baldwin’s muse, he stops contemplating his subject and gets
to work, finally connecting the act of writing to expatriation by doing it.
microcosm. They have dramatised her negotiated bid for selfhood and status within what might be called the national house, that is, within
the inherited and correlated structures of both family and nation-state.
This chapter will address how three very diﬀerent postcolonial women
writers, each one a ‘daughter’, if lost or prodigal, to one or other nation, have
written themselves into the national family script, or redrafted the daughter’s
relationship to the national father. The novels in question are: the expatriate
Australian Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children
At a time when monolingualist claims for the importance of ‘speaking English’ to the national order continue louder than ever, even as language diversity is increasingly part of contemporary British life, literature becomes a space to consider the terms of linguistic belonging. Bad English examines writers including Tom Leonard, James Kelman, Suhayl Saadi, Raman Mundair, Daljit Nagra, Xiaolu Guo, Leila Aboulela, Brian Chikwava, and Caroline Bergvall, who engage multilingually, experimentally, playfully, and ambivalently with English’s power. Considering their invented vernaculars and mixed idioms, their dramatised scenes of languaging – languages learned or lost, acts of translation, scenes of speaking, the exposure and racialised visibility of accent – it argues for a growing field of contemporary literature in Britain pre-eminently concerned with language’s power dynamics, its aesthetic potentialities, and its prosthetic strangeness. Drawing on insights from applied linguistics and translation studies as well as literary scholarship, Bad English explores contemporary arguments about language in Britain – in debates about citizenship or education, in the media or on Twitter, in Home Office policy and asylum legislation – as well as the ways they are taken up in literature. It uncovers both an antagonistic and a productive interplay between language politics and literary form, tracing writers’ articulation of linguistic alienation and ambivalence, as well as the productivity and making-new of radical language practices. Doing so, it refutes the view that language difference and language politics are somehow irrelevant to contemporary Britain and instead argues for their constitutive centrality to the work of novelists and poets whose inside/outside relationship to English in its institutionalised forms is the generative force of their writing.
Brutishness, discrimination and the lower-class wolf-man from The Wolf Man to True Blood
Whilst the vampire has experienced an enormous resurgence in film, television and fiction in recent years, the werewolf is represented rather like a familiar or loyal canine accompanying a more powerful master. Not only does this monster carry second billing, an interesting permutation is the community status of the monster, frequently placed in a subordinate social class, relegated to the equivalent of a kennel rather than a castle. This chapter explores this lesser position of the werewolf in three particular works. First, in 1941’s The Wolf Man, despite his role as a man who ‘is pure at heart and says his prayers at night’, Lon Chaney Jr’s portrayal of Larry Talbot as a lumbering, expatriated-to-America prodigal son of a Welsh grandee posits him as a poor relation clearly out of his depth. In the Twilight series, the Native American shapeshifter, Jacob Black, lives on the reservation and cannot compete with the effete Cullen family. Finally, the notion of American Southern white/trailer trash permeates Charlaine Harris’s novels, and True Blood portrays the wolf packs as crude boondocks residents. Rather like the misrepresented wolves currently being reintroduced in various wilderness locations, these filmic werewolves are equally unwanted and undermined.
Our story starts not in the southern colonies but with a canonical scene of literary expatriation and scandalous celebrity: Lord Byron in Genoa, spending the spring of 1823 with the so-called ‘Blessington circus’, a tight little entourage of idler-adventurers who cast their web across Ireland, England, and continental Europe. The ‘circus’ was named for the Irish author and literary hostess Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, and her second husband, Charles John Gardiner, the Earl of Blessington. It also included Blessington’s daughter, Lady Harriet
Introduction: Bad English
Language is my home, I say; not one particular language.
Vahni Capildeo, ‘Five Measures of Expatriation’1
At an event at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London
in early 2018, the Trinidadian British poet Vahni Capildeo was asked
about their multilingual poetics. What was it, the questioner asked, that
made them mix up so many different kinds of language in their poetry?
Well, they were usually thinking in more than one language, Capildeo
replied – and they had simply ‘stopped translating’.2 A commonplace
them as novelists and the literary world they both inhabited. Their indirect dialogue about the nature
of the novel typiﬁes the often loud and sometimes angry cacophony of literary opinion that clashed early in the twentieth century and has reverberated ever since.
‘Down with Henry James! Down with Edith Wharton!’ was the rallying cry of Left-Bank literary radicals in the early years of the twentieth
century, according to Kay Boyle, herself a younger member of the group
of American expatriate writers living in Paris. In the 1980s Boyle
remarked that her
T.S. Eliot and Gothic hauntings in Waugh’s A Handful of Dust and Barnes’s Nightwood
it as a mode of articulating contemporary fear and anxiety. Also linking these two novels – one written by
a male English eccentric and the other by an expatriate female American
– is the transatlantic ﬁgure of T.S. Eliot. Eliot’s Introduction to the 1937
edition of Nightwood constituted an inﬂuential critical response to the
novel’s unorthodoxies; in Waugh’s novel, the imprint of Eliot is there
throughout the text and signalled unmistakably in the title.4
Written at what has conventionally been thought of as the tail-end of
the Modernist movement, the two novels
, post-Holocaust literature.51
The bilingual collection W. G. Sebald: Schreiben ex patria/Expatriate Writing
(Fischer ed. 2009), explores the premise of Sebald as writer of Heimat literature
even as it extends the investigation of his work within the context of ‘cultural
memory’52 and of the author as ideological construct. ‘On the one hand’, according
to Gerhard Fischer’s Introduction:
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The question of genre in W. G. Sebald’s ‘prose’
Sebald is not unlike the post-modern, uprooted expatriate in the age of