Literature and Theatre

Harriet Ritvo

Most modern biologists would find it difficult to separate the practice of classification from Darwinian evolutionary theory. In any case, Darwin was less inclined than many subsequent commentators to discuss his work exclusively in the language of 'revolutions' and 'turning points', terms that simultaneously assume and emphasise discontinuity. Thus, specifically, 'a breed, like a dialect of a language, can hardly be said to have had a definite origin' and, more generally, 'it may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification by taking the case of languages'. Thus, in response to the current biodiversity crisis, the distinguished biologist E.O. Wilson proposed 'the discovery and classification of all species', a formulation pragmatically untroubled either by Darwin's revision of the notion of species or by any subsequent complications of taxonomic theory.

in Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species
Robert Ellrodt

A few decades after the death of Shakespeare, one of his heirs, John Dryden, who was not only a great dramatist but also a generally wise critic, praised him for having preserved 'the constant conformity of each character to itself from its very first setting out in the Play quite to the End'. In the eyes of modern critics, however, those characters often appear as 'various and wavering' as his own self seemed to Montaigne. This chapter acknowledges the complexity of the main characters, and at times recognize their distinct evolution, yet point out constant features in each of them. Shakespearean characters have more facets than Jonsonian characters; their actions and reactions are less predictable; they may be 'compact of jars'; they are affected by their experiences and are apt to learn from experience; but their creator has endowed each of them with a noteworthy self-consistency.

in Montaigne and Shakespeare
Abstract only
Rehana Ahmed

While Salman Rushdie's hardline, myopic perspective may be shaped by harrowing personal experiences, the views of the liberal intelligentsia more generally do not seem to have progressed since the late 1980s. This book shows that the responses on the part of the cultural elite and the media to subsequent controversies, including those surrounding Brick Lane, Behzti, The Jewel of Medina and religious hatred legislation, suggest a kind of stasis, in thinking about freedom of expression and religious minority offence in Britain. Moreover, the impact of the Rushdie affair extends beyond the political and social domains into that of cultural, and literary, production. The texts discussed illuminate the uncomfortable fit of Muslims within a secular liberal Britain that cannot tolerate communitarian faith-based identities. The rise of the New Atheist movement has hardened the construction of Islam as the enemy of art as well as of science and all rational thought.

in Writing British Muslims
Abstract only
Rehabilitations
Emma L. E. Rees

This conclusion presents a synopsis of the key concepts discussed in the chapters of this book. The book has been an attempt to 'raise' Margaret Cavendish's work from 'the Dust, and give it wondrous praise', continuing that ongoing critical project concerned with the rehabilitation of the writer and her work. The book shows how Cavendish was not an anomalous eccentric humoured by an over-indulgent spouse, prolifically publishing random thoughts that were symptomatic of 'the freakishness of an elf, the irresponsibility of some non-human creature' and the products of an 'erratic and lovable personality'. Rather, it is demonstrated how, in the 1650s, she utilised genre in a deliberate and subversive way to articulate and ameliorate her exile. Legislatively, Cavendish was exiled because her spouse was a political delinquent who could not return to his native land. The book examines two of Cavendish's exilic texts, Poems, and Fancies and Natures Pictures.

in Margaret Cavendish
Joanne Hollows

This chapter introduces debates about consumer cultures, shopping, domestic consumption and lifestyle. It explores work which considers how consumption is not simply a process in which commodities are bought but also how they are 'given meaning through their active incorporation in people's lives'. The chapter isolates three debates about gender and consumption in different historical formations of consumer culture: late-nineteenth-century modernity, mid-twentieth-century Fordism, and late-twentieth-century post-Fordism. It explores debates about the department store as a 'feminine space' within the masculine 'public' sphere. The chapter considers how women consumed housing and used consumer goods to create a sense of 'home' and to articulate gendered identities in the post-war period in the UK. It also examines debates about gender, identity and contemporary consumer cultures, and explores how the design of material culture in the 1950s tried to produce a particular form of femininity epitomised by the figure of the rational, scientific housewife.

in Feminism, Femininity and Popular Culture
Rehana Ahmed

Situated in a working-class, enclaved British Asian neighbourhood in a fictional English town named Dasht-e-Tanhaii, Nadeem Aslam's 2004 novel Maps for Lost Lovers revolves around the 'honour killing' of a pair of lovers, exploring both the events that led to the crime and its repercussions for the families involved. With its focus on an immigrant Muslim family and written using some of the conventions of the social realist novel, it bears comparison with Brick Lane. Aslam's portrayal of a segregated Muslim community riven by honour crime is precariously poised on a faultline of twenty-first-century British multiculturalism. This chapter considers the novel's negotiation of the relationship between creative freedom and the sacred before exploring the extent to which it can be read as a critical artistic intervention in discourses surrounding honour crime and, more broadly, British Muslims and multiculturalism.

in Writing British Muslims
A new bibliographical essay
Carol Adlam

In his 1989 bibliographical overview of critical English-language material on the Bakhtin Circle, which the present chapter both partially duplicates and supplements, Ken Hirschkop predicted turbulence ahead: the 'snowball' of material, he wrote, was gathering such momentum that it was on the point of becoming an 'avalanche'. This 'bio-bibliographical' debate in Russia is clearly imbricated with the ongoing enquiry into specific theoretical allegiances and precursors of the Bakhtin Circle, in which investigation into their philosophical antecedents and contemporaries is increasingly regarded as a prerequisite to an adequate understanding of key Bakhtinian tenets. The late 1980s saw a growth also of introductory and explanatory material devoted purely to Bakhtin and the Bakhtin Circle. Clark and Holquist (1984) and Todorov (1984) provided the earliest such works, which were highly determinative of the reception of Bakhtin in the West, as was Morson and Emerson's 1990 monograph.

in Bakhtin and Cultural Theory
Abstract only
Ezra Pound and secret wisdom
Anthony Mellors

While the enthusiasm for speculation based on ritual magic was bound to fall foul of the Church, which associated practices with demonism, and regarded the equation of God with the intellectus of man as heretical, Renaissance magi such as Marsilio Ficino and John Dee saw their work as a contribution to reuniting Christendom. Their universal religion turned out to be based less on secret wisdom than on false history. The study of comparative mythology and the use of Hermetic tradition to sponsor a Nietzschean project of 'self-renovation have more in common than historians of modernism suppose. Specifically, Ezra Pound's Neo-platonic writings show that modernism destroyed the conceptual opposition between positivist theories of the human sciences and aesthetic mysticism. The condition of hermeticism is to attest to the essential mystery of secret wisdom while determining it as both myth and fact, discounting any evidence (or lack of evidence) that breaks continuity.

in Late modernist poetics
Abstract only
Bakhtin, the novel and Gertrude Stein
Nancy Glazener

In light of Bakhtin's convergence, at this general level, with feminist analysis, the author examines more carefully two of his theories that have been most eagerly adopted by feminists. The author hopes to convey that Bakhtin's interrelated ideas about the subversiveness of the dialogic novel and its carnivalesque origins, though valuable and provocative, cannot be appropriated for feminism without revision and re-contextualisation. The author considers the extent to which such a purely symbolic subversive force can be credited with effectively disrupting the official categories that confer and contain meaning, and proposes a way of mediating between what the author designates the essentialist and reflexive conceptions of such disruptive forces complicated understanding of the revisions and accommodations that accompany any apparent subversion can enable relatively disempowered groups like women to appraise their political successes and defeats accurately.

in Bakhtin and Cultural Theory
John Parkin

Machiavelli, when outlining to Vettori his preparatory work for The Prince, falls back on stock humanist notions like the peaceful cultivation of the study of literature in the contemplative life. Given the rich interweaving of dialogues which The Prince displays, it is not surprising that it 'has been read in so many ways that one must wonder how such diverse interpretations can be about the same text'. Machiavelli himself says 'the more one discusses things the better one understands them' and this phrase is emblematic of the dialogues which he is pursuing in his work on the philosophical level, on the technical level and on the personal level. The notion of Machiavelli as objective political scientist in The Prince is impossible to generalise. Scarcely ever in his published writings does he privilege historical reality as such, always transforming it either imaginatively or rhetorically to serve a greater good.

in Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince