This is a comprehensive and definitive study of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson. It offers lucid, detailed and nuanced readings of each of Jacobson’s novels, and makes a powerful case for the importance of his work in the landscape of contemporary fiction. Focusing on the themes of comedy, masculinity and Jewishness, the book emphasises the richness and diversity of Jacobson’s work. Often described by others as ‘the English Philip Roth’ and by himself as ‘the Jewish Jane Austen’, Jacobson emerges here as a complex and often contradictory figure: a fearless novelist; a combative public intellectual; a polemical journalist; an unapologetic elitist and an irreverent outsider; an exuberant iconoclast and a sombre satirist. Never afraid of controversy, Jacobson tends to polarise readers; but, love him or hate him, he is difficult to ignore. This book gives him the thorough consideration and the balanced evaluation that he deserves.
Leonora Carrington’s The House of Fear and The Oval
This chapter reads Leonora Carrington’s French short stories published in the
volumes The House of Fear (1938) and The Oval Lady (1939) as an active
engagement with surrealist theories of collage and subjectivity, as they
were articulated by André Breton and Max Ernst. The chapter argues that
whilst Carrington’s stories participate in surrealist experiments with
‘convulsive identity’, they simultaneously express an ambivalence about the
effects for women of the surrealist exaltation of passivity, irrational
abandon, and non-agency. Ultimately, the chapter suggests, Carrington’s
engagement with and extension of the theories and practices of Breton and
Ernst demonstrate that surrealist theory is not a ‘male project’, as has
sometimes been argued; moreover, it proposes that such theory includes
implicitly feminist elements.
An overview of Jacobson’s career, the critical reception of his novels, and the structure of the book, setting out the range of different roles that he performs: novelist; critic; journalist; and public intellectual.
The opening chapter of this collection, which explores the relationship between play and historical knowledge through print and material culture, begins by introducing a popular children’s board game: Wallis’s New Game of Universal History and Chronology (1814; 1840). In playing with different pasts and juxtaposing the present on one board, this game offers a practical example of how children routinely encountered multiple pasts and reveals how ephemeral, often overlooked archival material can reveal intersections between children’s culture and history. This chapter introduces how multiple pasts were often experienced simultaneously in different ways and through different media, by boys and girls across the social classes and throughout the long nineteenth century, for the purpose of amusement and instruction. It demonstrates the congruencies between consumerism, knowledge and interaction, which each of the subsequent chapters address. Here, toy-theatre evidence demonstrates the fruitfulness of multidisciplinary collaboration in exposing the cultural work of the classical and medieval pasts. This theoretical and contextual survey, with original collaborative research, explores nineteenth-century cross-fertilisation between the past and play, play and education, history and consumerism, and its impact on children’s cultures.
This introductory chapter outlines the key concerns of the book. It offers a brief history of the horror genre and the American comics industry. It considers the effects and social function of horror and presents the core thesis of the book. It closes with an overview of each chapter.
In addition to outlining the aims, rationale, and themes of the volume, the
introduction considers how historiographies of women associated with
surrealism have tended to favour their visual output at the expense of their
written oeuvres – an imbalance the volume seeks to rectify. Furthermore, the
introduction interrogates the critical shorthand ‘women’s art/literature’
from a feminist point of view.
This chapter focuses on Ithell Colquhoun’s hitherto largely unknown poetic
oeuvre. Challenging received critical narratives regarding the supposed
disappearance of surrealist and modernist poetic efforts in Britain after
the Second World War until the British poetry revival in the 1960s and
1970s, the chapter reveals that Colquhoun regularly published automatic or
esoteric surrealist poetry in various literary periodicals and little
magazines from the 1940s to the 1980s. The chapter not only sheds light on
previously neglected aspects of Colquhoun’s work but also constitutes a
revision of the historiography of British postwar poetry and its
relationship to surrealism.
This chapter investigates the hitherto largely unknown and critically
neglected poetry of Kay Sage. Focusing on poems that feature animals (most
importantly birds, which stand in for Sage herself), the chapter reveals a
new and perhaps surprising thematic aspect of Sage’s oeuvre – a concern with
connections with other beings, which stands in contrast to the solitary
landscapes depicted in her paintings. Through perceptive close readings of
these animal poems, the chapter shows how Sage’s crafty French–English
wordplay engenders a multiplicity of meanings and instances of double
entendre. While on the surface appearing simple, these poems are in fact
multifaceted reflections on human life and experience.
This chapter explores the three novels Leonor Fini published in the 1970s –
Mourmour (1976), L’Oneiropompe (1978), and Rogomelec (1979). Reading these
texts as autofictions that offer mythologised versions of Fini’s artistic
life, the chapter demonstrates how they, like her art and domestic life,
ultimately explore what Fini herself terms the abhuman. Fini’s fictional
engagements with abhumanism, the chapter shows, involve a simultaneous
movement away from the human and continued reference to its terms; the
abhuman is for her a condition of transformation and crossing of thresholds,
which disturbs the Cartesian mind/body dichotomy as well as the human form
in favour of polymorphous and perverse intimacies that incorporate the
animal, the vegetal, and the mineral.
This chapter considers the fiction of Rikki Ducornet from an ecocritical
perspective. Focusing in particular on the novels The Stain (1984), Entering
Fire (1986), The Jade Cabinet (1993), and Phosphor in Dreamland (1995), this
chapter argues that Ducornet’s writings engage occult knowledge systems in
order to present an ecological and non-anthropocentric worldview in which
nature and different lifeforms are deeply interconnected. Positioning
Ducornet’s narratives in the context of surrealism’s ecological imperative,
this chapter urges us, through Ducornet, to turn our careful attention to
the interplay and language of humans, animals, and nature in a broader