Literature and Theatre

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Author: David Brauner

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.

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Leonora Carrington’s The House of Fear and The Oval Lady
Anna Watz

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
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David Brauner

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.

in Howard Jacobson
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Pasts at play
Rachel Bryant Davies and Barbara Gribling

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.

in Pasts at play
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Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

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 Printing terror
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Anna Watz

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Surrealism, occultism, and postwar poetry
Mark S. Morrisson

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Katharine Conley

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Jonathan P. Eburne

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Rikki Ducornet’s surrealist ecology
Kristoffer Noheden

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 sense.

in Surrealist women’s writing