The essay is an embrace not only of a life lived on the edge but of an anxiety—an anxiety about the post-colonial sense of self being swamped and smothered in Jamaica Kincaid, whose narrative charts an existence remarkably open to breeze, birds, and rainfall in the Caribbean, to the arrival of daylight and evening. The narrative is also strangely, unselfconsciously, enclosed even if it examines the experience of the goings-on of life, crystallizing something that is amorphous and resistant to crystallization. Kincaid performs this embrace brilliantly and passionately. Her endeavor to tell of dislocation, childhood, deracination, love, and death is not, really, a nostalgic one, in spite of all she says about loss, uprooting, and the act of returning; her elegiac notes are her most strained. The narrative has the hard-headed exuberance of a 19th-century novel even if it centers on "failure" as an integral part of modernist creativity. Like a heroine of dubious energy, Kincaid keeps inventing and reinventing herself, bruising herself as she looks for acceptance–and it is to this drive, this desire, that my essay is attuned.
Oscar Wilde was a consumer modernist. His modernist aesthetics drove him into the heart of the mass culture industries of 1890s London, particularly the journalism and popular theater industries. Wilde was extremely active among these industries: as a journalist at the Pall Mall Gazette; as magazine editor of the Woman's World; as commentator on dress and design through both of these; and finally as a fabulously popular playwright. Because he makes the desire to impact a mass audience so central, the primary elements of Wilde's consumer aesthetic are superficial ornament and ephemeral public image—both of which he links to the theatrical. His concern with the surface and with the ephemeral was, ironically, a foundational element of what became twentieth-century modernism—thus we can call Wilde's aesthetic a consumer-modernism, a root and branch of modernism that was largely erased (just as Wilde was erased from literary history by the early modernists).
The fragmented world that Naomi finds herself in at the beginning of Obasan can be explained not only in terms of the specific social and political situation depicted in the novel but also in more general terms as the result of her "entry into the symbolic order of language," her assumption of a phenomenal time-bound social identity. From this point of view, it is her longing for psychological unity that is the driving force in her narrative rather than the craving for social justice that Aunt Emily tries to instill in her. Naomi wants to "tunnel backwards" like Uncle Isamu till she reaches those undifferentiated, preconscious levels of experience at which she is still one with her mother and the rest of creation. In this journey, it is her dreams and "involuntary recollection" that play the leading role. At the level at which these occur, the distinctions of time, place, and logical identity on which phenomenal existence is based have not yet arisen. In surrendering to the memories that come flooding back into her mind as the novel progresses, therefore, Naomi is escaping from the isolation and alienation she has been condemned to since childhood. In repudiating her attachment to the phenomenal time-bound identity enforced by the "phallic authority" of the Grand Inquisitor, she regains the capacity to commune with her lost loved ones, to feel her mother's presence though she is not there.
As instructors rise to the challenge of historicizing the undergraduate curriculum, we struggle, not only to accommodate contextual materials in an already bulky syllabus, but to provide the theoretical articulation necessary to escape a naively mimetic model of texts and contexts. Furthermore, by making ourselves the source of so much material and apparatus, we risk diminishing our students' own "textual power" (Robert Scholes). Taking two of Wordsworth's poems as examples, I argue that working from multiple versions of a poem, a student more readily recognizes the historicity of the poem itself, not as the hermetic artifact of some seamless historical moment but as a site of conflict and ambivalence. Understanding the poem as a work always "in progress," the student naturally assumes a more active role, negotiating among competing impulses within and among the various versions. The aim is not to turn a survey course into a course in textual criticism, but to introduce genuinely historicist reading habits that will inform students' readings of subsequent texts with or without the poet's revisions.
This essay addresses the issue of modernism's troubled but dependent relationship to periodical marketing. It extends current critical perspectives by emphasising the role of textual studies in recovering the important transformation of modernist fiction from serial to book versions of the text. Focussing on Joseph Conrad's first economically successful novel, Chance, which initially appeared in serial form in the women's pages of the New York Herald Sunday Magazine in 1912, the essay shows how Conrad's fundamental revisions from serial to book (1913) contributed to its status as modernist romance. The discussion illustrates Conrad's complex response to feminist politics in this novel, his ironisation of the reductive homogeneity of popular visual representations of women, and his questioning of the relationship between gender and genre. The essay argues that in the revisions for the book Conrad poised the finished text between marketable romance and a critique of the serial romance itself.
There is an umbilical cord of outlaw folkloric tradition that joins Rolf Boldrewood's 1880s bushranger novel Robbery Under Arms and Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel True History of the Kelly Gang (2000). Carey has done again what Boldrewood so innovatively achieved: the invention, or reinvention, of the bushranger's voice. But the more tantalising manifestation of the common outlaw tradition, for Carey, was the real-life bushranger Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter (1879). The relationship between the Letter and Carey's novel interrupts an easy postmodern take on his work: this interruption is the subject of the essay. It teases out the paradox of the novel's being simultaneously both postmodern-quotational and, in the old-fashioned sense, an act of imaginative engagement with a significant past, a historical tale in fact.
While many viewers feel betrayed by screen adaptations of novels, one might account for generic differences by considering the lessons of contemporary textual scholarship. Anti-intentionalist approaches to textuality, which emphasize a text's socially negotiated nature, may offer viewers a way to consider adaptations as "editions" of their source novels. In applying textual theories to the 1970 film of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, one may argue that the decisions made by director Joseph Strick mirror those of other textual editors. Strick's choices, while inevitably unsatisfactory to many viewers, represent a concerted effort not to "betray" Miller's novel but to solve textual problems peculiar to film and to present a viable "reading text" to the public.
The essay explores the philosophical question of finitude as it is illustrated in the link between fate and feet in the Iliad. The standing posture is not simply one of various human characteristics, but an ontological determination of what it means to be human—that is, to be in relation to one's own death. With this assumption in place, the essay focuses on Achilles as the hero of the "swift feet" and a mortal who grapples with the intimate knowledge he has of his fate. Through readings of Achilles's inertia in Books IX and XXIV, as opposed to his violent actions in Book XXII, the essay shows that Homer offers us an intriguing juxtaposition: the Achilles who has rendered his feet inoperative is the one who better understands finitude than the Achilles who chases his opponents in an attempt to stand up against his own mortality.