- Making Corrections: Four Approaches
General issues of jml, unlike special issues, are not expected to show particular coherence. We assemble these issues based largely on when submissions come over the transom; the only unifying element is their excellence. Yet as I come to my third turn writing an introduction for a general issue of jml, I am struck once again by how serendipitously this random group of essays hangs together. Whether this is a function of my editorial imagination (influenced by some unresolved personal issue), of a covert conjunction of interests on the part of the authors (the result of a secret cabal at the MLA), or of a felicitous alignment of the stars, the result makes for a gratifying result. For it means that readers, instead of concentrating attention on only the one or two essays that happen to connect to their area of expertise, should feel inclined to read them all, with an eye to the way in which they refract and comment on each other.
First, it must be said that most of the essays here deal with texts that fall outside the established canon of modernism. They are either more recent or more peripheral with respect to cultural affiliation or style—an indication that jml is pushing the envelope of our traditional mission in ways that we hope to explore more self-consciously in subsequent issues. More significantly, all the essays use the lens of a literary text to correct for inaccurate assumptions or limited perspectives. The subjects which undergo "corrections" (to use the overdetermined word that titles one of the texts under discussion) fall into four thematic categories: Two of the authors explore works that deconstruct objectivity and documentary evidence: Karen E. Westman on how Virginia Woolf uses the London Times in Between the Acts to challenge the seamlessness of patriarchal authority; Lori Jirousek on how Zora Neale Hurston's folklore collection, Mules and Men, and Anzia Yezierska's novel, All I Could Never Be, question the validity of ethnographic study as defined by their respective mentors, Franz Boas and John Dewey. Two authors concern themselves with novels that critique conventional assumptions about national identity: Martin Munro on Emile Ollivier's revisionist portrait of Caribbean identity in Passages, [End Page iv] and Ali Erritouni on Chinua Achebe's ambiguous treatment of the struggle for an African nation-state in Anthills of the Savannah. Two authors treat the limitations of textuality: Mike Marais on how J.M.Coetzee points beyond subjectivity and language in Disgrace and Derek Furr on the importance of oral recordings to a study of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry.
Finally, a cluster of authors extend their vision beyond the text's professed intention to a critique of its blind spots and unconscious meanings: James Annesley on Jonathan Franzen's flawed attack on globalization and his complicity in many of the trends he abhors, John C. Hunter on J. R.R. Tolkien's misleading invocation of the timelessness of myth in The Lord of the Rings, and Bran Nicol on Iris Murdoch's "ethics of impersonality" as an unconscious cover for a masochistic esthetic.
These essays vary widely in style and subject-matter, but they all challenge conventional ways of comprehending a text or a methodology. They open our critical understanding of the literary enterprise—and of the world to which it necessarily connects—a little wider.