This issue took its beginnings from a two-day session of papers sponsored by this journal at the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) Conference entitled 'Imperialisms – Temporal, Spatial, Formal' held at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, in March 2005. Some of the papers given during the session (or 'stream', in ACLA parlance), entitled 'Cultures of Literary Diasporas: British Perspectives' for the purposes of the conference, were published elsewhere; three papers are now being presented here as part of a cluster on the theme of 'Empire and After', complemented by a fourth paper given in a related stream at the ACLA. The remaining three papers were submitted to Comparative Critical Studies via the open submission process.
The papers of Miles Chilton ('Bleeding London and Re-Mapping It: Local Empire in a Global City'), Lisa Weihman ('Virginia Woolf's "Harum-Scarum" Irish Wife: Gender and National Identity in The Years'), and Tatiana Kuzmic ('Childe Harold's Pilgrimage in the Balkans') were first aired, to lively discussion, in the sessions which I had the pleasure of chairing; Krishna Manavalli's paper, entitled 'Collins, Colonial Crime, and the Brahmin Sublime: The Orientalist Vision of a Hindu-Brahmin India in The Moonstone', was presented within another stream, 'Global Identities: Past and Present'.
Chilton's essay focuses on one recent novel, Geoff Nicholson's 1997 Bleeding London, in order to display the broader themes, and shifting significances, of the capital city of nation and empire in the period of globalization. He uses a range of critical writings to engage with the classic topics of 'the country and the city', and nation and empire, especially in their relations to the economics of capitalism. The city 'London' is itself given a global scope through the contrast between the exploration of the actual city through personalized modes of mapping by claimants of different ethnic origins and a Japanese plan to set up a Disneyland-style miniaturized 'London' (including shopping [End Page 1] opportunities) on one of the Japanese islands.
Lisa Weihman's study of Virginia Woolf's novel The Years (1937) reopens the interesting topic of the relation of Virginia Woolf's feminism and her political orientation. Though her position became best known through the controversial late essay Three Guineas (1938), her refusal of a role for women in World War II is here specifically related to her earlier treatment of the Irish Nationalist scene in the exploratory essay-novel The Pargiters (begun in 1933 and later reworked to become the novel The Years), where Irish Nationalism represents a political cause which initially offers empowerment to women only to plunge them back again into servitude once the military struggle for national independence had been successfully concluded. Weihman shows how Woolf's characters are drawn from and inspired by historical figures, in particular Irish Nationalist Constance Markievicz, while simultaneously forming a part of her painful scrutiny and position-taking in one of the major – and continuing – controversies in feminist theory and the history of women's movements.
Tatiana Kuzmic in her essay on Byron treats the fascinating case of the shifting boundaries and definitions of nations and empires which, to the degree that they call in question the very mode of existence of these nations and empires, call up intense loyalties to groups, ethnicities, languages and the vanished states themselves. 'The Balkans' by their very geographical position and because they were ruled for five centuries by the now defunct Ottoman Empire present an exemplary case study of conflicted identity, one expression of which are its varying denominations: 'European Turkey', 'Turkey-in-Europe', 'European Levant', and 'Oriental Peninsula'. The term 'Balkans' itself is a local Turkish term for 'bare cliffs'. Kuzmic engages with the specific question of Byron's well-known visits to the Balkans (his portrait taken 'in Albanian dress' is one of the most famous and attractive likenesses), and the recently reopened issue of his advocacy of the Greek cause over the Turkish. It has long been the subject of much grateful comment and celebration in Greece and elsewhere that the poet was an advocate of Greek liberty in the wars against the Turks of the 1820s and was prepared to fight in...