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Reviewed by:
  • Around 1945: Literature, Citizenship, Rights ed. by Allan Hepburn
  • James Gifford
Allan Hepburn, ed. Around 1945: Literature, Citizenship, Rights. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2016. x + 313. $110.

It's a symptom of our historical moment and the anxieties of America flowing north, creeping ever more quickly across our unsecured border faster than those fleeing other more urgent anxieties—these days my friends are all reading Hannah Arendt … A lawyer I often chat with even asked me about biopolitics in Agamben, and fears of Schmittian erosions of rights by dictatorial power (albeit in different terms) emerge among the parents standing and chatting outside of the kindergarten classroom while we're waiting for our sons and daughters. Everyone seems anxious about citizens, subjects, nationals, and especially anxious about how all of these different figures unequally access rights through nation states or potentially, hopefully, and most likely ineffectually through international organizations. I could very well give all those concerned parents a copy of Around 1945: Literature, Citizenship, Rights. Perhaps I should. This collection, edited by Allan Hepburn, takes the three topics of its subtitle in three sections: Citizens, Violations, and Rights. There are four excellent thematic chapters for each section, spanning works looking from the 1945 watershed forward and backward to 1907 and 2007. As a consequence, the project is both capacious and narrowly focused on a continuous set of concerns.

Of the twelve contributors, some stand out for particularly strong work. After Hepburn's introduction, Marina McKay's chapter "Citizenship and the English Novel in 1945" opens the collection by considering Tory woes over duty to the state and its representation in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength and J.B. Priestly's Three Men in New Suits, as well as George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Angela Thirkell, and Graham Greene. The chapter adds very productively to her excellent Modernism and World War II by historicizing literary works of 1945 within the changed political circumstances of the United Kingdom after the war and anxieties around faith and socialization. Ian Whittington builds from Leo Mellors's work on ruins through reading Rose Macaulay's The World My Wilderness in relation to border crossings and the attendant confrontations with citizenship, mobility rights, and postwar Europe. His focus on the relations among citizenship, sexuality, trauma, and the growth of the subject in relation to social demands and gendered subjectivity calls for greater attention to Macaulay's work in modernist studies while also extending Jed Esty's work on the Bildungsroman. Whittington is entirely convincing on all points. Nadine Attewell's extended investigation of Han Suyin's fiction in relation to mixed-race subjectivity stands out for its development beyond [End Page 129] the largely British focus of the rest of the collection, and, like Whittington, she makes a compelling argument for further work on Suyin's writings as an important part of mid-century or late modernist literary studies. Attewell's focus is largely Sinological, but she presents Suyin's fictional and autobiographical works in their richly intercultural context in a way that convincingly locates her in the international literary contexts of her period and as an important figure in postwar literature generally. Attewell strategically deploys the category of "mixed race" for its connections to modes of conceiving the nation, community, border crossing, migration, and so forth. Claire Seiler's chapter on Kazuo Ishiguro's novels about Japan further extends the non-British content of the book. Although remaining mainly focused on a British author, she investigates Ishiguro's work in relation with Shirley Hazzard and with particular attention to America's role in the close of the War in the Pacific and postwar Japan. Adam Piette's research on Samuel Beckett's Comment c'est / How it is also provokes the reader to think of contemporary cases of torture by thinking through Beckett's dialectical relationship between torturer and victim in French colonialism in Algeria, which he provocatively situates as a historical successor to French suffering during World War Two. Perhaps the most poignant section of the chapter is dedicated to human rights, but hinging on the distinction between the Europeanization versus the universalization of human rights. Piette first takes up...


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pp. 129-132
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