While critics such as Orlando Patterson have defined slavery as anathema to kinship, this essay argues that kinship is often invested in violent claims of possession and ownership. Turning to Toni Morrison's Beloved, I contend that the novel's critical reception has tended to disavow this violence by framing Sethe's infanticidal act within an idealized conception of maternal love. Contrasting Sethe with the historical figure of Margaret Garner—the mulata fugitive slave upon whom Morrison loosely based her novel—I ask why racial mixture is both ubiquitous in Beloved yet absent from Sethe's family lineage, and conclude that this exclusion of miscegenation works to redouble the novel's already idealized conception of maternal love.
This article examines the narrative and political functions of illness in Zona Gale's 1923 novel Faint Perfume. Responding to representations of the female invalid in nineteenth-century domestic fiction, Gale challenges interpretations of the New Woman figure as a corrective to Victorian paradigms of feminine frailty and confinement. Through not only her protagonist's response to illness but also her novel's silences surrounding pain, Gale complicates pathologized notions of femininity by depicting the struggle to resist them. Faint Perfume emerges as a neuritic novel, one whose narrative muscles flare under the strain of political and cultural burden.
Satire reemerges in modernism because it offers an escape from coercive identifications enacted through sentimentality. As seen in the fiction of Nathanael West, however, satire's rejection of sentiment runs significant risks, threatening to dismiss the acutely felt claims of a suffering public. West's novels thus describe and negotiate a rift between satire and sentiment, between irony and pity, between aesthetics and ethics. In its antisentimental impulse, satire renders the human subject mechanical, insensate, or unable to experience emotion at all, yet this reductive, grotesque vision elicits an uncanny dread that paradoxically reaffirms feeling as a basis for aesthetics.
Kundera's Slowness subjects to critique Western media's efforts to police Eastern Europe's communist histories into teleologies of democracy, capitalism, and universal human rights. Slowness highlights these histories' reification through reductive images as it rethinks the very notion of history. Arguing that no historical narrative can disclose past "truths," Slowness resorts to fragmented images of communism, employing the media logic against itself to expose its ideological role in the production of historical master-narratives marketed to vast audiences. While Slowness' communist remembrance cannot access past "truths," it can expose its own marginalization in the present, fruitfully haunting the teleology of globalization.
The culminating vision and transformative power of Pat Barker's The Ghost Road are produced by the cross-cultural insights embedded in the novel's critically neglected Melanesian material. It is through W. H. R. Rivers's repeated wartime memories and dreams about his 1908 expedition to Melanesia to study primitive kinship relationships as a medical anthropologist that he ironically comes to understand the barbaric elements of his own inculcated ideology of British manhood, war and civilization. Rivers's dreams of Melanesia enact and ultimately help him resolve his increasing ambivalence about his institutional role as military psychologist and state advocate for the war effort.
Han Ong's Fixer Chao revises our understanding of ethnic and cultural mimicry by representing two versions of Feng Shui. On the one hand, the gay Filipino protagonist poses as a Feng Shui master in order to cheat and undermine his rich Manhattanite class enemies. Nevertheless, the environmental alterations he enacts have material and social consequences, and indicate the need for rethinking mimicry not only as a mode of subversion, but also in terms of spatial practices, affective loyalties, and geographical flows.