Shakespeare’s interest in ancient Rome spans the whole of his dramatic career, from Titus Andronicus to Cymbeline, while Roman history and Latin culture permeate the whole of his work, well beyond the explicitly ‘Roman’ plays and poems. Critical interest has to some extent shifted from the historicist Roman plays based on Plutarch, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, and the pseudo-historical Coriolanus, to the outlying Roman plays that evidence greater generic diversity and stylistic innovation, the early Senecan tragedy Titus Andronicus and the late ‘British’ romance Cymbeline. In these latter plays, the complex interactions between past and present, that are the main subject of the formal histories, are presented with even more aesthetic flexibility and creative improvisation than the ‘Roman plays’ proper.
Constance L. Mui and T Storm Heter
Readers will recall that we devoted a special issue to anti-Black racism in 2021, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement which gained momentum following the 2020 murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police officers in Louisville and Minneapolis. The present issue continues to address the problem of racism from a Sartrean perspective, with an interview of the pioneering Black Existentialist thinker Lewis R. Gordon, followed by articles that take up related themes in freedom and oppression.
Campanology under COVID-19
Throughout 2020 and 2021, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedents from which they drew their meanings, this article investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they were expected to serve during this liminal period. It reveals how, owing to the historical polysemy of bells on the one hand and the social uncertainties of living with COVID on the other, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought about unintended consequences.
Anthony Chinaemerem Ajah, S. J. Cooper-Knock, Josette Daemen, Douglas L. Berger, and Hayden Weaver
Uchenna Okeja, Deliberative Agency: A Study in Modern African Political Philosophy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2022, 214 pp.
Gideon van Riet, Hegemony, Security Infrastructures and the Politics of Crime: Everyday Experiences in South Africa. London: Routledge, 2021, 224 pp.
Richard Grusin (ed), Insecurity. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2022, 272 pp.
Tao Jiang, Origins of Moral-Political Philosophy in Early China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, xiii–xvi+556 pp.
Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind. London: Verso, 2020, 209 pp.
Following the footsteps of scholars who have made contributions to the debate about the question of method and analysis in Fanon’s work, this article explores the implications of his concerns with the link between madness and struggle on our understanding of the transformative role of radical political strategies in the colonial context and the contemporary world. The main argument it pursues is that Fanon regarded madness and revolutionary violence in the colonial context as effects of colonial alienation. Most importantly, this argument sets the article apart from the works which focus on how Fanon’s proto-structuralist analysis of the process of madness and the question of cure reveals his concerns with the conditions for the possibility of a politico-philosophical paradigm or a universal morality in postcolonial time or national liberation time.
Historical Time and Revolutionary Change in Marx, Gramsci, Benjamin, and Fanon
Inspired by contemporary criticism(s) levelled against evolutionist conceptions of history present within much classical social theory, this article seeks to discuss alternative conceptions of historical time, modernity, and coloniality within the works of Marxist-inspired thinkers who have sought to tackle the problematic aspects of evolutionism and ‘historical progress’ head on – namely, Antonio Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, and Frantz Fanon. After discussing orthodox Marxism’s ambivalent relation to notions of historical necessity and human agency, the article turns to discussing Gramsci’s anti-economistic conception of hegemony and Benjamin’s and Fanon’s respective conceptions of the ‘dialectics of rupture’ in order to present alternative conceptions of historical time which partly or fully depart from orthodox Marxism’s tendencies towards evolutionism, albeit whilst retaining a focus on dialectics, power struggle, and revolutionary transformation.
The ‘Saints of Repetition’ and the Towers of Babel
Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon (1994) and Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1999) represent a scholar’s take on a major figure in Western literature, namely, William Shakespeare. All figures, according to Bloom, either converge upon or take their point of departure from Shakespeare in a way that rehabilitates the myth of the Original Englishman and accordingly recreates a Western canon, some universal anthology, whose centre is Shakespeare, while all later generations of writers are, in Elias Canetti’s words, ‘saints of repetition’, who can only translate what they happen to ‘overhear’ from the master and keep vibrant a tradition that can ‘make us at home out of doors, foreign abroad’. Though Bloom hardly uses the term ‘translation’ while tracking the genealogy of such ‘influence’ and the ‘anxieties’ therein implicated, one can readily detect a Gordian knot out of which such theorisations and explorations emanate: translation is here foregrounded as a smokescreen designed to close rather than disclose.
How the Institute of Race Relations Strategically Misinforms Us about Racism and Policy (as a Threat to Deliberative Democracy)
Phila M. Msimang
Historically, the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has been viewed as a reliable source of information given its near century-long work of compiling statistics and reports about race relations and the social conditions affecting different race groups in South Africa. I make the case that the IRR should not be considered a reliable source of information about race groups and their social conditions in contemporary South Africa because of how the IRR misrepresents the views of ordinary South Africans with the intention of influencing policy towards the IRR’s preferred ideological positions. Rather than presenting criticism of their ideological slant, I show how their policy proposals are not supported by their survey data or their interpretation. Furthermore, I argue that their misrepresentation of South Africans’ beliefs is damaging to democratic processes because what the public claims it wants from government has a significant impact on what government’s mandate from its citizenry is thought to be.
The Case of Feminist Philosophy
Hilkje C. Hänel and Johanna M. Müller
This article argues that non-ideal theory is distinctive in its use of a certain methodology which is prior to specific topics (such as injustice, oppression, etc.), grounded in the idea of socially situated knowledge, and able to address ideological situatedness. Drawing on standpoint epistemology, we show that one’s social position within given power structures has implications for knowledge acquisition and that being in a vulnerable or marginalised position can be advantageous to knowledge acquisition. Following ideology critique, we argue that both marginalised and powerful social positions are embedded within a given ideology. As ideology is more than a mere set of attitudes or beliefs that social agents endorse or resist, situated agents and theorists cannot develop normative criteria that are not themselves situated. Hence, non-ideal theory has to be equipped with methods that are likely to make this situatedness visible. We close by presenting some diverse methods that already do so.
Translating and Mistranslating Erasmus’s Words in Henrician England
Many of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s works were translated into English during the reign of Henry VIII. In the process of translation, the original intention of these texts was often subverted, as Erasmus’s reputation was appropriated by his translators and their patrons to serve a variety of political and religious agendas. The present article is devoted to the translating history of one of Erasmus’s works, Sileni Alcibiadis, a proverb that was detached from the huge paremiographic repository known as Adagia and published as an autonomous work in London in the early 1540s. By highlighting corrections, retouchings and omissions, the article aims at pointing out the ways in which the anonymous translator adapted Erasmus’s text to a different cultural and pedagogic context. The final purpose of this work is to show the way in which Erasmus’s political thought ‘migrates’, with partial manipulations, into the turbulent context of mid-sixteenth-century England.