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Where Ethnographers Fear to Tread

The Counter-Influence of Ethnography on Christopher Kremmer's The Carpet Wars (2002) and Christina Lamb's The Sewing Circles of Herat (2002)

Corinne Fowler

Since travel writing predates ethnography, much research has centred on the influence of travel writing on ethnography (rather than the other way around). Ongoing debates over the crisis in anthropology mean that scholarly investigations of ethnography’s indebtedness to travel writing tend to be valued for their contribution to the crisis debate. Less attention has been paid to the question of counter-influence: the presence of ethnography in contemporary travel narratives about Afghanistan. My comparison of ethnographers’ and travellers’ accounts of Afghan games reveals that recent travel writing about Afghanistan relies heavily upon the long-established (and much maligned) textual practices, varieties of ethnography that have long since become outmoded and discredited. I hereby refer to pre-crisis modes of ethnography as ‘classical ethnographies’.1 Attending to the intertwining of travel writing and ethnography reveals the crucial relationship between travel writing about Afghanistan and the establishment of narrative authority to define and explain, in the words of Sir Alfred Lyall, ‘the unruly Afghan’ (quoted in Azoy 2003: 21), or to perpetuate what I shall describe as the ‘warlike Afghan’ thesis.

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Richard S. Fogarty

During the First World War, more than 500,000 colonial subjects served in the French Army. As these men, known as troupes indigenes, helped defend France from invasion, many of them had sexual and romantic relationships with French women. Such intimate contacts across the color line transgressed strict boundaries that separated the non-white colonized from white colonizers, boundaries that helped construct and sustain colonial rule. Thus these interracial relationships produced acute anxieties in the minds of French officials, who worried that their failure to control the passions and desires of colonial men and metropolitan women would ultimately undermine the French empire.

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‘At the Mercy of the German Eagle’

Images of London in Dissolution in the Novels of William Le Queux

Antony Taylor

these prevalent anxieties about national decline. This article, then, seeks to locate Le Queux's writings in a body of fiction that feared that the evident decay of the capital heralded a wider collapse of the nation, and, ultimately, of the empire

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'The poet remained alone amidst the corpses of words . . .'

The Deportation Poetry of André Ulmann and Maurice Honel

Gary D. Mole

In an article entitled ‘Témoignage du camp et poésie’, published in 1948, the former deportee Robert Antelme, author of the now classic deportation text L’Espèce humaine, identifies what he sees as the respective problems of prose and poetic testimonies. The prose account, claims Antelme, in its supposed stark objectivity, all too often reads like some abstract accusatory act, a photograph that may provoke fear and trembling, but from which lessons cannot be explicitly learnt. Poetry, on the other hand, would run the risk of fleeing the reality of the camps, of allowing it to be only glimpsed through melodic counterpoint or nostalgic themes, thus enveloping the reality in a mist of words but never really penetrating it. In fleeing prosaic description, then, poetry would risk falling into obscurity.

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'Elementary, my dear Djuna'

Unreadable Simplicity in Barnes's Creatures in an Alphabet

Daniela Caselli

‘From the rue St. Romaine to Patchin Place, the caped and cloched Djuna Barnes cut a striking figure in Paris and Greenwich Village of the 1920s and 1930s. Contemporary writers and artists praised her style, feared her tongue; she was a beauty, but a talented, acerbic and powerfully intelligent one.’ Djuna Barnes is the attractive, mysterious, sexually daring American expatriate who led the glamorously bohemian life of Parisian cafes in the thirties; her figure, impressively clad in a black cape, keeps gliding down Parisian rues and New York alleys alike. An eccentric character, who produced a sui generis and almost forgotten masterpiece – Nightwood – and survived her previous mythical self as a hermit in a studio flat in Greenwich Village until the early eighties. At the end of her life she wrote a ‘slight’ work, a ‘bestiary’ called Creatures in an Alphabet, a sad ending of a great, if unorthodox, literary career.

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Heaney and Walcott

Two Poems

Simon Dentith

Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Ministry of Fear’, and Derek Walcott’s ‘Homecoming: Anse La Raye’, written within a few years of each other, bear some striking resemblances, which – together with their inevitable differences – illuminate the specific national situations from which their poetry emerges, and the differing ways each poet takes to negotiate or make the most of their particular histories. Heaney’s poem is the first in a sequence of six poems called ‘Singing School’, published in North in 1975; while Walcott’s poem first appeared in The Gulf and Other Poems in 1969 – both collections in which the pressures of local histories, and the demands of dramatic and immediate political events, are explicitly registered. In each case the poem is concerned with the difficulties caused, and the creative possibilities made available, by the distance between personal history and available poetic tradition – though this is a story told in a personal register, as autobiography, and told with varying degrees of ruefulness, sadness, and comedy. Both poems tell the story of the ‘growth of the poet’s mind’, and, indeed, Wordsworth is the explicit startingpoint for Heaney, whose poem systematically rewrites The Prelude, insofar as that can be done in a poem of such smaller compass. But Walcott also takes on one of the great poets and translates him into local terms – a project to be realised at much greater length some twenty years later with the writing of Omeros.

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Fighting over Shakespeare

Commemorating the 1916 Tercentenary in Wartime

Clara Calvo

During the 1916 Tercentenary of Shakespeare's death, commemoration of the playwright and his plays was crucially shaped by the First World War. This paper departs from previous studies of the 1916 celebrations in its approach to the 1914-1919 war, which is not regarded here as a mere background influencing Shakespearean reception but as a dynamic presence, directly triggering appropriations of the playwright as cultural icon and of the plays as revered texts. In the course of examining sermons, lectures, and addresses delivered during the Tercentenary, this essay argues that the Great War impaired the celebrations to some extent, but it also fostered the commemoration cult of Shakespeare. The evidence examined shows how Shakespeare was worth fighting for in both local and European terms - how Stratford competed with London in their respective claims to Shakespeare and how England feared German appropriation. It also shows how in France, instead, quoting Shakespeare's words in 1916 was not a belligerent act of appropriation but a gesture meant to erase the memory of Anglo-French enmity at Agincourt and construe a bond between current allies fighting against the same foe in the trenches of the Western Front. Unlike other studies on the 1916 Tercentenary, this paper favours a European approach that integrates the reception of Shakespeare in Britain with his presence in other European countries.

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New Narratives of Southern Manhood

Race, Masculinity and Closure in Ernest Gaines's Fiction

Suzanne W. Jones

In A Rage For Order: Black/White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation, Joel Williamson explores the conjuncture of race, manhood, and violence peculiar to the American South. He argues that for southern white men the traditional Victorian masculine role of provider and protector was directly linked with violence because of plantation society’s ‘necessity of controlling a potentially explosive black population.’ As early as the seventeenth century, a patrol system, made up of masters and overseers enforced the laws of slavery. By the nineteenth century, the duty of patrolling was extended to all white men, who had authority over all blacks (even free blacks) and over whites who conspired with blacks. Thus a system for controlling slaves became a practice ‘of all whites controlling all blacks … a matter of race.’ The martial role white men created for themselves became entrenched, particularly in the last decades before the Civil War as slavery came under attack by northerners from without and by rebellious slaves from within. Whites created a complementary stereotype of black people as ‘simple, docile, and manageable’ who if properly handled were like children, but if improperly cared for became animals. Williamson argues that this ‘Sambo’ figure was a figment of white wishful thinking, which functioned ‘to build white egos’ while masking their fears of black rebellion.

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Bacillophobia

Man and Microbes in Dracula, The War of the Worlds, and The Nigger of the “Narcissus”

Jens Lohfert Jørgensen

The tension between specialised and commonsensical notions of microbes in the last decades of the nineteenth century resulted in ‘ bacillophobia'; a marked anxiety amongst the public concerning the threat posed to the individual by germs. This article investigates how the conceptual impact of bacillophobia challenged the cohesion of late Victorian society. It focuses on the role played by bacteria in the negotiation between interiority and exteriority in three novels, all published in 1897: Bram Stoker's Dracula, H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the “Narcissus”. The analyses of the works emphasise the varying functions of bacteria in them – as allegory in Dracula, as plot device in The War of the Worlds, and as theme in The Nigger of the “Narcissus” – and the varying degrees of ambiguity they are represented with. Bacteriology participated in what the German sociologist Max Weber referred to as the ‘ disenchantment' of the world, which is characteristic of modernity, but the three works all testify to a re-enchanted fear of the possibility that nature might not, after all, be controllable.

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'Both in Men's Clothing'

Gender, Sovereignty and Insecurity in Richard Marsh's The Beetle

Victoria Margree

On its publication in 1897 Richard Marsh’s The Beetle was more popular than Dracula. However, in the latter part of the twentieth century its popularity with both readers and critics waned, and it is only now that Marsh’s story of the Egyptian beetle-creature seeking vengeance on a British politician is attracting renewed critical interest. It is not my intention here to take serious issue with any of these important and revealing critical discussions, which variously explore the novel in terms of fears over ‘reverse colonisation’; depictions of the ‘abhumanness’ of the female body; and cultural debates on the nature and significance of trance-states. Rather, I wish to open up discussion of the novel by identifying some of the important and peculiar features of this – admittedly very peculiar – novel, that have not so far received the attention they deserve. These thus-far critically neglected features include: the significance of the opening chapters’ emphases upon vagrancy and destitution; the novel’s exploration of ‘political authority’ and its ambivalence towards its central male character, the liberal politician; and the representation of the New Woman. More specifically I wish to investigate the historical and ideological motivations for what I consider to be the novel’s conflation of its New Woman character with the figure of the emasculated and vagrant clerk.