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Between Appropriating and Keeping Our Distance

German Attitudes towards the Jewish Theme

Joachim Schlör

'What am I doing here?' During the preparation for this conference, 'Feeling at home in exile', I was able to accept the invitation to give a lecture, but for various reasons was not in a position to provide a clever title for it. When this proposal came I simply accepted and thought, something will turn up. Since then I have become more sceptical. At any rate, the theme 'majority and minority' should run through the text. But perhaps I will begin by explaining something of the circumstances in which the following text came about. If some degree of self-irony is to be found within it, I will be quite content.

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Douglas Coupland

In and Out of 'Ironic Hell'

Mark Forshaw

Ever since the publication of his first novel, Generation X, in 1991, Douglas Copeland's increasingly uneasy relationship with irony and with scepticism has marked him out as something more than just another writer of 'blank' fictions. In texts such as Life after God (1994) and Microserfs (1996), and most particularly in the troublingly supernatural novel that provides the focus for this essay, Girlfriend in a Coma (1998), Coupland has been writing, in a sense, determinedly against the grain of the last decade of the twentieth century; even as he seems to capture so many of its moods and anxieties.

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John Ireland and Constance Mui

There has rarely been a writer and thinker who saw his writing as more tied to his age than Jean-Paul Sartre. His notion of committed literature argued that writing and thought are anchored first and foremost in their “situation,” the period and context in which they are first produced, disseminated and discussed. One writes for one’s era, he maintained; that is when a piece of writing has its greatest impact. Almost forty years after his death, there is some irony in the fact that Sartre’s writings and thought continue to be invoked in so many different contexts far removed from their immediate cultural moment and situation. And this despite the legion of detractors on both sides of the Atlantic for whom the end of the Berlin wall and Soviet Russia sealed Sartre’s failed legacy and any possibility of his continued relevance.

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Andrew Dobson

Sartre’s second volume of the Critique of Dialectical Reason1 presents us with an important irony: of all the phenomena of the twentieth century that demand a moral judgement, Stalinism must be near the top of the list – yet such judgement is hard to find in Sartre’s Critique. Part of my task in the following will be to explain this. It is not that moral judgement is wholly absent: Sartre describes the theory and practice of ‘Socialism in One Country’ as a ‘monstrosity’ [CDR2:103] characterised by ‘its uncouth, misguided crudity’ [CDR2:111], and he has no trouble with peremptorily asserting that the Russian Revolution’s good fortune at being pushed through by the ‘Man of Steel’ was matched on the debit side by Stalin’s ‘universal incompetence’ and his ‘dogmatic crudeness’ [CDR2:205].

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Sheila Shulman

When I was a child my favourite stories, and the substance of endless fantasies, were the legends of Robin Hood. Naturally, in all those fantasies, I was Robin Hood, not Maid Marian. Robin Hood and his band were a community, pledged to each other, though open to others who were willing to do the same. They were outcasts – outlaws, even. They had suffered injustice but were not victims; they were fighting back. It was very clear who their enemies were: the rich, the powerful, the exploiters, the malevolent institutions of state and church. Historical reality, whatever it might have been, did not, could not, impinge on my child’s consciousness. A long time passed before the irony of a Jewish child identifying with the defenders of a crusader king came home to me.

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Giorgio Osti

The article aims to add a ludic perspective to those generally used for studying environmental issues in social sciences. To introduce in the debate a play/game metaphor enriches the interpretations of environmental crisis and provides a further motivation to action. The ludic perspective has a sociorelational background. That tradition of studies helps in constructing a set of categories that are then applied to environmental education (EE). The choice of such a topic is motivated by two factors: EE is an aspect generally practiced but mistreated in the main theorizations, and EE is exemplary of the potentialities of the playing games metaphor, which are the desire to create, the acceptance of slow changes, the protection of an experimental bubble, and irony toward environmental issues.

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Godless People and Dead Bodies

Materiality and the Morality of Atheist Materialism

Jacob Copeman and Johannes Quack

Atheists are not the only people who donate their bodies, yet the practice is strikingly prevalent in a variety of atheist circles. We concentrate here on the Indian case, exploring body donation as a key instance of the material culture of atheism. Recent efforts to reinvigorate study of the material culture of religion are to be welcomed, but they should be extended to non-religion in order to address the irony that sees scholars representing materialism as an abstract doctrine and, hence, as immaterial. Body donation holds value for Indian atheists as a bridge between 'positive' and 'negative' modes of atheist thought and action. It also provides a ready-made solution for atheist activists keen to circumvent the cadaver-centered death rituals they find so redundant.

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Reflecting the “Field”

Two Vepsian Villages and Three Researchers

Laura Siragusa and Madis Arukask

For social researchers a field site is continuously made by the interactions between the researchers and the ecology, including ideologies, present at the time when research is conducted. Such interactions and their interpretations change over time due to the dynamism of life in the field and the emergence of new methods and academic discussions. In order to do this, we have taken two Vepsian villages and three researchers of different background—including ourselves—and compared our working ways. This has enabled us to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of our own practices and to recognize the value of self-irony as a method of exploration and discovery. The dialogic approach of the article matches our theoretical scope as we have developed an understanding of field as a space where an honest and open discussion is possible.

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Sub Rosa

Christina Rossetti's Illegitimate Voice

Jenny Bourne Taylor

‘Under the Rose herewith … I meekly return to you, pruned and rewritten to order’, Christina Rossetti wrote to her brother on 13 March, 1865, responding to Gabriel’s editorial interventions as she prepared her second major volume, The Prince’s Progress, for publication. The poem had been hastily written to fill the gap left in the collection by Gabriel’s rejection of the powerful and ambivalent study of female aspiration and self-abnegation, ‘The Lowest Room’; and while Christina ‘meekly’ agreed to revise the piece with a certain understated irony, she still insisted on her right to write about what was, for both of them, an awkward subject for a woman: illegitimacy. ‘As regards the unpleasant-sided subject, I freely admit it: and if you think the performance coarse or what-not, pray eject it …’.

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‘Are We Coming to Make a Documentary or a Surrealist Film?’

Demythifying Luis Buñuel’s Tierra sin pan in Fermín Solís’s Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas

Marc Ripley

In 1933 Luis Buñuel shot Tierra sin pan [Land without bread] in the Las Hurdes region of Spain. His ethnographic documentary about this impoverished community is a relentless onslaught of decay and death, and still retains the power to shock. Fermín Solís’s 2008 graphic novel Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas [Buñuel in the labyrinth of tortoises] narrates the filming process of this movie. Solís renders the despair underpinning Buñuel’s film ironically, showing this to be in part a result of Buñuel’s doctoring of reality, thus achieving a demythification of this canonical film and questioning its ethical legacy. The mixed mode of comics is fundamental in exposing the irony of Tierra sin pan. Solís’s comic accomplishes this, paradoxically, by foregrounding the mythology of Buñuel the man, encouraging a new, contemporary audience to read the film as a product of Buñuel’s idiosyncrasies and obsessions rather than an unmediated instance of reality.