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World Beyond Measure

An Ecological Critique of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (1990) and In The Lake of the Woods (1994)

Rosalind Poppleton-Pritchard

When questioned by Larry McCaffery in an interview as to why his books were so firmly anchored in nature, Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien responded, ‘because life is anchored in these things’. The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s fifth book, is certainly no exception to this analysis. O’Brien’s book uncovers the multifarious dimensions to the sheer power and intensity of the bond between humankind and the natural world in the face of the brutal violence of the Vietnam war. It is this elemental relationship that I intend to examine with specific regard to the substantive influence of contemporary environmental theories and green ideas on O’Brien’s understanding of the value of the natural world. In order to examine the texts effectively, I will consider O’Brien’s work in chronological order. In doing so I hope to provide illustration of the continuation and development of the author’s environmental concerns within the framework of his most recent writings. I believe the author’s overarching concern with the intangibility of truth in these novels readily extends itself to his all-embracing manipulation of the symbolic landscape he presents to the reader.

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Over Under Sideways Down

An Interview with Karrie Fransman

Ann Miller

In this interview Karrie Fransman discusses some of the aesthetic choices that she made in creating her comic book Over Under Sideways Down, the story of a young asylum seeker, which deals with a series of harrowing events: exile, journey and displacement, and then the struggle to attain the right to remain in the UK. Fransman considers the ethical and artistic issues raised by the telling of Ebrahim's story, which includes episodes of pain and loss and which, moreover, he had already recounted many times over to disbelieving interviewers, who had the power to grant or refuse him refugee status. Fransman expresses her pleasure in discovering that the rendering of his story into comics form has helped Ebrahim to feel that he has gained control over it. She reflects on the process of condensing the narrative and heightening key moments, her concern to avoid turning violence into spectacle, and her use of resources of the medium, such as symbolism and metonymy, to convey the intensity of emotion.

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Nirmala Erevelles and Xuan Thuy Nguyen

When we first proposed this special issue on “Disability and Girlhood: Transnational Perspectives,” we had not yet realized how the urgency in the global humanitarian crises that has escalated in intensity and scope of violence in recent months would demand our thoughtful attention. These crises, the outcomes of social protest, wars, and genocidal acts in many parts of the world for over a decade, punctuated by the Paris bombings of November 2015 that took the lives of 130 innocent citizens; the widespread displacement of 4 million Syrian refugees from their homeland; the increased militarization at the borders of the European Union and the United States; and the environmental impact of this war of terror on the daily survival of disabled and non-disabled people around the globe continue unabated. On the internet, photographic images of women and children with disabilities (and girls in particular) serve as the very embodiment of vulnerability in competition with thousands of other images of suffering (see for instance, Human Rights Watch 2012) vying for the attention of an impatient and fickle global audience (Goggin 2009; Kim 2011). In these images, disability, seen to be synonymous with vulnerability becomes simultaneously hypervisible in its ability to trigger an affective response and hyper-invisible when inspiring an emancipatory response to the material consequences of actually living with a disability.

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Frédéric Viguier

For the last thirty years, electoral sociologists in France have observed a decline in electoral participation. France saw a century of high voter turnout, with around 80% of registered voters participating in each election of National Assembly deputies, and a peak of democratic fervor in the 1960s and the 1970s. But since the mid-1980s, French citizens’ electoral participation has been constantly decreasing.1 More than one-third of all registered voters did not cast a ballot in each round of the last two National Assembly elections (2007 and 2012). Participation numbers vary according to the type of election; while the high-stakes, high-intensity presidential elections continue to draw a high proportion of French voters to the polls (around an average 80%), second-order elections do not mobilize as many people as they once did. Today, participation scores suggest a widespread indifference for electoral politics among the French: only two-thirds of registered voters cast their ballots in municipal elections, 50% in regional elections, and hardly more than 40% in European elections.

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Philip Manow

The article addresses the relationship between party systems and welfare state regimes in Europe. It argues that the European party systems show a systematic variation with respect to the electoral success of communist parties – which is argued to be related to the intensity of past conflicts between the nation-state and the Catholic Church in the mono-confessional countries of Europe's south. The article presents empirical evidence for the manifestation of the pro-clerical/anti-clerical cleavage in the party systems of Southern Europe and sketches the consequences for the political economy of these countries. The article demonstrates the impact of religious cleavages (rather than the conflict between capital and labor) on the shape of social policy in a country. The Southern European variety of the welfare state differs markedly from the Continental and Northern European varieties, with fragmented and particularistic provisions, decentralized occupation-based social security, strong insider-outsider cleavages and a weak state. This testifies to the broad range of meanings the "social" may assume.

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Park Honan

A report on my experience with Shakespeare: A Life may not be generally useful, but I shall touch on factors that are changing our view of literary biography. It helps to refer to oneself and to the matter of a biographer’s outlook and feelings, no matter how deplorable the feelings. Of course, what a biographer thinks or feels is irrelevant, in one sense.We don’t care what you may have felt, for heaven’s sake; we judge your work! That is proper as far as it goes, but outlook and preparedness count in this field and so I shall allude to those. My general view is that biography thrives when we regard it as highly sophisticated, entertaining, and moving, and able to depict as much about life as works of fiction can. This genre has a certain relation to music and painting in its possible intensity. ‘All that is not useful’, says Matisse, ‘is detrimental to the effect’; the same applies to biographical narratives. Shakespeare’s life offers a special challenge, but not for any dire lack of evidence. Much depends on what use is made of abundant facts about Tudor Stratford, for example, and so on a personal attitude. My early attitude to Shakespeare was romantic and poor. For some time I thought of him as semi-divine, or as being ‘more than a man’. If I liked ‘Prufrock’, that was for its Hamlet allusions mainly. Later at University College in London, I was taken aback when my supervisor asked me to read something besides Shakespeare before trying to write a PhD thesis on the tragedies. I wrote two plays, both staged by London groups, but reviewed harshly in student newspapers, except for a remark to the effect that ‘Honan is incapable of writing anything but duologues, rather like Shakespeare in Two Gentlemen of Verona’. Finally I wrote a thesis on Browning partly because ‘Caliban upon Setebos’ reminded me of The Tempest.