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From Exoticism to Authenticity

Textbooks during French Colonization and the Modern Literature of Global Tourism

Claudine Moïse

*Article translated by Francine Tolron

This article explores the French fascination with “the primitive” and “the exotic” in the post–World War I years through a study of representations of the French colonies in textbooks intended for primary and secondary schoolchildren. It then compares these representations with contemporary French-language tourist literature in Ontario, Canada, demonstrating continuities between these “exotic” representations of the colonial other and contemporary discourses centered on “authenticity” in the world of international tourism.

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Leon I. Yudkin

Basically, to justify the redeployment of a known theme or figure in the work of another era, there has to be established a perceptible link between the contemporary situation and the point of reference. Why move to imagine the other, if that other has no resonances or significance? Likewise, the contemporary insight and setting will bear implications for that initial source. In other words, the two worlds must illuminate each other.

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Disruptive Technology

Social Media from Modiano to Zola and Proust

Elizabeth Emery

In this article, Patrick Modiano’s 2014 Nobel Prize acceptance speech serves as a springboard to consider the lieu commun that “disruptive technology” is killing both literature and the contemporary press. Modiano’s depiction of himself as part of an “intermediate generation,” trapped between the intense focus of great nineteenth-century novelists and the many distractions of contemporary writers, cleverly invoked millennial anxieties related to new technology in order to establish his own place within literary history.

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This edition of Theoria encompasses an examination of the character of historical enquiry, critical encounters with contemporary perspectives in political theory, reflections on religion and the state, an exploration of the implications of the commodification of time and work and an examination of the role of human rights in the contemporary international context. In this it extends discussion of themes that have come to define the coherence and unity of the journal as an editorial project.

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William Brown

David Bordwell (2002) has described contemporary mainstream cinema as a cinema of intensified continuity. When we combine Bordwell's analysis with that of recent cognitive work on attention, especially with work on edit blindness, we discover some intriguing results. For example, the increased rate of cutting in contemporary cinema serves to keep our attention continually aroused, but, at the same time, that which arouses our attention—the increased number of cuts—becomes decreasingly visible. That is, the greater the number of cuts made in the services of continuity editing, the less we are able to spot them. If, while watching contemporary mainstream cinema, the attention of viewers is aroused but viewers are decreasingly capable of spotting the reasons why this is so (i.e., the cuts themselves), then does this also serve to make contemporary mainstream cinema “post-ideological,” because it concerns itself only with “intensified” experiences? Or, as this article argues, does the sheer speed of contemporary mainstream cinema renew the need for the ideological critique of films?

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Living History, Performing Coloniality

Towards a Postcolonial Ethnography

Sitara Thobani

The self-reflexivity of anthropologists entails engaging with the forceful critiques emanating from within the discipline with regard to its relationship to the colonial project. However, the question remains as to what a postcolonial ethnographic project might look like. That is, while anthropologists engage with critiques from postcolonial studies in theory, how might they do so in practice? I address this question in my article by examining contemporary performances of Indian classical and Contemporary South Asian dance in Britain. An historical analysis of the trajectory of Indian classical dance reveals an intimate relationship between colonial, Orientalist and Indian nationalist discourses. Investigating contemporary performances in the U.K. can thus provide a fascinating glimpse into how discourses of coloniality are reiterated in the present. Focusing on performative narrativisations of the dance's history and its constructions of an idealised femininity, I show how ethnographic research can usefully excavate contemporary practices to better understand the capacity of coloniality both to endure and transform in its contemporary articulations.

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Linking Ideology, Habitus and Landscape

Traditional and Contemporary Uses of Gardens and Parks in Iran

Nasim Yazdani

For centuries, nature has played significant roles in the Persianate world. Across generations and beyond national borders, Persian gardens and parks have carried traces of narratives, beliefs and attitudes of those who designed, built and used them. This article explores Persian garden history and philosophy, and the emergence of urban parks in Iran. It examines the evolution of cultural attitudes and their reflections in contemporary meanings, layout and use of parks. Landscape narratives both influence and are shaped by shifting cultural values and needs. Urbanisation – and the necessity for urban dwellers to experience ‘nature’ in new environments, sociocultural factors and habitus transformation contribute to the diminution of the role of ‘traditional’ narratives in contemporary design. Nevertheless, the importance of spaces of stillness in landscape design, inherited from Persian garden ideology, influences recreational behaviour in Iran’s contemporary urban parks.

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Nothing in Return?

Distinctions between Gift and Commodity in Contemporary Societies

Michaela Benson and Denise Carter

According to Mauss’ seminal works, it was through obligations laid bare by the gift exchange process—the obligation to give, receive and reciprocate—that pre-modern societies were symbolically reproduced. Mauss’ distinction between those early societies and the encroaching capitalist world has led to questions about whether gift exchange can play a similar role in today’s highly individualised and impersonal contemporary societies. In addition, it has also stimulated a great deal of debate about the relationship between gifts and commodities. If, as many theorists suggest, commodities are a central feature of daily life in capitalist societies, there is the possibility of fluidity between gift and commodity. This invites several interesting questions about the forms and functions of exchange: what forms does exchange take in contemporary societies; what implications, if any, do these forms of exchange have for relationships in contemporary society; and, does gift exchange still have a function in society?

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Meghan O'Dea

This article discusses the portrayal of German-Polish relations in Robert Thalheim's 2007 film Am Ende kommen Touristen. Situated within present day Oświęcim, Poland—more commonly known as Auschwitz, the historical site of Nazi perpetration—Touristen shifts viewer attention toward contemporary concerns surrounding historical memories of Auschwitz and the present day transnational encounters at the memorial site. This article discusses memory constellations as well as the intercultural and intergenerational issues depicted in the film. By showing how the past still continues to affect contemporary relationships between Germans and Poles, the film calls for continued engagement and dialogue to work through the shared past in the European present. This article furthermore discusses the status of Touristen as a “third wave” Holocaust film that distances itself from cinematic, historical reconstruction on a visual and narrative level by rather focusing attention on the pieces of the past that continue to affect contemporary German-Polish relationships.

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Miles away from Screwing?

Queer Gothic Girlhood in John Harding’s Florence and Giles

Robyn Ollett

Literary fiction is a widely popular arena in which discourse on sexuality and queerness is produced and disseminated. The Gothic is an especially crucial mode in literary fiction that has a historically intimate relationship with queer subjectivity. Observing this relationship between Gothic fiction and queer subjectivity, in this article I analyze the representation of queer Gothic girlhood in contemporary fiction, taking as my focus John Harding’s 2010 reworking of the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw (1898). I show how Florence and Giles develops familiar tropes attached to the figure of the queer child and look specifically at how readings of the parent text implicate contemporary readings of this figure. With close readings that draw on the queer feminist ethics of Lynne Huffer, I consider what seems to be happening to the figure of the queer Gothic girl in contemporary fiction.