Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild

Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics


Editors: and
Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild responds to a contemporary political climate in which historically invested figures of otherness—barbarians, savages, monsters—have become common discursive currency. Through questionable historical comparisons, politicians and journalists evoke barbaric or primitive forces threatening civilization in order to exacerbate the fear of others, diagnose civilizational decline, or feed nostalgic restorative projects. These evocations often demand that forms of oppression, discrimination, and violence be continued or renewed.
In this context, the collected essays explore the dispossessing effects of these figures but also their capacities for reimagining subjectivity, agency, and resistance to contemporary forms of power. Emphasizing intersections of the aesthetic and the political, these essays read canonical works alongside contemporary literature, film, art, music, and protest cultures. They interrogate the violent histories but also the subversive potentials of figures barbarous, monstrous, or wild, while illustrating the risks in affirmative resignifications or new mobilizations.

Contributors: Sophie van den Bergh, Maria Boletsi, Siebe Bluijs, Giulia Champion, Cui Chen, Tom Curran, Andries Hiskes, Tyler Sage, Cansu Soyupak, Ruby de Vos, Mareen Will

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Maria Boletsi is Assistant Professor at the Film and Comparative Literature Department of Leiden University. Her recent book publications include Barbarism and Its Discontents (Stanford UP, 2013) and the volume Barbarism Revisited: New Perspectives on an Old Concept, co-edited with Christian Moser (Brill|Rodopi 2015).

Originally from Western Canada, Tyler Sage completed his BA in English Literature at the University of British Columbia and his Research Master’s in Literary Studies at Leiden University. His Master's thesis explored forms of aesthetic expression and critique in a post-truth political environment.     
“Without any doubt, this new book-series … is strongly recommended to be followed.” in: Wasafiri 40, Winter 2003
Notes on Contributors
Introduction: Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild
Maria Boletsi and Tyler Sage
Part I. Feared and Longed for Barbarian Invasions in Contemporary Politics and Culture
1 Crisis, Terrorism, and Post-Truth: Processes of Othering and Self-Definition in the Culturalization of Politics
Maria Boletsi
2 The Fall of Rome and Rise of Empire in Denys Arcand's Les Invasions barbares
Tyler Sage
3 From Compton to Congress: The Barbarians Inside the Gates—An Exploration of 'Black Subjectivity' in Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly
Siebe Bluijs
4 Barbarians in Istanbul: Different Approaches Towards the Urban Transformation Conundrum
Cansu Soyupak
Part II. Savages and Monsters Old, New, and Refurbished: Canons Recast in Literature and Film
5 Deconstructing Caliban's Genealogy of 'Otherness' in Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête: The Figuration of the Barbarian, Wild Man, and Cannibal in the Western Literary Canon
Giulia Champion
6 Savage as Living Ghost: Rethinking Eurocentrism and Decoloniality in The Revenant
Cui Chen
7 Grotesque Genius: The Aesthetics of Form and Affect in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Andries Hiskes
8 The Monstrosity of the Female Artist in Dept. of Speculation, The Blazing World, and I Love Dick
Ruby de Vos
Part III. Strange Bedfellows: Queering Barbarians, Barbarizing Self-Identity, Playing Holocaust
9 Glamazons: Queer Barbarians in Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea and RuPaul's Drag Race
Mareen Will
10 Longboats, Oak, and the Dark Days of the Northmen: Seamus Heaney's Barbarisms in The Secret of Kells
Tom Curran
11 "To Appreciate the Perfection of the Machinery": Rethinking the Notion of Barbarism in 'Playful' Holocaust Representation
Sophie van den Bergh
This volume addresses scholars in comparative literature, conceptual history, cultural studies, political theory, art history, film and visual studies, specifically those studying concepts of otherness or intersections of art and politics. In mapping 21st century Western political discourse, and focusing mainly on contemporary works of literature and art, it also invites a more general readership.
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