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Ecocriticism and the Event of Postcolonial Fiction
Author: Roman Bartosch
This book addresses the role and potential of literature in the process of contesting and re-evaluating concepts of nature and animality, describing one’s individual environment as the starting point for such negotiations. It employs the notion of the ‘literary event’ to discuss the specific literary quality of verbal art conceptualised as EnvironMentality. EnvironMentality is grounded on the understanding that fiction does not explain or second scientific and philosophical notions but that it poses a fundamental challenge to any form of knowledge manifesting in processes determined by the human capacity to think beyond a given hermeneutic situation. Bartosch foregrounds the dialectics of understanding the other by means of literary interpretation in ecocritical readings of novels by Amitav Ghosh, Zakes Mda, Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee, arguing that EnvironMentality helps us as readers of fiction to learn from the books we read that which can only be learned by means of reading: to “think like a mountain” (Aldo Leopold) and to know “what it is like to be a bat” (Thomas Nagel).
Literature as cultural discourse has always courted mobility. From the nomadic wanderings of the heroes of Homer and Virgil through the adventures of the medieval knight-errants to the travellers of modern times, movement and mobility have been constitutive elements of story-telling. Since writers have begun to explore the experiential dimension of movement their texts have embraced the essential changeability and instability of ‘mobile worlds’. In this sense literature reflects and processes the transformative force of movement on the perception of the world and is part of the broader cultural discourses of mobility.
From the 1936 film Night Mail to the rapid movements of the dime novel detective and the metaphorical coding of automobility in Futurist poetry, the essays in this volume offer new perspectives on the phenomenon of mobility at the intersection between the literary imagination and cultural experience. They explore movement as a decisive force of change in the history of modernity and show how literature in its representation of mobility simultaneously aims both to mirror and to grasp the phenomenon.
Essays in Critical Plant Studies
Editor: Randy Laist
Myth, art, literature, film, and other discourses are replete with depictions of evil plants, salvific plants, and human-plant hybrids. In various ways, these representations intersect with “deep-rooted” insecurities about the place of human beings in the natural world, the relative viability of animalian motility and heterotrophy as evolutionary strategies, as well as the identity of organic life as such. Plants surprise us by combining the appearance of harmlessness and familiarity with an underlying strangeness. The otherness of vegetal life poses a challenge to our ethical, philosophical, and existential categories and tests the limits of human empathy and imagination. At the same time, the resilience of plants, their adaptability, and their integration with their habitat are a perennial source of inspiration and wisdom. Plants and Literature: Essays in Critical Plant Studies examines the manner in which literary texts and other cultural products express our multifaceted relationship with the vegetable kingdom. The range of perspectives brought to bear on the subject of plant life by the various authors and critics represented in this volume comprise a novel vision of ecological interdependence and stimulate a revitalized sensitivity to the relationships we share with our photosynthetic brethren.
This book psychoanalyzes a small Mexican city to figure out how the city makes sense of both herself and her many Others in the face of constant change. It puts the city on the couch and works through her past and present relationships, analyzing issues surrounding sexuality, the compulsion to repeat, transferences and desires.
Essays on Self and Pilgrimage
Travelling is the art of motion, motion results in moments of human encountering, and such moments manifest themselves in unsettling linguistic repercussions and crises of meaning. Places of arrival also function as inscriptions of such meaningful repercussions, inscriptions of the past crossing the present, of the other crossing the self. The contributions in this book explore places, rituals, texts and scriptures as religious or secular inscriptions – “topographies” – of such “arrivals.”
Each arrival happens, and its very place manifests itself only as a momentous component of the process itself. Arrival is an event of conclusion as well as of urgency for subsequent explorations of new meanings to be read from the topography of the place, mirroring thus a signifying dynamic for the metamorphosis of the traveller’s self: “ topodynamic” of arrival. In this vein this book investigates for the first time the dynamic of cultural formations of space, an aspect of spatiality which since the “spatial turn” in cultural discourse has mostly been neglected.
Editor: Pascale Guibert
Too many landscapes have been reduced to silent commodities by being put into golden frames on top of our fireplaces. Too many landscapes have been reified by being considered as objects holding forth referents to an omnipotent looker-on, with his/her language ever ready to seize and transcribe. The articles gathered here, prolonging an international conference held at the University of Caen Basse-Normandie (France), 14-16 June 2007, set the landscapes loose again by engaging with their essentially relational quality.
What makes this volume particularly stimulating and critically innovative is this initial acknowledgement of a landscape’s reflectiveness – that is the fact that it contains unthought thought, and thus presents itself to us both passively and actively. This straightaway appraisal of the lines of flight in the seemingly static, tranquil images facing us, has opened the way to deeply critical readings bent on questioning old tracks, testing new itineraries, denying the closure of the subject. At the same time, and by way of consequence, it leads us to encounter the force in landscape. A force like an energy, an impetus, which makes it possible – if not advisable! – to still compose, read and enjoy landscapes in the XXIst century.
Editor: Helen Tiffin
Western exploitation of other peoples is inseparable from attitudes and practices relating to other species and the extra-human environment generally. Colonial depredations turn on such terms as ‘human’, ‘savage’, ‘civilised’, ‘natural’, ‘progressive’, and on the legitimacies governing apprehension and control of space and landscape. Environmental impacts were reinforced, in patterns of unequal ‘exchange’, by the transport of animals, plants and peoples throughout the European empires, instigating widespread ecosystem change under unequal power regimes (a harbinger of today’s ‘globalization’).
This book considers these imperial ‘exchanges’ and charts some contemporary legacies of those inequitable imports and exports, transportations and transmutations. Sheep farming in Australia, transforming the land as it dispossessed the native inhabitants, became a symbol of (new, white) nationhood. The transportation of plants (and animals) into and across the Pacific, even where benign or nostalgic, had widespread environmental effects, despite the hopes of the acclimatisation societies involved, and, by extension, of missionary societies “planting the seeds of Christianity.” In the Caribbean, plantation slavery pushed back the “jungle” (itself an imported word) and erased the indigenous occupants – one example of the righteous, biblically justified cultivation of the wilderness. In Australia, artistic depictions of landscape, often driven by romantic and ‘gothic’ aesthetics, encoded contradictory settler mindsets, and literary representations of colonial Kenya mask the erasure of ecosystems. Chapters on the early twentieth century (in Canada, Kenya, and Queensland) indicate increased awareness of the value of species-preservation, conservation, and disease control. The tension between traditional and ‘Euroscientific’ attitudes towards conservation is revealed in attitudes towards control of the Ganges, while the urge to resource exploitation has produced critical disequilibrium in Papua New Guinea. Broader concerns centering on ecotourism and ecocriticism are treated in further essays summarising how the dominant West has alienated ‘nature’ from human beings through commodification in the service of capitalist ‘progress’.
Home, Culture and Identity in 20th-Century French Autobiography
Questions of space, place and identity have become increasingly prominent throughout the arts and humanities in recent times. This study begins by investigating the reasons for this growth in interest and analyses the underlying assumptions on which interdisciplinary discussions about space are often based. After tracing back the history of contact between Geography and Literary Studies from both disciplinary perspectives, it goes on to discuss recent academic work in the field and seeks to forge a new conceptual framework through which contemporary discussions of space and literature can operate. The book then moves on to a thorough application of the interdisciplinary model that it has established. Having argued that the experience of contemporary space has rendered questions of home and belonging particularly pressing, it undertakes detailed analysis of how these phenomena are articulated in a selection of recent French life writing texts. The close, text-led readings reveal that whilst not often highlighted for their relevance to the analysis of space, these works do in fact narrate the impact of some of the most significant cultural experiences of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust and the AIDS crisis, upon geo-cultural senses of identity. Home is shown to be a deeply problematic, yet strongly desired, element of the contemporary world.
The book concludes by addressing the underlying thesis that contemporary life writing might provide just the ‘postmodern maps’ that could help not only literary scholars, but also geographers, better understand the world today. Key names and concepts: Serge Doubrovsky - Hervé Guibert - Fredric Jameson - Philippe Lejeune - Régine Robin; Autofiction - Cultural Geography - Interdisciplinarity - Place and Identity - Postmodernism - Space - Postmodern Space - Literary Studies - Twentieth-Century Life Writing.
Religion, Geography and Postcolonial Literatures
Interweaving the interpretative methods of religious studies, literary criticism and cultural geography, the essays in this volume focus on issues associated with the representation of place and space in the writing and reading of the postcolonial. The collection charts the ways in which contemporary writers extend and deepen our awareness of the ambiguities of economic, social and political relations implicated in “sacred space” - the sense of spiritual significance associated with those concrete locations in which adherents of different religious traditions, past and present, maintain a ritual sense of the sanctity of life and its cycles. Part I, “Land, Religion and Literature after Britain,” explores how postcolonial writers dramatize the contested processes of colonization, resistance and decolonization by which lands and landscapes may be viewed as now sacred, now desacralized, now resacralized. Part II, “Sacred Landscapes and Postcoloniality across International Literatures,” draws upon postcolonial theory to inquire into how contemporary fiction, drama and poetry represent themes of divine dispensation, dispossession and reclamation in regions as diverse as Haiti, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Arctic, and the North American frontier. A critical “Afterword” considers the implications of such multi-disciplinary approaches to postcolonial literatures for present and future research in the field. Writers discussed in the essays include Russell Banks; James K. Baxter; Ursula Bethell; Erna Brodber; Marcus Clarke; Allen Curnow; Edwidge Danticat; Mak Dizdar; Sara Jeannette Duncan; Zee Edgell; “Grey Owl”; Haruki Murakami; Seamus Heaney; Peter Høeg; Hugh Hood; Janette Turner Hospital; James Houston; Dany Laferrière; B. Kojo Laing; Lee Kok Liang; K.S. Maniam; Mudrooroo; R.K. Narayan; Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Ben Okri; Chava Pinchas-Cohen; Mary Prince; Nancy Prince; Nayantara Sahgal; Ken Saro-Wiwa; Ibrahim Tahir; Amos Tutuola; W.D. Valgardson; Derek Walcott; and Rudy Wiebe. Maps accompany almost every essay.