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The Persistence of the Human

Consciousness, Meta-body and Survival in Contemporary Film and Literature


Matthew Escobar

Recent narrative fiction and film increasingly exploit, explore and thematize the embodied mind, revealing the tenacity of a certain brand of humanism. The presence of narratively based concepts of personal identity even in texts which explore posthuman possibilities is strong proof that our basic understanding of what it means to be human has, despite appearances, remained mostly unchanged. This is so even though our perception of time has been greatly modified by the same technology which both interrupts and allows for the rearrangement of our experience of time at a rate and a level of ease which, until recently, had never been possible.

Basing his views on a long line of philosophers and literary theorists such as Paul Ricoeur, Daniel Dennett and Francisco Varela, Escobar maintains in The Persistence of the Human that narrative plays an essential role in the process of constituting and maintaining a sense of self. It is narrative’s effect on the embodied mind which gives it such force. Narrative projects us into possible spaces, shaping a temporary corporeality termed the “meta-body,” a hybrid shared by the lived body and an imagined corporeal sense. The meta-body is a secondary embodiment that we inhabit for however long our narrative immersion lasts – something which, in today’s world, may be a question of milliseconds or hours. The more agreeable the meta-body is, the less happy we are upon being abruptly removed from it, though the return is essential.

We want to be able to slip back and forth between this secondary embodiment and that of our lived body; each move entails both forgetting and remembering different subject positions (loss and recuperation being salient themes in the works which highlight this process). The negotiation of the transfer between these states is shaped by culture and technology and this is something which is precisely in flux now as multiple, ephemeral narrative immersion experiences are created by the different screens we come into contact with.

Scanning the Hypnoglyph

Sleep in Modernist and Postmodern Representation


Nathaniel Wallace

Nathaniel Wallace’s Scanning the Hypnoglyph chronicles a contemporary genre that exploits sleep’s evocative dimensions. While dreams, sleeping nudes, and other facets of the dormant state were popular with artists of the early twentieth century (and long before), sleep experiences have given rise to an even wider range of postmodern artwork. Scanning the Hypnoglyph first assesses the modernist framework wherein the sleeping subject typically enjoys firm psychic grounding. As postmodernism begins, subjective space is fragmented, the representation of sleep reflecting the trend. Among other topics, this book demonstrates how portrayals of dormant individuals can reveal imprints of the self. Gender issues are taken up as well. “Mainstream,” heterosexual representations are considered along with depictions of gay, lesbian, and androgynous sleepers.


Edited by Dunja M. Mohr and Birgit Däwes

Radical Planes? 9/11 and Patterns of Continuity, edited by Dunja M. Mohr and Birgit Däwes, explores the intersections between narrative disruption and continuity in post-9/11 narratives from an interdisciplinary transnational perspective, foregrounding the transatlantic cultural memory of 9/11. Contesting the earlier notion of a cataclysm that has changed ‘everything,’ and critically reflecting on American exceptionalism, the collection offers an inquiry into what has gone unchanged in terms of pre-9/11, post-9/11, and post-post-9/11 issues and what silences persist. How do literature and performative and visual arts negotiate this precarious balance of a pervasive discourse of change and emerging patterns of political, ideological, and cultural continuity?


With few exceptions, African countries have suffered perennial bad governance, bloody civil wars, and coups-d’état. The continent suffocates in the grip of political elites and military juntas. Capitalism as an economic system empowers a few who lord it over the weak majority. The ruling class also contributes to the suffering of the masses by flagrantly looting the nation’s treasury and flaunting it while the majority of the populace wallow in abject poverty. African writers problematize and diagnose this scenario and the Weltschmerz bedevilling African socio-political life, in a bid to offering lasting solutions, in the process experimenting with ‘home-made’ as well as ‘imported’ ideologies in the struggle for the African utopia. Vincent Egbuson, a ‘new-generation’ African writer, is indubitably a committed writer. In confronting the African socio-political malady in Womandela, he has adopted divergent ideologies to sharpen his social vision. The purpose of this study is, accordingly, to scrutinize the ideological bent of Egbuson’s novel and to determine its efficacy against the backdrop of the socio-political reality of contemporary Africa.


Mma Ramotswe, the heroine of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels and their adaptations, is proud of “being a traditionally built African lady unlike these terrible stick-like creatures one saw in the advertisements.” This crisis of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’ erupts in the representation in the novels and television series of Mma Ramotswe’s sexuality and mothering, the texts’ failures to acknowledge or negotiate the inconsistencies of its deployment of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’, and the resulting dilemma of (national) reproduction when sex is not an option. Further, neither text integrates its explicit celebration of ‘traditional values’ with the professional opportunities that ‘being modern’ affords Mma Ramotswe. Attempting to negotiate this disjunction, the texts divest Mma Ramotswe of any ‘modern’ sexual attitudes or actions – the ones that produce offspring – while still providing her with those fruits: children. Both written and visual representations systematically negate any possibility that Mma Ramotswe might participate in any reproductive activity of her own. A mother without children to children without mothers, Mma Ramotswe figures postcolonial reproduction as a sexless, passionless transaction, while both texts align any sex with the probability of pain, betrayal, and death.


Buchi Emecheta’s novel The Bride Price is examined for its overall literary strength, and particularly for its use of syncretism. Her work is compared with that of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, and it is concluded that both writers assist us in understanding today’s African diaspora. In addition, it is argued that several key passages in Bride Price are resonant for their extensive use of metonymy, and that Emecheta’s writing exhibits strong strands of the postcolonial, including the trope that the female body can be the site of multiple instantiations of hegemony and dominance.


Contemporary African fiction is a source of dystopian urban images juxtaposed with the kinds of ‘good cities’ to which the wielders of political or economic power subscribe. This article examines the dominant representations of the ‘good city’ and how they are contested or subverted from various narrative perspectives. It focuses on inscriptions of the city in fictional narratives and on inscriptions such as street signs and place names found in cities in order to explore the tensions and the contradictions in images of urban experience in Africa.