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During the Romantic period children were introduced as literary figures and turned into potent moral and aesthetic symbols. Opposing the nostalgic and idealized images of Romantic texts are modern-day versions of the child as freak, monster, or ghost. Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) was instrumental in establishing the latter trend, nowadays circulated by gothic fiction and popular horror films, alongside other texts which construct the child as inherently innocent. Taking as its starting point the idea that literary representations of the child have always expressed a range of adult hopes and fears, my paper will examine two contemporary literary texts which eschew conventional tropes of the child as innocent victim or gothic villain. Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin (2003) and Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child (1988) explore parental feelings of powerlessness and victimization as they confront children who are not demonic (as in The Exorcist or Carrie) but simply difficult. Both novels are narrated from the mother’s highly subjective perspective, so that they emerge as confessional narratives of guilt, failure, and resentment, tempered at times by dark humour. In contrast to gothic texts which attribute bad qualities in children to demonic possession, these novels express contemporary anxieties about parenting, including the idea that some children are unlovable, that some parents are unable to love their children adequately, and that it is possible to fail a child despite heroic efforts at good parenting. Also implicit in both of these texts is the suggestion that contemporary parenting practices grant excessive power to the child at the expense of the hapless parent (usually the mother), so that social criticism is combined with imaginative exploration of contemporary fears and taboos. Examining these issues in a realist literary mode, these texts challenge conventional representations of the difficult child as the innocent victim of abuse, adult misunderstanding, or supernatural phenomena.

In: Conflicts in Childhood
This book investigates literary representations and self-representations of people with cosmopolitan identities arising from mobile global childhoods which transcend categories of migrancy and diaspora. Part I focuses on the ways in which cosmopolitan characters are represented in selected novels, from the debauched Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh’s classic Brideshead Revisited, to the victimized Ila in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, to John le Carré’s undefinable spies. Part II focuses on self-representations of people with a cosmopolitan upbringing, in the form of autobiographical narratives by well-known authors such as Barack Obama and Edward Said, along with lesser-known writers, all of whom “write back” to the ways in which they have at times been stereotyped and othered in literary fiction and public discourse.

My chapter will examine the ways in which the stories in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s collection The Thing around Your Neck explore the limits of diaspora as a category of cultural identity and move toward a more flexible conceptualisation of the impact of globalisation on people’s sense of themselves and their place in the world. Although the main characters in these stories are of Nigerian origin, few of them fit easily into the limiting categories of Nigerian or Nigerian diaspora, not only because their geographical placement is often in flux, but also because their sense of identity is not based on nationality, national origin, or even a sense of belonging to a Nigerian diaspora. On the contrary, they can arguably be described as cosmopolitan - not in the old elitist sense of the term, but in the contemporary sense of transcending the limitations of nationality or national origin as a category of cultural identity. Indeed, many of the stories draw attention to the artificiality of national identity itself, not only by highlighting the tribal, religious and ethnic divisions within Nigeria, but also by recalling the war which aimed - and failed - to create the independent state of Biafra, so that national identity is never straightforward, even for the characters in this collection who have never left Nigeria. Consequently, the diasporic experience does not seem, in these stories, to create the conventional crisis of cultural identity which has become almost de rigeur in much of the diasporic fiction of the past few decades. All categories of cultural identity are socially constructed of course, but within the context of ongoing globalisation, the stories in this collection seem to point to the increasing irrelevance of the concept of diaspora and the idea of nationality on which it is based.

In: Diasporic Choices

Anita Desai’s novel Clear Light of Day (1980) focuses on women’s experiences of family life in twentieth-century India, raising important questions about the tensions and conflicts inherent within the concept of forgiveness. My chapter analyses these ambiguities and discusses the ambivalent implications of forgiveness on the individual, familial and societal levels. Among other concerns, the novel focuses on aspects of women’s oppression, gender inequalities, and the role of the traditional family in perpetuating these. Because Bim, the protagonist, is portrayed as a strong and intelligent woman who is, in many ways, in control of her own life and her own choices, the nature and extent of her victimisation by gendered familial structures emerges only gradually throughout the narrative. Burdened by anger and bitterness, her decision at the end of the novel to forgive her family for leaving her with so much responsibility is, on one level, an emotional liberation which leaves her with a profound feeling of peace and calm. Although Bim comes to accept what has happened and what she must live with and deal with, and although she comes to recognise the destructive effects of her anger and bitterness upon herself and the people she loves, some critics have seen her act of forgiveness as a defeat, in the sense that she surrenders to self-sacrifice and self-effacement. They argue that the social criticism in the novel is undermined by the harmonious ending, while others see Bim’s adjustment to her circumstances on her own terms as both realistic and essential to her emotional stability and mental health. My own view is that the narrative powerfully dramatises the ambiguous nature of forgiveness itself, exploring its value - indeed its necessity - for individuals in some circumstances, as well as its role in perpetuating social inequality.

In: Forgiveness: Philosophy, Psychology and the Arts

Anita Desai’s novel Clear Light of Day (1980) focuses on women’s experiences of family life in twentieth-century India, raising important questions about the tensions and conflicts inherent within the concept of forgiveness. My chapter analyses these ambiguities and discusses the ambivalent implications of forgiveness on the individual, familial and societal levels. Among other concerns, the novel focuses on aspects of women’s oppression, gender inequalities, and the role of the traditional family in perpetuating these. Because Bim, the protagonist, is portrayed as a strong and intelligent woman who is, in many ways, in control of her own life and her own choices, the nature and extent of her victimisation by gendered familial structures emerges only gradually throughout the narrative. Burdened by anger and bitterness, her decision at the end of the novel to forgive her family for leaving her with so much responsibility is, on one level, an emotional liberation which leaves her with a profound feeling of peace and calm. Although Bim comes to accept what has happened and what she must live with and deal with, and although she comes to recognise the destructive effects of her anger and bitterness upon herself and the people she loves, some critics have seen her act of forgiveness as a defeat, in the sense that she surrenders to self-sacrifice and self-effacement. They argue that the social criticism in the novel is undermined by the harmonious ending, while others see Bim’s adjustment to her circumstances on her own terms as both realistic and essential to her emotional stability and mental health. My own view is that the narrative powerfully dramatises the ambiguous nature of forgiveness itself, exploring its value - indeed its necessity - for individuals in some circumstances, as well as its role in perpetuating social inequality.

In: Forgiveness: Philosophy, Psychology and the Arts
The Mongol empire was founded early in the 13th century by Chinggis Khan and within the span of two generations embraced most of Asia, becoming the largest land-based state in history. The united empire lasted only until around 1260, but the major successor states continued on in the Middle East, present day Russia, Central Asia and China for generations, leaving a lasting impact - much of which was far from negative - on these areas and their peoples. The papers in this volume present new perspectives on the establishment of the Mongol empire, Mongol rule in the eastern Islamic world, Central Asia and China, and the legacy of this rule. The various authors approach these subjects from the view of political, military, social, cultural and intellectual history.

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