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Focus on Nigeria

Literature and Culture

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Edited by Gordon Collier

This issue of Matatu offers cutting-edge studies of contemporary Nigerian literature, a selection of short fiction and poetry, and a range of essays on various themes of political, artistic, socio-linguistic, and sociological interest. Contributions on theatre focus on the fool as dramatic character and on the feminist theatre of exclusion (Tracie Uto-Ezeajugh). Several essays examine the poetry of Hope Eghagha and the Delta writer Tanure Ojaide. Studies of the prose fiction of Chinua Achebe, Tayo Olafioye, Uwem Akpan, and Chimamanda Adichie are complemented by a searching exposé of the exploitation of Ayi Kwei Armah on the part of the metropolitan publishing world and by a recent interview with the poet Jumoko Verissimo. Traditional culture is considered in articles on historical sites in Ile-Ife, witchcraft in Etsako warfare, and the Awonmili women’s collective in Awka. Linguistically oriented studies consider political speeches, drug advertising, and Yoruba anthroponyms. Performance-focused essays focus on Emirate court spectacle (durbar), Yoruba drum poetry in contemporary media, gospel music, indigenization and islamization of military music, and the role of the filmmaker. Contributions of broader relevance deal with Islamic components of Nigerian culture, the decline of the educational system, and the socio-economic impact of acquisitive culture.

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Edited by Christopher Balme and Gordon Collier

During the same period in which Derek Walcott was pouring immense physical, emotional, and logistical resources into the foundation of a viable first-rate West Indian theatre company and continuing to write his inimitable poetry, he was also busy writing newspaper reviews, chiefly for the Trinidad Guardian. His prodigious reviewing activity extended far beyond those areas with which one might most readily associate his interests and convictions. As Gordon Rohlehr once presciently observed, “If one wants to see a quotidian workaday Walcott, one should go back to [his] well over five hundred articles, essays and reviews on painting, cinema, calypso, carnival, drama and literature,” articles which “reveal a rich, various, witty and scrupulous intelligence in which generous humour counterpoints acerbity.” These articles capture the vitality of Caribbean culture and shed additional light on the aesthetic preoccupations expressed in Walcott’s essays published in journals. The editors have examined the corpus of Walcott’s journalistic activity from its beginnings in 1950 to its peak in the early 1970s, and have made a generous selection of material from the Guardian, along with occasional pieces from such sources as Public Opinion (Kingston) and The Voice of St. Lucia (Castries). The articles in Volume 2 are organized as follows: the performing arts; general surveys of anglophone Caribbean drama, theatre, and society; festivals, theatre companies, and productions; British and American drama; dance and music theatre; Carnival and calypso; and cinema screenings in Trinidad. Volume 2 additionally contains an exhaustive annotated and cross-referenced chronological bibliography of Walcott’s journalism up to 1990. The co-editor Christopher Balme has written a searching introductory essay on a central theme – here, a survey of West Indian theatre and Walcott’s engagement with it, particularly the idea of a ‘National Theatre’, coupled with an illustrative discussion of the playwright’s seminal dramatic spectacle Drums and Colours.

Exhibited by Candlelight

Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition

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Edited by Valeria Tinkler-Villani, Peter Davidson and Jane Stevenson

Exhibited by Candlelight: Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition focuses on a number of strands in the Gothic. The first is Gothic as a way of looking. Paintings used as reference points, tableaux, or the Hammer Studios' visualizations of Dracula present ways of seeing which are suggestive and allow the interplay of primarily sexual passions. Continuity with the past is a further strand which enables us to explore how the sources of the Gothic are connected with the origin of existence and of history, both individual and general. Here, the Gothic offers a voice for writers whose perceptions do not fit into those of the dominant group, which makes them sensitive both to psychological and social gaps. This leads to an exploration of the very idea of sources and an attempt to bridge the gaps, as can be observed in the variety of epithets used to clarify the ways that Gothic works, ranging from heroic gothic to porno-gothic. This takes the reader to the main core of Gothic: a genre which is always ready to admit new forms of the unreal to enter and change whatever has become mainstream literature, and a way of reading and a mode profoundly affecting the reading experience. The Gothic mode cultivates its wicked ways in literature, working through it as a leavening yeast.

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Edited by Bouwe Postmus

The crown upon the continuing vitality and popularity of Gissing studies in the final decade of the twentieth century was the publication of The Collected Letters of George Gissing (1990-97). The editors of that mammoth undertaking, Paul Mattheisen, Arthur Young and Pierre Coustillas, had long been an inspiration to the younger generation of Gissing scholars, and their presence at the International George Gissing Conference at Amsterdam in September 1999 explained the success of the encounter between Gissing’s older and younger critics.
Ever since the reappraisal of Gissing’s works began to get under way in the early 1960s through the publication of many new editions of the works and ground-breaking critical studies by Arthur Young, Jacob Korg and Pierre Coustillas, it has become impossible to ignore the high status he now enjoys by rights, which resembles the position granted to him long ago by his contemporaries, as one of the leading English novelists of the late nineteenth century.
This collection of essays is remarkable for its emphasis on women’s issues addressed in Gissing’s novels, ranging from the inadequate education of women to the struggle for greater female independence, within and without marriage. Several contributors seek to define the precise nature and quality of Gissing’s achievement and his place in the canon and, in the process, they open up fascinating, new opportunities for future research.

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Mª Lourdes López Ropero

This chapter traces the motif of the female flâneur in a selection of autobiographical works by Janet Frame and Doris Lessing set in the 1950s, the 1960s and contemporary London. It argues that flânery has not only allowed Frame and Lessing to assert their visibility in the modern city as women and as authors, but has provided them with rich materials for their writing. My analysis emphasises the impact of their colonial background on their urban visions, an issue which has been overlooked or inadequately emphasised in recent flâneur scholarship.

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Anne-Marie Evans

Edith Wharton was eager to follow Henry James’s advice when he famously suggested she “Do New York” in 1902, and the result of her subsequent endeavours was The House of Mirth (1905). This chapter considers the function of forms of space in Wharton’s text, and draws on the work of economist Thorstein Veblen, author of the seminal The Theory of the Leisure Class: an Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions (1899). By re-reading The House of Mirth in terms of the consumer politics of the Gilded Age, and analysing how the central protagonist Lily Bart is able to manipulate areas of public space, it is possible to explore how women are consistently relegated to the status of products for male consumption. Wharton’s scathing critique of the leisure class, exemplified through Lily’s hazardous journey from attractive product to impoverished producer, illustrates the narrow options available to the single woman of the time. By exploring the utilisation of consumerism and the use of different forms of space in Wharton’s bestseller, this analysis intends to understand better the changing role of women within a materialist-centred culture.

In Words and Deeds

The Spectacle of Incest in English Renaissance Tragedy

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Zenón Luis-Martínez

Departing from earlier studies which regarded incest as a literary topos or dramatic metaphor foregrounding political, social, or legal issues, Words and Deeds: The Spectacle of Incest in English Renaissance Tragedy argues that the presence of incest on the Renaissance stage is a strategy for the enactment of the spectator’s tragic experience. Incest is explored neither as a sin nor as a crime, but as an “unspeakable” experience filtered through dramatic words and deeds. The incitement of desire, visual pleasure, and unconscious fantasy, as well as traumatic rejection, pain, and horror, are all aspects of this paradoxical and uncanny experience. Aristotelian theory of tragedy, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Michel Foucault’s notions of the deployment of sexuality and alliance, concur in the analysis of plays where incest is a central or a secondary motif – Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Beaumont and Fletcher’s Cupid’s Revenge, Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi – and others where incest is an effect of language and mise-en-scène – Sackville and Norton’s Gorboduc, Shakespeare’s King Lear. The variety of topics and the combination of critical perspectives makes In Words and Deeds an attractive book for students and teachers of Renaissance drama, as well as for those with a special interest in psychoanalytic and other new theoretical approaches to the literary text.

Macbeth Multiplied

Negotiating Historical and Medial Difference Between Shakespeare and Verdi

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Christoph Clausen

In what sense did Shakespeare’s representation of the Weird Sisters participate in the rewriting of village witchcraft? Was it likely to “encourage the Sword”? Did opera’s specific medial conditions offer Verdi special opportunities to justify the presence of stage witches more than three centuries later? How valid is the parallel between 19th century opera and the voyeurism of madhouse spectacle? Was Shakespeare’s play really engaged in the project of exorcizing Queen Elizabeth’s cultural memory? What does Verdi’s chorus of Scottish refugees have to do with shifting representations of ‘the people’?
These are among the questions tackled in this study. It provides the first in-depth comparison of Shakespeare’s and Verdi’s Macbeth that is written expressly from the perspective of current Shakespearean criticism whilst striving to do justice to the topic’s musicological dimension at the same time. Exploring to what extent the play’s matrix of possible readings is distinct from Verdi’s two operatic versions, the book seeks to relate such differences both to the historical contexts of the works’ geneses and to their respective medial conditions. In doing so, it pays particular attention to shifting negotiations of witchcraft, gender, madness, and kingship. The study eventually broadens its discussion to consider other Shakespearean plays and their operatic offshoots, reflecting on some possible relations between historical and medial difference.

From Princes to Pages

The Literary Lives of Cardinal Wolsey, Tudor England’s ‘Other King’

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Gavin E. Schwartz-Leeper

In From Princes to Pages, Gavin Schwartz-Leeper provides a wide-ranging assessment of early modern literary characterizations of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief minister from 1515-1529. Called the ‘other king’, Wolsey became a contested symbol of the English Reformation through diverse literary depictions that demonstrate the transformative pressures of this complex period.

The author traces the development of these characterizations from the satires of John Skelton to Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII, and offers new considerations of canonical and lesser-known texts by George Cavendish, John Foxe, and Raphael Holinshed. This study brings together multidisciplinary analyses to demonstrate how Wolsey’s literary lives reveal much about the contemporary shaping of this period, and argues for new ways to understand uses of the past in early modern England.