BARRY, “Black Holes, Graveyards, and the Gravitational
Force of What's Below: Mason’s In Country”
ABSTRACT: While critics of Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country have pointed out that its main character, Samantha Hughes, learns to doubt official histories and to trust accounts from the margins, they have not emphasized the preponderance of symbols that stubbornly point to the same traumatic events, resistant to reinterpretation. Whether the symbols are read by readers or by characters themselves, the bugs and birds of the text stand in for the experience of warfare, and chickens are likely to evoke dead babies killed in war. A black hole lurks beneath these symbols and beneath therapeutic talking cures, but it’s a hole of overdeterminacy rather than indeterminacy. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial might seem to be different from the text’s other symbols, since the symbol itself, rather than its underlying meaning, exerts centripetal force. But even here we find not some array of unpredictable meanings but grief and terror and confrontation with death.RUTH CUMBERLAND, “Inscribed Bodies: The Cruel Mirage of Imperialistic Idealism in Kafka’s ‘Penal Colony’”
ABSTRACT: This article is concerned with Franz Kafka’s interest in power and politics and its enactment in the penal system during the modernist period. “In the Penal Colony” (1914) is a text that prosecutes a subversive politics of criminality and judgment using a colonial context to explore metaphorically the broader implications of rigid subservience to ideology. Utilizing Michel Foucault’s philosophical ideas on knowledge and power, this paper argues that Kafka’s fiction is socially dissident in that it interrogates the extent to which an individual is controlled by hegemonic discourses that are, as such, bound to their own demise. Ideology, Kafka shows, is cyclical and always requires a colonized “other.” Thus, to apply belief systems without thought is to pre-empt one’s own destruction.
KATERINA KITSI-MITAKOU, “Narratives of Absolutism in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park”
ABSTRACT: This essay proposes that Austen’s Mansfield Park delves boldly into schemas of absolutism, past, present and future. Hobbes’s seventeenth-century Leviathan is proposed as an exemplary model for ruling, while its application to the domestic sphere anticipates the return of this pattern in twentieth-century Oedipal narratives. Moreover, the novel’s adoption of the eighteenth-century Humean perspective complicates Austen’s return to older political discourses and adds fresh insight to her reading of more liberal pact theories. Mansfield Park scoffs at Lockean or Rousseauist perceptions of a democratic model society willingly signing the social contract and insists that the social pact is a pact of submission to an absolute power out of fear. Although this return to older political discourses is acknowledged as the only operative mechanism, however, Mansfield Park does not settle unreservedly in favor of absolutism, but challenges it seriously through the subversive voices in the novel.HANNAH LAVERY, “The Development of the Later English Restoration Impotency Poems”
ABSTRACT: The English impotency poem tradition enjoyed a boom in the years immediately following the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne. Poems by Etherege, Rochester, and Behn respond intertextually to each other and to antecedent French impotency texts, produced earlier in the sixteenth century. However, there are also a number of anonymous English impotency poems produced in response to this boom. These later texts are apparently more “propagandist” than earlier impotency poems, bringing to the fore the satirical potential within the form and able to address a wider audience through their inclusion in poetry collections. Through analysis of the development of these later, anonymous, Restoration impotency poems we are better able to understand the genre itself and the context for the renewed interest in impotency poetry during the reign of Charles II.