Forthcoming Essays

TUDOR BALINISTEANU, “The Phallic Construction of Social Reality and Relationships in A. L. Kennedy’s Short Stories”

ABSTRACT:This paper analyzes two of Kennedy’s short stories in order to show how they challenge social myths conveyed in discourses that stake claims on women’s personal and social spaces. I explore the transformational possibilities engendered by Kennedy’s writing at two levels of interaction with the text: that of reading response and that of subjective identification and transformation. This leads to an analysis of the ways in which identity is conditioned by the authority that filters into the language through which one narrates oneself in his/her fantasies. At the same time, I explore the common ground shared by popular culture myths of the American West and myths of masculine authority derived from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis. The myths of the American West pioneer who conquers “virgin” territories engender the legitimacy of staking claims on material places (including women’s bodies). The myth of phallic authority stakes claims on the signification of these places.

MARK CIRINO, “Hemingway's 'Big Two-Hearted River' and the Psychology of Mental Control”

ABSTRACT: This article examines Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" as a drama of metacognition, using the tools of the psychology of mental control. Mental control concerns an individual's effort to change unpleasant thoughts or sustain productive ones. Hemingway—often considered antithetical to introspection—shows an astute understanding of this branch of psychology in his depiction of a shell-shocked veteran, Nick Adams, returning from World War I to his familiar fishing grounds in Michigan. Is Nick wise to seek refuge and solitude, or is it a self-defeating strategy? By close-reading this canonical story through the lens of the psychology of mental control, we can assess Hemingway's treatment of this issue and recontextualize the actions of Hemingway's protagonist.
CHRIS CONTI, “Nihilism Negated Narratively: The Agency of Art in The Sot-Weed Factor”
ABSTRACT: If John Barth’s first two novels reopen the wound left by the disenchantment of the world—the need for meaning amidst nihilism—then his third, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), tries to dress it. Disenchantment frees the self from the limits of custom and tradition on the one hand, but robs it of a scale of values by which to orient its conduct on the other; once all such scales are deemed equally valid and thus equally arbitrary, they can only be adhered to by the cynical, the stupid or the self-stupefied. In a climate of confused values, the impostor emerges as the hero of the post-heroic age. Barth’s early work was coupled with the existentialism at large in the 1950s and the paradoxical quest for myth in demythologized modernity. The new myth centres on the self, at once ontologically empty and mimetically full. The agency of narrative art in Sot-Weed is quixotic, or so I contend in this paper.
MARGARET E. TOYE, “The Promise and the Apology: Speech-Acts, Ethics, and Reading in Mavis Gallant’s ‘The Pegnitz Junction’”
ABSTRACT: In her novella “The Pegnitz Junction,” Mavis Gallant attempts to understand the roots of fascism in Nazi Germany, serving as an ethical witness to this event. Employing allegory and exploring nuances in language, Gallant investigates these world historical events through attention to the “every day.” However, I argue that an analysis of the text in terms of the status of its speech-acts, particularly in terms of the explicit performatives of the promise and the apology, is crucial for understanding the complexity of Gallant’s narrative, which reveals a situation in which language and relationships are increasingly degrading and promises and apologies are made but not fulfilled. In an otherwise dismal situation, Gallant offers a kernel of hope through attention to the repeated speech-act of the command to “read!” Consequently, Gallant’s readers feel her demand that they read both her text and the text of history in a careful and ethical manner.

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