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Volume 36: Literature, Film and Cultural Studies

THE BELOVED PURPLE OF THEIR EYES: INHERITING BESSIE SMITH’S POLITICS OF SEXUALITY

Marta Miquel-Baldellou

Bessie Smith has traditionally been regarded as The Empress of the Blues. Armed with a potent voice and a daring performance, she became one of the first and most popular African-American artists of all time. Through the lyrics of her songs, she underlined the difficulties many African-American women underwent at the time, focusing on their sorrows, their sexuality and the relationships they established with both males and other females. The politics of gender tackled in Bessie Smith’s songs are also often repeated in novels written by canonical African-American writers such as Zora Neale Huston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Zora Neale Hurston was Bessie’s contemporary writer and met her during one of her journeys, while both Alice Walker and Toni Morrison acknowledged the influence Bessie Smith exerted over their writings. The aim of this article is to identify Bessie Smith’s politics of sexuality in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching, Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, in accordance with the new perspectives of Black Feminist Studies today.

Keywords: Black Feminism; blues; gender and sexuality; Bessie Smith; Zora Neale Hurston; Alice Walker; Toni Morrison.

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THE SUBALTERN ETHNOGRAPHER: BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES THROUGH AMITAV GHOSH’S WRITING

María Elena Martos Hueso

This study aims to interpret Amitav Ghosh’s works as an alternative positioning within the post-colonial debate. His role as an ethnographer is particularly outstanding in this respect, and I may go as far as to suggest the figure of Calcutta-born novelist Amitav Ghosh as incarnating the role of the subaltern anthropologist who is able to effectively contest the traditional discursive practices inspired by orientalist ethnography. Two parallel strategies will be used to achieve this objective: (1) turning ethnographic discourse from “a discourse that narrativizes” into “a discourse that narrates”, in the direction of Hayden White’s The Content of the Form; and (2) revitalising the “anthropological spirit” within Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as an “imagined political community”. To that purpose we will examine two relevant works in Ghosh’s early writings, The Shadow Lines (1988) and In an Antique Land (1992), as examples of the implementation of “thick description” in both literary and non-fictional texts. Ghosh’s overall strategy is to “write back to the centre” through means other than metafiction, parody or the Bakhtinian carnivalesque —i.e., strictly literary devices widely popular in current post-colonial fiction— and use the practices of contemporary anthropology —traditionally associated with Empire— in the construction of subaltern identity.

Key Words: Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Subaltern, Post-colonial

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“CIVIL WAR INSIDE MY BODY”. TWO NARRATIVES OF DYING IN CONTEMPORARY ANGLOPHONE FILM

Marta Fernández Morales

After the sexual revolution of the 1970s, death is the ultimate taboo in contemporary Western societies. It is present, yet silenced in our everyday lives. As a theme in culture, “the end” has been a leitmotiv for centuries. However, the process of dying is something feared and under-represented even today. Over the last two decades, books and films have appeared opening new debates on death and dying, palliative care, and euthanasia. This article analyzes two examples of female narratives of dying in the light of the theories of illness and death specialists like David Morris, Ira Byock or Susan Sontag, with her classic Ilness as Metaphor.

Wit offers an ironic and profound insight on the dying process of Vivian Bearing, a professor of metaphysical poetry. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in a terminal stage, she re-defines her illness as an intellectual challenge, facing it as a battle for knowledge.

The protagonist of My Life Without Me is totally different from Bearing: without a formal education, she lives in a trailer with her husband and daughters. Upon being diagnosed with metastasized ovarian cancer, she decides to make a list of “things to do” and she tries to prepare everything for “her life” to continue without her.

Keywords: death and dying, sick role, body politics, biomedical model, contemporary film

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SHAKESPEARE’S PLAUSIBLE COMMUNITY: THE FIRST ACT OF TITUS ANDRONICUS AND ITS KYDIAN PRECEDENT

Jordi Coral Escolà

This article re-examines the relationship between Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. In the past decades the original credit of these two revenge plays of the 1590s has been restored. However, their parallel rediscovery has obscured the originality of Shakespeare’s first tragedy, which is often presented as an inferior derivative of The Spanish Tragedy. As a result, the historical significance of Shakespeare’s new representation of the self in the community has been insufficiently recognized. Shakespeare assimilated the Kydian discovery of character as the product of interactive dramatic context and developed the representation of the social basis of individual identity, an identity that grows even as it reveals itself in dialogical action. The tragic expression of this revolutionary conception of selfhood is revenge. In this perspective, Titus Andronicus ceases to appear as imitative melodrama and becomes a play that reinvents tragedy for the English Renaissance.

Key Words: Elizabethan revenge tragedy, Kyd, the early Shakespeare, revenge, early modern identity.

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FOREVER YOUNG: CONSUMER CULTURE AND THE AGEING BODY IN HANIF KUREISHI’S “THE BODY”

Maricel Oró Piqueras

Contemporary British society is growing older and older. However, the blind veneration for the youthful and beautiful body, reflection of a range of good personality attributes, is becoming more and more equivocal. Whereas the industrial revolution contributed to the undermining of the social and cultural status of those reaching old age, a contemporary society based on a postmodernist ideology and consumerist culture seems to give an opportunity to those who keep the signs of age at bay from their bodies with the use and abuse of rejuvenatory products and techniques.

In this paper, I aim to analyse the contradictions existing in relation to the conceptions of the young and old body and, by extension, of youth and old age in contemporary British and contemporary Western society by analysing Hanif Kureishi’s short story “The Body.” Kureishi pushes such contradictions to an extreme by presenting a surrealist story in which a desire to remain young forever merges with the need to keep one’s sense of self and identity within a community that is increasingly changing ethics for aesthetics.

Keywords: ageing process, consumer culture, the cult of youth, external appearance, Western society.

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TOO VISIBLE: RACE, GENDER AND RESISTANCE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A CANADIAN IDENTITY IN THE POETRY OF HIMANI BANNERJI

María Laura Arce Álvarez

Canadian literature stands as an example of postcolonial writing. The literature of the Diaspora questions and reshapes basic concepts of multicultural societies like national identity, community and race. These establish a division between the white European identities accepted by the colonial governments and the others, those who in exile try to find a space to live in this new multicultural society. Canada, as a postcolonial society, is a space where different cultures and religions meet but which does not seem to fit in the definition of the Canadian individual imposed by white European cultural imperialism. Thus the others, that is, the exiled individuals, write literature to create a space suitable for their condition as immigrants and, in it, construct their own identities as ‘double-consciousness’ people. The intention of this paper is to analyze the poetry of the South-Asian Canadian writer and critic Himani Bannerji especially focusing on the use of metaphors related to race and gender in her attempt to use them as the elements that build the space and identity of the second type of individual referred to above. They are also weapons of resistance against the suffering, marginalization and subordination imposed by cultural imperialism.

Key Words: Postcolonial Literature, Canadian Poetry, Gender and Racial Studies, Social Multiculturalism.

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SE HABLA ESPAÑOL: A CERTAIN TENDENCY IN THE WESTERN FILM

Juan A. Tarancón

If, at any moment, the traditional Turnerian West thesis wavered in its assertion of the significance of the epic frontier narrative in U.S. history, the texts that followed, Hollywood’s films among them, helped solidify and perpetuate a set of values and certainties about gender, race, and land that became a synonym for United States national identity and purpose. Drawing upon these general widespread assumptions, this article examines the role and the impact of frontier narratives in the Hollywood western film. Hollywood films have not always endorsed the official version of history and they often retaliate by challenging in multiple ways the homogeneous mythical view of the frontier experience regarded as dominant and genuine. The writer argues that a number of 1950s films such as The Ride Back! (Allen H. Miner, 1957), The Bravados (Henry King, 1958) or Man from Del Rio (Harry Horner, 1956), focus on the alienation of the traditional hero and on the social tensions in the borderlands of South Texas and portray the West both as the site where the genuine U.S.-ness is to be found and, at the same time, as an empty signifier where the struggle for meaning is played out in the encounter with the other. In addition, this article explores a contemporary border narrative such as Lone Star (John Sayles, 1996) to illustrate how genre films find the mechanisms to call into question the channels that validate and sanction some discourses to the detriment of others.

Key words: Film studies, film genre, the West, identity, U.S. society, Mexico/U.S. border, Chicana/o studies, John Sayles

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THE QUEST FOR GOD IN THE NOVELS OF JOHN BANVILLE 1973-2005: A POSTMODERN SPIRITUALITY

Brendan McNamee
Lewiston, Queenson, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2006

(by Violeta Delgado Crespo. Universidad de Zaragoza)

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JEANETTE WINTERSON

Susana Onega
Manchester: Manchester U.P., Contemporay ritish Novelists, 2006.

(by Christine Reynier. Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier III)

 

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