Deconstructing Culture/Violence in Distant Star and By Night in Chile

Mandeep Boro

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Ettimadai Email:

 Volume 10, Number 1, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n1.07

Received September 27, 2017; Revised December 11, 2017; Accepted December 30, 2017; Published February 04, 2018.


In Roberto Bolaño’s Distant Star (1996), Carlos Wieder embarks on a journey to change the landscape of Chilean literature. Yet it is through physical torture, murder, violence and photographic exhibitions of mutilated dead bodies that he seeks to bring in the literary transformation. He is a poet but also a professional serial killer. Funded by dictatorial regime his poetic acts include writing macabre verses with smokes of airplane in the sky. In another novella By Night in Chile (2000) by the same author, intellectuals organize tertulias to discuss philosophy, politics, poetry, art while the military junta torture people in the basement of the same building. Thus, culture and violence overlap in these texts and they lead to the problematic core of our understanding/conceptualization of literary culture as the stories told in these narratives put the literary institutions in crisis mode and blur the line between what is called culture and violence. This paper explores these issues and argues that the Bolañian novels by narrating such stories surpass the limits of the law, transgress, devalue the traditional notion of literature and completely strip it off its aura by enmeshing arts and violence together. They thus deconstruct the popular myths related to literary culture.

Keywords: Roberto Bolaño, literature, culture, violence.

Defining the Japanese Gaze on India in Postwar Fiction: Analysis of Mishima Yukio’s Hojo no Umi

Lakshmi M.V.

Jawaharlal Nehru University. Orcid: Email:

Volume IX, Number 3, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n3.15

Received July 26, 2017; Revised September 11, 2017; Accepted September 18, 2017; Published September 20,  2017.


This paper attempts to bring to light the fictional portrayal of India in a work of postwar Japanese novel-H?j? no Umi (Sea of Fertility), 1970, which paved the way for other works of contemporary Japanese fiction to follow a similar model of depiction of India, such as Fukai Kawa (Deep River) by Endo Sh?saku, 1993. The images employed by the author Mishima Yukio in the novel H?j? no Umi are instrumental in painting a picture of India in not just the eyes of readers of the novel, but also in the minds of contemporary Japanese writers. The paper illustrates the significance of the novel in providing the framework of motifs that are employed to portray India in fiction, through the many images used by the author, which influenced later fictional representations of India, as described above.

Keywords: India, Image, Literature, Mishima Yukio, postwar

The Schizoids and Daydreamers in Cyberspace

Azam Dashti Khavidaki, Shahid Beheshti University


This paper embarks on an interdisciplinary study of the novel A Scanner Darkly and cyberspace to explain the human tendency for the realm of dream and imagination. It draws upon Ernest Becker’s death terror theory and discusses human’s basic fear of death and his seeking and clinging to various means to overcome it. One of the human’s mechanisms for self-defense to get over the reality of death is plunging into the realm of imagination and that of infinite fantasy; cyberspace is a systematic form of day dreaming and fantasy. The article shows how characters in the death-stricken world of A Scanner Darkly marred by the presence of computers, scramble suits and scanners manifest a strong tendency for the realm of fantasy and active daydreaming; in addition, it explains that this tendency exists to overcome their basic disguised anxiety, i.e. the fear of death. It draws an analogy between characters and Internet users’ behavior in the novel and cyberspace; and discusses how infinite realms of daydreaming and fantasy evoked by virtual reality touch a latent tendency of schizoid characteristics in humans.

Keywords: A Scanner Darkly, Becker, Cyberspace, Death terror, Daydreaming, Infinitude, Schizoid characteristic.


“There is no point identifying the world. Things have to be grasped in their sleep, or in any other circumstance where they are absent from themselves.”

(Baudrillard, 2002, p. 6)

The contemporary world is the age of simulated realities extended to everyday life (Baudrillard, 1988). The online and offline worlds have merged and add to the slippery quality of reality. Hardly can one estimate their impact on a new generation of lifestyle and perception; one can only make concessions that the digital age is unpredictable and still unexplored.

Philip K Dick, the canonical writer of the digital age, is the creator of alternative forms of realities (Kucukalic, 2006, p.1).Dick’s concerns in all his novels revolve around one issue, the question of reality; in his search for “alternative mental life”, he develops schizophrenic characters in his novels and “re-considers the labels and attitudes toward alternative perceptions of reality (Kucukalic, 2006, p.49).

In the novel A Scanner Darkly, he draws the reader’s attention to the role of technology and its effects on the protagonist’s mentality. He envisages a human being whose perception and sense of integrity are shattered by his digital sides, the multitude of faces and of appearances. The altered mentality is the quality that all characters perceive. Characters suffer from anxiety, depression and hallucination; they often lose the sense of time and place, and in the search for improvement in their condition, they manifest active daydreaming. In fact, characters partly intentionally and partly unwittingly, leave the realm of reality and find some sort of abandon and release in the realm of dreams.

Ernest Becker believes that these behavioral tendencies are more or less universal human problems, and that they are part of a massive disguise of humans’ fundamental fear and anxiety (Becker, 1973, p.8). He calls human beings animals with instincts and gods with power of perception and imagination. Sartre ascribes a “useless passion” to man since “he hopelessly always bungles up, so deluded about his true condition”. He continues to say about man that “he wants to be a god with only the equipment of an animal and so he thrives on fantasies” (Becker, 1973, p.59).

Thus, humans with such power and the ability to predict the inevitable death have to find some way out, anxious about this imminent fate, suffering from the overhanging black cloud of death constantly. The realm of dreams is a way out of this reality. Daydreaming is a way out, and nowadays cyberspace has provided systematic grounds for daydreaming and fantasy in a world with the quality of infinitude, free of time, place, gender and aging, and all other offline world limitations, but infinite possibility is dangerous and opens a threshold to low or medium levels of schizoid characteristics.

This anxiety later in life finds manifold manifestations and is the cause of other psychological ills. Humans suppress this sense of insecurity and apparently get over it, otherwise they cannot keep on with normal life; however, the truth keeps lurking vividly behind the scenes. Man, meanwhile, unconsciously employs various means such as accumulating wealth, striving to stand out, seeking a wide net of protections and joining groups to think no more of this insecurity; the realm of dream and imagination is also one of these ways out, and perhaps a related one.

Bob Arctor, the protagonist, is a narcotic agent who has to put on the Scramble suit, an inventive piece of clothing which hides the wearer’s appearance entirely, the color of his hair and eyes, and even his voice; he gets the code name Fred for his new appearance. Other police members also have to use this suit to hide their identity and protect themselves against drug dealers. But this digital suit, apart from other evils, inflicts serious damage to Bob Arctor’s perception of reality and leads him to confuse reality with unreality.

During the course of the novel, Bob Arctor, the protagonist in the scramble suits or digital dresses, manifests a range of schizoid traits. Scramble suits which change the character’s appearance altogether and give him a virtual identity unwittingly affect this mentality. Holo-scanners, computer-like high techs, affect the protagonist’s mentality even further and change the atmosphere of the novel into more of a simulated reality….Access Full Text of the Article

Metachronotopy and Transcultural Ideals: Insights into the Poetic Art of Eminescu and Tagore

Ramona L. Ceciu, Jadavpur University, Kolkata


This paper delves into the Romanian and Indian (Bengali) literatures to discover the concept of self in poetic art in relation to nature and divinity, keeping in the spotlight two major literary figures belonging to these different cultures: Mihai Eminescu and Rabindranath Tagore. I roughly argue firstly that the authors and their works embody metachronotopic entities that enable points of convergence and divergence, as well as varied articulations of ‘reality’, and secondly that ‘some self of Eminescu’ and ‘some self of Tagore’ meet into a ‘global cultural unconscious’ from where intriguing revelations emerge. I illustrate these instances of emergence by comparative critical analysis of their works, fragments of their lives and ‘selves’.

[Keywords: Tagore, Eminescu, Indian literature, Romanian poetry, self, nature, divinity]

  1. Introduction

In all cultures, the concepts of art, nature and divinity take shape in relation to the self – be it the human and ‘empirical’ or the transcendental selves – in different degrees. This study intends to review the concept of self – the authorial/ poetic and ‘empirical’ selves – in the Romanian and Indian (Bengali) cultures, keeping a main focus on the works of two major poets: Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Hopefully it will unravel some literary relations between these two cultures, common aspects of their imagistic worlds and their distinctions, but it will equally emphasize the differences and the uniqueness of the two authors and their poetic selves. Though there are innumerable perspectives that may be extremely revealing if analyzed in comparative fashion, I chose to focus on the self in relation to ‘nature’ and ‘the divine’ because among other aspects, acknowledged or not, they stand for integral dimensions of the human life. Moreover, they effusively populate the oeuvres of both Eminescu and Tagore, and in today’s world these concepts face serious challenges due to the actual ‘modern’ living as well as new discourses that render them more complex. All human beings experience these aspects of life in varied forms irrespective of their nationality or social customs, but each society imposes on people distinct patterns of cognition and manifestation of their experiences and the distinction between these two needs clear emphasis.

I argue, firstly that the authors and their works embody metachronotopic entities that enable points of convergence and divergence, as well as varied articulations of ‘reality’ and cognition and poetic art. Secondly, ‘some self’ of Eminescu and ‘some self’ of Tagore meet into a ‘global cultural unconscious’ from where intriguing revelations emerge. Thus, each “empirical self”[i] of the authors’ oeuvres represents concrete reflections of their ‘actual selves’ and their ‘lived’ experiences. Moreover, even though the two litterateurs under scrutiny belong to different chronotopic and cultural coordinates, ‘some self’ of Eminescu has met somewhere ‘some self’ of Tagore. Life is in itself a Text that cannot be deconstructed easily (a lived and living Text) and these ‘some’ and ‘somewhere’ are by themselves entities (even ‘empirical selves’) that depend highly on hermeneutical practice, as well as on the readers’ comprehension of the authors’ literary and lived Texts. I further the argument by maintaining that in general between the authors, their inspirations and their texts, multiple dialogical interactions generate complex and multifaceted selves that outlast the authorial beings in/ as different ‘alien’ contexts and metachronotopic entities. Elsewhere, I explained that “the ‘chronotope [Mikhail Bakhtin] of a given literary/ visual Text artistically expressing the intrinsic time-space matrix at the moment of its creation may be combined with the time-space matrix at the moment of its exhibition and reception, as well as with other works existing independently of, yet (in)directly, referring to it. All these can be seen as interconnected in a ‘real’ (lived) chronotope, which may be defined as a kind of metachronotope. This implies a “dialogic” encounter between the text and its contexts at different points in the course of a given work’s existence. It also suggests ‘an excess of seeing’ [Bakhtin]” on the part of the view-reader’s experience of ‘reading’ the text (Ceciu, “The Architectonics of Corporeal and Textual Selves…” 2013).

Tagore’s Bengali G?t?njal? and other works serve as appealing poetic-spaces for the ‘meeting’ of various concepts – divinity, nature, art, death etc. – and the metachronotopic entities ensued by them. The present paper will delve into Tagore’s poetic art to untangle significant metaphors, to draw comparisons with Eminescu’s writings, and to offer insights into the artistry of the two authors.[ii]

  1. Insights into the Poetic Selves, Cultures and Art

Mihai Eminescu – though having ‘journeyed’ for a very short time span in this world, for only 39 years – managed to create an oeuvre that would last forever in the cultural treasure of Romania, as a rare essence containing the whole spectrum of aromas specific to the spirit of the people inhabiting the ancient land of Dacia, specifically the space within and around the Carpathian Arch, bordered by the lower Danube and the Black Sea. Born in Moldova County, Eminescu became an icon of the Romanian culture the way Tagore was an icon of the Bengali culture. The tragic death of Eminescu, in a psychiatry ward where he had been admitted with depressive psychosis, in the full bloom of his life, stopped the author from gifting his culture with a vaster treasure of ideas and philosophical views, which may have provided the contemporary critics with clearer cues about his principles and personality. Being hailed as “the star of universal spirituality” and “the unmatched poet” during the communist era, after 1989 the poet came under the scrutiny of the literary and cultural criticism that had since then split into two camps, pros and cons. As he never kept a diary and his existence abounded in controversy and inconsistency, all critics had a partial understanding of his persona, which at times seemingly contradicted the content of his writings. Irrespective of all such controversies, the literary work of Eminescu speaks for itself: it is wonderful in its tonal, intellectual, philosophical, emotional, musical, aesthetic variations and concerns that cannot be easily defined or classified. In this sense, Constantin Noica (1909-1987) declared:

“at this moment, Eminescu is not to be critically judged by us, he is to be somehow assimilated as a cultural consciousness larger than ours – considering that his work ranges from folklore to positive sciences -, this way improving our consciousness or maybe that pang of conscience belonging to every intellectual who can grasp his infiniteness by synthesis itself.” (Junona Tutunea, trans.)[iii]

Bernard Shaw considered that “Eminescu’s music matches the music of Berlioz and the palette of Delacroix”, while the Romanian poet Tudor Arghezi called him “the Beethoven of Romanian language”. K. Gajendra Singh described Eminescu as “Romania’s all-time great poet, novelist and journalist… – a sort of Ghalib and Tagore rolled into one” (2011).

         At the end of nineteenth century, Mihai Eminescu published his first Poezii (Poems, 1883) and marked a new era in Romanian literature. Along with Vasile Alecsandri, Eminescu became the most published Romanian author of the fin-de-siècle, drawing his inspiration from the Romanian popular culture, traditions and folklore, philosophy, mythology and his understanding of life itself. At the same time, concepts of cosmogony rooted in other European cultures, Asian philosophies, especially Indian, along with Latin, Greek and Dacian myths among others, can be identified throughout his literary works. His oeuvre incorporates all culturally specific myths and symbols, some included in this investigation. Although the actual lives of Eminescu and Tagore were different and the two poets were not fated to meet in this life, their writings contain the unique vision that only great poets and artists are gifted with, embodied in exceptional panoply of expressions, feelings, experiences and aesthetic sensibilities.

[i] Concept coined by William James to refer to the Self that “may be known” and includes all that a person is and does, one’s work, relations etc.

[ii] I have translated myself from Romanian and Bengali into English all passages and verses quoted in this article, except some cases where I mention the translators.

[iii] ‘Contantin Noica: Eminescu or Some Considerations on Total Mind in Romanian Culture’ translated by Junona Tutunea.…Access Full Text of the Article

Sexual Psychology in Theodore Sturgeon’s Fiction

David Layton, DeVry University


Many critics have mentioned the importance of Theodore Sturgeon to the history of science fiction, but his work has not received enough academic critical attention. One probable reason for the praise Sturgeon’s work receives, especially from fellow writers, is his candid portrayal of the psychology of male sexual desire. Sturgeon focuses on three specific aspects of male sexuality: the sexual charge of being needed by a woman, the overwhelming power of male sexual urges, and the importance of chance encounters to create the spark igniting a sexual conflagration in men. Sturgeon’s candor about how male sexual desires feel sets him apart from his contemporaries and provides a major reason for the appreciation he receives as a writer.

Theodore Sturgeon’s name is one of those most cited in lists of the writers of science fiction’s “Golden Age.” Many consider him the best “Golden Age” author, mainly because he concentrated less on scientific hardware and more on character interaction than did his contemporaries. A moralistic and romantic writer, his major themes were tolerance for otherness of all kinds and concern that many social problems were results of repressed sexuality. He was among the first American science fiction writers to write plausibly about sex, homosexuality, race, and religion. Because of this, he has sometimes been accused of writing pornography by those who prefer their science fiction in the standard starched-collar puritan mode. In reality, Sturgeon is among the first to turn American science fiction into a fiction for mature, thinking adults, as his influence on writers including Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Samuel Delany attests.

Indeed, the praise for Sturgeon’s writing is directly proportional to the lack of critical attention paid to his writing. Probably no author so highly regarded has received so little genuine critical assessment. The praise is often effusive, and mostly coming from fellow science-fiction writers. Norman Spinrad(1990) says of Sturgeon that he is “probably the finest short story writer the SF genre has produced, and arguably the finest American short story writer of the post-World War II era” (p. 167). Encomiums nearly this strong have come from Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and Samuel Delany. Others, such as Brian Aldiss and Barry Malzberg, though not as wowed with Sturgeon’s style, still admit that Sturgeon is essential to understanding the development of science fiction.

What is there precisely in Sturgeon’s writing that garners him such praise and loyalty from other writers in the science fiction field? A key to answering this question may be in the way Sturgeon handles characters, especially male characters. Even when Sturgeon’s characters fit the stereotypes of the markets in which he published, there was usually some dimension beyond the stereotypes, something that made the characters seem like real people and not idealized or cartoon people. Brian Aldiss(1988) has noted Sturgeon’s concern for the underdog, and in particular his rejection of “the dangerous cult of the superman” (p. 226). Aldiss notes Sturgeon’s “interest in the psychology and oddity of human beings” (p. 219), but Sturgeon’s peculiar interest is in the odd psychology of human beings.

An example of this interest in odd psychology is in the way Sturgeon writes about male psychology. Sturgeon’s presentation of sex through the psychology of sex sets him apart from other science-fiction writers of his generation. Sturgeon avoids the “peek-a-boo” prurience of many lesser authors. Other writers of his time often write around the subject even when they try to write about it. Sturgeon also usually avoids the moralizing lecture approach to the subject that Heinlein mistakes for honesty about sex. When Sturgeon writes about sex, he often appears not to be, because titillation, mechanics, and conventional morality in sexual matters do not interest him as a writer. Sturgeon’s subject is the perception and feeling of the man whose mind has been taken over by the sexual imperative.

A running theme in his fiction involves men who find themselves needed by women. Sturgeon twists the “damsel in distress” scenario a little because in his fiction the woman is not the prize. Instead, the psychological driver is being needed. Sturgeon realizes what a potent sexual stimulus being needed by a woman can be. One sees this in “Ghost of a Chance” (1943), in which a man feels compelled to help a woman he has never before met because she proclaims that “something” is after her. She slaps him when he tries to help, and this brings upon him a terrible fascination with her. After a second, humorously painful encounter with her, Gus the protagonist and narrator is hooked. He finds her and finding her cements the sexual bond between them. The driving force for this modern mating dance is that a jealous ghost is smitten with her and attacks any man with whom she becomes even remotely close. Of course, the ghost does terrible things to Gus before he finally figures out how to get rid of it. The question for the reader is this: what drives Gus to emotional extreme and nearly total devotion to a woman with whom he has had only a few brief conversations? It is that he thinks he can do something for her and makes himself determined to do it.

Writing for a popular magazine in the 1940s, Sturgeon could in “Ghost of a Chance” bring the reader only up to a quick view of this aspect of male sexual psychology. Ten years later, Sturgeon had much more room to give the reader a good, hard look at it. In “Bright Segment” (1955), Sturgeon takes a much more graphic and physical approach to this concern. In this story, Sturgeon makes explicit the psychological power of being needed. However, he removes most of the popular fiction-writing encumbrances that prevented a full view of it in “Ghost of a Chance.” In “Bright Segment,” the protagonist is like Gus a man of limited intelligence and no obvious sexual appeal. However, while Gus was just a kind of normal guy, the unnamed protagonist of “Bright Segment” is mentally retarded and physically repulsive, being called an “orangutan.” Like Gus, he encounters an unknown woman in distress late at night. Unlike Iola’s problem in “Ghost of a Chance,” this woman’s problem is neither at a remove nor supernatural – she has been wounded in a mob deal gone badly wrong.

The major and important difference in “Bright Segment” is how this reduction to fundamentals brings out hitherto unknown dimensions to the psychology of male need. Slashed with a razor from groin to throat and dumped out of a car, the woman is insensible and dying when the protagonist first finds her. Sturgeon in this story ups the stakes in terms of desperation, but also carefully avoids explaining the context for what is going on. This has much to do with the protagonist, whose limited intelligence means that he can fix his mind to only one thing at a time.

For the first part of the story, the reader is left bewildered as to what precisely the protagonist is doing with this bleeding woman. Did he attack her? Is he trying to hide the body? After he dumps her onto the bed, is he going to do something perverse? The limited third person point of view works against the reader, who is desperate to find motivation for this man. Yet, it turns out that none of the above questions is true. Instead, this man’s limited intelligence presents a different sort of motivation. He is desperate to be needed, a point driven home several times in the story. He sees in this woman’s situation an opportunity to do the only thing he knows how to do well: “fix it right.” So, he sets out not to abuse the woman, but using nothing other than his handyman skills and the tools in his apartment, to operate on her and save her life.

Sturgeon has freed the issue of “need” from the sexuality of the character, and thus it more intimately reflects on the sexuality of the male reader. That sex is not a motivation for this man is made clear when weeks after the operation, the recuperating woman offers him sex as a “thank you” only to be firmly rejected. His pleasure is not in being wanted, but in being needed. This difference gets revealed late in the story, so that in the earlier parts, the reader fills in what would seem to be “normal” motivation. This technique is particularly strong in the beginning of the story, which describes the operation in quite some detail. The protagonist must undress the woman, must cut away the brassiere and silken panties, must work up close for quite a long time at the open wound in her groin. Sturgeon has brought the matter to the level of touch in this story; whereas, in “Ghost of a Chance” the two principle characters interact mostly through the more distant sense of sight…Access Full Text of the Article

Resisting Biopolitics through “Diaphanous Wonder”: Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (2003)

Doro Wiese, Utrecht University


In Gould’s Book of Fish (2003), author Richard Flanagan manages to invent a format in which content and style account for historical events on Sarah Island, Tasmania in the 1820s, yet he does so in a manner that is not in the least objective, disinterested or fact-orientated. The perspective of Gould’s Book of Fish’s (Flanagan, 2003) first-person narrator is highly subjective, usually unreliable and always less than truthful. Flanagan (2003) thereby shows that literature can provide a form of knowledge that differs from historical truth, but without being its dialectical opposite. Literature can construct a non-referential narrative space in which experiences unfold that hardly unimaginable. Literature can show the urge and desire to understand historical events that are terrible to relate to. It can invent a story that can account for the consequences of a violent colonial system. Yet, above all, the novel stresses a desire to render stories of unspeakable horrors through what can be call the “becoming-fish” of its first-person narrator. This desire expresses a hyperbolic love of each and everyone, one which extends so far as to even include all the other wonders of this world in its account too. By depicting convicts and natives as loving and lovable persons, author Richard Flanagan (2003) refrains from reducing them to the colonial conditions in which they were caught up. He thereby offers a point of view that differs from Giorgio Agamben’s (1998) highly influential account of “bare life.” I will take this perspective, in which life and its conditions cannot be lumped together, as a point of departure from which to criticise Agamben’s (1998) transhistorical and transnational account of biopolitical determinations of life.

[Key words: Richard Flanagan, Gould’s Book of Fish, Tasmania, colonization, convict-system, Agamben, bare life, aesthetics, resistance]

Gould’s Book of Fish, a novel by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan (2003), is set during the early days of Britain’s colonisation of Tasmania in the 1820s and used the unreliable narrative voice of inmate William Buelow Gould, a prisoner who lived in the institution from 1829-33. Though based on documented historical occurrences and persons, the narrative relies heavily on metafictional devices to comment on its own constructed nature and uses the voice of the main character to express a distinct view of historical events. Specifically, the first-person narrative voice of the protagonist is used to portray historical events in a distorted and idiosyncratic manner, speaking to and reflecting the distortions and biopolitical control imposed upon on people by brutal and genocidal colonial systems, as occurred in Tasmania, and where the experiences of those under that brutality have been silenced. This novel manifests the fundamental need to tell the story that has been untold or silenced. In the novel this need is manifested in Gould’s desire to tell the story of a fish – an animal that is, by human standards, voiceless.

The novel’s narrator undergoes significant perspective transformations which allow him to be affected by a hyperbolic, generalized love for everyone and everything in the whole world, which can be identified with Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) concept of “becomings”. These becomings are important to analyse because the love that they bring about is not only central to the novel’s vision of life, it also is central to the important shift of perspective presented by the novel. This love will also be the counterpoint for examining Agamben’s (1998) highly influential notion of ‘bare life,’ which was introduced and expounded upon in his work Homo Sacer.

  1. Literary Style versus Biopolitical Capture

Gould’s Book of Fish (Flanagan, 2003) is set in the first prison settlement in Tasmania, the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, built in 1822 on a small island in the Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s west coast. Sarah Island, a place of extremely harsh geographic and social conditions (see Maxwell-Steward, 2008), was quickly regarded as one of the harshest locations in the English-speaking world (Hughes, 1987, p. 372). Convicts were worked for twelve to sixteen hours daily, with inadequate food or housing, and corporal punishment was not uncommon (Hughes, 1987). Prison records report 33,723 lashes during public floggings between 1822 and 1826 (Hughes 1987, p. 377). Just as Gould’s Book of Fish describes the conditions in the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station as they appear according to historical records, the first-person narrator is superimposed onto the convict-painter William Buelow Gould (1801-53), imprisoned for forgery, who has been historically recognized for his supurb naturalistic paintings of the area’s flora and fauna (see Allport, 1931; Clune and Stephensen, 1962; Pretyman, 1970). In both the novel and historical record, the protagonist was assigned to assist the colonial surgeon Dr James Scott on Sarah Island, who commissioned him to paint the depictions of local fish, plants, and birds for which he is now known. The novel Gould’s Book of Fish (Flanagan, 2003) takes the form of the convict-painter’s journal, and though fictional, the fish-drawings included in the book are those of Gould, used with permission, and are said to have been painted from memory. The novel weaves a fictitious and embellished storyline based on Gould’s prison time through historical information based on known persons and events on Sarah Island during that time.

Though based on historical events and characters, the use of a non-linear chronology and frequently interrupted storyline, metafictional literary devices, and fantastic and parodic interventions avoids any positivistic renderings of history, and allows the novel, according to various critics, to counter enlightenment thought’s teleological narrative of the “progress of civilization” (see Bogue, 2010; Jones, 2008; Shipway, 2003; Weir, 2005). Gould’s narration depicts the traumatic events transpiring in the Tasmanian penal colony (and in the story itself) through a distorted lens, in this way reflecting the distortions imposed upon people by the brutal and genocidal colonial system in Tasmania, but also testifies to the capacity of people, even under those circumstances, to maintain affective relationships. I will argue that with this novel, Flanagan (2003) shows us how literature can be used as a space to examine (un)imaginable experiences, to aid in comprehending historical events so horrible as to seem incomprehensible, and to address the need for the expression of silent and silenced voices. In Gould’s Book of Fish, Gould’s longing to tell the story of the (voiceless) fish manifests this desire, through a process which is inherently tied to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming. I will contrast Flanagan’s use of literary, stylistic and narrative devices to create an empowering depiction of convicts and indigenous persons in Gould’s Book of Fish, with Agamben’s failure, in Homo Sacer (1998), to similarly invest in the creation of an analysis in which human beings are not dehumanized.

Deleuze and Guattari (1987), in their concept of becoming, have drawn from ideas of Spinoza, especially the importance he places on the composition of relations and encounters, and the effects of those encounters, rather than on the essential traits of a being. Human beings’ understanding of the encounters with external ideas or entities tends to be limited to how the encounter is affecting us: “only our body in its own relation, and our mind in its own relation” (Spinoza qtd. in Deleuze, 1988, p. 19). However, if we are able to go beyond this initial reaction, our minds and bodies, and the bodies and minds of others, are capable of surpassing “the consciousness that we have of it” (Deleuze, 1988, p.19). Though becoming lacks a form through which it can convey its meaning, Deleuze and Guattari (1987, p. 253) understand it as an interplay of specific, unique moments, happenings, intensities and affectivities. Becoming, therefore, is a process that expresses the capacity of life to go beyond meaning and to create a formulation for the potentiality of joy and possibly even a “love of the whole world” (Lawlor, 2008, p. 173).

In the following analysis I focus on Gould’s becoming-fish, which through its hyperbolic affect of love provides readers with one most consequential and fundamental perspective shifts: that the understanding of a life cannot be limited to an understanding of its circumstances, its suffering, or the brutality imposed upon it, because it has its own subjectivities beyond those bounds that are able to create more and different relations, desires, and action. This understanding of life will be the counterpoint upon which I base my criticism of Agamben’s (1998) transhistorical and transnational analysis of the biopolitical determinations of life in Homo Sacer. I will show how Flanagan’s sets out a vision in which the lives of those historically silenced, subjugated and colonized are given value, character and humanity, and how this vision might guide readers towards the creation of an accountability with the past and a responsibility to the future…Access Full Text of the Article

The Woman with the Still Camera: Photographs in Virginia Woolf’s Fiction

Shinjini Chattopadhyay, Jadavpur University, India


The advent of photography and the emergence of Modernism in literature are imbued with an essence of breaking away from the past. Photography shares with the Modernist aesthetic a similar mode of appropriating reality. As the photographs capture within the frames a particular moment in the flow of time and establish a distinct ethic of perception, Modernist literature also fixes the focus on certain crucial moments in the life of an individual (for example a day in the life of Leopold Bloom or Mrs. Dalloway) and presents a holistic view of reality in its essential fragments. The incorporation of photographs within the Modernist aesthetic marks the emergence of a new mode of dialogue between fiction and reality. The paper attempts to investigate this mode of dialogue by investigating the interaction among reality, photographs and literature in the works of one of the proponents of Modernism, Virginia Woolf.

The very earliest years of Modernism saw the emergence of a particular technological innovation, photography. Even in its infancy, with the Calotype and the Daguerreotype, photography showed potential for forever transforming the way of perceiving reality. It amazed people how photographs were able to capture every minute detail of a scene and for the first time it was felt that the whole world could be captured within frames. The invention of photography marks a distinct disjunction from the time when photography was not invented:

“The very existence of a modern period, broken away from the time before, is to some extent the creation of photography, which has made all time since the 1840s simultaneously available in a way that makes the years before seem that much more remote.” (North 3)

The same spirit of rupture, which is present in the history of the advent of photography, can also be recognized in the attitude that Modernist literature had assumed towards its immediate predecessors by advocating the implementation of highly conscious artifice, revolutionary usage of linguistic forms and other radical literary techniques. Having identified this similarity Modernist writers were soon interested in this new form of technology and photography gained a turbulent admission in the world of art amidst positive and negative reactions. Charles Baudelaire condemned photography for its unimaginative realist mode (North 14). Ezra Pound seems to share Baudelaire’s disdain for photography and voices his contempt for cinema as well. But his experiments with the vortoscope affirm that despite his attempts he was not able to keep photography entirely out of his artistic endeavours (North 27). On the other hand, distinct photographic qualities became apparent in the writings of James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Joyce, inspired by the thriving cinematic climate of Trieste, opened the first movie-house in Dublin, the ‘Cinematograph Volta’, in 1909. In 1926 Virginia Woolf “wrote the first British essay on avant-garde cinema.”…Access Full Text of the Article

Psyche and Hester, or Apotheosis and Epitome: Natural Grace, la Sagésse Naturale

Anthony Splendora, Independent Scholar, Pennsylvania, USA

Download PDF Version

Human interpretation fails, for a turbulent life-situation has arisen that refuses to fit any of the traditional meanings assigned to it. It is a moment of collapse. We sink into a final depth — Apuleius calls it “a kind of voluntary death.” . . . This is the archetype of meaning, just as the anima is the archetype of life itself.

Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (1934), p. 66

. . . if it is true that man is capable of everything horrible, it is also true that the horrible always engenders counterforces and that in most epochs of atrocious occurrences the great vital forces of the human soul reveal themselves: love and sacrifice, heroism in the service of conviction, and the ceaseless search for possibilities of a purer existence.

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (1946), p. 59

Somewhere, if not in the New England of his time, Hawthorne unearthed the image of a goddess supreme in beauty and power.

Mark Van Doren, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1949), p. 154

Overview: Striking Isomorphism

A literary creation of profound cultural significance, the courageous and attractive, healthily libidinous young woman of whom I write is rhetorical to a time and artistic milieu earlier than her author’s and much earlier than ours. Projected novelistically in a tale of waywardness, epic but sublimated love, suffering, exemplary penance, fortitude and triumph, she appears at the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. She is referred to internally as a “destined prophetess” – externally as the “emergent divinity” of that latter, dawning era, and her forbidden love affair with a divine, fair-haired boy of the conservative, male-dominated religious establishment, her engagement in quite specific disobedience to its strictures, has echoes of other famously fallen, transitional women of incalculable cultural-historical sentence. Punishment for the complications arising from her transgression, a hieros gamos, is forthcoming, as it is to those other notorious females, but her godly, complicit lover suffers a grievous wound as well. Imbued by Nature, however, with the earthy, miraculous virtues and resilience of organically natural grace, she endures her initiatory ordeal and eventually prevails. Moreover, her recognition as harbinger of the forthcoming awareness, and her adherence to its mandate, elevate her to fulfillment of her own prophecy: hers is an ascension that heralds the decline and final collapse of the consecrated establishment that sanctioned her. In being doubly mythologized – for ideologically-defined immorality before her ascension and in universal sanctification after, her experience also carries allegorical implications specific to the troubled time of her authorial creation. In addition, her secretive liaison with divinity results in the production of a famous and aptly-named child, a projective symbol of life and fulfillment transcending that superannuating ideology.

How Many Heroes are there in Beowulf: Rethinking of Grendel’s Mother as ‘aglæcwif’

Santanu Ganguly, Netaji Nagar Day College, Kolkata

Download PDF Version


Since Anglo-Saxon heroic society was male-dominated, women were relegated to a position of comparative mediocrity. However, Old English literature does contain instances where women often proved their prowess and ferocity through martial exploits. In this paper, I argue the case of Grendel’s Mother, as I try to rescue her from a status of enforced marginalization as a monster who is not even given a name. I analyze closely her encounter with Beowulf, as the desire for revenge propels her to fight against the slayer of her son Grendel, pointing out how she uses strength, strategy and intelligence to fight her adversary. At one time, she even throws the redoubtable hero Beowulf down and is in the process of killing him, when he grabs hold of a magical sword and kills her instead. Yet, concomitant with her war-like qualities, she also displays a wonderful motherly instinct. All these force us to contest the term “monster” that had been used to describe her for a long time, and view her in a new reverential light.

War on Terror: On Re-reading Dracula and Waiting for the Barbarians


Framed by the emerging emphasis in postcolonialism on terror and narratives of terror, this paper argues that Waiting for Barbarians (1980; hereafter Barbarians) can be read as a counter-discourse of resistance to Dracula’s (1898) representation of “war on terror” which revolves around the relationship between empire and its embattled subjects. To demonstrate this the paper examines how Barbarians deconstructs Dracula’s trope of barbarian invasion, resists the techniques of liquidating Dracula, and reimagines Dracula’s the notion of the end of history and the last man. The paper concludes that Dracula and Barbarians offer us radically different conceptualisations of the war on terror and contending visions of the future that cunningly reflect contemporary attitudes since the 9/11 attacks.