TruthNo 25 (2017)
Image: Copyright Wellcome Images
The idea of truth has become all the more contentious in light of recent social and political developments. Truth claims have long been a cause for scepticism within the humanities, with the advent of poststructuralism particularly highlighting the interaction between “truth” and power, leading scholars to be suspicious of transcendental truths or metanarratives. Feminists and writers of colour have raised similar concerns about truth claims; Jane Flax asks, “If there is no objective basis for distinguishing between true and false beliefs, then it seems that power alone will determine the outcome of competing truth claims” (Feminism/Postmodernism 42). In this light, discourses surrounding truth have been deemed somewhat suspicious, particularly for marginalised groups. There has likewise been scrutiny on the truth effects created in literature, and how generic conventions naturalise certain metanarratives. With this in mind, how can literature and popular culture use fiction to engage with truth and the power dynamics implicit in it?
The position of truth in the humanities has been further complicated by recent public discourse, influenced by the Trump administration and the Brexit campaign. These have ushered in an era of post-truth, Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year 2016. Post- truth, which the OED describes as a state in which public opinion is based on emotion and belief rather than objective fact, closely aligns with what Stephen Colbert refers to as “truthiness,” defined as “the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support” (“‘Post-Truth' Is Just A Rip-Off Of ‘Truthiness’” YouTube). The post-truth era has highlighted the dangers of eschewing the notion of truth altogether, exposing how easily the pubic can be swayed by arguments that tap into their social anxiety and biases, regardless of conflicting evidence. What role can both fiction and non-fiction play in navigating the post- truth era? How is the distinction between fiction and non-fiction complicated by the precarious position of truth in contemporary society?
Issue 25 of FORUM engages with a range of disciplines that consider the concept of truth in a post-truth era.
Editors: Vicki Madden and Maria Torres-Quevedo
Review Team Autumn 2017: Sibyl Adam, Valentina Paz Aparicio, Enti Arends, Tamara Browne, Rachel Chung*, Sini Eikonsalo, Richard Elliott, Abby Gould, Eleanor Grayson*, Kiefer Holland, Anna Jurek, Anna Kemball*, June Laurenson, Kyriana Lynch*, Harriet MacMillan, Jen Madeley, Mohamed Mahmoud, Ciara McKay, Stella Medvedeva, Beata Migut, Bridget Moynihan, Aija Oksman, Alycia Pirmohamed, Robyn Pritzker, Vivek Santayana, Julie Sorokurs, Marianne Tyvand, Toni Velikova, Felix von Helden. Article editors are marked with a (*).
TabooNo 24 (2017)Image: “Saturn Devouring His Son,” Francisco Goya, c. 1819-1823
Taboo permeates all aspects of everyday life, acting as the boundary against which society polices human experience and experimentation. Frequently characterised as social or religious customs that proscribe particular ideas, practices, words or persons, taboos not only help define a set of shared rules for society, but also clarify the limitations of the accepted.
Kelly Hurley highlights the positive facets of taboo, suggesting that it is only through the enforcement of certain boundaries that humans might “continue to experience the world as an epistemologically stable site” (The Gothic Body 25). Mary Douglas, meanwhile, argues that although taboos act as a safeguard against social disorder, they often become repressive for members of society. In light of these contrasting views, are specific taboos indeed necessary for social stability, or do they simply hinder progress?
Taboos differ across cultures, religions, and time; yet certain forbidden practices like incest, cannibalism, and murder seem more universally regarded. Why might this be? Changing social standards also create new taboos that reflect a particular historical moment. Tracing the ways in which taboos arise and are challenged therefore not only reveals these standards, but also society’s anxieties, fears, and nightmares.
Issue 24 of FORUM seeks contributions from a range of disciplines that engage with the concept of taboo. To what extents are civilisations structured around taboos? How might taboos reveal the darker, or even the suppressed side of society? In what ways do art and literature provide avenues for the exploration of taboo? Do taboos inevitably drive the homogenisation of both landscapes and people? In what ways might breaking taboos offer opportunities for liberation? Are there some taboos that should never be broken?
Issue 24 of FORUM engages with a wide range of disciplines that consider the topic of taboo.
Editors: Anahit Behrooz and Vicki Madden
Review Team Spring 2017: Valentina Aparicio*, Suzanne Black, Tamara Browne, Michelle Devereaux, Richard Elliott, Enti Erends, Robert Fell, Danielle Howarth, Alice Kelly, Mohamed Mahmoud*, Stella Medvedeva, Alberto Nanni, Vivek Santayana*, Eva Spisiakova, Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo*, Tomas Vergara, Aran Ward Sell, Jo Wilson.
Article editors are marked with a star (*)
Readers and WritersNo 23 (2016)
From the earliest traces of etchings on stone tablets to the emergence of Kindles and e-readers in contemporary society, humans have invented platforms for the creation and dissemination of text. Implicit in each textual object are the figures of the reader and writer and their differing engagement with the work. But what does it mean to be a reader or a writer, and how does each role play a part in the shaping of a text?
In 1967, Roland Barthes famously proclaimed the death of the author, arguing that it was for the reader to instil meaning in a text. Barthes’ essay questioned the existing hierarchy of writer above reader, and initiated new discussion on their roles. Reader response critics such as Hans Robert Jauss have also considered the impact of an individual’s experiences on textual interpretation. What effects have such theories had on previous understandings of the reader/writer relationship? How can we conceptualise these roles in an increasingly complex literary and textual environment?
It is not only the experiences of the individual reader and writer that are interrogated. We can now ask what role the market plays in redefining these two figures. Robert Darnton’s Communication Circuit draws attention to socio-political and commercial forces that impact the creation, production and distribution of a book. How do such models complicate the dialogical relationship between reader and writer?
How do literary devices alter our perception of the reader/writer figure? Those such as frame narratives and epistolary forms place readers and writers at the centre of the text, while the found manuscript and false document conceit in fiction work to remove the presence of the author in order to foster verisimilitude. What do these metafictions say about the changing social, cultural and intellectual nature of reading and writing?
Issue 23 of FORUM engages with a range of disciplines that consider the topic of readers and writers.
Editors: Matthew Tibble and Anahit Behrooz
Review Team Winter 2016: America Archer*, Emily Bartran, Suzanne Black, Brad Copper, Mila Daskalova*, Mary Dodd, Cristina Dodson, Paulina Drégvaité, James Gilbert, Katie Goh, Charlotte Kessler*, Harry Leonard, Kate Lewis Hood*, Harriet MacMillan, Emanuela Militeuo, Bridget Moynihan, Carolina Palacios, Robyn Pritzker, Sian Roberts, Toby Sharpe*, Dylan Taylor*, Marianne Tyvand.
Article editors are marked with a star (*)
Ideological ConflictNo 22 (2016)
Armed conflict has ravaged Syria for over four years. The initial protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has escalated to a civil war that has drawn intercession from major world powers, arguably exacerbating the situation, and maintaining the issue of ideological conflict at the forefront of popular culture and media. After the recent attacks in Beirut, Paris, and Bagdad, discussion has centred particularly on Islamophobia and the increasingly perceived dichotomy between Islamic and Western political systems. After Francis Fukuyama famously declared the end of the great ideological battles, Issue 22 of FORUM looks to explore instead Jasmine Gani’s suggestion that we should be “bringing back ideas,” when analysing this new era of entrenched conflict.
We might define ideological conflict as the mental, verbal or physical manifestation of dissension between two cultures with different sets of beliefs. Such cultural hostility might be characterised by xenophobia, ‘otherness’, or racial prejudice, all of which are saturated with the violent historical precedent which helped construct them. What light can be shed on today’s hostilities by the analysis of past example?
Conflicts can be between political systems, economic systems, religions, races, and even social philosophies, however, it doesn’t always occur on a grand scale - at a state or global level. The notion of private ideology also brings with it an internal conflict between personal belief and societal hegemony, raising questions about how an individual contends with this, imaginatively or pragmatically.
Chiefly, the violence that results from ideological conflict has been analysed using a rhetoric of ‘terror’ and ‘persecution’, yet the value of terms like these is clearly limited. How do we go about differentiating between nationalistic and religious components of ideological conflict? What purpose do we have for denotations such as ‘terrorist’, which are being used increasingly to justify state-sanctioned violence? And what of the notion that juxtaposed ideologies necessarily result in conflict?
Issue 22 of FORUM engages with the debate about ideological conflict and the use of ideology as a tool of analysis.
Editors: Emma Sullivan and Matthew Tibble
Review Team Spring 2016: Anahit Behrooz*, Kenneth Chan, Adam Clay, Camille Feidt*, Alex Grafen*, Julia Haase, Niki Holzapfel, Jo Hsu, Alice Kelly, Harriet MacMillan, Vicki Madden*, Genevieve McNutt, Bridget Moynihan, Kanokporn Nutchananonthep, Robyn Pritzker, Sarah Rengel, Vivek Santayana*, Thanos Spiliotakaras, Sarah Stewart, Joanna Wilson, Kelvin Wong Article editors are marked with a star (*)
Private/PublicNo 21 (2015)
There has been a significant shift in the boundaries between the private and public realm in recent years. The increasing indistinction between the two spheres has multiple causes, among them the rise of identity politics and the popularity of the confessional mode. The former might be said to underwrite the latter: the feminist rallying cry, ‘the personal is the political’ providing a substantial justification for radical autobiography. The motto continues as a cornerstone of feminist consciousness, as well as other forms of identity politics (after all, the agora remains predicated upon exclusion to some degree), but the ongoing consequences for public discourse are unclear. Some suggest that the privileging of positions based upon more and more specific identities promotes a form of narcissism or victimhood which threatens collective agency and the possibilities of larger conceptions of ‘the public good’.
While identity politics and the confessional mode have contributed to the enlargement of ‘the private’, the increasing dominance of the corporate model has led to the erosion of what has traditionally been conceived of as ‘the public’, most notably in the commercialisation of the media, and the edging out of the public-interest model. Institutions such as museums, universities and schools have also become defined by the corporate paradigm, and public space is increasingly no such thing. New technologies, in particular social media, have played their part in blurring the boundaries between public and private, formal and informal.
Has there been a retreat into private and individualised experience? Have the critical languages that might abstract this individualised experience been largely abandoned in favour of the logic of spectacle? What constitutes the public sphere in the contemporary moment? If the traditional notion of the public sphere involves a ‘top down' model, what are the possibilities for the ‘bottom-up’ paradigm offered by the commons, and enabled by online networks?
Issue 21 of FORUM engages with the debate about the distinctions or indistinctions between the private and public spheres.
Editors: Sarah Bernstein and Emma Sullivan
Review Team Winter 2015: Sarah Arens, Laura Beattie, Anahit Behrooz, Kenneth Chan, Michelle Devereaux, Chloe Elder*, Camille Feidt, Alex Grafen, Niki Holzapfel, Alice Kelly*, Julia Kropf, Mengchen Lang, Delaina Lawson*, Vicki Madden, Clara Martinez, Briar McFarlane, Iain McMaster, Alba Morollón, Bridget Moynihan, Feroz Salam, Vivek Santayana*, Justine Seran, Jennifer Shearman, Colin Smith*, Thanos Spiliotakaras, Sarah Stewart, Greer Temnick, Matthew Tibble, Amy Waterson, Kelvin Wong Article editors are marked with a star (*)
After the Good LifeNo 20 (2015)
©Mark A. Nye
In Cruel Optimism (2011), Lauren Berlant asks why we stay “attached to conventional good-life fantasies – say of enduring reciprocity in couples, families, political systems, institutions, markets and at work – when the evidence of their instability, fragility, and dear cost abounds” (2). The post-1945 social consensus in Britain, the reproduction of the American Dream, and the social democratic promises made across Europe are political expressions of the good-life fantasy after World War Two. These social contracts have long since worn out, put under pressure from various financial crises since the 1970s and radical shifts in the political landscape. Meanwhile, we have witnessed the rollback of welfare, of healthcare benefits, of pensions; we have seen the casualisation of the workforce, massive unemployment, and the attenuation of trade union power. In short, as David Harvey writes, as the post-war boom broke up in the early 1970s, Europe and the United States in particular have sustained an extended period of flux, of change, and of uncertainty. How is it, then, that the fantasy of the good life persists in the face of such contingency? Why do we still need the model of a ‘good life’?
Issue 20 of FORUM examines what the good life looks like under austerity, under economic, ecological, and social crisis, under neoliberalism and what comes after. How do relations of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality affect our visions of the good life?
Editors: Yanbing Er and Sarah Bernstein
Review Team Spring 2015: Chiara Amoretti*, Valentina Aparicio, Enti Arends, Sarah Arens, Victoria Chang*, Cheer Cheng, Muireann Crowley, Priscilla Gan, Jo Hsu, Tian Jin, Alice Kelly, Beatriz Lopez, Clara Martinez*, Iain McMaster, Gena McNutt, Alba Morollón, Bianka Nedjalkova, Alistair Robinson*, Jasleen Singh, Rachel Smith, Eystein Thanisch. Article Editors are marked with a star(*).
Special Issue 04 (2015): Transnational Memory and Traumatic Histories
Memory studies has moved from the cultural collective, rooted within the bounds of the nation state, to the transnational or transcultural, which in recent years has come to account for the circulation of “memory cultures” in an increasingly complex, globalised and violent world. In what follows, the essays in this special issue on Transnational Memory and Traumatic Histories are briefly introduced and contextualised within this transcultural framework.
Managing and article editors
Christina Brennan & Joseph Ford (University of Leeds)
Board of peer reviewers
Dr Patrick Crowley (University College Cork)
Dr Claire Launchbury (University of New South Wales)
Dr Helen Finch (University of Leeds)
Dr Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester)
Prof. Bill Niven (University of Nottingham, Trent)
Dr Anna Lena Sandberg (University of Copenhagen)
Prof. Max Silverman (University of Leeds)
The New MaterialismsNo 19 (2014)
The role of matter has often been marginalised in much of philosophical thought. Rapid scientific and technological advances in the twentieth century, however, have since heightened the awareness of our place in the world as embodied human beings. This has revealed a pressing urgency to confront the ethical and political implications of our material practices within the dynamic terrain of contemporary times. As such, recognising the importance of material factors has led to an emergence of ways in which our prevailing understandings of material reality can be transformed. These recent accounts of a new materialist philosophy call for a redefinition of matter: not an inert or passive substance as traditionally conceived, but rather that which is in possession of an inherently unpredictable force and vitality.
© Mark Welbedacht
Investigations into the agency of matter are currently occurring in areas such as material culture, ecocritical discourses, material feminisms, and science studies, where material reality has been given particular emphasis. This is not an abandonment of historical legacies of materialist thought, but an attempt to reconsider the notion of matter in the face of various geopolitical and biotechnological forces acting in the world today. The turn to envisioning new processes of materialisation thus attempts to cultivate a paradigm that rethinks the dualities of nature and culture, language and reality, mind and body, and the human and the inhuman. As an emerging interdisciplinary field, the new materialist studies precipitate a radicalisation of what ‘matter’ truly means.
Editors: Jessica Legacy and Yanbing Er
Review Team Autumn 2014: Sybil Adam, Chiara Amoretti, Valentina Aparicio, Enti Arends, Georgina Barker, Meg Bartlett, Sarah Bernstein, Nina Bickett, Jane Bonsall, Dorothy Butchard, Natalie Carthy, Victoria Chang, Mingyuan Chen, Lijiaozi Cheng, Chang-Ting Chou, Beth Cochrane*, Hannah Collins, Christian Cooijmans, Glynnis Cox, Poppy Cozens, Muireann Crowley, Marta Dabrowka, Mario Delgado, Will Dudding, Valentina Flex, Carlos Fonseca, Katie Hawthorne, Beide Hu, Tian Jin*, Alice Kelly, Jeremy Klemin, Rob Lederer, Anna Leibing, James Leveque, Beatriz Lopez, Clara Martinez, Dominique Mason, Iain McMaster*, Aoife McNeice, Gena McNutt, Marianne McRae, Alba Morollon, Bianka Nedjalkova, Diane Otosaka, Carin Pettersson, Fiona Piercy, Alistair Robinson*, Gabi Roth, Aidan Ryan*, Feroz Salam, Cat Schaupp, Denis Schröder, Justine Seran, Sarah Sharp*, Jasleen Singh, Nick Spengler*, Jessica Syers, Tomas Vergara, Jacqueline Wallace, Annie Webster, Grace Wilkins. Article Editors are marked with a star(*).
ClichéNo 18 (2014)
As writers and academics we fear having our work criticised as clichés; yet, we continue to repeat and overwork certain ideas of the brink. If we are to believe Marshall McLuhan, “it is the worn out cliché that reveals the creative or archetypal processes in language as in all other processes and artefacts” (Cliché to Archetype 127). The pursuit of newness requires us to label precursors as old and eventually worn out, thereby rendering them cliché. At the same time, a phrase, symbol, or trope would not be used to the point of cliché if it did not continue to strike a chord with so many artists or thinkers. Clichés are cultural relics reread and relocated as benchmarks for new art and interpretation.
Gilles Deleuze argues that cliché comes pre-printed on a blank canvas, and though the artist attempts to subvert cliché, the action is too intellectual or abstract and the result is either the same cliché risen from the ashes or disguised as a parody. Similarly, Umberto Eco argues that by employing multiple clichés a narrative moves beyond the creators’ control. These writers suggest that cliché has a sentience or at the very least a pulse in our culture. If clichés are unavoidable or perhaps even necessary, why are they feared or disdained? What are the parameters that move an idea from archetype or symbol to cliché? When, if ever, are clichés appropriate? It seems that you can’t keep a good cliché down, that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but perhaps if cliché is handled properly, all’s well that ends well.
Editors: Victoria Anker & Jessica Legacy
Review Team Spring 2014: Emily Anderson*, Enti Arends, Sarah Bernstein*, Imogen Block, Philippa Chun, Glynnis Cox, Dave Crosbie, Muireann Crowley, Marta Dabrowka, Laura de la Parra Fernández, James Leveque, Clara Martínez, Dominique Mason*, Ian McMaster, Fiona McPake, Genevieve Sartor, Cat Schaupp*, Madden Swan. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
Special Issue 03: ReVision Conference2014
On 15-16 July 2013, FORUM organised their third conference entitled ReVision: Editing Across Disciplines. In this conference, participants were invited to explore the variety of practices and concepts of editing across disciplines and as they appear in different historical and cultural contexts, as well as to reflect on the opportunities, goals and challenges of contemporary editing and publishing.
The dynamic life of cultural products is often masked by illusions of textual stability. Processes of editing have always had a radical impact on the arts and their reception; from Herodotus’s ‘editing’ of history, the editing of Chaucer's brilliant but foul language, Beardsley's censored drawings in Wilde's editions, Luis Buñuel's unique montage editing to the work of Venuti and the rise of disciplines such as History of the Book. Furthermore, current economic pressures and rapid technological changes raise the question of the future of the ‘text’ in a digital age.
The Guest Contribution to this issue is based on one of the workshops delivered at this conference: Kenna Olsen’s (Mount Royal University) "Editing the Middle Ages: Medieval Manuscripts, Hypertexts, Academe and Beyond." Selected papers from the conference are gathered here in Special Issue 03, including: a comparative analysis of film editing strategies; an exploration of the narrative and mnemonic powers of place; a diachronic analysis of the changes to the Lindisfarne Gospels; an analysis of documentary editing strategies; an intermedial exploration of music in book and film; and an examination of textual strategies in the negotiation of fame.
Editors: Victoria Anker & Laura Chapot
Review Team Autumn 2013: Georgina Barker*, Philippa Chun*, Glynnis Cox*, Marta Dabrowka, Yanbing Er*, Jan Gobrecht, Olivia Ho, Vicki Madden*, Dominique Mason*, Cat Schaupp, Lizzie Stewart. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
Rites & RitualsNo 17 (2013)
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts” (Jacques, AYLI 2:7).
Rituals exist as a result of the actions of specific people or institutions; we recognise those rituals because they are engrained in our cultural customs as much as they are ordained by law. The resulting rituals not only reinforce the beliefs or values of these specific communities, but simultaneously define these group identities. Victor Turner describes rituals as ‘social dramas’ that allow any given culture to maintain a balance between structurally enforced norms and personal autonomy; the medieval carnival with its Lord of Misrule, for example, permitted a short period of topsy-turvy, upside-down role-play in popular culture, to ensure social hierarchies and authority were obeyed and enforced during the rest of the year.
'Battle between Carnival and Lent' (1559), P. Bruegel
Drawing upon the ritual theory of Stanley J. Tambiah, Mary Ann McGrath and others, this interdisciplinary issue – our 17thpublication – spans 800 years of history and several continents from twelfth-century Russia, to contemporary America, via mafia initiation oaths and the British occult. Drawing upon architecture, history, literature, and performance, the collected articles in Rites & Rituals emphasise the necessity of ritual in both reaffirming the individual's position within society and enabling a sense of communitas throughout society.
Editors: Victoria Anker & Laura Chapot
Review Team Autumn 2013: Marie Allitt, Emily Anderson, Michelle Anjirbag*, Selina Aragon, Enti Arends*, Candace Bagley, Georgina Barker, Yahya Barry, Sarah Bernstein, Imogen Block, Adam Bloom, Philippa Chun, Kyle Cooper, Raph Cormack, Nicole Cote, Glynnis Cox, Dave Crosbie*, Muireann Crowley, Marta Dabrowka, Kate Dunn, Yanbing Er, Laura de la Parra Fernández, Alison Garden, Jan Gobrecht, Sarah Gundle*, Sarah Hayden, Qianwei He, Katie Hickey, Sarah Hicks, Olivia Ho, Heid Jerstad, Rob Lederer, Jessica Legacy*, Hannah Lesshafft, James Leveque, Phoebe Linton, Vicki Madden, Clara Martínez, Dominique Mason, Ian McMaster, Catherine McMillan, Fiona McPake, Genevieve McNutt, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Sandra Paziewicz, Cat Schaupp, Justine Seran, Dawn Sherratt-Bado, Nick Spengler, Deirdre Stack-Marques, Lizzie Stewart, Madden Swan*, Melissa Thornton. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
Un/Natural HistoriesNo 16 (2013)
Although European thought has traditionally placed “nature” in opposition to “culture,” recent work in eco-criticism has emphasised the importance of the relationship between our environment and the literary and scholarly work we produce. Similarly, in popular culture, programmes such as the BBC’s Unnatural Histories (2011) investigate the ways in which even the most pristine “natural” spaces can be seen as human constructions. These approaches not only emphasise the relationship between nature and culture as an object of investigation, but also indicate that the way in which this relationship is perceived may not be as “natural” as we assume. A historicising exploration of the natural is taken up and expanded on by the articles gathered in this issue of Forum, which includes work from scholars based in disciplines as diverse as anthropology, science and technology studies, literature and film studies.
The degree to which our relationship to the natural colours not only our representations of the environment in art and literature but also our self-representations and attitudes as scholars provides the starting point for the first of our guest contributions from anthropologist Mattijs van de Port. Charting the relationship between his father’s fetishisation of “natural” materials and modes of behaviour and his own punk embrace of the explicitly artificial, Van de Port interrogates his personal experiences of the natural in everyday materials and practices before linking these with a discussion of his research into camp and baroque as denaturalising aesthetics which nevertheless provoke bodily reactions. Van de Port’s anthropological perspective on his position as researcher provides a candid insight into the links between the personal environment and research, which we hope will be of particular relevance to a postgraduate readership.
The desire to provoke new reactions and ways of reading is also at the heart of the article of our second guest contributor, Christopher Leslie. Leslie re-reads Shakespeare’s The Tempest to undertake an examination both of the roots of Natural History and of related contemporary discourses on the categorisation of humans. Not only does this function to historicise and so denaturalise a teleological view of developments in scientific enquiry and thought, for Leslie it also has important pedagogic value. He suggests that The Tempest “represents a unique opportunity to understand that the pre-Enlightenment vision of deductive thinking based on Aristotle did not necessarily promote racial hierarchy,” an insight, as he argues, which allows one to focus on the processes behind racialisation, the social construction of race (10, 2).
This engaged approach to scholarship is continued in Emma Trott and Justine Seran’s analyses of postcolonial writing through an eco-critical lens. In Seran’s reading of Keri Hulme’s short stories, literary techniques associated with realism, the Gothic, magical realism and the fantastic combine with disturbing personifications of nature to create a “composite literature of unease” centred on the protagonists’ “mutually deleterious relationship with nature” (9). For Trott, on the other hand, Derek Walcott’s use of language and, in particular, metaphor “articulates the tight bonds between various material and ideological processes that are significant to the poet’s commitment to social and environmental justice,” and creates a future-orientated view of the Caribbean “that is free, not from the brutal fact of the colonial past, but from enduring neo-colonial projects that mark Caribbean islands as dehistoricised Edenic spaces that are fair game for the European coloniser” (11, 5). Laura Beattie’s article on Sean Penn’s film version of Into the Wild then takes us into an exploration of recent filmic constructions of the American wilderness, unpacking the ways in which the creation of dehistoricised spaces within the national imaginary is both continued and critiqued by the films structure and visual imagery.
Returning to the sciences and their role in the construction of the natural, April Durham’s article takes us from twentieth century realities to imagined futures. Exploring Ridley-Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner together with the French novel Babylon Babies, Durham aims to move beyond a focus on the “fear that technology and its intelligent actants [...] will profoundly undermine the subjectivity so carefully ascribed to biological humans” and instead open up an exploration of “what is at stake, besides masterful triumph over technology, when considering human intelligence as technically mediated” (1) This re-positioning of the human subject is also fundamental to Genevieve Sartor’s reading of Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts through co-evolution and complexity theory. Sartor’s detailed analysis reveals a transformative impulse at the heart of the text where the “environment and the subjects within it are engaged in a form of reciprocity that eradicates a deterministic partitioning of species organisation” (1).
Finally, moving from Woolf to wolves, Håkon Stokland’s article on the construction of a population of wolves in Scandinavia as “natural” and so to be protected illustrates how crossing disciplinary boundaries between the humanities and the sciences can “change the subject” in more ways than one. Stokland convincingly argues: “[a]s the processes of constructing nature often have great impact on the politics concerning both nature and humans, they should be obvious targets for critical examination by scholars from the social sciences and the humanities” (1). While Leslie undoes the history of the discipline via Shakespeare, Stokland thus unravels the ways in which natural history is created and shapes environmental policy today.
Editors: Laura Chapot & Lizzie Stewart
Editorial Review Panel: Victoria Anker, Enti Arends, Dorothy Butchard, Muireann Crowley*, Marta Dąbrówka*, Kate Dunn, Mackenzie Doss, Yanbing Er*, Sarah Faulkner, Alison Garden*, Michael Hannan, Li-hsin Hsu, James Leveque, Lucy MacRae, Lila Matsumoto, Sophia Morris, Justine Seran, Dawn Sherratt-Bado*, Leah Stolzenburg, Mikey Woods*. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
Imitation and RepetitionNo 15 (2012)
As concepts which cross the disciplinary boundaries between the arts and the social sciences, imitation and repetition are frequently connoted in ways dependant on the contexts and time periods in which they occur. This is reflected in the articles collected in issue 15 of FORUM which explore manifestations of imitation and repetition in contexts as diverse ascontemporary memoir-writing (Pollard), knowledge exchange within academia (Götz),the critical theory of Judith Butler (Vulic), Sherlock Holmes fanfiction (Black), Scottish avant-garde poetry (Matsumoto), the work of James Joyce (Raghinaru) and Chinese Qing dynasty cultural production (Zhang). For many of our contributors from the fields of Translation Studies, Sociology, Philosophy, English Literature and Art History the terms not only become a source of investigation but also provide an exciting methodological challenge, while for others, such as our guest contributor Robert King, the very logic inherent in the terms becomes an object of inquiry in itself.
In his article “The New Creatures of Difference: A Look at the Concept of Repetition Within Dissipative Systems Theory,”King draws on Deleuze’s concept of repetition Difference and Repetition as a seemingly “mechanical replication” which hides a “clothed, disguised or secret repetition” (King 2-3). An exploration of the presence of repetition in the life sciences thus reveals how even when returning to philosophical thought, “repetition is better appreciated as a creature of difference” (4). This “creature of difference” continues to creep and crawl its way through the articles of our postgraduate contributors in various guises. The relationship between repetition and evolution, for example, takes a more metaphorical turn in Ana Vulic’s examination of “the evolution of the theory of performativity” via the repeatedly occurring, yet subtly changing “notion of promise” in the work of Judith Butler (1). Here King’s “creatures of difference” reappear reclothed as the “infelicitous” misfires Vulic identifies as creative differences bearing political promise.
While the occurrence of “misfires” in the intertextual relations surrounding the work of Judith Butler are the focus of Vulic’s article, the imitative and intertextual relationships between literary authors, styles and genres form the focus of many of the other articles collected here. Eileen Pollard explores intertextuality, adoption and story-telling within the work of two contemporary female authors who perform what Pollard labels “a Queer Return” to their own fictionalised autobiographies in the form of recently published memoirs with an emphasis on “truth, origin and narrative” (5). By questioning writers’ new emphasis on origins Pollard draws attention to a contemporary desire for repetition in what King might call its “naked form”.
Literary studies have, of course, a well-developed tradition of studying the imitative and intertextual relationships between authors, literary styles and genres, and ideas. In the artistic sphere, following the spread of the Romantic idea of the artistic genius, imitation has often been frowned upon as a failure to be ‘original,’ however Lila Matsumoto and Suzanne Black show, in unique ways, how imitation is not only at the heart of much creative practice but also threatens the status of the ‘original’. Camelia Raghinaru, on the other hand, explores internal repetition in the final moments of James Joyce’s Ulysses as an opportunity to start again after a period of hesitation. And moving to the field of art history, Stacey Zhang demonstrates how this effort to re-inscribe origins was manifested in the political economy of the Chinese Qing dynasty through mass production of a potent imperial symbol.
The recirculation and recoding of certain tropes and images which occurs not only in our author’s articles but also in even the most radical artistic attempts to break with the past, such as those embodied by movements like Dada, suggest that originality cannot be thought outside of its relationship to imitation and repetition. This ambivalence has proved productive not only for the researchers whose work is gathered here but also for commentators dating from Plato, and his concern with mimesis, to Judith Butler, who identified the role which the repetition, or continued performance, of cultural norms has in constituting the most central aspects of our identity. The interdisciplinary potential for an engagement with these terms is further reflected in Mara Götz’s article concerning strong and weak ties in the use of sociology in translation studies. Here creative repetition is situated within a delicate interplay between a close network of associations, and the desire to look over the fence into other fields.
Finally in our second guest article, a sociological perspective on repetition is taken further by Dr. Sarah Bracke who uses the concept of repetition as a departure point for providing an introduction to the origins and nature of nostalgia. Expertly connecting the genealogy of the idea to areas such as consumer capitalism and colonialism, Bracke argues that underneath nostalgia lies violence and the disavowal of violence; an approach which highlights the way in which a careful tracing of repetition-as-difference can also be used to interrogate mechanisms such as nostalgia anew.
Editors: James Leveque & Lizzie Stewart
Editorial Review Panel: Dima Alzayat, Victoria Anker, Selina Aragon*, Ann Bauer, Sandra Birkett, Elsa Bouet*, Michelle Brown, Dorothy Butchard, Pamela Carralero, Abigail Chapman, Laura Chapot, Danning Chen*, Muireann Crowley, Marta Dąbrówka, Marc Di Soto, Kate Dunn, Helius Egenberg, Michael Hannan, Rosie Hopegood, Li-hsin Hsu*, Esther Kim, Patricia Koulogeorge*, Wenchi Li, Lucy Linforth, Wancheng Liu, Jessica MacAulay, Lucy Macrae, Caroline Mandler, Dominique Mason, Lila Matsumoto, Erika Meyers, Sophia Morris-Jones, Genevieve Sartor, Justine Seran, Natasha Simonova, Mariel Stein, Stephanie Straub*, Simon Trub, Nouschka Van Der Meijden*, Barbara Vrachnas, Lena Waschkawitz, Maria Whelan*. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
Sacred & SacrilegiousNo 14 (2012)"There are in every man, always, two simultaneous allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan. Invocation of God, or Spirituality, is a desire to climb higher; that of Satan, or animality, is delight in descent." Charles Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil, My Heart Laid Bare.
For the Spring 2012 issue of FORUM, we have gathered articles which explore representations of the sacred and sacrilegious. Deriving from the Latin verb sacrare, to consecrate, the word sacred initially and inevitably summons thoughts of gods and religions, worship and veneration. One of its antonyms, sacrilegious, etymologically originated from sacrare and the verb legere, to gather, to steal, oftentimes spawns images of violence and violation, heresy and blasphemy. However, the sacred and sacrilegious does not merely apply to theological matters but can be delved into from a literary, cultural and artistic perspective.
Since the 19th century in particular, the sacred was central to a revival in so-called 'primitive' concerns; but modern materialist and psychoanalytic theories of taboo, sacrifice, and magic revealed in the sacred the traces of social construction and psychological force otherwise obscured by centuries of tradition. A wealth of modernist literature and art conceived society and the self, rather than the supernatural or divine, as the sites of the distinction between the sacred and sacrilegious. Moreover, contemporary philosophy and theory revived the ambivalence in much of the language of the sacred in literature, philosophy, and politics - such as Julia Kristeva's conception of the sacred as either potentially pure or abject.
Nowadays sacred has even come to mean merely something that we honour, 'our precious', and sacrilegious is often tantamount to unorthodox or heterodox. In the 20th and 21st centuries, what notions of the sacred still capture us with a sense of awe; what forms of sacrilege, if any, do we still find repellent? Does the transition from the sacred to the sacrilegious (or vice versa) hold real meaning or is it a mere formality of self-appointed practitioners? Do literature, art and film only stand as adamant witnesses of the alteration in the meaning and significance of these two words throughout history, or do they have an active role in changing our understanding of the sacred and sacrilegious?
Editors: Barbara Vrachnas & James Leveque
RevengeNo 13 (2011)
"Vengeance offers the writer a compelling mix of ingredients: strong situations shaped by violence; ethical issues for debate; a volatile, emotive mixture of loss and agitated grievance. The avenger, isolated and vulnerable, can achieve heroic grandeur by coming to personify nemesis." – John Kerrigan, Revenge Tragedy
The Autumn 2011 issue of Forum explore issues relating to representations of revenge, in literature and film. The articles selected for inclusion discuss many of the motivations for, and responses to, the creative portrayal of acts of vengeance. These articles have been chosen for their breadth of theoretical approach and wide ranging chronological focus, in the hope of presenting an issue which surveys several creative manifestations of the revenge plot, reappraising the aesthetic and cultural implications of this "compelling mix of ingredients".
Editors: Dorothy Butchard & Barbara Vrachnas
Editorial Review Panel: Alicia Broggi, Alison Garden, Anna Sophia Watts, Caoimhe Rehill, Cecilia Bennett, Charlotte Hoare, Cosima Amelang, Eleanor Marsden, Emily Doucet, Emily Foister, Ersev Ersoy, Eystein Thanisch, Fionnuala Ruth Clara O'Neill, Gabriele Grundzinskaite, Ioana-Elena Batis, James Leveque, Jessica Johannesson, Jo Hsu, Katherine Stewart, Katie Zaun, Kwasu Tembo, Laura Jane Routledge, Lena Schneider, Lizzie Stewart, Maxim Shadurski, Melissa Rogers, Michael Munnik, Michelle Devereaux, Natalia Esling, Natasha Simonova, Nathalie Weidhase, Nelly Reinhold, Nicola Bieg, Nina Malaika Engelhardt, Qianwei He, Roisin McKelvey, Ross Jamieson, Samantha Porter, Sarah Sharp, Stephanie Spoto, Sophie Clarke, Sophie Heuschling, Thomas Whitehead, Victoria Anker, Wiktoria Parysek, Yaqi Pang.
AuthenticityNo 12 (2011)
‘Every now and then a critic or a reader writes to say that some character of mine declares things that are too modern, and in every one of these instances, and only in these instances, I was actually quoting fourteenth-century texts.’
–Umberto Eco, ‘Epilogue to The Name of the Rose’
The idea of ‘authenticity’ assumes that a work can be ‘genuine’, ‘authoritative’, ‘legitimate’: rooted in fact or truth. Yet the possibility of ‘authentic’ representation has always been haunted by the prospect of its antithesis, the ‘fake’ or fraud, and both have become increasingly difficult to define in our globalising world. ‘Authenticity’ – whether it is accepted, invoked, or defied – has remained a dominant construct throughout centuries of cultural production, and is the foundation of many academic discussions that continuously restructure and redefine the concept. This issue of FORUM seeks to explore the notion of authenticity as it relates to areas of culture and the arts.
Editors: Elysse T. Meredith & Dorothy Butchard
Editorial Review Panel: Laura Chapot*, Elena-Adriana Dancu*, Sara Day, Marc Di Sotto, Emma Harper*, Nathalie Ingrassia, James Leveque*, Ruth Mahony, Roisin McCloskey, Matt Mendez, Ana Moraes, Irina Navolochnaya, Emma Paul, Lucy Pearse, Eleanor Pender, Kara Schunk, Maxim Shadurski, Mary Kate Sherwood, Lizzie Stewart, Julia Tulloh, Fran Tomlin, Barbara Vrachnas*, Thomas Whitehead. Article Editors are marked with a star(*)
IdentityNo 11 (2010)
How do we go about answering the question 'Who am I'? Identity provides an important means of understanding the world, from the individual to the collective. Globalisation and modern technologies gather and separate individuals and communities, creating and redefining both singular and shared identities. Historical concepts and personas are re-imagined through contemporary lenses, modifying past identities while affecting modern views of the self. Much has been made of the freedom and power of fluid, shifting, and multiple identities, yet the notion of an authentic and essential identity remains. Such contestations are part of the language used to discuss identity, as the phrase 'identity crisis' indicates. Identity can be 'found' and 'lost', disputed, negotiated, and subverted.
How is identity formed, maintained, and defined? How far does identity rely on differentiation, and how much on identification? Is identity constructed, or intrinsic? Does it change, and if so, how? How can identity be approached, (re)presented, and analysed in art, film, literature, media, music, and theatre? With increasing globalisation and rapidly changing technology, we are challenged to both redefine and protect identity on multiple levels. How has this affected views, portrayals, and performance of identities? Conversely, how has identity been portrayed and constructed in the past?
Editors: Siobhan Fitzgerald & Elysse T. Meredith
Space/sNo 10 (2010)
With the invention of the internet - that infinite cyber space - our world has both radically expanded and contracted. Opened up, as our practice of interacting with others has been drastically changed; but contracted, as this freedom has altered our experience of spatial distance forever. Older technological advances, such as the invention of air travel, initiated this movement by enabling us to traverse and therefore grasp space in new ways. But it is not just our conception of material space that has altered; the impact has also changed our experience of mental space as well. Our world, our cities, our domestic, private, and public spaces have undergone a drastic re-definition; these new spaces have forced a change in our understanding of the nature of space itself.
How do we approach these changes and the questions they raise in film, art, music, literature, theatre, and media? In what ways have our changing relations with space altered our understanding of previous spatial conceptions? What does the future hold for our sense of space in a world composed of so many different kinds of spaces, non-spaces, and gaps in space? These changes have affected not only physical and mental space, but the very idea of space itself - its boundaries, its construction, its manipulation. To speak of space in these terms suggests that it is graspable, controllable, and claimable; how does this conception of space relate to the idea that it is negation itself? What exactly are we talking of when we try to articulate "space"?
Editors: Ally Crockford & Siobhan Fitzgerald
Voice/sNo 09 (2009)
Voice stands as a defining feature of the arts; even its absence is crucial to interpreting meaning. The issue of voice is central to cultures throughout history, to different genres, styles, and periods. A voice of the people, a voice of one's own, and a writer's voice - each depicts the importance of voice to subjectivity and subject-formation, to origins and originality. Stephen M. Ross describes voice as the essence of a story, noting that "a story - its persons and places, its deeds and disappointments - may be nothing more than the voice that tells it." The same is true for a story told in any medium, through art, music, film, drama, literature: it has, in Ross's words, "no existence without voice, before or after voice, beyond or behind voice."
Voice serves a crucial role in the development of our own subjectivity and sense of identity, but can there be such a thing as an objective voice? We need to problematise the concept of voice, its possible meanings and implications. How can voices be employed and created in different mediums, and to what effect? Who is given a voice, to whom is it denied, and what are the implications of voice versus silence? And what of non-human voices? How are voices used in dialogue to explore, to express, to create, to question? How has voice been wielded to achieve such aims, and can it be? Can it be truly captured, can it be manipulated?
Editors: Lena Wånggren & Ally Crockford
TechnologiesNo 08 (2009)
Technologies allow us to interrogate what material objects, techniques and systems of knowledge are made and how they are produced.
The 8th issue of FORUM engages with a range of questions concerning the definitions, meanings, applications and representations of technologies. The three guest articles by distinguished technology scholars deal with technologies and embodiment in Doctor Who, Marcuse's aesthetics, and the figure of the independent inventor. The following articles explore the significance of technologies across the fields of literary and film studies, history and art history as well as media studies.
The wide variety of articles from different disciplines highlight the interdisciplinary nature of technologies, and the complexity of the term 'technology' itself.
Editors: Jana Funke & Lena Wånggren
HauntingNo 07 (2008)
Haunting is a form of un/knowing.
The 7th issue of FORUM engages with haunting and related concepts such as the uncanny, spectrality and the trace by looking at a variety of different texts and contexts. A spirited piece on clipping as an instance of spectral writing is followed by reflections on the apparition in its wide-ranging ontological, epistemological and ethical significance. The articles offer spectral readings of different media from literature and film to the radio and apply the idea of haunting to a variety of topics and issues including intertextuality in Ackroyd, Shakespeare’s agentive objects, the palimpsestic poetics of Argento’s Opera, the spectres of radio technology, post-memory and the Holocaust, and the ethics of Dicken’s ghostly Christmas.
In its entirety, the issue powerfully illustrates the manifold uses of haunting as a means of approaching that which is effaced or absent, but nevertheless makes itself known in unexpected and disruptive ways.
Editors: Jack Burton & Jana Funke
Special Issue 02: Play Conference2008
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."
"Play is the exultation of the possible."
On 23 and 24 May, 2008, FORUM hosted an international and interdisciplinary conference on the topic of "Play" at the University of Edinburgh's School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures (made possible through funding from the Art and Humanities Research Council). Engaging with a myriad of perspectives and interests – from digital media to theology, literature to film studies, psychology to performance art – the conference explored the social and cultural functions of play, and attempted to determine its significance in the arts and humanities. This special issue of FORUM offers a selection of papers presented at the conference, a compilation of works that reflect the spectrum of questions considered throughout the two-day event.
DesireNo 06 (2008)
The spring 2008 issue of FORUM explores the concept of desire as a force inspiring works of art within a variety of cinematic and literary genres.
The issue opens with a guest article by Homay King examining the intersection between the “desire to know” and Orientalist elements of mise en scène within the genre of film noir. The discussion of cinematic representations of desire continues with articles on murder and the gaze in 1960s British film and female effigies in contemporary film Lars and the Real Girl. Turning to literature, an analysis of Angela Carter’s novel The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman looks at the function of desire within identity formation; while an essay on Gerard Manley Hopkins’s confessional notes presents a new take on a popular topic: forbidden longing.
In moving between the personal and the universal, the forbidden and the permissible, the articles in this issue present a spectrum of approaches to and understandings of desire and its aesthetic incarnations.
Editors: Kim Richmond & Ana Salzberg
Apocalypse NowNo 05 (2007)
Since the beginning the end has always been with us.
Mushroom cloud from the Fat Man bomb over Nagasaki, 9th August 1945
As the 5th issue of FORUM, the University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal for Culture and the Arts demonstrates the apocalypse has proved to be a resilient cultural trope throughout human history. Dr Darryl Jones' wide-ranging guest article provides historical context for the treatment of the apocalyptic tone in literature, setting the scene for the literary discussions of the 19th century short stories of Wilkie Collins and George Eliot, the Science Fiction novels of George Turner and the more contemporary concerns of Don Delillo's work. The flexible nature of the apocalyptic theme is reflected in two papers investigating the use of apocalyptic tone in two non-literary media forms, namely the eco-concerns of the films of Rolf de Heers and the sonic experience of the apocalypse in Tom Waits' Bone Machine, while a more philosophical approach is adopted in the discussions of our ability to linguistically comprehend the "end" post-Trinity, and the radical eco-activism of the Earth First! movement.
As this selection of essays proves, attempting to study human conceptions of apocalypse provides a colourfully broad canvas of topics and approaches which, like the literal meaning of the word itself, constantly hint at the "unveiling" of a coherent truth while simultaneously remaining tantalisingly out of reach.
Editors: Jack Burton & Hanna Sommerseth
Camp!No 04 (2007)
From ballet dancers to toilet humour, Pink Flamingos to Douglas Sirk, summer camp to Mick Jagger...
The spring 2007 issue of FORUM engages with the topic of Camp!
Divine in John Waters's Pink Flamingos, 1972
Covering a wide variety of media, the articles consider representations of camp, as well as exploring the potential of camp as a critical interpretative strategy. The edition opens with the classic camp of Carry On films, before moving on to an analysis of the politics of straight camp in hard rock. Personal anecdote is interwoven with a re-examination of Susan Sontag's "Notes on 'Camp'" in our third article, followed by a consideration of the restorative potential of camp in a short story about a man living with HIV. The issue closes with a look at the classic melodrama of Douglas Sirk, interpreting his use of colour within a camp register.
Editors: Clare Bielby & Sally Henderson