Puzo’s Spy and Compensatory Justice

by Nancy Ciccone, University of Colorado Denver

Mario Puzo’s little known spy thriller, Six Graves to Munich, wrestles with themes he later develops in his best seller, The Godfather.  Among them is the exploration of commensurate and compensatory justice. Set in post-WWII, the novel dramatizes a spy’s revenge against former enemies, whom the US Government now considers friendly. Focusing on issues of identity, the genre furthermore provides subtle pathways for Puzo to incorporate his Italian American heritage. Whatever its literary merits, Six Graves provides an apt framework for Puzo to interrogate justice in relation to criminality.

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Bee Line: How the Honey Bee Defined the American Frontier

by Rob Hardy, Carleton College

Before the 1630s, the domestic honey bee was unknown on the North American continent. The honey bee was one of the many invasive species brought to North America by the early European settlers, along with such commonplace species as dandelions and earthworms. Two hundred years later, honey bees had spread across the continent. To Native Americans, the honey bee became a harbinger of the arrival of the white man. To the settlers, bees became a marker of the frontier. Along the way, bees left their small mark on the literature of the American west—especially in the period between 1840 and 1860, when settlers were spreading across the flowering prairies of the Midwest.

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The Inwardness of James Joyce’s Story, “The Dead”

by Keith Oatley, University of Toronto; Maja Djikic, University of Toronto; Raymond Mar, York University, Toronto

James Joyce’s most famous short story, ”The Dead,” works in layers. In one of these we identify with the story’s protagonist, Gabriel Conroy, so that we ourselves become metaphorical: we remain ourselves but also become Gabriel. In another layer Joyce offers an extended metaphor in which we are prompted to wonder whether understandings of others whom we might meet at a party have a relation to being intimate with a spouse. Although our emotions are empathetically related to Gabriel’s they are our own, as we take on his concerns and plans in the circumstances he enters. Continue reading The Inwardness of James Joyce’s Story, “The Dead”

The Failed Revolts of Stephen Dedalus: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Nietzschean Self-Overcoming

by James McAdams, Lehigh University

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce portrays Stephen Dedalus as an ambitious, rebellious, and cultural critic hostile to his native Ireland’s naïve convictions in religion, language and family.  In these ways, Stephen, at least superficially, endorses and aims to follow Nietzsche’s model of der Ubermensch, or philosopher of the future, who will escape nihilism by creating his own identity and his own meaning through art.  During the time Portrait was composed, Nietzsche was incredibly popular among the youthful artists of Dublin, and Joyce, as has been demonstrated in many passages in The Dubliners, was foremost among them in his admiration of Nietzsche.  Continue reading The Failed Revolts of Stephen Dedalus: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Nietzschean Self-Overcoming

Murmuring Seas, Broken Ground: the Liminal Landscape of M.R. James’ “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”

by Sam Wiseman, University of Potsdam

In the fiction of M.R. James, landscape functions as a device to represent and explore the world of the imagination. This is particularly true of his most famous story, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”, in which the setting—a stretch of East Anglian shingle beach, caught between land and sea—functions as a liminal realm, which does not belong fully to one world or another. The region’s elemental instability allows James to emphasize the inadvertent exploration of other thresholds by his protagonist, Parkins: between fiction/imagination and “reality”, the sublime and the comprehensible, the oceanic and the cultural, and the animistic and scientific. In the story’s most uncanny and frightening scene, Parkins finds himself trapped in a liminal psychological state—neither dreaming nor waking—in which the region’s landscape and weather both play a key metaphorical and atmospheric role in establishing a feeling of destabilization. It is this sense of suspension between realms, I argue, that creates the story’s distinctive power: it is typically Jamesian in its ultimate cautionary moral, one which warns of the dangers of investigating/eroding boundaries between categories, and which uses its haunting coastal landscape as a corresponding image to this message.

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Scripts for Life: How Plays, Novels, and Conduct Manuals Created Women in Eighteenth-Century Britain

by Tabitha Kenlon, American University in Dubai

Long before Helen Gurley Brown and Oprah, women learned how to live their lives through literature—plays, novels, and conduct manuals provided instructions on what women needed to do in order to be women. In eighteenth-century England, ideas about marriage were changing and women were writing books and appearing on stage; these (and other) shifts made female behavior a popular topic. This essay examines sample works by playwright Hannah Cowley, Jane Austen, and conduct manual writers to reveal the ways authors conveyed mixed messages about acceptable activities for women as they explored subtle new roles while respecting the rules.

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Adam Mickiewicz’s “Crimean Sonnets” – a clash of two cultures and a poetic journey into the Romantic self

by Olga Lenczewska, University of Oxford

The paper analyses Adam Mickiewicz’s poetic cycle ‘Crimean Sonnets’ (1826) as one of the most prominent examples of early Romanticism in Poland, setting it across the background of Poland’s troubled history and Mickiewicz’s exile to Russia. I argue that the context in which Mickiewicz created the cycle as well as the final product itself influenced the way in which Polish Romanticism developed and matured. The sonnets show an internal evolution of the subject who learns of his Romantic nature and his artistic vocation through an exploration of a foreign land, therefore accompanying his physical journey with a spiritual one that gradually becomes the main theme of the ‘Crimean Sonnets’. In the first part of the paper I present the philosophy of the European Romanticism, situate it in the Polish historical context, and describe the formal structure of the Crimean cycle. In the second part of the paper I analyse five selected sonnets from the cycle in order to demonstrate the poetic journey of the subject-artist, centred around the epistemological difference between the Classical concept of ‘knowing’ and the Romantic act of ‘exploring’.

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Real and Not Real: Naomi Mitchison’s Philosophy of the Historical Novel

by Rob Hardy, Carleton College

In a long and varied career as a writer and activist, Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999) wrote novels, poetry, and memoirs; helped establish the first birth control clinics in London; toured the Soviet Union with Doris Lessing; proofread The Fellowship of the Ring; and was adopted as the member of an African tribe. But it was as a historical novelist that she established her reputation in the 1920s and 30s. Focusing on The Corn King and the Spring Queen, her 1931 novel set in the world of Hellenistic Greece, this essay explores Mitchison’s concept of the historical novel as a vehicle for promoting social change.

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Editorial: The Birth of Readings

by Alexandra Berlina, Editor

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Most of my friends, luckily, aren’t literary scholars. Nevertheless, they read books. Most of them also take an occasional look at literary criticism. Some have even been observed to peek into essays on literature. What they never read are articles from academic journals in literary studies.

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Borges, Tlön and the Third Tiger: Towards a Poetics of Experience

by Carlos Abreu Mendoza, Texas State University

 Readers tend to think of Jorge Luis Borges as a writer of abstractions and obscure cultural references, the inventor of imaginary planets and infinite libraries. However, a great deal of Borges’s work is rooted in an empathetic and concrete understanding of the world. This paper analyses The Maker, a 1960 collection of texts that marks Borges’s rediscovery of the human experience as the source of poetic inspiration.

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