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Volume 5 | Spring 2007


Memory and Meaning on the Brink of Oblivion: Proust, Sebald, and the Construction of Identity

Todd Coffin

Both Proust's narrator and Jacques Austerlitz are concerned primarily with the way in which memory shapes their current identities. Moreover, they seek to recall not only the precise sentiments of the past experience, but also to consider the feelings memories evoke in them presently. Thus memory is not constituted in the simple recall of a past event or person: it is a complex chain of experience, emotion, and distance fused with the active impression and current meaning one draws from one's perceived past. While Proust's narrator premises his entire story on the quest for memory and how he can harness it into a creative expression of art, Jacques Austerlitz is more concerned with parting the somber veil that clouds his vision of himself and his past.... Full Article>


Sexual and Political Impotence in Imperfect Enjoyment Poetry

Adrianna E. Frick

In this paper I will argue that the cyclical resurgence of interest in impotence poetry is directly connected to substantial political turmoil. I suggest that the production and circulation of impotence poetry, also called Imperfect Enjoyment poems, is due to feelings of political impotence and disillusionment with constructions of power. Through a close reading of the two most significant works in the genre, Ovid's Amores 3.7 and John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester's The Imperfect Enjoyment, I examine the characterizations and symbols of sexual experience as metaphoric attempts to reconcile changing theories of power and authority.... Full Article>



Sharing the Universally Subjective Experience in Nathalie Sarraute's Martereau and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse

Rachel Gibson

Nathalie Sarraute's Martereau (1953) was one of her first contributions to the nouveau roman movement in French literature. Often criticized for her unconventional use of perspective and distinctively disjointed narrative, Sarraute sought to extend the modernist challenge to the 19th century novel's portrayal of reality by taking the genre to the next level, and giving her audience a more accurate representation of reality. Sarraute looked to Virginia Woolf's oeuvre both as a model for and defense of this experiment, and in many ways Martereau reflects the stylistic effects and psychological inquiry that Woolf pioneered.... Full Article>



Literature's Imperative of Voice: Pablo Neruda and Gao Xingjian's Perspectives on the Figure of the Writer

Jenny Lee

This essay will be concerned with two writers with very different convictions about their public roles as well as the social relevance of their literary works. Neruda — the distinguished Chilean statesman and devoted Communist whose political and literary careers paralleled as well as nurtured each other's development — is a perfect example of Edward Said's representation of the intellectual as a public figure who is committed to empowering oppressed groups in society. On the other end is Gao, who embodies Said's romantic notion of the solitary spirit in opposition both by circumstance and conviction. Both were, or continue to be, exiled at some point in their careers, but even the reasons behind their shared experience of exile are fundamentally different... Full Article>



Deconstructing the Barbarian: Polemical Ethnography and Identity in Las Casas and Montaigne

Christy Rodgers

In the study that follows, I look at two seminal Renaissance figures, Bartolomé de las Casas and Michel de Montaigne, whose writings express a dilemma of identity— both an inability to use received paradigms to fix the identity of the Amerindian, and the potential destabilization of European identity threatened by this aporia— and grapple with it in diverse ways. Both were enormously prolific writers; I focus here on particular works that demonstrate the practice I am calling polemical ethnography: the depiction of Amerindian peoples for the purpose of advancing a particular line of thought in a contentious way, and in which a determination concerning their identity is fundamental to the goals of the argument.... Full Article>



Jagged Season: translations from Valentina Saraçini's Dreaming Escape

Erica Weitzman

Dreaming Escape is Saraçini's second book of poetry. It is divided into five sections, which more or less form a narrative arc, if not a narrative per se. The first section, titled Antimythic, contains, as the title might suggest, poems of bitter, implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) political, commentary. The world is imagined as a landscape in which the Greek gods are not yet dead, but merely surviving with Olympus displaced: a nightmare of megadeath and anesthetization. Similarly, Saraçini both uses and takes apart national myths. I undid the Canon's geography, she writes in one poem, referring to the famous Canon of Lek Dukagjini, a medieval legal code that is considered in many ways to be the founding document of the Albanian nation ... Full Article>

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