Quotation of the Day
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
FOCUS: An Anthology of Contemporary Jamaican Writing Featured Article
This essay is an excellent example of how literary history can be made to speak not only through the voices of highly canonical authors, but also by looking at publications that have celebrated the majority of the population in colonised countries, who were black, working class, or poor. Many of the poets and artists included in the FOCUS collections (1943-1960) were young and spoke in the voice of ordinary Jamaicans, some were female, and the editorial teams privileged political themes and poetry that expressed a consciousness about present inequalities and the need for a better future. In this respect, it is a highly de/post-colonial work, that recuperates a diverse range of Jamaican authors and writings which the article deftly exemplifies, illuminating a crucial – though little known – period in the island’s anticolonial past.
Queer Theory and Late Medieval England Featured Article
This is a ground-breaking essay on pre-modern queer studies and what it might mean, in critical terms, “to queer” the Middle Ages. Starting from the premise that current categories of gender and sexuality are diverse, unstable, and historically contingent, it looks at the problems of periodization in premodern queer studies and provides an overview of the field since the 1980s. The various sections examine emblematic queer figures in medieval literature (such as Chaucer’s Pardoner), medieval lesbianisms, Christian anti-eroticisms (such as virginity and chastity) and early transgender studies. Insofar as matters of gender and sexuality continue to be crucial identity markers in twenty-first century politics, the article participates in current debates by reclaiming canonical stories and figures of the past in order to reveal more liberatory forms of embodiment, being, and sociality that have been occulted by heteronormative ways of reading and interpretation.
The Arab Spring: A Literary and Artistic Awakening Featured Article
Starting with a brief panorama of the political movements that are usually associated with the umbrella term “Arab Spring”, the article examines the cultural revolution it has generated in various countries of North Africa and the Middle East, from poetry and music to photography and street art. This ‘new wave’ has taken different forms in different locations, such as the rise of rap in Tunisia, protest literature in Libya, popular music in Yemen, and graffiti in Egypt. The essay offers in-depth discussions of individual songs, poems and images that exemplify these tendencies, as artists have gained the courage to create without or against censorship in highly volatile political circumstances.
Theatre of the Absurd [Theater of the Absurd] Featured Article
The article provides a comprehensive overview of one of the defining theatrical tendencies of the 20th century, with sections dedicated to all of its major figures (Adamov, Arrabal, Beckett, Genet, Ionesco and Pinter), but also looking at its specific development in Britain (particularly the theatre of N.F. Simpson, Joe Orton and Tom Stoppard), Eastern Europe (Slawomir Mrozek and Václav Havel), and the US (Edward Albee). Starting from Martin Esslin’s seminal study The Theatre of the Absurd, the article traces the origins of several crucial aspects of absurdist theatre back to Greek Drama and the satires of the late classical period, going through what Bakhtin called “carnivalistic literature”, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1896), Futurism, Dada and Surrealism. One of the main virtues of the article is its comprehensiveness: it does not solely focus on Western European Absurdist traditions, but emphasises its roots in plays written in the inter-war period by the likes of Vladimir Maiakovsky in Soviet Russia and Stanislaw Witkiewicz in Poland, and mentions more recent offshoots in the dramatic works of authors as different as Alan Bennett, Sarah Kane, Darius Fo or Giuseppe Manfidi.