Writing in the Margins: Exploring the Borderland in the Work of Janet Frame and Jane Campion
Anna Ball, University of Manchester
In her 1962 publication The Edge of the Alphabet, New Zealand born author Janet Frame locates herself at a precarious position for a novelist: at 'the edge of the alphabet where words crumble and all forms of communication between the living are useless' (Frame, 1962, p.302). 'One day', she writes, 'we who live at the edge of the alphabet will find our speech' (1962, p.302). It is to the margins that Frame relegates herself - at the divisive border of language that separates human beings. Yet Frame, an eloquent and highly regarded author, lacked neither voice nor audience during her lifetime. Why, then, does her work locate her amongst the silenced, the marginal and the dispossessed? Indeed, where does Frame's imagined cartography leave her within discourses of spatiality and identity politics? This paper seeks to appropriate the discourse of 'border-theory' in order to provide a discursive tool that can adequately describe Frame's textual and psychological identification with those who occupy a 'borderland' existence. What is unusual about such an appropriation is that this theory of spatiality will not be employed in its literal sense - in order to describe geographically located racial 'otherness', as theorists such as Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) have done in reference to the US-Mexico divide - but in order to describe the spatiality of Frame's gendered and proprioceptive 'otherness'. 'Spatializing gender' in this way is by no means a new project - Elizabeth Grosz and Doreen Massey amongst others have described the ways in which gender is constructed by, and itself constructs, physical and social space (Grosz, 1995; Massey, 1994). But what this essay seeks to reveal is how engagement with the specific spatial construct of 'the border' and 'borderland' is vital to an understanding of sexual difference beyond 'otherness'. Not simply through poststructuralist, metafictive literary strategies, as Frame employs, but also in powerful and visible artistic practice such as that of Jane Campion's portrait of Frame, An Angel at My Table (1990).
'This Bridge We Call Home': Crossing and Bridging Spaces in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street.
Stella Bolaki, University of Edinburgh
The idea of the border has proved a most fertile one in articulating the conflicting principles that constitute Chicano/a subjects. Shaped by complex intercultural dynamics, Chicanas learn 'to juggle cultures' and to develop 'a mestiza consciousness or consciousness of Borderlands'. Sandra Cisneros's first novel, an amalgam of prose and poetry that portrays female development, participates in the process of creating such 'a third space', which encompasses competing territories, discourses and narratives. Though the novel's action is physically removed from the geopolitical boundary that divides Mexico from the United States, and there is no physical border crossing, the idea of the border(land) is crucial to The House on Mango Street (1984), informing both its thematic and structural concerns. Cisneros's text creates tension between discourses of gender loyalty and ethnic solidarity, but, through the juxtaposition of a series of vignettes that transcend linear and hierarchical readings, refuses primacy to any of the forces at play in the process of fashioning the ethnic American and female self. In the end, the protagonist selectively integrates the diverse spaces she inhabits, and through her writing claims a home of her own, which blurs distinctions and merges dichotomies. The paper explores this harmonious coexistence by relating it to the mediating function of the traditional Bildungsroman. It also associates it with the feminist project undertaken by women of colour in the United States, in particular with the need to recognise 'the matrix-like interaction' of categories such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity when it comes to questions of identity formation.
A Striptease in Pink Limelight: Removing the Veil between the Subjective and Objective
Eugene de Klerk, University of Glasgow
Surrealism attempted to demonstrate the permeability of any barrier set up between subjective and objective reality. Not only did Dali revolutionise this project, he also pre-empted much of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory in the process. This paper argues for Dali's influence on Lacan as well his complex contribution (through the theory underpinning his Paranoid-Critical method) to any dialectical understanding of materiality.
Long-Distance Nationalism: A Study of the Bagir Ghati Community Living in East London
Aminul Hoque, Goldsmiths University of London
By examining the experiences of the first generation Bagir Ghati migrant settlers of East London, this paper investigates the 'link' between the diaspora and the homeland. In the wake of the resurgence of connections between immigrants and their homelands (based upon linguistic, ethnic, cultural and social homogeneity and place of birth), it is time for us to explore the implications of long-distance nationalism. In such a world, what are the meanings of home, country, nation and nationalism: Who are Bagir Ghatis, are they Bengali, British, English, Sylheti, Muslim, what about the children and the grandchildren of the first generation settlers who were born in Britain? As legal citizens of Britain, how should the Bagir Ghatis relate to the land and people of their ancestry? How do the people back in Bangladesh whom they left behind view them? And finally, what is Britain to the Bagir Ghatis?
Once we begin to think about the process of Bagir Ghati transnational migration and the subsequent long-distance nationalism which comes as a result, our perception of how the world is organised stands challenged and in need of revision. If there are thousands of other Bagir Ghatis and Bangladeshis living simultaneously in more than one country, what do we then understand about the boundaries of nation and state? Can we accept the view projected by the media, state leaders, and international organisations that the world is made up of separate independent nation-states, each with their own territory, language, history, and culture? Is it possible for a person to have two or more homelands?
Towards a subaltern aesthetics: Reassessing Postcolonial Criticism for Contemporary Northern Irish and Scottish Literatures. James Kelman and Robert McLiam Wilson's Rewriting of National Paradigms
Stefanie Lehner, University of Edinburgh
This paper aims to reassess the relevance of postcolonial criticism for contemporary Irish and Scottish literatures. A postcolonial approach for these cultures seems indeed not unproblematic, as both Scotland and Ireland were themselves part of the colonisation process. The seminal The Empire Writes Back includes neither Ireland nor Scotland under the definition of 'post-colonial'. Whereas Irish writing has been increasingly refigured in postcolonial terms, Scotland remains overlooked. Contemporary Irish and Scottish Studies criticism is, as I will argue, entrapped in the predominance of the nation as a superintending paradigm. Thus, they have proven the capacity to subsume identity markers such as class and gender. While postcolonialism has tended to uphold a resurgent nationalism which restores colonial structures, the work of the Subaltern Studies Group offers the potential to trace affiliate concerns within the socio-cultural archipelago of my survey in their common political renegotiation and transgression of established boundaries. Concerns of class, related to other disempowerments, permit the establishment of affiliations between writers that circumvent the naïve equation of nations as already agreed concepts.
My paper discusses the problematic and contentious use of postcolonial theory in their respective criticisms in order to re-access its potential as an enabling ethical and critical approach for cross-archipelagic Studies through the insights of Subaltern concerns.
Beyond Boundaries? V.S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival and Emine Sevgi Özdamar's MutterZunge as Creative Processes of Arrival
Frauke Matthes, University of Edinburgh
The article compares notions of arrival in Emine Sevgi Özdamar's MutterZunge (1990) and V.S. Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrival (1987). The emphasis is on their narrators' self-reflection and self-definition in a new culture and environment: Germany and Britain. The narrators' - literal and metaphorical - crossing of borders between countries forms the basis of their gradual arrival as writers. They have the opportunity to create cultural and linguistic 'in-between' spaces where they can find innovative forms of expression. A critical reading of notions of hybridity and 'Third Space' as they were developed particularly by Homi K. Bhabha determines therefore the approach to both texts. I discuss migration and displacement as forms of existence and their significance for the writers' cultural identities, and ask how the narrators perceive their journeys and arrivals. Do they arrive as writers, and if so, how? The analysis concentrates on the motif of arrival and/or being at home as constant movement between different cultures. Naipaul's narrator explores 'coming to terms with his "routes"' rather than 'roots', his journey from Trinidad (culturally via India) to Britain, whereas Özdamar's narrator approaches the question of gaining or owning a familiar (Turkish) as well as a new language (German) via a mediating language (Arabic), consequently developing a 'Third Language' for the purpose of her creative work. Finally, I compare Naipaul's and Özdamar's diverse strategies for giving meaning to their journeys, and ask what the creative modes in which they deal with their arrivals say about them and their writing.
The No Man Show: Technology and the Extension of Presence in the Work of Andy Warhol
Lisa Otty, Edinburgh University
This paper examines the art of Andy Warhol across different media in relation to the various technologies used by the artist. It aims to find fresh discursive ground from which to approach Warhol and to shift discussion of his art away from what have become stagnant debates about consumerism and post-modern experience.
Warhol's work has, in recent years, become entrenched in a critical tug of war. It is almost always interpreted in one of two opposing ways - as meaningless and simulacral or as directly referential, the product of a tormented subject. The first type of reading takes Warhol's art as mindless consumerism, celebrating and affirming the vacuity of American pop culture. In direct contrast, the second type situates the artist as engaged politically and critically with society. Each reading refuses the other and the result is a reductive trap.
This paper argues that there is an alternative way of understanding Warhol's catalogue: as involved with technologically enabled extension and the effects of this movement on the artwork. Works in three media are examined: a group of paintings, a film and a novel. The idea of telepresence - the ability to be, via media technologies, simultaneously present and absent - is a central concern in each work. How this concept alters according to each medium is traced in order to argue that Warhol plays with and problematizes the relationship between images and reality - signifier and signified - without divorcing them from one another.
The Ethical Limitations of Holocaust Literary Representation
Anna Richardson, University of Manchester
Following Theodor Adorno's statement (and subsequent retraction) that 'to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric' the issues surrounding the ethical implications of the production and study of Holocaust literature have continued to provoke academic discussion. My paper examines two complementary aspects of the debate: firstly, probing the arguably taboo nature of Holocaust testimony, and the limitations faced by those survivors who wish to tell their stories, in terms of what they feel they can and cannot reveal. How do these authors break the barriers that render their experiences 'unspeakable', in order to transmit these experiences in textual form? Secondly, I shall begin to approach the tension that exists between 'truly' autobiographical Holocaust literature such as the work of Primo Levi, and works of historical fiction such as Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List, and more controversially Binjamin Wilkomirski's 'fake' Holocaust testimony, Fragments. Berel Lang awards such texts a certain pedagogical value, regardless of whether or not they can be said to be historically accurate, however he also maintains a distinct boundary between the realms of 'fact' and 'fiction'. My research aims towards an understanding of how and where this boundary can be placed. Finally, I shall attempt to provide some understanding of my own position as a non-Jewish scholar undertaking academic research on Holocaust literature, and how this generates its own barriers.