Obscenity out of the Margins: Mysterious Imagery within the Cent nouvelles nouvelles, MS Hunter 252
Elise Boneau, University of Glasgow
The Cent nouvelles nouvelles, a 15th-century Burgundian manuscript of fabliaux-based tales is illustrated by various images which contain a sometimes blatant portrayal of male genitalia. Based upon the context in which the manuscript was created, this sort of imagery seems remotely unusual. Is it truly out of place, or do the changing concepts of body during the late 15th century explain the presence of these images in a courtly document? My argument contests that of Paul Saenger, who claims that the book is so illustrated as a form of pornographic text to be passed around surreptitiously. However, the size of the manuscript and its content do not seem to support this statement. The imagery appears to be influenced by marginalia of previous centuries, and could be explained through the movement of marginal images into a more central representation that was occurring on a larger scale during the fifteenth century. The typically allegorical use of phallic imagery in the margins does not seem to apply in the case of the Cent nouvelles nouvelles. Changing ideas of the body following the Black Death and subsequent advances in medicine may also be held up as possible inspiration for the images, as well as the increasing notion of privacy and the Church's increased attempts to reform and enforce laws on sexuality. In each of these cases, the images of the Cent nouvelles nouvelles tend to retain a unique quality that eludes categorization and encourages us to keep our minds open about the character of obscenity.
Carving the Body: Female Circumcision in African Women's Memoirs
Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, University of South Africa (Doctoral candidate, based in New York)
This article discusses the socio-cultural relevance of female circumcision in Africa. It also explores how women carve and map gender identity and social responsibility onto the bodies of other women. These spaces are contested in the memoirs written by African women such as Nawal el Saadawi.
African women writers speak to the silenced parts of their "otherness," parts that were physically and spiritually taken from them, in most cases before puberty. Their sexual identity is thus framed within the imaginary; the imagined self, distanced from the de-sexualized, fragmented bodies which are physically present. They, thereby, write an astounding narration of re-membering female bodies back onto the text and into a physical place of wholeness.
The literature articulates how women resist each other as women, through the writing of female circumcision. The power of the `gaze' is personal; thus there are many levels of resistance inscribed onto the text. In this respect, writers, such as Saadawi, force movement towards this personal space, in giving a tongue to an unspoken reality that an estimated one hundred million women have no public space for others to hear their testimonies about their cutting.
Frida Kahlo: An Artist "In Between"
Anna Haynes, University of Cardiff
The recent exhibition of Frida Kahlo's work at London's Tate Modern marks her extraordinary appeal which blurs the increasingly fragile division between high art and popular culture. Mexico's most celebrated artist, the subject of a major Hollywood film and a ubiquitous fashion commodity (see www.fridakahlo.us) is, indeed, an iconic figure. In the light of the Tate exhibition she has been described by art critic Waldemar Januszczak as 'a perfect flush... in the poker game of politically correct contemporary aesthetics' and by Germaine Greer as 'the patron saint of lipstick and lavender feminism'. These somewhat derisive remarks indicate the beginnings of a critical backlash against 'Fridomania', the cultural phenomenon more concerned with her exotic persona and spectacular biography than with the pictures she painted. Her current celebrity status, however, does not supplant the vigour with which this curious artist dealt with identity, in particular marginality and difference. This article bypasses the mythology surrounding Kahlo's life, focusing instead on her paintings. Close analysis of her self-representations unearth the fissures that her work forces in the binary hegemonic structures which seek to homogenize and normalize dissident subjectivities by eliding ambiguity and indeterminacy. The images of her 'self', or her 'selves', which exceed culturally constructed polarities of race, sex, gender and sexuality, exploit her self-identification with locations 'in between'. The dynamic narrative of subjectivity her images weave, I will argue, looks towards the simultaneous coexistence of opposites wherein identity exists alongside difference.
Regressive History and the Rights of Welsh Speakers: Does History Matter?
Gwenllian Lansdown, University of Cardiff
Students of culture and identity must inevitably consider the influence of the past on understandings of personal identity in the present. Liberals like John Rawls, committed to justice, and driven by their commitment to the primacy of the individual, cannot ignore the salience of personal identity. Nor can they be oblivious to the dynamic of time in the construction of identity, especially when principles of justice and fairness are invoked.
Specifically, these issues are all the more relevant in a paper like this which looks at the impact that pivotal events have had on present-day identity in relation to language in Wales: liberals must address the inherent injustices which Welsh speakers have faced over the centuries and which continue to be felt today.
Indeed, if contemporary constructions of Welsh identity (linguistic and otherwise) are to be explained in relation to actions and events in the past, then a historical approach must be adopted. But where does such a history begin? When does history count and when does it not? How are we to decide when history matters?
Having explored the role played by history in relation to John Rawls's liberal theory and in relation to Wales, I argue that the disavowal of the past (the 'presentist' approach as Stephen May calls it) remains an untenable position for liberal theorists who are motivated by claims of injustice and inequality.
Grappling with Essential Reality at the Margins of Community: Identity, Alienation and Transcendence in Patrick White's Voss
Alexandra Lewis, University of Cambridge
Patrick White's work has often been interpreted as valorizing artistic, intellectual and emotional alienation, celebrating the self-imposed marginality of a superior elect over community and integrated social identity. This paper explores the complex relationship between identity and marginality, alienation and transcendence, in Patrick White's Voss, interrogating the claim that White's work simply promotes a cult of the individual elite or privileges the Romantic notion of self-sufficient genius. Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss traces the explorer's tortuous journey through uncharted territories of mind and landscape towards an often ambiguous, flawed and even failed understanding of self and other.
Although the extreme isolation of characters such as Voss and his companion-in-obsession Laura facilitates their insight into the hypocrisy, hostility and stifling nature of the society from which they are alienated, White focuses on the irony of Voss's extreme egotism, gesturing towards the need for unity and relationship to ensure restoration and survival. This paper argues that, for White, to transcend is not merely to grasp some higher or more essential reality beyond or behind social existence as critics have suggested, but rather to overcome the seemingly immutable boundaries of ego and personality that prevent genuine human relationship and exchange. Indeed, 'essential reality' does not exist beyond or behind social existence, but firmly within it. In Voss, alienation and self-imposed marginality are revealed to be potentially dangerous states that threaten to lead to self-annihilation rather than transcendence.
Migration and Transnationalism, the Complete Picture? A Case Study of Russians Living in Scotland
Sophie Mamattah, University of Glasgow
The frameworks and theories which contribute to understandings of the sociological aspects of migration have undergone considerable change over time. The established contexts of migratory movement have been challenged and found wanting by the fast pace of technological change which has resulted in the phenomenon of globalisation. Attempts to recognise these developments in the field of migration praxis have found focus in the genesis of the theory of transnationalism which acknowledges the fact that, in a globalised society migrants are less likely to sever their ties with the country of origin in favour of assimilation but may instead find way to reconcile their "old" and "new" identities.
The advancement of transnational theory has not been uncontroversial, resulting in myriad theoretical caveats. This research investigates the evolution of transnational theory using data gathered in a study of ethnic Russian migrants living in Scotland in order to dissect the theoretical framing of transnationalism. I examine the strengths and weaknesses of the present theoretical structure. My findings point to a highly individual practice of transnationalism among Russians in Scotland. I suggest that the framing of present transnationalism does not account for the nuanced processes at work in the Russian-Scottish setting. As a possible remedy for this problem I suggest that, in certain circumstances, it is useful to delineate some migrant activity as "trait" or "proxy" transnational practices. Thus the theory retains its merit as an emergent field worthy of further study and individual aspects of transnational practice can also be recognised.
Images of Intellectual Nomadism in Works by Katarina Sevic and Zsofia Váradi.
Katarzyna Pabijanek, Freelance researcher (MPhil, University College London 2006)
The family tree is the main motif of "Looking for MySelf, Virtual Family" by Zsofia Váradi. The work contains twenty-one pictures of persons invited to the artist's virtual family. Katarina Sevi?, Váradi's friend from the multimedia art department in Art Academy of Budapest, appears next to Váradi as her older sister. The physical resemblance and interest in new technologies are not the only things both artists have in common. Explicit in their works is their common interest in questions dealing with the transformative quality of locations and geographies at a time when subjects are no longer bound to one particular place.
Spatial and geographic thinking has recently gained significance and has invaded gallery spaces. It has become a useful tool for analysis of the condition of the contemporary subject.
This article seeks to analyze the problems concerning identity, subjectivity, and their representability in geographic terms. I will investigate the problem of positioning the female subject, constructing its subjectivity based on geographical and historical conditions as it is represented in the works of two young artists from Budapest: Katarina Sevi? and Zsofia Váradi. In the first part of the article, drawing mostly on writings by Rosi Braidotti and Irit Rogoff, I will explain the theoretical foundations of my analysis. In the second part, I will analyze the works of the two artists and situate them in the context of the geographical discourse within the realm of visual culture. My aim is to present how these young artists engage in the redefinition of the subject in art and attempt the creation of a particular cultural and social landscape of this new subject.
Queer Adolescence: (Homo)sexuality in The Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar
Ricky Werner, University of Virginia
Holden Caulfield and Esther Greenwood-- protagonists of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar-- are typical or even prototypical of the sex-haunted protagonist of the novel of adolescence. Their sexual coming-of-age has provided the subject for many a critical study. But one of the more puzzling-- and so far largely unexamined-- features of both novels is their peripheral but persistent concern with homosexuality. This essay argues that in these novels the figure of the homosexual is a medium through which the protagonists grapple with their own, ostensibly non-queer sexuality and identity. This dynamic of identification is found to be symptomatic of the incoherences of modern Western homo/heterosexual definition discussed by queer theorist Eve Sedgwick. Finally, an epistemological symmetry is located between modern Western conceptions of adolescence and homosexuality.