Boston Review has posted today an excerpt of Rachel Ablow’s Interview with Elaine Scarry in our current special issue, The Social Life of Pain. Read the full interview here, and check out the issue introduction (free for a limited time) here.
University of Chicago Press 2019
Imagine trying to tell someone something about yourself and your desires for which there are no words. What if the mere attempt at expression was bound to misfire, to efface the truth of that ineluctable something?
In Someone, Michael Lucey considers characters from twentieth-century French literary texts whose sexual forms prove difficult to conceptualize or represent. The characters expressing these “misfit” sexualities gravitate towards same-sex encounters. Yet they differ in subtle but crucial ways from mainstream gay or lesbian identities—whether because of a discordance between gender identity and sexuality, practices specific to a certain place and time, or the fleetingness or non-exclusivity of desire. Investigating works by Simone de Beauvoir, Colette, Jean Genet, and others, Lucey probes both the range of same-sex sexual forms in twentieth-century France and the innovative literary language authors have used to explore these evanescent forms.
As a portrait of fragile sexualities that involve awkward and delicate maneuvers and modes of articulation, Someone reveals just how messy the ways in which we experience and perceive sexuality remain, even to ourselves.
Michael Lucey is Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Representations editorial board. An earlier version of the chapter “Simone de Beauvoir and Sexuality in the Third Person” appeared in Representations 109. His new work in progress is Proust, Sociology, Talk, and Novels. Previous books include Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust and The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality.
Congratulations to Kent Puckett
–whose book Narrative Theory: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge UP, 2016) has won the 2018 Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative. The Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize is presented annually the society to the book that makes the most significant contribution to the study of narrative in the preceding year.
Narrative Theory: A Critical Introduction provides an account of a methodology increasingly central to literary studies, film studies, history, psychology, and beyond. In addition to introducing readers to some of the field’s major figures and their ideas, Puckett situates critical and philosophical approaches toward narrative within a longer intellectual history. The book reveals one of narrative theory’s founding claims – that narratives need to be understood in terms of a formal relation between story and discourse, between what they narrate and how they narrate it – both as a necessary methodological distinction and as a problem characteristic of modern thought. Puckett thus shows that narrative theory is not only a powerful descriptive system but also a complex and sometimes ironic form of critique.
KENT PUCKETT is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and author, in addition to Narrative Theory, of War Pictures: Cinema, Violence, and Style in Britain, 1939-1945 (Fordham, 2017) and Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth-Century Novel (Oxford, 2008). He serves on the editorial board of Representations, for which he edited the special forum Search (127) and coedited, with C. D. Blanton and Colleen Lye, the special issue Financialization and the Culture Industry (126).
New from Berkeley Forum in the Humanities
Freud and Monotheism: Moses and the Violent Origins of Religion critically examines a range of discourses surrounding Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, taking as its entry point Freud’s relations to Judaism, his conception of tradition and history, his theory of the mind, and his model of transgenerational inheritance.
Authors include: Jan Assmann (Egyptology, University of Heidelberg), Richard Bernstein (Philosophy, New School for Social Research), Karen Feldman (German, UC Berkeley), Willi Goetschel (German and Philosophy, University of Toronto), Ronald Hendel (Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley), Catherine Malabou (Philosophy, Kingston University; Comparative Literature, UC Irvine), Gabriele Schwab (Comparative Literature, UC Irvine), Yael Segalovitz (Townsend Fellow, Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley), Gilad Sharvit (Townsend Fellow, Jewish Studies, UC Berkeley), Joel Whitebook (Psychoanalytic Studies, Columbia University).
New from Haun Saussy:
(Including the essay “Death and Translation,” first published in Representations 94.
This volume examines translation from many different angles: it explores how translations change the languages in which they occur, how works introduced from other languages become part of the consciousness of native speakers, and what strategies translators must use to secure acceptance for foreign works.
Haun Saussy argues that translation doesn’t amount to the composition, in one language, of statements equivalent to statements previously made in another language. Rather, translation works with elements of the language and culture in which it arrives, often reconfiguring them irreversibly: it creates, with a fine disregard for precedent, loan-words, calques, forced metaphors, forged pasts, imaginary relationships, and dialogues of the dead. Creativity, in this form of writing, usually considered merely reproductive, is the subject of this book.
The volume takes the history of translation in China, from around 150 CE to the modern period, as its source of case studies. When the first proponents of Buddhism arrived in China, creativity was forced upon them: a vocabulary adequate to their purpose had yet to be invented. A Chinese Buddhist textual corpus took shape over centuries despite the near-absence of bilingual speakers. One basis of this translating activity was the rewriting of existing Chinese philosophical texts, and especially the most exorbitant of all these, the collection of dialogues, fables, and paradoxes known as the Zhuangzi. The Zhuangzi also furnished a linguistic basis for Chinese Christianity when the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci arrived in the later part of the Ming dynasty and allowed his friends and associates to frame his teachings in the language of early Daoism. It would function as well when Xu Zhimo translated from The Flowers of Evil in the 1920s. The chance but overdetermined encounter of Zhuangzi and Baudelaire yielded a ‘strange music’ that retroactively echoes through two millennia of Chinese translation, outlining a new understanding of the translator’s craft that cuts across the dividing lines of current theories and critiques of translation.
An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy, The End of Eddy at once captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town and provides a sensitive portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening.
The author, Édouard Louis, is a novelist and the editor of a scholarly work on Pierre Bourdieu. He is the coauthor, with the philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, of “Manifesto for an Intellectual and Political Counteroffensive,” published in English by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Michael Lucey, a member of the Representations editorial board, is a professor of French literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Never Say I: Sexuality and the First Person in Colette, Gide, and Proust and The Misfit of the Family: Balzac and the Social Forms of Sexuality and translator of Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon.
New from Jeffrey Knapp:
Oxford University Press 2017
Shakespeare’s plays were immensely popular in their own day–so why do we refuse to think of them as mass entertainment? In Pleasing Everyone, author Jeffrey Knapp opens our eyes to the uncanny resemblance between Renaissance drama and the incontrovertibly mass medium of Golden-Age Hollywood cinema. Through fascinating explorations of such famous plays as Hamlet, The Roaring Girl, and The Alchemist, and such celebrated films as Citizen Kane, The Jazz Singer, and City Lights, Knapp challenges some of our most basic assumptions about the relationship between art and mass audiences.
Jeffrey Knapp is the Eggers Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and a long-term member of the Representations editorial board. He is the author of several books, including An Empire Nowhere: England and America from Utopia to The Tempest (1992), Shakespeare’s Tribe: Church, Nation, and Theater in Renaissance England (2002), and Shakespeare Only (2009). His essay “Throw That Junk! The Art of the Movie in Citizen Kane,“ included in Pleasing Everyone, first appeared in Representations 122 (Spring 2013)
David Bates, ed. (with Nima Bassiri), Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject, Fordham University Press and the Townsend Center for the Humanities
This collection of essays brings together a diverse range of scholars to investigate how the “neural subject” of the twenty-first century came to be. Taking approaches both historical and theoretical, they probe the possibilities and limits of neuroscientific understandings of human experience. Topics include landmark studies in the history of neuroscience, the relationship between neural and technological “pathologies,” and analyses of contemporary concepts of plasticity and pathology in cognitive neuroscience. Central to the volume is a critical examination of the relationship between pathology and plasticity. Because pathology is often the occasion for neural reorganization and adaptation, it exists not in opposition to the brain’s “normal” operation but instead as something intimately connected to our ways of being and understanding.
Dan Blanton, Epic Negation: The Dialectical Poetics of Late Modernism, Oxford University Press
Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia): “Intricately studying allusion and intergeneric relations in late modernism, C. D. Blanton’s capacious and deeply thoughtful Epic Negation traces how extrinsic voices, historical forces, and forms snake their way into even seemingly closed poems. With its fusion of sinuous close readings and lively theoretical analysis, Blanton’s book makes a serious contribution to twentieth-century poetry studies.”
Beate Fricke (English trans. of 2007 book), Fallen Idols, Risen Saints: Sainte Foy of Conques and the Revival of Monumental Sculpture in Medieval Art, Brepols Publishers
This book investigates the origins and transformations of medieval image culture and its reflections in theology, hagiography, historiography and art. It deals with a remarkable phenomenon: the fact that, after a period of 500 years of absence, the tenth century sees a revival of monumental sculpture in the Latin West. . . . Drawing on the historical investigation of specific objects and texts between the ninth and the eleventh century, the book outlines an occidental history of image culture, visuality and fiction, claiming that only images possess modes of visualizing what in the discourse of medieval theology can never be addressed and revealed.
Beate Fricke, ed. (with Urte Krass), The Public in the Picture: Involving the Beholder in Antique, Islamic, Byzantine, Western Medieval and Renaissance Art, University of Chicago Press
The act of including bystanders within the scene of an artwork has marked an important shift in the ways artists addressed the beholder, as well as a significant transformation of the relationship between images and their viewership. In such works, the “public” in the picture could be seen as a mediating between different times, people, and contents.
Steve Justice, Adam Usk’s Secret, University of Pennsylvania Press
Andrew Galloway (Cornell University): “In prose that is extraordinarily alive both to its subject and to its own suspenseful disclosures, Steven Justice teaches us to read a Latin chronicle as a piece of written craft, and few have sustained that attention this far or this finely. More importantly, Justice assesses and advances major principles of narrative interpretation, concerning how narratives relate to contexts, how rhetorical traditions foster or undermine particular visions of history, and how the discipline of literary analysis maintains a delicate balance between rigorous adherence to its established tenets and wider connections to other questions and explanations—matters that must surely energize discussion among humanities scholars of all periods.”
Tom Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Princeton University Press
The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In The Work of the Dead, acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes’s argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters—for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.
Saba Mahmood, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report, Princeton University Press
The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East is often attributed to the failure of secularism to take root in the region. Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges this assessment by examining four cornerstones of secularism—political and civil equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains.
Saba Mahmood, ed. (with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, and Peter G. Danchin), Politics of Religious Freedom, U of Chicago Press
Talal Asad (CUNY Graduate Center): “The principle of religious freedom, central to the liberal politics of the modern world, is increasingly becoming an object of critical reflection. This collection, edited by four distinguished scholars, is a welcome contribution to this important topic. I have learnt something from each of these thoughtful essays. Everyone interested in recent debates on secularism will benefit from reading them.”
If you missed it today, you can still listen to Terry Gross’s interview of Tom Laqueur at Fresh Air at NPR.org. Gross talks with Laqueur, a member of Representations‘ editorial board since the journal’s founding in 1983, about his new book The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton, 2015).
Thomas Laqueur is a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. His other books include Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud and Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation.
Congratulations to Cannon Schmitt, Professor of English at the University of Toronto, who has received the Donald Gray Prize for best essay published in the field of Victorian Studies. The essay, “Technical Maturity in Robert Louis Stevenson,” appeared in “Denotatively, Technically, Literally,” a special issue of Representations 125 (Winter 2014).
Technical language in novels, rare in itself, is still more rarely interpreted. Focusing on Robert Louis Stevenson’s bildungsromans, in this essay Cannon Schmitt argues that a technical maritime lexicon marks their protagonists’ accession to maturity. But that lexicon and the love for the world it attests to and demands also forces a redefinition of what it means to be mature, offering an open, adventurous, never-to-be completed Bildung that refuses the stasis of marriage or a settled profession.
The Donald Gray Prize is awarded annually by the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA). The prize has previously been awarded to other Representations articles, including Sue Zemka’s “The Death of Nancy ‘Sikes’” (2010), Sarah Winter’s “Darwin’s Saussure: Biosemiotics and Race in Expression” (2009), Andrew Miller’s “Lives Unled in Victorian Fiction” (2007), and Herbert Tucker’s “Rossetti’s Goblin Marketing: Sweet to Tongue and Sound to Eye” (2003).