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Article

Lorraine York

Celebrity is the public performance, reception, and discursive interpretation of highly visible individual identities. The field of celebrity studies, which emerged from the study of cinema, has sought to theorize the celebrity phenomenon across numerous cultural sites and products, and for this reason theorists often distinguish the term “celebrity” from the more cinematically specific terms “star” and “stardom.” Theoretical accounts of celebrity have focused on the interactions of fantasy and the everyday, the negotiations of ordinariness and special status within the celebrity persona, the role of psychological drives or needs, the performance of an authenticity effect, and celebrity’s alignment with individualism in the context of commodity capitalism and neoliberal regimes of affect. Questions of celebrity agency and power have attracted special attention, as applied to specific issues of celebrity activism, as well as being more broadly considered in accounts of relations of power such as gender, race, and sexuality. In the 21st century, those analyses of gender, sexuality, and race in the production and consumption of celebrity, as well as theories of celebrity formations and practices in digital culture, have moved to the forefront of the field’s concerns.

Article

Pelagia Goulimari

Feminist theory in the 21st century is an enormously diverse field. Mapping its genealogy of multiple intersecting traditions offers a toolkit for 21st-century feminist literary criticism, indeed for literary criticism tout court. Feminist phenomenologists (Simone de Beauvoir, Iris Marion Young, Toril Moi, Miranda Fricker, Pamela Sue Anderson, Sara Ahmed, Alia Al-Saji) have contributed concepts and analyses of situation, lived experience, embodiment, and orientation. African American feminists (Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Hortense J. Spillers, Saidiya V. Hartman) have theorized race, intersectionality, and heterogeneity, particularly differences among women and among black women. Postcolonial feminists (Assia Djebar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Florence Stratton, Saba Mahmood, Jasbir K. Puar) have focused on the subaltern, specificity, and agency. Queer and transgender feminists (Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Susan Stryker) have theorized performativity, resignification, continuous transition, and self-identification. Questions of representation have been central to all traditions of feminist theory.

Article

It is generally accepted that 19th-century realist novelists sought to create heroes and heroines who were at once representative and exceptional: representative because they incarnate something instantly recognizable across space and time, exceptional because they must command narrative interest. The heroes of the provincial 19th-century novel struggle to navigate these competing impulses. Their creators inherited a literary tradition that tended to extol larger-than-life figures who, through military exploits or adventures on the border of empire, inspired admiration or worship. However, consonant with the realist novel’s rejection of both epic and Romantic heroes, the authors of provincial novels depict a world of fragmentation, a world that can no longer accommodate heroic ambition. Their provincial settings comprise an arena in which greatness cannot be realized: the province is too far removed from the world historical stage, it seems, too full of petty rivalries, to enable the hero to flourish. The provincial novelists George Eliot and Fyodor Dostoevsky can be read as case studies of writers who embody this tension. While the thrust of most criticism on both writers is to recast the dearth of heroic activity as a virtue (with the meanness of world historical opportunity being amply assuaged by opportunities for small acts of prosaic, diffusive kindness), Dostoevsky and Eliot treat with regret the inability of their protagonists to realize their heroic aspirations. In so doing, far from throwing their lot in with the limitations of the novel as a genre (i.e., its anti-epic parameters), they maintain a desire to transcend the limits of the novel genre’s mundane presentness. By rescuing their characters from the provincial environments in which they have been unable to realize their heroic feats and by destining them for future action elsewhere, the “here-now” chronotope of the provincial novel is rejected in favor of a “there-then” chronotope which, by definition, cannot be explicated in the form of the novel (and as such, their novels must end with the exile of their protagonists). Although readings of their novels that emphasize the importance of prosaic goodness remain persuasive, they do not altogether invalidate these writers’ desire for heroic activity.

Article

Steven Winduo

English is the main language of writing among Indigenous writers of Oceania for a number of reasons. The various textual appropriations and ways in which language of writing and language of the culture have been infused together to produce texts do reveal a dialogic process at work. It is impossible to avoid the linguistic features of written texts as they are constructed in Oceania. Writers in Oceania are free to choose the language of their texts without any interference. In this way, they make readers aware of the cultural truth that these writers are representing in their writings. Metonymy as a poetic device and cultural truth as a thematic in Indigenous writings capture the interests of many of the older and younger generations of Pacific writers. Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. Some of the best poetry published across Oceania by generations of Pacific writers reveals extensive use of metonymy as a device to convey cultural truth. Poetry is written from the intimate knowledge of poets, embedded in the society in which they find inspiration. Bill Ashcroft and coauthors state: “the tropes of the post-colonial text may be fruitfully read as metonymy, language variance itself in such a text is far more profoundly metonym” because nuances in language can represent a whole cultural text. Syntactic fusion is one among different strategies of appropriation in postcolonial writing such as glossing, untranslated words, interlanguage, code-switching, and vernacular transcription.

Article

In a country where literacy rates are among the highest in the region, books are cultural objects cherished by vast sectors of the Argentine population as well as powerful symbolic, cultural, economic, and political artefacts. In particular, books on politics are an indispensable segment in the catalog of any Argentine publishing house. The vertiginous nature of politics and the historical significance of the book in Argentine society are such that the publishing sector has been—and still remains—one of the preferred spaces where symbolic and political power is disputed. Throughout the 20th century and the first two decades of the 21st century, the publishing market responded to different historical circumstances by producing headlines that sought to engage readers in different ways, helping them make life choices and understand the significance of their own time, as well as forming or reinforcing their opinions. Manufactured from the Left to the Right, books on politics expressed and shaped wills and aspirations, serving as combat weapons and means for the creation of spaces where ideas and political sentiments flourish. There are historical ties between the Argentinean publishing and political spheres, and the publishing process works as a fundamental form of mediation concerning the production and distribution of political ideas. Against the image of the book as an exclusive bridge connecting the authors with the reading public, a sociological and material viewpoint might focus on the publishing world and its protagonists: the ghost editors and agents who play an indispensable and decisive role in the processes whereby a book becomes an entitled cultural, economic, and political intervention—a great factory of ideas, discourses, and products with material and symbolic ramifications that influence public debates and agendas.

Article

Jeanne-Marie Jackson

Though the two fields have rarely been put in conversation, African philosophy and African fiction share a set of foundational concerns. These include the relation of the individual to the community; the significance of culture to unseating exclusively Western universalisms; and the tension between “lived” and a priori claims to truth against a background of political and epistemological decolonization. In addition to this substantive thematic core, both fields have also been shaped by an acute and even anguished degree of self-definitional questioning. What is “African” about African philosophy, or about the African novel? And inversely, what is fundamental to philosophy or the novel as such? Orality has served in both fields as a means of gauging the relative knowledge value afforded experience, on the one hand, and ideas’ formal contestation, on the other. While strong advocates of orality as a distinguishing feature of African intellectual production have extolled its collective dimensions, critics have been wary of its potential for cultural reductiveness and essentialism. Textuality, some argue, is an epistemological orientation that exceeds the literal practice of writing, and need not be viewed as a historical development at odds with African knowledge traditions. A number of influential African philosophers have homed in on the related problem of individualism in an effort to differentiate philosophical from social-scientific claims. This makes African philosophy an ideal interlocutor for African novel studies, which has sought in its own right to reconcile the form’s historical premium on the individual with African social contexts. While countless African novels from the mid-20th century to the early 21st century represent the challenge of negotiating between collective and individual as well as oral and textual elements, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s masterwork Kintu is an exemplary study in how the subgenre of the “philosophical novel” can narrativize the interaction of different African knowledge paradigms. In its staging of an oral, embodied system of knowledge alongside a textualized, meta-epistemological one, it invites the reader’s mutual evaluation of each vis-à-vis the other.

Article

Cheryl Lousley

Ecocriticism describes and confronts the socially uneven encounters and entanglements of earthly living. As a political mode of literary and cultural analysis, it aims to understand and intervene in the destruction and diminishment of living worlds. A core premise is that environmental crises have social, cultural, affective, imaginative, and material dimensions. Although ranging in its critical engagements across historical periods, cultural texts, and cultural formations, ecocriticism focuses on the aesthetic modes, social meanings, contexts, genealogies, and counterpoints of cultural practices that contribute to ecological ruination and resilience. These include myths about frontiers, progress, and human mastery over animality and nature; capitalist modes of valuing, devaluing, and radically transforming lifeworlds; and biopolitical and racialized inequalities in health, risk, development, and disposability. Ecocriticism also involves broad theoretical engagement with discursive formations and semiotic significations, including the interrogation of crisis frameworks and apocalyptic representations, considering their histories, scales, and temporalities, while also asking how any particular socioecological arrangement comes to count as a matter of concern, for whom, and in which contexts. The concept of nature is a long-standing theoretical topic in ecocriticism. While nature may seem, rather straightforwardly, to be the domain environmentalism seeks to protect, it is a concept on which hinge crucial and contested claims about ontology (the nature of something, such as assertions about human nature as an inherent, often determining set of shared qualities) and epistemology (how we know what is real, such as the scientific practices through which credible assertions can be made that the planetary climate is changing), claims whose modern authority has rested on positioning nature as a domain outside culture. While structuralist and poststructuralist theorists have destabilized the binary opposition of nature to culture, the political and epistemological imperative to engage with nature as simultaneously material and semiotic has spawned an array of theoretical developments, from Donna Haraway’s cyborg figure and other “natureculture” assemblages to new materialisms. Meanwhile, nature circulates as a commodity form and spectacle animating digital, film, and television screens as well as many other consumer products and experiences. Cultural studies approaches to ecocriticism raise questions about the relationships of visual, narrative, and sound representations to economic power, media technologies, and the material and social ecologies through which they are produced and which they form and transform.

Article

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson and Amy Nigh

In the everyday sense of the term, genealogy describes the study of ancestry and the tracing of a pedigree. As such, genealogy serves to follow the element in question to a singular origin which constitutes its source and guarantees its value. As a philosophical notion, however, genealogy is opposed to such tracing of a pedigree and instead describes the interrupted descent of a custom, practice, or idea, locates its multiple beginnings, and excavates the conditions under which it emerged. In this technical sense of the term, genealogy is a form of historico-philosophical analysis that mobilizes empirical material to uncover historically specific conditions under which the object under examination was able to emerge. Genealogy thus reverses customary explanations of objects of cultural history, according to which these objects are either necessary end points of historical development or results caused by some anthropological principle. Instead, genealogy reconstructs the history of their objectification—that is, of their contingent formation as an object of concern and intervention. Phenomena that are typically assumed to be the causes of certain practices, institutions, laws, norms, and so on are here revealed as effects of the very things they were thought to cause. The problems with which genealogy is concerned are historical formations that rely on and simultaneously make possible forms of knowledge, norms of behavior, and modes of being a subject. While the invention of genealogy in its technico-philosophical sense is usually attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, a genealogy of genealogy itself reveals its numerous beginnings in a wide range of discourses and practices that constitute its conditions of possibility.

Article

Since 1990, “life writing” has become a frequently used covering term for the familiar genres of biography, autobiography, memoir, diaries, letters, and many other forms of life narrative. Initially adopted as a critical intervention informed by post-structuralist, postmodernist, postcolonial, and especially feminist theory of the 1970s and 1980s, the term also refers to the study of life representation beyond the traditional literary and historical focus on verbal texts, encompassing not only other media—film, graphic narratives, online technologies, performance—but also research in other disciplines—psychology, anthropology, ethnic and Indigenous studies, political science, sociology, education, medicine, and any other field that records, observes, or evaluates lives. While many critics and theorists still place their work within the realms of autobiography or biography, and others find life writing as a discipline either too ideologically driven, or still too confining conceptually, there is no question that life representation, primarily through narrative, is an important consideration for scholars engaged in virtually any field dealing with the nature and actions of human beings, or anything that lives.

Article

Katherine Little

Pastoral refers to any representation of the countryside or life in the countryside that emphasizes its beautiful and pleasurable aspects. Although the term has come to be used broadly to describe paintings, novels, and popular media, it originated and developed in the poetry of ancient Greece and Rome. Poems about shepherds and cowherds, also called bucolic, first appeared in the Idylls of Theocritus (3rd century bce), and these inspired the Roman poet Virgil to write a set of poems called the Eclogues (c. 42–37 bce). Virgil’s ten poems have been immensely influential. Indeed, pastoral’s long and relatively unbroken European history can be traced to the ongoing popularity of the Eclogues. These poems helped establish the defining elements of the mode: shepherds, who spend much of their time in song and dialogue; the topics of love, loss, and singing itself; a leisurely life; and a natural landscape of endless summer. In the Middle Ages, when Virgil’s eclogues were still read but rarely directly imitated, an explicitly Christian version of pastoral developed; this version was based in the shepherds of the Bible, both the literal shepherds who witnessed Jesus’ birth and the figurative shepherds referred to by Jesus or mentioned in the Psalms. In this biblical or ecclesiastical pastoral, authors used shepherds to discuss priestly duties and the state of the church more generally. Pastoral flourished in the Renaissance, when poets brought together Virgilian and Christian traditions, along with topical concerns about court politics and rural controversies, such as enclosure, to invent a new kind of poetry. During and after the Romantic period, pastoral lost its distinctly shepherdly focus and merged with a broader category of nature writing. As one of several possible approaches to nature, pastoral was reduced to its idealizing and nostalgic qualities, and it was often contrasted with more realistic or scientific representations. From the perspective of the longue durée, pastoral is a capacious category that includes many different attitudes toward rural people and rural life, even the realism of labor and exile. Despite this variety, pastoral is recognizable for the feelings it hopes to generate in its readers about rural life: the delight that the senses take in nature, the sadness at the loss of people and places, and the intense crushes of adolescence.