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Indigenous Literature in Postwar Australia  

Michael R. Griffiths

Indigenous people in Australia have used inscriptive practices for at least 65,000 years and have employed alphabetic writing extensively since contact with Europeans, but the latter half of the 20th century saw an even wider explosion of indigenous writing in Australia. Aboriginal writers have worked across all modes: poetry (beginning with Oodgeroo Noonuccal in the 1960s), theater (flourishing in the 1970s with the National Black Theatre and spreading as far afield as Western Australia with the formation of Jack Davis’s Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre Company), the novel, and the proliferation of life writing in the 1980s. In each case, indigenous writing in postwar Australia balances the aesthetic with the political, drawing in transnational influences while also foregrounding local concerns.

Article

Paley, Grace  

Ellen McGrath Smith

This article explores the life and work of writer Grace Paley, whose short stories made their stylistic and thematic marks on the American short fiction genre. Drawing on her multiple identities as an American woman of the World War II generation, a political activist, a lifelong New Yorker, and a Jew born to immigrant parents who had fled oppression in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, Paley’s writing highlights women’s lives and their struggles against established social roles. The article then looks at Paley’s first book, The Little Disturbances of Man: Stories of Women and Men at Love (1959), which established her reputation as a fiction writer. It also considers her subsequent short story collections: Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974) and Later the Same Day (1985). In addition to short fiction and essays, Paley has published poetry collections, including Leaning Forward (1985), Begin Again: Collected Poems (2000), and Fidelity (2007).

Article

Deconstruction  

Jemma Deer

Deconstruction is one of the most significant and controversial intellectual movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Beginning with the French writer Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), and subsequently adopted by many others, the reading strategy known as deconstruction works to dislocate or destabilize the structures and assumptions that shape human history. Deconstruction calls into question the fundamental concepts and hierarchies of Western philosophy, demonstrates how notions of “writing” and “text” are generalizable beyond human language and thought, and foregrounds the undecidable or incalculable aspects of reading and being. Through extremely attentive readings of philosophical and psychoanalytic texts, Derrida’s work brings to light the various centrisms and oppositions upon which they are based (centrisms such as logocentrism; anthropocentrism; and phallocentrism; and oppositions such as nature and culture; life and death; presence and absence; speech and writing; human beings and other animals). Alongside having a strong engagement with contemporary issues in society and politics, Derrida was consistently concerned with the literary effects at work in both literary and nonliterary texts, recognizing that meaning and context can neither be absolutely closed off nor fixed by author or reader. Contrary to common misapprehensions about deconstruction, the recognition of the irreducible literariness of all writing is not to suggest that texts are “meaningless,” and nor is Derrida’s generalized notion of writing meant to privilege language over the real world. Its sustained attention to literature and the effects of reading and writing perhaps account for why deconstruction has been, and is still, most eminent within the field of literary studies. Indeed, much of the prominent deconstructive work after Derrida—including, for example, that of Hélène Cixous, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller—is explicitly and primarily concerned with reading literature. That said, deconstruction cannot be reduced to merely a mode of literary criticism, and it remains influential in numerous other fields, including cultural studies, the environmental humanities, feminism, film studies, history, the life sciences, philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis, queer theory, and religious studies, to name a few.

Article

Twenty-First-Century Realism  

Ulka Anjaria

Realism has a bad reputation in contemporary times. Generally thought to be an outdated mode that had its heyday in Victorian fiction, the French bourgeois novel, and pre-revolutionary Russian literature, literary histories tend to locate realism’s timely end in the ferment of interwar modernism and the rise of the avant-garde. Outside of the West, realism might be said to have met an even worse fate, as it was a mode explicitly presented to colonized societies as a vehicle of modernity, in opposition to what were deemed the poetic excesses, irrational temporalities, and/or oral-storytelling influences of indigenous literature. Yet despite this sense of realism’s outdatedness and political conservatism, the first decade-and-a-half of the 21st century has witnessed, across a wide range of literature and cultural production, what might be seen as a return to realism, not simply as a resistance to today’s new culture of heterogeneity and digitization but as a new way of imagining literary and political futures in a world increasingly lacking the clear-cut lines along which politics, history, and capitalism can be imagined. The arc of 21st-century realism can be seen through contemporary debates around the term, suggesting that considering 21st-century realism not as a residual mode or grouping of texts but as a particular perspective on literary futures—as the coming together, for instance, of unresolved and newer conflicts over relations of power and the politics of knowledge—offers a different story of global form making.

Article

Garland, Hamlin  

Jen Hirt

A prolific author whose early writings established him as a promising realist in American literature, Hannibal Hamlin Garland, who went by his middle name, was born on a farm in West Salem, Wisconsin, on September 4, 1860. His family moved around the Middle Border, now known as the Midwest, before settling in Mitchell County, Iowa, in 1876. By 1882, Garland was living in Illinois, but after just two years, he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where in 1885, he was hired at the Boston School of Oratory. This move would define the rest of his lifelong struggle, both to identify as a Midwestern writer and to hold that identity at a distance. While he had some publishing exposure prior to 1889, that year was when he began publishing in earnest. He would go on to publish over fifty books, the last of which appeared in 1939. Most notable was his Pulitzer Prize in biography for A Daughter of the Middle Border, a 1921 book that was second in a series of family histories. The award-winning book took a hard and realistic look at Garland’s family life. Some of his later work went on to serve as a call for reform toward the treatment of Native Americans and the riparian land of the Midwest and West. However, he framed the call to action within formulaic romances and thus suffered criticism for abandoning his talents in literary realism. More recently, scholars have argued that Garland’s shifting between genres should be not be criticized; they argue he was only doing what any talented writer seeking an income in the early 20th-century publishing market would do. A 2008 memoir by his daughter, Isabel Garland Lord, also stands in support of Garland’s artistic decisions, which earned him financial stability and a steady circuit of lectures and publishing. He never returned to the Midwest, and lived out his final years in Los Angeles, California, where he was drawn to Hollywood. There, he maintained strong relationships with influential writers at home and abroad, earning him the informal title of The Dean of American Letters. His final writing projects departed even further from literary realism; he delved into the paranormal, such as the purported power of buried objects. This attempt at making a name for himself in the realm of the paranormal did not pay off (even 21st-century scholars do not make much of these later books), and for many years he remained in the shadow of more eminent American writers. He can be credited, however, as a prolific writer and lecturer who succeeded in three areas—validating American realism at a time when the fad was to romanticize the rural life, showcasing the Midwest as a place of profound struggle and beauty, and documenting the American way of life as seen by a conscientious critic. He died in Hollywood of a cerebral hemorrhage on March 4, 1940, at the age of 79. He was buried with his parents in Neshonoc Cemetery in his hometown of West Salem, Wisconsin.

Article

The Booker Prize and Post-Imperial British Literature  

Chris Holmes

In the particular and peculiar case of the Booker Prize, regarded as the most prestigious literary award in the United Kingdom (as measured by economic value to the author and publisher, and total audience for the awards announcement), the cultural and economic valences of literary prizes collide with the imperial history of Britain, and its after-empire relationships to its former colonies. From its beginnings, the Booker prize has never been simply a British prize for writers in the United Kingdom. The Booker’s reach into the Commonwealth of Nations, a loose cultural and economic alliance of the United Kingdom and former British colonies, challenges the very constitution of the category of post-imperial British literature. With a history of winners from India, South Africa, New Zealand, and Nigeria, among many other former British colonies, the Booker presents itself as a value arbitrating mechanism for a majority of the English-speaking world. Indeed, the Booker has maintained a reputation for bringing writers from postcolonial nations to the attention of a British audience increasingly hungry for a global, cosmopolitan literature, especially one easily available via the lingua franca of English. Whether and how the prize winners avoid the twin colonial pitfalls of ownership by and debt to an English patron is the subject of a great deal of criticism on the Booker, and to understand the prize as a gatekeeper and tastemaker for the loose, baggy canon of British or even global Anglophone literature, there must be a reckoning with the history of the prize, its multiplication into several prizes under one umbrella category, and the form and substance of the novels that have taken the prize since 1969.