BRYN MAWR REVIEW OF COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
Volume 10, Number 2 (Fall 2013)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A cluster of reviews in this issue engage the question of the political. As Penelope Anderson notes, Graham Hammill and Julia Reinhard Lupton’s collection, Political Theology and Early Modernity explores what Hammill elsewhere terms the “‘ongoing entanglement and antagonism’ between politics and theology, rather than a triumph of one over the other.” Lars Rensmann and Samir Gandesha’s collection, Arendt and Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations, takes up the work of two thinkers counted among the most important political philosophers. Yet, in Marcia Morgan’s words, “until now [they have] been better known for their mutual dislike and disdain than for any possible sympathy they might have had for each other.” Arendt and Adorno offers a timely focus on what the collections’ editors underscore (and what Morgan amplifies) remains Arendt’s and Adorno’s “common concerns for politically transformative human solidarity, difference, spontaneity, and plurality,” as well as the ways in which both thinkers “productively engage with political modernity’s ambivalences, antinomies, and paradoxes” (9).
In exploring three texts--Sophocles’s Antigone, D.A.F. de Sade’s One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat--Moira Fradinger’s Binding Violence marks three pivotal moments when democracy was reimagined, including an account of the kind of genocidal twentieth-century violence and its aftermath that Arendt and Adorno confronted and to which their respective experiences of diasporic exile made them, in part, especially attuned. Yet, as Cristina Vatulescu writes, if Fradinger locates, like Giorgio Agamben, the sources of such darkness in the flowering of democracy in Ancient Greece and understands violence “not just as law-breaking or even law-preserving but also, more fundamentally, law-making,” Fradinger also illuminates how the forms of exclusion that founded democratic states exclude[d] not only strangers but former members in order to redraw the boundaries of the demos.” Whereas Adorno and Arendt find in the “rehabilitation of the philosophic tradition” the seeds for challenging that tradition’s own long-standing “false claims to totality,” for Anderson and Vatulescu, the literary, albeit not free of such claims, presents its distinctive challenge. According to Vatulescu, Fradinger’s work “calls [us] to face ‘the imaginative failure to confront the political and social demands of equality’ with ‘the force of imagination’ that can be transformed by literary texts.”
Two reviews take up texts that build on formative writings on postmemory. As Dorian Stuber notes in his review of Marianne Hirsch’s The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust, the concept that Hirsch first developed in Family Frames (1997) remains central to her new project. “Postmemory,” Stuber reminds us, "is not identical to memory: whatever one experiences as postmemory is something one did not experience directly. But the stories and behaviors that children of survivors grew up with have the emotional power of memories….” Instead of remaining “simply a pale imitation that comes after the real thing,” the “post” in postmemory may be best understood “as additive to the so-called original, the way a post-it is layered on top of a document.” Stuber identifies two major aims of Hirsch’s new work: to more fully integrate “insights from feminist theory into the fields of memory and Holocaust studies” and to “rethink comparative work regarding genocide, particularly in response to visual cultural studies and digital technology.”
Gabriele Schwab’s Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma, as Karen Elizabeth Bishop elaborates, draws on the collective foundational examinations by figures such as Hirsch, Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman, and Dori Laub, and quite effectively “builds a new critical methodology and comparative infrastructure that makes this work relevant not only to scholars of the Holocaust, but also to those scholars working on the effects of colonization in the Americas, the legacies of slavery and Apartheid, the late twentieth-century Latin American postdictatorial transitions whose effects still reverberate, contemporary torture studies, and the difficult fate of child soldiers.” As Bishop notes, Schwab’s text marks the recent move “to work out how trauma shows up in similar ways in writing from very different national traditions that responds to very different historical events.” Her remark is relevant to Hirsch’s book as well. For Bishop, Schwab’s work constitutes “a model of comparative investigation.” What is more, by urging us “to attend . . . to the trauma deeply embedded in language, [to] speak what cannot be spoken, and perhaps even assimilate the unforgivable,” Haunting Legacies offers ways in which we might, Bishop suggests,“break the cycles of violence that shape so much of our history.”
While Justine Pas's review of A Genealogy of Literary Multiculturalism reveals the close ties between the social sciences and literary production in twentieth-century American multicultural literature, John Garrison's review of Sex before Sex focuses upon the representation of sexuality in Early Modern England. While Christopher Douglas' project in A Genealogy is to uncover both conversation and debate between literature and, at different times, anthropology and sociology, the editors and writers of Sex before Sex explore, as Garrison writes, the ways in which "erotic acts . . . fit within early modern cultural logics of gender and desire." For Garrison, the unknown includes what constituted sexuality or sexual behavior -- and thus what was metaphorical in Renaissance writing. For Douglas, the involvement of different social sciences and different understandings of what constituted race and culture. Douglas approaches the multicultural literature of race and ethnicity through the lenses of social science: anthropology and sociology. As Pas notes, the "interdisciplinary debates may explain why contemporary American multicultural fiction and autobiographies represent cultural behavior as a unifying force in minority group formation and endurance, at the same time as they construct the learning of cultural behavior in accordance with group members' racial identities."
In this issue, we append a list of Books Received in 2013-14. We would be glad to hear from readers interested in reviewing any of them.
PAST ISSUESVolume 10, Number 1 (Fall 2012)
Volume 9, Number 2 (Fall 2011)
Volume 9, Number 1 (Spring 2011)
Volume 8, Number 1 (Fall 2009/Spring 2010)
Volume 7, Number 1 (Fall 2008)
Volume 6, Number 2 (Fall 2007)
Volume 6, Number 1 (Winter 2007)
Volume 5, Number 2 (Winter 2006)
Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 2005)
Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 2004)
Volume 4, Number 1 (Summer 2003)
Volume 3, Number 2 (Fall 2002)
Volume 3, Number 1 (Fall 2001)
Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2001)
Volume 2, Number 1 (Summer 2000)
Volume 1, Number 1 (Summer 1999)
GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWERS
The usual length for reviews is 1,000-4,000 words, or about 4-10 pages. Reviews should note author, title, place and date of publication as well as name of publisher, number of pages (100+ x....) and ISBN number. If the review copy is a paper edition, note this immediately after the ISBN number.
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The main purpose of reviews is to foster intellectual dialogue by informing readers about books and issues of interest in the field of comparative literature. These books may include texts that focus upon the literature of a single country but nevertheless focus upon questions or topics important to comparatists. The editors welcome proposals for reviews of books, and for longer review essays, that fall within this framework. Books listed in "Books Received" are also available for review.