Journal Articles

June 2013 - Vol.43 / No.2
Plowing in the Bedroom, Braying at the Table: Competition and Control in the Tang Tale “Banqiao San niangzi”
Author : Carrie E. Reed
Keywords : Tang tale (chuanqi), magical farming, third lady, transformation, “Banqiao san niangzi”
“Banqiao San niangzi” 板橋三娘子 is a tale from the Tang 唐 (618-907) collection Hedong ji 河東記, by Xue Yusi 薛漁思 (n.d.). Its itinerant protagonist encounters a sorceress who turns men into donkeys by feeding them cakes baked with grain magically grown in her bedroom. This kind of magic is not seen anywhere else in Chinese literature. I posit that the story originated in India and I explore its relationship with various foreign counterparts. The paper provides a new reading of the tale, juxtaposing the tale with Indian and Arab versions to argue that the story primarily concerns gender power-play. The author of the tale highlights the fear that women can be deliberately fiendish and unscrupulously successful merchants who do not need men’s help. Worse yet, they can use men for their own purposes, and even rob men of their identities. He shows men that by staying on guard and maintaining vigilance, it is possible to beat women at their own game, and to give them a taste of their own medicine.
“Time Junky”: Shamanic Journeyings and Gnostic Eschatology in the Novels of William S. Burroughs
Author : Kurt Cline
Keywords : Beat literature, shamanic praxis, Gnosticism, experimental writing, consciousness studies
William S. Burroughs is the inheritor of a magico-religious poetics stemming from ancient shamans and informed by the Gnostic heresies found in the Nag-Hammadi Library. If, in Burroughs’s Nova Trilogy shamanic vision is twisted by the Western cultural matrix, however, it is in a way that, true to a genuine shamanic calling, points the way toward cultural and individual healing. I demonstrate the novelist’s close connections to South American shamanism, and read key characters in Burroughs’s oeuvre, Dr. Benway as the unredeemed shaman, the shaman as con artist; Inspector Lee as the con-artist turned shaman; and Mr. Bradley-Mr. Martin as the Gnostic Demiurge. I then analyze the Gnostic work “On the Origin of the World” to show parallels between Burroughsian and Gnostic conceptions of time, and examine the cut-up as an oracular strategy for liberation from the virus of language.
The Gothic Traveler: Generic Transformations in Lafcadio Hearn and Angela Carter
Author : Mary Goodwin
Keywords : Angela Carter, Lafcadio Hearn, travel writing, Japan, Gothic Asia, expatriate writers
Travel to Japan inspired in writers Lafcadio Hearn and Angela Carter new perspectives on the Gothic vision that played a prominent role in their work. Hearn, an Anglo-American literary journalist whose essays and short fiction in New Orleans and the French West Indies evinced a strong penchant for the macabre and the occult, found in fin-de-siècle Japan his dream home. Hearn, who became a Japanese citizen, made a name for himself that endures to the present day with his observations of Japanese life, customs and history, as well as his reworking of old legends and tales of the weird and supernatural. Nearly a century later, British novelist and short-story writer Angela Carter spent two years in Japan and produced a collection of travel articles and stories based on her experiences there. Although the travel motif has always been a feature of Gothic fiction, in this essay I analyze the Gothic mode as it appears in the travel literature Hearn and Carter produced, in which they reworked the Gothic tradition they had inherited to produce work that reveals startling insights into cultural crossing and personal identity, inflected with race, status and gender norms. New approaches to both the Self and Other emerge from their innovations to the Gothic genre from the remote perspective of Japan, a country that metamorphoses in their writing into both a scenic location and a symbolic imaginary that haunts Hearn and Carter, and their readers, in different ways.
“Pearls of Eloquence”: Hesperides, or the Muses’ Garden as a Herald of Canon Formation
Author : Tianhu Hao
Keywords : Hesperides, or the Muses’ Garden, commonplace book, canon formation, drama, John Evans, Humphrey Moseley
The two extant versions of the manuscript commonplace book Hesperides, or the Muses’ Garden were compiled by John Evans in the 1650s and 1660s under the commission of Humphrey Moseley, arguably the most important literary publisher in seventeenth-century England. Evans cites from 356 titles, nearly 100 of which are those published or possibly published by Moseley. Evans’s extensive extracts from 177 plays, including Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and the most notable Moseley title, the 1647 folio of Beaumont and Fletcher, establish drama as a genre of the page rather than the stage in a period when the theater was enforced to be closed. Romances and poems, two other genres promoted by Moseley, are also gathered in Hesperides. The three literary genres—plays, romances, poems—account for a majority of the 356 titles; Evans’s exclusion of sermons and his heavy literary inclination mark Hesperides as a herald in the history of canon formation. Evans makes an anthologization and hence, a canonization, of English literature by commonplacing it. The publisher and the compiler work together for the foundation of an early modern canon of English literature. The Evans-Moseley canon is text-centered, reading-oriented, socially functional and politically loaded. The medium of manuscript and the genre of the commonplace book function as an indispensable stage not to be neglected in the process of literary reception and canon formation.
Decomposing the Authoritative Author: Truth and Confession in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe and Summertime
Author : Kai-su Wu
Keywords : truth, author, confession, silence, ethical writing
The works of the South African writer J. M. Coetzee have always been regarded as highly experimental writings in form and content. From his first work Dusklands (1974) to his most recent Summertime (2009), Coetzee engages with the theme of truth-telling regarding the practice of authority by the authorial characters in his literary texts. In order to pose questions to these “selves,” Coetzee always endeavors to usher in interventions on the part of the other. The current paper intends to explore how Coetzee decomposes authoritative authors so as to reveal previously unheeded voices. In Foe, Coetzee exposes the blind spot of Susan Barton’s and Mr. Foe’s concepts of life narrative by disclosing the muteness of the third party, Friday. The absent presence of Friday and his differentiated ways of communication diplay Coetzee’s anxiety as a white writer. In Summertime Coetzee picks up again the problematics of white writing. He goes so far as to make himself a dead writer judged by others, mainly via the form of interviews. Such an arrangement, in turn, leads to a transformed confession, with which Coetzee aims to evade any solipsistic and deictic confession. Coetzee’s Foe comes after and totally disfigures the terrain of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe by complicating the relationship between those who are entitled to speak and write and those who are not. In Summertime, Coetzee tries to re-conceptualize the idea of the classic with his deliberate arrangement of the biographer and the interviewees as the survivors of his stand-in author. The paper concludes with positing Coetzee as an ethical writer, discussing how he never feels responsible enough for the other without voices by demonstrating Friday in Foe and John Coetzee’s father in Summertime.
“Every Noise Appals Me”: Macbeth’s Plagued Ear
Author : Ying-chiao Lin
Keywords : early modern medicine, sounds/voices, hearing faculty, passions, Galen, Paracelsus, melancholy, Shakespeare, Macbeth
This paper will examine the destructive effects of sound/voice on Macbeth by taking the standpoint of Macbeth-as-listener, that is, of his receptive ears. I will explore how Macbeth degenerates into a pathological subject by looking at early modern physiological theories, especially with a Galenic medicinal standpoint, about the human ear/hearing and its impact on the brain. More precisely, I will analyze Macbeth’s various physical, spiritual, and moral transformations in terms of the interchange between his internal passions and the external sounds. In Macbeth, then, Shakespeare shows us the fearful result of those unsettled passions made possible by the protagonist’s desiring ears, once they have surrendered to the world’s tempting voices and words. On the other hand, unable to unburden himself of his fear and grief generated from his acts of murder, Macbeth is suffocated by the heavy “black bile” of the melancholy humor. In this play, evil is conceptualized as a disease, a disease of excessiveness that thickens the blood inside the body and blocks its healthy flow, and gives rise to a monstrous exaggeration, misinterpretation, distortion (as in hallucinations) of what lies outside of us. Thus, what Shakespeare is concerned with in Macbeth is not so much with rebellion and murder as it is the Renaissance concept of the self ’s need to maintain a corporeal equilibrium that balance of the inner passions.