Robin Hamon: Paradise Revisited: Ecocriticism and the Eden Narrative

The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden is one of the most central narratives in Western civilisation (if not the central narrative). As part of the account of creation contained in Genesis, it is a cornerstone of both the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. Moreover, it has exerted a powerful influence on secular culture, ranging from the seventeenth-century epic Paradise Lost to modern-day advertisements. Yet scholarly critics have tended to overlook the significance of natural resources and the environment in the Eden narrative, choosing instead to focus on the agency of the human characters. While ecocriticism is gaining ground as a popular approach in contemporary literary studies, Biblical scholars have generally paid little attention to it and how it can be usefully applied to their field.

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Robin Hamon, a PhD student at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Bible Studies, to discuss the Eden narrative from an ecocritical perspective. We start by thinking about the origins of Biblical Studies and ecocriticism as separate disciplines, before looking in-depth at Genesis as an example of how the two fields can be fruitfully merged. We also touch on notions of paradise and wilderness and how these might have affected interpretations of the narrative, as well as the significance of trees in the text.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary text: Genesis 2:4b-3:24 (in the New Revised Standard version).

Secondary reading:

Glotfelty, C. and H. Fromm (eds.) (1996) The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Hamon, R. B. (2018) ‘Garden and “Wilderness”: An Ecocritical Reading of Gen. 2:4b-3:24’, The Bible and Critical Theory, 14.1.

Habel, N. C. and S. Wurst (eds.) (2000) The Earth Story in Genesis (The Earth Bible, vol. 2). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Zevit, Z. (2013) What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? London/New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Jason Rudy: Imagined Homelands: Australian Poetry in the 19th Century

Australia is a vast and diverse country, with a culture to match, but its literature has traditionally been underrepresented in academic institutions and it remains marginal to the literary canon. When Australian literature is studied, it typically tends to date from the mid-20th century onwards, not from before the country’s federation in 1901. However, in order to get a fuller sense of the modern Australian condition, it may be valuable – or indeed necessary – to turn to the culture of the pre-federation era, such as early Australian poetry. In the writings of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Henry Kendall and their contemporaries, we can trace themes which continue to preoccupy Australian writers and artists today, such as the tension between civilisation and wilderness, the horrors of colonialism and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and the search for a uniquely Australian mode of cultural expression.

This week, The Provocateur is joined by Jason Rudy, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, to discuss the history of Australian poetry in the 19th century. We pick up some of the themes of his book Imagined Homelands, discuss a selection of the major writers of the pre-federation period and uncover what 19th-century Australian literature can offer to readers of contemporary writing.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary texts:

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, “The Aboriginal Woman

Adam Lindsay Gordon, “From the Wreck

Charles Harpur, various poems

Henry Kendall, “The Wail in the Native Oak

Henry Lawson, various poems

Banjo Paterson, various poems

Secondary reading:

Ackland, M. (1994) That Shining Band: A Study of Australian Colonial Verse Tradition. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.

Belich, J. (2009) Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Huggan, G. (2007) Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McQueen, H. (1976) A New Britannia: An argument concerning the social origins of Australian radicalism and nationalism, rev. ed. Sydney and Melbourne: Penguin.

Rudy, J. R. (2017) Imagined Homelands: British Poetry in the Colonies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wright, J. (1965) Preoccupations in Australian Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Loic Bourdeau: Québec Pride (Canada 150 Miniseries)

Today’s installment of The Provocateur concludes our month-long Canada 150 miniseries with a trip to Québec. Québécois culture has a strong claim to being the foundation of modern Canadian society, since the first European settlers north of Florida were French explorers in what is now Canadian territory in the 16th and 17th centuries. Jacques Cartier first sighted the St Lawrence River in the 1530s; Samuel de Champlain, ‘The Father of New France’, founded what would become Québec City in 1608. As Québec society moved into the 20th and 21st centuries along with the rest of Canada, it had to engage with the questions of gender and sexuality that all liberal democracies have had to confront in recent decades.

In this episode I talk to Loic Bourdeau, assistant professor of French at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, to discuss gender and sexuality in Québécois literature and film. We first look at milestones in Québécois literary history, from the farm novel to the Quiet Revolution and beyond, before exploring the themes of independence and sovereignty, motherhood and sexuality. We also reflect on the future direction of Québec society and what that might mean for cultural developments.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Baillargeon, Denyse (2011) “Quebec Women of the Twentieth Century: Milestones in an Unfinished Journey”, Quebec Questions. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2011. 231-247.

Barrette, Jean-Marc (1996) L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Montreal: U of Montreal Press.

Boucher-Marchand, Monique (1997) “Michel Tremblay et l’autobiographie du Nous.” La création biographique. Rennes: U of Rennes.

Bourdeau, Loic (2012) “F.O.L.L.E. société: déconstruction et reconstruction identitaire dans C.R.A.Z.Y.” Nouvelles Etudes Francophones. 27.1: 130-144.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1998) La domination masculine. Paris: Seuil.

Chapman, Rosemary (2013) What is Québécois Literature? Liverpool: Liverpool UP.

Dickinson, Peter (1999) Here is Queer: Nationalisms, Sexualities, and the Literatures of Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto Press.

Eribon, Didier (1999) Réflexions sur la question gay. Paris: Fayard.

Foucault, Michel (1976) Histoire de la sexualité. La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard.

Green, Mary Jean (2011) Women and Narrative Identity. Rewriting the Quebec National Text. London: McGill UP.

Lacoursière, Jacques, Jean Provencher, and Denis Vaugeois (2011) Canada-Québec 1534-2010. Quebec: Septentrion.

Lamoureux, Diane (2011) “The Paradoxes of Quebec Feminism.” Quebec Questions. Don Mills: Oxford UP.

Lévesque, Andrée (1994) Making and Breaking the Rules: Women in Quebec, 1919-1939. Trans. Yvonne M. Klein. Toronto: U of Toronto Press.

Marshall, Bill (2001) Quebec National Cinema. London: McGill UP.

Muñoz, José Esteban (2009) Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York UP.

Richer, Jocelyne (2015) “Le CSF dit craindre un retour au foyer.” Ledevoir.ca. 29 Jan. 2015.

Schwartzwald, Robert (1993) “‘Symbolic’ Homosexuality, ‘False Feminine,’ and the Problematics of Identity in Québec.” Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press.

Arthur Dudney: Languages of Everywhere and Nowhere: Persian as Premodern Lingua Franca

Home to more than a billion people, modern India is at once a thriving tourist destination, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a hive of social, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Spend a few days in India and at various points you will probably encounter speakers of Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Bengali or perhaps even all of the above. Yet it would be practically unheard of to find a Persian speaker in India today, despite the rich cultural influence of Persian on the South Asian subcontinent. The forgotten story of Persianate India is part of a much bigger picture of the Persian-speaking world, which is far from being limited to just Iran. In its heyday, as the language of the Mughal Empire, Persian could be considered a lingua franca as much as Latin in the Renaissance or French in the 18th century. It united millions of people across a wide swathe of Central and South Asia, stretching from as far west as Turkey to as far east as the fringes of China.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur I talk to Arthur Dudney, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, to help me piece together the history of Persianate India. We start by talking about the idea of a ‘mother tongue’ and its relationship to the concept of a lingua franca, before exploring the context of Persian and its role in Mughal India. We also discuss the place of Persian in the wider history of lingua francas and the implications for the ways in which we might think about lingua francas and the politics of language today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Dudney, A. (2015) ‘Introduction’ and ‘Chapter 1: Beginnings’, in Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History. New Delhi: Hay House.

You can contact me for a PDF of the above; Indian listeners may wish to purchase a hard copy via Amazon.in or Flipkart.com.

Jennifer Rushworth: Bringing Proust’s Imaginary Music to Life

Many of you will doubtless have heard of Marcel Proust and his monumental masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (often translated as In Search of Lost Time or much more loosely as Remembrance of Things Past). A substantial part of the novel is given over to an imaginary sonata by the fictional composer Vinteuil, which figures prominently in the relationship between the central characters Swann and Odette. Various attempts have been made in film versions to reconstruct what the sonata might have sounded like, but the piece has never before been imagined as a standalone composition, without a surrounding cinema or stage adaptation. Moreover, the ways in which composers of such a sonata might read the novel differently from literary critics have yet to be fully investigated.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Jennifer Rushworth, a Junior Research Fellow in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, about her groundbreaking project bringing together undergraduate translators, composers and musicians at the university. One group of students were given extracts from the novel to translate into English, before feeding the results to a second group of students who used the translations as inspirations for new work. I discuss with Jennifer the challenges and rewards of this highly interdisciplinary exercise. Among other things, we explore issues of French-English translation, the specificity of the Anglophone context and what this research might suggest more generally about the relationship between music and literature in Proust.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

To learn more about the project, visit proustandmusic.wordpress.com, which hopefully will be updated soon with recordings of the finished pieces!

Further Reading:

Coeuroy, A. (1923) ‘La musique dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust’, Revue musicale 3, pp. 193-212. Reprinted in Coeuroy, A. (1938) Musique et littérature. Paris: Gallimard.

Costil, P. (1958) ‘La Construction musicale de la Recherche du temps perdu (I)’, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 8, pp. 469-489.

____ (1959) ‘La Construction musicale de la Recherche du temps perdu (II)’, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 9, pp. 83-110.

Dayan, P. (2006) ‘How Music Enables Proust to Write Paradise Lost’, in Music Writing Literature: from Sand via Debussy to Derrida. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Goodkin, R. E. (1991) ‘Proust and Wagner: The Climb to the Octave Above, or, the Scale of Love (and Death)’, in Around Proust. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Labarthe, P. (2001) ‘Vinteuil ou le paradoxe de l’individuel en art’, Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France 101(1), pp. 105-122.

Kaltenecker, M. (2010) ‘L’Écoute selon Proust’, in L’Oreille divisée: Les discours sur l’écoute musicale au XVIIIe et XIXe siecles. Paris: Editions MF.

Nattiez, J-J. (1989) Proust as Musician, trans. D. Puffett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Newark, C. and I. Wassenaar (1997) ‘Proust and Music: The Anxiety of Competence’, Cambridge Opera Journal 9(2), pp. 163-183.

Piroue, G. (1960) Proust et la musique du devenir. Paris: Editions Denoël.

Ross, A. (2009) ‘Imaginary Concerts‘, The New Yorker, 24 August.

Rushworth, J. (2014) ‘The Textuality of Music in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu‘, Romance Studies 32(2), pp. 75-87.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Frederick Pedley (1991-2017).

Alexander Thom: Shakespeare’s Bodies of Law (Special Episode)

As 23rd April is traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday, today The Provocateur brings to you a special one-off episode in honour of the Bardiversary. We are joined by Alexander Thom, a PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham), for a fascinating discussion of the role of law in Shakespeare’s work, in particular the notion of banishment. We explore the relationships between law and literature in general before going on to talk about the significance of banishment as a legal and rhetorical device in the early modern period, as well as how the concept operates in Shakespearean texts. Drawing on how 20th-century thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben have taken up the idea, we discuss banishment as a way of delineating distinctions between the human and non-human, those within the political community and those who are excluded from it. We also touch on the continuing relevance of Shakespeare’s work today, particularly in view of the contemporary plight of immigrants and refugees.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: At the start of the programme it is stated that 2017 marks the 451st anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. As keen-eyed mathematicians will know, it is of course the Bard’s 453rd birthday. Apologies!

Further Reading:

Primary texts (though we mainly discuss the Shakespeare plays):

Christopher Marlowe: Edward IIThe Jew of Malta.

William Shakespeare: As You Like ItCoriolanusCymbelineMeasure for MeasureThe Merchant of VeniceRichard IIRomeo & JulietSir Thomas MoreThe Tempest, Titus Andronicus.

John Webster: The Duchess of Malfi.

Secondary texts:

Agamben, G. (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press.

Elden, S. (2014) ‘Bellies, wounds, infections, animals, territories: The political bodies of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus‘, in Edkins, J. and A. Kear (eds.) International Politics and Performance. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1978) ‘About the Concept of the “Dangerous Individual” in 19th-Century Legal Psychiatry’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 1, pp. 1-18.

____ (1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan. New York: Vintage.

Kingsley-Smith, J. (2003) Shakespeare’s Drama of Exile. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Höfele, A. (2011) Stage, Stake, and Scaffold: Humans and Animals in Shakespeare’s Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Steiner, G. (1975) After Babel. London: Oxford University Press.

Joshua Black: Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Vietnamese Literature

Vietnam is probably best known to listeners from its complex and tangled relationship with foreign powers, especially France and the United States. As well as being a popular backpacking destination, it also now has a burgeoning LGBT subculture. The LGBT rights movement has exploded in the country in recent years, even as wider Vietnamese society struggles to move past colonial-era negative stereotypes of homosexuality.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur — a holdover from LGBT History Month — I talk to Joshua Black, who has just completed his PhD at SOAS (London) on representations of male homosexuality in contemporary Vietnamese literature. We discuss French colonial attitudes towards homosexuality, compare them to gay male identities in 21st century Vietnamese writing and explore the implications for our understanding of changing attitudes to homosexuality in Vietnamese culture.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Colonial era Vietnamese attitudes towards homosexuality:

Proschan, Frank (2002) ‘Eunuch Mandarins, Soldats Mamzelles, Effeminate Boys, and Graceless Women: French Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese Genders’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 8(4), pp. 435-467.

Proschan, Frank (2002b) ‘Syphilis, Opiomania and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 11(4), pp. 610-636.

On HIV/AIDS:

Colby, D. J. (2003) ‘HIV Knowledge and Risk Factors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’, JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 32, pp. 80-85

Blanc, Marie-Eve (2005) Social Construction of Male Homosexualities in Vietnam. Some Keys to Understanding Discrimination and Implications for HIV Prevention Strategy. UNESCO, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Modern social context:

Nguyễn Quốc Vinh (2015) ‘Cultural Ambiguity in Contemporary Vietnamese Representations of Homosexuality: A New Historicist Reading of Bùi Anh Tấn’s Fiction’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 10(3), pp. 48-86.

Lại Nguyên Ân and Alec Holcombe (2010) ‘The Heart and Mind of the Poet Xuân Diệu: 1054-1958’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5(2), pp. 1-90.