MPA  Abstracts/Fiction Samples   (fiction, including lyrical essays, poetry and short stories are in/on  the “fiction” page.

 

Melanie R. Anderson           “Me and Sutter both liable to be back”: Spectral Traces of Beloved in 

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson

When reading The Piano Lesson (1990), August Wilson’s second play to garner a Pulitzer Prize, it is hard to miss the traces of another famous Pulitzer Prize-winning work—Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987). Even though critic Kathleen Brogan limns a spectral connection between the two works in her book Cultural Haunting, she does not devote much space to this relationship. I find it remarkable that Toni Morrison was asked to write the forward for the 2007 Century edition of Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, but it is still difficult to find scholarly articles making connections among the two writers’ works. I would like to move into this space and offer an analysis not only of Wilson’s play, but also of the connections that it shares with Morrison’s Beloved. In my work on Morrison’s novels, I trace her concern with spectral spaces and figures and how this spectrality helps to presence traumatic history and move repressed characters into spaces of healing and remembrance. I see these same motifs operating in Wilson’s play from the traumatic history of the Charles family and the subsequent brother/ sister conflict over the meaning of the piano to the many ghosts of the play, including Sutter (a descendant of the family who owned the Charles family) and the ghosts of the massacre on the Yellow Dog train. In the play, the piano as a spectral object symbolizes the Charles family’s past, and it affects how the present family members deal with that past, much like Beloved’s presence affects Sethe and Denver in Morrison’s book. Moreover, the implied spectral return to emphasize the lessons of the haunting occurs in both works: if Berniece forgets her family’s past, then Boy Willie and Sutter’s ghost will return, just as Beloved is never fully exorcised at the end of her eponymous novel.         

 

Melvin S. Arrington, Jr.             The Sacred Hunter in the Mysticism of St. Teresa of Avila

                Spanish literature entered into the initial phase of its Golden Age in the sixteenth-century.  This era, influenced by Humanist ideas and Renaissance ideals, witnessed the flowering of chivalric, pastoral, and picaresque novels, the emergence of a national theater, and the enhancement of lyric poetry through the introduction of Italian verse forms.  However, by the second half of that century the literary currents had begun to flow in a different direction as Spain, the bastion of Catholic orthodoxy, turned inward in response to the advances of the Protestant Reformation. 

This new inner-directed aesthetic also yielded spectacular cultural achievements, one notable example of which was the literature of mysticism.  One of the foremost mystic writers was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, better known as Saint Teresa of Avila.

                Like all Spanish mystics St. Teresa endeavors to explain the essence of the mystical experience in metaphorical terms so as to help the uninitiated gain an understanding of what takes place during the moment of union with the Divine.  Her imagery is remarkably similar to that found in some of the texts of Eastern mysticism.

                One of St. Teresa’s most effective metaphors is that of the hunt, in which the Divine Hunter, the Sacred Archer, wounds His love with an arrow.   The mystical joining of the individual soul to the Beloved is a foreshadowing of the final stages of salvation history, which the book of Isaiah (25:6-10a) and the gospel of Matthew (22:1-14) describe as a wedding banquet in

celebration of the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

 

Ted Atkinson   Panel Moderator         Imagining Otherness in the Literary and Cinematic Versions of Deliverance

This proposed panel brings together three individual papers focused the theme of “otherness” expressed in James Dickey’s novel Deliverance (1970) and in the 1972 cinematic adaptation directed by John Boorman. The papers take divergent paths in exploring the panel theme, but share in common an overarching concern: how the literary and cinematic versions of Deliverance represent imagining otherness as a key component of individual and collective identity formation and of relations between human beings and the natural and urban environments that they exploit, construct, inhabit, or struggle to survive.  

 

Ted Atkinson,          Power Trip: Bodies Electric and the Energy of Otherness in Deliverance

Various bodies are implicated in the power trip that unfolds in James Dickey’s Deliverance and John Boorman’s cinematic adaptation. Both texts are rife with what might be termed “bodies electric”—human bodies and bodies of water that come into contact and conflict with each other as the narratives unfold. As numerous critics have noted, the quest for power in Deliverance involves constructions of Otherness that result in binary oppositions: sophisticated “city slickers” versus the primitive “mountain folk,” man versus nature, and masculinity versus emasculation, etc. Such readings define power primarily in terms of physicality, psychology, or sublimity, thus neglecting the influential role that the demand for electrical power plays in shaping these conflicts. Examination of a few key passages and scenes shows how constructions of Otherness are indicative of an “energy unconscious” at work in both versions of Deliverance. The desires and anxieties associated with growing energy demands and the reality of diminishing supplies find expression through the increasingly intertwined relationships between human bodies and the bodies of water that serve as sources of power. In this context, constructions of Otherness are deeply implicated in the larger processes of energy production and consumption and the uneven economic development that they fuel. Deliverance explores the material consequences of such processes by representing human bodies and bodies of water as sites of transformation, displacement, and disposal in the overarching struggle to determine who gets power and at what cost.

Kris Robinson,       “He’s like a goddamned monkey”: Dehumanizing Disempowerment and Animal Encounters in James Dickey’s and John Boorman’s Deliverance, Novel and Film”

Although the novel Deliverance and its film adaptation have individually enjoyed critical and commercial success, there is very little scholarship that analyzes them in conjunction with one another. However, this paper seeks to remedy this oversight by combining a close reading of the novel with film theory to analyze how Dickey and Boorman use the presence of certain animals (or the dehumanization of characters into animals) as a means of exhibiting the four would-be-survivalists’ lack of authority within the liminal space of the Cahulawassee River Valley. First, Ed’s solo hunting venture establishes how physically and psychologically the four Atlanta men occupy the lowest tier of the area’s “trophic” level due to his inability to kill his prey. Then, the infamous rape scene is looked at for the derogatory language employed by the Cahulawassee to demoralize their “prey,” Ed and Bobby, into stunned submission. These two passages and their corresponding big screen adaptations are examined to illustrate how, obvious differences/omissions aside that arise from converting novels into films, the denizens of the Cahulawassee River Valley turn the tables on the longstanding practice of using belittling animal metaphors to reduce the Other to a subhuman state, i.e., the tendency to denounce the South as primitive and backwards when juxtaposed to the rest of the nation is turned on its head by its usual victims.

                Jonathan Smith                    The Surreal Juxtapositions of Deliverance: Christian Archetypes and the

Other Deliverance by James Dickey is a novel of juxtaposition.

 Four Atlanta men are pitted against the backdrop and the absorbing power of nature, against men of the hills who represent veritable “others,” and against the internal self that dynamically shifts into what characters like Ed and Lewis have been seeking as an escape from suburban life.  Since Deliverance acknowledges and responds to the transcendental and the pastoral, nature is a constant defining factor or self-recognized foil for the men, but this novel also focuses on Ed’s psychology to remind the reader of how people ultimately use nature, often devastating results for both the natural world and the human being, as a means for change.  The novel, as well as the 1972 John Boorman film adaptation, relies on juxtaposition that moves beyond physical representations of man and nature’s relationship to focus thoroughly on how Ed’s survival is a blend between waking reality and dreaming, or between the actual physical experience and the imagined experience best defined by Ed through film terminology and theory. This blending also produces a surreal experience both for Ed and the reader as he changes into a survivalist while the reader is changed into a reflexive being through Ed’s change, thus the novel further juxtaposes itself (psychologically) with the reader.  The most important quality of both the novel and the film is the ability to assist a reader/viewer in becoming as self-reflexive and questionable about the self and the Other as the characters often attempt to be. 

 

Neil Barrett   see Bentley  Modern Drama Panel

John Soward Bayne   Literary Mississippi Gravemarkers

No state has produced more prominent Southern writers than Mississippi.  Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams, all native Mississippians, would be at the top  of anyone’s list of Southern writers. Their works, in many cases aptly called gothic, should appeal to cemetery fans, because there are graveyards aplenty in Mississippi literature.  Addie Bundren’s cemetery journey in As I Lay Dying and Judge McKelva’s burial in The Optimist’s Daughter are examples.  The tombstone, in its family plot setting, is a useful symbol for Southern literary themes of family history, love of the land, respect for tradition, etc.  The prominent position of cemeteries in the authors’ works is evident in their tombstones.  Welty’s tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson points directly to a passage in her memoir One Writer’s Beginnings, and Willie Morris’s grave is a few steps from that of the Witch of Yazoo, the ghost arsonist he wrote a book about.   There is also rich variety among Mississippi writers, one of whom was a Southwest humorist and Governor of Mississippi.  Another was an early feminist who divorced her husband, left her child with relatives, and set out for Boston, where she served as Longfellow’s secretary.  Another was a Civil War colonel whose great-grandson William Faulkner aspired to follow in his profession as novelist.  This talk features photographs of the gravemarkers of various writers from the Magnolia State, a literary pilgrimage.

 

Greg Bentley  Panel     Modern Theater

                  Neil Barrett    “The Magnitude of Forgiveness: An Investigation of the Masculinity of Troy Maxson

In the epigraph for August Wilson's prize winning drama Fences, the author advises the readers that we do not have to "play host" to the sins of the father, and that we "can banish them with forgiveness"(1358).  In many ways, the play circles around this theme of inheritance and reconciling images of the father within African-American culture.  As Wilson once put it, "I think the fundamental question that has confronted blacks since [the] Emancipation Proclamation is, Are we going to adopt the values of the dominant culture?"(Sheppard 106).  The dominant culture offered the Maxson family a culture tinged with racial segregation, and Yoruban cultture manifests itself as a symbol of African identity and resistance in the play. Notably, family structures and gender identity particularly inform our cultural values, and Fences investigates masculinity as a part of its cultural project.  Troy Maxson is overwhelmingly large and a resilient African American character, finding value in the midst of the dominant culture.  However, he was also an overwhelmingly large father figure.  While examining how Wilson privileges the African traditions of characters within his drama as a means of resisting the dominant culture, I would also like to explore the extent to which his characters adopt and resist a dominant masculinity.  Kaja Silverman explores deviant masculinity in Male Masculinity at the Margins, and her insight into the dominant fiction informs my reading of Fences.  The masculine fiction serves to fence-in its adherers and to fence-out threatening forces.  Taking into consideration the positive and negative effects these fences, the question in the play ultimately becomes: How do we banish the sins of our father with forgiveness while maintaining the resilienceseemingly characteristic of the fathernecessary in order to survive threatening hegemonic structures?  My argument is that such forgiveness requires a degree of madness and compassion, both of which are provided in the actions of Cory and Gabriel, both of whom deviate from the magnanimous masculinity of Troy Maxson while celebrating an ancestral tradition.

 Jonathan Smith    “Death of the Family and the Individual: The Homo-Social Order in Al-Hakim’s Song of Death”

George Bataille argues that human desire, or eroticism, is psychic, or internal, and should not be objectified onto the outside of a person’s psychicness (Bataille 29).  Society is the medium that allows people to objectify, or physically manifest, the inner life that is called “into play” (29).  The abstract being perpetuated in Tawfiq Al-Hakim’s short play Song of Death is masculinity, and often more so it is the negative phallus, the abusive and corruptive signifier of power.  The Egyptian mother and widow Asakir embraces her femininity only at the last line, casting aside her culture’s expectations for herself and her ill-fated son Ilwan by returning to the “woman” of her self that she sought to suppress.  It is, of course, too late at this point, and masculinity’s presence via the negative phallus has overcome her revelatory sense of motherhood.  Song of Death exposes the vicious cycle of human objectification of desire onto other humans, those desires having been shaped by societal norms and expectations.  Thus, the play results in dramatic tragedy (the death of a family and the individual) and the perpetuation of a society based on negative emotion and death.  Asakir’s no-longer repressed motherhood and her return to humanity are useless to her by the end of the play since she willingly sacrifices her sense of self and her own son to counter a direct offense against the homo-social order, its objectification of desire, and its absolute gender roles.

Greg Bentley          Harold Pinter’s Old Times and the Sublime Object of Ideology

The sublime object of ideology, or the objet petit a, is “a positive, material object elevated to the status of the impossible Thing” (Zizek 77). As such, the sublime object functions as the central element in the mutually defining and determining relationship between the ego and the imaginary order. As Kaja Silverman observes, “Lacan often refers to the ego as the moi, since for him it is that which is responsible for the production of identity or a ‘me’. . . . The moi is the psychic ‘precipitate’ of external images, ranging from the subject’s mirror image and the parental imagoes to the whole plethora of textually based representations which each of us imbibes daily. What the subject takes to be its ‘self’ is thus both other and fictive” (Silverman 3). This process results from the traumatic experience of psychic castration that the subject experiences upon entering the universe of discourse: “[i]n acceding to language, the subject forfeits all existential reality, and foregoes any future possibility of ‘wholeness’” (Silverman 4). Thus, as Lacan rightly states, “the fundamental, central structure of our experience really belongs to the imaginary order” (37). Lacan’s notion of “imaginary structuration,” then, “encourages us to understand that psychic formation as a mechanism for plugging the hole of symbolic castration or lack by positing a particular object as the cause of desire” (Silverman 4). For the traumatized and psychically castrated subject, fantasy “thus conjures forth a fictive object for a fundamentally a-objectal desire. It translates the desire for nothing into the desire for something. However, we must not forget that the objet a exists in a mirroring relation to the moi; it is ‘one’s own ego that one loves in love, one’s own ego made real on the imaginary level’” (Sivleman 4). In this regard, in its attempt to compensate for symbolic castration, the ego desires the objet petit a to try to recover “being.” “The self, in other words, fills the void at the center of subjectivity with an illusory plenitude” (Silverman 5). The ego’s relationship to fantasy is, I contend, the process that Pinter explores in Old Times. More specifically, I argue that because of Deeley and Anna’s psychic castration, Kate functions as their sublime object of ideology, the objet petit a. She is the impossible Thing by means of which they attempt to fill the void of their individual subjectivities and around which they structure their desire.

Greg Bentley     Panel on Shakespeare

                 Anna Beth Owens   “Playing the Part: Adriana’s Subjectivity in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of

                                     Errors  

In Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors, the idea of marriage in Renaissance is seen clearly through  maintaining her private, autonomous subjectivity and following the traditions of a conventional wife. Ultimately, she submits herself to the tyrannical authority and ideology of the negative version of the homo-social order, consequently, supporting the structure that defines and restrains female autonomy.

While struggling between the two perceptions of her position as a wife, Adriana both represents and disregards her private autonomous subjectivity to those around her.   She constantly works toward obtaining her independence as a woman, but instantly alters this mode of thinking back to her original notions of what makes up the customary wife. In her encounters with Luciana, the Abbess, her husband Antipholus of Ephesus, and others, Adriana both accepts and denies the conventions of a traditional wife. Her husband represents the negative homo-social order that Adriana is subject to follow, thus stripping her of any individuality as a woman. Although she recurrently transitions between the two ideas of her role as a wife, at the end of the play, all of the confusion and errors are sorted out and everyone collapses back into their conventional roles. Paradoxically, the tyranny and violence that Antipholus of Ephesus perpetrates against his wife is concealed below the surface of their marriage, essentially threatening to reconstruct this comedy into a tragedy.   

                   Cade Holder       “Classy and Classless: The Making of a Master”  

Shakespeare has little trouble destabilizing the characterizations of some of the most basic dramatic Elizabethan stereotypes: master and servant. His frequent portrayals of clever, albeit slightly disobedient, serving men provide his comedies with ample opportunity for humor and wit. However, below the humor lies a commentary on the relationship between masters and servants, and, in turn, on the upper and lower classes. In Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the audience is presented with several pairs of master and servant. Lucentio and Tranio enter first, with the master heralding his arrival in pursuit of scholarship, only to be distracted by the beautiful Bianca within the first act. Lucentio enlists Tranio in a plot where Tranio should portray the master and Lucentio a mere musician. This literal swapping creates pause, for Tranio easily assumes the role of lord and Lucentio falls into his serving status with convincing ease. The switch shows how easily the contrived status lines can be violated, and to what extent one is master of his actions. Petruchio and Grumio enter secondly with a quick verbal spar, immediately showing Grumio’s good-natured insubordination. Grumio’s quips and pun-infused arguments create not just a clown, funny though he may be, but a word master, one who is capable of verbal superiority when compared with other characters. Though Grumio is of a lower class, he is the one who runs the estate. Without him, though he technically isn’t the lord of the estate, Petruchio’s affairs would be pitched into chaos, for it takes a servant, not, ironically, a master, to run a household. A final instance of a lower class man surpassing his prescribed rank is found in the induction with Christopher Sly. Unlike Tranio and Grumio, who acquire the title of master in their own respects, Sly is unable to transcend his status in any way and remains, though clothed, addressed, and supplied like a lord, in his mean behavioral state as a drunken tinker. Sly never becomes master of self, hindering his chances of living, even as a joke, like a lord. Tranio, Grumio, and Sly illustrate differing cases of what it means to be a servant, effectively subverting traditional ideas of master and class.

Joshua Parsons    "Negotiating Memory: The Construction and Cultivation of Elizabeth's Memory in The LIfe and Death of King John."

In my article, I propose that Shakespeare uses King John as a framework to construct the social memory of Queen Elizabeth during the unique time period associated with the end of her reign. During the writing of King John Elizabeth is passed childbearing age and refuses to name a successor. These circumstances lead to an awareness of a future without Elizabeth and to an awareness of her legacy’s uncertainty. Using contemporary historical knowledge of Elizabeth’s reign, Shakespeare develops the royal and authoritarian male characters in King John as allegorical representations of three different interpretations of Queen Elizabeth’s legacy that are vying for control of her socially constructed memory. Shakespeare’s characterization of Arthur, John, and the Bastard all demonstrate strong allegorical links to Queen Elizabeth. In establishing these allegorical links, I will demonstrate that Shakespeare is suggesting that Queen Elizabeth’s legacy as the Virgin Queen will be overshadowed by the controversies related to her succession and the religious reformation. However, Shakespeare’s use of the Bastard suggests that Elizabeth’s legacy will overcome the controversies that took place during her reign, and instead she will be remembered for the jingoistic praise she inspired. In addition, Shakespeare use of these interpretations suggests his awareness of history as a construct of society and not a determined truth. Thus, Shakespeare’s use of King John to construct and cultivate his own interpretation of Elizabeth’s legacy through the three vying models suggests the power of the theatre as a tool to transform and mold history and memory.

Mark Bonta, see Tomek panel on interdisciplinarity and Deleuze

 

Alan Brown “Hawthorne’s Use of the Words ‘Hand’ and ‘Heart’ in ‘The Birth-Mark’”

                Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birth-Mark” was published in the March 1843 edition of The Pioneer.  The author included the story in a collection of short stories titled Mosses from an Old Manse, which was published in 1846.  “The Birth-Mark” deals with a scientist who devotes all of his time to removing his wife Georgiana’s only physical imperfection: a crimson stain on her left cheek.  A supernatural explanation given for the birthmark by the birth-mark, which resembles a human hand, by her suitors is that it was left there by a fairy.  Before he begins the process of removing “The Bloody Hand,” as he and his wife call it, Aylmer dreams that when he trying to remove the birthmark surgically, it sinks into her chest and catches hold of her heart.  Despite this bad omen, Aylmer continues trying to find a way to remove the birthmark.  When he finally does, Georgiana dies.

                In my presentation, I intend to show how Hawthorne explores the ancient meanings of “hand” and “heart” to add depth to his story.  The Hebrews viewed the heart (i.e., “lev”) as the seat of both thought and emotion.  Christians have always viewed the word “heart” as the seat of the various dispositions of the human soul.  Two of the meanings given for the word in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “one’s innermost character.”  In other words, when Aylmer removes the heart, he destroys the very core of Georgiana’s personality, her innermost self.  The word “hand” also has deep roots in the culture of the ancient Middle East.  The “hamsa” is a palm-shaped amulet poplar throught the Middle East and North Africa.  Depicted as an open right hand, the image has been used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history.  By removing the birthmark, Aylmer inadvertently removes the “hand of God,” which protects that special, nature-given quality—her birthmark-- that sets Georgiana apart from other women. 

 

Allison Chestnut   see Lorie Fulton panel

 

Helen Chukwuma  see Preselfannie McDaniels’ panel

 

C. Stephen Coleman, Jr.      A Journey From Darkness to Light: The Portrayal of the Victorian Orphan Child in Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Great Expectations Through the Film Noir Adaptations of David Lean                           Mississippi College

Originally published in the mid 1800’s, Charles Dickens’ novels Oliver Twist and Great Expectations each portray the story of a struggling orphan child in Victorian England.  Pip in Great Expectations and Oliver in Oliver Twist each experience a rise from obscurity in their respective lives, leading readers along a roller coaster ride of emotions as they travel along the road from rags to riches with these two young orphan protagonists. More than a century after Oliver Twist was initially published, and nearly a century after Great Expectations was published, British filmmaker David Lean embarked on a journey to bring his version of Dickens’ classic tales to the silver screen.  Although certainly not the first to bring Dickens to the silver screen, Lean’s 1946 (Great Expectations) and 1948 (Oliver Twist) adaptations have long been heralded as being among the best ever produced.  Through the use of film noir techniques so popular during that era, Lean brings to life the characters of Pip and Oliver.  By employing stark, harsh scenery, and soft, shadowy lighting techniques, Lean successfully takes us into the grim world that was the life of these two Victorian Orphans.  This paper will very briefly introduce David Lean and Charles Dickens, giving background information on each.  It will then briefly examine how Charles Dickens initially portrayed the orphans through his novels, and how I believe Dickens wanted his readers to view them.  The majority of the paper will focus on David Lean’s adaptations, showing how the usage of film noir techniques successfully evokes a myriad of emotions from the audience regarding the plight of the orphans.  I will be examining for each of the films: the set, the use of light and shadow, and the parallel structure sometimes seen between characters in each of the films.  What makes Lean’s masterpieces so effective in capturing the essence of Dickens’ young orphans? 

 

Patsy J. Daniels     Deconstructing Katherine Anne Porter:  “Strange Fruit” in "The Fig Tree”     (Jackson State University)

                Through a close reading of the text and the application of the critical theories deconstruction and New Criticism, Katherine Anne Porter’s 1939 short story “The Fig Tree” is seen to be a rejection of the customs and practices of the old South.  The story is about the growing awareness of a young girl, but can also be representative of the growth of the South itself, when the South was still making a painful transition from the antebellum old traditions to the post-bellum time when new customs had to be created.   Porter sets up two binary oppositions: the old South versus the new South and the black-white relationship in the home opposed to away from the home, which includes lynching. Eventually the protagonist chooses the new ways over the old, but some of the characters are unable to accept the new world.  Lynching is never mentioned in the story, but hints of lynching can be found throughout the story. 

 

Debbie Davis             British Crime Fiction and the Critique of (Post) Modern Society: Naturalism in Barbara Vine’s A Fatal Inversion  , Ph.D.                                             The University of West Alabama

The novels of suspense by British author Ruth Rendell and her nom de plume Barbara Vine are acclaimed for their subversion of the generic mystery formula in which a broken social order is restored by a brilliant detective.  In Vine’s novels, there is no super sleuth, like Rendell’s Inspector Wexford, who is capable of restoring moral order, precisely because the social and psychological conflicts that lead to the crimes remain unresolved.  Susan Rowland argues that the ideologically liberal works of Rendell and Vine seek a “utopian social order . . . characterized by social progressiveness and liberal tolerance [that indicate] hope for future reform” (40). I see a much darker world view in the same novels.  In fact, the novels of suspense are pervaded by a grim Naturalism that prevents the restoration of any order—utopian or other—and provokes criminal behavior in otherwise “normal” individuals as their identity is constructed, compelled, and ultimately threatened by vast forces beyond their control.   In Vine’s A Fatal Inversion (1989), the bodies of a young woman and infant are found buried on a property occupied a decade earlier by the college aged Adam Verne-Smith and a small cadre of acquaintances, who presently must confront  the reality and consequences of their actions that summer in 1976.  As the “truth” is unraveled, the novel poses timely questions about the external and internal forces that mercilessly inhibit agency and autonomy until crime seems the only method of self expression. 

 

Seth Dawson          “Them sons of bitches”: Railroads, The Damage Suit Disease, and “Mule in the Yard”

While multiple studies focus on Faulkner’s use of the mule as a symbol of the

agricultural South, few examine “Mule in the Yard” and none yet reveal the story’s historical

roots. I.O. Snopes’ scheme to bilk money from the railroads by allowing trains to kill

strategically placed teams of mules, which, ultimately, kills his accomplice in the venture, Mr.

Hait, at first seems darkly comedic almost to the point of absurdity. Upon examining historical

documents, the scheme that I.O. perpetrates loses the element of absurdity and highlights a

socio-economic problem of the early twentieth century which seemed to particularly effect

Mississippi. Uncovering the underlying historicity aides in gaining an understanding of

Faulkner’s engagement with a now-obscure cultural issue, the so-called “Damage Suit

Disease”—rampant lawsuits, settlements and corruption surrounding railroads in

Mississippi—and reveals that the scope of I.O. Snopes’ scam extends far beyond the borders of

Yoknapatawpha County. Though Faulkner specifies that the “sons of bitches” to which Mrs.

Hait refers “[were] not the mules . . . not even the owner of them . . . [but rather] her whole

town-dwelling history . . . the geographical hap of her very home” (T 252), this historical

examination places Mrs. Hait’s “geographical hap” into the larger social construct (the corrupt

railroad system which allowed people like I.O. to succeed in similar scams), revealing some very

real “sons of bitches.”

 

Noel Didla,   see Preselfannie McDaniels’ panel

 

Virginia Earnest         Echoes of Sherwood Anderson:  The Fiction of Amos Oz

     Amos Oz, the preeminent Israeli author, has expressed in his acclaimed memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, that when he was a young and aspiring to write well, he had felt that he had to compose fiction that reflected an urbane, cosmopolitan influence. Fortunately both for him and for his loyal readers, he happened to read a Hebrew translation of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.  There he discovered his perspective that freed his creativity.  He told NPR’s Tom Ashbrook when interviewed at the end of October that “the way to understand the human condition is to examine the very local, simple things.”  He went on later to say that “the more provincial it is, the universal it may become; the more local it is, the more universal it may become; even the more parochial it is, the more universal it may become.”

     Oz’s newest work, only released in English translation this October, Scenes from Village Life, like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, is composed of loosely linked, overlapping stories.  In both works the “place” is important and true to the discovery that Oz had made when first reading Anderson’s work, the universal is the reward for the concentration on the “provincial.” In reading both, the reader discovers that chord which resonates to the universal condition of humankind. In both, the reader tastes the truth that the “other” is not separate from him or her—walls are broken through, and the reader shares in the solidarity of human existence.

     The proposed paper will focus on two primary questions:  How does this new work by Amos Oz echo the voices in Sherwood Anderson’s seminal work, and how do both Oz and Anderson enunciate the universal in the provincial—striking the chord of solidarity among humans?

 

Stephanie Eddleman       Past the Bloom: Aging and Beauty in the Novels of Jane Austen 

                Many eighteenth-century writers are not kind to characters who are no longer in the bloom of youth, treating them as mere caricatures or as people whose only purpose in life is to guide the young.  They “fail to bring the aged alive as individual human beings” (Ottaway 56), yet this charge is not true of Austen.  Admittedly, Austen’s novels do, for the most part, center around the young, yet in Persuasion she presents us with Anne, her only aging heroine, and Sense and Sensibility features Colonel Brandon, whom Marianne categorizes as “an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty” (34).    Austen does satirize the aging Sir Walter Elliot, but she does so because of his extreme vanity and self-deception, not because of his age.   For Austen’s heroines, youth and beauty are inextricably tied to marraigeability, and she repeatedly illustrates that society does not celebrate aging women.  Aging  men, however, are viewed much differently, and Austen’s depictions of mature characters repeatedly demonstrate gender differences.  This will essay explore Austen’s ideas about the relationship between beauty, gender, and aging.  (see also her poetry in fiction-poetry and short story . 

 

Benjamin F. Fisher        I wish to consider the importance of the contemporary reviews of Poe’s first hardcover volume(s) of fiction, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840). Poe collected here for the first time stories that he had already published in newspapers and magazines during the preceding 7-8 years. Reviewers were quick to point out his “German” (what we call today “Gothic”) tendencies, which, they sometimes opined, were defects. None the less, they were just as quick to recognize Poe’s artistic powers in presenting such materials. Several commentators cited Poe’s abilities in creating humor. The tales that got greatest notice were “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia,” and “William Wilson.” A consideration of reception of TGA opens new windows into Poe studies. The tales just listed continue to be focus of serious critical approaches. Awareness that Poe had comic propensities was evident among his contemporaries, then seemed to go underground, or to be dismissively deprecated until Edward Davidson’s study of the late 1950s. To take into account opinions in these early notices is to see seeds that more fully grew into some of the current readings of Poe’s tales today.

 

Susan Allen Ford  “Reading The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey.”

Martha Marianna Fountain    see J Tomek panel on Deleuse and Interdisciplinarity

James Fowler  see under fiction under poetry and short story             poetry

 

Lorie Watkins Fulton           Panel                     “Living in the Bible Belt with the Good Book”

The William Carey University Library is one of 40 sites in the United States this year hosting  the traveling exhibition, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible. Project coordinator Sherry Laughlin writes, “The traveling exhibit was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and the American Library Association Public Programs office.  It is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas.  The traveling exhibition was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities”  http://library.wmcarey.edu/screens/manifoldmain.html).  More information about the exhibit can be found at http://www.manifoldgreatness.org/.  This year Dr. Tom Richardson, Dr. Allison Chestnut, and I want to share our part of this amazing exhibit with Mississippi Philological Association Conference attendees.  We respectfully propose a panel titled “Living in the Bible Belt with the Good Book,” which will feature three essays dealing with the often strained but ever present relationship of a variety of southern writers with that proverbial good book.  

Dr. Thomas J. Richardson’s paper will engage the broad topic of Mark Twain and the King James Bible, focusing on Twain’s characteristic ambivalence in dealing with religion and biblical story.  “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand,” he said, “but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”  In its style and language that he knew well from childhood and a literal frontier culture, the KJV affords Twain the opportunity for humor, exaggeration and burlesque (much like his treatment of Shakespeare).  In addition, the paper will examine how Twain’s treatments of biblical stories about Eden, Adam and Eve, heaven and hell, Noah and the flood, and the human predicament offer contradictory images of irreverence and faith, contradictions at the center of Twain’s ambivalent relation to both the KJV and religion in his own culture.   

Modern Southern authors come from a culture rich in the stories and sounds of the King James Bible, and Eudora Welty is no exception.  In Mississippi Writers Talking, Welty tells John Griffin Jones that she “loved to read” the Bible: “The King James Version stays with you forever; [it] rings and rings in your ears.”  Dr. Allison Chestnut identifies the New Testament parable form as one particular influence of the KJV upon Welty’s first collection of short stories,  A Curtain of Green.

Finally, Dr. Lorie Watkins Fulton explores the influence of the King James Bible on the work of William Faulkner.  When serving as a writer in residence at the University of Virginia, Faulkner was asked if the language of the King James Bible influenced the way his characters speak and he replied, “Yes. It's the only—only reading a lot of them [his characters] do.”  Faulkner read the text quite often himself and gave six of his novels explicitly biblical titles.  Her paper will explore these connections, as well as the outline the Biblical themes that pervade Faulkner’s work.

 

Daniel Glenn   see the Paulson panel

 

William Hays     see in   Fiction  under poetry and short story     short story  Cookie

 

Chance Harvey      Lyle Saxon's Achievement in Children of Strangers:  Creole Culture and Influence on Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

he year 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of Children of

Strangers, Louisiana author Lyle Saxon’s novel about the Cane River Creoles of color

whose descendants still live on Isle Brevelle near Natchitoches, Louisiana, where the

novel is set.  The novel was published on July 6, 1937; four days later, Saxon’s picture

was featured on the cover of The Saturday Review of Literature, and  critic George

Stevens wrote that the novel “beautifully transcribes the poignancy, the pride, the quiet

dignity” of the Cane River Creoles.  Six weeks later, The New York Herald-Tribune

revealed in its weekly “What America Is Reading” the widespread popular appeal of the

novel:   Children of Strangers trailed only six books behind the 1937 Pulitzer Prize

winner, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. 

Sadly, as Lewis Simpson has pointed out, Lyle Saxon “had his vogue and then

more or less disappeared.”  This Power Point presentation seeks to “find” Saxon, in

particular, his solid achievement in Children of Strangers that was so intensely heralded

in contemporary reviews.  In anticipation of its 75th anniversary, Pelican released this past

September a new edition of the novel.  Ahead of its time in its presentation of the fullness

of black experience and avoidance of white stereotyping, it is worthy of a fresh look.  In

addition to its groundbreaking approach and literary merit,  Children of Strangers seems

to have wrought a considerable influence on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

 Ph.D., English, 1980, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA Book:  The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon

§  “Lyle Saxon and William Faulkner: A New Orleans Friendship.” 

 

Cade Holder   see  Bentley Shakespeare panel

 

Brian Kehler,          The Interpretation of Music and the Ideology of “Present-Mindedness” in Four  Shakespeare  Comedies       

In The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure, many of

Shakespeare’s insights come from his characters’ commentaries on music. The opinions they

hold on the merit and uses of music are diverse and contentious. We see outright hatred of it in

Shylock and Malvolio, worship of it in Orsino, and a gentle mocking of its effects in Feste and

Touchstone. This “dialogue of music” is used consistently as a metaphor for a particular

character’s quest for meaning. The presence of music (or lack thereof) in the character’s

speeches further reveals an ideology of “present-mindedness,” where the content of life in the

past and future contains no meaning for the existing creature. As the audience becomes endeared

to this ideology, the “present-minded,” in their contemplation of music, move through stages of

insights about the body, mind and spirit toward an undefined and mysterious final “conversion.”

The characters become symbols of this process which mimics the medieval stages of spiritual

ascent. Music becomes an enigmatic “scripture” to interpret through a literal (body), moral

(mind), and spiritual sense. The context of this ideology is Neoplatonic, a disenchantment from

medieval nostalgia and puritan iconoclasm. Only the “present-minded” can be initiated into this

“quest of love” and achieve a greater insight into the realities of being human.

 

Peter Malik   see  in fiction under poetry and short story      Short Story  Dr. Seuss Had No Children

 

Mary Ruth Marotte                        "Desire in Carson McCullers’ 'The Ballad of the Sad Café'"

McCullers' Amelia and Lyman forge an unlikely relationship in McCullers story, "The Ballad of Sad Café." Though it is quite evident their closeness is romantic, at least in the sense that there is a profound sense of desire felt by Amelia towards Lyman, the chorus-like townspeople have difficulty accepting theirs to be a romantic union. McCullers explores in her story the social construction of desire, not limiting herself to the study of the relationship between Amelia and Lyman, but also treating the triangle of affections between Amelia and Marvin and between Lyman and Marvin. What she shows us is that desire is more than longing; it is a complicated emotion freighted with danger and potential for destruction.

 

Linda E. McDaniel    The Southern Catfish Pond in Steve Yarbrough’s Oxygen Man

Steve Yarbrough’s 1999 novel, Oxygen Man, focuses on the spare and taut lives of Ned Rose and his sister Daisy, whose livelihoods in Indianola, Mississippi, depend on the catfish industry.  Ned tends Mack Bell’s ponds, and Daze works at the Delta Prime processing plant.  Instead of a Walden Pond, Steve Yarbrough uses the Delta catfish pond as updated microcosm and metaphor for life on earth.  Like Thoreau, Yarbrough provides history and statistics of the ponds as he describes the seasons.  The catfish of course must first have enough water and oxygen free from pollution and poison to survive and thrive.  Inadequate aeration can destroy the stock, while cormorant predators and human saboteurs also endanger the farmer’s investment.  When Yarbrough alternates scenes from the catfish pond to Lake Fergusson, his descriptions suggest that no Oxygen Man has kept watch at the recreational spot near Greenville.  There the lake looks like an “oil slick,” and alligators and misshapen monster fish swim in the water, sometimes used as a dump for pollutants and dead bodies.   Yarbrough continues the water imagery in the description of the Delta area itself that once lay beneath an inland sea.  Inhabitants deal with a lack of pure and healthy air, along with pollution and predators.  Ecocritical commentary applies.

 

 

Preselfannie McDaniels     panel   Literary Studies and Interdisciplinarity: Concept and Practice

                Helen Chukwuma   Interdisciplinarity and Other Disciplines”

In this age of scarce resources in the Academy, it becomes worthwhile to examine the advantages of advancing the concept and practice of interdisciplinarity across major areas of study. This paper treats the following issues: Can literature reach out to other disciplines and create coordinating links? What links are possible in areas such as Research and Methodology, Content, Terminologies, Historical periodization, etc.? Interdisciplinarity here is viewed as cooperation between disciplines which does not homogenize the constituent parts. It will be shown that there are certain advantages in interdisciplinarity for both faculty and students.

Noel Didla   Interdisciplinarity and Film”            

A growing number of literary scholars study the transition of literary works from the page to the stage and from the page to the screen. It often surprises students, especially those who read little beyond what is required by their professors, that most of the films they love, discuss, and re-view have often been initially taken from the pages of a novel. Because these successful American and foreign films cover the genres of romance, comedy, drama, horror, historical fiction, science fiction, coming-of-age stories, and social commentary, they lend themselves quite easily to the idea of interdisciplinary studies in film.

                Such an instance at Jackson State University is the partnership between the Mass Communications and he English and Modern Foreign Languages departments in bringing the Sundance Film Festival to the university. This is a prime time to further consider and discuss the creative possibilities of interdisciplinary studies and film.

Preselfannie McDanielsInterdisciplinarity and Service Learning”

Service learning has evolved into a discipline that integrates significant community service with academic endeavors.  The goal is to teach civic responsibility, encourage lifetime commitment to service, and strengthen poor communities. Service learning has been noted for being a very effective method, which is used to integrate and enhance learning.  It has also been shown to promote retention and serve the needs of the community, while expanding and challenging students’ academic and social skills and increasing their propensity to become service-minded for life. The graduate studies division in the Dept. of English and Modern Foreign Languages at Jackson State University exhibited the connectedness of service learning to academic and social skills when it provided editorial and resume review services to the graduate students in all other disciplines university-wide.

Such an idea lends itself to discussing the possibilities of enhancing interdisciplinary connectedness via service-learning requirements and/or opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. An exploration of service-learning within interdisciplinary academic instruction should bring together both student and faculty discussants.

 

Christine Mitchell   Christine de Pizan’s Feminist Rhetoric

Christine de Pizan, the medieval French writer, is notable for the number of rhetorical strategies demonstrated in her writing.  As a well-educated noblewoman, her abilities to read and write logically and effectively gave her not only a career in her own lifetime, but also continuing notoriety some six centuries later.  Having a sophisticated sense of writing style far beyond her era, Christine used what can be called feminist rhetoric to drive home her argument for equal treatment for women in The Book of the City of Ladies.  This paper will briefly review Christine’s life before examining her intuitive feminist rhetorical stance.

 

D. Allan Mitchell  see panel  under Michael C. Smith in  fiction under     lyrical essay

 

Kenneth Mitchell  Coleridge’s Ironic Child

The much analyzed poem “Frost at Midnight” has been viewed through a number of ideological, philosophical, and critical lenses.  Critics have focused on the solitude of the poem as a metaphor for Coleridge’s concerns about the loss of his own poetic voice. Others focus on a Wordsworthian vision of the powers of philosophy and poetry possessed by children.  Yet still other critics read the poem as Coleridge hoping, and yet fearing, that Hartley might one day usurp his father’s place in the poetic canon.  Less sophisticated critics have chosen to view the poem’s projection of an idealized natural scene.  For these critics the moonlit icicles and the “secret ministry of frost” overwhelm the father who shares the scene, and, he hopes, the feeling with the son.

However legitimate these readings, I believe a full understanding of the poem is enhanced by first examining a three-sonnet sequence: one on the absent father’s hearing of his son’s birth; one written on his journey homeward to see the child; and a third recording his emotional state upon first seeing young Hartley. I will use the analysis of these sonnets as a preface to my discussion of “Frost at Midnight.”

 

Natalie Nations     Coercive Community: An Examination of Membership in Church and Politics in Richard Wright’s Black Boy

With this paper, I provide a critical analysis of the church and the Communist Party in Ri, Wright is an “outsider” to the church of his grandmother because he refuses membership and is, therefore, a threat to the collective salvation of the family. Much like his relationship to the Methodist Church (to which he becomes a member), Wright is a member of the Communist Party but is skeptical of its doctrine. In his interactions with the church and the Communist Party, Wright recognizes the coercive nature of both communities, and his questioning of their dogma further separates him from the expected totality chard Wright’s Black Boy using Scott Romine’s idea of coercive community. Wright, himself, alludes to similarities between the communities of the church and the Communist political party, and I expound upon Wright’s observations by highlighting the similarities of these communities in regards to function and purpose. Like the church of Wright’s Black Boy, the Communist Party ascribes “insiderhood” and “outsiderhood” status to determine sources of threat to the organization. Although Wright secures membership in the Communist Party, the party labels him an “intellectual”—a threat to the party’s one-mind mentality. The Communist Party, much like the church, attempts to create “docile,” unquestioning members who do not threaten the mindset the party imposes upon them. Similarly of belief espoused by these institutions. Working with these parallels, I expose the strain of fear and suspicion that pervades Black Boy and American culture during the early Civil Rights era.

 

Anna Beth Owens   see Bentley Shakespeare panel

 

Sally Paulson    Panel   “Philology and Manifest Destiny: Philology’s Role in Justifying Colonialism” Arguing because colonialism ran counter to fundamental Christian beliefs, Anglo-Saxons historically had difficulty defending the practice, this panel examines philology’s fundamental role in justifying America’s ideology of “Manifest Destiny.”  First, it (Daniel Glenn) discusses the country’s historical need, as it expanded westward, to rationalize its disregard for the citizenship/property rights of African Americans in the South, First Americans in the West, and Hispanics in the Southwest. Daniel will be discussing the way “written texts” legitimize a culture’s history and thus provide justification for disregarding those groups who do not have them – i.e. in terms of Manifest Destiny, the African Americans and First Americans Second, it (Sally Paulson) discusses how, to justify these actions, Americans drew upon a unique philological perspective that claimed: first, Ayran languages were both prior to and superior to all other languages, particularly Hebrew; second, in light of their language’s superiority, Anglo-Saxons were, in fact, the “chosen people; and third, as a result of this “innate” cultural superiority, America’s “colonial” actions were fully justified. Sally will be discussing how Anglo-Saxons drew upon philology to justify Colonization/Manifest Destiny in spite of basic Biblical precepts. Next, revealing the “political nature” of this 19th century philological perspective, this panel (Clint Tibbs) provides a more sophisticated, in-depth discussion of Hebrew.  In contrast to the criticisms of that language as lacking in-depth verb structure and depth, the discussion emphasizes Hebrew’s sophisticated grammar and, as a result, the language’s ability to stimulate creativity and poetry. Clint Tibbs: Clint will explain just why most of us feel now uncomfortable with that rationalization – its basic precept, i.e. its perspective on Hebrew, is incorrect. Tim Viner explores the impact of the Civil War.  Finally, the panel (Daniel Glenn) ends with a discussion of the fate of America’s mid-nineteenth century aspirations, in line with the notion that “Ayrans follow the sun,” to expand into South America and Asia. : We have heard of the wrongs justified through philology, Tim Viner will now present the view of one individual who thought philology/language might be a way to heal those scars.  James Tomek, the moderator will respond with reflections on language and Levinas.

 

Joshua Parsons   see Bentley Shakespeare panel

 

James Potts            The Various Uses for a Ghost: Spirits in a (Postmodern) Material World (Rushdie and Gardner)       Beginning of paper--If we live, as Wittgenstein proposed, in a post-metaphysical age, it would seem peculiar that inconvenient intrusions by distinctly other-dimensional beings. My assumption is that “spirituality” requires a belief in a spiritual dimension. Once an unseen dimension is acknowledged, that opens the slippery slope to acknowledging many sorts of metaphysical possibilities. More about that assumption later, since that position is hardly universal. I want to begin by considering the possible definitions of spirituality as it exists in two novels, Mickelsson’s Ghosts by John Gardner and The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. Both novels display extraordinary ambivalence about religious faith and about spirits in the material world. The better question, which I can only speculate on, is why.

Candis Pizzetta             Community, Virtue, and Equality: Reconsidering Republican Ideals in Late             Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fiction      The concept of civic virtue at the center of late eighteenth century American discourse is lost in the aftermath of the American Civil War, in an increasingly industrialized American society, and in the steady rise of individualism signaled by such philosophical movements as Social Darwinism and even transcendentalism. Benjamin Rush, early-American educator, philosopher, and physician, once called for an effort to “convert men into republican machines” (Selected Writings 92). This notion of communal responsibility for social progress was not lost in the nineteenth century but became marginalized, appearing in the texts and actions of abolitionists, temperance groups, and the like. I contend that some socialist narratives in late-nineteenth century America take part in both anti-capitalist sentiment and a yearning for the idealism of the post-revolutionary period. William Dean Howells’ A Traveler from Altruria serves as a particularly cogent example of this dual purpose, addressing both economic and ethical principles. Although Howells’Altrurian utopia seems an economic paradise, the protagonist Mr. Homos argues for virtue and communal effort rather than economic equality to drive social change. Howells’ novel may have been inspired by his reading of Tolstoy, but the relationship between Howells and the ethical aspect of socialism is much greater than that of his connection to utopian ideals as anti-capitalist. There is no doubt that Mr. Homos is disgusted by the economic inequality in America. This brand of inequality, however, is not just the result of differences in economic opportunity and the American focus on acquisition. It also reflects Howells’ commitment to an ethical or virtuous America, the legacy of republican virtue.

Thomas J. Richardson    see Lorie Watkins Fulton panel

Kris Robinson  see Ted Atkinson Panel

Rusty Rogers   see  in fiction   under poetry and short story     short story    An

Virginia Scott       The Triumph of Reality through the eyes of Richard Powers, Goethe, and Schubert

The importance of the third paragraph in The Time of Our Singing cannot be ignored. Richard Powers vividly describes the Erl-King hunched on Jonah's shoulder. The Erl-King is a reference to Schubert's famous Lied entitled Erlkonig. The famous verses of the Lied come from the famous poem Der Erlkonig by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  In this poem, a father carries his young son home on horseback. During the ride home, the boy encounters the Erl-King and is terrified, but his father refuses to acknowledge the Erl- King's presence until it is too late. The young boy is attacked by the Erl-King and dies.

Richard Powers utilizes Schubert's Erlkonig as the framework of the novel. Specific sections of Powers' novel correlate with the verses of text from Goethe's poem. Also, elements of Schubert's composition allude to the constant struggle in the novel. The Lied foreshadows Jonah's fate and reveals the constant battle in the novel- the battle between dreams and reality. Furthermore, Schubert and Powers agree with the winner of the battle.

First, the main characters in the verses of the Lied must be compared to the major characters in Powers' novel. The first verse of the Lied focuses on the father carrying his son home on horseback during the night. Who is the father and who is the son in The Time of Our Singing? It is comprehensible that Jonah is the son and Joey is the father for several reasons. The most clarifying evidence occurs when Jonah sings ErlKonig at a pivotal voice competition. Powers writes, "The cause lost, Jonah sang with death incarnate sitting on his shoulder" while Joey played the piano, "racing the wild night" (213). Richard Powers alludes to Joey's role as the father further when he writes in Joey's voice, "I've carried my brother for a quarter of a century" (107). Throughout the novel, Jonah doesn't depend on his father figure Da for support. His support is found in Joey. Joey, the father figure, sacrifices his whole life to take care of his brother and "make sure the real world doesn't defeat him" (107). Just as most fathers sacrifice for the wellbeing of their children, Powers reveals the height of Joey's sacrifice when he writes in Joey's voice, "It hit me that I'd given most of my thirties to my brother, as I'd given him my twenties" (543).

After establishing the role of father and the son in Power's novel, further analysis is required to determine the roles of the Erl- King and the horse. Throughout the novel, Richard Powers constantly fights between reality and dreams. Jonah and Joey are raised in a dream world by their parents. Delia, their mother, raises them to be "beyond race" (299).  Delia and Da home school the boys to shield them from the harsh realities of New York. The brothers' parents also encourage them in the belief that music can solve everything. Their parents send them off to Boylston Academy of Music in hopes that they can escape from the racial truths surrounding them.  Jonah buys into the lie that "Music was that place where look fell away and sightless sound was all (381). Jonah is encouraged further in this fantasy world after his instructor Lisette speaks, "Music is something we aren't. Your job is notness" (253). Thus, the horse in the first verse of Schubert's Erlkonig manifests itself as the dream of music in the novel. The boys naively believe that they can gallop on music's back forever and ignore the Civil Rights movement as well as their own blackness.

 

Pamela Shearer     We Brought All the Wrong Things: Physical and Cultural Baggage in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible           In The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver illustrates post-colonial issues as she moves the Price family from Georgia to the Belgian Congo for a year and a half as missionaries. The Price family embodies fundamental errors in cross-cultural living, illustrated by what they bring to the Congo in their luggage, on their persons, and in their minds and hearts.   The extra physical baggage, both unnecessary and uncomfortable, parallels the Price family’s cultural baggage. The hammer, cake mixes, and seeds do them no good because the village has no nails, the cake mixes harden, and the seeds refuse to grow in the Congo. The binary opposites of clean/dirty and light/dark come to the forefront as the Price’s struggle with a different value system in the Congo. The Congolese even see health and handicaps differently.             The father makes cultural blunder after cultural blunder, destroying any possibility for success as a missionary. He makes no effort to understand the Congolese view of nakedness. Instead, he preaches about the sinfulness of exposed breasts while his own family causes chaos with their exposed legs. Nathan Price’s worldview carries more weight than scripture itself. He cannot separate his cultural beliefs from scriptural mandates. The Prices, loaded down with unnecessary physical, cultural, and mental baggage, fail as missionaries. They “brought all the wrong things” (65).

 

Michael C Smith  and D. Allan Mitchell  panel   see in Fiction 

Jonathan Smith  (see Ted Atkinson panel (Delivrance) and Greg Bently (Modern Drama)

Clint Tibbs    ( see Sally Paulson panal)

James Tomek   Panel on Deleuze, Levinas, Interdisciplinarity and the MALS Degree   ---  see also Sally Paulson  panel)

                Martha Marianna Fountain                The Family Rhizome and Babies as Simulacra in The Time of Our Singing  

From the opening pages of The Time of Our Singing, Richard Powers explores questions of identity and purpose from racial and musical perspectives. The structure of the story as a whole and the composition of the Strom family both resemble the concept of the rhizome introduced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Also of interest is the repeated appearance of babies throughout the tale. Genetic reconstructions of their parents that find their own meaning and outlast their creators, babies can be seen as Jean Baudrillard’s simulacra. The offspring David and Julia Strom produce along with Jonah’s child that Lisette aborts pose questions regarding biracial children’s identities during the Civil Rights Era. These simulacral babies as well as the simulacral musical progeny of Joey Strom and Wilson Hart are copies of their parents that gain their own individual importance and purpose. The rhizomal structure of family and the repeated appearance of babies as simulacra in Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing are Powers’ answers to the questions he raises about selfhood and identity. Powers does not answer his posed questions of racial identity, origin, and purpose outright, though. Instead, he reiterates that like a rhizome, all of humanity will deal with similar questions, and he uses babies and music to remind readers that simulacra will find a way to define themselves.

My name is Marianna Fountain, and I am a senior studying English literature at Mississippi College. I had the privilege of presenting at last year's conference, and I am interested in presenting at the 2012 conference as well if undergraduate papers are welcome again. I've attached an abstract for my paper entitled "The Family Rhizome and Babies as Simulacra in The Time of Our Singing" on the novel by Richard Powers. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Yvonne Tomek     see in fiction under poetry and short story

 

Troy White   "Uncovering Missing Texts in Oxford Movement Fiction." The Oxford Movement was a reform movement within the Church of England that sought to restore the Church's Catholic tradition (that is, its pre-Protestant, but not necessarily Roman Catholic tradition).  Its first wave took place between 1833 and 1845.  Novels typically recognized as emerging from the Oxford Movement have an explicit message—usually dealing directly with issues such as the dark temptation to convert to Roman Catholicism (heroically avoided) and expressions of the rightness and goodness of Catholic churches, Catholic clergymen, and Catholic living.  Lengthy expositions on religious subjects can be expected to emerge every so often within the progression of the plot.

Sabine Baring-Gould (1835-1925) was part of the Oxford Movement's second wave, yet his novel Mehalah (1880) is not recognized as part of the literature of the Oxford Movement.  Studies on the Oxford Movement literature  like Faith and Revolt (1970) and  The Novel and the Oxford Movement (1965) do not mention Baring-Gould’s fiction—though it is some of the best in the tradition.

This omission is most likely because Mehalah does not resemble the typical Oxford Movement novel.  Nonetheless, I will show in my paper how Mehalah possesses a complex, seamless blending of philosophy with its Gothic fiction structure.  Surprisingly, the influence of Baring-Gould’s philosophy gives an elegance and force to the novel.  This is because Mehalah is not a one-to-one allegorical illustration of Baring-Gould's philosophy.  Rather, religious ideas provide a dynamic setting for Mehalah, a rough “physics” of the novel which gives the characters weight and motion as they relate to other characters and their world. 

BA at Mississippi College, my MA at the University of Mississippi (working with Benjamin Fisher), and my PhD at Warwick University. Currently teaching at Mississippi College. Research interests lie in the overlap of literature and religion in Victorian-era Britain, English rural culture, the novel, and Gothic fiction.

 

Claude Wilkinson   Flannery O’Connor’s Yokes of Mammon

In Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor speaks of the balance of writing territory between hell, purgatory, and paradise which Dante strove to achieve.  O’Connor goes on to suggest that during Dante’s age the accomplishment of such equality for the novelist was more feasible due to the balance in thirteenth-century faith.  In her age however, O’Connor believed this balancing of territory to be impractical, if not improbable, because of the modern writer’s connection to society “which doubts both fact and value, which is swept this way and that by momentary convictions.”  Consequently, she believed twentieth-century novelists must find and reflect a balance from inside themselves.  Yet, an obstinacy and fanaticism similar to those rooted in O’Connor’s backwoods prophets and bloodless intellectuals appeared as early as the sixteenth century in Thomas More’s character, Raphael Hythloday.  Hythloday is committed to the idea that humans are inherently good, untainted by original sin, and therefore capable of living in a utopian state.  O’Connor suggests in Mystery and Manners that her writing territory is governed by the devil.  Hence, the presumably elect inhabit settings rife with mammon which serves as a deterrent to true spirituality.  O’Connor’s work often presents caricatured mores of theology, as particularly in her story, “The Turkey,” where the protagonist, Ruller McFarney, attempts to work out his own salvation in the bizarre, metaphoric chase of a wounded wild turkey, but the whole while feels himself being sucked into an evil fate.  Thus the author explores a non-biblical, yet not atypical, attitude concerning Christianity.

 

John Zheng        The Last Days of Richard Wright through His Haiku

When Richard Wright was sick in his final years in Paris, he became obsessed with haiku, saying he could not give up “those damned haikus” (Fabre 54). His daughter, Julia, reminisces in her introduction to Haiku: This Other World that Wright wrote haiku “at all hours: in bed as he slowly recovered from a year-long, grueling battle against amebic dysentery; in cafJs and restaurants where he counted syllables on napkins; in the country in a writing community owned by French friends, Le Moulin d’AndJ” (vii). This short essay will analyze a few of Wright's haiku that use natural images to express his feeling and attitude.           (see poetry submission in “fiction”)