Browsing Department of Humanities by Subjects
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Kissing women: The fiction of Sarah WatersThe lesbian historical novel is a genre that has been consistently neglected. Reasons of censorship and lack of credibility, during an increasingly hostile Victorian era, forced lesbians into exile, denying them their subjectivity and distancing them from any notion of same sex desire. Inevitably, lives have been lost or forgotten as a consequence. Looking at three of Sarah Waters novels, Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and The Fingersmith, this article intends to consider the existence of the marginalized working class lesbian. It hopes to show how a contemporary woman writer successfully exploits the unreliability of history in order to replicate a series of romantic fantasies and in so doing, it will argue that Waters’ fiction makes it possible to envisage lesbian desire beyond the limitations of heterosexual paradigms. Feminist and queer theory engagement with the texts will highlight the way Waters repossesses the desiring lesbian body, examining a series of erotic lesbian portrayals.
Laon and Cythna and The Revolt of Islam: revisions as transition.The enforced amendments made to Laon and Cythna following its withdrawal from publication in December 1817 are generally regarded as workmanlike and prudent, sacrificing aesthetic merit in the name of compromise and self-censorship. There remain, however, few detailed readings of these modifications that go beyond subjective responses. To this end, this article offers a reading of these revisions arguing that although some are indeed functional alterations, other amendments serve thematic and aesthetic ends. One of Shelley’s most common changes, that of changing the word ‘God’ to ‘Power’, is a case in point. Since a key theme of the poem is of the collusion between political and religious tyranny, Shelley’s alteration of ‘God’ to ‘Power’ makes this connection more explicit. From this, this article concludes that these revisions signal, analogously at the very least, a transitioning point in Shelley’s thought and career. Whereas Queen Mab (1813) refers explicitly to ‘God’, later works such as Prometheus Unbound (1820) settle upon the term ‘Power’. The fact that we see Shelley move from one to the other between Laon and Cythna and The Revolt of Islam is therefore significant.
Teaching ‘freedom of speech’ freelyDespite being on the teaching front line, academics are commonly excluded from debates concerning the supposed ‘free speech’ crisis on campuses. This chapter offers an academic perspective, arguing that the increasingly common perception of students as sensitive or censorious is not borne out in the classroom. This chapter is particularly inspired by experiences over the past five years in teaching on literary censorship, offence and ‘freedom of speech’ in literature from the seventeenth century to the present day. Following this anecdotal experience, this chapter turns to argue that much of the furore concerning free speech on university campuses comes from a position of bad faith; to insist, as many commentators do, that no topic should be off-limits, is commonly not applied to the very concept of ‘freedom of speech’ itself, despite its loose definition and weighty cultural baggage. In addition, it argues that freedom of speech, like all ‘freedoms’, involves being freed from things as much as it involves being left free to do them. This has important teaching implications. To encourage the ‘freest’ speech in the classroom is to discourage monopoly of conversation; this requires a respectful, diverse environment. It concludes that the weaponisation of ‘free speech’ commonly undermines itself as it is demonstrably more concerned with the preservation of the voices of particularly privileged groups than in encouraging plurality of opinion.