Philippa Campbell and James Nixon
Introduction to GLITS-e: Vol. 7
GLITS-e is dedicated to publishing the work of Postgraduate and Early Career researchers at Goldsmiths College, University of London. The aim of the journal is to showcase the range of work produced at the university and presented at Goldsmiths Literature Seminars (GLITS) held throughout the year. Due to this, a central theme is unlikely to be found in this edition of the journal, yet the articles published here reflect a fundamental commitment to diversity and equality. This journal embodies diversity in a number of ways – its format, topics, methodologies, and voices, which in turn, accurately reflects the thriving research community at Goldsmiths, and it is a privilege to be able to edit such a multivocal issue.
This issue opens with reflections on the Goldsmiths Literature Seminars Conference, 2019. The theme of the conference was ‘Outsiders’ and the range of submissions, both in number and focus, reflects the ways in which various disciplines and practices interact with the figure of the outsider. We were delighted to step outside of the sphere of academic literary criticism by welcoming plenary speakers Fiona Curran and Lee Cutter of the Koestler Trust, who discussed their work promoting inmate art through prison programs, exhibitions and awards. The Conference Reflections included in this issue feature responses from several presenters from the event. A common theme of these reflections is the experience of presenting work to an engaged, thoughtful audience, in some cases for the first time. During the event, a community was formed around discussions of ostracization and exclusion; this community is reflected in the responses we are delighted to include in this issue.
Alex Vann’s article “A Language of Disruption: Noise and Narrative in Nicola Barker’s H (A) P P Y” reflects this issue’s central diversity in its methodological approach, foci, and conclusions. This article discusses sound/noise from a number of perspectives, including the technical constitutions and cultural connotations of sound/noise. Utilising an interdisciplinary approach, Alex discusses the implications of such distinctions for literary analysis, interestingly highlighting how the typography of Barker’s novel, in particular, constitutes a disruptive presence. The article compellingly argues that disruption can be a creative force, allowing a range of diverse voices into the literary sphere, to engage with the reader.
This diversity is further reflected in the texts which constitute the focus of Ana Nenadović’s article “Sexualised Violence between Silence and Enunciation: The Madonna of Excelsior and Symphony in White”. A comparative analysis, in this article, highlights similarities and differences in the representation and repression of sexualised violence in novels from Brazil and South Africa. The theme of sound is again explored in this article, through the novels’ explorations of the silencing of women, and the ways in which the novels replicate, or challenge, oppressive cultures. Once again, this article synthesises a range of concerns – the tyranny of colonialism, patriarchal dominance, and trauma – alongside detailed literary analysis: representations and exclusions of women’s experiences are discussed both in the events the novels depict (homodiegetically) and through the novels’ narrative devices (heretodiegetically). In this way, the article highlights the ways in which the novels themselves reflect the suffocating lives of women who have experienced sexualised violence in communities which fail to hear their voices.
Season Butler’s article, “Character, Race, and Empathy” serves as a powerful reminder that co-existence is not sufficient; diversity must be accompanied by mutual understanding. This article highlights and defines the Racial Empathy Gap and the extent to which it inhibits respect, empathy, and consideration of others. Like Alex Vann’s analysis, this article transposes research on the Racial Empathy Gap to analysis of literature, enquiring whether narratives of difference can work towards bridging this gap and creating diverse communities based on mutual respect. In particular, the analysis of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing emphasise the novels’ critiques of whiteness and, in Ward’s case in particular, the reflection of racial divisions. As Butler concludes, exposing and depicting such racial inequalities enables their critique and empowers their destruction.
‘History is written by the winners’, so the saying goes, a phrase which implicates dominant narratives of exclusion and oppression. Yet, Meiping Zhang’s article “Before and After the Disaster: The Senses of History in Paul Auster’s The Brooklyn Follies and Man in the Dark” emphasises the plurality of history, as reflected in Paul Auster’s work. Zhang’s work emphasises the contradictions and narrative breaks in two of Auster’s novels, as well as how these narrative devices interact with the traumatic event of 9/11. In particular, Zhang’s analysis highlights the relationship between these narrative devices and the personal experiences of traumatic events, decentring history from institutions to subject perceptions. Like the other articles in this issue, this work emphasises the relationship between thematic concerns and the novels’ narrative structures and devices, emphasising how the literature investigates these themes in a particularly literary way.
These articles each show a particular dedication to themes and issues that affect all portions of society, and, yet, remain steadfastly dedicated to the literary form and its possibilities. As these articles highlight, the possibilities of literature to investigate, challenge, and discuss social norms and values remains as pertinent as ever. Furthermore, the conclusions of these articles, the conclusions of the literary analyses therein, challenge us all, to be better critics, and to better critique the community of which we are all members.