Archive for October, 2016

Aftermath by Rachel Cusk Blog Post by Lucy Goodall


In “Aftermath,” Cusk shows her ability to portray her experiences in a frank yet relatable way. When she tells us that “my sins will not devour me but will be dutifully paid off over a lifetime in small increments, like a mortgage,” the reader automatically relates to her. Her challenging and almost clinical version of such a highly-charged subject is what makes her work valuable. By demonstrating the pitfalls of motherhood and family life in such a way, they become more realistic than ever before. Cusk’s literature doesn’t display an ‘angel in the house’ figure like other novels about motherhood. Instead she portrays her experience with motherhood and marriage breakdown as a loss of her identity.


Can a Murderess be a Political Heroine? Blog Post by Taylor Dunn



The story of Margaret Garner is a tragic one. On trial for the murder of her daughter, the devastating reality of slavery for those experiencing it is revealed. Viewed by many as an act of horrifying violence, Margaret Garner’s actions are a controversial topic of discussion. Without understanding the reasoning behind this distressing act, it is only natural to view the murder of a young child by its mother as a crime of the cruellest kind. However, as a victim of slavery, Garner’s opportunities to speak on her own behalf were practically non-existent. Instead, a slave “could only be known through his master,” denying slaves all rights to a voice. As a result of this, Garner’s case became subject to ventriloquism – and instead of speaking was spoken for by ‘commentators’ ‘claiming access to her inner life.’ Consequentially, much information gathered on Margaret Garner’s case was distorted and untrue, so much so that records of those who described the scene were so inaccurate in their portrayal that they even mistook the gender of Garner’s victim – two and a half year old Mary for a ‘son’. In addition to this, those prejudiced against Margaret Garner’s case – particularly unionist and pro-Southern editorialists – used the event to ‘demonize’ Garner, despite others taking the view that Garner’s actions make her a political heroine for choosing to take her daughter’s life instead of subjecting her to endless ‘suffering’ and ‘unmitigating toil’. According to Mark Reinhardt’s journal article, these contradictory claims reflected the general pattern of the coverage of Garner’s case, highlighting the dangers and controversy of ventriloquism and the single story. This presence and absence of speech can be traced throughout history in cases of not only slavery, but race and also gender. In investigating the lack of women’s literary voices throughout history, is it justified to suggest that the female gender was reduced to the same status as slaves and criminals in patriarchal society? Or are the accounts of female writers by male ventriloquists enough?


Katherine Mansfield and The Book of the Month Club

This week’s blogs are by my students Afshan Ahmad and Kristine Aasland

Afshan Ahmad: Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude – A Weak Woman or a Warrior?


A weak woman or a warrior? Linda, in Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude, refuses to be governed by the patriarchal expectations set for women. But her response is to neglect her role as a mother, all the while supressing her unhappiness. I found Linda’s inability to assert her own feelings most frustrating. By internalising her emotions, she becomes a passive woman settling with her dissatisfaction instead of believing that she has the power to find some shred of happiness in her life. You may say she is a warrior, bearing a life she does not want but I say she is a woman too weak to realise her own importance.


Kristine Aasland A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire by Janice A. Radway


Janice A. Radway writes about how the Book-of-the-Month Club shaped her world view in ways she would not notice until much later. She is critical of book clubs, and the great power which the people in charge hold. Through the books chosen for her she was fed stories of great adventurers, and she disclaims in this extract that she wanted ‘to be such a person.’ (p. 347) In most of the stories she read there were strong male figures. It was the professional power of these men Radway went on to seek in her life, and towards the end of the text she admits to the ‘terrible costs’ these texts have had on her life. (p. 349) She might have been highly motivated in her own life, but the one-sided view of professionalism presented in the books also lead her to ‘the repudiation of [her] gender’. (p. 349) There are book clubs today as well, but what a seeking reader might most frequently come across are lists, such as The Guardian’s ‘The 100 best novels written in English: the full list’. As a reader one should question these lists and their creators, because even though books from both The Book-of-the-Month Club and lists one can find on the internet can hold great literary qualities, the book choices are still subjective. To have book recommendations come from one place only does not seem like a good idea either. As Radway has described in her text it might lead to a limited view of the world.



Reference: Radway, Janice A., ‘A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire’, in Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader, ed. by Mary Eagleton (Malden, MA: Whiley-Blackwell, 2011), 347-349


List from The Guardian: