Filter By Topic

Filter By Subject

Filter By Volumes

Filter by Authors

Filter by Years

  •  
  • 1 of 2
  • »

02e69a9c18a7be77440df0515f71f5c2

Publications

2022
Leona Toker. 6/14/2022. “Editor's Preface: Partial Answers is 20 Years Old!” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 187-190. Publisher's Version Abstract

A retrospect on the first twenty years of the journal's publication.

Februrary 2022: Leona Toker is Professor Emerita in English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Editor of Partial Answers. She is the author of Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures (1989), Eloquent Reticence: Withholding Information in Fictional Narrative (1993), Return from the Archipelago: Narratives of Gulag Survivors (2000), Towards the Ethics of Form in Fiction: Narratives of Cultural Remission (2010), Gulag Literature and the Literature of Nazi Camps: An Intercontextual Reading (2019), and articles on English, American, and Russian writers. 

Image icon leona_toker.jpg
Samuli Björninen and Merja Polvinen. 6/13/2022. “Introduction: Limits of Narrative.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 191-206. Publisher's Version Abstract

Introduction to the Special Issue on Limites of Narrative, guest edited Merja Polvinen and Samuli Björninen. It lays out the background for the theoretical issues concerning the limits of narrative, and sets the individual articles in the context of that larger debate.

February 2022: Merja Polvinen is the Principal Investigator of the Helsinki Team of the consortium Instrumental Narratives (Academy of Finland, 2018–2022), and works as a Senior Lecturer in English Philology and Docent in Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests are in cognitive narratology, specifically in the ways that artificiality and literary self-reflection probe the limits of narrative. Her dissertation on chaos theory and literature came out in 2008, and recent articles on cognitive approaches to literary self-reflection appear in Poetics Today and Style, as well as the volumes Cognitive Literary Science (Oxford UP, 2017), The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories (Edinburgh UP, 2018) and Narrative and Complex Systems (Springer, 2018). She is currently working on a monograph on Cognition, Emotion and Literary Self-Reflection: An Enactive Approach to Artifice for Routledge.

February 2022: Samuli Björninen is senior lecturer (fixed-term) in literary studies at Tampere University. He is part of the Tampere team of the consortium Instrumental Narratives and editor of the project’s international guest blog. His has conducted his postdoctoral research at Tampere University and the Center for Fictionality Studies at Aarhus University. His current research focuses on the rhetoric of factuality in narrative, the strategic uses of concepts of narrative in debates about science and truth, and conspiracist thinking seen through the lenses of narrative cognition and literary interpretation. His recent articles have appeared in Narrative Inquiry, Narrative, Tiede & Edistys and Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory. He is editor of books on narrative after postmodernism and on the dangers of narrative (both in Finnish).

Image icon merja_polvinen_.jpg

 

In the recent past, narratives have been hailed as a promising instrument for improving the effectiveness of science communication to nonscientist audiences. Narratives play an important part in how individuals comprehend the world, and persuasive narratives may often be more successful in communicating complex scientific issues to the general public than evidence-based arguments. At the same time, however, narratives have the potential to perpetuate misinformation and inaccuracies about science due to their formal characteristics. Also, as narratives are not subject to the same truth requirements as scientific argumentation, they cannot be easily countered, which can lead to serious misconceptions about important scientific topics. In this article, the role of narratives and narrative explanations in science communication is discussed regarding the genre of popular science. The essay approaches the affordances and limits of narrative in this context with two primary examples representing recent popular-science best-sellers: Elisabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011).

In theoretical literature concerning narratives in science communication and popular science, the concept of narrative tends to be applied rather loosely, encompassing everything from journalistic accounts of scientific research to sequential explanations of change in natural systems. As many of the discourse types of popular science involve representations of temporal change in the non-human natural world, they necessarily also create “narratives” that do not easily fill all the characteristics of prototypical narrative representations. This article takes a closer look at the narrative qualities of science popularization, focusing especially on popular scientific “histories” featuring human species as their main protagonist. The aim is to explore this topic further by a more comprehensive categorization of different kinds of narratives and narrative explanations in the selected popular scientific texts. With this theoretical emphasis, the article will contribute to a fuller understanding of the affordances and limitations of narrative in addressing scientific issues.

 

 

February 2022: Juha Raipola is a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University, Finland. Raipola has published articles on posthumanism, ecocriticism, and climate fiction, and he is currently focusing his research on the relationship between instrumental narratives and popular science. With a special interest both in the environmental humanities and narratology, Raipola has been exploring the fine line between informative narrative explications of scientific phenomena and scientific misinformation

Daniel Aureliano Newman. 6/11/2022. “Limits of Narrative Science: Unnarratability and Neonarrative in Evolutionary Biology.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 231-251. Publisher's Version Abstract

 

Narrative is increasingly promoted for improving science communication and thus combatting misinformation and facilitating fact-based education and policy (Dahlstrom 2014; ElShafie 2018). This instrumental use of narrative is laudable, but current approaches tend to be reductive and therefore potentially counterproductive. Most proponents of narrative science view narrative as a mere formula, often derived from entertainment (Luna 2013; Olson 2015; Loverd et al. 2018). Sceptics rightly worry that using narrative formats in this way oversimplifies and distorts scientific information. Given the social, medical, and environmental urgency of effective and accurate scientific communication, the shortcomings and promise of narrativizing science represent a limit-case for the applicability and scope of narrative theory and practice.

In the context of narrative science, this essay begins by examining two valences of the term “limits of narrative.” First, it criticizes the current project of narrativizing science for failing to recognize narrative’s limited capacity to handle complex scientific models and phenomena, which H. Porter Abbott has upheld as exemplary cases of the “unnarratable” (2008: 227). The second valence of “limits” emerges as a response to the first. Although scientific information often eludes narrativity, what is unnarratable now may become narratable tomorrow. As Robyn Warhol suggests, attempts to render the unnarratable can create newly narratable ground, which she calls “neonarrative” (2005: 221). That is, new narrative forms arise at the limits of the narratable. This is a territory where scientists, like experimental novelists, struggle to express new, counterintuitive models, theories or results. What biologist Lewis Wolpert calls “the unnatural nature of science” (1998)—its resistance to commonsense notions of causality and ontology—could just as well be called the unnarratable nature of science.

The essay argues that an effective use of narrative in science would need to accept the limits of narrative, probing for neonarrative footholds at those limits; those neonarrative forms would likely be challenge or violate the narrative templates audiences bring to texts of various kinds. By way of illustration, the article analyzes willfully artificial elements in diagrams depicting coevolution between pollinators and plants (Nilsson 1988; Pauw et al. 2009), a narrative whose agents and events are relative statistical values rather than discrete entities. By foregrounding the “synthetic aspect” of their characters (Phelan 1989), these diagrams showcase how scientific texts use the communicative efficacy of narrative without sacrificing accuracy or complexity.

 

 

 

February 2022: Daniel Aureliano Newman is Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) at the University of Toronto. Holding a PhD in literature and a Master’s of Science in Evolutionary Ecology, he is the author of Modernist Life Histories: Biological Theory and the Experimental Bildungsroman (Edinburgh UP, 2019) and of several essays in journals including Style, Journal of Narrative Theory, Frontiers of Narrative Studies, American Journal of Botany, and Configurations.

 

Image icon daniel_newman.jpg

Although Alva Noë’s Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (2015) makes no direct reference to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (1995–2000), these otherwise dissimilar works share an astonishingly similar and current view of the mind: both Noë and Pullman construe cognition as embodied action that extends and reflects on its own possibilities through various instruments and technologies. For Noë, the key technology aiding this reaching of the mind is art; making and engaging with art is a self-reflexive endeavor that makes our activities available for closer examination and evaluation. By extension, works of speculative fiction could be read as illustrations of or investigations into speculative, imaginative cognition.

In case of Pullman’s trilogy, this is certainly true as it incorporates several explicit commentaries on John Keats’ notion of negative capability, which is closely linked to imagination and creative cognition. Moreover, Pullman illustrates his characters’ negative capabilities through very particular ”strange tools”: the Golden Compass, the Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass. These imaginary instruments serve the dual purpose of, first, modifying affordances, i.e. the ways the characters can respond to their changing situations, and second, making these speculative cognitive processes more visible to the readers.

Ultimately, the analysis of the trilogy suggests that skillful speculation entails at least two subskills: first, the ability to see as full a range of actionable possibilities as possible and, second, the ability to choose and act on the most suitable one. In the 4E framework, which views the mind as embodied, extended and action-oriented, speculation and imagination could thus be defined as especially extensive and flexible use of affordances. As such, speculation is something that always oveflows the limits of narrative. Like other forms of art, narrative is merely a tool for modifying and highlighting the affordances at its disposal.

February 2022: Essi Varis, PhD, is currently working on her four-year postdoctoral research project, Metacognitive Magic Mirrors (2020–2024), which explores how different kinds of texts and images aid and illustrate imagination and speculation in arts and research alike. Funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, she is splitting her time between the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, and Oslo. In her doctoral dissertation (2019), Varis suggested a new theory of fictional characters as experiential Frankenstein’s monsters. In addition to cognitive literary theory and speculative fiction, her research interests revolve around graphic narratives, Japanese fiction and Gothic horror.

Image icon essi_varis.jpg
Kaisa Kortekallio. 6/9/2022. “Dancing with the Posthumans: Readerly Choreographies and More-than-Human Figures.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 277-295. Publisher's Version Abstract

Drawing on feminist, enactivist and posthumanist theories of reading, the essay develops theoretical and methodological tools for bodily and reflective reading of fictional figures. It introduces the notion of “readerly choreography,” which stands for the iterative experiential patterns that fictional narratives suggest. The primary purpose of the notion is to provide a better grasp of readerly dynamics typical to genre-derived works of fiction — including the cases in which generic frames of expectation and experience are estranged and reconfigured. The essay’s contribution to theory is presented on the basis of a reading of Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The People of Sand and Slag” (2004). This short story plays on the conventions of action-adventure, exaggerating the toughness and physical capabilities of technologically enhanced, posthuman action heroes. Owing to this exaggeration, it becomes difficult for readers to continue to perform the habitual experiential patterns of excitement, action-derived pleasure, and identification with the heroic protagonist. In other words, “The People of Sand and Slag” estranges the readerly choreography of action-adventure narratives.

 

February 2022: Kaisa Kortekallio is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Jyväskylä and the School of Resource Wisdom (JYU.Wisdom). Her work bridges cognitive narratology and posthumanist approaches to literature and philosophy, with a specific focus on ecological speculations and more-than-human reading. She has published on New Weird, climate fiction, readerly experientiality, seasonal mood, and close reading. She is a member of the research consortium Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory (Academy of Finland 2018–2022).

Hanna-Riikka Roine and Esko Suoranta. 6/8/2022. “Science Fiction and the Limits of Narrativizing Environmental Digital Technologies.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 297-319. Publisher's Version Abstract

Contemporary authors of science fiction have taken up the challenge of imagining digital technologies whose functions and effects elude human awareness. Such technologies differ from earlier examples in their environmental aspect, brought on by networks that operate at levels “above” and “below” those of a human subject. Another way to describe environmental digital technologies is through the concept of assemblage, involving not only many forms of human labor and material resources, but also collectivities of entities performing cognitive acts, circulating information, interpretations, and meanings. While these collectivities obviously do involve human subjects pursuing different interests, the way that the assemblage functions as a whole does not correspond to human levels of behavior, perception, or scale.

In this article, we build on the idea of the environmental aspect of digital technologies to examine strategies used in science-fictional attempts to represent in narrative the effects of these technologies on both individual and societal levels. Our case studies, the novels Ancillary Justice (2013) by Ann Leckie and Autonomous (2017) by Annalee Newitz, employ more-or-less technological, individual actor-characters to guide readers to think about the effects of human-technical assemblages within the wider fictional worlds. These novels hinge on the literalization of three literary conventions in their attempts at representing these effects: omniscient narration, character-focalization, and mind-reading of fictional characters.

Through the actor-characters and literalizations, the environmental aspect of digital technologies and their effects are woven into the plots, worldbuilding, and narration of the novels. They are thus able, up to a point, to represent tensions between conscious actors and the various forms within which they operate. However, the novels also illustrate the limits of narrativizing environmental technologies in guiding the readers to think about human-technical assemblages and their effects through forms that remain human-centric in scope — including “gender play” as well as narratives of bildung, quest, and romance. In making the effects of digital technologies accessible for readers, the novels are unable to escape the constraints that the conventions and forms impose.

February 2022: Hanna-Riikka Roine (PhD, literary studies) works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded by the Academy of Finland at the Tampere University and as an affiliated researcher in the consortium Instrumental Narratives. Her current research explores the ways in which our engagement with digital media affects, guides, and shapes our engagement with the possible. Roine is a co-editor of the book The Ethos of Digital Environments: Technology, Literary Theory and Philosophy (2021) and has published articles, for instance, on the ways in which narratological inquiry may be extended towards the machines of computational media. 

February 2022: Esko Suoranta is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Languages, University of Helsinki. Esko’s dissertation analyzes how contemporary speculative fiction might build affordances for thinking toward complex, systemic phenomena. His publications discuss power, agency, and transhumanity in the contemporary novels of William Gibson, cognitive assemblages and surveillance capitalism in Malka Older’s Infomocracy and Dave Egger’s The Circle, and utopian/dystopian dynamics in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge. Esko received the Alan Nadel Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper for his contribution to the 2019 conference of the International Society for the Study of Narrative. He was co-editor-in-chief for Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research between 2019-2022, in which capacity he won the 2020 World Fantasy Award.

The limits of narrative are epistemological and ethical: what can be narrated and what should be narrated? Can we recount everything, and if we could, are there even so some things that we should leave in silence? We hear a lot about the duty to remember and the right to tell one’s story, but are there some stories that cannot and should not be told? Could forgetting play a role in the ethical project of memory? Trauma narratives pose these questions in particularly fraught terms. Survivor-witnesses have a story to tell, but they are also often intensely aware that their story defies narratability and intelligibility. It must be told and cannot be told; it demands and resists understanding. This article explores these questions with reference to a number of case studies: Borges’s short story “Funes the Memorious” (1942), J.M. Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello (2003), and a sequence from Claude Lanzmann’s film, Shoah (1985). In each case, the right or need to narrate is mitigated by an intense realisation that not everything can or should be told.

February 2022: Colin Davis is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. His research focuses mainly on connections between literature, film and philosophy, with particular interests in the modern French novel, ethics, ethical criticism, philosophical approaches to literature and film, hermeneutics, literary theory, cultural memory, trauma studies, and Holocaust literature.  He has published eleven monographs, the most recent being Critical Excess: Overreading in Derrida, Deleuze, Levinas, Žižek and Cavell (Stanford University Press, 2010), Postwar Renoir: Film and the Memory of Violence (Routledge, 2012), and Traces of War: Interpreting Ethics and Trauma in Twentieth-Century French Writing (Liverpool University Press, 2018). He also co-edited, with Hanna Meretoja, Storytelling and Ethics: Literature, Visual Arts and Power of Narrative (Routledge, 2018).

C. Parker Krieg. 6/6/2022. “Archival Earth: Endangered Testimony at the Limits of Narrative.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 337-356. Publisher's Version Abstract

In the context of overlapping anthropogenic threats to environmental knowledge and cultural memory, this article asks: what can the limits of narrative tell us about the endangered status of cultural memory and the archival relationships of contemporary literature? It argues that metaleptic moves in these narratives can be read as a historical response to material precarities in contemporary society. Read dialectically, these developments may be understood as a formal response to this precarity and a felt sense of the limits of literature to authenticate its intervention into the conditions it describes. This article draws on examples from James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s Human Matter, Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Letters to Memory, and short stories from Phenderson Djèlí Clark and Ken Liu. Reading across literary fiction, memoir, and speculative fiction, this article explores how the limits of narrative are turned into opportunities for further opening the text to the world.

 

February 2022: C. Parker Krieg teaches Exploratory and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Humanities at the University of Helsinki, affiliated with the Humanities program in the Faculty of Arts and the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. He is co-editor of Situating Sustainability: A Handbook of Contexts and Concepts, and his articles appear in Textual Practice, Studies in American Fiction, and A/B: Auto/Biography Studies.

Review Essay
Book review
Channah Damatov. 6/3/2022. “The Ethical Vision of George Eliot, by Thomas Albrecht.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 371-374. Publisher's Version Abstract
Book review
Yael Levin. 6/2/2022. “Hardy, Conrad and the Senses, by Hugh Epstein.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 374-378. Publisher's Version Abstract
Book Review
Xander Ryan. 6/1/2022. “James Joyce and the Matter of Paris, by Catherine Flynn.” Partial Answers, 20, 2, Pp. 378-382. Publisher's Version Abstract
Book Review

This article debunks a myth that has for more than thirty years linked two political projects of forming the New Man in the Soviet Union and in Romania: Anton Makarenko’s re-education of delinquents in self-supporting orphanages (1917–1936), described in his books The Road to Life and Learning to Live, and a re-education program from a Romanian prison, engineered by a legionary inmate, Eugen Ţurcanu — a program known as the “Pitești Experiment” (1949–1952). Discussing why Romanian historians directly connected Țurcanu’s re-education to Makarenko’s, based on the discoveries of historian Mihai Demetriade, my own archival research, and the analysis of historical accounts and memoirs, I demonstrate that in spite of sharing a few methods, the two projects differed fundamentally. My secondary goal is to elaborate on the unexplored implications of Demetriade’s findings via a Nietzschean reading of both projects, enlisting the history of ideas to emphasize the gap between the two projects.

October 2021: Arleen Ionescu is Tenured Professor of English Literature and Critical Theory at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Her major research and teaching interests are in the fields of literature, Critical Theory, Memory Studies, Holocaust Studies and Trauma Studies. She has published in reputed academic journals such as James Joyce Quarterly, Memory Studies, Oxford Literary Review, Parallax, Partial Answers, Papers on Joyce, Joyce Studies Annual, SLOVO, Style. She is joint-editor-in-chief (with Laurent Milesi) of Word and Text – A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics. Her books include Concordanţe româno-britanice (2004), Romanian Joyce: From Hostility to Hospitality (2014), The Memorial Ethics of Libeskind’s Berlin Jewish Museum (2017). She co-edited with Maria Margaroni (University of Cyprus) Arts of Healing: Cultural Narratives of Trauma (2020). At present she is working on a book project on the Shanghai Ghetto.

Image icon arleen_ionescu2021.jpg

The Gulag Archipelago has been treated consistently as a conservative indictment of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union. When subsumed into his later writings, this perception has reinforced amongst progressives an enduring portrait of Solzhenitsyn-the-man as a backward-looking anti-modernist and reactionary. I advocate a return to the text itself in isolation from Solzhenitsyn’s corpus, and in a manner more cognizant of the political practices latent in its prose. In its style and structure, certain specific techniques can be found where the search for formal methodology has left previous commentators on the Left disappointed. The place of Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus in the history of political thought is here reassessed on the basis of its style, pointing to its potential contribution to critical theory and to its relevance for critical social analysis today.

October 2021: John Welsh is a researcher in politics and history at the University of Helsinki. This article is part of a research project into the “camp” as a recurrent political technology of social control, an agenda that attempts to bring memoir literature into a critically productive relation with both historical and contemporary problems of power, rationality, and social transformation. Recent and relevant work in this research can be found published in Contemporary Political Theory, Thesis Eleven, Cultural Critique, Contemporary Sociology, the International Journal of Politics, Culture, & Society, the European Journal of Social Theory, and forthcoming in Anthropological Theory.

Image icon john_welsh.jpg
Neil Ramsey. 1/8/2022. “The Liberal Paradigm of Security in Sir Walter Scott’s The Antiquary.” Partial Answers, 20, 1, Pp. 65-82. Publisher's Version Abstract

Set in the 1790s, at the height of fears of French invasion, Sir Walter Scott’s The Antiquary aims to keep at bay the violence that threatens Scotland. Yet despite the novel’s efforts to resolve potential violence via the discursive, liberal institutions of the law and polite conversation, conflict and military power are never far from the surface. Drawing on Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben’s theorization of security, this article argues that the novel does not eliminate conflict but reimagines it as a version of militarized governmentality. The novel might excise war, in other words, but only in so far as the military is rendered into a force that transcends national conflict through its status as both protector and interpreter of the nation. Scott’s novel rewrites a history of war not only around a narrative of liberal progress but equally around a narrative of social administration and security.

October 2021: Dr Neil Ramsey is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature and convenor of the Conflict and Society Research Group at UNSW Canberra. He works on the literary and culture responses to warfare during the eighteenth century and Romantic eras, focusing on the representations of personal experience and the development of a modern culture of war. His first book,The Military Memoir and Romantic Literary Culture, 1780-1835, was published by Ashgate in 2011. His most recent, a collection co-edited with Gillian Russell, Tracing War in British Enlightenment and Romantic Culture, was published by Palgrave in 2015. His second book, Romanticism and the Biopolitics of Modern War Writing is under contract with Cambridge University Press and due for publication in 2022.

Anders Engberg-Pedersen. 1/7/2022. “Is Society at War? Le Colonel Foucault.” Partial Answers, 20, 1, Pp. 83-104. Publisher's Version Abstract

In the 1970s Michel Foucault sought to develop a military model to understand the workings of society. His war schema, based on an inversion of Clausewitz’s famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means, did not have sufficient analytical power, however, and he abandoned it. Much earlier, Honoré de Balzac’s fictional character Colonel Chabert, the protagonist of Le Colonel Chabert, had reached a similar impasse in his attempt to comprehend legal institutions and social relations through the prism of war. Charting the curiously analogous intellectual failures of Chabert and Foucault, this essay examines both the reach and the limits of war as a schema or grid of intelligibility for the nature and operations of civil society.

October 2021: Anders Engberg-Pedersen is Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the PhD program in Literature, Aesthetics and Culture at the University of Southern Denmark. Among other publications, he is the author of Empire of Chance. The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things (HUP, 2015), the editor of Literature and Cartography: Theories, Histories, Genres (MIT Press, 2017) and of The Humanities in the World (U Press 2020), and he serves the general editor of the book series “Prisms: Humanities and War” with MIT Press.

Jan Mieszkowski. 1/6/2022. “Shelley’s Wars, Burke’s Revolutions.” Partial Answers, 20, 1, Pp. 105-120. Publisher's Version Abstract

Recent scholarship on the systemic militarism of post-Enlightenment Europe has complicated the traditional picture of Romanticism as the Age of Revolution, but relatively little attention has been paid the way in which the Romantics themselves understood the relationship between war and radical political upheaval. Focusing on Edmund Burke’s 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France, the first section of this essay asks why the very word “revolution” is curiously difficult to control, as if using the term were always a matter of pitting competing paradigms of change against one another. The second section considers Percy Shelley’s attempt, in A Philosophical View of Reform, to show that military programs were more consequential for the conflicts of his day than revolutionary ones. The final section describes the legacy of Romantic reflections on war and revolution in 19th- and 20th-century political thought.

October 2021: Jan Mieszkowski is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Reed College. He is the author of Crises of the Sentence (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Watching War (Stanford University Press, 2012), and Labors of Imagination (Fordham University Press, 2006). His recent articles explore a range of topics in Romanticism, Modernism, and critical theory. He has also published and lectured widely on the spectacles of the military-industrial complex. Mieszkowski is currently at work on a book about post-colonial botany. 

In the last endnote of her pacifist plea in Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf illustrates her vision about the Outsiders’ Society by referencing three 19th-century authors — S. T. Coleridge, Walt Whitman, and George Sand. The first and longest quotation is from Coleridge’s The Friend. However, oddly enough, Woolf seems to misunderstand Coleridge’s intention or perhaps to creatively misuse his words. Taking this understudied detail as its pivot, this article explores Woolf’s view on war and community as it relates to Romantic political thought, particularly Coleridge’s.

Drawing on Woolf’s diaries and correspondence, as well as on Woolf scholarship, the first section of the article constructs a genealogy of the concept of the “Outsiders’ Society,” thus situating Three Guineas in the evolution of Woolf’s reflections about war as they come through both in her novels and in her non-fiction. The second section analyzes Woolf’s framing of the notion of romance in A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, especially through her use of words such as “illusion” and “fact.” Zooming in on the connection with Coleridge, the last section contextualizes a Coleridge quotation in Woolf’s endnote by re-embedding it in the conceptual framework of The Friend; it also offers a broader overview of Coleridge’s own changing opinions on community and conflict, from “Fears in Solitude” to Letters on the Spaniards and On the Constitution of Church and State. The article points out differences between Woolf’s and Coleridge’s convictions yet also an affinity between them regarding the topic of education and its role in community-building. These converging opinions on education as an antidote to addictive tendencies such as greed, vanity, and pugnacity offer a key to Woolf’s gesture of returning to the Romantics in the final pages of her argument against war.

November 2021: Laura Cernat is a PhD candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium, working on a thesis about the representation of writers from the 19th and 20th centuries in recent biographical novels. She has published work on biofiction in the edited volumes Virginia Woolf and Heritage (Clemson UP/ Liverpool UP, 2017) and Theory in the “Post” Era: A Vocabulary for the 21st-Century Conceptual Commons (Bloomsbury, 2021), and in the journal Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (43:2/ 2020). She has presented her work at sixteen international conferences, including several editions of the ACLA and the MLA, contributed to the organization of four international conferences hosted by the KU Leuven English Literature Research Group, including a conference of which she was the main organizer: Biofiction as World Literature/ La biofiction comme littérature mondiale (Leuven &online, 15-18 September 2021).

Image icon laura_cernat.jpg