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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.

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book review
Yun Lan. Forthcoming. “Representation and Memory in Graphic Novels by Golnar Nabizadeh.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. Abstract
book review

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.

October 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 presented her work at international conferences, including several editions of the ACLA and the MLA, contributed to the organization of international conferences hosted by the KU Leuven English Literature Research Group, and published work on biofiction in the edited volume Virginia Woolf and Heritage (Clemson UP/ Liverpool UP, 2017) and in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (43:2/ 2020). She also wrote chapters about biofiction for the forthcoming collective volumes Theory in the “Post” Era: A Vocabulary for the 21st-Century Conceptual Commons (Bloomsbury, 2021), Imagining Gender in Biographical Fiction (2022), and Author, Authorship and Authority in the Age of Cultural Studies and New Media (UCL Press, 2022) and co-wrote a chapter with Michael Lackey for Reading the Contemporary Author: Narrative, Authority, Fictionality (Ohio State University Press, 2022). She is the main organizer of the conference Biofiction as World Literature/ La biofiction comme littérature mondiale (15-18 September 2021).

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Frederik Van Dam. Forthcoming. “From Error to Terror: The Romantic Inheritance in W. H. Auden’s 'In Time of War'.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. Abstract

In 1937, the English poet W. H. Auden travelled to China to report on the second Sino-Japanese War. His experience led to the writing of a sonnet sequence “In Time of War,” in which the poet reflects on this particular conflict while levelling a critique at Romantic theories of the aesthetic. In Auden’s critique, the present article suggests, the concept of the creature emerges as a site of reconciliation, a site where differences are allowed to co-exist. The co-existence of differences is also mimicked in the poem’s literary style: its language, its play with sound, and its manipulation of syntax create a paratactical aesthetic that joins disparate elements in a relational (rather than a hierarchical) structure. By attending to the vagaries of meaning and form, this inquiry concludes that “In Time of War” differs from other literary responses to aerial bombing by attempting to instill a cosmopolitan attitude in its readers.

October 2021: Frederik Van Dam is Assistant Professor of European Literature at Radboud University, Nijmegen. His research includes Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form (2016), The Edinburgh Companion to Anthony Trollope (2019), and an issue on literature and economics in the European Journal of English Studies (2017). He is the literature editor of the journal English Text Construction and has created a documentary about the literary critic J. Hillis Miller, The Pleasure of that Obstinacy. He is currently developing a project that will focus on literary contributions to the imagination of peace in the interwar period.

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Neil Ramsey. Forthcoming. “The Liberal Paradigm of Security in Sir Walter Scott’s The Antiquary.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. 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.

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.

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Brecht Groote Ortwin de and de Graef. Forthcoming. “Romanticism in the Age of World Wars: Introduction to the Forum.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. Abstract

The forum “Romanticism in the Age of World Wars” reflects the recent surge of critical interest in scholarship at the intersection of Romanticism, literature, and war. The chief aim of this Introduction is to outline and situate the most important recent and historical trends in this developing field. Proposing a historicist view on Romanticism which works towards an expansive conception of post-Romanticism, we also argue that Romantic-era literary and cultural production was actively shaped by the novel experiences of global and total war in ways that have persisted to the present day. Brief examples, taken from key critics and primary materials by Coleridge, Clausewitz, and Montgomery, are discussed to support this argument. The article concludes by surveying the five contributions that compose the forum, noting the connections between their arguments.

October 2021: Brecht de Groote is Assistant Professor in the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication, within the Research Group on Translation and Culture, at the University of Ghent. He previously held the Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities of the University of Edinburgh, as well as (post)doctoral positions in the English Department at the University of Leuven. His research situates British Romanticism in its broad European context by studying translation, media and late style.


Ortwin de Graef, professor of English Literature at KU Leuven, is the author of two books on Paul de Man and has published widely on Romantic and post-Romantic writing ranging from Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Arnold and George Eliot through Joseph Conrad, Isaac Rosenberg, Virginia Woolf and Pearl S. Buck to Hafid Bouazza, David Grossman, Alan Warner and A. L. Kennedy. His principal research interests are the Very-Long-Nineteenth-Century ideologies of sympathy, science and the State reflected and refracted through the transmission technologies of the literary.


Jan Mieszkowski. Forthcoming. “Shelley’s Wars, Burke’s Revolutions.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. 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. 

Anders Engberg-Pedersen. Forthcoming. “Is Society at War? Le Colonel Foucault.” Partial Answers, 20, 1. 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.


This special issue of Partial Answers follows in the wake of a four-day conference on mapping and literature – “Mapping Victorian Empires, Cultures, Identities.” In May 2019, over 50 delegates from no fewer than 10 countries gathered in Jerusalem and Haifa to discuss long-19th-century, Victorian, and post-Victorian literary mappings, settings, journeys, and locales. Some of the speakers expanded their talks into the essays presented in this volume. The introduction asks what it is about maps that makes them literary, poetic, and symbolic texts. Maps are notoriously biased because of political and economic agendas and epistemological conventions, and they are inevitably skewed, even if only because they project a global object onto a flat page. Yet poetic maps, unlike scientific ones, acknowledge and savor this slanted gaze.

The introduction analyzes fictional mappings as a poetic device and suggests that in works of literature, maps – commonly taken to provide access to a concrete physical reality– tend to serve as imaginary spaces for rethinking geographies, identities, and cultures. Poetic maps conceptualize geographical reality as an attribute of the mind, giving shape and structure to the interiority and establishing a critical distance from empirical conventions of space.


March 2021: Galia Benziman is Associate Professor and Chair of the English department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focuses on British literature of the long 19th century; in particular, on Dickens, Hardy, the history of childhood, and the Elegy. She has published two books: Narratives of Child Neglect in Romantic and Victorian Culture (2012) and Thomas Hardy's Elegiac Prose and Poetry: Codes of Bereavement (2018). Her essays appeared in Dickens Studies AnnualDickens Quarterly, Studies in the Novel, SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, JNT, Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of IdeasThe Oxford Handbook of Charles Dickens, and other platforms.


March 2021: Zoe Beenstock is a lecturer at the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Haifa. She is the author of The Politics of Romanticism: The Social Contract and Literature (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). Her new project deals with Romantic Palestine. She has articles published in European Romantic Review, RomanticismMLQ, SEL 1500-1900, Journal of the History of Ideas, and Philosophy and Literature.

Robert L. Patten. 6/13/2021. “Mapping Dickens.” Partial Answers, 19, 2, Pp. 211-235. Publisher's Version Abstract

This paper begins by assessing the work of Franco Moretti and his Stanford colleagues in using quantitative formalism for mapping nineteenth-century European fiction. My objection to applying this technology to the writings of Charles Dickens is that quantitative formalism and distant reading conspire with Benthamite calculations to erase the specific in favor of norms established by grossing up thousands of data points. Dickens’s artistic belief in the importance of representing the individual and assessing its relationship to the mass overrides the strategies Moretti practices. Nonetheless, a number of issues raised by him may be amenable to a modified practice of distant reading. In the second half of the paper I propose that if such technology is applied to a single author, Dickens, and is careful to distinguish the times of composition, publication, and reissue of texts, a multi-dimensional interactive map of London, registering the geographic, administrative, and structural times, places, history, and references within his writing, could document both his journalistic realism and his imagination in new ways, and thus better evaluate his contribution to the century’s aesthetic and conceptual achievements.


March 2021: Robert L. Patten, now a retired professor of English at Rice University, is currently a non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He has published widely on nineteenth-century British and European art, literature, and book history. His two-volume biography of the British graphic artist George Cruikshank was named Outstanding Book in Art History by Choice and the best biography of the 1990s by the London Guardian newspaper. Charles Dickens and “Boz”: The Birth of the Industrial-Age Author received the Colby Award from the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals and was short-listed for the Christian Gauss Award from Phi Beta Kappa. An early study of Charles Dickens and His Publishers, issued in 1978 by the Clarendon Press, went into a paperback edition and then a revised second edition in 2017 from Oxford UP. Publisher and editor of SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 for thirty years, Patten was named Outstanding Literary Editor for 2012 by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

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Francesca Orestano. 6/12/2021. “East is East: Mapping China in Dickensian London.” Partial Answers, 19, 2. Abstract

The article focuses on the presence of China — its citizens, its culture — on the map of London during the Victorian age, and on the role Dickens played in locating and describing such space in the eastern part of the great metropolis and hub of the Empire. There is a mirroring between London and Canton, a curious coincidence of toponyms, suggestive of an ambiguous cultural interface.

This ambivalence is associated with the victorious wars waged by England against China in order to retain the monopoly on opium trade. The intercourse between the two nations is moulded by Dickens and his contemporary journalists in ways that suggest hegemony, conflict, otherness, and the perils of miscegenation. The small Chinese community of Limehouse becomes part and target of sensational journalism and urban tourism, producing descriptions that include shades of grotesque steeped in exoticism. Opium dens are the targets of such descriptions — fear and fascination colour the spaces represented in a way that increases indeterminacy.

The article dwells on the map of China, as in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy set against the China–Bengal relationship (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, Flood of Fire), as well as on the map of London, especially the Limehouse area, close to the West India and East India docks. This part of London would acquire specific coloration during the Victorian age, owing, among others, to Dickens’s role in describing its cultural geography.


March 2021: Francesca Orestano, Professor of English Literature at Milan University, wrote on the American Renaissance (Dal Neoclassico al Classico); on Revd. William Gilpin and the picturesque (Paesaggio e finzione); and on visual studies (La parola e lo sguardo). She has edited books and journal issues on children’s literature, Alexander Pope, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Jakob Burckhardt, John Ruskin, chemistry and taste, Virginia Woolf, Tomasi di Lampedusa. Her essay on Little Dorrit is in The Oxford Handbook of Charles Dickens. She works on gardens and gardening; in 2020 she has edited the issue of Questione Romantica devoted to “Romanticism and Cultural Memory.”

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This essay is dedicated to my friend, Professor Lu Yimin.

                                    Francesca Orestano

This essay investigates several instances of travel writing in the Dickens weekly magazines, Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1859–1895), that make use of the common Victorian phrase “At Home” in their titles, particularly “At Home at Tehran” (1862), “At Home in Siam” (1857), “Mrs. Mohammed Bey ‘at Home’” (1862), and “The Japanese at Home” (1862). Some of these articles illustrate the British making themselves “at home” in the world, while others purport to provide an exotic glimpse into the domestic lives of others abroad. The variety of these articles’ topics and settings offer to map the imperial world for the armchair reader “at home” in Britain, yet the articles themselves are limited by Dickens’s editorial preferences for collective authorship and a humorous tone, which flatten the very cultural distinctions that the travel writing genre promises to illuminate. It is argued that the periodicals’ emphasis on Dickensian humor often results in the ridicule of other countries’ domestic behavior, thereby contributing to the popular Victorian perception of British domesticity as superior to that of the rest of the world.


March 2021: Dr. Jessica Durgan is an Associate Professor of English at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, USA. She is the author of Art, Race, and Fantastic Color Change in the Victorian Novel (Routledge 2018), and has published essays in journals and book collections such as Victorian Literature and Culture, The Victorian Era in Twenty-First Century Children’s and Adolescent Literature and Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture.

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Mary Seacole’s memoir Wonderful Adventures is recognized for its negotiation of various genres of Victorian writing, including autobiography, travel writing, the slave narrative, and a burgeoning Caribbean tradition of letters. It is a text which is usually interpreted through conventions of Empire, or through the lens of Postcolonial studies. Attempting to bridge this either/or approach, this article focuses on Seacole’s construction of narrative commonalities: I ask, why would a woman so clearly bent on defying the limitations placed on her by gender and race, and whose achievements appear so exceptionally individual, undergird her narrative with constant references to collective identities — often in their most stereotypical abstractions? To answer this question, I engage in close readings that explore the tension between the typical and the specific though Seacole’s use of terminology, focalization and passive voice, and the repeated use of antiphonal structures such as an AAB pattern. I show how Seacole’s self-representation, and her reference to black communities and individuals, draw on trickster sensibilities, thus expanding previous readings of her text that consider her either subversive or complicit in the imperial project. I suggest that Seacole injects Jamaican and black Atlantic sensibilities into her text, even as she uses Victorian rhetorical devices, making the two traditions complementary — as they seem to be in her life.


March 2021: Ruth S. Wenske is a postdoctoral researcher at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she also serves as head the Africa Unit at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. Her main research area is contemporary Anglophone African realism with a focus on self-writing, having published articles on the novels of Chimamanda Adichie, Chinua Achebe, and Binyavanga Wainaina. Her secondary research focus is on the connection between literature and literacy in questions of language and pedagogy, including a joint research project with Makerere University on the implementation of the Mother Tongue reform in Ugandan primary schools. She has taught courses on African literature and culture at the Program of Cultural Studies at the Hebrew University, and at the University of Haifa, where she completed her PhD at the English Department.

Channah Damatov. 6/9/2021. “The Book of Esther in Daniel Deronda: Between Metaphorical and Literal Mapping.” Partial Answers, 19, 2, Pp. 305-329. Publisher's Version Abstract

This article traces the place of the Book of Esther in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, and argues that the biblical work can be seen as Eliot’s primary “map” in her own project of literal and metaphorical remapping. Historical and cultural contexts, as well as close readings of the texts, suggest that the Book of Esther is especially relevant because it engages with the “Jewish Question” and the “Woman Question” in tandem; it offers a terrain for the novel’s ideas on both issues, while precipitating a revised hermeneutic of the biblical text. Remapping the Book of Esther serves Eliot in advocating for a Jewish return and to the Land of Israel and in spurring discourse towards the depolarization of gendered traits, roles, and relations. However, while Eliot answers the Jewish Question with proto-Zionism, she leaves the Woman Question chillingly unanswered — as does the Book of Esther itself.


March 2021: Channah Damatov is a PhD candidate and Kaete Klausner Fellow in the Department of General and Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her dissertation explores the Book of Esther in Victorian Literature, with a focus on its reception in three novels, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, Villette by Charlotte Brontë, and Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. Her wider research interests include the Bible as literature, immigrant literature (especially as regards homeland and exile, displacement, assimilation, and cultural identity), and gender in literature. Channah lives in Giv’at Shmuel, Israel, with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

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Kees de Vries. 6/8/2021. “Lines in the London Fog: Oscar Wilde, Place and Moral Transgression.” Partial Answers, 19, 2, Pp. 331-348. Abstract

This article argues that Oscar Wilde’s work employs location to blur the Victorian sense of morality. After surveying Victorian mapping practices as they relate to Wilde and ideas of moral topography, and defining Wilde’s interest in and flaunting of realism, the article shows how Wilde’s more specifically placed texts blur moral boundaries, while morally explicit texts provide only a vague sense of place.


March 2021: Kees de Vries is lecturer in English Language and Culture at the Department of English Language and Culture at the faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, where he specializes in Oscar Wilde and (neo-)Victorian literature, as well as the intersection between music and literature.


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In Heshels Kingdom, Dan Jacobson explores the impact of the British Empire’s expansion on Lithuanian Jewry. His memoir constructs a “mattering map” of the experience of his family, after the death of his grandfather, Heshel. Like more than thirty thousand other Jews, the bereaved family moved to a welcoming South Africa.

            Heshels Kingdom is a split/screen account, alternating between Kimberley, South Africa, and Varniai, Lithuania. Their juxtaposition leads Dan Jacobson to chart the experiences of two Jewish communities, and construct a narrative map of familial and communal life. This split/screen account is not symmetrical. For the South Africa narrative, the narrator relies on familial and personal history. But for Lithuania he must tease out information from absence, seeking bits and remnants of the murdered Lithuanian Jewish community in order to find a purchase on which to reconstruct life in his grandfather’s Varniai, a small, Nazi-destroyed Lithuanian town.

            The narrator interrogates the images of the two communities: Jacobson addresses the jacket-cover photograph of grandfather Heshel as if it might speak to him, and thus help him discover details of the life of his Lithuanian grandfather, whom he never knew. Asking questions, Jacobson invites the reader to engage with him as if they were looking together at a family-album: familial-networks begin to emerge, and kinship relationships elaborate the family’s life in South Africa; once activated the narrator can tease it into continuing the search for family experience. But the questions about Lithuania do not elicit much in the way of answers, for that Jewish community was destroyed by the Nazis and their Lithuanian helpers. Following the narrator’s lead, the reader’s imagination works to construct a comparative account both of the Jewish immigration to South Africa and the Jewish catastrophe in Lithuania, defining a “mattering map” of modern Jewish experience.




Murray Baumgarten is Research Professor of Literature and Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Founding Director of the Dickens Project of the University of California, and Emeritus Editor of Judaism. He is the author of Carlyle and His Era (1975), Carlyle: Books & Margins (1980), City Scriptures: Modern Jewish Writing (1982), and numerous articles on nineteenth-century English literature as well as on American-Jewish writers. With Barbara Gottfried he has co-authored Understanding Philip Roth (1990). He has served as Editor in Chief of the California Strouse Carlyle Edition and has co-edited Homes and Homelessness in the Victorian Imagination (1999, with H. M. Daleski) and Jewish Culture and the Hispanic World:  Essays in Memory of Joseph H. Silverman (2001, with Samuel G. Armistead, Mishael M. Caspi, and Juan de la Cuesta). He is a Founding Board Member of the Venice Center for International Jewish Studies.


(Updated on March 20, 2016)


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Leona Toker. 6/6/2021. “Literary Stereography: Nabokov Drawing and Reading Maps.” Partial Answers, 19, 2, Pp. 361-369. Publisher's Version Abstract

According to Vladimir Nabokov, exactness of detail in the composition and the reading of literary texts can yield “the sensual spark without which the book is dead”: one needs, for instance, to understand the topography of Mansfield Park in order to respond to Austen’s “stereographic charm.” Speaking after Stuart Gilbert’s chart of the episodes of Joyce’s Ulysses but before Gifford and Seidman’s maps in Ulysses Annotated, Nabokov protested against “the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings” and advised careful readers to “prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” Nabokov himself draws maps in his (posthumously published) lecture notes of the 1950s. This paper comments on the “stereographic” implications of his maps and then turns to Nabokov’s biography of Pushkin’s African great grandfather. Studying the possible origins of Abram Gannibal, Nabokov reads maps of Ethiopia. Though his essay is largely a matter of the critique of sources, the course of Ethiopian river-beds seems to give him “the sensual spark” which, despite his vexed insistence on the literal in Ulysses, follows Joyce’s novel in understated transmutation of stereographic detail into symbolism. 


March 2021: Leona Toker (English Department, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) 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), and Gulag Literature and the Literature of Nazi Camps: An Intercontextual Reading (2019). She has put together the collection Commitment in Reflection: Essays in Literature and Moral Philosophy (1994) and has co-edited Rereading Texts / Rethinking Critical Presuppositions: Essays in Honour of H.M. Daleski (1996) and Knowledge and Pain (2012). She is Editor of Partial Answers.

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