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Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 4 (December 2020) – 32 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): How does a winding pilgrimage path link a medieval poet with the modern Beats? As this article argues, the environmental humanities provide the common ground between Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and On the Road. The iconic 1950s novel deftly refashions numerous medieval literary tropes established by Chaucer, whom Jack Kerouac explicitly cites. The cover photo shows the author in 1994 on the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury, a route that has existed in southern England for centuries. This spiritualized landscape resonates with the topopoetics found in Kerouac’s twentieth-century American text. Slow travel by walking suggests those periodic moments of profound environmental awareness and literary resilience in the gasoline-propelled travels of Kerouac’s novel. On the Road uses the slowness of pilgrimage to explore vernacular vibrancy and demonstrate green ecopoetics. View this [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle
Finding Ovid in Kandahar: The Radical Pastoral as Resistance to Empire in the Classic and Contemporary Worlds
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 146; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040146 - 17 Dec 2020
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Abstract
Prevailing scholarship on pastoral literature often overlooks its political and radical dimensions, relegating the form to particular manifestations of the pastoral in Elizabethan England. World literature, however, exhibits a wider range of the pastoral in which poets contest social injustice and serve as [...] Read more.
Prevailing scholarship on pastoral literature often overlooks its political and radical dimensions, relegating the form to particular manifestations of the pastoral in Elizabethan England. World literature, however, exhibits a wider range of the pastoral in which poets contest social injustice and serve as voices of resistance against oppression. This paper explores the existence of and connection between the radical pastoral in both the East and West, as exemplified by the classical poetry of Ovid and Pashto pastoral poetry emanating from contemporary Afghanistan. It argues that, despite differences in time and space, both genres of poetry offer forceful criticisms of empire and consider pastoral values, aesthetics, and landscapes as a means of resistance against it. This paper thus examines pastoral poetics’ contribution to social commentary on empire in both imperial Rome and the imperialist present encapsulated by America’s post 9/11 political-military interventions in the Middle East. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Translation and Relocation: Literary Encounters East and West)
Open AccessArticle
Black Egyptians and White Greeks?: Historical Speculation and Racecraft in the Video Game Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040145 - 15 Dec 2020
Viewed by 219
Abstract
Recent portrayals of ancient Egypt in popular culture have renewed attention concerning the historical accuracy of how race and racism appear in representations of antiquity. Historians of the antiquity have robustly dismissed racist claims of whitewashing or blackwashing historical and cultural material in [...] Read more.
Recent portrayals of ancient Egypt in popular culture have renewed attention concerning the historical accuracy of how race and racism appear in representations of antiquity. Historians of the antiquity have robustly dismissed racist claims of whitewashing or blackwashing historical and cultural material in both scholarship and in popular culture. The 2017 video game Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a noteworthy site to examine this debate, as the game was designed with the assistance of historians and cultural experts, presenting players with an “historically accurate” ancient Egypt. Yet, if race is a fantasy, as Karen Fields and Barbara Fields’ “racecraft” articulates, then what historians have speculated in their study of race and racism are presentations of a proto-racecraft, borrowing from historian Benjamin Isaac. This essay argues that Assassin’s Creed: Origins racecrafts through the paradigm of historical speculation. As historians have speculated on meanings and operations of “race” and racism in ancient Egypt, Origins has made those speculations visible through its depiction of a racially diverse Ptolemaic Egypt. Yet, this racecraft is paradoxically good, as the game does so to push back against the hegemony of whiteness and whitewashing in contemporary popular culture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Racecraft and Speculative Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Spirit Confronts the Four-Headed Monster: Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Mistik–Infused Flood-Rise in Duvalierist Haiti
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 144; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040144 - 15 Dec 2020
Viewed by 332
Abstract
To explore Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rise from obscure rural Haiti to become the nation’s first democratically elected president—by a landslide—is to enter into a world and a swirl of events that reads like surreal fiction or magical realism. As a Catholic priest (Salesian order), [...] Read more.
To explore Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rise from obscure rural Haiti to become the nation’s first democratically elected president—by a landslide—is to enter into a world and a swirl of events that reads like surreal fiction or magical realism. As a Catholic priest (Salesian order), Aristide was fueled by the religio-socialist principles of liberation theology, which emerged as a significant force in Latin America primarily in the 1970s and 1980s, forcefully and vocally advocating for the masses of Haitian poor mired in deeply-entrenched disenfranchisement and exploitation. As a charismatic spokesperson for the popular democratic movement in Haiti during an era of entrenched dictatorship and repressive violence, Aristide boldly confronted the “four-headed monster” of the Haitian power structure—the army, the church hierarchy, the tontons macoutes, and the wealthy elite. His seemingly impossible escape from multiple assassination attempts, together with the power of his colorful rhetoric and his close association with urban slum dwellers and rural peasants, led to a rising “flood” (or lavalas) that invested him with an aura of Spirit, or mistik, that in either/both the Haitian-embraced tradition of Christianity or vodoun (voodoo) served to energize and greatly reassure an intense mass movement arrayed against seemingly impossible odds. This article focuses on the rise of Aristide as the embodiment and voice of Spirit among the people and does not extend into his tumultuous secular years in and out of the presidency, having been twice the victim of coups (1991 and 2004); instead it focuses primarily on the years 1985–1990 and does not enter into an assessment of Aristide as president. Aristide’s own vivid narratives of this time, segments of his sermons, and later, passages of his poetry serve to bolster the literary quality or interpretation of this brief but vividly colorful historic epoch in the Haitian experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Postcolonial Literature, Art, and Music)
Open AccessArticle
Playing at the Margins: Colonizing Fictions in New England Larp
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040143 - 14 Dec 2020
Viewed by 245
Abstract
North American larping (live-action roleplaying) is a collaborative performance that encourages critical and creative engagement with cooperative, improvisational narratives. Nevertheless, larping often relies on problematic engagements with race and racial stereotypes. Like many gaming hobbies, larp uses the idea of a “playable race”. [...] Read more.
North American larping (live-action roleplaying) is a collaborative performance that encourages critical and creative engagement with cooperative, improvisational narratives. Nevertheless, larping often relies on problematic engagements with race and racial stereotypes. Like many gaming hobbies, larp uses the idea of a “playable race”. Unlike other gaming arenas, however, larping necessitates that players physically embody a character in order to participate in the collaborative narrative: larpers embody fictional races and engage in a complex form of “race play”. Within this context, non-Indigenous players frequently appropriate Indigenous cultural practices and mobilize racist stereotypes. This paper explores this phenomenon and its ramifications. Based on seven years of ethnographic fieldwork and community participation in New England larping communities, I examine how concepts of Indigenous identity manifest in New England larp. I explore both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives in order to demonstrate (a) how fantastical play facilitates cultural appropriation and damaging “race play” and (b) how these spaces affect Indigenous players. I close with Indigenous perspectives on new possibilities for Indigenous larp projects and cultural reclamation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Racecraft and Speculative Culture)
Open AccessArticle
The Future of Extinction: William S. Burroughs’ The Western Lands
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040142 - 08 Dec 2020
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Abstract
In this article, I draw on William S. Burroughs’ The Western Lands to think about what François Laruelle has termed a “generic humanity.” This generic humanity broadens and expands our ethical obligations towards those who have not yet been included in humanity. Burroughs’ [...] Read more.
In this article, I draw on William S. Burroughs’ The Western Lands to think about what François Laruelle has termed a “generic humanity.” This generic humanity broadens and expands our ethical obligations towards those who have not yet been included in humanity. Burroughs’ emphasis in the novel on flattened time, magic, and death as transformation is used to show how we can make Mankind extinct from our way of thinking. Burroughs’ novel is thus an example of a “philo-fiction,” a work of literature that allows us to see the world differently. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Sustainable Literary Competence: Connecting Literature Education to Education for Sustainability
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 141; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040141 - 03 Dec 2020
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Abstract
Ecocritical scholarship has always had pedagogical ambitions. It is commonly assumed that education based on ecocritical readings of literature will change the attitudes and actions of pupils and students and thus contribute to forming environmentally aware and sustainable citizens. However, this article proposes [...] Read more.
Ecocritical scholarship has always had pedagogical ambitions. It is commonly assumed that education based on ecocritical readings of literature will change the attitudes and actions of pupils and students and thus contribute to forming environmentally aware and sustainable citizens. However, this article proposes an alternative view on the interaction between sustainability and literature education. Based on a critical discussion of “ecocritical orthodoxy,” this meta-theoretical study uses affect theory in conjunction with Rita Felski’s proposal for postcritical reading to argue that literature education needs to take the polysemy of literary texts and the unpredictability of readers’ encounters with such texts into account. By linking this to a specified set of sustainability competences and a dialogic concept of literary competence, the aim of the main discussion is to highlight the many potentially fertile overlaps between literature education and the competences needed in a sustainable citizen. Here, Timothy Clark’s thoughts on the Anthropocene as threshold concept, and Timothy Clark’s views on irony are important parts of the theoretical framework. Moreover, such a framework for sustainable literary competence could help to argue for the value of literature education and genuine literary competence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Opening the Ecological Text)
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Response to Padilla Peralta, Dan-el. Citizenship’s Insular Cases, from Ancient Greece and Rome to Puerto Rico. Humanities 2019, 8, 134
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040140 - 25 Nov 2020
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Abstract
Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s exquisite exploration of citizenship and displacement across two millennia draws on sources from ancient Greece and Rome as well as modern empires, including the U.S., and proposes two creative heuristic devices—the “insular scheme” and “radical inclusion”—that enable us to better [...] Read more.
Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s exquisite exploration of citizenship and displacement across two millennia draws on sources from ancient Greece and Rome as well as modern empires, including the U.S., and proposes two creative heuristic devices—the “insular scheme” and “radical inclusion”—that enable us to better understand both the marginalizing experience and the animating possibilities of immigrant citizenship. In my response to his piece, I assess the relevance of these ideas to the history of Puerto Ricans in relation to the United States. Puerto Ricans, caught in the “insular scheme” of U.S. citizenship since American citizenship was imposed on them in 1917, are the most obvious exemplars of “differentiated citizens” in the nation and have struggled in multiple ways with the question of inclusion as citizens. I examine the ways that Puerto Ricans have used the language of recognition as a way to explain the aspiration of equitable citizenship, a vision of belonging in the nation that sounds much like Padilla Peralta’s “radical inclusion.” Full article
Open AccessComment
Response to Hirt, Alfred. Dalmatians and Dacians—Forms of Belonging and Displacement in the Roman Empire. Humanities, 2019, 8, 1
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040139 - 24 Nov 2020
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Abstract
Taking a cue from Hirt’s paper, this contribution is mainly focused on contemporary juridical debate on the movement of people, and the legal status of foreigners in the Nation-State and the implications in terms of legal guarantees, of the conceptualization of the principle [...] Read more.
Taking a cue from Hirt’s paper, this contribution is mainly focused on contemporary juridical debate on the movement of people, and the legal status of foreigners in the Nation-State and the implications in terms of legal guarantees, of the conceptualization of the principle of dignity in historical perspective. The distinction between labor migration and forced migration gained importance through the centuries and played a significant role in the gradual emergence of the regulation of mobility and population flows in the Western countries. Geo-territorial circumstances (as remoteness, physical isolation due to mountains or deserts, and harsh weather conditions) have always been, and still are, strategic drivers of amalgamation of different social groups and solution of potential conflicts. In turn, the administrative procedures and practices and the concrete circumstances produced by public authorities affecting the settlement of migrants, foreigners and ethnic groups deserve particular consideration in the light of the principle of human dignity and its relationship with the concept of identity. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Speculating Ancestor(ie)s: The Cavernous Memory of White Innocence and Fluid Embodiments of Afrofuturist Memory-Work
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 138; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040138 - 23 Nov 2020
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Abstract
Enduring legacies of racial violence signal the need to reconcile with the past. This paper comparatively explores various speculative works that either reinforce a paradigm of White innocence that serves to deny such legacies or center critical dialogue between the past and present. [...] Read more.
Enduring legacies of racial violence signal the need to reconcile with the past. This paper comparatively explores various speculative works that either reinforce a paradigm of White innocence that serves to deny such legacies or center critical dialogue between the past and present. It draws on a range of theoretical works, including Seshadri-Crooks’s (2000) Lacanian analysis of race, Taylor’s (2003) notion of the body as repertoire for embodied knowledge, Wright’s (2015) concept of Black epiphenomenal time, and Hartman’s (2008b) method of ‘critical fabulation.’ Through an analysis of the narrative tropes of caves and mirrors in the Star Wars Skywalker saga (1977–1983; 2015–2019), this paper firstly unpacks the bounded individualism that permits protagonists Luke and Rey Skywalker to refute their evil Sith lord ancestry and prevail as heroes. It then turns to the works Black Panther (2018) and Watchmen (2019) to comparatively examine Afrofuturist narrative strategies of collectivity, embodiment, and non-linear temporality that destabilize bounded notions of self and time to reckon with the complexities of the past. It concludes that speculative approaches to ancestral (dis)connections are indicative of epistemological frameworks that can either circumvent or forefront ongoing demands to grapple with the past. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Racecraft and Speculative Culture)
Open AccessArticle
“To Extract from It Some Sort of Beautiful Thing”: The Holocaust in the Families and Fiction of Nava Semel and Etgar Keret
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 137; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040137 - 23 Nov 2020
Viewed by 443
Abstract
In literary narratives by Nava Semel (1954–2017) and Etgar Keret (b. 1967), both Israeli children of Holocaust survivors, readers encounter the kinds of searching questions about inheriting the burden of traumatic inheritance, witnessing, and postmemory frequently intrinsic to second-generation literature in other national [...] Read more.
In literary narratives by Nava Semel (1954–2017) and Etgar Keret (b. 1967), both Israeli children of Holocaust survivors, readers encounter the kinds of searching questions about inheriting the burden of traumatic inheritance, witnessing, and postmemory frequently intrinsic to second-generation literature in other national contexts. However, their works are further distinguished by acute examinations that probe the moral fabric of Israeli society itself, including dehumanization of the enemy through slogans and other debased forms of language and misuses of historical memory. In addition, their fiction measures the distance between the suffering and pain of intimate family memory (what Semel once dubbed their “private Shoah”) and ceremonial, nationalistic forms of Holocaust memory, and the apartness felt by the children of survivors who sense themselves somehow at odds with their society’s heroic values. Semel’s numerous articles, and fiction as well as nonfiction books, frequently address second and third-generation trauma, arguably most impressively in her harrowing five-part novel And the Rat Laughed (2001) that spans 150 years but most crucially juxtaposes the experiences of a “hidden child” in a remote wartime Polish village repeatedly raped with that of her grandchild writing a dutiful report for her class in contemporary Israel. Elsewhere, in a distant future, a bewildered but determined anthropologist is set on assembling a scientific report with coherent meaning from the fragmented “myths” inherited from the barbaric past. Over the years, Keret (generally known more for whimsical and surreal tales) has often spoken in interviews as well as his memoir about being raised by survivors. “Siren”, set in a Tel Aviv high school, is one of the most acclaimed of Keret’s realist stories (and required reading in Israeli high schools), raises troubling questions about Israeli society’s official forms of Holocaust mourning and remembrance and individual conscience. It is through their portrayals of the cognitive and moral struggles of children and adolescents, the destruction of their innocence, and gradual awakening into compassionate awareness that Semel and Keret most shine, each unwavering in preserving the Shoah’s legacy as a form of vigilance against society’s abuses, whether toward “internal” or “external” others. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Open AccessArticle
“Sometimes Your Memories Are Not Your Own”: The Graphic Turn and the Future of Holocaust Representation
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040136 - 13 Nov 2020
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Abstract
“The legacy of the Shoah” writes Eva Hoffman, a child of Holocaust survivors, “is being passed on to … the post-generation … The inheritance … is being placed in our hands, perhaps in our trust.” We are entering an era that will witness [...] Read more.
“The legacy of the Shoah” writes Eva Hoffman, a child of Holocaust survivors, “is being passed on to … the post-generation … The inheritance … is being placed in our hands, perhaps in our trust.” We are entering an era that will witness the end of direct survivor testimony. As we move farther and farther from the events of the Shoah, subsequent generations, who see their own lives shaped by the defining rupture of the past, continue to respond to the call of memory. The current era has seen a burgeoning of Holocaust literary representation in the evolving genre of graphic novels, narratives that reanimate and materialize the past through the juxtapositions and intersections of text and image. Calling upon the Deuteronomic imperative to “teach your children,” second and third-generation Holocaust writers, through the hybrid form of the graphic novel, attempt to give shape to the traumatic imprint of the Shoah and its haunting aftermath for generations extending beyond that history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Open AccessArticle
Resurgents Create a Moral Landscape: Indigenous Resurgence and Everyday Practices of Farming in Okinawa
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040135 - 12 Nov 2020
Viewed by 274
Abstract
Located at the territorial border of powerful states in the world, Okinawa has been a politically contested place because of the long and disproportionate hosting of the US military installations in Japan. Historically, the effects of military occupation and control of land appeared [...] Read more.
Located at the territorial border of powerful states in the world, Okinawa has been a politically contested place because of the long and disproportionate hosting of the US military installations in Japan. Historically, the effects of military occupation and control of land appeared in the dispossession of Indigenous land, a transition of the local economy, and furthermore, environmental destruction of agrarian space. This essay examines everyday acts of Okinawans making Indigenous space and making the land a more livable place, despite having long been dominated and militarily occupied. More specifically, this essay explores the correlation between land-based practices of farming and (a)political activism in the community. Drawing upon ethnographic research in Okinawa, I share various stories of people engaged in active Indigenous resurgence, whom I have termed “resurgents.” Stories of these resurgents show their commitment to the land-based farming and community-based activism of restoring the Indigenous landscape and foodways. I argue that the everyday act of farming, while perhaps seemingly apolitical and personal, has been and becomes a form of sociopolitical action that not only acts to resist settler-military space but also to sustain firmly and to call forth resurgent Okinawan Indigeneity from the ground. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Cultures & Critical Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
Integrating Food Culture with Socio-Environmental Recovery: Case Study Perspectives from the Global South
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040134 - 05 Nov 2020
Viewed by 453
Abstract
This paper discusses how local-level food systems, social remediation and environmental restoration can be linked to increase stability and build resilience inside extremely vulnerable communities. Specifically, it details how food culture entwines with socio-environmental restoration to benefit three low-income urban and peri-urban communities [...] Read more.
This paper discusses how local-level food systems, social remediation and environmental restoration can be linked to increase stability and build resilience inside extremely vulnerable communities. Specifically, it details how food culture entwines with socio-environmental restoration to benefit three low-income urban and peri-urban communities located in Thailand, India and Brazil. It aims to add to an existing body of knowledge that resides at the nexus of food, socio-environmental restoration and informality. It details effective, proven initiatives that have been regionally replicated to support marginalized communities to better cope with the negative effects of simultaneous stressors. It posits that imaginative visioning can be applied to simultaneously cultivate food security, remediate neglected lands and improve socio-economic opportunity. It provides a contribution to the field of social-ecological restoration planning in relation to food studies in lowest-income contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Cultures & Critical Sustainability)
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The Textual Ecology of Christine Montalbetti’s Journée américaine
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 133; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040133 - 02 Nov 2020
Viewed by 236
Abstract
Christine Montalbetti’s 2009 novel, Journée américaine, depicts a road trip, as Donovan travels from Oklahoma to visit his college friend, Tom Lee, who lives on a ranch in Colorado. While the road trip provides a basic structure for the narrative, as the [...] Read more.
Christine Montalbetti’s 2009 novel, Journée américaine, depicts a road trip, as Donovan travels from Oklahoma to visit his college friend, Tom Lee, who lives on a ranch in Colorado. While the road trip provides a basic structure for the narrative, as the text unfolds, we realize that Montalbetti’s narrator prefers to meander, rather than taking us in a linear manner towards a final destination. The narrator dives into memories, digressions, philosophical reflections, and backstories of seemingly peripheral characters in order to flesh out a complex narrative mesh. Timothy Morton’s notion of “the ecological thought” provides a compelling lens through which we can read Montalbetti’s novel, encouraging us to consider the ecological implications of a text that might not at first strike us as having anything to do with ecology. Journée américaine pushes against the outer edge of the text, spilling over into the world and also demonstrating the ways that the environment participates in the text. Montalbetti’s attention to objects, nonhuman animals, and landscapes further emphasizes how narrative does not necessarily require a human subject at the center. In the end, the narrative mesh of Journée américaine demonstrates a sprawling, complex network of relations that unfolds outward and defies boundaries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Opening the Ecological Text)
Open AccessArticle
“The Ghost Language Which Passes between the Generations”: Transgenerational Memories and Limit-Case Narratives in Lisa Appignanesi’s Losing the Dead and The Memory Man
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040132 - 02 Nov 2020
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Abstract
This article aims to uncover the tensions and connections between Lisa Appignanesi’s autobiographical work Losing the Dead (1999) and her novel The Memory Man (2004) and to point out that, in spite of belonging to different genres, they share several formal, thematic, and [...] Read more.
This article aims to uncover the tensions and connections between Lisa Appignanesi’s autobiographical work Losing the Dead (1999) and her novel The Memory Man (2004) and to point out that, in spite of belonging to different genres, they share several formal, thematic, and structural features. By applying close-reading and narratological tools and drawing on relevant theories within Trauma, Memory, and Holocaust Studies, I would like to demonstrate that both works can be defined as limit-case narratives on the grounds that they blur literary genres, fuse testimonial and narrative layers, include metatextual references to memory and trauma, and represent and perform the transgenerational encounter with traumatic memories. Moreover, Appignanesi’s creations will be contextualised within the trend of hybrid life-writing narratives developed by contemporary British-Jewish women writers. Accordingly, these authors are contributing to the expansion of innovative liminal autobiographical and fictional practices that try to represent what it means to be a Jew, a migrant, and an inheritor of traumatic experiences in the post-Holocaust world. Finally, I launch a further reflection on the generic hybridisation characterising those contemporary narratives based on the negotiation of transgenerational memories, which will be read as a fruitful strategy to problematize the conflicts created when the representation of the self and (family) trauma overlap. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Open AccessArticle
Banned Books behind Bars: Prototyping a Data Repository to Combat Arbitrary Censorship Practices in U.S. Prisons
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 131; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040131 - 30 Oct 2020
Viewed by 507
Abstract
“Banned Books Behind Bars” is a social justice project that aims to shed light on the complex problem of information access in prison and to explore potential prototypes for possible solutions to some of these obstacles, in particular access to books and printed [...] Read more.
“Banned Books Behind Bars” is a social justice project that aims to shed light on the complex problem of information access in prison and to explore potential prototypes for possible solutions to some of these obstacles, in particular access to books and printed information. The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population but a staggering twenty-five percent of the world’s total prisoners. For many incarcerated individuals, access to information is a struggle: censorship, book banning, and lack of adequate library facilities or collections are common. Over the course of conducting preliminary research, this project evolved through the research process of ideation. Through the participatory action research method, qualitative interviews with volunteers from banned books organizations helped to identify potential digital tools meant to aid in the fight against the First Amendment violations that incarcerated individuals face daily. Furthermore, the interviews clarified that the first step toward creating an impactful digital project involves converting various forms of unstructured data, including newspaper articles, prison censorship forms, and state published banned book lists, into structured data. Through this discovery, “Banned Books Behind Bars” became an endeavor to standardize practices of data aggregation amongst banned books organizations throughout the country. Gathering concrete data about the practice of banning books within prisons requires an elevated level of transparency. Incarcerated individuals, their families, and prison reform activists need a platform for reporting data on censorship practices, and, ultimately, for bringing awareness to the arbitrary application of censorship guidelines within the complex world of incarceration. The final prototype is a digital repository, created with Airtable software, which offers authoritative dataset consolidation for activists and organizations working to deliver books to prisoners. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humanities in Prison)
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The Dark Ecology of Naked Lunch
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 130; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040130 - 30 Oct 2020
Viewed by 314
Abstract
In this article, I argue that William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch engages in a “perverse aesthetics” that is analogous to Timothy Morton’s theory of dark ecology. The novel’s main themes of consumption and control are directly related to the Anthropocene’s twin disasters [...] Read more.
In this article, I argue that William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch engages in a “perverse aesthetics” that is analogous to Timothy Morton’s theory of dark ecology. The novel’s main themes of consumption and control are directly related to the Anthropocene’s twin disasters of global warming and mass extinction, and the trope for addiction, junk, reveals Burroughs’ deep analysis of the political and social forces that attempt to control life, what Burroughs calls biocontrol. By placing the novel’s obsession with hanging/lynching in the context of dark ecology, its critique of racism can also be seen as a critique of speciesism. Full article
Open AccessArticle
On the Rejection of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray by W. H. Smith
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040129 - 29 Oct 2020
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Abstract
Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is widely said to have been rejected by W. H. Smith, but there is no doubt that this did not happen. The letter sent to Wilde by the publisher strongly indicates that W. H. [...] Read more.
Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is widely said to have been rejected by W. H. Smith, but there is no doubt that this did not happen. The letter sent to Wilde by the publisher strongly indicates that W. H. Smith contemplated removing the July issue of Lippincott’s Magazine, but does not go so far as to say that the bookstore did. This letter is the only evidence, however, that this is not absolute. The refusal to sell is mere speculation. The fact that none of Wilde’s contemporaries mentioned the incident of The Picture of Dorian Gray that supposedly happened, while the boycott of George Moore’s Esther Waters, which was much less topical than this one, was widely reported and discussed, provides further evidence that Wilde’s work was not rejected. Given that the censorship of literary works by private enterprises was still topical in the 1890s, it is unbelievable that the rejection of Wilde’s novel would not have been covered by any newspaper. It makes no sense, except to think that such a thing did not exist at all. It is also clear that this was not the case in the 1895 Wilde trial. Wilde’s lawyer argued that the piece was not a social evil because it was sold uninterruptedly, and the other side, which would have liked to take advantage of it in any way, never once touched on the boycott. Therefore, it would be safe to say that W. H. Smith’s refusal to sell did not happen at all. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Literature in the Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
The “Irish” Female Servant in Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly and Elaine Bergstrom’s Blood to Blood
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 128; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040128 - 27 Oct 2020
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Abstract
This article examines two neo-Victorian novels by American writers—Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly (1990) and Elaine Bergstrom’s Blood to Blood (2000)—which “write back” to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), respectively. Both novels [...] Read more.
This article examines two neo-Victorian novels by American writers—Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly (1990) and Elaine Bergstrom’s Blood to Blood (2000)—which “write back” to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), respectively. Both novels ostensibly critique the socio-cultural inequalities of Victorian London, particularly for women, immigrants, and the working class, and the gender and class politics and structures of the original texts. However, as this article demonstrates, the presence of invented Irish female servants as key figures in these “re-visionary” narratives also undermines some aspects of this critique. Despite acting as gothic heroines, figures who traditionally uncover patriarchal abuses, these servant characters also facilitate their employers’ lives and negotiations of the supernatural (with varying degrees of success), while also themselves becoming associated with gothic monstrosity, via their extended associations with Irish-Catholic violence and barbarity on both sides of the Atlantic. This article therefore argues that Irish servant figures in neo-Victorian texts by American writers function as complex signifiers of pastness and barbarity, but also of assimilation and progressive modernization. Indeed, the more “Irish” the servant, the better equipped she will be to help her employer navigate the world of the supernatural. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Entangled Narratives: History, Gender and the Gothic)
Open AccessArticle
Reconfiguring Home Through Travel: The Poetics of Home, Displacement and Travel in Agha Shahid Ali’s Poetry
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 127; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040127 - 24 Oct 2020
Viewed by 467
Abstract
This article seeks to examine how the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali explores and rethinks ideas of “home” and travel in his poetry. Ali’s poetry is a layered affective terrain in which his complex, entangled emotions surrounding home, exile, nostalgia, displacement, and travel [...] Read more.
This article seeks to examine how the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali explores and rethinks ideas of “home” and travel in his poetry. Ali’s poetry is a layered affective terrain in which his complex, entangled emotions surrounding home, exile, nostalgia, displacement, and travel play out. I argue that Ali’s verse, through multiple journeys ranging over locations, languages, cultures, and literary terrain, interrogates and collapses the boundaries between the “home” and the world. I read his poetry as voicing the “disturbed” and displaced home of Kashmir, while simultaneously distilling a “re-homing” desire. Such an impulse reconfigures and reimagines the home through the inhabiting and repeated “homing” of multiple, “foreign” locations. Poetic travel across geographic and literary terrain, in Ali’s oeuvre, thus speaks to the fraught and complex nature of the “home” in postcolonial and diasporic contexts, while remapping the home through the “re-homing” of the “foreign”. Arguing that “travel” is a means of negotiating and rethinking the “home” in Ali’s poetry, the article examines the intermeshed and dialogic relationship between home and travel that imbues his verse. Focusing particularly on poetic experimentation as a mode of travel, it aims to show how such literary travel makes new homes, while remembering and articulating Ali’s lost homes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Disturbances of the Home/land in Anglophone Postcolonial Literatures)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
(Human-Inflected) Evolution in an Age of (Human-Induced) Extinction: Synthetic Biology Meets the Anthropocene
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 126; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040126 - 23 Oct 2020
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Abstract
At the advent of the Anthropocene, life is being pushed to its limits the world over; we are currently living through the Sixth Mass Extinction to occur since multicellular life first emerged on the planet 570 million years ago. Evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson [...] Read more.
At the advent of the Anthropocene, life is being pushed to its limits the world over; we are currently living through the Sixth Mass Extinction to occur since multicellular life first emerged on the planet 570 million years ago. Evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson sums up this push in the opening gambit of his book The Future of Life: “the race is now on between the techno-scientific forces that are destroying the living environment and those that can be harnessed to save it”. Contra Wilson, this paper addresses the paradox arising from proposals to harness “techno-scientific forces … to save” the “living environment” while other forces continue to destroy it. By framing human-inflected evolution in an age of human-induced extinction, this article asks what could or should conservation become, if ‘conserving’ imperiled species might now require genetic interventions of the synthetic kind. Drawing upon recent key markers of “the race”, this paper presents a notional conservation for the Anthropocene—namely, that such a conservation proposes active intervention not only into ecosystems but into evolution itself. And yet, such interventions can only be considered in the context of the planetary scale that is the Anthropocene-writ-large, as per the desertification of the Amazon or the collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, the spatial scale of the microbial world, and on the temporal scale of evolution. Viewed within such a context, this paper presents technoscientific conservation as paradoxically being both vital and futile, as well as timely and too late. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Transdisciplinary Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Magic of Sociality, and Radical Fantasy
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 125; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040125 - 21 Oct 2020
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Abstract
Despite huge sales and publicity on its issuance in 2004, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has received comparatively little sustained critical attention. This article argues that much of this neglect proceeds from assumptions that the book is nostalgic for a sovereign [...] Read more.
Despite huge sales and publicity on its issuance in 2004, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has received comparatively little sustained critical attention. This article argues that much of this neglect proceeds from assumptions that the book is nostalgic for a sovereign magic, when in fact its historicity is a way of shaking up time itself. I argue Clarke is looking to the early nineteenth century as the earliest possible modernity, a time in which magic is intertwined with the world much as it would be today if magic arose now. Examining the sociable magician Norrell, the questionably resurgent medieval king John Uskglass and the African-descended manservant Stephen Black provide different models of what the interrelationship between magic and reality can be and serve to destabilize any sense of a sovereign past in the book. The book’s plural magical modernity’s counter any atavistic sovereignty. By taking the reading of Clarke’s novel beyond nostalgic sovereignty, one can understand how it participates in the twenty-first century revaluation of fantasy as politically progressive and epistemically radical. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Literature in the Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
More than a Game: Racecraft and the Adaptation of “Race” in Live Action Role Play
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040124 - 21 Oct 2020
Viewed by 275
Abstract
Live action role players make the imaginative worlds of tabletop games manifest through collaborative storytelling and embodied play. Escaping the everyday, these communities could radically reimagine culture and challenge oppressive ideologies. Instead, they are deeply invested in essentializing “race”. I conducted a three-year [...] Read more.
Live action role players make the imaginative worlds of tabletop games manifest through collaborative storytelling and embodied play. Escaping the everyday, these communities could radically reimagine culture and challenge oppressive ideologies. Instead, they are deeply invested in essentializing “race”. I conducted a three-year ethnographic study alongside 20 semi-structured interviews to explore racecraft in live action role play. Supporting the groundbreaking work of Karen and Barbara Fields, I find that racecraft is a social process—continually negotiated and maintained through intimate interactions and community exchanges. Through this process, the definition of “race” is continually adapted while belief in this category remains entrenched. When participants confront racist stereotypes, practitioners coerce marginalized members into a false exchange. These members are encouraged to share experiences detailing the damage of problematic representations. Practitioners then reduce these experiences to monolithic understandings of “race”. In this insidious manner, anti-racist confrontations become fodder for racecraft. Complicating this further, patterned racism is characterized as an inborn quality of whiteness, minimizing practitioners’ accountability. Responsibility is then shifted onto marginalized participants and their willingness to engage in “racial” education. This trap is ingrained in the double standard of racism, adapting “race” such that whiteness is unrestricted by the monolithic definitions applied to those outside this category. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Racecraft and Speculative Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Who Can Speak? Rancière, Latour and the Question of Articulation
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040123 - 20 Oct 2020
Viewed by 447
Abstract
In recent years, scholars in broadly considered posthumanities have attempted to reconceptualize politics in order to better account for the role of nonhuman entities in political processes. In this context, the article instantiates a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour on one [...] Read more.
In recent years, scholars in broadly considered posthumanities have attempted to reconceptualize politics in order to better account for the role of nonhuman entities in political processes. In this context, the article instantiates a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour on one of the fundamental questions of politics, that is, the question of logos. Even though Latour and Rancière differ considerably in their theoretical and political orientations, each of them revisits the question of ‘who can speak?’ in order to examine the ways in which speechless entities gain a voice, thereby becoming intelligible as political entities. In this article, I confront Rancière’s reservations about nonhumans as political agents, showing how Latour offers pathways beyond Rancière’s apparent bias towards the human, a bias that is, I argue, fundamentally contradictory to the latter’s broader conceptualization of politics as aesthetics. I formulate a Latourian rebuttal of Rancière’s reservations and analyse the utility of Latour’s thought in overcoming Rancière’s limitations. Latour’s reorientation of logos towards the concept of ‘articulation’ makes it possible to evacuate, to some extent, the human exceptionalism from Rancière’s philosophy. Combining Latour with Rancière permits to fundamentally rearticulate the parameters of left-wing thinking about nonhumans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Posthumanism, Virtuality, and the Arts)
Open AccessArticle
Haunted Oppressors: The Deconstruction of Manliness in the Imperial Gothic Stories of Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040122 - 19 Oct 2020
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Abstract
Building on Patrick Brantlinger’s description of imperial Gothic fiction as “that blend of adventure story with Gothic elements”, this article compares the narrative formula of adventure fiction to two tales of haunting produced in a colonial context: Rudyard Kipling’s “The Mark of the [...] Read more.
Building on Patrick Brantlinger’s description of imperial Gothic fiction as “that blend of adventure story with Gothic elements”, this article compares the narrative formula of adventure fiction to two tales of haunting produced in a colonial context: Rudyard Kipling’s “The Mark of the Beast” (1890) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Brown Hand” (1899). My central argument is that these stories form an antithesis to adventure fiction: while adventure stories reaffirm the belief in the imperial mission and the racial superiority of the British through the display of hypermasculine heroes, Kipling’s and Conan Doyle’s Gothic tales establish connections between imperial decline and masculine failure. In doing so, they destabilise the binary construction between civilised Western self and savage Eastern Other and thus anticipate one of the major concerns of postcolonial criticism. This article proposes, therefore, that it is useful to examine “The Mark of the Beast” and “The Brown Hand” through a postcolonial lens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Entangled Narratives: History, Gender and the Gothic)
Open AccessEditorial
Reflections on Key Issues in Human Life: Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan, Dante’s Divina Commedia, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Michael Ende’s Momo, and Fatih Akın’s Soul Kitchen—Manifesto in Support of the Humanities—What Truly Matters in the End?
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040121 - 16 Oct 2020
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Abstract
There are available by now many arguments concerning the intrinsic and endemic value of the humanities, and both from a medievalist and a modernist perspective. Similarly, there continue to be many critics who would not mind the elimination of the humanities and argue [...] Read more.
There are available by now many arguments concerning the intrinsic and endemic value of the humanities, and both from a medievalist and a modernist perspective. Similarly, there continue to be many critics who would not mind the elimination of the humanities and argue vociferously for this goal. Every critical investigation of how to defend our field thus proves to be highly valuable, but we in the humanities must also develop specific points concerning the importance of our research that will convince both students, parents, administrators, and politicians in concrete, pragmatic terms regarding the supreme relevance of college education. Fortunately, the current COVID-19 crisis has also profiled in a dramatic fashion what proves to be of fundamental importance for human life, both past and present, reminding us of the critical importance of the humanities. An existence without virtues, a completely narcissistic or egoistical concept of life, or a society entirely predicated on materialistic interests would cut us off from our own future. This article discusses several literary works and also a modern movie in which the constant quest for meaning and relevance in our lives comes to the fore and gives us direction and understanding. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Winds and the Waves That Carved Out Today’s Coastal Landscape of Sines (Portugal)
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040120 - 15 Oct 2020
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Abstract
The Atlantic maritime winds and waves, as natural forces, shaped the physiography of Sines, a peculiar rocky cliff cape at the western Portuguese coast, as well as cultural processes have shaped its spatial arrangement since ancient times. Despite its small size, Sines port [...] Read more.
The Atlantic maritime winds and waves, as natural forces, shaped the physiography of Sines, a peculiar rocky cliff cape at the western Portuguese coast, as well as cultural processes have shaped its spatial arrangement since ancient times. Despite its small size, Sines port has always been an important maritime trade corner. In the 1970s, winds and waves of modernity reached the Sines coast with an imposing industrial-port complex. We present the history of Sines cape focusing on its landscape dynamics. The patch-corridor-matrix model allowed us to describe the mosaic transformation of such a unique landscape. Spatial information was gathered mostly from historical maps processed with digital tools. A time series of thematic maps (landscape mosaic pattern) was obtained, covering more than 120 years. Current results emphasize that this landscape underwent relevant transformations related to human activities since former times, although disturbance and fragmentation of the landscape were strongly intensified after the arrival of the post-modern wave of the industrial culture. The present study provides a contribution to the history of the Portuguese and Mediterranean coastal landscapes; and results could be used to support decision making in sustainable management of this territory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peoples, Nature and Environments: Shaping Landscapes)
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Open AccessArticle
A Quixotic Endeavor: The Translator’s Role and Responsibility in Bridging Divides in the (Mis)handling of Translations
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040119 - 15 Oct 2020
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Abstract
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha, one of the most translated works of literature, has seen over twenty different English translations in the 406 years since its first translation. Some translators remain more faithful than others. In a world where there [...] Read more.
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha, one of the most translated works of literature, has seen over twenty different English translations in the 406 years since its first translation. Some translators remain more faithful than others. In a world where there should be an erasure of the lines that separate cultures, the lines are, in fact, deepening. John Felstiner explains in his book, Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu, that “a translation converts strangeness into likeness, and yet in doing so may bring home to us the strangeness of the original... Doing without translations, then, might confine us to a kind of solipsistic cultural prison” (Felstiner 5). By looking at translations of Don Quixote de la Mancha, this paper examines how the inaccuracies and misrepresentations by translators deepen the lines that divide cultures. Textual edits are made, plots are altered, and additions are made to the text. These differences might seem inconsequential to the reader, but the reverberations of such changes have tremendous consequences. While there may not be a perfect translation, editors and translators must aim towards that objective. Instead, the translators appropriate the work, often styling or rewriting it in order to mold it to fit their own visions of what the work should be. Thus, Don Quixote lives on through translation and is lost due to being an unwitting and unwilling participant of malpractice. The only way to bridge cultures is for the translator responsibly to present readers with translations that stay true to the original. By doing so, readers can be more empathetic towards cultures unfamiliar to them, and only then can we truly have an understanding of others. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Translation and Relocation: Literary Encounters East and West)
Open AccessArticle
Making the Call: Art and Politics in Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 118; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040118 - 13 Oct 2020
Viewed by 396
Abstract
Set in Germany during the denazification processes following World War Two, Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides (1995 play, 2001 film) pits German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler against a relatively uncultured American interrogator, Steve Arnold, to, as Harwood says, examine the role of an artist under [...] Read more.
Set in Germany during the denazification processes following World War Two, Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides (1995 play, 2001 film) pits German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler against a relatively uncultured American interrogator, Steve Arnold, to, as Harwood says, examine the role of an artist under a totalitarian state and an American’s mistreatment of the world-renowned maestro. While there is certainly a contrast between the old world, represented by the classical music of Furtwängler, and the new, represented by Arnold’s affinity for jazz, there is much more at stake in both the play and the film. As the interrogation progresses, Arnold, who worked as an insurance claims adjuster during his civilian days, senses Furtwängler’s arguments about art as apolitical, are what he calls “airy-fairy” excuses. Arnold knows Hitler favored Furtwängler, used his music to inspire his atrocities, and gave Furtwangler access to almost anything he wanted. Critics frequently praise the play and film for its balanced presentation of the two sides. However, by examining the play and the film in terms of Aristotelian tragedy, this essay makes clear that Furtwängler’s refusal to take sides has grave consequences, consequences that only the crude, “ugly American” Arnold is willing to discuss. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Open AccessArticle
“[A]n Exterior Air of Pilgrimage”: The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117 - 08 Oct 2020
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Abstract
While the Beats can be seen as critical actors in the environmental humanities, their works should be seen over the longue durée. They are not only an origin, but are also recipients, of an environmentally aware tradition. With Geoffrey Chaucer and Jack Kerouac, [...] Read more.
While the Beats can be seen as critical actors in the environmental humanities, their works should be seen over the longue durée. They are not only an origin, but are also recipients, of an environmentally aware tradition. With Geoffrey Chaucer and Jack Kerouac, we see how a contemporary American icon functions as a text parallel to something generally seen as discrete and past, an instance of the modern embracing, interpreting, and appropriating the medieval. I argue that The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer influenced Kerouac’s shaping of On the Road. In the unpublished autograph manuscript travel diary dating from 1948–1949 (On the Road notebook), Kerouac imagines the novel as a quest tale, thinking of pilgrimage during its gestation. Further, Kerouac explicitly cites Chaucer. His novel can be seen not only in the tradition of Chaucer, but can bring out aspects of pilgrimage ecopoetics in general. These connections include structural elements, the spiritual development of the narrator, reliance on vernacular dialect, acute environmental awareness, and slow travel. Chaucer’s influence on Kerouac highlights how certain elements characteristic of pilgrimage literature persist well into the modern period, in a resilience of form, language, and ecological sensibility. Full article
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