Happy ‘pub’ days: Carr, Espinosa, Long, Clifton
Three faculty members and an alum of the ASU Department of English announce the recent publication of new books. The output covers topics ranging from art film to racism and Shakespeare to rhetorical rhythms.
Repulsion (Auteur Publishing / Liverpool University Press, 2021)
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), starring Catherine Deneuve as a repressed and tormented manicurist, is a gripping, visually inventive descent into paranoia and self-destructive alienation. Emblematic of recurrent Polanski motifs, evinced in his student short films, in his striking debut feature, Knife in the Water (1962), and in subsequent features like Death and the Maiden (1994), Repulsion is a tour de force examination of crippling anxiety and the sinister potency of inanimate objects. Repulsion amplifies the realm of psychological horror by evoking the seething impact of increasing delusion, literal and figurative seclusion, and the consequences of one woman’s foreboding sensitivity to the unsettling world that surrounds her.
This Devil’s Advocate considers Repulsion within the context of familiar horror tropes and the prevailing qualities of Polanski’s broader oeuvre. Drawing on the research of Sigmund Freud, Julia Kristeva, Barbara Creed and others, concerning issues of abjection, the “monstrous-feminine,” and the psychology of horror spectatorship, this text focuses on central themes of isolation, sexuality and setting. Bookended by introductory biographical details and concluding with a roundup of the film’s reception, Jeremy Carr situates Repulsion within the horror genre at large as well as its various off-shoots, such as the rape/revenge subgenre. There is also an analysis of the film’s technical qualities, from its sound design to its brilliantly low-key special effects, all of which define the film as Polanski’s most audaciously stylish realisation of dread and unease.
Carr is a faculty associate who teaches in the Department of English’s film and media studies program.
Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism (Routledge, 2021)
Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism examines Shakespeare in relation to ongoing conversations that interrogate the vulnerability of Black and brown people amid oppressive structures that aim to devalue their worth. By focusing on the way these individuals are racialized, politicized, policed, and often violated in our contemporary world, it casts light on dimensions of Shakespeare’s work that afford us a better understanding of our ethical responsibilities in the face of such brutal racism.
Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism is divided into seven short chapters that cast light on contemporary issues regarding racism in our day. Some salient topics that these chapters address include the murder of unarmed Black men and women, the militarization of the U.S. Mexico border, anti-immigrant laws, exclusionary measures aimed at Syrian refugees, inequities in healthcare and safety for women of color, international trends that promote white nationalism, and the dangers of complicity when it comes to racist paradigms. By bringing these contemporary issues into conversation with a wide range of plays that span the many genres in which Shakespeare wrote throughout his career, these chapters demonstrate how the widespread racism and discord within our present moment stands to infuse with urgent meaning Shakespeare’s attention to the (in)humanity of strangers, the ethics of hospitality, the perils of insularity, abuses of power, and the vulnerability of the political state and its subjects.
The book puts into conversation Shakespeare with present-day events and cultural products surrounding topics of race, ethnicity, xenophobia, immigration, asylum, assimilation, and nationalism as a means of illuminating Shakespeare’s cultural and literary significance in relation to these issues. It should be an essential read for all students of literary studies and Shakespeare.
Espinosa is associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at ASU, where he is also an associate professor in the Department of English’s literature program.
The Potentiality of Difference: Singular Rhythms of a Translational Humanities in Community Contexts (Intermezzo, 2021)
Categories that ascribe particular languages to particular nation-states have, as comparative literature scholar Emily Apter (2008) puts it, "exceeded their expiration date" (p. 558). This is true as much for such categories' damaging imperialistic consequences as for their obsolete structural assumptions. Their limits may be rather self-evident. But how to move beyond those limitations in the service of the humanities poses invigorating methodological challenges, as demonstrated across this book’s three cases.
To contribute to this conversation, this study pursues untranslatability, defined here as the potentiality of difference that defies translation from one language to another and at the same time fuels the momentum of world-building in and across cultural differences. As we detail, among the dynamics complicating untranslatability in community contexts are the politics of knowledge production, including both the tendency to negate that which is "different" from "the same" (Muckelbauer, 2008) and to undercut the epistemic status of underrepresented stakeholders (Simmons, 2007). Regarding the latter, people will find some way to shut down or walk away when rendered instrumental—that is, when rendered as means toward someone else's interests.
Attentive to such dynamics, the three of us turned to rhythmanalysis, a mode of analysis for the critique of everyday life articulated by Henri Lefebvre (1992/2017). Our aim in turning to rhythmanalysis was to assemble methods capable of attending to and participating in what people were doing, and what they were devising, when venturing generative alternatives to the blunt exercise of rationality and power—specifically, when what they were venturing depended at least in part on that which is untranslatable. Part I establishes the theoretical and methodological basis for the study, as well as our own subject positions in relation to the work of the project. Part II puts three cases in relation to one another and seeks to perform what a critical-generative humanities can look like and what it can do when taking up untranslatability in community contexts. The book concludes by offering implications for practicing a critical-generative humanities.
Long directs graduate studies in the Department of English at ASU, where she is a professor in the writing, rhetorics and literacies program.
Clifton is project coordinator of research for the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at ASU; she is also an ASU alum, having earned a PhD in curriculum and instruction (English education) in 2012.