Two Words Where One Won’t Do: Against Conciseness

Dylan Taylor | 25 July 2017.

The dawning supremacy of M.F.A. writing is well observed and disparaged by many. Arguably, this ‘homogenized, over-workshopped writing’ has become increasingly content to follow prevailing literary models, making much contemporary English literature unambitious and conservative. Rather than push boundaries, many modern writers seem content to contribute their own version of a story that has been told a thousand times before: a story typically of love, of coming-of-age, of examining identity, in middle-class London or New York. Overwhelmingly, the stylistic cornerstone of such a story is prose that is polished and clear: all unjustified adjectives must go.

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Fogging Lit Crit: Tale of Two Critics

Kate Lewis Hood and Niki Holzapfel | 3 April 2017.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

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The Proustian Experience of Wine Tasting

Alice de Galzain | 6 March 2017.

Three years ago, since I was a literature student in Paris, I did what 99% of students do at the beginning of summer: start looking for a summer job. And for various inexplicable reasons, I decided that I would try my luck and leave my resume at a very fancy restaurant next to my house. The restaurant was Enrico Bernardo’s Il Vino and that job became the most memorable work experience of my life. From the very first day, I was able to learn that liking wine is very different from knowing about it. Yet, apart from that youthful realisation, I was taken aback by how my world – the world of literature, language, and words – surprisingly connected with the world of wine. The poetic nature of wine tasting opened so many unforeseen parallels that the associations between the literary world and somellerie just started to multiply.

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Remembrance of Novels Past: Nicholson Baker’s “Memory Criticism”

Richard Elliott | 6 March 2017

From the masterpieces of Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf to recent classics such as Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, the subject of memory has exercised some of the finest minds of modern literature. Indeed, think of the last novel you read and chances are that a good deal of the narrative was devoted to memory, whether in the form of childhood memories (as in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time), traumatic memories (Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians), or, more atypically, prenatal memories (Ian McEwan’s Nutshell).

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The Contemporary Citizen in Fatma Aydemir’s Ellbogen

Charlotte Kessler | 6 March 2017

Fatma Aydemir’s debut novel Ellbogen (2017) addresses the experiences of immigrants in Germany in the face of the current political and social climate. ‘Ellbogen’ is German for ‘elbow’ and refers to the pressures in society that cause people to elbow their way to the top in order to be successful. The novel is a striking portrayal of the second generation of immigrants, who are often the children of so-called ‘guest workers’. It captures sensations such as loneliness, alienation and the search for belonging, which Aydemir does through telling the heart-warming story of a teenage girl of Turkish descent living in Germany and by using the colloquial language of Turkish teenagers who mix German and Turkish slang. The observation of migration experience does not end there. There are various situations and characters that lend themselves to an analysis in regard to Claire Sutherland’s chapter on citizenship and migration in Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century (2012).

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Classroom Mental Health: A Testimony

Scheherazade Khan | 20th February 2017.

TW: assault and mental illness.

What is it like to come across descriptions of trauma and mental health in academia as a survivor of assault? I’ve been thinking about my experience regarding this a lot recently. The University of Edinburgh held this year’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Week the first week of February, which coincided with the sixth anniversary of my assault, an event that initiated my own awareness of my mental health.

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