The Unspoken Hierarchy in Literature

Scheherazade Khan | 10th July 2017.

The humanities in higher education are often looked down upon as a wasted pursuit. In the presence of doctors, engineers, scientists, policy makers and accountants, the humanities can be considered rather pointless. Most students in the arts are well accustomed to jokes regarding poor employment opportunities in our fields. Though these comments may hint at the difficult reality of job searching for those in the arts, generally humanities students have learnt to laugh along. We understand and have accepted that we did not choose this field for its financial potential but for a passion we felt determined to follow and explore.

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Migrant Literature or Migration Literature – and Why Does It Matter?

Charlotte Kessler | 15 May 2017

The twentieth and twenty-first century have been widely accepted as an unprecedented age of migration; according to Stephen Castles et. al. in The Age of Migration (2013), their global scope makes them distinct from previous centuries (6). Our century has been moulded by events such as the two World Wars, various civil wars, and immense progress in transportation and communication. This is not to say that migration has not shaped much of human history before the twentieth century, however, international migration and its political influences characterise our current era and many contemporary literary works have thematised such migration experiences. In the past few decades, ‘migrant literature’ has often been used as an umbrella term for the works of migrant writers. However, contemporary comparatists like Søren Frank, Rebecca Walkowitz, Sandra Vlasta, and Roy Sommer have shifted from using the term ‘migrant literature’ to ‘migration literature’ in order to describe literary works addressing migration, and for good reason.

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Video Games and the Humanities

Dylan Taylor | 3 April 2017.

With the release last month of the newest entry in the Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild, talk has turned again to the artistry of video games. The idea that interactive entertainment can tell interesting stories, or that it is capable of being considered “art” in the “high-brow” sense of the term, has been a contested one, albeit one which has seen the scale weighted more on the side of the defenders in recent years [1]. Within the field of the humanities, where scholars study what have, in many cases, been widely considered the highest forms of storytelling, how does one make sense of where this newer medium stands? How does one who has grown up with video games and who considers literature—and the art of storytelling itself—to be one of humanity’s highest achievements, come to terms with their appreciation of both?

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Academia and the Bingo Card

Juliet Conway | 20 March 2017

While in a group of 8 PhD students recently, I discovered just how bad we all are at summarising our research. Our topics, on which each of us could wax lyrical for hours, cannot fit into a succinct summary, not at least without using several 5-syllable words. I am equally guilty of this. I try to get around the issue with a one-word answer. ‘What do I study?’: ‘Flirting’. It works, and usually gets a laugh or a politely bemused look. But if you ask me to extrapolate you’ll probably regret it. My arguments, which would (hopefully) sound eloquent and comprehensive in 100,000 words, become jumbled, convoluted and frankly indecipherable when squeezed into a few sentences. The questioner’s eyes start to glaze at the word ‘dichotomy’ and as I try falteringly to explain how flirts use intentional ambiguity to undermine notions of authority, I know I’ve already lost them.

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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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Reading As If To Live

Tess Goodman | 6 March 2017

In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel describes learning the word “lesbian” from the dictionary at age thirteen (74). As she ages, she finds one book after another that explore this word, leading eventually to two realizations: one, that she “could actually look up homosexuality in the card catalog,” and two, that she herself is a lesbian (75). For her, the former discovery is the catalyst for the latter, which she calls a “revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind” (74). Her reading reveals a larger world, bringing her into touch with herself.

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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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John Green, Genre Fiction, and the Influence of David Foster Wallace

Bradley Copper | 6 February 2017

John Green isn’t the first Young Adult writer you’d associate with the labyrinthine depths of American postmodern fiction, let alone with the onerous figure of David Foster Wallace. The combination of Green’s happy-go-lucky YouTube persona and the explosive popularity of his cancer novel-turned-teen romance The Fault in Our Stars (2012) has made Green the figurehead of a supposedly adolescent romantic fandom. To anybody who digs a little deeper, the above characterisation of Green’s online community is condescending at best—it is also untrue (‘Nerdfighter Census’).

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