Literary Refractions

No. 1 - Year 5 - 12/2014

Editorial

As a ray of light, sound, or heat changes direction in passing obliquely from one medium into another changing thus its wave velocity, so changes a literary text with every new reading as the reader adds a new layer of meaning to it or, depending on your perspective, peels off the intricate fabric of words that the writer wove around the text's hidden meaning(s) to access its richness. The ninth issue of [sic] brings you a selection of papers in Croatian and English language that represent the result of such refractions. They discuss matters of literary subversion by means of comic effects, irony, satire, and anti-poetics, or social subversion by revealing modern society as being fundamentally disciplinary and averse to individual freedom. Interpreting texts written by Shakespeare and Levinas to those by Joshua Ferris, our authors cover a vast period of literary creativity only to show that what always and forever tickles the imagination of writers is the human condition. To write about the dreams and the human mind, or direct films that question the authenticity of life, means to employ different motifs and stories with the aim to return to ourselves and our daily existence refracted first by the creative genius of writers and then again by the curiosity of scholars. ..

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Featuring

Mental disorders have become the topic of numerous contemporary American novels. Attesting to the ongoing fascination with the workings and the sciences of the human mind, many of these texts turn to neuroscientific questions. This paper offers a close reading of one of these ‘neuronarratives’ – Joshua Ferris’s acclaimed 2010 novel The Unnamed, a story in which the protagonist is afflicted with an utterly mysterious condition that disrupts his sense of self as his mind appears to be separated from his body. In this paper, I aim to show how such a dualist conception problematizes not only the concepts of self and agency as the unnamed disease is linked to contemporary lifestyles in corporate America, but also helps to craft a counternarrative that challenges recent materialist conceptions and neuroscientific theories. Keywords: illness narrative, mental illness in fiction, (in)coherence, neuronarrative, body, mind, Philosophy of Mind, dualism...

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Friday 16 July 1852. Sunrise. The end of the night. It rained. It isn’t raining anymore. Large slate clouds run across the sky. Flaubert hasn’t slept. He goes out into the garden at Croisset: lime trees, then poplars, then the Seine. An outbuilding on a bank beside some water. He’s finished Part One of Madame Bovary.That Sunday, he would write Louise Colet how at dawn on Friday he’d felt strong, serene, blest in sense and in purpose. The dawn wind does him good. He has a tired fat handsome face, a calm fat handsome face. He loves writing. He loves the world.“Deprived of a party, country, house, personal life, etc., he made writing his only reason to live, and it grips one’s heart how seriously he takes the written world.” These words of Pasolini’s pertain to Gombrowicz. But they might just as well be applied to Flaubert, and one’s heart would not be gripped any less, maybe more. For, if Flaubert had a personal life (as Gombrowicz did after all, but then Pasolini always goes very fast), he pretended not to have one; just as he pretended to have no house, country, freedom, mother named Caroline, orphaned niece also named Caroline, Seine at the end of the path, rolling on before his eyes, sharecroppers’ hillside groves, heaps of disciples and flatterers, well-meaning interns hard at work on his behalf in the corridors of Paris journals and salons: all things Gombrowicz truly did not have, that he, Flaubert, had. Flaubert pretended to have none of all that, that which he had, and for him this pretension became real; he patched together a mask which comprised his skin, and with which he wrote his books; skin and mask had been so well glued that when he wished to retire it, he found nothing more in his hand than an indissoluble mixture of flesh and cardboard under the thick clown moustache. Perhaps it wasn’t truly the clown that he played so much as the monk, and not just to the stands, but in his own eyes and to himself: he was not only a defrocked friar with the guys or on the street; he donned the silk babouches when he went home too. He dispossessed himself of the Seine that rolled on before his eyes; the small girl who lived on her feet, whom he puts to death in all his books, he hardly saw her; the loveliest girls of his day, the finest too for sure, who wanted him, so that he happened to come – he dispossessed himself of them, whether he came or opted to come no more, which amounted to the same thing; no apples from Norman orchards, no trees deep in the woods, no unlaced Louise Colet, no lilies, no young laughter, no Louise Colet weeping at his door, he kissed it all off, laughed over it and kissed it off, cried about it and kissed it off, he was not there. In fact he had nothing, he was deprived of everything, since it was in his head....

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This paper explores the comic devices in "The Overcoat" by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol in accordance with Boris Eichenbaum’s analysis and his claim that skaz (a type of first-person narrative based on verbal play) has the main role in the structure of Gogol’s short story. The thesis of the paper is that skaz is the basis of humour in the short story and that the semantic aspects of the work are realized by means of the possibilities contained in language itself, which is illustrated through a number of examples. At the same time, the interconnection between certain stylistic devices is brought to attention. By emphasizing the expressive features of words and mimicking the style of conversational speech, the features of both prose and poetry are brought together in Gogol’s work. Therefore, the comic devices in this paper are grouped according to the types of figures of speech which reflect the characteristics of prose and poetry respectively. In addition to that, the reader also has a significant role in creating the illusion of conversational speech and Gogol encourages them to participate actively. The paper concludes that the artistic value and the significance of "The Overcoat" to a greater extent stem from Gogol’s mastery of language use, rather than his intention to create "an illusion of reality" in the fictional world of "The Overcoat"....

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Everyone knows that each thing has many different ways of being looked at. If you say something is beautiful or ugly, these are just different ways of looking at the thing. Looked at differently, you can say it is true or false; or, to view it still differently, you can say it is good or evil. It’s still the same fact, viewed in different ways, so we say the phenomenon viewed has several different viewpoints. For example, that old pine tree in the garden, whether viewed by you or me or anyone, will still be an old pine tree. Yet you see it from a positive perspective and I see it from a negative one. Your viewpoint is that of a young person, mine is that of a middle-aged person. These differences in mood and personality influence the way we see the old pine tree itself. Although the tree is a fact, the way you see it and the way I see it are two different things. If you and I both take our impressions of the tree and try to paint them or compose a poem about them, even though our respective skills may be the same, your painting or poem will have many important differences from mine. What is the reason for this? It is simply that consciousness is not totally objective and which forms one sees has many different subjective aspects....

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