Friday, 19 August 2011

Issue 2, Vol 4: Tales Terrible

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Life presents a Dismal Picture,
Dark and dreary as the tomb,
Father’s got urethral stricture,
Mother’s got a prolapsed womb.
Uncle James has been deported
For a homosexual crime,
Nell, our maid, has just aborted
For the forty-second time...

I came across these lines recently in an eminent literary magazine that was reviewing The Way to Go by Upamanyu Chatterjee and wondered how all that is grievous, putrid, dark and violent invariably provides a good breeding ground for creativity. It then struck me that most of literature, be it poetry, drama or the novel form, follows the same theme and invariably enjoys a tremendous readership.

Does contention, fear, anger, loss really bring about an inspiration to create something that will not only vent out the frustration within but also work as a reformatory social exercise? When we say that the lives and works of artists, critics and society are intricately woven together, we are also saying that social taboos, evils and incidents threatening Apocalypse inevitably do become the fount of creativity. For example, the genre of science fiction can be looked upon as one thriving on the idea of the unknown, an idea which then becomes synonymous for all that is uncharted and forbidden, hence dangerous. The rise of artificially intelligent creations of the human mind against their makers, the fear of death resulting from breaking bonds of conventions and social comfort levels, jealousy, anger, loss...these are all themes that have essentially inspired a number of books, some even winning laurels all over the world.

However, sci-fi is not the only genre that employs some of these themes; contemporary fiction continues to weave ideas of grief, transcendence, ambition, over-reaching, schizophrenic frenzy, terror and mysticism into its fabric. Indian authors – if one may be allowed that momentarily – are known to employ these themes to comment on a variety of issues that plague society. Then again, Russian literature continues to boggle minds with dark characters and sagas of personal and communal grief and trauma.

In this issue, with the theme Tales Terrible: Then, Now and Beyond, we critically analyse much that makes literature sad, dark and deadly. From fanatical ambition to fantastical desire, our contributors delve into a host of motifs and motives that have inspired horror in many across space and time and have thus been the basis of countless articulations, expressions and representations of that fear and terror which – for now at least – we believe to be essentially a foundational premise of human society and interaction. Amongst these, we are especially grateful to Ms. Amrita Singh, research scholar and faculty in the Department of English, Kamala Nehru College, for lending us her interesting and incisive paper on representation of conflict and dissent in Afghanistan through editorial cartoons. In seeking stranger and stranger and yet simultaneously infinitely conventional ways of artistic articulation as well as creative criticism, Literophile is always pleased to support all that challenges our notions of both acceptable and subversive representation and this, in discussing criticism of much that is bone-chillingly macabre and disgusting through a medium apparently totally frivolous and flippant, achieves as much. For this, then, and for everything else that came in, we are grateful and hope that when you, as a reader, engage with the criticism that follows, you will not only respond academically but also imaginatively, uniting the two in a manner that treats the subject as object and vice versa and thus makes our endeavours in bringing this to you fruitful and relevant.
Prashaste Sinha,

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The ‘Forward Wits’ of Doctor Faustus ...3
Ipshita Nath nuances received notions of the transgression(s) and tragedy of Marlowe’s Faustus by juxtaposing the politically charged rhetoric of predestination, free will and sin against the scientific and medical advancements of the European Renaissance.

Misery and Mistress - The Politics of Fantasy in Fairy Tales ...7
Deeptangshu Das critiques a few popular fairy tales from the Grimm canon to examine how femininity and sexuality get transformed under the overarching logic of patriarchal desire to both be commodified and, at the same time, acquire connotations of darkness and danger.

Conflict and Dissent - Editorial Cartoons and the Politics of Afghanistan ...10
Amrita Singh comments upon the “(re)presentation” of the socio-cultural crises in Afghanistan through cartoons, a medium which is at once stark and visibly forceful even as it is replete with a continuing sense of humour and, to an extent, flippancy.

When Machines Take Over the World ...14
Asimov’s Reworking of Science Fiction’s Worst Nightmare
Shreya P. Jindal tweaks conventional notions of sci-fi Armageddon by discussing Asimov’s conception of a different and possibly mutually beneficial robot-human relationship in his I, Robot.

The Gothic in Frankenstein ...17
Venu Bhanot analyses the various dominant literary elements in Mary Shelley’s ever popular Frankenstein to place it as neither Gothic nor Romantic but Gothic Romantic.

Events ...18

Call for Contributions, Issue Three, Volume Four: Courtesans ...20

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The ‘Forward Wits’ of Doctor Faustus

It seems almost superfluous to state that Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is riddled with perplexing ambiguities. However, the convention is to acknowledge the success of Marlowe’s attempt at baffling his audience. The question, though, is, what was Marlowe’s aim behind writing such an ambivalent play? What exactly did he mean to convey through it?

Marlowe’s eccentric characters owe completely to his enigmatic life – short as it was. He was embroiled in several controversies during his lifetime and not just his life but also his death is a mystery to all. He was apparently killed in a bar-room brawl and today, it is ‘assumed’, merely assumed, that he was murdered – for political reasons, as a result of his dealings with the Elizabethan government.

During Marlowe’s time, England under Elizabeth largely persecuted...

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Misery and Mistress: The Politics of Fantasy in Fairy Tales

“They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die.
I’ll wink and couch; no man their works must eye.”
-William Shakespeare, in The Merry Wives of Windsor

Childhood is incomplete without the delicious nectar of fantasy, stories, and fairy tales. Childhood is the stage when the boundaries between fantasy and reality, truth and illusion become blurred. And thanks to Walt Disney, the fairy tale characters have become more magnificent through the magic of animation. Generally, fairy tales are seen as a vital source of entertainment, they cater to the child’s imagination and allow him or her to enter a fantastic world of rich palaces, evil monsters and a whole lot of heroic adventures. But the question one might want to raise- are these stories as innocent as the children themselves? In other words, they may look simple on the surface, but analyzed critically, we find that they are indeed skilfully crafted and strongly rooted in gender stereotypes and social prejudices. Under the guise of fantasy, they strongly reinforce...

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Conflict and Dissent: Editorial Cartoons and the Politics of Afghanistan

In the aftermath of September 11, Afghanistan was dug out of the world’s collective forgetful consciousness and splashed across international media to highlight the destructive fundamentalism of its leaders and redress the excesses of civil and human rights violations in the region. The American War on Terror has sought legitimation by focussing on the need to “restore” democracy in what it deems are the world’s terror hubs and conflict-ridden areas. This paper looks at two perspectives of the internal conflict and external war which have plagued Afghanistan particularly during the Taliban regime (1996–2001) and culminated in the Allied strikes beginning November 2001. Kabul-based cartoonist Atiq Shahid and Pulitzer-winner American artist Ann Telnaes both offer in single panel view a comprehensive representation of the modern history of Afghanistan which is one of...

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When Machines Take Over the World
Asimov’s Reworking of Science Fiction’s Worst Nightmare

In this paper, I will examine Isaac Asimov’s science fiction short story collection I, Robot (1950). I will argue that Asimov has a unique take on the threat of man-made scientific creations escaping human control and destroying the world, a cliché in science fiction since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). I will demonstrate that Asimov takes the stance that the taking over of mankind by robots would actually be a positive outcome for humanity because they are superior to human beings in physical, mental, and moral terms...

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The Gothic in Frankenstein
Tortuous, fragmented narratives relating mysterious incidents, horrible images and life-threatening pursuits predominate in the eighteenth century gothic literature. Spectres, monsters, demons, corpses, skeletons, evil aristocrats, monks and nuns, fainting heroines and bandits populate Gothic landscapes as suggestive figures of imagined and realistic threats. This list grew, in the nineteenth century, with the addition of scientists, fathers, husbands, madmen, criminals and the monstrous double signifying duplicity and evil nature. Gothic landscapes are desolate, alienating and full of menace. In the eighteenth century they were wild and mountainous locations...

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