Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1731) is often categorized under the heading of realism. However, I argue that this does not adequately capture the operations of truth that prevail in this novel. The narrator, H.F., reiterates in numerous ways the proposition that what he needs to describe, to share the experiences of the plague, cannot possibly be described. In this reading, Journal stands as an early literary instance of a challenge to the edicts of realism and not as a proponent of that label. In John Bender’s Imagining the Penitentiary (1987) Journal is read as a realist depiction of the rise of the Penitentiary in Eighteenth century London. This paper shows how this reading miscues some of the most interesting and far-reaching aspects of this novel. It is argued that this form of truth telling can be read as a fiction of ‘de-scription’ (a term borrowed from Blanchot’s lexicon)—writing that inscribes the limit of description within itself. Thus, it can be characterized as a fiction of disaster—an experience which cannot be described but only de-scribed. Moreover, through a close reading of this novel, I propose an alternative paradigm for conceptualizing the changes that were being recorded in Eighteenth-century London. Instead of Bender’s favored paradigm of a penitentiary that is married to the consciousness of an individual prisoner, I argue that the topology of a camp is better suited to assimilate the limit of law, medicine and narration that are reached within the text. I explore these domains in this novel to string together my larger argument that outlines the invisible threshold that a plague infected body creates for truth telling.
Darwinian theory, modern biblical criticism, and new evolving spiritualities frequently emerged in fin de siècle literature in ways that indicate a growing dissatisfaction with aspects of Christianity that failed to adequately address social concerns pertaining to a rigid class system that marginalized the poor. Despite a shift in orthodox beliefs, authors continued to draw on biblical motifs as a source for contemplating humanist virtues, such as ethics, empathy, and compassion. This essay illustrates how biblical motifs are reconfigured and deployed to address a society in which organized religion was diminished and changed but not eradicated.
This paper examines digital technology in c̓əsnaʔəm, a series of exhibitions located in Vancouver and focused on the Musqueam people and their belongings. It considers challenges to traditional museum exhibition posed by the unique structure and motive behind c̓əsnaʔəm, asking how new meanings can be constructed with a combination of old materials and digital technology. C̓əsnaʔəm is an exhibition series that spans three institutions, and which makes a rhetorical shift from the terminology of ‘objects’ and ‘artifacts’ towards that of ‘belongings’. This distinction is considered through a comparison to Bruno Latour’s object-oriented philosophy, through which the question of how exhibition interacts with memory is considered in c̓əsnaʔəm. The series also makes significant use of interactive and digital components, considered within this paper using Ian Bogost’s procedural rhetoric. To consider c̓əsnaʔəm in the context of other curatorial efforts, this paper then conducts a comparative examination of c̓əsnaʔəm alongside museum-based studies by Ott, Aoki and Dickinson. The focus of this paper, using the above frameworks, is the examination of concepts of memory, interaction, absence, and amnesia, and how they are rendered in museum installations. This paper considers how the composition and components of these installations work rhetorically to convey a Musqueam worldview and historical perspective. It argues that c̓əsnaʔəm presents textual choices that build on both its form as an exhibition and its status as a text belonging to Musqueam to allow visitors to engage in a rhetoric dependent on reflection.
While visiting a hospital for a routine blood test, in the midst of a seminar dealing with Porn Studies, I began to wonder about how inpatients could live out their sexualities. I pulled out my phone and quickly found that all websites labeled ‘Pornography’ are blocked on the hospital WiFi, thus implicitly disallowing certain forms of sexual behaviour in patients. In response to this censorship, this article theorizes the institutional barriers and ideological attitudes which deny access to online pornography within a major research hospital in a large Canadian urban centre, and I explore some ways in which patients may get around the desexualizing barriers baked into the public WiFi network. Research shows that in clinical contexts, pornography consumption is restricted to sanctioned medical uses such as research or sexual rehabilitation programs. By thinking with Michel Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir and drawing on scholarship from sexuality, disability, and media studies, I will outline the ways in which the hospital functions as a disciplinary space in the context of internet usage, frames its policies as being in the best interest of patient health, and makes a moral judgement about pornography and the sexuality of patients.
The idea of difference has become a prominent topic of recent discussion. However, Black feminists have been theorizing difference for decades. There are many ways where difference can be used: difference of experience, difference in identity, and even different ways of knowing. This last notion of difference refers to how, depending on one’s standpoint or social location, different “truths” can appear. This paper explores these different uses of difference within Black feminist thought to show Black Feminists’ important contributions to creating new ontologies that rupture dominant ways of knowing, i.e. dominant “truths.” Specifically, this paper argues that understanding difference matters. There is a hope that complicating the nuance of what is “true” or “factual” can help further our pursuit for material and lived social justice.
A ‘metalogue,’ a literary exercise first used by Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, is an imagined dialogue on “some problematic subject.” This metalogue is a fictional conversation between Greek philosopher Heraclitus and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. This exercise understands Aurelius’ Meditations as proposing a theory of universal flux (contradictorily) through an Aristotelian epistemology of the mind/body split. The problem in question is that Aurelius has made claim to eternal knowledge or supernatural proximity with God at the price of severing the body from the mind. Because of this split built into his whole philosophy of life, the cryptic flow of Heraclitus’ reasoning is unacceptably incomplete and hazy to him. Heraclitus confronts Aurelius to make apparent the irony of applying words of epistemological and ontological fluidity to, ultimately, produce a body of imperial strategy. This metalogue attempts to implicate both Aurelius and Heraclitus in the process of learning about the nature of the world of which their own assumptions are a part, as they orient themselves through the oddities of this context.
In her novel Truismes, French author Marie Darrieussecq introduces a character alienated by a patriarchal society. Imprisoned in a posthuman body shaped by constant surveillance and visualisation under a dominating masculine norm, her progressive metamorphosis into a sow reflects her attempt to free herself. It also reflects an attempt to redefine the narrative truth towards a more inclusive vision, embracing all the living.