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RANAM – Recherches anglaises et nord-américaines
European Society for the Study of English
ESSE 6 – Strasbourg 2002
Volume 3 – Cultural Studies

General editor: Albert Hamm
Sub-editors for this volume: Christian Civardi & Jürgen Schlaeger
Strasbourg: Université Marc Bloch, N° 36/2003, 2003.
€16.46, 182 pages, ISSN 05576989.

Marie-José Arquié
Université de Metz

During ESSE’s sixth Conference held in Strasbourg from 30 August to 3 September 2002, the hosts and organisers at Université Marc Bloch promised to dedicate the thirty-sixth issue of the periodical RANAM to the publication of “some of the results of the Conference” [p. 6]. While Volume one and two are respectively devoted to literature and linguistics, Volume three presents seventeen articles which fall under the heading “cultural studies.” The papers selected were drawn from seven seminars covering a large number of topics and periods, which obviously turned the arrangement of the articles into an organisational challenge. The sub-editors, who acknowledge in the “Presentation of the volume” [p. 7] that their task was difficult, have chosen to place first three texts based on literary sources: some unpublished letters by the Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, Benjamin Jowett’s late nineteenth-century translations of Plato, and The Counterfeit Lady Unveiled, published by Francis Kirkman in 1673. The eleven concluding articles all focus on the city; they range from analyses of time and space in the city, for example “Commemorating the millennium in London: Stages and spaces” or “Cities dreaming: Passageways between Paris and New York,” to investigations into racial questions, social ecology, smallpox, to quote but a few. Three articles, which concentrate on mass communication, form a transition between the two series of texts and concern the Internet with the analysis of corporeity in two online diaries, television and political satire, and the media as a source for the teaching of cultural studies. The sub-editors have thus succeeded in creating unity and progression in the volume.

Katia Malaussena and Peter Claus analyse two patterns of celebrations in London thoroughly in “Commemorating the millennium in London: Stages and spaces” [pp. 85-99] and “Recalling the City: the Lord Mayor’s Show and pageants of memory” [pp. 139-144]. Unlike most writers, Katia Malaussena examines the spaces chosen for the commemoration of the millennium, the location of the buildings which were erected for the occasion, and the use of the river Thames “as a symbolic thread” [p. 94]. She argues convincingly that the celebrations were “an attempt to redefine the discourse on the national past […] and project a renewed vision of the nation itself” [p. 86]. Peter Claus’s interesting work is based on the evolution of the Lord Mayor’s Show during the second half of the nineteenth century: in the mid-nineteenth century, it was a progression along the river Thames to Westminster, which turned into a holiday show in the streets of the City in the 1870s and, in the late 1880s, concentrated on historical images, great men and glorious events. Thus the City appeared as a kind of sanctuary against change, while the Show and the banquet were the tangible relationship between past and present. Both patterns of celebration appeared to make history an ideology of modernity and sought to revive a declining sense of history. Both were a commemoration of national heritage, sometimes transformed and imagined.
The production of ritual and myth is also the topic of “Spectacle and myth in O’Connell/Sackville Street, Dublin” [pp. 101-111] by Gary A. Boyd. In his article, which goes back and forth between literature and history, he describes O’Connell Street (formerly known as Sackville Street), initially an exclusive suburb of Dublin, as the symbol of British domination in the nineteenth century: Nelson’s pillar and the GPO, which was built at the time of the battle of Waterloo, seemed to be the expression of close links between Ireland and the Empire. After the 1916 Easter rising, which caused its destruction, and Irish independence, it became the centre for Republicanism, and the rebuilt GPO “a Catholicised shrine of Republicanism” [p. 110]. The three authors present two nations which looked into their past—sometimes a recreation of their past—in their quest for national identity.

On arrival in a new country, immigrants tend to flock to cities. According to Jeffrey B. Berlin in “The Foreigner: German Refugees in Great Britain in the 1930s, with unpublished Stefan Zweig letters” [pp. 9-12], Stefan Zweig’s unpublished letters reveal “genuine appreciation toward Great Britain, which offered an environment of freedom and peace” [p. 11]. The brief, necessarily superficial text concludes that the documents are a testimony to the mood in Europe and to all aspects, including the negative ones, of the life of an intellectual émigré in Great Britain. Vincent Latour draws a different picture in his excellent article entitled “Integration or disintegration? The British multicultural model in question” [pp. 155-161]. He analyses the evolution of the legislation dealing with immigration and racial discrimination between 1945 and today. He then takes the example of Bristol “to emphasise the current divisions between the various ethnic communities” [p. 157] and concludes that “the British multicultural system has become less and less of a model, as the country is running the risk of becoming balkanised along ethnic lines” [p. 161].
On the contrary, Christian Civardi, in “Integration vs. assimilation: Scottish football and its Asian minorities” [pp. 163-167], after defining the concepts of “integration” and “assimilation” brilliantly, draws the commonsensical conclusion that, in football, the best players are selected whatever their racial origin.
Katia Malaussena, in “Commemorating the millennium in London: Stages and spaces” [pp. 85-99], stresses that the organisers of the millennium celebrations made sure all communities were included in various festivals and locations in order to create a sense of belonging and give a form of unity to London seen as a representation of Britain. The authors thus present a contrasted vision of Britain as a nation which has been trying to come to terms with the arrival of newcomers and attempting to strengthen its identity since the 1930s.

Protest has always been rife in the city as Brendan Prendiville (“Social ecology in the British city” [pp. 145-154]), Yann Belliard (“‘Outlandish ‘isms’ in the city’: how Madame Sorgue contaminated Hull with the virus of direct action” [pp. 113-125]), and Logie Barrow (“Victorian ‘pest houses’ amid London’s march of brick and mortars” [pp. 127-137]) remind us. In 1911 during her British tour on behalf of the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), Madame Sorgue, a French lady of aristocratic origins, was adopted by the working population of the port of Kingston upon Hull. Yann Belliard brilliantly presents Madame Sorgue, the working population of Hull, and the restrictions placed upon her by the ship-owners, merchants and authorities. He analyses in depth the reasons why the working population adopted her and why the Hull workers put into practice the direct action she had advocated during the strikes of 1911, 1912 and 1913. Brendan Prendiville’s superb text defines social ecology, analyses its specificity and the characteristics of the social ecology movement of the 1990s. It scientifically reaches the conclusion that the movement prevented the premature sclerosis of the wider environmental movement and deepened the understanding of, and the support for, urban environmentalism. Logie Barrow’s starting-point is the protest of the population of Hampstead in the 1880s against the efforts of the Metropolitan Asylums Board to place a large Hospital for Infectious Diseases near Hampstead Heath. He argues that urbanisation breeds fear and loathing and shows how the authorities devised a policy of removing poorer patients to special hospitals. Yet the removal of those patients was a dangerous process since it spread infection. He concludes his interesting study on the success of the protest movement in Hampstead, and underlines the paradoxes of Britain’s peculiar understanding of the word “freedom.” The three well-researched articles illustrate how effective protest leads to improvements in living and working conditions and fosters awareness of the role of citizens.

In his presentation of the volume, Christian Civardi argues that he wants to avoid opening a debate on the features “distinguish[ing] civilisation from cultural studies” [p. 7], a debate which occasionally flares up between advocates of either camp. While such papers as “Social ecology in the British city” [pp. 145-154], or “Integration or disintegration? The British multicultural model in question” [pp. 155-161] can be branded as civilisation, “Representing the city: a geographical and literary dialogue” [pp. 65-69] (Alison McCleery and Alistair McCleery), which justifies the use of the regional and urban novels as a tool for geographical analysis, is an example of cultural studies. That field is also studied in “The media, a necessary resource for British cultural studies” [pp. 59-64], in which María José Coperías Aguilar makes a historical survey of the methods used to teach British Cultural Studies (BCS) to foreign students.
The topic of Viviane Serfaty’s “Me, myself and I: Online embodied identity in America” [pp. 35-47] lies at the intersection of body, gender and cyberspace in two Internet diaries.
Stefano Evangelista (“Against Misinterpretation: Benjamin Jowett’s Translations of Plato and the Ethics of Modern Homosexuality” [pp. 13-25]) interestingly investigates “how Platonic studies in Oxford became connected with the attempt to recreate a space for male-male desire in modern culture” [p. 13], and examines the tensions between Plato’s thought and nineteenth-century thought and culture.

However, a number of articles deal neither with cultural studies nor with civilisation; they are literary in character. Raquel Ruiz García’s “Sense of place in Zoë Akins’s Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting” [pp. 71-77] merely draws a parallel between the main characters of the play, their change of residence and the disintegration of their personal relationship. “Swept up by scandal: Francis Kirkman and his counterfeit lady” [pp. 27-34] by Sarah E. Skwire is a superb critical analysis of The Counterfeit Lady Unveiled, published by Francis Kirkman in 1673, “his account of the case of Mary Carleton, one of the most copiously documented scandals of seventeenth-century England” [p. 27]. “British television satire” [pp. 49-57] (Jim Bee) uses literary tools and theories to analyse political satire in an extract from the programme Have I Got News For You? and reaches the conclusion that the show ridicules and insults public figures and is “a game of irreverent wit” [p. 57]. Ana Soares (“Cities dreaming: Passageways between Paris and New York” [pp. 79-83]) wrote a piece of dream-like literature by skipping from reference to reference (historical, philosophical, or literary). Thus the volume covers a wide variety of genres and goes beyond the accepted definitions of civilisation and cultural studies.

The volume is beautifully presented, in spite of the very large number of misprints (for example “Zweig could expressed [sic]” [p. 11], “whose bohemian ideals does [sic] not conform” [p. 76], “I will not only to talk [sic]” [p. 85], “de world ‘new’ [sic]” [p. 91], “refering [sic]” [p. 145], “fashionab le [sic]” and “Britains’s [sic]” [p. 164, Note 2]), and inconsistencies in the spelling of proper nouns. Its interest resides in the peaceful confrontation between civilisation and cultural studies, and in the presentation of numerous facets of national identity, citizenship and culture at large.




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