Issue 4 Editorial

Welcome to Issue 4 of Stet.

After another year the journal returns to present some of the most compelling literary research by postgraduates from a range of academic institutions. Now in its fourth year, the Stet journal continues to take a cross-disciplinary approach to showcasing new research and drawing together diverse scholarship in ways that are unusual and provocative.

When devising a theme for this issue we sought to reflect current critical conversations within the postgraduate community where the journal is based: the English department at King’s College London. Due to the close relationship between Stet and the department’s postgraduate-led ‘Abstract’ seminar series, we felt it appropriate that our call for papers should in some way complement the seminars’ autumn semester theme of ‘After’. At the seminars we had been particularly struck by questions pertaining to the ‘lives of texts’ – the privileging and marginalizing of texts and voices, and the lives impacted by textual production, reception, and suppression. The theme of ‘memory’ was chosen to provoke new responses to such questions and open the discussion to researchers across all periods, disciplines, and academic institutions. The resulting issue contains articles that all consider the various strategies and challenges of representing memory, whether for purposes of ritualization, reflection, testimony, or erasure.

Having received an unprecedented number of submissions, we wish to warmly congratulate those eight researchers whose work emerged from the peer review process as engaging most creatively and persuasively with our theme. Four of those eight researchers represent King’s College, and of those four we are delighted to confirm that Francesca Brooks is the winner of this year’s King’s College Postgraduate Essay Prize for the best article by a current postgraduate. Her article, ‘The Partible Text and the Textual Relic’, illuminates the subject of memory in medieval cults by exploring the properties and purposes of the thirteenth-century devotional text Seinte Margarete. The judge of this year’s prize, Prof Mark Turner, praised the article for ‘linking together fascinating questions connected to hagiography, mnemonics and material culture of various kinds’ and for exploring ‘the role of the relic as a vehicle for memory, both cultural and communal’.

‘The Partible Text and Textual Relic’ introduces a recurring preoccupation across all of the articles here with the different roles and effects of memory in the production of identity. This issue proceeds with two articles that emphasize the role of memory in relation to individual and collective identity, respectively: Rebecca Warren-Heys examines how language encodes memory and identity in Shakespeare’s Richard II with particular focus on how characters in the play remember, discuss, and represent Richard; Chisomo Kalinga writes on theatre from a turning-point in literary representations of the homosexual community (as HIV/AIDS became of national awareness), highlighting the tension between the desire for accurate representation of the lived experience of HIV/AIDS and the need for mitigation of potential misrepresentation of the gay community more broadly.

Articles by Rachel Darling and R.A. Knighton introduce the influence and problems of trauma in literary production, respectively considering how individual and collective memories reflect and affect trauma and the possibility for catharsis. Rachel Darling brings together texts by Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark for an analysis of the writers’ transfiguration of troubling experiences from their own lives into fiction. Her article argues for the experience of catharsis, the ‘exorcizing’ of painful memories, through the process of authorial creation. R. A. Knighton analyses the technique of generic variation in Véronique Tadjo’s Rwandan memoir, The Shadow of Imana, to probe the question of how, and in what form, literature can ever possibly represent an event as cataclysmic and historically complex as genocide.

Bearing witness can powerfully attest to the effectiveness of literary engagements with individual and collective memory, but what is omitted can prove equally powerful. Heather McConnell tackles the methodological and ethical issues surrounding study of the oral histories of the ACT UP AIDS programme, histories responding to homophobia and negligence. She reveals how the scholar often encounters wilful forgetting, silences, avoidance and erasure, and in doing so asks how the scholar can acknowledge the limitations of such subjective records without putting the diversity and variety of the past at risk. The interplay between image and the text in which it is embedded informs Nicola Borasinski’s reading of W.G. Sebald’s meditations on memory and loss; in emphasizing such interplay, she argues for the effects of non-language and what remains unsaid. This issue aptly draws to a close with Oliver Paynel’s reading of Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, an article in which postmodern discourses are used to highlight the reader’s or scholar’s preconditioned and limiting desires for ‘consonance’ in narratives and ‘unity’ in their subject matter. He develops a refreshing reversal of this argument by closely analysing the process by which memory actively engages with and represents specific contexts in the production of identity, advocating the ‘sincerity’ of personal histories whilst simultaneously voicing concern over the tendency of postmodernism to reduce or trivialize the personal/historical beyond a point of functionality.

Some thanks are in order to all those who made this issue possible. We are unashamedly indebted to former Stet co-editor Victoria Carroll and general editor Sophie Lally for their availability and advice whenever we needed guidance. Once again Jennifer Lo’s invaluable technical prowess makes her solely creditable for the journal existing in its finished form. We would like to thank all those researchers who submitted their articles for consideration and therefore made the process of review and selection so competitive and exciting. Finally we wish to extend our gratitude to the peer reviewers who offered their expertise and critical feedback.

All that remains is to express our sincerest hope that you enjoy this latest issue of Stet.

Alex Belsey and Rebecca Hardie, editors.


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