Welcome to the May 2013 issue of Transnational Literature, the tenth since the journal's inception in November 2008. As interest in the journal has grown, nationally and internationally, the workload has naturally increased, and late in 2012 a number of people joined the editorial committee. This is the first issue which the new team has produced, and I would like to thank each of the editors for their hard work.
Most of the new editors have taken on sections of the journal which were already established, such as poetry (Heather Taylor Johnson, replacing Debra Zott) and poetry reviews (Nathanael O'Reilly), or have come on board as assistant editors for articles (Paul Ardoin) or prose creative writing (Jonathan Bellot). However, a new development is the creation of the new role of Translations Editor (Md Rezaul Haque). Transnational Literature has always published translations of creative and critical work. However, this new position confirms and strengthens this focus, and we invite submissions of new translations for consideration.
We are also pleased to welcome Nena Bierbaum in the new role of Administrative Editor.
The May 2013 issue of the journal contains six substantial articles, five of which look back in time as well as across national borders. Hussein A. Alhawamdeh compares the depiction of the 'moor' in Shakespeare's Othello and the Sudanese author Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North; while Nicole Anae reveals the outpouring of poetry occasioned by the wreck of the Admella off the South Australian coast in 1859, and Tyler Scott Smith traces links between the celebration of tiny feet in the Cinderella legend and the Chinese tradition of footbinding. John Clement Ball discusses four twentieth-century novels which look back to eighteenth-century London, making visible the large black population of that already cosmopolitan city, while Clare Archer-Lean reconsiders the evocation of place in the controversial writings of the twentieth-century author Colin Johnson, also known as Mudrooroo. Finally, Anway Mukhopadhyay looks at the trope of madness in Chandani Lokuge's novel If the Moon Smiled (2000).
Also in this issue is an interview by Angus Whitehead with Singapore writer Andrew Koh, the author of only the second 'gay' novel in Singapore.
We also include a tribute to Loula S. Rodopoulos, who died earlier this year, and who had been a regular contributor of poetry and book reviews to the journal over the past three years.
The creative writing section of the issue contains contributions from writers from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and there are translations of poetry and prose from Russian, Kashmiri and Catalan.
There are more than 40 book reviews in this issue, including a substantial review essay of Paul Sharrad's book Postcolonial Literary History and Indian English Fiction by Md Rezaul Haque. This issue is particularly strong on reviews of creative and life writing books, and accordingly we have divided the book reviews into several sections: poetry, fiction and life-writing, in addition to the usual category of history, theory and criticism.
We trust that you will find this new issue challenging, stimulating and engrossing.
Works of Australian Literature have frequently been situated within national literary frameworks. But there is much recent scholarship that contests such ideas and explores transnational engagement in literary production. An author that has been seen as embodying the spectral nature of the Australian literary paradigm is Colin Johnson, pseudonym Mudrooroo. While, the complexities around Mudrooroo's identity as black Australian author are infamous: these biographical complexities are not the focus of this paper. Instead, Mudrooroo's Master of the Ghost Dreaming Series is explored as an evocation of place that encompasses a series of ever widening spheres: the local, the regional, the national, the transnational, the trans-human and the cosmic.
Singaporean Andrew Koh was a founding member of the groundbreaking Necessary Stage theatre company in 1987. In Singapore he is best remembered as the author of Glass Cathedral (1995), Singapore's second gay novel[la], which won the 1994 Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award and was subsequently shortlisted for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Novel Regional Awards. A collection of poetry, Hybrid from the East, was published in the UK in 1997. A second novel awaits publication. After initially leaving Singapore for London in the mid-1990s he now lives in Sydney as a healthcare worker and qualified Chinese medicine practitioner. Sixteen years after its initial publication, Glass Cathedral the novel is finally receiving attention and reappraisal in the wake of its Glass Cathedral's republication by Epigram Books as a Singapore Classic, alongside works such as Goh Poh Seng's The Immolation, Robert Yeo's The Adventures of Holden Heng and Lloyd Fernando's Scorpion Orchid. The interview took place on 8 November 2011 at a restaurant on the site of Koh's alma mater St Joseph's Institution, Bras Basah Road, Singapore, just days after Koh returned to the city-state and gave a spirited reading from and talk about Glass Cathedral at the Singapore Writers Festival. In this interview Koh discusses his Catholic upbringing, and his employment as a policeman during Singapore's policy of entrapment of homosexual men during the 1990s. Koh goes on to discuss how he came to write Glass Cathedral, his leaving Singapore in response to the nation-state's repressive climate and unsympathetic response to queer writing. In the second half of the interview Koh discusses homophobia in Singapore, the Catholic Church, and elsewhere and its roots in misogyny. Koh also draws attention to other issues explored in Glass Cathedral: the marginalisation of minorities in a supposedly multicultural nation state and the impact of Singapore's secret history on the novel, the so-called 'Marxist Conspiracy' of 1987, on the novel.
In her novel, If the Moon Smiled, Chandani Lokuge, the Sri Lankan-Australian writer, presents us with a madwoman figure whose gendered body, it can be argued, reflects the symbolic crisscrossing between the body as a 'bounded system' and the nation's territory as a bounded space. The constrictions that this boundedness and embodiedness entail, along with their various cultural encodings, are deftly and subtly treated in Lokuge's novel. The madwoman, Manthri, in the narrative, challenges many of our received ideas about place and displacement, and more importantly, sanity and insanity. Again, the novel stages a metaphorical interplay between the topoi of (gendered) insanity and political insanity, social 'normalization'(a la Michel Foucault) of the sexed body and political normalization of the nation's territorial body. The present article seeks to explore all these themes from the vantage point of gender. At the same time, it also interrogates the political dimension of the 'ethics of sexual difference'(a la Luce Irigaray). The main objective of this article is to situate a diasporic text within the problematic no-man's-land between place and displacement, sanity and insanity, dissent and dismemberment, Self and Other(individual/national/cultural).
This examination attempts to claim the significance of a number of original poems written by nineteenth-century amateur poets in direct response to the wreck of the SS Admella and published in the days, weeks and months following the actual event on 6 August 1859. Situating selected works in the collection of verse contemporaneously termed 'Admella poetry' against the cultural backdrop of this maritime disaster reveals that these poems contributed to informing the colonial and trans-Australian mindset in response to the tragedy. 'Admella' poets responded to twin cultural upheavals affected by the disaster: the unprecedented communal response to the wreck as a colonial tragedy; and, the two-fold significance of the electric telegraph in both mediating the event as a real-life occurrence, and in mobalising communities in a collective experience of trauma, grief and commemoration.
In Black London: Life before Emancipation (1995), Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina writes of how, on discovering that 15,000 Africans and their descendants were living in London in 1768, she was struck by a vision of her present-day London as 'suddenly occupied by two simultaneous centuries' (2) - an eighteenth-century city of black pageboys and entertainers, of black beggars and prostitutes and autobiographers, overlaying the late twentieth-century one like a ghostly palimpsest. In the same decade as Gerzina was articulating these spectral imaginings, four prominent black British novelists were similarly looking back to the eighteenth century - to the final decades of the British slave trade, to the Atlantic Ocean across and around which it took place, and to London, where the abolitionist cause was advanced. Caryl Phillips, S.I. Martin, David Dabydeen, and Fred D'Aguiar all published novels in the 1990s that have black protagonists and are set entirely or partly in the eighteenth-century metropolis. In the subsequent decade, two Canadian novelists did likewise: Lawrence Hill and Thomas Wharton both published historical novels featuring female ex-slaves that end up in London after long and circuitous oceanic journeys.[i] Since historical novels are always prompted by present-tense obsessions and therefore frequently gaze at two centuries simultaneously, how does this outpouring of eighteenth-century-oriented narrative reflect and enhance our contemporary understanding of slavery, the Atlantic world, and London? What geographies and identities, what forms of mobility and dwelling, what personal quests and local or global communities do these novels imagine for the imperial capital's black inhabitants at a time when the prevailing winds were blowing abolition and revolutionary political change across the Atlantic world? And how do these texts - transhistorical, transnational, circum-Atlantic visions of London echo - or anticipate - other postcolonial writings about the world city of our time and the black person's place in it?