Welcome to the second issue of Transnational Literature. I am delighted to note that TNL, true to its first origins in the CRNLE (Centre for Research in the New Literatures in English) Reviews Journal, is developing (inter alia) into a lively forum for book reviews. This issue contains reviews of dozens of books, fiction and non-fiction, literary criticism and anthologies, and even of one of a television program.
Several of these reviews are part of our 'Austen Abroad' feature, one of the myriad manifestations of the global reach of Jane Austen's influence in the twenty-first century. Along with the book reviews in the Austen feature, there are three articles, each originating from a different continent - North America, Africa and Australia - because Transnational Literature is also living up to its name, and our contributors have not only considered transnational themes in their contributions, but are themselves from all over the world: from Japan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, England, the USA, South Africa, and practically every state of Australia.
Transnationalism is open to a variety of interpretations, and we have chosen to be liberal in our definition. Thus, although it might be objected that Jane Austen and Iris Murdoch are both British writers, the century and a half that separate them constitutes a sufficiently significant frontier. Transnationality can also be implied by translation, and we include a new translation of a story by the great Rabindranath Tagore. Literature from languages other than English is also included for the first time in this issue, with Maik Nwosu's article on Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits. We also include a review of a biography of the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez.
Without creative writing we would have nothing to write about, so it is with great pleasure that we are able to bring you new work from six poets, as well as a new short story from Christine Williams.
In our November 2008 issue we ran a symposium on the subject 'Does Literature Exist?' The originator of that discussion, Robert Lumsden, exercises his right of reply in this issue. And finally, Ron Klein offers another lighthearted afterthought, 'In the Beginning Was the Word'.
In Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, framed by the same sentence – Barrabás came to us by sea –, her narrative style evidences the dialectics of absence and presence. The present is inexorably connected to the absent and the absent is paradoxically discernible in the present. This dialectics is evident in the novel’s presentation of Chile (Latin America), its treatment of the ‘invisibility’ of blacks, the virtual erasure of Indians, and the ‘disempowerment’ of women. In each of these instances, there is a significant interaction between presence and absence that is an important aspect of the novel’s intercultural structure. The character of Barrabás is especially important in the manner that it points to a conjunction of worlds – both the known and the unknown – and facilitates a widening of the magic sphere in The House of the Spirits.
The character of Tallis Browne in Iris Murdoch's novel 'A Fairly Honourable Defeat' is characterised by her as a figure of good, taking the place of Christ in a post-Christian allegory. This article compares Murdoch's exploration of theological themes with the ethical world created in Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park'. Various possibilities for theological schemes in 'Mansfield Park' are discussed, and the characters analysed and compared to Murdoch's characters in 'A Fairly Honourable Defeat'. It is established, by examining point of view and voice in both novels, that, while Tallis is the moral centre of Murdoch's novel, Fanny is far from embodying the implied morality of the author of Mansfield Park, whose world view is more worldly and sophisticated than Fanny Price's.
The late twentieth century saw a surge in cinematic adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, the films generating wide-spread interest and zeal from a new caste of modern-day Janeites, many of whom were previously unfamiliar with Austen’s work. While the notion of a Janeite culture based purely on motion picture renditions of the original novels is sure to displease literary purists, the purpose of this discussion is not to initiate a debate regarding our responsibility to remain faithful to Austen in her original form. Rather, this article identifies the type of cinematic alterations and emphases which render Austen films more appealing to a certain group of modern-day Janeites. It will be argued that modern-day audiences’ demand for recognisably modern protagonists necessitates the modernization of Austen on film. Thus, cinematic adaptations tend to emphasize Austen’s nascent feminism, re-imagining her heroines as more fiercely independent, lively and witty than their original incarnations. Through additional scenes, altered dialogue and substantial changes to the characters, film producers not only highlight the plight of women in the early nineteenth century, but also circumvent such restrictions by allowing their female protagonists the degree of independence demanded by modern-day audiences.