Welcome to the November 2015 issue of Transnational Literature.
In this issue we mark the passing of our dear friend, mentor and colleague, Syd Harrex in May this year. Syd's legacy is evident in the many eloquent tributes in poetry and prose provided for this issue by those who knew him, as well as in a recent publication, Whaddaya Know? edited by Ron Blaber (Wakefield Press) and the June issue of Asiatic, edited by Syd's former student Mohammad A. Quayum. This will be followed by a special feature honouring Syd's work in December 2016 – available here
The significance of Syd's legacy for Transnational Literature can hardly be overstated. Simply put, without Syd the journal would not exist. Syd set up the Centre for Research in the New Literatures in English at Flinders University, and established the CRNLE Reviews Journal in 1979. Transnational Literature is the direct descendant of that journal, and is built on the networks that Syd fostered throughout the Anglophone world. Not only that, but without Syd's prompting at an early stage in my own academic career, while I was still studying for my Honours degree at Flinders University, I doubt that it would have occurred to me to submit my work for publication. Having begun on that path, I felt confident to enter the world of academia, effectively as a second career in parallel with my established work in the university library. Syd's gentle, collegial encouragement kept me going through my early forays into publication, and introduced me to the delights of literary conferences, both at the famous Penneshaw conferences and elsewhere. So when I was offered the chance to edit the journal, I barely hesitated – and here we are, 15 issues later. Syd served on the Advisory Board of TNL from the first issue until his death.
Aside from the direct tributes to Syd in this issue, we are offering a diversity of intellectual inquiry and creativity which is very much in the spirit of Syd's legacy. We have the second and more substantial part of a Special Feature on Philosophy and Literature which began in the May 2015 issue, including seven peer-reviewed essays on a broad range of literatures – French, Spanish, Indian, Australian, American, English – and a pair of essays featuring another larger-than-life Flinders personality, philosopher Brian Medlin. Firstly there is his own essay in words and pictures, titled 'Mysticism and Stuff Like That', and secondly, his former Flinders colleague, Brian Matthews, has contributed the text of his Brian Medlin Memorial Lecture, presented in 2014, a highly entertaining reminiscence of Medlin (who died in 2004) and of early days in Humanities at Flinders University.
As always, we offer a strong selection of creative writing in this issue. Ten poets have contributed to this issue, and there are seven pieces of prose creative writing, ranging from a Kafka-infused story set in Japan to a passionate defence of freedom of choice in modes of dress. There is also a translation of oral poetry from the Ahirani language of Maharashtra.
A varied collection of book reviews rounds out this issue.
Thanks to all the editorial team – including our new Creative and Life Writing editor, Ruth Starke, and new assistant editor Michael Lee Gardin from San Antonio, Texas. Particular thanks to Melinda Graefe, who has assembled the tributes to Syd Harrex, and to Kathryn Koromilas, who did much of the initial work for the Philosophy and Literature feature. And to the many anonymous peer reviewers we have called upon in preparing this and every issue, we are deeply grateful for your thoughtful and constructive reports. Almost without exception, your comments and suggestions are received gratefully, and provide authors at various stages of their academic careers with invaluable guidance. This is a substantial though largely unacknowledged service to the international academic community.
This paper argues for a coalition of ‘embattled adversaries’, namely philosophy and literature and it does that by referring to Derrida`s seminal work, Margins of Philosophy. To deepen our thesis about the alliance of philosophy and literature, we also allude to Indian philosophy and the great Indian philosophico-literary epic, the Mahabharata. Foundational Indian philosophic texts such as the Vedas and the Upanishads were articulated through poetic hymns which exude rich literary inflexions. This literary inscape of Indian philosophical texts testifies the close kinship or non-duality of philosophy and literature. The Mahabharata is both philosophy as literature as well as philosophy and literature simultaneously. We would establish this claim by foregrounding the philosophical theme of cosmography or cosmological time/ deep time/kala or what we call thick time as enunciated in the Mahabharata.. Derrida used the term ‘tympanum’ to signify the divisive borderlines that constitutes epistemic and disciplinary boundaries. Derrida called for de-tympanising all margins that distances philosophy from its alienated Other such as literature. Such acts of de-tympanisation or deconstruction are the ways by which Derrida sought to bridge philosophy with its ‘suppressed outside’. In fact Mahabharata is a classic example of Derridean non-site that blurs the boundaries between literature and philosophy.
The philosophy, criticism, and poetics of George Santayana (1863-1952) greatly influenced some of the most important writers in the Modernist moment - and are widely regarded as an oeuvre shaped to the core by Santayana’s experience and identity as a native Spaniard. While critics and biographers of Santayana have upheld the view that Santayana’s Spanishness is deeply evident in all reaches of his moral, theoretical, and aesthetic outlook, this essay argues not for the particular importance of Santayana’s Spanish roots, but rather for the importance of the cultural traumas of his immigrant experience in the US as they relate to his philosophical worldview and poetics. His cynical, materialist philosophies that decry faith in institutions as well as institutional faith, coupled with his privilege of ethical underpinnings and syntactic complexities in poetry, can be attributed more to his immigrant purview than to an especially Spanish persona. Recontextualising Santayana’s poetics in light of his biography, this essay reexamines Santayana’s key contributions to ideations of American Modernism, particularly in the field of poetry: Santayana’s influence on Wallace Stevens’s doubt and T. S. Eliot’s ‘objective correlative,’ some of the most lasting tropes of Modernist poetry - poetics derivative of a disillusionment endemic to the interstitial cultural sphere of the immigrant.
This is an 1800 chapter in a memoir concerning my grandfather, an ANZAC who was sent to Japan in 1945 after the New Guinea campaign. I explore my feelings of discovering his war experience, his medals for sale on the Internet, having a war veteran I never knew, and his estrangement from my father.