Apologetic Academics or Making a Case for Neutrality? – Another ‘Blackface’ Issue

Here is my summary of Richard Burt’s 2006 essay on the use of ‘blackface’ in the film Stage Beauty.
In the first two chapters of his 5 chapter-article “Backstage Pass(ing): Stage Beauty, Othello and the Makeup of Race”, Richard Burt details how the film Stage Beauty (Richard Eyre, 2004) sheds light on the issue of race by comparing it to the film Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998).

First, he exposes the parallels between the two films: Both are utilizing the ‘play-within-the film’ category of cinema, both engage in genre-mixing of Shakespeare adaptation and romantic comedy and both show signs of artificial acting and specific scene selections common to these kinds of films. Furthermore, Stage Beauty recycles two of Shakespeare in Love’s actors and employs both UK and US actors throughout. Burt explains, however, that no matter how similar in artificiality, Stage Beauty implicitly thematises the issue of race and criticizes the common, color-blind racism of transnational Shakespeare adaptations.
The first chapter details the ways in which Stage Beauty differs in dealing with the race: Somewhat confusingly, Stage Beauty seems to emphasize ‘whiteness’, with Claire Danes’ face being artificially illuminated on the DVD cover as well as being stylistically made up to highlight her ‘white features’. This leads to the question of significance in regards to making Othello the play-within-the film, and therefore having to make the protagonist wear ‘blackface’ and then failing to explicitly address this issue in any way. However, Burt argues that the film does this, strategically and more efficiently, by using implicit techniques. Burt criticizes previous attempts to integrate black actors in historically unfitting roles, which is what he calls “[…] export[ing] Shakespeare by recolonising post-colonial American Shakespeare” (55). By making use of ‘blackface’, alluding to a scene from Stuart Burge’s 1965 Othello, and utilizing cinematic methods to add meaning to ‘whiteness’ and ‘darkness’, Stage Beauty addresses the issue in a quite sincere way and therefore abstains from colour-blind racism.
In the second chapter, Burt extends on the first chapter’s assumptions by explaining that the film seems to engage in a type of self-parody: By highlighting its similarity to Shakespeare in Love and many other romantic comedies infused with Shakespeare citations, it shows its adversity to the “[…] present state of affairs” (57). This is done precisely by choosing Othello over other Shakespeare plays to be performed in the film, as well as disconnecting the love relationship in the play from the love relationship behind the scenes, and subtly mocking films like Shakespeare in love. This helps in pointing to the issue of race by putting itself in a position of being forced to use ‘blackface’. Burt notes, however, that, unfortunately, the use of these techniques also made it more likely that the film was not going to be as commercially successful as Shakespeare in Love. To sum up, Stage Beauty implicitly criticizes the habit of UK and US filmmakers of Shakespeare adaptations to attempt face-saving versions of colour-blind casting and cinematic techniques.

Okay, so…

my first thought when I read the first few words of the essay was “omfg, another apologetic academic trynna justify unjustifyable shit”. Honest truth. I do feel like much of his argument is based on strange assumptions. But is that really a helpful perspective? I almost put down the essay and gave up. But I decided not to ignore people’s ideas and perceptions and to give it a chance and I must say that I do get some of the validity of the argument.

As I have stressed before…what is the point of ignoring perspectives? Just because it is a sensitive and politically incorrect issue, should we really just ignore it? I think the solution is to listen to all sides and to keep an open mind. And I know some of you may even want to call me apologetic for that. But guess what? I just want an actual solution to a problem and I cannot handle being told to censor myself to please unreasonable feelings.

I don’t think this guy is right. I think he is misguided. But that doesn’t give me the right to silence him. Unless it is blatantly racist, I don’t see why I should deny myself the critical thought and deny the world the right to free speech and thought.

HOWEVER, here is the other side: ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT EVEN GIVEN A CHANCE TO VOICE THEIR CONCERNS, THEIR VOICES ARE LEFT IN THE BACKGROUND, IF AT ALL APPARENT. Those voices are those of people not privileged enough to make a case for themselves in an academic setting, usually based on racial background. Once again, we are placed in front of a race and class issue which should not exist.

And yea…I completely support the side that says “as long as most of academia is white, it seems unfair”. How do we solve this issue?

By finding and focussing on the actual culprit, which is and always has been the government and its messed up system promoting hierarchy, interpersonal divisions and psychological oppression.

And then….well…then we go from there.

Burt, Richard. “Backstage Pass(ing): Stage Beauty, Othello and the Makeup of Race.” Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century. Eds. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray. Edinburgh: EUP Ltd, 2006. 53-71. Print.

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Should Past ‘White-Centric’ Misrepresentations of Blackness Be Erased from Academic Discourse? (A Summary)

Or do they serve the purpose of showing us what we do not want to repeat?

Here is one perspective:

Peter Holland, professor of Shakespeare Studies, and Associate Dean for the Arts at the University of Notre Dame, makes a somewhat troubling case for the much criticized ‘Blackface Othello’ played by Laurence Olivier in the 1965 film with the same title, in his essay Rethinking Blackness: The Case of Olivier’s “Othello”.

At first glance it seems Holland wants us to support the notion that ‘Blackface Othello’ should be seen in a more positive light. Of course, this is difficult to do.


Holland explains that marketing of the film has always been completely focussed on Olivier and that it has been widely ignored within academic circles of Shakespeare studies. And while criticizing the production value of the film, as well as the director’s lack of experience regarding the cinematic field, he urges the reader to view the film in a new light.

Although Holland does not necessarily support the decision to use ‘blackface’, he speaks of Olivier as an actor who is used to transforming into the character he plays, which in this case meant a transformation into a black man, and that, in over-accentuating his version of ‘blackness’ with his over-the-top performance, Olivier helped shed light on the white perception of ‘Blackness’.

Examples of his exaggerated performance are the use of a made-up accent and walk as well as a ‘sexualisation’ of the character. As much as it is in itself racist to do so, Holland says that its illuminating effects of the white perception of what it is to be black exposes much of the racism which needs to be exposed and it is precisely that which makes it important not to neglect Olivier’s Othello from academic discourse.

This argument is given further credibility by comparing it to the opera performance Otello, where the character Othello is played by Placido Domingo, a white singer. Holland theorizes that the reason for this could be the inherently ‘imperialist audience’ which comes with opera production and questions the lack of interest in political correctness in the field.

Furthermore, an important parallel is constructed to F.R. Leavis’s depiction of the character Othello from his 1937 essay Diabolic Intellect and the Noble Hero. Holland defines Leavis’s perception of the character as predominantly ego-centrical, a perception which was later attached to Olivier and furthered by the claim that Olivier disregards Shakespearean poetry by tending to act out his own interpretation of the character more than the words.

However, Holland disagrees and asserts that it is likely that Olivier’s self-centred and over-the-top performance has helped construct the white perception of ‘blackness’ within the bounds of its own offensive racism and he stresses the significance of seeing the historical relevance in that fact.

I guess all I really got out of this is that, yes, we should not erase the past from our minds, and yes…just wanting something to be gone from our minds does not make it so.

Maybe it is actually important that, instead of constantly apologizing for the past and hoping for it to just be over, so that we, white people, can finally come out of the doghouse…maybe…just maybe….we should just look at it all in a real, and in a critical way. To really open our minds.

Just putting a band-aid on a broken leg usually doesn’t do the trick.

But, while it shouldn’t be erased from academic discourse, the fact that these things, which are being discussed, happened and happen…it still sucks and should be addressed as such. It seems a little insensitive and too apologetic to me to say “Olivier helped illuminate the white perception of Blackness”. He also helped ridicule a large group of people.

There is no way to go about this in a politically correct way, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to be decent.

And let’s remember…. I really don’t see Black academics having the upper hand on the perception of whiteness, so….Maybe when there is an actual balance, then we can start acting like we are not up here on our highhorse flaunting our privilege.

Posted in learning, Life, literature, society | 1 Comment

“Nur glückliche Orangen in der Saftpresse”

Präsenz am Beispiel von OK Kids „Gute Menschen“

Der Begriff der Präsenz nach Gumbrecht

Literaturwissenschaftler und Universitätsprofessor an der Standford University, Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht, entwickelte in den 1990ern ein Forschungsgebiet, welches sich mit den Wirkungen der Materialität von Texten auseinandersetzt, wodurch sich anschließend auch das Konzept der Präsenz herausarbeiten lies. Mit Präsenz ist ein Gegenbegriff zum Sinn gemeint. (Sinn meint in diesem Fall nicht eine Omnipräsenz, sondern ein zeitliches Empfinden, welches auf einem gegenwärtigen Gefühlserlebnis basiert).[1] Gumbrecht beschreibt diese Art von körperlichem Erleben vollkommener Gegenwartsempfindung selbst in folgendem Zitat:

Was also präsent ist, befindet sich in unserer Reichweite, ist etwas, das wir berühren können und das wir unmittelbar mit den Sinnen wahrnehmen. Präsenz in diesem Sinne schließt natürlich die Zeitdimension nicht aus, bindet aber Zeit immer an einen Raum. Unter Präsenzbedingungen sind Bewegungen entweder schnell oder langsam […]. [2]

Gumbrecht beschreibt die Präsenz hier als eine Art Überladung der Körperlichkeit, und somit des räumlichen Empfindens über dem zeitlichen Empfinden. Auch steht der Begriff der Präsenz in direkter Opposition zu Derrida’s Dekonstruktion, dem Sprachlichen, sowie zur Hermeneutik, der Überbewertung der Interpretation. Mit Hinblick auf die Präsenz steht also das körperliche Empfinden bei der Erfahrung von Kunst im Vordergrund. Eingeleitet ist dieses körperliche Empfinden der Präsenz von der Materialität des Kunstwerks, welches die Räumlichkeit und Distanz zwischen Körpern darstellt. Somit wird etwas vorerst als in der Distanz erscheinendes sozusagen greifbar jedoch gleichzeitig niemals fixierbar gemacht. [3]

Man sollte bei der Analyse von Sprache in Bezug auf Präsenz, nach Gumbrecht zwischen sechs Zusammenhängen unterscheiden:

  • Präsenz als Ausdruck der Sprache von etwas, was der Körper selbst erfahren kann (Rhythmus).
  • Präsenz als Wunsch nach etwas Abwesenden, wobei das Begehren im Vordergrund steht.
  • Präsenz als etwas Abwesendes, wobei das ästhetische Erleben im Vordergrund steht.
  • Präsenz als eine Transformation des Geschriebenen, vom Wörtlichen zur Deixis, wobei das ‚auf-die-Worte zeigen‘ im Vordergrund steht.
  • Präsenz als Sprache des unerreichbarem Mystischen, wobei das ständige Scheitern dessen im Vordergrund steht.
  • Präsenz als literarische sowie räumliche Repräsentation der Epiphanie, wobei das Erzeugen von Effekten der Epiphanie im Vordergrund stehen. [4]

Zwischen den aufgelisteten Zusammenhängen soll nun, in der folgenden Kurzanalyse des Songtextes „Gute Menschen“ von OK Kid, unterschieden werden, um seine Präsenz herauszuarbeiten.

OK Kids „Gute Menschen“

OK Kid ist eine dreiköpfige Popgruppe aus der Region um Gießen, welche im Jahr 2014 am Bundesvision Song Contest teilnahm und den 9. Platz belegte. In Bezug auf den 2015 Song „Gute Menschen wurde die Band von dem Gießener Anzeiger, wie folgt, beschrieben:

Die Gießener Band “OK Kid” ist für ihre kritische und reflektierte Sicht auf die Welt bekannt – dass sie sich politisch äußert, ist allerdings ein Novum. [5]

Auch wird empfunden, dass der Song „die gesamte deutsche Grundhaltung infrage“ stellt. Neben den schon existenten Interpretationen, soll die folgende Kurzanalyse nun erörtern, ob und wie der Song es mit Hilfe seiner Lyrics schafft durch seine Materialität eine Präsenz zu erzeugen.


In Bezug auf seinen Rhythmus kann behauptet werden, dass der Songtext vorerst zu einer sehr monotonen Übersetzung der Worte hinleitet. Auf diese Weise erzeugt er seinen eigenen Rhythmus, welches ein Gefühl des ‚Robotersein‘ auslöst. Ein körperliches Empfinden einer Art Enge wird, vor allem von der ersten Strophe, mit Hilfe der Sprachwahl erzeugt. So verleitet z.B. die Zeile „Ein Leben im Korsett“ und der Ausdruck des Verdrängens zu einer Art mentaler Atemnot. Die simplen oder gar nicht erst existierenden Reime erzeugen ein Gefühl des Un-authentischen, was an ‚Text-to-Voice‘ Computerprogramme der frühen 2000er erinnert:

Alles ist einfach, bist du einfach gestrickt
Kein Knoten im Kopf, nur ein Faden am Genick
Und dann ab Richtung Glückseligkeit
Ein Leben im Korsett
Ein guter Mensch verdrängt was er nicht weiß. [6]

Das ‚Empfinden des Roboterseins‘ transformiert sich jedoch im Laufe des Textes: Die steigernde Ironie der Sprache verleitet in der letzten Strophe zum Gefühl der Wut:

Was, was homophob? (nein, nein, nein, nein, nein)
Sie sind da für kranke Menschen, auch Schwule kann man heilen
Eine Hand wäscht die andere rein
Brownies backen für die Hochzeit, Mohrenköpfe teilen
Und wenn im Sportlerheim die erste Strophe erklingt
Und das Brüderlein singt, ist das überhaupt nicht schlimm
Niemand schiebt hier irgendjemand ab
Alle lieben Aydin Döner – beste Soße der Stadt

In Bezug auf den Wunsch nach etwas Abwesenden kann behauptet werden, dass

der Songtext ein Gefühl der Enge veranlasst, was zu dem Begehren nach Luft, nach Atmung, oder sogar nach einer Befreiung, führt. Dies kann z.B. an Wort -und Phrasenwahl wie „Korsett“, „Faden am Genick“, „Orangen in der Saftpresse“, „rumlutschen bis zum Schluss“, in der ersten Strophe ausgemacht werden. Des Weiteren ist eine innere Leere zu spüren, welche von der fortlaufenden Ironie in zweiten Strophe veranlasst wird:

Nein sie sind keine Nazis, auch sie trinken Kaffee Togo
Auch sie waren schon im Urlaub, wo es Schwarze gab
Und am Vatertag lief sogar Roberto Blanco
Der ein wunderbarer Neger war, wo ist das Problem?

Somit wird auch das Deiktische in den Vordergrund gestellt. Die Worte selbst erscheinen als leer und wertlos. Die Leere der Worte erstreckt sich über den gesamten Songtext; Ausdrücke wie „glücklich“, „einfach“ und „gut“ erzeugen ein gegenteiliges Gefühl. Somit erfährt der Rezipient einen Kontrast, der sich im körperlichen Erlebnis der Leere ausdrückt.

Auch die Räumlichkeit der Epiphanie wird deutlich: Als Rezipient des Songtextes wird man einer ‚Ästhetik des versteckten Hässlichen‘ gegenübergestellt. Die Auseinandersetzung mit der eigenen Moralhaltung und die Hinterfragung der eigenen inneren Authentizität wird ‚erpresst‘, wodurch auch das Gefühl der Enge weiter in den Vordergrund gebracht wird. Auch wenn eine explizit, sprachliche Distanz zwischen Leser und Objekt der Beschreibung besteht, erfordert die Sprachwahl eine Auseinandersetzung mit der eigenen Authentizität. Die Epiphanie ist hier keine positive, sondern eine Art Spiegelung des Realistischen, ein Gefühl der Nacktheit, und des ‚in-den Spiegel-Sehens‘. Dieser Effekt wird vor allem vom Refrain erzeugt:

Ich weiß nicht was ihr seht, ich seh’ nur gute Menschen
Alle lieben Kinder, alle gehen Blut spenden
Und das letzte was man hier noch vermisst
Ist die Antwort auf die Frage warum alles bleibt wie’s ist

Ich weiß nicht was ihr habt
Ich sehe nur gute Menschen, die nichts Böses wollen
Nein, die nur an unsere Zukunft denken
Und wahrscheinlich werden sie es nie verstehen
Warum ich kotzen muss, wenn ich sie seh’

Bis hin zu den letzten zwei Zeilen des zweiten Refrains steht die innere Sicht im Vordergrund. Die spontane Umkehrung der Distanz, vom Internen zum Externen erzeugt hier einen räumlich bedingten Effekt des körperlichen Schocks. Es erscheint so als ob das, was äußerlich als erkennbar positiv erschien, nunmehr zum negativen wird, indem die Perspektive gewechselt wird. Die Ignoranz der eigenen Psyche, aus Sicht auf etwas intern Un-authentisches wird mit Hilfe von externer Perspektive sichtbar gemacht.


Zusammenfassend kann behauptet werden, dass OK Kids „Gute Menschen“ durch Kontrastierung vom Authentischen und Nicht-Authentischen, und vom Inneren und Äußeren eine ‚Ästhetik des Versteckten Hässlichen‘ erschafft, welches mit Hilfe von sprachlichen Einflüssen entblößt wird. Dadurch erfährt der Rezipient ein körperliches Empfinden der inneren Leere, sowie der inneren Enge, welche beide zu einem Wunsch nach Befreiung der Falschheit und einer Auseinandersetzung mit der Wahrhaftigkeit führen.


  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: „Epiphanien“. In: Joachim Küpper/Christoph Menke (Hg): Dimensionen ästhetischer Erfahrung, Frankfurt am Main 2003, S. 117-139.
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Lob des Sports. Übersetzt von: Georg Deggerich. Suhrkap Verlag: Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 41.
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Diesseits der Hermeneutik: Über die Produktion von Präsenz. Übersetzt von: Joachim Schulte. Suhrkamp Verlag: Berlin, S. 77.
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: “Präsenz in der Sprache.” In: Unsere Breite Gegenwart. Übersetzt von: Frank Born. Suhrkamp Verlag: Berlin, 2010.
  • Anonym: Gießener Band OK Kid wird politisch: Video und Song „Gute Menschen“ auf Youtub Gießener Anzeiger, 18 Nov 2015. Online. 26. Mai 2017.
  • OK KID: Gute Menschen. Zwei. 10 Oktober 2015. Four Music.

[1] Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: „Epiphanien“. In: Joachim Küpper/Christoph Menke (Hg.): Dimensionen ästhetischer Erfahrung, Frankfurt am Main 2003, S. 117-139.

[2] Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Lob des Sports. Übersetzt von: Georg Deggerich. Suhrkap Verlag: Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 41.

[3] Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Diesseits der Hermeneutik: Über die Produktion von Präsenz. Übersetzt von: Joachim Schulte. Suhrkamp Verlag: Berlin, S. 77.

[4] Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: “Präsenz in der Sprache.” In: Unsere Breite Gegenwart. Übersetzt von: Frank Born. Suhrkamp Verlag: Berlin, 2010.

[5] Anonym: Gießener Band OK Kid wird politisch: Video und Song „Gute Menschen“ auf Youtube. Gießener Anzeiger, 18 Nov 2015. Online. 26. Mai 2017.

[6] Songtext im Anhang

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Reclaiming Stereotypes

The phenomenon of stereotyping in the media is covered vastly in academic research. The term “stereotype” can be defined as “[…] a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Cardwell 1996). In social psychology, the term is further detailed as (1) an aid to explanation, (b) an energy-saving device, and (c) a shared group belief. (McGarty et al. 2002: 2). But more importantly than knowing the concept behind the word, is to understand how this “class of people” is categorized. Commonly, cultural studies engage in differentiation and categorization with a wider perspective of the tendencies of, what Antonio Gramsci calls, a hegemonic society (Bates 1975: 352). Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony, which, in a simplified way, refers to the dominance of one social class over others (Bates 1975: 352), can be adapted to making sense of the stereotypical categorizations in media, because of its focus on culture and ideology. According to Gramsci, it is important to identify routine structures and value systems as part of the mechanism of cultural domination (Gitlin, 1994:517). Since it is a representation of popular culture and, therefore, holds a status of being highly influential, Hollywood cinema can be categorized as such. Consequently, stereotypes supported and perpetuated by Hollywood cinema have an impact on popular culture.
African-Americans have been subject to stereotyping throughout all of American cinema history. Even the earliest films depicted stereotyped images of African-Americans. But resistance has always been strong, with political groups and activists criticizing the narrow-sighted way of representation African-Americans have had to endure. However, regardless of the many attempts and successes in counteracting this misrepresentation in Hollywood cinema, the struggle continues, especially for women. Activism has been focussed mainly on male-representation, while African-American women have struggled to find a voice behind the veil of not only racial bias, but also sexism. However, significant steps have been taken throughout the last few decades to rectify the misrepresentation of women: Independent film productions have challenged the distorted images portrayed by the media. Directors, producers, writers and other film crew members as well as actors, actresses and activists have spoken out against stereotyping in Hollywood cinema. Furthermore, organisations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have organized protests and challenged marketing of Hollywood films depicting stereotypical representations of African-Americans. In this way, the cinema industry has been confronted by resistance coming from the inside the industry as well as the outside.

This analysis serves to outline the continued struggle of African-American women to counteract racially and sexually biased stereotypes as perpetuated by the popular media domain of Hollywood cinema in a white-dominated, patriarchal society. Moreover, it serves to shed light on recent activism and achievements, which are now commonly referred to as ‘reclaiming stereotypes’. Resistance from within the industry will be exemplified by juxtaposing the 2009 film “Precious”, an independent production which was majorly successful, with other film productions from the same year, which serve to perpetuate the misrepresentation of African-American women. Furthermore, activism stemming from sources outside of the cinema industry will be detailed, as part of a growing mind state of contempt for stereotyping African-American women.

To read the whole analysis, check out my ebook here:


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Post-Agreement Irish Literature (A lecture by Dr. Heidemann-Malreddy)

Dr. Birte Heidemann-Malreddy is a post-doctoral researcher at the Bremen University. Her lecture introduces the audience to post-agreement Northern-Irish literature which represents Northern Ireland’s anxiety and confinement fears in post-agreement Northern Ireland and “forges a new literary paradigm” (Heidemann-Malreddy: 2016). Her lecture maps the generic parameters of what she terms Post-Agreement Literature, which she describes as a literature by young Northern Irish authors, which came about during the Troubles, between 1960 and 1980, in contrast to the commonly used term ‘contemporary Northern Irish literature’.

First, she introduces the poem A spider by Colette Bryce, which she feels is representative of a new generation of Northern Irish writers, which detail the feeling of being stuck in a place and time, difficult to escape.

She then goes on to introduce the audience to the background of the texts in question, by outlining a piece of text which was published in the Irish Times, one day after the Good Friday-Agreement, written by Seamus Heaney, Heidemann-Malreddy considers this the document which officially introduces the new era of literary expression which she focuses on in her lecture. She further distinguishes the writers she focusses on in her studies from others, which can all be considered contemporary writers who have grown up during the Troubles and come of age during the time of the Peace Process. The writers she focusses on are those who approach the violence of the time in a new light, not utilizing it as the dominant theme of their writing. Instead of depicting the violence explicitly, the writers she focusses on use metaphor and symbolism and other stylistic devices to transfer the reader to a level of retrospect, which conveys the past of the country, with a special focus on the signing of the agreement as symbolic for the violence thereafter. She mentions two coordinates, one being the suppressed history of conflict and the second being focussed on a future, which has already been agreed upon. Those are the parameters she bases her categorizations on.

She then investigates the language used in the actual text and design of the Good-Friday Agreement which she terms ‘flashy’ and likening the it to a “user-manual” (Heidemann-Malreddy: 2016) of political change, outlining also the opposing linguistic message, which presupposes obligation while alluding to consent. She further explains the importance of recognizing the relationship between Ireland and Britain as that of “claustrophobic intensity”, as coined by Colin Graham (Deconstructing Ireland, 93). This description makes the state of “limbo” (Heidemann-Malreddy: 2016) in which Ireland finds itself after the agreement, clear and helps in further detailing the literature of the time, in which “liminality is limiting rather than liberating”, which she terms “negative liminality” (Heidemann-Malreddy: 2016).

She exemplifies this by introducing several post-agreement fictional novels: Number Five (2003) by Glenn Paterson, The Ultras (2004) by Eoin McNamee, and The Truth Commissioner (2008) by David Park, which all detail the described feeling of being trapped in a state of anxiety. She describes the two most recent works of fiction to exist on the plane of “negative liminality”, which express a pessimistic view. All three texts connect characters from the past to the present, which is representative of the idea that post-agreement literature tends to cling to the past.

Regarding post-agreement poetry, she then introduces a poem by Leontia Flynn, titled Berlin, which documents a trip between Belfast and Berlin and describes similarities and differences between Germany’s Berlin Wall and Belfast’s Peace Walls, separating the religious denominations of the community, which represent the divisions which must be overcome to look towards a better future of unity. Moreover, she outlines the significance of Alan Gillis’ poem Progress, which challenges the agreement more than any other, which is achieved by means of reconstruction of a bombing which took place in fictional pre-agreement Belfast, and montages images which go through the poem in reverse.

Post-agreement drama is then briefly outlined by means of examples: This Other City by Daragh Carville, and Pumpgirl by Abbie Spallen, both utilize the device of “syntactic suspension” (Heidemann-Malreddy: 2016), which includes frequent full stops, dashes, and punctuation breaks, which serve to critique the political state of affairs by means of leaving out information.

In brief, Post-Agreement Northern Irish literature uses different, implicit techniques to portray the emotional state of a country which finds itself in a state of political and cultural frozenness due to its past and predetermined future.

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Obeah and the West Indian Short Story by Janelle Rodriques

I checked out this lecture a while back.

Janelle Rodriques is currently working on her doctorate degree at Bremen University, with a focus on Postcolonial Literature. She is presenting, in her lecture, the findings of her research for part of her dissertation, which is focussed on short stories written in and around 1939 – 1950 in the West Indies in the Caribbean, specifically detailing the history and significance of Obeah spiritual belief in literature of that time.

First of all, Rodriques describes the West Indies as an Anglophone Caribbean region which was colonialised in the late 16th century. Obeah is defined as an umbrella term for a number of different syncretic African-inspired Anglo-Caribbean spiritual and faith practices developed by West- Africans in response to their dislocation and enslavement. Furthermore, Rodriques describes it as a ‘way of life’ more than simply a religious practice. Common symbolism includes feathers, candles and roots, which all hold a specific spiritual meaning. Contrary to other spiritual practices such as Santeria, for example, Obeah does not have deities. However, there are similarities as well, as both reject the views supported by the Western philosophical framework of ‘Enlightenment’, meaning that Obeah does not support the idea that scientific facts are of higher value than spiritual belief. Obeah is a belief system based on a type of fluidity which transgresses materialism and spirituality. The social significance of Obeah is primarily based on the fact that it is part of a political counter-movement against Western colonial powers and hierarchical structures prevalent in the Caribbean. Finding its beginnings in the horrors of slavery, with the term first being established after a slave-revolt in Jamaica in 1760, Obeah was a way of life and a way of separation from western culture. It was outlawed in the 18th century and has only recently been decriminalised. Rodriques describes Obeah as “pure potential” and “spiritual energy” and explains that its fluidity makes it difficult to narrate in prose fiction.

After defining and detailing Obeah and its social significance, Rodriques explores the topic of the short story. She illustrates that the 1930s were an important time for the short story, as a new consciousness was emerging which promoted a disconnect from western ideals and the establishment of unity among the colonised, regardless of political perspective and religion, with fiction being an important tool in counteracting the political structures prevalent at the time. This time marked the beginning of anti-colonialist literature as a political statement and although the focus lay on a regional audience, the message was to be conveyed internationally to create an even greater common consciousness of anti-colonialist sympathies. Rodriques exemplifies this by introducing the audience to a short story called A Case in Court which was written by a writer with the pseudonym ‘Pennib’ and published in The Gleaner magazine in 1939, with its language being Patoa, a mash-up of different African languages turned into a creolised English. She describes that short stories are a commonly utilized and relate to African traditions, one of the types of short stories being the Anansi story, which is also used in A Case in Court, with the protagonist being a poor, illiterate trickster who manages to outsmart the judge after being accused of practicing Obeah.

In brief, Obeah holds much significance as it is more than just a spiritual practice: it symbolises not only anti-colonialist ideals but also the liberation of the oppressed and is therefore subject to constant rejection and dismantlement by the colonial powers which it seeks to be liberated from.

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Telling It As It Is, Mr. President? The Issue of Donald Trump’s Supposed ‘Word Salad’

Successful communication asserts a common sense when it comes to social interaction. This is especially crucial in the face of the power relation between politicians and their followers. It is a common skill of politicians to be able to properly utilize communication strategies as to effectively convey a message or make use of tactics to influence followers. It can therefore be asserted that an aptness in effective use of politeness and impoliteness strategies[1] is necessary in political discourse.

The proper use of politeness and impoliteness strategies is closely tied to the language tool of manipulation (Slavova 2012: 170). Political discourse resembles a constant power struggle as well as a cooperation between those who hold power and those who the ones in power rely on to maintain it. Therefore, it is of some significance for the one in power to properly communicate with his or her supporters. This double-sided power struggle, which entails on the one hand, to assert dominance and on the other hand, to maintain positive relations, asserts a high level of aptness when it comes to proper manipulation of social interaction (Slavova 2012: 170-171).

President Donald Trump’s use of language has been subject of investigation as well as criticism. Many think that his language style is uncalculated, with a large amount of people even calling it “word salad” (Lakoff 2016). His voters have praised him for always “tell[ing] it as it is” (BBC News 2016), thereby painting a picture of sincerity. But how sincere is the recently-elected president? George Lakoff writes in a blog post on his website that “[e]very time someone in the media claims his discourse is word salad it helps Trump by hiding what he is really doing.” (2016)

This research paper aims to dispute the assumption that President Trump’s use of language is uncalculated by focussing on the utilization of politeness and impoliteness strategies in relation to political discourse, as outlined and categorized by Brown & Levinson, and Culpeper. Subject of analysis is a television interview held by ABC’s David Muir with President Trump. The analysis is an attempt to provide evidence to expose President Trump’s strategic use of politeness and impoliteness strategies to assert his power over his critics and create a false sense of balance between him and his followers.

[1] as defined by Brown & Levinson (1987) and Culpeper (1996)

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