by Srija Sanyal, Sophie Bantle and Jasmin Lieberwirth
Though not originally intended as such, this issue unites its articles under a thematic umbrella of highlighting underrepresented voices and genres. These articles discuss works of writing that are not widely represented within our received canon, whether such under-representation pertains to the kinds of stories they tell, social groups they foreground, or genres they occupy. All four articles in this September issue of Alluvium showcase literature’s potential to offer alternatives to mainstream or traditional viewpoints. Whether this is done through giving characters belonging to minority groups a voice to articulate their experiences of, and struggles with their position in society, evoking empathy with, and allowing the reader to identify with these characters, or offering the possibility of achieving an alternative future, these articles underline the powerful role and the ability of literature to offer new perspectives to its readers.
Our first article, “The ‘Other’ Women of Canada: Is the Canadian Rainbow a Myth?” by Dr. Swagata Bhattacharya uses an analysis of Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan (1981) and its sequel Itsuka (1992) to demonstrate the process of otherization that ‘Other Women’, women of non-white races and cultures, experience in Canada. In the semi-autobiographical Obasan and Itsuka, Joy Kogawa reflects her personal experiences of discrimination as a Japanese-Canadian woman and the horror of being interned in Canada during World War II. The three female protagonists, Avoko Nakane (Obasan), Miss Emily Kato (Aunt Emily) and Miss Megumi Naomi Nakane experience different forms of discrimination during their lifetimes, and Bhattacharya argues that the novels chronicle their search for and struggle with their identity, caught between their Japanese heritage and their life in Canada. Though Obasan was released forty years ago, the three women’s experience of feeling othered feels especially poignant in today’s divided and rather disintegrated society.
Emma Catan’s article “Challenging Cis-Heteronormativity in The Night Brother” is similarly concerned with a struggle for identity. In Rosie Garland’s neo-Victorian, magical realist novel, the protagonist(s) Edie and her brother/mirror Gnome, who takes over their shared body at night, challenge the stereotypical and binary conception of gender. While Neo-Victorianism as a genre often centers marginal voices, it is The Night Brother’s use of first-person narrative which allows the reader to see the harm that the attempt to fit into cis-heteronormative expectations can cause, whether this be their internalized repression or societal pressures policed by outside forces. Catan argues that in challenging cis-normative thinking, Garland’s novel fits into contemporary debates around the increasing visibility of ethnic minorities and non-heteronormative identities.
Dr. Joseph Anderton’s article “Imagining Homelessness: Ethnofiction in Marc Augé’s No Fixed Abode and Mahsuda Snaith’s How To Find Home” is concerned with the depiction of homeless people and what kind of strategies are employed by the authors to establish a connection between the reader and the protagonist. While Augé focuses more on the external factors influencing his protagonist Henri Cariou, Snaith is more concerned with the emotional constitution of her main character Molly whilst simultaneously shining a light on the representation of homeless people. Posing the question for the role of fiction in the representation of marginalized people like the homeless, Anderton uses the two novels to illustrate how differently the concept of ‘seeing through fiction’ can be applied to represent the societal group of homeless people. The article consequently posits that such differing modalities of representation share an ethical purpose around raising awareness and evoking empathy for these marginal communities.
In his article “Neoliberal Façades, Concrete Utopias: The Infrastructure of Weird Fiction”, Dave Owen examines: (a) how the architecture and infrastructure depicted in Weird Fiction plays a major role in the experiences of the narrative’s characters; and (b) how such depictions of built environment, when read through their interaction with characters’ affect, actions and ideological perspectives, provide insight into the political and social reality of the text-world. Taking Jeff VanderMeer’s Authority and China Miéville’s The City and the City as examples, the role of infrastructure as a representation of the state becomes clear. Based on his textual analysis, Owen argues that the genre of Weird Fiction provides a unique chance to display how different aspects of infrastructure can almost actively interfere with the characters’ lives while also showcasing how, in these narratives, established boundaries in the form of infrastructure are crossed, in order to imagine an almost utopian restructuring of the imagined surroundings.
In a world brimming with insufficiently articulated diversity, this issue aims to highlight just a few of the manifold perspectives literature can provide.
Srija Sanyal, Sophie Bantle and Jasmin Lieberwirth, “Alluvium Editorial 9.4,” Alluvium, Vol.9, No.4 (2021): n.pag. Web 6 September 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7766/alluvium.v9.4.01
Currently working as Research Scholar with the Ronin Institute, USA, Srija Sanyal is undertaking research in the field of gender and queer theory in the Indian context. She holds a Masters in English Literature from the University of Delhi, India. She is also associated with PopMec Research Blog as Associate Editor working in the field of North American cultural studies. She is currently working on an edited volume on queer representation in Indian films and digital media and guest-editing an upcoming issue of the academic magazine Café Dissensus. Gender and visual media, South Asian studies, and women’s writing are some of her key research areas.
Jasmin Lieberwirth is an MA student in British and North American Cultural Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She previously obtained her BA in English and American Studies at the same university. Her thesis concerns itself with Escapism as a genre in British Children’s Literature. Her research interests also include gender and women’s studies from the 18th century onward.
Sophie-Constanze Bantle is a Master student in British and North American Cultural Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany. Her BA thesis explored the Neo-Victorian elements of Margaret Atwood’s novel Alias Grace. Sophie’s research interests include Neo-Victorian novels and television shows, Romantic and Victorian women writers as well as adaptation studies. In addition, Sophie works as the ERASMUS Program Coordinator at her University’s English Department and volunteers as a German as a Second Language teacher for young refugees.