The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: Unheard Voices

Erin Hutton

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Illustration by Ottelien Huckin https://www.ottelienhuckin.co.uk/

History often ignores women’s contributions. Modern schools, such as my own, may try to teach about their contributions, yet it is clear that many women are resigned to the shadows. Pat Barker has emphasised this injustice with her shocking novel The Silence of the Girls, a retelling of The Iliad with one crucial difference: it tells the story of the women who were caught up in the bloodshed.

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More Than Just Blood

Angie Spoto

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva https: https://www.instagram.com/iiaraz_/

I hadn’t felt my baby move yet and wasn’t sure I wanted to. I confessed this to a friend in a café, who, bringing his hands together in front of his chest and clawing his fingers, said, ‘Yeah, it might feel, you know, like Alien.’ And his hands exploded outward, raining imaginary blood across our lattes.

My friend touched on a fear of mine: that having a baby would be like hosting an alien creature in my body. A fear no doubt inspired by my consumption of science fiction. Immediately, the prospect of pregnancy makes me think of the 1979 movie Alien, which undeniably plays out humanity’s pregnancy fears in the form of chest-ripping, murderous alien children. There’s also the ‘mystical pregnancy trope’: women in science fiction media are regularly forcibly or accidentally impregnated by aliens (Sarkeesian). This trope appears in Stargate SG-1, the X-Files, and Torchwood among other television shows and films.

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There but for the

Allie Kerper

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Edith Pritchett https://www.instagram.com/edithpritchett_art/

Ali Smith’s novel There but for the tells the story of a man who, in the middle of a dinner party, locks himself in the spare room. The story unfolds over the course of the following year or so through the perspectives of four different characters whose lives the man, Miles, has touched in small ways. The characters whose voices comprise the story are Anna, an unemployed Scottish woman; Mark, a middle-aged gay man; May, an elderly woman with dementia; and Brooke, a 10-year-old Black girl. In each of their narrative turns, these characters reflect on experiences in their lives and how others perceive and react to them, giving the reader a rich and textured composite image of what human life can be in and around Greenwich, London in 2009-10. Smith’s novel marries realism and surrealism, satire and earnestness, and weaves it all together with wit and wordplay to create a compelling story of what it feels like to live in the political moment of the Recession.

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NOTHING OF WOMAN IN ME

Diane Lowman

Edited by Abigail Eardley

Art by Iara Silva: www.instagram.com/iiaraz_

Often, the contemporary eye looks at Shakespeare’s plots and characters with a certain skepticism. No matter how timeless and universal the themes – the joy, the anguish, the love – we cannot help but wonder: how could a mother not recognise her own twins? Do those simple disguises really trick everyone? And perhaps most persistently for me, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, what’s up with all these women? Under the auspices of the patriarchal system in early modern England, female Shakespearean characters are often submissive, with few admirable exceptions: the Princess in Love’s Labours Lost and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing come to mind.  Ultimately however, Kate in Taming of the Shrew and others like her, leave modern women shaking their heads.

Any author of fiction – and Shakespeare is no exception – asks an audience to momentarily suspend disbelief. In novels, films, and plays, ghosts walk, witches prophesize, and statues come alive. But still, that final question persists: what is up with all these women? In Nothing of Woman in Me, which debuted in February 2018 at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford Upon Avon, and will be reprised in July at the RSC Dell, director and playwright Juliano Zaffino attempts to answer this question. Zaffino earned his MA in Shakespeare and Theatre from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford Upon Avon, and will pursue his PhD there next year. As a gay man, he has first-hand experience of belonging to a marginalised group in society. By exploring the psyches of some of Shakespeare’s most complex and thought-provoking female characters, Zaffino hoped to give expression to all silenced populations by “capturing the voice of women throughout history and in our modern day, and unifying these voices through the vehicles of Shakespeare’s voiceless women.”[1] He “brought his experience to the table: my life as a gay man, the women who had raised me and whom I had grown up with, the reading and watching and listening I had done.” The dawning of the #MeToo era has offered a relevant and powerful backdrop for his work, having finally provided the opportunity for many muted female voices to whisper, speak, and shout above decades of oppressive abuse. No longer willing to suffer in silence as if that were the norm, women from professional, political, academic, and personal backgrounds are setting each other free by telling their truths. Women in Shakespeare’s time could not do that: but Zaffino imagines what it might have been like if they could have.

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Herland

Hannah Marcus

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Art by Figgy Guyver http://www.instagram.com/themineralfact/

The Barbican’s 2017 summer exhibition Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction, was a little disappointing. Firstly, unless you already had previous knowledge of the shows, films and novels the exhibit was about, the opportunity for learning was limited. Rachel Cooke summed this up well in The Guardian: “this ambitious sci-fi exhibition is big on content, but where is the context?” This dovetails neatly into my second criticism; this exhibition was essentially aimed at men. Not only in the content, which was overwhelming produced by men and about men, but also in the specific kind of childhood it invoked. As a woman interested in science fiction both academically and personally, I was unsurprised, and frustrated, by how little effort was made to include and inform a wider audience.

Perhaps this is why, when browsing the bookshop afterwards, I was drawn to Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The tonal quality of the blurb of the Vintage Classics edition was both soothing and intriguing, clearly intended to resonate with the modern feminist:

When three American men discover a community of women, living in perfect isolation in the Amazon, they decide there simply must be men somewhere. How could these women survive without man’s knowledge, experience and strength, not to mention reproductive power? In fact, what they have found is a civilisation free from disease, poverty and the weight of tradition. All alone, the women have created a society of calm and prosperity, a feminist utopia that dares to threaten the very concept of male superiority.

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Rift

Queering the void: how Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Rift transforms horror cinema

Miranda Wilkie

Edited by Abigail Eardley

Art by Raj Dhunna http://rajdhunna.co.uk/

TW: Sexual Violence

Horror cinema is a genre that, with its subversive and confrontational intentions, is arguably ripe for queer filmmaking: yet as a queer horror fan it is rare I find myself represented on screen. In many horror films, academic readings of character’s queerness are often reduced to subtext. While queer characters are admittedly not totally absent from horror cinema, their sexuality often forms the basis of the horror itself. Depictions of canonically queer characters tend to form two extremes: ironically mannered villainy or predatory perversity. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) became a cult film with queer audiences due to its fairly explicit homoeroticism, including a high-camp portrayal of leather-clad ‘daddies’ in a gay bar. More recently, however, queer representation has shifted markedly. While visibility of queer communities within mass media increased at the turn of the century, the subsequent backlash from religious and conservative groups reignited the spectre of the sex-crazed, corrupting queer figure that first originated during the AIDS epidemic (Bronski, 99). Several New French Extremist horror films, such as Haute Tension (2003) and Irreversible (2002) exploited this undercurrent of fear, featuring characters whose same-sex desire is voracious and violent to the point of explicit homophobia.

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Second Class Citizen

Elizabeth Lawal

Edited by Muireann Crowley

Art by Zoë Guthrie http://zoeguthrie.com/

Second Class Citizen (1976) by Buchi Emecheta is set in Lagos, Nigeria during World War II, and is about a woman called Adah and her marriage to Francis. Although life initially seems rosy for Adah, things turn sour when it becomes clear that Francis is physically and emotionally abusive.

When I was in high school I came across this book by chance; it was in a box full of books the teachers said we could take for free. The main reason I picked the book was because I noticed that the writer was Nigerian and of Igbo descent. Later on, I gave a presentation on it because there were no books by a black woman on our English Literature syllabus. After the presentation I asked if the book could be added and although the teacher was encouraging, my classmates were not. I think it was quite different to what they were used to – most of my classmates were white British. I vividly remember an Irish girl shouting from her desk, “I don’t want to learn about Africa.” I was a confrontational child, so I asked, “Why?’’ And she hit me with: “I just don’t.” I remember being so disappointed, and saying, “Well, I don’t want to learn about James I or Shakespeare and the Industrial Revolution, but you don’t hear me complaining.” This was met with silence.

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Carnival: The Upside Down of George

Josh Simpson

Edited by Toby Sharpe

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

Recently, I turned in a fiction portfolio for a creative writing course: a queer retelling of a young adult novel. My professor said that, when she heard about my topic, she’d immediately envisioned a story about AIDS. How relieved she was, she said, that it was not, in fact, about that epidemic. Then I turned in an excerpt of a queer-themed* children’s book to a writers’ group. My feedback questioned the very need for diverse books, implying that queer themes are too mature for children to understand. I was unsure how to respond in either situation, never having encountered someone who so blatantly dismissed the value of inclusive literature or expected a queer story to centre on AIDS. Why did they have those views or expectations? Perhaps the answer has to do with misunderstanding queer themes in children’s literature.

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The End of Eddy

Toby Sharpe

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Arta Ajeti https://www.instagram.com/artawork/

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, first published in French in 2014, is one of the most successful pieces of Francophone writing in modern times: translated into twenty languages, it has taken the European literary establishment by storm. The novel details the life of a child in Northern France, a boy whose story echoes his author’s, with all his hints of wit, his budding charms – and, crushingly, his overwhelming suffering. This is a text about a young man’s pain, as an effeminate homosexual in a social world that reviles him.

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Cooking Dinner for Adam Smith

Elizabeth Dietz

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Arta Ajeti https://www.instagram.com/artawork/

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. Adam Smith famously asserted the rational features of man in The Wealth of Nations in 1776, and inspired a constellation of theories on Homo Economicus that would come to define the field of Economics.  Over two centuries later, journalist Katrine Marçal wonders if these claims hold true. In Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (2016) she points out that Adam Smith in fact had his dinner made by his mother, Margaret Douglas. Why did she make her son dinner? Not simply because of rational self-interest, thinks Marçal, as she develops a feminist critique of economic rationality. What could this perspective add to how we understand the economy? Perhaps it is time Economics students found out.

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