The Fixed Period: A Time Without Violins, or Imagination

Brace yourself.  Try to imagine a world in which the violin has become "nearly obsolete." I know, right?!  You've nearly fallen to your knees, begging for mercy, asking yourself why. Why, great creator, did humanity ever get to this point? I am a big fan of the violin. Yet, when Trollope kicks off his futuristic dystopia novella The Fixed Period with this absolutely chilling vision, it signals that although Trollope is one of the most skilled Victorian Realist writers, the man had next to no imagination. 

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Masculinity in Jordan’s The Eye of the World

From the first chapter of Robert Jordan's *The Eye of the World,* the motive of the quest is clear: to save masculinity and, hence, all life. When masculinity is tainted and corrupted, all life suffers, and it must be redeemed if life will continue in the Light. Jordan does a great job highlighting a point that we continue to struggle with into the 21st century: this belief that masculinity must be unadulturated, straightforward, clean and clear...or else.

Living in Henry James’s Other House

An affluent womanizer, Tony Bream.  The nicest, sweetest girl, Jean Martle.  A desperate lover abroad too long in China, Dennis Vidal.  The odd Rose Arminger. They all seem like characters from the famed game Clue.  In The Other House, Henry James writes an awkward murder mystery vis a vis a  novel of manners that begins with some piquant flavor of the supernatural

The Missing Touch: Rizal’s Immaterial Hero

When I picked up a novel with a stunning title like Noli Me Tangere (Touch me Not), I expected to encounter a work dredged in corporeal, visceral experience and language.  I wanted a novel centered on the function of touch: human interaction, physicality, phenomenology, flesh.  I didn't get this in Jose Rizal's incredible text, but I didn't really feel disappointed in not getting what I wanted -- because in some ways I received a more meaningful gift.

Masculinity as the “Greatest Darkness” in Sanshiro

Sanshiro by Natsume Soseki is a novel about Japanese masculinity in which Sanshiro, our hero, comes to terms with his role as a college-educated man from the country.  Sanshiro is a Modern(ist) hero who develops a heightened sense of self-consciousness as a result of the industrialized and urbane environment of higher education in the city, a confusing confrontation with "unintelligible" Western literary artifacts that seem important in Japanese education, and from his indomitable fear of women.

Heroics in the Arctic with Satan through Wilkie Collins’s Spectacles

Woman is almost wholly missing from the Romantic confrontation with the arctic.  Where she tries to enter, she is silenced, ineffective.  But in this Victorian landscape we witness some permeability in which saving the tainted man is possible through, of course, the sweet truth of a pure, angelic woman.  But here, the artic, Dante-esque devil meets his foil and one soul has been saved.  The heroic act occurs within the domestic sphere in the safety of the English shrubbery.