Abstracts for Week 4

by staffpostgraduate14

Travel and Travail: The Scatological Route to Paradise.

Paradise is paradox. Both a real and an unreal space, a space that is sought for but one that has also long been lost to human discovery, the hidden garden of Eden has been an enduring source of fascination for early Pacific explorers and armchair adventurers alike. Western cultural obsession with the Pacific and its many tropical islands exploded following Captain Cook’s exploration of Tahiti in the late-18th century, as the Pacific was believed to be the last possible location for the earthly paradise. Travellers’ journals and accounts of the region tended to blend both fact and fiction, the physical and the imaginary qualities of these ostensible island ‘paradises’. The desert island is structured upon certain Cartesian dualities of ‘mind’ and ‘body’ (it is a space of both symbolic and literal isolation), and it is this conflation of the imaginary and the physical, the fantastical and the real, I argue, that allows us access to the mythology of paradise.

In this paper, I suggest that it is through the sheer physical travail – pain or injury – of the body that the traveller/adventurer is able to imaginatively recreate the landscape of paradise within certain 20th century Robinsonade narratives. Looking specifically at Victor Sage’s short story ‘Crusoe’ (1984), Alex Garland’s The Beach (1996), and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2001), I argue that it is through certain motifs of ingestion, digestion, and excretion that the desert island is transformed into a simulacra or image of paradise. In so doing, I will posit the notion that our cultural conception of paradise is a ‘product’ of our own processes of excretion and waste, and that the route to paradise may be traced back to – and through – the body.

Dr Ian Kinane

“THE MIND IS A PLACE OF WONDER!”: Experimental typography as a window into the mind of young narrators in David Almond’s My Name is Mina and Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series.

First person narratives, so strongly linked with literature for young adults, present readers with the opportunity to inhabit the mind of the youthful characters in the text. Controlled and constructed by the adult author, these narrators offer up themselves and their minds’ inner workings for readers to explore, inhabit and empathise with. This creation of trust between character and reader has much to do with the tone, voice and accessibility of the narrative itself, but can also be augmented and intensified by the use of experimental or expressive typography to lend credence to the printed voice on the page. This paper will argue that the appearance of the printed word itself can have a strong visual impact, and demonstrate how the creative and experimental use of unusual typography in children’s literature can assist in the creation of trust and empathy in the reader. Using David Almond’s My Name is Mina (2010) and Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy (2008-2010) as examples of first person narratives which make use of highly expressive and unusual typography, the paper will offer a deconstruction of the  layers of meaning which are created by the collaboration of the physical form of the book and the text itself, referencing theories of multimodality, the semiotics of typography and the physical form of the book.

Louise Gallagher