By Olivia Badoi, Global Institute for Research, Education, and Scholarship
Walking among a series of prints by the American wood engraver Lynd Ward (1905–85), Art Spiegelman was surprised to find himself transported from a chic Binghamton art gallery into a primordial forest. Though he had not left the gallery, Spiegelman was surrounded by networks of branches, trees, and woods reaching out at him from the prints on the wall. Within this gallery-turned-forest, Spiegelman gained a new appreciation of the power of Ward’s arboreal aesthetic. Singling out a particularly noteworthy print, Spiegelman describes “a panoramic treescape of a young man in shadows, groping and climbing through the dense neuronal wickerwork of dappled trunks and branches, carefully exploring and working his way through the maze of marks that surround him.”
By Matthew Hayward,
In an essay on Herman Melville, D. H. Lawrence describes the Pacific Islands as “a vast vacuum, in which, mirage-like, continues the life of myriads of ages back.” Modernist studies has yet to awaken from this dream of Oceania as the hazy antithesis of modernity, a place “not come to any modern consciousness”: although the tide is turning, the Pacific has typically been treated not as an active site of cultural production, but as a tropical backdrop for the adventures of the likes of Gauguin, Stevenson, and Melville (Lawrence, “Herman Melville,” 114). Uncalculated as this scholarly exclusion may be, it cannot but reinforce the sense that modernism and modernity demand an unmodern Other, figuring Pacific peoples in binaries that the new modernist studies has worked to undermine.
The “tribal drum” and Literary Radio: The Postcolonial Poetics of the Transcription Centre’s Africa Abroad
By Julie Cyzewski,
On June 1, 1963, J. P. Clark’s poem “Agbor Dancer” was recorded for the London-based Transcription Centre’s program Africa Abroad, an English-language radio magazine program distributed for broadcast on multiple African stations. Africa Abroad producer Lewis Nkosi praised the poem and recorded it in its entirety in his review of the anthology Poems from Black Africa, edited by Langston Hughes. In “Agbor Dancer,” the speaker watches a woman dance to drums and juxtaposes the dancer’s connection to “communal” identity through music and dance with the isolating effects of language and print. The poem, first published in print and then broadcast, describes West African aural and kinetic traditions while also using and referencing European literary traditions. What does it mean to take this poem, often read as a reflection on the alienating effects of print culture, and record it for radio broadcast instead of distributing it through print?
By Robert Birdwell,
At the culmination of Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film Modern Times, the Factory Worker (commonly called “the Tramp”) breaks his long silence and sings. The moment is justly famous, as if audiences had been waiting decades to hear the voice of the downtrodden Worker. The Worker, however, does not quite attain to the voice, or the song, that he and his companion, the Gamin, had planned. The Worker has just lost his lyrics, which the Gamin has written on his shirt cuffs. These cuffs fly off his wrists at the start of his dance before the café crowd. “Sing! Nevermind the words,” urges the Gamin in an intertitle.