• Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester
      Marvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
    • Review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (The Science Fiction Foundation, 2021-08-06)
      Book review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch (Routledge, 2021, 232pp, £120).
    • The Posthuman Trajectory of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Universe

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Burrowing Wombat Press, 2021-06-30)
      When Isaac Asimov began to expand the fictional universe of his acclaimed Foundation Trilogy in 1982—almost thirty years after the publication of its prior entry, Second Foundation (1953)—he did so with the express intention of assimilating its continuity into a unified “history of the future” with his Robot and Galactic Empire series. Although the Foundation Universe has received little critical attention to date as a unified series, the analysis of it cumulatively reveals its significantly mundane and repetitive aspects. Demonstrably, the rhetorical function of such banal components renders the series conspicuously posthuman.
    • How Much? An Interesting Typo in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Gold Coast

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
      One typo in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1988 novel The Gold Coast is so prominent as to merit consideration. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that it has ever come to the attention of readers before now.
    • Liberalism

      Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
      A political philosophy that emerged from the Enlightenment, liberalism has a complex relationship with democracy, colonialism, postcolonialism, globalization, and literature. Democracy has been shaped by a tension between “classical liberalism”, which prioritizes liberty, and “modern liberalism”, which emphasizes equality. Liberalism also moulded the informal empire of free trade, and the “liberal imperialism” that devised a “civilizing mission” to justify formal empire. The development of liberalism has been vital in the anglophone settler colonies, particularly the USA; often, especially in South Africa, it has been focused on racial justice. The neo-liberalism that emerged in the late twentieth century advocates the globalization of unfettered capitalism and personal liberty. Many postcolonialists consider neo-liberalism a reprise of liberal imperialism, with “human rights” replacing the “civilizing mission” as a cultural-imperialist pretext for economic exploitation.
    • Gordimer, Nadine

      Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016-01-25)
      A prolific South African novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, Nadine Gordimer (1923–2014) is known for her opposition to apartheid and censorship. Her many honours include the Booker Prize (1974) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1991). This article outlines Gordimer’s writing career in relation to the form of “internal colonialism” known as apartheid, and to the postcolonial condition of South Africa after apartheid. It describes how Gordimer’s fiction, which combines critical realism with late-modernist experimentation, articulates three phases: “liberal”, “radical”, and “post-apartheid”.
    • The liberal tradition in fiction

      Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Cambridge University Press, 2012-01-12)
      This chapter in the landmark Cambridge History of South African Literature offers a comprehensive discussion of the 'liberal-concerned' tradition in South African fiction, from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. It comprises five main parts: 'Liberalism in politics and civil society'; 'Classic liberal fiction, 1883-1948'; 'Liberal fiction during apartheid, 1948-70'; 'Post-liberal fiction during apartheid, 1970-90'; '(Post-)liberal fiction after apartheid'.
    • Flash Fiction

      Blair, Peter; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2014)
      This article, which appears in the bestselling guide to publishing and the media, introduces the short-short story, most commonly known as 'flash fiction'. It outlines the historical rise of the flash, considers the defining characteristics of the form, and offers advice on writing flash fiction and getting it published. It includes an example of flash fiction and a structured list of suggestions for further primary and secondary reading.
    • ‘All the figures I used to see’: using Cognitive Grammar to grapple with rhythmic and intertextual meaning-making in Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’

      Neary, Clara; University of Chester
      This article constitutes an application of Cognitive Grammar and Zbikowski's theory of Musical Grammar to Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song'.
    • ‘He was struck out. Deleted’: We Need to Talk about Wesley in Nicola Barker’s Behindlings

      Pollard, Eileen; University of Chester
      This article provides a poststructural reading of the character of Wesley in Nicola Barker’s 2002 novel Behindlings, which is broadly informed by Jean-Luc Nancy’s thoughts on being and community and Jacques Derrida’s thinking on khōra, as well as other established poststructural paradigms. It contends that the novel simultaneously engages with these ideas and exceeds them. Wesley is the void-at-the-heart of his own ‘philosophy’: ‘He was hollow. He was empty […] He was a vacuum. He was struck-out. Deleted. He was nothing’. And he is everything as well at one and the same time. It is the classic poststructural paradox – receiving everything while possessing nothing – that makes meaning possible. And that is the argument: the signifier, the empty sign for some, the palimpsest for others, here is simply Wesley. However, my argument is that the characterisation of Wesley challenges and complicates such readings, deliberately. This article will demonstrate how the novel repeatedly sullies the theories it implicates by introducing a persistent taint to the main vehicle used to articulate the theory, the protagonist himself, that ‘puerile […] shithead’, Wesley.
    • Utopia’s Extinction: the Anthroposcenic Landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
      In the Anthropocene epoch, the utopian prospect which has structured civilizational development throughout recorded history is extinguished almost entirely. Our anthropocentric fantasies of dominion over the natural world have proven harmful not only to the biosphere we inhabit, but to the continued existence of our own species. Instead, new conceptualizations which foreground the role of humanity within its environment must take precedence. Intricate portrayals of humanity’s interdependence within its planetary environment—and illustrations of the damage that our daily lives inflict upon the natural world—have long been apparent in the Science Fiction genre. By emphasising the importance of fostering and recognizing our species’ symbiotic relationship with its natural world through practices of daily life, the Anthroposcenic landscapes of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Science Fiction texts exert a posthuman vision which refutes anthropocentric ideologies, and decenters the notion of progress as an eschatology. Accordingly, this article closely analyses three texts of Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle which particularly exemplify her Anthroposcenic objective; The Word for World is Forest (1972); Planet of Exile (1966); and City of Illusions(1967). These texts extrapolate the Anthropocene epoch into a cosmic paradigm, and so demonstrate the extinction of utopian potential it personifies vividly.
    • Charlotte Brontë's Gothic Fragment: 'The Story of Willie Ellin'

      Wynne, Deborah; University of Chester
      Charlotte Brontë’s eighteen-page fragment, ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’, written shortly after the publication of Villette in 1853, combines the gothic and realism and uses multiple narrators to tell a disturbing story of cruelty towards a child. The generic instability and disordered temporal framework of this fragment make it unlike anything Brontë had previously written, yet it has attracted the attention of few scholars. Those who have discussed it have condemned it as a failure; the later fragment ‘Emma’, also left incomplete by the author’s premature death, has been seen as the more likely beginning of a successor to Villette. ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ reveals Brontë at her most experimental as she explores the use of different narrative voices, including that of an unnamed genderless ‘ghost’, to tell a story from different perspectives. It also shows Brontë representing a child’s experience of extreme physical abuse which goes far beyond the depictions of chastisement in Jane Eyre (1847). This essay argues that ‘The Story of Willie Ellin’ affords rich insights into Brontë’s ideas and working practices in her final years, suggesting that it should be more widely acknowledged as a unique aspect of Brontë’s oeuvre, revealing the new directions she may have taken had she lived to complete another novel.
    • Charlotte Brontë: Legacies and Afterlives

      Wynne, Deborah; Regis, Amber K.; University of Chester; University of Sheffield
      This edited collection offers a timely reflection on Charlotte Brontë's life and work in the context of the bicentenary of her birth in 2016. Brontë's legacy continues to evolve and the new essays in this volume, covering the period from her first publication to the present day, explain why she has remained at the forefront of global literary cultures. Taking a fresh look at over 150 years of engagement with one of the best-loved novelists of the Victorian period, the volume examines areas such as genre, narrative style, national and regional identities, sexuality, literary tourism, adaptation theories, cultural studies, postcolonial and transnational readings. The contributors to this volume offer innovative interpretations of the rich variety of afterlives enjoyed by characters such as Jane Eyre and Rochester in neo-Victorian fiction, cinema and television, on the stage and on the web. Bringing the story of Charlotte's legacy up to date, the essays analyse obituaries, vlogs, stage and screen adaptations, fan fiction and erotic makeovers, showing that Charlotte Brontë's influence has been manifold and an enduring feature of the feminist movement.
    • Novum Decay

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
      This article springs from the claim that representations of mundane human life are just as prominent as nova in contemporary sf, and that through their generative interplay the genre figures a transient dreamscape for visitation by the (post)human mind, via which the reader gains an expanded perception of not only their own empirical environment, but also of posthuman possibility. The presence of the quotidian in sf confirms the capacity of the (post)human mind to transcend the presumptions of traditional humanism. By deconstructing the rhetorical role of nova in Duncan Jones’s Source Code (2011), I demonstrate that the novel content of sf fades intratextually, just as nova within the genre tend towards entropy intertextually; an accumulative process I term novum decay.
    • The Underground Cabaret

      Seed, Ian; University of Chester
      The fourth and final volume in a quartet of prose poems and flash fictions, following on from New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018), Identity Papers (Shearsman, 2016), Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman, 2014).
    • No Windup: Paolo Bacigalupi’s Novel Bodily Economies of the Anthropocene

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
      Just as it looms large in contemporary consciousness, the figure of the Anthropocene dominates the speculative fiction of the Hugo and Nebula award winning author Paolo Bacigalupi. The post-apocalyptic and post-capitalist settings common to Bacigalupi’s oeuvre do not merely seek to depict unsettling Anthropocene landscapes. Rather, Bacigalupi’s speculative fiction vicariously demonstrates the crucial role that embodiment plays, and will continue to play, in determining the impact of the Anthropocene upon human life. Our bodies, his works propose, are both the fabric upon which the horrors of the Anthropocene will be written, and the means by which we can learn to adapt to the rigors of our rapidly shifting planetary environment. As such, Bacigalupi’s works propose a range of novel bodily economies, which are just as much potential alternatives to the damaging neoliberal ideologies of our contemporary world as they are statements of impending social upheaval and widespread human suffering. Through the textual analysis of a cross-section of Bacigalupi’s works, this article demonstrates his emphasis upon the urgency and importance of our own societies learning to construct and implement alternate economic paradigms.
    • Fully Optimized: The (Post)human Art of Speedrunning

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester
      Over time, speedrunning communities work collaboratively to optimize, reconfigure, and improve upon the quickest possible completion times of video game titles. I argue that this progressive ethos, coupled with the performative nature of modern speedrunning, lends a distinctly artistic character to the practice. Speedrunning is a form of (post)human expression that is manifested not only through the programming of a video game, but also through players’ approach to gameplay. By choosing to speedrun, players actively impose a discrete temporal limit on the inhuman algorithms of video games, and so attempt to conquer and thereby curtail their technological novelty. However, within the field of game studies, the literature published on speedrunning to date is almost unilaterally anthropocentric, and focuses on the transgressive nature of the practice, ignoring the intricacies of its technological fundament. Rather, (post)humans and technologies interact in a transformational manner through intra-active assemblages, broadening the condition of embodiment. To theorize a posthumanistic theory of the practice, this article takes as its focus the speedrunning community of the video game Super Mario Odyssey and suggests that speedrunning may ultimately be considered a mode of (post)human performance art.
    • What’s a Little Monotony?

      Hay, Jonathan
      As this article demonstrates, the characteristic focus within Asimov scholarship exclusively upon the technological aspects of his robot stories and novels has meant that the importance of their mundane components have been systematically overlooked. By shifting critical focus to the mundane aspects of these works, it becomes newly apparent that Asimov uses a mundane foundation to problematise humanistic constructs of the human. These mundane components comprise an essential cognitive foundation of known phenomena, via which the comprehension of Asimov’s profoundly novel robots becomes plausible contextually. By readily anticipating and demonstrating the phenomenological impact of the everyday positionality of technology in the contemporary world, Asimov’s robot stories and novels recode the outdated signifier of the ‘human’ in a posthumanistic paradigm.
    • The Radical Voice of Margaret Oliphant: Extending Domesticity in Hester and Kirsteen

      Baker, Katie; University of Chester
      This paper demonstrates how the nineteenth-century writer Margaret Oliphant drew upon her domestic identity to write in radical ways which could educate and inform her young female readership. Through the exploration of two female characters, Catherine Vernon in Hester (1883) and Kirsteen Douglas in Kirsteen (1890), the paper demonstrates how Oliphant represented the importance of opportunities available for young women within 'extended domesticity', a version of the domestic space which extended beyond conventional boundaries to include all women. Through representations of female characters like Catherine and Kirsteen, who had careers and even businesses, of their own, Oliphant showed the possibilities available for women whose lives did not fit into the conventional mould of marriage and maternity. Hester and Kirsteen allow Oliphant to represent two very different versions of domesticity, and to reinforce the necessity for an extended version of it, which allows women the space to find personal growth and fulfilment. The paper engages with the scholarship of critics such as George Levine and Katherine Mullin to explore Oliphant's radical voice and to reinforce her place as an important writer.
    • 'The Great Famine in Fiction, 1901-2015'

      Fegan, Melissa; University of Chester
      This chapter considers Irish writers’ continual reimagining of the Great Famine and the way it has shaped understandings of the past and present. In doing so, it addresses novels and short stories from nineteenth-century writers such as William Carleton, Mary Anne Hoare, and Margaret Brew, who sought to explain or reinterpret the catastrophe while it was still a living memory. The return of the Famine in later historical and neo-Victorian fiction by writers such as Liam O’Flaherty, John Banville, and Joseph O’Connor is considered in light of the association between Famine fiction and present-day crises in the post-independence era. The discussion also extends to the resurgence in literary interest in the Famine in the 1990s and early 2000s, which, the chapter suggests, was due not only to the greater exposure of the Famine in public discourse but also to a revival of insecurities that seemed to belong to the past.