Volume 5, Issue 1

(Summer 2018)

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Cover Image: KoAltaiTeMaunga, “Woven Bone,” licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Editors' Note, by Leah Richards and John R. Ziegler (7-8)


Spectra of Transcommunication: A Survival Study after Raudive and Derrida, by Luka Bekavac (9-32)


Abstract: The article analyzes instrumental transcommunication (ITC) as a widespread cultural practice of representing the afterlife. A brief introductory survey of the phenomenon focuses on its history, its conceptual and technological development, its impact on the world of art, and various types of criticism it provoked. Belief in the possibility of communicating with the dead is further explored from a cognitive and psychoanalytic angle: the “specters” of ITC are traceable to a specific interplay of apophenia or pareidolia and the work of mourning (as defined by Freud and critically developed by Abraham and Torok). In the concluding section, ITC’s ontological premises—“realism” of the photographic image and equating voice with life—are examined in the light of Derrida’s “hauntology” and Barthes’s theory of photography: if signifying processes are irreducible to the singularity of a living presence, then writing, photography, and sound recordings actually “spectralize” the living instead of reanimating or documenting the dead.

Keywords: instrumental transcommunication, spectrality, hauntology, text, mourning, photography, Derrida, Barthes

The Hunters and the Haunted: Blackwood’s Transformation of the Wendigo, by Kirk R. Swenson (33-49)


Abstract: A comparison of the wendigo described in ethnographic literature to the entity of Algernon Blackwood’s story “The Wendigo” reveals how the author adapted the monster of Algonquin lore for readers of popular fiction at the turn of the twentieth century. Aboriginal stories of the wendigo functioned within tribal societies where social cohesion and deference to community needs were preeminent; the monster embodied the horrors of privation where scarcity was the rule. Blackwood’s wendigo, in contrast, is a seductive entity that takes a victim’s life even as it offers consummation with primal beauty. This shift is integral to the story’s dialectic between a conventional masculinity characterized by scientific objectivity and a feminizing susceptibility to the allure of the aesthetic. Defago’s rendezvous with the wendigo is driven by an emotional vulnerability as emasculating as it is fatal. The result is a story that dramatizes key conflicts in early twentieth-century masculinity.

Keywords: apotheosis, phallic, transgression, Romantic, sacred, sublime

Into the Weird, Wild Woods: Folklore and the Supernatural in Lumberjanes and The Good Neighbors, by Kirsten Møllegaard (50-73)


Abstract: Young Adult (YA) fantasy fiction retells and repositions elements of traditional folklore in tales of the supernatural. The folklore and folktales retold in two YA graphic novel series, Lumberjanes and The Good Neighbors, form part of a larger trend in postmodern literature to question Otherness and humans' relation to nature. In these two comics series, nature is presented as a supernatural place full of monstrous creatures and mysterious powers. This paper examines the narrative strategies facilitated by the comics medium's combination of images and text. Like traditional folklore, the folkloresque is argued to be a dynamic ingredient in the production and consumption of cultural knowledge in YA literature.

Keywords: Folklore, folkloresque, fantasy fiction, Lumberjanes, The Good Neighbors, Otherness, comics

“Nothing alive here but us and the plant”: Ecological Terror and the Disruption of Order in Scott Smith’s The Ruins, by Jim Coby (74-95)


Abstract: In Scott Smith’s bestselling second novel, The Ruins, four American travelers head to a Mexican resort town to celebrate their final days before entering the “real world.” Circumstances take a turn for the worse when, at the behest of a newfound friend, the travelers venture to an abandoned archaeological dig site. They quickly discover that the site is inhabited by bloodthirsty and seemingly malevolent plant life. What should be a straightforward examination of colonial privilege and dissolution of societal bonds becomes complicated through Smith’s use of a fecund antagonist. As such, Smith deconstructs not only notions of Western privilege in the Global South, but, as I argue, also the upsetting of a supposedly axiomatic ontological order.

Keywords: Anthropocene, postcolonialism, Scott Smith, The Ruins, Timothy Morton

Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Mistrusting the Female Experience, by Julie Hugonny (96-120)


Abstract: In Philip Kaufman’s 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, women are presented as educated, sensible, independent, and sexually liberated. Yet, when they speak up, denouncing a sudden change of behavior in their companions, the men they confide in dismiss their concerns as emotional and irrational. This article highlights and analyzes the gender relations in the film, focusing on men’s silencing of women to prevent them from questioning the current relations of power and authority. Their knee-jerk reaction of discrediting women precipitates the threat to humanity, as their warnings go unheeded. More importantly, it reveals men’s own inadequacies, as they navigate a changing world in which women now have knowledge, self-awareness, expectations, and a voice to articulate them.

Keywords: science fiction, gender relations, body snatchers, desire, abuse, experience

Through the Cheval-Glass: The Doppelgänger and Temporal Modernist Terror in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Whitney S. May (121-135)


Abstract: This article investigates the function of the doppelgänger in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a figure from the Gothic past resurrected and reengineered to navigate fin de siècle misgivings about the uncertainty of the modern future. The duality inherent to the doppelgänger figure makes it a superb case study of this modern impulse for reinvention, for its uncanniness precludes the modernist impulse to recode past forms in the interest of future invention. Thus reanimated, the doppelgänger in this tale typifies the anxieties of a period that found itself neither distinctly Victorian, nor definitively modern, but rather, as Dr. Jekyll mourns of his own schizophrenic situation, “radically both.” Viewing itself through a transformative modern mirror, Stevenson’s readership found itself face to face with a perfectly modern metropolitan monster in Edward Hyde, and even in his destruction, haunted by the social and technological upheaval that he represents.

Keywords: doppelgänger, dualism, modernism, monster, Robert Louis Stevenson

One of a Multiplicious Kind: Orphan Black, Performance and the Plurality of Female Experience, by Joseph Walderzak (136-158)


Abstract: This article argues that Orphan Black’s concentration of female characters, all performed by Tatiana Maslany, not only challenges and deconstructs salient stereotypes but exposes their triviality through establishing their mutability, accessibility, and diversity. Amanda Lotz’s work on television provides an entry point to analyzing the ramifications of Maslany’s performance. The diversity of characters from the same genetic source is in itself empowering, but the fact they can successfully portray one another and are all performed by a single actress shows the permeability and accessibility of various female personas. These scenes raise awareness of the performative aspects of identity, and, therefore, the thrust of this article is analogous to theories of gender performativity, particularly those which have built upon and challenged Judith Butler’s seminal works on the topic. Using this context of performativity, I here refine Lotz’s methodology in order to illuminate how performance is linked to archetypes.

Keywords: performance studies; performativity; television studies; Orphan Black; gender studies; feminist media


Luka Bekavac is Assistant Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. He obtained his PhD in 2012 (Derrida and the Problem of Literary Text). He has contributed articles on Derrida, Blanchot, Beckett, Ligotti, Abraham and Torok to a number of publications, including Performance Research, Filozofska istraživanja, and Književna smotra, and coedited the Quorum literary magazine. His research interests include literary theory, its roots in contemporary philosophy, its impact on popular culture, and its capacity for dialogue with (post)modernist fiction.

Jim Coby is a Lecturer in English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he teaches literature and composition. His work has previously appeared in the South Central Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Pennsylvania English, and Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice. He would like to thank his colleague, Joey Taylor, for his thoughtful contributions to and critiques of this essay.

Julie Hugonny earned her Ph.D. in French literature from New York University in 2014. Her dissertation, titled The Last Man: Apocalyptic Science Fiction Literature from the Nineteenth Century to World War I, deals with disasters, epidemics, devolution, and the end of the world. Her teaching and research interests are: nineteenth-century French and English literature, science fiction in literature and film, and depictions of monsters in popular culture. She is currently a Lector in French at Yale University.

Whitney S. May, MA, is a lecturer in the Department of English at Texas State University. Her primary research interests include the Gothic and nineteenth-century horror literature, as well as depictions of the doppelgänger in horror fiction and in popular culture. Her recent work has been published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review and in Circus Space: The Big Top on the Big Screen (McFarland Press, forthcoming 2019).

Kirsten Møllegaard is a professor of English at University of Hawai’i at Hilo. She teaches courses in English and American literature, comics and graphic novels, myth and folklore, film, gender and women’s studies, and rhetoric. Her research focuses on the intersections between narratives, people, and places. She has written multiple articles and book chapters on literature, film, fairy tales, haunting, and the supernatural. She is currently co-editing a volume entitled Narratives of Place in Literature and Film (Routledge).

Kirk R. Swenson earned a Ph.D. in American and English literature from Washington State University in 1994. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Dunwoody Campus of Perimeter College, Georgia State University.

Joseph Walderzak is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at Wayne State University and is an Adjunct Professor at Adrian College and Macomb Community College. His work on the damsel archetype in superhero cinema has appeared in Studies in the Fantastic and the anthology Marvel Comics into Film. He has contributed a chapter on the female antihero in the anthology Crime Uncovered: Antihero. Forthcoming publications include a study of Mean Girls and the teen film genre, a class analysis of mise-en-scene in horror film remakes, and an analysis of aesthetics and politics in Nickelodeon’s 1990s primetime lineup.

*These notes appear on pages 157-158 of the print version.