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This volume brings together essays that, individually and collectively, address the force of the literary text with regard to problematic identities. They work out of shared concerns with literary representations of this issue in different regions, nations and communities that often prove divided; they pursue questions related to textual identity, where the literary text itself is contested internally, or in its generic and historical relations. In sum, these studies actively test identity, as social or literary concept, discovering in difference the very condition of a useful, if paradoxical, sense of personal or textual coherence. What happens to us when we move between different cultures or different societies, defined in geographical or historical terms? What happens to texts and textual practices in these same circumstances? What happens to us when we are obliged to adapt to a new social order? Homi Bhabha speaks of “cultural difference” as calling into play what he calls “cultural translation.” What happens to identity, the narrative that fashions a continued sense of self, in this case? Difference, raised to alterity, demands that we accord functional and philosophical value not just to other aspects, but also to the aspect of the other. At the level of personal or textual agency, however, difference contests and threatens to subvert stable selfhood, composing a scene of conflict. Even so, it often proves to be instrumental in re-charging a sense of the cultural valence of the literary text – not least by virtue of its political implications. In this regard, the border – where difference materialises – has considerable presence in contributions to this volume, prompting appreciation of texts that work on or travel across such borders, however haphazardly and dangerously, but also those that compose “border textualities.”
Roger Nicholson is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where he teaches Middle English Literature, Popular Fiction and Writing Studies. His recent publications include articles on medieval romances and political poetry, and essays on Australasian crime fiction and the New Zealand film-maker Vincent Ward. Claudia Marquis is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, teaching courses in Victorian and Renaissance literature, adolescent fiction and postcolonial writing. She has published widely on Caribbean writing and children’s fiction, especially novels by the New Zealand writers Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee. Gertrud Szamosi is Assistant Professor at the Institute of English Studies at Pécs University, Hungary, and has taught and published in the fields of Scottish, Canadian and postcolonial literatures. She was guest editor of the postcolonial issue of the literary theoretical journal Helikon, and has edited a volume of contemporary Scottish short stories in Hungarian.
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