Embodying Identity

Embodying Identity: Representations of the Body in Welsh Literature

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Embodying Identity
    Book Description:

    Since the time of Freud, some of the most radical innovators within critical theory have stressed the importance of the body and its representation to the constitution of subjectivity. This book explores some of the theoretical debates surrounding the body, and assesses its value as a critical concept, through an analysis of the body’s representation both in Welsh literary texts in English, and discourse about Wales more generally.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2237-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. General Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    M. Wynn Thomas
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction: Theorizing the Body
    (pp. 1-19)

    Since the advent of Sigmund Freud’s pioneering work, the most radical innovators within critical theory have continued to stress the importance of the body and its representation to the constitution of subjectivity. In a lucid summary of contemporary critical thinking on the body, which draws not only on the work of JuliaKristeva and Jacques Lacan, but also that of Jean-François Lyotard, Luce Irigaray, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, Elizabeth Gross makes this important observation:

    [T]he ways in which the body is coded, made meaningful, and rendered representable provide some of the necessary conditions for discursive and cultural representation...

  7. 2 Class, Nation and Corporeality in the 1847 Blue Books Report
    (pp. 20-46)

    The publication in 1847 of the Blue BooksReport. . .into the State of Education in Wales(the term ‘Blue Books’ deriving from the colour of the bindings of Commissions of Inquiry reports) is generally agreed to have been one of the most significant events in the history of nineteenth-century Wales.¹ Indeed, while historians have differed in their interpretations of the Report’s significance, the lasting impression it made upon the history and politics of Wales, and the development of Welsh identity, has been almost universally acknowledged. In her groundbreaking studyThe Language of the Blue Books(1998), Gwyneth...

  8. 3 The Body and the Book: Caradoc Evans’s My People
    (pp. 47-69)

    By the first decade of the twentieth century, it is possible to detect a growing disenchantment in industrial south Wales withgwerinpolitics, one increasingly expressed as a greater will on the part of incipient labour movements to challenge the cultural and political hegemony of Nonconformity. As a consequence, the national solidarities formed after 1847 had never looked less certain, ruptured by both the development of a native industrial class in south Wales (whose leaders dominated local branches of the Liberal Party) and the influx of large numbers of English-speaking migrants, many of whom were familiar with the language of...

  9. 4 ‘I give the Border’: Margiad Evans and Wales
    (pp. 70-89)

    In her essay ‘The body of signification’, Elizabeth Gross has noted the similarities between Kristeva’s account of the abject and the ‘broader category’ of the semiotic (those ‘pre-linguistic states of childhood where the child babbles the sounds s/he hears, or where s/he articulates rhythms, alliterations, or stresses, trying to imitate her/his surroundings’):¹ not only are both categories located ‘on the side of the feminine in Kristeva’s work’, but they also share the ambivalent position of being ‘ both a necessary condition of the subject and what must be expelled or repressed by the subject in order to attain identity and...

  10. 5 ‘[B]eating on the Jailing Slab of the Womb’: The Alleged Immaturity of Dylan Thomas
    (pp. 90-113)

    In a letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson written during the April of 1934, Dylan Thomas lambasts the hypocritical posturing of Swansea’s suburban bourgeoisie, ‘[t]he Sunday-walkers [who] have slunk out of the warrens in which they breed all the unholy week . . . and are now marching up the hill past my window’. Sneering down from the bedroom window of his Uplands home, Thomas continues:

    Life passes the windows, and I hate it more minute by minute. I see the rehearsed gestures, the correct smiles, the grey cells revolving around nothing under the godly bowlers. I see the unborn children...

  11. 6 ‘[W]hatever / I throw up now is still theirs’: Abjection in R. S. Thomas’s ‘Poetry of Exile’
    (pp. 114-135)

    Discussing the relative merits of Wales’s leading twentieth-century English-language poets, Katie Gramich has the following to say about Dylan Thomas:

    Dylan Thomas is a great Welsh poet but isn’t he also our burden, our clichéd bard, the poetic equivalent ofHow Green Was My Valley?He’s the Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive whom we have to lug around with us everywhere for everyone to recognise us, pigeonhole us, and dismiss us. He’s the poetic shorthand: Welsh = mercurial, passionate, drunken, bit of a windbag, obsessed with sex, short, Celtic, demotic fag gummed to lower lip. Yes, that’s us. Don’t we feel...

  12. 7 Horror and Wonder: Glyn Jones’s The Valley, the City, the Village and Niall Griffiths’s Grits
    (pp. 136-159)

    Towards the end ofNeb, R. S. Thomas makes this strange yet also revealing admission:

    As his life reaches its end has R. S. any message, any advice to give? None. He hasn’t experienced enough of human life to dare to preach to anyone. People tend to inhabit his imagination instead of being part of his personal experience. (Neb, p. 123)

    Following this apparent self-criticism, Thomas backtracks considerably, however, not only defending his isolation from ‘human life’ on artistic grounds, but excusing it via an attack on the perceived failings of his compatriots:

    Because he wasn’t a novelist, there was...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 160-181)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 182-190)
  15. Index
    (pp. 191-196)