Lech Wałęsa’s autobiography, A Way of Hope,offers a unique first-person perspective from one who has shaped the history of modern Poland. It traces the emergence of a moral dimension and authority by Wałęsa, and explains the distinctive structure, principles, and success of Solidarity. As the titular “Genesis” might suggest, Solidarity is seen here through a distinctively Christian lens. The Catholic Church offered an inclusive and universal structure based on morality and solidarity, one that Wałęsa was quick to associate with and could use to reconcile the workers’ divisions and surmount the state’s authoritarianism. Catholicism had the powerful benefits of an omnipresence and omnibenevolence, of an alluring virtue in both past and future. There is then, an amorphous and indistinguishable trinity between Wałęsa, the workers, and the Church that explains the particular genesis of Solidarity as it arose.
When the People’s Republic of China was founded, Mao Zedong was faced with a nation divided on every level, having been ravaged by a century of external foreign invasion and internal civil wars. Like Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor, Mao Zedong had the difficult task of consolidating and unifying China ahead of him. Maoism should be seen in the context of this unifying task: Mao Zedong Thought was the political and ideological fruit of Mao’s efforts towards a unified nation.
The twenty-first century in Europe is increasingly concerned with Islam on all fronts. On an internal, domestic political level, Muslim populations in Europe are growing and entrenching at an unprecedented rate. Islam’s relationship with the West and Europe has become particularly relevant and scrutinized with the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the attacks on the London bombings in 2005, particularly because these attacks were attributed to Muslims fighting in the name of Islam. It should be emphasized that this is not simply a security concern over violence, but a much deeper cultural and identity crisis, which has been dubbed “Islamophobia” or “Eurabia.”
Béroul’s The Romance of Tristran and Marie de France’s Chevrefueil both use the natural world to explore the complex relationship and power dynamics between the respective two lovers. However, their approach in text and topography is very different, heavily influenced by their respective genre and structure. Romance is a more “primitive” fabliau, expansive and external, while Chevrefueil is a more “courtly” Breton lai, focused and internal. The scope of the topography matches the scope of the text: thus, the natural world for Romance is likewise large, with multiple characters and actions that are explicit and literal, while the natural world in Chevrefueil is small, with only Tristan and the queen and actions that are implicit and symbolic. Nature can primarily be seen as a male space, created and sustained by the male characters, but this does not mean the power dynamic is tipped towards Tristran or Tristan. The text and topography in both stories are nuanced in their exploration of the two lover’s relationship, and there is a subtle undercurrent of female agency that reveals the relationship to be more symbiotic and reciprocal than initially evident. Romance and Chevrefueil are a sort of human geography: text, topography, and the two lovers are mapped, and their mutuality and equality elucidated. For convenience’s sake throughout this essay, Tristran and Yseut will be used to describe the two lovers in Béroul’s Romance while Tristan and the queen will be used for Marie’s Chevrefueil.
The transition from communism to capitalism following the revolutions of 1989 was unprecedented.1 Generally speaking, post-Communist states suffered a transformation crisis in moving from state socialism and a planned economy to a free and global market, resulting in hyperinflation, unemployment, and lower standards of living. Why was this?
Mavis Gallant’s introduction to Home Truths quotes Boris Pasternak: “Only personal independence matters” (xi). The importance of personal independence is a driving theme in Morley Callaghan’s “One Spring Night” and “A Wedding Dress,” which respectively explores opposite ends of romantic relationships: young Sheila is on her first date with Bob, while the aging Miss Schwartz is finally getting married to Sam after fifteen years of engagement. By its very definition, a relationship is the antithesis of independence—a problem that becomes increasingly evident for Sheila and Schwartz.
The Literal Persona and the Beauty of Furs
Erin Mouré’s “The Beauty of Furs” and “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” are complementary poems, with the latter explaining and expanding upon the former. In “The Beauty of Furs,” Mouré’s presumably female persona discusses fur with younger girls. The persona and the younger girls have markedly different understandings of the beauty of furs: the persona associates fur with a host of images and memories; while the younger girls only see fur for its superficial appearance. “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” decrypts the metaphor in “The Beauty of Furs”: “Later you realize it is a poem about being born” (Mouré 595). But there is a reason that Mouré made “The Beauty of Furs: A Site Glossary” a separate poem—to understand “The Beauty of Furs” in a non-metaphoric sense is to connect with Mouré on a much more personal and literal level.
It is the title that boldly proclaims the object and subject in Margaret Atwood’s poem: “This is a Photograph of Me.” But while the poem speaks in a simple and straightforward language, Atwood is nonetheless able to obscure almost all meaning. Atwood’s talent lies in creating an image in the reader’s mind, which begins to unravel and multiply. The reader is given the photograph, which is revealed to be polysemic in form and content, and must then confront his own singular understanding of existence and reality.
In “Dark Pines under Water,” Gwendolyn MacEwen describes the internal journey of the reader as triggered by the reflected landscape. This internality is deliberately shrouded: the trigger, the journey and the destination is never defined. Indeed, naming the internality would rob it of its potency. Instead, MacEwen only approaches through indirect means. By using the strong imagery and connotations inherent in the landscape, MacEwen is able to subvert these associations when describing introspection to create an alien, yet familiar internality. MacEwen’s talent lies in her ability to lead the reader to a subjective conclusion without objectively overstating it. The result is an actual journey that compels the reader to engage with the text.
Given the first half of Michael Ondaatje’s “The Cinnamon Peeler,” the poem can be reach as a patriarchal or colonial text, where the titular cinnamon peeler has clear authority and dominance over the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Ondaatje uses the actual past of the second half to subvert this dominance in the hypothetical present, re-examining the power dynamic between the persona and his wife. By exploring the nature of power in love, their actual relationship is revealed to be much more nuanced, with the persona’s wife paradoxically empowered and powerless in relation to the persona at the same time.