Book reviews, Jan. 7

Fresh Strange Music
By Donald S. Hair
McGill-Queen’s University Press

Strange-Music

Donald S. Hair, an English and Writing Studies professor emeritus, undertakes a sonorous task; namely, demonstrating how the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning has integrated musical rhythm as an indelible part of her poetic practice as opposed to being in thrall to the static traditional forms of rhyming poetry. Hair illustrates that beneath the rhapsody of poetic language was a commitment to breathing life and putting a heartbeat to the words themselves to that they might appeal sweetly to the senses as almost a Kantian thing-in-itself. The thread that ties Barrett’s diverse poetic together is woven through prophecy, the political, the poetic and the musical.

Hair’s approach is a unique and significant contribution to the study of EBB, for while others may have chosen the more obvious themes that have made her a critical mainstay in the poetic canon, Hair charts a musical course that brings to our ears her innovative, sweet notes that have for so long appealed to our senses and appreciation of EBB.

The Testimonial Uncanny: Indigenous Storytelling, Knowledge and Reparative Practices
By Julia V. Emberley
SUNY Press

Testimonial-Uncanny

As a timely contribution to the burgeoning field of Indigenous arts and humanities, Julia Emberley, an English and Writing Studies professor, reveals the strategies and tactics of how Indigenous storytelling and testimony function to critically transform postcolonial violence, and how these operate by a form of ‘re-housing’ said narratives in existing political kinships.

One of the key concepts in this work is the interplay between the unheimlich (the uncanny) and heimlich. Emberley takes Freud’s notion of the uncanny as one of several entry points to better grasp how these narrative oppositions work toward revealing the past through the present, and vice versa. We might find here, as well, a passing semblance to Heidegger’s use of the term, generally referring to the kind of unsettling – such as an odd or unwelcome visitor that unsettles the hosts, and may be a catalyst for inducing anxiety, violence, and a widespread feeling of ‘not being at home.’ And, certainly, colonial history has been conspicuously (and shamefully) silent with respect the many sordid chapters whereby Indigenous people were effectively ‘unsettled.’

But it is the function of Indigenous testimony and storytelling that brings about what Emberley terms a ‘re-housing,’ and this through a broad range of media, be it novels, plays and film. By revealing a multitude of different ways of knowing and telling that remarkably differ from standard Western or colonial(ized) discourses, we do indeed find that these are imbricated with the kind of reparative function that hopefully generates a re-settling out of something disparate and uncanny.

Small Cinemas in Global Markets: Genres, Identities, Narratives
Edited by Lenuta Guikin, Janina Falkowska and David Desser
Lexington Books

Small-Cinemas

Generally characterized as gritty, vibrant and operating on the periphery of the cinema industry compared to mainstream Hollywood productions, small cinema has seen several transformations over the years that render such attempts at classifying them problematic. Given the globalization turn in economy and media technologies, even the means by which we ‘screen’ content, and the sociopolitical assumptions attributed to independent film genres as being strictly regionalist or nationalistic in nature, requires a new approach.

So-edited by Film Studies professor Janina Falkowska, this volume of interconnected yet diverse essays unfurls the rich and complex tapestry of small cinemas as vehicles of filmic cultural distribution. Small cinemas present more than just a way of challenging dominant or hegemonic narratives, but they are also sites of challenge themselves due to underfunding and the encroachment of larger international markets. Despite a steady increase in the diversified cultural product of small cinemas, due to an expansion in film festivals and film studies scholarship, we might question what is lost or gained with respect to the local and localizing aspects of small cinema.

Despite, and sometimes because of, these challenges in a rapidly shifting cultural landscape, these essays project a story of how small cinema remains relevant and continues to address some of the most pressing issues of the day – both locally and across now porous cultural borders.

Volumes
Edited by Martin Arnold and Christof Migone
Blackwood Gallery

VOLUMES_RecordJacket

Showing fidelity to the Deleuzian term of assemblage as opposed to an anthology, this catalogue does much more than attend different exhibits, but indulges in free-form conversation, quasi-interviews and occasionally breaks out with a flurry of neologisms that are true conceptual creations that bend or break etymology.

Co-edited by Visual Arts professor Christof Migone, the minimally entitled Volumes is a true multi-media objet d’art, replete with liner notes; the main text of interviews, essays and ‘curatelia’; and even an album. Aptly named ‘volumes’ instead of in the singular, there is no way of binding it to a single definition any more than the five exhibits referenced can be compressed or simplified by a single essay or strap-line. I am reminded of something Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari said in A Thousand Plateaus about how to read their volume(s): to treat it like an album, whereby the reader/hearer will gravitate to favoured tracks, listening to some over and over again in a kind of ritornello. For example, I have returned three times to read Michael Couroux’s Preemptive Glossary for a Technosonic Control Society (with lines of flight) – a truer homage to the Deleuzo-Guattarian rhizome would scarce be found. That being said, Volumes is not the sort of work one reads or listens to from beginning to end, but the sort of work that calls one back to take in an essay or a track, put it away, and rediscover it again by taking a new path through it.