Academic Roundup: Vagabond-language and decadent arcadias

The following articles appeared in academic journals during 2018 and were not previously mentioned in our postings. Abstracts or excerpts from introductory materials are provided as available:

–Helena M. Tomko, “A Good Laugh is Hard to Find: From destructive satire to sacramental humor in Evelyn Waugh’s Helena“, Christianity and Literature, v. 67, issue 2, pp. 312-31, 1 March 2018:

Abstract. Despite Evelyn Waugh’s conviction that Helena (1950) was his greatest work, the novel receives less critical attention than his well-known interwar satires and his postwar hit, Brideshead Revisited (1945). This article argues that the novel accomplishes Waugh’s self-conscious postwar effort to rehouse his satiric impulses in a mode that resists both the “dark” laughter of modernism and the sentimentality risked in mid-century Catholic fiction. With metafictive attention to genre and style, Helena exemplifies what this article terms “sacramental humor.” Waugh’s fictionalized St. Helena embodies the contrast between satire that seeks to correct or destroy and humor that seeks to heal.

The author is Asst Prof of Literature at Villanova University.

–Annabel Williams, “Vagabond-language scrawled on gate-posts: locating home in Waugh’s travel writing”, Textual Practice, v. 32, issue 1, pp. 41-58, 2018:

Abstract. This essay establishes a framework for comparing Waugh’s interwar travelogues with his fiction, by aligning the tropes of home and travel. I will propose that, in his travel writing, and figuratively speaking, Waugh never left England. His impulses to travel, and so his representations of ‘abroad’, are involved in an entrenched desire to find or create a home. Through readings of Brideshead Revisited, Black Mischief and Remote People, I examine the aporia emerging from a disjunction between the falsely presented factual places and half-imagined fictive places that span genres in Waugh’s oeuvre. Heidegger’s theorisation of dwelling offers a productive means of analysing the divide between home and homelessness in Waugh. I will suggest that a certain aspect of Waugh’s writing – a ‘vagabond-language’ – destabilises the binaries of remoteness and the homely, the foreign and the native, with which his work is obsessed. Debbie Lisle’s investigation of geopolitical discourse will help an understanding of spatial representation in Waugh’s work and the textuality of his constructions of home. Though Waugh could neither leave home, nor solve the overwhelming question of deracination for his time, his work encourages us to engage in the remoteness of home, and perhaps to find home in the remote.

The author is a member of the English Faculty, Merton College, Oxford.

–J V Long, “Edmund Wilson Had No Idea: Brideshead Revisited as Catholic Tract”, Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, v. 70, issue 1, pp. 43-58, Winter 2018

Abstract. Evidence in the text of Brideshead Revisited shows that it is inadequate simply to link Evelyn Waugh’s conversion to Roman Catholicism with his ostensibly reactionary sensibility. Rather than merely providing an exercise in apologetics, Waugh’s novel displays religious experience that is grounded in the author’s conversion and practice of his faith. The novel mines a deep understanding of both the complex experience of English Catholicism and the riches of the liturgical drama and texts that were experienced during the Holy Week Tenebrae services with which he was familiar.

The author is Associate Professor at Portland State University and Chairman of the Evelyn Waugh Society.

–Martin B Lockherd, “Decadent Arcadias, Wild(e) Conversions and Queer Celibacies in Brideshead Revisited“, MFS Modern Fiction Studies, v. 64, issue 2, pp. 249-63, Summer 2018:

Abstract. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is among the most important and influential Catholic novels in the English language. It is also one of the queerest novels of its time. This essay explores the diverse ways in which Waugh’s novel traverses the apparent divisions that separate Catholic and queer sexuality. Drawing on archival research and recent theoretical and theological insights regarding celibacy, it argues that Brideshead participates in the aesthetic of fin de siècle British Decadence as a means of driving its central characters toward a form of sexuality that is at once potentially orthodox and queer.

The author is Asst Prof of English at Schreiner Univerisity.

–D Marcel DeCoste, “Contested Confessions: The Sins of the Press and Evelyn Waugh’s False Penance in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold“, Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, v 21, issue 3, pp 62-84, Summer 2018:

Excerpt. I contend […] that Waugh’s novel neither depicts Pinfold’s confession nor enacts Waugh’s own. Rather, it is, as its title proclaims, the story of an ordeal, an agonizing and agonistic “test of guilt or innocence,” from which Waugh’s stand-in emerges, we are told, “victor” (OGP, 231). What the book exposes, then, is not the penitent-author’s grievous faults, but an author’s contest with his critics, and what it seeks, by its victory, to establish, is the falseness of those critics’ stock formulation and reprobation of Waugh’s sins. [Footnote omitted.]

The author is Professor of English at the University of Regina and a member of the Evelyn Waugh Society.

–Finally, Modern Language Review, v. 113, issue 1, pp. 235-37 (2018) prints a review by Barbara Cooke of Naomi Milthorpe’s book Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Subtexts. See previous post.



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