All posts by George Kowalik

Red Light, Green Light

By Jane Elliott

The Korean TV drama Squid Game is Netflix’s most popular show ever, having reached the number one spot in ninety countries. It tells the story of a diverse group of characters, all heavily in debt, who agree to compete in a series of traditional children’s games with untraditional stakes: losers are killed and the final survivor takes the entire jackpot. Continue reading Red Light, Green Light

On an Ecstatic Return to the Archives

By Beth Potter

As I write this, by hand at first to keep things loose and free, I sit before a document on my laptop screen, a dense 39 pages of notes. Its title is ‘BBC Written Archives visit’, and I compiled it in early September during three intense – enriching, nourishing, project-broadening, but intense – days in Caversham a few weeks ago, during which my neck cracked a thousand times and no amount of shoulder rolls saved my back from the archive ache.

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The Female Character and French Aristocracy in Edith Wharton’s ‘The Custom of the Country’ and ‘The Reef’

By Samantha Seto

In Edith Wharton’s American novels, the heroines are part of the French aristocratic milieu. The American expatriates, Undine Spragg and Anna Leath, are situated in France and characterized by attributes that suggest French influence through literary elements such as narration and dialogue in The Custom of the Country (1913) and The Reef (1912). Wharton reveals an implicit feminism in a patriarchal society and thematic marital relations drive the plot, which indicates the conventional role for women dedicated to the social traditions of the aristocracy. The French have their own code of manners in society, idealised aesthetic of female beauty, and their honour resides in the social expectations of probity. In my narratological analysis of character identity, French cultural norms and the common French aesthetic blends into the portrayal of the primary female characters. Wharton interweaves a French theme into the narratives which shape the portraits representing aristocratic women and particularly their romantic conflicts that arise at the turn of the century. In the novels, Wharton establishes heroines characterised by attributes that belong to the French aristocracy.

Continue reading The Female Character and French Aristocracy in Edith Wharton’s ‘The Custom of the Country’ and ‘The Reef’

‘The Normal Heart’ and the Morality of Being Gay

By Goh Wei Hao

Written during a different time, when the world was consumed by another virus, the themes of The Normal Heart remain extraordinarily relevant in today’s world.

The play is set in New York City, and takes place over a span four years in the 1980s — during the early days of the HIV epidemic when the virus did not yet have a name. It is centred around the writer Ned Weeks and the gay health advocacy group that he helped to establish along with closeted banker Bruce Niles, the free love advocate Mickey Marcus, and the self-described “Southern bitch,” Tommy Boatwright. Also part of this ragtag group is Dr Emma Brookner who pushes the group to campaign harder for their voices and her advice to be heard by the community.

After watching the 2021-revival of Larry Kramer’s largely autobiographical play, a question lingers in my mind: What does it mean to be a moral gay man?

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The 2021 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, Recommended by Patrick Wright

By Sophie Roell and Patrick Wright

Sophie: Through careful research and compelling argument, the books shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding cast light on globally significant problems, says Patrick Wright, chair of the 2021 jury and Emeritus Professor of Literature, History and Politics at King’s College London. Here he talks us through the books that made the 2021 shortlist as well as last year’s winner, works of nonfiction that “speak directly to the urgent challenges of the times in which we live”.

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