Category Archives: Long Read

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.

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‘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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17 days of June: on COVID-19, prescriptions and proscriptions, and the contingencies of care

By Pavan Mano

Common sense is an interesting thing. Particularly in those not infrequent moments when it becomes clear that it isn’t, in fact, all that commonly distributed and, quite often, doesn’t actually make very much sense. These moments offer an opportunity – even if quite often missed – to unwind, untangle, and unmake some of these articulations of common sense – hopefully in favour of something better. This is one such moment. After all, “pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew” (Roy 2020). We’ve been forced, collectively, to confront the question of care and the various conditions under which it’s extended to different degrees, to particular categories of people, in particular circumstances, and so on – the contingencies of care, in other words. In the face of the conspicuous insufficiencies that have been brutally exposed over the course of the past year and a half, it would be awfully remiss of us to eschew reimagining how our world and societies are arranged and organized.

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Induction Week Somersetting Takeover: Interview with Dr Carl Kears

By Carl Kears and Cornelia Sheppard Dawson

Each year, departing third-year students in our department put together a guide for arriving first years. This year’s magazine – titled “Somersetting” – offers a student perspective on studying English at King’s and addresses some issues of concern for new students. During induction week, the blog will be spotlighting sections of this year’s magazine.

First up… Cornelia Sheppard Dawson interviews Dr Carl Kears, Head of First Year and Lecturer in Medieval Literature.

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