Affectual Perfomance via Liminal Rites in John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ENGL 366: English and Anglophone Literature requirements in March 2017.


the-spy-who-came-in-from-the-cold-series
Source

Femininity is portrayed in John le Carré’s novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold as that which is positively affectual. This is not to say that women are portrayed as happy-go-lucky or lackadaisical, but rather that femininity is associated with a high level of interactivity and alertness with one’s surroundings. In considering masculinity to be in binarist opposition to femininity, masculinity is thus portrayed through a negative affect. Or, perhaps more accurately, as that which is inaffectual and detached. Characters are encouraged by Control(lers) to perform the affect which is most congruent with their role. In this situation a spy or operator will be required to take on a more masculine affect, for example, so as to not be affected by the circumstances of their position. Thus while there is argument for women as the root of danger in espionage operations in Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold it is rather my argument that bungled masculine affect is a more accurate expression of Carré’s danger. I will support my argument via demonstration of the affectual performances of several characters as they relate to Alec Leamas’ movement through liminal rites of passage: preliminally Leamas is “The Operative,” liminally “The Defector,” and postliminally “The Bungled Man.”

At the outset of the novel Leamas is in Germany, overseeing a group operatives. As the operation progresses his operatives are murdered by Hans-Dieter Mundt. In seeing Karl Riemeck—his last operative—killed in attempting to cross into West Germany Leamas returns to London to be debriefed. In this preliminal stage as “The Operative” Leamas sees those who partake in espionage as those who are capable of a greater level of tolerance. As the title of the novel suggests Leamas considers the best operatives those who are able to withstand “the cold” (15). In comparing himself to Control Leamas sees Control as someone who sits in London, in an office, with his space heater and his tea with “affected detachment, […] courteous according to a formula miles removed from Leamas’ experience” (14). While there are class-based differences which Leamas feels in relation to Control, this passage notes the successful masculine affective performance of Control which denotes him as an effective espionage tool if not an operative.

This delineation between feminine and masculine affects continues through the character of Liz Gold. Liz and Leamas are introduced to one another as Leamas is “put […] on the shelf” (19) and coming to work at a library (26). When Leamas is struck with a fever prior to his punching of the grocer Liz is the one who nurtures him back to relative health, and is thus shown to be a kind and compassionate woman who cares deeply for Leamas (34-37). Additionally, as a member of the communist party (32) she presents her ideological status to be one of communal growth and nurturing. This being said her role within the party is subjected to diminishing comments by male party-members (145) which speaks to one of the many ways in which feminine performance acts as a threat to masculine performances—the affect of women is deemed a threat and is thus diminished. Leamas himself falls into this trap in describing Elvira: “Elvira was dead now, and serve her right. He remembered Liz” (82). There was a danger to Elvira’s femininity and she required diminishing for it, just as Liz requires diminishing by party members. Additionally in connecting the death of Elvira to Liz Leamas also enacts a foreshadowing to the novel’s conclusion.

In considering the true threat to espionage ops to be affective performance it makes sense to call attention to a progression of ideologies with Leamas’ handlers through his liminal rites, as it also calls attention a progression of affect: “Ashe, Kiever, Peters; that was a progression in quality, in authority, which to Leamas was axiomatic of the hierarchy of an intelligence network. It was also, he suspected, a progression in ideology. Ashe, the mercenary, Kiever the fellow traveller, and now Peters for whom the end and the means were identical” (74). Ashe denotes a feminine affect as one who Leamas considers to be a “cissy” (59) or a wholly bungled masculine performance, Kiever denotes a mixed affect of one who can switch roles, and Peters denotes a wholly masculine performance of detachment.

While Ashe succeeds in his performance of the “mercenary” and calls Leamas into his role as “The Defector,” Ashe bungles a masculine performance. As the lowest mark in the intelligence hierarchy Ashe is also the one furthest from “the cold”—the one furthest from successfully performing a detached masculine affect. Much as Liz takes care of Leamas through the preliminal rites of his physical illness prior to attacking the grocer, so too does Ashe take care of Leamas in the liminal rites of Leamas’ calling into the role of defector: “‘Now, don’t fuss,’ he said soothingly; ‘let’s just take things one at a time’ […] ‘I’ve looked after you up till now, haven’t I?'” (54, 57).

In meeting Leamas—and removing Leamas from Ashe’s care—Kiever takes Leamas to a club to further discuss Leamas’ liminal path into defectorship. At the club there is a girl in the bar who appears “pitiful” with a “spindly nakedness which is embarrassing because it is not erotic” (59). As a failed feminine performance—a performance of neither masculinity nor femininity—she is deemed to not be a threat and Leamas and Kiever talk with one another as though she is not present. This girl who stands as an analogy for that which is wholly not masculine and wholly not feminine also marks a mid-point for Leamas with his handlers.

Peters is the furthest in “the cold,” and thus the least femininely affective. Leamas comments to Peters: “[…] don’t pretend like you’ve fallen in love with me,” to which Peters “observe[s] [Leamas] dispassionately” (68). This exchange marks a point of frustration for Leamas, and the final point of his liminal rites. Up to this point he has been guided or handled by those with at least a modicum of feminine affect, and to Leamas this has been a mark of unprofessionalism and impropriety. With Peters, however, there may be connections drawn to Control: where Control is “detach[ed]” (14) Peters is “dispassionat[e]” (68). Peters is thus shown to be someone who is aware of his own impact, and an operative capable of guiding Leamas through these final liminal rites.

At the end of the novel Leamas casts all those who partake in espionage as “pansies, sadists, and drunkards” (217, my emphasis), and in doing so casts a dichotomied role upon agents: the pansy may attempt to play a masculine role, but will ultimately be bungled in his attempt/s through feminine affect. As performers both Leamas and Liz are puppetted by Control: “We happened to fit the mould” (216). Although it is not until the final moments of the novel where Leamas understands the full extent to which both he and Liz are being puppetted by Control in that Liz could never have lived, and was only being brought to the wall so that Leamas would continue to the wall. In seeing Liz shot, and unable to reconcile the role of his own masculine affect of detachment in her death, Leamas allows himself to be shot attempting to traverse the Berlin Wall. With his death (225) Leamas is thus finally brought into the postliminal role of the “Bungled Man.”


Works Cited

Le Carré, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

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Who is the inauthentic woman?: Fractal Recursivity in Charisma’s “King”

The song I’m looking at for my first media response is King by Charisma. I chose this song as it nods to and constructs femininity in a specific way, wherein there is an authentic woman via constructing an inauthentic woman by comparison. This construction isn’t new by any means, and is an aspect of fractal recursivity, wherein “the fact that the differences which are made to be iconic are used in the creation of an ‘other'” (2004, Andronis). That said: this construction is important to consider as a reflection of not only Charisma’s lyrical considerations of women (within the scope of this project), but also how said constructions have come to be (a bit beyond the scope of this project).

For the remainder of this essay I will be using the term ‘authentic woman’ as it is contrasted by the ‘inauthentic woman.’ That said: I cannot agree with the message sent through the lyrics, and actively wish to push back against the idea that there is an inherently authentic womanhood which is contrasted by an inherently inauthentic womanhood.

Image Source

I will proceed with a short analysis of the specific language used in the song by examining the chorus and several verse sections (although I have included the lyrics in their entirety, with exception of chorus repetitions due to brevity). Disclaimer: I do not wish to express negativity toward either the song or Charisma with my analysis, as I know absolutely nothing of Charisma proper and enjoy the fuck out of the song. I also appreciate any and all constructive criticisms and comments made either here or via Twitter.


Chorus:

Oh I
Can’t wait until I become king
say goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things
No more of their plastic and empty dreams
When I become king

Although Charisma sings that one day they will become “king” this is not to say that Charisma is rejecting femininity, but rather that she is associating her own feminine identity with respect to the power and authority attributed to the entextualized title of “king.” Whereas the authentic woman is able to gain power and authority through “say[ing] goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things” the inauthentic woman is trapped by her inability to move away from “plastic and empty dreams.”


Verse, Part 1:

Can you hear me now
Loud and clearly now
I got shit to say
So just hear me out
Look what’s winning now
Are we for real right now?
Building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud

Here Charisma positions herself as the authentic woman, who is subsequently assertive (“I got shit to say”), while calling to attention the contrast between herself and what I have deemed to be classed lyrically as the inauthentic woman. Whereas the authentic woman is assertive in her speech, construction of identity, and concerns over others (“are we for real right now?”) the inauthentic woman is constructed only for the male gaze (“building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud”).


Verse, Part 2:

Turn that bullshit off
Play my music loud
Just be who you are
Don’t let them tear you down
I’ve some self esteem
that’s what’s up right now


Verse, Part 3:

I’m on Skype with my friends like wassup right now
Bless my brother Cal
Cuz he helped me up
Peace to my hometown I’m in
LA now
No injected butts
No injected lips
Beauty lies within
That’s what always wins out

Here again we see that the authentic woman has “beauty [which] lies within” and rejects “injected butts” and “injected lips.” Additionally the authentic woman “always wins out” by virtue of standard deletion (ie. the inauthentic woman who has been modified in some way is the default, and the authentic woman is constructed through a process of trait deletion).


Verse, Part 4:

So if you is tired of fakeness as I am
Then give me the freedom to sing
I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king

I’d like to call attention here to the fact that I have chosen not to include chorus repititions as an aspect of my analysis, but I’d like to note that I do find it very interesting that the bridge (“I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king”) is repeated in addition to the chorus proper (2017, Vox). If I had chosen to analyze this piece on the basis of literary analysis as opposed to a constructive analysis this is absolutely something I would have focused on more.


Verse, Part 5:

Let me clear the air
This is not a diss
This is opposite of all that gossiping
This is common sense
Mixed with consciousness
This is ‘ I love myself ‘ that’s why I’m the shit


Verse, Part 6:

So why would I care?
If it’s not a hit
When was truth ever based on acknowledgement
I’ve got self esteem
Plus my squad is lit
That’s why we’re taking off like a rocket ship

As part of this analysis I cannot discount the effects of the music proper. The song itself is poppy, and uses a popular triplet meter. In using this as an example of the ways in which the musicality turns to other music for genre convention constructive practices it is thus possible to conclude that although Charisma sings that they do not require validation they are influenced by popular genre conventions and are simultaneously willing to influence said conventions. This is another example of fractal recursivity whereby Charisma is “tapping into this great collective artistic movement” (2017, Vox).


Verse, Part 7:

So don’t try to tell me what’s cool right now
I could care less of what’s in right now
The only thing I wanna be right now
Is me


Verse, Part 8:

So we don’t need you for [unintelligible]
We know that we can do anything
I can’t wait, I can’t wait to be king


As has been shown above this song and the language used therein are directly related to the topic of language and gender. Where the authentic woman has access to power, authority, and subsequently prestige the inauthentic woman exists as a “plastic” thing for the male gaze. Repetition is used to great effect in this construction, with specific associations of “king” (obviously) and “plastic […] fakeness.

In completing this analysis I am left wondering whether or this song could function without the foundational premise of authentic versus inauthentic womanhood? I would be interested to look more into the ways in which gender is produced through music (and specifically how music videos amplify this, something which is well beyond the scope of this analysis). Moving forward I would love to see other songs that people think follow similar lines of gender construction in addition to those which fight against gender/ed language in music. In reviewing the course objectives this song allows for a “discuss[ion regarding] the role of language in the construction of gender […] identities” in addition to facilitating my own “critical respons[e] to [an] original source readin[g]” and thus would be appropriate for further consideration beyond the short essay I have written here. I think that there is still consideration to be made here regarding the trajectory of the way/s in which music influences thought as it stands in opposition to the way in which specific people express their own ideologies. While this type of analysis cannot be undertaken on a single source, “King” would absolutely be a necessary aspect of a larger project due to its explicit engendering.

[A few] questions I’m left with:

  • How does racialization impact not only an analysis of the lyrics as they construct womanhood, but also influence further understandings of womanhood therein?
  • How do aspects of racialization of genre convention with respect to specific musical tropes or mores influence an understanding of the music overall?
  • How are trans women excluded from the category of “authentic woman” here? Would it be possible for the lyrics to continue to express their base message of us vs. them without excluding trans women? How?

#StudentFriendshipZine

I put out a Tweet yesterday that got some really positive feedback on the topic of undergraduate friendships, and their importance in knowledge creation. Since a couple people expressed that they wanted to write something on this topic as well I figured putting together a no-worries no-stress zine on the topic might be fun!

Shoot me your art, photography, and writing on the topic of the bonds you have with your friends with/as students, and how that influences the way you understand the world!

Some ideas include:

  • Who are your student-to-student friends? How were these bonds created?
  • What ways have your student-to-student relationships influenced your research interests? Vice-versa?
  • Where did you make your student-to-student friends? Why was this space/place important?
  • Why have your student-to-student friendships remained important over time?
  • How do you feel you’ve influenced your student-to-student friendships for the better? How can you be a better friend to the students around you?

But please feel free to twist and shape the topic in any way you see fit!

While the original Tweet called on undergraduate friendships specifically non-undergraduate students of all types are welcome to submit! I only ask that you please remember to specify what type of student you are!

If you are submitting writing (creative fiction/non-fiction, essays, unessays, paragraphs, friendship testimonials, poetry, etc):
– If the writing has been handwritten please scan the page and submit a high-quality image or .PDF.
– If the writing has been written using a computer please upload a high-quality .PDF, Google Drive file, or use the text submission box.

If you are submitting art (photography, traditional art, digital art, etc):
– Please upload a high-quality .PNG or .PDF (unless the quality is part of the art).
– If your submission is artistic assets of some type please upload a .PSD or .AI.

If you are submitting a page or spread:
– Please upload an .INDD.

Due to my own time constraints I ask that all submissions be in no later than Valentine’s Day 2018 (February 14th, 2018) February 21st, 2018! If you would like to submit but are unable to make that deadline let me know via Twitter (@mxmoireabh) and I’ll do my best to work with you! You’ll be notified when your pieces are accepted or not no later than February 18th, 2018. I encourage submitting multiple pieces(!), however due to space constraints not all pieces will necessarily be accepted and you’ll be informed of which pieces have been accepted and which have not.

I look forward to seeing everyone’s submissions!

Archaeogaming as Definition and Method: Review of the Archaeogaming Blog

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender requirements in October 2016, and may or may not reflect my current assessment of the archaeogaming blog. That said I’d love to do an archaeogaming blog review in the future, which is why I’m posting my previous thoughts here today! 🙂


The blog I am choosing to review is Archaeogaming, which has been written by Andrew Reinhard since June of 2013 (Reinhard, 2016). Archaeogaming is a blog which I have been regularly reading since November of 2015 after having been introduced to the concept of archaeogaming via the Twitter account of the same name (@Archaeogaming). I have found it influential not only as a student of the social sciences and humanities, but also as a person who really just enjoys playing video games. The most prominent reason for my choosing of Archaeogaming for review beyond familiarity, however, is that I believe the blog has the opportunity to directly influence my final research paper in ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender via focused reading into the construction of a definition of archaeogaming as practice, as well as exposure to methodology within the sub-field of archaeogaming.

The first post I decided to focus on is the “Archaeogaming Map (Revised)” (Reinhard, 2015). This post was originally published on December 18th, 2015. I chose this post as, in my opinion, it provides the clearest definition of what archaeogaming actually is as a field of practice. The intent of the post is clearly to provide a vehicle for the map itself to be presented. Reinhard explains in the blog post that the intent for the map is to perhaps act as an inspiration for those already in the field of archaeogaming, or as definition for those curious about the field. The tone of this post is very short and to the point compared to subsequent posts considered for this review. This being said this works in the favour of the content as the blog post acts only as a vehicle for the map to be presented, and allows for Reinhard to keep reader focus on the image of the map itself which is a clear description of several archaeogaming topics arranged as heading > subheading > topic (Reinhard, 2015). Additionally, the map uses an appropriate image from a secondary source (the webcomic xkcd), and the secondary source is linked to with licensing information in-post. The word, grammar, and spelling choices of the map are additionally appropriate, and in at least one instance clever (Figure 1).

archaeomap
Figure 1. Close-up, highlighted section of spelling error (perhaps a “grammatical glitch”?) in the archaeogaming map (Reinhard, 2015).

The use of a spelling error in this situation not only forces the reader to pause to reconsider the thought, or re-read the line, but it is also mimetic to the “glitch as artifact” described in the line immediately above. The idea of creating a visual representation of a field of practice is not unheard of, and having the map be so detailed is ideal for an emergent field where many theories, ideas, and methodologies have either yet to be defined or yet to become standard practice. The information within the map presented appears to be accurate based on my own understanding of archaeogaming, however no explicit sources are given. This being said Reinhard makes clear in the blog post that the map is based on lived-experience, and an assumption can thus be made that the Archaeogaming blog itself is the source.

The second post which I decided to look at is “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” which was originally posted on January 25th, 2016. The introduction establishes a clear purpose, and provides tonal reference for the “Achievement Hunter”-esque (Rooster Teeth) body of the post. The purpose of the post—to define “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges”—is explicitly outlined in the title, and in the prompt Reinhard attributes for the post. Tonal reference is found in the use of the Xbox 360-style achievement image at the outset of the post, and subsequent explanation: “Because archaeogaming is so new (at least in the formal, academic sense), we have a number of mountains to climb, or, to keep this on-topic with video games, we have a lot of achievements to unlock” (Reinhard, 2016). The introduction additionally provides background information on the history of archaeogaming as a field of practice, and provides links to other blogs and websites on the subject. While the introduction fulfills the purpose of what the post is about, and some history on the subject, the tone isn’t consistent with the rest of the post. While Reinhard explicitly demarcates where the achievements are to begin the demarcation seems oddly placed at approximately one third of the post in, as having the image at the outset of the post makes it seem as though the entire post will have the achievement-hunting tone. Having the demarcation so late also causes pacing issues as the body of the post thus seems comparatively short to the introduction. In my opinion the post could have been improved—and had more impact—if the tone were to remain consistent, and the introduction be edited for length. This being said even the seemingly brief use of a writing tone which is mimetic to video game play is fun and appropriate considering the topic of the post being “challenges to [your] archaeology,” (Reinhard, 2016) and it works to bring the reader into a state of mind which connects both archaeology as practice and video games as subject.

The third post which I decided to look at is “Archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.” This post was originally published on October 25th, 2015. I chose this post as I played 2013’s Tomb Raider, and is one of only two posts which comes when using the on-site search function with the term “gender” as of October 10th, 2016. The post is a summation and analysis of the 2014 Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which is itself an update of 2013’s Tomb Raider. The practice of reviewing games is by no means anything new, but what sets this post apart from other summaries and reviews lies in the focus of the post on archaeology. Reinhard clearly identifies archaeologists as characters, artifacts as in-game items, and archaeological methodology as game-play. In the process of identifying archaeologists as characters Reinhard also makes note of gender representation, and gender disparity within the game-space through the characters of Lara Croft and James Whitman. In focusing on characterization Reinhard notes that the gender dynamic between Croft and Whitman mirrors real-life gender dynamics in archaeological field-sites, and makes reference to the Every Dig Sexism project which “[catalogues] every day sexism in Archaeology and Heritage” (@everyDIGsexism, 2015). With reference to the in-game world and items word choices are appropriate, and work to bridge the virtual archaeological space with real-life terminology and practice. An example of this is defining the game’s use of the term “relic” as “a generic term for an artifact of interest” (Reinhard, 2015).

whitwright
Figure 2. Image of James Wright (r) is not sourced (Reinhard, 2015).
ign-comp
Figure 3. Image is sourced generically to “IGN.com” but no specific web address is given (Reinhard, 2015).

Images are used to positive effect, and at various points in the post. While a “note” appears at the end of the post attributing screen-captures to Reinhard there are two images which are a) not screen-captures, and b) not otherwise annotated to their original source. These images include a comparison of James Whitman, and James Wright (Figure 3) and later on a comparison of graphical output between Sony Playstation console generations (PS3 to PS4) (Figure 4).

Table 1. Archaeogaming 2016 Post Frequency

Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

# of posts

2

0

5

2

4

1

2

0

0

0

/

/

In seeing the consistency with which Archaeogaming has maintained posting updates in 2016, with the exception of June 2016-present day (Table 1), my initial expectation in conducting a close reading was that there would be more posts which would be directly relevant to discussions on gendered archaeology and the archaeology of gender. While many of the posts may be forced to fit into a discussion on gender, few explicitly address gender as either an aspect of gaming or of archaeology. This being said in my general survey of the blog I found that the blog periodically links out to other blog posts on the subject of video games, archaeology, and archaeogaming respectively which are written by women. Of the three posts summarized here, this only occurs in “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” however. Gender is also incorporated via open comment sections. As of October 12th, 2016 the three posts summarized in this review contain open comment sections, and based on my own Euro-Western analyses of the names of the commenters all comments are made by women. Despite the concerns which I have outlined above I believe that Archaeogaming is an invaluable resource of theoretical and methodological archaeological data, albeit more generally within the field of archaeology than specifically within the scope of gendered archaeology or the archaeology of gender.


References

@Archaeogaming. (n.d.). Twitter. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://twitter.com/Archaeogaming

@everyDIGsexism. (2015). EveryDIGsexism. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://everydigsexism.wordpress.com/

Reinhard, A. (2015). Archaeogaming Map (Revised). Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2015/12/18/archaeogaming-map-revised/

Reinhard, A. (2015). Archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2015/10/25/archaeology-in-tomb-raider-definitive-edition/

Reinhard, A. (2016). About. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/about/

Reinhard, A. (2016). Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2016/01/25/archaeogamings-grand-challenges/

Reinhard, A. (2016). Home. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/

Rooster Teeth. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2016, from http://achievementhunter.roosterteeth.com/show/achievement-hunter

Constructions of Self and Nation in Julian Barnes’ England, England

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ENGL 366: English and Anglophone Literature requirements in March 2017.


Summary of “The Invention of Cultural Traditions: The Construction and Deconstruction of Englishness and Authenticity in Julian Barnes’ England, England

In the article, “The Invention of Cultural Traditions: The Construction and Deconstruction of Englishness and Authenticity in Julian Barnes’ England, England,” Vera Nünning considers the ways in which Julian Barns’ novel England, England comments upon and deconstructs notions of English identity and Englishness. By isolating several constructions of Englishness Nünning comments not only on/to the tradition of postmodern English literature to which England, England finds cohort, but also comments upon the effect such a narrative has within cultural studies at-large. Specific to Nünning’s arguments are examples of moments where England, England juxtaposes and contrasts discourses on what construes Englishness, considers the intent and effect of the “invention of traditions” (59), and deconstructs questionable notions of historical authenticity. An example of the juxtaposition of discourses Nünning describes includes a close reading and deconstruction of “the ‘primal English Myth’ of Robin Hood” (63), and the ways in which the Merrie Men are attempted to be made more palatable to England, England tourists (and the Merrie Men’s subsequent disavowal and revolt of such a reconstruction). An example of how Englishness is constructed is found in discussion of Sir Jack’s rejection of several poll responses. An example of deconstructing questionable notions of historical authenticity is in considering the analogy between the memory of the individual and a country in the “Countries of England” jigsaw puzzle (61). The provided examples are not exhaustive, and are referenced here merely to showcase several defenses of Nünning’s thesis.


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Source

Constructions of Self and Nation in Julian Barnes’ England, England

Ideologies regarding the ways in which identities may be constructed and expressed are persistently present and colour the ways in which peoples (and by extension: characters) not only interact with one another, but also interact with and within the spaces and places to which they inhabit. In Julian Barnes’ novel England, England characters are routinely either unaware of—or unwilling to admit to—the ways in which their ideologies are similar to one another. With this in mind: in considering Vera Nünning’s article “The Invention of Cultural Traditions: The Construction and Deconstruction of Englishness and Authenticity in Julian Barnes’ England, England,” I found myself caught by a phrase: “[England, England] is self-consciously concerned with exploring both the nature of national identity and the question of how established versions of Englishness have come to be invented and upheld” (62). For the purposes of this essay I will be exploring some of the ways in which Sir Jack (and by extension: those around him who are willing to submit to his vision) adhere to biased performances in the processes of personal identity creation. Subsequently I will explore how those same methods of personal identity construction are used in the construction of Englishness within both England, England and Anglia.

Early on in Part 2 The French Intellectual states that “[…] the world of the third millennium is inevitably, is ineradicably modern, and that it is our intellectual duty to submit to that modernity, and to dismiss as sentimental and inherently fraudulent all yearnings for what is dubiously termed the ‘original.’ We must demand the replica, since the reality, the truth, the authenticity of the replica is the one we can possess, colonize, reorder, find jouissance in, and, finally, if and when we decide, it is the reality which, since it is our destiny, we may meet, confront, and destroy” (Barnes, 57). While not addressing the existence of the French Intellectual explicitly, Nünning offers the following in response to considerations of ‘the authentic’: “By calling into question the existence of anything that might be called ‘authentic’, England, England also undermines the notion of historical truth” (Nünning, 72). To consider the above two quotations with reference to the construction of history void of authenticity: Sir Jack’s constructions of self and Englishness therein are here turned to for insight. Sir Jack removes the poll responses which he finds to be either of less or no use to the concept of Englishness he believes he should provide as Quality Leisure for tourists. While this may seem to be counterintuitive to the purpose of the poll, it is in fact congruent with the purpose of the England, England project in that it renders the poll responses more palatable for the general audience. By cutting away that which may cause people to be uncomfortable in their experience there is thus a higher chance that tourists will enjoy their stay on the island, and subsequently fulfill the capitalist ideal of spending more money.

This editing continues on an individual level with Paul—Sir Jack’s official “ideas catcher”—as he records and edits a series of Sir Jack’s best ideas for posterity (Barnes, 31). This record is meant to express the personal history and identity of Sir Jack, and is thus appropriately constructed to present an incredibly specific and highly stylized version of Sir Jack, which at times necessarily bends or omits information: “One for the road, eh, Paul? That you may record” (Barnes, 35). Outside of Paul Sir Jack also constructs his expression of self through the manipulation of text provided by a Times profiler: “[Sir Jack] had deleted references to his age, appearance and estimated wealth, had the whole thing pulled together by a rewrite man, and ordered the final text to be carves on a swathe of Cornish slate” (Barnes, 31). With reference to information which is omitted: Sir Jack’s personal history (obviously) does not contain information or recordings of the trappings of his age regression fetish. This creates the situation wherein Martha and Paul are able to push Sir Jack out of his position of power with three words: “Titty. Nappy. Poo” (Barnes, 180). The danger of these words is constructed by Sir Jack himself, as he does not wish such information to be included in his “authorized version” (Nünning, 67). Upon returning to his position in firing Martha, Sir Jack’s intended legacy for the above-described personal record is to construct a place of memento mori upon the isle (Barnes, 258). This, however, backfires as visitors find the area to be uncomfortable in its reminder of death, and not conducive to Quality Leisure. Though Nünning specifically references Doctor Johnson in the following quote, it is nonetheless relevant here: “Tourists are evidently less than delighted when they are actually confronted with the real thing” (Nünning, 65). In deciding to turn Sir Jack into a character of England, England Nünning’s argument that “[…] the ‘real’ thing is not as well-preserved, readily accessible and pleasing as the copy” is supported—just as tourists come to be biased toward the perceived superior accessibility of the England, England theme park so to do they become biased toward the seemingly superior accessibility of a Sir Jack who is once again alive (Nünning, 69).

The process of national identity creation closely mirrors the creation of personal identity experienced by Sir Jack as outline above. As a once-theme park, but now-nation England, England is constructed as a process of celebrating the approximation of an Old Tradition—a tradition of colonialist, capitalist gain—and repackaging said celebration as new. In creating a sense of crisis over and within the concept of English parliament the England, England project manager, Mark, is able to situate England, England as both referential—and yet simultaneously superior—to English society: “[W]e shall probably request the revoking of certain minor items of antique planning legislation, most of which have their source in the contemptible Palace of Westminster” (Barnes, 131). Nünning comments that “[a]ny attempt at finding the essence of Englishness in the past is bound to fail […] for it proceeds from the mistaken premise that an individual’s or a nation’s identity is located at some specific point in the remote past. Rather than being encapsulated in an earlier stage, a nation’s identity is shown to be constantly changing, with the nation constructing its history as it does along” (Nünning, 72-3). Though there is no actual crisis between England, England and the palace of Westminster in creating this distinction Mark is able to situate England, England as a superior capitalist force.

By contrast to England, England Anglia is shown as rather than celebrating an approximation of the Old Tradition, to be rather celebrating an approximation of the New Tradition. In “[e]xposing the processes through which marketable versions of England’s past and present are fabricated, England, England shows, albeit in a highly exaggerated fashion, that the invention of cultural traditions serves the purpose of coming to terms with the present” (Nünning, 68). In this way Anglia is able to create an identity and expression of agrarian Englishness by which people may adhere. That being said, it must be notes that this agrarian construction is yet a construction: “Showing that neither Martha nor the committee nor the inhabitants of Anglia are able to reconstruct the ‘true’ past, Barnes’ novel alerts the reader to the idea that our models of national or individual history are nothing but an intellectual construction” (Nünning, 72). The people of Anglia construct what it means to live in Anglia, and participate in Anglian culture just as much as the people living on the island.

In considering both the constructions of England, England and Anglia in comparison some questions arise: How does England, England “thematiz[e] and explor[e] the invention of cultural traditions”? “[B]y constructing and deconstructing both ‘Englishness’ and the notion of authenticity” (Nünning, 59). As per Dr. Max: considering that there is no such thing as real or authentic, there can thus be no such thing as “bogus” (Barnes, 134-5). In considering that the “[…] actual events of English history play a minor role both in England, England, and in ‘England, England’ [t]his cavalier treatment of ‘real’ historical events is in keeping with many constructions of Englishness” (Nünning, 65). While England, England and Anglia have vastly different outcomes, their constructions of Englishness follow much the same ideology in a rejection of any notion of authenticity.

The characters of England, England work not only to create specific personal performances of identity and Englishness, but also to create nationalist concepts of personhood: “[the remarkable achievement of England, England] can be located in the ways that England, England explores, parodies, and deconstructs those ‘invented traditions known as ‘Englishness'” (Nünning, 59). In constructing such detailed performances characters not only invent personally consistent traditions of expression, but when considered together also work to build notions of Englishness in the methods of their construction. In this way “[t]he […] well-known exploration of the limits of historical knowledge […] is not central to the novel, but ancillary to Barnes’ wider concerns: It highlights the impossibility of knowing what Englishness may ever have consisted of in the past, and it deconstructs the notion that there is either a continuity between past and present Englishness, or something like essential ‘Englishness'” (Nünning, 74). Both England, England and Anglia show the ways in which disparate ideals (those of capitalism versus social agrarianism) may be manifested in a very similar way: in rejecting notions of authenticity each nation is able to construct itself only as its inhabitants see fit, and nothing more.


Works Cited

Barnes, Julian . England, England. Toronto, ON, Vintage Canada, 1998.

Nünning, Vera . “The Invention of Cultural Traditions: The Construction and Deconstruction of Englishness and Authenticity in Julian Barnes’ England, England.” Anglia: Zeitschrift für Englische Philogie, vol. 119, no. 1, 2001, pp. 58–76.