For those of you who are new to Steep Stairs Review, this journal is a collection of diverse and eclectic works featuring academic and creative contributions from Trinity College staff and external submissions. We see Steep Stairs Review as the basis for a forum of discussion of literary art, creative outputs, contemporary politics and anything and everything in between. As such, it is perhaps arbitrary to confine the submissions into an all-encompassing topic. However, if there is an overarching theme to this edition, it would perhaps be discussion of literary marginalities and an examination of approaches often overlooked by traditional analysis and categorisation.

To begin this issue, in an interview with Jennifer Mitchell, Rjurik Davidson discusses the necessity of genre evasion and the importance of destabilising traditional narrative tropes in his elucidation of the ‘New Weird’. This is followed by Unwrapped Sky (2014) and The Stars Askew (2016) by Rjurik Davidson:  An inexpert review, exploring the Pleasures of the Text, a review by Jennifer Mitchell of Rjurik’s latest works in the Caeli Amur Trilogy. Continuing the concept of ‘weirdness’ and anti-conventionality, Negin Ghodrati in Let Them Believe, Legion of Despair and the accompanying illustrations presents whispers and vistas portraying post-apocalyptic dimensions.

Next, Mike Heald considers philosophical positions in his review, The Vegetarian, by Han Kang: a Philosophical Perspective, in whichthe main character, Yeong-hye, experiences the sudden onset of a revulsion towards eating meat, brought on by dreams, and then tries to live out a compulsion to become a tree, or as [philosopher Michael] Marder might put it, to attain an ontophytological state”. After that, Talitha Fraser in Living Under The Veil photo essay “seeks to invite exploration of the layers, applied internally and externally, at personal, public and political levels through an exposition of the veil and its religious significance”.

This volume continues with The psychiatric beach read: Anti-Social Personality Disorder in commercial fiction by Susan Karpasitis and Fetishism in Cinderella and the Impotence of Prince Charming by Cara Burgio, who respectively consider emergent psycho-literary approaches to texts that address the fascinating, yet widely overlooked applications of personality disorders and fetishisation to popular fiction. Next, Nazanin Ghodrati, in Eyes, engages in an obsessive-compulsive monologue that serves as a response to the existential explorations by Sadegh Hedayat in one of the major literary works of 20th century Iran, The Blind Owl.

This volume concludes with a collection of poems by Rod Beecham, Talitha Fraser, and Danny Fahey (To Vanish, Fragments in the dreamingLamentations, Two Women, One Child And The Judgement, and The Prodigal Son) capturing intimate moments of yearning, loss, regret and disembodiment.

Thanks to our contributors and to our readers both established and new.

Steep Stairs Review Editors,
Nazanin Ghodrati and Susan Karpasitis

Written by Jennifer Mitchell

Click here to listen to Jennifer’s interview with Rjurik, touching on destabilising genre in the publishing industry, writing across the borders of literature and fantasy, and how reading about fantasy worlds can lead us back into our own world with new and important questions.


Science-fiction fantasy (SFF) isn’t a genre I am really familiar with – if I was this would be a very different review. For it to have legitimacy among experienced readers of new-weird fiction I would really need to be well-versed in the field, intimate with the seminal works and the weighty lexicons and tropes of its mistresses and masters. But I am not, alas. So this is a mainstream review of another kind, inspired by and grounded in reading and being sensually immersed in the pleasures of the text.

And what dark addictive pleasures there are in both these novels for those who like their reading to be engaging and entertaining, but also mentally stimulating. Unwrapped Sky is a writerly text[1] in that it requires active reading, and there is a lot in both these novels to get your head around, but the work does pay off for readers who willingly open their senses to the new, but also uncannily familiar worlds and characters found laid out here with sophisticated depth and some stunningly beautiful language. After the first half of Unwrapped Sky, however, what could be seen as hard work transformed, for me, into sustained enjoyment.


Unwrapped Sky opens with a sublime sensual experience – the descent into, and passing through the coastal city of Caeli-Amur of over three hundred minotaurs – arrived for a festival in their honour. As they spread out into the city streets and we follow behind their huge shaggy heads and ridged horns, we meet the city’s inhabitants of various castes in their seedy haunts, including the key protagonist, Kata, a young philosopher-assassin who is compelled by her powerful instinct to survive to act in ways that betray her humanity. In Kata we meet a character whose moral and personal crisis mirrors the restlessly moving layers of political ideals and plots, planes of perception and existence, states of life or death, of gaining and losing power that structure this at once modern and ancient metropolis.

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Let Them Believe

October 15, 2016

Written by Negin Ghodrati


by Negin Ghodrati

Laugh at me with that amorphous mouth
Let me see once again what you’re truly made of
Look into my deep, tenebrous eyes
Come entertain me with thy iridescent lies
Speak of those who “illuminate and shine”
But sweetest, there is no darkness more abhorrent than thine.
Allow me to send this stealthy shiver down thy spine:
Imparting my wisdom of the real light, of thy supposed “divine”
Stand right there, stand with that menial grin
Keep on believing that thy ominous face would make me fear
But sweetest, there is some noxious news for you right there:
I shall fear no more, I shall not shed one single tear.
When the night befalls and the gibbous moon prevails
Let us both look into what this little tune entails
Let us keep pretending that you do know and I do not
Let us live eternally behind this abominable veil.


Negin Ghodrati is a Master of Arts graduate in English Literature from the University of Oslo. Her primary interests include any work done on the subjects of “the unknown” and “cosmic horror.” Her Master’s thesis focused on the creation, evolution and aftermath of Lovecraftian horror wherein an academic effort was made to further familiarise the reader with H. P. Lovecraft and his grotesquely sublime universe of horror.

Legion of Despair

October 15, 2016

Written by Negin Ghodrati


by Negin Ghodrati


The hums of drums in our ears
We rush into the distant battlefields
With our meager bodies wandering around
Amid the frozen moors of broken dreams
We are put in lines, we are marching forth
The war is upon us, we then blow our horns
As the horns moan their ashen sighs
We raise our swords of dust into the skies
Praying the “Lord of Death” to take us far
Far away from these filthy fields of lies
We crawl and moan, we cry and scream
The battle shall begin soon indeed
We are the legion of corpses, the horde of worms
We creep and crawl, we blow our horns
We march together to our ancient battlefield
Where we lay our rotten bodies on the ground
We shall be buried in the ashes of our hopes
Waiting eternally for our imaginary foes.


Negin Ghodrati is a Master of Arts graduate in English Literature from the University of Oslo. Her primary interests include any work done on the subjects of “the unknown” and “cosmic horror.” Her Master’s thesis focused on the creation, evolution and aftermath of Lovecraftian horror wherein an academic effort was made to further familiarise the reader with H. P. Lovecraft and his grotesquely sublime universe of horror.

Written by Mike Heald

‘I believe that humans should be plants’ – Yi Sang


By coincidence, I was deeply immersed in the philosopher Michael Marder’s project of ‘dismantling our deeply rooted [pun noted] metaphysical legacy’ with regard to plant life, as David Wood (puns coming thick and fast) puts it in his back cover endorsement of Marder’s Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life [1], when I heard about this novel The Vegetarian, winner of the Man Booker International Prize for 2016. Marder’s overall contention is that our metaphysics has left us with ways of regarding plants which are radically reductive, invalidly and potentially disastrously excluding them from such vital categories as ‘life’ and ‘intelligence’. A novel, therefore, in which a woman experiences the need to become a tree was always going to get my attention.

In the novel, the main character, Yeong-hye, experiences the sudden onset of a revulsion towards eating meat, brought on by dreams, and then tries to live out a compulsion to become a tree, or as Marder might put it, to attain an ontophytological state. The beginning of Yeong-hye’s first dream is as follows:

Cold. Across the frozen ravine, a red barn-like building. Straw matting flapping limp across the door. Roll it up and I’m inside, it’s inside. A long bamboo stick strung with great blood-red gashes of meat, blood still dripping down. Try to push past but the meat, there’s no end to the meat, and no exit. Blood in my mouth, blood-soaked clothes sucked onto my skin. (12)

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Living Under the Veil

October 15, 2016

Written by Talitha Fraser

As recent media coverage and political rhetoric suggests that there is something to fear hidden beneath a burqa or the wearing thereof might be considered “un-Australian” I found myself thinking that, most likely, what the burqa covers is a naked woman.  How do we live well in a world where so much of who we are feels obfuscated by the power of things seen and unseen to influence and affect our lives? This photo series seeks to invite exploration of the layers, applied internally and externally, at personal, public and political levels through an exposition of the veil and its religious significance.

In considering some of those impacting powers, seen and unseen, that might prevent all humanity from fully encountering God (or becoming all we have the potential to be and “naked”) I made a wedding veil with the following five layers: media, culture, society, family and experience. Naming these layers as veils that must be peeled back in order to see clearly. We, all of us, are navigating these layers – visible or not. How can we know and be known through such thickness that clouds and blinds us?

The burqa sits in juxtaposition to this invisible veil challenging our ideas of what is visible and what is hidden and calling into question what shelters and what smothers. Dr Nora Amath, founder of AMARAH (Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity) shares this:

I first wore the headscarf at the age of 18 (with no pressure to wear it from parents at all even though they are very devout religious leaders in our community). My reason for wearing it was that I was at a point in my life where I was growing in my faith journey and wanted to make my surrender to God visible. For me the headscarf was an extension of my prayer (it is exactly what I wear when I pray).  The act of wearing a scarf had nothing to do with a man, whether it was my father, brother or husband. In fact, my husband did not see me without a scarf until we were engaged. This in itself raises an interesting function that many women who wear the scarf also acknowledge- that the scarf can liberate their bodies from the insistent objectification of women in the public space. It demands that people deal with them based on their intellect, values, manners, behavior, ideas, etc and not based on their looks. Quite a strong feminist statement.

Islam, Feminism and Interfaith Dialogue –  Part 2, GirltalkHQ

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Written by Susan Karpasitis

Psychopathy in literature is by no means a modern phenomenon. We only have to glance across a bookshelf of ‘classic’ works to be confronted by Shakespeare’s Richard III, Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp, Dostoevsky’s Stavrogin and Stevenson’s’ Hyde, and their glorified psychopathic personalities. However, what has changed in post millennial literature and contemporary psychiatry is the way we categorise and empathise with these characters. Writers in the field of the medical humanities posit that perhaps we have been misguided in our approach; that perhaps these characters and the many more besides, are actually suffering from a personality disorder known as Anti-Social Personality Disorder (APD).


Photo courtesy of David Pacey. June 15th 2013.

The classification of personality disorders in the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMV), the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of mental disorders, would seem to support this. So should we in fact be viewing characters as sufferers rather than perpetrators? Should we be seeking to review how we think about anti-social personalities in Literature? The answer from literary trauma theorists seems to be a resounding yes. Psychopathy and sociopathy (another confusing and largely outdated term) are not necessarily the same diagnosis as APD. The APD guidelines are much broader than those for Psychopathic Personality Disorder. Therefore, whilst those that we may label psychopaths may fit into the diagnostic criteria for APD, not all of those with APD are necessarily psychopaths. In fact, Kiel and Buckholtz in their 2010 paper suggest that as few as one in five sufferers of APD would meet the criteria for psychopathy (1).

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Written by Cara Burgio


X-ray of bound feet, China. (Source: Wikipedia, Creative Commons License)

“Foot and shoe fetishism is widely believed to be the commonest type of fetishism existing today” claims sexologist Paul Gebhard in his article ‘Fetishism and Sadomasochism’ [Sex Research: Studies from the Kinsey Institute]. Despite being the most common sexual fetish of the body podophilia is still met with revulsion and unease by most. The history of the foot fetish can be traced back to 9th century China and the practice of chánzú, more commonly known as foot-binding. Considered a form of female oppression by Western cultures, the Chinese believed this ‘mutilation’ to be a source of rectitude and held those women with bound feet in the highest esteem. The narrowing of the feet through the process of pressing the four little toes under the ball of the foot and moving the heel forward, breaking bones so that the arch formed a high curve and created a deep cleft in the sole of the foot, gave the effect of a high-heeled shoe. Their tiny feet were a sign of beauty and femininity, reflected in the small delicate (and crippling) movements with which these women would walk. The erotic ideal was termed the “Golden Lotus”, a mere size of 3 inches.

Whilst aspects of the Cinderella narrative can be traced back to Ancient Greece, the closest version of the story has been attributed to the Chinese tale of Ye Xian (c. 890AD) where a young woman loses her golden slipper during a New Years festival. The slipper is then found by the King, who is so roused by the contours of the especially tiny slipper that he falls in love (with it) and claims he will marry its wearer. The story places great emphasis on the size of the foot, the implication being that Ye Xian has been through the process of foot-binding to an extent that her foot is extraordinarily small. The small gold shoe itself is enough to create desire in the heart of the King, and he is so overcome by his instinct that he proclaims he will marry the woman to whom the shoe belongs before he has ever met her. It is transparent that the source of his passion is a libidinal fascination with feet.

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October 15, 2016

Written by Nazanin Ghodrati
Translated by Negin Ghodrati
Edited by Afshin Nikouseresht

For some time now, when I close my eyes to sleep at night, other eyes open in the infinite darkness behind my eyelids. They all seem different from one another; some appear to be human eyes – with small and deep pupils – while others appear as the eyes of beasts – their pupils wide and wild. Others, I cannot recognise, as though they are not from this world. Yet they all have one thing in common and it is the unutterable feeling of dread they stir inside my body every night. These eyes appear in the infinite darkness behind my eyes, sometimes one by one, two by two, several at a time, or worse…all together at once. They float awhile in this deep darkness behind my eyelids, stare at me and then disappear.


by Negin Ghodrati

What do these cold staring eyes want from me? Are they there to judge me? Do they have a message for me? Or is their sole purpose to agonise and torture me? What if they belong to me? What if they are different reflections of myself, projecting their way from the depths of my subconscious onto the pitch black screen that is the back of my eyelids? What if these eyes are the very “reflections of the shadow of the soul that manifest themselves in a coma-like limbo between sleep and wakefulness” (1974, p.16) that Sadegh Hedayat had been witness to every night in The Blind Owl?

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To Vanish

October 15, 2016

Written by Rod Beecham

You know how it is:

returning to the place

after years,

and the familiarity

made sad by absence

(your own, as well as others’).

You feel embarrassed—

ashamed, even.

Life goes on,

it’s not the end of the world;

everyone – including you –

had other things to do.

But the strange faces seem obscene,

while the familiar ones

possess a belonging

no longer your own.


Rod Beecham was educated at Monash and Oxford and took his doctorate from the University of Melbourne.  His essay, ‘Fiction and Memoir of Britain’s Great War: Disillusioned or Disparate?’, was published in the ‘European Review of History’, Vol. 22, No. 5, September (2015), pp. 791-813.  He is currently preparing a biography of the poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe.  Rod is a Literature Lecturer in the Trinity College Foundation Studies Programme.

Fragments in the dreaming

October 15, 2016

Written by Talitha Fraser


Photo by Talitha Fraser

Fragments in the dreaming
Skittish across the landscape of my mind
some disparate thoughts slow
go side by side, mismatched a way
sometimes they chase each other
along and around – chasing, racing
and I am there with my
reins of reason to draw them in
I seek rest, a blank unknowing
and have instead this kaleidoscope
of people, stories, ideas, words…
I seek to, and do, resist it
but sometimes, rarely, I join the
Dance and explore a terrain
both fearsome and wondrous.


Talitha Fraser works bivocationally as the Administrative Assistant to the Residential College team at Trinity and as a contemplative theopoetics-dabbler living in community with asylum seekers and refugees at Footscray Salvos Outreach. Her poetry and reflections can be found at


October 15, 2016

Written by Talitha Fraser


Photo by Talitha Fraser

How lonely stands the park bench
that once cushioned so many!
Alone now where once it held
hospitality and community.
That which was functional
now functionless and empty.

She waits – by dawn, and dusk,
and starlight – for the livers and the lovers
but she waits in vain
there is no one left to come.

The realists know better, as do
the cynics and the players can’t
sit still long enough…
the leavers and the left might,
if feeling masochistic, drop by.

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