Steep Stairs Review. Volume 9

December 16, 2014

In an academic environment of endlessly themed journals, Steep Stairs Review is proudly a celebration of the eclectic. Though connections between articles could very well be forged with a tentative thread, contributors including academics, researchers and teachers have always been most tangibly united by their passion for sharing ideas that have inspired them at the time of writing. This issue sees the re-launch of Steep Stairs Review after a two-year reflective break; and as a testament to our love of disparity, we have an intellectual feast to tempt the exploratory palette. This includes, amongst others, an appreciation of melancholy, the exploration of the relationship between reading and physicality, the psychological healing power of narrative, cross-cultural representations of China’s Han dominance, important developments in eastern Mediterranean agriculture, and of course the evolution of human history and the concept of happiness.

To begin with, Glen Jennings, incorporating his own lived experience as a foreign student in the Han heartland of eastern China, in Voices from China, commemorates David Eimer’s courageous endeavour in his book, The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China, to recount the lived experiences of ethnic minorities, who struggle to survive under China’s Han dominated political economic and military rules. After presenting an overview of Han dominance of the minorities such as of Uighurs and Tibetans, and all the great wrongs Mao Zedong and his successors have afflicted on them, Glen relives for the reader Eimer’s physical, political and emotional journey to China, and critically analyses Eimer’s interpretations of his encounter with the ethnic minorities and with a General in the Wa army.

Michael Heald’s review of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind reinforces Yuval Noah Harari’s endeavour to fill the gap in our understanding of human history by questioning every aspect of its development, being cognitive, agricultural or scientific, and by revisiting what constitutes happiness. Throughout his review, The History of Happiness, Michael critically reviews Harari’s discussion of key transitions in human history such as Cognitive Revolution leading to humans’ domination of the planet. He also critically reviews Harari’s interpretation of how the currents of history have shaped human societies and individual personalities.

Next is Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy: An Appreciation by Raymond Hardy and Gayle Allan. After Gayle’s review of the term ‘melancholia’ and its association with great artistic creativity, Ray highlights the influence of Burton’s book, Anatomy of Melancholy, on the past 400 years of English authorship, focusing on the author’s use of the metaphor “a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants can see further”, which is used repeatedly in all knowledge disciplines. Both Gayle and Ray highlight the importance of reading not only of Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, but also of various disciplines from philosophy to modern natural sciences. Moreover, the piece underlines the importance of ongoing search for knowledge.

In keeping with Gayle Allan’s and Raymond Hardy’s acknowledgment of the intersection between texts and representations of ‘madness’, Susan Karpasitis, inTrauma Narratives in the Basement: A Psychoanalytic Reading of The Book Thief, considers the relationship between psychological trauma narrative through a revisiting of the best selling 2005 novel The Book Thief. She proposes that the author, Marcus Zusack, uses narrative to soothe, process and re-imagine complex traumas, and that literary motifs conspire to illustrate the layering of individual and collective societal traumas.

Further commenting on the ability of narrative to infiltrate reader experience on subconscious and unconscious levels, Colm McNaughton, in On Reading Joyce Reading the World: Reflections on How to Read Ulysses in Interesting Times, investigates the unexplored physical relationship between text and body in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Stripping the text back to its visceral and aural foundations, Colm argues that by allowing the Joyce to read the reader, Ulysses becomes a transformative and supremely intimate experience – a far cry from the inaccessible elitist reputation it has recently come to shoulder.

Next, Tamar Lewit, in When the Fields Were Joyful, commemorates the golden age for the eastern Mediterranean during AD 400-600 with agricultural revolution, specifically in oil and wine production. Tamar takes the reader to a time “when the fields were joyful, olive trees rejoiced, and farmers, merchants and craftspeople rode a wave of success and innovation”, and revisits the debate over the so-called calamitous impact of Arab invasion on the eastern Mediterranean economy in the 7th century.

Next is a selection of poems by Danny Fahey and Nazanin Ghodrati. In his imagist inspired poem, Jen taking the salad out of the refrigerator, Danny captures a fragmented moment of beauty that is often taken for granted and thereby left unseen. In her poems, Wings of Promised Chain and Ode to Empty Facade, Nazanin expresses one’s internal bid to grapple with the imposed realities of the external world.

The final piece, Walking New York: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Jennifer Mitchell, tells of her trip to New York, and the joyous pain of walking NY streets and sidewalks.


Steep Stairs Review Editors, Susan Karpasitis and Nazanin Ghodrati


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