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

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In this volume, Steep Stairs Review continues to build upon its eclectic identity, merging a collection of contemporary critiques of key postmillennial works, alongside independent creative poetry, prose and visual arts. The collection, among others, explores political, social and cultural representations in international literary work, and serves as an intersection between the concept of literature as entertainment and as a medium of communicating important social, cultural and philosophical perspectives.

This volume begins with a collection of critical book reviews: Glen Jennings, in Death and the Movement: Sheng Keyi presents a critical review of Sheng Keyi’s attempt in Death Fugue to portray the Chinese Protest Movement of 1989 and its aftermath. Next, Colm McNaughton in R L Williams’s A Companion to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Review underlines the importance of taking into account the historical, political and economic context of Latin America in order to accurately understand Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Katherine Firth in Orange, Pear, Apple, Dada: Emily Gravett, Again! and the avant-garde presents a concise and informative background to the origin of Dadaism followed by a discussion of its place in today’s literature by reviewing Emily Gravett’s award-winning contemporary children’s literature. The final book review in this volume, Between the Thames and the Tiber: The further adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Review by Michael Todd, introduces the reader to Riccardi, a Conan Doyle imitator and his book Between the Thames and the Tiber: The further adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The volume continues with a series of critical film and TV series reviews: In his sharp criticism: Metaphor and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Feature Film starring and directed by Ben StillerPhilip Kemp highlights the importance of approaching text “with a symbolic, metaphorical and mythological focus” in order to gain deeper appreciation of the social impact of art. Next, in The Secret River and the Masks of White Australian Identity, Michael Heald by critically reviewing a scene from the recent television adaptation of Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River, reminds us of Australia’s colonial past and White Australian identity. Finally, Susan Karpasitis in What did you think of Gone Girl – you’re a feminist,  don’t you love that kind of stuff? examines the challenges of reading contemporary film narratives through the lens of an ever-changing feminist ideologies.

Next is a collection of poems by Rod BeechamDanny FaheyNazanin Ghodrati and Talitha Fraser who respectively in Reflections of a Perfect, Drowning, The Brick Choir and Untitled  present a defamiliarised version of the everyday struggle from the metaphor of drowning to the issue of identity and self-perception.

Ernie Gray in Sri Lankan Story recounts the emotional journey back to Sri Lanka a decade after surviving the 2004 tsunami that cost thousands of lives in Sri Lanka and worldwide.

Lastly, this volume proudly showcases Sally Dalton-Brown’s abstract expressionist palimpsest paintings in Picasso’s Dust: Sally Dalton-Brown. Her strong brush strokes on the canvas allow for a personal dialogue between the presented image and the resulting subjective interpretation.

 

Steep Stairs Review Editors, Nazanin Ghodrati and Susan Karpasitis

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

Steep Stairs Review. Volume 8

September 17, 2012

There is always an eclectic mix of articles and reviews in Steep Stairs Review, drawn as they are from the various interests and passions of a disparate group of academics, teachers, students and researchers. It’s not easy to declare a ‘theme’ for the issue and to procure erudite responses at a whim, as mostly we write about what has recently crossed our desks, engaged our imaginations, or otherwise inspired us to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Despite there being no theme, the collected contributions contained in this issue never-the-less hang together, albeit tentatively, on some common ideas – desperation, the ways societies react to power, horror, and in sublime contrast the pleasures wrung from art and life as it transforms and shifts with the tides of change. There is a real feast for the senses here, some more pleasurably sensual, others challenging and disturbing but equally engaging.

To begin, our Review Essay on David Marr’s very recent Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott, Finessing the Principles, Frightening the Punters: Tony Abbot, Future PM? by Glen Jennings. How does Abbott’s more than 30 years in politics provide a guide to the nation’s political future?  Then an exploration of The Future of Jazz, an inspiring address to students of jazz by Richard Finch on the directions of the jazz scene, and how this sometimes controversial music genre has the future hard wired into its’ continually changing topographies.

Michael Heald celebrates the end of the long wait to see the poetry of Tomas Transtromer finally recognised for its ability to evoke the details below the surface – conveying the ‘unmanifest’ in Heald’s words: ‘The Seen and the Unseen in One Mix’: The Nobel Prize Winning Poetry of Tomas Transtromer.

The next two reviews, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus: What Becomes of the Retuned Soldier? reviewed by Gayle Allan, and The Apartment, by Greg Baxter. Skimming Slowly and Deliberately Across the Surface, reviewed by Jennifer Mitchell, are both dealing with the uncertain, contingent position of the warrior in the social world. Allan’s nuanced and very detailed consideration of Fiennes’ Coriolanus, reveals that even in Shakespeare’s time the returned soldier found himself a fish out of water. The Apartment by Greg Baxter has as its first person narrator just such a returned soldier – back from Iraq – and unable to find a place to call home anymore.

The final two pieces, though sharing a common idea, are quite different explorations of the ways that the sometimes unspeakable can be enculturated into society: into theatre in one case, Hell House: A Tour with Back to back Theatre, by Rosalie Ham, and in the other even become a bizarre tourist attraction in Thailand: Demented Disneyland: Benedict Anderson and the Fate of Rural Hell, reviewed by Glen Jennings. And finally, the review you’ve been waiting for to find out what all that fuss earlier this year was all about, Fifty Shades of Grey – The review to read so you don’t have to read the book, reviewed by Olivia Clarke

Please enjoy reading, and make comments, tweet and retweet, share with your friends and colleagues. Keep Literature and Culture alive.

Steep Stairs Review Volume 6

December 16, 2011

When I start to read a new collection of essays or reviews, I prefer the introduction to be both informative and as brief as possible, to allow me to get started on the more interesting reading. But just let me say that putting together this latest volume of Steep Stairs Review has been a sincere pleasure. No reader of these excellent reviews should be left in doubt that literature, arts and culture are still vital and relevant aspects of contemporary society, or that current events in Australia and around the world cannot be illuminated and understood in very different ways, by considering them through the varied prisms of art, history, activism and the observant eyes of novelists and critics. There is a mix of classic and popular, longer and shorter, critical and praising opinions – something, indeed, for everyone’s tastes – and just in time for Christmas!

Michael Todd considers an intriguing new novel by acclaimed screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk, based on a continuation of Conan Doyle’s Holmes’ mysteries, in “The New Sherlock Holmes.”  The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark’s exploration of the enduring cultural legacies of the Situationist International movement, is reviewed by Gary Pearce in “Beneath the paving stones, the beach!” In Wark’s account contemporary protest movements, which could now also include the Arab Spring and the occupy movement in Pearce’s opinion, appear to re-ignite powerful traces of the Situationist’s ambition to “give form to the world” instead of merely breaking it down.

Mike Heald reviews the latest novel by Rosalie Ham, There Should Be More Dancing, in “An Unremarkable Life,” and finds a work of “deep humanness” … “an accomplishment of the soul” – in a novel which goes to the extraordinary heart of seemingly ordinary people. The most recent ‘bicentenary’ biography of Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens: A Life, is explored in depth by Glen Jennings in “Charles Dickens: Special Correspondent for Posterity”. Tomalin presents some alternative readings of Dickens’ life and loves – some of which are engaging, and some which detract from a clearer evaluation of Dickens’ work. In “What is the world we want to make?” Katherine Firth reflects on the contribution to the Australian imagination of the long-running young adult series by Isobelle Carmody, The Obernewtyn Chronicles. The penultimate volume, The Sending, has just been published, with the final volume The Red Queen due in 2012.

“A Film for our Time? (but not in a good way)” is a candid evaluation of the film Anonymous by Gayle Allan. “Was Shakespeare a Fraud?” Why do we need to keep asking, and who’s raking in the profits? “It tells an exciting story and, if we didn’t know better (and we most certainly do), it could be plausible.” Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman is reviewed by A.G. Craig in “The View from the Balcony”. The life of Harri Opuku, a Ghanian immigrant in poor urban London, is brought to life through the exploration of learning a new language: “Who’d chook a boy just to get his Chicken Joe’s?” Indeed! Neralie Hoadley finds that she has to read The Tree Singer, by Danny Fahey in ways she hadn’t anticipated.“Healing and Personal Meaning” are among the many lyrical strains in this lovely fantasy novel. The challenges and the gifts of reading and writing in new ways is the topic of The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, reviewed by Jennifer Mitchell in “Writing and Reading in the Age of the Thrilling Unknown.”

In “Reopening the Case: A Chinese Murder,”  Glen Jennings reviews Midnight in Peking by Paul French, a book which explores in graphic detail the brutal murder of young Englishwoman Pamela Werner, in Peking in 1937. French looks closely at the precarious lives of foreigners and locals in the last heady and violent days of Old China. And in what will hopefully be a regular section in Steep Stairs Review, Rosalie Ham looks back at a classic novel from the past: Elizabeth Taylor’s 1947 novel  A View of the Harbour, in “Newby Revisited: An Appreciation of the Fiction of Elizabeth Taylor (1912 – 1975)”.

Thanks for reading – Enjoy!

Steep Stairs Review is a journal of reviews and commentary on literature and culture, curated by the Literature Department at Trinity College Foundation Studies, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. This WordPress site is our newest incarnation, however, Steep Stairs has a longer history. Please look here to see Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 archived on the Trinity College website in a PDF as Collected and Neglected Works.

In this issue, we have a great selection of reviews on both literature and non-fiction, as well as some commentary on some deeply important, and some not so pressing but no less interesting, issues of our current times.

Rosalie Ham explains the rewards gained from her journey into the unexpected narrative turns in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, 2010, in Lively Immersion. In Wit and Verve, Jennifer Sinclair considers the merits of A Visit From the Goon Squad, 2010, by Jennifer Egan, and why it deserved to pip Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom at the post for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The evolution of the physical experience of reading Literature – from paper book to the increasingly ubiquitous eReader – need not diminish the pleasures of the text, writes Jennifer Mitchell in Commentary and Opinion.

Our feature non-fiction review essay is a consideration of two recent publications on the Long Contested and Still Emerging debate over “who is the real Shakespeare?” Glen Jennings considers the fluent and considered contribution of James Schapiro, in his book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare, 2010. Also included in this essay is a succinct outline of the diverse contributions being made to the still emerging body of scholarship on Shakespeare, in ‘Rapt in Secret Studies’: Emerging Shakespeare, 2010, edited by Darryl Chalk and Laurie Johnson.

In Voices From Elsewhere, Mike Heald reviews the collection of stories by Nam Le, The Boat, 2008, beginning with a wonderful anecdote about Le’s approach to addressing the fact that from his Vietnamese face an Australian voice emerges. And lastly, with the challenges of repairing the earth’s ecosystems still enormous, Mike Heald in Our World in Focus finds the analysis of this challenge by Jared Diamond in Collapse. How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, 2005, still of immense validity, especially in the context of the rancourous Australian debate about carbon emissions.

We hope you enjoy this inaugural “blog” edition of Steep Stairs. Please follow us to have the latest issues and posts delivered to your inbox.