School of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Phone number: 01865 3982
Location: Headington Campus, Tonge Block, T416
Flèche (the French word for 'arrow') is an offensive technique commonly used in fencing, a sport of Mary Jean Chan's young adult years, when she competed locally and internationally for her home city, Hong Kong. This cross-linguistic pun presents the queer, non-white body as both vulnerable ('flesh') and weaponised ('flèche'), and evokes the difficulties of reconciling one's need for safety alongside the desire to shed one's protective armour in order to fully embrace the world.
Amidst a growing consensus amongst critics that a discussion on race and white privilege in British poetry is long overdue, few have theorized on race and racism in relation to contemporary British BAME poets and their concomitant poetics. In being attentive to how BAME poets continue to be routinely othered by various critics, I will reflect upon my positionality as a BAME poet-critic who considers literary criticism to be a crucial means to respond to exemplary work being produced by contemporary British BAME poets, with the aim of disseminating contemporary BAME poetry in forums which are less welcoming to non-white or non-Eurocentric voices and perspectives. This article will examine whether parody can be construed as a form of resistance, which can be deployed to counter racialized/racist notions of difficulty, readability and authenticity. As the case study of my exploration of contemporary British-Chinese poetry, Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade will be closely read to illuminate the inextricable 'connection between texts and the existential actualities of human life, politics, societies and events' (Said 1983). Through offering a textual analysis of Howe’s collection with due attention to her politics and poetics, I aim to reveal how Loop of Jade has broadened the definition of linguistic innovation in contemporary British poetry and practice through its scintillating use of parody and hybrid poetics.
The longevity of the lyric belies persisting difficulties in terms of its definition and categorization, particularly given the form's evolution in the face of philosophical, sociopolitical and cultural transformations. In Claudia Rankine's Citizen, the lyric is powerfully refashioned in response to the historical and contemporary tribulations of being a black citizen in America. Rankine's keen awareness of how linguistic injury caused by microaggressions registers in the body leads her to an adoption and adaptation of the lyric form, with Citizen aptly subtitled “An American Lyric.” Citizen is an urgent and timely book that sustains America's conversation on race and racial injustice on a level of national grief, even as Rankine brings it to the level of personal intimacy by asking, “How do you make a body accountable for its language, its positioning?” I contend that Citizen is a work that extends the lyric's possibilities through creating a hybrid text containing lyric essays, photography, public art and video scripts, which are juxtaposed for intertextual and polyphonic effects. I argue that Rankine uses lyric hybridity to create a poetics of racial trauma that meditates on the effects of racial injustice as it manifests in the bodies of traumatized individuals. Lyric hybridity appears crucial to Rankine's project, since it allows for complex subjectivity and intimate address amidst a clarity of language that enables the reader to perceive how we easily we fail one another in our daily pursuit of relationality, community and citizenship.