Welcome to Stet, Issue 3.

Although still in its infancy, Stet is continuing to flourish and adapt to the needs and interests of our vibrant postgraduate community. We are proud to contribute to Stet’s legacy with the launch of this third issue, which addresses the theme of disorientation. This issue began as a series of questions. How are we located and dislocated in space, time, and history? Which parts of our personal, social, cultural, geographical, genetic, or technological landscape orient us? What incidents construct our conception of ourselves and our environments? What does it in fact mean to be disorientated? For postgraduates today, disorientation is a familiar bedfellow. We struggle to situate ourselves within ever-expanding and continually mutating disciplines. We grapple to achieve equilibrium in the dizzying assault of new information and ideas. We consistently find clarity of thought through the disorientation of thought.

As such, we were keen to promote work which, as well as tackling disorientation as an overarching literary theme, strived to create a body of scholarship which was itself ‘out of place’. To bring unusual ideas to bear on a familiar field always promises to disorient the reader, whilst the surge in interdisciplinary critiques heralds a desire to re-orient the academic community. When it is most potent and relevant, academic inquiry is charged with the responsibility to open us up to non-normative perceptions of time, space, reality and identity. It hands us the tools to deconstruct the conventional wisdom which has guided us and arms us with the passion to erect our own conceptual frameworks. In this issue we wished to harness this potential, to push against the reification and separation of discourse.

This issue drew submissions from three continents, from postgraduates working across English Literature, Film Studies, Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. The question of disorientation is approached literally, theoretically, and metaphorically in order to generate conversations about the ways in which location and direction are enacted and expressed in our lives through the medium of literature.

As is apt, the work published in this issue tackles the theme of disorientation in vastly divergent ways; yet continuity can always be found in the chaos. Using the under-represented early war journals of Keith Vaughan, Alex Belsey presents a vibrant portrait of a man struggling to orient himself in the stratified economies of a post WWII patriarchal society. Battling his homosexual desire, which regularly functioned outside of England’s rigidly maintained class system, and his urge to flout the conventions of his strict upbringing, Vaughan’s voice encodes the struggle to inhabit the role of outsider in an alienating world. Nanette O’Brien also takes autobiography as her subject. She focuses on the use of visual imagery in the construction and illustration of an autobiographical subject and investigates what is lost and what is gained in the act of reproduction. The subject is mirrored by the texts and images that represent it, yet these images also connect the subject with the unfamiliar, and with the memories of the outside world.

In a similar act of decentralising the dominant literary gaze, Alexis Brown seeks to resurrect the maligned voice of Christophine in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, a novel which in its very essence works to disorient the canon of English Literature. She reverses dominant readings to ask how the black, female voice may encode resistance in narratives of colonisation. Drew Danielle Maxwell analyses the complex relationship between memory and madness as an extreme form of emotional and physical disorientation in the Middle English Romance Ywain and Gawain, a text that has, Maxwell claims, hitherto existed only on the boundaries of academic scholarship, but one that is deserving of greater scrutiny.

The city has emerged as a site of perpetual disorientation. In her discussion of London’s Jewish East End, Hannah Boettcher explores spatio-temporal disorientation as a necessary precondition of pscyhogeography. This article is dedicated to unearthing the experiences of those people hidden in the metropolis, to those who paradoxically achieve orientation by drifting aimlessly through the erratic streets of the capital. Edward Falvey takes as his subject the epitomic hub of metropolitan chaos, New York City. Tracking the diverse representations of New York through literature and film, he seeks to uncover the voices and rhythms which construct urban space, and to trace the jarring moments of arrhythmia that impact the (heart)beat of the modern city. In antithesis, Geoffrey K. Bucy takes up Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express as a travelogue built around a transportation infrastructure rather than a destination, and investigates the profound sense of continuity, connection, and spatiotemporal orientation provided by a railway track that did not in fact exist but that became metonymic of a narrative enterprise.

Finally, the work of Alexander Williams and Alden Wood marks a refreshing departure; deploying psychoanalysis and philosophy respectively, their discussions hint at the potentiality of interdisciplinary study. Alexander Williams undertakes an impressive close reading of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Embracing disorientation as a literary device, he reads across Lacan’s vast oeuvre in order to construct a theory of temporality in which the past is always in a state of becoming, beholden not to the present but to some always abstract future which never fully arrives. Alden Wood uses a recent work of political philosophy to destabilise the hegemony of Enlightenment thought. Engaging in close reading of the work of the militant French Marxist collective Tiqqun, Wood analyses the concept of Empire as it confuses the specificity of the social and the political. By offering a vigorous critique of a wide range of political philosophy, this essay offers scholars of literature new ways to conceive of the text as an extension of the always contentious social realm.

Stet is very much a collaborative enterprise and this issue could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of a wide variety of people. We would like to thank Hannah August and Camilla Mount, who, in conjunction with the English department at King’s College, London pioneered this journal as a sounding board for our postgraduate community. It is no exaggeration to say that without the advice and support of our General Editor Sophie Lally we would have remained perpetually disorientated. Thank you also to Jennifer Lo; without her technical skills this issue would never have reached fruition. Finally, we wish to extend our gratitude to all the peer reviewers who have volunteered their time and effort in order to ensure this issue is of the highest standard.

We hope you enjoy the issue.

Victoria Carroll and Melissa Dickson (Editors)

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