The 2013 issue of Portals features four critical essays, which engage multiple themes across varying linguistic and literary traditions. Despite myriad differences, however, we believe the high quality showcased in this issue’s essays demonstrates the relevance and necessity of examining literary works from an international perspective.
With a nod to the future, it should be noted that Portals is also endeavoring to expand featured content to include fiction, poetry, and the visual arts, this issue marking the first introduction of a poem. Both written and translated by Jorge Sánchez Cruz of San Francisco State University, “Oda al Parentesis” incorporates the methods of translation into the creative process itself, in this way producing an original work of poetry. The poem captures the yielding, “understanding” brackets of parenthesis, drawing the reader’s attention to the temporary autonomous zones that illuminate the prosaic body of any academic text.
This year’s essays critically engage literary texts from diverse linguistic traditions, a gesture part and parcel to comparative studies, and one that we feel is a particular strength of Portals.
Meaghan Skahan’s “Bifurcating Translations: Borges’s Theories of Ideas and Writing Through Translation Studies” examines the intersection of Borges’s role as both literary author and scholar. Borges’s ideas on the history of literary production–as an infinite regress of creative plagiarism–is brought to bear upon his work as a translator of Poe.
In “Burning the Gold: Subversion and Performative Gender in Notre dame-des-fleurs and Nightwood,” Rebekka Dilts aligns works by Jean Genet and Djuna Barnes in order to sketch the ways in which performativity constructs sexual identity within fictional societies–and by correlation, our own.
Baoli Yang’s “Traveling Through Fantastic Modernity: Reconsidering Time Travel Fiction as a Landmark of Historical Fiction” shows that time-travel fiction has the ability to render history in a way that engages the reader, the repercussions of which Yang explores with terrific insight.
Finally, Robert Farley’s “National Allegory and the Parallax View” explores the relationship between Egyptian playwright Tawfīq al-Ḥakīm’s 1966 play Maṣīr Ṣurṣār (Fate of a Cockroach) and the role of the private and national spheres with respect to national allegory.
Given all this, it is clear how far and wide comparative literature can take us, and the essays serve as a testament to our discipline’s versatility, rigor, the potentially explosive content, and relevance. It is our hope for this year to provide examples of rich content and literary analysis that can emerge from comparative literature. The editors of Portals would also like to thank everyone who submitted.