This issue of The Midwest Quarterly offers a broad selection of essays, beginning with Mark Glouberman’s “The Birth of Death in Athens and Jerusalem,” a comparison of death and origins in Homer’s Iliad and the book of Genesis.
This issue of The Midwest Quarterly offers a broad selection of essays, beginning with Mark Glouberman’s “The Birth of Death in Athens and Jerusalem,” a comparison of death and origins in Homer’s Iliad and the book of Genesis. Next, Steve Wilson examines J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World from the perspective of Judith Butler’s concept of “performative identity,” which suggests people are not essential selves but are malleable and shaped by “context and cultural expectations.” James J. Donahue offers another view of Henry David Thoreau’s thought in relation to the latter’s writings about John Brown. Donahue urges that Thoreau’s work ought to be read and evaluated as evidence of philosophical growth rather than self-contradiction; Thoreau laid the abstract groundwork in Civil Disobedience, on which he built an increasingly concrete framework that culminated in the writings about and the person of John Brown. Effectively breaking up the prose is an oasis of poetry nestled in the middle of the issue. David Rogers’s poem “Sometimes I sit” offers a wonderful time-lapse vision of watching the sunlight feel its way through the room during the course of the day: “If I sit still enough / the light may perch / on my fingertips, / a moth whose dusty wings / beat exactly once a day.” The issue continues moving forward, emerging from the poetry to a contemporary film analysis in Judith A. Spector and Katherine V. Tsiopos Wills’s “The Aesthetics of Materialism in Alan Ball’s American Beauty.” Here the authors refer to the film as well as the original screenplay, which was cut substantially, in more than one sense, during filming, and argue that the film represents a “quest for spiritual meaning in the midst of an overpowering materialism.” Finally, Beth Kraig revisits and responds to a dialogue she began in 1987 regarding “Automotive Woman,” that stereotypical “fecklessly timid fender-bending menace,” and “Automotive Man,” the “aggressive pedal-stomping pseudo-Daytona racer.” In reevaluating the present situation and finding more and more women assimilating the habits and attitudes of Automotive Man, making the roads even more dangerous, Kraig looks to the future and calls for a rational (and, for some, maybe even radical) solution she calls “Automotive Human.” Finishing off the issue are six insightful book reviews, two of which, interestingly, are reviews of the same book by two reviewers. Overall, this journal has more than just food for thought; this is meat and potatoes that will both fill you up and leave you hungry for more.