This page lists resources, including books, articles, and web sites, for students and scholars studying Interstitial Arts. The resources listed were chosen because one or more of us have found them useful in our own research, and are not intended as a comprehensive survey of the available scholarship. If you would like to recommend a resource for inclusion, please feel free to send us a description and bibliographical reference.
Bakhtin, M.M. Rabelais and His World. 1965. Trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984.
— Problems of Dostoyevsky's Poetics. 1963. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.
Bakhtin's work trying to understand how novels do what they do posits the novel as a form marked by its heterogeneity, right down to the level of style. I'm not sure to what extent Bakhtin's criticism is itself interstitial, since he pretty much limits himself to discussing novels — though what he allows in as a novel is fairly catholic — but I do think that, for those of us trying to understand interstitial fiction and how it does what it does, Bakhtin's work contains a whole toolbox full of useful tools. (John Langan)
Carson, Anne. Eros the Bittersweet. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1986. Rpt. Dalkey Archive, 2003.
Eros the Bittersweet is a meditation on romantic love that begins with an analysis of the poetry of Sappho and modulates through Archilochos and Daphnis and Chloe to the Plato of the Phaedra and the Symposium. That makes it sound like a Classics professor's book: it isn't, and insofar as it isn't wholly original, one can see how heavily indebted it is to Roland Barthes's The Pleasure of the Text and Fragments of a Lover's Discourse. (The book is a meditation on the erotic power of the edge, to which it devotes many of its brief chapters, and quotes approvingly Barthes's comments on the importance of the edge of the clothing in a striptease; so one could say that Carson thematizes and eroticizes interstitiality.) It is written in an epigrammatic style that makes you just want to quote it at friends, starting from the first line: "It was Sappho who first called eros 'bittersweet.' No one who has been in love disputes her. . . . As soon as eros enters his life, the lover is lost, for he goes mad. But where is the point of entry? When does desire begin? That is a very difficult moment to find, until it is too late. When you are falling in love it is already too late." (Patrick O'Connor)
Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982.
Harpham's book includes an explanation of the term "grotesque," originally used to describe the paintings on the walls of Nero's palace, the Domus Aurea, rediscovered in Rome as a series of underground caves or grottoes. As this subterranean origin implies, for Harpham the grotesque involves a boundary crossing, occurring either when an object falls between categories or when it occupies multiple categories. It is associated with confusions or mixtures of type, such as mythical creatures composed of both human and animal attributes, or a combination of "high" and "low" literary styles, as in The Castle of Otranto. When we encounter the grotesque, we respond in confused and often contradictory ways; we are, for example, both attracted and repulsed. We identify what we have encountered as grotesque specifically because it cannot be contained by language, which is dependent on categorization. Harpham's book is valuable in part because he describes our response to interstitial phenomena, the discomfort we feel when encountering artistic forms that do not fit into the categories we have created. (Theodora Goss)
Hume, Kathryn. Fantasy and Mimesis: Responses to Reality in Western Literature. New York: Methuen, 1984.
Hume argues that literary creation is motivated by two impulses: mimesis (a representation of consensual reality) and fantasy (a departure from it). Her assertion that these impulses are of equal importance challenges the traditional notion that the primary literary impulse is mimetic or realistic in nature. Hume interestingly, although simplistically, links these mimetic and realistic impulses to stages in social development. For traditional societies, which express themselves through myth, the fantastic impulse is paramount, and reality becomes important to the extent that it conforms to a mythic pattern. The development of modern societies (involving scientific skepticism, bourgeois individualism, and the aestheticization of art) results in a greater emphasis on the realistic impulse. However, realism also creates problems: meaning seems to slip away when the myths are gone, and realistic representation seems to ignore aspects of human experience that are beyond its conventions. The result is a postmodern response to the limitations of realism that once again returns to fantasy. (Theodora Goss)
King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
I'm not sure King is one of those writers who first leaps to mind when one hears the word "interstitial," but his discussion of the horror genre includes autobiography, film and literary criticism, and informal social history. Its continued popularity demonstrates that an interstitial critical approach can succeed quite well. Two decades after its publication, it remains in my view about the best discussion of horror I know, and an intriguing model for other works of cultural criticism. (John Langan)
Shaviro, Steven. Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction about Postmodernism. New York, London: Serpent's Tail, 1997.
Some people really do believe in postmodernism. The topic of this book shouldn't be interstitial, but because of the different levels of prestige in the academy it is, and given the enthusiastic style in which Shaviro has risen to the occasion I suspect Shaviro likes to feel like an outsider. Shaviro is interested in certain aspects of American fringe culture, the ones who took their cue from West Coast anarchist movements and from the writings of William S. Burroughs. Much of the book is an analysis of British alternative comic book writer Grant Morrison (who revived the old DC comic book of superhero misfits the Doom Patrol, hence the book's title), but also featured are Andy Warhol, Kathy Acker, Cindy Sherman, Walt Disney — the usual suspects, narrated in a rigorously hip voice and without footnotes, and vividly so. That the book is published by Serpent's Tail Press rather than an academic press is a different sort of border crossing. (Patrick O'Connor)
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. 1970. Trans. Richard Howard. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975.
Todorov introduces the concept of the "fantastic," a term he uses to understand a specific series of stories exemplified by James' The Turn of the Screw. For Todorov, the fantastic arises when a reader is uncertain whether an event that seems to contradict the natural order has a supernatural ("marvelous") or natural ("uncanny") explanation. (We never quite know, for example, if James' governess sees ghosts or is going mad.) The fantastic exists on the border between the marvelous and uncanny, continually hovering between these two possibilities. Scholars of fantasy have questioned the usefulness of Todorov's term, since even within a story it exists only so long as the reader hesitates between possible explanations, and Todorov himself says that with the rise of surrealist stories such as Kafka's The Metamorphosis, the fantastic as a literary phenomenon passes away. However, it remains an important description of the ways in which fantasy and realism interact, and of what happens in that liminal space between. (Theodora Goss)
Behar, Ruth. Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza's Story. Boston: Beacon, 1993.
Insofar as this is an oral history of a single woman, a Mexican peasant and bruja (witch) in the rural outskirts of San Luis Potosi told by a trained ethnographer, this book should fit comfortably into anthropology as currently practiced. But Ruth Behar, a Cuban-American woman, includes her own story, her own history of Anglo-American feminism and cross-cultural experiences, and the reality of the economic divide between the U.S. and Mexico in the story of Esperanza, whose family was a chaotic mix of tenderness and exploitativeness, whose husbands were all too typical machos, whose folk wisdom is an exuberant and highly heterodox mix of Catholicism and Pre-Columbian beliefs (up to and including possessions by the spirit of Pancho Villa), and who comes across as half literary character, half representative of people who negotiate their lives from the other side of the border between the first and the third world, just as Behar herself represents those of us who negotiate that same border from this side. (Patrick O'Connor)
Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. 1972. Trans. Patrick Gregory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1977.
This is a difficult book, which I recommend because it presents a different perspective on liminality than Turner's The Ritual Process. For Girard, when social structures break down, society enters a state of crisis marked by escalating violence that resembles liminality run amuck. The appropriate response is to reassert the boundaries that structure society through sacrifice, or the ritual exclusion of a chosen victim. Girard's theory becomes particularly interesting when we consider a literary genre such as horror, in which we are often presented with a monster who breaks the boundaries that structure society (such as, for instance, by returning from the dead), engages in escalating violence, and must finally be dispatched so that society can return to its ordinary existence. (Theodora Goss)
Taussig, Michael. The Magic of the State. New York: Routledge, 1997.
— Mimesis and Alterity. New York: Routledge, 1993.
I do not recommend The Magic of the State for everybody, because its crossing of serious anthropology with mythic fictions will not be to everybody's taste. But Michael Taussig is genuinely brilliant, whether in his early books as a wild Marxist (The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America, 1982) or his more theoretically abstruse but just as wild examinations of how cultures, both sophisticated and "primitive," imitate the Other in order to gain power over it (Mimesis and Alterity, 1990 — when you put it that way, it sounds abstruse, but with Taussig's tales of how the Patagonian Indians were affected by Darwin's visits, or how Panamanian Indians slyly played off the fantasies of racist anthropologists by fomenting myths of albino Indians in the Central American interior, it all makes for excellent reading). The Magic of the State is, as I say, a bit over the top: wanting to write about the tensions between a modern oil economy and pre-modern female deities in Venezuela, Taussig eventually decided that he had to invent his own fictional country, and many of the sections of the book are spoken by the goddesses themselves in their various fetishized embodiments in the carvings of Catholic saints. (Patrick O'Connor)
Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process. New York: Aldine, 1969.
Turner's anthropological treatise explores and extends Van Gennep's theory of liminality, focusing on the characteristics of the liminal state. He famously identifies the ritual participant, while in the liminal state, as "betwixt and between" the social categories established by law and custom, and catalogs phenomena commonly associated with liminality, which "is frequently likened to death, to being in the womb, to invisibility, to darkness, to bisexuality, to the wilderness, and to an eclipse of the sun or moon." Turner also considers the political potential of liminality and discusses the possibility that liminal communities, such as certain religious orders, may challenge rigid social structures. However, this utopianism has its limits; Turner shows that liminality is always transitional, eventually turning back to the categories that it initially cast off. (Theodora Goss)
Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. Trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1960.
Van Gennep's anthropological treatise focuses on rites of passage, the rituals that mark transitions between social states, such as childhood and adulthood, or bachelorhood and marriage. For Van Gennep, society organizes human beings into categories, and movement between those categories must always be accompanied by ritual. In the rite of passage, the ritual participant passes from one category, through what Van Gennep identifies as a "liminal" state (from the Latin word for "threshold"), to another. Van Gennep catalogs rites of passage from various cultures, only occasionally pausing to offer a comprehensive theory of the liminal state. However, it becomes clear that it offers the possibility of both freedom and danger. Van Gennep's theory of liminality is the basis for later theories by anthropologists such as Turner and Girard, and also seems to play a part in Todorov's theory of the fantastic. The concept of liminality itself is, I would suggest, crucial for an understanding of boundary crossing in general, and interstitiality in particular. (Theodora Goss)
Resources for Literature
Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein's Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and Nineteenth-Century Writing. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.
Frankenstein has long been identified as an important interstitial text, combining gothic horror with scientific extrapolation. Baldick places this novel in its historical context, revealing the political and literary influences on Shelley's writing, and explores its effects on the subsequent development of realism and the gothic. If you are studying Frankenstein, Baldick's book is an excellent place to start. (Theodora Goss)
Calasso, Roberto. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Trans. Tim Parks. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Calasso's inspired retelling of the great Greek myths is more than a rewording of the stories: ranging over classical Greek history and literature, it meditates on the varieties of meaning encoded in the myths. It's a wonderful reminder of the power and delight of these stories. In general, whatever Calasso turns his attention to is worth reading: whether it's Ka, which does for Indian mythology what Cadmus and Harmony does for Greek myths, or The Ruin of Kasch, which considers nineteenth century European history, or Literature and the Gods, a collection of essays. (Makes me want to take another look at my beloved Norse gods . . .) (John Langan)
Frye, Northrop. The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1976.
The romance, associated with popular literary forms such as fairy tales and fantasy, has generally been considered inferior to realism. Frye argues both for the importance of romance and for the continual dependence of realism on romantic structures. For Frye, the novel is a realistic displacement of romance, even at times (as in Don Quixote and Northanger Abbey) a parody of it. Romance becomes particularly important during periods when "high" literary forms are dominated by convention and writers return to popular literature to revitalize their work. During these periods, realism becomes conservative, maintaining the status quo; it is in romance that writers can locate a revolutionary potential. I find Frye's theory of the archetypal structures of romance unconvincing. However, his description of the interdependence between "high" and popular literary forms is both convincing and important to an understanding of Interstitial Arts. (Theodora Goss)
Gass, William. Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation. New York: Basic Books, 1999.
Gass's book combines Rilke's biography, assorted translations of his poems, and discussions of the problems involved in bringing the work of so complex and subtle a poet as Rilke from German into English. Gass's own translations aren't quite as elegant as those of Stephen Mitchell, which seem to me to set the benchmark for translating Rilke, but this is more than made up for by the rest of the book. (John Langan)
Lawler, Donald. "Reframing Jekyll and Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson and the Strange Case of Gothic Science Fiction." Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after One Hundred Years. Eds. William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988.
Lawler identifies Stevenson's novel as an example of gothic science fiction, in the tradition of Frankenstein. For Lawler, gothic science fiction emphasizes the dark side of the scientific endeavor, critiquing science's claim to rationality. This analysis implies that Stevenson's novel is interstitial, crossing the boundary between the gothic and science fiction, and also that its interstitiality allows it to question the underlying assumptions of Victorian science. (Theodora Goss)
O'Malley, Patrick R. "Oxford's Ghosts: Jude the Obscure and the End of Gothic." Modern Fiction Studies 46 (2000) 646-674.
Although Jude the Obscure is generally considered a realist novel, O'Malley argues that it incorporates gothic elements in important ways, not only in the physical setting of Christminster but also in its presentation of marriage (which results in perverse sexuality) and Anglicanism (which slips into the Catholicism it was formed to resist). Other critics have examined Hardy's relationship to the gothic, generally focusing on his short stories; however, O'Malley's analysis is particularly convincing. According to O'Malley, Hardy reinterprets the gothic for a new century by incorporating it into the fabric of ordinary life. (Theodora Goss)
Weisenfarth, Joseph. Gothic Manners and the Classic English Novel. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1988.
Weisenfarth argues that in the nineteenth century, the novel of manners (exemplified by Pride and Prejudice and Barchester Towers) merges with a new form of the gothic (exemplified by Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations) to form the gothic novel of manners. In the gothic novel of manners (examples of which include Middlemarch, Portrait of a Lady, and Jude the Obscure), social respectability and the conventions of everyday life become the source of gothic horror. Weisenfarth's analysis is a particularly interesting examination of Victorian realism and the ways in which it crosses genre boundaries to incorporate elements of the gothic. (Theodora Goss)
Westerweel, Bart. "'An Immense Snake Uncoiled': H. Rider Haggard's Heart of Darkness and Imperial Gothic." Exhibited by Candlelight: Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition. Eds. Valeria Tikler-Villani and Peter Davidson. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995. 255-270.
Westerweel identifies both Haggard and Conrad as writers of what he calls "imperial gothic," locating similarities in the imagery and central concerns of She and Heart of Darkness, and asserting that Haggard's novel was an important influence on Conrad. His reading is interesting because Conrad is generally considered a writer of "serious" literature, while Haggard is associated with popular adventure stories. Westerweel's analysis reveals that these writers are more similar than modern critics have allowed. (Theodora Goss)
Wolfe, Gary K. "Evaporating Genre: Strategies of Dissolution in the Postmodern Fantastic." Edging Into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Eds. Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002. 11-29.
Wolfe talks of the slipperiness of genre definition, discussing examples of works categorized as horror, science fiction, and fantasy that in fact use protocols of those and other genres, or evoke those genres without really employing their traditional icons. Mentioning Peter Straub, Geoff Ryman, and Sherri S. Tepper, among others, he talks of works that test "the boundaries of genre, . . . out to explode the notion of genre altogether." (Joan Gordon)
Wilt, Judith. Ghosts of the Gothic: Austen, Eliot & Lawrence. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980.
Although literary realism is often associated with a rejection of the gothic, Wilt argues that the novels of Austen, Eliot, and Lawrence incorporate important gothic themes. In Austen, for example, the heroine must experience a version of gothic dread, the feeling of remorse (or dread when reflecting on her own actions), in order to attain an understanding of her self and society that will allow her to participate in a successful marriage. According to Wilt, these themes are used by the authors to suggest the hidden gothic dimensions of ordinary experience. (Theodora Goss)
Resources for Visual Arts
Gruzinski, Serge. The Mestizo Mind. New York: Routledge, 2002.
I'm not a Latin American colonial art historian, but if I had to play one on TV, Serge Gruzinski would have taught me everything I know. My expert friends aren't sure that Gruzinski sufficiently establishes the difference between "mestizo" and "hybrid" in his thoughts about mid- to late-sixteenth century artworks in colonial Mexico (he's trying to make a distinction between deliberate and inadvertent mixings, and the history of discussing Mannerism in Italy is both a source for examples and gets rather in his way), but my response was that I didn't care, bowled over as I was by his descriptions and pictures of lady centaurs from Ovid and pre-Columbian monkey gods in the frescoes of Colonial churches, of Christian and Aztec afterlifes jostling around in the same Nahuatl poems, and other examples of cultural mixings; each chapter begins with other sorts of hybrids, principally West and Far-East (Greenaway's The Pillow Book, Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together). Rigorous but also a little zany. I get to read books like this for a living. (Patrick O'Connor)
Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1995.
Schama, a historian by training, here explores changing ideas about the significance of landscape in Western culture through a discussion of its representation in painting. Schama moves across cultures and times as he follows the thread of his interest; I found his discussion of the contemporary German painter Anselm Kiefer and his work particularly well done. (John Langan)
Resources for Music
Marcus, Greil. Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.
Marcus's discussion of Dylan's music of the sixties — and specifically of the genesis of the famous Basement Tapes — refuses to confine itself to music: he roams freely over American history and literature to place Dylan's accomplishment(s) into a series of larger contexts. A deft weaving of Dylan into American culture that shows up original and interesting connections not only between Dylan's music and the greater whole, but between different parts of that greater whole. (John Langan)
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1990.
Yes, Harvard really did publish a music critic's meditation on the hidden relationship between punk music in general (The Sex Pistols in particular), and a century of anarchist, anti-establishment thought, whose principal heroes are the Dadaists in mid-WWI and the Situationists in post-WWII Europe, although Marcus's style jumps absolutely anywhere, commenting on Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor or the millennial Anabaptists of the Middle Ages or how much of an idiot and control freak Surrealist André Breton could be; the theoretical secret connections are made by the Frankfurt School and Adorno, but Marcus doesn't let his theory intrude on a gripping and extremely convincing montage of artists who practice a radical negation in all media. The centerpiece of the text, a fifty-page description of the last Sex Pistols concert, didn't move me as much as his re-creation of the Dadaists' Cabaret Voltaire, but the entire book is a brilliant wild ride. (Patrick O'Connor)
Savigliano, Marta. Angora Matta: Fatal Acts of North-South Translation. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2003.
Savigliano, a professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, has created a genuinely multi-media cross-academic spectacle. Angora Matta: Fatal Acts of North-South Translation is about one-half essays, one-half creative writing. While commenting on the appearance of tango in modern films (Sally Potter, Carlos Saura, of course Evita) and putting together an ethnography of tango dancing in a Buenos Aires besieged by unemployment and the forces of "globalization," Savigliano decided to work out these issues through the image of the femme fatale. Then she decided to write an opera about one. Angora Matta is an opera set to tango music about an ex-guerrilla in Beverly Hills who is now a professional assassin, hired to return to Buenos Aires to kill the country's president. Savigliano's book includes the libretto and sketches of the characters (parts of the opera are written for animation, the rest for real performers). Incredibly, Savigliano and her creative team succeeded in mounting a performance of Angora Matta in Buenos Aires just ten months after the economy fell apart there, in November 2002. As a book which straddles theoretical meditations with an intervention in trans-national theater, Savigliano's book is genuinely interstitial criticism. (Patrick O'Connor)
Resources for Dance and the Performing Arts
Savigliano, Marta. Tango and the Political Economy of Passion. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.
Savigliano, trained as an anthropologist and political science person in her native Argentina, wrote a somewhat interstitial, altogether terrific book in 1995 entitled Tango and the Political Economy of Passion. (Many people I know want to read the book just from the title.) The book contains intelligent and very persuasive chapters analyzing the history and sociology of tango and its use in constructing Argentine national identity, especially once it had achieved popularity in Paris (yes, Baz Luhrmann didn't make up the "Roxanne" tango in Moulin Rouge out of absolutely nothing). But Savigliano also meditates on the meaning of the lyrics, on the way the tango influenced gender roles in her own family, and on the way dance can embody emotions. Her most unconventional critical move is to stage some of these arguments as discussions between a "Choreocritic" and dancers whom the Choreocritic positions to dramatize parts of her argument. The final chapters also move surprisingly out from Argentina, with a gem of a chapter on tango in Japan since World War II, and a final chapter reflecting on feminists of the Third World discussing the positionality of their theory in a seminar in Hawaii. (Patrick O'Connor)
Brodsky, Joseph. Watermark. New York: Noonday, 1992.
An absolutely lovely meditation on the city of Venice that combines autobiography, history, and speculation, written in a prose that is as much lyric as narrative. Brodsky divides the book into forty-eight chapters that are more separate — though related — essays. In a way, the book is modeled on Venice itself: it's a series of islands, each one identifiably itself, yet together forming a greater whole. (John Langan)
Edging Into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Eds. Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002.
This is a collection of essays by both scholars and fiction writers about science fiction, in a variety of forms, including literature, rock 'n' roll, film, anime, and hypertext, as it disrupts old notions of what sf is and does. My own essay is on "Utopia, Genocide, and the Other," and I examine the intersection of science fiction and literature of the Holocaust.