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This item is taken from PN Review 137, Volume 27 Number 3, January - February 2001.

News & Notes
In the light of readers' complaints reported in PNR 136, that News & Notes is too much possessed by death, it may be salutary to recall a time, not so long ago, when the death of the author - the author as unifying textual concept rather than scribbling biological entity - seemed to be the monkey-gland injection that would rejuvenate a moribund literary criticism, writes Nicolas Tredell. To cast one's mind back to that moment is to raise the spectre of ROLAND BARTHES - and to realise with surprise how much Barthes's impact has faded. For Barthes's name once spelt la nouvelle critique; each of his new books could arouse eager anticipation in his admirers and cast a cold chill down the spines of his detractors. But other names that emerged in Barthes's shadow or in his wake now seem to have proved more durable: Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Kristeva. It was not merely that Barthes died too soon; Foucault's demise was even more previous, but Foucault's name is more likely than Barthes's to turn up in early twenty-first century literary and cultural criticism. Perhaps Stephen Heath was right to suggest that Barthes is cited less because he provided no system, nothing you could do in the way that you could do deconstruction (see Nicolas Tredell, Conversations with Critics (Carcanet, 1994), p. 181). It could also be the case that Barthes now looks a more limited writer and thinker than he appeared to be at the height of his fame: once his innovations were assimilated, his writing lost its dazzle. But a measured return to his work is overdue; and it is likely to be furthered by the creation, twenty years afterBarthes's death in 1980, of the Institut Roland-Barthes in the University of Paris-VIII.

The news of the creation of the Institut, reported in Le Monde (10 November 2000) by Patrick Kechichian, was announced on 7 November 2000 by one of Barthes's friends and fellow-writers whose name has remained highly visible, not least because of her significance to feminism and her excursion into the field of fiction: Julia Kristeva. She explicitly associated the creation of the Institut Roland-Barthes with another academic event with which it coincided: Kristeva's own ascension to the Chair of Literary T heory at the Institut universitaire de France, an institution founded ten years ago which, like the Collège de France, creams off top academics and relieves them of some of their teaching duties so that they can devote more time to research.

The Institut Roland-Barthes itself will be accommodated at the Grands Moulins site near the Bibliotheque Nationale. According to Kristeva, it will aim on both the national and the European level, to promote 'the decompartmentalisation [decloisonnement] of practices and disciplines' and to make them more open to history, to the city, to the unconscious, to thebody, to pleasure, and to truth - the same perspectives that guided the work of Roland Barthes and that remain to be rethought at the present time'. From 2001, these intentions would be furthered by a series of Roland Barthes Conferences that would bring together writers, artists, psychoanalysts and academics. Perhaps such conferences will provide Kristeva with material for some future novel. a Gallic reprise of the conference-based comedy of David Lodge's Small World.

Le Monde also reported that a Roland Barthes colloquium is taking place at theCollege de France on 1 December 2000, organised by the College and by IMEC (l'Institut mémoires de l'édition contemporaine [Institute of Contemporary Publishing Archives]), where Barthes's papers were deposited in 1996. IMEC is also working with the Pompidou Centre to prepare a large exhibition devoted to Barthes's work, which is scheduled for November 2002. All these events are reminders that writers survive their decease and that, even in the case of Roland Barthes, reports of the death of the author are premature.

As a result of financial policy changes, one of the major foundations whose support allows Index on Censorship to provide a funded subscription programme to those in the developing world who urgently need but cannot afford the magazine has withdrawn its core funding. Provision of information to those denied expression, and often freedom, has been the dedicated goal of the organisation for nearly thirty years. As Michael Grade, the Chairman of Index on Censorship states in a recent letter, 'Freedom of expression is not a luxury - it is a necessity, the basis of all other human rights.' The magazine was founded at the height of Soviet repression, but has found its way into Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, India and the Far East. It has not shied away from exposing uncomfortable truths much nearer to home.

Index now has to find £150,000 each year, over the next three years, in order to continue the job of disseminating the magazine to those who are in need of support, contacts, inspiration and a means of expression they are denied in their home countries. Contributions of any amount will be appreciated and can be sent to Index on Censorship, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9HL. Email contact or visit the website at

The name MINA LOY continues to inspire wit, controversy, and improvisation, writes Carolyn Burke. A reader in Sydney suggests as a possible namesake for the poet Charlotte Bronte's heroine Mina Laury (the Duke of Zamorna's mistress in Bronte's Juvenilia) - a coincidence too delightful to dismiss despite its implausibility.

A more troubling issue - fictionalised treatments of figures who to some extent invented themselves, as Loy did - surfaces in recent accounts of the similarities between Antonia Logue's novelisation of Loy's life, Shadow-Box, and Carolyn Burke's biography, Becoming Modern. Of the novel Emily Barton writes, 'Logue never allows her characters, many of whom were famously witty conversationalists, to engage in dialogue; and thus the anecdotes here, many of which seem merely to have been cribbed from Carolyn Burke's recent biography of Loy, read more like a book report than a reinvention of the events and people portrayed' (New York Times 14 November 1999).

Loy might have seen a more inspired form of belated recognition in the recently published Pig Cupid a homage to Mina Loy. This gathering of 'Cracked al- / oys' by poets from Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, and the US includes spirited lyrics ranging from poetry to rhyme and acrostics - all written in response to Loy's first 'Love Song'. Given the strange fortunes of her nom de plume the contributors' decision to remain anonymous seems fitting. (PigCupid can be ordered from Parataxis Editions, c/o Drew Milne, Trinity Hall, Cambridge CB2 1TJ, UK, 2000.)

The Rev FRED PRATT GREEN, described as the finest Methodist hymn writer since Charles Wesley, has died at the age of 97 in Norwich. His hymns include 'For the fruits of his creation', 'When, in our music, God is glorified' and 'Hymn for the Nation', which was the only hymn by a contemporary writer to be used at the official services for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Green was the author of four books of poetry between 1952 and 1991; the title poem of the third volume, The Old Couple (1976) was included by Larkin in the Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse. His career as a hymn writer continued after his retirement from the clergy and he channelled funds from the royalties on his work into a trust to assist the writing of hymns and the study of hymnology.

Flemish author ARTHUR JAPIN has, writes Yann Lovelock, achieved real European success with his recent novel De zwartemet her witty hart (The Black with the White Heart). Having already been translated into English, French, Spanish and Danish, it looks like further translations are still to come. The novel is based on authentic documents and concerns two young African princes handed over to the Dutch government for education in the early nineteenth century. While political correctness may have influenced the English title of Ina Rilke's translation (Chatto & Windus in London, Knopf in New York) The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, the publication of the book brought Japin an invitation to become Writer in Residence at New York University during the Autumn term of 2000. This is the first time a Dutch-language writer has received such an honour from the institution.

The shortlist for the Whitbread Poetry Award 2000 was announced on the 15 November. Celebrating thirty years of the award, this year saw the second highest number of submissions ever for the total £40,000 prize fund. The shortlist for the poetry prize is as follows:

The Asylum Dance John Burnside (Cape)
Conjure Michael Longley (Picador)
Collected Poems R.F. Langley (Carcanet)
Floods Maurice O'Riordan (Faber)
Granny Scarecrow Anne Stevenson (Bloodaxe)

This item is taken from PN Review 137, Volume 27 Number 3, January - February 2001.

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