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Fictionalizing the World

Rethinking the Politics of Literature

Edited By Louisa Söllner and Anita Vržina

The book offers ten essays which explore the interaction between literature and politics. The authors investigate a variety of genres including young-adult fiction, national poetry, novels, autobiography, and performance art from different time periods ranging from the 18 th up to the 21 st century from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Grouped in three sections, the essays focus on the relationship between fiction and identity; the creation of spaces of/in fiction; and the interplay of irony and fiction. They reveal that fiction has a fundamental potential not only to react to but also to affect and shape the world. This offers a possibility to negotiate and re-imagine the ways in which we perceive the world and position ourselves within it.
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An Auto-Performative Humor-filled Journey with Jonathan Demme’s Swimming to Cambodia (1987): Listening to Spalding Gray ‘Gesture’ his Way through the Cinematic Reality of Intersecting ‘Contact Zones’

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Abstract

This essay focuses on Spalding Gray’s one-man performance titled Swimming to Cambodia (1985, 1987), which is understood as part of a tradition of auto/biographically inspired modernist texts that question the imposed divide between the private self and its public re-creation through art.

The idea of having a live audience was essential to me. I learned this doing Swimming. The first two nights of filming I was looking past the camera to find the audience, because I felt so guilty. Jonathan’s [Demme] only comment was “be generous to the camera” and I came to realize that the camera was the audience. (Spalding Gray in Georgakas and Porton 34)

It was Spalding Gray who initially approached the director Jonathan Demme with the possibility of turning one of his monologues Swimming to Cambodia (1985), into a feature film. Although he has been quoted on several occasions as saying that “it was never my idea to put them [his monologues] on film,” Gray seems to have been able to see past his former reservations and allow himself (and his performative persona) to cross over into a new medium. In an interview with Cineasté magazine, he espouses the reasons for this “sudden” change of heart:

It’s less expensive to see, so you get an audience that cannot afford a theater ticket. Second, you get an audience that would never go to the theater at all, but which does go to the movies. The surprising...

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