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Sigmund Freud's seemingly innocuous question, "What does a woman want?" has generated, since it was first asked, much impassioned debate and dissonance. Though Freud claimed it to be "[t]he great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul," quite a number of writers, copy editors, satirists, and admen have found in the question their unlikely tragicomic muse.

While Freud's opinion on women ranged from his openly sexist that women "show less sense of justice than men ... that they are more often influenced in their judgments by feelings of affection or hostility" to his much-panned idea of little girls becoming subject to `penis envy,' which he expressed in a 1925 seminal paper, "Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes," his views are, understandably, dismissed by feminists as a byproduct of the phallus-centric western society as opposed to the pagan societies that reserved a pride of place for women and womb as symbols of fertility and life. However, to be fair to Freud, he himself conceded in his 1933 essay "Femininity," "This is all I have to say to you about femininity. It is certainly incomplete and fragmentary and does not always sound friendly.... If you want to know more about femininity, enquire of your own experiences of life, or turn to poets, or wait until science can give you deeper and more coherent information." It is then to poets that we turn for answers, and we learn from them what women want: to be free from male tyranny.

Mirror has always held a special place in literature. Used as imagery, mirror could be a symbol of illusion, self-knowledge, or a doorway to a wonderland. In the first paper, "Terrible Fish in Sylvia Plath's `Mirror': Perception and Relevance of Mirror Imagery," the author, Rajani Sharma explores how Sylvia Plath uses the mirror imagery in her poem "Mirror" to delve deeper into the collective unconscious of the female self, as she searches for "what she really is."

Cultural feminism seeks to revalidate those attributes and values considered feminine and celebrates the difference. In essence, it acknowledges that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but deems Venus to be by far a better place than Mars. In the second paper, "Cultural Feminism: The Reality of the Self and the Body in Adrienne Rich's Poetry," the author, Rajasekhar Vemula discusses how Adrienne Rich takes an `essentialist' stance, in her poems by portraying female traits and values as superior to the male and thus seeks to free women from the patriarchal control.

"To be a black woman in nineteenth-century America was to live in the double jeopardy of belonging to the `inferior' sex of an `inferior' race," writes Dorothy Sterling (We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century). No longer. In the third paper, "Rewriting the Canon: Gloria Naylor's Mama Day as the Revision of The Tempest," the authors, Nagendra Kumar and Anurag Kumar show how Gloria Naylor chooses to revise the story of The Tempest and question the male and white superiority as represented by Shakespeare's Prospero with her protagonist Mama Day, who is female and black.

The influence of and on writers across ages, generations, and continents is a complex topic that any attempt to trace the genealogy of influence could throw up interesting insights. In the fourth paper, "Some Fragile Member of the Human Absurdity with Erectile Dysfunction: Faulkner's Existentialist View in Sanctuary," the author, Richard E Baker traces the influence of Faulkner on the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus and explores certain existential motifs that are common to their writings, with particular reference to Horace Benbow, the main character in Sanctuary, who suffers from erectile dysfunction.

The phrase "the medium is the message" means that there is a symbiotic relationship between the medium through which a message is conveyed and that the nature of medium influences how a message is perceived by an individual. In the fifth paper, "The Visual Turn: Affect, Autobiography, History, and the Graphic Narrative," the author, Pramod K Nayar takes a close look at the graphic narrative, a new medium for narrating history, and analyzes the strategies through which the graphic narrative relates historical trauma to create a graphic hypervisible history.

The movie No Country for Old Men (2007), an adaptation of the novel by the same name by Cormac McCarthy, not only got rave reviews but also scooped a clutch of awards. In the sixth paper, "The Dismal Tide: Shoring Up the Fragments in Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men," the author, Matthew Carter colligates Coen brothers' cinematic adaptation to the articulation of frontier myth in contemporary American culture and history and analyzes its impact on the Western genre as a whole.

Ernest Hemingway's works often deal with the sufferings and struggles of individuals, with war, violence, and death providing the imposing backdrop. In the seventh paper, "Human Quandary in Ernest Hemingway's Works," the author, Vikrant Sehgal examines the attitudes of some of Hemingway's characters towards life and death and through them Hemingway's approach to the reality of human experience.

American Dream-turned-American Tragedy has been a recurrent theme in American Literature, which portrays the emptiness of the `dream' and the moral decay of the materialistic society. In the eighth paper, "Failure of the Individual in Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie," the author, P Asha examines the gilded and perfumed claims of the American Dream and what can happen to the individuals when that dream proves to be specious and distorted, with reference to Theodore Dreiser's novel Sister Carrie.

The Bhagavad-Gita, regarded as the essence of all Vedas, explicates the Vedic concept about the oneness of the Truth underlying many spiritual paths: "There is one Truth but the wise call it by different names" (The Rig Veda). In the ninth paper, "Influence of The Bhagavad-Gita on T S Eliot's Four Quartets," the author, Dasarathi Behera delineates the universality of this vision by tracing the influence of The Bhagavad-Gita on Eliot and his much-acclaimed work Four Quartets.

Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea is a brilliant fable about the magnificence and grief of the eternal struggle between man and the elements of nature. In the tenth paper, "The Old Man and the Sea, as a Parable of Human Endurance," the author, Arpita Seth Roychowdhury explains how the novella can be read as a parable of human fortitude and Hemingway's code for personal salvation.

-- R Venkatesan Iyenger
consulting Editor

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