Reseachers

Since the Network was established in late November 2017, we have been fortunate enough to attract a wide array of scholars, doctoral reseachers, and students from across the globe. Please see below for biographical and contact information of a selection of members of our Network.

Dr Mary Kate Azcuy, Associate Professor at Monmouth University (mazcuy@monmouth.edu)

Bundren Death Brides: Faulkner’s Addie and Dewey Dell

My study investigates William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, relative to gender, theory, myth, and a close reading of the characters of Addie Bundren and her daughter, Dewey Dell. These women are constructs that antagonize theoretical conversation and analysis regarding gender, sex, subject/object relations, and the intertextual and mimetic purpose for these southern-gothic characterizations of women. These women are dual aspects of each other, and draw forward analysis of the text relative to tropes of women as corpses, “death brides,” and animals.

These connotations are derived from the novel’s title that Faulkner recalled as from a translation (perhaps Merry and Riddel) of “The Book of the Dead,” The Odyssey Book XI where Agamemnon retells the story of his murder, by his wife Clytemnestra: “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.” This correlation antagonizes conversations of woman as creatures, here a dog; for Faulkner’s Vardaman, Addie’s son, “My mother is a fish.” Dewey finds herself in “a tub full of [fish] guts” she interprets, as “God gave women a sign when something has happened bad” (5). A woman’s body, once “cut into jagged pieces, bleeds quietly in a pan” (59). These women, sometimes in comparatives to fish or dogs, also connote the Bible (Jesus, Mary, ‘the power of the dog,’ which is god) in the Dis and Underworld where Agamemnon warns Odysseus about the folly of death bride. These inversions of the divine, gods/dogs, are measured for use value, sex and birth, corrupt constructs that result in domestic oppression, violence, and death.

The bloody trail the family follows, taking the mother’s wedding-gowned and coffined corpse through the “red path” mimics the southern United States problematic history, a place haunted by the history of the Civil War, racism, and slavery in “The Christ-haunted South.” Here, women are representative of that history, as the corpses, one dead, the other, the doppelgänger daughter, Dewey, pregnant, in a corrupt cycle, in a corrupt place. Karl Marx in “Fetishism of Commodities and the value thereafter” (Capital, vol. 1, section 4) explained how such objects lose value and equal a spectral existence. These southern grotesques are a haunting from history and a continued haunting about the subjugation of women. Maggie Burns’ study “A Good Rose is Hard to Find: Southern Gothic as Signs of Social Dislocation in Faulkner & O’Connor” from Image and Ideology in Modern/Postmodern Discourse, explained such representations, where “southern gothic is a literary technique which both enacts and conceals the dehumanization of response in the south” (107), where the “South is an ideological Other for the nation as a whole” (107). This connects to Foucault’s “counter memory—a transformation of history into a totally different time” (Language, Counter-Memory, Practice 160), where Faulkner joins the mythic, metaphysical, and historic.

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Dr Michał Choiński, Assistant Professor of American literature, Jagiellonian University (michal.choinski@uj.edu.pl)

The Southern Agṓn – the Study of the Rhetorical Conflict in Faulkner’s “Dry September

In his introduction to The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner declares, assuming the collective voice of the South: “We need to talk, to tell, since oratory is our heritage” (1973: 413). His insistence on the importance of rhetoric, and on the potent, emphatic use of language remains visible in the meta-linguistic character of Southern writings. As stipulated by Richard Gray (2007:3), Faulkner habitually used the “productive relation between voices: not just the possibility but the fact of genuine dialogue within communities and between generations” in the South. This paper aims to investigate one aspect of this rhetorical polyphony, namely the clash between two divergent modes of argumentation and predication used by the characters of Faulkner’s “Dry September”. The author of the paper will argue that the escalating argument between the characters of this short story can be construed as an agonistic conflict, in which the impossibility of resolution prefigures the lynching violence. In “Dry September”, in the public space of the barber show, against the background of a heatwave, Faulkner escalates and collides two incongruent rhetorics whose dialectic antagonism becomes emblematic of the social conflicts that remain perennial for his understanding of “Southerness”.

Michał Choiński is Assistant Professor of American literature in the Institute of English Studies at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków Poland. In the recent years, he delivered guest lectures at Yale University, University of South Carolina, Salem State University, Queens University (Belfast), Freie Universität (Berlin) and the University of Padua. Choiński’s monograph Rhetoric of the Revival came out in 2016 with V&R in an academic series of Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University. He has also co-edited a volume on cognitive linguistics for Mouton de Gruyter, and authored almost thirty articles that were published, among others, in Mississippi Quarterly, Amerikastudien, Jonathan Edwards Studies and Polish Journal of American Studies. Choiński is engaged in two research grant projects in which, which his colleagues, he studies American literature with the help of Digital Humanities. As part of this research, stylometry was applied to compare and contrast the authorship signals of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. His next book, Southern Hyperboles, will be published with the Southern Studies Series of Louisiana State University Press in 2020. Choiński also writes poetry – his latest volume is entitled Gifts Without Wrapping (Hedgehog Press, 2019).

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Solveig Dunkel, doctoral reseacher, Université de Picardie Jules Verne (dunkel.solveig@gmail.com)

“Vomiting the Crying”: A Poetics of Fluids in Light in August and As I Lay Dying

“As [Reverend Hightower] sits in the window,” Faulkner writes in Light in August, “leaning forward above his motionless hands, sweat begins to pour from him, springing out like blood, and pouring.” In the penultimate chapter of the novel, Hightower’s whole body seems to be dissolving or melting, like a wax figure, until his hands turn into “twin pale blobs.” Fluids flow freely out of his body, in a confusion of sweat and blood. In a similar fashion, in As I Lay Dying, Cash is steadily bleeding out, until his face turns “the color of blotting paper,” while the rotting corpse of his mother emits putrid exudations. Faulkner’s characters’ bodies are porous; as the novels unravel, bodies seem to be deflating, in an effusion of blood, vomit, sweat, spit, milk and tears. “These oozings and flowings and outpourings,” to use André Bleikasten’s expression, highlight the malleability, or maybe the impossibility, of fixed bodies and fixed forms in Faulkner’s novels. Even more so, these horrific discharges of fluids articulate the interdependence of language and bodies. The debasing and involuntary outpourings of fluids dramatize the uncontrollable and irresistible urge, in Faulkner’s fiction, to just say. Just like the recurring instances of vomiting, Faulknerian characters lose themselves in “word vomits,” where language doesn’t seem to depend on human agency to get the words out. It appears that Faulkner’s writing greatly relies on the process of emptying: among his favorite words, “outrage” or “abject” both etymologically represent the desire to find a way out, to come out, to “ex-press.”

Using Light in August and As I Lay Dying, two novels which communicate on this topic through the use of a similar imagery, this paper analyzes the way bodily fluids and interact in Faulkner’s fiction, in a dialectics of purity and impurity, debasement and elevation.

Solveig Dunkel is a doctoral candidate at Université de Picardie-Jules Vernes, France. After having completed a Master of Research at Paris Diderot University, where she took an interest in the aestheticization of violence in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, she passed the agrégation of English language, a French competitive state examination. Her doctoral thesis is entitled “William Faulkner’s Poetics of the Body (Sanctuary, Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, As I Lay Dying)”. While completing her PhD, she teaches American literature and history at Université de Picardie – Jules Verne.

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Siân Round, doctoral researcher, University of Cambridge (sian.round@ell.ox.ac.uk)

Assembling the County from its Scattered Pieces’: The Chronotope as Model for Reading Faulkner From Cowley to the Digital

Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner (1946) orders Faulkner’s stories in a chronological sequence centred on the topological unity of Yoknapatawpha. By mapping the works into patterns of time and space, Cowley provided a concrete form to a holistic reading of Faulkner, crafting a ‘legend of the South’ which helped to solidify Faulkner’s place in the American canon. The methodology of presenting the texts according to their location and chronological sequence – or, in Bakhtinian terms, the chronotope – which was granted authority by Faulkner’s own additions to the Portable, has become the predominant way of reading Faulkner. In this paper, I will examine Cowley’s influence over readings of Faulkner’s work, comparing its methodology to those of digital editions (the University of Saskatchewan’s 2004 edition of The Sound and the Fury and the Digital Yoknapatawpha project). Reading across these widely different editions, I will argue that the shared structure of mapping the text onto time and space seeks to assert Faulkner’s relation to the real world, making him an author who represents the voice of the nation rather than the stories of individuals. By reading across from Cowley to the digital, this paper will examine how spatio-temporal readings of Faulkner seek to elide the distinction between the fictional world created by Faulkner and the real South in which he was writing. In centring the texts on the chronotope, Yoknapatawpha County does not just become more accessible for readers but morphs into the real Lafayette County, leading critics to speculate on the real places and events behind the stories. The blurring of these distinctions between the world inside and outside the text serves to limit the possible chronotopes and thereby convert Faulkner into a Southern historian and cartographer.

Siân Round is currently studying for a master’s degree in English and American Studies at the University of Oxford. She studied for her undergraduate degree at Durham University where she wrote a dissertation on Faulkner’s British reception, a version of which she presented at the 1st Faulkner Studies in the UK Conference in 2018. In Autumn 2019, she hopes to start a PhD on transatlantic networks of the Southern Renaissance.

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Liza Tishchenko, postgraduate student, Durham University (liza.tishenko96@gmail.com)

‘Smoldering hiatus’: Silences and Hysterias in Faulkner’s Flags in the Dust

Silence figures centrally in nearly all of William Faulkner’s work, and encompasses silences of various types. The Sound and the Fury features a prominent character who is incessantly spoken about, but who never gets to speak herself; in As I Lay Dying, a character is given just one chapter to speak and spends much of it remarking on the inadequacy of language; failures of communication are peppered throughout the Collected Stories. Accordingly, a significant amount of scholarship has been devoted to considerations of these silences, the greater part of which has come from feminist criticism’s attention to the processes of women’s silencing or the ways in which female voices are erased and/or appropriated by male characters and dominant patriarchal structures. Comparatively, there is limited scholarship focusing on readings of silence as it regards the mechanisms – and effects – of male characters being rendered silent, particularly as a result of traumatic experience. Flags in the Dust provides a model landscape for such study, as much for its focus on a PTSD-affected male protagonist as for its concomitant treatments of experiences of war, fraternal bonding, and conflict with the feminine as contender for intimacy. What little has been written about male trauma and its incommunicability has focused primarily on an aggressive unwillingness of male characters to speak and their consequent displays of violence. In contrast, this paper explores the mechanisms by which traumatised men are made incapable of speaking, with subsequent attention to fraternal, homoerotic, and potentially incestuous loves. The breakdown of self-narrativity and the opposition of male bonds to an external and threatening female contender are also examined as kinds of defence mechanisms rather than expressions of misogynistic aggression, and with a questioning view toward Faulkner’s familial and social dynamics as echoes of the South’s conflicted feelings about its own historical past.

I hold a BA in English from Johns Hopkins University and am currently completing a postgraduate degree at Durham University, studying for the MA in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literary Studies. My dissertation is entitled ‘“All foul, until the clean and naked bone”: Trauma, Transgression, and Faulkner’s Troublesome Bodies’ and focuses on male characters behaving “badly”, with a view toward the performative, aesthetic, and paradoxically self-comforting aspects of the propensity of Faulkner’s male characters toward self-destructive behaviour. More broadly, my research interests include modernist treatments of self-narrativity, physiology, constructions of the social self, intersections of modernist writing with the visual arts, and modernist considerations of the grotesque, the taboo, and the “dirty.”

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Professor Kay Walter, University of Arkansas at Monticello (walter@uamont.edu)

Faulkner and the Moral Influence of Aunts

Throughout his fiction, William Faulkner makes use of cultural traditions of the American South and their symbolic implications. One tradition he employs is the tradition of aunts. To Southerners, the sister of one’s mother holds a sacred relationship with a child akin to the mother-child relationship in much the same way as in Arthurian tradition the son of a king’s sister is in a privileged kinship. The Southern aunt, particularly a maternal aunt, serves as a second mama throughout childhood and often become a surrogate mother and primary caregiver in the mother’s absence or inaction.

This tradition is most clearly evident in Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning,” in which the mysterious goodness of young Colonel Sartoris Snopes is explainable through no other influence. Sarty is sprung from bad seed. His father and brother are clearly wicked men. His mother is either incapable of determining good from evil or, at best, cowed and beaten into submission to her husband’s cruelty. Sarty’s twin sisters are unattractive entities who seem to have no personality whatsoever. Where, readers wonder, does young Sarty get his moral integrity? What inspires him to find within himself a conscience which can speak loudly enough to guide his actions and his decisions?

The answer lies in the person of his aunt, Aunt Lizzie, who speaks once and only briefly through the entire story. She reveals through a single sentence the nature of her character and its influence on Sarty. She is a woman who provides a moral compass for the boy and, though she is incapable of acting, she is willing to sacrifice herself for what is right. In the tradition of the Southern aunt, she is the inspiration for Sarty’s choices and the justification for his character.

Kay J. Walter, PhD is a Professor of English at University of Arkansas at Monticello where she serves as the British literature generalist and also teaches world literatures, composition, American literature, non-musical drama, and a variety of other courses. She is a Companion of the Guild of St George and a lifemember of Friends of Ruskin’s Brantwood, Royal Oak Foundation, Arkansas Library Association, Arkansas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts, Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, Hostelling International USA, and the Carson McCullers Society. For ACTELA, the Arkansas affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English, she edits the award-winning newsletter, The English Pub. Her recent writings appear or are forthcoming in The Companion, Arkansas Libraries, Arkansas English Journal, FoRB Newsletter, Minnesota English Journal, Moveable Type, Lifewriting Annual, and CEAMAG Journal. She has made recent presentations for Story Forge, South Arkansas Literary Festival, Arkansas Philological Association, Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association, East Texas English Language and Literature Conference, and Friends of Ruskin’s Brantwood AGM. Presentations planned for fall 2019 include papers for the North American Victorian Studies Association, the Arkansas Library Association, and Roycroft’s John Ruskin and the Origin of the Arts and Crafts Movement. She loves collaborating, mentoring first-generation students and early-career teachers, and designing courses which include travel to Europe.

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James Wills, doctoral researcher, Warwick University (j.wills@warwick.ac.uk)

“Justice as he sees it”: Faulkner’s emerging lawyer of the post-war U.S. South

This paper argues that William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust (1948), and specifically through its representation of the lawyer Gavin Stevens, is amongst the first post-war novels to anticipate and formulate the legal transformations of the Civil Rights struggle. While the lawyers of pre-war Southern fiction reliably upheld paternalistic legal philosophies and white consensus attitudes towards race and region, I will argue that, after the Second World War, they begin to embody the contradictory and incommensurate strains of a nascent socio-legal transformation, featuring as narrative figures straining under the contested definitions of ‘law’ and ‘justice’ in a region poised on, but still awaiting, the changes wrought by the 1950s and 60s.

Through a sustained focus on how the spaces of law and justice in Faulkner’s novel cast the attorney as an ‘emerging figure,’ I contend that Stevens’s position as ‘lawyer-citizen’ ensures he is caught amid change at a local and federal level, leading to profound misunderstandings of his character – both critically and historically. Focus too is placed on Gavin’s much-maligned speeches in the second half of the novel. While Elizabeth Hardwick labels them “absurd, strident lectures,” this paper instead considers the lawyer’s rhetoric flourishes as a means to begin properly assessing the complicated legacies brought about by a regional history fraught with racial violence and legal animosity.

What is more, Faulkner’s ‘emerging figure’ of the post-war U.S. South enables significant dialogue with later iterations of the region’s literary lawyers, who I distinctively argue become – individually and as something of a ‘fictional group’ – the earliest example of a growing and developing scepticism towards the dominant claim that American law progressed beyond the racial prejudices and injustices of its history in the post-war era.

James is currently a third year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His Masters dissertation – supervised by Professor Daniel Katz and completed in 2016 – was titled “‘Which Tale is the Idiot’s?’: ‘April Seventh 1928’ and the Sound and Fury of Interpretation,” examining the countless readings purporting to attribute meaning to Benjy Compson’s opening narrative in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, considering the relationship between text and critical debate through the distinctive lens of psychoanalysis. His research interests have since developed to concern the legal cultures of the American South between 1930 and 1970; particularly, how Southern fiction portrays problematic dilemmas inherent to law and justice in the region. He has given papers on Faulkner’s ‘emerging’ legal figure, Gavin Stevens, at several locations in the United Kingdom, presenting research that forms part of the first chapter of his thesis. More broadly, his Ph.D. research – supervised by Dr Mark Storey – considers how fictional lawyers appearing in literature of the post-war U.S. South between 1946 and 1966 uniquely focus and embody emerging narratives of race and law that characterise regional and national conflicts of the Civil Rights struggle.

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Laura Wilson, doctoral researcher, University of Mississippi (lwilson1@go.olemiss.edu)

“How do you suppose I paid that lawyer?” Brothels, Courtrooms, and the Controlled Illegalities of Sanctuary

Imploring Horace to abandon his representation of Lee Goodwin in Faulkner’s 1931 novel Sanctuary, Narcissa Benbow reminds her elder brother that, “these people are not your people” (78). This distinction, of course, is entirely deliberate. As Michel Foucault states in Discipline and Punish, “the use of delinquency as a milieu that was both separate and manipulable took place above all on the fringes of legality […] Delinquency, controlled illegality, is an agent for the illegality of the dominant groups” (279). Thus, despite their supposed differences, the citizens of Yoknapatawpha – in particular its legal coterie – actually rely on the scandalous outliers of Frenchman’s Bend, Memphis, and beyond, to keep their own corrupt livelihoods intact (71). Using a Foucauldian framework of surveillance and criminality, this paper looks at how Faulkner’s novel represents the inextricably entangled relationship between legality and delinquency in the early twentieth century South.

To illustrate controlled illegality, Foucault cites the example of prostitution “networks,” set up in the nineteenth century as a way for the law to reap “the enormous profits from a sexual pleasure that an ever-more insistent everyday moralization condemned to semi-clandestinity,” providing a useful jumping off point to explore how such networks function in Faulkner’s text, particularly as they are transacted through Miss Reba’s infamous whorehouse (279). While ironically providing a hiding place for the sexually abused Temple Drake, the Memphis brothel also exists as a place for dominant white male members of Southern society to displace their lusts, and thus keep the purity of white southern womanhood intact. By illustrating the roster of legal-based clientele who frequent Miss Reba’s girls however, Faulkner suggests that white Southern men of law are in no position to protect anything but their own corruption. How then, are we to trust the “good men, these fathers and husbands” who show up to the court to “right the wrong” that Temple has suffered (196)? Within a structure of controlled illegality, what are the judges, lawyers, and policemen of Yoknapatawpha really trying to protect?

Laura Wilson is a fifth year PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Mississippi, having moved to the United States from Oxford, England to pursue further research into the work of William Faulkner. She presented a paper on Shreve McCannon as narrator in Absalom, Absalom!, at the 2016 Society for the Study of Southern Literature conference in Boston, and the material culture of Booker T. Washington at the same conference in 2018. Laura was awarded a BAAS bursary at the inaugural Faulkner in the UK Colloquium for her presentation on the controlled illegalities of Sanctuary; she also reviewed this conference for U.S. Studies Online. In the same summer, Laura presented a paper on excavating slavery in “The Fire and the Hearth” at the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference. Her essay “’Both literary and anthropological’: Reconsidering the Methodological Identity of Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men” won the 2018 Zora Neale Hurston Prize awarded by the American Folklore Society.

Laura is an active student member of the University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group and participated in an overnight stay on the property of William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, as part of the Slave Dwelling Project founded by Joseph McGill. She was the co-chair of the 2018 Southern Writers/Southern Writing Graduate Conference at the University of Mississippi, and chair of the conference in 2019. Her article “‘Giving voice to the tireless relish of life’: Listening for the Plantation in Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park” was published in Mississippi Quarterly Vol 70/71, No.1.

Laura’s dissertation “On Southern Soil: The Material Ecology of Racial Uplift, 1895-1945” proposes a critical reappraisal of Southern land, by examining the relationship between soil and 20th century black modernity in the United States through authors such as Washington, Du Bois, Hurston, Faulkner, Richard Wright, and Charles Chesnutt, a project for which she is the 2019 recipient of the Frances Bell McCool Dissertation Fellowship in Faulkner Studies.

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Tatiana Vepkhvadze, director of Educational Center Meridiani (tatavepkhvadze@gmail.com)

Spatio-Temporal Conceptual Models and Narrative Temporality in “The Sound and The Fury”: From temporal-spatial ambiguity to clarity through linguistic analysis

This research deals with William Faulkner’s representation of time and space in “The Sound and The Fury” from cognitive-linguistic perspective. Time and space have always played an important role in Faulkner’s fiction and are very often the subject of criticism due to the temporal-spatial ambiguity the author applies. The most complicated text in this sense is considered “The Sound and The Fury.” Our research suggests that temporal-spatial analysis of “The Sound and The Fury” is the key milestone for understanding the fiction. In spite of the vast body of scholarship associated with William Faulkner’s work, few studies suggest detailed evaluation of Faulkner’s view of time. It’s worth mentioning that studies regarding thematic relevance of time in Faulkner’s fiction are more common than from the perspectives of linguistics. The analysis leads to the conclusion that temporal and spatial relationships are essential to our understanding of Faulkner’s narrative as it goes beyond the specification of a date and a location. Our method of analysis involves the exploration of time and space in “The Sound and The Fury” based on Genette’s temporal models “order”, “duration”, and “frequency.” (1) The first relates to the order of events; (2) the second concerns how long events or scenes last; (3) and the third concerns how often an event occurs. The above mentioned temporal patterns enable us to have an access to the actions and emotions of the characters, foreground certain events and reduce the status of others. Moreover, they bring new evidence and insight to received wisdom.

A researcher in Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University on The Faculty of Humanities, English Philology. Currently, she is investigating William Faulkner’s Narrative Mode; Time and Path Image Schema in Faulkner’s Fiction from cognitive-linguistic perspective, to be particular, she analyzes grief in Faulkner’s texts in terms of the source-path-goal image schema looking at how this underlying schema changes across his novels. She has participated in several conferences and programs in Europe and the United States. In 2016, she won a scholarship in Groningen University (graduated at level A) and attended a series of lectures on the topic of New Developments in Narrative Theory, Uses of Narrative. Knowledge gained in Groningen helped Tatiana to draft the outline for the dissertation that was approved by the distinguished narratologists.

She holds the post of a lecturer for Professional English at the International Black Sea University teaching professional English to Law students, also delivering lectures to the students of International Relations, Public Administration and Business Management. She is a teachers’ trainer in the Ministry of Education, Teacher Professional Development Centre.

She was honored to receive a bursary award by the prestigious British Association for American Studies (BAAS) and the US Embassy for a clear contribution to Faulkner Studies in Royal Holloway University of London (London, 2018). She was a PhD Scholar in University of Groningen (Netherlands, 2016), a researcher in University of Mississippi (US, 2013), a scholar in Indiana University (US, 2011). She is an owner of an International Certificate in Teaching English to Speaker’s of Other Languages. She has awards for excellence in teaching from American Councils for International Education.

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