Bond scholars rejoice! The International Journal of James Bond Studies, is the first of its kind to focus on one of British literature’s most famous characters. This week we find out more from its editor, Dr Ian Kinane.
001. Can you tell us about how the International Journal of James Bond Studies came into being?
The journal came about, originally, as a response to the growing field of critical – and not just fan-based – interest in Ian Fleming and James Bond. The sheer longevity of the Bond franchise, and the manifold ways in which the series has become entangled with the cultural and identity politics of Britain, was something that I though there needed to be a more sustained engagement with and criticism of.
The attention I felt that Fleming and Bond had received in academia to that point was hugely disproportionate to the industry and commerce of Bond as a viable economic, political, cultural, and social force. I suppose, in one way, it was a cause of slight anxiety or concern! With something as Big as Bond, I was concerned about the relative dearth of sustained critical engagement with the franchise, and what it might mean to leave so huge a cultural icon go unremarked upon.
I am fascinated by what fascinates other people, and with something as huge and divisive as Fleming and Bond, I suppose, in another way, the journal came about as a means to understand my own (admittedly problematic) relationship to Bond within the context of a larger cultural discussion.
002. What does it aim to achieve and what the future holds?
In terms of what I see the journal accomplishing, it’s this: bringing together popular opinion and critical engagement on one of the most problematic cultural icons in British history. I want the journal to be a platform for interrogating the reasons why James Bond has lasted as long as he had. To this end, the journal welcomes scholarship from a wide range of disciplines (literary studies, film studies, cultural studies, geopolitics, music studies – to name a few) in order that we might better approach an understanding of what the legacy of Bond “means” to British and global culture.
Already we have attracted world-class scholarship in this field; we have a fantastic editorial board made up of noted scholars from a number of different academic fields, as well as some industry professionals who have had involvement with the franchise over the years. Ideally, my aim for the journal is to sustain James Bond Studies as a field of inquiry and to continue to draw attention to the ways in which popular culture is a hugely influential force in shaping cultural discourse.
003. What are some of your favourite papers so far in the journal?
I particularly enjoyed Stephen Watt and Edward Commentale’s argument in the first issue “Of Migrants and Men: Networks and Nations in the Millennial Bond Text”, which situated James Bond Studies within a post-millennial, post-Snowden global context. I can never seem to get away from the idea of surveillance; I find it altogether sinister. Watt and Commentale do a wonderful job of arguing exactly why James Bond Studies is still relevant today, and they do so by way of a very eloquent argument.
Also, in the next issue, we have an article on the geopolitics of James Bond’s railway journeys which I am very excited about. It focuses solely on the use of the train in the Bond films and from their expands on the geopolitical significance of Bond’s use of this particular mode of transport.
004. How did your interest in Bond begin and do you have particular favourite novels and books about the phenomenon?
Like most people, I imagine, I was a fan as a young boy. My relationship to the Bond films was less problematic than to what it is now; as a kid I just lapped up the adventure. I didn’t understand any of the references; I just knew I greatly enjoyed the generic conventions of the stories. I was interested in the villains most especially: I had opinions on which actor I thought was my Bond of preference, but far more enjoyable were the villains. The first film I saw was GoldenEye, but I didn’t read the novels until a little while later.
At first, I must admit, I was peeved that the novels weren’t simply novelizations of the films. I didn’t understand then, of course, about adapting source material for film and whatnot; I was more interested in reading about the experiences I’d seen on the screen. Then I grew into appreciation of the novels in and of themselves.
I do think Fleming is a good writer; his descriptions of the finer things in life are, to my mind at least, unrivaled. As with the films, the choice for which novel is my favourite is variable, depending on what I’ve read recently or can recall. I do think Thunderball – both book and film – is excellent.
As to works of academic criticism on Bond, the first I read was James Chapman’s Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films. From there I found my way on to Christoph Lindner’s excellent collection on The James Bond Phenomenon and, most recently, Klaus Dodds and Lisa Funnell’s book on Geographies, Genders, and Geopolitics of James Bond. And, with the journal, there’s going to be a lot more critical material on Bond coming down the pipeline!
Dr Kinane highlighted that the journal has been written with both Bond scholars and casual fans in mind and said, ‘the journal responds to recent trends in literary studies that have embraced genre fiction and popular culture. It is hoped that the journal will encourage further scholarship in the fields of genre studies, broadly, and Ian Fleming and James Bond studies, more specifically, at Roehampton’.