Introduction

Emma Campanaro

The word “silhouette” suggests a gap in perception. It suggests an incomplete representation, a partial understanding of a nuanced entity, and a blending of light and shadow. The pieces in Silhouette seek to understand the complex relationship between “environment” and identity. A silhouette is composed of a subject that is presented against a backdrop. As is the case for many of the works featured in Silhouette, the “subject” is recognizably and achingly human — human relationships, human connection, human struggles — while the “backdrop” consists of a variety of locations, ranging from nature, and industrial environments, to the human mind. In Silhouette, you will find a collection of essays, short stories, poems, and satirical pieces that question how certain environments affect notions of identity and how these entities interact with and shape or distort one another.

Many of the works featured in Silhouette are centred on human connection that is facilitated through a variation of environments. Chapter One, “Constellate,” incorporates an array of works that are focused on nature as an active backdrop that fosters human relationships and connections. In poems like “We Don’t Have to Go Too Far” and “The Tree,” the reader is invited to experience the sense of connection between individuals that arises from the resplendence that nature offers. However, the notion of “environment” in this chapter is not limited to just the natural world; industrial environments are considered in the poems “After Work” and “On a Windy Afternoon.” The effect that different physical environments or places have on individuals and our ability to connect or form relationships with one another is twofold: it affects our inner sense of self and our sense of self as it relates to the other.

Chapter Two, “Solipsism,” takes a different approach to the meaning of “environment” and the ways in which it can shape our identities. This chapter considers the mind as a type of environment within itself. Pieces in this chapter, such as “unease” or “The Various Forms of Sunshine,” deal with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and loss. For many of the speakers or subjects in these works, the mind becomes a self-entangling environment, a confined and suffocating space where the subject is forced to come to terms with their thoughts and with themselves. The works included in this chapter are reminders that an environment is not just a physical space. An environment can also be metaphysical, even virtual — although no university student needs to be reminded of this in 2021. “Solipsism” is an inquiry into the ways in which our mental environment can shape or distort our reality and identity.

The authors featured in Silhouette offer the reader many questions, reflections, and observations surrounding the relationship between environment and identity. “Perplex,” the third and final chapter, does not supply the reader with a singular or straightforward answer. Rather, it suggests that we remain curious and do not become complacent in the environments that we find ourselves in. The pieces in this chapter are centred on a desire to understand how the environments in which we live either alleviate or cause many of the issues that afflict us. Both “Waldo” and “Living Deliberately” question the societal conditions that we, as humans, have imposed on ourselves and offer satirical humour and critical thinking as forms of resistance against becoming part of the backdrop in our own lives, rather than a subject in our own right. Silhouette is an exploration of the malleability and multifacetedness of human identity. It seeks an understanding, however incomplete, for the ways in which our environment — whether it be a city street, a school bus, a pond, or our own minds — affects the way in which we see ourselves, others, and the world around us.

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Silhouette by Emma Campanaro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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