Abandoning the Black Hero is the first book to examine the postwar African American white-life novel—novels with white protagonists written by African Americans. These fascinating works have been understudied despite having been written by such defining figures in the tradition as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Chester Himes, as well as lesser known but formerly best-selling authors Willard Motley and Frank Yerby.
John C. Charles argues that these fictions have been overlooked because they deviate from two critical suppositions: that black literature is always about black life and that when it represents whiteness, it must attack white supremacy. The authors are, however, quite sympathetic in the treatment of their white protagonists, which Charles contends should be read not as a failure of racial pride but instead as a strategy for claiming creative freedom, expansive moral authority, and critical agency.
In an era when “Negro writers” were expected to protest, their sympathetic treatment of white suffering grants these authors a degree of racial privacy previously unavailable to them. White writers, after all, have the privilege of racial privacy because they are never pressured to write only about white life. Charles reveals that the freedom to abandon the “Negro problem” encouraged these authors to explore a range of new genres and themes, generating a strikingly diverse body of novels that significantly revise our understanding of mid-twentieth-century black writing.
A hard-hitting look at the regulation of sexual difference and its role in circumscribing African American culture.
The sociology of race relations in America typically describes an intersection of poverty, race, and economic discrimination. But what is missing from the picture--sexual difference--can be as instructive as what is present. In this ambitious work, Roderick A. Ferguson reveals how the discourses of sexuality are used to articulate theories of racial difference in the field of sociology. He shows how canonical sociology--Gunnar Myrdal, Ernest Burgess, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Julius Wilson--has measured African Americans' unsuitability for a liberal capitalist order in terms of their adherence to the norms of a heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family model. In short, to the extent that African Americans' culture and behavior deviated from those norms, they would not achieve economic and racial equality.
Aberrations in Black tells the story of canonical sociology's regulation of sexual difference as part of its general regulation of African American culture. Ferguson places this story within other stories--the narrative of capital's emergence and development, the histories of Marxism and revolutionary nationalism, and the novels that depict the gendered and sexual idiosyncrasies of African American culture--works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. In turn, this book tries to present another story--one in which people who presumably manifest the dysfunctions of capitalism are reconsidered as indictments of the norms of state, capital, and social science. Ferguson includes the first-ever discussion of a new archival discovery--a never-published chapter of Invisible Man that deals with a gay character in a way that complicates and illuminates Ellison's project.
Unique in the way it situates critiques of race, gender, and sexuality within analyses of cultural, economic, and epistemological formations, Ferguson's work introduces a new mode of discourse--which Ferguson calls queer of color analysis--that helps to lay bare the mutual distortions of racial, economic, and sexual portrayals within sociology.
Roderick A. Ferguson is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota.
Jake Adam York Southern Illinois University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PS3625.O747A6 2014 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Winner, 2015 Colorado Book Award
Finalist, 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award
In the years leading up to his recent passing, Alabama poet Jake Adam York set out on a journey to elegize the 126 martyrs of the civil rights movement, murdered in the years between 1954 and 1968. Abide is the stunning follow-up to York’s earlier volumes, a memorial in verse for those fallen. From Birmingham to Okemah, Memphis to Houston, York’s poems both mourn and inspire in their quest for justice, ownership, and understanding.
Within are anthems to John Earl Reese, a sixteen-year-old shot by Klansmen through the window of a café in Mayflower, Texas, where he was dancing in 1955; to victims lynched on the Oklahoma prairies; to the four children who perished in the Birmingham church bombing of 1963; and to families who saw the white hoods of the Klan illuminated by burning crosses. Juxtaposed with these horrors are more loving images of the South: the aroma of greens simmering on the stove, “tornado-strong” houses built by loved ones long gone, and the power of rivers “dark as roux.”
Throughout these lush narratives, York resurrects the ghosts of Orpheus, Sun Ra, Howlin’ Wolf, Thelonious Monk, Woody Guthrie, and more, summoning blues, jazz, hip-hop, and folk musicians for performances of their “liberation music” that give special meaning to the tales of the dead.
In the same moment that Abide memorializes the fallen, it also raises the ethical questions faced by York during this, his life’s work: What does it mean to elegize? What does it mean to elegize martyrs? What does it mean to disturb the symmetries of the South’s racial politics or its racial poetics?
A bittersweet elegy for the poet himself, Abide is as subtle and inviting as the whisper of a record sleeve, the gasp of the record needle, beckoning us to heed our history.
In recent years, public debate has raged over the issue of maternal choice. While personal testimony and political argument have received widespread attention, artistic representations of birth and abortion have been submerged. Judith Wilt offers the first look at how contemporary writers tell and retell the stories that shape our perceptions about abortion. She reveals that the struggle to plot these painful, complex narratives of choice, control, guilt, loss, and liberation has preoccupied an astonishing number of our most distinguished novelists, male and female alike. Readers of twentieth-century novels are more likely to encounter plots centered on maternal choice than those dealing with the more traditional problems of courtship and marriage.
In the opening of the book, Wilt discusses real case histories of several women. After studying the ambiguities of their decisions, she turns to their counterpoints depicted in contemporary fiction. Working from a feminist perspective, Wilt traces the theme of maternal choice in works by Margaret Atwood, Margaret Drabble, Joan Didion, Mary Gordon, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Marge Piercy, Thomas Keneally, Graham Swift, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Barth, John Irving, and others.
Behind the political, medical, and moral debates on abortion, Wilt argues, is a profound psychocultural shock at the recognition that maternity is passing from the domain of instinct to that of conscious choice. Although never wholly instinctual, maternity's potential capture by consciousness raises complex questions. The novels Wilt discusses portray worlds in which principles are endangered by sexual inequality, male power and hidden male fear of abandonment, impotence, female submission, and covert rage, and, in the case of black maternity, the hideous aftermath of slavery.
Wilt provides a resonant new context for debates—whether political or personal—on the issue of abortion and maternal choice. Ultimately she enables us to rethink how we shape our own identities and lives.
Craig Blais University of Wisconsin Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3602.L337A64 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
An unsentimental and at times disquieting first collection, the poems of About Crows excavate self, family, race, location, sex, art, and religion to uncover the artifacts of a succession of traumas that the speaker does not always experience firsthand but carries with him to refashion into some new importance. This is a book of half-states, broken affiliations, and dislocation.
The speaker leads the reader through the fragments of a flooded town that grows increasingly elusive the more one looks for it; through a succession of Seoul "love motels" that further displace the outsider to unclaimed margins transformed into sites of creative invention; through "galleries" of artwork, where movement, color, and image are renewed through ekphrasis; and through the world of the metatextual long poem "The Cult Poem," where good and bad moral binaries tangle into a rat's nest of our best and worst spiritual ambitions.
The poems and sequences of About Crows are marked by their artistic balance of the sublime and the profane, of polyphony, syntactical complexity, clashing images, cagey humor, and unsettling sincerity, all trying desperately to connect.
About the Dead
Travis Mossotti Utah State University Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3613.O788A64 2011 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Travis Mossotti writes with humor, gravity, and humility about subjects grounded in a world of grit, where the quiet mortality of working folk is weighed. To Mossotti, the love of a bricklayer for his wife is as complex and simple as life itself: “ask him to put into words what that sinking is, / that shudder in his chest, as he notices / the wrinkles gathering at the corners of her mouth.” But not a whiff of sentiment enters these poems, for Mossotti has little patience for ideas of the noble or for sympathetic portraits of hard-used saints. His vision is clear, as clear as the memory of how scarecrows in the rearview, “each of them, stuffed / into a body they didn’t choose, resembled / your own plight.” His poetry embraces unsanctimonious life with all its wonder, its levity, and clumsiness. About the Dead is an accomplished collection by a writer in control of a wide range of experience, and it speaks to the heart of any reader willing to catch his “drift, and ride it like the billowed / end of some cockamamie parachute all the way / back to the soft, dysfunctional, waiting earth.”
Above the American Renaissance takes David S. Reynolds's classic study Beneath the American Renaissance as a model and a provocation to consider how language and concepts broadly defined as spiritual are essential to understanding nineteenth-century American literary culture. In the 1980s, Reynolds's scholarship and methodology enlivened investigations of religious culture, and since then, for reasons that include a rising respect for interdisciplinarity and the aftershocks of the 9/11 attacks, religion in literature has become a major area of inquiry for Americanists. In essays that reconsider and contextualize Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Abraham Lincoln, and others, this volume captures the vibrancy of spiritual considerations in American literary studies and points a way forward within literary and spiritual investigations.
In addition to the editors and David S. Reynolds, contributors include Jeffrey Bilbro, Dawn Coleman, Jonathan A. Cook, Tracy Fessenden, Zachary Hutchins, Richard Kopley, Mason I. Lowance Jr., John Matteson, Christopher N. Phillips, Vivian Pollak, Michael Robertson, Gail K. Smith, Claudia Stokes, and Timothy Sweet.
In Above Time, James R. Guthrie explores the origins of the two preeminent transcendentalists' revolutionary approaches to time, as well as to the related concepts of history, memory, and change. Most critical discussions of this period neglect the important truth that the entire American transcendentalist project involved a transcendence of temporality as well as of materiality. Correspondingly, both writers call in their major works for temporal reform, to be achieved primarily by rejecting the past and future in order to live in an amplified present moment.
Emerson and Thoreau were compelled to see time in a new light by concurrent developments in the sciences and the professions. Geologists were just then hotly debating the age of the earth, while zoologists were beginning to unravel the mysteries of speciation, and archaeologists were deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. These discoveries worked collectively to enlarge the scope of time, thereby helping pave the way for the appearance of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859.
Well aware of these wider cultural developments, Emerson and Thoreau both tried (although with varying degrees of success) to integrate contemporary scientific thought with their preexisting late-romantic idealism. As transcendentalists, they already believed in the existence of "correspondences"—affinities between man and nature, formalized as symbols. These symbols could then be decoded to discover the animating presence in the world of eternal laws as pervasive as the laws of science. Yet unlike scientists, Emerson and Thoreau hoped to go beyond merely understanding nature to achieving a kind of passionate identity with it, and they believed that such a union might be achieved only if time was first recognized as being a purely human construct with little or no validity in the rest of the natural world. Consequently, both authors employ a series of philosophical, rhetorical, and psychological strategies designed to jolt their readers out of time, often by attacking received cultural notions about temporality.
As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.
Following the highly autobiographical nonfiction produced by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and other slave narrative writers, Chesnutt’s complex, multi-layered short fiction transformed the relationship between African-American writers and their readers. But despite generous praise from W. D. Howells and other important critics of his day, and from such prominent readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a curiously ambiguous place in American literary history.
In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt’s uneasy position in the American literary tradition can be traced to his remarkable narrative subtlety. Profoundly aware of the delicacy of his situation as a black intellectual at the turn of the century, Chesnutt infused his work with an intricate, enigmatic artistic vision that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, especially with regard to issues of race and identity that preoccupied him throughout his career.
In this first book-length study of the innovative short fiction, Duncan devotes particular attention to elucidating these sophisticated narrative strategies as the grounding for Chesnutt’s inauguration of a tradition of African-American fiction.
As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858—1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.
Following the highly autobiographical nonfiction produced by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and other slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's complex, multi-layered short fiction transformed the relationship between African-American writers and their readers. But despite generous praise from W. D. Howells and other important critics of his day, and from such prominent readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a curiously ambiguous place in American literary history.
In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt's uneasy position in the American literary tradition can be traced to his remarkable narrative subtlety. Profoundly aware of the delicacy of his situation as a black intellectual at the turn of the century, Chesnutt infused his work with an intricate, enigmatic artistic vision that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, especially with regard to issues of race and identity that preoccupied him throughout his career.
In this first book-length study of the innovative short fiction, Duncan devotes particular attention to elucidating these sophisticated narrative strategies as the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a tradition of African-American fiction.
Accessible Citizenships examines Chicana/o cultural representations that conceptualize political community through images of disability. Working against the assumption that disability is a metaphor for social decay or political crisis, Julie Avril Minich analyzes literature, film, and visual art post-1980 in which representations of non-normative bodies work to expand our understanding of what it means to belong to a political community.
Minich shows how queer writers like Arturo Islas and Cherríe Moraga have reconceptualized Chicano nationalism through disability images. She further addresses how the U.S.-Mexico border and disabled bodies restrict freedom and movement. Finally, she confronts the changing role of the nation-state in the face of neoliberalism as depicted in novels by Ana Castillo and Cecile Pineda.
Accessible Citizenships illustrates how these works gesture towards less exclusionary forms of citizenship and nationalism. Minich boldly argues that the corporeal images used to depict national belonging have important consequences for how the rights and benefits of citizenship are understood and distributed.
The Accidental: Poems
Gina Franco University of Arkansas Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3606.R375A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Cascading through each of the poems in Gina Franco’s The Accidental is a question: What does it mean to be human in a world where the soul is exalted but the body brutalized? Franco explores the terrain of the borderlands—not just the physical space of the American southwest, but the spaces where lines are drawn between body and soul, God and self, violence and ecstasy. Unfolding along these borders in a torrent of deep contemplation, Franco’s poems bring the reader to the line between accident and choice, delving into the role each plays in creating the lives we are born into and in determining how those lives end. A body caught in a tree after a flood—an accident—calls to mind deliberate violences: crucifixion and lynching.
Guided, even so, by a stark hopefulness, The Accidental makes a character of the soul and traces its pilgrimage from suffering toward transcendence. “The soul saw,” Franco writes, “that it saw through the wound.” This book tenders a creation myth steeped in existential philosophy and shimmering with the vernacular of the ecstatic.
Katie Peterson University of Chicago Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3616.E8429A63 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
The death of a mother alters forever a family’s story of itself. Indeed, it taxes the ability of a family to tell that story at all. The Accounts narrates the struggle to speak with any clear understanding in the wake of that loss. The title poem attempts three explanations of the departure of a life from the earth—a physical account, a psychological account, and a spiritual account. It is embedded in a long narrative sequence that tries to state plainly the facts of the last days of the mother’s life, in a room that formerly housed a television, next to a California backyard. The visual focus of that sequence, a robin’s nest, poised above the family home, sings in a kind of lament, giving its own version of ways we can see the transformation of the dying into the dead. In other poems, called “Arguments,” two voices exchange uncertain truths about subjects as high as heaven and as low as crime. Grief is a problem that cannot be solved by thinking, but that doesn’t stop the mind, which relentlessly carries on, trying in vain to settle its accounts. The death of a well-loved person creates a debt that can never be repaid. It reminds the living of our own psychological debts to each other, and to the dead. In this sense, the death of this particular mother and the transformation of this particular family are evocative of a greater struggle against any changing reality, and the loss of all beautiful and passing forms of order.
Covering the entire body of Mark Twain's fiction, Clark Griffith in Achilles and the Tortoise answers two questions: How did Mark Twain write? And why is he funny? Griffith defines and demonstrates Mark Twain's poetics and, in doing so, reveals Twain's ability to create and sustain human laughter.
Through a close reading of the fictions–short and long, early and late–Griffith contends that Mark Twain's strength lay not in comedy or in satire or (as the 19th century understood the term) even in the practice of humor. Rather his genius lay in the joke, specifically the "sick joke." For all his finesse and seeming variety, Twain tells the same joke, with its single cast of doomed and damned characters, its single dead-end conclusion, over and over endlessly.
As he attempted to attain the comic resolution and comically transfigured characters he yearned for, Twain forever played, for Griffith, the role of the Achilles of Zeno's Paradox. Like the tortoise that Achilles cannot overtake in Zeno's tale, the richness of comic life forever remained outside Twain's grasp.
The last third of Griffith's study draws parallels between Mark Twain and Herman Melville. Although the two authors never met and seem not to have read each other's works, they labored under the sense of what, in Moby-Dick, Ishmael calls "a vast practical joke . . . at nobody's expense but [one's] own." The laughter occasioned by this cosmic conspiracy shapes the career of Huckleberry Finn fully as much as it does Ishmael's voyage. Out of the laughter are generated the respective obsessions of Captain Ahab and Bartleby, of Pudd'nhead Wilson and Hadleyburg. Reduced at last to a dry mock, the laughter is the prevailing tone of both Billy Budd and The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts.
Acoustic Properties: Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas discovers the prehistory of wireless culture. It examines both the coevolution of radio and the novel in Argentina, Cuba, and the United States from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, and the various populist political climates in which the emerging medium of radio became the chosen means to produce the voice of the people.
Based on original archival research in Buenos Aires, Havana, Paris, and the United States, the book develops a literary media theory that understands sound as a transmedial phenomenon and radio as a transnational medium. Analyzing the construction of new social and political relations in the wake of the United States’ 1930s Good Neighbor Policy, Acoustic Properties challenges standard narratives of hemispheric influence through new readings of Richard Wright’s cinematic work in Argentina, Severo Sarduy’s radio plays in France, and novels by John Dos Passos, Manuel Puig, Raymond Chandler, and Carson McCullers. Alongside these writers, the book also explores Che Guevara and Fidel Castro’s Radio Rebelde, FDR’s fireside chats, Félix Caignet’s invention of the radionovela in Cuba, Evita Perón’s populist melodramas in Argentina, Orson Welles’s experimental New Deal radio, Cuban and U.S. “radio wars,” and the 1960s African American activist Robert F. Williams’s proto–black power Radio Free Dixie.
From the doldrums of the Great Depression to the tumult of the Cuban Revolution, Acoustic Properties illuminates how novelists in the radio age converted writing into a practice of listening, transforming realism as they struggled to channel and shape popular power.
ACROSS SPOON RIVER
Edgar Masters University of Illinois Press, 1991 Library of Congress PS3525.A83Z463 1991 | Dewey Decimal 811.52
This intimate and provocative autobiography, first published in 1936,
reveals the innermost thoughts of a great American poet. Edgar Lee Masters
was a transitional figure in American literature with one foot planted
in the nineteenth century and the other firmly placed on the path of what
we now think of as the modern period.
Masters expounds on his own development as a poet and as a human being;
he shares his views on American culture, politics, and the literary criticism
of the times. Masters's friends and acquaintances discussed here include
some of the most prominent writers and politicians of his age. And he
reflects on his life events that shaped, haunted, and inspired his writings
of the classic Spoon River Anthology.
Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X—their words speak firmly, eloquently, personally of the impact of white America on the lives of African-Americans. Black autobiographical discourses, from the earliest slave narratives to the most contemporary urban raps, have each in their own way gauged and confronted the character of white society. For Crispin Sartwell, as philosopher, cultural critic, and white male, these texts, through their exacting insights and external perspective, provide a rare opportunity, a means of glimpsing and gaining access to contents and core of white identity.
There is, Sartwell contends, a fundamental elusiveness to that identity. Whiteness defines itself as normative, as a neutral form of the human condition, marking all other forms of identity as "racial" or "ethnic" deviations. Invisible to itself, white identity seeks to define its essence over and against those other identities, in effect defining itself through opposition and oppression. By maintaining fictions of black licentiousness, violence, and corruption, white identity is able to cast itself as humane, benevolent, and pure; the stereotype fabricates not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Sartwell argues that African-American autobiography perceives white identity from a particular and unique vantage point; one that is knowledgeable and intimate, yet fundamentally removed from the white world and thus unencumbered by its obfuscating claims to normativity.
Throughout this provocative work, Sartwell steadfastly recognizes the many ways in which he too is implicated in the formulation and perpetuation of racial attitudes and discourse. In Act Like You Know, he challenges both himself and others to take a long, hard look in the mirror of African-American autobiography, and to find there, in the light of those narratives, the visible features of white identity.
Action Writing: Jack Kerouac's Wild Form connects the personal and creative development of the Beat generation's famous icon with cultural changes in postwar America. Michael Hrebeniak asserts that Jack Kerouac's "wild form"—self-organizing narratives free of literary, grammatical, and syntactical conventions—moves within an experimental continuum across the arts to generate a Dionysian sense of writing as raw process. Action Writing highlights how Kerouac made concrete his 1952 intimation of "something beyond the novel" by assembling ideas from Beat America, modernist poetics, action painting, bebop, and subterranean oral traditions.
Geared to scholars and students of American literature, Beat studies, and creative writing, Action Writing places Kerouac's writing within the context of the American art scene at midcentury. Reframing the work of Kerouac and the Beat generation within the experimental modernist and postmodernist literary tradition, this probing inquiry offers a direct engagement with the social and cultural history at the foreground of Kerouac's career from the 1940s to the late 1960s.
Activist Sentiments takes as its subject women who in fewer than fifty years moved from near literary invisibility to prolific productivity. Grounded in primary research and paying close attention to the historical archive, this book offers against-the-grain readings of the literary and activist work of Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Frances E. W. Harper, Victoria Earle Matthews and Amelia E. Johnson.
Part literary criticism and part cultural history, Activist Sentiments examines nineteenth-century social, political, and representational literacies and reading practices. P. Gabrielle Foreman reveals how Black women's complex and confrontational commentary–often expressed directly in their journalistic prose and organizational involvement--emerges in their sentimental, and simultaneously political, literary production.
Praise for Martha Collins:
“A dazzling poet whose poetry is poised at the juncture between the lyric and ethics, Martha Collins has addressed some of the most traumatic social issues of the twentieth century . . . in supple and complex poems. . . .[N]o subject is off limits for her piercing intellect.”
—Cynthia Hogue, AWP Chronicle
Pat Mora University of Arizona Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3563.O73A66 2006 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Wine-sipping syllables, a communion of bones, impetuous pinches of chile, and parrot-sassy guacamole. With a mélange of aromas and tastes, colors and sounds, award-winning poet Pat Mora invites readers into her home in this new collection of forty-nine odes. Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Odas Elemantales and reinvented with a Latina identity, Mora celebrates the ordinary in lyrics that are anything but. Her poetry is the poetry of space—house patterns and adobe constructions—and the human rhythms that happen inside. It is also the poetry of what she loves—chocolate, books, dandelions, church bells, hope, courage, and even rain. Thick with the microcultures of foodstuffs, family, places, regions, deities, spirits, and literary figures, Mora’s adobe universe is luscious and tactile, elemental and dynamic.
From family gossip and beauty secrets, to women darning hand-me-downs, to reluctant hands carrying bodies across borders, Mora traverses the tangled threads of culture, community, family, gender, and injustice. Her vivid observations together with her deft handling of symmetry and meter make her poetry uniquely insightful, subtle, and elegant. Sprinkled with Spanish and plenty of spice, each ode is a sensory flurry of mind and body. Together they make a cauldron of flavorful, simmering language. They are meant to be savored as they slowly stir the soul.
"Includes research on adoption documents rarely open to historians . . . an important addition to the literature on adoption."
"Sheds new light on the roots of this complex and fascinating institution."
"Well-written and accessible . . . showcases the wide-ranging scholarship underway on the history of adoption."
"[T]his volume is a significant contribution to the literature and can serve as a catalyst for further research."
---Social Service Review
Adoption affects an estimated 60 percent of Americans, but despite its pervasiveness, this social institution has been little examined and poorly understood. Adoption in America gathers essays on the history of adoptions and orphanages in the United States. Offering provocative interpretations of a variety of issues, including antebellum adoption and orphanages; changing conceptions of adoption in late-nineteenth-century novels; Progressive Era reform and adoptive mothers; the politics of "matching" adoptive parents with children; the radical effect of World War II on adoption practices; religion and the reform of adoption; and the construction of birth mother and adoptee identities, the essays in Adoption in America will be debated for many years to come.
In 1972 the artist Adrian Piper began periodically dressing as a persona called the Mythic Being, striding the streets of New York in a mustache, Afro wig, and mirrored sunglasses with a cigar in the corner of her mouth. Her Mythic Being performances critically engaged with popular representations of race, gender, sexuality, and class; they challenged viewers to accept personal responsibility for xenophobia and discrimination and the conditions that allowed them to persist. Piper’s work confronts viewers and forces them to reconsider assumptions about the social construction of identity. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment is an in-depth analysis of this pioneering artist’s work, illustrated with more than ninety images, including twenty-one in color.
Over the course of a decade, John P. Bowles and Piper conversed about her art and its meaning, reception, and relation to her scholarship on Kant’s philosophy. Drawing on those conversations, Bowles locates Piper’s work at the nexus of Conceptual and feminist art of the late 1960s and 1970s. Piper was the only African American woman associated with the Conceptual artists of the 1960s and one of only a few African Americans to participate in exhibitions of the nascent feminist art movement in the early 1970s. Bowles contends that Piper’s work is ultimately about our responsibility for the world in which we live.
Adrienne Kennedy Reader
Adrienne Kennedy University of Minnesota Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3561.E4252A6 2001 | Dewey Decimal 812.54
An essential collection of works by one of our greatest living playwrights.
Adrienne Kennedy has been a force in American theatre since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her hauntingly fragmentary lyrical dramas. Exploring the violence racism visits upon people's lives, Kennedy's plays express poetic alienation, transcending the particulars of character and plot through ritualistic repetition and radical structural experimentation. Frequently produced, read, and taught, they continue to hold a significant place among the most exciting dramas of the past fifty years.
This first comprehensive collection of her most important works traces the development of Kennedy's unique theatrical oeuvre from her Obie-winning Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964) through significant later works such as A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976), Ohio State Murders (1992), and June and Jean in Concert, for which she won an Obie in 1996. The entire contents of Kennedy's groundbreaking collections In One Act and The Alexander Plays are included, as is her earliest work "Because of the King of France" and the play An Evening with Dead Essex (1972). More recent prose works "Secret Paragraphs about My Brother," "A Letter to Flowers," and "Sisters Etta and Ella" are fascinating refractions of the themes and motifs of her dramatic works, even while they explore new material on teaching and writing. An introduction by Werner Sollors provides a valuable overview of Kennedy's career and the trajectory of her literary development.
"Kennedy's plays are strong dreams that reveal us in our most vulnerable moments." Robert Brustein, director of the American Repertory Theater
"There are times when we see plays that are so extraordinary-out of this world- we are literally shaken out of our everyday selves. There are greater things in heaven and hell, we realize, and this feeling of 'bigger things' does not easily leave us. The achievement of Adrienne Kennedy's plays is that they hurl us into another place, like a dark stream of consciousness in the blackest of worlds." New York Observer
"Adrienne Kennedy's plays are like towering rock formations, frightening and beautiful." Alisa Solomon, Village Voice
"For four decades Kennedy has been writing the most intensely personal plays of any playwright in the USA, yet to call them autobiographical is misleading. They are about her and not about her, and this paradox gives her work a power, an intimacy, and a truthfulness that few others achieve. . . . Kennedy's works are dream plays, lyrical explorations of a troubled consciousness, female and black, often divided against itself and at odds with the world around it." Boston Phoenix
"Adrienne Kennedy is one of the black female doyennes of theater, where she has become a role model for a younger generation." New York Times
"With Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater." Michael Feingold, Village Voice
"[Kennedy writes] out-of-kilter, lyrical, and drop-dead brilliant work for the American theater." Lisa Jones, Village Voice
Adrienne Kennedy (b. 1931) is a three-time Obie-award winning playwright whose works have been widely anthologized and performed around the world. Among her many honors are the Guggenheim fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters award.
One hundred twenty-two sonnets that touch on contemporary American popular culture, social trends, and personalities. Poet Roger Armbrust is described by some as a mystic, by others as a spiritualist, and by yet others as a guy who toys with really big thoughts, making them objects both of serious study and of humor. His sonnets will push you to laughter and meditation: a satisfying literary ride.
In The Aesthetic Astronaut, Roger Armbrust escorts readers on an insightful journey throughout Earth and beyond. We experience the loneliness and instpiration of "the Aesthetic Astronaut"; cold-blooded calculations of "The Armchair Assassin"; passion and sense of the romantic lover; reflective memories of a gentle heart growing older; ironic vision of an observer to history, and subtle--and sometimes not so subtle--humor of a fellow human involved in our day-to-day challenge of living a worthwhile life. The poet's imagery and attitude. . . may fascinate, thrill, sadden, anger, or push you to laughter or meditation. But you'll find the trip a fascinating literary ride.
Folktales from the African American Appalachian tradition. Told by Lyn Ford, one of America’s busiest touring storytellers. The power of Lyn's storytelling comes straight out of her family heritage, which is the content of this, her first book. Here she tells how she learned stories from her father and grandfather—and she includes many of the stories they told her.
Signaling such recent activist and aesthetic concepts in the work of Kara Walker, Childish Gambino, BLM, Janelle Monáe, and Kendrick Lamar, and marking the exit of the Obama Administration and the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this anthology explores the role of African American arts in shaping the future, and further informing new directions we might take in honoring and protecting the success of African Americans in the U.S. The essays in African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity engage readers in critical conversations by activists, scholars, and artists reflecting on national and transnational legacies of African American activism as an element of artistic practice, particularly as they concern artistic expression and race relations, and the intersections of creative processes with economic, sociological, and psychological inequalities. Scholars from the fields of communication, theater, queer studies, media studies, performance studies, dance, visual arts, and fashion design, to name a few, collectively ask: What are the connections between African American arts, the work of social justice, and creative processes? If we conceive the arts as critical to the legacy of Black activism in the United States, how can we use that construct to inform our understanding of the complicated intersections of African American activism and aesthetics? How might we as scholars and creative thinkers further employ the arts to envision and shape a verdant society?
Contributors: Carrie Mae Weems, Carmen Gillespie, Rikki Byrd, Amber Lauren Johnson, Doria E. Charlson, Florencia V. Cornet, Daniel McNeil, Lucy Caplan, Genevieve Hyacinthe, Sammantha McCalla, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Abby Dobson, J. Michael Kinsey, Shondrika Moss-Bouldin, Julie B. Johnson, Sharrell D. Luckett, Jasmine Eileen Coles, Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Rickerby Hinds.
Satire's real purpose as a literary genre is to criticize through humor, irony, caricature, and parody, and ultimately to defy the status quo. In African American Satire, Darryl Dickson-Carr provides the first book-length study of African American satire and the vital role it has played. In the process he investigates African American literature, American literature, and the history of satire.
Dickson-Carr argues that major works by such authors as Rudolph Fisher, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and George S. Schuyler should be read primarily as satires in order to avoid misinterpretation and to gain a greater understanding of their specific meanings and the eras in which they were written. He also examines the satirical rhetoric and ideological bases of complex works such as John Oliver Killens's The Cotillion and Cecil Brown's The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger—books that are currently out of print and that have received only scant critical attention since they were first published.
Beginning with the tradition of folk humor that originated in West Africa and was forcibly transplanted to the Americas through chattel slavery, Dickson-Carr focuses in each chapter on a particular period of the twentieth century in which the African American satirical novel flourished. He analyzes the historical contexts surrounding African American literature and culture within discrete crucial movements, starting with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ending in the present. He also demonstrates how the political, cultural, and literary ethos of each particular moment is manifested and contested in each text.
By examining these texts closely within their historical and ideological contexts, Dickson-Carr shows how African American satirical novels provide the reader of African American literature with a critique of popular ideologies seldom found in nonsatirical works. Providing a better understanding of what satire is and why it is so important for fulfilling many of the goals of African American literature, African American Satire will be an important addition to African American studies.
Constraints on freedom, education, and individual dignity have always been fundamental in determining who is able to write, when, and where. Considering the singular experience of the African American writer, William W. Cook and James Tatum here argue that African American literature did not develop apart from canonical Western literary traditions but instead grew out of those literatures, even as it adapted and transformed the cultural traditions and religions of Africa and the African diaspora along the way.
Tracing the interaction between African American writers and the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome, from the time of slavery and its aftermath to the civil rights era and on into the present, the authors offer a sustained and lively discussion of the life and work of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and Rita Dove, among other highly acclaimed poets, novelists, and scholars. Assembling this brilliant and diverse group of African American writers at a moment when our understanding of classical literature is ripe for change, the authors paint an unforgettable portrait of our own reception of “classic” writing, especially as it was inflected by American racial politics.
Werner Sollors’ African American Writing takes a fresh look at what used to be called “Negro literature.” The essays collected here, ranging in topic from Gustavus Vassa/Olaudah Equiano to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, and in time from the Enlightenment to the Obama presidency, take a literary approach to black writing and present writers as readers and as intellectuals who were or are open to the world.
From W.E.B. Du Bois commenting on Richard Wagner and Elvis Presley, to Zora Neale Hurston attacking Brown v. Board of Ed. in a segregationist newspaper, to Charles Chesnutt’s effigy darkened for the black heritage postage stamp, Sollors alternates between close readings and broader cultural contextualizations to delineate the various aesthetic modes and intellectual exchanges that shaped a series of striking literary works.
Readers will make often-surprising discoveries in the authors’ writing and in their encounters and dialogues with others. The essays, accompanied by Winold Reiss’s pastels, Carl Van Vechten’s photographs, and other portraits, attempt to honor this important literature’s achievement, heterogeneity, and creativity.
In this illuminating history, Leslie M. Alexander chronicles the development of Black activism in New York from the formation of the first Black organization, the African Society, in 1784 to the eve of the Civil War in 1861. In this critical period, Black activists sought to formulate an effective response to their unequal freedom. Examining Black newspapers, speeches, and organizational records, this study documents the creation of mutual relief, religious, and political associations, which Black men and women infused with African cultural traditions and values. In the end, the Black leadership resolved to assert an American identity and to expand their mission for full equality and citizenship, signaling a new phase in the quest for racial advancement and fostering the creation of a nascent Black Nationalism.
Featuring the work of the most distinguished scholars in the field, this volume assesses the state of Afro-American literary study and projects a vision of that study for the 1990s. "A rich and rewarding collection."—Choice.
"This diverse and inspired collection . . . testifies to the Afro-Am academy's extraordinary vitality."—Voice Literary Supplement
In Afro-Atlantic Flight Michelle D. Commander traces how post-civil rights Black American artists, intellectuals, and travelers envision literal and figurative flight back to Africa as a means by which to heal the dispossession caused by the slave trade. Through ethnographic, historical, literary, and filmic analyses, Commander shows the ways that cultural producers such as Octavia Butler, Thomas Allen Harris, and Saidiya Hartman engage with speculative thought about slavery, the spiritual realm, and Africa, thereby structuring the imaginary that propels future return flights. She goes on to examine Black Americans’ cultural heritage tourism in and migration to Ghana; Bahia, Brazil; and various sites of slavery in the US South to interrogate the ways that a cadre of actors produces “Africa” and contests master narratives. Compellingly, these material flights do not always satisfy Black Americans’ individualistic desires for homecoming and liberation, leading Commander to focus on the revolutionary possibilities inherent in psychic speculative returns and to argue for the development of a Pan-Africanist stance that works to more effectively address the contemporary resonances of slavery that exist across the Afro-Atlantic.
Growing out of the music scene, afrofuturism has emerged as an important aesthetic through films such as Black Panther and Get Out. While the significance of these sonic and visual avenues for afrofuturism cannot be underestimated, literature remains fundamental to understanding its full dimensions. Isiah Lavender’s Afrofuturism Rising explores afrofuturism as a narrative practice that enables users to articulate the interconnection between science, technology, and race across centuries.
By engaging with authors as diverse as Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Samuel R. Delany Jr., Pauline Hopkins, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright, Afrofuturism Rising extends existing scholarly conversations about who creates and what is created via science fiction. Through a trans-historical rereading of texts by these authors as science fiction, Lavender highlights the ways black experience in America has always been an experience of spatial and temporal dislocation akin to science fiction. Compelling and ambitious in scope, Afrofuturism Rising redefines both science fiction and literature as a whole.
Highway 18 between Mission and Okreek, South Dakota, is a stretch of no more than eighteen miles, but late at night or in a blizzard it seems endless. "It feels like being somewhere between South Dakota and 'there,'" says Simon Ortiz, "perhaps at the farthest reaches of the galaxy."
Acoma Pueblo poet Ortiz spent a winter in South Dakota, teaching at Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation. The bitter cold and driving snow of a prairie winter were a reality commanding his attention through its absolute challenge to survival and the meaning of survival.
Ortiz's way of dealing with the hard elements of winter was to write After and Before the Lightning, prose and verse poems that were his response to that long season between the thunderstorms of autumn and spring. "I needed a map of where I was and what I was doing in the cosmos," he writes. In these poems, which he regards as a book-length poetic work, he charts the vast spaces of prairie and time that often seem indistinguishable. As he faces the reality of winter on the South Dakota reservation, he also confronts the harsh political reality for its Native community and culture and for Indian people everywhere.
"Writing this poetry reconnected me to the wonder and awe of life," Ortiz states emphatically. Readers will feel the reality of that wonder and awe—and the cold of that South Dakota winter—through the gentle ferocity of his words.
The politics and music of the sixties and early seventies have been the subject of scholarship for many years, but it is only very recently that attention has turned to the cultural production of African American poets.
In "After Mecca," Cheryl Clarke explores the relationship between the Black Arts Movement and black women writers of the period. Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, and others chart the emergence of a new and distinct black poetry and its relationship to the black community's struggle for rights and liberation. Clarke also traces the contributions of these poets to the development of feminism and lesbian-feminism, and the legacy they left for others to build on.
She argues that whether black women poets of the time were writing from within the movement or writing against it, virtually all were responding to it. Using the trope of "Mecca," she explores the ways in which these writers were turning away from white, western society to create a new literacy of blackness.
Provocatively written, this book is an important contribution to the fields of African American literary studies and feminist theory.
In this deft analysis, Vernon Shetley shows how writers and readers of poetry, operating under very different conventions and expectations, have drifted apart, stranding the once-vital poetic enterprise on the distant margins of contemporary culture. Along with a clear understanding of where American poetry stands and how it got there, After the Death of Poetry offers a compelling set of prescriptions for its future, prescriptions that might enable the art to regain its lost stature in our intellectual life. In exemplary case studies, Shetley identifies the very different ways in which three postwar poets—Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, and John Ashbery—try to restore some of the challenge and risk that characterized modernist poetry's relation to its first readers. Sure to be controversial, this cogent analysis offers poets and readers a clear sense of direction and purpose, and so, the hope of reaching each other again.
After the Digging
Alan Shapiro University of Chicago Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS3569.H338A69 1998 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
After the Digging provides an exceptional look at the early work of acclaimed poet Alan Shapiro. His first collection of poems allows readers to realize his strong sense of historical narrative and gives them reference on how to read his later poems. Inspired by his time at Stanford in the late seventies, the book is divided into two parts: the first is a sequence on the Irish Famine in the mid-nineteenth century; the second, a series on demonic possession in late seventeenth-century New England. These poems give voice to the pain and delusion of those from other periods and inevitably recall the many evils of our own century.
"Powerful. . . . That a young poet can handle this subject so well in a first book is . . . a pleasure in itself."—Robert von Hallberg, Contemporary Literature, 1981
In this bold book, Samuel Cohen asserts the literary and historical importance of the period between the fall of the Berlin wall and that of the Twin Towers in New York. With refreshing clarity, he examines six 1990s novels and two post-9/11 novels that explore the impact of the end of the Cold War: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Roth's American Pastoral, Morrison's Paradise, O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, Didion's The Last Thing He Wanted, Eugenides's Middlesex, Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, and DeLillo's Underworld. Cohen emphasizes how these works reconnect the past to a present that is ironically keen on denying that connection. Exploring the ways ideas about paradise and pastoral, difference and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the stories Americans tell themselves about their nation’s past, After the End of History challenges us to reconsider these works in a new light, offering fresh, insightful readings of what are destined to be classic works of literature.
At the same time, Cohen enters into the theoretical discussion about postmodern historical understanding. Throwing his hat in the ring with force and style, he confronts not only Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist response to the fall of the Soviet Union but also the other literary and political “end of history” claims put forth by such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In a straightforward, affecting style, After the End of History offers us a new vision for the capabilities and confines of contemporary fiction.
After the Fall refers to the twin towers, and is Field’s ode to the events that transpired thereafter--the war in Iraq andthe attack on civil rights in America--as well as his own personal struggles over the indignities of aging.
After the Others: Poems
Bruce Weigl Northwestern University Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS3573.E3835A69 1999 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Winner of the 2006 Lannan Foundation Award for Poetry
In his twelfth volume of poetry, Bruce Weigl continues his quest for emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Quiet and moving, these poems combine an intimate voice with a searingly direct look at suffering and senseless violence, at human desire and love, and at man's relationship with nature.
After the Reunion: Poems
David Baker University of Arkansas Press, 1994 Library of Congress PS3552.A4116A69 1994 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
After the Reunion is an intensely lyrical collection of love poems and elegies from “the most expansive and moving poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright,” as Marilyn Hacker has described him. In these quiet, powerful, and eloquent poems, David Baker explores the kinship of love to loss, discovering that each is an inevitable component of the other. The final movement of the book is a unification of these two modes and becomes a celebration of continuities, kinships, and renewals.
The Afterlife of Objects
Dan Chiasson University of Chicago Press, 2002 Library of Congress PS3603.H54A68 2002 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Both intensely personal and deeply rooted in recognizable events of personal, familial, or national significance, The Afterlife of Objects is a kind of dreamed autobiography. With poise and skill, Dan Chiasson divulges the enigmas of the mind of not just one individual but of an entire social world through a beautifully constructed poetic voice that issues from a kind of mythic childhood of our collective, tortured humanity. This sophisticated debut collection offers deceptively simple poems that evoke highly complex states of mind with a voice that has long been listening to the discordant music of contemporary life.
The Afterlives of Specimens explores the space between science and sentiment, the historical moment when the human cadaver became both lost love object and subject of anatomical violence. Walt Whitman witnessed rapid changes in relations between the living and the dead. In the space of a few decades, dissection evolved from a posthumous punishment inflicted on criminals to an element of preservationist technology worthy of the presidential corpse of Abraham Lincoln. Whitman transitioned from a fervent opponent of medical bodysnatching to a literary celebrity who left behind instructions for his own autopsy, including the removal of his brain for scientific study.
Grounded in archival discoveries, Afterlives traces the origins of nineteenth-century America’s preservation compulsion, illuminating the influences of botanical, medical, spiritualist, and sentimental discourses on Whitman’s work. Tuggle unveils previously unrecognized connections between Whitman and the leading “medical men” of his era, such as the surgeon John H. Brinton, founding curator of the Army Medical Museum, and Silas Weir Mitchell, the neurologist who discovered phantom limb syndrome. Remains from several amputee soldiers whom Whitman nursed in the Washington hospitals became specimens in the Army Medical Museum.
Tuggle is the first scholar to analyze Whitman’s role in medically memorializing the human cadaver and its abandoned parts.
Christine Garren University of Chicago Press, 1993 Library of Congress PS3557.A7177A69 1993 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Lyrical and highly charged, these poems examine the strengths and frailties of the human psyche as it functions under the stress of loss, disappointment and mortality. As the poet struggles with reality's continuing failure to satisfy basic human needs, she develops a deepened reliance on the imagination as a source of restorative powers.
"I like Christine Garren's poetry for its fervor and idiosyncrasy. It lives in the common places of daily life but opens into mysterious invisible orders. Afterworld is a strange and compelling book by a gifted visionary artist."—W. S. Di Piero
"In Afterworld, Christine Garren calls up again and again how it feels to be touched by some relatively familiar thing that happens. A cluster of balloons rises from a birthday party, night falls, and it is left for her to sing about the separate moments with remarkable and unforced grace. Her poems confirm that there's as much at stake in evanescences as we've always suspected but not found ways to say."—James McMichael
"The language seems but a shade, a muted rendering of Garren's images, so concrete and ethereal, knowing and innocent. If this reviewer is being abstract it's because these poems do that to you—they create an arrangement of words, so that, for a while, I believed there was none other."—Harvard Review
The work of black writers, editors, publishers, and librarians is deeply embedded in the history of American print culture, from slave narratives to digital databases. While the printed word can seem democratizing, it remains that the infrastructures of print and digital culture can be as limiting as they are enabling. Contributors to this volume explore the relationship between expression and such frameworks, analyzing how different mediums, library catalogs, and search engines shape the production and reception of written and visual culture. Topics include antebellum literature, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement; “post-Black” art, the role of black librarians, and how present-day technologies aid or hinder the discoverability of work by African Americans. Against a Sharp White Background covers elements of production, circulation, and reception of African American writing across a range of genres and contexts. This collection challenges mainstream book history and print culture to understand that race and racialization are inseparable from the study of texts and their technologies.
In much the same way that photography forced painting to move in new directions, the advent of the World Wide Web, with its proliferation of easily transferable and manipulated text, forces us to think about writing, creativity, and the materiality of language in new ways. In Against Expression, editors Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith present the most innovative works responding to the challenges posed by these developments.
Charles Bernstein has described conceptual poetry as "poetry pregnant with thought." Against Expression, the premier anthology of conceptual writing, presents work that is by turns thoughtful, funny, provocative, and disturbing. Dworkin and Goldsmith, two of the leading spokespersons and practitioners of conceptual writing, chart the trajectory of the conceptual aesthetic from early precursors including Samuel Beckett and Marcel Duchamp to the most prominent of today’s writers. Nearly all of the major avant-garde groups of the past century are represented here, including Dada, OuLiPo, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and Flarf to name just a few, but all the writers are united in their imaginative appropriation of found and generated texts and their exploration of nonexpressive language. Against Expression is a timely collection and an invaluable resource for readers and writers alike.
In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
In Against the Gallows, Paul Christian Jones explores the intriguing cooperation of America’s writers—including major figures such as Walt Whitman, John Greenleaf Whittier, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and Herman Melville—with reformers, politicians, clergymen, and periodical editors who attempted to end the practice of capital punishment in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. In an age of passionate reform efforts, the antigallows movement enjoyed broad popularity, waging its campaign in legislatures, pulpits, newspapers, and literary journals.
Although it failed in its ultimate goal of ending hangings across the United States, the movement did achieve various improvements in the practices of the justice system, including reducing the number of capital crimes, eliminating public executions in most northern states, and abolishing capital punishment completely in three states.
Although a few historians have studied the antebellum movement against capital punishment, until now very little attention has been paid to the role of America’s writers in these efforts. Jones’s study recovers the relationship between the nation’s literary figures and the movement against the death penalty, illustrating that the editors of literary journals actively encouraged and published antigallows writing, that popular crime novelists created a sympathy toward criminals that led readers to question the state’s justifications for capital punishment, that poets crafted verse that advocated strongly for Christian sympathy for criminals that coincided with an antipathy to the death penalty, and that female sentimental writers fashioned melodramatic narratives that illustrated the injustice of the hanging and reimagined the justice system itself as a sympathetic subject capable of incorporating compassion into its workings and seeing reform rather than revenge as its ends.
Against the Grain is a collection of interviews with nine small press publishers, each one characterized by strength of resolve and a dedication to good books. Each press reflects, perhaps more directly than any large trade publisher could, the character of its founder; and each has earned its own place in the select group of important small presses in America.
This collection is the first of its kind to explore with the publishers themselves the historical, aesthetic, practical, and personal impulses behind literary publishing. The publishers included are Harry Duncan (the Cummington Press), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights), David Godine (David R. Godine), Daniel Halpern (the Ecco Press), Sam Hamill and Tree Swenson (Copper Canyon Press), James Laughlin (New Directions), John Martin (Black Sparrow), and Jonathan Williams (the Jargon Society). Their passion for books, their belief in their individual visions of what publishing is or could be, their inspired mulishness crackle on the page.
Alan Shapiro University of Chicago Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3569.H338A73 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
We often ask ourselves what gets lost in translation—not just between languages, but in the everyday trade-offs between what we experience and what we are able to say about it. But the visionary poems of this collection invite us to consider: what is loss, in translation? Writing at the limits of language—where “the signs loosen, fray, and drift”—Alan Shapiro probes the startling complexity of how we confront absence and the ephemeral, the heartbreak of what once wasn’t yet and now is no longer, of what (like racial prejudice and historical atrocity) is omnipresent and elusive. Through poems that are fine-grained and often quiet, Shapiro tells of subtle bereavements: a young boy is shamed for the first time for looking “girly”; an ailing old man struggles to visit his wife in a nursing home; or a woman dying of cancer watches her friends enjoy themselves in her absence. Throughout, this collection traverses rather than condemns the imperfect language of loss—moving against the current in the direction of the utterly ineffable.
Drawn mainly from the centennial anniversary symposium on James Agee held at the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2009, the essays of Agee at 100 are as diverse in topic and purpose as is Agee’s work itself. Often devalued during his life by those who thought his breadth a hindrance to greatness, Agee’s achievements as a poet, novelist, journalist, essayist, critic, documentarian, and screenwriter are now more fully recognized. With its use of previously unknown and recently recovered materials as well as established works, this groundbreaking new collection is a timely contribution to the resurgence of interest in Agee’s significance.
The essays in this collection range from the scholarly to the personal, and all offer insight into Agee’s writing, his cultural influence, and ultimately Agee himself. Dwight Garner opens with his reflective essay on “Why Agee Matters.” Several essays present almost entirely new material on Agee. Paul Ashdown writes on Agee’s book reviews, which, unlike Agee’s film criticism, have received scant attention. With evidence from two largely unstudied manuscripts, Jeffrey Couchman sets the record straight on Agee’s contribution to the screenplay for The African Queen and delves as well into his television “miniseries” screenplay Mr. Lincoln. John Wranovics treats Agee’s lesser-known films--the documentaries In the Street and The Quiet One and the Filipino epic Genghis Khan. Jeffrey J. Folks wrestles with Agee’s “culture of repudiation” while James A. Crank investigates his perplexing treatment of race in his prose. Jesse Graves and Andrew Crooke provide new analyses of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Michael A. Lofaro and Philip Stogdon both discuss Lofaro’s recently restored text of A Death in the Family. David Madden closes the collection with his short story “Seeing Agee in Lincoln,” an imagined letter from Agee to his longtime confidante Father Flye.
The contributors to Agee at 100 utilize materials new and old to reveal the true importance of Agee's range of cultural sensibility and literary ability. Film scholars will also find this collection particularly engrossing, as will anyone fascinated by the work of the author rightly deemed the “sovereign prince of the English language.”
Michael A. Lofaro is Lindsay Young Professor of American Literature and American and Cultural Studies at the University of Tennessee. Most recently, he restored James Agee’s A Death in the Family and is the general editor of the projected eleven-volume The Works of James Agee.
Aggregate of Disturbances
Michele Glazer University of Iowa Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3557.L388A74 2004 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In Aggregate of Disturbances, Michele Glazer confronts the slipperiness of language and perception as she probes natural processes—the lives of insects, the uncertainty of love, and the deaths of human beings. Nature’s beauty interests Glazer less than the fact that it is chaotic, amoral, redundant, charming, and indifferent to human concern—qualities that are, in these poems, turned into another kind of beauty. “The stalk was knocked flat &the allium’s great lavender sphere / kissed the dirt &in the aftermath the pendulous blossomed / tip bobbed like a wand madly attempting to enchant-enchant-enchant. / / I wanted to believe that it happened to amuse me.”
These taut lyrical poems negotiate between desire for something irrefutable and an uneasy bedrock of paradox. In the interstices, Aggregate of Disturbances breaks open language and experience to offer a glimpse of “the eye on the other side.”
Agua Santa / Holy Water
Pat Mora University of Arizona Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3563.O73A72 2007 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Drawing on oral and lyrical traditions, this book honors the grace and spirit of mothers, daughters, lovers, and goddesses. From a tribute to Frida Kahlo to advice from an Aztec goddess, the poems explore the intimate and sacred spaces of borderlands through many voices: a revolutionary, a domestic worker, a widow.
Although Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is beloved as one of the most profound and enduring works of American fiction, we rarely consider it a work of nature writing—or even a novel of the sea. Yet Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard avers Moby-Dick is the “best book ever written about nature,” and nearly the entirety of the story is set on the waves, with scarcely a whiff of land. In fact, Ishmael’s sea yarn is in conversation with the nature writing of Emerson and Thoreau, and Melville himself did much more than live for a year in a cabin beside a pond. He set sail: to the far remote Pacific Ocean, spending more than three years at sea before writing his masterpiece in 1851.
A revelation for Moby-Dick devotees and neophytes alike, Ahab’s Rolling Sea is a chronological journey through the natural history of Melville’s novel. From white whales to whale intelligence, giant squids, barnacles, albatross, and sharks, Richard J. King examines what Melville knew from his own experiences and the sources available to a reader in the mid-1800s, exploring how and why Melville might have twisted what was known to serve his fiction. King then climbs to the crow’s nest, setting Melville in the context of the American perception of the ocean in 1851—at the very start of the Industrial Revolution and just before the publication of On the Origin of Species. King compares Ahab’s and Ishmael’s worldviews to how we see the ocean today: an expanse still immortal and sublime, but also in crisis. And although the concept of stewardship of the sea would have been entirely foreign, if not absurd, to Melville, King argues that Melville’s narrator Ishmael reveals his own tendencies toward what we would now call environmentalism.
Featuring a coffer of illustrations and an array of interviews with contemporary scientists, fishers, and whale watch operators, Ahab’s Rolling Sea offers new insight not only into a cherished masterwork and its author but also into our evolving relationship with the briny deep—from whale hunters to climate refugees.
Airline Highway: A Play
Lisa D'Amour Northwestern University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PS3604.A43975A75 2015 | Dewey Decimal 812.6
Airline Highway is a rollicking play that, with great insight, humor, and subtlety, examines a tight knit community of "outsiders" over the course of a single, legendary day. The Hummingbird Hotel is the figurative or literal home for a group of strippers, French Quarter service workers, hustlers, and poets who are bound together by their bad luck, bad decisions, and complete lack of pretense. Presiding over them is Miss Ruby, a beloved former burlesque performer who has requested a funeral before she dies. As the people whose lives she has touched gather to celebrate her, they must face themselves, each other, and the consequences of the choices they have made. Airline Highway shows us the tenuous hold that community, authenticity, and real-time ritual have on a rapidly gentrifying New Orleans.
Airs, Waters, Places
Bin Ramke University of Iowa Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3568.A446A68 2001 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Like the ancient medical text by Hippocrates that gives this book its title, Airs, Waters, Places looks with intensity and purpose at the elemental world to understand the possibility of an expanded notion of health in an often disconnected and disconnecting social order. In the poet's words, “To call language a nervous system might be useful: if each sentient being is analogous to cells within the organism, language is analogous to the nerves as well as the messages sent along those nerves. There is, there, if not eternity, at least delusion.” This is a book of various appetites in constant motion.
A visually rich survey of two hundred years of Alabama fine arts and artists
Alabama artists have been an integral part of the story of the state, reflecting a wide-ranging and multihued sense of place through images of the land and its people. Quilts, pottery, visionary paintings, sculpture, photography, folk art, and abstract art have all contributed to diverse visions of Alabama’s culture and environment. The works of art included in this volume have all emerged from a distinctive milieu that has nourished the creation of powerful visual expressions, statements that are both universal and indigenous.
Published to coincide with the state’s bicentennial, Alabama Creates: 200 Years of Art and Artists features ninety-four of Alabama’s most accomplished, noteworthy, and influential practitioners of the fine arts from 1819 to the present. The book highlights a broad spectrum of artists who worked in the state, from its early days to its current and contemporary scene, exhibiting the full scope and breadth of Alabama art.
This retrospective volume features biographical sketches and representative examples of each artist’s most masterful works. Alabamians like Gay Burke, William Christenberry, Roger Brown, Thornton Dial, Frank Fleming, the Gee’s Bend Quilters, Lonnie Holley, Dale Kennington, Charlie Lucas, Kerry James Marshall, David Parrish, and Bill Traylor are compared and considered with other nationally significant artists.
Alabama Creates is divided into four historical periods, each spanning roughly fifty years and introduced by editor Elliot A. Knight. Knight contextualizes each era with information about the development of Alabama art museums and institutions and the evolution of college and university art departments. The book also contains an overview of the state’s artistic heritage by Gail C. Andrews, director emerita of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Alabama Creates conveys in a sweeping and captivating way the depth of talent, the range of creativity, and the lasting contributions these artists have made to Alabama’s extraordinarily rich visual and artistic heritage.
Dore Kiesselbach University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017
Dore Kiesselbach’s second collection Albatross views the events of September 11th as a physicist might examine high-energy particles in a supercollider. In the book’s central section, Kiesselbach, who worked three blocks from the World Trade Center and was an eyewitness, deconstructs the cultural hyperbole of that extraordinary day in a series of intimate portraits that dovetail elsewhere with a wider examination of violence in the everyday lives of individuals, families, and nations. While neither blaming victims, nor succumbing to despair, the book urges reflection on the roles we each play in our own harm. Like its namesake, the human-powered aircraft flown across the English Channel in 1979, Albatross invites readers to push forward into headwinds—public and private—and make for the far shore.
The first book-length study of the writings, work, and life of Renaissance man and Alabama native Albert Murray
This collection consists of essays written by prominent African American literature, jazz, and Albert Murray scholars, reminiscences from Murray protégés and associates, and interviews with Murray himself. It illustrates Murray’s place as a central figure in African American arts and letters and as an American cultural pioneer.
Born in Nokomis, Alabama, and raised in Mobile, Albert Murray graduated from Tuskegee University, where he later taught, but he has long resided in New York City. He is the author of many critically acclaimed novels, memoirs, and essay collections, among them The Omni-Americans, South to a Very Old Place, Train Whistle Guitar, The Spyglass Tree, and The Seven League Boots. He is also a critic and visual artist, as well as a lifelong friend of and collaborator with artistic luminaries such as Ralph Ellison, Duke Ellington, and Romare Bearden. As such, his life and work are testaments to the centrality of southern and African American aesthetics in American art. Murray is widely viewed as a figure who, through his art and criticism, transforms the “fakelore” of white culture into a new folklore that illustrates the centrality of the blues and jazz idioms and reveals the black vernacular as what is most distinct about American art.
By 1888, twenty years after the publication of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was one of the most popular and successful authors America had yet produced. In her pre-Little Women days, she concocted blood-and-thunder tales for low wages; post-Little Women, she specialized in domestic novels and short stories for children. Collected here for the first time are the reminiscences of people who knew her, the majority of which have not been published since their original appearance in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many of the printed recollections in this book appeared after Alcott became famous and showcase her as a literary lion, but others focus on her teen years, when she was living the life of Jo March; these intimate glimpses into the life of the Alcott family lead the reader to one conclusion: the family was happy, fun, and entertaining, very much like the fictional Marches. The recollections about an older and wealthier Alcott show a kind and generous, albeit outspoken, woman little changed by her money and status.
From Annie Sawyer Downs’s description of life in Concord to Anna Alcott Pratt’s recollections of the Alcott sisters’ acting days to Julian Hawthorne’s neighborly portrait of the Alcotts, the thirty-six recollections in this copiously illustrated volume tell the private and public story of a remarkable life.
Don Bogen University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3552.O4337A79 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
in dry air,
each pluck a dot,
strokes marked on silence
reaching into the dark.
Beauty is strict,
an echo, a wedge
of harmony, sudden,
broken—Who goes there?
An Algebra is an interwoven collection of eight sequences and sixteen individual poems, where images and phrases recur in new contexts, connecting and suspending thoughts, emotions and insights. By turns, the poems leap from the public realm of urban decay and outsourcing to the intimacies of family life, from a street mime to a haunting dream, from elegy to lyric evocation. Wholeness and brokenness intertwine in the book; glimpsed patterns and startling disjunctions drive its explorations.
An Algebra is a work of changing equivalents, a search for balance in a world of transformation and loss. It is a brilliantly constructed, moving book by a poet who has achieved a new level of imaginative expression and skill.
Praise for After the Splendid Display
“In his best work . . . conscience and craft fuse seamlessly, and the result is original and arresting."—The Nation
Alice beyond Wonderland explores the ubiquitous power of Lewis Carroll’s imagined world. Including work by some of the most prominent contemporary scholars in the field of Lewis Carroll studies, all introduced by Karoline Leach’s edgy foreword, Alice beyond Wonderland considers the literary, imaginative, and cultural influences of Carroll’s 19th-century story on the high-tech, postindustrial cultural space of the twenty-first century.
The scholars in this volume attempt to move beyond the sexually charged permutations of the "Carroll myth," the image of an introverted man fumbling into literary immortality through his love for a prepubescent Alice. Contributions include an essay comparing Dantean and Carrollian underworlds, one investigating child characters as double agents in untamed lands, one placing Wonderland within the geometrical and algebraic “fourth dimension,” one investigating the visual and verbal interplay of hand imagery, and one exploring the influence of Japanese translations of Alice on the Gothic-Lolita subculture of neo-Victorian enthusiasts. This is a bold, capacious, and challenging work.
In Alien Capital Iyko Day retheorizes the history and logic of settler colonialism by examining its intersection with capitalism and the racialization of Asian immigrants to Canada and the United States. Day explores how the historical alignment of Asian bodies and labor with capital's abstract and negative dimensions became one of settler colonialism's foundational and defining features. This alignment allowed white settlers to gloss over and expunge their complicity with capitalist exploitation from their collective memory. Day reveals this process through an analysis of a diverse body of Asian North American literature and visual culture, including depictions of Chinese railroad labor in the 1880s, filmic and literary responses to Japanese internment in the 1940s, and more recent examinations of the relations between free trade, national borders, and migrant labor. In highlighting these artists' reworking and exposing of the economic modalities of Asian racialized labor, Day pushes beyond existing approaches to settler colonialism as a Native/settler binary to formulate it as a dynamic triangulation of Native, settler, and alien populations and positionalities.
All American Girl
Robin Becker University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3552.E257A45 1996 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Winner of the 1996 Lambda Book Award for Lesbian Poetry.
“With poignancy, honesty, and grace, Becker contends with the messy implications of her lesbian sexuality, Jewish identity, and sister's suicide. . . . Becker is acutely aware of, and devastated by, her many losses, but emerges defiant and admirably without regret or shame.”
All Blue So Late: Poems
Laura Swearingen-Steadwell Northwestern University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3619.W436A78 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
All Blue So Late presents the panorama of a young woman’s life as she struggles to come to terms with her place in the world. These poems look to race, gender, and American identity, plumbing the individual’s attendant grief, rage, and discomfort with these constructs.
The skeleton of this fine collection is a series of direct addresses to the author’s fourteen-year-old self, caught at the moment between girlhood and womanhood, when her perspective on everything suddenly changes. Swearingen-Steadwell’s poetic adventures through worlds within and without reveal the restlessness of the seeker. They offer unabashed tenderness to anyone who reckons with solitude, and chases joy.
All My Relatives challenges the prevailing notion that the work of all American writers reflects a sense of determined individualism. Highlighting works by Frank Chin, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, N. Scott Momaday, Tomas Rivera, Leslie Marmon Silko, Alice Walker, and John Edgar Wideman, Bonnie TuSmith shows that a "first language of community" exists within the cultures of ethnic Americans and is evident in their literary texts. TuSmith suggests that the proper understanding of these texts demands that we dismiss an interpretive frame borrowed from European-American literature.
All My Relatives provides a new way of reading popular works such as The Woman Warrior, The Joy Luck Club, The Color Purple and John Edgar Wideman's Sent for You Yesterday. TuSmith's study will appeal to general readers as well as students and scholars of American culture, ethnic studies, and American literature.
"An original contribution to the field. TuSmith's willingness to step over invisible boundaries and to draw parallels between the cultural contexts of several ethnic groups at once is refreshing and important." --Amy Ling, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"Ambitious and timely . . . a significant work that Americanists will want to read. TuSmith does an excellent job of clarifying the meaning and significance of the term "ethnicity" in relation to American literature."--Ramón Saldívar, Stanford University
". . . TuSmith establishes the importance of traditional (usually oral) modes of expression to ethnic texts that are both relational and accessible . . . . [S]hould become a standard point of reference in the emerging field of comparative American literature."--Choice
Bonnie TuSmith is Assistant Professor of English, Bowling Green State University.
All That Divides Us: Poems
Elinor Benedict foreword by Maxine Kumin Utah State University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3552.E53956A79 2000 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Although the poems in this collection are not narrative, they do present a narrative, gradually unspooling the tale of the poet's rebel aunt, who left the family "to marry a Chinaman" in the 1930s. It's an old story, full of poignancy, mystery, family pride, and doubt. When the aunt returns to die, the poet, now grown, discovers in herself the need to reclaim the connections that her family had severed. She travels to China several times—to learn. Gradually, through wide-eyed insightful poems, we see the poet rebuild with her Chinese cousins a sense of generation, family, and humanity—bridging over all that divides us. Elinor Benedict has also received the Mademoiselle Fiction Prize, a Michigan Council for the Arts Award, and an Editor's Grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (CLMP). She earned an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College and her work has also appeared in various literary journals and in five chapbooks.
In 2012 Matthew Wimberley took a two-month journey, traveling and living out of his car, during which time he had planned to spread his father’s ashes. By trip’s end, the ashes remained, but Wimberley had begun a conversation with his deceased father that is continued here in his debut collection.
All the Great Territories is a book of elegies for a father as well as a confrontation with the hostile, yet beautiful landscape of southern Appalachia. In the wake of an estranged father’s death, the speaker confronts that loss while celebrating the geography of childhood and the connections formed between the living and the dead. The narrative poems in this collection tell one story through many: a once failed relationship, the conversations we have with those we love after they are gone. In an attempt to make sense of the father-son relationship, Wimberley embraces and explores the pain of personal loss and the beauty of the natural world.
Stitching together sundered realms—from Idaho to the Blue Ridge Mountains and from the ghost of memory to the iron present of self—Wimberley produces a map for reckoning with grief and the world’s darker forces. At once a labor of love and a searing indictment of those who sensationalize and dehumanize the people and geography of Appalachia, All the Great Territories sparks the reader forward, creating a homeland all its own. “Because it’s my memory I can give it to you,” Wimberley’s speaker declares, and it’s a promise well kept in this tender and remarkable debut.
All the Rage
William Logan University of Michigan Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS323.5.L64 1998 | Dewey Decimal 811.509
William Logan has been called the most dangerous poetry critic since Randall Jarrell. All the Rage collects his early critical works, including reviews and verse chronicles, a long essay on Auden's imagery, an unpublished essay on "The Prejudice of Aesthetics," as well as a recent interview. A critic of uncompromising passions, his readings of modern poetry are irritating, intimate, severe, and luminous. Banned by some publications, his criticism has violently opposed the etiquette of praise that has silenced strong opinion among poetry circles.
Logan was among the first critics to review a generation of poets now in creative maturity, and his comments on the early works of Jorie Graham, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and the late Amy Clampitt show the enthusiasm of fresh discovery. But he is no respecter of old reputation, as his reviews of John Ashbery and Robert Penn Warren demonstrate. In total, his criticism considers virtues with their defects and always speaks its author's mind. Some contemporary poetry has had few better friends, and some few greater enemies, than William Logan.
William Logan is the author of Sad-Faced Men, Difficulty, Sullen Weedy Lakes, and Vain Empires. He is Alumni/ae Professor of English, University of Florida.
In contemporary culture, the stereotypical trappings of “redneckism” have been appropriated
for everything from movies like Smokey and the Bandit to comedy acts like Larry the
Cable Guy. Even a recent president, George W. Bush, shunned his patrician pedigree in favor
of cowboy “authenticity” to appeal to voters. Whether identified with hard work and patriotism
or with narrow-minded bigotry, the Redneck and its variants have become firmly
established in American narrative consciousness.
This provocative book traces the emergence of the faux-Redneck within the context of
literary and cultural studies. Examining the icon’s foundations in James Fenimore Cooper’s
Natty Bumppo—“an ideal white man, free of the boundaries of civilization”—and the degraded
rural poor of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, Matthew Ferrence shows how Redneck
stereotypes were further extended in Deliverance, both the novel and the film, and in
a popular cycle of movies starring Burt Reynolds in the 1970s and ’80s, among other manifestations.
As a contemporary cultural figure, the author argues, the Redneck represents
no one in particular but offers a model of behavior and ideals for many. Most important,
it has become a tool—reductive, confining, and (sometimes, almost) liberating—by which
elite forces gather and maintain social and economic power. Those defying its boundaries,
as the Dixie Chicks did when they criticized President Bush and the Iraq invasion, have
done so at their own peril. Ferrence contends that a refocus of attention to the complex
realities depicted in the writings of such authors as Silas House, Fred Chappell, Janisse Ray,
and Trudier Harris can help dislodge persistent stereotypes and encourage more nuanced
understandings of regional identity.
In a cultural moment when so-called Reality Television has turned again toward popular
images of rural Americans (as in, for example, Duck Dynasty and Moonshiners), All-
American Redneck reveals the way in which such images have long been manipulated for
particular social goals, almost always as a means to solidify the position of the powerful at
the expense of the regional.
Matthew J. Ferrence is an assistant professor of English at Allegheny College.
Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics revives questions of poetics, religious authenticity, and political efficacy in Ginsberg's prophetic poetry. Author Tony Trigilio examines Ginsberg's Buddhism as an imperfect but deepening influence on the major poems of his career.
The first sustained scholarly effort to test Ginsberg’s work as Buddhist poetry, this volume goes beyond biography to contemporary critical theory and textual and historical analysis to show how Ginsberg’s Buddhist religious practices inform his poetry. Trigilio takes us through the poet’s first autodidactic struggles with Buddhism to his later involvement with highly trained teachers, as he follows the development of Ginsberg’s Buddhist poetics.
The book also considers the place of Ginsberg’s poetry in the cultural and aesthetic contexts of his career, covering the rise of an “American Buddhism”; the antiwar, drug decriminalization, and gay civil rights movements; and the shift from modern to postmodern strategies in contemporary U.S. poetry.
Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics examines some of the most significant work produced by the poet after he had become a cultural icon and marks a new direction in the study of Ginsberg’s work. Of interest to scholars of Buddhism, American poetry, cultural studies, and Beat studies, this groundbreaking volume fills significant gaps in the scholarly criticism of Ginsberg’s spiritual poetics.
Dave Etter Northwestern University Press, 2005 Library of Congress PS3555.T68A8 2005 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In the tradition of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, each of the 222 poems in this collection is narrated by a different resident of the fictional small town of Alliance, Illinois. Their voices, individual and yet familiar, describe the ordered simplicity of life in the American small town during the second half of the twentieth century. Dave Etter's themes and images come from the very lifeblood of prairie Illinois-rivers, trees, cornfields, wildlife, county fairs, railroads and, always, the people and the ever-changing seasons. Deceptively, invitingly simple on their surface, Etter's poems reveal upon careful examination a remarkable psychological insight and a careful craftsmanship. Alliance, Illinois is truly one of the great monuments of rural American literature.
All-Night Lingo Tango
Barbara Hamby University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3558.A4216A77 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
This collection is a love letter to language with poems that are drunk and filled with references to the hyperkinetic world of the twenty-first century. Yet Zeus and Hera tangle with Leda on the interstate; Ava Gardner becomes a Hindu princess; and Shiva, the Destroyer, reigns over all. English is the primary god here, with its huge vocabulary and omnivorous gluttony for new words, yet the mystery of the alphabet is behind everything, a funky puppet masterwho can make a new world out of nothing.
Of Angie Estes, the poet and critic Stephanie Burt has written that she “has created some of the most beautiful verbal objects in the world.” In The Allure of Grammar, Doug Rutledge gathers insightful responses to the full range of Estes’s work—from a review of her first chapbook to a reading of a poem appearing in her 2018 book, Parole—that approach these beautiful verbal objects with both intellectual rigor and genuine awe.
In addition to presenting an overview of critical reactions to Estes’s oeuvre, reviews by Langdon Hammer, Julianne Buchsbaum, and Christopher Spaide also provide a helpful context for approaching a poet who claims to distrust narrative. Original essays consider the craft of Estes’s poetry and offer literary analysis. Ahren Warner uses line breaks to explore a postmodern analysis of Estes’s work. Mark Irwin looks at her poetic structure. Lee Upton employs a feminist perspective to explore Estes’s use of italics, and B. K. Fischer looks at the way she uses dance as a poetic image. Doug Rutledge considers her relationship to Dante and to the literary tradition through her use of ekphrasis. An interview with Estes herself, in which she speaks of a poem as an “arranged place . . . where experience happens,” adds her perspective to the mix, at turns resonating with and challenging her critics.
The Allure of Grammar will be useful for teachers and students of creative writing interested in the craft of non-narrative poetry. Readers of contemporary poetry who already admire Estes will find this collection insightful, while those not yet familiar with her work will come away from these essays eager to seek out her books.
Alone in America
Robert A. Ferguson Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS374.L56F47 2013 | Dewey Decimal 813.009353
With more people living alone today than at any time in U.S. history, Ferguson investigates loneliness in American fiction, from its mythological beginnings in Rip Van Winkle to the postmodern terrors of 9/11. At issue is the dark side of a trumpeted American individualism. Ferguson shows that we can learn, from our literature, how to live alone.
When Admiral Richard E. Byrd set out on his second Antarctic expedition in 1934, he was already an international hero for having piloted the first flights over the North and South Poles. His plan for this latest adventure was to spend six months alone near the bottom of the world, gathering weather data and indulging his desire “to taste peace and quiet long enough to know how good they really are.” But early on things went terribly wrong. Isolated in the pervasive polar night with no hope of release until spring, Byrd began suffering inexplicable symptoms of mental and physical illness. By the time he discovered that carbon monoxide from a defective stovepipe was poisoning him, Byrd was already engaged in a monumental struggle to save his life and preserve his sanity.
When Alone was first published in 1938, it became an enormous bestseller. This edition keeps alive Byrd’s unforgettable narrative for new generations of readers.
The discovery in recent years of Louisa May Alcott's pseudonymous sensation stories has made readers and scholars increasingly aware of her accomplishments beyond her most famous novel, Little Women, one of the great international best-sellers of all time. What has been recovered throws new light on the children's books and asks us to question our assumptions about the suposedly staid and sentimental Alcott.
Alternative Alcott includes works never before reprinted, including "How I Went Out to Service," "My Contraband," and "Psyche's Art." It also contains Behind a Mask, her most important sensation story; the full and correct text of her last unfinished novel, Diana and Persis; "Transcendental Wild Oats"; Hospital Sketches; and Alcott's other important texts on nineteenth-century social history. This anthology brings together for the first time a variety of Louisa May Alcott's journalistic, satiric, feminist, and sensation texts. Elaine Showalter has provided an excellent introduction and notes to the collection.
Rafael Campo Duke University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3553.A4883A48 2013 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In his sixth collection of poetry, the celebrated poet-physician Rafael Campo examines the primal relationship between language, empathy, and healing. As masterfully crafted as they are viscerally powerful, these poems propose voice itself as a kind of therapeutic medium. For all that most ails us, Alternative Medicine offers the balm of song and the salve of the imagination: from the wounds of our stubborn differences of identity, to the pain of alienation in a world of unfeeling technologies, to the shame of the persistent injustices in our society, Campo's poetry displays a deep understanding of hurt as the possibility for healing. Demonstrating an abiding faith in our survival, this stunning, heartfelt book ultimately embraces the great diversity of our ways of knowing and dreaming, of needing and loving, and of living and dying.
David Hernandez Southern Illinois University Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3608.E766A49 2006 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Always Danger offers a lyrical and highly imaginative exploration into the hazards that surround people’s lives—whether it’s violence, war, mental illness, car accidents, or the fury of Mother Nature. In his second collection of poems, David Hernandez embraces the element of surprise: a soldier takes refuge inside a hollowed-out horse, a man bullies a mountain, and a giant pink donut sponsors age-old questions about beliefs. Hernandez typically eschews the politics that often surround the inner circle of contemporary literature, but in this volume he quietly sings a few bars with a political tone: one poem shadows the conflict in Iraq, another reflects our own nation’s economic and cultural divide. Always Danger parallels Hernandez’s joy of writing: unmapped, spontaneous, and imbued with nuanced revelation.
The image of the shadow in mid-twentieth-century America appeared across a variety of genres and media including poetry, pulp fiction, photography, and film. Drawing on an extensive framework that ranges from Cold War cultural histories to theorizations of psychoanalysis and the Gothic, Erik Mortenson argues that shadow imagery in 1950s and 1960s American culture not only reflected the anxiety and ambiguity of the times but also offered an imaginative space for artists to challenge the binary rhetoric associated with the Cold War.
After contextualizing the postwar use of shadow imagery in the wake of the atomic bomb, Ambiguous Borderlands looks at shadows in print works, detailing the reemergence of the pulp fiction crime fighter the Shadow in the late-1950s writings of Sylvia Plath, Amiri Baraka, and Jack Kerouac. Using Freudian and Jungian conceptions of the unconscious, Mortenson then discusses Kerouac’s and Allen Ginsberg’s shared dream of a “shrouded stranger” and how it shaped their Beat aesthetic. Turning to the visual, Mortenson examines the dehumanizing effect of shadow imagery in the Cold War photography of Robert Frank, William Klein, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Mortenson concludes with an investigation of the use of chiaroscuro in 1950s film noir and the popular television series The Twilight Zone, further detailing how the complexities of Cold War society were mirrored across these media in the ubiquitous imagery of light and dark.
From comics to movies, Beats to bombs, Ambiguous Borderlands provides a novel understanding of the Cold War cultural context through its analysis of the image of the shadow in midcentury media. Its interdisciplinary approach, ambitious subject matter, and diverse theoretical framing make it essential reading for anyone interested in American literary and popular culture during the fifties and sixties.
“Sharon Talley draws on psychoanalytic theory to illuminate the connections between Bierce’s life and works, without ever losing sight of the historical contexts—especially his experience in the Civil War—that also shaped his creativity. This judicious and comprehensive book will give a major boost to the reassessment of Bierce’s place in American letters.”
—Peter L. Rudnytsky, author of Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck
Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death uses psychoanalytic theory in combination with historical, cultural, and literary contexts to examine the complex motif of death in a full range of Bierce’s writings. Scholarly interest in Bierce, whose work has long been undervalued, has grown significantly in recent years. This new book contributes to the ongoing reassessment by providing new contexts for joining the texts in his canon in meaningful ways.
Previous attempts to consider Bierce from a psychological perspective have been superficial, often reductive Freudian readings of individual stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” This new volume not only updates these interpretations with insights from post-Freudian theorists but uses contemporary death theory as a framework to analyze the sources and expressions of Bierce’s attitudes about death and dying. This approach makes it possible to discern links among texts that resolve some of the still puzzling ambiguities that have—until now—precluded a fuller understanding of both the man and his writings.
Lively and engaging, Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death adds valuable new insights not only to the study of Bierce but to that of nineteenth-century American literature in general.
Sharon Talley is the author of the Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her articles have been published in Nineteenth-Century Prose, American Imago, and the Journal of Men’s Studies. She is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
Intellectual history is viewed in this book as a series of "great conversations"—dramatic dialogues in which a culture's spokesmen wrestle with the leading questions of their times. In nineteenth-century America the great argument centered about De Crèvecoeur's "new man," the American, an innocent Adam in a bright new world dissociating himself from the historic past. Mr. Lewis reveals this vital preoccupation as a pervasive, transforming ingredient of the American mind, illuminating history and theology as well as art, shaping the consciousness of lesser thinkers as fully as it shaped the giants of the age. He traces the Adamic theme in the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James, and others, and in an Epilogue he exposes their continuing spirit in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, J. D. Salinger, and Saul Bellow.
“John Shields's book is a provocative challenge to the venerable Adamic myth so exhaustively deployed in examinations of early American literature and in American studies. Moreover, The American Aeneas builds wonderfully on Shields's considerable work on Phillis Wheatley. “?—American Literature??
“The American Aeneas should be of interest to classicists and American studies scholars alike.” ?—The New England Quarterly??
John Shields exposes a significant cultural blindness within American consciousness. Noting the biblical character Adam as an archetype who has long dominated ideas of what it means to be American, Shields argues that an equally important component of our nation’s cultural identity—a secular one deriving from the classical tradition—has been seriously neglected.??Shields shows how Adam and Aeneas—Vergil’s hero of the Aeneid— in crossing over to American from Europe, dynamically intermingled in the thought of the earliest American writers. Shields argues that uncovering and acknowledging the classical roots of our culture can allay the American fear of “pastlessness” that the long-standing emphasis on the Adamic myth has generated.
John C. Shields is the editor of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley and the author of The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self, which won a Choice Outstanding Academic Book award and an honorable mention in the Harry Levin Prize competition, sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association.
Mythologies offers illuminating examples of the workings of myth in the structure of societies past and present—how we create, use, and are guided by systems of myth to answer fundamental questions about ourselves and our world.
Almost all of Mythologies, originally published as a two-volume cloth set, is now available in four paperback volumes. These volumes reproduce the articles, introductory essays, and illustrations as they appeared in the full Mythologies set, and each includes a new Preface by Wendy Doniger.
This volume gathers eighty articles on mythologies from around the world. A section on the Americas and the South Pacific covers myths of native Americans, from the Inuit to the Mesoamericans, about such topics as the cosmos, fire, and the creation of the world. Essays on African mythology range from the 266 basic signs of West Africa to themes such as twins, the placenta, and masks. The final section, covering Celtic, Norse, and Slavic traditions opens with an overview of the Indo-Europeans and concludes with an essay on the religion and myths of Armenia.
This book presents a comprehensive comparison of economic aid programs by the United States and the Soviet Union to less developed countries. It examines aid to many of the non-Communist nations of Asia, Africa, the Near East, Latin America. Robert S. Walters views aid programs in terms of their objectives, the size and structure of disbursements, and operational and administrative principles. In addition he examines the delicate balance between trade policy and general foreign policy, and the difficulties and results experienced by the U.S. and Soviet Union in their respective programs.
One of the foremost critics in contemporary American letters, Christopher Benfey has long been known for his brilliant and incisive essays. Appearing in such publications as the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and the Times Literary Supplement, Benfey's writings have helped us reimagine the American literary canon. In American Audacity, Benfey gathers his finest writings on eminent American authors (including Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman, Millay, Faulkner, Frost, and Welty), bringing to his subjects---as the New York Times Book Review has said of his earlier work---"a scholar's thoroughness, a critic's astuteness and a storyteller's sense of drama."
Although Benfey's interests range from art to literature to social history, this collection focuses on particular American writers and the various ways in which an American identity and culture inform their work. Broken into three sections, "Northerners,""Southerners," and "The Union Reconsidered," American Audacity explores a variety of canonical works, old (Emerson, Dickinson, Millay, Whitman), modern (Faulkner, Dos Passos), and more contemporary (Gary Snyder, E. L. Doctorow).
Christopher Benfey is the author of numerous highly regarded books, including Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet; The Double Life of Stephen Crane; Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable; and, most recently, The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan. Benfey's poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Pequod, and Ploughshares. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Currently he is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.
"In its vigorous and original criticism of American writers, Christopher Benfey's American Audacity displays its own audacities on every page."
---William H. Pritchard
In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, American memoirists have wrestled with a wide range of anxieties in their books. They cope with financial crises, encounter difference, or confront norms of identity. Megan Brown contends that such best sellers as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell teach readers how to navigate a confusing, changing world.
This lively and theoretically grounded book analyzes twenty-first-century memoirs from Three Cups of Tea to Fun Home, emphasizing the ways in which they reinforce and circulate ideologies, becoming guides or models for living. Brown expands her inquiry beyond books to the autobiographical narratives in reality television and political speeches. She offers a persuasive explanation for the memoir boom: the genre as a response to an era of uncertainty and struggle.
From the time that the infant colonies broke away from the parent country to the present day, narratives of U.S. national identity are persistently configured in the language of childhood and family. In The American Child: A Cultural Studies Reader, contributors address matters of race, gender, and family to chart the ways that representations of the child typify historical periods and conflicting ideas. They build on the recent critical renaissance in childhood studies by bringing to their essays a wide range of critical practices and methodologies.
Although the volume is grounded heavily in the literary, it draws on other disciplines, revealing that representations of children and childhood are not isolated artifacts but cultural productions that in turn affect the social climates around them. Essayists look at games, pets, adolescent sexuality, death, family relations, and key texts such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the movie Pocahontas; they reveal the ways in which the figure of the child operates as a rich vehicle for writers to consider evolving ideas of nation and the diverse role of citizens within it.
During the 1980s, American cinema underwent enormous transformations. Blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and The Empire Strikes Back grabbed huge revenues for the studios. At the same time, the growth of home video led to new and creative opportunities for independent film production, resulting in many of the decade's best films. Both large- and small-scale filmmakers responded to the social, political, and cultural conditions of the time. The two-term presidency of Ronald Reagan spawned a new Cold War with the Soviet Union, which Hollywood film both embraced and critiqued. Also during this time, Hollywood launched a long-awaited cycle of films about the Vietnam War, exploring its impact both at home and abroad. But science fiction remained the era's most popular genre, ranging from upbeat fantasies to dark, dystopic visions.
Bringing together original essays by ten respected scholars in the field, American Cinema of the 1980s examines the films that marked the decade, including Ordinary People, Body Heat, Blade Runner, Zelig, Platoon, Top Gun, Aliens, Blue Velvet, Robocop, Fatal Attraction, Die Hard, Batman, and sex, lies & videotape.
Fakery, authenticity, and identity in American literature and culture at the turn of the 20th century
Focusing on texts written between 1880 and 1930, Mary McAleer Balkun explores the concept of the “counterfeit,” both in terms of material goods and invented identities, and the ways that the acquisition of objects came to define individuals in American culture and literature. Counterfeiting is, in one sense, about the creation of something that appears authentic—an invented self, a museum display, a forged work of art. But the counterfeit can also be a means by which the authentic is measured, thereby creating our conception of the true or real.
When counterfeiting is applied to individual identities, it fosters fluidity in social boundaries and the games of social climbing and passing that have come to be representative of American culture: the Horatio Alger story, the con man or huckster, the social climber, the ethnically ambiguous.
Balkun provides new readings of traditional texts such as The Great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The House of Mirth, as well as readings of less-studied texts, such as Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days and Nella Larsen’s Passing. In each of these texts, Balkun locates the presence of manufactured identities and counterfeit figures, demonstrating that where authenticity and consumerism intersect, the self becomes but another commodity to be promoted, sold, and eventually consumed.
The American country club movement parallels the rise of suburbanization in the United States. Its roots can be found in the exclusive city clubs and summer resorts of the nineteenth century; its growth reflects a desire for permanent and organized places where the wealthy could spend their leisure time. By the late nineteenth century, mass transportation enabled the wealthy to escape the confines of the city, and suburbanization began. Their pursuit of leisure—in the form of city clubs, spas, summer resorts, and elite sports—became the foundation for the country club. Country clubs provided places where the elite could combine their interests in sports, the outdoors, and leisure while separating themselves from those they considered non-elite. The American Country Club chronicles the social and economic evolution of this elite leisure landscape.
The founding clubs were makeshift landscapes that took advantage of existing conditions, but in the early twentieth century, standard club practices emerged. Clubhouse design, golf course layouts, financial arrangements, and the rise of club management furthered the country club movement. Residential developers also learned to use the country club as a way to organize their elite subdivisions and to sell homes. But the Depression and World War II stifled the growth of country clubs. Eventually the country club movement regained its momentum, and corporations began to develop country clubs to meet the growing demand for club life and to treat the country club as a revenue source.
Some critics feel that the country club addresses a basic liberty of social choice whereas others view it as an unnecessary source of social discrimination. Beyond these positions, James Mayo argues that our nation’s political economy is reflected in the country club, which simultaneously thrives as a business and provides social status for its members.
Reconsiders the centrality of a remarkable American writer of the ante- and postbellum periods
Elizabeth Stoddard was a gifted writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism; successfully published within her own lifetime; esteemed by such writers as William Dean Howells and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and situated at the epicenter of New York’s literary world. Nonetheless, she has been almost excluded from literary memory and importance. This book seeks to understand why. By reconsidering Stoddard’s life and work and her current marginal status in the evolving canon of American literary studies, it raises important questions about women’s writing in the 19th century and canon formation in the 20th century.
Essays in this study locate Stoddard in the context of her contemporaries, such as Dickinson and Hawthorne, while others situate her work in the context of major 19th-century cultural forces and issues, among them the Civil War and Reconstruction, race and ethnicity, anorexia and female invalidism, nationalism and localism, and incest. One essay examines the development of Stoddard’s work in the light of her biography, and others probe her stylistic and philosophic originality, the journalistic roots of her voice, and the elliptical themes of her short fiction. Stoddard’s lifelong project to articulate the nature and dynamics of woman’s subjectivity, her challenging treatment of female appetite and will, and her depiction of the complex and often ambivalent relationships that white middle-class women had to their domestic spaces are also thoughtfully considered.
The editors argue that the neglect of Elizabeth Stoddard’s contribution to American literature is a compelling example of the contingency of critical values and the instability of literary history. This study asks the question, “Will Stoddard endure?” Will she continue to drift into oblivion or will a new generation of readers and critics secure her tenuous legacy?
Jaime Osterman Alves / Margaret A. Amstutz / Lawrence Buell / Paul Crumbley / Jennifer Putzi / Lisa Radinovsky / Susanna Ryan / Julia Stern / Ellen Weinauer / Sandra A. Zagarell
The first American novel by a writer of Japanese ancestry, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl is a landmark of modern American fiction and Japanese American transnationalism. First published in 1902, Yone Noguchi's novel describes the turn-of-the-century adventures of Tokyo belle Miss Morning Glory in a first-person narrative that The New York Times called "perfectly ingenuous and unconventional." Initially published as an authentic journal, the Diary was later revealed to be a playful autobiographical fiction written by a man. No less than her creator, Miss Morning Glory delights in disguises, unabashedly switching gender, class, and ethnic roles. Targeting the American fantasy of Madame Butterfly, Noguchi's New Woman heroine prays for "something more decent than a marriage offer," and freely dispenses her insights on Japanese culture and American lifestyles. With the addition of perceptive critical commentary and comprehensive notes, this first annotated edition sheds new light on the creative inventiveness of an important modernist writer.
In this celebration of contemporary American fiction, Kathryn Hume explores how estrangement from America has shaped the fiction of a literary generation, which she calls the Generation of the Lost Dream.
In breaking down the divisions among standard categories of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender, Hume identifies shared core concerns, values, and techniques among seemingly disparate and unconnected writers including T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ralph Ellison, Russell Banks, Gloria Naylor, Tim O'Brien, Maxine Hong Kingston, Walker Percy, N. Scott Momaday, John Updike, Toni Morrison, William Kennedy, Julia Alvarez, Thomas Pynchon, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Don DeLillo.
Hume explores fictional treatments of the slippage in the immigrant experience between America's promise and its reality. She exposes the political link between contemporary stories of lost innocence and liberalism's inadequacies. She also invites us to look at the literary challenge to scientific materialism in various searches for a spiritual dimension in life.
The expansive future promised by the American Dream has been replaced, Hume finds, by a sense of tarnished morality and a melancholy loss of faith in America's exceptionalism. American Dream, American Nightmare examines the differing critiques of America embedded in nearly a hundred novels and points to the source for recovery that appeals to many of the authors.
The most widely practiced and read form of verse in America, “elegies are poems about being left behind,” writes Max Cavitch. American Elegy is the history of a diverse people’s poetic experience of mourning and of mortality’s profound challenge to creative living. By telling this history in political, psychological, and aesthetic terms, American Elegy powerfully reconnects the study of early American poetry to the broadest currents of literary and cultural criticism.Cavitch begins by considering eighteenth-century elegists such as Franklin, Bradstreet, Mather, Wheatley, Freneau, and Annis Stockton, highlighting their defiance of boundaries—between public and private, male and female, rational and sentimental—and demonstrating how closely intertwined the work of mourning and the work of nationalism were in the revolutionary era. He then turns to elegy’s adaptations during the market-driven Jacksonian age, including more obliquely elegiac poems like those of William Cullen Bryant and the popular child elegies of Emerson, Lydia Sigourney, and others. Devoting unprecedented attention to the early African-American elegy, Cavitch discusses poems written by free blacks and slaves, as well as white abolitionists, seeing in them the development of an African-American genealogical imagination. In addition to a major new reading of Whitman’s great elegy for Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Cavitch takes up less familiar passages from Whitman as well as Melville’s and Lazarus’s poems following Lincoln’s death. American Elegy offers critical and often poignant insights into the place of mourning in American culture. Cavitch examines literary responses to historical events—such as the American Revolution, Native American removal, African-American slavery, and the Civil War—and illuminates the states of loss, hope, desire, and love in American studies today.Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
In modern culture, the essay is often considered an old-fashioned, unoriginal form of literary styling. The word essay brings to mind the uninspired five-paragraph theme taught in schools around the country or the antiquated, Edwardian meanderings of English gentlemen rattling on about art and old books. These connotations exist despite the fact that Americans have been reading and enjoying personal essays in popular magazines for decades, engaging with a multitude of ideas through this short-form means of expression.
To defend the essay—that misunderstood staple of first-year composition courses—Ned Stuckey-French has written The American Essay in the American Century. This book uncovers the buried history of the American personal essay and reveals how it played a significant role in twentieth-century cultural history.
In the early 1900s, writers and critics debated the “death of the essay,” claiming it was too traditional to survive the era’s growing commercialism, labeling it a bastion of British upper-class conventions. Yet in that period, the essay blossomed into a cultural force as a new group of writers composed essays that responded to the concerns of America’s expanding cosmopolitan readership. These essays would spark the “magazine revolution,” giving a fresh voice to the ascendant middle class of the young century.
With extensive research and a cultural context, Stuckey-French describes the many reasons essays grew in appeal and importance for Americans. He also explores the rise of E. B. White, considered by many the greatest American essayist of the first half of the twentieth century whose prowess was overshadowed by his success in other fields of writing. White’s work introduced a new voice, creating an American essay that melded seriousness and political resolve with humor and self-deprecation. This book is one of the first to consider and reflect on the contributions of E. B. White to the personal essay tradition and American culture more generally.
The American Essay in the American Century is a compelling, highly readable book that illuminates the history of a secretly beloved literary genre. A work that will appeal to fiction readers, scholars, and students alike, this book offers fundamental insight into modern American literary history and the intersections of literature, culture, and class through the personal essay. This thoroughly researched volume dismisses, once and for all, the “death of the essay,” proving that the essay will remain relevant for a very long time to come.