The widely divergent voices in this collection are united by their common interest in the American literary heritage and by their intention to redefine that heritage by altering our angle of vision or forcing us to re-examine some traditional values. Unabashedly eclectic in methodology, subject matter, and technique, the essays collected in Value and Vision in American Literature nonetheless share a common intention to recover the neglected, reassess the familiar, or challenge the orthodox.
Through their various (and sometimes contrasting) critical points of view, these essays call attention to ideas or connections that demand a reappraisal of conventional attitudes or ingrained responses. Ranging in focus from the period of the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, they treat indisputably canonical figures such as Hawthorne, Faulkner, James, Hemingway, Cather, Bellow, Porter, Welty, and Warren in the same breath and often refreshingly on the same terms with Wallace Stegner, Cormac McCarthy, Dunstan Thompson, neglected Civil War poets, and the New Formalist critics of the last ten years.
In celebration and in reflection of the important critical contribution Ray Lewis White has made to the study of American literature, these writers, each a noted scholar in the field of literary studies, present a picture of American literature that manages to value the past at the same time that it asks us to envision that past anew.
Spanning a quarter of a century, this collection of plays demonstrates author Jeffrey Sweet’s eye for the drama of human relationships. Sweet works with sensitivity and irony to confront both personal politics and the impact of historical change. These nine works, taken together, present a playwright who extends the struggles of his small circles of characters to his audience and humanity in general.
The title work, first mounted in 1982, is a comedy-drama about the aftermath of the blacklist whose continued relevance makes it a frequently produced play today. The family drama Porch suggests larger social changes through the interaction of a small-town shopkeeper and his defiant daughter. The lauded American Enterprise, set in the Chicago of the robber barons, is a song-filled true story about a millionaire whose stubborn idealism leads to disaster. Stay Till Morning is a rueful comedy about sex and accommodation in the Florida Keys. The three plays that grew out of his fascination with the effects of World War II—Berlin ’45, Court-Martial at Fort Devens, and The Action Against Sol Schumann—dramatize the ways in which that conflict transformed private fates. Each script is accompanied by an extended introduction from the playwright as well as complete performance notes.
Brian Barker Southern Illinois University Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3602.A77547A6 2019 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In Vanishing Acts, Brian Barker cements his reputation as one of contemporary poetry’s great surrealists. These prose poems read like dreams and nightmares, fables and myths. With a dark whimsicality, Barker explores such topics as extinction, power, class, the consequences of tyranny and war, and the ongoing destruction of the environment in the name of progress.
A linked sequence of poems forms the book’s backbone, with an oracular voice from the future heralding the return—or hoped for return—of common animals. Part lyrical odes, part creation myths, part excerpts from a bizarre guide for naturalists, these poems mix fact and fiction, science and fable to create an unsettling vision of a dystopian world stricken by extinction, one where the world’s last catfish sleeps “in the shadow of a hydroelectric dam.” The imaginative language and bizarre stories of these poems are perfectly suited to capture a world that no longer makes sense: a man who wears a toupee to hide an injury inflicted by secret police, a group of villagers who make a bad bargain with a land agent.
The poems in Vanishing Acts straddle the comic and the tragic. They are by turns funny and haunting and ripe with scathing satire. They draw on the genres of speculative and science fiction as much as poetic traditions, and speak to the precarious state of man and the natural world in the twenty-first century.
Vanishing Moments analyzes how various American authors have reified class through their writing, from the first influx of industrialism in the 1850s to the end of the Great Depression in the early 1940s. Eric Schocket uses this history to document America’s long engagement with the problem of class stratification and demonstrates how deeply America’s desire to deny the presence of class has marked even its most labor-conscious cultural texts.
Schocket offers careful readings of works by Herman Melville, Rebecca Harding Davis, William Dean Howells, Jack London, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Muriel Rukeyser, and Langston Hughes, among others, and explores how these authors worked to try to heal the rift between the classes. He considers the challenges writers faced before the Civil War in developing a language of class amidst the predominant concerns about race and slavery; how early literary realists dealt with the threat of class insurrection; how writers at the turn of the century attempted to span the divide between the classes by going undercover as workers; how early modernists used working-class characters and idioms to shape their aesthetic experiments; and how leftists in the 1930s struggled to develop an adequate model to connect class and literature. Vanishing Moments’ unique combination of a broad historical scope and in-depth readings makes it an essential book for scholars and students of American literature and culture, as well as for political scientists, economists, and humanists.
Eric Schocket is Associate Professor of American Literature at Hampshire College.
“An important book containing many brilliant arguments—hard-hitting and original. Schocket demonstrates a sophisticated acquaintance with issues within the working-class studies movement.”
--Barbara Foley, Rutgers University
Acting as poetic records of light, the poems in Variations on Dawn and Dusk follow the sun as it warms, cools, colors, and shifts the space of Robert Irwin’s untitled (dawn to dusk) in the desert of Marfa, TX. Built on the footprint of the town’s old hospital, Irwin’s permanent installation is a remarkable structure with walls, windows, and screens that both capture and are taken over by the sun’s changing light. Through this deeply engaged ekphrasis, Dan Beachy-Quick uses language to participate in the overpowering elegance of Irwin’s structure. The poet’s fervent observations lead us in cycles of meditation, moving with the light that slides through the surfaces of the installation. Here, the very foundation of our vision—light—forms the vocabulary from which these poems are built.
Building from Irwin’s use of rhythm and structure, the poems in this collection are constructed with an architectural framework. Rhythmic procedures inversely link the first and last words of the first and last lines of each poem and tie the number of lines to the number of syllables in the first line. These structures form a pattern, a thoughtful consistency through which we are invited to move and meditate with each variation of light.
A broad treatment of the cultural, social, political, and literary under-pinnings of an entire period and movement in American letters
The Vast and Terrible Drama is a critical study of the context in which authors such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Jack London created their most significant work. In 1896 Frank Norris wrote: "Terrible things must happen to the characters of the naturalistic tale. They must be twisted from the ordinary . . . and flung into the throes of a vast and terrible drama." There could be "no teacup tragedies here." This volume broadens our understanding of literary naturalism as a response to these and other aesthetic concerns of the 19th century.
Themes addressed include the traditionally close connection between French naturalism and American literary naturalism; relationships between the movement and the romance tradition in American literature, as well as with utopian fictions of the 19th century; narrative strategies employed by the key writers; the dominant naturalist theme of determinism; and textual readings that provide broad examples of the role of the reader. By examining these and other aspects of American literary naturalism, Link counters a century of criticism that has perhaps viewed literary naturalism too narrowly, as a subset of realism, bound by the conventions of realistic narration.
Vaudeville Humor: The Collected Jokes, Routines, and Skits of Ed Lowry contains vaudeville jokes, skits, and routines from the first three decades of the twentieth century originally compiled by comedian Ed Lowry (1896– 1983). Although occasionally found in bits and pieces in anthologies and in some period dramatic comedies, vaudeville humor has never before been available in one collection— performers rarely if ever kept a record of their jokes and routines. Fortunately, Ed Lowry was an inveterate collector. He kept copious notebooks of jokes and routines that he not only commissioned but also stole from other comics, clipped from newspapers, and copied from now defunct popular magazines of the day.
Editor Paul M. Levitt has reorganized the material into categories that preserve some of the flavor of Lowry’ s scrapbooks yet provide for finer distinctions. Part one, “ Jokes,” is organized by subject matter and cataloged by genre, dialects, and wordplay. From “ Accidents” to “ Work,” this exhaustive catalog of humor features over one thousand jokes with topics that range from city slickers and country hicks through midgets and old maids to Swedes and tattoos. Part two, “ MC Material: Biz, Jokes, Routines, and Skits” is germane to the job of master of ceremonies, routines, and skits. It features topics from fractured fairy tales to stuttering. Part three, an appendix, “ Ed Lowry Laffter,” reproduces a privately published collection that is now a rare collector’ s item.
“ Although some of the jokes can undoubtedly be found in other places,” explains Levitt in his introduction, “ I know of no source as rich as this one for the twenties and thirties, a period so abundant in humor that for years afterward it fueled radio, cinema, and television.”
Veil and Burn
Laurie Clements Lambeth University of Illinois Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3612.A54673V45 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Concerned with physical experience, pain, and disability, Veil and Burn illuminates an intense desire to feel through the Other, embrace it, become it, and in the transformation, to understand the suffering body. In poems about animals, artifacts, and monsters, Lambeth displays a fascination for all bodies while exploring their pain, common fate, alienation, and abilities. Hovering between poem and prose fragment, between the self and fellow creatures, Laurie Clements Lambeth celebrates physical sensation, imbuing it with lyric shape, however broken, however imprisoned the shape may be.
Nancy Krygowski University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS3611.R915V45 2007 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Velocity time travels through memory and conjecture, yet Krygowski's poems--often sad, sometimes humorous, always generous--return us continually to the beautiful and difficult here-and-now. Lovingly grounded in the ordinary, these are thinking poems--tightly crafted, accessible inquiries more interested in exploring stark and complicated knowledge than in proclaiming it. The poems, which use a sister's death as a touchstone, dwell in the overlap of emotions. Loss touches happiness, desire touches fear, love touches futile knowing. Krygowski's unstoppable energy for seeking and revealing disparate thoughts and emotions makes the collection wholly human. This fresh, surprising voice speaks for the intelligent heart in each of us.
"A most remarkable book . . . a wonderful account of an odd and unlikely place where for a brief time a small number of people pursued a romantic vision of what a life dedicated to art should be like . . . a superb story."ÐÐWilliam O'Neill, author of American High: The Years of Confidence, 1945-1960
The beatnik was born in Venice, California, in the 1950s. An imaginary figure in many respectsÐÐthe invention of both the media and the people who played the beatnik roleÐÐthe character quickly assumed nearly mythic proportions for the American public. Coffeehouses, beards, poetry, drugs, and free-wheeling sexuality were all associated with the beatnik, the quintessential rebel who, by rejecting material values, represented both a threat and an alluring alternative to the dominant middle-class culture.
In this fascinating book, John Arthur Maynard tells the story of the poets and promoters who invented the Beat Generation and who, in many cases, destroyed themselves in the process. In this look at the least remembered (but in its time, most publicized) beat enclave, Maynard focuses on two of Venice's most newsworthy residentsÐÐLawrence Lipton and Stuart Z. Perkoff. Lipton began as a writer of popular detective stories and screenplays, but was determined to be recognized as a poet and social critic. He eventually published The Holy Barbarians, which helped to create the enduring public image of the beatnik. Stuart Perkoff was a more gifted poet; with fascination and horror, we follow his failed attempts to support his family, his heroin addiction, his first wive's courage and mental fragility, his sexual entanglements, his imprisonment, and the development of his own writing. Other characters who move in and out of the story are Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, as well as lesser-known poets, artists, hangers-on, and the many women who were rarely treated as full members of the community.
For most of the 1950s, the Venice beatniks were able to live and work in isolation. Once the media decided that beats made good copy, however, their peace was shattered. Reporters, drug dealers, violent criminals, and would-be beatniks invaded Venice in such force that many "square" residents began an unrelenting campaign to purge their community of bohemianism. This campaign persisted long after the beats, who tended to ignore politics, had yielded the stage to a new generation of political activists. In this collective biography, based largely on unpublished sources, Maynard tells us how these events affected public perceptions and the beats' own perceptions of themselves.
In her sixth book of poems, Carol Frost gives a bravura performance as metaphorist and deft artist. Her poems are an inquiry into morals and mystery: she explores love, lust, pleasure, loneliness, regret, and envy, while voicing a longing for love that cannot be sustained. Frost is a thoroughly original poet whose artistic project is unique in American poetry, and this is her best work.
This collection of poems by Jesús Papoleto Meléndez reads as a poetic autobiography of a hopeless romantic. Borracho invites us to find the essence of a man’s character laid bare in the foibles of his desire and passionate pursuit of love. Spanning the poet’s fifty-year career, this volume of fifty love poems takes us on a journey through the poet’s winding paths of love and life. Beginning with poems dedicated to his mother and father, the cascading style of Meléndez’s verse strings together a series of vignettes within a flowing narrative of the poet’s life in love. They offer lyrical glimpses into the struggle to find love and into a life lived in deep connection, and they lead us to bittersweet moments in the company of an aging man. The poems spring from times of exhilarating joy, sinking darkness, and painful absence, taking us on a journey through love’s highs and lows.
This bilingual edition, with Spanish translations by Carolina Fung Feng, invites us to fall in and out of the winding complexities of love. Anyone who has navigated love and loss will find some affinity with these poems and a sense of companionship with the poet.
The Very Thought of Herbert Blau
Clark Lunberry and Joseph Roach, Editors University of Michigan Press, 2018 Library of Congress PN2287.B456 | Dewey Decimal 792.0232092
Herbert Blau (1926–2013) was the most influential theater theorist, practitioner, and educator of his generation. He was the leading American interpreter of the works of Samuel Beckett and as a director was instrumental in introducing works of the European avant-garde to American audiences. He was also one of the most far-reaching and thoughtful American theorists of theater and performance, and author of influential books such as The Dubious Spectacle, The Audience, and Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point.
In The Very Thought of Herbert Blau, distinguished artists and scholars offer reflections on what made Blau's contributions so visionary, transformative, and unforgettable, and why his ideas endure in both seminar rooms and studios. The contributors, including Lee Breuer, Sue-Ellen Case, Gautam Dasgupta, Elin Diamond, S. E. Gontarski, Linda Gregerson, Martin Harries, Bill Irwin, Julia Jarcho, Anthony Kubiak, Daniel Listoe, Clark Lunberry, Bonnie Marranca, Peggy Phelan, Joseph Roach, Richard Schechner, Morton Subotnick, Julie Taymor, and Gregory Whitehead, respond to Blau's fierce and polymorphous intellect, his relentless drive and determination, and his audacity, his authority, to think, as he frequently insisted, "at the very nerve ends of thought."
At the heart of human existence lie fundamental questions that are pondered by philosophers, theologians, poets and thoughtful people from all walks of life. What is the meaning of life? Who or what is a divine being? How can a benevolent deity justify human suffering? Such questions are especially relevant to our lives in the current climate of American society. In Vespers: American Poems of Religion and Spirituality, editors Virgil Suárez and Ryan G. Van Cleave offer the reading world a timely anthology of powerful and passionate poems that cut to the heart of our contemporary theological and spiritual underpinnings.
Featuring fifty of today's most respected American poets, including Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Dunn and Carolyn Kizer, Vespers allows us to witness and understand the challenging ideas and philosophies surrounding religion and spirituality. Through these poems, we can come to a better understanding of who, what, and why we are.
From deathbed spirituals to initiation songs, transformative ballads to transcendent sonnets, poets of myriad backgrounds—Native American, African American, Asian American, Latino, Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish—echo the thoughts, concerns, and fears that linger in our souls. Their poems help us realize that we are not alone, that we're never truly alone, that even in the face of darkness the world is vibrant, beautiful, joyous.
More than a creative exploration of theological concerns—Vespers is a roadmap of where we've been, where we are, and where we are heading in terms of our spiritual and religious existence. It will keep you company, good company, whatever your religious or spiritual background.
"I may dare to speak, and I intend to speak and write what I think," wrote a New York volunteer serving in the Mexican War in 1848. Such sentiments of resistance and confrontation run throughout the literature produced by veteran Americans in the nineteenth century -- from prisoner-of-war narratives and memoirs to periodicals, adventure pamphlets, and novels. Military men and women were active participants in early American print culture, yet they struggled against civilian prejudice about their character, against shifting collective memories that removed military experience from the nation's self-definition, and against a variety of headwinds in the uneven development of antebellum print culture.
In this new literary history of early American veterans, Benjamin Cooper reveals how soldiers and sailors from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War demanded, through their writing, that their value as American citizens and authors be recognized. Relying on an archive of largely understudied veteran authors, Cooper situates their perspective against a civilian monopoly in defining American citizenship and literature that endures to this day.
Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men: Affect and Animals in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture by Keridiana W. Chez is the first monograph located at the intersection of animal and affect studies to examine how gender is produced via the regulation of interspecies relationships. Looking specifically at the development of the human-dog relationship, Chez argues that the bourgeoisie fostered connections with canine companions in order to mediate and regulate gender dynamics in the family. As Chez shows, the aim of these new practices was not to use animals as surrogates to fill emotional vacancies but rather to incorporate them as “emotional prostheses.”
Chez traces the evolution of the human-dog relationship as it developed parallel to an increasingly imperialist national discourse. The dog began as the affective mediator of the family, then addressed the emotional needs of its individual members, and finally evolved into both “man’s best friend” and worst enemy. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the porous human-animal boundary served to produce the “humane” man: a liberal subject enabled to engage in aggressive imperial projects. Reading the work of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Margaret Marshall Saunders, Bram Stoker, and Jack London, Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men charts the mobilization of affect through transatlantic narratives, demonstrating the deep interconnections between animals, affect, and gender.
The subject of Victorian Domesticity is family life in America. The life and works of Louisa May Alcott served as the vehicle for exploring and analyzing this subject. Although Alcott was deeply influenced by popular currents of sentimentality, her own experience exposed her to the confusions and contradictions generated when sentiment confronted the reality of life in 19th-century America.
In the first chapter Strickland outlines the ways in which sentimentality colored the perception of 19th-century Americans about such issues as courtship, marriage, the relationship between the sexes, generational relationships, and the relationship between the nuclear family and the community outside the family. Chapters two and three trace Alcott’s childhood and adolescent experiences, exploring the tensions that developed between Louisa and her father, and detailing the ways in which she carried the double burden of being both poor and female as she sought her identity as a writer.
The following six chapters treat the varieties of family life that appear in Alcott’s stories, the impact of feminism on her life, and her emphasis on the importance of child nurture. In the final two chapters the author treats the relationships that Alcott perceived between the family and the world around it and assesses the legacy of the Victorian family idea.
View from a Temporary Window
Joanie Mackowski University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS3613.A2735V54 2010 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
“Joanie Mackowski's hypnotizing View from a Temporary Window is filled with Kafka-like transformations and metamorphoses and haunted by a sense of the body's strangeness. She writes in a relaxed and lucid manner that pays scrupulous attention to both the imaginary and the real, and to what is uncanny in each.”—John L. Koethe
Through careful analysis of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Omar Swartz argues that Kerouac’s influence on American society is largely rhetorical. Kerouac’s significance as a cultural icon can be best understood, Swartz asserts, in terms of traditional rhetorical practices and principles.
To Swartz, Kerouac is a rhetor who symbolically reconstructs his world and offers arguments and encouragements for others to follow. Swartz proposes that On the Road constitutes a “rhetorical vision,” a reality-defining discourse suggesting alternative possibilities for growth and change. Swartz asserts that the reader of Kerouac’s On theRoadbecomes capable of responding to the larger, confusing culture in a strategic manner. Kerouac's rhetorical vision of an alternative social and cultural reality contributes to the identity of localized cultures within the United States.
View from True North
Sara Henning Southern Illinois University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3608.E564536A6 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Winner, High Plains Book Award Poetry, 2019
Winner, George Bogin Memorial Award, 2019
In these edgy poems of witness, Sara Henning’s speaker serves as both conduit and curator of the destructive legacies of alcoholism and multigenerational closeting. Considering the impact of addiction and sexual repression in the family and on its individual members, Henning explores with deft compassion the psychological ramifications of traumas across multiple generations.
With the starling as an unspoken trope for victims who later perpetuate the cycle of abuse, suffering and shame became forces dangerous enough to down airliners. The strands Henning weaves—violent relationships, the destructive effects of long-term closeting, and the pall that shame casts over entire lives—are hauntingly epiphanic. And yet these feverish lyric poems find a sharp beauty in their grieving, where Rolling Stone covers and hidden erotic photographs turn into talismans of regret and empathy. After the revelation that her deceased grandfather was a closeted homosexual “who lived two lives,” Henning considers the lasting effects of shame in regard to the silence, oppression, and erasure of sexual identity, issues that are of contemporary concern to the LGBTQIA community. Even through “the dark / earth encircling us,” Henning’s speaker wonders if there isn’t some way out of a place “where my body / is just another smoke-stung / dirge of survival,” if, in the end, love won’t be victorious.
Part eyewitness testimony, part autoethnography, this book of memory and history, constantly seeking and yearning, is full of poems “too brutal and strange to suffer / [their] way anywhere but home.”
Looking at the narrative accounts of mob violence produced by vigilantes and their advocates as “official” histories, Lisa Arellano shows how these nonfiction narratives conformed to a common formula whose purpose was to legitimate frontier justice and lynching.
In Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs, Arellano closely examines such narratives as well as the work of Western historian and archivist Hubert Howe Bancroft, who was sympathetic to them, and that of Ida B. Wells, who wrote in fierce opposition to lynching. Tracing the creation, maintenance, and circulation of dominant, alternative, and oppositional vigilante stories from the nineteenth-century frontier through the Jim Crow South, she casts new light on the role of narrative in creating a knowable past.
Demonstrating how these histories ennobled the actions of mobs and rendered their leaders and members as heroes, Arellano presents a persuasive account of lynching’s power to create the conditions favorable to its own existence.
After spending three years in The National Theatre of the Deaf performing plays by hearing authors featuring hearing characters, Willy Conley realized that he wanted to write plays with deaf, hard-of- hearing, and hearing characters created from the Deaf perspective. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the result of his desire in twelve masterful plays.
“I write for the eye, always searching for live, mobile, provocative images that would fill and illuminate the entire stage space with the complexities, the pathos, and the humor involved when deaf and hearing cultures merge or collide,” writes Conley in his introduction. His plays depict a wide range of Deaf characters, including two brothers locked in a tragic rivalry familiar to families of all backgrounds; the broadly comedic Deaf Guide and hearing Techie interspersing laughs with cultural lessons in their Museum of Signs for People with Communication Disorders; Everyone searching for her Good Deeds as she faces imminent Death in an updating of the classic morality play, plus many others. These works explore a broad palette of circumstances with and without hearing characters, allowing Deaf characters to interact minus the direct influence that the dominant culture might exert. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the drama and passion of a master playwright who, through his perceptions, reveals facets of the Deaf character in all of us.
Violet America takes on the long habit among literary historians and critics of thinking about large segments of American literary production in terms of regionalism. Jason Arthur argues that classifying broad swaths of American literature as regionalist or “local color” writing brings with it a set of assumptions, informed by longstanding habits of thought about American culture, that marginalize important literary works and deform our understanding of them. Moreover, these assumptions reinforce our ideas about the divisions between city and country, coast and center, cosmopolitan and provincial that lie behind not only our literature, but our politics.
Against this common view, Violet America demonstrates just how cosmopolitan the regional impulse can be. In the works of James Agee, Jack Kerouac, Maxine Hong Kingston, Russell Banks, and Jonathan Franzen, the regional impulse yields narratives about the interdependence between privilege and poverty, mainstream and margin, urban and rural. These narratives counteract the polarizing cultural lens that, when unquestioned, sees the red-state/blue-state geography of twenty-first-century America as natural. Tracking the evolution of this impulse to depolarize, Violet America develops a literary history of “regional cosmopolitanism,” a key urge of which is to represent the interconnectedness of the local, the national, and the global. Writers incorporating this perspective redress the blight of America’s neglected places and peoples without also falling victim to the stigmas of being purely regional in their scope and interest. Rather than simply celebrating regional difference, the regional cosmopolitan fiction that Arthur discusses blends the nation’s cultural polarities into a connected, interdependent America.
Arguing that limited nationalist perspectives have circumscribed the critical scope of American Studies scholarship, Virtual Americas advocates a comparative criticism that illuminates the work of well-known literary figures by defamiliarizing it—placing it in unfamiliar contexts. Paul Giles looks at a number of canonical nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers by focusing on their interactions with British culture. He demonstrates how American authors from Herman Melville to Thomas Pynchon have been compulsively drawn to negotiate with British culture so that their nationalist agendas have emerged, paradoxically, through transatlantic dialogues. Virtual Americas ultimately suggests that conceptions of national identity in both the United States and Britain have emerged through engagement with—and, often, deliberate exclusion of—ideas and imagery emanating from across the Atlantic.
Throughout Virtual Americas Giles focuses on specific examples of transatlantic cultural interactions such as Frederick Douglass’s experiences and reputation in England; Herman Melville’s satirizing fictions of U.S. and British nationalism; and Vladimir Nabokov’s critique of European high culture and American popular culture in Lolita. He also reverses his perspective, looking at the representation of San Francisco in the work of British-born poet Thom Gunn and Sylvia Plath’s poetic responses to England. Giles develops his theory about the need to defamiliarize the study of American literature by considering the cultural legacy of Surrealism as an alternative genealogy for American Studies and by examining the transatlantic dimensions of writers such as Henry James and Robert Frost in the context of Surrealism.
This collection breaks new ground in the area of gender studies both because it creates a name for gender fantasy--virtual gender--that introduces a new understanding of the concept, and in expanding the idea of virtuality to include people and events in history. The essays in Virtual Gender help identify and name the persistent cultural desire for an imaginative space in which to "put on" alternative gender identities, while examining as well the equally persistent and consequent critique of that desire.
The sweep of the volume's coverage is impressive, ranging across historical periods and academic disciplines, as contributors consider the place of the body in gender fantasy and the consequences of gender fantasy for real people and real bodies. The essays investigate figures and topics including Amelia Earhart, soap-opera chat groups, Elizabeth I, mesmerism, lesbianism in the early modern period, cybergames, women in the federalist period, the transgendered body, and performance art. Also examined are the status of embodiment, the origins of gender, gender politics, the pains of subjectivity, the uses of utopian fantasy, technological advances and information technology, the experience of gendered communities, and the role of gender in global politics.
Contributors include Harriette Andreadis, Seyla Benhabib, Charlotte Canning, Bernice Hausman, Janel Mueller, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Kay Schaffer, Sidonie Smith, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Helen F. Thompson, Lynne Vallone, and Robyn Warhol. The book will appeal to an interdisciplinary audience of scholars, critics, and students with interests in gender, identity, and cyberculture.
Mary Ann O'Farrell is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University. Lynne Vallone is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University.
In Virtual Modernism, Katherine Biers offers a fresh view of the emergence of American literary modernism from the eruption of popular culture in the early twentieth century. Employing dynamic readings of the works of Stephen Crane, Henry James, James Weldon Johnson, Djuna Barnes, and Gertrude Stein, she argues that American modernist writers developed a “poetics of the virtual” in response to the rise of mass communications technologies before World War I. These authors’ modernist formal experimentation was provoked by the immediate, individualistic pleasures and thrills of mass culture. But they also retained a faith in the representational power of language—and the worth of common experience—more characteristic of realism and naturalism. In competition with new media experiences such as movies and recorded music, they simultaneously rejected and embraced modernity.
Biers establishes the virtual poetics of these five writers as part of a larger “virtual turn” in the United States, when a fascination with the writings of Henri Bergson, William James, and vitalist philosophy—and the idea of virtual experience—swept the nation. Virtual Modernism contends that a turn to the virtual experience of language was a way for each of these authors to carve out a value for the literary, both with and against the growth of mass entertainments. This technologically inspired reengagement with experience was formative for American modernism.
Situated at the crossing points of literary criticism, philosophy, media studies, and history, Virtual Modernism provides an examination of Progressive Era preoccupations with the cognitive and corporeal effects of new media technologies that traces an important genealogy of present-day concerns with virtuality.
Visionary of the Word brings together the latest scholarship on Herman Melville’s treatment of religion across his long career as a writer of fiction and poetry. The volume suggests the broad range of Melville’s religious concerns, including his engagement with the denominational divisions of American Christianity, his dialogue with transatlantic currents in nineteenth-century religious thought, his consideration of theological and philosophical questions related to the problem of evil and determinism versus free will, and his representation of the global contact among differing faiths and cultures. These essays constitute a capacious response to the many avenues through which Melville interacted with religious faith, doubt, and secularization throughout his career, advancing our understanding of Melville as a visionary interpreter of religious experience who remains resonant in our own religiously complex era.
For many years, America cherished its image as a Golden Door for the world’s oppressed. But during the Progressive Era, mounting racial hostility along with new national legislation that imposed strict restrictions on immigration began to show the nation in a different light. The literature of this period reflects the controversy and uncertainty that abounded regarding the meaning of “American.” Literary output participated in debates about restriction, assimilation, and whether the idea of the “Melting Pot” was worth preserving. Writers advocated—and also challenged—what emerged as a radical new way of understanding the nation’s ethnic and racial identity: cultural pluralism.
From these debates came such novels as Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Carl Sandburg added to the diversity of viewpoints of native born Americans while equally divergent immigrant perspectives were represented by writers such as Anzia Yezierska, Kahlil Gibran, and Claude McKay. This anthology presents the writing of these authors, among others less well known, to show the many ways literature participated in shaping the face of immigration. The volume also includes an introduction, annotations, a timeline, and historical documents that contextualize the literature.
In this ambitious and imaginative study, Margaretta M. Lovell analyzes the large body of accomplished, sometimes startling, often brilliant work of American artists drawn to Venice's ragged splendor in the last century. Including major works by such diverse and talented painters as James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Maurice Prendergast, these richly varied paintings portray sleepy canals, architectural monuments, and scenes of picturesque everyday life while they also reveal surprising aspects of American culture.
Loved for his decidedly American voice, for his painterly rendering of modern urban settings, and for his ability to re-imagine a living language shaped by the philosophy of “no ideas but in things,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) left an indelible mark on modern poetry. As each successive generation of poets discovers the “new” that lives within his work, his durability and expansiveness make him an influential poet for the twenty-first century as well. The one hundred and two poems by one hundred and two poets collected in Visiting Dr. Williams demonstrate the range of his influence in ways that permanently echo and amplify the transcendent music of his language.
Contributors include: Robert Creeley, David Wojahn, Maxine Kumin, James Laughlin, A. R. Ammons, Wendell Berry, Heid Erdrich, Frank O’Hara, Lyn Lifshin, Denise Levertov, Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, and a host of others.
Jim Barnes University of Illinois Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3552.A67395V57 2007 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Jim Barnes’s familiarity with the European poetic traditions has been deepened through long periods spent in France, Germany, and Italy, and through his translations of European poetry. In Visiting Picasso he repays Europe for its gifts to him in a series of poems that evoke the lush poetic history that ties European culture together, sometimes darkly. A heightened sense of place and purpose infuses the poems of Visiting Picasso with meaning drawn from actual landscapes, events, and observations.
The Vital Lie is the first book to examine the reality-illusion conflict in modern drama from Ibsen to present-day playwrights. The book questions why vital lies, lies necessary for life itself, are such an obsessive concern for playwrights of the last hundred years. Using the work of fifteen playwrights, Abbott seeks to discover if modern playwrights treat illusions as helpful or necessary to life, or as signals of sicknesses from which human beings need to be cured. What happens to characters when they are forced to face the truth about themselves and their worlds without the protection of their illusions? The author develops a three-part historical analysis of the use of the reality-illusion theme, from its origins as a metaphysical search to its current elaborations as a theatrical game.
Vitality Politics focuses on a slow racial violence against African Americans through everyday, accumulative, contagious, and toxic attritions on health. The book engages with recent critical disability studies scholarship to recognize that debility, or the targeted maiming and distressing of Black populations, is a largely unacknowledged strategy of the U.S. liberal multicultural capitalist state. This politicization of biological health serves as an instrument for insisting on a racial state of exception in which African Americans’ own unhealthy habits and disease susceptibility justifies their legitimate suspension from full rights to social justice, economic opportunity, and political freedom and equality. The book brings together disability studies, Black Studies, and African American literary history as it highlights the urgent need and gives weight to a biopolitics of debilitation and medicalization to better understand how Black lives are made not to matter in our supposedly race-neutral multicultural democracy.
There is no one else like Ed Roberson—certainly there is no other poet like him. His is an oblique, eccentric, totally fascinating talent. Because of these qualities, it may seem that he is difficult to follow—as Ornette Coleman or Gabriel García Márquez or Romare Beardon seems difficult to track at times. But his strength of vision is always evident; the quickness and inclusiveness of his voice can sweep a reader along into new and refreshing areas.
Roberson's poetic moves are not tricks or affected traits. They are artistic and deeply considered techniques. Reading the two basic cycles of this elliptical and intriguing work could be likened to reading Ezra Pound or a more deliberate and lyrically touched Charles Olson, but with an unanchored allusiveness of things largely American taking the place of the Chinese and the Mayan. Roberson creates that rare combination of sophistication and simplicity which defines truly significant poetry. In this new work he makes the variety of our culture dance from his very special viewpoint.
What has gone wrong with discourse and deliberation in the United States? It remains monologic, argues Patricia Roberts-Miller in Voices in the Wilderness, which traces America’s dominant form of argumentation back to its roots in the rhetorical tradition of 17th-century American Puritans. A work of composition theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural criticism, this volume ultimately provides not only new approaches to argumentation and the teaching of rhetoric, composition, and communication but also an original perspective on the current debate over public discourse
Both Jürgen Habermas and Wayne Booth—two of the most influential theorists in the domain of public discourse and good citizenry—argue for an inclusive public deliberation that involves people who are willing to listen to one another, to identify points of agreement and disagreement, and to make good faith attempts to validate any disputed claims. The Puritan voice crying in the wilderness, Roberts-Miller shows, does none of these things. To this individual of conscience engaged in a ceaseless battle of right and wrong against greedy philistines, all inclusion, mediation, and reciprocity are seen as evil, corrupting, and unnecessary. Hence, the voice in the wilderness does not in any real sense participate in public deliberation, only in public pronouncement.
Arguing that our culture’s continuing affection for the ethos of the voice crying in the wilderness is one of our more troubling inheritances from the early American ambivalence to public discourse—including the Puritan denigration of rhetoric—Roberts-Miller contends that the monologic discourse of the Puritans in fact contains within it arguments for dialogism. Thus, the history of rhetoric can provide much richer fields for reimagining discourse than heretofore credited. Roberts-Miller concludes by extending her findings into their practical applications for argumentation in the public sphere and in the composition classroom.
How is a nation brought into being? In a detailed examination of crucial texts of eighteenth-century American literature, Christopher Looby argues that the United States was self-consciously enacted through the spoken word. Historical material informs and animates theoretical texts by Derrida, Lacan, and others as Looby unravels the texts of Benjamin Franklin, Charles Brockden Brown, and Hugh Henry Brackenridge and connects them to nation-building, political discourse, and self-creation. Correcting the strong emphasis on the importance of print culture in eighteenth-century America, Voicing America uncovers the complex process of early American writers articulating their new nation and reveals a body of literature and a political discourse thoroughly concerned with the power of vocal language.
Mark Wagenaar University of Wisconsin Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3623.A3523V66 2012 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In this debut collection, Voodoo Inverso, Mark Wagenaar composes a startling mystical imagism and sets it to music, using self-portraits to explore differing physical and spiritual landscapes. He uses a variety of personae—a victim of sex trafficking in Amsterdam, a fichera dancer, a portrait haunted by Dante, a carillonneur of starlight, an elephant in pink slippers remembering its beloved—to silhouette the intricacies and frailties of the body and the world. In a series of “gospels” and “histories”—such as the poems “History of Ecstasy” and “Moth Hour Gospel”—he shines a light on the possibilities of transcendence and transfiguration, weaving together memory and loss with desire and hope.