“I have read all of Daniel Aaron’s books, and admired them, but in The Americanist I believe he has composed an intellectual and social memoir for which he will be remembered. His self-portrait is marked by personal tact and admirable restraint: he is and is not its subject. The Americanist is a vision of otherness: literary and academic friends and acquaintances, here and abroad. Eloquently phrased and free of nostalgia, it catches a lost world that yet engendered much of our own.”
“The Americanist is the absorbing intellectual autobiography of Daniel Aaron, who is the leading proponent and practitioner of American Studies. Written with grace and wit, it skillfully blends Daniel Aaron’s personal story with the history of the field he has done so much to create. This is a first-rate book by a first-rate scholar.”
—David Herbert Donald, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
The Americanist is author and critic Daniel Aaron’s anthem to nearly a century of public and private life in America and abroad. Aaron, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of American Studies, graduated from the University of Michigan, received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and taught for over three decades each at Smith College and Harvard.
Aaron writes with unsentimental nostalgia about his childhood in Los Angeles and Chicago and his later academic career, which took him around the globe, often in the role of America’s accidental yet impartial critic. When Walt Whitman, whom Aaron frequently cites as a touchstone, wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes,” he could have been describing Daniel Aaron—the consummate erudite and Renaissance individual whose allegiance to the truth always outweighs mere partisan loyalty.
Not only should Aaron’s book stand as a resplendent and summative work from one of the finest thinkers of the last hundred years, it also succeeds on its own as a first-rate piece of literature, on a par with the writings of any of its subjects. The Americanist is a veritable Who’s Who of twentieth-century writers Aaron interviewed, interacted with, or otherwise encountered throughout his life: Ralph Ellison, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Richard Hofstadter, Alfred Kazin, Sinclair Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Crowe Ransom, Upton Sinclair, Edmund Wilson, Leonard Woolf, and W. B. Yeats, to name only a few.
Aaron’s frank and personal observations of these literary lights make for lively reading. As well, scattered throughout The Americanist are illuminating portraits of American presidents living and passed—miniature masterworks of astute political observation that offer dazzlingly fresh approaches to well-trod subjects.
In Aubade: A Teacher's Notebook Fowlie writes at length of his life as a teacher at Duke University, his friendships with students and colleagues, his appreciation of movies, plays, travels, friends and books he has enjoyed and that have enhanced his life. This is an account of the life of a dedicated teacher who is also a writer-critic. Fowlie assesses his own sense of identity and the manner in which he transmits the values his studies have for him to his students through major literary texts. Aubade delineates Fowlies discovery, via his students, of the forms of a new culture arising alongside the old, which he integrates into his own intellectual life, broadening its horizons.
The late Austin Warren was one of the most distinguished literary scholars of the twentieth century, well known as a biographer, literary critic, and teacher. He retired from the University of Michigan English Department in 1968 after twenty years on the faculty. Warren's memoir ends at age forty, because, as he explains in the preface, the most interesting part of anyone's life is the formative years.
He begins with his childhood in Massachusetts and education at Wesleyan, Harvard, and Princeton, and ends with reflections on the problems of integrating his profession, teaching, with his vocation, writing. The journey in between is extraordinary, a re-creation of the scholar's search for identity, religion, wisdom, and a new vision of the role of a teacher.
Warren "forged his soul when others weren't looking," writes Russell Fraser in his foreword to the book. He grew up on a lonely New England farm, went to a school where he learned to hate even Shakespeare, and entered college without enthusiasm. But the history of his education, as is often the case, was one first of rescue by inspiring mentors, then of outgrowing those mentors, and finally of forging a vision of his own. By the 1930s he had shaken up classrooms by abandoning formal lectures and become an inspiration in his own right.
A singular personality who never stopped searching for meaningful spirituality and a wider intellectual world, Austin Warren was among the most important scholars of the twentieth century. His memoirs of "becoming" are an elegant and absorbing chronicle.
Offering all of the extant letters exchanged by two of the twentieth century's most distinguished literary figures, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate: Collected Letters, 1933-1976 vividly depicts the remarkable relationship, both professional and personal, between Brooks and Tate over the course of their lifelong friendship.
An accomplished poet, critic, biographer, and teacher, Allen Tate had a powerful influence on the literary world of his era. Editor of the Fugitive and the Sewanee Review, Tate greatly affected the lives and careers of his fellow literati, including Cleanth Brooks. Esteemed coeditor of An Approach to Literature and Understanding Poetry, Brooks was one of the principal creators of the New Criticism. His Modern Poetry and the Tradition and The Well Wrought Urn, as well as his two-volume study of Faulkner, remain among the classics read by any serious student of literature. The correspondence between these two gentlemen-scholars, which began in the 1930s, extended over five decades and covered a vast amount of twentieth-century literary history.
In the more than 250 letters collected here, the reader will encounter their shared concerns for and responses to the work of their numerous friends and many prominent writers, including T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and Robert Lowell. Their letters offer details about their own developing careers and also provide striking insight into the group dynamics of the Agrarians, the noteworthy community of southern writers who played so influential a role in the literature of modernism.
Brooks once said that Tate treated him like a younger brother, and despite great differences between their personalities and characters, these two figures each felt deep brotherly affection for the other. Whether they contain warm invitations for the one to visit the other, genteel or honest commentaries on their families and friends, or descriptions of the vast array of social, professional, and even political activities each experienced, the letters of Brooks and Tate clearly reveal the personalities of both men and the powerful ties of their strong camaraderie.
Invaluable to both students and teachers of literature, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate provides a substantial contribution to the study of twentieth-century American, and particularly southern, literary history.
At once a revered canon associated with Confucius and the earliest anthology of poetry, the Book of Poems holds a unique place in Chinese literary history. Since early imperial times it served as an ideal of literary perfection, as it provided a basis for defining shi poetry, the most esteemed genre of elite composition. In imperial China, however, literary criticism and classical learning represented distinct fields of inquiry that differed in status, with classical learning considered more serious and prestigious. Literary critics thus highlighted connections between the Book of Poems and later verse, while classical scholars obscured the origins of their ideas in literary theory.
This book explores the mutual influence of literary and classicizing approaches, which frequently and fruitfully borrowed from one another. Drawing on a wide range of sources including commentaries, anthologies, colophons, and inscriptions, Bruce Rusk chronicles how scholars borrowed from critics without attribution and even resorted to forgery to make appealing new ideas look old. By unraveling the relationships through which classical and literary scholarship on the Book of Poems co-evolved from the Han dynasty through the Qing, this study shows that the ancient classic was the catalyst for intellectual innovation and literary invention.
Contributors. Julia Balen, Dana Beckelman, Ellen Brown, Sandra M. Brown, Rosanne Kanhai-Brunton, Suzanne Bunkers, Peter Carlton, Brenda Daly, Victoria Ekanger, Diane P. Freedman, Olivia Frey, Shirley Nelson Garner, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Melody Graulich, Gail Griffin, Dolan Hubbard, Kendall, Susan Koppelman, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Linda Robertson, Carol Taylor, Jane Tompkins, Cheryl Torsney, Trace Yamamoto, Frances Murphy Zauhar
Professor Luis Leal is one of the most outstanding scholars of Mexican, Latin American, and Chicano literatures and the dean of Mexican American intellectuals in the United States. He was one of the first senior scholars to recognize the viability and importance of Chicano literature, and, through his perceptive literary criticism, helped to legitimize it as a worthy field of study. His contributions to humanistic learning have brought him many honors, including Mexico's Aquila Azteca and the United States' National Humanities Medal.
In this testimonio or oral history, Luis Leal reflects upon his early life in Mexico, his intellectual formation at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, and his work and publications as a scholar at the Universities of Illinois and California, Santa Barbara. Through insightful questions, Mario García draws out the connections between literature and history that have been a primary focus of Leal's work. He also elicits Leal's assessment of many of the prominent writers he has known and studied, including Mariano Azuela, William Faulkner, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Tomás Rivera, Rolando Hinojosa, Rudolfo Anaya, Elena Poniatowska, Sandra Cisneros, Richard Rodríguez, and Ana Castillo.
Is there a plot against the life of letters today?!!!! A mysterious assailant has tied a nameless text to a railroad track near Boondock State University. While young untenured English professor Jane Marple enlists a group of odd and oddly rivalrous academicians to help her identify and save the text, a coalition of powerful conservatives begins to suspect and rally against a left-wing conspiracy. But all are foiled when the amnesiac text is abducted on the Euro-Centric Express, where Ms. Marple encounters a number of suspiciously eccentric theorists temporarily set loose from their usual haunts in Marxist, deconstructionist, new historicist, and postcolonial circles. You'll laugh with our heroine, you'll cry with her, but you'll never guess how--using the very latest technology and in the midst of sometimes sinister stage and screen celebrities--she brings the last of three thrilling episodes in the canon wars to an end at a WOW (Writers of the World) conference set in the heart of the Big Apple.
In this hilarious romp through the culture wars, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar send up everyone including, sometimes, themselves, while at the same time they speculate seriously on the future of literature and literacy in a society where both are increasingly endangered. The cast includes well-known critics, politicians, writers, pop stars, media personalities, and a juicy assortment of technocrats, CEOs, and other culture vultures. Any similarities you find between these characters and actual persons, living or dead, are probably glaring. So, hum the opening notes of Masterpiece Theatre as you sit back, relax, and consider (yes!) the fate of the printed word in Western civilization.
Masterpiece Theatre is the latest--and funniest--round in the culture wars. No member of Modern Language Association, lover of literature and literacy, cultural pundit, or talking head should be without a copy.
In such diverse fields as semiotics, literary theory, social theory, linguistics, psychology, and anthropology, Mikhail Bakhtin’s importance is increasingly recognized. His posthumous fame comes in striking contrast to his obscurity during his lifetime (1895–1975), much of it spent as a semi-invalid in a succession of provincial towns. He received no public recognition, in the Soviet Union or abroad, until the last dozen years of his long life—not surprisingly, given the historical circumstances. His books on Freudianism (1927), on Formalism (1928), and on Marxism and the philosophy of language (1929) were published as the work of others, as were a number of important essays. His study of Dostoevsky appeared under his own name but only after his arrest and sentence to exile, and it quickly disappeared from sight. Some manuscripts were never published; one was used by Bakhtin for cigarette paper. His book on Rabelais, completed in 1940, remained unpublished for twenty-five years—until, in a less repressive political climate, friends had succeeded in negotiating a reissue of the book on Dostoevsky.
The Rabelais book, when translated, caused a stir among folklorists, anthropologists, and social historians, with its theory of carnival and of ritual inversions of hierarchy. The book on Dostoevsky aroused intense interest among literary theorists in the concept of the “polyphonic novel” and the many authorial voices to be heard therein. Similarly, as Bakhtin’s other writings have appeared in translation, he has been hailed in disparate circles for his contributions to linguistic, psychoanalytic, and social theory. But among all those who have studied various aspects of Bakhtin’s work, few have been in a position, or even attempted, to assess his total achievement.
It is the great merit of Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist’s book that they have endeavored, insofar as possible, to give us the complete life and the complete works of this complex and multifaceted figure. The authors have had unique access to the Bakhtin archive in Moscow, have traced further material in other cities in Europe, and have interviewed many persons who knew Bakhtin. The phases of his life are placed in their physical and intellectual milieux, and accounts are given of the figures who made up the various “Bakhtin circles” over the years. All of the works, published and unpublished, are discussed, in the context of European philosophical movements and the currents of thought of the time. Underlying and informing Bakhtin’s particular theories in various fields was, in the authors’ view, his lifelong meditation on the relation between self and other. The philosophy he evolved has come to be called dialogism, since it conceives of the world in terms of communication and exchange. It is a world view with wide-ranging implications for the human sciences.
In his autobiography, My Many Selves, Wayne C. Booth is less concerned with his professional achievements---though the book by no means ignores his distinguished career---than with the personal vision that emerges from a long life lived thoughtfully. For Booth, even the autobiographical process becomes part of a quest to harmonize the diverse, often conflicting aspects of who he was. To see himself clearly and whole, he broke the self down, personified the fragments, uncovered their roots in his experience and background, and engaged those selves and experiences in dialogue. Basic to his story and to its lifelong concern with ethics and rhetoric was his Mormon youth in rural Utah. In adulthood he struggled with that background, abandoning most Mormon doctrines, but he retained the identity, ethical questions, and concern with communication that this upbringing gave him.
The uncommon wisdom and careful attention that empower Wayne Booth's many other books cause My Many Selves to transcend its genre, as the best memoirs always do. The book becomes a window through which we who read it will see our own conflicts, our own ongoing struggle to live honestly and ethically in the world.
Wayne Booth died in October 2005, soon after completing work on this autobiography.
Contributors. André Bazin, Robert Brustein, Bert Cardullo, Anthony DeCurtis, Don DeLillo, Jesse Ward Engdhal, Richard Gilman, Jim Hosney, Mame Hunt, Jonathan Kalb, Stanley Kauffmann, Jody McAuliffe, Mary Ann Frese Witt, Jacquelyn Wollman, David Wyatt
The period between 1920 and 1950 saw an epochal shift in the American cultural economy. The shocks of the 1929 market crash and the Second World War decimated much of the support for high modernist literature, and writers who had relied on wealthy benefactors were forced to find new protectors from the depredations of the free market. Private foundations, universities, and government organizations began to fund the arts, and in this environment writers were increasingly obliged to become critics, elucidating and justifying their work to an audience of elite administrators.
In Poet-Critics and the Administration of Culture, Evan Kindley recognizes the major role modernist poet-critics played in the transition from aristocratic patronage to technocratic cultural administration. Poet-critics developed extensive ties to a network of bureaucratic institutions and established dual artistic and intellectual identities to appeal to the kind of audiences and entities that might support their work. Kindley focuses on Anglo-American poet-critics including T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Sterling A. Brown, and R. P. Blackmur. These artists grappled with the task of being “village explainers” (as Gertrude Stein described Ezra Pound) and legitimizing literature for public funding and consumption.
Modernism, Kindley shows, created a different form of labor for writers to perform and gave them an unprecedented say over the administration of contemporary culture. The consequences for our understanding of poetry and its place in our culture are still felt widely today.
Avital Ronell has won worldwide acclaim for her work across literature and philosophy, psychoanalysis and popular culture, political theory and feminism, art and rhetoric, drugs and deconstruction. In works such as The Test Drive, Stupidity, Crack Wars, and The Telephone Book, she has perpetually raised new and powerful questions about how we think, what thinking does, and how we fool ourselves about the troubled space between thought and action.
In this collection, some of today's most distinguished and innovative thinkers turn their attention to Ronell's teaching, writing, and provocations, observing how Ronell reads and what comes from reading her. By reading Ronell, and reading Ronell reading, contributors examine the ethico-political implications of her radical dislocations and carefully explicate, extend, and explore the paraconcepts addressed in her works.
Few can match Charles Rosen's cultivation and discernment, whether as pianist, music historian, or critic. Here he gives us a performance of literary criticism as high art, a critical conjuring of the Romantic period by way of some of its central texts.
"What is the real business of the critic?" Rosen asks of George Bernard Shaw in one of his essays. It is a question he answers throughout this collection as he demonstrates and analyzes various critical approaches. In writing about the Romantic poets Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, William Cowper, and Friedrich Hölderlin, he examines the kind of criticism which attempts to uncover concealed code. He investigates the relationship between Romantic aesthetic theory and artworks, and explores the way Romantic art criticism has been practiced by critics from Friedrich Schlegel to Walter Benjamin. In essays on Honoré de Balzac, Robert Schumann, Gustave Flaubert, and others, he highlights the intersections between Romantic art and music; the artist's separation of life and artistic representations of it; and the significance of the established text.
With an apt comparison or a startling juxtaposition, Rosen opens whole worlds of insight, as in his linking of Caspar David Friedrich's landscape painting and Schumann's music, or in his review of the theory and musicology of Heinrich Schenker alongside the work of Roman Jakobson.
Throughout this volume we hear the voice of a shrewd aesthetic interpreter, performing the critic's task even as he redefines it in his sparkling fashion.
He was a servant to the public, a writer for hire. He was a hero, an author adding to the glory of his nation. But can a writer be both hack and hero? The career of Samuel Johnson, recounted here by Lawrence Lipking, proves that the two can be one. And it further proves, in its enduring interest for readers, that academic fashions today may be a bit hasty in pronouncing the "death of the author."
A book about the life of an author, about how an author is made, not born, Lipking's Samuel Johnson is the story of the man as he lived--and lives--in his work. Tracing Johnson's rocky climb from anonymity to fame, in the course of which he came to stand for both the greatness of English literature and the good sense of the common reader, the book shows how this life transformed the very nature of authorship.
Beginning with the defiant letter to Chesterfield that made Johnson a celebrity, Samuel Johnson offers fresh readings of all the writer's major works, viewed through the lens of two ongoing preoccupations: the urge to do great deeds--and the sense that bold expectations are doomed to disappointment. Johnson steers between the twin perils of ambition and despondency. Mounting a challenge to the emerging industry that glorified and capitalized on Shakespeare, he stresses instead the playwright's power to cure the illusions of everyday life. All Johnson's works reveal his extraordinary sympathy with ordinary people. In his groundbreaking Dictionary, in his poems and essays, and in The Lives of the English Poets, we see Johnson becoming the key figure in the culture of literacy that reaches from his day to our own.
With a recurring focus on how his mother’s tragic weaknesses and her compelling strengths affected his development, Awkward intersperses the chronologically arranged autobiographical sections with ruminations on his own interests in literary and cultural criticism. As a male scholar who has come under fire for describing himself as a feminist critic, he reflects on such issues as identity politics and the politics of academia, affirmative action, and the Million Man March.
By connecting his personal experiences with larger political, cultural, and professional questions, Awkward uses his life as a palette on which to blend equations of race and reading, urbanity and mutilation, alcoholism, pain, gender, learning, sex, literature, and love.
While known primarily as a cultural critic and novelist, Sontag was also a filmmaker, stage director, and dramatist. It was her status as a pop icon that was unusual for an American intellectual: she was filmed by Andy Warhol and Woody Allen, photographed by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus, and her likeness adorned advertisements for Absolut vodka. Drawing on newly available sources, including interviews with Nadine Gordimer, Robert Wilson, and Sontag’s son, David Rieff, as well as on myriad interviews given by Sontag and her extensive correspondence with her friend and publisher Roger Straus, Schreiber explores the roles that Sontag played in influencing American public cultural and political conversations.
What is law? What is it for? How should judges decide novel cases when the statutes and earlier decisions provide no clear answer? Do judges make up new law in such cases, or is there some higher law in which they discover the correct answer? Must everyone always obey the law? If not, when is a citizen morally free to disobey?
A renowned philosopher enters the debate surrounding these questions. Clearly and forcefully, Ronald Dworkin argues against the “ruling” theory in Anglo-American law—legal positivism and economic utilitarianism—and asserts that individuals have legal rights beyond those explicitly laid down and that they have political and moral rights against the state that are prior to the welfare of the majority.
Mr. Dworkin criticizes in detail the legal positivists’ theory of legal rights, particularly H. L. A. Hart’s well-known version of it. He then develops a new theory of adjudication, and applies it to the central and politically important issue of cases in which the Supreme Court interprets and applies the Constitution. Through an analysis of John Rawls’s theory of justice, he argues that fundamental among political rights is the right of each individual to the equal respect and concern of those who govern him. He offers a theory of compliance with the law designed not simply to answer theoretical questions about civil disobedience, but to function as a guide for citizens and officials. Finally, Professor Dworkin considers the right to liberty, often thought to rival and even preempt the fundamental right to equality. He argues that distinct individual liberties do exist, but that they derive, not from some abstract right to liberty as such, but from the right to equal concern and respect itself. He thus denies that liberty and equality are conflicting ideals.
Ronald Dworkin’s theory of law and the moral conception of individual rights that underlies it have already made him one of the most influential philosophers working in this area. This is the first publication of these ideas in book form.
After a chance meeting aboard the ocean liner Paris in 1924, Harvard University scholar and activist F. O. Matthiessen and artist Russell Cheney fell in love and remained inseparable until Cheney’s death in 1945. During the intervening years, the men traveled throughout Europe and the United States, achieving great professional success while contending with serious personal challenges, including addiction, chronic disease, and severe depression.
During a hospital stay, years into their relationship, Matthiessen confessed to Cheney that “never once has the freshness of your life lost any trace of its magic for me. Every day is a new discovery of your wealth.” Situating the couple’s private correspondence alongside other sources, Scott Bane tells the remarkable story of their relationship in the context of shifting social dynamics in the United States. From the vantage point of the present day, with marriage equality enacted into law, Bane provides a window into the realities faced by same-sex couples in the early twentieth century, as they maintained relationships in the face of overt discrimination and the absence of legal protections.
Donald Davidson (1893-1968) may well be the most unjustifiably neglected figure in twentieth-century southern literature. One of the most important poets of the Fugitive movement, he also produced a substantial body of literary criticism, the libretto for an American folk opera, a widely used composition textbook, and the recently discovered novel The Big Ballad Jamboree. As a social and political activist, Davidson had significant impact on conservative thought in this century, imfluencing important scholars from Cleanth Brooks to M. E. Bradford.
Despite these accomplishments, Donald Davidson has received little critical attention from either the literary or the southern scholarly community. Where No Flag Flies is Mark Royden Winchell's redress of this critical disservice. A comprehensive intellectual biography of Davidson, this seminal work offers a complete narrative of Davidson's life with all of its triumphs and losses, frustrations and fulfillments.
Winchell provides the reader with more than a simple study of a man and his achievements; he paints a complete portrait of the times in which Davidson published, from the 1930s to the early 1960s. Davidson was more directly involved in political and social activities than most writers of his generation, and Winchell provides the context, both literary and historical, in which Davidson's opinions and works developed. At the same time, Winchell offers detailed evaluations of Davidson's poetry, fiction, historical writings, and essays.
Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished archival material, including Davidson's letters and diary, Where No Flag Flies provides unique access to one of the most original minds of the twentieth-century South. Donald Davidson may not have achieved the recognition he deserved, but this remarkable biography finally makes it possible for a considerable literary audience to discover his true achievement.
In The White Savior Film, Matthew Hughey provides a cogent, multipronged analysis of this subgenre of films to investigate the underpinnings of the Hollywood-constructed images of idealized (and often idealistic) white Americans.
Hughey considers the production, distribution, and consumption of white savior films to show how the dominant messages of sacrifice, suffering, and redemption are perceived by both critics and audiences. Examining the content of fifty films, nearly 3,000 reviews, and interviews with viewer focus groups, he accounts for the popularity of this subgenre and its portrayal of "racial progress."
The White Savior Film shows how we as a society create and understand these films and how they reflect the political and cultural contexts of their time.
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