From the earliest Puritan displays of piety and rectitude to the present-day epidemic of staged school massacres, the history of America has been characterized by a dual impulse: to cast public event and character as high drama, and to dismiss theater and theatricalization as un-American, even evil. This book rethinks American history as theater, and theater as the ethos and substance of American life, ironically repudiated at every turn by the culture it produces.
Beginning with the writings of John Winthrop and others, through the Federalist and "romantic" stages of American cultural life, and into the modern and contemporary periods, Anthony Kubiak finds an America not usually discovered by traditional or materialist approaches to history. He deploys the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, the cultural theory of SlavojZizek, and the performance theory of Herbert Blau in an unparalleled reappraisal of dominant American identity, culture, and history.
Anthony Kubiak is Associate Professor of English, University of South Florida. He is also author of Stages of Terror: Terrorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theatre History.
When the Roman democratic republic fell and the monarchical empire rose, a new vocabulary of power was needed to help balance the awesome abilities of the state to inflict harm and the need of its people for individual protection. In Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World, Melissa Barden Dowling explores the formation of clemency as a human and social value in the Roman Empire, a topic that has been curiously neglected despite its obvious importance to our understanding of Roman society and the workings of the penal system.
In this first thorough study of the origins of clemency, Dowling provides a vivid look at the ideology of clemency and new philosophies of mercy and cruelty in Western society, through an examination of ancient art, literature, historical documents, and archaeological artifacts. By illuminating the emergence of mercy and forgiveness as social concepts, and the mechanisms by which peoples are transformed in response to changes in power structures, Dowling makes an important contribution to the study of the ancient Roman world, as well as to modern Western culture.
Eighteenth-century British culture is often seen as polite and sentimental—the creation of an emerging middle class. Simon Dickie disputes these assumptions in Cruelty and Laughter, a wildly enjoyable but shocking plunge into the forgotten comic literature of the age. Beneath the surface of Enlightenment civility, Dickie uncovers a rich vein of cruel humor that forces us to recognize just how slowly ordinary human sufferings became worthy of sympathy.
Delving into an enormous archive of comic novels, jestbooks, farces, variety shows, and cartoons, Dickie finds a vast repository of jokes about cripples, blind men, rape, and wife-beating. Epigrams about syphilis and scurvy sit alongside one-act comedies about hunchbacks in love. He shows us that everyone—rich and poor, women as well as men—laughed along. In the process, Dickie also expands our understanding of many of the century’s major authors, including Samuel Richardson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Tobias Smollett, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen. He devotes particular attention to Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, a novel that reflects repeatedly on the limits of compassion and the ethical problems of laughter. Cruelty and Laughter is an engaging, far-reaching study of the other side of culture in eighteenth-century Britain.
Animal rights. Those two words conjure diverse but powerful images and reactions. Some nod in agreement, while others roll their eyes in contempt. Most people fall somewhat uncomfortably in the middle, between endorsement and rejection, as they struggle with the profound moral, philosophical, and legal questions provoked by the debate. Today, thousands of organizations lobby, agitate, and educate the public on issues concerning the rights and treatment of nonhumans.
For the Prevention of Cruelty is the first history of organized advocacy on behalf of animals in the United States to appear in nearly a half century. Diane Beers demonstrates how the cause has shaped and reshaped itself as it has evolved within the broader social context of the shift from an industrial to a postindustrial society.
Until now, the legacy of the movement in the United States has not been examined. Few Americans today perceive either the companionship or the consumption of animals in the same manner as did earlier generations. Moreover, powerful and lingering bonds connect the seemingly disparate American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of the nineteenth century and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of today. For the Prevention of Cruelty tells an intriguing and important story that reveals society's often changing relationship with animals through the lens of those who struggled to shepherd the public toward a greater compassion.
Compassion, levity, and laughter can be found in the darkest of places—and even in the smallest of creatures. Set in 1943 Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, J. R. Pick’s novella Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tells the story of Tony, a thirteen-year-old boy who is deported from Prague to the infamous Terezín ghetto for Jews—the horrific, overcrowded concentration camp where one in four prisoners died of starvation or disease, and a way station on the way to Auschwitz. But it is not the atrocities Tony experiences that make his tale remarkable. It is his ability to find comedy in the incomprehensible.
Tony suffers from tuberculosis, and, lying in his hospital bed one day, he decides to set up an animal welfare organization. Even though no animals are permitted in the camp, he is determined to find just one creature he can care for and protect—and his determination is contagious. A group of older boys, including Tony’s best friend, Ernie, aid him in his quest. Soon they’re joined by Tony’s mother—and her coterie of boyfriends. Eventually, they find Tony his pet: a mouse, which he names and carefully guards in a box hidden beneath his bed. But in the fall of 1944, the transports to Auschwitz begin.
As moving as it is irreverent, Pick’s novella draws on the two years he spent imprisoned in Terezín in his late teens. With cutting black humor, he shines a light on both the absurdities and injustices of the Nazi-run Jewish ghetto, using his literary artistry to portray in stunning shorthand an experience of the Holocaust that pure histories could never convey.