In the Preface to this second edition of her first book, Sandra M. Gilbert addresses the inevitable question: "How can you be a feminist and a Lawrentian?" The answer is intellectually satisfying and historically revealing as she traces an array of early twentieth-century women of letters, some of them proto-feminists, who revered Lawrence despite his countless statements that would today be condemned as "sexist."
H.D. regarded him as one of her "initiators" whose words "flamed alive, blue serpents on the page." Anais Nin insisted that he "had a complete realization of the feelings of women."
By focusing on Lawrence’s own definition of a poem as an "act of attention," Gilbert demonstrates how he developed the mature style of Birds, Beasts and Flowers, his finest collection of poetry. She discusses this volume at length, examines many of his later poems in detail, including the hymns from The Plumed Serpent, Pansies, Nettles, and More Pansies, and ends with a close look at Last Poems. Her detailed examination provides a clearer image of Lawrence as an artist—an artist whose poetry complements his novels and whose fiction enriches but does not outshine his poetry.
Ireland is suffering from a crisis of authority. Catholic Church scandals, political corruption, and economic collapse have shaken the Irish people’s faith in their institutions and thrown the nation’s struggle for independence into question. While Declan Kiberd explores how political failures and economic globalization have eroded Irish sovereignty, he also sees a way out of this crisis. After Ireland surveys thirty works by modern writers that speak to worrisome trends in Irish life and yet also imagine a renewed, more plural and open nation.After Dublin burned in 1916, Samuel Beckett feared “the birth of a nation might also seal its doom.” In Waiting for Godot and a range of powerful works by other writers, Kiberd traces the development of an early warning system in Irish literature that portended social, cultural, and political decline. Edna O’Brien, Frank O’Connor, Seamus Heaney, and Michael Hartnett lamented the loss of the Irish language, Gaelic tradition, and rural life. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Eavan Boland grappled with institutional corruption and the end of traditional Catholicism. These themes, though bleak, led to audacious experimentation, exemplified in the plays of Brian Friel and Tom Murphy and the novels of John Banville. Their achievements embody the defiance and resourcefulness of Ireland’s founding spirit—and a strange kind of hope.After Ireland places these writers and others at the center of Ireland’s ongoing fight for independence. In their diagnoses of Ireland’s troubles, Irish artists preserve and extend a humane culture, planting the seeds of a sound moral economy.
The move to a new publisher has given The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual the opportunity to recommit to what it does best: present to a wide readership cant-free scholarly articles and essays and searching book reviews, all featuring a wide variety of approaches, written by both seasoned scholars and relative newcomers. Volume 24 features commentary on a range of Johnsonian topics: his reaction to Milton, his relation to the Allen family, his notes in his edition of Shakespeare, his use of Oliver Goldsmith in his Dictionary, and his always fascinating Nachleben. The volume also includes articles on topics of strong interest to Johnson: penal reform, Charlotte Lennox's professional literary career, and the "conjectural history" of Homer in the eighteenth century.
For more than two decades, The Age of Johnson has presented a vast corpus of Johnsonian studies "in the broadest sense," as founding editor Paul J. Korshin put it in the preface to Volume 1, and it has retained the interest of a wide readership. In thousands of pages of articles, review essays, and reviews, The Age of Johnson has made a permanent contribution to our understanding of the eighteenth century, and particularly of Samuel Johnson, his circle, and his interests, and has also served as an outlet for writers who are not academics but have something important to say about the eighteenth century.
Perfect for the general reader of poetry, students and teachers of literature, and aspiring poets, All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing is a lively and comprehensive study of versification by one of our best contemporary practitioners of traditional poetic forms. Emphasizing both the coherence and the diversity of English metrical practice from Chaucer's time to ours, Timothy Steele explains how poets harmonize the fixed units of meter with the variable flow of idiomatic speech, and examines the ways in which poets have used meter, rhyme, and stanza to communicate and enhance meaning. Steele illuminates as well many practical, theoretical, and historical issues in English prosody, without ever losing sight of the fundamental pleasures, beauties, and insights that fine poems offer us.
Written lucidly, with a generous selection of helpful scansions and explanations of the metrical effects of the great poets of the English language, All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing is not only a valuable handbook on technique; it is also a wide-ranging study of English verse and a mine of entertaining information for anyone wishing more fully to write, enjoy, understand, or teach poetry.
After a long period of neglect and even disdain, allegory and myth in the broadest sense are coming again into their own as central tools to the understanding of literary art. The essays in this volume, ranging in time from the Middle Ages to the present and in subject from poetry to philosophy, explore the multiple interpretations of allegory, as well as the important distinctions among allegory, myth, and symbol.Besides assisting in the understanding of particular literary works and authors, this book makes a worthy contribution to comprehension of the major role allegory plays in literature and indeed in life.Among the nineteen essays are “‘Awaking Dream’: The Symbolic Alternative to Allegory,” by Murray Krieger; “The Modern Revival of Myth,” by James Engell; “The Two Allegories,” by J. Hillis Miller; “The ‘Rhythm of Metaphor’: Yeats, Pound, Eliot and the Unity of Image in Postsymbolist Poetry,” by Ronald Bush; and “Sartor Resartus and the Inverse Sublime: The Art of Humorous Deconstruction,” by Peter Allan Dale.
Poets of every age deal with roughly the same human emotions, and for the experienced reader poetry is interesting or not depending upon the moment-by-moment intensity of its appeal. This skillful rendering by John Gardner of seven Middle English poems into sparklingly modern verse translation—most of them for the first time—represents a selection of poems that, generally, have real artistic value but are so difficult to read in the original that they are not as well known as they deserve to be. The seven poems are: The Alliterative Morte Arthure, Winner and Waster, The Parliament of the Three Ages, Summer Sunday, The Debate of Body and Soul, The Thrush and the Nightingale,and The Owl and the Nightingale.
The first four poems represent high points in the alliterative renaissance of the fourteenth century. Morte Arthure,here translated for the first time in its entirety into modern verse, is the only heroic romance in Middle English—a work roughly in the same genre as the French Song of Roland. The other three poems have been included in the anthology as further poetic examples.
With his employment of extensive comments and notes on the poems, Gardner provides a wealth of aids to appreciation and understanding of his outstanding translations. The anthology will be of interest to general readers as well as to students.
American and British Writers in Mexico is the study that laid the foundation upon which subsequent examinations of Mexico’s impact upon American and British letters have built. Chosen by the Mexican government to be placed, in translation, in its public libraries, the book was also referenced by Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz in an article in the New Yorker, “Reflections—Mexico and the United States.” Drewey Wayne Gunn demonstrates how Mexican experiences had a singular impact upon the development of English writers, beginning with early British explorers who recorded their impressions for Hakluyt’s Voyages, through the American Beats, who sought to escape the strictures of American culture.
Among the 140 or so writers considered are Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, Langston Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, Katherine Anne Porter, Hart Crane, Malcolm Lowry, John Steinbeck, Graham Greene, Tennessee Williams, Saul Bellow, William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, Ray Bradbury, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.
Gunn finds that, while certain elements reflecting the Mexican experience—colors, landscape, manners, political atmosphere, a sense of the alien—are common in their writings, the authors reveal less about Mexico than they do about themselves. A Mexican sojourn often marked the beginning, the end, or the turning point in a literary career. The insights that this pioneering study provide into our complex cultural relationship with Mexico, so different from American and British authors’ encounters with Continental cultures, remain vital. The book is essential for anyone interested in understanding the full range of the impact of the expatriate experience on writers.
For a man who liked being called the American, Mark Twain spent a surprising amount of time outside the continental United States. Biographer Roy Morris, Jr., focuses on the dozen years Twain spent overseas and on the popular travel books—The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, and Following the Equator—he wrote about his adventures. Unintimidated by Old World sophistication and unafraid to travel to less developed parts of the globe, Twain encouraged American readers to follow him around the world at the dawn of mass tourism, when advances in transportation made leisure travel possible for an emerging middle class. In so doing, he helped lead Americans into the twentieth century and guided them toward more cosmopolitan views.In his first book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), Twain introduced readers to the “American Vandal,” a brash, unapologetic visitor to foreign lands, unimpressed with the local ambiance but eager to appropriate any souvenir that could be carried off. He adopted this persona throughout his career, even after he grew into an international celebrity who dined with the German Kaiser, traded quips with the king of England, gossiped with the Austrian emperor, and negotiated with the president of Transvaal for the release of war prisoners. American Vandal presents an unfamiliar Twain: not the bred-in-the-bone Midwesterner we associate with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer but a global citizen whose exposure to other peoples and places influenced his evolving positions on race, war, and imperialism, as both he and America emerged on the world stage.
A/Moral Economics is an interdisciplinary historical study that examines the ways which social “science” of economics emerged through the discourse of the literary, namely the dominant moral and fictional narrative genres of early and mid-Victorian England. In particular, this book argues that the classical economic theory of early-nineteenth-century England gained its broad cultural authority not directly, through the well- known texts of such canonical economic theorists as David Ricardo, but indirectly through the narratives constructed by Ricardo’s popularizers John Ramsey McCulloch and Harriet Martineau.
By reexamining the rhetorical and institutional contexts of classical political economy in the nineteenth century, A/Moral Economics repositions the popular writings of both supporters and detractors of political economy as central to early political economists’ bids for a cultural voice. The now marginalized economic writings of McCulloch, Martineau, Henry Mayhew, and John Ruskin, as well as the texts of Charles Dickens and J. S. Mill, must be read as constituting in part the entities they have been read as merely criticizing. It is this repressed moral logic that resurfaces in a range of textual contradictions—not only in the writings of Ricardo’s supporters, but, ironically, in those of his critics as well.
Amy Levy has risen to prominence in recent years as one of the most innovative and perplexing writers of her generation. Embraced by feminist scholars for her radical experimentation with queer poetic voice and her witty journalistic pieces on female independence, she remains controversial for her representations of London Jewry that draw unmistakably on contemporary antisemitic discourse.
Amy Levy: Critical Essays brings together scholars working in the fields of Victorian cultural history, women’s poetry and fiction, and the history of Anglo-Jewry. The essays trace the social, intellectual, and political contexts of Levy’s writing and its contemporary reception. Working from close analyses of Levy’s texts, the collection aims to rethink her engagement with Jewish identity, to consider her literary and political identifications, to assess her representations of modern consumer society and popular culture, and to place her life and work within late-Victorian cultural debate.
This book is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students offering both a comprehensive literature review of scholarship-to-date and a range of new critical perspectives.
Susan David Bernstein,University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gail Cunningham,Kingston University
Elizabeth F. Evans,Pennslyvania State University–DuBois
Emma Francis,Warwick University
Alex Goody,Oxford Brookes University
T. D. Olverson,University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Lyssa Randolph,University of Wales, Newport
Meri-Jane Rochelson,Florida International University
The ambiguous intent of Henry James’s horror story The Turn of the Screw has fascinated and divided its readers since its publication in 1898. The division arises between the apparitionists and the nonapparitionists in interpretation of the plot and the characters. Thomas Mabry Cranfill and Robert Lanier Clark, Jr., have here taken up the argument and made an interpretation of their own.
The authors carefully considered the mountainous critical comment, studied James’s statements regarding his intent, and minutely scrutinized the story itself. After all this probing of opinions and following of clues and observing of human beings in action, they have come out strongly on the side of the nonapparitionists.
The authors base their conclusion on analyses of character, centrally that of the governess, whom they consider the protagonist of the fearsome drama, but peripherally those of Mrs. Grose, the children, the uncle in Harley Street, and even the deceased Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. Relentlessly they relate every episode, action, and speech to the character of the governess and her relationships with those around her at Bly, picturing her as a psychological “case” whose abnormal mental state brings to those around her the inescapable misery they all suffer.
The authors’ analysis unfolds as interestingly in terms of character and motive as if the reader did not already know what happens in James’s much-read story. It moves, moreover, with something of the same suspense as James’s horror tale, although the tension is intellectual rather than emotional. Each additional disclosure of evidence, the resolution of each situation, and the clarification of every puzzling ambiguity builds the analysis step-by-inevitable-step to its inescapable conclusion.
The style of the analysis is graceful, urbane, and witty. The introduction gives an excellent appraisal of literary comment on James’s story and an illuminating summary of the literary “war” over the meaning of it; the bibliography provides an impressive list of books and articles on this subject, annotated to indicate in what particular ways each makes a contribution to the controversy.
Music was at once one of the most idealized and one of the most contested art forms of the Victorian period. Yet this vitally important nineteenth-century cultural form has been studied by literary critics mainly as a system of thematic motifs. Angelic Airs, Subversive Songs positions music as a charged site of cultural struggle, promoted concurrently as a transcendent corrective to social ills and as a subversive cause of those ills. Alisa Clapp-Itnyre examines Victorian constructions of music to advance patriotism, Christianity, culture, and domestic harmony, and suggests that often these goals were undermined by political tensions in song texts or “immoral sensuality” in the “spectacle” of live music-making.
Professor Clapp-Itnyre turns her focus to the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, who present complex engagements with those musical genres most privileged by Victorian society: folk songs, religious hymns, and concert music.
Angelic Airs, Subversive Songs recovers the pervasive ambiguities of the Victorian musical period, ambiguities typically overlooked by both literary scholars and musicologists. To the literary critic and cultural historian, Professor Clapp-Itnyre demonstrates the necessity of further exploring the complete aesthetic climate behind some of the Victorian period’s most powerful literary works. And to the feminist scholar and the musicologist, Clapp-Itnyre reveals the complexities of music as both an oppressive cultural force and an expressive, creative outlet for women.
Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780–1913: A Critical Anthology makes accessible for the first time the entire range of poems written in English on the subcontinent from their beginnings in 1780 to the watershed moment in 1913 when Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature.Mary Ellis Gibson establishes accurate texts for such well-known poets as Toru Dutt and the early nineteenth-century poet Kasiprasad Ghosh. The anthology brings together poets who were in fact colleagues, competitors, and influences on each other. The historical scope of the anthology, beginning with the famous Orientalist Sir William Jones and the anonymous “Anna Maria” and ending with Indian poets publishing in fin-de-siècle London, will enable teachers and students to understand what brought Kipling early fame and why at the same time Tagore’s Gitanjali became a global phenomenon. Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780–1913 puts all parties to the poetic conversation back together and makes their work accessible to American audiences.With accurate and reliable texts, detailed notes on vocabulary, historical and cultural references, and biographical introductions to more than thirty poets, this collection significantly reshapes the understanding of English language literary culture in India. It allows scholars to experience the diversity of poetic forms created in this period and to understand the complex religious, cultural, political, and gendered divides that shaped them.
In 1654, Anna Trapnel — a Baptist, Fifth Monarchist, millenarian, and visionary from London — fell into a trance during which she prophesied passionately and at length against Oliver Cromwell and his government. The prophecies attracted widespread public attention, and resulted in an invitation to travel to Cornwall. Her Report and Plea, republished here for the first time, is a lively and engaging firsthand account of the visit, which concluded in her arrest, a court hearing, and imprisonment. Part memoir, part travelogue, and part impassioned defense of her beliefs and actions, the Report and Plea offers vivid and fascinating insight into the life and times of an early modern woman claiming her place at the center of the tumultuous political events of mid-seventeenth-century England.
An annotated and illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's classic work, celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2018.First published in 1818, Frankenstein has spellbound, disturbed, and fascinated readers for generations. One of the most haunting and enduring works ever written in English, it has inspired numerous retellings and sequels in virtually every medium, making the Frankenstein myth familiar even to those who have never read a word of Mary Shelley’s remarkable novel. Now, this freshly annotated, illustrated edition illuminates the novel and its electrifying afterlife with unmatched detail and vitality.From the first decade after publication, “Frankenstein” became a byword for any new, disturbing developments in science, technology, and human imagination. The editors’ Introduction explores the fable’s continuing presence in popular culture and intellectual life as well as the novel’s genesis and composition. Mary Shelley’s awareness of European politics and history, her interest in the poets and philosophical debates of the day, and especially her genius in distilling her personal traumas come alive in this engaging essay.The editors’ commentary, placed conveniently alongside the text, provides stimulating company. Their often surprising observations are drawn from a lifetime of reading and teaching the novel. A wealth of illustrations, many in color, immerses the reader in Shelley’s literary and social world, in the range of artwork inspired by her novel, as well as in Frankenstein’s provocative cinematic career. The fresh light that The Annotated Frankenstein casts on a story everyone thinks is familiar will delight readers while deepening their understanding of Mary Shelley’s novel and the Romantic era in which it was created.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple,” declares Algernon early in Act One of The Importance of Being Earnest, and were it either, modern literature would be “a complete impossibility.” It is a moment of sly, winking self-regard on the part of the playwright, for The Importance is itself the sort of complex modern literary work in which the truth is neither pure nor simple. Wilde’s greatest play is full of subtexts, disguises, concealments, and double entendres. Continuing the important cultural work he began in his award-winning uncensored edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Nicholas Frankel shows that The Importance needs to be understood in relation to its author’s homosexuality and the climate of sexual repression that led to his imprisonment just months after it opened at London’s St. James’s Theatre on Valentine’s Day 1895.In a facing-page edition designed with students, teachers, actors, and dramaturges in mind, The Annotated Importance of Being Earnest provides running commentary on the play to enhance understanding and enjoyment. The introductory essay and notes illuminate literary, biographical, and historical allusions, tying the play closely to its author’s personal life and sexual identity. Frankel reveals that many of the play’s wittiest lines were incorporated nearly four years after its first production, when the author, living in Paris as an exiled and impoverished criminal, oversaw publication of the first book edition. This newly edited text is accompanied by numerous illustrations.
“And I? May I say nothing, my lord?” With these words, Oscar Wilde’s courtroom trials came to a close. The lord in question, High Court justice Sir Alfred Wills, sent Wilde to the cells, sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor for the crime of “gross indecency” with other men. As cries of “shame” emanated from the gallery, the convicted aesthete was roundly silenced.But he did not remain so. Behind bars and in the period immediately after his release, Wilde wrote two of his most powerful works—the long autobiographical letter De Profundis and an expansive best-selling poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol. In The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde, Nicholas Frankel collects these and other prison writings, accompanied by historical illustrations and his rich facing-page annotations. As Frankel shows, Wilde experienced prison conditions designed to break even the toughest spirit, and yet his writings from this period display an imaginative and verbal brilliance left largely intact. Wilde also remained politically steadfast, determined that his writings should inspire improvements to Victorian England’s grotesque regimes of punishment. But while his reformist impulse spoke to his moment, Wilde also wrote for eternity.At once a savage indictment of the society that jailed him and a moving testimony to private sufferings, Wilde’s prison writings—illuminated by Frankel’s extensive notes—reveal a very different man from the famous dandy and aesthete who shocked and amused the English-speaking world.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights has been called the most beautiful, most profoundly violent love story of all time. At its center are Catherine and Heathcliff, and the self-contained world of Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and the wild Yorkshire moors that the characters inhabit. “I am Heathcliff,” Catherine declares. In her introduction Janet Gezari examines Catherine’s assertion and in her notes maps it to questions that flicker like stars in the novel’s dark dreamscape. How do we determine who and what we are? What do the people closest to us contribute to our sense of identity?The Annotated Wuthering Heights provides those encountering the novel for the first time—as well as those returning to it—with a wide array of contexts in which to read Brontë’s romantic masterpiece. Gezari explores the philosophical, historical, economic, political, and religious contexts of the novel and its connections with Brontë’s other writing, particularly her poems. The annotations unpack Brontë’s allusions to the Bible, Shakespeare, and her other reading; elucidate her references to topics including folklore, educational theory, and slavery; translate the thick Yorkshire dialect of Joseph, the surly, bigoted manservant at the Heights; and help with other difficult or unfamiliar words and phrases.Handsomely illustrated with many color images that vividly recreate both Brontë’s world and the earlier Yorkshire setting of her novel, this newly edited and annotated text will delight and instruct the scholar and general reader alike.
Answerable Style was first published in 1953. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
By the use of both new and traditional techniques of critical analysis, Arnold Stein presents in this volume of six essays a fresh interpretation of Milton's epic.
Frank Kermode is the preeminent practitioner of the art of criticism in the English-speaking world. As such his task entails the readiness to evaluate in general terms the widest range of texts, both ancient and modern, and also the ability to make public sense of the seemingly arcane debates about theories of literature as they pertain to the ongoing process of evaluation. It has been Kermode’s distinction to make a virtue—as all the best critics have done—of the necessarily occasional nature of his profession. That virtue is evident in every page of this set of essays.This is a book in which Kermode asks the reader to share his pleasure in the literature of a set of major writers—Milton, Eliot, Stevens. He vividly evokes Milton after the Restoration of Charles II, with a fine speculative discussion of the interplay between his personal and political circumstances and the preoccupations of his poetry. He sets before us T. S. Eliot living in a condition of permanent exile, Wallace Stevens in his old age dwelling poetically in Connecticut, and author/critic William Empson, whose singular career was marked by both the pleasure of the text and the delight in conceptual issues that characterizes so much of the contemporary taste for theory. Other essays draw our attention to debates on the literary canon and problems of biblical criticism and their implications for the study of narrative in particular and the interpretation of secular literary texts in general.These are professional essays that nevertheless defy the excesses of modern professionalism. Nowhere is this more evident than in the polemical Prologue to the book, in which Kermode sorts out the good from the meretricious in contemporary criticism. He argues that some proclaimed theorists “seem largely to have lost interest in literature,” while the best, like Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida, have never lost what Kermode prizes most highly, the very appetite or hunger for poetry and literature. Always readable, elegant even on gnarled matters, and courteous in contexts where others are bad-tempered, An Appetite for Poetry is the work of one of the most distinguished minds of our time. In reaffirming the professional responsibilities of criticism now being neglected, it displays a generous hospitality to new ideas.
Scholars of James Joyce offer critical analysis of his work Ulysses. Five essays interpret the character of the novel; four deal with the literary style of presentation, the last focuses on the problems of translation.
Contributors: Robert R. Boyle, S.J.; David Hayman; Richard M. Kain; Darcy O’Brien; Weldon Thornton; Erwin R. Steinberg; William M. Schutte; Fritz Senn; H. Frew Waidner; and the editors.
Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism connects the Victorian fascination with "virtual travel" with the rise of realism in nineteenth-century fiction and twenty-first-century experiments in virtual reality. Even as the expansion of river and railway networks in the nineteenth century made travel easier than ever before, staying at home and fantasizing about travel turned into a favorite pastime. New ways of representing place—360-degree panoramas, foldout river maps, exhaustive railway guides—offered themselves as substitutes for actual travel. Thinking of these representations as a form of "virtual travel" reveals a surprising continuity between the Victorian fascination with imaginative dislocation and twenty-first -century efforts to use digital technology to expand the physical boundaries of the self.
Helen Vendler, widely regarded as our most accomplished interpreter of poetry, here serves as an incomparable guide to some of the best-loved poems in the English language.In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems, pointing out not only new levels of import in particular lines, but also the ways in which the four parts of each sonnet work together to enact emotion and create dynamic effect. The commentaries—presented alongside the original and modernized texts—offer fresh perspectives on the individual poems, and, taken together, provide a full picture of Shakespeare’s techniques as a working poet. With the help of Vendler’s acute eye, we gain an appreciation of “Shakespeare’s elated variety of invention, his ironic capacity, his astonishing refinement of technique, and, above all, the reach of his skeptical imaginative intent.”
“How almost true they sometimes almost ring!” Samuel Beckett’s character rues his words. “How wanting in inanity!” A person could almost understand them! Why taunt and flout us, as Beckett’s writing does? Why discourage us from seeing, as Mark Rothko’s paintings often can? Why immobilize and daze us, as Alain Resnais’s films sometimes will? Why, Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit ask, would three acknowledged masters of their media make work deliberately opaque and inhospitable to an audience? This book shows us how such crippling moves may signal a profoundly original—and profoundly anti-modernist—renunciation of art’s authority.Our culture, while paying little attention to art, puts great faith in its edifying and enlightening value. Yet Beckett’s threadbare plays Company and Worstward Ho, so insistent on their poverty of meaning; Rothko’s nearly monochromatic paintings in the Houston Chapel; Resnais’s intensely self-contained, self-referential films Night and Fog and Muriel all seem to say, “I have little to show you, little to tell you, nothing to teach you.” Bersani and Dutoit consider these works as acts of resistance; by inhibiting our movement toward them, they purposely frustrate our faith in art as a way of appropriating and ultimately mastering reality.As this book demonstrates, these artists train us in new modes of mobility, which differ from the moves of an appropriating consciousness. As a form of cultural resistance, a rejection of a view of reality—both objects and human subjects—as simply there for the taking, this training may even give birth to a new kind of political power, one paradoxically consistent with the renunciation of authority. In its movement among these three artists, Arts of Impoverishment traces a new form of movement within art.
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