Insisting on the critical value of Latin American histories for recasting theories of postcolonialism, After Spanish Rule is the first collection of essays by Latin Americanist historians and anthropologists to engage postcolonial debates from the perspective of the Americas. These essays extend and revise the insights of postcolonial studies in diverse Latin American contexts, ranging from the narratives of eighteenth-century travelers and clerics in the region to the status of indigenous intellectuals in present-day Colombia. The editors argue that the construction of an array of singular histories at the intersection of particular colonialisms and nationalisms must become the critical project of postcolonial history-writing.
Challenging the universalizing tendencies of postcolonial theory as it has developed in the Anglophone academy, the contributors are attentive to the crucial ways in which the histories of Latin American countries—with their creole elites, hybrid middle classes, subordinated ethnic groups, and complicated historical relationships with Spain and the United States—differ from those of other former colonies in the southern hemisphere. Yet, while acknowledging such differences, the volume suggests a host of provocative, critical connections to colonial and postcolonial histories around the world.
Contributors Thomas Abercrombie Shahid Amin Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra Peter Guardino Andrés Guerrero Marixa Lasso Javier Morillo-Alicea Joanne Rappaport Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo Mark Thurner
In this bold book, Samuel Cohen asserts the literary and historical importance of the period between the fall of the Berlin wall and that of the Twin Towers in New York. With refreshing clarity, he examines six 1990s novels and two post-9/11 novels that explore the impact of the end of the Cold War: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Roth's American Pastoral, Morrison's Paradise, O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, Didion's The Last Thing He Wanted, Eugenides's Middlesex, Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, and DeLillo's Underworld. Cohen emphasizes how these works reconnect the past to a present that is ironically keen on denying that connection. Exploring the ways ideas about paradise and pastoral, difference and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the stories Americans tell themselves about their nation’s past, After the End of History challenges us to reconsider these works in a new light, offering fresh, insightful readings of what are destined to be classic works of literature.
At the same time, Cohen enters into the theoretical discussion about postmodern historical understanding. Throwing his hat in the ring with force and style, he confronts not only Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist response to the fall of the Soviet Union but also the other literary and political “end of history” claims put forth by such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In a straightforward, affecting style, After the End of History offers us a new vision for the capabilities and confines of contemporary fiction.
Ever present in the work of contemporary Barbadian novelist George Lamming, author of In the Castle of My Skin, Natives of My Person, The Emigrants, and The Pleasures of Exile, are the subjects of history and revolution. In Caliban's Curse, Supriya M. Nair traces these themes and situates Lamming's work within the ongoing discourses of nationalism and identity. Retracing the history of colonial intervention in the anglophone Caribbean and seeking connections among Africa, the Caribbean, and England, Caliban's Curse moves beyond the popular perception of the archipelago as an ahistorical tourist paradise and presents the islands as a space populated by the tragic and triumphant cultures of the black diaspora.
Caliban's Curse draws upon a range of theories--postcolonial, Marxist, and feminist--to contextualize the black diaspora of the modern Caribbean through one of its primary anglophone novelists. Putting George Lamming in conversation with such contemporaries as C.L.R. James, Derek Walcott, and Wilson Harris, Nair argues that Lamming's works expand the protest of Shakespeare's Caliban to articulate a reinvention of Caribbean cultures. Both cursed by and cursing the weight of colonial history, Lamming works against the paralysis induced by such an encounter; his work serves to rewrite canonical icons and to reimagine popular cultures.
"Supriya Nair writes about the problems of history and social revolution with passion and clarity and an amazing range of critical and cultural reference. . . . She brings to existing studies of Lamming a wide and sustained knowledge of the forces that have shaped the West Indian novel, and the wider postcolonial debates in which these novels are read and discussed." --Simon Gikandi, University of Michigan
Supriya Nair is Associate Professor of English, Tulane University.
Can the novel survive in an age when tales of historical figures and contemporary personalities dominate the reading lists of the book-buying public?
Naomi Jacobs addresses this question in a study of writers such as William Styron, E. L. Doctorow, and Robert Coover, who challenge the dominance of nonfiction by populating their fictions with real people, living and dead. Jacobs explores the genesis, varieties, and implications of this trend in a prose as lively as that of the writers she critiques.
Using as a case study Robert Coover’s portrait of Richard Nixon in The Public Burning, Jacobs addresses the important legal and ethical questions raised by this trend and applies contemporary libel law to the fictionalization of living people, such as Richard Nixon. She closes her study by speculating on the future of this device and of the novel.
Latin American intellectuals have traditionally debated their region’s history, never with so much agreement as in the fiction, commentary, and scholarship of the late twentieth century. Collisions with History shows how “fictional histories” of discovery and conquest, independence and early nationhood, and the recent authoritarian past were purposeful revisionist collisions with received national versions. These collisions occurred only because of El Boom, thus making Latin America’s greatest literary movement a historical phenomenon as well. Frederick M. Nunn discusses the cataclysmic view of history conveyed in Boom novels and examines the thought and self-perception of selected authors whose political activism enhanced the appeal of their works—historical and otherwise: Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Augusto Roa Bastos; Julio Cortázar, Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Darcy Ribeiro.
Collisions with History demonstrates how their commentary on history, literature, politics, and international affairs reveals a conscious sense of purpose. From between the lines of their nonfiction emerges a consensus that outside forces have defined as well as controlled Latin America’s history.
Professor Nunn also suggests that, with novelists now no longer very interested in colliding with history, it may fall to social scientists to speak for what remains of the region’s past in the New World Order.
At this stalled and disillusioned juncture in postcolonial history—when many anticolonial utopias have withered into a morass of exhaustion, corruption, and authoritarianism—David Scott argues the need to reconceptualize the past in order to reimagine a more usable future. He describes how, prior to independence, anticolonialists narrated the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism as romance—as a story of overcoming and vindication, of salvation and redemption. Scott contends that postcolonial scholarship assumes the same trajectory, and that this imposes conceptual limitations. He suggests that tragedy may be a more useful narrative frame than romance. In tragedy, the future does not appear as an uninterrupted movement forward, but instead as a slow and sometimes reversible series of ups and downs.
Scott explores the political and epistemological implications of how the past is conceived in relation to the present and future through a reconsideration of C. L. R. James’s masterpiece of anticolonial history, The Black Jacobins, first published in 1938. In that book, James told the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the making of the Haitian Revolution as one of romantic vindication. In the second edition, published in the United States in 1963, James inserted new material suggesting that that story might usefully be told as tragedy. Scott uses James’s recasting of The Black Jacobins to compare the relative yields of romance and tragedy. In an epilogue, he juxtaposes James’s thinking about tragedy, history, and revolution with Hannah Arendt’s in On Revolution. He contrasts their uses of tragedy as a means of situating the past in relation to the present in order to derive a politics for a possible future.
A trenchant examination of epic shifts in American thought by a major scholar in the field.
In the 1940s, American thought experienced a cataclysmic paradigm shift. Before then, national ideology was shaped by American exceptionalism and bourgeois nationalism: elites saw themselves as the children of a homogeneous nation standing outside the history and culture of the Old World. This view repressed the cultures of those who did not fit the elite vision: people of color, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. David W. Noble, a preeminent figure in American studies, inherited this ideology. However, like many who entered the field in the 1940s, he rejected the ideals of his intellectual predecessors and sought a new, multicultural, postnational scholarship. Throughout his career, Noble has examined this rupture in American intellectual life. In Death of a Nation, he presents the culmination of decades of thought in a sweeping treatise on the shaping of contemporary American studies and an eloquent summation of his distinguished career.
Exploring the roots of American exceptionalism, Noble demonstrates that it was a doomed ideology. Capitalists who believed in a bounded nationalism also depended on a boundless, international marketplace. This contradiction was inherently unstable, and the belief in a unified national landscape exploded in World War II. The rupture provided an opening for alternative narratives as class, ethnicity, race, and region were reclaimed as part of the nation's history. Noble traces the effects of this shift among scholars and artists, and shows how even today they struggle to imagine an alternative postnational narrative and seek the meaning of local and national cultures in an increasingly transnational world. While Noble illustrates the challenges that the paradigm shift created, he also suggests solutions that will help scholars avoid romanticized and reductive approaches toward the study of American culture in the future.
David W. Noble is professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of numerous books, including The End of American History (1985) and The Free and the Unfree: A Progressive History of the United States (with Peter N. Carroll, 2001).
Readers of detective stories are turning more toward historical crime fiction to learn both what everyday life was like in past societies and how society coped with those who broke the laws and restrictions of the times. The crime fiction treated here ranges from ancient Egypt through classical Greece and Rome; from medieval and renaissance China and Europe through nineteenth-century England and America.
Topics include: Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael; Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose; Susanna Gregory’s Doctor Matthew Bartholomew; Peter Heck’s Mark Twain as detective; Anne Perry and her Victorian-era world; Caleb Carr’s works; and Elizabeth Peter’s Egyptologist-adventurer tales.
From the Chicago Conspiracy Trial and the O. J. Simpson trial to the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill congressional hearings, legal and legislative proceedings in the latter part of the twentieth-century kept Americans spellbound. Situated on the shifting border between imagination and the law, trial plays edit, arrange, and reproduce court records, media coverage, and first-person interviews, transforming these elements into a performance. In this first book-length critical study of contemporary American documentary theater, Jacqueline O’Connor examines in depth ten such plays, all written and staged since 1970, and considers the role of the genre in re-creating and revising narratives of significant conflicts in contemporary history.
Documentary theater, she shows, is a particularly appropriate and widely utilized theatrical form for engaging in debate about tensions between civil rights and institutional power, the inconsistency of justice, and challenges to gender norms. For each of the plays discussed, including The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, Unquestioned Integrity: The Hill/Thomas Hearings, and The Laramie Project, O'Connor provides historical context and a brief production history before considering the trial the play focuses on. Grouping plays historically and thematically, she demonstrates how dramatic representation advances our understanding of the law's power while revealing the complexities that hinder society's pursuit of justice.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, geology—and its claims that the earth had a long and colorful prehuman history—was widely dismissedasdangerous nonsense. But just fifty years later, it was the most celebrated of Victorian sciences. Ralph O’Connor tracks the astonishing growth of geology’s prestige in Britain, exploring how a new geohistory far more alluring than the standard six days of Creation was assembled and sold to the wider Bible-reading public.
Shrewd science-writers, O’Connor shows, marketed spectacular visions of past worlds, piquing the public imagination with glimpses of man-eating mammoths, talking dinosaurs, and sea-dragons spawned by Satan himself. These authors—including men of science, women, clergymen, biblical literalists, hack writers, blackmailers, and prophets—borrowed freely from the Bible, modern poetry, and the urban entertainment industry, creating new forms of literature in order to transport their readers into a vanished and alien past.
In exploring the use of poetry and spectacle in the promotion of popular science, O’Connor proves that geology’s success owed much to the literary techniques of its authors. An innovative blend of the history of science, literary criticism, book history, and visual culture, The Earth on Show rethinks the relationship between science and literature in the nineteenth century.
Eighteenth-Century Contexts offers a lively array of essays that consider literary, intellectual, political, theological, and cultural aspects of the years 1650–1800, in the British Isles and Europe. At the center of the book is Jonathan Swift; several essays delve into his poetry, his similarities to Bernard Mandeville, his response to Anthony Collins’s Discourse of Free-Thinking, and the relationship between his Gulliver’s Travels and Thomas More’s Utopia. Other essays discuss Alexander Pope, eighteenth-century music and poetry, William Congreve, James Boswell, Samuel Richardson, and women’s novels of the eighteenth century.
Many of the writers from 1819, argues James Chandler, were acutely aware not only of their writing's place in history, but also of its place as history—a realization of a literary "spirit of the age" that resonates strongly with the current "return to history" in literary studies. Chandler explores the ties between Romantic and contemporary historicism and offers a series of cases of his own built around key texts from 1819.
"1819? At first sight, it might not seem a 'hot date'; but as James Chandler argues in his powerful book, it would be a mistake to overlook a year of such exceptional political conflagration and literary pyrotechnics in British history. Chandler's study is a wide-ranging, enormously ambitious, densely packed, closely argued work."—John Brewer, New Republic
"The book's largest argument, and the source of its considerable revelations, is that late twentieth-century practices of cultural history-writing have their roots in the peculiar Romantic historicism born in post-Waterloo Britain."—Jon Klancher, Times Literary Supplement
"A monumental work of scholarship."—Terry Eagleton, The Independent
The English civil wars loom large in seventeenth-century history and literature. This period, which culminated in the execution of a king, the dismantling of the Established Church, the inauguration of a commonwealth, and the assumption of rule by a lord protector, was one of profound change and disequilibrium. Focusing on writers as major as Milton, Marvell, Herrick, and Vaughan, and as misunderstood as Fane, Overton, and the poet Eliza, the fifteen essays in this collection discuss not only the representation of the civil wars but also the ways in which the civil wars were anticipated, refigured, and refracted in the century's literary imagination.
Although all of the essays are historically grounded and critically based, they vary widely in their historical perspectives and critical techniques, as well as in their scope and area of concentration. Six of the essays are on Royalist literary figures, six are on figures traditionally associated with the Parliamentarian side of the civil wars, two consider both, and the remaining essay examines how Royalist writers refashioned a puritan literary trope.
Unified through the contributors' concentration on "moderate" voices and their recurrent concerns with the ambiguities of literary response, The English Civil Wars in the Literary Imagination provides an important understanding of the English civil wars' manifold and sometimes indirect presence in the literature of the period.
In Ethics and the Dynamic Observer Narrator: Reckoning with Past and Present in German Literature, Katra A. Byram proposes a new category—the dynamic observer form—to describe a narrative situation that emerges when stories about others become an avenue to negotiate a narrator’s own identity across past and present. Focusing on German-language fiction from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Byram demonstrates how the dynamic observer form highlights historical tensions and explores the nexus of history, identity, narrative, and ethics in the modern moment. Ethics and the Dynamic Observer Narrator contributes to scholarship on both narrative theory and the historical and cultural context of German and Austrian literary studies. Narrative theory, according to Byram, should understand this form to register complex interactions between history and narrative form. Byram also juxtaposes new readings of works by Textor, Storm, and Raabe from the nineteenth century with analyses of twentieth-century works by Grass, Handke, and Sebald, ultimately reframing our understanding of literary Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or the struggle to come to terms with the past. Overall, Byram shows that neither the problem of reckoning with the past nor the dynamic observer form is unique to Germany’s post-WWII era. Both are products of the dynamics of modern identity, surfacing whenever critical change separates what was from what is.
False Documents: Inter-American Cultural History, Literature, and the Lost Decade (1975–1992) examines the “return of history” that swept across the Americas during the final two decades of the Cold War as Latin American nations redemocratized and US multiculturalism responded to the conservative bicentennial backlash. Revising the predominantly economic and isolationist accounts of the era, Frans Weiser examines the work of journalists and academics from Hispanic America, Brazil, and the United States who adopted fiction to document recent national discord, repositioning challenges to self-determination in a postnational context.
After deconstructing economic accounts of the “two Americas" model of the hemisphere, including the lost decade (1981–1992) and the “end of history” (1975–1992), Weiser considers six case studies during the same period that reach very different conclusions by drawing on cultural history, including works by Tomás Eloy Martínez, Laura Antillano, Ana Maria Machado, Silviano Santiago, John Updike, and Jay Cantor. In order to expose how governments controlled and misrepresented recent events, these writers created false documents, or fake historical texts, that presented themselves as legitimate eyewitness accounts or archival documents. Weiser establishes how this alternative to postmodern irony more effectively galvanized citizen responses. As the first book to contextualize the parallel, hemispheric evolutions of postwar literary criticism and cultural historiography, False Documents responds to the methodological impasse between Latin American and American studies as well as the antagonism between history and literature, arguing that collaboration and synthesis are particularly vital at a moment when the humanities is increasingly under attack.
Written by various experts in the field, this volume of thirteen original essays explores some of the most significant theoretical and practical fault lines and controversies in seventeenth-century English literature. The turn into the twenty-first century is an appropriate time to take stock of the state of the field, and, as part of that stock-taking, the need arises to assess both where literary study of the early modern period has been and where it might desirably go. Hence, many of the essays in this collection look both backward and forward. They chart the changes in the field over the past half century, while also looking forward to more change in the future.
Some of the essays collected here explore the points of friction, vulnerability, and division that have emerged in literary study of all periods at the end of the twentieth century, such as theory, gender, sexuality, race, and religion. Others are more narrowly focused on fault lines and controversies peculiar to the study of Renaissance and seventeenth-century literature. At the same time nearly all of these essays examine and illuminate particular works of literature. They engage theory, but they also illustrate their points concretely by enacting practical criticism of works by authors ranging from Bacon to Milton. What emerges from the collection is a sense of the field’s dynamism and vitality. The dominant mood of the essays is a cautious optimism, and, while the contributors are by no means complacent, they all share a belief that the fault lines that have emerged in the field are variously and valuably instructive.
By exposing these fault lines the essayists seek a means of acknowledging differences and disagreements without covering them up. They also constructively suggest ways of addressing the issues as a prerequisite to bridging them. By broaching some of the most significant questions that animate the study of early modern literature at the turn into a new century, this volume will be of great value to any student or scholar of seventeenth-century literature.
Anjali Arondekar considers the relationship between sexuality and the colonial archive by posing the following questions: Why does sexuality (still) seek its truth in the historical archive? What are the spatial and temporal logics that compel such a return? And conversely, what kind of “archive” does such a recuperative hermeneutics produce? Rather than render sexuality’s relationship to the colonial archive through the preferred lens of historical invisibility (which would presume that there is something about sexuality that is lost or silent and needs to “come out”), Arondekar engages sexuality’s recursive traces within the colonial archive against and through our very desire for access.
The logic and the interpretive resources of For the Record arise out of two entangled and minoritized historiographies: one in South Asian studies and the other in queer/sexuality studies. Focusing on late colonial India, Arondekar examines the spectacularization of sexuality in anthropology, law, literature, and pornography from 1843 until 1920. By turning to materials and/or locations that are familiar to most scholars of queer and subaltern studies, Arondekar considers sexuality at the center of the colonial archive rather than at its margins. Each chapter addresses a form of archival loss, troped either in a language of disappearance or paucity, simulacrum or detritus: from Richard Burton’s missing report on male brothels in Karáchi (1845) to a failed sodomy prosecution in Northern India, Queen Empress v. Khairati (1884), and from the ubiquitous India-rubber dildos found in colonial pornography of the mid-to-late nineteenth century to the archival detritus of Kipling’s stories about the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Why don't we read novels as if they were histories and histories as if they were novels? Recent postmodern theorists such as Hayden White and Linda Hutcheon have argued that since history is a narrative art, it must be understood as a form of narrative representation analogous to fiction. Yet, contrary to the fears of some historians, such arguments have not undermined the practice of history as a meaningful enterprise so much as they have highlighted the appeal history has as a narrative craft. In addressing the postmodernist claim that history works no differently than fiction, Timothy Parrish rejects the implication that history is dead or hopelessly relativistic. Rather, he shows how the best postmodern novelists compel their readers to accept their narratives as true in the same way that historians expect their readers to accept their narratives as true. These novelists write history as a form of fiction. If the great pre-modernist American historians are Francis Parkman, George Bancroft, and Henry Adams, who are the great modernist or postmodernist historians? In the twentieth century, Parrish argues, the most powerful works of American history were written by William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Joan Didion, and Cormac McCarthy. What survives a reading of these novels is the sense that writers otherwise identified as multicultural or postmodern share the view that nothing matters more than history and what one believes its possibilities to be. In other words, Parrish concludes, history, not identity, is the ground of postmodern American fiction.
During the half-century after the Civil War, intellectuals and politicians assumed the Midwest to be the font and heart of American culture. Despite the persistence of strong currents of midwestern regionalism during the 1920s and 1930s, the region went into eclipse during the post–World War II era. In the apt language of Minnesota’s F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Midwest slid from being the “warm center” of the republic to its “ragged edge.”
This book explains the factors that triggered the demise of the Midwest’s regionalist energies, from anti-midwestern machinations in the literary world and the inability of midwestern writers to break through the cultural politics of the era to the growing dominance of a coastal, urban culture. These developments paved the way for the proliferation of images of the Midwest as flyover country, the Rust Belt, a staid and decaying region. Yet Lauck urges readers to recognize persisting and evolving forms of midwestern identity and to resist the forces that squelch the nation’s interior voices.
From Sylvia Plath’s depictions of the Holocaust as a group of noncohering “bits” to AIDS elegies’ assertions that the dead posthumously persist in ghostly form and Susan Howe’s insistence that the past can be conveyed only through juxtaposed “scraps,” the condition of being too late is one that haunts post-World War II American poetry. This is a poetry saturated with temporal delay, partial recollection of the past, and the revelation that memory itself is accessible only in obstructed and manipulated ways. These postwar poems do not merely describe the condition of lateness: they enact it literally and figuratively by distorting chronology, boundary, and syntax, by referring to events indirectly, and by binding the condition of lateness to the impossibility of verifying the past. The speakers of these poems often indicate that they are too late by repetitively chronicling distorted events, refusing closure or resolution, and forging ghosts out of what once was tangible.
Ghostly Figures contends that this poetics of belatedness, along with the way it is bound to questions of poetic making, is a central, if critically neglected, force in postwar American poetry. Discussing works by Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Jorie Graham, Susan Howe, and a group of poets responding to the AIDS epidemic, Ann Keniston draws on and critically assesses trauma theory and psychoanalysis, as well as earlier discussions of witness, elegy, lyric trope and figure, postmodernism, allusion, and performance, to define the ghosts that clearly dramatize poetics of belatedness throughout the diverse poetry of post–World War II America.
As the size of the United States more than doubled during the first half of the nineteenth century, a powerful current of anxiety ran alongside the well-documented optimism about national expansion. Heartless Immensity tells the story of how Americans made sense of their country’s constantly fluctuating borders and its annexation of vast new territories. Anne Baker looks at a variety of sources, including letters, speeches, newspaper editorials, schoolbooks, as well as visual and literary works of art. These cultural artifacts suggest that the country’s anxiety was fueled primarily by two concerns: fears about the size of the nation as a threat to democracy, and about the incorporation of nonwhite, non-Protestant regions. These fears had a consistent and influential presence until after the Civil War, functioning as vital catalysts for the explosion of literary creativity known as the “American Renaissance,” including the work of Melville, Thoreau, and Fuller, among others.
Building on extensive archival research as well as insights from cultural geographers and theorists of nationhood, Heartless Immensity demonstrates that national expansion had a far more complicated, multifaceted impact on antebellum American culture than has previously been recognized. Baker shows that Americans developed a variety of linguistic strategies for imagining the form of the United States and its position in relation to other geopolitical entities. Comparisons
to European empires, biblical allusions, body politic metaphors, and metaphors derived from science all reflected—and often attempted to assuage—fears that the nation was becoming either monstrously large or else misshapen in ways that threatened cherished beliefs and national self-images.
Heartless Immensity argues that, in order to understand the nation’s shift from republic to empire and to understand American culture in a global context, it is first necessary to pay close attention to the processes by which the physical entity known as the United States came into being. This impressively thorough study will make a valuable contribution to the fields of American studies and literary studies.
Anne Baker is Assistant Professor of English at North Carolina State University.
The Historical Renaissance both exemplifies and examines the most influential current in contemporary studies of the English Renaissance: the effort to analyze the interplay between literature, history, and politics. The broad and varied manifestations of that effort are reflected in the scope of this collection. Rather than merely providing a sampler of any single critical movement, The Historical Renaissance represents the range of ways scholars and critics are fusing what many would once have distinguished as "literary" and "historical" concerns
The volume includes studies of mid-Tudor culture as well as of Elizabethan and Stuart periods.
The scope of the collection is also manifest in its list of contributors. They include historians and literary critics, and their work spans he spectrum from more traditional methods to those characteristic of what has been termed "New Historicism."One aim of the book is to investigate the apparent division between these older and more current approaches. Heather Dubrow and Richard Strier evaluate the contemporary interest in historical studies of the Renaissance, relating it to previous developments in the field, surveying its achievements and limitations, and suggesting new directions for future work.
In academia, the traditional role of the humanities is being questioned by the “posts”—postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postfeminism—which means that the project of writing history only grows more complex. In History as a Kind of Writing, scholar of French literature and culture Philippe Carrard speaks to this complexity by focusing the lens on the current state of French historiography.
Carrard’s work here is expansive—examining the conventions historians draw on to produce their texts and casting light on views put forward by literary theorists, theorists of history, and historians themselves. Ranging from discussions of lengthy dissertations on 1960s social and economic history to a more contemporary focus on events, actors, memory, and culture, the book digs deep into the how of history. How do historians arrange their data into narratives? What strategies do they employ to justify the validity of their descriptions? Are actors given their own voice? Along the way, Carrard also readdresses questions fundamental to the field, including its necessary membership in the narrative genre, the presumed objectivity of historiographic writing, and the place of history as a science, distinct from the natural and theoretical sciences.
The myth of Texas origin often begins at the Alamo. This story is based on ideology rather than on truth, yet ideology is the foundation for the U.S. American cultural memory that underwrites official history. The Alamo, as a narrative of national progress, supports the heroic acts that have created the “Lone Star State,” a unified front of U.S. American liberty in the face of Mexican oppression.
How Myth Became History explores the formation of national, ethnic, racial, and class identities in the Texas borderlands. Examining Mexican, Mexican American, and Anglo Texan narratives as competing representations of the period spanning the Texas Declaration of Independence to the Mexican Revolution, John E. Dean traces the creation and development of border subjects and histories. Dean uses history, historical fiction, postcolonial theory, and U.S.-Mexico border theory to disrupt “official” Euro-American histories.
Dean argues that the Texas-Mexico borderlands complicate national, ethnic, and racial differences. He makes this clear in his discussion of the Mexican Revolution, when many Mexican Americans who saw themselves as Mexicans fought for competing revolutionary factions in Mexico, while others who saw themselves as U.S. Americans tried to distance themselves from Mexico altogether.
Analyzing literary representations of the border, How Myth Became History emphasizes the heterogeneity of border communities and foregrounds narratives that have often been occluded, such as Mexican-Indio histories. The border, according to Dean, still represents a contested geographical entity that destabilizes ethnic and racial groups. Border dynamics provide critical insight into the vexed status of the contemporary Texas-Mexico divide and point to broader implications for national and transnational identity.
Enlightening reexamination of an American ideology of progress and its enduring fascination with mission, Manifest Destiny, and the ends of history.
Westward expansion on the North American continent by European settlers generated a furry of writings on the frontier experience over the course of a hundred years. Asserting that the dominant ideology of America's Manifest Destiny embodied a tense, often contradictory union of Christian and secular republican views of social progress, In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer investigates the ambivalence of the frontier as it was inscribed with redemptive, historical significance by a host of frontier writers.
Enlisting canonical and noncanonical sources, Joel Daehnke examines the manner in which the imagery of the human figure at work and play in the frontier landscape participated in the nationalist, "civilizing" project of westward expansion. While he acknowledges the growing secularization of American life, Professor Daehnke surveys the continuing claims of the Christian redemptive scheme as a powerful symbolic domain for these writers' meditations on social progress and the potential for human perfectibility in the landscapes of the West.
Whether discussing the Edenic imagery of women's gardens, the advocacy of an ethics of land use, or the affairs of fortune in the mining districts of Nevada, In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer presents an enlightening reexamination of an American ideology of progress and its enduring fascination with mission, Manifest Destiny, and the ends of history.
In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer is a welcome addition to the extended library of critical attention to the ideology, history, and literary traditions of the American frontier.
One of the most enduring and prolific American authors of the latter half of the twentieth century, John Updike has long been recognized by critics for his importance as a social commentator. Yet, John Updike and the Cold War is the first work to examine how Updike's views grew out of the defining context of American culture in his time—the Cold War. Quentin Miller argues that because Updike's career began as the Cold War was taking shape in the mid-1950s, the world he creates in his entire literary oeuvre—fiction, poetry, and nonfiction prose—reflects the optimism and the anxiety of that decade.
Miller asserts that Updike's frequent use of Cold War tension as a metaphor for domestic life and as a cultural reality that affects the psychological security of his characters reveals the inherent conflict of his fictional world. Consequently, this conflict helps explain some of the problematic relationships and aimless behavior of Updike's characters, as well as their struggles to attain spiritual meaning.
By examining Updike's entire career in light of the historical events that coincide with it, Miller shows how important the early Cold War mind-set was to Updike's thinking and to the development of his fiction. The changes in Updike's writing after the 1950s confirm the early Cold War era's influence on his ideology and on his celebrated style. By the Cold War's end in the late 1980s, Updike's characters look back fondly to the Eisenhower years, when their national identity seemed so easy to define in contrast to the Soviet Union. This nostalgia begins as early as his writings in the 1960s, when the breakdown of an American consensus disillusions Updike's characters and leaves them yearning for the less divisive 1950s.
While underscoring how essential history is to the study of literature, Miller demonstrates that Updike's writing relies considerably on the growth of the global conflict that defined his time. Cogent and highly readable, John Updike and the Cold War makes an important contribution to Updike scholarship.
Taking King Lear as her central text, Judy Kronenfeld seriously questions the critical assumptions of much of today’s most fashionable Shakespeare scholarship. Charting a new course beyond both New Historicist and deconstructionist critics, she suggests a theory of language and interpretation that provides essential historical and linguistic contexts for the key terms and concepts of the play. Opening the play up to the implications of these contexts and this interpretive theory, she reveals much about Lear, English Reformation religious culture, and the state of contemporary criticism.
Kronenfeld’s focus expands from the text of Shakespeare’s play to a discussion of a shared Christian culture—a shared language and set of values—a common discursive field that frames the social ethics of the play. That expanded focus is used to address the multiple ways that clothing and nakedness function in the play, as well as the ways that these particular images and terms are understood in that shared context. As Kronenfeld moves beyond Lear to uncover the complex resonances of clothing and nakedness in sermons, polemical tracts, legislation, rhetoric, morality plays, and actual or alleged practices such as naked revolts by Anabaptists and the Adamians’ ritual disrobing during religious services, she demonstrates that many key terms and concepts of the period cannot be tied to a single ideology. Instead, they represent part of an intricate network of thought shared by people of seemingly opposite views, and it is within such shared cultural networks that dissent, resistance, and creativity can emerge. Warning her readers not to take the language of literary texts out of the linguistic context within which it first appeared, Kronenfeld has written a book that reinterprets the linguistic model that has been the basis for much poststructuralist criticism.
Historical documents—and, for that matter, historical sources—exist in many forms. The traditional archival sources such as official documents, newspapers, correspondence, and diaries can be supplemented by personal archives, oral histories, and even works of fiction in order for historians to illuminate the past.
Literature as History offers a critical new path for Chicano and Latino history. Historian Mario T. García analyzes prominent works of Chicano fiction, nonfiction, and autobiographical literature to explore how they can sometimes reveal even more about ordinary people’s lives. García argues that this approach can yield personal insights into historical events that more formal documents omit, lending insights into such diverse issues as gender identity, multiculturalism, sexuality, and the concerns of the working class.
In a stimulating and imaginative look at the intersection of history and literature, García discusses the meaning and intent of narratives. Literature as History represents a unique way to rethink history. García, a leader in the field of Chicano history and one of the foremost historians of his generation, explores how Chicano historians can use Chicano and Latino literature as important historical sources. Autobiography, testimonio, and fiction are the genres the author researches to obtain new and insightful perspectives on Chicano history at the personal and grassroots levels. Breaking the boundaries between history and literature, García provides a thought-provoking discussion of what constitutes a historical source.
The history of Mexico is spoken in the voice of ordinary people. In rhymed verse and mariachi song, in letters of romance and whispered words in the cantina, the heart and soul of a nation is revealed in all its intimacy and authenticity. Mexico in Verse, edited by Stephen Neufeld and Michael Matthews, examines Mexican history through its poetry and music, the spoken and the written word.
Focusing on modern Mexico, from 1840 to the 1980s, this volume examines the cultural venues in which people articulated their understanding of the social, political, and economic change they witnessed taking place during times of tremendous upheaval, such as the Mexican-American War, the Porfiriato, and the Mexican Revolution. The words of diverse peoples—people of the street, of the field, of the cantinas—reveal the development of the modern nation. Neufeld and Matthews have chosen sources so far unexplored by Mexicanist scholars in order to investigate the ways that individuals interpreted—whether resisting or reinforcing—official narratives about formative historical moments.
The contributors offer new research that reveals how different social groups interpreted and understood the Mexican experience. The collected essays cover a wide range of topics: military life, railroad accidents, religious upheaval, children’s literature, alcohol consumption, and the 1985 earthquake. Each chapter provides a translated song or poem that encourages readers to participate in the interpretive practice of historical research and cultural scholarship. In this regard, Mexico in Verse serves both as a volume of collected essays and as a classroom-ready primary document reader.
Perhaps no other work of secular poetry was as widely read in Tudor England as the historical verse tragedy collection A Mirror for Magistrates. For over sixty years (1559–1621), this compendium of tragic monologues presented in the voices of fallen political figures from England’s past remained almost constantly in print, offering both exemplary warnings to English rulers and inspiring models for literary authors, including Spenser and Shakespeare. In a striking departure from previous scholarship, Scott Lucas shows that modern critics have misconstrued the purpose of the tragic verse narratives of the Mirror, approaching them primarily as uncontroversial meditations on abstract political and philosophical doctrines. Lucas revises this view, revealing many of the Mirror tragedies to be works topically applicable in form and politically contentious in nature. Lucas returns the earliest poems of A Mirror for Magistrates to the troubled context of their production, the tumultuous reign of the Catholic Queen Mary (1553–1558). As Protestants suffering from the traumatic collapse of King Edward VI’s “godly” rule (1547–1553) and from the current policies of Mary’s government, the Mirror authors radically reshaped their poems’ historical sources in order to craft emotionally moving narratives designed to provide models for interpreting the political failures of Edward VI’s reign and to offer urgent warnings to Marian magistrates. Lucas’s study also reveals how, in later poems, the Mirror authors issued oblique appeals to Queen Elizabeth’s officers, boldly demanding that they allow the realm of “the literary” to stand as an unfettered discursive arena of public controversy. Lucas thus provides a provocative new approach to this seminal but long-misunderstood collection, one that restores the Mirror to its rightful place as one of the greatest works of sixteenth-century English political literature.
Breaks new critical ground by exploring philosophical and aesthetic issues germane to the writings of three major modern literary figures.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, understandings of time, place, and civilization were subjected to a barrage of new conceptions. Ronald Berman probes the work of three writers who wrestled with one or more of these issues in ways of lasting significance.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Orwell all grappled with fluid notions of time: Hemingway’s absolute present, Fitzgerald’s obsession with what might be and what might have been, and Orwell’s concerns with progress. For these authors, progress is also tied to competing senses of place--for Fitzgerald, the North versus the South; for Hemingway, America versus Europe. At stake for each is an understanding of what constitutes true civilization in a post-war world. Berman discusses Hemingway’s deployment of language in tackling the problems of thinking and knowing. Berman follows this notion further in examining the indisputable impact upon Hemingway’s prose of Paul Cézanne’s painting and the nature of perception.
Finally, Berman considers the influence on Orwell of Aristotle and Freud’s ideas of civilization, translated by Orwell into the fabric of 1984 and other writings.
Ronald Berman is Professor of English at the University of California at San Diego and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of six books, including “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas and Fitzgerald-Wilson-Hemingway: Language and Experience.
Modernity Disavowed is a pathbreaking study of the cultural, political, and philosophical significance of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Revealing how the radical antislavery politics of this seminal event have been suppressed and ignored in historical and cultural records over the past two hundred years, Sibylle Fischer contends that revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal are central to the formation and understanding of Western modernity. She develops a powerful argument that the denial of revolutionary antislavery eventually became a crucial ingredient in a range of hegemonic thought, including Creole nationalism in the Caribbean and G. W. F. Hegel’s master-slave dialectic.
Fischer draws on history, literary scholarship, political theory, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory to examine a range of material, including Haitian political and legal documents and nineteenth-century Cuban and Dominican literature and art. She demonstrates that at a time when racial taxonomies were beginning to mutate into scientific racism and racist biology, the Haitian revolutionaries recognized the question of race as political. Yet, as the cultural records of neighboring Cuba and the Dominican Republic show, the story of the Haitian Revolution has been told as one outside politics and beyond human language, as a tale of barbarism and unspeakable violence. From the time of the revolution onward, the story has been confined to the margins of history: to rumors, oral histories, and confidential letters. Fischer maintains that without accounting for revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal, Western modernity—including its hierarchy of values, depoliticization of social goals having to do with racial differences, and privileging of claims of national sovereignty—cannot be fully understood.
Myth and Archive presents a new theory of the origin and evolution of Latin American literature and the emergence of the modern novel. In this influential, award-winning exploration of Latin American writing from colonial times to the present, Roberto González Echevarría dispenses with traditional literary history to reveal the indebted relationship of the novel to legal, scientific, and anthropological discourses. Providing ways to link literary and nonliterary narratives, González Echevarría examines a variety of archival writings—from the chronicles of the discovery and conquest of the New World to scientific travel narratives and records of criminal confessions—and explores the relationship of these writings to novels by authors such as García Márquez, Borges, Barnet, Sarmiento, Carpentier, and Garcilaso de la Vega. Moving beyond demonstrating that early forms of creative narrative had their geneses in the sixteenth-century authoritative discourse of the Spanish Empire, González Echevarría shows how this same originating process has been repeated in other key moments in the history of the Latin American narrative. He shows how the discourse of scientific discovery was the model for much nineteenth-century literature, as well as how anthropological writings on the nature of language and myth have come to shape the ideology and form of literature in the twentieth century. This most recent form of Latin American narrative creates its own mythic form through an atavistic return to its legal origins—the archive. This acclaimed book—originally published in 1990—will be of continuing interest to historians, anthropologists, literary theorists, and students of Latin American culture.
The relationship between fiction and historiography in Francoist Spain (1939–1975) is a contentious one. The intricacies of this relationship, in which fiction works to subvert the regime’s authority to write the past, are the focus of David K. Herzberger’s book. The narrative and rhetorical strategies of historical discourse figure in both the fiction and historiography of postwar Spain. Herzberger analyzes these strategies, identifying the structures and vocabularies they use to frame the past and endow it with particular meanings. He shows how Francoist historians sought to affirm the historical necessity of Franco by linking the regime to a heroic and Christian past, while several types of postwar fiction—such as social realism, the novel of memory, and postmodern novels—created a voice of opposition to this practice. Focusing on the concept of writing history that these opposing strategies convey, Herzberger discloses the layering of truth and meaning that lies at the heart of postwar Spanish narrative from the early 1940s to the fall of Franco. His study clearly reveals how the novel in postwar Spain became a crucial form of dissent from the past as it was conceived and used by the State. Making a decisive intervention in the debate about the ways in which narration determines both the meaning and truth of history and fiction, Narrating the Past will be of special interest to students and scholars of the politics, history, and literature of twentieth-century Spain.
Kevin Railey uses a materialist critical approach--which envisions literature as a discourse necessarily interactive with other forces in the world--to identify and historicize Faulkner’s authorial identity. Working from the assumption that Faulkner was deeply affected by the sociohistorical forces that surrounded his life, Railey explores the interrelationships between American history and Faulkner’s fiction, between southern history and Faulkner’s subjectivity. Railey argues that Faulkner’s obsession with history and his struggle with specific ideologies affecting southern society and his family guided his development as an artist, influencing and overdetermining characterizations and narrative structures as well as the social vision manifest in his work. By seeing Faulkner the artist and Faulkner the man as one and the same, Railey concludes that the celebrated author wrote himself into history in a way that satisfied the image he had of himself as a natural, artistic aristocrat, based on the notion of natural aristocracy.
After examining two prevailing and opposing ideologies in the South of Faulkner’s lifetime--paternalism and liberalism--Railey shows how Faulkner’s working-through of his identifications with these forces helped develop his values and perceptions as an artist and individual. Railey reads Faulkner’s fiction as exploring social concerns about the demise of paternalism, questions of leadership within liberalism, and doubts about both an aristocracy of heritage and one of wealth. This reading of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, the Snopes trilogy and The Reivers details Faulkner’s explorations of various manifestations of paternalism and liberalism and the intense conflict between them, as well as his attempts to resolve that conflict.
Providing new insights into the full range of Faulkner’s fiction, Natural Aristocracy is the first systematic materialist critique of the author and his world.
Examines the political and literary uses of the Trojan legend in the medieval period.
England in the late fourteenth century witnessed a large-scale social revolt, a lingering and seemingly hopeless war with France, and fierce factional conflicts in royal politics and London civic government--struggles in which all parties sought to justify their actions by claiming historical precedent. How the Trojan legend figured in these claims--and in competing assertions of authorial legitimacy, nationhood, and rule in the later Middle Ages--is the complex nexus of history, myth, literature, and identity that Sylvia Federico explores in this ambitious book.
During the late medieval period, many European political and social groups took great pains to associate themselves with the ancient city; the claim on Troy, Federico asserts, was crucial to nationhood and was always a political act. Her book examines the poetry and prose of several late medieval authors, focusing particularly on how Chaucer's use of the Trojan legend helped to set the terms by which the Ricardian and Lancastrian periods were distinguished, and further helped to establish English literary history as a noble precedent in its own right. Federico's book affords remarkable insight into the workings of the medieval historical imagination.
Sylvia Federico has taught at Washington State University and the University of Leeds. She currently lives in Maine.
Nobody's Nation offers an illuminating look at the St. Lucian, Nobel-Prize-winning writer, Derek Walcott, and grounds his work firmly in the context of West Indian history. Paul Breslin argues that Walcott's poems and plays are bound up with an effort to re-imagine West Indian society since its emergence from colonial rule, its ill-fated attempt at political unity, and its subsequent dispersal into tiny nation-states.
According to Breslin, Walcott's work is centrally concerned with the West Indies' imputed absence from history and lack of cohesive national identity or cultural tradition. Walcott sees this lack not as impoverishment but as an open space for creation. In his poems and plays, West Indian history becomes a realm of necessity, something to be confronted, contested, and remade through literature. What is most vexed and inspired in Walcott's work can be traced to this quixotic struggle.
Linking extensive archival research and new interviews with Walcott himself to detailed critical readings of major works, Nobody's Nation will take its place as the definitive study of the poet.
In Nadine Gordimer's view, the novel can present history as historians cannot. Moreover, this presentation is not fictional in the sense of being "untrue." Rather, fiction deals with an area of activity usually inaccessible to the sciences of greater externally: the area in which historical process is registered as the subjective experience of individuals in society; fiction give us "history from the inside." Gordimer's novels give us an extraordinary and unique insight into historical experience in the period in which she writes.
The Object of the Atlantic is a wide-ranging study of the transition from a concern with sovereignty to a concern with things in Iberian Atlantic literature and art produced between 1868 and 1968. Rachel Price uncovers the surprising ways that concrete aesthetics from Cuba, Brazil, and Spain drew not only on global forms of constructivism but also on a history of empire, slavery, and media technologies from the Atlantic world. Analyzing Jose Marti’s notebooks, Joaquim de Sousandrade’s poetry, Ramiro de Maeztu’s essays on things and on slavery, 1920s Cuban literature on economic restructuring, Ferreira Gullar’s theory of the “non-object,” and neoconcrete art, Price shows that the turn to objects—and from these to new media networks—was rooted in the very philosophies of history that helped form the Atlantic world itself.
Octavio Paz: A Meditation
Ilan Stavans University of Arizona Press, 2001 Library of Congress PQ7297.P285Z9635 2001 | Dewey Decimal 861.62
Octavio Paz: Nobel Prize winner, author of The Labyrinth of Solitude and Sor Juana, or, the Traps of Faith, precursor and pathfinder, a guiding light of the Mexican intelligentsia in the twentieth century. In this small, memorable meditation on Octavio Paz as a thinker and man of action, Ilan Stavans—described by the Washington Post as "one of our foremost cultural critics" and by the New York Times as "the czar of Latino culture in the United States"—ponders Paz's intellectual courage against the ideological tapestry of his epoch and shows us what lessons can be learned from him. He does so by exploring such timeless issues as the crossroads where literature and politics meet, the place of criticism in society, and Mexico’s difficult quest to come to terms with its own history. Stavans reflects on Paz's personal struggle with Marxism and surrealism, his reflections on pachucos, his analysis of love and eroticism, his study of the life and legacy of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and his influence as a magazine editor. But this extraordinary rumination is not only a thought-provoking appraisal of Paz; it is also a feast for the myriad admirers of Stavans, himself a spirited, mordant essayist who is not afraid of controversy. This explains why Richard Rodriguez has portrayed Stavans as "the rarest of North American writers—he sees the Americas whole," and then added, "Not since Octavio Paz has Mexico given us an intellectual so able to violate borders with learning and grace." Octavio Paz: A Meditation is a fitting addition to Stavans’s own oeuvre that will stimulate discerning readers.
On Histories and Stories
A. S. Byatt Harvard University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PN3343.B93 2000 | Dewey Decimal 809.93358
As writers of English from Australia to India to Sri Lanka command our attention, Salman Rushdie can state confidently that English fiction was moribund until the Empire wrote back, and few, even among the British, demur. A. S. Byatt does, and her case is persuasive. In a series of essays on the complicated relations between reading, writing, and remembering, the gifted novelist and critic sorts the modish from the merely interesting and the truly good to arrive at a new view of British writing in our time.
Whether writing about the renaissance of the historical novel, discussing her own translation of historical fact into fiction, or exploring the recent European revival of interest in myth, folklore, and fairytale, Byatt's abiding concern here is with the interplay of fiction and history. Her essays amount to an eloquent and often moving meditation on the commitment to historical narrative and storytelling that she shares with many of her British and European contemporaries. With copious illustration and abundant insights into writers from Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Green to Anthony Burgess, William Golding, Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, and Pat Barker, On Histories and Stories is an oblique defense of the art Byatt practices and a map of the complex affiliations of British and European narrative since 1945.
Reviews of this book: On Histories and Stories...offer[s] the most spirited and knowledgeable discussion of fiction's basic questions that I have read for some time. These questions--the kind that surrounded the creation of the French nouveau roman, and were reawakened a decade or so later by the magic realists of Latin America--are rarely raised in the United States, where discussions of how literature represents reality have been smothered beneath the arid fuss of politicized deconstruction...Byatt is a vigorous exponent of the view that there is nothing wrong with making books out of books--with admitting that the impulse to write stems from enthusiastic reading, and that literary adventure takes place in a mental world generated from existent texts. Her own recent works of fiction are furiously bookish, and her Ellmann lectures propose a look at 'the sudden flowering of the historical novel in Britain'...Her scope of reference and the number of her plot summaries show a gluttonous appetite for reading...She responds to 'a general European interest in storytelling, and in thinking about storytelling'...Byatt is a writer actively searching for sources of energy outside the comfort zone of British social fiction...[Readers must] be grateful to have the art of fiction reworked in such knowing hands, by one to whom the pleasures and rewards of reading are so fundamental. --John Updike, New Yorker
Reviews of this book: Byatt is at her best...the tone throughout these pieces remains consistent: eager, polite, informed, rushed. Not the least of the pleasures provided is that of having a respected writer reel off the names of some books she quite fancies. --Kirkus Reviews
Reviews of this book: British novelist Byatt weaves...disparate material together into a coherent artistic credo...[Readers] will be struck by Byatt's well-argued contention that 'European storytelling derives great energy from artifice, constraints and patterning.' --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: In these seven essays, the British novelist Byatt examines many themes: the historical novel as created by twentieth-century English writers, the relations between scholarship and the creation of fiction, the modern European novel and its debt to mythology, and how fairy tales have influenced her and other modern authors...Plot summaries and extensive quotations from the selected texts will give readers an appetite to read the many novels discussed in these pieces. --Library Journal
Reviews of this book: Byatt defines and claims 'good reading' as her territory with elegance, economy and precision. And with a great deal more quotation from the writers she wants us to read closely than is usually the case these days...She, quite rightly, uses long quotations 'like the slides in an art historical lecture' because they are 'the Thing itself' that's crushed these days as literary theory has become a power game in which Derrida, Foucault and their followers 'make writers fit into the boxes and nets of theoretical quotations which, a writer must feel, excite most of them at present much more than literature does.' Byatt is genuinely excited by 'the Thing itself'--the historical narratives and storytelling--that she has found full of life and flourishing in Britain and Europe throughout the twentieth century in a body of works to which she has added her own contribution...Byatt's account of her 'search for impossible precision' in the writing of historical fiction is both an inspired and entertaining post-mortem on her own still-living and startled literary self, and a declaration of artistic and intellectual integrity against the historical relativism practiced by ideologues and propagandists of all persuasions these days...Byatt's arguments on behalf of forms of writing I've frequently disdained and writers I've entirely overlooked is sending my reading off in good new directions. That's her aim and she makes her points wonderfully well. --T. F. Rigelhof, Globe and Mail
Reviews of this book: On Histories and Stories is offered as a defense, more or less, of British and European writing since World War II against claims of a loss of vitality made by post-colonialist scholars and writers, prominently Salman Rushdie. The book also defends the historical novel against the conventional charge of being either costume drama, bodice-ripper or escapism of another kind. Mrs. Byatt's definition of "historical" is far broader than that, extending, for instance, to a novel like Martin Amis' Time's Arrow which had for its protagonist a former Nazi officer whose life got replayed backwards. Third, Mrs. Byatt writes in defense of teaching literature--not "creative writing," she doesn't do that--by emphasizing good reading in the manner of the New Critic I. A. Richards, that is, avoidance of stock responses and sticking to the text themselves. She also believes in extensive use of quotation in the manner of F. R. Leavis in his day--this rather than quoting from Jacques Derrida and others who, while doing exhilarating work, have led to "modern scholarship's increasing use of the techniques and attitudes of art." Criticism, in her view, should be written in readily accessible language. --Colin Walters, Washington Times
Reviews of this book: The A.S. Byatt of On Histories and Stories, a collection that derives, in part, from lectures she gave at Emory and Yale universities, is a generous writer. She is generous to the writers she sees as her literary ancestors and colleagues, and she is unusually generous to her readers, whom she invites to step behind the curtain to observe the set-building and scene-painting, the research and rehearsal that precede the enactment of her own fictions. --Michael Frank, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: Each essay [in this collection] exhaustively examines either the process of storytelling, or the thematic relationships between texts Byatt favors or considers a part of the canon. And what composes the canon, Byatt argues in her introduction, should in fact be less politicized than it has become...Byatt does not deny how deeply politics are embedded in literary production but regrets the subsumation of a writer's art into its social politics...It is certain that the essays in this collection, broad ranging and appreciative as they are of a variety of writings and writers, fulfill her description for what criticism should be. --Jacqueline L. McGrath, PIF Magazine
Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright August Wilson, author of Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and The Piano Lesson, among other dramatic works, is one of the most well respected American playwrights on the contemporary stage. The founder of the Black Horizon Theater Company, his self-defined dramatic project is to review twentieth-century African American history by creating a play for each decade.
Theater scholar and critic Harry J. Elam examines Wilson's published plays within the context of contemporary African American literature and in relation to concepts of memory and history, culture and resistance, race and representation. Elam finds that each of Wilson's plays recaptures narratives lost, ignored, or avoided to create a new experience of the past that questions the historical categories of race and the meanings of blackness.
Harry J. Elam, Jr. is Professor of Drama at Stanford University and author of Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka (The University of Michigan Press).
The Past Before Us
Romila Thapar Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress DS483.65.T53 2013 | Dewey Decimal 934.0072
The claim that India--uniquely among civilizations--lacks historical writing distracts us from a more pertinent question: how to recognize the historical sense of societies whose past is recorded in ways very different from European conventions. Romila Thapar, a distinguished scholar of ancient India, guides us through a panoramic survey of the historical traditions of North India, revealing a deep and sophisticated consciousness of history embedded in the diverse body of classical Indian literature.
The history recorded in such texts as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata is less concerned with authenticating persons and events than with presenting a picture of traditions striving to retain legitimacy amid social change. Spanning an epoch from 1000 BCE to 1400 CE, Thapar delineates three strains of historical writing: an Itihasa-Purana tradition of Brahman authors; a tradition composed mainly by Buddhist and Jaina monks and scholars; and a popular bardic tradition. The Vedic corpus, the epics, the Buddhist canon and monastic chronicles, inscriptional evidence, regional accounts, and literary forms such as royal biographies and drama are all scrutinized afresh--not as sources to be mined for factual data but as genres that disclose how Indians of ancient times represented their own past to themselves.
Responding to the pressures of current theoretical trends toward models of cultural globalization, the essays collected here bring a historical focus to literary studies. They suggest that only by exploring the particularities of regional historical cultures can the multiple meanings of American identities be understood. Representing a broad range of contemporary criticism, this volume features many short essays by the most well-known and respected Latin Americanists, each devoting attention to specific matters of history. The topics range from Incan architecture to Chicano and Nuyorican habitats; from turn of the century Argentine criminology to Caribbean homophobia; from the rhetorics of independence and dictatorship to Mexican ambivalence about opera and Brazil’s move beyond monarchy; and from the precarious survival of Spanish language in Latin America to its paradoxical legacy of enlightenment in the Philippines. Originally published as a special issue of Modern Language Quarterly (June 1996), this expanded edition includes a new introduction by Doris Sommer and a new essay by Vincente Rafael. Viewed together, these essays reveal a cultural richness that is sure to interest literary scholars and Latin Americanists alike.
Contributors. Carlos J. Alonso, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, John Beverley, Debra A. Castillo, Arcadio Diaz-Quiñones, Juan Flores, Mary M. Gaylord, José Limón, Josefina Ludmer, Francine Masiello, Antonio Mazzotti, Walter D. Mignolo, Sylvia Molloy, Mary Louise Pratt, Vincente Rafael, Julio Ramos, Susana Rotker, Roberto Schwarz, Diana Taylor, Nancy Vogeley
Henry Weinfield offers a new reading not only of the Elegy itself but also of its place in English literary history. His central argument is that in Gray’s Elegy the thematic constellation of poverty, anonymity, alienation, and unfulfilled potential—or what Weinfield calls the "problem of history"—is fully articulated for the first time, and that, as a result, the Elegy represents an important turning-point in the history of English poetry.
Poetic Investigations studies five contemporary writers whose radical engagements with poetic form and political content shed new light on issues of race, class, and gender. In a detailed reading of three American poets--Susan Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, and Lyn Hejinian--and two African-Caribbean poets, Kamau Brathwaite and M. Nourbese Philip, Paul Naylor argues that these writers have produced new forms of poetry that address the "holes," or erasures, in history that more traditional poetry neglects.
Politics and History in William Golding provides a much needed politicized and historicized reading of William Golding’s novels as a counter to previous, universalizing criticism. Paul Crawford argues that an understanding of fantastic and carnivalesque modes in Golding’s work is vital if we are to appreciate fully his interrogation of twentieth-century life.
Golding’s early satirical novels question English constructions of national identity in opposition to Nazism and the “totalitarian personality.” For Crawford, Golding can and must be studied in the wider European tradition of “literature of atrocity.” His early novels, especially Lord of the Flies, are preoccupied with atrocity, whereas the later work betrays a greater concern for the status of language and literature.
In Golding’s later fiction, such as Darkness Visible, the fantastic and carnivalesque are used in an increasingly nonsatirical manner to complement first modernist and then postmodernist self-consciousness and indeterminacy. Even his critique of class and religious authority, which carries through all of his fiction, gives way to more lighthearted productions—a symptom of which is his crude, absurd attack against the English literary industry in The Paper Men. This reduction of satire marks a decline in Golding’s political commitment and the production of more complex and arguably less satisfying novels.
The fantastic and carnivalesque are foundational to both the satirical and nonsatirical approaches that mark Golding’s early and late fiction. No previous study has analyzed this structure that is so central to his work. Politics and History in William Golding examines this writer’s work more fully than it has been studied within the convoluted context of the last half of the twentieth century. Crawford directly links Golding’s various deployments of the fantastic and carnivalesque to historical, political, and social change.
Popular Arthurian Traditions
Sally K. Slocum University of Wisconsin Press, 1992 Library of Congress PR408.A7P67 1992 | Dewey Decimal 809.93351
From medieval history and romance through various twentieth-century renderings, this collection of essays considers themes, characters, and events of the legend and the meanings they impart. Sir Thomas Malory, Chrétien de Troyes, Mark Twain, Thomas Berger, Marion Zimmer Bradley, C. J. Cherryh, and other prose writers are discussed as are comic books and other genres. Film interpretations, photographic illustrations, and musical expressions receive analytical attention, as do poetic, religious, and mythic uses of the Arthurian world.
The Practical Past
Hayden White Northwestern University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PN50.W486 2014 | Dewey Decimal 809.93358
Hayden White borrows the title for The Practical Past from philosopher Michael Oakeshott, who used the term to describe the accessible material and literary-artistic artifacts that individuals and institutions draw on for guidance in quotidian affairs. The Practical Past, then, forms both a summa of White’s work to be drawn upon and a new direction in his thinking about the writing of history.
White’s monumental Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973) challenged many of the commonplaces of professional historical writing and wider assumptions about the ontology of history itself. It formed the basis of his argument that we can never recover “what actually happened”in the past and cannot really access even material culture in context. Forty years on, White sees “professional history" as falling prey to narrow specialization, and he calls upon historians to take seriously the practical past of explicitly “artistic” works, such as novels and dramas, and literary theorists likewise to engage historians.
Private Lives, Proper Relations begins with the question of why contemporary African American literature—particularly that produced by black women—is continually concerned with issues of respectability and propriety. Candice M. Jenkins argues that this preoccupation has its origins in recurrent ideologies about African American sexuality, and that it expresses a fundamental aspect of the racial self—an often unarticulated link between the intimate and the political in black culture.
In a counterpoint to her paradigmatic reading of Nella Larsen’s Passing, Jenkins’s analysis of black women’s narratives—including Ann Petry’s The Street, Toni Morrison’s Sula and Paradise, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and Gayl Jones’s Eva’s Man—offers a theory of black subjectivity. Here Jenkins describes middle-class attempts to rescue the black community from accusations of sexual and domestic deviance by embracing bourgeois respectability, and asserts that behind those efforts there is the “doubled vulnerability” of the black intimate subject. Rather than reflecting a DuBoisian tension between race and nation, to Jenkins this vulnerability signifies for the African American an opposition between two poles of potential exposure: racial scrutiny and the proximity of human intimacy.
Scholars of African American culture acknowledge that intimacy and sexuality are taboo subjects among African Americans precisely because black intimate character has been pathologized. Private Lives, Proper Relations is a powerful contribution to the crucial effort to end the distortion still surrounding black intimacy in the United States.
Candice M. Jenkins is associate professor of English at Hunter College, City University o
Race and Time urges our attention to women’s poetry in considering the cultural history of race. Building on close readings of well known and less familiar poets—including Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Sarah Louisa Forten, Hannah Flagg Gould, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sarah Piatt, Mary Eliza Tucker Lambert, Sarah Josepha Hale, Eliza Follen, and Mary Mapes Dodge—Gray traces tensions in women’s literary culture from the era of abolitionism to the rise of the Plantation tradition. She devotes a chapter to children’s verse, arguing that racial stereotypes work as “nonsense” that masks conflicts in the construction of white childhood. A compilation of the poems cited, most of which are difficult to find elsewhere, is included as an appendix.
Gray clarifies the cultural roles women’s poetry played in the nineteenth-century United States and also reveals that these poems offer a fascinating, dynamic, and diverse field for students of social and cultural history. Gray’s readings provide a rich sense of the contexts in which this poetry is embedded and examine its aesthetic and political vitality in meticulous detail, linking careful explication of the texts with analysis of the history of poetry, canons, literacy, and literary authority.
Race and Time distinguishes itself from other critical studies not only through its searching, in-depth readings but also through its sustained attention to less known poets and its departure from a Dickinson-centered model. Most significantly, it offers a focus on race, demonstrating how changes in both the U.S. racial structure and women’s place in public culture set the terms for change in how women poets envisioned the relationship between poetry and social power.
Gray’s work makes contributions to several fields of study: poetry, U.S. literary history and American studies, women’s studies, African American studies and whiteness studies, children’s literature, and cultural studies. While placing the works of figures who have been treated elsewhere (e.g., Dickinson and Harper) into revealing new relationships, Race and Time does much to open interdisciplinary discussion of unfamiliar works.
The most important woman in the history of southern California never lived. The eponymous heroine of Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel Ramona, a half-Indian beauty raised on a wealthy Mexican rancho, nonetheless left an indelible imprint on southern California's landscape. Within a year of its publication, landmarks identified with Ramona's fictional life - her birthplace, her home, the site of her wedding, and her grave - became important, even canonical parts of a visit to southern California. One could take the Ramona freeway to town, cook like Ramona, and smell like Ramona. The novel's romanticized version of California's Hispanic past also inspired films, songs, musical instruments, jewelry, clothes, beer, wine, canned goods, collectibles, and a play that still draws thirty thousand people annually. Although historians and other writers have acknowledged Ramona's importance in the shaping of southern California's regional identity, there has never been an in-depth study of the origins and evolution of the "Ramona Myth" itself - until now. In Ramona Memories, Dydia DeLyser traces the myth's emergence within the context of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tourist industry. DeLyser explores the establishment of tourist attractions by fans of the novel. She details the stories of individual Ramona enthusiasts who, guided by numerous travel books and articles, wove the text of the novel and its lavishly described locations into their own lives, from pilgrimages to either of the two ranchos acclaimed as Ramona's home to Ramona-themed luncheons and hopeful honeymoon visits to the Wishing Well at her marriage place. Based on more than a decade of meticulous research, Ramona Memories reveals how a fiction - and the real places and products that it inspired - helped to make an idealized past visible, permeating southern California's social memory.
Ever since the first interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, the “West” has served as a site of complex geographical, social and cultural transformation. American literature is defined, in part, by the central symbols derived from these points of contact. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Western frontier was declared “closed,” a demise solidified by Frederick Jackson Turner’s influential essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893). At the same time, “naturalism” was popularized by the writings of Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Willa Cather, and the photographs of Edward Curtis. Though very different artists, they were united by their common attraction to the mythic American West.
As she investigates the interactions of representations of the West, Lawlor effortlessly melds literary studies, American studies, and history. She traces the cultural conception of the American West through its incarnations in the “westernism” of Daniel Boone and James Fenimore Cooper and the romanticism of the expansive frontier they helped formulate. Simultaneously, however, the influence of evolutionism and the styles of French naturalism began to challenge this romantic idiom. This naturalistic discourse constructed the West as a strictly material place, picturing a limited and often limiting geography that portrayed regional identity as the product of material “forces” rather than of individualistic enterprise.
With subtle, probing language, Lawlor explains how literary and artistic devices helped shape the idea of the American West and the changing landscape of the continent at the turn of the last century.
Throughout the era of the Cold War a consensus reigned as to what constituted the great works of American literature. Yet as scholars have increasingly shown, and as this volume unmistakably demonstrates, that consensus was built upon the repression of the voices and historical contexts of subordinated social groups as well as literary works themselves, works both outside and within the traditional canon. This book is an effort to recover those lost voices. Engaging New Historicist, neo-Marxist, poststructuralist, and other literary practices, this volume marks important shifts in the organizing principles and self-understanding of the field of American Studies. Originally published as a special issue of boundary 2, the essays gathered here discuss writers as diverse as Kate Chopin, Frederick Douglass, Emerson, Melville, W. D. Howells, Henry James, W. E. B. DuBois, and Mark Twain, plus the historical figure John Brown. Two major sections devoted to the theory of romance and to cultural-historical analyses emphasize the political perspective of "New Americanist" literary and cultural study.
Contributors. William E. Cain, Wai-chee Dimock, Howard Horwitz, Gregory S. Jay, Steven Mailloux, John McWilliams, Susan Mizruchi, Donald E. Pease, Ivy Schweitzer, Priscilla Wald, Michael Warner, Robert Weimann
In this reexamination of the allegorical dimensions of Paradise Lost, Catherine Martin presents Milton’s poem as a prophecy foretelling the end of one culture and its replacement by another. She argues that rather than merely extending the allegorical tradition as defined by Augustine, Dante, and Spenser, Milton has written a meta-allegory that stages a confrontation with an allegorical formalism that is either dead or no longer philosophically viable. By both critiquing and recasting the traditional form, Milton describes the transition to a new epoch that promises the possibility of human redemption in history. Martin shows how Paradise Lost, written at the threshold of the enormous imaginative shift that accompanied the Protestant, scientific, and political revolutions of the seventeenth century, conforms to a prophetic baroque model of allegory similar to that outlined by Walter Benjamin. As she demonstrates, Milton’s experimentation with baroque forms radically reformulates classical epic, medieval romance, and Spenserian allegory to allow for both a naturalistic, empirically responsible understanding of the universe and for an infinite and incomprehensible God. In this way, the resulting poetic world of Paradise Lost is like Milton’s God, an allegorical “ruin” in which the divine is preserved but at the price of a loss of certainty. Also, as Martin suggests, the poem affirmatively anticipates modernity by placing the chief hope of human progress in the fully self-authored subject. Maintaining a dialogue with a critical tradition that extends from Johnson and Coleridge to the best contemporary Milton scholarship, Martin sets Paradise Lost in both the early modern and the postmodern worlds. Ruins of Allegory will greatly interest all Milton scholars, as well as students of literary criticism and early modern studies.
A long-awaited reevaluation of Chaucer through the lens of sacrifice by a major figure in medieval studies.
Historicism and its discontents have long been central to the work of Louise Fradenburg, one of the world's most original and provocative literary medievalists. Sacrifice Your Love brings this interest to bear on Chaucer's writing and his world, rethought in light of a theory of sacrifice and its part in cultural production. Fradenburg writes the "history of the signifier"--a way of reading change in the symbolic order--and its role in making sacrifice enjoyable.
Sacrifice Your Love develops the idea that sacrifice is a mode of enjoyment-that our willingness to sacrifice our desire is actually a way of pursuing it. Fradenburg considers the implications of this idea for various problems important in medieval studies today-how to understand the religiosity of cultural forms, particularly chivalry, in the later Middle Ages and how to understand the ethics of Chaucer's famously nondidactic poetry-as well as in other fields of inquiry.
A major rethinking of Chaucer, Sacrifice Your Love works in depth as well as across a broad range of topics from medievalism to psychoanalysis, advancing both the theory and practice of a new kind of historicist approach.
L. O. Aranye Fradenburg is professor of English, women's studies, and comparative literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
From the 1820s through the 1840s, debate raged over what Thomas Carlyle famously termed “the Condition of England Question.” While much of the debate focused on how to remedy the material sufferings of the rural and urban working classes, for three writers in particular—William Cobbett, Thomas Carlyle, and Benjamin Disraeli–the times were marked by an even more pervasive crisis that threatened not only the material lives of workers, but also the very stability of meaning itself. At the root of this crisis lay industrial capitalism, and its impact was not only economic, but also cultural, bringing the nation to the very brink of a precipice.
In his provocative new study of these three fascinating but often misunderstood writers, John M. Ulrich challenges the commonly held notion that Cobbett, Carlyle, and Disraeli reacted to the crisis of their times out of a facile nostalgia for an idealized past; instead, Ulrich argues that each writer’s response was remarkably sophisticated and highly self-conscious in its attention to the complex interrelation between textual signs and material conditions.
Signs of Their Times reveals how these three very different writers shared a common conviction that their labor was not merely a resistance to change, but an active force for change, as each sought to refashion the currently unstable signs of the times—history, labor, and the body—into mutually dependent guarantors of social stability and meaning.
In The Story of All Things Marshall Grossman analyzes the influence of major cultural developments, as well as significant events in the lives of Renaissance poets, to show how specific narratives characterize distinctive conceptions of the self in relation to historical action. To explore these conceptions of the self, Grossman focuses on the narrative poetry in the English Renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Relating subjectivity to the nature of language, Grossman uses the theories of Lacan to analyze the concept of the self as it encounters a transforming environment. He shows how ideological tensions arose from the reorganization and "modernization" of social life in revolutionary England and how the major poets of the time represented the division of the self in writings that are suspended between lyric and narrative genres. Beginning with the portrayals of the self inherited from Augustine, Dante, and Petrarch, he describes the influence of historic developments such as innovations in agricultural technology, civil war and regicide, and the emergence of republican state institutions on the changing representation of characters in the works of Spenser, Donne, Marvell, and Milton. Furthering this psychoanalytic critique of literary history, Grossman probes the linguistic effects of social and personal factors such as Augustine’s strained relationship with his mother and the marital disharmony of Milton and Mary Powell. With its focus on these and other "literary historical events," The Story of All Things not only proposes a new structural theory of narrative but constitutes a significant challenge to New Historicist conceptions of the self.
In this collection, Marshall Brown has gathered essays by twenty leading literary scholars and critics to appraise the current state of literary history. Representing a range of disciplinary specialties and approaches, these essays illustrate and debate the issues that confront scholars working on the literary past and its relation to the present. Concerned with both the theory and practice of literary history, these provocative and sometimes combative pieces examine the writing of literary history, the nature of our interest in tradition, and the ways that literary works act in history. Among the numerous issues discussed are the uses of evidence, anachronism, the dialectic of texts and contexts, particularism and the resistance to reductive understanding, the construction of identities, memory, and the endurance of the past. New historicism, nationalism, and gender studies appear in relation to more traditional issues such as textual editing, taste, and literary pedagogy. Combining new and old perspectives, The Uses of Literary History provides a broad view of the field.
Contributors. Charles Altieri, Jonathan Arac, R. Howard Bloch, Richard Dellamora, Paul H. Fry, Geoffrey Hartman, Denis Hollier, Donna Landry, Lawrence Lipking, Jerome J. McGann, Walter Benn Michaels, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Virgil Nemoianu, Annabel Patterson, David Perkins, Marjorie Perloff, Meredith Anne Skura, Doris Sommer, Peter Stallybrass, Susan Stewart
When Margaret Thatcher called in 1979 for a return to Victorian values such as hard work, self-reliance, thrift, and national pride, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock responded that “Victorian values” also included “cruelty, misery, drudgery, squalor, and ignorance.”
The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror is an in-depth look at the ways that the twentieth century reacted to and reimagined its predecessor. It considers how the Victorian inheritance has been represented in literature, politics, film, and visual culture; the ways in which modernists and progressives have sought to differentiate themselves from an image of the Victorian; and how conservatives (and some liberals) have sought to revive elements of nineteenth-century life. Nostalgic and critical impulses combine to fix an understanding of the Victorians in the popular imagination.
Simon Joyce examines heritage culture, contemporary politics, and the “neo-Dickensian” novel to offer a more affirmative assessment of the Victorian legacy, one that lets us imagine a model of social interconnection and interdependence that has come under threat in today’s politics and culture.
Although more than one hundred years have passed since the death of Queen Victoria, the impact of her time is still fresh. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror speaks to diverse audiences in literary and cultural studies, in addition to those interested in visual culture and contemporary politics, and situates detailed close readings of literary and cinematic texts in the context of a larger argument about the legacies of an era not as distant as we might like to think.
Wallace Stevens and the Apocalyptic Mode focuses on Stevens’s doubled stance toward the apocalyptic past: his simultaneous use of and resistance to apocalyptic language, two contradictory forces that have generated two dominant and incompatible interpretations of his work. The book explores the often paradoxical roles of apocalyptic and antiapocalyptic rhetoric in modernist and postmodernist poetry and theory, particularly as these emerge in the poetry of Stevens and Jorie Graham.
This study begins with an examination of the textual and generic issues surrounding apocalypse, culminating in the idea of apocalyptic language as a form of “discursive mastery” over the mayhem of events. Woodland provides an informative religious/historical discussion of apocalypse and, engaging with such critics as Parker, Derrida, and Fowler, sets forth the paradoxes and complexities that eventually challenge any clear dualities between apocalyptic and antiapocalyptic thinking.
Woodland then examines some of Stevens’s wartime essays and poems and describes Stevens’s efforts to salvage a sense of self and poetic vitality in a time of war, as well as his resistance to the possibility of cultural collapse. Woodland discusses the major postwar poems “Credences of Summer” and “The Auroras of Autumn” in separate chapters, examining the interaction of (anti)apocalyptic modes with, respectively, pastoral and elegy.
The final chapter offers a perspective on Stevens’s place in literary history by examining the work of a contemporary poet, Jorie Graham, whose poetry quotes from Stevens’s oeuvre and shows other marks of his influence. Woodland focuses on Graham's 1997 collection The Errancy and shows that her antiapocalyptic poetry involves a very different attitude toward the possibility of a radical break with a particular cultural or aesthetic stance.
Wallace Stevens and the Apocalyptic Mode, offering a new understanding of Stevens’s position in literary history, will greatly interest literary scholars and students.
What is the relationship between history and fiction in a place with a contentious past? And of what concern is gender in the telling of stories about that past?
Writing Women in Central America explores these questions as it considers key Central American texts. This study analyzes how authors appropriate history to confront the rhetoric of the state, global economic powers, and even dissident groups within their own cultures. Laura Barbas-Rhoden winds a common thread in the literary imaginations of Claribel Alegría, Rosario Aguilar, Gioconda Belli, and Tatiana Lobo and shows how these writers offer provocative supplements to the historical record.
Writing Women in Central America considers more than a dozen narratives in which the authors craft their own interpretations of history to make room for women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-Latin Americans. Some of the texts reveal silences in the narratives of empire- and nation-building. Others reinterpret events to highlight the struggle of marginalized peoples for dignity and humanity in the face of oppression. All confront the ways in which stories have been told about the past.
Yet ultimately, Professor Barbas-Rhoden asserts, all concern the present and the future. As seen in Writing Women in Central America, though their fictions are historical, the writers direct their readers beyond the present toward a more just future for all who live in Central America.
A historian hoping to reconstruct the social world of all-black towns or the segregated black sections of other towns in the South finds only scant traces of their existence. In Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life, Tiffany Ruby Patterson uses the ethnographic and literary work of Zora Neale Hurston to augment the few official documents, newspaper accounts, and family records that pertain to these places hidden from history. Hurston's ethnographies, plays, and fiction focused on the day-to-day life in all-black social spaces as well as "the Negro farthest down" in labor camps. Patterson shows how Hurston's work complements the fragmented historical record, using the folklore and stories to provide a full description of these people of these towns as active human subjects, shaped by history and shaping their private world. Beyond the view and domination of whites in these spaces, black people created their own codes of social behavior, honor, and justice. In Patterson's view Hurston renders her subjects faithfully and with respect for their individuality and endurance, enabling all people to envision an otherwise inaccessible world.