Action Writing: Jack Kerouac's Wild Form connects the personal and creative development of the Beat generation's famous icon with cultural changes in postwar America. Michael Hrebeniak asserts that Jack Kerouac's "wild form"—self-organizing narratives free of literary, grammatical, and syntactical conventions—moves within an experimental continuum across the arts to generate a Dionysian sense of writing as raw process. Action Writing highlights how Kerouac made concrete his 1952 intimation of "something beyond the novel" by assembling ideas from Beat America, modernist poetics, action painting, bebop, and subterranean oral traditions.
Geared to scholars and students of American literature, Beat studies, and creative writing, Action Writing places Kerouac's writing within the context of the American art scene at midcentury. Reframing the work of Kerouac and the Beat generation within the experimental modernist and postmodernist literary tradition, this probing inquiry offers a direct engagement with the social and cultural history at the foreground of Kerouac's career from the 1940s to the late 1960s.
Jonathan FLATLEY Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS214.F63 2008 | Dewey Decimal 810.9353
The surprising claim of this book is that dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing. Instead, embracing melancholy can be a road back to contact with others and can lead people to productively remap their relationship to the world around them. Flatley demonstrates that a seemingly disparate set of modernist writers and thinkers showed how aesthetic activity can give us the means to comprehend and change our relation to loss.
In times of liberal despair it helps to have someone like John Carlos Rowe put things into perspective, in this case, with a collection of essays that asks the question, “Must we throw out liberalism’s successes with the neoliberal bathwater?” Rowe first lays out a genealogy of early twentieth-century modernists, such as Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison, with an eye toward stressing their transnationally engaged liberalism and their efforts to introduce into the literary avant-garde the concerns of politically marginalized groups, whether defined by race, class, or gender. The second part of the volume includes essays on the works of Harper Lee, Thomas Berger, Louise Erdrich, and Philip Roth, emphasizing the continuity of efforts to represent domestic political and social concerns. While critical of the increasingly conservative tone of the neoliberalism of the past quarter-century, Rowe rescues the value of liberalism’s sympathetic and socially engaged intent, even as he criticizes modern liberalism’s inability to work transnationally.
Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus’ contributions to political and cultural analysis make him one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. Camus’ writing has been heavily researched and analyzed in academia, with many scholars concentrating on the formal tri-part structure he adhered to in his later work: the cycle that divided his books into stages of the absurd, rebellion, and love. Yet other aspects of Camus’ work—his preoccupation with modernity and its association with Christianity, his fixations on Greek thought and classical imagery—have been largely neglected by critical study. These subjects of Camus’ have long deserved critical analysis, and Ronald D. Srigley finally pays them due attention in Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity.
The straightforward, chronological readings of Camus’ cycles perceive them as simple advancement—the absurd is bad, rebellion is better, and love is best of all. Yet the difficulty with that perspective, Srigley argues, is that it ignores the relationships between the cycles. As the cycles progress, far from denoting improvement, they describe experiences that grow darker and more violent.
Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity also ventures into new interpretations of seminal works—The Myth ofSisyphus, The Rebel, and The Fall—that illuminate Camus’ critique of Christianity and modernity and his return to the Greeks. The book explores how those texts relate to the cyclical structure of Camus’ works and examines the limitations of the project of the cycles as Camus originally conceived it.
Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity presents the decisive vision of that ultimate project: to critique Christianity, modernity, and the relationship between them and also to restore the Greek wisdom that had been eclipsed by both traditions. In contrast to much current scholarship, which interprets Camus’ concerns as modern or even postmodern, Srigley contends that Camus’ ambition ran in the opposite direction of history—that his principal aim was to articulate the themes of the ancients, highlighting Greek anthropology and political philosophy.
This book follows the trajectory of Camus’ work, examining the structure and content of Camus’ writing through a new lens. This assessment of Camus, in its unique approach and perspective, opens up new avenues of research regarding the accomplishments of this prominent philosopher and invigorates Camus studies. A thoroughly sourced text, Albert Camus’ Critique of Modernity makes a valuable resource for study of existentialism, modernity, and modern political thought.
Amy Lowell, American Modern
Bradshaw, Melissa Rutgers University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3523.O88Z54 2004 | Dewey Decimal 811.52
For decades, the work of one of America’s most influential poets, 1925 Pulitzer Prize–winner Amy Lowell (1874–1925), has been largely overlooked. This vigorous, courageous poet gave voice to an erotic, thoroughly American sensibility. Cigar-smoker, Boston Brahmin, lesbian, impresario, entrepreneur, and prolific poet, Lowell heralded the rush of an American poetic flowering. A best-selling poet as well as a wildly popular lecturer (autograph-seeking fans were sometimes so boisterous that she required a police escort), she was a respected authority on modern poetry, forging the path that led to the works of Allen Ginsberg, May Sarton, Sylvia Plath, and beyond. Yet, since her death, her work has suffered critical neglect.
This volume presents an essential revaluation of Lowell, and builds a solid critical basis for evaluating her poetry, criticism, politics, and influence. Essays explore the varied contributions of Lowell as a woman poet, a modernist, and a significant force of the literary debates of early twentieth-century poetics. In addition to placing Lowell in her proper historical context, contributors demonstrate her centrality to current critical and theoretical discussions: feminist, gay and lesbian, and postcolonial, in as well as in disability, American, and cultural studies. The book includes a transatlantic group of literary critics and scholars.
Amy Lowell, American Modern offers the most sustained examination of Lowell to date. It returns her to conversation and to literary history where she belongs.
Analogical Thinking argues that sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, a new mode of comprehension arose, supplementing received Enlightenment ideas concerning the nature of understanding and explanation. Focusing on the innovations of structural linguistics and its poststructural legacy, the individualism of Enlightenment knowledge and the collaborations of post-Enlightenment information, and practices of reading and interpretation across the arts and sciences, Analogical Thinking examines the ways in which analogical presentations of similarities respond to the experiences of twentieth-century culture.
The book traces this mode of thinking in linguistics, collaborative intellectual work in the arts and sciences, and interpretations of literary and sacred texts, concluding with a reading of the concept of Enlightenment in a comparison of Descartes and Foucault. The book examines the poststructuralism of Derrida; the collaborations of information theory and modern science as opposed to the individualism of Adam Smith and others, and analogical interpretations of Yeats, Dinesen, the Bible, Dreiser, and Mailer. Its overall aim is to present an interdisciplinary examination of a particular kind of understanding that responds to the experiences of our time.
Ronald Schleifer is Professor of English, University of Oklahoma. His books include Rhetoric and Death: The Language of Modernism and Postmodern Discourse Theory, Criticism and Culture; and Culture and Cognition: The Boundaries of Literary and Scientific Inquiry.
Anarchism is generally understood as a failed ideology, a political philosophy that once may have had many followers but today attracts only cranks and eccentrics. This book argues that the decline of political anarchism is only half the story; the other half is a tale of widespread cultural success. David Weir develops this thesis in several ways. He begins by considering the place of culture in the political thought of the classical anarchist thinkers William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin. He then shows how the perceived "anarchy" of nineteenth-century society induced writers such as Matthew Arnold, Henry James, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky to turn away from politics and seek unity in the idea of a common culture. Yet as other late-nineteenth-century writers and artists began to sympathize with anarchism, the prospect of a common culture became increasingly remote. In Weir's view, the affinity for anarchism that developed among members of the artistic avant-garde lies behind much of fin de siècle culture. Indeed, the emergence of modernism itself can be understood as the aesthetic realization of anarchist politics. In support of this contention, Weir shows that anarchism is the key aesthetic principle informing the work of a broad range of modernist figures, from Henrik Ibsen and James Joyce to dadaist Hugo Ball and surrealist Luis Buñuel. Weir concludes by reevaluating the phenomenon of postmodernism as only the most recent case of the migration of politics into aesthetics, and by suggesting that anarchism is still very much with us as a cultural condition.
Androgynous Democracy examines how the notions of gender equality propounded by transcendentalists and other nineteenth-century writers were further developed and complicated by the rise of literary modernism. Aaron Shaheen specifically investigates the ways in which intellectual discussions of androgyny, once detached from earlier gonadal-based models, were used by various American authors to formulate their own paradigms of democratic national cohesion. Indeed, Henry James, Frank Norris, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, John Crowe Ransom, Grace Lumpkin, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marita Bonner all expressed a deep fascination with androgyny—an interest that bore directly on their thoughts about some of the most prominent issues America confronted as it moved into the first decades of the twentieth century.
Shaheen not only considers the work of each of these seven writers individually, but he also reveals the interconnectedness of their ideas. He shows that Henry James used the concept of androgyny to make sense of the discord between the North and the South in the years immediately following the Civil War, while Norris and Gilman used it to formulate a new model of citizenship in the wake of America’s industrial ascendancy. The author next explores the uses Ransom and Lumpkin made of androgyny in assessing the threat of radicalism once the Great Depression had weakened the country’s faith in both capitalism and religious fundamentalism. Finally, he looks at how androgyny was instrumental in the discussions of racial uplift and urban migration generated by Du Bois and Bonner.
Thoroughly documented, this engrossing volume will be a valuable resource in the fields of American literary criticism, feminism and gender theory, queer theory, and politics and nationalism.
Aaron Shaheen is UC Foundation Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He has published articles in the Southern Literary Journal, American Literary Realism, and the Henry James Review.
Mia Spiro's Anti-Nazi Modernism marks a major step forward in the critical debates over the relationship between modernist art and politics. Spiro analyzes the antifascist, and particularly anti-Nazi, narrative methods used by key British and American fiction writers in the 1930s. Focusing on works by Djuna Barnes, Christopher Isherwood, and Virginia Woolf, Spiro illustrates how these writers use an "anti-Nazi aesthetic" to target and expose Nazism’s murderous discourse of exclusion. The three writers challenge the illusion of harmony and unity promoted by the Nazi spectacle in parades, film, rallies, and propaganda. Spiro illustrates how their writings, seldom read in this way, resonate with the psychological and social theories of the period and warn against Nazism’s suppression of individuality. Her approach also demonstrates how historical and cultural contexts complicate the works, often reinforcing the oppressive discourses they aim to attack. This book explores the textual ambivalences toward the "Others" in society—most prominently the Modern Woman, the homosexual, and the Jew. By doing so, Spiro uncovers important clues to the sexual and racial politics that were widespread in Europe and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.
The Harlem Renaissance was a watershed moment for racial uplift, poetic innovation, sexual liberation, and female empowerment. Aphrodite’s Daughters introduces us to three amazing women who were at the forefront of all these developments, poetic iconoclasts who pioneered new and candidly erotic forms of female self-expression.
Maureen Honey paints a vivid portrait of three African American women—Angelina Weld Grimké, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, and Mae V. Cowdery—who came from very different backgrounds but converged in late 1920s Harlem to leave a major mark on the literary landscape. She examines the varied ways these poets articulated female sexual desire, ranging from Grimké’s invocation of a Sapphic goddess figure to Cowdery’s frank depiction of bisexual erotics to Bennett’s risky exploration of the borders between sexual pleasure and pain. Yet Honey also considers how they were united in their commitment to the female body as a primary source of meaning, strength, and transcendence.
The product of extensive archival research, Aphrodite’s Daughters draws from Grimké, Bennett, and Cowdery’s published and unpublished poetry, along with rare periodicals and biographical materials, to immerse us in the lives of these remarkable women and the world in which they lived. It thus not only shows us how their artistic contributions and cultural interventions were vital to their own era, but also demonstrates how the poetic heart of their work keeps on beating.
For years critics have held that literary modernism was both apolitical and solipsistic. While the former charge began to give way with the recession of New Criticism, the latter has grown in strength as a lead-in to the claim that postmodernism is apolitical and solipsistic. Against this backdrop, Kevin Bell surveys fiction by Conrad, Woolf, Faulkner, West, Ellison, and Himes to show that modernism is a sharply philosophical archive. In Ashes Taken for Fire, he argues that modernism exposes cultural identities such as blackness as mere strategies of conforming the self into belonging. Bell’s examination pursues the question of nonidentity through sound, silence, and gesture, treating these as technologies of reading the contradictions, breakdowns, and erasures that constitute subjectivity. His analysis of these texts reveals that the aesthetic investigations they perform undo the logic of cultural identity, devastating such reductive rubrics as “race” or “gender.”Ashes Taken for Fire explores the experience of blackness in both its chromatic/ocular and “racial” registers. For while blackness operates as a standard figural expression for disorientation, its presumably “voided” character is reprojected in this work as an immanent force of possibility and experimentation.Kevin Bell is assistant professor of English and comparative literary studies at Northwestern University.
The Asian American Avant-Garde is the first book-length study thatconceptualizes a long-neglected canon of early Asian American literature and art. Audrey Wu Clark traces a genealogy of counter-universalism in short fiction, poetry, novels, and art produced by writers and artists of Asian descent who were responding to their contemporary period of Asian exclusion in the United States, between the years 1882 and 1945.
Believing in the promise of an inclusive America, these avant-gardists critiqued racism as well as institutionalized art. Clark examines racial outsiders including Isamu Noguchi, Dong Kingman and Yun Gee to show how they engaged with modernist ideas, particularly cubism. She draws comparisons between writers such as Sui Sin Far and Carlos Bulosan with modernist luminaries like Stein, Eliot, Pound, and Proust.
Acknowledging the anachronism of the term “Asian American” with respect to these avant-gardists, Clark attempts to reconstruct it. The Asian American Avant-Garde explores the ways in which these artists and writers responded to their racialization and the Orientalism that took place in modernist writing.