In Addressing Postmodernity, Barbara Biesecker examines the relationship between rhetoric and social change and the ways human beings transform social relations through the purposeful use of symbols. In discerning the conditions of possibility for social transformation and the role of human beings and rhetoric in it, Biesecker turns to the seminal work of Kenneth Burke.
Through a close reading of Burke's major works, A Grammar of Motives, A Rhetoric of Motives, and The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology, the author addresses the critical topic of the
fragmentation of the contemporary lifeworld revealing postmodernity will have a major impact on Burkeian scholarship and on the rhetorical critique of social relations in general.
Directly confronting the challenges posed by postmodernity to social theorists and critics alike and juxtaposing the work of Burke and Jurgen Habermas, Biesecker argues that a radicalized rereading of Burke's theory of the negative opens the way toward a resolutely rhetorical theory of social change and human agency.
Contributors. Sara Ahmed, Ben Anderson, Lauren Berlant, Lone Bertelsen, Steven D. Brown, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Anna Gibbs,Melissa Gregg, Lawrence Grossberg, Ben Highmore, Brian Massumi, Andrew Murphie, Elspeth Probyn, Gregory J. Seigworth, Kathleen Stewart, Nigel Thrift, Ian Tucker, Megan Watkins
The surprising claim of this book is that dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing. Instead, Jonathan Flatley argues, 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.The texts at the center of Flatley’s analysis—Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, and Andrei Platonov’s Chevengur—share with Freud an interest in understanding the depressing effects of difficult losses and with Walter Benjamin the hope that loss itself could become a means of connection and the basis for social transformation. For Du Bois, Platonov, and James, the focus on melancholy illuminates both the historical origins of subjective emotional life and a heretofore unarticulated community of melancholics. The affective maps they produce make possible the conversion of a depressive melancholia into a way to be interested in the world.
The fear of falling, the awareness of lost innocence, lost illusions, lost hopes and intentions, of civilization in decline—these are the themes which link literature to theology, both concerned with the shape of human destiny. Otten discusses the continuing viability of the myth of the Fall in literature. He relates a wide variety of romantic and modern works to fundamental issues in modern Christianity.
Contributors. Lauren Berlant, Leo Bersani, Michael Cobb, Ann Cvetkovich, Lee Edelman, Richard Thompson Ford, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman, Jonathan Goldberg, Janet Halley, Neville Hoad, Joseph Litvak, Heather Love, Michael Lucey, Michael Moon, José Esteban Muñoz, Jeff Nunokawa, Andrew Parker, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Richard Rambuss, Erica Rand, Bethany Schneider, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Kate Thomas
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
Why Captain Ahab is worthy of our fear—and our compassion
Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab is perennially seen as the paradigm of a controlling, tyrannical agent. Ahab Unbound leaves his position as a Cold War icon behind, recasting him as a contingent figure, transformed by his environment—by chemistry, electromagnetism, entomology, meteorology, diet, illness, pain, trauma, and neurons firing—in ways that unexpectedly force us to see him as worthy of our empathy and our compassion.
In sixteen essays by leading scholars, Ahab Unbound advances an urgent inquiry into Melville’s emergence as a center of gravity for materialist work, reframing his infamous whaling captain in terms of pressing conversations in animal studies, critical race and ethnic studies, disability studies, environmental humanities, medical humanities, political theory, and posthumanism. By taking Ahab as a focal point, we gather and give shape to the multitude of ways that materialism produces criticism in our current moment. Collectively, these readings challenge our thinking about the boundaries of both persons and nations, along with the racist and environmental violence caused by categories like the person and the human.
Ahab Unbound makes a compelling case for both the vitality of materialist inquiry and the continued resonance of Melville’s work.
Contributors: Branka Arsić, Columbia U; Christopher Castiglia, Pennsylvania State U; Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt U; Christian P. Haines, Pennsylvania State U; Bonnie Honig, Brown U; Jonathan Lamb, Vanderbilt U; Pilar Martínez Benedí, U of L’Aquila, Italy; Steve Mentz, St. John’s College; John Modern, Franklin and Marshall College; Mark D. Noble, Georgia State U; Samuel Otter, U of California, Berkeley; Donald E. Pease, Dartmouth College; Ralph James Savarese, Grinnell College; Russell Sbriglia, Seton Hall U; Michael D. Snediker, U of Houston; Matthew A. Taylor, U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Ivy Wilson, Northwestern U.
In the antebellum years, the Western world’s symbolic realities were expanded and challenged as merchant, military, and scientific activity moved into Pacific and Arctic waters. In Antebellum at Sea, Jason Berger explores the roles that early nineteenth-century maritime narratives played in conceptualizing economic and social transitions in the developing global market system and what these chronicles disclose about an era marked by immense change.
Focusing on the work of James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, Berger enhances our understanding of how the nineteenth century negotiated its own tenuous progress by portraying how a wide range of maritime stories lays bare disturbing experiences of the new. Berger draws on Slavoj Žižek’s Lacanian notion of fantasy in order to reconsider the complex way maritime accounts operated in the political landscape of antebellum America, examining topics such as the function of maritime labor know-how within a transformation of scientific knowledge, anxiety produced by conflict between gender-specific and culture-specific forms of enjoyment, and how legal practices illuminate troubling juridical paradoxes at the heart of Polk-era political life.
Addressing the ideas of the antebellum age from unexpected and revealing perspectives, Berger calls on the conception of fantasy to consider how antebellum maritime literature disputes conventional views of American history, literature, and national identity.
A capacious analysis of a legendary intellectual friendship and the material legacies it left behind
Over the course of their decades-long friendship, Hélène Cixous and Jacques Derrida assembled overlapping archives of written experiments and exchanges that document a shared interest in their literary afterlives. In this incisive account, Laura Hughes shows how pushing against the limits of writing and of life itself means not only imagining but manifesting a community of future readers.
Archival Afterlives: Cixous, Derrida, and the Matter of Friendship examines the embodied nature of literary creation, taking letters, fragments, notes, and other ephemera as objects of critical analysis and care. Combining close readings of key texts and previously unexamined archival materials, Hughes traces critical connections between Cixous and Derrida, between the theoretical and the autobiographical, and between life writing and its limits. In putting deconstruction into dialogue with new material analyses and archive studies, Archival Afterlives positions this historical and intellectual relationship as a lens through which to reexamine the legacy of critical theory itself.
The Art of Being is a powerful account of how the literary form of the novel reorients philosophy toward the meaning of existence. Yi-Ping Ong shows that for Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Beauvoir, the form of the novel in its classic phase yields the conditions for reconceptualizing the nature of self-knowledge, freedom, and the world. Their discovery gives rise to a radically new poetics of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century realist novel.For the existentialists, a paradox lies at the heart of the novel. As a work of art, the novel exists as a given totality. At the same time, the capacity of the novel to compel belief in the free and independent existence of its characters depends on the absence of any perspective from which their lives may be viewed as a consummated whole. At stake in the poetics of the novel are the conditions under which knowledge of existence is possible. Ong’s reframing of foundational debates in novel theory takes us beyond old dichotomies of mind and world, interiority and totality, and form and mimesis. It illuminates existential dimensions of novelistic realism overlooked by empirical and sociological approaches.Bringing together philosophy, novel theory, and intellectual history with groundbreaking readings of Tolstoy, Eliot, Austen, James, Flaubert, and Zola, The Art of Being reveals how the novel engages in its very form with philosophically rich notions of self-knowledge, freedom, authority, world, and the unfinished character of human life.
Artificial Mythologies was first published in 1997. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Cultural critics teach us that myths are artificial. Cultural innovators use the artificial to make something new. In this exhilarating guide, Craig J. Saper takes us on an eye-opening tour of the process of cultural invention-willfully entertaining foolish, absurd, even fake, solutions as a way of reaching new perspectives on cultural problems. Saper deploys this method to reveal unsuspected connections among major cultural issues, such as urban decay, the dangers of television's power, family values, and conservative criticism of higher education.
The model Saper uses builds on the later works of the revered French cultural critic Roland Barthes. These works, Saper argues, suggest poignant, playful, and productive ways of engaging dominant methodologies and mythologies. Artificial Mythologies shows us how, by allowing the artificial-our received ideas, common responses, and cultural mythologies-full play, we can arrive at provocative new solutions. The book demonstrates that the very conceptions of media and sociocultural issues that stymie innovation can be made to serve the cause of invention.
Craig J. Saper is assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
From every quarter we hear of a new global culture, postcolonial, hybrid, announcing the death of nationalism, the arrival of cosmopolitanism. But under the drumbeat attending this trend, Timothy Brennan detects another, altogether different sound. Polemical, passionate, certain to provoke, his book exposes the drama being played out under the guise of globalism. A bracing critique of the critical self-indulgence that calls itself cosmopolitanism, it also takes note of the many countervailing forces acting against globalism in its facile, homogenizing sense.The developments Brennan traces occur in many places--editorial pages, policy journals, corporate training manuals, and, primarily, in the arts. His subject takes him from George Orwell to Julia Kristeva, from Subcommandante Marcos to Julio Cortázar, from Ernst Bloch to contemporary apologists for transnational capitalism and "liberation management," from "third world" writing to the Nobel Prize, with little of critical theory or cultural studies left untouched in between. Brennan gives extended treatment to two exemplary figures: the Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James, whose work suggests an alternative approach to cultural studies; and the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, whose appreciation of Cuban popular music cuts through the usual distinctions between mass and elite culture.A critical call to arms, At Home in the World summons intellectuals and scholars to reinvigorate critical cultural studies. In stripping the false and heedless from the new cosmopolitanism, Brennan revitalizes the idea.
Augustine of Hippo, a central figure in the history of Western thought, is also the author of a theory of reading that has had a profound influence on Western letters from the ages of Petrarch, Montaigne, Luther, and Rousseau to those of Freud and our own time. Brian Stock provides the first full account of this theory within the evolution of Augustine’s early dialogues, his Confessions, and his systematic treatises.Augustine was convinced that words and images play a mediating role in our perceptions of reality. In the union of philosophy, psychology, and literary insights that forms the basis of his theory of reading, the reader emerges as the dominant model of the reflective self. Meditative reading, indeed the meditative act that constitutes reading itself, becomes the portal to inner being. At the same time, Augustine argues that the self-knowledge reading brings is, of necessity, limited, since it is faith rather than interpretive reason that can translate reading into forms of understanding.In making his theory of reading a central concern, Augustine rethinks ancient doctrines about images, memory, emotion, and cognition. In judging what readers gain and do not gain from the sensory and mental understanding of texts, he takes up questions that have reappeared in contemporary thinking. He prefigures, and in a way he teaches us to recognize, our own preoccupations with the phenomenology of reading, the hermeneutics of tradition, and the ethics of interpretation.
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