What do Amsterdam prostitutes, NASA astronauts, cross-dressing texts, and Star Trek characters have in common? Only Marleen Barr knows for sure. In Genre Fission, the award-winning author revitalizes literary and cultural theory by proposing an entirely new discourse practice of examining the points where genres and attendant meanings first converge, then reemerge as something new. Part literary analysis, part cultural studies, part feminist critique flavored with a smattering of science fiction and utopian studies, it is witty and eccentric, entertaining and enlightening.
Barr expands postmodern assumptions about cultural studies by suggesting that "genre fission" is occurring among discrete literary and cultural "types" of events--mainstream novels, science fiction, historical narratives, film, paintings, and museum displays. For her literary insights, Barr turns her attention to such mainstream authors as Saul Bellow, John Updike, Marge Piercy, and John Barth as well as science fiction writers Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler and Hispanic American writers Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, and Cristina García, among others.
Barr moves from literary to culture studies by addressing such phenomena from contemporary mass culture as the urban landscapes of New York and Los Angeles, Jackie Kennedy, the Star Trek industry, Lynn Redgrave, Amsterdam's red light district, Lorena Bobbitt, and the Apollo astronauts--to provide only a few of the relevant examples. Thus Genre Fission attains what Barr herself designates (in describing the art of Judy Chicago and Lee Bontecou) as "utopian interweavings of difference," crossing numerous boundaries in order to frame a larger territory for exploration.
German Literature on the Middle East explores the dynamic between German-speaking and Middle Eastern states and empires from the time of the Crusades to the end of the Cold War. This insightful study illuminates the complex relationships among literary and other writings on the one hand, and economic, social, and political processes and material dimensions on the other. Focusing on German-language literary and nonfiction writings about the Middle East (including historical documents, religious literature, travel writing, essays, and scholarship), Nina Berman evaluates the multiple layers of meaning contained in these works by emphasizing the importance of culture contact; a wide web of political, economic, and social practices; and material dimensions as indispensible factors for the interpretive process.
This analysis of literary and related writing reveals that German views about the Middle East evolved over the centuries and that various forms of action toward the Middle East differed substantially as well. Ideas about religion, culture, race, humanism, nation, and modernity, which emerged successively but remain operative to this day, have fashioned Germany's changed attitudes toward the Middle East. Exploring the interplay between textual discourses and social, political, and economic practices and materiality, German Literature on the Middle East offers insights that challenge accepted approaches to the study of literature, particularly approaches that insist on the centrality of the linguistic construction of the world. In addition, Berman presents evidence that the German encounter with the Middle East is at once distinct and yet at the same time characterized by patterns shared with other European countries. By addressing the individual nature of the German encounter in the larger European context, this study fills a considerable gap in current scholarship.
The interdisciplinary approach of German Literature on the Middle East will be of interest to the humanities in general, and specifically to scholars of German studies, comparative literature, Middle Eastern studies, and history.
Nina Berman is Professor of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University.
Jacket image: Map of Europe by Giovanni Magini, from his “Geography.” Venice, . From the University of Michigan Map Library.
Political Map of the World, April 2008. From the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library, Map Collection.
We know that size matters in many areas of human endeavor, but what about works of the imagination? Why do some dramatic creations extend to five hours or more, and how does their extreme length help them accomplish extraordinarily ambitious aims? In Great Lengths, theater critic and scholar Jonathan Kalb addresses these and other questions through a close look at seven internationally prominent theater productions, including Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, the Royal Shakespeare Company's Nicholas Nickleby, and the "durational works" of the British experimental company Forced Entertainment. This is a book about extreme length, monumental scope, and intensive immersion in the theater in general, written by a passionate spectator reflecting on selected pinnacles of his theatergoing over thirty years.
The book's examples, deliberately chosen for their diversity, range from adapted novels and epics, to dramatic chronicles with macrohistorical and macropolitical implications, to stagings of super-size classic plays, to "postdramatic" works that negotiate the border between life and art. Kalb reconstructs each of the works, re-creating the experience of seeing it while at the same time explaining how it maintained attention and interest over so many hours, and then expanding the scope to embrace a wider view and ask broader questions. The discussion of Nicholas Nickleby, for example, considers melodrama as a basic tool of theatrical communication, and the section on Peter Brook's The Mahabharata explores the ethical problems surrounding theatrical exoticism. The chapter on Einstein on the Beach grows into a reflection on the media-age status of the much-debated Gesamtkunstwerk (or "total artwork") and a reassessment of the long avant-gardist tradition of challenging the primacy of rational language in theater. The essay on Peter Stein's Faust I + II becomes a reflection on the interpretive role of theater directors and the theatrical viability of antitheatrical closet drama. Great Lengths thus offers a remarkable panorama of the surprisingly broad field of contemporary marathon theater—an art form that diverse audiences of savvy, screen-weaned spectators continue to seek out, for the increasingly rare experiences of awe, transcendence, and sustained immersion that it provides.
Great Lengths will appeal to general readers as well as theater specialists. It situates the chosen productions in various historical and critical contexts and engages with the many lively scholarly debates that have swirled around them. At the same time, it uses the productions as springboards for wide-ranging reflections on the basic purpose and enduring power of theater in an attention-challenged, media-saturated era.
A collection of thirteen original essays by leaders in the emerging field of ecocriticism,The Greening of Literary Scholarship is devoted to exploring new and previously neglected literatures, theories, and methods in environmental-literary scholarship.
Each essay in this impressive collection challenges the notion that the study of environmental literature is separate from traditional concerns of criticism, and each applies ecocritical scholarship to literature not commonly explored in this context. New historicism, postcolonialism, deconstructionism, and feminist and Marxist theories are all utilized to evaluate and gain new insights into environmental literature; at the same time, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Susan Howe are studied from an ecocritical perspective.
At its core, The Greening of Literary Scholarship offers a practical demonstration of how articulating traditional and environmental modes of literary scholarship can enrich the interpretation of literary texts and, most important, revitalize the larger fields of environmental and literary scholarship.