Sappho Is Burning
Page duBois University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress PA4409.D8 1995 | Dewey Decimal 884.01
To know all we know about Sappho is to know little. Her poetry, dating from the seventh century B.C.E., comes to us in fragments, her biography as speculation. How is it then, Page duBois asks, that this poet has come to signify so much? Sappho Is Burning offers a new reading of this archaic lesbian poet that acknowledges the poet's distance and difference from us and stresses Sappho's inassimilability into our narratives about the Greeks, literary history, philosophy, the history of sexuality, the psychoanalytic subject.
In Sappho is Burning, duBois reads Sappho as a disruptive figure at the very origin of our story of Western civilization. Sappho is beyond contemporary categories, inhabiting a space outside of reductively linear accounts of our common history. She is a woman, but also an aristocrat, a Greek, but one turned toward Asia, a poet who writes as a philosopher before philosophy, a writer who speaks of sexuality that can be identified neither with Michel Foucault's account of Greek sexuality, nor with many versions of contemporary lesbian sexuality. She is named as the tenth muse, yet the nine books of her poetry survive only in fragments. She disorients, troubles, undoes many certitudes in the history of poetry, the history of philosophy, the history of sexuality. DuBois argues that we need to read Sappho again.
Harold Bloom is our greatest living literary critic. His wide-ranging critical writings have plumbed the depths of Romanticism (The Visionary Company), explored the anxiety caused by the influence of one generation of poets on another (Agon, The Anxiety of Influence), wrestled with the idea of a literary canon (The Western Canon), introduced Jacques Derrida and deconstruction to America (Deconstruction and Criticism), and explored the relationship between religion, especially Judaism, and literature (Kabbalah and Criticism, The Book of J).
Bloom is indeed a party of one, a truly strong poet of his own mode of religious-literary criticism, who, in a typically Emersonian manner, makes his own circumstances and sheds influences by incorporating them into his idiosyncratic theory.In this unprecedented full-length study on Harold Bloom, Agata Bielik-Robson explores the many facets of Bloom’s critical writings and career. In his work, she argues, Bloom draws on a variety of disparate traditions—Judaism, gnosis, Romanticism, American pragmatism, and Freudianism, but also, especially recently, Victorian aestheticism—that comprise a dialectical, difficult whole in a constant quarrel with itself. Yet, this is precisely the image of "life-in-antithesis," which constitutes Bloom’s highest speculative achievement, she observes. The Saving Lie brings all these "Blooms" together and, despite their own tendencies toward dissociation, lets them speak unisono: in one almost harmonious voice that will clearly utter the principles of a new speculative position—Bloom’s antithetical vitalism. This study of Bloom and his contributions will not soon be surpassed.
Jamie Barlowe finds it bitterly ironic that in literary criticism of The Scarlet Letter, a major American novel about a woman, the voices of female critics have been virtually excluded.
Barlowe examines the causes and consequences of the continuing disregard for women's scholarship. To that end, she chronicles The Scarlet Letter's critical reception, analyzes the history of Hester Prynne as a cultural icon in literature and film, rereads the canonized criticism of the novel, and offers a new reading of Hawthorne's work by rescuing marginalized interpretations from the alternative canon of women critics.
Despite the fervent protestations of scholars that women and minorities are no longer excluded from the arena of academic debate, Barlowe's investigation reveals that mainstream scholarship on The Scarlet Letter—studied as models by generations of students and teachers—remains male-dominated in its comprising population and in its attitudes and practices, which function as the source of its truth-claims. Rather than celebrating the minimal handouts of the academy to women and minorities—and of the culture that nurtures and supports the academy's continuing discrimination—Barlowe constructs a case study that reveals the "rather pitiful state of affairs at the close of the twentieth century."
By interrogating canonized assumptions, Barlowe charts new directions for Hawthorne studies and American literary studies. Through this exposé of ingrained institutional bias, perpetuated myths, and privileged critics, Barlowe provides a refigured perception of the field and state of contemporary literary scholarship.
For Jerome McGann, the purpose of scholarship is to preserve and pass on cultural heritage, a feat accomplished through discussion among scholars and interested nonspecialists. In The Scholar’s Art, a collection of thirteen essays, McGann both addresses and exemplifies that discussion and the vocation it supports.
Of particular interest to McGann is the demise of public discourse about poetry. That poetry has become recondite is, to his mind, at once a problem for how scholars do their work and a general cultural emergency. The Scholar’s Art asks what could be gained by reimagining the way scholars have codified the literary and cultural history of the past two hundred years and goes on to provide a series of case studies that illustrate how scholarly method can help bring about such reimaginings. McGann closes with a discussion of technology’s ability to harness the reimagination of cultural memory and concludes with exemplary acts of critical reflection.
Astute observation from one of America’s most bracing and original commentators on the place of literature in twenty-first century culture, The Scholar’s Art proposes new ways—cultural, philological, and technological—to reimagine our literary past and future.
In Shelley and His Readers, the first full-length critical analysis of the dialogue between Shelley's poetry and its contemporary reviewers, Kim Wheatley argues that Shelley's idealism can be recovered through the study of his poetry's reception. Incorporating extensive research in major early-nineteenth-century British periodicals, Wheatley integrates a reception-based methodology with careful textual analysis to demonstrate that the early reception of Shelley's work registers the immediate impact of the poet's increasingly idealistic passion for reforming the world.
Wheatley examines Shelley's poetry within the context of Romantic-era "paranoid politics," a simultaneously empowering and disabling dynamic in which the reviewers employ a heightened language of defensiveness and persecution that paints their adversaries as Satanic rebels against orthodoxy. This "paranoid style" displays a preoccupation with the efficacy of the printed word and singles out radical writers such as Shelley as sources of social contamination.
Using Shelley's Queen Mab to illustrate his early radicalism, Wheatley demonstrates that the poet, like his contemporary reviewers, is caught up in paranoid rhetoric. Failing to challenge the assumptions underlying the paranoid style-conspiracy and contagion-in this poem Shelley takes merely a defiant, oppositional stance. However, Shelley's later poems, exemplified by Prometheus Unbound and Adonais, circumvent the reviewers' rhetoric through their boldly experimental language, a process registered by the reviewers' own responses. These less explicitly political poems transcend the dynamics of cultural paranoia by shifting to an apolitical conception of the aesthetic. In collaboration with its early readers, Shelley's poetry thus moves momentarily beyond paranoid politics.
The final chapter of this study argues that the posthumous reception of Adonais uniquely replicates the elegiac moves and complex idealism of the poem, concluding with a discussion of how the Shelley circle aestheticized the poet after his death.
Shelley and His Readers offers a new approach to the question of how to recuperate Romantic idealism in the face of challenges from both deconstructive and historicist criticism. Its innovative use of reception-based analysis will make this book invaluable not only to specialists of the Romantic period but also to anyone interested in new developments in literary criticism.
This collection gathers new essays by critics and scholars who are currently reshaping our sense of the function and nature of seventeenth-century poetry. Contributors return to the New Critical canon of Renaissance poetry with fresh perspectives that emphasize considerations of gender, ideology, power, and language.
In the first group of essays, David Norbrook, Annabel Patterson, John Guillory, Rosemary Kegl, and Stephen Orgel explore the various ways in which a text can be "political." Next, Arthur Marotti, Jane Tylus, and Jonathan Goldberg consider the circumstances of textual production and reception in the seventeenth century. Finally, Stanley Fish, Gordon Braden, Michael C. Schoenfeldt, and Maureen Quilligan discuss the particular forms of anxiety that result when seventeenth-century poets modify the traditional rhetoric of sexual desire to serve what seem to be erotic or religious purposes.
These essays, accompanied by an extensive editors' introduction, intersect less in their shared enthusiasm for particular authors or interpretative methods than in a common interest in particular critical issues. They present the most exciting work by critics redefining Renaissance studies.
In Somebody Telling Somebody Else, James Phelan proposes a paradigm shift for narrative theory, a turn from viewing narrative as a structure to viewing it as a rhetorical action in which a teller selectively deploys the resources of storytelling in order to accomplish particular purposes in relation to particular audiences. Phelan explores the consequences of this shift for an understanding of various elements of narrative, including reliable and unreliable narration, character-character dialogue, and occasions of narration.
In doing so, he offers new readings of a wide range of narratives from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, from Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim to George V. Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle, from Franz Kafka’s “Das Urteil” to Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif,” from David Small’s Stitches to Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Third and Final Continent,” from John O’Hara’s “Appearances” to Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love. Phelan contends that the standard view of narrative as a synthesis of story and discourse is inadequate to handle the complexities of narrative communication, and he demonstrates the greater explanatory power of his rhetorical view. Furthermore, Phelan gives new prominence to the presence and activity of the “somebody else,” as he shows that an audience’s unfolding responses to a narrative often influence its very construction.
Songs of Degrees brings together 19 related essays on contemporary American poetry and poetics, published as journal articles between 1975 and 1989, by poet and theorist John Taggart. Over the past two decades, Taggart has been a significant intellectual and artistic force for a number of major American poets. By focusing on the work of several major and less well-known American experimental poets from the 1930s to the present, Taggart not only traces the origins and evolution of this experimental tendency in recent poetry, but also develops new theoretical tools for reading and appreciating these innovative and complex works.
The essays are written from the engaged perspective of an active poet for other poets, as well as for those who would like to read and think about poetry in a participatory fashion. The essays thus present “inside narratives” of some of the most challenging contemporary American poetry.
The range of Songs of Degrees extends from the Black Mountain poets Charles Olson and Robert Duncan to such “language poets as Bruce Andres and Susan Howe. Taggart closely examines the work of the objectivist poets George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky. Three essays are devoted to each of these poets, providing detailed readings of individual poems and considerations of each poet’s overall achievement. Taggart also concentrates on poets whose work has not been widely recognized or is only now beginning to be recognized. These include Theodore Enslin, Frank Samperi, and William Bronk. Taggart’s essay “Reading William Bronk” is the first extensive reading of this relatively unknown but truly outstanding poet.
Taggart’s essays also focus on his own poetry. He describes the composition process and the thinking behind it, as well as the poet’s own evolving sense of what the poem can and ought to be. These very personal reflections are unique in their attention to current questions concerning form and the issue of spiritual vision. Avoiding political and cultural reductionism, Taggart throughout keeps his eye—and heart—on the poetic, singing his own “Songs of Degrees,” even as he discovers notes of the same music in the works of other.
"There's a real flowering, I think, of southern poetry right now, . . . assembling at the edges of everything." This observation by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Wright reflects upon the continuing vibrancy and importance of the southern poetic tradition. Although the death of James Dickey in 1997 left southern poetry without a recognizably dominant voice, an array of other vibrant voices continue to be heard and recognized. Southbound: Interviews with Southern Poets provides detailed discussion of the art and craft of poetry by many writers who promise to keep southern poetry vital into the twenty-first century.
Beginning with an interview with the late literary giant James Dickey, Southbound collects the ideas and insights of both well-known and rising southern poets, including Dave Smith, Charles Wright, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Rodney Jones. Suarez's guiding principle for conducting and revising the interviews was to let the poets express themselves as clearly and fully as possible. Each interview is ultimately defined by the poet's own personality and voice, yet all explore similar themes—the relationship between technique and subject, the nature of the southern canon and each poet's place in it, and the state of contemporary poetry. As Dave Smith relates, "My sense of appreciation of what life means or could mean, whatever I know about life, stems from a sense of place, a sense of the ghostliness of meaning." It is this sense of place and meaning that Suarez allows each poet to convey truthfully in his interviews.
Including a brief introduction to each interview and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources for each poet, Southbound is a useful tool for scholars and a springboard for casual readers. More important, this collection of interviews makes a significant contribution to the tradition of southern poetry and its most prominent voices.
African American culture is often considered expressive, dramatic, and even defiant. In The Sovereignty of Quiet, Kevin Quashie explores quiet as a different kind of expressiveness, one which characterizes a person’s desires, ambitions, hungers, vulnerabilities, and fears. Quiet is a metaphor for the inner life, and as such, enables a more nuanced understanding of black culture.
The book revisits such iconic moments as Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s protest at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and Elizabeth Alexander’s reading at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. Quashie also examines such landmark texts as Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Toni Morrison’s Sula to move beyond the emphasis on resistance, and to suggest that concepts like surrender, dreaming, and waiting can remind us of the wealth of black humanity.
Now it is my turn to stand. At Acoma Pueblo meetings, members rise and announce their intention to speak. In that moment they are recognized and heard. In Speaking for the Generations, Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz brings together contemporary Native American writers to take their turn. Each offers an evocation of herself or himself, describing the personal, social, and cultural influences on her or his development as a writer. Although each writer's viewpoint is personal and unique, together they reflect the rich tapestry of today's Native literature.
Of varied backgrounds, the writers represent Indian heritages and cultures from the Pacific Northwest to the northern plains, from Canada to Guatemala. They are poets, novelists, and playwrights. And although their backgrounds are different and their statements intensely personal, they share common themes of their relationship to the land, to their ancestors, and to future generations of their people. From Gloria Bird's powerful recounting of personal and family history to Esther Belin's vibrant tale of her urban Native homeland in Los Angeles, these writers reveal the importance of place and politics in their lives. Leslie Marmon Silko calls upon the ancient tradition of Native American storytelling and its role in connecting the people to the land. Roberta J. Hill and Elizabeth Woody ponder some of the absurdities of contemporary Native life, while Guatemalan Victor Montejo takes readers to the Mayan world, where a native culture had writing and books long before Europeans came.
Together these pieces offer an inspiring portrait of what it means to be a Native writer in the twentieth century. With passion and urgency, these writers are speaking for themselves, for their land, and for the generations.
Speculative Formalism engages decisively in recent debates in the literary humanities around form and formalism, making the case for a new, nonmimetic and antihistoricist theory of literary reference. Where formalism has often been accused of sealing texts within themselves, Eyers demonstrates instead how a renewed, speculative formalism can illuminate the particular ways in which literature actively opens onto history, politics, and nature, in a connective movement that puts formal impasses to creative use.
Through a combination of philosophical reflection and close rhetorical readings, Eyers explores the possibilities and limits of deconstructive approaches to the literary, the impact of the “digital humanities” on theory, and the prospects for a formalist approach to “world literature.” The book includes sustained close readings of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Yeats, and Wallace Stevens, as well as Alain Badiou, Paul de Man, and Fredric Jameson.
Staging Consciousness argues that theater is a living invalidation of the Western dualism of mind and body, activating human consciousness through its embodiment of thought in performance. While consciousness theory has begun to find ways to bridge dualist gaps, Staging Consciousness suggests that theater has anticipated these advances, given the ways in which the physical theater promotes nonphysical thought, connecting the two realms in unique and ingenious ways.
William W. Demastes makes use of the writings of such varied theater practitioners as Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Samuel Beckett, Tony Kushner, Sam Shepard, Spalding Gray, Peter Shaffer, and others, illuminating theater as proof that mind is an extension of body. The living stage incubates and materializes thought in a way that highlights the processes of daily existence outside the theater. This book offers a new way for theater practitioners to look at the unique value of the theater and an invitation for philosophers and scientists to search for new paradigms in theater, the oldest of art forms.
William W. Demastes is Professor of English, Louisiana State University. His previous books include Theatre of Chaos: Beyond Absurdism, into Disorderly Order.
Theoretically sophisticated: How often has this term been used to distinguish a work of contemporary criticism, and what, exactly, does it mean? In Strange Gourmets, Joseph Litvak reclaims sophistication from its negative connotations and turns the spotlight on those who, even as they demonize sophistication, surreptitiously and extensively use it. Though commonly thought of as a kind of worldliness at its best and an elitist snobbery at its worst, sophistication, Litvak reminds us, remains tied to its earlier, if forgotten, meaning of "perversion"—a perversion whose avatars are the homosexual and the intellectual. Proceeding with his investigations from a specifically gay academic perspective, Litvak presents thoroughly inventive readings of novels by Austen, Thackeray, and Proust, and of theoretical works by Adorno and Barthes, each text epitomizing sophistication in one of its more familiar modes. Among the issues he explores are the ways in which these texts teach sophistication, the embarrassment that sophistication causes the sophisticated, and how the class politics of sophistication are inseparable from its sexual politics. Helping gay, queer, feminist, and other provocative critics to make the most of their bad publicity, Litvak mindfully celebrates sophistication’s economy of taste and pleasure.
Everybody’s got a theory . . . or do they?
Thomas McLaughlin argues that critical theory—raising serious, sustained questions about cultural practice and ideology—is practiced not only by an academic elite but also by savvy viewers of sitcoms and TV news, by Elvis fans and Trekkies, by labor organizers and school teachers, by the average person in the street.
Like academic theorists, who are trained in a tradition of philosophical and political skepticism that challenges all orthodoxies, the vernacular theorists McLaughlin identifies display a lively and healthy alertness to contradiction and propaganda. They are not passive victims of ideology but active questioners of the belief systems that have power over their lives. Their theoretical work arises from the circumstances they confront on the job, in the family, in popular culture. And their questioning of established institutions, McLaughlin contends, is essential and healthy, for it energizes other theorists who clarify the purpose and strategies of institutions and justify the existence of cultural practices. Street Smarts and Critical Theory leads us through eye-opening explorations of social activism in the Southern Christian anti-pornography movement, fan critiques in the ‘zine scene, New Age narratives of healing and transformation, the methodical manipulations of the advertising profession, and vernacular theory in the whole-language movement. Emphasizing that theory is itself a pervasive cultural practice, McLaughlin calls on academic institutions to recognize and develop the theoretical strategies that students bring into the classroom.
“This book demystifies the idea of theory, taking it out of the hands of a priestly caste and showing it as the democratic endowment of the people.”—Daniel T. O’Hara, Temple University, author of Radical Parody: American Culture and Critical Agency after Foucault and Lionel Trilling: The Work of Liberation.
“McLaughlin takes seriously the critical and theoretical activity of everyday people and does so in a way that will empower these very populations to take seriously their own activities as theorists. . . . A manifesto that is sure to be heard by the younger generation of thinkers in American cultural studies.”—Henry Jenkins, MIT, author of Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture
Focusing on intersecting issues of nation, race, and gender, this volume inaugurates new models for American literary and cultural history. Subjects and Citizens reveals the many ways in which a wide range of canonical and non-canonical writing contends with the most crucial social, political, and literary issues of our past and present.
Defining the landscape of the New American literary history, these essays are united by three interrelated concerns: ideas of origin (where does "American literature" begin?), ideas of nation (what does "American literature" mean?), and ideas of race and gender (what does "American literature" include and exclude and how?). Work by writers as diverse as Aphra Behn, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Frances Harper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Bharati Mukherjee, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Américo Paredes, and Toni Morrison are discussed from several theoretical perspectives, using a variety of methodologies. Issues of the "frontier" and the "border" as well as those of coloniality and postcoloniality are explored. In each case, these essays emphasize the ideological nature of national identity and, more specifically, the centrality of race and gender to our concept of nationhood.
Collected from recent issues of American Literature, with three new essays added, Subjects and Citizens charts the new directions being taken in American literary studies.
Contributors. Daniel Cooper Alarcón, Lori Askeland, Stephanie Athey, Nancy Bentley, Lauren Berlant, Michele A. Birnbaum, Kristin Carter-Sanborn, Russ Castronovo, Joan Dayan, Julie Ellison, Sander L. Gilman, Karla F. C. Holloway, Annette Kolodny, Barbara Ladd, Lora Romero, Ramón Saldívar, Maggie Sale, Siobhan Senier, Timothy Sweet, Maurice Wallace, Elizabeth Young