How did an ancient mythological figure who stole fire from the gods become a face of the modern, lending his name to trailblazing spaceships and radical publishing outfits alike? How did Prometheus come to represent a notion of civilizational progress through revolution–scientific, political, and spiritual–and thereby to center nothing less than a myth of modernity itself ? The answer Black Prometheus gives is that certain features of the myth–its geographical associations, iconography of bodily suffering, and function as a limit case in a long tradition of absolutist political theology–made it ripe for revival and reinvention in a historical moment in which freedom itself was racialized, in what was the Age both of Atlantic revolution and Atlantic slavery. Contained in the various incarnations of the modern Prometheus–whether in Mary Shelley’s esoteric novel, Frankenstein, Denmark Vesey’s real-world recruitment of slave rebels, or popular travelogues representing Muslim jihadists against the Russian empire in the Caucasus– is a profound debate about the means and ends of liberation in our globalized world. Tracing the titan’s rehabilitation and unprecedented exaltation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries across a range of genres and geographies turns out to provide a way to rethink the relationship between race, religion, and modernity and to interrogate the Eurocentric and secularist assumptions of our deepest intellectual traditions of critique.
Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic
- June 15, 2016, Northwestern University Press
- Mark Christian Thompson, author
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South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation
- 2015, Bloomsbury Academic
- Jeanne-Marie Jackson, author
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How do great moments in literary traditions arise from times of intense social and political upheaval? South African Literature’s Russian Soul charts the interplay of narrative innovation and political isolation in two of the world’s most renowned non-European literatures. In this book, Jeanne-Marie Jackson demonstrates how Russian writing’s “Golden Age” in the troubled nineteenth-century has served as a model for South African writers both during and after apartheid. Exploring these two isolated literary cultures alongside each other, the book challenges the limits of “global” methodologies in contemporary literary studies and outdated models of center-periphery relations to argue for a more locally involved scale of literary enquiry with more truly global horizons.
Chris Nealon’s Heteronomy is built out of five long poems, including The Dial. Together they form an overlapping set of mediations on love and friendship and political life. Taking inspiration from a long poetic tradition of self-referential frame devices, Nealon wrote the poems so that each refers to the others, and each is built out of poems within poems—like late-capitalist medieval dream visions in which the poet describes writing a poem, or wishes he were writing, or finds himself startled awake. What’s the poem, and what’s the frame? It’s hard to say—and perhaps because of that, these poems find in the figure of the poet an image of embarrassing self-inflation and comic limitation. They are dedicated to everyone who’s felt that way.
The Melancholy Assemblage: Affect and Epistemology in the English Renaissance
- 2013, Fordham University Press
- Drew Daniel, author
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This book considers melancholy as an “assemblage,” as a network of dynamic, interpretive relationships between persons, bodies, texts, spaces, structures, and things. In doing so, it parts ways with past interpretations of melancholy. Tilting the English Renaissance against the present moment, Daniel argues that the basic disciplinary tension between medicine and philosophy persists within contemporary debates about emotional embodiment.
To make this case, the book binds together the paintings of Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, the drama of Shakespeare, the prose of Burton, and the poetry of Milton. Crossing borders and periods, Daniel combines recent theories which have–until now–been regarded as incongruous by their respective advocates.
Asking fundamental questions about how the experience of emotion produces community, the book will be of interest to scholars of early modern literature, psychoanalysis, the affective turn, and continental philosophy.
From David Brion Davis’s The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution to Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, some of the most influential conceptualizations of the Atlantic World have taken the movements of individuals and transnational organizations working to advocate the abolition of slavery as their material basis. This unique, interdisciplinary collection of essays provides diverse new approaches to examining the abolitionist Atlantic. With contributions from an international roster of historians, literary scholars, and specialists in the history of art, this book provides case studies in the connections between abolitionism and material spatial practice in literature, theory, history and memory.
This volume covers a wide range of topics and themes, including the circum-Atlantic itineraries of abolitionist artists and activists; precise locations such as Paris and Chatham, Ontario where abolitionists congregated to speculate over the future of, and hatch emigration plans to, sites in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean; and the reimagining of abolitionist places in twentieth and twenty-first century literature and public art.
The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in the American Century
- 2011, Harvard University Press
- Christopher Nealon, author
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In this highly original reexamination of North American poetry in English from Ezra Pound to the present day, Christopher Nealon demonstrates that the most vital writing of the period is deeply concerned with capitalism. This focus is not exclusive to the work of left-wing poets: the problem of capitalism’s effect on individuals, communities, and cultures is central to a wide variety of poetry, across a range of political and aesthetic orientations. Indeed, Nealon asserts, capitalism is the material out of which poetry in English has been created over the last century.
Much as poets of previous ages continually examined topics such as the deeds of King Arthur or the history of Troy, poets as diverse as Jack Spicer, John Ashbery, and Claudia Rankine have taken as their “matter” the dynamics and impact of capitalism—not least its tendency to generate economic and political turmoil. Nealon argues persuasively that poets’ attention to the matter of capital has created a corresponding notion of poetry as a kind of textual matter, capable of dispersal, retrieval, and disguise in times of crisis. Offering fresh readings of canonical poets from W. H. Auden to Adrienne Rich, as well as interpretations of younger writers like Kevin Davies, The Matter of Capital reorients our understanding of the central poetic project of the last century.
War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime
- 2009, Princeton University Press
- Mary Favret, author
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What does it mean to live during wartime away from the battle zone? What is it like for citizens to go about daily routines while their country sends soldiers to kill and be killed across the globe? Timely and thought-provoking, War at a Distance considers how those left on the home front register wars and wartime in their everyday lives, particularly when military conflict remains removed from immediate perception, available only through media forms. Looking back over two centuries, Mary Favret locates the origins of modern wartime in the Napoleonic era and describes how global military operations affected the British populace, as the nation’s army and navy waged battles far from home for decades. She reveals that the literature and art produced in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries obsessively cultivated means for feeling as much as understanding such wars, and established forms still relevant today.
Favret examines wartime literature and art as varied as meditations on the Iliad, the history of meteorology, landscape painting in India, and popular poetry in newspapers and periodicals; she locates the embedded sense of war and dislocation in works ranging from Austen, Coleridge, and Wordsworth to Woolf, Stevens, and Sebald; and she contemplates how literature provides the public with methods for responding to violent calamities happening elsewhere. Bringing to light Romanticism’s legacy in reflections on modern warfare, this book shows that war’s absent presence affects home in deep and irrevocable ways.
Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America
- 2009, Belknap Press
- Eric Sundquist, author
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In a culture deeply divided along ethnic lines, the idea that the relationship between blacks and Jews was once thought special–indeed, critical to the cause of civil rights–might seem strange. Yet the importance of blacks for Jews and Jews for blacks in conceiving of themselves as Americans, when both remained outsiders to the privileges of full citizenship, is a matter of voluminous but perplexing record. It is this record, written across the annals of American history and literature, culture and society, that Eric Sundquist investigates. A monumental work of literary criticism and cultural history, Strangers in the Land draws upon politics, sociology, law, religion, and popular culture to illuminate a vital, highly conflicted interethnic partnership over the course of a century.