Faculty Books

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.


Art and commerce, nature and industry, idealism and pragmatism, women and men: the struggles, partings, and reconciliations between these pairs drive the narrative of one of the great English novels of the twentieth century. One of the newest additions to The Longman Cultural Editions series, Howards End presents the complete text headed by an inviting introduction, and supplemented by helpful annotations; a table of dates to track its composition, publication, and public reception in relation to biographical, cultural and historical events; and a guide for further inquiry and study.


“I have a dream”—no words are more widely recognized, or more often repeated, than those called out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. King’s speech, elegantly structured and commanding in tone, has become shorthand not only for his own life but for the entire civil rights movement. In this new exploration of the “I have a dream” speech, Eric J. Sundquist places it in the history of American debates about racial justice—debates as old as the nation itself—and demonstrates how the speech, an exultant blend of grand poetry and powerful elocution, perfectly expressed the story of African American freedom.

This book is the first to set King’s speech within the cultural and rhetorical traditions on which the civil rights leader drew in crafting his oratory, as well as its essential historical contexts, from the early days of the republic through present-day Supreme Court rulings. At a time when the meaning of the speech has been obscured by its appropriation for every conceivable cause, Sundquist clarifies the transformative power of King’s “Second Emancipation Proclamation” and its continuing relevance for contemporary arguments about equality.


“In some moods, or for some people, the desire to improve can seem so natural as to be banal. The impulse drives forward so much in our culture that it can color our thoughts and shape our actions without being much noticed. But in other moods, or for other people, this strenuous desire becomes all too noticeable, and its demands crushing. It can then drive a sleepless attention to ourselves, a desolate evaluation of what we have been and what we are.”―from The Burdens of Perfection

Literary criticism has, in recent decades, rather fled from discussions of moral psychology, and for good reasons, too. Who would not want to flee the hectoring moralism with which it is so easily associated-portentous, pious, humorless? But in protecting us from such fates, our flight has had its costs, as we have lost the concepts needed to recognize and assess much of what distinguished nineteenth-century British literature. That literature was inescapably ethical in orientation, and to proceed as if it were not ignores a large part of what these texts have to offer, and to that degree makes less reasonable the desire to study them, rather than other documents from the period, or from other periods.

Such are the intuitions that drive The Burdens of Perfection, a study of moral perfectionism in nineteenth-century British culture. Reading the period’s essayists (Mill, Arnold, Carlyle), poets (Browning and Tennyson), and especially its novelists (Austen, Dickens, Eliot, and James), Andrew H. Miller provides an extensive response to Stanley Cavell’s contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind. In the process, Miller offers a fresh way to perceive the Victorians and the lingering traces their quests for improvement have left on readers.


When Oscar Wilde said he had “seen wallpaper which must lead a boy brought up under its influence to a life of crime,” his joke played on an idea that has often been taken quite seriously–both in Wilde’s day and in our own. In Fateful Beauty, Douglas Mao recovers the lost intellectual, social, and literary history of the belief that the beauty–or ugliness–of the environment in which one is raised influences or even determines one’s fate. Weaving together readings in literature, psychology, biology, philosophy, education, child-rearing advice, and interior design, he shows how this idea abetted a dramatic rise in attention to environment in many discourses and in many practices affecting the lives of the young between the late nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth. Through original and detailed analyses of Wilde, Walter Pater, James Joyce, Theodore Dreiser, Rebecca West, and W. H. Auden, Mao shows that English-language writing of the period was informed in crucial but previously unrecognized ways by the possibility that beautiful environments might produce better people. He also reveals how these writers shared concerns about environment, evolution, determinism, freedom, and beauty with scientists and social theorists such as Herbert Spencer, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, and W.H.R. Rivers. In so doing, Mao challenges conventional views of the roles of beauty and the aesthetic in art and life during this time.


Drew Daniel (of the experimental band Matmos) creates—through both his own insights and exclusive interviews with the band—an exploded view of the album’s multiple agendas: a series of close readings of each song, shot through with a sequence of thematic entries on key concepts, strategies, and contexts (noise, leisure, process, the abject, information, and repetition). This is a smart and unusual book about a pioneering band.


Mark Christian Thompson addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.

The book considers the high regard that “Back to Africa” advocate Marcus Garvey expressed for fascist dictators and explores the common ground he shared with George Schuyler and Claude McKay, writers with whom Garvey is generally thought to be at odds. Thompson reveals how fascism informed a rejection of Marxism by McKay–as well as by Arna Bontemps, whose Drums at Dusk depicts communism as antithetical to any black revolution. A similarly authoritarian stance is examined in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, where the striving for a fascist sovereignty presents itself as highly critical of Nazism while nonetheless sharing many of its tenets. The book concludes with an investigation of Richard Wright’s The Outsider and its murderous protagonist, Cross Damon, who articulates fascist drives already present, if latent, in Native Son’s Bigger Thomas. Unencumbered by the historical or biblical references of the earlier work, Damon personifies the essence of black fascism.

Taking on a subject generally ignored or denied in African American cultural and literary studies, Black Fascisms seeks not only to question the prominence of the Left in the political thought of a generation of writers but to change how we view African American literature in general. Encompassing political theory, cultural studies, critical theory, and historicism, the book will challenge readers in numerous fields, providing a new model for thinking about the political and transnational in African American culture and shedding new light on our understanding of fascism between the wars.


Locating John Milton’s works in national and international contexts, and applying a variety of approaches from literary to historical, philosophical, and postcolonial, Milton and Toleration offers a wide-ranging exploration of how Milton’s visions of tolerance reveal deeper movements in the history of the imagination. Milton is often enlisted in stories about the rise of toleration: his advocacy of open debate in defending press freedoms, his condemnation of persecution, and his criticism of ecclesiastical and political hierarchies have long been read as milestones on the road to toleration. However, there is also an intolerant Milton, whose defence of religious liberty reached only as far as Protestants. This book of sixteen essays by leading scholars analyses tolerance in Milton’s poetry and prose, examining the literary means by which tolerance was questioned, observed, and became an object of meditation. Organized in three parts, ‘Revising Whig Accounts,’ ‘Philosophical Engagements,’ ‘Poetry and Rhetoric,’ the contributors, including leading Milton scholars from the USA, Canada, and the UK, address central toleration issues including heresy, violence, imperialism, republicanism, Catholicism, Islam, church community, liberalism, libertinism, natural law, legal theory, and equity.

A pan-European perspective is presented through analysis of Milton’s engagement with key figures and radical groups. All of Milton’s major works are given an airing, including prose and poetry, and the book suggests that Milton’s writings are a significant medium through which to explore the making of modern ideas of tolerance.


Modernism is hot again. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, poets and architects, designers and critics, teachers and artists are rediscovering the virtues of the previous century’s most vibrant cultural constellation. Yet this widespread embrace raises questions about modernism’s relation to its own success. Modernism’s “badness”—its emphasis on outrageous behavior, its elevation of negativity, its refusal to be condoned—seems essential to its power. But once modernism is accepted as “good” or valuable (as a great deal of modernist art now is), its status as a subversive aesthetic intervention seems undermined. The contributors to Bad Modernisms tease out the contradictions in modernism’s commitment to badness.

Bad Modernisms thus builds on and extends the “new modernist studies,” recent work marked by the application of diverse methods and attention to texts and artists not usually labeled as modernist. In this collection, these developments are exemplified by essays ranging from a reading of dandyism in 1920s Harlem as a performance of a “bad” black modernist imaginary to a consideration of Filipino American modernism in the context of anticolonialism. The contributors reconsider familiar figures—such as Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Josef von Sternberg, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W. H. Auden, and Wyndham Lewis—and bring to light the work of lesser-known artists, including the writer Carlos Bulosan and the experimental filmmaker Len Lye. Examining cultural artifacts ranging from novels to manifestos, from philosophical treatises to movie musicals, and from anthropological essays to advertising campaigns, these essays signal the capaciousness and energy galvanizing the new modernist studies.

Contributors. Lisa Fluet, Laura Frost, Michael LeMahieu, Heather K. Love, Douglas Mao, Jesse Matz, Joshua L. Miller, Monica L. Miller, Sianne Ngai, Martin Puchner, Rebecca L. Walkowitz


In The Hammers of Creation, Eric J. Sundquist analyzes the powerful role played by folk culture in three major African-American novels of the early twentieth century: James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Zora Neale Hurston’s Jonah’s Gourd Vine, and Arna Bontemps’s Black Thunder.

Sundquist explains how the survival of cultural traditions originating in Africa and in slavery became a means of historical reflection and artistic creation for modern writers. He goes on to illustrate and compare how the three representative novels use aspects of African-American culture, including the folklore of slavery, black music from spirituals to jazz, black worship and sermonic form, and African-American resistance to slavery and segregation.

The Hammers of Creation focuses on the unique narrative form of each of the three novels–Johnson’s fictive autobiography, Hurston’s ethnographic commentary combined with personal narrative, and Bontemps’s historical fiction based on Gabriel’s slave rebellion–to illustrate the range of fictional strategies black writers have employed. Through their attempts to gain cultural integrity, Sundquist explains, these writers were able to recover and preserve vital aspects of African-American history.

Sundquist argues that by incorporating vernacular culture and the oral tradition into their works, Johnson, Hurston, and Bontemps challenge the primacy of written narrative while creating an African-American literary tradition that links the world of African ancestors and antebellum culture to the world of contemporary letters.