Faculty Books

The England of John Milton’s great poems was the England of Dissenters, those who refused to join the state church after the return of monarchy in 1660 and were seen as dangerous outcasts and rebels. Sharon Achinstein reveals how a literary tradition of dissent was produced by those who suffered political defeat and religious exclusion in Restoration England. Disclosing a range of writing that has been largely and unjustly neglected, this important study is of interest to Milton scholars and seventeenth-century literary and religious historians.


What is it like to “feel historical”? In Foundlings Christopher Nealon analyzes texts produced by American gay men and lesbians in the first half of the twentieth century—poems by Hart Crane, novels by Willa Cather, gay male physique magazines, and lesbian pulp fiction. Nealon brings these diverse works together by highlighting a coming-of-age narrative he calls “foundling”—a term for queer disaffiliation from and desire for family, nation, and history.
The young runaways in Cather’s novels, the way critics conflated Crane’s homosexual body with his verse, the suggestive poses and utopian captions of muscle magazines, and Beebo Brinker, the aging butch heroine from Ann Bannon’s pulp novels—all embody for Nealon the uncertain space between two models of lesbian and gay sexuality. The “inversion” model dominant in the first half of the century held that homosexuals are souls of one gender trapped in the body of another, while the more contemporary “ethnic” model refers to the existence of a distinct and collective culture among gay men and lesbians. Nealon’s unique readings, however, reveal a constant movement between these two discursive poles, and not, as is widely theorized, a linear progress from one to the other.
This startlingly original study will interest those working on gay and lesbian studies, American literature and culture, and twentieth-century history.


In this provocative and wide-ranging study, Douglas Mao argues that a profound tension between veneration of human production and anxiety about production’s dangers lay at the heart of literary modernism. Focusing on the work of Virginia Woolf, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens, Mao shows that modernists were captivated by physical objects, which, regarded as objects, seemed to partake of a utopian serenity beyond the reach of human ideological conflicts. Under a variety of historical pressures, Mao observes, these writers came to revere the making of such things, and especially the crafting of the work of art, as the surest guarantee of meaning for an individual life. Yet they also found troubling contradictions here, since any kind of making, be it handicraft or mass production, could also be understood as a violation of the nonhuman world by an increasingly predatory and imperialistic subjectivity. If modernists began by embracing production as a test of meaning, then they frequently ended by testing production itself and finding it wanting.

To make this case, Mao interweaves social and political history with readings in literature, the visual arts, philosophy, and economics. He explores modernism’s relation to aestheticism, existentialism, and the culture of consumption, joining current debates on the politics of engagement and the social meanings of art. And he shows conclusively, in this elegantly written and consistently surprising work, that we cannot understand the theories and practices of modernism without addressing the question of the object and production’s ambivalent allure.


This powerful book argues that white culture in America does not exist apart from black culture. The revolution of the rights of man that established this country collided long ago with the system of slavery, and we have been trying to reestablish a steady course for ourselves ever since. To Wake the Nations is urgent and rousing: we have integrated our buses, schools, and factories, but not the canon of American literature. That is the task Eric Sundquist has assumed in a book that ranges from politics to literature, from Uncle Remus to African American spirituals. But the hallmark of this volume is a sweeping reevaluation of the glory years of American literature–from 1830 to 1930–that shows how white literature and black literature form a single interwoven tradition.


An introduction to Victorian sexualities and a survey of current critical methods, these essays will energize reflection on the complexity of human sexuality and on the many different arrays of meaning that it has generated. Contributors are James Eli Adams, Joseph Bristow, Jonathan Dollimore, Margaret Homans, Rosemary Jann, Andrew H. Miller, Thas E. Morgan, Ornella Moscucci, Deborah Epstein Nord, Camilla Townsend, Herbert F. Tucker, and Martha Vicinus.


Drawing on recent work in critical theory, feminism, and social history, this book explains the relationship between the novel and the emergent commodity culture of Victorian England, using the image of the “display window”. Novels Behind Glass analyzes the work of Thackeray, Eliot, Dickens, Trollope, and Gaskell, to demonstrate that the Victorian novel provides us with graphic and enduring images of the power of commodities to affect our beliefs about gender, community, and individual identity. It will be of interest to students of Victorian literature and history as well as social and cultural theory.


The essays in this collection question romanticism’s suppression of the feminine, the material, and the collective, and its opposition to readings centering on these concerns.


The literary importance of letters did not end with the demise of the eighteenth-century epistolary novel. In the turbulent period between 1789 and 1830, the letter was used as a vehicle for political rather than sentimental expression. Against a background of severe political censorship, seditious Corresponding Societies, and the rise of the modern Post Office, letters as they are used by Romantic writers, especially women, become the vehicle for a distinctly political, often disruptive force. Mary Favret’s study of Romantic correspondence reexamines traditional accounts of epistolary writing, and redefines the letter as a ‘feminine’ genre. The book deals not only with letters which circulated in the novels of Austen or Mary Shelley, but also with political pamphlets, incendiary letters and spy letters available for public consumption.


A determined study of the political evidence, of contemporary literature and of sociological documents.