Phenomenal Blackness: Black Power, Philosophy, and Theory
This unorthodox account of 1960s Black thought rigorously details the field’s debts to German critical theory and explores a forgotten tradition of Black singularity.
Phenomenal Blackness examines the changing interdisciplinary investments of key mid-century Black writers and thinkers, including the growing interest in German philosophy and critical theory. Mark Christian Thompson analyzes this shift in intellectual focus across the post-war decades, placing Black Power thought in a philosophical context.
Prior to the 1960s, sociologically oriented thinkers such as W. E. B. Du Bois had understood Blackness as a singular set of socio-historical characteristics. In contrast, writers such as Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Angela Y. Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, and Malcolm X were drawn to notions of an African essence, an ontology of Black being. With these perspectives, literary language came to be seen as the primary social expression of Blackness. For this new way of thinking, the works of philosophers such as Adorno, Habermas, and Marcuse were a vital resource, allowing for continued cultural-materialist analysis while accommodating the hermeneutical aspects of Black religious thought. Thompson argues that these efforts to reimagine Black singularity led to a phenomenological understanding of Blackness—a “Black aesthetic dimension” wherein aspirational models for Black liberation might emerge.
Critique of Nonviolence: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Philosophy
The African Novel of Ideas
The African Novel of Ideas focuses on the role of the philosophical novel and the place of philosophy more broadly in the intellectual life of the African continent, from the early twentieth century to today. Examining works from the Gold Coast, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, and tracing how such writers as J. E. Casely Hayford, Imraan Coovadia, Tendai Huchu, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, and Stanlake Samkange reconcile deep contemplation with their social situations, Jeanne-Marie Jackson offers a new way of reading and understanding African literature.
Jackson begins with Fante anticolonial worldliness in prenationalist Ghana, moves through efforts to systematize Shona philosophy in 1970s Zimbabwe, looks at the Ugandan novel Kintu as a treatise on pluralistic rationality, and arrives at the treatment of “philosophical suicide” by current southern African writers. As Jackson charts philosophy’s evolution from a dominant to marginal presence in African literary discourse across the past hundred years, she assesses the push and pull of subjective experience and abstract thought.
The first major transnational exploration of African literature in conversation with philosophy, The African Novel of Ideas redefines the place of the African experience within literary history.
The New Modernist Studies
This is the first book specifically devoted to the new modernist studies. Bringing together a range of perspectives on the past, present, and future of this vibrant, complicated scholarly enterprise, the collection reconsiders its achievements and challenges as both a mode of inquiry and an institutional formation. In its first section, the volume offers a fresh history of the new modernist studies’ origins amid the intellectual configurations of the end of the twentieth century and changing views of the value, influence, and scope of modernism. In the second section a dozen leading scholars examine recent trends in modernist scholarship to suggest possible new paths of research, showing how the field continues to engage with other areas of study and how it makes a case for the ongoing meaning of modernist literature and art in the contemporary world.
The five poem-essays of Chris Nealon’s The Shore give space and voice to the complexity of contemporary life, admitting bafflement and dismay but also creating openings for indiscreet hope. Queer and anti-capitalist, they urge us not to be ruled by our fears, while always ethically navigating the forces—race, class, age, gender, and others—that put us each in different places of power. Nimbly exploring connections among beauty, friendship, and politics, The Shore gives our era of crisis a language at once vernacular and philosophical, in a form that’s both teeming and fluid.
On Not Being Someone Else
A captivating book about the emotional and literary power of the lives we might have lived had our chances or choices been different.
We each live one life, formed by paths taken and untaken. Choosing a job, getting married, deciding on a place to live or whether to have children—every decision precludes another. But what if you’d gone the other way? It can be a seductive thought, even a haunting one.
Andrew H. Miller illuminates this theme of modern culture: the allure of the alternate self. From Robert Frost to Sharon Olds, Virginia Woolf to Ian McEwan, Jane Hirshfield to Carl Dennis, storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have. What forces encourage us to think this way about ourselves, and to identify with fictional and poetic voices speaking from the shadows of what might have been? Not only poets and novelists, but psychologists and philosophers have much to say on this question. Miller finds wisdom in all these sources, revealing the beauty, the power, and the struggle of our unled lives.
In an elegant and provocative rumination, he lingers with other selves, listening to what they say. Peering down the path not taken can be frightening, but it has its rewards. On Not Being Someone Else offers the balm that when we confront our imaginary selves, we discover who we are.
Inventions of Nemesis: Utopia, Indignation, and Justice
Examining literary and philosophical writing about ideal societies from Greek antiquity to the present, Inventions of Nemesis offers a striking new take on utopia’s fundamental project.
Noting that utopian imagining has often been propelled by an angry conviction that society is badly arranged, Douglas Mao argues that utopia’s essential aim has not been to secure happiness, order, or material goods, but rather to establish a condition of justice in which all have what they ought to have. He also makes the case that hostility to utopias has frequently been associated with a fear that they will transform humanity beyond recognition, doing away with the very subjects who should receive justice in a transformed world. Further, he shows how utopian writing speaks to contemporary debates about immigration, labor, and other global justice issues. Along the way, Inventions of Nemesis connects utopia to the Greek concept of nemesis, or indignation at a wrong ordering of things, and advances fresh readings of dozens of writers and thinkers—from Plato, Thomas More, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and H. G. Wells to John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Fredric Jameson, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Chang-Rae Lee.
Ambitious and timely, Inventions of Nemesis offers a vital reconsideration of what it really means to imagine an ideal society.
Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon by Prof. Jared Hickman in Publication
As the sacred text of a modern religious movement of global reach, The Book of Mormon has undeniable historical significance. That significance, this volume shows, is inextricable from the intricacy of its literary form and the audacity of its historical vision. This landmark collection brings together a diverse range of scholars in American literary studies and related fields to definitively establish The Book of Mormon as an indispensable object of Americanist inquiry not least because it is, among other things, a form of Americanist inquiry in its own right–a creative, critical reading of “America.” Drawing on formalist criticism, literary and cultural theory, book history, religious studies, and even anthropological field work, Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon captures as never before the full dimensions and resonances of this “American Bible.”
Black Land: Imperial Ethiopianism and African America
As the only African nation, with the exception of Liberia, to remain independent during the colonization of the continent, Ethiopia has long held significance for and captivated the imaginations of African Americans. In Black Land, Nadia Nurhussein delves into nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American artistic and journalistic depictions of Ethiopia, illuminating the increasing tensions and ironies behind cultural celebrations of an African country asserting itself as an imperial power.
Nurhussein navigates texts by Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Pauline Hopkins, Harry Dean, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, George Schuyler, and others, alongside images and performances that show the intersection of African America with Ethiopia during historic political shifts. From a description of a notorious 1920 Star Order of Ethiopia flag-burning demonstration in Chicago to a discussion of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1935, Nurhussein illuminates the growing complications that modern Ethiopia posed for American writers and activists. American media coverage of the African nation exposed a clear contrast between the Pan-African ideal and the modern reality of Ethiopia as an antidemocratic imperialist state: Did Ethiopia represent the black nation of the future, or one of an inert and static past?
Revising current understandings of black transnationalism, Black Land presents a well-rounded exploration of an era when Ethiopia’s presence in African American culture was at its height.
Anti-Music: Jazz and Racial Blackness in German Thought Between the Wars
Examines how African American jazz music was received in Germany both as a racial and cultural threat and as a partner in promoting the rise of Nazi totalitarian cultural politics.
Anti-Music examines the critical, literary, and political responses to African American jazz music in interwar Germany. During this time, jazz was the subject of overt political debate between left-wing and right-wing interests: for the left, jazz marked the death knell of authoritarian Prussian society; for the right, jazz was complicit as an American import threatening the chaos of modernization and mass politics. This conflict was resolved in the early 1930s as the left abandoned jazz in the face of Nazi victory, having come to see the music in collusion with the totalitarian culture industry. Mark Christian Thompson recounts the story of this intellectual trajectory and describes how jazz came to be associated with repressive, virulently racist fascism in Germany. By examining writings by Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, T.W. Adorno, and Klaus Mann, and archival photographs and images, Thompson brings together debates in German, African American, and jazz studies, and charts a new path for addressing antiblack racism in cultural criticism and theory.
Chester B. Himes: A Biography
The definitive biography of the groundbreaking African American author who had an extraordinary legacy on black writers globally.
Chester B. Himes has been called “one of the towering figures of the black literary tradition” (Henry Louis Gates Jr.), “the best writer of mayhem yarns since Raymond Chandler” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “a quirky American genius” (Walter Mosely). He was the twentieth century’s most prolific black writer, captured the spirit of his times expertly, and left a distinctive mark on American literature. Yet today he stands largely forgotten.
In this definitive biography of Chester B. Himes (1909–1984), Lawrence P. Jackson uses exclusive interviews and unrestricted access to Himes’s full archives to portray a controversial American writer whose novels unflinchingly confront sex, racism, and black identity. Himes brutally rendered racial politics in the best-selling novel If He Hollers Let Him Go, but he became famous for his Harlem detective series, including Cotton Comes to Harlem. A serious literary tastemaker in his day, Himes had friendships—sometimes uneasy—with such luminaries as Ralph Ellison, Carl Van Vechten, and Richard Wright.
Jackson’s scholarship and astute commentary illuminates Himes’s improbable life—his middle-class origins, his eight years in prison, his painful odyssey as a black World War II–era artist, and his escape to Europe for success. More than ten years in the writing, Jackson’s biography restores the legacy of a fascinating maverick caught between his aspirations for commercial success and his disturbing, vivid portraits of the United States.
Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic
Kafka’s Blues proves the startling thesis that many of Kafka’s major works engage in a coherent, sustained meditation on racial transformation from white European into what Kafka refers to as the “Negro” (a term he used in English). Indeed, this book demonstrates that cultural assimilation and bodily transformation in Kafka’s work are impossible without passage through a state of being “Negro.” Kafka represents this passage in various ways—from reflections on New World slavery and black music to evolutionary theory, biblical allusion, and aesthetic primitivism—each grounded in a concept of writing that is linked to the perceived congenital musicality of the “Negro,” and which is bound to his wider conception of aesthetic production. Mark Christian Thompson offers new close readings of canonical texts and undervalued letters and diary entries set in the context of the afterlife of New World slavery and in Czech and German popular culture.
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.
Good Form: The Ethical Experience of the Victorian Novel
Good Form: The Ethical Experience of the Victorian Novel argues that Victorian readers associated the feeling of narrative form—of being pulled forward to a satisfying conclusion—with inner moral experience. Reclaiming the work of a generation of Victorian “intuitionist” philosophers who insisted that true morality consisted in being able to feel or intuit the morally good, Jesse Rosenthal shows that when Victorians discussed the moral dimensions of reading novels, they were also subtly discussing the genre’s formal properties.
For most, Victorian moralizing is one of the period’s least attractive and interesting qualities. But Good Form argues that the moral interpretation of novel experience was essential in the development of the novel form—and that this moral approach is still a fundamental, if unrecognized, part of how we understand novels. Bringing together ideas from philosophy, literary history, and narrative theory, Rosenthal shows that we cannot understand the formal principles of the novel that we have inherited from the nineteenth century without also understanding the moral principles that have come with them. Good Form helps us to understand the way Victorians read, but it also helps us to understand the way we read now.
From Literacy to Literature: England, 1300-1400
The first lessons we learn in school can stay with us all our lives, but this was nowhere more true than in the last decades of the fourteenth century when grammar-school students were not only learning to read and write, but understanding, for the first time, that their mother tongue, English, was grammatical. The efflorescence of Ricardian poetry was not a direct result of this change, but it was everywhere shaped by it. This book characterizes this close connection between literacy training and literature, as it is manifest in the fine and ambitious poetry by Gower, Langland and Chaucer, at this transitional moment. This is also a book about the way medieval training in grammar (or grammatica) shaped the poetic arts in the Middle Ages fully as much as rhetorical training. It answers the curious question of what language was used to teach Latin grammar to the illiterate. It reveals, for the first time, what the surviving schoolbooks from the period actually contain. It describes what form a “grammar school” took in a period from which no school buildings or detailed descriptions survive. And it scrutinizes the processes of elementary learning with sufficient care to show that, for the grown medieval schoolboy, well-learned books functioned, not only as a touchstone for wisdom, but as a knowledge so personal and familiar that it was equivalent to what we would now call “experience.”
South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation
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
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.
Rhetorics of Literacy: The Cultivation of American Dialect Poetry
Rhetorics of Literacy: The Cultivation of American Dialect Poetry explores the production and reception of dialect poetry in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America and investigates the genre’s rhetorical interest in where sound meets print. Dialect poetry’s popularity stems not only from its use as an entertaining distraction from “serious” poetry, but as a surprisingly complicated pedagogical tool collaborating with elite literary culture. Indeed, the intersections of the oral and textual aspects of the dialect poem, visible in both its composition and its reception, resulted in confusing and contradictory interactions with the genre.
In this innovative study, Nadia Nurhussein demonstrates how an art form that appears to be most closely linked to the vernacular is in fact preoccupied with investigating its distance from it. Although dialect poetry performance during this period has garnered more attention than the silent reading of it, the history of dialect poetry’s reception proves that readers invited the challenge of printed dialect into their lives in unexpected places, such as highbrow magazines and primary school textbooks. Attentiveness to the appearances of dialect poetry in print—in books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, and other media—alongside its recitation are necessary to an understanding of its cultural impact.
Recontextualizing familiar and neglected poets, Rhetorics of Literacy proposes new literary genealogies and throws light upon the cultural and literary relevance of the laborious and strange reading practices associated with dialect poetry that made it distinct from other popular literary genres.
The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in the American Century
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.
King’s Dream: The Legacy of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
“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.
Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America
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.
Howards End, A Longman Cultural Edition
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.
War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime
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.
Fateful Beauty: Aesthetic Environments, Juvenile Development, and Literature, 1860-1960
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.
The Burdens of Perfection: On Ethics and Reading in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
“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.
Middle English Literature: A Cultural History
This book provides a boldly original account of Middle English literature from the Norman Conquest to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It argues that these centuries are, in fundamental ways, the momentous period in our literary history, for they are the long moment in which the category of literature itself emerged as English writing began to insist, for the first time, that it floated free of any social reality or function.
This book also charts the complex mechanisms by which English writing acquired this power in a series of linked close readings of both canonical and more obscure texts. It encloses those readings in five compelling accounts of much broader cultural areas, describing, in particular, the productive relationship of Middle English writing to medieval technology, insurgency, statecraft and cultural place, concluding with an in depth account of the particular arguments, emphases and techniques English writers used to claim a wholly new jurisdiction for their work.
Both this history and its readings are everywhere informed by the most exciting developments in recent Middle English scholarship as well as literary and cultural theory. It serves as an introduction to all these areas as well as a contribution, in its own right, to each of them.
The Grounds of English Literature
The centuries just after the Norman Conquest are the forgotten period of English literary history. In fact, the years 1066-1300 witnessed an unparalleled ingenuity in the creation of written forms, for this was a time when almost every writer was unaware of the existence of other English writing. In a series of detailed readings of the more important early Middle English works, Cannon shows how the many and varied texts of the period laid the foundations for the project of English literature. This richness is given credit for the first time in these readings by means of an innovative theory of literary form that accepts every written shape as itself a unique contribution to the history of ideas. This theory also suggests that the impoverished understanding of literature we now commonly employ is itself a legacy of this early period, an attribute of the single form we have learned to call ‘romance’. A number of reading methods have lately taught us to be more generous in our understandings of what literature might be, but this book shows us that the very variety we now strive to embrace anew actually formed the grounds of English literature-a richness we only lost when we forgot how to recognize it.
Throbbing Gristle’s Twenty Jazz Funk Greats
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.
Black Fascisms: African-American Literature and Culture between the Wars
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.
Milton and Toleration
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.
The Hammers of Creation: Folk Culture in Modern African-American Fiction
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.
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
Literature and Dissent in Milton’s England
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.
Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall
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.
The Making of Chaucer’s English: A Study of Words
This book is a study of Chaucer’s words. It describes how these words became evidence for calling Chaucer the “father of English poetry” but, also, why that label is wrong. It shows that Chaucer’s language is, in fact, traditional and argues that his linguistic innovation was as much performance as fact. It provides a thorough history of every one of Chaucer’s words and maps the origins and patterns of use that have made these words so compelling for six hundred years.
To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature
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.
Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production
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.
Sexualities in Victorian Britain
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.
Novels behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative
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.
At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism
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.
Romantic Correspondence: Women, Politics and the Fiction of Letters
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.
Faulkner: The House Divided
A determined study of the political evidence, of contemporary literature and of sociological documents.