the faculty bookshelf
Understanding Philip Roth
A panoramic and accessible guide to one of the most celebrated—and controversial—authors of the twentieth century
Philip Roth was one of the most prominent, controversial, and prolific American writers of his generation. By the time of his death in 2018, he had won the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, and three PEN/Faulkner Awards. In Understanding Philip Roth, Matthew A. Shipe provides a brief biographical sketch followed by an illuminating and accessible reading of Roth's novels, illustrating how the writer constructed one of the richest bodies of work in American letters, capturing the absurdities, contradictions, and turmoil that shaped the United States in the six decades following the Second World War.
Questions of Jewish American identity, the irrationality of male sexual desire, the nature of the American experiment—these are a few of the central concerns that run throughout Roth's oeuvre, and across which his early and late novels speak to one another. Moreover, Shipe considers how Roth's fiction engaged with its historical moment, providing a broader context for understanding how his novels address the changes that transformed American culture during his lifetime.
Read an interview with David Schuman about Best Men in the Chicago Review of Books here:
Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007-2020
A new collection of poems from one of America’s most essential, celebrated, and enduring poets, Carl Phillips's Then the War
I’m a song, changing. I’m a light
rain falling through a vast
darkness toward a different
Carl Phillips has aptly described his work as an “ongoing quest”; Then the War is the next step in that meaningful process of self-discovery for both the poet and his reader. The new poems, written in a time of rising racial conflict in the United States, with its attendant violence and uncertainty, find Phillips entering deeper into the landscape he has made his own: a forest of intimacy, queerness, and moral inquiry, where the farther we go, the more difficult it is to remember why or where we started.
Then the War includes a generous selection of Phillips’s work from the previous thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, “Among the Trees,” and his chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures.
Ultimately, Phillips refuses pessimism, arguing for tenderness and human connection as profound forces for revolution and conjuring a spell against indifference and the easy escapes of nostalgia. Then the War is luminous testimony to the power of self-reckoning and to Carl Phillips as an ever-changing, necessary voice in contemporary poetry.
Performance and Modernity: Enacting Change on the Globalizing Stage
How do ideas take shape? How do concepts emerge into form? This book argues that they take shape quite literally in the human body, often appearing on stage in new styles of performance. Focusing on the historical period of modernity, Performance and Modernity: Enacting Change on the Globalizing Stage demonstrates how the unforeseen impact of economic, industrial, political, social, and psychological change was registered in bodily metaphors that took shape on stage. In new styles of performance-acting, dance, music, pageantry, avant-garde provocations, film, video and networked media-this book finds fresh evidence for how modernity has been understood and lived, both by stage actors, who, in modelling new habits, gave emerging experiences an epistemological shape, and by their audiences, who, in borrowing the strategies performers enacted, learned to adapt to a modernizing world.
Infinite Variety Literary Invention, Theology, and the Disorder of Kinds
Unnerved by the upheavals of the seventeenth century, English writers including Thomas Hobbes, Richard Blackmore, John Locke, Jonathan Swift, and Daniel Defoe came to accept that disorder, rather than order, was the natural state of things. They were drawn to voluntarism, a theology that emphasized a willful creator and denied that nature embodied truth and beauty. Voluntarism, Wolfram Schmidgen contends, provided both theological framework and aesthetic license. In Infinite Variety, he reconstructs this voluntarist tradition of literary invention.
John Dryden: Selected Writings
This volume in the 21st Century Oxford Authors series offers students an authoritative, comprehensive selection of the poetry and prose of John Dryden, the most important poet, dramatist, translator, and literary theorist of the later seventeenth century. He wrote across the tumultuous decades of political and cultural revolution — years stretching from the end of the Cromwellian Protectorate in 1659 through the reign of William III — and he addressed the crucial events of those decades. These were years of unprecedented political revolution, and of a remarkable transformation of English literary culture, with John Dryden at the literary centre. He invented new literary modes including the theatre of spectacle known as heroic drama; he perfected the heroic couplet, a form that became the chief instrument of public poetry; he adapted works of Shakespeare and Milton; he wrote excoriating satire; he brought the translation of classical poetry to new levels of perfection; and throughout his career he wrote works of literary theory that defined his own practices and the literary ethos of his age. By the time that Dryden died in 1700 he had redefined English literary culture; his work recalled and embodied all the genres and modes of early modern literature and anticipated the brilliance of eighteenth-century satire.
This edition represents the span of a long career in its remarkable variety. All the genres in which Dryden wrote are represented: panegyrics, lyrics, odes, epigrams, verse epistles, historical poems, commendatory verse, commemorative poems, religious poems, satires, plays, prologues and epilogues, translations, critical prose, dedications, prefaces, biography, and letters.
Explanatory notes and commentary enhance the study, understanding, and enjoyment of these works, and the edition includes an Introduction to the life and works of Dryden, a Chronology and a Biographical Appendix.
Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography
In this biography, chronological chapters follow Zora Neale Hurston's family, upbringing, education, influences, and of course, her major works, and place these experiences within the context of American history.
This biography of Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most influential African American writers of the 20th century and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, is primarily for students and will cover all of the major points of development in Hurston's life as well as her major publications.
Hurston's impact extends beyond the literary world: she also left her mark as an anthropologist whose ethnographic work portrays the racial struggles during the early 20th century American South. This work includes a preface and narrative chapters that explore Hurston's literary influences and the personal relationships that were most formative to her life; the final chapter, "Why Zora Neale Hurston Matters," explores her cultural and historical significance, providing context to her writings and allowing readers a greater understanding of Hurston's life while critically examining her major writing.
Toni Morrison: A Biography
Toni Morrison follows the life of the woman born Chloe Ardelia Wofford from her culturally rich childhood in Lorrain, OH, through her spectacular rise as a novelist, educator, and public intellectual. The book also serves as a basic introduction to the literary influences that shaped Morrison's writing, from the early novels to the breakout success of Song of Solomon; from the overwhelming achievement of Beloved to her most recent book, A Mercy. The book also examines Morrison's other writing―criticism, essays, edited volumes, children's books―as well as her academic career, her work as an editor at Random House, and her political activism, most notably in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Something Akin to Freedom: The Choice of Bondage in Narratives by African American Women
Why would someone choose bondage over individual freedom? What type of freedom can be found in choosing conditions of enslavement? In Something Akin to Freedom, winner of the 2008 SUNY Press Dissertation/First Book Prize in African American Studies, Stephanie Li explores literary texts where African American women decide to remain in or enter into conditions of bondage, sacrificing individual autonomy to achieve other goals. In fresh readings of stories by Harriet Jacobs, Hannah Crafts, Gayl Jones, Louisa Picquet, and Toni Morrison, Li argues that amid shifting positions of power and through acts of creative agency, the women in these narratives make seemingly anti-intuitive choices that are simultaneously limiting and liberating. She explores how the appeal of the freedom of the North is constrained by the potential for isolation and destabilization for women rooted in strong social networks in the South. By introducing reproduction, mother-child relationships, and community into discourses concerning resistance, Li expands our understanding of individual liberation to include the courage to express personal desire and the freedom to love.
Signifying Without Specifying: Racial Discourse in the Age of Obama
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama faced a difficult task—rallying African American voters while resisting his opponents’ attempts to frame him as “too black” to govern the nation as a whole. Obama’s solution was to employ what Toni Morrison calls “race-specific, race-free language,” avoiding open discussions of racial issues while using terms and references that carried a specific cultural resonance for African American voters.
Stephanie Li argues that American politicians and writers are using a new kind of language to speak about race. Challenging the notion that we have moved into a “post-racial” era, she suggests that we are in an uneasy moment where American public discourse demands that race be seen, but not heard. Analyzing contemporary political speech with nuanced readings of works by such authors as Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Colson Whitehead, Li investigates how Americans of color have negotiated these tensions, inventing new ways to signal racial affiliations without violating taboos against open discussions of race.
Playing in the White: Black Writers, White Subjects
The postwar period witnessed an outpouring of white life novels--that is, texts by African American writers focused almost exclusively on white characters. Almost every major mid-twentieth century black writer, including Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ann Petry and James Baldwin, published one of these anomalous texts. Controversial since their publication in the 1940s and 50s, these novels have since fallen into obscurity given the challenges they pose to traditional conceptions of the African American literary canon.
Playing in the White: Black Writers, White Subjects aims to bring these neglected novels back into conversations about the nature of African American literature and the unique expectations imposed upon black texts. In a series of nuanced readings, Li demonstrates how postwar black novelists were at the forefront of what is now commonly understood as whiteness studies. Novels like Hurston's Seraph on the Suwanee and Wright's Savage Holiday, once read as abdications of the political imperative of African American literature, are revisited with an awareness of how whiteness signifies in multivalent ways that critique America's abiding racial hierarchies. These novels explore how this particular racial construction is freighted with social power and narrative meaning. Whiteness repeatedly figures in these texts as a set of expectations that are nearly impossible to fulfill. By describing characters who continually fail at whiteness, white life novels ask readers to reassess what race means for all Americans.
Along with its close analysis of key white life novels, Playing in the White: Black Writers, White Subjects also provides important historical context to understand how these texts represented the hopes and anxieties of a newly integrated nation.
Pan-African American Literature: Signifyin(g) Immigrants in the Twenty-First Century
The twenty-first century is witnessing a dynamic broadening of how blackness signifies both in the U.S. and abroad. Literary writers of the new African diaspora are at the forefront of exploring these exciting approaches to what black subjectivity means. Pan-African American Literature is dedicated to charting the contours of literature by African born or identified authors centered around life in the United States. The texts examined here deliberately signify on the African American literary canon to encompass new experiences of immigration, assimilation and identification that challenge how blackness has been previously conceived. Though race often alienates and frustrates immigrants who are accustomed to living in all-black environments, Stephanie Li holds that it can also be a powerful form of community and political mobilization.
Pale Colors in a Tall Field
Carl Phillips’s new poetry collection, Pale Colors in a Tall Field, is a meditation on the intimacies of thought and body as forms of resistance. The poems are both timeless and timely, asking how we can ever truly know ourselves in the face of our own remembering and inevitable forgetting. Here, the poems metaphorically argue that memory is made up of various colors, with those most prominent moments in a life seeming more vivid, though the paler colors are never truly forgotten. The poems in Pale Colors in a Tall Field approach their points of view kaleidoscopically, enacting the self’s multiplicity and the difficult shifts required as our lives, in turn, shift. This is one of Phillips’s most tender, dynamic, and startling books yet.
City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism
In this illuminating book, Abram Van Engen shows how the phrase “City on a Hill,” from a 1630 sermon by Massachusetts Bay governor John Winthrop, shaped the story of American exceptionalism in the twentieth century.
By tracing the history of Winthrop’s speech, its changing status throughout time, and its use in modern politics, Van Engen asks us to reevaluate our national narratives. He tells the story of curators, librarians, collectors, archivists, antiquarians, and often anonymous figures who emphasized the role of the Pilgrims and Puritans in American history, paving the way for the saving and sanctifying of a single sermon. This sermon’s rags-to-riches rise reveals the way national stories take shape and shows us how those tales continue to influence competing visions of the country—the many different meanings of America that emerge from its literary past.
The Norton Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
Available as both a portable paperback volume and an enhanced digital edition, this complete collection of The Norton Chaucer: Canterbury Tales is meticulously glossed and annotated. With access to the ground-breaking Reading Chaucer Tutorial included in every new copy, this volume delivers unmatched support and value.
The Cambridge Companion to Boxing
While humans have used their hands to engage in combat since the dawn of man, boxing originated in Ancient Greece as an Olympic event. It is one of the most popular, controversial and misunderstood sports in the world. For its advocates, it is a heroic expression of unfettered individualism. For its critics, it is a depraved and ruthless physical and commercial exploitation of mostly poor young men. This Companion offers engaging and informative essays about the social impact and historical importance of the sport of boxing. It includes a comprehensive chronology of the sport, listing all the important events and personalities. Essays examine topics such as women in boxing, boxing and the rise of television, boxing in Africa, boxing and literature, and boxing and Hollywood films. A unique book for scholars and fans alike, this Companion explores the sport from its inception in Ancient Greece to the death of its most celebrated figure, Muhammad Ali.
Chaucer and the Subversion of Form
Responding to the lively resurgence of literary formalism, this volume delivers a timely and fresh exploration of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Advancing 'new formalist' approaches, medieval scholars have begun to ask what happens when structure fails to yield meaning, probing the very limits of poetic organization. While Chaucer is acknowledged as a master of form, his work also foregrounds troubling questions about formal agency: the disparate forces of narrative and poetic practice, readerly reception, intertextuality, genre, scribal attention, patronage, and historical change. This definitive collection of essays offers diverse perspectives on Chaucer and a varied analysis of these problems, asking what happens when form is resisted by author or reader, when it fails by accident or by design, and how it can be misleading, errant, or even dangerous.
The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture
"An essay must do more than say something," writes Gerald Early; "It must be something in its own right." The Culture of Bruising is Gerald Early's long-awaited sequel to his award-winning first volume of essays Tuxedo Junction and, in the same spirit, he explores not only a variety of subjects but the form of the essay itself.
Early's cultural ruminations on the sport of prize-fighting form the intellectual core and central metaphor of this book. That is to say, his subject, when writing about boxing, is not just the culture of bruising or the world of the prizefighter but rather the culture as bruising - as a structure of opposition against the individual.
Early's subjects range far and wide - essays in which he shares with us his considerable insights and expertise on such various subjects as multiculturalism and Black History Month, baseball, racist memorabilia, performance magic and race, Malcolm X, early jazz music, and finally, the raising of daughters. In every essay the form strengthens the content and gracefully balances the elements of research and opinion. Early becomes by turns the critic, skeptic, autobiographer, biographer, storyteller, cultural and literary scholar, detached citizen, and bemused parent. He integrates these voices with the skill of an accomplished choirmaster.
The Culture of Bruising is an important and captivating collection of essays that treats issues of justice and racism in the context of sports, music, and other activities Americans value most. Early is a vigilant and highly sensitive observer of our culture, a culture based on the paradoxical combination of self-destruction and violence with personal empowerment and triumph.
Our Emily Dickinsons: American Women Poets and the Intimacies of Difference
For Vivian R. Pollak, Emily Dickinson's work is an extended meditation on the risks of social, psychological, and aesthetic difference that would be taken up by the generations of women poets who followed her. She situates Dickinson's originality in relation to her nineteenth-century audiences, including poet, novelist, and Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson and her controversial first editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, and traces the emergence of competing versions of a brilliant but troubled Dickinson in the twentieth century, especially in the writings of Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, and Elizabeth Bishop.
Pollak reveals the wide range of emotions exhibited by women poets toward Dickinson's achievement and chronicles how their attitudes toward her changed over time. She contends, however, that they consistently use Dickinson to clarify personal and professional battles of their own. Reading poems, letters, diaries, journals, interviews, drafts of published and unpublished work, and other historically specific primary sources, Pollak tracks nineteenth- and twentieth-century women poets' ambivalence toward a literary tradition that overvalued lyric's inwardness and undervalued the power of social connection.
Our Emily Dickinsons places Dickinson's life and work within the context of larger debates about gender, sexuality, and literary authority in America and complicates the connections between creative expression, authorial biography, audience reception, and literary genealogy.
The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives
It’s impossible, now, to think of modernism without thinking about gender, sexuality, and the diverse movers and shakers of the early twentieth century. But this was not always so. The Passion Projects examines biographical projects that modernist women writers undertook to resist the exclusion of their friends, colleagues, lovers, and companions from literary history. Many of these works were vibrant efforts of modernist countermemory and counterhistory that became casualties in a midcentury battle for literary legitimacy, but that now add a new dimension to our appreciation of such figures as Radclyffe Hall, Gertrude Stein, Hope Mirrlees, and Sylvia Beach, among many others.
Melanie Micir explores an extensive body of material, including Sylvia Townsend Warner’s carefullly annotated letters to her partner Valentine Ackland, Djuna Barnes’s fragmented drafts about the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Margaret Anderson’s collection of modernist artifacts, and Virginia Woolf’s joke biography of her friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, the novel Orlando. Whether published in encoded desire or squirreled away in intimate archives, these “passion projects” recorded life then in order to summon an audience now, and stand as important predecessors of queer and feminist recovery projects that have shaped the contemporary understanding of the field.
Arguing for the importance of biography, The Passion Projects shows how women turned to this genre in the early twentieth century to preserve their lives and communities for future generations to discover.
We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870
Uncovers the strategies early African American writers used both to create an African American identity and to make their visions and stories accessible to white readers. Alongside these pioneers of black American literature Zafar juxtaposes some familiar European American Writers. Beginning with Phillis Wheatley's implicit engagements with other colonial era poets, and ending with the ultimately tragic success story of Elizabeth Keckley, ex-slave, seamstress, and confidante to a First Lady, black authors employed virtually every dominant literary genre while cannily manipulating the nature of their presence.
The Silk Road
The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to arise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook remember the paths that brought them there―paths on which they still seem to be traveling.
The Silk Road also begins in rivalrous skirmishing for favor, in the protected Eden of childhood, and it ends in the harrowing democracy of mortality, in sickness and loss and death. Kathryn Davis’s sleight of hand brings the past, present, and future forward into brilliant coexistence; in an endlessly shifting landscape, her characters make their way through ruptures, grief, and apocalypse, from existence to nonexistence, from embodiment to pure spirit.
Since the beginning of her extraordinary career, Davis has been fascinated by journeys. Her books have been shaped around road trips, walking tours, hegiras, exiles: and now, in this triumphant novel, a pilgrimage. The Silk Road is her most explicitly allegorical novel and also her most profound vehicle; supple and mesmerizing, the journey here is not undertaken by a single protagonist but by a community of separate souls―a family, a yoga class, a generation. Its revelations are ravishing and desolating.
The Muhammad Ali Reader
Muhammad Ali—arguably the finest athlete of the twentieth century and incontestably one of the most famous Americans of his time—is known the world over, not only for his boxing prowess, but for his rebellious courage and resilience against controversy. He has been both underdog and champion, villain and prince, playboy and staunch Muslim, exalted American and punished conscientious objector. He was the ultimate athlete—Heavyweight Champion of the World—and today confronts the physical debilitations of Parkinson's disease.
A one-of-a-kind volume, The Muhammad Ali Reader collects more than thirty of the best writings about this boxing legend in an incredible anthology by the greatest about The Greatest. This is the amazing story of Muhammad Ali—and the world's reaction to him—told by a stellar array of authors, athletes, and social commentators. Floyd Patterson defends Ali's right to criticize America's participation in the Vietnam War; Malcolm X explains how Ali went from "entertainer" to "threat" with his declaration as "a man of race"; Ali himself shares some intimate and definitive thoughts in a Playboy magazine interview; and Gay Talese gives us a front seat on a ride to Cuba, where Ali meets up with Fidel Castro.
Organized by decade, chapters begin with a few opening remarks by Ali himself, and a spectacular sixteen-page photo insert captures The Champ in all his guises. With an introduction by Gerald Early, one of the finest contemporary writers on boxing, The Muhammad Ali Reader confirms Ali's standing as one of the most controversial and charismatic Americans of our time.
The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science
In 1959, C. P. Snow lamented the presence of what he called the 'two cultures': the apparently unbridgeable chasm of understanding and knowledge between modern literature and modern science. In recent decades, scholars have worked diligently and often with great ingenuity to interrogate claims like Snow's that represent twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and science as radically alienated from each other. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science offers a roadmap to developments that have contributed to the demonstration and emergence of reciprocal connections between the two domains of inquiry. Weaving together theory and empiricism, individual chapters explore major figures - Shakespeare, Bacon, Emerson, Darwin, Henry James, William James, Whitehead, Einstein, Empson, and McClintock; major genres and modes of writing - fiction, science fiction, non-fiction prose, poetry, and dramatic works; and major theories and movements - pragmatism, critical theory, science studies, cognitive science, ecocriticism, cultural studies, affect theory, digital humanities, and expanded empiricisms. This book will be a key resource for scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students alike.
Beyond Windrush: Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature
This edited collection challenges a long sacrosanct paradigm. Since the establishment of Caribbean literary studies, scholars have exalted an elite cohort of émigré novelists based in postwar London, a group often referred to as "the Windrush writers" in tribute to the SS Empire Windrush, whose 1948 voyage from Jamaica inaugurated large-scale Caribbean migration to London. In critical accounts this group is typically reduced to the canonical troika of V. S. Naipaul, George Lamming, and Sam Selvon, effectively treating these three authors as the tradition's founding fathers. These "founders" have been properly celebrated for producing a complex, anticolonial, nationalist literature. However, their canonization has obscured the great diversity of postwar Caribbean writers, producing an enduring but narrow definition of West Indian literature.
Beyond Windrush stands out as the first book to reexamine and redefine the writing of this crucial era. Its fourteen original essays make clear that in the 1950s there was already a wide spectrum of West Indian men and women--Afro-Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, and white-creole--who were writing, publishing, and even painting. Many lived in the Caribbean and North America, rather than London. Moreover, these writers addressed subjects overlooked in the more conventionally conceived canon, including topics such as queer sexuality and the environment. This collection offers new readings of canonical authors (Lamming, Roger Mais, and Andrew Salkey); hitherto marginalized authors (Ismith Khan, Elma Napier, and John Hearne); and commonly ignored genres (memoir, short stories, and journalism).
Romance in Marseille
Buried in the archive for almost ninety years, Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers–collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American. Set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age, the novel takes flight along with Lafala, an acutely disabled but abruptly wealthy West African sailor. While stowing away on a transatlantic freighter, Lafala is discovered and locked in a frigid closet. Badly frostbitten by the time the boat docks, the once-nimble dancer loses both of his lower legs, emerging from life-saving surgery as what he terms “an amputated man.” Thanks to an improbably successful lawsuit against the shipping line, however, Lafala scores big in the litigious United States. Feeling flush after his legal payout, Lafala doubles back to Marseille and resumes his trans-African affair with Aslima, a Moroccan courtesan. With its scenes of black bodies fighting for pleasure and liberty even when stolen, shipped, and sold for parts, McKay’s novel explores the heritage of slavery amid an unforgiving modern economy. This first-ever edition of Romance in Marseille includes an introduction by McKay scholars Gary Edward Holcomb and William J. Maxwell that places the novel within both the “stowaway era” of black cultural politics and McKay’s challenging career as a star and skeptic of the Harlem Renaissance.
Updike & Politics: New Considerations
Presenting the first interdisciplinary consideration of his political thought, Updike and Politics: New Considerations establishes a new scholarly foundation for assessing one of the most recognized and significant American writers of the post-1945 period. This book brings together a diverse group of American and international scholars, including contributors from Japan, India, Israel, and Europe. Like Updike himself, the collection canvases a wide range of topics, including Updike’s too often overlooked poetry and his single play. Its essays deal with not only political themes such as the traditional aspects of power, rights, equality, justice, or violence but also the more divisive elements in Updike’s work like race, gender, imperialism, hegemony, and technology. Ultimately, the book reveals how Updike’s immense body of work illuminates the central political questions and problems that troubled American culture during the second half of the twentieth century as well as the opening decade of the new millennium.
The History of the Future: American Essays
A collection of long essays centered on American places where the past is erupting into the present in unexpected ways. What does it mean to think about Dallas in relationship to Dallas? In The History of the Future, McPherson reexamines the space between history, experience, and myth. Private streets, racism, and the St. Louis World’s Fair; fracking for oil and digging for dinosaurs in North Dakota boomtowns—Americana slides into apocalypse in these essays, revealing us to ourselves.
- "Best Books of 2017" (The Guardian, Iowa Public Radio)
- Winner of the 2017 PEN Southwest Book Award
- Finalist for the 2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award
The Disappearing Christ: Secularism in the Silent Era
At the turn of the twentieth century, American popular culture was booming with opportunities to see Jesus Christ. From the modernized eyewitness gospel of Ben-Hur to the widely circulated passion play films of Edison, Lumière, and Pathé; from D. W. Griffith’s conjuration of a spectral white savior in Birth of a Nation to W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Black Christ” story cycle, Jesus was constantly and inventively visualized across media, and especially in the new medium of film. Why, in an era traditionally defined by the triumph of secular ideologies and institutions, were so many artists rushing to film Christ’s miracles and use his story and image to contextualize their experiences of modernity?
In The Disappearing Christ, Phillip Maciak examines filmic depictions of Jesus to argue that cinema developed as a model technology of secularism, training viewers for belief in a secular age. Negotiating between the magic trick and the documentary image, the conflicting impulses of faith and skepticism, the emerging aesthetic of film in this period visualized the fraught process of secularization. Cinematic depictions of an appearing and disappearing Christ became a powerful vehicle for Americans to navigate a rapidly modernizing society. Studying these films alongside a multimedia, interdisciplinary archive of novels, photographs, illustrations, and works of theology, travel writing, and historiography, The Disappearing Christ offers a new narrative of American cultural history at the intersection of cinema studies and religious studies.
Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning
Food studies, once trendy, has settled into the public arena. In the academy, scholarship on food and literary culture constitutes a growing river within literary and cultural studies, but writing on African American food and dining remains a tributary. Recipes for Respect bridges this gap, illuminating the role of foodways in African American culture as well as the contributions of Black cooks and chefs to what has been considered the mainstream.
Beginning in the early nineteenth century and continuing nearly to the present day, African Americans have often been stereotyped as illiterate kitchen geniuses. Rafia Zafar addresses this error, highlighting the long history of accomplished African Americans within our culinary traditions, as well as the literary and entrepreneurial strategies for civil rights and respectability woven into the written records of dining, cooking, and serving. Whether revealed in cookbooks or fiction, memoirs or hotel-keeping manuals, agricultural extension bulletins or library collections, foodways knowledge sustained Black strategies for self-reliance and dignity, the preservation of historical memory, and civil rights and social mobility. If, to follow Mary Douglas’s dictum, food is a field of action―that is, a venue for social intimacy, exchange, or aggression―African American writing about foodways constitutes an underappreciated critique of the racialized social and intellectual spaces of the United States.
The Norton Chaucer
Prose edited by Professor Jennifer Arch.
A vibrant edition brings Chaucer's complete works to life
Both an enhanced digital edition and a handsome print volume, The Norton Chaucer provides the complete poetry and prose, meticulously glossed and annotated specifically for undergraduate readers, with apparatus reflecting current scholarship—all at an unmatched value.
Containing more than three hundred poems, including nearly a hundred previously unpublished works, this unique collection showcases the intellectual range of Claude McKay (1889-1948), the Jamaican-born poet and novelist whose life and work were marked by restless travel and steadfast social protest. McKay's first poems were composed in rural Jamaican creole and launched his lifelong commitment to representing everyday black culture from the bottom up. Migrating to New York, he reinvigorated the English sonnet and helped spark the Harlem Renaissance with poems such as "If We Must Die." After coming under scrutiny for his communism, he traveled throughout Europe and North Africa for twelve years and returned to Harlem in 1934, having denounced Stalin's Soviet Union. By then, McKay's pristine "violent sonnets" were giving way to confessional lyrics informed by his newfound Catholicism.
McKay's verse eludes easy definition, yet this complete anthology, vividly introduced and carefully annotated by William J. Maxwell, acquaints readers with the full transnational evolution of a major voice in twentieth-century poetry.
Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera
"Here Comes Kitty is a dark circus of the very best kind: bright 'damage' on every page. It pierces the heart with its mixture of love and going. I am honored to speak in support of such an extraordinarily brilliant book." —Bhanu Kapil
"Monumental incongruities—dazzling composition. Richard Kraft and Danielle Dutton have created a riot of images and words. The exuberance is contagious. A delight. A must." —Rosmarie Waldrop
"Here Comes Kitty reaches out in all sorts of ways like a compendium of the postmodern without pretentiousness which—despite combining humor, the erotic, the gothic, the wry, the popular and the sophisticated—tells a tight tale with wild invention and makes you want both to turn the pages and dwell on the images." —Tom Phillips
James Baldwin: The FBI File
Decades before Black Lives Matter returned James Baldwin to prominence, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI considered the Harlem-born author the most powerful broker between black art and black power. Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI file, covering the period from 1958 to 1974, was the largest compiled on any African American artist of the Civil Rights era. This collection of once-secret documents, never before published in book form, captures the FBI’s anxious tracking of Baldwin’s writings, phone conversations, and sexual habits—and Baldwin’s defiant efforts to spy back at Hoover and his G-men.
James Baldwin: The FBI File reproduces over one hundred original FBI records, selected by the noted literary historian whose award-winning book, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, brought renewed attention to bureau surveillance. William J. Maxwell also provides an introduction exploring Baldwin's enduring relevance in the time of Black Lives Matter along with running commentaries that orient the reader and offer historical context, making this book a revealing look at a crucial slice of the American past—and present.
“I couldn’t get used to the idea that this process might come to a halt. Of course, it was better for the limbs of this body that the dismantling cease. They could rest now that they had arrived at an adequate state of arrest. But this was to neglect the deathlessness of death. That death can destroy even one who no longer exists.”
The corpse, according to Julia Kristeva, is “a border that has encroached upon everything.” This is the horizon line of Farid Tali’s novel Prosopopoeia, the body, hovering just above the page and dropping text as it decomposes. This is a story of slow death, the attrition of AIDS, the wearing-out of narcotics, and the fascination of putrescence. Aditi Machado’s translation encourages the Gallic periodicity of Tali’s sentences to unfurl, beguiling the reader into a zone “at the frontier of silence.”
Here the “beheaded” poet displaces her mind into the landscape, exploring territories as disparate as India’s Western Ghats and the cinematic Mojave Desert, as absurd as insomnia and dream. Some Beheadings asks three questions: “How does thinking happen?” “What does thinking feel like?” “How do I think about the future?” The second question takes primacy over the others, reflecting on what poets and critics have called “the sensuous intellect,” what needs to be felt in language, the contours of questions touched in sound and syntax.
Winner of the 6th Annual Believer Poetry Book Award
Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England
Sympathetic Puritans re-examines Puritan culture through the lens and language of sympathy. Challenging the stereotype of stern and stoic Puritans, it argues that a Calvinist theology of sympathy shaped the politics, religion, rhetoric, and literature of early New England. Studying a large archive of sermons, treatises, tracts, poems, journals, histories, and captivity narratives, this book demonstrates how two types of sympathy permeated Puritan society and came to define the very boundaries of English culture, affecting ideas of persuasion and salvation, conceptions of community, relations with Native Americans, and the development of American literature.
Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love after Aristotle
Jessica Rosenfeld provides a history of the ethics of medieval vernacular love poetry by tracing its engagement with the late medieval reception of Aristotle. Beginning with a history of the idea of enjoyment from Plato to Peter Abelard and the troubadours, the book then presents a literary and philosophical history of the medieval ethics of love, centered on the legacy of the Roman de la Rose. The chapters reveal that 'courtly love' was scarcely confined to what is often characterized as an ethic of sacrifice and deferral, but also engaged with Aristotelian ideas about pleasure and earthly happiness. Readings of Machaut, Froissart, Chaucer, Dante, Deguileville and Langland show that poets were often markedly aware of the overlapping ethical languages of philosophy and erotic poetry. The study's conclusion places medieval poetry and philosophy in the context of psychoanalytic ethics, and argues for a re-evaluation of Lacan's ideas about courtly love.
Samuel Johnson's Eternal Return
When Samuel Johnson dies, he finds himself in the body of the man who killed him, unable to depart this world but determined, at least, to return to the son he left behind. Moving from body to body as each one expires, Samuel’s soul journeys on a comic quest through an American half-century, inhabiting lives as stymied, in their ways, as his own. A ghost story of the most unexpected sort, Martin Riker’s extraordinary debut is about the ways experience is mediated, the unstoppable drive for human connection, and the struggle to be more fully alive in the world.
Martin Riker grew up in central Pennsylvania. He worked as a musician for most of his twenties, in nonprofit literary publishing for most of his thirties, and has spent the first half of his forties teaching in the English department at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2010, he and his wife Danielle Dutton co-founded the feminist press Dorothy, a Publishing Project. His fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, London Review of Books, the Baffler, and Conjunctions. This is his first novel.
Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science
Before Gertrude Stein became the twentieth century's preeminent experimental writer, she spent a decade conducting research in both the leading psychological laboratory and the leading medical school in the United States. This book unearths the turn-of-the-century scientific and philosophical worlds in which the young Stein was immersed, demonstrating how her extensive scientific training continued to exert a profound influence on the development of her extraordinary literary practices. As an undergraduate, Stein worked with the philosopher William James and the psychologist Hugo Münsterberg at the Harvard Psychological Laboratory, investigating secondary personalities and automatic writing. Later, at Johns Hopkins Medical School, she was involved in cutting-edge neuroanatomical research in the laboratory of Franklin Mall, the leading anatomist and embryologist of the day, and his assistant Lewellys Barker, the author of the first English-language textbook to describe the nervous system from the standpoint of the newly established neuron doctrine. Just as scientists reconceived relations among neurons as a function of contact or contiguity, rather than of organic connection, Stein radically reconceptualized language to place equal weight on the conjunctive and disjunctive relations among words. In the course of a broad reevaluation of Stein's career, the author situates this major postromantic thinker in the lineage of poet-scientists such as Wordsworth, Goethe, and Shelley, as well as in an important line of speculative thinkers that extends from Emerson to William James, Alfred North Whitehead, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and emerges today in figures as disparate as the bioaesthetician Suzanne Langer, the technoscience theorist Donna Haraway, and the neuroscientists Francisco Varela, Gerald Edelman, and J. Allan Hobson. These two lines share the perspective that William James designated radical empiricism. A groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Irresistible Dictation aims both to explicate Stein's radically experimental compositions and to bring the radical empiricist philosophical tradition into focus through the lens of her writing.
New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism Between the Wars
Howard "Stretch" Johnson, a charismatic Harlemite who graduated from Cotton Club dancer to Communist Party youth leader, once claimed that in late 1930s New York "75% of black cultural figures had Party membership or maintained regular meaningful contact with the Party." He stretched the truth, but barely. In a broad-ranging, revisionary account of the extensive relationship between African-American literary culture and Communism in the 1920s and 1930s, William J. Maxwell uncovers both black literature's debt to Communism and Communism's debt to black literature—reciprocal obligations first incurred during the Harlem Renaissance.
Juxtaposing well-known and newly rediscovered works by Claude McKay, Andy Razaf, Mike Gold, Langston Hughes, Louise Thompson, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nelson Algren, Maxwell maintains that the "Old," Soviet-allied Left promoted a spectrum of exchanges between black and white authors, genres, theories, and cultural institutions. Channels opened between radical Harlem and Bolshevik Moscow, between the New Negro renaissance and proletarian literature. Claude McKay's 1922-23 pilgrimage to the Soviet Union, for example, usually recalled as a lighthearted adventure in radical tourism, actually jumpstarted the Comintern's controversial nation-centered program for Afro America. Breaking from studies governed by Cold War investments and pivoting on the Great Depression, Maxwell argues that Communism's rare sustenance for African-American initiative—not a seduction of Depression-scarred innocents—brought scores of literary "New Negroes" to the Old Left.
Margaret the First: A Novel
Winner of an Independent Publisher's Book Award Gold Medal for Historical Fiction
Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another two hundred years.
Margaret the First is very much a contemporary novel set in the past. Written with lucid precision and sharp cuts through narrative time, it is a gorgeous and wholly new approach to imagining the life of a historical woman.
Writing Lives: Biography and Textuality, Identity and Representation in Early Modern England
Biography appears to thrive as never before; and there clearly remains a broad readership for literary biography. But the methods and approaches of recent criticism which have contributed rich insights and asked new questions about the ways in which we interrogate and appreciate literature have scarcely influenced biography. Biography as a form has been largely unaffected by either new critical or historical perspectives. For early-modern scholars the biographical model, fashioned as a stable form in the eighteenth century, has been, in some respects, a distorting lens onto early-modern lives. In the Renaissance and early-modern period rather the biography's organic and developmental narratives of a coherent subject, lives were written and represented in a bewildering array of textual sites and generic forms. And such lives were clearly imagined and written not to entertain or even simply to inform, but to edify and instruct, to counsel and polemicize. It is only when we understand how early moderns imagined and narrated lives, only that is through a full return to history and an exact historicizing, that we can newly conceive the meaning of those lives and begin to rewrite their histories free of the imperatives and teleologies of Enlightenment.
The Cambridge Companion to John Dryden
This collection of essays offers a variety of perspectives on John Dryden's work and its contexts. A towering literary figure in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Dryden authored a series of highly successful plays and poems, in addition to influential essays of literary criticism.
The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1650-1740
This volume offers an account of English literary culture in one of its most volatile moments, when literature was enmeshed with the extremes of social, political and sexual experience. Newly-commissioned essays make use of current critical perspectives in order to offer new insight into the literature of Restoration and early eighteenth-century England in all its variety, from vitriolic satire to heroic verse. The volume's chronologies and select bibliographies will guide the reader through texts and events, while the fourteen essays commissioned for this Companion will allow us to read the period anew.
The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell
Andrew Marvell is one of the greatest English lyric poets of the seventeenth century and one of its leading polemicists. This Companion brings a set of fresh questions and perspectives to bear on the varied career and diverse writings of a remarkable writer and elusive man. Drawing on important new editions of Marvell's poetry and of his prose, scholars of both history and literature examine Marvell's work in the contexts of Restoration politics and religion, and of the seventeenth-century publishing world in both manuscript and print. The essays, individually and collectively, address Marvell within his literary and cultural traditions and communities; his almost prescient sense of the economy and ecology of the country; his interest in visual arts and architecture; his opaque political and spiritual identities; his manners in controversy and polemic; the character of his erotic and transgressive imagination and his biography, still full of intriguing gaps.
Dryden’s Political Poetry: The Typology of King and Nation
Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurrican
Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane studies the poetry and polemics of one of the greatest of early modern writers, a poet of immense lyric talent and political importance. The book situates these writings and this writer within the patronage networks and political upheavals of mid seventeenth-century England. Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker track Marvell's negotiations among personalities and events; explores his idealizations, attachments, and subversions, and speculate on the meaning of the narratives that he told of himself within his writings -- what they call his 'imagined life'. Hirst and Zwicker draw the figure of an imagined life from the repeated traces Marvell left of lyric yearning and satiric anger, and suggest how these were rooted both in the body and in the imagination.
Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Harriet Jacobs, today perhaps the single most read and studied Black American woman of the nineteenth century, has not until recently enjoyed sustained, scholarly analysis. This anthology presents a far-ranging compendium of literary and cultural scholarship that will take its place as the primary resource for students and teachers of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The contributors include both established Jacobs scholars and emerging critics; the essays take on a variety of subjects in Incidents, treating representation, gender, resistance, and spirituality from differing angles.
Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s: Not Without Laughter / Black No More / The Conjure-Man Dies / Black Thunder
HARLEM RENAISSANCE: Four Novels of the 1930s traces the flowering of the Renaissance in diverse genres and forms. It opens with Langston Hughes's Not Without Laughter (1931), an elegantly realized coming-of-age tale that follows a young man from his rural origins to the big city. Suffused with childhood memories, it is the poet's only novel. George S. Schuyler's Black No More (1931), a satire founded on the science fiction premise of a wonder drug permitting blacks to change their race, skewers public figures white and black alike in a raucous, carnivalesque send-up of American racial attitudes. Considered the first detective story by an African American writer, Rudolph Fisher's The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) is a mystery that comically mixes and reverses stereotypes, placing a Harvard-educated African "conjureman" at the center of a phantasmagoric charade of deaths and disappearances. Black Thunder (1936), Arna Bontemps's stirring fictional recreation of Gabriel Prosser's 1800 slave revolt, which, though unsuccessful, shook Jefferson's Virginia to its core, marks a turn from aestheticism toward political militancy in its exploration of African American history.
Harlem Renaissance Novels: The Library of America Collection
Together, the nine works in Harlem Renaissance Novels form a vibrant collective portrait of African American culture in a moment of tumultuous change and tremendous hope.
God Made Man, Man Made the Slave: The Autobiography of George Teamoh
Teamoh (1818-83?) was a slave in Virginia, escaped to Germany, lived in New York City, then returned to Virginia after the Civil War and took part in the state government.
Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre: Bodies, Voices, Words
Although often dismissed as a minor offshoot of the better-known German movement, expressionism on the American stage represents a critical phase in the development of American dramatic modernism. Situating expressionism within the context of early twentieth-century American culture, Walker demonstrates how playwrights who wrote in this mode were responding both to new communications technologies and to the perceived threat they posed to the embodied act of meaning. At a time when mute bodies gesticulated on the silver screen, ghostly voices emanated from tin horns, and inked words stamped out the personality of the hand that composed them, expressionist playwrights began to represent these new cultural experiences by disarticulating the theatrical languages of bodies, voices and words. In doing so, they not only innovated a new dramatic form, but redefined playwriting from a theatrical craft to a literary art form, heralding the birth of American dramatic modernism.
The Uncommon Tongue The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill
In the analysis of Hill’s poetry and critical ideas, Vincent Sherry illuminates Hill’s often obscure and oblique language, drawing connections between the rich verbal textures of the verse and the poet’s recurring concerns as a critic. The author focuses on Hill’s work in the context of postwar British literature and relates it to American as well as British extensions of literary modernism. The result is an engaging and far-ranging study of one of England’s most contemporary poets.
The Great War and the Language of Modernism
With the expressions "Lost Generation" and "The Men of 1914," the major authors of modernism designated the overwhelming effect the First World War exerted on their era. Literary critics have long employed the same phrases in an attempt to place a radically experimental, specifically modernist writing in its formative, historical setting. What real basis did that Great War provide for the verbal inventiveness of modernist poetry and fiction? Does the literature we bring under this heading respond directly to that provocation, and, if so, what historical memories or revelations can be heard to stir in these words?
The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War (Cambridge Companions to Literature)
The Great War of 1914-1918 marked a turning point in modern history and culture. This Companion offers critical overviews of the major literary genres and social contexts that define the study of the literatures produced by World War I. It examines the war's impact on various national literatures before addressing the way the War affected Modernism, the European avant-garde, film, women's writing, memoirs, and, of course, the war poets. The volume concludes by addressing the legacy of the war for twentieth-century literature.
Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence
In this major new book, Vincent Sherry reveals a fresh continuity in literary history. He traces the idea of decadence back to key events from the failures of the French Revolution to the cataclysm of the Great War. This powerful work of literary criticism and literary history encompasses a rich trajectory that begins with an exposition of the English Romantic poets and ends with a reevaluation of modernists as varied as W. B. Yeats, Henry James, Joseph Conrad. Rebecca West, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Beckett, and, centrally, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Sherry's hugely ambitious study will be essential reading for anyone working in modernist studies and twentieth-century literature more generally.
James Joyce: Ulysses (Landmarks of World Literature)
Vincent Sherry addresses two apparently separate preoccupations in Ulysses - its reliance on ancient epic, and its highly experimental verbal art - and develops new, unifying critical arguments through a detailed, sequenced reading of the text. Joyce's appropriation of Homer is aligned with other contemporary reconstructions of the Odyssey, in particular Samuel Butler's and Georg Lukacs', and this historically enriched view opens up a new axis of value in Ulysses: a shift from the interior sphere of the modern novel to the social wholeness of classical epic. Related issues in language philosophy point up a difference between concrete specifics and generic verbal abstractions, a problem Joyce understands as the tension between radical individuality and the generalising, socialising force of words.
Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism
Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis developed a highly experimental art; they were attracted simultaneously to political programs remarkably backward in outlook--the autocracies of Fascist Italy and Germany. That paradox, central to the problematic achievement of Anglo-American modernism, is freshly addressed in this study. Here Sherry examines the influence of music and painting on literature, presents original research on European intellectual history, and proposes a new understanding of ideology as a force in the literary imagination. Following the example of continental ideologues, the English modernists use the material of aesthetic experience to prove truths of human nature, making art the basis for social values and recommendations. This sensibility enriches their work, shaping the varied textures of Pound's Cantos and the complex designs of Lewis's painting and fiction, but their mastery of avant-garde techniques endorses the authority of an antique state. Sherry returns their "totalitarian synthesis" of art and politics to its originating moment, following its trajectory from 1910 to the eve of World War II.
Exquisite Mixture: The Virtues of Impurity in Early Modern England (Haney Foundation Series)
The culture of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain is rarely credited with tolerance of diversity; this period saw a rising pride in national identity, the expansion of colonialism, and glorification of the Anglo-Saxon roots of the country. Yet at the same time, Wolfram Schmidgen observes, the concept of mixture became a critical element of Britons' belief in their own superiority. While the scientific, political, and religious establishment of the early 1600s could not imagine that anything truly formed, virtuous, or durable could be produced by mixing unlike kinds or merging absolute forms, intellectuals at the end of the century asserted that mixture could produce superior languages, new species, flawless ideas, and resilient civil societies.
Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Law of Property
In Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Law of Property, Wolfram Schmidgen draws on legal and economic writings to analyze the description of houses, landscapes, and commodities in eighteenth-century fiction. His study argues that such descriptions are important to the British imagination of community. By making visible what it means to own something, they illuminate how competing concepts of property define the boundaries of the individual, of social community, and of political systems. In this way, Schmidgen recovers description as a major feature of eighteenth-century prose, and he makes his case across a wide range of authors, including Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, William Blackstone, Adam Smith, and Ann Radcliffe. The book's most incisive theoretical contribution lies in its careful insistence on the unity of the human and the material: in Schmidgen's argument, persons and things are inescapably entangled. This approach produces fresh insights into the relationship between law, literature, and economics.
The Erotic Whitman
In this provocative analysis of Whitman's exemplary quest for happiness, Vivian Pollak skillfully explores the intimate relationships that contributed to his portrayal of masculinity in crisis. She maintains that in representing himself as a characteristic nineteenth-century American and in proposing to heal national ills, Whitman was trying to temper his own inner conflicts as well.
New Essays on "Daisy Miller" and "The Turn of the Screw"
Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw may be Henry James's most widely read tales. Certainly, these swiftly moving accounts of failed connections are among the best examples of his shorter fiction. One represents the international theme that made him famous; the other exemplifies the multiple meanings that make him modern. The introduction to this 1993 volume locates his fiction in the context of the family that conditioned his concern with the sexual politics of intimate experience. In the four essays that follow, Kenneth Graham offers a close reading of Daisy with an emphasis on Daisy; Robert Weisbuch examines Winterbourne as a specimen of James's formidable bachelor type; Millicent Bell places the ghost story governess in the traditions of English fiction and society; David McWhirter then provides a critique of female authority. Deftly summarising earlier criticism, these essays demonstrate the continuing appeal of Henry James in our time.
Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender
A Poet's Parents: The Courtship Letters of Emily Norcross and Edward Dickinson
The courtship letters of Emily Dickinson's parents identify issues of vital importance to the poet's parents which influenced Dickinson's subsequent development. In her introduction, Pollak places the letters within the context of nineteenth-century American society and argues that the poet's disturbed relationship with her mother forms part of a larger pattern of troubled same-sex bonding that can be observed in the lives and works of other major artists of the era.
A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson
One of America's most celebrated women, Emily Dickinson was virtually unpublished in her own time and unknown to the public at large. Yet since the first publication of a limited selection of her poems in 1890, she has emerged as one of the most challenging and rewarding writers of all time. Born into a prosperous family in small town Amherst, Massachusetts, she had an above average education for a woman, attending a private high school and then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, now Mount Holyoke College. Returning to Amherst to her loving family and her "feast" in the reading line, in the 1850s she became increasingly solitary and after the Civil War she spent her life indoors. Despite her cooking and gardening and extensive correspondence, Dickinson's life was strikingly narrow in its social compass. Not so her mind, and on her death in 1886 her sister discovered an astonishing cache of close to eighteen hundred poems. Bitter family quarrels delayed the full publication of Dickinson's "letter to the World," but today her poetry is commonly anthologized and widely praised for its precision, its intensity, its depth and beauty. Dickinson's life and work, however, remain in important ways mysterious.
The Tether: Poems
As I understand it, I could
call him. Though it would help,
it is not required that I give him
a name first. Also, nothing
says he stops, then, or must turn.
--from "The Figure, the Boundary, the Light"
The Rest of Love: Poems
The light, for as far as
I can see, is that of any number of late
afternoons I remember still: how the light
seemed a bell; how it seemed I'd been living
insider it, waiting - I'd heard all about
that one clear note it gives.
--from "Late Apollo III"
Speak Low: Poems
Speak Low is the tenth book from one of America’s most distinctive—and one of poetry’s most essential—contemporary voices. Phillips has long been hailed for work provocative in its candor, uncompromising in its inquiry, and at once rigorous and innovative in its attention to craft. Over the course of nine critically acclaimed collections, he has generated a sustained meditation on the restless and ever-shifting myth of human identity. Desire and loss, mastery and subjugation, belief and doubt, sex, animal instinct, human reason: these are among the lenses through which Phillips examines what it means to be that most bewildering, irresolvable conundrum, a human being in the world.
In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we're willing to commit fully to a life in which "I love you / means what, exactly?" In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely―not with judgment but with understanding―and extend that self more honestly toward others. It's a risk, there's a lot to lose, but if it's true that "we'll drown anyway―why not / in color?"
Rock Harbor: Poems
Wind as a face gone red with blowing,
oceans whose end is broken stitchery--
swim of sea-dragon, dolphin,
shimmer-and-coil, invitation. . . . You Know
the kind of map I mean. Countries as
distant as they are believable . . .
Riding Westward: Poems
What happens when the world as we've known it becomes divided, when the mind becomes less able―or less willing―to distinguish reality from what is desired? In Riding Westward, Carl Phillips wields his celebrated gifts for syntax and imagery that are unmistakably his own―speculative, athletic, immediate―as he confronts moral crisis. What is the difference, he asks, between good and evil, cruelty and instruction, risk and trust? Against the backdrop of the natural world, Phillips pitches the restlessness of what it means to be human, as he at once deepens and extends a meditation on that space where the forces of will and imagination collide with sexual and moral conduct.
Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006
Quiver of Arrows is a generous gathering from Carl Phillips's work that showcases the twenty-year evolution of one of America's most distinctive―and one of poetry's most essential―contemporary voices. Hailed from the beginning of his career for a poetry provocative in its candor, uncompromising in its inquiry, and at once rigorous and innovative in its attention to craft, Phillips has in the course of eight critically acclaimed collections generated a sustained meditation on the restless and ever-shifting myth of human identity. Desire and loss, mastery and subjugation, belief and doubt, sex, animal instinct, human reason: these are among the lenses through which Phillips examines what it means to be that most bewildering, irresolvable conundrum, a human being in the world.
Poetry, Love, and Mercy
The Judith Lee Stronach Memorial Lectures on the Teaching of Poetry was established in 2003 in memory of a poet and an inspired teacher of poetry to children and to the underprivileged. She is also remembered for her generosity in support of actions, world wide, to safeguard and to further Human Rights. This series of lectures on teaching poetry by distinguished poets was conceived of by her family as a contribution to the role poetry plays at Berkeley in occasions that bring the public and academic communities together.
Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006; Riding Westward; and The Rest of Love, a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
In The Blood
Winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize (1992)
From the Devotions: Poems
With From the Devotions, Carl Phillips takes us even further into that dangerous space he has already made his own, where body and soul--ever restless--come explosively together. Speaking to a balance between decorum and pain, he offers here a devotional poetry that argues for faith, even without the comforting gods or the organized structures of revealed truth. Neither sage nor saint nor prophet, the poet is the listener, the mourner, the one who has some access to the maddening quarters of human consciousness, the wry Sibyl. From the Devotions is deeply felt, highly intelligent, and unsentimental, and cements Phillips's reputation as a poet of enormous talent and depth.
Double Shadow: Poems
A stunning new collection of poems from the author of Speak Low
Comparing any human life to "a restless choir" of impulses variously in conflict and at peace with one another, Carl Phillips, in his eleventh book, examines the double shadow that a life casts forth: "now risk, and now / faintheartedness." In poems that both embody and inhabit this double shadow, risk and faintheartedness prove to have the power equally to rescue us from ourselves and to destroy us. Spare, haunted, and haunting, yet not without hope, Double Shadow argues for life as a wilderness through which there's only the questing forward―with no regrets and no looking back.
Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including "Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006";" Riding Westward"; and "The Rest of Love," a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. This is the second collection of poems by Carl Phillips, whose first book, "In the Blood," won the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize. As "The Boston Book Review" observed, "Cortege" is the work of "an erotic poet, one who follows his sexuality into surprising territory . . . The contemporary scene is fully present [throughout this book], with all its new and old terrors--AIDS, loneliness--but Phillips's richness of mind is such that he often encounters in this life the artifacts of a couple of millennia of art and mythology. Which is not to say these poems have an academic flavor--far from it. The vision is contemporary, the language ours . . . What makes these poems such a coherent whole, in addition to their open sensuality, is the awareness they contain of the inescapable sadness of beauty . . . This is a poet of tact and delicacy, with an understated approach to even potentially explosive subjects."
Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry
The "coin of the realm" is, classically, the currency that for any culture most holds value. In art, as in life, the poet Carl Phillips argues, that currency includes beauty, risk, and authority-values of meaning and complexity that all too often go disregarded. Together, these essays become an invaluable statement for the necessary-and necessarily difficult-work of the imagination and the will, even when, as Phillips states in his title essay, "the last thing that most human beings seem capable of trusting naturally-instinctively-is themselves, their own judgment."
The Traffic in Women's Work: East European Migration and the Making of Europe
“Welcome to the European family!” When East European countries joined the European Union under this banner after 1989, they agreed to the free movement of goods, services, capital, and persons. In this book, Anca Parvulescu analyzes an important niche in this imagined European kinship: the traffic in women, or the circulation of East European women in West Europe in marriage and as domestic servants, nannies, personal attendants, and entertainers. Analyzing film, national policies, and an impressive range of work by theorists from Giorgio Agamben to Judith Butler, she develops a critical lens through which to think about the transnational continuum of “women’s work.”
Laughter: Notes on a Passion
Most of our theories of laughter are not concerned with laughter. Rather, their focus is the laughable object, whether conceived of as the comic, the humorous, jokes, the grotesque, the ridiculous, or the ludicrous. In Laughter, Anca Parvulescu proposes a return to the materiality of the burst of laughter itself. She sets out to uncover an archive of laughter, inviting us to follow its rhythms and listen to its tones.
Reimagining Thoreau synthesizes the interests of the intellectual and psychological biographer and the literary critic in a reconsideration of Thoreau's literary career. The aims of the book are, first, to situate Thoreau's aims and achievements as a writer within the context of his troubled relationship to the microcosm of antebellum Concord; second, to reinterpret Walden as a temporally layered text in light of the successive drafts of the book and the evidence of Thoreau's journals and contemporaneous writings; and third, to overturn traditional views of Thoreau's "decline" by offering a new estimate of the post-Walden writing and its place within his development.
Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life
The first literary/biographical study of Hawthorne's full career in almost forty years, Hawthorne's Habitations presents a self-divided man and writer strongly attracted to reality for its own sake and remarkably adept at rendering it yet fearful of the nothingness he intuited at its heart.
Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine
Exiled Royalties is a literary/biographical study of the course of Melville's career from his experience in Polynesia through his retirement from the New York Custom House and his composition of three late volumes of poetry and Billy Budd, Sailor. Conceived separately but narratively and thematically intertwined, the ten essays in the book are rooted in a belief that "Melville's work," as Charles Olson said, "must be left in his own 'life,'" which for Milder means primarily his spiritual, psychological, and vocational life. Four of the ten essays deal with Melville's life and work after his novelistic career ended with the The Confidence-Man in 1857. The range of issues addressed in the essays includes Melville's attitudes toward society, history, and politics, from broad ideas about democracy and the course of Western civilization to responses to particular events like the Astor Place Riots and the Civil War; his feeling about sexuality and, throughout the book, about religion; his relationship to past and present writers, especially to the phases of Euro-American Romanticism, post-Romanticism, and nascent Modernism; his relationship to his wife, Lizzie, to Hawthorne, and to his father, all of whom figured in the crisis that made for Pierre. The title essay, "Exiled Royalties," takes its origin from Ishmael's account of "the larger, darker, deeper part of Ahab"--Melville's mythic projection of a "larger, darker, deeper part" of himself. How to live nobly in spiritual exile--to be godlike in the perceptible absence of God--was a lifelong preoccupation for Melville, who, in lieu of positive belief, transposed the drama of his spiritual life to literature. The ways in which this impulse expressed itself through Melville's forty-five year career, interweaving itself with his personal life and the life of the nation and shaping both the matter and manner of his work, is the unifying subject of Exiled Royalties.
The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats: A Newcomer's Journey into the World of Bridge
In this spirited homage, McPherson recounts the colorful history of bridge and his attempts to master its mysteries in time to compete at the North American Bridge Championships—despite being barely able to shuffle cards. The characters he meets convince him that in a game that pits mind against mind, close attention to the cards often reveals much about those sitting at the table.
Buster Keaton: Tempest In A Flat Hat
This biography celebrates one of cinema’s greatest clowns, painting a detailed portrait of the man behind the mayhem and offering a fresh look at the classic comedies that defined the Golden Age of silent film. McPherson takes the reader on a journey through Buster Keaton’s life and times, from the vaudeville stage to the glittering screens of early Hollywood, revealing Keaton as an antic genius—equal parts auteur, innovator, prankster, and daredevil.
The English Cult of Literature: Devoted Readers, 1774–1880 (Victorian Literature and Culture)
What constitutes reading? This is the question William McKelvy asks in The English Cult of Literature. Is it a theory of interpretation or a physical activity, a process determined by hermeneutic destiny or by paper, ink, hands, and eyes? McKelvy seeks to transform the nineteenth-century field of "Religion and Literature" into "Reading and Religion," emphasizing both the material and the institutional contexts for each. In doing so, he hopes to recover the ways in which modern literary authority developed in dialogue with a politically reconfigured religious authority.The received wisdom has been that England’s literary tradition was modernity's most promising religion because the established forms of Christianity, wounded in the Enlightenment, inevitably gave up their hold on the imagination and on the political sphere.
F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature
Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover's white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI's hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau’s intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI "ghostreaders" monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century.
The Author's Due: Printing and the Prehistory of Copyright
The Author's Due offers an institutional and cultural history of books, the book trade, and the bibliographic ego. Joseph Loewenstein traces the emergence of possessive authorship from the establishment of a printing industry in England to the passage of the 1710 Statute of Anne, which provided the legal underpinnings for modern copyright. Along the way he demonstrates that the culture of books, including the idea of the author, is intimately tied to the practical trade of publishing those books.
Ben Jonson and Possessive Authorship
Writing before the institution of copyright, Renaissance authors were not recognized as owning their works. Yet, in an environment in which the written word could be variously marketed by printers or by acting companies, and in which authors could be held uncomfortably responsible for their writings, we can discover complex stirrings of possessiveness among such writers as Bacon, Heywood, Daniel, Shakespeare, Wither, and--most powerfully and interestingly--Ben Jonson. This book probes the literary and institutional history, the politics, and the psychology of possessive authorship.
Faith, Text and History: The Bible in English (Studies in Religion and Culture Series)
Chaucer's Narrators (Chaucer Studies)
The book begins with a brief prefatory discussion of its relation to structuralist and post-structuralist criticism. The first chapter, `Apocryphal Voices', surveys the basis of modern critical approaches to l>personal> and `irony' in Chaucer's poetry, and suggests that such approaches are better suited to unequivocally written contexts. A systematic hesitation between a wholly written and a wholly spoken context requires critical distinctions between types of l>persona/l>, and a number of distinctions in the range between l>persona/l> and voice. `Morality in its Context' examines the Pardoner and his tale and argues against a `dramatic' view of the tale itself, while the third chapter, 'Chaucer's Development of l>Persona/l>', is a study of possible sources for Chaucer's handling of the narratorial '1', looking at the English `l>disour/l>', the French `l>dits amoureux/l>', Italian and Latin sources of influence, and the l>Roman de la Rose/l>. The last two chapters apply the principles outlined so far to l>Troilus/l> and l>The Canterbury Tales/l>, with a particular examination of the literary history of the Squire's tale to show that modern interest in dramatic l>persona/l> has obscured many other important issues and leads to drastic misreading. This is a challenging and lucid work which questions many of the received attitudes of recent Chaucer criticism, and offers a reasoned and approachable alternative view.
From Jesus Christ to Salman Rushdie, from Moses to Freud, blasphemy has been a force in producing many forms of Western cultural identity. Blasphemy continues to influence our relations with other cultures, yet it is not so much an idea as a shifting rhetorical figure. It stands for whatever we deplore: we define the truths we uphold in terms of the blasphemies we attack.
The grouped stories in Tyrants trace the many forms of emotional inheritance―cultural, romantic, and historical. Some deftly portray both time and place, while others mine interpersonal relations with such intimacy and truth that they could be set anytime, anywhere. In the first sequence of stories, a son inherits and reconsiders his father’s convoluted and extravagant notions about love, sex, wealth, and fatherhood. In the second, an American man and his Korean wife confront the cultural implications of a romantic, self-imposed exile. And in the historical fictions that complete the collection, love and flight, ambition, exploration, and exile intertwine in a helium balloon above Sweden, in an Italian airship at the North Pole, and in Stalin’s dacha during the Nazi invasion. Marshall N. Klimasewiski’s talent for “deft psychological triangulations” (New York Times Book Review) and for capturing “the subtle dynamics between people” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) is on full display here.
The Cottagers: A Novel
Cyrus Collingwood, age nineteen, suspects that he may be a genius without a calling. He is a year-round resident of East Sooke, Vancouver Island, and has a natural resentment for the summer cottagers who descend on its rocky beaches. When two vacationing American couples arrive―old friends with a complicated history―they become his obsession. Greg and Nicholas are engaged in an academic collaboration that looks more like competition; Samina and Laurel are old friends who have grown apart and developed a strange jealousy. Cyrus spies on the cottagers through their windows, then begins to insinuate himself into their lives. When one of the cottagers goes missing, no one will look at any of the others the same way again.
The Tender Land: A Family Love Story
A superb portrait of family life, THE TENDER LAND is a love story unlike any other. The Finnerans -- parents and five children, Irish Catholics in St. Louis -- are a seemingly unexceptional family. Theirs is a story seldom told, yet it makes manifest how rich and truly extraordinary the ordinary daily experience we take for granted is. In quietly luminous language, Kathleen Finneran renders the emotional, spiritual, and physical terrain of family life -- its closeness and disconnection, its intimacy and estrangement--and pays tribute to the love between parents and children, brothers and sisters.
This Is Where I Came In: Black America in the 1960s
The fascinating and turbulent black America of the 1960s emerges in these essays, through the lenses of dissent and its contradictions. Gerald L. Early revisits this volatile time in American history, when class, culture, and race ignited conflagrations of bitterness and hatred across the nation.
One Nation Under A Groove: Motown and American Culture
In its heyday Motown Records was a household word, one of the most famous and successful black-owned businesses in American history, and, arguably, the most significant of all American independent record labels.
A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports
As Americans, we believe there ought to be a level playing field for everyone. Even if we don’t expect to finish first, we do expect a fair start. Only in sports have African Americans actually found that elusive level ground. But at the same time, black players offer an ironic perspective on the athlete-hero, for they represent a group historically held to be without social honor.
S P R A W L
Finalist for the Believer Book Award
“Rereading SPRAWL in the new edition—a novel that remains unlike anything I’ve read before—made me recall the sensation of first reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Like The Waves, SPRAWL radically reorients the reader to what the narrative space of a novel can be and do, and, most memorably, how that can feel. Consisting of a single paragraph spanning more than a hundred pages, the strange bakelite surface of the novel’s prose creates a retro-futurist scene. Is the novel set in a 1950s white-picket-fenced suburbia made ever stranger? or is it set in an ecologically doomed near-future? At its center is an impressionistic portrait of a couple consisting of the narrator and her husband, Haywood, but this is treated less as a plotted narrative drama of a relationship and more like a David Attenborough documentary studying the mating and nesting rituals of a particular specimen pair of the aspirational white middle class (if Attenborough were an alien observer). The novel is imbued with deep observational analysis (consumption as competition, even sport; the economics of homemaking and desire).” —John Vincler, Music & Literature
Inspired by a series of domestic still lifes by photographer Laura Letinsky, Danielle Dutton's absurdly comic and decidedly digressive novel Sprawl chronicles the mercurial inner life of one suburban woman (the dissolving marriage, the crumbs on the countertop, the drunken neighbor careening into the pool, the dead dog on the side of the road), constructing surprising taxonomies that rearrange the banalities, small wonders and accoutrements of contemporary suburban life.
Attempts at a Life
Fiction. Operating somewhere between fiction and poetry, biography and theory, the stories in ATTEMPTS AT A LIFE do what lively stories do best, creating worlds of possibility, worlds filled with surprises. Like the "experiments in found movement" one character conducts (in "Everybody's Autobiography"), Dutton's stories find movement wherever they turn, each sentence a small explosion of images and anthems and odd juxtapositions. This is writing in which the imagination (both writer's and reader's) is capable of producing almost anything at any moment, from a shiny penny to an alien metropolis, a burning village to a bright green bird. "Danielle Dutton's stories remind me of those alluring puzzles where the pool is overflowing and emptying at the same time. Dutton's answer? That the self is a rush of the languages of storytelling and moments of helpless intimacy"--Robert Gluck.
Wittily entertaining and astonishingly wise, this novel of the life of Marie Antoinette finds the characters struggling to mind their step in the great ballroom of the world.
The Walking Tour
A walking tour in Wales ends in tragedy for two couples, leaving a legal and psychological nightmare for one of their children, Susan, to sort out. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
The Thin Place
In a thin place, according to legend, the membrane separating this world from the spirit world is almost nonexistent. The small New England town of Varennes is such a place, and Kathryn Davis transports us there - revealing a surprising pageant of life as, in the course of one summer, Varennes' tranquillity is shattered by the arrival of a threatening outsider, worldly and otherworldly forces come into play, and a young local girl finds her miraculous gift for resurrecting the dead tested by the conflict between logic and wish.
The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf: A Novel
A young woman in flight from her past, and an old woman whose secrets are contained in the grave--with this configuration, Davis begins a novel of true bravura about opera, adultery, and murder.
A New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction, Kathryn Davis's "dazzling first novel" (Kirkus Reviews) "transforms a literary commonplace -- a young girl's transition from childhood to adulthood -- into a brilliantly original story" (Belles Lettres). In LABRADOR, Davis conjures two unforgettable sisters. Willie, the elder, is beautiful and wayward. Kitty, the younger, is a loner whose only means of escaping the bewitching influence of her sister is to follow her grandfather to his home in Labrador, where she cannot avoid confronting the demons that haunt her. A tale of two sisters and the ambiguous, sometimes destructive ties that bind them, LABRADOR is a tender meditation on love, its joys, its limitations, and its hidden bitterness.
Part mystery, part domestic meditation and part horror story, ""Hell" is Davis's tour de force." (Joy Press, "The Village Voice.") In her brilliantly eerie third novel, three households coexist in a single restless vision.
Duplex: A Novel
"Utterly compelling . . . Davis writes with a stunning brilliance, creating fractured worlds that are both extraordinary and routine." ―The Boston Globe
"A coming-of-age-meets-dystopian-fantasy-meets-alternate-reality novel, or maybe an Ionesco-meets-Beckett-meets-Oulipo novel . . . The world [Duplex] describes has gone cuckoo while its characters' anxieties remain stubbornly, drably, daringly familiar." ―Tom Bissell, Harper's Magazine
Migrant Modernism: Postwar London and the West Indian Novel
In Migrant Modernism, J. Dillon Brown examines the intersection between British literary modernism and the foundational West Indian novels that emerged in London after World War II. By emphasizing the location in which anglophone Caribbean writers such as George Lamming, V. S. Naipaul, and Samuel Selvon produced and published their work, Brown reveals a dynamic convergence between modernism and postcolonial literature that has often been ignored. Modernist techniques not only provided a way for these writers to mark their difference from the aggressively English, literalist aesthetic that dominated postwar literature in London but also served as a self-critical medium through which to treat themes of nationalism, cultural inheritance, and identity.
The Orphaned Imagination
Studies of the English Romantic poets generally portray them either as transcending the workings of capitalism or as working in complicity with an entrepreneurial economy. In The Orphaned Imagination, Guinn Batten challenges standard accounts of Romantic poetry and argues that Wordsworth, Byron, Blake, Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge—each of whom suffered the loss of a father or father-figure at an early age—possessed an orphan’s special insight into the dynamics and aesthetics of commodity culture and its symptomatic melancholia.
The Eye Like a Strange Balloon
The poems in The Eye Like a Strange Balloon find their seed in paintings, film, video, photographs, and collage, and the end results are something more than a sum of their parts. Beginning with a painting done in 2003, the poems move backwards in time to 1 BC, where an architectural fragment is painted on an architectural fragment, highlighting visual art’s strange relationship between the image and the thing itself. The total effect is exhilarating—a wholly original, personal take on art history coupled with Bang’s sly and elegant commentary on poetry’s enduring subjects: Love, Death, Time and Desire. The recipient of numerous prizes and awards, Bang stands at the front of American poetry with this new work, asking more of the English language, and enticing and challenging the reader.
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans
This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Mary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately and gracefully with the tangible world.
The Bride of E: Poems
In her sixth collection, The Bride of E, Mary Jo Bang uses a distinctive mix of humor and directness to sound the deepest sort of anguish: the existential condition. Timeless yet tirelessly inventive, Bang fashions her examination of the lived life into an abecedarius that is as rapturous in its language and music as it is affecting in its awareness of--and yearning for--what isn't there. The title of the first poem, "ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness Is the Bride of Existence," posits the collection's central problem, and a symposium of figures from every register of our culture (from Plato to Pee-wee Herman, Mickey Mouse to Sartre) is assembled to help confront it. Riddled with insight, pathos, and wit, The Bride of E is a brilliant new work by one the most compelling poets of our time.
Louise in Love
In this stunning new collection of poems, Mary Jo Bang jettisons the reader into the dreamlike world of Louise, a woman in love. With language delicate, smooth, and wryly funny, Louise is on a voyage without destination, traveling with a cast of enigmatic others, including her lover, Ham. Louise is as musical as she is mysterious and the reader is invited to listen. In her world, anything goes, provided it is breathtaking. Bang, whose first collection was the prize-winning Apology for Want, both parodies and pays homage to the lyric tradition, borrowing its lush music and dramatic structure to give new voice to the old concerns of the late Romantic poets. Louise in Love is a dramatic postmodern verse-novel with an eloquent free-floating narration. The poems, rife with literary allusion, take journeys to distant lands. And, like anyone on a voyage without a destination, they are endlessly questioning of the enigmatic world around them.
Inferno: A New Translation
Award-winning poet Mary Jo Bang has translated the Inferno into English at a moment when popular culture is so prevalent that it has even taken Dante, author of the fourteenth century epic poem, The Divine Comedy, and turned him into an action-adventure video game hero. Dante, a master of innovation, wrote his poem in the vernacular, rather than in literary Latin.
Mary Jo Bang's fifth collection, Elegy, chronicles the year following the death of her son. By weaving the particulars of her own loss into a tapestry that also contains the elements common to all losses, Bang creates something far larger than a mere lament. Continually in search of an adequate metaphor for the most profound and private grief, the poems in Elegy confront, in stark terms and with a resilient voice, how memory haunts the living and brings the dead back to life. Within these intimate and personal poems is a persistently urgent, and deeply touching, examination of grief itself.
Apology for Want
Winner of the 1996 Bakeless Literary Publication Prize for Poetry