- Stephen Crane, and: New Essays on "The Red Badge of Courage", and: Realism, Writing, Disfiguration on Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane
Crane scholarship continues to advance steadily, and three recent books (actually two books and a long essay) contribute to this advance in very different ways. Although all three texts concentrate predominantly on Crane's fiction, they differ markedly in their aims and methodologies. Bettina L. Knapp, for example, provides a general introductory overview of Crane's life and work, an overview aimed primarily at readers who are unfamiliar with Crane's writings. Lee Clark Mitchell's collection of six essays offers an updated perspective on some of the more recent critical approaches to The Red Badge of Courage. Finally, in the most provocative and theoretically sophisticated of these three texts, Michael Fried deconstructs Crane's "thematics of writing," and, as might be expected in such a reading, he discovers the paradox that Crane's writing must efface and repress itself in order to be writing at all.
Bettina L. Knapp's Stephen Crane contributes to the "Literature and Life: American Writers" series, and, for the most part, it speaks to a popular audience. The book provides a general introduction to Crane's life and works, and it includes segments devoted to Crane's biography, the novels, the poems, and the tales. The first segment relates the well-known story of Crane's life: his picaresque journey through different educational institutions; his trials and tribulations as a young reporter; his development as a writer; his financial problems; his sickness and his death. For readers who know next to nothing about Crane, this account provides an adequate and readable sketch of his life. The final three segments address Crane's works, and these segments are divided into chapters that give short publication histories and general summaries of the major texts. "Part II: The Novels" contains chapters on Maggie, The Red Badge of Courage, George's Mother, The Third Violet, Active Service, and The O'Ruddy. Part III discusses Crane's collections of poetry, The Black Riders and War Is Kind. Part IV includes chapters on Tales of Adventure, The Monster, and The Whilomville Stories, and other tales of war. [End Page 662] Although the commentary that accompanies the summaries of these texts will surprise no one who is familiar with Crane scholarship, the book does discuss briefly some of the traditional critical appraisals of Crane's writings. As a book designed to stimulate interest in Crane's literary legacy, Stephen Crane provides a good general introduction to Crane's life and works.
Unlike Knapp's Stephen Crane in both methodology and scope, New Essays on "The Red Badge of Courage," edited by Lee Clark Mitchell, is an introductory collection of essays that provides a selective overview of the well-known hermeneutic and historical problems raised by The Red Badge of Courage. In fact, the strength of this collection resides in its breadth of coverage; the essays range from straight-forward textual and historical criticism to an attempt at deconstructive analysis. Hershel Parker, for example, traces the tortuous publication history of The Red Badge of Courage and argues convincingly for the supremacy of the original manuscript over the Appleton version. In addition to relating a brief account of Crane's life, Mitchell, in his "Introduction," examines The Red Badge of Courage from the point of view of reception aesthetics and finds that "by subtly disrupting literary conventions, [Crane] presents an analogue for his readers of the very experience his characters face." In "The American Stephen Crane: The Context of The Red Badge of Courage," Andrew Delbanco attempts to place the novel in its nineteenth-century cultural and historical context. He argues that "Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge out of and about a crisis of faith—both about God and about God's instrument...