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Longer Views

Extended Essays

Samuel R. Delany

Publication Year: 1996

"Reading is a many-layered process -- like writing," observes Samuel R. Delany, a Nebula and Hugo award-winning author and a major commentator on American literature and culture. In this collection of six extended essays, Delany challenges what he calls "the hard-edged boundaries of meaning" by going beyond the customary limits of the genre in which he's writing. By radically reworking the essay form, Delany can explore and express the many layers of his thinking about the nature of art, the workings of language, and the injustices and ironies of social, political, and sexual marginalization. Thus Delany connects, in sometimes unexpected ways, topics as diverse as the origins of modern theater, the context of lesbian and gay scholarship, the theories of cyborgs, how metaphors mean, and the narrative structures in the Star Wars trilogy.

"Over the course of his career," Kenneth James writes in his extensive introduction, "Delany has again and again thrown into question the world-models that all too many of us unknowingly live by." Indeed, Delany challenges an impressive list of world-models here, including High and Low Art, sanity and madness, mathematical logic and the mechanics of mythmaking, the distribution of wealth in our society, and the limitations of our sexual vocabulary. Also included are two essays that illustrate Delany's unique chrestomathic technique, the grouping of textual fragments whose associative interrelationships a reader must actively trace to read them as a resonant argument. Whether writing about Wagner or Hart Crane, Foucault or Robert Mapplethorpe, Delany combines a fierce and often piercing vision with a powerful honesty that beckons us to share in the perspective of these Longer Views.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

In a critical epoch that has privileged, for twenty years or more, differ-ence, decantering, discontinuity, diversity, and pluralism over the eldergods of Unity, Totality, and Mastery, so much American nonfiction stillfinds itself attempting to appease those elder gods and their formerconventions. Those of us who read regularly in criticism often find...

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Extensions: An Introduction to the Longer Views of Samuel R. Delany

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pp. xiii-xl

The term "extended essay," in its very articulation, seems to presuppose a norm which is somehow being supplemented, exceeded, transgressed. Certainly the long pieces in the remarkable collection to follow do not fit the form of the essay we have been led (by whom? by what? for what purpose?) ...

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Wagner/Artaud: A Play of 19th and 20th Century Critical Fictions

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pp. 1-86

What follows is a work of popular cultural history, not of original research. It required not one foray into any other library save my own Here is its only justification: ...

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Reading at Work, and Other Activities Frowned on by Authority: A Reading of Donna Haraway's "Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s"

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pp. 87-118

Isn't there something—could it really be missing from the text above—urging us to read this passage from Anne McCaffrey's series of science fiction tales about the young cyborg Helva as irony ? Pin down (or up) that irony, and we admit at the same time: ...

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pp. 119-143

Aversion, perversion, diversion—the topics of my talk—present us at the outset with their intensely overlapping euphony, their entwined etymologies— sharing much with the Latin "proversus," source of "prose," "verse," "verb," and "proverb." Certainly they start with the suggestion of three very inter-confused topics. ...

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Shadow and Ash

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pp. 144-173

In those 95 sheets that served him over some three years as commonplace book, journal, and project notebook, after a few more entries, including some odd lines from Shakespeare's sonnets and a tercet that grew into the third verse paragraph of "Christobel," Coleridge copied out a glorious description of alligators from a travel book ...

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Atlantis Rose . . .: Some Notes on Hart Crane

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pp. 174-250

A reading at once sophisticated and rich—of a poem as complex as The Bridge—must start with details and distinctions: the realization, perhaps, that, in Crane's case, even if they started off one, by the end of his poem, Cathay and Atlantis do not allegorize the same notion: ...

Appendix: Shadows

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pp. 251-324


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pp. 325-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780819571946
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819552815

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 1996