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After Southern Modernism

Fiction of the Contemporary South

Matthew Guinn

A provocative reckoning of the challenging new direction southern literature has taken in the works of nine authors

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The literature of the contemporary South might best be understood for its discontinuity with the literary past. At odds with traditions of the Southern Renascence, southern literature of today sharply refutes the Nashville Agrarians and shares few of Faulkner's and Welty's concerns about place, community, and history.

This sweeping study of the literary South's new direction focuses on nine well established writers who, by breaking away from the firmly ensconced myths, have emerged as an iconoclastic generation- -- Harry Crews, Dorothy Allison, Bobbie Ann Mason, Larry Brown, Kaye Gibbons, Randall Kenan, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, and Barry Hannah. Resisting the modernist methods of the past, they have established their own postmodern ground beyond the shadow of their predecessors.

This shift in authorial perspective is a significant indicator of the future of southern writing. Crews's seminal role as a ground-breaking "poor white" author, Mason's and Crews's portrayals of rural life, and Allison's and Brown's frank portrayals of the lower class pose a challenge to traditional depictions of the South. The dissenting voices of Gibbons and Kenan, who focus on gender, race, and sexuality, create fiction that is at once identifiably "southern" and also distinctly subversive. Gibbons's iconoclastic stance toward patriarchy, like the outsider's critique of community found in Kenan's work, proffers a portrait of the South unprecedented in the region's literature. Ford, McCarthy, and Hannah each approach the South's traditional notions of history and community with new irreverence and treat familiar southern topics in a distinctly postmodern manner. Whether through Ford's generic consumer landscape, the haunted netherworld of McCarthy's southern novels, or Hannah's riotous burlesque of the Civil War, these authors assail the philosophical and cultural foundations from which the Southern Renascence arose.

Challenging the conventional conceptions of the southern canon, this is a provocative and innovative contribution to the region's literary study.

Matthew Guinn, formerly an instructor of English at the University of Mississippi, has published articles on southern literature in Southern Quarterly, South Atlantic Review, and Resources for American Literary Study.

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After the End of History

American Fiction in the 1990s

In this bold book, Samuel Cohen asserts the literary and historical importance of the period between the fall of the Berlin wall and that of the Twin Towers in New York. With refreshing clarity, he examines six 1990s novels and two post-9/11 novels that explore the impact of the end of the Cold War: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Roth's American Pastoral, Morrison's Paradise, O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, Didion's The Last Thing He Wanted, Eugenides's Middlesex, Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, and DeLillo's Underworld. Cohen emphasizes how these works reconnect the past to a present that is ironically keen on denying that connection. Exploring the ways ideas about paradise and pastoral, difference and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the stories Americans tell themselves about their nation’s past, After the End of History challenges us to reconsider these works in a new light, offering fresh, insightful readings of what are destined to be classic works of literature.

At the same time, Cohen enters into the theoretical discussion about postmodern historical understanding. Throwing his hat in the ring with force and style, he confronts not only Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist response to the fall of the Soviet Union but also the other literary and political “end of history” claims put forth by such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In a straightforward, affecting style, After the End of History offers us a new vision for the capabilities and confines of contemporary fiction.

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After Translation

The Transfer and Circulation of Modern Poetics Across the Atlantic

Ignacio Infante

Translation--from both a theoretical and practical point of view--articulates differing but interconnected modes of circulation in the work of writers originally from different geographical areas of transatlantic encounter, such as Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean. After Translation examines from a transnational perspective the various ways in which translation facilitates the circulation of modern poetry and poetics across the Atlantic. It rethinks the theoretical paradigm of Anglo-American "modernism" based on the transnational, interlingual and transhistorical features of the work of key modern poets writing at both sides of the Atlantic--namely, the Portuguese Fernando Pessoa; the Chilean Vicente Huidobro; the Spaniard Federico García Lorca; the San Francisco-based poets Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, and Robin Blaser; the Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite; and the Brazilian brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos.

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After Utopia

The Rise of Critical Space in Twentieth-Century American Fiction

Nicholas Spencer

By developing the concept of critical space, After Utopia presents a new genealogy of twentieth-century American fiction. Nicholas Spencer argues that the radical American fiction of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, and Josephine Herbst reimagines the spatial concerns of late nineteenth-century utopian American texts. Instead of fully imagined utopian societies, such fiction depicts localized utopian spaces that provide essential support for the models of history on which these authors focus. In the midcentury novels of Mary McCarthy and Paul Goodman and the late twentieth-century fiction of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Joan Didion, and Don DeLillo, narratives of social space become decreasingly utopian and increasingly critical. The highly varied "critical space" of such texts attains a position similar to that enjoyed by representations of historical transformation in early twentieth-century radical American fiction. After Utopia finds that central aspects of postmodern American novels derive from the overtly political narratives of London, Sinclair, Dos Passos, and Herbst.

Spencer focuses on distinct moments in the rise of critical space during the past century and relates them to the writing of Georg Lukács, Ernst Bloch, Antonio Gramsci, Hannah Arendt, Henri Lefebvre, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and Paul Virilio. The systematic and genealogical encounter between critical theory and American fiction reveals close parallels between and original analyses of these two areas of twentieth-century cultural discourse.

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The Afterlife of "Little Women"

Beverly Lyon Clark

The hit Broadway show of 1912; the lost film of 1919; Katharine Hepburn, as Jo, sliding down a banister in George Cukor’s 1933 movie; Mark English’s shimmering 1967 illustrations; Jo—this time played by Sutton Foster—belting “I'll be / astonishing” in the 2004 Broadway musical flop: these are only some of the markers of the afterlife of Little Women. Then there’s the nineteenth-century child who wrote, “If you do not . . . make Laurie marry Beth, I will never read another of your books as long as I live.” Not to mention Miss Manners, a Little Women devotee, who announced that the book taught her an important life lesson: “Although it’s very nice to have two clean gloves, it’s even more important to have a little ink on your fingers.” In The Afterlife of “Little Women,” Beverly Lyon Clark, a leading authority on children’s literature, explores these and other after-tremors, both popular and academic, as she maps the reception of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel, first published in 1868. Clark divides her discussion into four historical periods. The first covers the novel’s publication and massive popularity in the late nineteenth century. In the second era—the first three decades of the twentieth century—the novel becomes a nostalgic icon of the domesticity of a previous century, while losing status among the literary and scholarly elite. In its mid-century afterlife (1930–1960), Little Women reaches a low in terms of its critical reputation but remains a well-known piece of Americana within popular culture. The book concludes with a long chapter on Little Women’s afterlife from the 1960s to the present—a period in which the reading of the book seems to decline, while scholarly attention expands dramatically and popular echoes continue to proliferate. Drawing on letters and library records as well as reviews, plays, operas, film and television adaptations, spinoff novels, translations, Alcott biographies, and illustrations, Clark demonstrates how the novel resonates with both conservative family values and progressive feminist ones. She grounds her story in criticism of children’s literature, book history, cultural studies, feminist criticism, and adaptation studies. Written in an accessible narrative style, The Afterlife of “Little Women” speaks to scholars, librarians, and devoted Alcott fans.

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Against Democracy:Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Simon During Australian Research Professor University of Queensland

This book argues that we can no longer envision a political system that might practically displace democracy or, more accurately, global democratic state capitalism. Democracy has become fundamental: It extends deeper and deeper into everyday life; it grounds and limits our political thought and values. That is the sense in which we do indeed live at history's end. But this end is not a happy one, because the system that we now have does not satisfy tests that we can legitimately put to it. In this situation, it is important to come to new terms with the fact that literature, at least until about 1945, was predominantly hostile to political democracy. Literature's deep-seated conservative, counterdemocratic tendencies, along with its capacity to make important distinctions among political, cultural, and experiential democracies and its capacity to uncover hidden, nonpolitical democracies in everyday life, is now a resource not just for cultural conservatives but for all those who take a critical attitude toward the current political, cultural, and economic structures. Literature, and certain novelists in particular, helps us not so much to imagine social possibilities beyond democracy as to understand how life might be lived both in and outside democratic state capitalism. Drawing on political theory, intellectual history, and the techniques of close reading, Against Democracy offers new accounts of the ethos of refusing democracy, of literary criticism's contribution to that ethos, and of the history of conservatism, as well as innovative interpretations of a range of writers, including Tocqueville, Disraeli, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, and Saul Bellow.

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Against Self-Reliance

The Arts of Dependence in the Early United States

By William Huntting Howell

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Against the Gallows

Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment

Paul Christian Jones

In Against the Gallows, Paul Christian Jones explores the intriguing cooperation of America’s writers—including major figures such as Walt Whitman, John Greenleaf Whittier, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and Herman Melville—with reformers, politicians, clergymen, and periodical editors who attempted to end the practice of capital punishment in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. In an age of passionate reform efforts, the antigallows movement enjoyed broad popularity, waging its campaign in legislatures, pulpits, newspapers, and literary journals.

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The Age of Auden

Postwar Poetry and the American Scene

Aidan Wasley

W. H. Auden's emigration from England to the United States in 1939 marked more than a turning point in his own life and work--it changed the course of American poetry itself. The Age of Auden takes, for the first time, the full measure of Auden's influence on American poetry. Combining a broad survey of Auden's midcentury U.S. cultural presence with an account of his dramatic impact on a wide range of younger American poets--from Allen Ginsberg to Sylvia Plath--the book offers a new history of postwar American poetry.

For Auden, facing private crisis and global catastrophe, moving to the United States became, in the famous words of his first American poem, a new "way of happening." But his redefinition of his work had a significance that was felt far beyond the pages of his own books. Aidan Wasley shows how Auden's signal role in the work and lives of an entire younger generation of American poets challenges conventional literary histories that place Auden outside the American poetic tradition. In making his case, Wasley pays special attention to three of Auden's most distinguished American inheritors, presenting major new readings of James Merrill, John Ashbery, and Adrienne Rich. The result is a persuasive and compelling demonstration of a novel claim: In order to understand modern American poetry, we need to understand Auden's central place within it.

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The Age of Lovecraft

Carl H. Sederholm

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the American author of “weird tales” who died in 1937 impoverished and relatively unknown, has become a twenty-first-century star, cropping up in places both anticipated and unexpected. Authors, filmmakers, and shapers of popular culture like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo del Toro acknowledge his influence; his fiction is key to the work of posthuman philosophers and cultural critics such as Graham Harman and Eugene Thacker; and Lovecraft’s creations have achieved unprecedented cultural ubiquity, even showing up on the animated program South Park.

The Age of Lovecraft is the first sustained analysis of Lovecraft in relation to twenty-first-century critical theory and culture, delving into troubling aspects of his thought and writings. With contributions from scholars including Gothic expert David Punter, historian W. Scott Poole, musicologist Isabella van Elferen, and philosopher of the posthuman Patricia MacCormack, this wide-ranging volume brings together thinkers from an array of disciplines to consider Lovecraft’s contemporary cultural presence and its implications. Bookended by a preface from horror fiction luminary Ramsey Campbell and an extended interview with the central author of the New Weird, China Miéville, the collection addresses the question of “why Lovecraft, why now?” through a variety of approaches and angles.

A must for scholars, students, and theoretically inclined readers interested in Lovecraft, popular culture, and intellectual trends, The Age of Lovecraft offers the most thorough examination of Lovecraft’s place in contemporary philosophy and critical theory to date as it seeks to shed light on the larger phenomenon of the dominance of weird fiction in the twenty-first century.

Contributors: Jessica George; Brian Johnson, Carleton U; James Kneale, U College London; Patricia MacCormack, Anglia Ruskin U, Cambridge; Jed Mayer, SUNY New Paltz; China Miéville, Warwick U; W. Scott Poole, College of Charleston; David Punter, U of Bristol; David Simmons, Northampton U; Isabella van Elferen, Kingston U London.


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