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American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary

Deborah Barker

Employing innovations in media studies, southern cultural studies, and approaches to the global South, this collection of essays examines aspects of the southern imaginary in American cinema and offers fresh insight into the evolving field of southern film studies.
 
In their introduction, Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee argue that the southern imaginary in film is not contained by the boundaries of geography and genre; it is not an offshoot or subgenre of mainstream American film but is integral to the history and the development of American cinema.
 
Ranging from the silent era to the present and considering Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent films, the contributors incorporate the latest scholarship in a range of disciplines. The volume is divided into three sections: “Rereading the South” uses new critical perspectives to reassess classic Hollywood films; “Viewing the Civil Rights South” examines changing approaches to viewing race and class in the post–civil rights era; and “Crossing Borders” considers the influence of postmodernism, postcolonialism, and media studies on recent southern films.
 
The contributors to American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary complicate the foundational term “southern,” in some places stretching the traditional boundaries of regional identification until they all but disappear and in others limning a persistent and sometimes self-conscious performance of place that intensifies its power.

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The American Counterfeit

Authenticity and Identity in American Literature and Culture

Written by Mary McAleer Balkun

Fakery, authenticity, and identity in American literature and culture at the turn of the 20th century

Focusing on texts written between 1880 and 1930, Mary McAleer Balkun explores the concept of the “counterfeit,” both in terms of material goods and invented identities, and the ways that the acquisition of objects came to define individuals in American culture and literature. Counterfeiting is, in one sense, about the creation of something that appears authentic—an invented self, a museum display, a forged work of art. But the counterfeit can also be a means by which the authentic is measured, thereby creating our conception of the true or real.

When counterfeiting is applied to individual identities, it fosters fluidityin social boundaries and the games of social climbing and passing that have come to be representative of American culture: the Horatio Alger story, the con man or huckster, the social climber, the ethnically ambiguous.

Balkun provides new readings of traditional texts such as The Great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The House of Mirth, as well as readings of less-studied texts, such as Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days and Nella Larsen’s Passing. In each of these texts, Balkun locates the presence of manufactured identities and counterfeit figures, demonstrating that where authenticity and consumerism intersect, the self becomes but another commodity to be promoted, sold, and eventually consumed.

 

 
 

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American Culture, Canons, and the Case of Elizabeth Stoddard

Elizabeth Stoddard was a gifted writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism; successfully published within her own lifetime; esteemed by such writers as William Dean Howells and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and situated at the epicenter of New York's literary world. Nonetheless, she has been almost excluded from literary memory and importance. This book seeks to understand why. By reconsidering Stoddard’s life and work and her current marginal status in the evolving canon of American literary studies, it raises important questions about women’s writing in the 19th century and canon formation in the 20th century.
 
Essays in this study locate Stoddard in the context of her contemporaries, such as Dickinson and Hawthorne, while others situate her work in the context of major 19th-century cultural forces and issues, among them the Civil War and Reconstruction, race and ethnicity, anorexia and female invalidism, nationalism and localism, and incest. One essay examines the development of Stoddard's work in the light of her biography, and others probe her stylistic and philosophic originality, the journalistic roots of her voice, and the elliptical themes of her short fiction. Stoddard’s lifelong project to articulate the nature and dynamics of woman's subjectivity, her challenging treatment of female appetite and will, and her depiction of the complex and often ambivalent relationships that white middle-class women had to their domestic spaces are also thoughtfully considered.
 
The editors argue that the neglect of Elizabeth Stoddard's contribution to American literature is a compelling example of the contingency of critical values and the instability of literary history. This study asks the question, “Will Stoddard endure?” Will she continue to drift into oblivion or will a new generation of readers and critics secure her tenuous legacy?


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The American Diary of a Japanese Girl

An Annotated Edition

Edward Marx

The first American novel by a writer of Japanese ancestry, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl is a landmark of modern American fiction and Japanese American transnationalism. First published in 1902, Yone Noguchi's novel describes the turn-of-the-century adventures of Tokyo belle Miss Morning Glory in a first-person narrative that The New York Times called "perfectly ingenuous and unconventional." Initially published as an authentic journal, the Diary was later revealed to be a playful autobiographical fiction written by a man. No less than her creator, Miss Morning Glory delights in disguises, unabashedly switching gender, class, and ethnic roles. Targeting the American fantasy of Madame Butterfly, Noguchi's New Woman heroine prays for "something more decent than a marriage offer," and freely dispenses her insights on Japanese culture and American lifestyles. With the addition of perceptive critical commentary and comprehensive notes, this first annotated edition sheds new light on the creative inventiveness of an important modernist writer.

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The American Dream

In History, Politics, and Fiction

The American Dream juxtaposes the claims of political, social, and economic elites against the view of American life consistently offered in our great national literature by our great novelists, from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to John Updike, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison.

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American Elegy

The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman

Max Cavitch

The most widely practiced and read form of verse in America, “elegies are poems about being left behind,” writes Max Cavitch. American Elegy is the history of a diverse people’s poetic experience of mourning and of mortality’s profound challenge to creative living. By telling this history in political, psychological, and aesthetic terms, American Elegy powerfully reconnects the study of early American poetry to the broadest currents of literary and cultural criticism.Cavitch begins by considering eighteenth-century elegists such as Franklin, Bradstreet, Mather, Wheatley, Freneau, and Annis Stockton, highlighting their defiance of boundaries—between public and private, male and female, rational and sentimental—and demonstrating how closely intertwined the work of mourning and the work of nationalism were in the revolutionary era. He then turns to elegy’s adaptations during the market-driven Jacksonian age, including more obliquely elegiac poems like those of William Cullen Bryant and the popular child elegies of Emerson, Lydia Sigourney, and others. Devoting unprecedented attention to the early African-American elegy, Cavitch discusses poems written by free blacks and slaves, as well as white abolitionists, seeing in them the development of an African-American genealogical imagination. In addition to a major new reading of Whitman’s great elegy for Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Cavitch takes up less familiar passages from Whitman as well as Melville’s and Lazarus’s poems following Lincoln’s death. American Elegy offers critical and often poignant insights into the place of mourning in American culture. Cavitch examines literary responses to historical events—such as the American Revolution, Native American removal, African-American slavery, and the Civil War—and illuminates the states of loss, hope, desire, and love in American studies today. Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

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The American Essay in the American Century

Ned Stuckey-French

 

       In modern culture, the essay is often considered an old-fashioned, unoriginal form of literary styling. The word essay brings to mind the uninspired five-paragraph theme taught in schools around the country or the antiquated, Edwardian meanderings of English gentlemen rattling on about art and old books. These connotations exist despite the fact that Americans have been reading and enjoying personal essays in popular magazines for decades, engaging with a multitude of ideas through this short-form means of expression.

 

 

 
To defend the essay—that misunderstood staple of first-year composition courses—Ned Stuckey-French has written The American Essay in the American Century. This book uncovers the buried history of the American personal essay and reveals how it played a significant role in twentieth-century cultural history.

 

 

 
In the early 1900s, writers and critics debated the “death of the essay,” claiming it was too traditional to survive the era’s growing commercialism, labeling it a bastion of British upper-class conventions. Yet in that period, the essay blossomed into a cultural force as a new group of writers composed essays that responded to the concerns of America’s expanding cosmopolitan readership. These essays would spark the “magazine revolution,” giving a fresh voice to the ascendant middle class of the young century.

 

 

 
With extensive research and a cultural context, Stuckey-French describes the many reasons essays grew in appeal and importance for Americans. He also explores the rise of E. B. White, considered by many the greatest American essayist of the first half of the twentieth century whose prowess was overshadowed by his success in other fields of writing. White’s work introduced a new voice, creating an American essay that melded seriousness and political resolve with humor and self-deprecation. This book is one of the first to consider and reflect on the contributions of E. B. White to the personal essay tradition and American culture more generally.

 

 

 
The American Essay in the American Century is a compelling, highly readable book that illuminates the history of a secretly beloved literary genre. A work that will appeal to fiction readers, scholars, and students alike, this book offers fundamental insight into modern American literary history and the intersections of literature, culture, and class through the personal essay. This thoroughly researched volume dismisses, once and for all, the “death of the essay,” proving that the essay will remain relevant for a very long time to come.

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American Georgics

Economy and Environment in American Literature, 1580-1864

By Timothy Sweet

In classical terms the georgic celebrates the working landscape, cultivated to become fruitful and prosperous, in contrast to the idealized or fanciful landscapes of the pastoral. Arguing that economic considerations must become central to any understanding of the human community's engagement with the natural environment, Timothy Sweet identifies a distinct literary mode he calls the American georgic.

Offering a fresh approach to ecocritical and environmentally-oriented literary studies, Sweet traces the history of the American georgic from its origins in late sixteenth-century English literature promoting the colonization of the Americas through the mid-nineteenth century, ending with George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature (1864), the foundational text in the conservationist movement.

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American Gothic

New Interventions in a National Narrative

Drawing widely on contemporary theory—particularly revisionist views of Freud such as those offered by Lacan and Kristeva—this volume ranges from the well-known Gothic horrors of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to the popular fantasies of Stephen King and the postmodern visions of Kathy Acker. Special attention is paid to the issues of slavery and race in both black and white texts, including those by Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner. In the view of the editors and contributors, the Gothic is not so much a historical category as a mode of thought haunted by history, a part of suburban life and the lifeblood of films such as The Exorcist and Fatal Attraction.

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The American H.D.

Annette Debo

In The American H.D., Annette Debo considers the significance of nation in the artistic vision and life of the modernist writer Hilda Doolittle. Her versatile career stretching from 1906 to 1961, H.D. was a major American writer who spent her adult life abroad; a poet and translator who also wrote experimental novels, short stories, essays, reviews, and a children’s book; a white writer with ties to the Harlem Renaissance; an intellectual who collaborated on avant-garde films and film criticism; and an upper-middle-class woman who refused to follow gender conventions. Her wide-ranging career thus embodies an expansive narrative about the relationship of modernism to the United States and the nuances of the American nation from the Gilded Age to the Cold War.

 

Making extensive use of material in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale—including correspondences, unpublished autobiographical writings, family papers, photographs, and Professor Norman Holmes Pearson’s notes for a planned biography of H.D.—Debo’s American H.D. reveals details about its subject never before published. Adroitly weaving together literary criticism, biography, and cultural history, The American H.D. tells a new story about the significance of this important writer.

 

Written with clarity and sincere affection for its subject, The American H.D. brings together a sophisticated understanding of modernism, the poetry and prose of H.D., the personalities of her era, and the historical and cultural context in which they developed: America’s emergence as a dominant economic and political power that was riven by racial and social inequities at home.

 

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