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The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman
Economy and Environment in American Literature, 1580-1864
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.
New Interventions in a National Narrative
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.
The Problem of Poverty in U.S. Literature, 1840-1945
Social anxiety about poverty surfaces with startling frequency in American literature. Yet, as Gavin Jones argues, poverty has been denied its due as a critical and ideological framework in its own right, despite recent interest in representations of the lower classes and the marginalized. These insights lay the groundwork for American Hungers, in which Jones uncovers a complex and controversial discourse on the poor that stretches from the antebellum era through the Depression.
Reading writers such as Herman Melville, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, James Agee, and Richard Wright in their historical contexts, Jones explores why they succeeded where literary critics have fallen short. These authors acknowledged a poverty that was as aesthetically and culturally significant as it was socially and materially real. They confronted the ideological dilemmas of approaching poverty while giving language to the marginalized poor--the beggars, tramps, sharecroppers, and factory workers who form a persistent segment of American society. Far from peripheral, poverty emerges at the center of national debates about social justice, citizenship, and minority identity. And literature becomes a crucial tool to understand an economic and cultural condition that is at once urgent and elusive because it cuts across the categories of race, gender, and class by which we conventionally understand social difference.
Combining social theory with literary analysis, American Hungers masterfully brings poverty into the mainstream critical idiom.
Gender, Mass Culture, and Form
National Geographic, Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination
Tracing the National Geographic's rise to prominence during the first half of the 20th c., Stephanie Hawkins argues that far from being merely a handbook of Western imperialism or a venue for exotic display, the magazine created a forum for the negotiation of changing attitudes toward national identity, cultural diversity, and global interconnectedness. Its readers responded in complex ways to the magazine's iconic public image and were not at all the passive spectators they have been assumed to be.
Novelist, memoirist, diarist, and gay pioneer Christopher Isherwood left a wealth of writings. Known for his crisp style and his camera-like precision with detail, Isherwood gained fame for his Berlin Stories, which served as source material for the hit stage musical and Academy Award–winning film Cabaret. More recently, his experiences and career in the United States have received increased attention. His novel A Single Man was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film; his long relationship with the artist Don Bachardy, with whom he shared an openly gay lifestyle, was the subject of an award-winning documentary, Chris & Don: A Love Story; and his memoir, Christopher and His Kind, was adapted for the BBC.
Isherwood’s colorful journeys took him from post–World War I England to Weimar Germany to European exile to Golden Age Hollywood to Los Angeles in the full flower of gay liberation. After the publication of his diaries, which run to more than one million words and span nearly a half century, it is possible to fully assess his influence. This collection of essays considers Isherwood’s diaries, his vast personal archive, and his published works and offers a multifaceted appreciation of a writer who spent more than half of his life in southern California. James J. Berg and Chris Freeman have brought together the most informative scholarship of the twenty-first century to illuminate the craft of one of the singular figures of the twentieth century. Isherwood, the American, emerges from the shadow of his English reputation to stake his claim as a significant force in late twentieth-century American culture whose legacy continues in the twenty-first century.
Contributors: Joshua Adair, Murray State U; Jamie Carr, Niagara U; Robert L. Caserio, Pennsylvania State U; Niladri Chatterjee, U of Kalyani, India; Lisa Colletta, American U of Rome; Lois Cucullu, U of Minnesota; Mario Faraone; Peter Edgerly Firchow; Rebecca Gordon Stewart; William R. Handley, U of Southern California; Jaime Harker, U of Mississippi; Sara S. Hodson, Huntington Library; Carola M. Kaplan, California State U, Pomona; Benjamin Kohlmann, U of Freiburg, Germany; Victor Marsh, U of Queensland; Tina Mascara; Stephen McCauley; Paul M. McNeil, Columbia U; Guido Santi, College of the Canyons, California; Kyle Stevens, Brandeis U.
"This is a dazzling performance. It supplies conceptual links between phenomena where historians have often sensed a connection without being able to describe it adequately. . . [Bercovitch] has written intellectual history at the highest level."—Edmund S. Morgan, New York Review of Books