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Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary
While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture. Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures.
American Writers in the Age of Development
An Anthology of Contemporary Stories and Poetry
Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America
Apples and Ashes offers the first literary history of the Civil War South. The product of extensive archival research, it tells an expansive story about a nation struggling to write itself into existence. Confederate literature was in intimate conversation with other contemporary literary cultures, especially those of the United States and Britain. Thus, Coleman Hutchison argues, it has profound implications for our understanding of American literary nationalism and the relationship between literature and nationalism more broadly.
Apples and Ashes is organized by genre, with each chapter using a single text or a small set of texts to limn a broader aspect of Confederate literary culture. Hutchison discusses an understudied and diverse archive of literary texts including the literary criticism of Edgar Allan Poe; southern responses to Uncle Tom’s Cabin; the novels of Augusta Jane Evans; Confederate popular poetry; the de facto Confederate national anthem, “Dixie”; and several postwar southern memoirs. In addition to emphasizing the centrality of slavery to the Confederate literary imagination, the book also considers a series of novel topics: the reprinting of European novels in the Confederate South, including Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables; Confederate propaganda in Europe; and postwar Confederate emigration to Latin America.
In discussing literary criticism, fiction, poetry, popular song, and memoir, Apples and Ashes reminds us of Confederate literature’s once-great expectations. Before their defeat and abjection—before apples turned to ashes in their mouths—many Confederates thought they were in the process of creating a nation and a national literature that would endure.
Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century
American historians have typically argued that a shared experience of time worked to bind the antebellum nation together. Trains, technology, and expanding market forces catapulted the United States into the future on a straight line of progressive time. The nation's exceedingly diverse population could cluster around this common temporality as one forward-looking people.
In a bold revision of this narrative, Archives of American Time examines American literature's figures and forms to disclose the competing temporalities that in fact defined the antebellum period. Through discussions that link literature's essential qualities to social theories of modernity, Lloyd Pratt asserts that the competition between these varied temporalities forestalled the consolidation of national and racial identity. Paying close attention to the relationship between literary genre and theories of nationalism, race, and regionalism, Archives of American Time shows how the fine details of literary genres tell against the notion that they helped to create national, racial, or regional communities. Its chapters focus on images of invasive forms of print culture, the American historical romance, African American life writing, and Southwestern humor. Each in turn revises our sense of how these images and genres work in such a way as to reconnect them to a broad literary and social history of modernity. At precisely the moment when American authors began self-consciously to quest after a future in which national and racial identity would reign triumphant over all, their writing turned out to restructure time in a way that began foreclosing on that particular future.
Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics
What happens if we abandon the assumption that a person is a discrete, world-making agent who acts on and creates place? This, Monique Allewaert contends, is precisely what occurred on eighteenth-century American plantations, where labor practices and ecological particularities threatened the literal and conceptual boundaries that separated persons from the natural world.
Integrating political philosophy and ecocriticism with literary analysis, Ariel’s Ecology explores the forms of personhood that developed out of New World plantations, from Georgia and Florida through Jamaica to Haiti and extending into colonial metropoles such as Philadelphia. Allewaert’s examination of the writings of naturalists, novelists, and poets; the oral stories of Africans in the diaspora; and Afro-American fetish artifacts shows that persons in American plantation spaces were pulled into a web of environmental stresses, ranging from humidity to the demand for sugar. This in turn gave rise to modes of personhood explicitly attuned to human beings’ interrelation with nonhuman forces in a process we might call ecological.
Certainly the possibility that colonial life revokes human agency haunts works from Shakespeare’s Tempest and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws to Spivak’s theories of subalternity. In Allewaert’s interpretation, the transformation of colonial subjectivity into ecological personhood is not a nightmare; it is, rather, a mode of existence until now only glimmering in Che Guevara’s dictum that postcolonial resistance is synonymous with “perfect knowledge of the ground.”
Vol. 44, no. 3 (1988) through current issue
Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory publishes articles offering a variety of scholarly approaches to canonical and non-canonical works of American literature and film. The journal sponsors an annual symposium, bringing together senior scholars, advisory board members, and newly established academics, to renew our commitment to the study of American texts.
Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-Century America
Charting the proliferation of forms of mourning and memorial across a century increasingly concerned with their historical and temporal significance, Arranging Grief offers an innovative new view of the aesthetic, social, and political implications of emotion. Dana Luciano argues that the cultural plotting of grief provides a distinctive insight into the nineteenth-century American temporal imaginary, since grief both underwrote the social arrangements that supported the nation’s standard chronologies and sponsored other ways of advancing history.
Nineteenth-century appeals to grief, as Luciano demonstrates, diffused modes of "sacred time" across both religious and ostensibly secular frameworks, at once authorizing and unsettling established schemes of connection to the past and the future. Examining mourning manuals, sermons, memorial tracts, poetry, and fiction by Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Apess, James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Susan Warner, Harriet E. Wilson, Herman Melville, Frances E. W. Harper, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Luciano illustrates the ways that grief coupled the affective body to time. Drawing on formalist, Foucauldian, and psychoanalytic criticism, Arranging Grief shows how literary engagements with grief put forth ways of challenging deep-seated cultural assumptions about history, progress, bodies, and behaviors.
Hemingway, Craft, and the Creation of the Modern Short Story
In Art Matters, Robert Paul Lamb provides the definitive study of Ernest Hemingway’s short story aesthetics. Lamb locates Hemingway’s art in literary historical contexts and explains what he learned from earlier artists, including Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Cézanne, Henry James, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Stephen Crane, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. Examining how Hemingway developed this inheritance, Lamb insightfully charts the evolution of the unique style and innovative techniques that would forever change the nature of short fiction. Art Matters opens with an analysis of the authorial effacement Hemingway learned from Maupassant and Chekhov, followed by fresh perspectives on the author’s famous use of concision and omission. Redefining literary impressionism and expressionism as alternative modes for depicting modern consciousness, Lamb demonstrates how Hemingway and Willa Cather learned these techniques from Crane and made them the foundation of their respective aesthetics. After examining the development of Hemingway’s art of focalization, he clarifies what Hemingway really learned from Stein and delineates their different uses of repetition. Turning from techniques to formal elements, Art Matters anatomizes Hemingway’s story openings and endings, analyzes how he created an entirely unprecedented role for fictional dialogue, explores his methods of characterization, and categorizes his settings in the fifty-three stories that comprise his most important work in the genre. A major contribution to Hemingway scholarship and to the study of modernist fiction, Art Matters shows exactly how Hemingway’s craft functions and argues persuasively for the importance of studies of articulated technique to any meaningful understanding of fiction and literary history. The book also develops vital new ways of understanding the short story genre as Lamb constructs a critical apparatus for analyzing the short story, introduces to a larger audience ideas taken from practicing storywriters, theorists, and critics, and coins new terms and concepts that enrich our understanding of the field.