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Clemens's Life in Fiction
At the end of his long life, Samuel Clemens felt driven to write a truthful account of what he regarded as the flaws in his character and the errors of his ways. His attempt to tell the unvarnished truth about himself is preserved in nearly 250 autobiographical dictations. In order to encourage complete veracity, he decided from the outset that these would be published only posthumously.Nevertheless, Clemens's autobiography is singularly unrevealing. Forrest G. Robinson argues that, by contrast, it is in his fiction that Clemens most fully-if often inadvertently-reveals himself. He was, he confessed, like a cat who labors in vain to bury the waste that he has left behind. Robinson argues that he wrote out of an enduring need to come to terms with his remembered experiences-not to memorialize the past, but to transform it.By all accounts-including his own-Clemens's special curse was guilt. He was unable to forgive himself for the deaths of those closest to him-from his siblings' death in childhood to the deaths of his own children. Nor could he reconcile himself to his role in the Civil War, his part in the duel that prompted his departure from Virginia City in 1864, and-worst of all-his sense of moral complicity in the crimes of slavery.Tracing the theme of bad faith in all of Clemens's major writing, but with special attention to the late work, Robinson sheds new light on a tormented moral life. His book challenges conventional assumptions about the humorist's personality and creativity, directing attention to what William Dean Howells describes as the depths of a nature whose tragical seriousness broke in the laughter which the unwise took for the whole of him.
On Irish American Poetry
As the first comprehensive study of Irish American poetry ever published, Awake in America seeks to establish a conversation between Irish and Irish American literature that challenges many of the long-accepted boundaries between the two. In this distinctive book, Daniel Tobin presents a series of essays that combine poetry and literary criticism to form what he calls the poet’s essay. The first section of Awake in America reconsiders the dual tradition of Irish poetry through discussions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poets as well as contemporary writers. The second section features a series of shorter chapters on poets in America. The third section explores the theme of “Crossings” and includes a consideration of Irish American and African American literature. The fourth, and final, section is comprised of a compositional memoir in which Tobin explores the role of hidden history in his own long poem, The Narrows. Awake in America offers an innovative reading of literary tradition in light of the routes by which tradition evolves as well as the roots from which tradition originates. It will be welcomed by poetry aficionados and by all scholars and readers of Irish and Irish American literature.
The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival
One of the most often repeated anecdotes about the direction of literary studies over the past three decades concerns a graduate student who complained of reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in three classes and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick in none. But Chopin has not always been featured in the literary curriculum. Though she achieved national success in her lifetime (1850–1904) as a writer of Louisiana “local color” fiction, after her death her work fell into obscurity until 1969, when Norwegian literary scholar Per Seyersted published The Complete Works of Kate Chopin and sparked a remarkable American literary revival. Chopin soon became a major presence in the canon, and today every college textbook surveying American literature contains a Chopin short story, her novel The Awakening, or an excerpt from it. In this unique work, twelve prominent Chopin scholars reflect on their parts in the Kate Chopin revival and its impact on their careers. A generation ago, against powerful odds, many of them staked their reputations on the belief—now fully validated—that Chopin is one of America’s essential writers. These scholars energetically sponsored Chopin’s works in the 1970s and 1980s and encouraged reading, studying, and teaching Chopin. They wrote books and articles about her, gave talks about her, offered interviews to newspapers and magazines, taught her works in their classes, and urged their colleagues to do the same, helping to build a network of teachers, students, editors, journalists, librarians, and others who continue to promote Chopin’s work. Throughout, these essays stress several elements vital to the revival’s success. Timing proved critical, as the rise of the women’s movement and the emergence of new sexual norms in the 1960s helped set an ideal context for Chopin in the United States and abroad in the 1970s and 1980s. Seyersted’s biography of Chopin and his accurate texts of her entire oeuvre allowed scholars to quickly publish their analyses of her work. Popular media—including Redbook, New York Times, and PBS—took notice of Chopin and advanced her work outside the scholarly realm. But in the final analysis, as the contributors point out, Kate Chopin’s irresistible writing itself made her revival possible. Highly personal, at times amusing, and always thought provoking, these revealing recollections and new critical insights offer a fascinating firsthand account of a decisive moment in American literary history.
Willa Cather and William Faulkner
The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination
The Mississippi River flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history, reshaping the social and cultural landscape as well as the physical environment. Often remembered as an event that altered flood control policy and elevated the stature of powerful politicians, Richard M. Mizelle Jr. examines the place of the flood within African American cultural memory and the profound ways it influenced migration patterns in the United States.
In Backwater Blues, Mizelle analyzes the disaster through the lenses of race and charity, blues music, and mobility and labor. The book’s title comes from Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” perhaps the best-known song about the flood. Mizelle notes that the devastation produced the richest groundswell of blues recordings following any environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, with more than fifty songs by countless singers evoking the disruptive force of the flood and the precariousness of the levees originally constructed to protect citizens. Backwater Blues reveals larger relationships between social and environmental history. According to Mizelle, musicians, Harlem Renaissance artists, fraternal organizations, and Creole migrants all shared a sense of vulnerability in the face of both the Mississippi River and a white supremacist society. As a result, the Mississippi flood of 1927 was not just an environmental crisis but a racial event.
Challenging long-standing ideas of African American environmental complacency, Mizelle offers insights into the broader dynamics of human interactions with nature as well as ways in which nature is mediated through the social and political dynamics of race.Includes discography.
At the core of this nuanced book is the question that ecocritics have been debating for decades: what is the relationship between aesthetics and activism, between art and community? By using a pastoral lens to examine ten fictional narratives that chronicle the dialogue between human culture and nonhuman nature on the Great Plains, Matthew Cella explores literary treatments of a succession of abrupt cultural transitions from the Euroamerican conquest of the “Indian wilderness” in the nineteenth century to the Buffalo Commons phenomenon in the twentieth. By charting the shifting meaning of land use and biocultural change in the region, he posits this bad land—the arid West—as a crucible for the development of the human imagination.
Each chapter deals closely with two novels that chronicle the same crisis within the Plains community. Cella highlights, for example, how Willa Cather reconciles her persistent romanticism with a growing disillusionment about the future of rural Nebraska, how Tillie Olsen and Frederick Manfred approach the tragedy of the Dust Bowl with strikingly similar visions, and how Annie Proulx and Thomas King use the return of the buffalo as the centerpiece of a revised mythology of the Plains as a palimpsest defined by layers of change and response. By illuminating these fictional quests for wholeness on the Great Plains, Cella leads us to understand the intricate interdependency of people and the places they inhabit.
Cella uses the term “pastoralism” in its broadest sense to mean a mode of thinking that probes the relationship between nature and culture: a discourse concerned with human engagement—material and nonmaterial—with the nonhuman community. In all ten novels discussed in this book, pastoral experience—the encounter with the Beautiful—leads to a renewed understanding of the integral connection between human and nonhuman communities. Propelling this tradition of bad land pastoralism are an underlying faith in the beauty of wholeness that comes from inhabiting a continuously changing biocultural landscape and a recognition of the inevitability of change. The power of story and language to shape the direction of that change gives literary pastoralism the potential to support an alternative series of ideals based not on escape but on stewardship: community, continuity, and commitment.
Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans
Of an estimated twelve million ethnic Hmong in the world, more than 160,000 live in the United States today, most of them refugees of the Vietnam War and the civil war in Laos. Their numbers make them one of the largest recent immigrant groups in our nation. Today, significant Hmong populations can be found in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Colorado, and St. Paul boasts the largest concentration of Hmong residents of any city in the world.In this groundbreaking anthology, first- and second-generation Hmong Americans--the first to write creatively in English--share their perspectives on being Hmong in America. In stories, poetry, essays, and drama, these writers address the common challenges of immigrants adapting to a new homeland: preserving ethnic identity and traditions, assimilating to and battling with the dominant culture, negotiating generational conflicts exacerbated by the clash of cultures, and developing new identities in multiracial America. Many pieces examine Hmong history and culture and the authors' experiences as Americans. Others comment on issues significant to the community: the role of women in a traditionally patriarchal culture, the effects of violence and abuse, the stories of Hmong military action in Laos during the Vietnam War. These writers don't pretend to provide a single story of the Hmong; instead, a multitude of voices emerge, some wrapped up in the past, others looking toward the future, where the notion of "Hmong American" continues to evolve.In her introduction, editor Mai Neng Moua describes her bewilderment when she realized that anthologies of Asian American literature rarely contained even one selection by a Hmong American. In 1994, she launched a Hmong literary journal, Paj Ntaub Voice, and in the first issue asked her readers "Where are the Hmong American voices?" Now this collection--containing selections from the journal as well as new submissions--offers a chorus of voices from a vibrant and creative community of Hmong American writers from across the United States.
Common Law and the Rhetoric of Social Exclusion in Early New England
A community is defined not only by inclusion but also by exclusion. Seventeenth-century New England Puritans, themselves exiled from one society, ruthlessly invoked the law of banishment from another: over time, hundreds of people were forcibly excluded from this developing but sparsely settled colony. Nan Goodman suggests that the methods of banishment rivaled—even overpowered—contractual and constitutional methods of inclusion as the means of defining people and place. The law and rhetoric that enacted the exclusion of certain parties, she contends, had the inverse effect of strengthening the connections and collective identity of those that remained.
Banished investigates the practices of social exclusion and its implications through the lens of the period's common law. For Goodman, common law is a site of negotiation where the concepts of community and territory are more fluid and elastic than has previously been assumed for Puritan society. Her legal history brings fresh insight to well-known as well as more obscure banishment cases, including those of Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, Thomas Morton, the Quakers, and the Indians banished to Deer Island during King Philip's War. Many of these cases were driven less by the religious violations that may have triggered them than by the establishment of rules for membership in a civil society. Law provided a language for the Puritans to know and say who they were—and who they were not. Banished reveals the Puritans' previously neglected investment in the legal rhetoric that continues to shape our understanding of borders, boundaries, and social exclusion.
Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
This provocative book examines the representation of characters of mixed African and European descent in the works of African American and European American writers of the 19th century. The importance of mulatto figures as agents of ideological exchange in the American literary tradition has yet to receive sustained critical attention. Going beyond Sterling Brown's melodramatic stereotype of the mulatto as "tragic figure," Cassandra Jackson's close study of nine works of fiction shows how the mulatto trope reveals the social, cultural, and political ideas of the period. Jackson uncovers a vigorous discussion in 19th-century fiction about the role of racial ideology in the creation of an American identity. She analyzes the themes of race-mixing, the "mulatto," nation building, and the social fluidity of race (and its imagined biological rigidity) in novels by James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Hildreth, Lydia Maria Child, Frances E. W. Harper, Thomas Detter, George Washington Cable, and Charles Chesnutt.
Blacks in the Diaspora -- Claude A. Clegg III,
Darlene Clark Hine, David Barry Gaspar, and John McCluskey, founding editors
Space and Place in Urban Chicano Literature and Culture
Struggles over space and resistance to geographic displacement gave rise to much of Chicano history and culture. In this pathfinding book, Raúl Villa explores how California Chicano/a writers, journalists, artists, activists, and musicians have used expressive culture to oppose the community-destroying forces of urban renewal programs and massive freeway development and to create and defend a sense of Chicano place-identity. Villa opens with a historical overview that shows how Chicano communities and culture have developed in response to conflicts over space ever since the United States’ annexation of Mexican territory in the 1840s. Then, turning to the work of contemporary members of the Chicano intelligentsia such as poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, novelist Ron Arias, and the art collective RCAF (Rebel Chicano Art Front), Villa demonstrates how their expressive practices re-imagine and re-create the dominant urban space as a community enabling place. In doing so, he illuminates the endless interplay in which cultural texts and practices are shaped by and act upon their social and political contexts.