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Maritime Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century America
In the antebellum years, the Western world’s symbolic realities were expanded and challenged as merchant, military, and scientific activity moved into Pacific and Arctic waters. In Antebellum at Sea, Jason Berger explores the roles that early nineteenth-century maritime narratives played in conceptualizing economic and social transitions in the developing global market system and what these chronicles disclose about an era marked by immense change.
Focusing on the work of James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, Berger enhances our understanding of how the nineteenth century negotiated its own tenuous progress by portraying how a wide range of maritime stories lays bare disturbing experiences of the new. Berger draws on Slavoj Žižek’s Lacanian notion of fantasy in order to reconsider the complex way maritime accounts operated in the political landscape of antebellum America, examining topics such as the function of maritime labor know-how within a transformation of scientific knowledge, anxiety produced by conflict between gender-specific and culture-specific forms of enjoyment, and how legal practices illuminate troubling juridical paradoxes at the heart of Polk-era political life.
Addressing the ideas of the antebellum age from unexpected and revealing perspectives, Berger calls on the conception of fantasy to consider how antebellum maritime literature disputes conventional views of American history, literature, and national identity.
Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s
Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated. The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.
The Novel in a Time of Climate Change
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have transformed the Earth’s atmosphere, committing our planet to more extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps, and mass extinction. This period of observable human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems has been called the Anthropocene Age. The anthropogenic climate change that has impacted the Earth has also affected our literature, but criticism of the contemporary novel has not adequately recognized the literary response to this level of environmental crisis. Ecocriticism’s theories of place and planet, meanwhile, are troubled by a climate that is neither natural nor under human control. Anthropocene Fictions is the first systematic examination of the hundreds of novels that have been written about anthropogenic climate change.
Drawing on climatology, the sociology and philosophy of science, geography, and environmental economics, Adam Trexler argues that the novel has become an essential tool to construct meaning in an age of climate change. The novel expands the reach of climate science beyond the laboratory or model, turning abstract predictions into subjectively tangible experiences of place, identity, and culture. Political and economic organizations are also being transformed by their struggle for sustainability. In turn, the novel has been forced to adapt to new boundaries between truth and fabrication, nature and economies, and individual choice and larger systems of natural phenomena. Anthropocene Fictions argues that new modes of inhabiting climate are of the utmost critical and political importance, when unprecedented scientific consensus has failed to lead to action.
Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism
Race and Transnational Radical Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War
Anti-Imperialist Modernism suggests that U.S. multi-ethnic cultural movements, located in political parties, small journals, labor unions, and struggles for racial liberation, helped construct a common-sense of international solidarity that critiqued ideas of nationalism and essentialized racial identity. The book thus moves beyond accounts that have tended to view the pre-war “Popular Front” through tropes of national belonging or an abandonment of the cosmopolitanism of previous decades. The book’s impressive archival research brings to light the ways in which a transnational vision of modernism and modernity was fashioned through anti-colonial networks of North/South solidarity. Chapters examine farmworker photographers in California's central valley, a Nez Perce intellectual traveling to the Soviet Union, imaginations of the Haitian Revolution, the memory of the U.S.-Mexico War, and U.S. radical writers traveling to Cuba. The last chapter examines how the Cold War foreclosed these movements within a nationalist framework, when activists and intellectuals had to suppress the transnational nature of their movements, often rewriting the cultural past to conform to a patriotic narrative of national belonging.
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.
Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature
In contrast to the prevailing scholarly con-sensus that understands sentimentality to be grounded on a logic of love and sympathy, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism demonstrates that in order for sentimentality to work as an antislavery engine, it needed to be linked to its seeming opposite—fear, especially the fear of God’s wrath. Most antislavery reformers recognized that calls for love and sympathy or the representation of suffering slaves would not lead an audience to “feel right” or to actively oppose slavery. The threat of God’s apocalyptic vengeance—and the terror that this threat inspired—functioned within the tradition of abolitionist sentimentality as a necessary goad for sympathy and love. Fear,then, was at the center of nineteenth-century sentimental strategies for inciting antislavery reform, bolstering love when love faltered, and operating as a powerful mechanism for establishing interracial sympathy. Depictions of God’s apocalyptic vengeance constituted the most efficient strategy for antislavery writers to generate a sense of terror in their audience. Focusing on a range of important anti-slavery figures, including David Walker, Nat Turner, Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism illustrates how antislavery discourse worked to redefine violence and vengeance as the ultimate expression (rather than denial) of love and sympathy. At the sametime, these warnings of apocalyptic retribution enabled antislavery writers to express, albeit indirectly, fantasies of brutal violence against slaveholders. What began as a sentimental strategy quickly became an incendiary gesture, with antislavery reformers envisioning the complete annihilation of slaveholders and defenders of slavery.
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.