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Building Their Own Waldos

Emerson’s First Biographers and the Politics of Life-Writing in the Gilded Age

Robert D. Habich

By the end of the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson was well on his way to becoming the “Wisest American” and the “Sage of Concord,” a literary celebrity and a national icon. With that fame came what Robert Habich describes as a blandly sanctified version of Emerson held widely by the reading public. Building Their Own Waldos sets out to understand the dilemma faced by Emerson’s early biographers: how to represent a figure whose subversive individualism had been eclipsed by his celebrity, making him less a representative of his age than a caricature of it.
 
Drawing on never-before-published letters, diaries, drafts, business records, and private documents, Habich explores the making of a cultural hero through the stories of Emerson’s first biographers— George Willis Cooke, a minister most recently from Indianapolis who considered himself a disciple; the English reformer and newspaper mogul Alexander Ireland, a friend for half a century; Moncure D. Conway, a Southern abolitionist then residing in London, who called Emerson his “spiritual father and intellectual teacher”; the poet and medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, with Emerson a member of Boston’s gathering of literary elite, the Saturday Club; James Elliot Cabot, the family’s authorized biographer, an architect and amateur philosopher with unlimited access to Emerson’s unpublished papers; and Emerson’s son Edward, a physician and painter whose father had passed over him as literary executor in favor of Cabot.
 
Just as their biographies reveal a complex, socially engaged Emerson, so too do the biographers’ own stories illustrate the real-world perils, challenges, and motives of life-writing in the late nineteenth century, when biographers were routinely vilified as ghoulish and disreputable and biography as a genre underwent a profound redefinition. Building Their Own Waldos is at once a revealing look at Emerson’s constructed reputation, a case study in the rewards and dangers of Victorian life-writing, and the story of six authors struggling amidst personal misfortunes and shifting expectations to capture the elusive character of America’s “representative man,” as they knew him and as they needed him to be.

 

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Burdens of Proof

Faith, Doubt, and Identity in Autobiography

Autobiographical impostures, once they come to light, appear to us as outrageous, scandalous. They confuse lived and textual identity (the person in the world and the character in the text) and call into question what we believe, what we doubt, and how we receive information. In the process, they tell us a lot about cultural norms and anxieties. Burdens of Proof: Faith, Doubt, and Identity in Autobiography examines a broad range of impostures in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and asks about each one: Why this particular imposture? Why here and now?

Susanna Egan’s historical survey of texts from early Christendom to the nineteenth century provides an understanding of the author in relation to the text and shows how plagiarism and other false claims have not always been regarded as the frauds we consider them today. She then explores the role of the media in the creation of much contemporary imposture, examining in particular the cases of Jumana Hanna, Norma Khouri, and James Frey. The book also addresses ethnic imposture, deliberate fictions, plagiarism, and ghostwriting, all of which raise moral, legal, historical, and cultural issues. Egan concludes the volume with an examination of how historiography and law failed to support the identities of European Jews during World War II, creating sufficient instability in Jewish identity and doubt about Jewish wartime experience that the impostor could step in. This textual erasure of the Jews of Europe and the refashioning of their experiences in fraudulent texts are examples of imposture as an outcrop of extreme identity crisis.

The first to examine these issues in North America and Europe, Burdens of Proof will be of interest to scholars of life writing and cultural studies. </p

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The Call to Read

Reginald Pecock's Books and Textual Communities

Kirsty Campbell

The Call to Read is the first full-length study to situate the surviving oeuvre of Reginald Pecock in the context of current scholarship on English vernacular theology of the late medieval period. Kirsty Campbell examines the important and innovative contribution Pecock made to late medieval debates about the roles of the Bible, the Church, the faculty of reason, and practices of devotion in fostering a vital, productive, and stable Christian community. Campbell argues that Pecock’s fascinating attempt to educate the laity is more than an effort to supply religious reading material: it is an attempt to establish and unite a community of readers around his books, to influence and thus change the ways they understand their faith, the world, and their place in it. The aim of Pecock’s educational project is to harness the power of texts to effect religious change. Combining traditional approaches with innovative thinking on moral philosophy, devotional exercises, and theological doctrine, Pecock’s works of religious instruction are his attempt to reform a Christian community threatened by heresy through reshaping meaningful Christian practices and forms of belief. Campbell’s book will be of interest to scholars and students of medieval literature and culture, especially those interested in fifteenth-century religious history and culture.

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Children's Literature of the English Renaissance

Warren W. Wooden and Jeanie Watson

Warren W. Wooden's pioneering studies of early examples of children's literature throw new light on many accepted works of the English Renaissance period. In consequence, they appear more complex, significant, and successful than hitherto realized. In these nine essays, Wooden traces the roots of English children's literature in the Renaissance beginning with the first printed books of Caxton and ranging through the work of John Bunyan. Wooden examines a number of works and authors from this period of two centuries -- some from the standard canon, others obscure or neglected -- while addressing questions about the early development of children's literature.

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Commercializing Childhood

Children's Magazines, Urban Gentility, and the Ideal of the Child Consumer in the United States, 1823-1918

Paul B. Ringel

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Companionship in Grief

Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C. S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillen

Jeffrey Berman

In Companionship in Grief, Jeffrey Berman focuses on the most life-changing event for many people—the death of a spouse. Some of the most acclaimed memoirs of the past fifty years offer insights into this profound loss: C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed; John Bayley’s three memoirs about Iris Murdoch, including Elegy for Iris; Donald Hall’s The Best Day the Worst Day; Joan Didion’s best-selling The Year of Magical Thinking; and Calvin Trillin’s About Alice. These books explore the nature of spousal bereavement, the importance of caregiving, the role of writing in recovery, and the possibility of falling in love again after a devastating loss. Throughout his study, Berman traces the theme of love and loss in all five memoirists’ fictional and nonfictional writings as well as in those of their spouses, who were also accomplished writers. Combining literary studies, grief and bereavement theory, attachment theory, composition studies, and trauma theory, Companionship in Grief will appeal to anyone who has experienced love and loss. Berman’s research casts light on five remarkable marriages, showing how autobiographical stories of love and loss can memorialize deceased spouses and offer wisdom and comfort to readers.

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Cosmopolitan Minds

Literature, Emotion, and the Transnational Imagination

By Alexa Weik von Mossner

Reading transnational American literature from a cognitive perspective, this book argues that our emotional engagements with others—real and imagined—are crucially important for the development of cosmopolitan imaginations.

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Creating Flannery O'Connor

Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers

Daniel Moran

<p>Flannery O’Connor may now be acknowledged as the “Great American Catholic Author,â€? but this was not always the case. With <i>Creating Flannery O’Connor,</i> Daniel Moran explains how O’Connor attained that status, and how she felt about it, by examining the development of her literary reputation from the perspectives of critics, publishers, agents, adapters for other media, and contemporary readers.</p><p>Moran tells the story of O’Connor’s evolving career and the shaping of her literary identity. Drawing from the Farrar, Straus &amp; Giroux archives at the New York Public Library and O’Connor’s private correspondence, he also concentrates on the ways in which Robert Giroux worked tirelessly to promote O’Connor and change her image from that of a southern oddity to an American author exploring universal themes.</p><p>Moran traces the critical reception in print of each of O’Connor’s works, finding parallels between her original reviewers and today’s readers. He examines the ways in which O’Connor’s work was adapted for the stage and screen and how these adaptations fostered her reputation as an artist. He also analyzes how—on reader review sites such as Goodreads—her work is debated and discussed among “common readersâ€? in ways very much as it was when <i>Wise Blood</i> was first published in 1952.</p>

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Cultural Considerations

Essays on Readers, Writers, and Musicians in Postwar America

Joan Shelley Rubin

A highly regarded scholar in the fields of American cultural history and print culture, Joan Shelley Rubin is best known for her writings on the values, assumptions, and anxieties that have shaped American life, as reflected in both “high” culture and the experiences of ordinary people. In this volume, she continues that work by exploring processes of mediation that texts undergo as they pass from producers to audiences, while elucidating as well the shifting, contingent nature of cultural hierarchy. Focusing on aspects of American literary and musical culture in the decades after World War II, Rubin examines the contests between critics and their readers over the authority to make aesthetic judgments; the effort of academics to extend the university outward by bringing the humanities to a wide public; the politics of setting poetic texts to music; the role of ideology in the practice of commissioning and performing choral works; and the uses of reading in the service of both individualism and community. Specific topics include the 1957 attack by the critic John Ciardi on the poetry of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the Saturday Review; the radio broadcasts of the classicist Gilbert Highet; Dwight Macdonald’s vitriolic depiction of the novelist James Gould Cozzens as a pernicious middlebrow; the composition and reception of Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy”; the varied career of musician Gunther Schuller; the liberal humanism of America’s foremost twentieth-century choral conductor, Robert Shaw; and the place of books in the student and women’s movements of the 1960s. What unites these essays is the author's ongoing concern with cultural boundaries, mediation, and ideology--and the contradictions they frequently entail.

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A Designer's Decade of Contemporary Art in China

The Book Designs of He Hao, 2003-2013

by He Hao

Almost a Hundred Design Projects: Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, Araki Nobuyoshi, Lin Tianmiao, Wang Gongxin, RongRong & inri, Liu Zheng, Yue Minjun, Miao Xiaochun, Xu Weixin, Zhang Dali, Yang Fudong, Tim Yip, Chen Wenji, Zhan Wang, Yu Hong... An Asian Trend in Contemporary Graphic Design An independent print-media practitioner, He Hao has been working with distinctive and representative artists in the Chinese contemporary art world, including Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, etc., and designed more than 100 high-quality books and catalogs since 2003. Recording the current state of art development in China, his works have become an archive of significance. He Hao’s practice shows an Asian trend in today’s graphic design: the replacement of transplanted Modernism with a contemporaneity informed by the culture and lifestyle of contemporary China and the East. An independent print-media practitioner, He Hao has been working with distinctive and representative artists in the Chinese contemporary art world, including Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, etc., and designed more than 100 high-quality books and catalogs since 2003. Recording the current state of art development in China, his works have become an archive of significance. He Hao’s practice shows an Asian trend in today’s graphic design: the replacement of transplanted Modernism with a contemporaneity informed by the culture and lifestyle of contemporary China and the East. He Hao’s designs grow organically from the content. His sole concern is the discovery and presentation of the content, and his designs show no trace of his hand. This approach might best be called “essential design.” — Xu Bing He Hao is a designer infatuated with the dialogue between space and time. Sensitive to both the pressures of history and the endless transformations of all life forms, he remains in deep and focused meditation, a lone sojourner outside the commercial realm. — Bei Dao

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