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Postcolonizing the Commonwealth Cover

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Postcolonizing the Commonwealth

Studies in Literature and Culture

Women and resistance in Iran; cowboy songs; fetal alcohol syndrome; the conquest of Everest; women settlers in Natal. What do these topics have in common?

The study of what used to be called Commonwealth literature, or the new literatures, has by now come to be known as postcolonial study.This collection of essays investigates the status of postcolonial studies today.

The contributors come from three generations: the pioneers who introduced study of the “new” literatures into university English departments, the next generation who refined and developed many of the theoretical positions embodied in postcolonial study, and the next, much younger, generation, who use the established practices of the discipline to investigate the application of this theory in a wide range of cultural contexts.

Although the authors write from such different starting points, a surprisingly similar set of images, phrases and topics of concern emerge in their essays. They return constantly to issues of difference and similarity, the re-examination of categories that often appear to be too rigidly defined in current postcolonial practices, and to concepts of sharing: experience, ideas of home, and even the use of land.

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture offers an intriguing analysis of the state of postcolonial criticism today and of the application of postcolonial methods to a variety of texts and historical events. It is an invaluable contribution to the current debate in both literary and cultural studies.

Producing Canadian Literature Cover

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Producing Canadian Literature

Authors Speak on the Literary Marketplace

Producing Canadian Literature: Authors Speak on the Literary Marketplace brings to light the relationship between writers in Canada and the marketplace within which their work circulates. Through a series of conversations with both established and younger writers from across the country, Kit Dobson and Smaro Kamboureli investigate how writers perceive their relationship to the cultural economy—and what that economy means for their creative processes.

The interviews in Producing Canadian Literature focus, in particular, on how writers interact with the cultural institutions and bodies that surround them. Conversations pursue the impacts of arts funding on writers; show how agents, editors, and publishers affect writers’ works; examine the process of actually selling a book, both in Canada and abroad; and contemplate what literary awards mean to writers. Dialogues with Christian Bök, George Elliott Clarke, Daniel Heath Justice, Larissa Lai, Stephen Henighan, Erín Moure, Ashok Mathur, Lee Maracle, Jane Urquhart, and Aritha van Herk testify to the broad range of experience that writers in Canada have when it comes to the conditions in which their work is produced.

Original in its desire to directly explore the specific circumstances in which writers work—and how those conditions affect their writing itself—Producing Canadian Literature will be of interest to scholars, students, aspiring writers, and readers who have followed these authors and want to know more about how their books come into being.

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"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the Reading Revolution

Race, Literacy, Childhood and Fiction, 1851–1911

Barbara Hochman

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and the Reading Revolution explores a transformation in the cultural meaning of Stowe’s influential book by addressing changes in reading practices and a shift in widely shared cultural as-sumptions. These changes reshaped interpretive conventions and generated new meanings for Stowe’s text in the wake of the Civil War. During the 1850s, men, women, and children avidly devoured Stowe’s novel. White adults wept and could not put the book down, neglecting work and other obligations to complete it. African Americans both celebrated and denounced the book. By the 1890s, readers understood Uncle Tom’s Cabin in new ways. Prefaces and retrospectives celebrated Stowe’s novel as a historical event that led directly to emancipation and national unity. Commentaries played down the evangelical and polemical messages of the book. Illustrations and children’s editions projected images of entertaining and devoted servants into an open-ended future. In the course of the 1890s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became both a more viciously racialized book than it had been and a less compelling one. White readers no longer consumed the book at one sitting; Uncle Tom’s Cabin was now more widely known than read. However, in the growing silence surrounding slavery at the turn of the century, Stowe’s book became an increasingly important source of ideas, facts, and images that the children of ex-slaves and other free-black readers could use to make sense of their position in U.S. culture.

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A Rationale of Textual Criticism

By G. Thomas Tanselle

Textual criticism—the traditional term for the task of evaluating the authority of the words and punctuation of a text—is often considered an undertaking preliminary to literary criticism: many people believe that the job of textual critics is to provide reliable texts for literary critics to analyze. G. Thomas Tanselle argues, on the contrary, that the two activities cannot be separated.

The textual critic, in choosing among textual variants and correcting what appear to be textual errors, inevitably exercises critical judgment and reflects a particular point of view toward the nature of literature. And the literary critic, in interpreting the meaning of a work or passage, needs to be (though rarely is) critical of the makeup of every text of it, including those produced by scholarly editors.

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RATTLE Conversations

Alan Fox

Including fourteen selections from the poetry journal, RATTLE Conversations offers rare insight into the lives and thoughts of some of the most notable American poets of our time. Informative and intimate, the conversations look beyond the academic minutia and into the heart of what we love—the passion that compels poetry, and the process that completes it. These poets explore not what they wrote, but why they had to write it, and how it came to be. As such, RATTLE Conversations serves as an indispensable guide and companion to anyone who appreciates the art and experience of writing. Includes conversations with: Daniel Berrigan, Hayden Carruth, Lucille Clifton, Sam Hamill, Jane Hirshfield, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jack Kornfield, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Sharon Olds, Gregory Orr, Luis J. Rodriguez, Alan Shapiro, Diane Wakoski

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Reading as Therapy

What Contemporary Fiction Does for Middle-Class Americans

Timothy Aubry

Why do Americans read contemporary fiction? This question seems simple, but is it? Do Americans read for the purpose of aesthetic appreciation? To satisfy their own insatiable intellectual curiosities? While other forms of media have come to monopolize consumers’ leisure time, in the past two decades book clubs have proliferated, Amazon has sponsored thriving online discussions, Oprah Winfrey has inspired millions of viewers to read both contemporary works and classics, and novels have retained their devoted following within middlebrow communities.
 
In Reading as Therapy, Timothy Aubry argues that contemporary fiction serves primarily as a therapeutic tool for lonely, dissatisfied middle-class American readers, one that validates their own private dysfunctions while supporting elusive communities of strangers unified by shared feelings. Aubry persuasively makes the case that contemporary literature’s persistent appeal depends upon its capacity to perform a therapeutic function.
 
Aubry traces the growth and proliferation of psychological concepts focused on the subjective interior within mainstream, middle-class society and the impact this has had on contemporary fiction. The prevailing tendency among academic critics has been to decry the personal emphasis of contemporary fiction as complicit with the rise of a narcissistic culture, the ascendency of liberal individualism, and the breakdown of public life. Reading as Therapy, by contrast, underscores the varied ideological effects that therapeutic culture can foster.
 
To uncover the many unpredictable ways in which contemporary literature answers the psychological needs of its readers, Aubry considers several different venues of reader-response—including Oprah’s Book Club and Amazon customer reviews—the promotional strategies of publishing houses, and a variety of contemporary texts, ranging from Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner to Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. He concludes that, in the face of an atomistic social landscape, contemporary fiction gives readers a therapeutic vocabulary that both reinforces the private sphere and creates surprising forms of sympathy and solidarity among strangers.

 

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Reading Machines

Toward an Algorithmic Criticism

Stephen Ramsay

Besides familiar and now-commonplace tasks that computers do all the time, what else are they capable of? Stephen Ramsay's intriguing study of computational text analysis examines how computers can be used as "reading machines" to open up entirely new possibilities for literary critics. Computer-based text analysis has been employed for the past several decades as a way of searching, collating, and indexing texts. Despite this, the digital revolution has not penetrated the core activity of literary studies: interpretive analysis of written texts. _x000B__x000B_Computers can handle vast amounts of data, allowing for the comparison of texts in ways that were previously too overwhelming for individuals, but they may also assist in enhancing the entirely necessary role of subjectivity in critical interpretation. Reading Machines discusses the importance of this new form of text analysis conducted with the assistance of computers. Ramsay suggests that the rigidity of computation can be enlisted by intuition, subjectivity, and play.

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Reading Novels

George Hughes

Reading Novels is a unique piece of practical criticism, a comprehensive "poetics" of a genre that has not attracted a great deal of attention, at least not on this level. It is a reader's and student's guide that reaches beyond issues of individual texts and historical traditions to essential features of the form.

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Reading Places

Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America

Christine Pawley

This book recounts the history of an experimental regional library service in the early 1950s, a story that has implications far beyond the two Wisconsin counties where it took place. Using interviews and library records, Christine Pawley reveals the choices of ordinary individual readers, showing how local cultures of reading interacted with formal institutions to implement an official literacy policy. Central to the experiment were well-stocked bookmobiles that brought books to rural districts and the one-room schools that dotted the region. Three years after the project began, state officials and local librarians judged it an overwhelming success. Library circulation figures soared to two-and-a-half times their previous level. Over 90 percent of grade-school children in the rural schools used the bookmobile service, and their reading scores improved beyond expectation. Despite these successes, however, local communities displayed deeply divided reactions. Some welcomed the book-mobiles and new library services wholeheartedly, valuing print and reading as essential to the exercise of democracy, and keen to widen educational opportunities for children growing up on hardscrabble farms where books and magazines were rare. Others feared the intrusion of govern- ment into their homes and communities, resented the tax increases that library services entailed, and complained about the subversive or immoral nature of some books. Analyzing the history of tensions between various community groups, Pawley delineates the long-standing antagonisms arising from class, gender, and ethnic differences which contributed to a suspicion of official projects to expand education. Relating a seemingly small story of library policy, she teases out the complex interaction of reading, locality, and cultural difference. In so doing, she illuminates broader questions regarding libraries, literacy, and citizenship, reaching back to the nineteenth century and forward to the present day.

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Reading Women

Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800

Edited by Heidi Brayman Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly

In 1500, as many as 99 out of 100 English women may have been illiterate, and girls of all social backgrounds were the objects of purposeful efforts to restrict their access to full literacy. Three centuries later, more than half of all English and Anglo-American women could read, and the female reader was emerging as a cultural ideal and a market force. While scholars have written extensively about women's reading in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and about women's writing in the early modern period, they have not attended sufficiently to the critical transformation that took place as female readers and their reading assumed significant cultural and economic power.

Reading Women brings into conversation the latest scholarship by early modernists and early Americanists on the role of gender in the production and consumption of texts during this expansion of female readership. Drawing together historians and literary scholars, the essays share a concern with local specificity and material culture. Removing women from the historically inaccurate frame of exclusively solitary, silent reading, the authors collectively return their subjects to the activities that so often coincided with reading: shopping, sewing, talking, writing, performing, and collecting. With chapters on samplers, storytelling, testimony, and translation, the volume expands notions of reading and literacy, and it insists upon a rich and varied narrative that crosses disciplinary boundaries and national borders.

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