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Myself and Some Other Being Cover

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Myself and Some Other Being

Wordsworth and the Life Writing

Daniel Robinson

As a young writer with neither profession nor money, William Wordsworth committed himself to a career as a poet, embracing what he believed was his destiny. But even the “giant Wordsworth,” as his friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him, had his doubts. In Myself and Some Other Being, Daniel Robinson presents a young Wordsworth, as ambitious and insecure as any writer starting out, who was trying to prove to himself that he could become the great poet he desired to be and that Coleridge, equally brilliant and insecure, believed he already was.

Myself and Some Other Being is the story of Wordsworth becoming Wordsworth by writing the fragments and drafts of what would eventually become The Prelude, an autobiographical epic poem addressed to Coleridge that he hid from the public and was only published after his death in 1850. Feeling pressured to write the greatest epic poem of all time, a task set for him by Coleridge, Wordsworth feared that he was not up to the challenge and instead looked inside himself for memories and materials that he might make into poetry using the power of his imagination. What he found there was another Wordsworth—not exactly the memory of his younger self but rather “some other being” that he could adapt for an innovative kind of life-writing that he hoped would justify his writing life. By writing about himself and that other being, Wordsworth created an innovative autobiographical epic of becoming that is the masterpiece he believed he had failed to write.

In focusing on this young, ambitious, yet insecure Wordsworth struggling to find his place among other writers, Robinson ably demonstrates how The Prelude may serve as a provocative, instructive, and inspirational rumination on the writing of one’s own life. Concentrating on the process of Wordsworth’s endless revisions, the real literary business of creativity, Robinson puts Wordsworth forward as a model and inspiration for the next generation of writers.

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Narcissistic Narrative

The Metafictional Paradox

Linda Hutcheon, in this original study, examines the modes, forms and techniques of narcissistic fiction, that is, fiction which includes within itself some sort of commentary on its own narrative and/or linguistic nature. Her analysis is further extended to discuss the implications of such a development for both the theory of the novel and reading theory.

Having placed this phenomenon in its historical context Linda Hutcheon uses the insights of various reader-response theories to explore the “paradox” created by metafiction: the reader is, at the same time, co-creator of the self-reflexive text and distanced from it because of its very self-reflexiveness. She illustrates her analysis through the works of novelists such as Fowles, Barth, Nabokov, Calvino, Borges, Carpentier, and Aquin. For the paperback edition of this important book a preface has been added which examines developments since first publication.

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Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation

Sandra Bermann

In recent years, scholarship on translation has moved well beyond the technicalities of converting one language into another and beyond conventional translation theory. With new technologies blurring distinctions between "the original" and its reproductions, and with globalization redefining national and cultural boundaries, "translation" is now emerging as a reformulated subject of lively, interdisciplinary debate. Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation enters the heart of this debate. It covers an exceptional range of topics, from simultaneous translation to legal theory, from the language of exile to the language of new nations, from the press to the cinema; and cultures and languages from contemporary Bengal to ancient Japan, from translations of Homer to the work of Don DeLillo.

All twenty-two essays, by leading voices including Gayatri Spivak and the late Edward Said, are provocative and persuasive. The book's four sections--"Translation as Medium and across Media," "The Ethics of Translation," "Translation and Difference," and "Beyond the Nation"--together provide a comprehensive view of current thinking on nationality and translation, one that will be widely consulted for years to come.

The contributors are Jonathan E. Abel, Emily Apter, Sandra Bermann, Vilashini Cooppan, Stanley Corngold, David Damrosch, Robert Eaglestone, Stathis Gourgouris, Pierre Legrand, Jacques Lezra, Françoise Lionnet, Sylvia Molloy, Yopie Prins, Edward Said, Azade Seyhan, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Henry Staten, Lawrence Venuti, Lynn Visson, Gauri Viswanathan, Samuel Weber, and Michael Wood.

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Neatness Counts

Essays on the Writer’s Desk

Kevin Kopelson Kopelson

In Neatness Counts, Kevin Kopelson reflects on the poetics of the desk-rolltop or bureau-plat, cluttered or bare, the nestlike desk, the schematic desk, the dramatic desk, the dramatic lack of any such furniture. Exploring the topography of literary creation by way of the topography of work space, Kopelson, one of today’s most important critics, offers a series of meditations on how orderliness, chaos, and other physical states correspond with both the exhilaration of production and the desperation of writer's block.

Focusing on the poet Elizabeth Bishop, the novelist Marcel Proust, the critic Roland Barthes, the playwright Tom Stoppard, and the travel writer Bruce Chatwin, Neatness Counts is at once critical and creative, examining how various writers's work habits relate to their published work. Kopelson also considers desks of his own—one that had belonged to an older brother, one he borrowed from a messy friend, one now shared with a partner. And by pursuing these two lines of inquiry to their unlikely but enlightening conclusions, Kopelson both fabricates a virtual library of literary insight and commemorates an era in which the term “desktop” didn’t denote one’s computer screen.

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Necessary Luxuries

Books, Literature, and the Culture of Consumption in Germany, 1770–1815

by Matt Erlin

The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century brought new and exotic commodities to Europe from abroad—coffee, tea, spices, and new textiles to name a few. Yet one of the most widely distributed luxury commodities in the period was not new at all, and was produced locally: the book. In Necessary Luxuries, Matt Erlin considers books and the culture around books during this period, focusing specifically on Germany where literature, and the fine arts in general, were the subject of soul-searching debates over the legitimacy of luxury in the modern world.

Building on recent work done in the fields of consumption studies as well as the New Economic Criticism, Erlin combines intellectual-historical chapters (on luxury as a concept, luxury editions, and concerns about addictive reading) with contextualized close readings of novels by Campe, Wieland, Moritz, Novalis, and Goethe. As he demonstrates, artists in this period were deeply concerned with their status as luxury producers. The rhetorical strategies they developed to justify their activities evolved in dialogue with more general discussions regarding new forms of discretionary consumption. By emphasizing the fragile legitimacy of the fine arts in the period, Necessary Luxuries offers a fresh perspective on the broader trajectory of German literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, recasting the entire period in terms of a dynamic unity, rather than simply as a series of literary trends and countertrends.

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New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices

Essays in Honor of Derek Pearsall

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

This volume gathers the contributions of senior and junior scholars—all indebted to the pathbreaking work of Derek Pearsall—to showcase new research prompted by his rich and ongoing legacy as a literary critic, editor, and seminal founder of Middle English manuscript studies. The contributors aim both to honor Pearsall’s work in the field he established and to introduce the complexities of interdisciplinary manuscript studies to students already familiar with medieval literature. The contributors explore a range of issues, from the study of medieval literary manuscripts to the history of medieval books, libraries, literacy, censorship, and the social classes who used the books and manuscripts—nobles, children, schoolmasters, priests, merchants, and more. In addressing reading practices, essays provide a wealth of information on marginal commentaries, images and interpretive methods, international transmission, and early print and editorial methods.

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Nietzsche's Philosophical Context

An Intellectual Biography

Thomas H. Brobjer

Friedrich Nietzsche was immensely influential and, counter to most expectations, also very well read. An essential new reference tool for those interested in his thinking, Nietzsche's Philosophical Context identifies the chronology and huge range of philosophical books that engaged him. Rigorously examining the scope of this reading, Thomas H. Brobjer consulted over two thousand volumes in Nietzsche's personal library, as well as his book bills, library records, journals, letters, and publications. This meticulous investigation also considers many of the annotations in his books. In arguing that Nietzsche's reading often constituted the starting point for, or counterpoint to, much of his own thinking and writing, Brobjer's study provides scholars with fresh insight into how Nietzsche worked and thought; to which questions and thinkers he responded; and by which of them he was influenced. The result is a new and much more contextual understanding of Nietzsche's life and thinking.

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Novel Translations

The European Novel and the German Book, 1680–1730

Many early novels were cosmopolitan books, read from London to Leipzig and beyond, available in nearly simultaneous translations into French, English, German, and other European languages. In Novel Translations, Bethany Wiggins charts just one of the paths by which newness-in its avatars as fashion, novelties, and the novel-entered the European world in the decades around 1700. As readers across Europe snapped up novels, they domesticated the genre. Across borders, the novel lent readers everywhere a suggestion of sophistication, a familiarity with circumstances beyond their local ken.

Into the eighteenth century, the modern German novel was not German at all; rather, it was French, as suggested by Germans' usage of the French word Roman to describe a wide variety of genres: pastoral romances, war and travel chronicles, heroic narratives, and courtly fictions. Carried in large part on the coattails of the Huguenot diaspora, these romans, nouvelles, amours secrets, histoires galantes, and histories scandaleuses shaped German literary culture to a previously unrecognized extent. Wiggin contends that this French chapter in the German novel's history began to draw to a close only in the 1720s, more than sixty years after the word first migrated into German. Only gradually did the Roman go native; it remained laden with the baggage from its "French" origins even into the nineteenth century.

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Off the Books

On Literature and Culture

J. Peder Zane

Head Off the Books in this collection of newspaper columns, where J. Peder Zane uses classic and contemporary literature to explore American culture and politics. The book review editor for the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer from 1996 to 2009, Zane demonstrates that good books are essential for understanding ourselves and the world around us. The one hundred and thirty columns gathered in Off the Books find that sweet spot where literature’s eternal values meet the day’s current events. Together they offer a literary overview of the ideas, issues, and events shaping our culture—from 9/11 and the struggle for gay rights to the decline of high culture and the rise of sensationalism and solipsism. As they plumb and draw from the work of leading writers—from William Faulkner, Knut Hamsun, and Eudora Welty to Don DeLillo, Lydia Millet, and Philip Roth—these columns make an argument not just about the pleasure of books, but about their very necessity in our lives and culture.

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Periodizing Jameson

Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative

For a half century, the American intellectual Fredric Jameson has been a driving force in literary and cultural theory. In Periodizing Jameson, Phillip E. Wegner builds upon Jameson’s unique dialectical method to demonstrate the value of Jameson’s tools—periodization, the fourfold hermeneutic, and the Greimasian semiotic square, among others—and to develop virtuoso readings of Jameson’s own work and the history of the contemporary American university in which it unfolds.

Wegner shows how Jameson’s work intervenes in particular social, cultural, and political situations, using his scholarship both to develop original explorations of nineteenth-century fiction, popular films, and other promiment theorists, and to examine the changing fortunes of theory itself. In this way, Periodizing Jameson casts new light on the potential of and challenges to humanist intellectual work in the present.


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