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Achievement of William Dean Howells

Kermit Vanderbilt

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Achilles and the Tortoise

Mark Twain's Fictions

 Covering the entire body of Mark Twain's fiction, Clark Griffith in Achilles and the Tortoise answers two questions: How did Mark Twain write? And why is he funny? Griffith defines and demonstrates Mark Twain's poetics and, in doing so, reveals Twain's ability to create and sustain human laughter.

 Through a close reading of the fictions–short and long, early and late–Griffith contends that Mark Twain's strength lay not in comedy or in satire or (as the 19th century understood the term) even in the practice of humor. Rather his genius lay in the joke, specifically the "sick joke." For all his finesse and seeming variety, Twain tells the same joke, with its single cast of doomed and damned characters, its single dead-end conclusion, over and over endlessly.

As he attempted to attain the comic resolution and comically transfigured characters he yearned for, Twain forever played, for Griffith, the role of the Achilles of Zeno's Paradox. Like the tortoise that Achilles cannot overtake in Zeno's tale, the richness of comic life forever remained outside Twain's grasp.

The last third of Griffith's study draws parallels between Mark Twain and Herman Melville. Although the two authors never met and seem not to have read each other's works, they labored under the sense of what, in Moby-Dick, Ishmael calls "a vast practical joke . . . at nobody's expense but [one's] own." The laughter occasioned by this cosmic conspiracy shapes the career of Huckleberry Finn fully as much as it does Ishmael's voyage. Out of the laughter are generated the respective obsessions of Captain Ahab and Bartleby, of Pudd'nhead Wilson and Hadleyburg. Reduced at last to a dry mock, the laughter is the prevailing tone of both Billy Budd and The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts.

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Achilles' Choice

David Lenson

Why, during the last two hundred years, when critical achievement in the field of tragedy has been outstanding, has there been little creative practice? David Lenson examines the work of various writers not ordinarily placed in the tragic tradition—among them, Kleist, Goethe, Melville, Yeats, and Faulkner—and suggests that the tradition of tragedy does continue in genres other than drama, that is, in the novel and even in lyric poetry.

The notion of tragedy's migration from one genre to others indicates, however, rather sweeping modifications in the theory of tragedy. Achilles' Choice proposes a structural model for tragic criticism that synthesizes the almost scientific theories predominant since World War II with the irrationalist theories they replaced.

Originally published in 1975.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Acoustic Properties

Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas

Tom McEnaney

Acoustic Properties: Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas discovers the prehistory of wireless culture. It examines both the coevolution of radio and the novel in Argentina, Cuba, and the United States from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, and the various populist political climates in which the emerging medium of radio became the chosen means to produce the voice of the people.   Based on original archival research in Buenos Aires, Havana, Paris, and the United States, the book develops a literary media theory that understands sound as a transmedial phenomenon and radio as a transnational medium. Analyzing the construction of new social and political relations in the wake of the United States' 1930s Good Neighbor Policy, Acoustic Properties challenges standard narratives of hemispheric influence through new readings of Richard Wright's cinematic work in Argentina, Severo Sarduy's radio plays in France, and novels by John Dos Passos, Manuel Puig, Raymond Chandler, and Carson McCullers. Alongside these writers, the book also explores Che Guevara and Fidel Castro's Radio Rebelde, FDR's fireside chats, Félix Caignet's invention of the radionovela in Cuba, Evita Perón's populist melodramas in Argentina, Orson Welles's experimental New Deal radio, Cuban and U.S. "radio wars," and the 1960s African American activist Robert F. Williams's proto–black power Radio Free Dixie.   From the doldrums of the Great Depression to the tumult of the Cuban Revolution, Acoustic Properties illuminates how novelists in the radio age converted writing into a practice of listening, transforming realism as they struggled to channel and shape popular power.

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Across the River

On the Poetry of Mak Dizdar

Rusmir Mahmutcehajic

The work of Mehmedalija MakDizdar (1917-71) is the cornerstone of modern Bosnian literature. During the Second World War he was a member of the anti-fascist Partisans. After the war, he became prominent in Bosnian cultural life and eventually President of the Writers' Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His work blends influences from Bosnian Christian culture, Islamic mysticism, and the cultural remains of medieval Bosnia, especially its stone tombstones.This book falls into two parts. The first is an essay on Dizdar's major poetry book Stone Sleeper. It argues that in his poetry Dizdar turns to spiritual regions and resources that had been suppressed during the time of communism. From the very outset, Stone Sleeper was recognized as a liberatrion from the ideological disciplines of communism, nationalism, and scientism. Few, however, were able fully to understand the traditional content of its post-traditional form. In this part, Rusmir Mahmutcehajic introduces readers to the traditional substance of Stone Sleeper, in the context of what he calls perennial philosophy.From that perspective, prophecy, being the source of perennial wisdom, is set above poetry. In some poetry, however, prophetic wisdom and poetic pronouncement exist inseparably. Stone Sleeper is an example of that mutual co-existence.In the second part, the author traces, in a discussion of Dizdar's mystically influenced poem Blue River,the perennial questions of how we are to discover or realize the human self in relation to God as Creator.

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Acting and Action in Shakespearean Tragedy

Michael Goldman

This intensely personal book develops a new approach to the study of action in drama. Michael Goldman eloquently applies a method based on a crucial fact: our experience of a play in the theater is almost exclusively our experience of acting.

Originally published in 1985.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Acting Beautifully

Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic

What is the matter with the women in Henry James? In The Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove, and his short story “The Altar of the Dead,” one woman returns to a monster of a husband, another dies rather than confront the truth of her lover’s engagement, while yet another stakes her all on having a candle lit for a dead lover, only to promptly reject it. Exploring these strange choices, Sigi Jöttkandt argues that the singularity of these acts lies in their ethical nature, and that the ethical principle involved cannot be divorced from the question of aesthetics. She combines close readings of James with suggestive tours through Kantian aesthetics and set theory to uncover the aesthetic underpinning of the Lacanian ethical act, which has been largely overlooked in the current drive to discover a Cartesian origin for the subject as the subject of science.

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Acting in the Night

Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War

Alexander Nemerov

What can the performance of a single play on one specific night tell us about the world this event inhabited so briefly? Alexander Nemerov takes a performance of Macbeth in Washington, DC on October 17, 1863—with Abraham Lincoln in attendance—to explore this question and illuminate American art, politics, technology, and life as it was being lived. Nemerov’s inspiration is Wallace Stevens and his poem "Anecdote of the Jar," in which a single object organizes the wilderness around it in the consciousness of the poet. For Nemerov, that evening’s performance of Macbeth reached across the tragedy of civil war to acknowledge the horrors and emptiness of a world it tried and ultimately failed to change.

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Acting Like Men

Gender, Drama, and Nostalgia in Ancient Greece

Karen Bassi

Greek drama demands a story of origins, writes Karen Bassi in Acting Like Men. Abandoning the search for ritual and native origins of Greek drama, Bassi argues for a more secular and less formalist approach to the emergence of theater in ancient Greece. Bassi takes a broad view of Greek drama as a cultural phenomenon, and she discusses a wide variety of texts and artifacts that include epic poetry, historical narrative, philosophical treatises, visual media, and the dramatic texts themselves. In her discussion of theaterlike practices and experiences, Bassi proposes new conceptual categories for understanding Greek drama as a cultural institution, viewing theatrical performance as part of what Foucault has called a discursive formation. Bassi also provides an important new analysis of gender in Greek culture at large and in Athenian civic ideology in particular, where spectatorship at the civic theater was a distinguishing feature of citizenship, and where citizenship was denied women. Acting Like Men includes detailed discussions of message-sending as a form of scripted speech in the Iliad, of disguise and the theatrical body of Odysseus in the Odyssey, of tyranny as a theaterlike phenomenon in the narratives of Herodotus, and of Dionysus as the tyrannical and effeminate god of the theater in Euripides' Bacchae and Aristophanes' Frogs. Bassi concludes that the validity of an idealized masculine identity in Greek and Athenian culture is highly contested in the theater, where--in principle--citizens become passive spectators. Thereafter the author considers Athenian theater and Athenian democracy as mutually reinforcing mimetic regimes. Acting Like Men will interest those interested in the history of the theater, performance theory, gender and cultural studies, and feminist approaches to ancient texts. Karen Bassi is Associate Professor of Classics, University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Acting the Right Part

Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China

by Xiaomei Chen

Acting the Right Part is a cultural history of huaju (modern Chinese drama) from 1966 to 1996. Xiaomei Chen situates her study both in the context of Chinese literary and cultural history and in the context of comparative drama and theater, cultural studies, and critical issues relevant to national theater worldwide. Following a discussion of the marginality of modern Chinese drama in relation to other genres, periods, and cultures, early chapters focus on the dynamic relationship between theater and revolution. Chosen during the Cultural Revolution as the exclusive artistic vehicle to promote proletariat art, "model theater" raises important questions about the complex relationships between women, memory, nation/state, revolution, and visual culture. Throughout this study, Chen argues that dramatic norms inform both theatrical performance and everyday political behavior in contemporary China.

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