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The Meditative Reader and the Text
Augustine of Hippo was the most prolific and influential writer on reading between antiquity and the Renaissance, though he left no systematic treatise on the subject. His reluctance to synthesize his views on other important themes such as the sacraments suggests that he would have been skeptical of any attempt to bring his statements on reading into a formal theory. Yet Augustine has remained the point of reference to which all later writers invariably return in their search for the roots of problems concerning reading and interpretation in the West.
Using Augustine as the touchstone, Brian Stock considers the evolution of the meditative reader within Western reading practices from classical times to the Renaissance. He looks to the problem of self-knowledge in the reading culture of late antiquity; engages the related question of ethical values and literary experience in the same period; and reconsiders Erich Auerbach's interpretation of ancient literary realism.
In subsequent chapters, Stock moves forward to the Middle Ages to explore the attitude of medieval Latin authors toward the genre of autobiography as a model for self-representation and takes up the problem of reading, writing, and the self in Petrarch. He compares the role of the reader in Augustine's City of God and Thomas More's Utopia, and, in a final important move, reframes the problem of European cultural identity by shifting attention from the continuity and change in spoken language to significant shifts in the practice of spiritual, silent reading in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. A richly rewarding reflection on the history and nature of reading, After Augustine promises to be a centerpiece of discussions about the discovery of the self through literature.
The Diary of a Decadent
Lost in a shipwreck in 1895, rewritten before the author's suicide in 1896, and not published until 1925, José Asunción Silva's After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) is one of Latin America's finest fin de siècle novels and the first one to be translated into English. Perhaps the single best work for understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century writing in South America, After-Dinner Conversation is also cited as the continent's first psychological novel and an outstanding example of modernista fiction and the Decadent sensibility. Semi-autobiographical and more important for style than plot, After-Dinner Conversation is the diary of a Decadent sensation-collector in exile in Paris who undertakes a quest to find his beloved Helen, a vision whom his fevered imagination sees as his salvation. Along the way, he struggles with irreconcilable urges and temptations that pull him in every direction while he endures an environment indifferent or hostile to spiritual and intellectual pursuits, as did the modernista writers themselves. Kelly Washbourne's excellent translation preserves Silva's lush prose and experimental style. In the introduction, one of the most wide-ranging in Silva criticism, Washbourne places the life and work of Silva in their literary and historical contexts, including an extended discussion of how After-Dinner Conversation fits within Spanish American modernismo and the Decadent movement. Washbourne's perceptive comments and notes also make the novel accessible to general readers, who will find the work surprisingly fresh more than a century after its composition.
"Re-writing" and the "Hermeneutic Attitude"
After Machiavelli is an examination of the triangular relationship of "re-writing"-a dynamic process encompassing both creative newness and awareness of historical profundity"-the "hermeneutic attitude:' and Machiavelli's poiesis. Specifically, it addresses four questions: First, to what degree can we speak of intersection (interaction) among this triad? Second, what common ground do all three actually share? Third, in what particular manner do the act of "re-writing" and the "hermeneutic attitude" manifest themselves in the writings of Niccoli Machiavelli? And last, what bearing does this have on the reader, heir to Machiavelli's literary legacy?
After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture
After Representation? explores one of the major issues in Holocaust studiesùthe intersection of memory and ethics in artistic expression, particularly within literature. Contributors examine the shifting cultural contexts for Holocaust representation and reveal how writersùwhether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginative distance from the Nazi genocideùarticulate the shadowy borderline between fact and fiction, between event and expression, and between the condition of life endured in atrocity and the hope of ameaningful existence.
Fiction of the Contemporary South
A provocative reckoning of the challenging new direction southern literature has taken in the works of nine authors
The literature of the contemporary South might best be understood for its discontinuity with the literary past. At odds with traditions of the Southern Renascence, southern literature of today sharply refutes the Nashville Agrarians and shares few of Faulkner's and Welty's concerns about place, community, and history.
This sweeping study of the literary South's new direction focuses on nine well established writers who, by breaking away from the firmly ensconced myths, have emerged as an iconoclastic generation- -- Harry Crews, Dorothy Allison, Bobbie Ann Mason, Larry Brown, Kaye Gibbons, Randall Kenan, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, and Barry Hannah. Resisting the modernist methods of the past, they have established their own postmodern ground beyond the shadow of their predecessors.
This shift in authorial perspective is a significant indicator of the future of southern writing. Crews's seminal role as a ground-breaking "poor white" author, Mason's and Crews's portrayals of rural life, and Allison's and Brown's frank portrayals of the lower class pose a challenge to traditional depictions of the South. The dissenting voices of Gibbons and Kenan, who focus on gender, race, and sexuality, create fiction that is at once identifiably "southern" and also distinctly subversive. Gibbons's iconoclastic stance toward patriarchy, like the outsider's critique of community found in Kenan's work, proffers a portrait of the South unprecedented in the region's literature. Ford, McCarthy, and Hannah each approach the South's traditional notions of history and community with new irreverence and treat familiar southern topics in a distinctly postmodern manner. Whether through Ford's generic consumer landscape, the haunted netherworld of McCarthy's southern novels, or Hannah's riotous burlesque of the Civil War, these authors assail the philosophical and cultural foundations from which the Southern Renascence arose.
Challenging the conventional conceptions of the southern canon, this is a provocative and innovative contribution to the region's literary study.
Matthew Guinn, formerly an instructor of English at the University of Mississippi, has published articles on southern literature in Southern Quarterly, South Atlantic Review, and Resources for American Literary Study.
The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future
After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future collects sixteen essays written with the awareness that we are on the verge of a historical shift in our relation to the Third Reich’s programmatic genocide. Soon there will be no living survivors of the Holocaust, and therefore people not directly connected to the event must assume the full responsibility for representing it. The contributors believe that this shift has broad consequences for narratives of the Holocaust. By virtue of being “after” the accounts of survivors, storytellers must find their own ways of coming to terms with the historical reality that those testimonies have tried to communicate. The ethical and aesthetic dimensions of these stories will be especially crucial to their effectiveness. Guided by these principles and employing the tools of contemporary narrative theory, the contributors analyze a wide range of Holocaust narratives—fictional and nonfictional, literary and filmic—for the dual purpose of offering fresh insights and identifying issues and strategies likely to be significant in the future. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Anniken Greve, Jeremy Hawthorn, Marianne Hirsch, Irene Kacandes, Phillipe Mesnard, J. Hillis Miller, Michael Rothberg, Beatrice Sandberg, Anette H. Storeide, Anne Thelle, and Janet Walker.
American Fiction in the 1990s
War and Occupation in Irène Némirovsky's Suite française
In this work, the first critical monograph on Suite française, Nathan Bracher shows how, first amid the chaos and panic of the May-June 1940 debacle, and then within the unsettling new order of the German occupation, Némirovsky's novel casts a particularly revealing light on the behavior and attitudes of the French as well as on the highly problematic interaction of France's social classes
A Critical History of the Irish Drama since The Plough and The Stars