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Against Autobiography

Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory

Lia Nicole Brozgal

The work of Tunisian Jewish intellectual Albert Memmi, like that of many francophone Maghrebian writers, is often read as thinly veiled autobiography. Questioning the prevailing body of criticism, which continues this interpretation of most fiction produced by francophone North African writers, Lia Nicole Brozgal shows how such interpretations of Memmi’s texts obscure their not inconsiderable theoretical possibilities.

Calling attention to the ambiguous status of autobiographical discursive and textual elements in Memmi’s work, Brozgal shifts the focus from the author to theoretical questions. Against Autobiography places Memmi’s writing and thought in dialogue with several major critical shifts in the late twentieth-century literary and cultural landscape. These shifts include the crisis of the authorial subject; the interrogation of the form of the novel; the resistance to the hegemony of vision; and the critique of colonialism. Showing how Memmi’s novels and essays produce theories that resonate both within and beyond their original contexts, Brozgal argues for allowing works of francophone Maghrebi literature to be read as complex literary objects, that is, not simply as ethnographic curios but as generating elements of literary theory on their own terms.
 

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Against Democracy:Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations

Simon During Australian Research Professor University of Queensland

This book argues that we can no longer envision a political system that might practically displace democracy or, more accurately, global democratic state capitalism. Democracy has become fundamental: It extends deeper and deeper into everyday life; it grounds and limits our political thought and values. That is the sense in which we do indeed live at history's end. But this end is not a happy one, because the system that we now have does not satisfy tests that we can legitimately put to it. In this situation, it is important to come to new terms with the fact that literature, at least until about 1945, was predominantly hostile to political democracy. Literature's deep-seated conservative, counterdemocratic tendencies, along with its capacity to make important distinctions among political, cultural, and experiential democracies and its capacity to uncover hidden, nonpolitical democracies in everyday life, is now a resource not just for cultural conservatives but for all those who take a critical attitude toward the current political, cultural, and economic structures. Literature, and certain novelists in particular, helps us not so much to imagine social possibilities beyond democracy as to understand how life might be lived both in and outside democratic state capitalism. Drawing on political theory, intellectual history, and the techniques of close reading, Against Democracy offers new accounts of the ethos of refusing democracy, of literary criticism's contribution to that ethos, and of the history of conservatism, as well as innovative interpretations of a range of writers, including Tocqueville, Disraeli, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, and Saul Bellow.

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Against Life

The contributors to Against Life think critically about the turn to life in recent theory and culture. Editors Alastair Hunt and Stephanie Youngblood shape their collection to provocatively challenge the assumption, rife throughout the humanities, that life needs to be cultivated, affirmed, and redeemed. The editors and their contributors explore how we might be better off daring to think ethics and politics, as well as the project of the humanities, in more radical terms, as a refusal to choose life. What forms of equality and freedom might emerge if we did not organize being-together under signs of life? Taken together, the essays in Against Life mark an important turn in the ethico-political work of the humanities.





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Against Self-Reliance

The Arts of Dependence in the Early United States

By William Huntting Howell

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Against the Gallows

Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment

Paul Christian Jones

In Against the Gallows, Paul Christian Jones explores the intriguing cooperation of America’s writers—including major figures such as Walt Whitman, John Greenleaf Whittier, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and Herman Melville—with reformers, politicians, clergymen, and periodical editors who attempted to end the practice of capital punishment in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. In an age of passionate reform efforts, the antigallows movement enjoyed broad popularity, waging its campaign in legislatures, pulpits, newspapers, and literary journals.

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The Age of Auden

Postwar Poetry and the American Scene

Aidan Wasley

W. H. Auden's emigration from England to the United States in 1939 marked more than a turning point in his own life and work--it changed the course of American poetry itself. The Age of Auden takes, for the first time, the full measure of Auden's influence on American poetry. Combining a broad survey of Auden's midcentury U.S. cultural presence with an account of his dramatic impact on a wide range of younger American poets--from Allen Ginsberg to Sylvia Plath--the book offers a new history of postwar American poetry.

For Auden, facing private crisis and global catastrophe, moving to the United States became, in the famous words of his first American poem, a new "way of happening." But his redefinition of his work had a significance that was felt far beyond the pages of his own books. Aidan Wasley shows how Auden's signal role in the work and lives of an entire younger generation of American poets challenges conventional literary histories that place Auden outside the American poetic tradition. In making his case, Wasley pays special attention to three of Auden's most distinguished American inheritors, presenting major new readings of James Merrill, John Ashbery, and Adrienne Rich. The result is a persuasive and compelling demonstration of a novel claim: In order to understand modern American poetry, we need to understand Auden's central place within it.

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The Age of Eclecticism

Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815-1885

“The burden of the past” invoked by any discussion of eclecticism is a familiar aspect of modernity, particularly in the history of literature. The Age of Eclecticism: Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815–1885 by Christine Bolus-Reichert aims to reframe that dynamic and to place it in a much broader context by examining the rise of a manifold eclecticism in the nineteenth century. Bolus-Reichert focuses on two broad understandings of eclecticism in the period—one understood as an unreflective embrace of either conflicting beliefs or divergent historical styles, the other a mode of critical engagement that ultimately could lead to a rethinking of the contrast between creation and criticism and of the very idea of the original. She also contributes to the emerging field of transnational Victorian studies and, in doing so, finds a way to talk about a broader, post-Romantic nineteenth-century culture. By reviving eclecticism as a critical term, Bolus-Reichert historicizes the theoretical language available to us for describing how Victorian culture functioned—in order to make the terrain of Victorian scholarship international and comparative and create a place for the Victorians in the genealogy of postmodernism. The Age of Eclecticism gives Victorianists—and other students of nineteenth-century literature and culture—a new perspective on familiar debates that intersect in crucial ways with issues still relevant to literature in an age of multiculturalism and postmodernism.

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The Age of Lovecraft

Carl H. Sederholm

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the American author of “weird tales” who died in 1937 impoverished and relatively unknown, has become a twenty-first-century star, cropping up in places both anticipated and unexpected. Authors, filmmakers, and shapers of popular culture like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo del Toro acknowledge his influence; his fiction is key to the work of posthuman philosophers and cultural critics such as Graham Harman and Eugene Thacker; and Lovecraft’s creations have achieved unprecedented cultural ubiquity, even showing up on the animated program South Park.

The Age of Lovecraft is the first sustained analysis of Lovecraft in relation to twenty-first-century critical theory and culture, delving into troubling aspects of his thought and writings. With contributions from scholars including Gothic expert David Punter, historian W. Scott Poole, musicologist Isabella van Elferen, and philosopher of the posthuman Patricia MacCormack, this wide-ranging volume brings together thinkers from an array of disciplines to consider Lovecraft’s contemporary cultural presence and its implications. Bookended by a preface from horror fiction luminary Ramsey Campbell and an extended interview with the central author of the New Weird, China Miéville, the collection addresses the question of “why Lovecraft, why now?” through a variety of approaches and angles.

A must for scholars, students, and theoretically inclined readers interested in Lovecraft, popular culture, and intellectual trends, The Age of Lovecraft offers the most thorough examination of Lovecraft’s place in contemporary philosophy and critical theory to date as it seeks to shed light on the larger phenomenon of the dominance of weird fiction in the twenty-first century.

Contributors: Jessica George; Brian Johnson, Carleton U; James Kneale, U College London; Patricia MacCormack, Anglia Ruskin U, Cambridge; Jed Mayer, SUNY New Paltz; China Miéville, Warwick U; W. Scott Poole, College of Charleston; David Punter, U of Bristol; David Simmons, Northampton U; Isabella van Elferen, Kingston U London.


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The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution

By Angelica Duran

In The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution, Angelica Duran reveals the way in which Milton’s works interacted with the revolutionary work of his contemporaries in science to participate in the dynamic “advancement of learning” of the time period. Bringing together primary materials by early modern scientists, including Robert Boyle, William Gilbert, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and John Wilkins as well as educational reformers such as Samuel Hartlib and Henry Oldenburg, The Age of Milton and the Scientific Revolution positions Milton’s literature as a coequal partner with the new cosmological theories, mathematical developments, telescopes, and scientific tracts that so thoroughly affected every aspect of recorded life in seventeenth century England. Duran shows, for example, how new developments in ornithology worked to shape the Lady’s power in the young Milton’s celebratory A Mask, how mathematics informed the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve in his mature epic Paradise Lost, and how developments in optics transformed the blinded hero of the blind author’s moving tragedy Samson Agonistes. While this study is indebted to the work of historians of science—from C. P. Snow and Thomas Kuhn to Stephen Shapin and Stephen Jay Gould—it is not a history of science per se, but rather a cultural study that appreciates poetry as a unique lens through which early modern England’s large-scale developments in education and science are clarified and reflected. What emerges is an intimate sense of how the enormous changes of the English Scientific Revolution affected individual lives and found their ways into Milton’s enduring poetry and prose.

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The Age of the Crisis of Man

Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973

Mark Greif

In a midcentury American cultural episode forgotten today, intellectuals of all schools shared a belief that human nature was under threat. The immediate result was a glut of dense, abstract books on the “nature of man.” But the dawning “age of the crisis of man,” as Mark Greif calls it, was far more than a historical curiosity. In this ambitious intellectual and literary history, Greif recovers this lost line of thought to show how it influenced society, politics, and culture before, during, and long after World War II.

During the 1930s and 1940s, fears of the barbarization of humanity energized New York intellectuals, Chicago protoconservatives, European Jewish émigrés, and native-born bohemians to seek “re-enlightenment,” a new philosophical account of human nature and history. After the war this effort diffused, leading to a rebirth of modern human rights and a new power for the literary arts.

Critics’ predictions of a “death of the novel” challenged writers to invest bloodless questions of human nature with flesh and detail. Hemingway, Faulkner, and Richard Wright wrote flawed novels of abstract man. Succeeding them, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, and Thomas Pynchon constituted a new guard who tested philosophical questions against social realities—race, religious faith, and the rise of technology—that kept difference and diversity alive.

By the 1960s, the idea of “universal man” gave way to moral antihumanism, as new sensibilities and social movements transformed what had come before. Greif’s reframing of a foundational debate takes us beyond old antagonisms into a new future, and gives a prehistory to the fractures of our own era.

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