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Women Shaping Berber Identity
In southeastern Morocco, around the oasis of Tafilalet, the Ait Khabbash people weave brightly colored carpets, embroider indigo head coverings, paint their faces with saffron, and wear ornate jewelry. Their extraordinarily detailed arts are rich in cultural symbolism; they are always breathtakingly beautiful—and they are typically made by women. Like other Amazigh (Berber) groups (but in contrast to the Arab societies of North Africa), the Ait Khabbash have entrusted their artistic responsibilities to women. Cynthia Becker spent years in Morocco living among these women and, through family connections and female fellowship, achieved unprecedented access to the artistic rituals of the Ait Khabbash. The result is more than a stunning examination of the arts themselves, it is also an illumination of women's roles in Islamic North Africa and the many ways in which women negotiate complex social and religious issues. One of the reasons Amazigh women are artists is that the arts are expressions of ethnic identity, and it follows that the guardians of Amazigh identity ought to be those who literally ensure its continuation from generation to generation, the Amazigh women. Not surprisingly, the arts are visual expressions of womanhood, and fertility symbols are prevalent. Controlling the visual symbols of Amazigh identity has given these women power and prestige. Their clothing, tattoos, and jewelry are public identity statements; such public artistic expressions contrast with the stereotype that women in the Islamic world are secluded and veiled. But their role as public identity symbols can also be restrictive, and history (French colonialism, the subsequent rise of an Arab-dominated government in Morocco, and the recent emergence of a transnational Berber movement) has forced Ait Khabbash women to adapt their arts as their people adapt to the contemporary world. By framing Amazigh arts with historical and cultural context, Cynthia Becker allows the reader to see the full measure of these fascinating artworks.
A Comparative Assessment
In this first book-length study to compare the "new novels" of both Spanish America and Brazil, the authors deftly examine the differing perceptions of ambiguity as they apply to questions of gender and the participation of females and males in the establishment of Latin American narrative models. Their daring thesis: the Brazilian new novel developed a more radical form than its better-known Spanish-speaking cousin because it had a significantly different approach to the crucial issues of ambiguity and gender and because so many of its major practitioners were women.
As a wise strategy for assessing the canonical new novels from Latin America, the coupling of ambiguity and gender enables Payne and Fitz to discuss how borders--literary, generic, and cultural--are maintained, challenged, or crossed. Their conclusions illuminate the contributions of the new novel in terms of experimental structures and narrative techniques as well as the significant roles of voice, theme, and language. Using Jungian theory and a poststructural optic, the authors also demonstrate how the Latin American new novel faces such universal subjects as myth, time, truth, and reality. Perhaps the most original aspect of their study lies in its analysis of Brazil's strong female tradition. Here, issues such as alternative visions, contrasexuality, self-consciousness, and ontological speculation gain new meaning for the future of the novel in Latin America.
With its comparative approach and its many bilingual quotations, Ambiguity and Gender in the New Novel of Brazil and Spanish America offers an engaging picture of the marked differences between the literary traditions of Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking America and, thus, new insights into the distinctive mindsets of these linguistic cultures.
Throughout Porter's long career, writes Titus, she repeatedly probed cultural arguments about female creativity, a woman's maternal legacy, romantic love, and sexual identity, always with startling acuity, and often with painful ambivalence.” Much of her writing, then, serves as a medium for what Titus terms Porter's gender-thinking”--her sustained examination of the interrelated issues of art, gender, and identity.
Porter, says Titus, rebelled against her upbringing yet never relinquished the belief that her work as an artist was somehow unnatural, a turn away from the essential identity of woman as the repository of life,” as childbearer. In her life Porter increasingly played a highly feminized public role as southern lady, but in her writing she continued to engage changing representations of female identity and sexuality. This is an important new study of the tensions and ambivalence inscribed in Porter's fiction, as well as the vocational anxiety and gender performance of her actual life.
“Sharon Talley draws on psychoanalytic theory to illuminate the connections between Bierce’s life and works, without ever losing sight of the historical contexts—especially his experience in the Civil War—that also shaped his creativity. This judicious and comprehensive book will give a major boost to the reassessment of Bierce’s place in American letters.”
—Peter L. Rudnytsky, author of Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck
Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death uses psychoanalytic theory in combination with historical, cultural, and literary contexts to examine the complex motif of death in a full range of Bierce’s writings. Scholarly interest in Bierce, whose work has long been undervalued, has grown significantly in recent years. This new book contributes to the ongoing reassessment by providing new contexts for joining the texts in his canon in meaningful ways.
Previous attempts to consider Bierce from a psychological perspective have been superficial, often reductive Freudian readings of individual stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” This new volume not only updates these interpretations with insights from post-Freudian theorists but uses contemporary death theory as a framework to analyze the sources and expressions of Bierce’s attitudes about death and dying. This approach makes it possible to discern links among texts that resolve some of the still puzzling ambiguities that have—until now—precluded a fuller understanding of both the man and his writings.
Lively and engaging, Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death adds valuable new insights not only to the study of Bierce but to that of nineteenth-century American literature in general.
Sharon Talley is the author of the Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her articles have been published in Nineteenth-Century Prose, American Imago, and the Journal of Men’s Studies. She is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
Literary Essays North and South
One of the foremost critics in contemporary American letters, Christopher Benfey has long been known for his brilliant and incisive essays. Appearing in such publications as the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and the Times Literary Supplement, Benfey's writings have helped us reimagine the American literary canon. In American Audacity, Benfey gathers his finest writings on eminent American authors (including Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman, Millay, Faulkner, Frost, and Welty), bringing to his subjects---as the New York Times Book Review has said of his earlier work---"a scholar's thoroughness, a critic's astuteness and a storyteller's sense of drama." Although Benfey's interests range from art to literature to social history, this collection focuses on particular American writers and the various ways in which an American identity and culture inform their work. Broken into three sections, "Northerners,""Southerners," and "The Union Reconsidered," American Audacity explores a variety of canonical works, old (Emerson, Dickinson, Millay, Whitman), modern (Faulkner, Dos Passos), and more contemporary (Gary Snyder, E. L. Doctorow). Christopher Benfey is the author of numerous highly regarded books, including Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet; The Double Life of Stephen Crane; Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable; and, most recently, The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan. Benfey's poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Pequod, and Ploughshares. He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Currently he is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. "In its vigorous and original criticism of American writers, Christopher Benfey's American Audacity displays its own audacities on every page." ---William H. Pritchard
This book examines literary authorship in the twentieth century and covers such topics as publishing, book distribution, the trade editor, the literary agent, the magazine market, subsidiary rights, and the blockbuster mentality.
Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet
In this ms Whitley works to defamiliarize and so explore in a fresh way the literary landscape of the mid-19th century into which Whitman emerged. He explores how the idea of a national poet resonated at that time as well as how Whitman stepped into that role. To accomplish this, Whitley traces the histories and literary achievements of three other antebellum poets whose names are not nearly so well-known but whose work paralleled Whitman’s in unexpected ways: James M. Whitfield, Eliza Snow, and John Rollin Ridge. He puts their work in dialogue with Whitman’s poetry--both as it functions now and as it reflected and affected the literary landscape of 19th-c. America. Each of these American poets adopted a posture similar to that of Whitman’s antebellum persona of a social outsider who audaciously claims to be a representative national bard. Rereading Whitman’s place in the nationalist literary milieu of the 1850s through Whitfield, Snow, and Ridge suggests cultural alternatives to the nation-centered discourse that has come to characterize received notions of the antebellum period.
A Deleuzian Approach
A reflection on the metaphor of the body politic throughout American history Bernd Herzogenrath’s An American Body|Politic is a study of the intersection between the material, biological body and body as political and cultural metaphor in American politics, religion, literature, and popular culture. Deeply influenced by the thought of Gilles Deleuze, Herzogenrath’s approach to American culture encompasses endless possibilities and potentials, eschewing the mechanic and structural. He traipses through American history and culture, pausing to examine such varied facets as the Puritans’ “two bodies,” Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy, Cotton Mather and smallpox, the poetics|politics of Whitman, Henry Adams’s stroll along the shores of complexity, and the Detroit-based techno music of today.
Vol. 31 (2009) through current issue
Founded in 1977, the American Book Review is a nonprofit, internationally distributed publication that appears six times a year. ABR specializes in reviews of frequently neglected published works of fiction, poetry, and literary and cultural criticism from small, regional, university, ethnic, avant-garde, and women's presses. ABR as a literary journal aims to project the sense of engagement that writers themselves feel about what is being published. It is edited and produced by writers for writers and the general public.