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American Afterlife

Encounters in the Customs of Mourning

Kate Sweeney

Someone dies. What happens next?One family inters their matriarch’s ashes on the floor of the ocean. Another holds a memorial weenie roast each year at a greenburial cemetery. An 1898 ad for embalming fluid promises, “You can make mummies with it!” while a leading contemporary burial vault is touted as impervious to the elements. A grieving mother, 150 years ago, might spend her days tending a garden at her daughter’s grave. Today, she might tend the roadside memorial she erected at the spot her daughter was killed. One mother wears a locket containing her daughter’s hair; the other, a necklace containing her ashes.What happens after someone dies depends on our personal stories and on where those stories fall in a larger tale—that of death in America. It’s a powerful tale that we usually keep hidden from our everyday lives until we have to face it.American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney reveals this world through a collective portrait of Americans past and present who find themselves personally involved with death: a klatch of obit writers in the desert, a funeral voyage on the Atlantic, a fourth-generation funeral director—even a midwestern museum that takes us back in time to meet our deathobsessed Victorian progenitors. Each story illuminates details in another until something larger is revealed: a landscape that feels at once strange and familiar, one that’s by turns odd, tragic, poignant, and sometimes even funny.

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American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary

Deborah Barker

Employing innovations in media studies, southern cultural studies, and approaches to the global South, this collection of essays examines aspects of the southern imaginary in American cinema and offers fresh insight into the evolving field of southern film studies.
 
In their introduction, Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee argue that the southern imaginary in film is not contained by the boundaries of geography and genre; it is not an offshoot or subgenre of mainstream American film but is integral to the history and the development of American cinema.
 
Ranging from the silent era to the present and considering Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent films, the contributors incorporate the latest scholarship in a range of disciplines. The volume is divided into three sections: “Rereading the South” uses new critical perspectives to reassess classic Hollywood films; “Viewing the Civil Rights South” examines changing approaches to viewing race and class in the post–civil rights era; and “Crossing Borders” considers the influence of postmodernism, postcolonialism, and media studies on recent southern films.
 
The contributors to American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary complicate the foundational term “southern,” in some places stretching the traditional boundaries of regional identification until they all but disappear and in others limning a persistent and sometimes self-conscious performance of place that intensifies its power.

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American College and University

A History

Frederick Rudolph

First published in 1962, Frederick Rudolph's groundbreaking study, The American College and University, remains one of the most useful and significant works on the history of higher education in America. Bridging the chasm between educational and social history, this book was one of the first to examine developments in higher education in the context of the social, economic, and political forces that were shaping the nation at large.

Surveying higher education from the colonial era through the mid-twentieth century, Rudolph explores a multitude of issues from the financing of institutions and the development of curriculum to the education of women and blacks, the rise of college athletics, and the complexities of student life. In his foreword to this new edition, John Thelin assesses the impact that Rudolph's work has had on higher education studies. The new edition also includes a bibliographic essay by Thelin covering significant works in the field that have appeared since the publication of the first edition.

At a time when our educational system as a whole is under intense scrutiny, Rudolph's seminal work offers an important historical perspective on the development of higher education in the United States.

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The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave Trader

Kari J. Winter

As a young man, John B. Prentis (1788–1848) expressed outrage over slavery, but by the end of his life he had transported thousands of enslaved persons from the upper to the lower South. Kari J. Winter’s life-and-times portrayal of a slave trader illuminates the clash between two American dreams: one of wealth, the other of equality.

Prentis was born into a prominent Virginia family. His grandfather, William Prentis, emigrated from London to Williamsburg in 1715 as an indentured servant and rose to become the major shareholder in colonial Virginia’s most successful store. William’s son Joseph became a Revolutionary judge and legislator who served alongside Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison. Joseph Jr. followed his father’s legal career, whereas John was drawn to commerce. To finance his early business ventures, he began trading in slaves. In time he grew besotted with the high-stakes trade, appeasing his conscience with the populist platitudes of Jacksonian democracy, which aggressively promoted white male democracy in conjunction with white male supremacy.

Prentis’s life illuminates the intertwined politics of labor, race, class, and gender in the young American nation. Participating in a revolution in the ethics of labor that upheld Benjamin Franklin as its icon, he rejected the gentility of his upbringing to embrace solidarity with “mechanicks,” white working-class men. His capacity for admirable thoughts and actions complicates images drawn by elite slaveholders, who projected the worst aspects of slavery onto traders while imagining themselves as benign patriarchs. This is an absorbing story of a man who betrayed his innate sense of justice to pursue wealth through the most vicious forms of human exploitation.

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American Plants for American Gardens

Edith A. Roberts and Elsa Rehmann Foreword by Darrel G. Morrison

Undeservedly out of print for decades, American Plants for American Gardens was one of the first popular books to promote the use of plant ecology and native plants in gardening and landscaping. Emphasizing the strong links between ecology and aesthetics, nature and design, the book demonstrates the basic, practical application of ecological principles to the selection of plant groups or "associations" that are inherently suited to a particular climate, soil, topography, and lighting. Specifically, American Plants for American Gardens focuses on the vegetation concentrated in the northeastern United States, but which extends from the Atlantic Ocean west to the Alleghenies and south to Georgia.

The plant community settings featured include the open field, hillside, wood and grove, streamside, ravine, pond, bog, and seaside. Plant lists and accompanying texts provide valuable information for the design and management of a wide range of project types: residential properties, school grounds, corporate office sites, roadways, and parks.

In his introduction, Darrel G. Morrison locates American Plants for American Gardens among a handful of influential early books advocating the protection and use of native plants--a major area of interest today among serious gardeners, landscape architects, nursery managers, and students of ecology, botany, and landscape design. Included is an appendix of plant name changes that have occurred since the book's original publication in 1929.

Ahead of their time in many ways, Edith A. Roberts and Elsa Rehmann can now speak to new generations of ecologically conscious Americans.

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American Wars, American Peace

Notes from a Son of the Empire

Philip D. Beidler

As a writer, Philip D. Beidler has often drawn on his combat experience in Vietnam and his deep engagement with American popular culture. His essays tap these sources in powerful, truth-telling ways. In American Wars, American Peace, another voice emerges, distinct yet also tied to Beidler's wartime memories and his love of literature, film, and music. It is the voice of one of the “baby-boom progeny of the 'Greatest Generation' who at home and abroad became the foot soldiers” not just in Vietnam but in the Peace Corps, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and beyond.

Beidler has experienced enough of history to question “the kinds of peace that one empire after another has tried to impose on the world at whatever immense costs.” As he reflects on terrorism, patriotism, geopolitics, sacrifice, propaganda, and more, Beidler revisits his generation's “inherited vision of national purpose”--and he asks what happened. These essays are a sobering wake-up call for even the most informed and conscientious citizen.

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The Amistad Revolt

Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone

Iyunolu Folayan Osagie

From journalism and lectures to drama, visual art, and the Spielberg film, this study ranges across the varied cultural reactions--in America and Sierra Leone--engendered by the 1839 Amistad slave ship revolt.

Iyunolu Folayan Osagie is a native of Sierra Leone, from where the Amistad's cargo of slaves originated. She digs deeply into the Amistad story to show the historical and contemporary relevance of the incident and its subsequent trials. At the same time, she shows how the incident has contributed to the construction of national and cultural identity both in Africa and the African diasporo in America--though in intriguingly different ways.

This pioneering work of comparative African and American cultural criticism shows how creative arts have both confirmed and fostered the significance of the Amistad revolt in contemporary racial discourse and in the collective memories of both countries.

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Anglo-Native Virginia

Trade, Conversion, and Indian Slavery in the Old Dominion, 1646-1722

Kristalyn Marie Shefveland

<p>The 1646 Treaty of Peace with Necotowance in Virginia fundamentally changed relationships between Native Americans and the English settlers of Virginia. Virginians were unique in their interaction with Native peoples in part because of their tributary system, a practice that became codified with the 1646 Treaty of Peace with the former Powhatan Confederacy. This book traces English establishment of tributary status for its Native allies and the phrasing and concept offoreign Indians for non-allied Natives.</p><p>Kristalyn Marie Shefveland examines Anglo-Indian interactions through the conception of Native tributaries to the Virginia colony, with particular emphasis on the colonial and tributary and foreign Native settlements of the Piedmont and southwestern Coastal Plain between 1646 and 1722. Shefveland contends that this region played a central role in the larger narrative of the colonial plantation South and of the Indian experience in the Southeast. The transformation of Virginia from fledgling colony on the outpost of empire to a frontier model of English society was influenced significantly by interactions between the colonizers and Natives.</p><p>Many of the powerful families that emerged to dominate Virginia’s history gained their start through Native trade and diplomacy in this transformative period, particularly through the Byrd family, whose members emerged as keyfigures in trade, slavery, diplomacy, and conversion. By the second half of the seventeenth century, the transformation of Virginia set forth political, economic, racial, and class distinctions that typified the state for the next three centuries.</p>

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Anna

The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859

Anna Matilda Page King Edited by Melanie Pavich

As the wife of a frequently absent slaveholder and public figure, Anna Matilda Page King (1798-1859) was the de facto head of their Sea Island plantation. This volume collects more than 150 letters to her husband, children, parents, and others. Conveying the substance of everyday life as they chronicle King's ongoing struggles to put food on the table, nurse her "family black and white," and keep faith with a disappointing husband, the letters offer an absorbing firsthand account of antebellum coastal Georgia life.

Anna Matilda Page was reared with the expectation that she would marry a planter, have children, and tend to her family's domestic affairs. Untypically, she was also schooled by her father in all aspects of plantation management, from seed cultivation to building construction. That grounding would serve her well. By 1842 her husband's properties were seized, owing to debts amassed from crop failures, economic downturns, and extensive investments in land, enslaved workers, and the development of the nearby port town of Brunswick. Anna and her family were sustained, however, by Retreat, the St. Simons Island property left to her in trust by her father. With the labor of fifty bondpeople and "their increase" she was to strive, with little aid from her husband, to keep the plantation solvent.

A valuable record of King's many roles, from accountant to mother, from doctor to horticulturist, the letters also reveal much about her relationship with, and attitudes toward, her enslaved workers. Historians have yet to fully understand the lives of plantation mistresses left on their own by husbands pursuing political and other professional careers. Anna Matilda Page King's letters give us insight into one such woman who reluctantly entered, but nonetheless excelled in, the male domains of business and agriculture.

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Anthropology and Food Policy

Della E. McMillan

Addressing broad issues of production, distribution, and consumption, the seven essays in this volume introduce readers to anthropological work in food policy.  They show how information gathered from fieldwork—especially at the individual, family, and community levels—can help professionals plan and assess policies.

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