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Bigness of the World

Lori Ostlund

In Lori Ostlund's debut collection people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.

In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In “Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of “All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In “Dr. Deneau's Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in “The Children beneath the Seat.” And in “Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man's fatal flight from his wife.

In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.

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The Billfish Story

Swordfish, Sailfish, Marlin, and Other Gladiators of the Sea

Stan Ulanski

The billfish is fixed at the apex of the oceanic food chain. Composed of sailfish, marlin, spearfish, and swordfish, they roam the pelagic waters of the Atlantic and are easily recognized by their long, spear-like beaks. Noted for their speed, size, and acrobatic jumps, billfish have for centuries inspired a broad spectrum of society. Even in antiquity, Aristotle, who assiduously studied the swordfish, named this gladiator of the sea xiphias—the sword.

The Billfish Story tells the saga of this unique group of fish and those who have formed bonds with them—relationships forged by anglers, biologists, charter-boat captains, and conservationists through their pursuit, study, and protection of these species. More than simply reciting important discoveries, Stan Ulanski argues passionately that billfish occupy a position of unique importance in our culture as a nexus linking natural and human history. Ulanski, both a scientist and an angler, brings a rich background to the subject in a multifaceted approach that will enrich not only readers’ appreciation of billfish but the whole of the natural world.

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The Bioregional Imagination

Literature, Ecology, and Place

Tom Lynch

Bioregionalism is an innovative way of thinking about place and planet from an ecological perspective. Although bioregional ideas occur regularly in ecocritical writing, until now no systematic effort has been made to outline the principles of bioregional literary criticism and to use it as a way to read, write, understand, and teach literature.

The twenty-four original essays here are written by an outstanding selection of international scholars. The range of bioregions covered is global and includes such diverse places as British Columbia’s Meldrum Creek and Italy’s Po River Valley, the Arctic and the Outback. There are even forays into cyberspace and outer space. In their comprehensive introduction, the editors map the terrain of the bioregional movement, including its history and potential to inspire and invigorate place-based and environmental literary criticism.

Responding to bioregional tenets, this volume is divided into four sections. The essays in the “Reinhabiting” section narrate experiments in living-in-place and restoring damaged environments. The “Rereading” essays practice bioregional literary criticism, both by examining texts with strong ties to bioregional paradigms and by opening other, less-obvious texts to bioregional analysis. In “Reimagining,” the essays push bioregionalism to evolve—by expanding its corpus of texts, coupling its perspectives with other approaches, or challenging its core constructs. Essays in the “Renewal” section address bioregional pedagogy, beginning with local habitat studies and concluding with musings about the Internet.

In response to the environmental crisis, we must reimagine our relationship to the places we inhabit. This volume shows how literature and literary studies are fundamental tools to such a reimagining.

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Bitter Tastes

Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women's Writing

Donna M. Campbell

<p>Challenging the conventional understandings of literary naturalism defined primarily through its male writers, Donna M. Campbell examines the ways in which American women writers wrote naturalistic fiction and redefined its principles for their own purposes. <i>Bitter Tastes</i> looks at examples from Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, and others and positions their work within the naturalistic canon that arose near the turn of the twentieth century.</p><p>Campbell further places these women writers in a broader context by tracing their relationship to early film, which, like naturalism, claimed the ability to represent elemental social truths through a documentary method. Women had a significant presence in early film and constituted 40 percent of scenario writers—in many cases they also served as directors and producers. Campbell explores the features of naturalism that assumed special prominence in women’s writing and early film and how the work of these early naturalists diverged from that of their male counterparts in important ways.</p>

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Black Elvis

Geoffrey Becker

In this funny, touching collection about music, identity, liars, and love, Geoffrey Becker brings us into the lives of people who have come to a turning point and lets us watch as they take, however clumsily, their next steps.

In the title story, an aging black singer who performs only Elvis songs despite his classic bluesman looks has his regular spot at the local blues jam threatened by a newly arrived Asian American with the unlikely name Robert Johnson. In “Man Under,” two friends struggling to be rock musicians in Reagan-era Brooklyn find that their front door has been removed by their landlord. An aspiring writer discovers the afterlife consists of being the stand-in for a famous author on an endless book tour in “Another Coyote Story.” Lonely and adrift in Florence, Italy, a young man poses as a tour guide with an art history degree in “Know Your Saints.” And in “This Is Not a Bar,” a simple night on the town for a middle-aged guitar student and jazz buff turns into a confrontation with his past and an exploration of what is or is not real.

In his depictions of struggling performers, artists, expectant parents, travelers, con-men, temporarily employed academics, and even the recently deceased, Becker asks the question, Which are more important: the stories we tell other people or the ones we tell ourselves?

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Black Masculinity and the U.S. South

From Uncle Tom to Gangsta

Riché Richardson

This pathbreaking study of region, race, and gender reveals how we underestimate the South's influence on the formation of black masculinity at the national level. Many negative stereotypes of black men—often contradictory ones—have emerged from the ongoing historical traumas initiated by slavery. Are black men emasculated and submissive or hypersexed and violent? Nostalgic representations of black men have arisen as well: think of the philosophical, hardworking sharecropper or the abiding, upright preacher. To complicate matters, says Riché Richardson, blacks themselves appropriate these images for purposes never intended by their (mostly) white progenitors.


Starting with such well-known caricatures as the Uncle Tom and the black rapist, Richardson investigates a range of pathologies of black masculinity that derive ideological force from their associations with the South. Military policy, black-liberation discourse, and contemporary rap, she argues, are just some of the instruments by which egregious pathologies of black masculinity in southern history have been sustained. Richardson's sources are eclectic and provocative, including Ralph Ellison's fiction, Charles Fuller's plays, Spike Lee's films, Huey Newton's and Malcolm X's political rhetoric, the O. J. Simpson discourse, and the music production of Master P, the Cash Money Millionaires, and other Dirty South rappers.


Filled with new insights into the region's role in producing hierarchies of race and gender in and beyond their African American contexts, this new study points the way toward more epistemological frameworks for southern literature, southern studies, and gender studies.

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The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation

Benjamin Fagan

The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation shows how antebellum African Americans used the newspaper as a means for translating their belief in black ôchosennessö into plans and programs for black liberation. During the decades leading up the Civil War, the idea that God had marked black Americans as his chosen people on earth became a central article of faith in northern black communities, with black newspaper editors articulating it in their journals.

Benjamin Fagan shows how the early black press helped shape the relationship between black chosenness and the struggles for black freedom and equality in America, in the process transforming the very notion of a chosen American nation. Exploring how cultures of print helped antebellum black Americans apply their faith to struggles grand and small, The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation uses the vast and neglected archive of the early black press to shed new light on many of the central figures and questions of African American studies.

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Black on Earth

African American Ecoliterary Traditions

Kimberly N. Ruffin

American environmental literature has relied heavily on the perspectives of European Americans, often ignoring other groups. In Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the reach of ecocriticism by analyzing the ecological experiences, conceptions, and desires seen in African American writing.
 
Ruffin identifies a theory of “ecological burden and beauty” in which African American authors underscore the ecological burdens of living within human hierarchies in the social order just as they explore the ecological beauty of being a part of the natural order. Blacks were ecological agents before the emergence of American nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their perspectives are critical to understanding the full scope of ecological thought.
 
Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the antebellum era to the twenty-first century, considering WPA slave narratives, neo–slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary films, by such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez. Identifying themes of work, slavery, religion, mythology, music, and citizenship, Black on Earth highlights the ways in which African American writers are visionary ecological artists.

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The Black Panther Party in a City near You

Edited by Judson L. Jeffries

This is the third volume in Judson L. Jeffries’s long-range effort to paint a more complete portrait of the most widely known organization to emerge from the 1960s Black Power Movement. Like its predecessors (Comrades: A Local History of the Black Panther Party [2007] and On the Ground: The Black Panther Party in Communities across America [2010]), this volume looks at Black Panther Party (BPP) activity in sites outside Oakland, the most studied BPP locale and the one long associated with oversimplified and underdeveloped narratives about, and distorted images of, the organization.

The cities covered in this volume are Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. The contributors examine official BPP branches and chapters as well as offices of the National Committee to Combat Fascism that evolved into full-fledged BPP chapters and branches. They have mined BPP archives and interviewed members to convey the daily ups-and-downs related to BPP’s social-justice activities and to reveal the diversity of rank-and-file BPP members’ personal backgrounds and the legal, political, and social skills, or baggage, that they brought to the BPP.

The BPP reportedly had a presence in some forty places across the country. During this time, no other Black Power Movement organization fed as many children, provided healthcare to as many residents, educated as many adults, assisted as many senior citizens, and clothed as many people. In point of fact, no other organization of the Black Power era had as great an impact on American lives as did the BPP. Nonetheless, when Jeffries undertook this project, chapter-level scholarly investigations of the BPP were few and far between. This third book, The Black Panther Party in a City Near You, raises the number of BPP branches that Jeffries and his contributors have examined to seventeen.

Contributors: Curtis Austin, Judson L. Jeffries, Charles E. Jones, Ava Kinsey, Duncan MacLaury, Sarah Nicklas, John Preusser.

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Black, White, and Green

Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy

Alison Hope Alkon

Farmers markets are much more than places to buy produce. According to advocates for sustainable food systems, they are also places to “vote with your fork” for environmental protection, vibrant communities, and strong local economies. Farmers markets have become essential to the movement for food-system reform and are a shining example of a growing green economy where consumers can shop their way to social change.

Black, White, and Green brings new energy to this topic by exploring dimensions of race and class as they relate to farmers markets and the green economy. With a focus on two Bay Area markets—one in the primarily white neighborhood of North Berkeley, and the other in largely black West Oakland—Alison Hope Alkon investigates the possibilities for social and environmental change embodied by farmers markets and the green economy.

Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Alkon describes the meanings that farmers market managers, vendors, and consumers attribute to the buying and selling of local organic food, and the ways that those meanings are raced and classed. She mobilizes this research to understand how the green economy fosters visions of social change that are compatible with economic growth while marginalizing those that are not.

Black, White, and Green is one of the first books to carefully theorize the green economy, to examine the racial dynamics of food politics, and to approach issues of food access from an environmental-justice perspective. In a practical sense, Alkon offers an empathetic critique of a newly popular strategy for social change, highlighting both its strengths and limitations.

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