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A U.S. Volunteer Writes Home
Letters from the Spanish Civil War provides a unique perspective into the motivations that led a young man from the American heartland to defy U.S. neutrality and travel to Spain to fight in defense of democracy against Nazi- and Fascist-backed aggression. Born in a small town in rural Ohio, Carl Geiser came from a deeply religious German-speaking family that had recently emigrated from Switzerland. The onset of the Great Depression exposed Geiser to the reality of hard times and discrimination, challenging his belief that hard work would bring self-reliance and just rewards. This awakening led him to question the logic and values of capitalism and to become active in a range of youth and student organizations linked to the Communist Party.
Following the 1936 military uprising that was supported by Hitler and Mussolini against Spain’s legally elected Republican government, Geiser decided that more needed to be done than simply delivering speeches and raising money to fight fascism. Joining with over 35,000 volunteers from fifty countries to cross the Pyrenees and help defend the beleaguered and isolated government, Geiser acted on his personal political ideology, which was based on American small-town communal values and internationalist ideals of class-based solidarity.
In Letters from the Spanish Civil War, possibly the largest surviving collection of letters written by a U.S. volunteer during this conflict, Geiser eloquently describes to family and friends the deep personal motivations that led him to risk his life to defend democracy in a faraway country. His detailed descriptions of the daily reality of warfare in one of the first battlefields of World War II sought to inspire those back home to awaken the U.S. public opinion and policy makers to the global threat of Fascist expansionism.
Teaching Issues and Reading Practices
New pedagogy for studying literature in translation
In the last several decades, literary works from around the world have made their way onto the reading lists of American university and college courses in an increasingly wide variety of disciplines. This is a cause for rejoicing. Through works in translation, students in our mostly monolingual society are at last becoming acquainted with the multilingual and multicultural world in which they will live and work. Many instructors have expanded their reach to teach texts that originate from across the globe. Unfortunately, literature in English translation is frequently taught as if it had been written in English, and students are not made familiar with the cultural, linguistic, and literary context in which that literature was produced. As a result, they submit what they read to their own cultural expectations; they do not read in translation and do not reap the benefits of intercultural communication.
Here a true challenge arises for an instructor. Books in translation seldom contain introductory information about the mediation that translation implies or the stakes involved in the transfer of cultural information. Instructors are often left to find their own material about the author or the culture of the source text. Lacking the appropriate pedagogical tools, they struggle to provide information about either the original work or about translation itself, and they might feel uneasy about teaching material for which they lack adequate preparation. Consequently, they restrict themselves to well-known works in translation or works from other countries originally written in English.
Literature in Translation: Teaching Issues and Reading Practices squarely addresses this pedagogical lack. The book's sixteen essays provide for instructors a context in which to teach works from a variety of languages and cultures in ways that highlight the effects of linguistic and cultural transfers.
“In Little Nest Diana Lueptow shows a unique skill for bridging the everyday and the mythic. In lines and sentences that blend formal elegance with earthy, idiomatic force, Lueptow weaves surprising and moving connections between ourselves and our histories, just as she reconciles our vulnerability with our fundamental need for what Stevens once called ‘ideas of order.’ But don’t be fooled by this poet’s meticulous technical care: ‘Nimble isn’t the half of it. Fierce is. . . .’ begins ‘Mink and Rabbit,’ and that declaration makes a fitting emblem for Lueptow’s own well-wrought yet ferocious collection.”—Peter Campion
“A thread runs through this wonderful gathering of poems, a thread connecting mythology and ancient places to the sometimes duller here and now. Upon that thread a timeless song is played, a song of longing and loss, and yet a song capable of transforming grief. These poems float in the waters of a dream-state where the currents of memory and imagination collide, surely the dreamy realm where lyric poetry begins and rises.”—Maurice Manning
“Local Fauna opens with a meta-poem about Jack Spicer, and I couldn’t help but think of his ‘dictated’ poetry, poetry as vessel, poetry getting down what needs to be said. Brian Brodeur’s poems have this urgency—life, death, cruelty, politics, war, capitalism, and love. Hard truths come through the past, radio interviews, zoo animals, neighbors, personas, and pop songs. Brian Broduer’s poetry has insistence and morality, inclusivity and beauty. Local Fauna is terrific.”—Denise Duhamel
“Brian Brodeur’s formal skill, his feel for the whole history beneath a sentence, a line, a syllable, is matched here only by his unsentimental compassion for the people he renders in his poems. I can think of few other poets who capture what contemporary American life actually feels, looks, and sounds like as movingly as Brodeur does. Poems such as ‘Cousins,’ ‘Local Fauna,’ and ‘The Register’ will be with us for a long time indeed. Brian Brodeur is a marvel.”—Peter Campion
Kent State, 1970; A Play
On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen occupying the Kent State University campus fired 67 shots in 13 seconds, leaving four students dead. This tragedy had a profound impact on Northeast Ohio and the nation and is credited as a catalyst in changing Americans’ views toward U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Supported by the Ohio Humanities Council, May 4th Voices was originally written and performed as part of a community arts project for the 40th commemoration of the events of May 4th.
The text of David Hassler’s play is based on the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project, begun in 1990 by Sandra Halem and housed in Kent State University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and Archives. The collection is comprised of over 110 interviews, with first-person narratives and personal reactions to the events of May 4, 1970, from the viewpoints of members of the Kent community; Kent State faculty, students, alumni, staff, and administrators who were on campus that day; and National Guardsmen, police, hospital personnel, and others whose lives were affected by their experience. Weaving these voices and stories together anonymously, Hassler’s play tells the human story of May 4th and its aftermath, capturing the sense of trauma, confusion, and fear felt by all people regardless of where they stood that day.
Directed by Katherine Burke, May 4th Voices premiered on May 2, 2010, on the Kent State University campus. It offered the Kent community an opportunity to take ownership of its own tragic story and engage in a creative, healing dialogue. Now, with the publication of the play and its accompanying teacher’s guide and DVD, May 4th Voices brings to a national audience the emotional truth of this tragedy, connecting it to the larger issues of war, conflict, and trauma. A powerful work of testimony, May 4th Voices offers a new and unique contribution to the literature of the protest movement and the Vietnam era.
The Art of "Pulsed Life"
Herman Melville’s literary reputation is based chiefly on his fiction, especially Moby-Dick and Billy Budd. Yet he was a gifted poet, as evidenced by his collection of Civil War poems, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), and by his epic-length poem, Clarel (1876), a symbolic rendering of his pilgrimage of 1856–57 to the Holy Land, as well as the two small volumes of poems he published before his death in 1891.
Melville as Poet: The Art of “Pulsed Life” opens with an introduction by Sanford E. Marovitz and the late Douglas Robillard on Melville’s conception of poetry as a literary form. The essays begin with Dennis Berthold’s study of how Melville’s observations of art at New York’s National Academy of Design in 1865 are reflected in Battle-Pieces, and Mary K. Bercaw Edwards follows, describing how the nautical combat of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimack became a subject of wide contemporary interest in popular culture. The next three essays focus on Clarel. Peter Riley explains how Melville’s familiarity with the congestion of Lower Manhattan as a customs inspector influenced his descriptions of Jerusalem. Gordon M. Poole then discusses notable subtleties in Ruggero Bianchi’s Italian translation of the poem, and Robert R. Wallace reveals how selected Biblical prints and other graphics familiar to Melville affected the poet’s descriptions in Clarel. Melville’s John Marr and Other Sailors (1888) is then examined by A. Robert Lee, who emphasizes the themes of memory and death in that small volume, and Sanford E. Marovitz illuminates Melville’s method of unifying Timoleon, Etc. by using contrast to bind, not separate. Vernon Shetley compares Melville’s “Pausileppo” thematically with Shelley’s “Julian and Maddalo,” and Michael Jonik explores “The Archipelago” for insights into Melville’s experimentation with imagery and form. Finally, Wyn Kelley, Clark Davis, and Robert Sandberg imaginatively examine and reassess poems Melville left unpublished at his death.
Melville as Poet is a valuable collection of new and critical scholarship that aims to encourage more and deeper study of Melville’s art of poetry.
In the heyday of Civil War commemoration at the turn of the twentieth century, Mississippi’s Vicksburg National Military Park was considered “the art park of the South.” By 1920, more than 160 portrait statues, busts, and reliefs of Vicksburg’s defenders under Gen. John C. Pemberton and the besieging Union army commanded by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant lined the tour route along the earthworks around the Gibraltar of the Confederacy. Most of the memorial art and architecture was built in the classical revival Beaux-Arts style popular following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The federal government, states, and individual patrons commissioned dozens of sculptors and architects to create these enduring structures, marking the historic battlefield and commemorating the men and events involved in the campaign and siege of Vicksburg.
The Memorial Art and Architecture of Vicksburg National Military Park chronicles the preservation of the battlefield and its establishment as the southernmost of five national military parks formed in the 1890s. It illuminates and illustrates the complex patronage, design, and construction processes—including bronze casting and stone carving—in a fluent fashion appealing to general readers and Civil War buffs, as well as to scholars of collective memory and American cultural history.
This compact guidebook is handy for use in the field (on foot or in the car) and in the comfort of a favorite reading chair. It includes an illustrated driving tour, thematic discussions of Vicksburg’s equestrian monuments and portrait statuary, biographical information about the designers, and a glossary of monument terminology. Panhorst’s insightful analysis and stunning full color photographs of Vicksburg’s memorial art and architecture help readers appreciate fully the beauty and significance of “the art park of the South.”
Chin considers how the United States’, China’s, and Japan’s understandings of modernity shaped, and were shaped by, notions of their place in the world. Drawing on multinational archival and published primary sources, Chin highlights Americans’ ambivalence about their nation’s role in the world, China’s struggle to adapt its worldview to the realities of modern international relations, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between the United States and Japan.
Filling a major gap in the literature, Modernity and National Identity in the United States and East Asia, 1895–1919 is a comprehensive, thought-provoking intellectual history of American, Chinese, and Japanese thinking on modernity, national identity, and internationalism during the early twentieth century. Those with an interest in U.S. foreign relations, women’s and gender history, and U.S.-Asian relations will find this an innovative and fascinating title.
Spying and Retribution in World War II America
A remarkable story of how the U.S. military tortured German POWs into confessing their guilt
“An expert dissection of the crime, its witnesses, and Washington’s shifting goals. Murder and Martial Justice is a good murder mystery, based on a solid examination of the various contradictions and irritating bureaucratic villains.” —Arnold Krammer, author of Nazi Prisoners of War in America and Undue Process: The Untold Story of America’s German Alien Internees
During World War II, the United States maintained two secret interrogation camps in violation of the Geneva Convention—one just south of Washington, D.C., and the other near San Francisco. German POWs who passed through these camps briefed their fellow prisoners, warning them of turncoats who were helping the enemy—the United States—pry secrets from them. One of these turncoats, Werner Drechsler, was betrayed and murdered by those he spied on.
U.S. military authorities reacted harshly to Drechsler’s death, even though he was not the first captive to be assassinated by his fellow POWs. How had military intelligence been compromised? Were fanatical Nazis terrorizing their countrymen on American soil? Would Hitler take reprisals against the GIs he held if the United States did not protect the German POWs from violence and death while confined at the interrogation camps? At one of the secret camps, U.S. officials forced Drechsler’s seven murderers to confess. The next problem faced by authorities was how to court-martial them when their confessions were legally invalid. Their secret trial was stage-managed to deliver death sentences while apparently complying with U.S. and international law.
This presented U.S. authorities with further problems. The Geneva Convention entitled the prisoners’ governments to the full facts about their crimes, trials, and sentencing. Despite escalating German complaints, the War Department adopted a policy of giving as little information as possible about any of the several POW murder trials in order to avoid releasing inconvenient facts about the Drechsler case. Unsurprisingly, the Reich began sentencing GIs to death. Gambling with American lives, the War Department stalled every German attempt to trade these men for the convicted German murderers until the war ended. Every American was saved; every German but one was hanged.
The Drechsler case foreshadows current controversies: creative circumvention of the Geneva Convention, secret interrogation centers, torture, and the consequent problem of how to provide a fair trial to prisoners coerced into self-incrimination. Author Meredith Lentz Adams sees a familiar pattern of cover-ups, leading to difficulties with public and international relations. In contrast to recent policies, she points out how leaders during World War II felt constrained by their respect for Geneva and by fear of retribution against their own soldiers.
Murder and Martial Justice is a fascinating and provocative book that will appeal to those with an interest in World War II, POWs, international law, foreign policy, and true crime history.
The True Story of the Death of Donald Ring Mellett
Private detectives, crooked cops, gangsters, and bootleggers
The July 1926 murder of the editor of the Canton, Ohio, Daily News, Don R. Mellett, was one of the most publicized crimes in the 1920s. For less than a year, Mellett was the editor of the Daily News, owned by former Ohio governor and Democrat presidential candidate James Cox. Having promised Cox he would turn the unprofitable News into a success, Mellett combined personal conviction with marketing savvy and in 1925 embarked on an antivice, anticorruption editorial campaign. The following year, the Daily News and Mellett, posthumously, received the Pulitzer Prize for his columns.
His editorials were often aimed at the Canton police chief, S. A. Lengel, making the News law and order crusade personal. An unholy alliance of bootleggers and corrupt police, angered at Mellett’s interference with business as usual, hired an ex-con from Pennsylvania, Patrick McDermott, to attack and scare the editor. When the intended assault spiraled out of control and Mellett was murdered, the national press became outraged and saw this situation as an attack on the First Amendment, demanding justice in editorials appearing on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country.
Author Thomas Crowl, using newspaper and magazine accounts, interviews, and other primary source material (some previously unavailable), follows the investigation into the Mellett murder by a private detective who was hired by the Stark County prosecutor. The arrest of the prime suspect and the sensational trial of the cocky hitman received nationwide media coverage. The murder investigation also netted the two local hoodlums who hired McDermott. Additionally, a former police detective was arrested and convicted as the originator of the plot, and he in turn implicated police chief Lengel in the murder conspiracy. Nearly a year and a half later, however, Lengel was ultimately acquitted of the charges.
This compelling and intriguing story is the first in-depth study of the Mellett murder. Historians and true crime buffs will welcome this as a valuable addition to the field of true crime history.