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George Balanchine, one of the twentieth century's foremost choreographers, strove to make music visible through dance. In The Art of Gravity, Jay Rogoff extends this alchemy into poetry, discovering in dancing -- from visionary ballets to Lindy-hopping at a drunken party -- the secret rhythms of our imaginations and the patterns of our lives.
The poems unfold in a rich variety of forms, both traditional and experimental. Some focus on how Edgar Degas's paintings expose the artifice and artistic self-consciousness of ballet while, paradoxically, illuminating how it creates rapture. Others investigate dance's translation of physical gesture into allegorical mystery, especially in Balanchine's matchless works. Rogoff pays tribute to superb dancers who grant audiences seductive glimpses of the sublime and to all of us who find in dance a redemptive image of ourselves.
The poet reveals dance as an "art of gravity" in the illusory weightlessness of a "dance that ends in mid-air," in the clumsiness of a Latin dance class's members "trip- / ping over each other in the high school / gym," and in the exploration of ultimate Gravity -- a sonnet sequence titled "Danses Macabres." Ultimately, Rogoff confronts with unflinching precision the dark consummation of all our dancing.
James Carter and the Rise of Modern Britain, 1792-1853
Mostly forgotten by history, James Carter (1792-1853) was an English tailor and writer, whose life and ideas offer a unique means for comprehending the revolutions at work in British society at the beginning of the nineteenth century, including industrialization, urbanization, heightened migration, rising literacy, and expanding print media, all of which transformed the nature of everyday life for ordinary Britons like Carter.
Petersburg, Virginia, 1820-1865
Though deeply entrenched in antebellum life, the artisans who lived and worked in Petersburg, Virginia, in the 1800s—including carpenters, blacksmiths, coach makers, bakers, and other skilled craftsmen—helped transform their planter-centered agricultural community into one of the most industrialized cities in the Upper South. These mechanics, as the artisans called themselves, successfully lobbied for new railroad lines and other amenities they needed to open their factories and shops, and turned a town whose livelihood once depended almost entirely on tobacco exports into a bustling modern city. In Artisan Workers in the Upper South, L. Diane Barnes closely examines the relationships between Petersburg's skilled white, free black, and slave mechanics and the roles they played in southern Virginia's emerging market economy. Barnes demonstrates that, despite studies that emphasize the backwardness of southern development, modern industry and the institution of slavery proved quite compatible in the Upper South. Petersburg joined the industrialized world in part because of the town's proximity to northern cities and resources, but it succeeded because its citizens capitalized on their uniquely southern resource: slaves. Petersburg artisans realized quickly that owning slaves could increase the profitability of their businesses, and these artisans—including some free African Americans—entered the master class when they could. Slave-owning mechanics, both white and black, gained wealth and status in society, and they soon joined an emerging middle class. Not all mechanics could afford slaves, however, and those who could not struggled to survive in the new economy. Forced to work as journeymen and face the unpleasant reality of permanent wage labor, the poorer mechanics often resented their inability to prosper like their fellow artisans. These differing levels of success, Barnes shows, created a sharp class divide that rivaled the racial divide in the artisan community. Unlike their northern counterparts, who united as a political force and organized strikes to effect change, artisans in the Upper South did not rise up in protest against the prevailing social order. Skilled white mechanics championed free manual labor—a common refrain of northern artisans—but they carefully limited the term "free" to whites and simultaneously sought alliances with slaveholding planters. Even those artisans who didn't own slaves, Barnes explains, rarely criticized the wealthy planters, who not only employed and traded with artisans, but also controlled both state and local politics. Planters, too, guarded against disparaging free labor too loudly, and their silence, together with that of the mechanics, helped maintain the precariously balanced social structure. Artisan Workers in the Upper South rejects the notion of the antebellum South as a semifeudal planter-centered political economy and provides abundant evidence that some areas of the South embraced industrial capitalism and economic modernity as readily as communities in the North.
Project Dribble and the Quest for Nuclear Weapons Treaty Verification in the Cold War Era
In Atomic Testing in Mississippi, David Allen Burke illuminates the nearly forgotten history of America’s only nuclear detonations east of the Mississippi River. The atomic tests, conducted in the mid-1960s nearly 3,000 feet below ground in Mississippi’s Tatum Salt Dome, posed a potential risk for those living within 150 miles of the site, which included residents of Hattiesburg, Jackson, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, and New Orleans. While the detonations provided the United States with verification methods that helped limit the world’s nuclear arsenals, they sparked widespread public concern. In 1964 and 1966 the Atomic Energy Commission conducted experiments at the salt dome—code-named Dribble—surrounded by a greater population density than any other test site in the United States. Although the detonations were not weapons tests, they fostered a conflict between regional politicians interested in government-funded science projects and a population leery of nuclear testing near their homes. Even today, residents near the salt dome are still fearful of long-term negative health consequences. Despite its controversy, Project Dribble provided the technology needed to detect and assess the performance of distant underground atomic explosions and thus verify international weapons treaty compliance. This technology led to advanced seismological systems that now provide tsunami warnings and detect atomic activity in other nuclear nations, such as Pakistan and North Korea.
Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France
Each year in France approximately 1.5 million people practice naturisme or "naturism," an activity more commonly referred to as "nudism." Because of France's unique tolerance for public nudity, the country also hosts hundreds of thousands of nudists from other European nations, an influx that has contributed to the most extensive infrastructure for nude tourism in the world. In Au Naturel, historian Stephen L. Harp explores how the evolution of European tourism encouraged public nudity in France, connecting this cultural shift with important changes in both individual behaviors and collective understandings of the body, morality, and sexuality.
Harp's study, the first in-depth historical analysis of nudism in France, challenges widespread assumptions that "sexual liberation" freed people from "repression," a process ostensibly reflected in the growing number of people practicing public nudity. Instead, he contends, naturism gained social acceptance because of the bodily control required to participate in it. New social codes emerged governing appropriate nudist behavior, including where one might look, how to avoid sexual excitation, what to wear when cold, and whether even the most modest displays of affection -- -including hand-holding and pecks on the cheek -- were permissible between couples.
Beginning his study in 1927 -- when naturist doctors first advocated nudism in France as part of "air, water, and sun cures" -- Harp focuses on the country's three earliest and largest nudist centers: the �le du Levant in the Var, Montalivet in the Gironde, and the Cap d'Agde in H�rault. These places emerged as thriving tourist destinations, Harp shows, because the municipalities -- by paradoxically reinterpreting inde-cency as a way to foster European tourism to France -- worked to make public nudity more acceptable.
Using the French naturist movement as a lens for examining the evolving notions of the body and sexuality in twentieth-century Europe, Harp reveals how local practices served as agents of national change.
The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival
One of the most often repeated anecdotes about the direction of literary studies over the past three decades concerns a graduate student who complained of reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in three classes and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick in none. But Chopin has not always been featured in the literary curriculum. Though she achieved national success in her lifetime (1850–1904) as a writer of Louisiana “local color” fiction, after her death her work fell into obscurity until 1969, when Norwegian literary scholar Per Seyersted published The Complete Works of Kate Chopin and sparked a remarkable American literary revival. Chopin soon became a major presence in the canon, and today every college textbook surveying American literature contains a Chopin short story, her novel The Awakening, or an excerpt from it. In this unique work, twelve prominent Chopin scholars reflect on their parts in the Kate Chopin revival and its impact on their careers. A generation ago, against powerful odds, many of them staked their reputations on the belief—now fully validated—that Chopin is one of America’s essential writers. These scholars energetically sponsored Chopin’s works in the 1970s and 1980s and encouraged reading, studying, and teaching Chopin. They wrote books and articles about her, gave talks about her, offered interviews to newspapers and magazines, taught her works in their classes, and urged their colleagues to do the same, helping to build a network of teachers, students, editors, journalists, librarians, and others who continue to promote Chopin’s work. Throughout, these essays stress several elements vital to the revival’s success. Timing proved critical, as the rise of the women’s movement and the emergence of new sexual norms in the 1960s helped set an ideal context for Chopin in the United States and abroad in the 1970s and 1980s. Seyersted’s biography of Chopin and his accurate texts of her entire oeuvre allowed scholars to quickly publish their analyses of her work. Popular media—including Redbook, New York Times, and PBS—took notice of Chopin and advanced her work outside the scholarly realm. But in the final analysis, as the contributors point out, Kate Chopin’s irresistible writing itself made her revival possible. Highly personal, at times amusing, and always thought provoking, these revealing recollections and new critical insights offer a fascinating firsthand account of a decisive moment in American literary history.
Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition
One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Marie Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic. Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of Black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through one hundred years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.
The Bad Secret takes readers on a dark yet sometimes comic sojourn through the undercurrents of a life suddenly unmoored by grief, and then to the subsequent rise of the spirit to recovery. Tough-minded and intellectual, Judith Harris's poems are also distinguished by brilliant images close to metaphysical. They reflect on childhood, nature, mental and physical illness, the loss of a mother, and the levity of being simply human. In a voice entirely her own, Harris confronts life's secrets with their hidden meanings inspired by guilt and redemption, offering a music of tenderness and hope.
I watch it gutter down, over the pine's edge,over the pink and orange sunset,diving into the abyss,with its wings perpendicular to the ravine.By now, I have broken offfrom the rest, pretending I'm an orphan -- my eyes fixed on the unseeable destruction
of my ghost in that suicidal machine. "Hush," I say, as if hatred was a sound,as if I could make the negative positive, but nature itself has given up on the picture of my happy family, and pretends not to look at the box with the rolled-up Kodak filmtumbling over the ledgegathering more weight and velocity.
-- "My Father Throws His Camera Down the Grand Canyon, 1968"
The Battle of New Orleans proved a critical victory for the United States, a young nation defending its nascent borders, but over the past two hundred years, myths have obscured the facts about the conflict. In The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory, distinguished experts in military, social, art, and music history sift the real from the remembered, illuminating the battle’s lasting significance across multiple disciplines. Laura Lyons McLemore sets the stage by reviewing the origins of the War of 1812, followed by essays that explore how history and memory intermingle. Donald R. Hickey examines leading myths found in the collective memory—some, embellishments originating with actual participants, and others invented out of whole cloth. Other essayists focus on specific figures: Mark R. Cheathem explores how Andrew Jackson’s sensational reputation derived from contemporary anecdotes and was perpetuated by respected historians, and Leslie Gregory Gruesbeck considers the role visual imagery played in popular perception and public memory of battle hero Jackson. Other contributors unpack the broad social and historical significance of the battle, from Gene Allen Smith’s analysis of black participation in the War of 1812 and the subsequent worsening of American racial relations, to Blake Dunnavent’s examination of leadership lessons from the war that can benefit the U.S. military today. Paul Gelpi makes the case that the Creole Battalion d’Orleans became protectors of American liberty in the course of defending New Orleans from the British. Examining the European context, Alexander Mikaberidze shows that America’s second conflict with Britain was more complex than many realize or remember. Joseph F. Stoltz III illustrates how commemorations of the battle, from memorials to schoolbooks, were employed over the years to promote various civic and social goals. Finally, Tracey E. W. Laird analyzes variations of the tune “The Battle of New Orleans,” revealing how it has come to epitomize the battle in the collective memory.
The Forgotten Conflict between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
Three days of savage and bloody fighting between Confederate and Union troops at Stones River in Middle Tennessee ended with nearly 25,000 casualties but no clear victor. The staggering number of killed or wounded equaled the losses suffered in the well-known Battle of Shiloh. Using previously neglected sources, Larry J. Daniel rescues this important campaign from obscurity. The Battle of Stones River, fought between December 31, 1862, and January 2, 1863, was a tactical draw but proved to be a strategic northern victory. According to Daniel, Union defeats in late 1862—both at Chickasaw Bayou in Mississippi and at Fredericksburg, Virginia—transformed the clash in Tennessee into a much-needed morale booster for the North. Daniel’s study of the battle’s two antagonists, William S. Rosecrans for the Union Army of the Cumberland and Braxton Bragg for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, presents contrasts in leadership and a series of missteps. Union soldiers liked Rosecrans’s personable nature, whereas Bragg acquired a reputation as antisocial and suspicious. Rosecrans had won his previous battle at Corinth, and Bragg had failed at the recent Kentucky Campaign. But despite Rosecrans’s apparent advantage, both commanders made serious mistakes. With only a few hundred yards separating the lines, Rosecrans allowed Confederates to surprise and route his right ring. Eventually, Union pressure forced Bragg to launch a division-size attack, a disastrous move. Neither side could claim victory on the battlefield. In the aftermath of the bloody conflict, Union commanders and northern newspapers portrayed the stalemate as a victory, bolstering confidence in the Lincoln administration and dimming the prospects for the “peace wing” of the northern Democratic Party. In the South, the deadlock led to continued bickering in the Confederate western high command and scorn for Braxton Bragg.