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University of Minnesota Press
Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front
How does one write an experimental ABC, an impossible theory that would deal with a series of phenomena, concepts, places, sensations, persons, and moods? A para-philosophy? Returning to a once-abandoned project of fragmented thoughts where the author’s voice moves from the serious to the pathetic, to the absurd, to the cynical, Simon Critchley’s ABC of Impossibility finds new life in the form of this small encyclopedic and aphoristic text where the reader bears witness to the slow emergence of an attempt at a poetic ontology. ABC of Impossibility is a unique undertaking that reexamines the poetic site of the fragment as thought. Following a heritage of fragmented, aphoristic thinkers including Pascal, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Pessoa, Critchley revitalizes a para-philosophical thinking that can only be uttered by way of another. As he declares in the opening pages, “In writing this, I promise to tell the truth, but not to be myself.”
Rickels studies mourning and melancholia within and around psychoanalysis, analyzing the writings of such thinkers as Freud, Nietzsche, Lessing, Heinse, Artaud, Keller, Stifter, Kafka, and Kraus. Rickels maintains that we must shift the way we read literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to go beyond traditional Oedipal structures.
Aberrations of Mourning argues that the idea of the crypt has had a surprisingly potent influence on psychoanalysis, and Rickels shows how society’s disturbed relationship with death and dying, our inability to let go of loved ones, has resulted in technology to form more and more crypts for the dead by preserving them—both physically and psychologically—in new ways.
On Peace, Place, and Postcoloniality
Abiding by Sri Lanka examines how the disciplines of anthropology, history, and literature treat the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Anthropology, Ismail contends, approaches Sri Lanka as an object from an “outside” and western point of view. History, addressing the conflict from the “inside,” abides by the place and so promotes change that is nationalist and exclusive. Neither of these fields imagines an inclusive community. Literature, Ismail argues, can.
With close readings of texts that “abide” by Sri Lanka, texts that have a commitment to it, Ismail demonstrates that the problems in Sri Lanka raise fundamental concerns for us all regarding the relationship between democracies and minorities. Recognizing the structural as well as political tendencies of representative democracies to suppress minorities, Ismail rethinks democracy by redefining the concept of the minority perspective, not as a subject-position of numerical insignificance, but as a conceptual space that opens up the possibility for distinction without domination and, ultimately, peace.
Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.
Joel Olson contends that, given the history of slavery and segregation in the United States, American citizenship is a form of racial privilege in which whites are equal to each other but superior to everyone else. In Olson’s analysis we see how the tension in this equation produces a passive form of democracy that discourages extensive participation in politics because it treats citizenship as an identity to possess rather than as a source of empowerment. Olson traces this tension and its disenfranchising effects from the colonial era to our own, demonstrating how, after the civil rights movement, whiteness has become less a form of standing and more a norm that cements white advantages in the ordinary operations of modern society.
To break this pattern, Olson suggests an “abolitionist-democratic” political theory that makes the fight against racial discrimination a prerequisite for expanding democratic participation.
Fanuzzi illustrates how the dissemination of abolitionist tracts served to create an “imaginary public” that promoted and provoked the discussion of slavery. However, by embracing Enlightenment abstractions of liberty, reason, and progress, Fanuzzi argues, abolitionist strategy introduced aesthetic concerns that challenged political institutions of the public sphere and prevailing notions of citizenship. Insightful and thought-provoking, Abolition’s Public Sphere questions standard versions of abolitionist history and, in the process, our understanding of democracy itself.
Traditional narratives of the period leading up to the Civil War are invariably framed in geographical terms. The sectional descriptors of the North, South, and West, like the wartime categories of Union, Confederacy, and border states, mean little without reference to a map of the United States. In Abolitionist Geographies, Martha Schoolman contends that antislavery writers consistently refused those standard terms.
Through the idiom Schoolman names “abolitionist geography,” these writers instead expressed their dissenting views about the westward extension of slavery, the intensification of the internal slave trade, and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law by appealing to other anachronistic, partial, or entirely fictional north–south and east–west axes. Abolitionism’s West, for instance, rarely reached beyond the Mississippi River, but its East looked to Britain for ideological inspiration, its North habitually traversed the Canadian border, and its South often spanned the geopolitical divide between the United States and the British Caribbean.
Schoolman traces this geography of dissent through the work of Martin Delany, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Her book explores new relationships between New England transcendentalism and the British West Indies; African-American cosmopolitanism, Britain, and Haiti; sentimental fiction, Ohio, and Liberia; John Brown’s Appalachia and circum-Caribbean marronage. These connections allow us to see clearly for the first time abolitionist literature’s explicit and intentional investment in geography as an idiom of political critique, by turns liberal and radical, practical and utopian.
The Historiography of a Concept
Traditional art history has held that the concept of the artist-genius arose in the Enlightenment. Soussloff disputes this, arguing that earlier writings—artists’ biographies written as long ago as the early fifteenth century-determined and continue to determine our understanding of the myth of the artist. Moving chronologically, Soussloff shifts from fifteenth-century Florence to nineteenth-century Germany, the birthplace of the discipline of art history in its academic form, and considers the cultural historiography of Aby Warburg and Jacob Burckhardt. She discusses intellectual life in early-twentieth-century Vienna, demonstrating the rich cross-fertilization that occurred between art history and psychoanalysis, and scrutinizes the historical situation of Jewish art historians and psychoanalysts in Vienna in the 1930s, considering the impact of exile and an assimilationist ethic on the discourse of art history.
Soussloff concludes with a groundbreaking analysis of one of the earliest and most persistent elements of biography, the “artist anecdote,” demonstrating that it is essential in the construction of the figure of the artist. Singular in its breadth and ambition, The Absolute Artist is the first book to analyze the artist’s biography as a rhetorical form and literary genre rather than as an unassailable source of fact and knowledge.
Cohen uses paradigms from Baudrillard, Lytoard, Deleuze, and Guattari to assemble a “war machine” against the well-oiled apparatus of self-preservation and self-reproduction of the academic institution. In detailed and concrete arguments, he challenges accepted theories of criticism, especially university-based myths. Academia and the Luster of Capital constitutes a compelling statement for the abandonment of legitimating, officiating paradigms of thought in all academic disciplines, and outlines possibilities for the emergence of the new in thought in action.
Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap
Today the achievement gap is hotly debated among pundits, politicians, and educators. In particular this conversation often focuses on the two fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States: Asian Americans and Latinos. In Academic Profiling, Gilda L. Ochoa addresses this so-called gap by going directly to the source. At one California public high school where the controversy is lived every day, Ochoa turns to the students, teachers, and parents to learn about the very real disparities—in opportunity, status, treatment, and assumptions—that lead to more than just gaps in achievement.
In candid and at times heart-wrenching detail, the students tell stories of encouragement and neglect on their paths to graduation. Separated by unequal middle schools and curriculum tracking, they are divided by race, class, and gender. While those channeled into an International Baccalaureate Program boast about Socratic classes and stress-release sessions, students left out of such programs commonly describe uninspired teaching and inaccessible counseling. Students unequally labeled encounter differential policing and assumptions based on their abilities—disparities compounded by the growth in the private tutoring industry that favors the already economically privileged.
Despite the entrenched inequality in today’s schools, Academic Profiling finds hope in the many ways students and teachers are affirming identities, creating alternative spaces, and fostering critical consciousness. When Ochoa shares the results of her research with the high school, we see the new possibilities—and limits—of change.