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Proverbial Wisdom in Culture, Literature, and Politics
The thirteen chapters of this book comprise an intriguing and informative entry into the world of proverb scholarship, illustrating that proverbs have always been and continue to be wisdom’s international currency. The first section of the book focuses on the field of paremiology (proverb studies) in general, the spread of Anglo-American proverbs in Europe, and the phenomenon of modern proverbs. The second section analyzes the use of proverbs in the world of politics, including a chapter on President Obama, while the third concentrates on the uses of proverbs in literature. The final section ends with detailed cultural studies of the origin, history, dissemination, use, function, and meaning of specific proverbs.
Noted scholar Wolfgang Mieder shows that proverbs matter in culture, literature, and politics. Proverbs remain part and parcel of oral and written communication, and, he demonstrates, they deserve to be studied from a range of viewpoints. While various chapters deal with a variety of issues and approaches, they cohere through a rhetorical perspective that looks at the text, texture, and context of proverbs as speech acts that make a noteworthy impact on culture and society. Whether proverbs appear in everyday speech, on the radio, on television, in films, on the pages of newspapers or magazines, in advertisements, in literary works, or in political speeches, they serve as formulaic verbal devices to add authoritative weight through tradition, convention, and wisdom.
Modernity and the American Superhero
“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound . . . It’s Superman!” Bending Steel examines the historical origins and cultural significance of Superman and his fellow American crusaders. Cultural historian Aldo J. Regalado asserts that the superhero seems a direct response to modernity, often fighting the interrelated processes of industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and capitalism that transformed the United States from the early nineteenth century to the present. Reeling from these exciting but rapid and destabilizing forces, Americans turned to heroic fiction as a means of explaining national and personal identities to themselves and to the world. In so doing, they created characters and stories that sometimes affirmed, but other times subverted conventional notions of race, class, gender, and nationalism.
The cultural conversation articulated through the nation’s early heroic fiction eventually led to a new heroic type—the brightly clad, super-powered, pro-social action heroes that first appeared in American comic books starting in the late 1930s. Although indelibly shaped by the Great Depression and World War II sensibilities of the second-generation immigrants most responsible for their creation, comic book superheroes remain a mainstay of American popular culture.
Tracing superhero fiction all the way back to the nineteenth century, Regalado firmly bases his analysis of dime novels, pulp fiction, and comics in historical, biographical, and reader response sources. He explores the roles played by creators, producers, and consumers in crafting superhero fiction, ultimately concluding that these narratives are essential for understanding vital trajectories in American culture.
Soul of Brazilian Music
The Brazilian berimbau, a musical bow, is most commonly associated with the energetic martial art/dance/game of capoeira. This study explores the berimbau's stature from the 1950s to the present in diverse musical genres including bossa nova, samba-reggae, MPB (Popular Brazilian Music), electronic dance music, Brazilian art music, and more. Berimbau music spans oral and recorded historical traditions, connects Latin America to Africa, juxtaposes the sacred and profane, and unites nationally constructed notions of Brazilian identity across seemingly impenetrable barriers. The Berimbau: Soul of Brazilian Music is the first work that considers the berimbau beyond the context of capoeira, and explores the bow's emergence as a national symbol. Throughout, this book engages and analyzes intersections of musical traditions in the Black Atlantic, North American popular music, and the rise of global jazz. This book is an accessible introduction to Brazilian music for musicians, Latin American scholars, capoeira practitioners, and other people who are interested in Brazil's music and culture.
Performing Exceptionality in Francoist Spain and the Jim Crow South
For centuries, Spain and the South have stood out as the exceptional “other” within US and European nationalisms. During Franco’s regime and the Jim Crow era both violently asserted a haunting brand of national “selfhood.” Both areas shared a loss of splendor and a fraught relation with modernization and retained a sense of defeat. Brittany Powell Kennedy explores this paradox not simply to compare two apparently similar cultures but to reveal how we construct difference around this self/other dichotomy. She charts a transatlantic link between two cultures whose performances of “otherness” as assertions of “selfhood” enact and subvert their claims to exceptionality. Perhaps the greatest example of this transatlantic link remains the War of 1898, when the South tried to extract itself from but was implicated in US imperial expansion and nation-building. Simultaneously, the South participated in the end of Spain as an imperial power.
Given the War of 1898 as a climactic moment, Kennedy explores the writings of those who come directly after this period and who attempted to “regenerate” what was perceived as “traditional” in an agrarian past. That desire recurs over the century in novels from writers as diverse as William Faulkner, Camilo José Cela, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Federico García Lorca, and Ralph Ellison. As these writers wrestle with ideas of Spain and the South, they also engage questions of how national identity is affirmed and contested.
Kennedy compares these cultures across the twentieth century to show the ways in which they express national authenticity. Thus she explores not only Francoism and Jim Crow, but varied attempts to define nationhood via exceptionalism, suggesting a model of performativity that relates to other “exceptional” geographies.
The New Action Heroine in Popular Culture
Beyond Bombshells analyzes the cultural importance of strong women in a variety of current media forms. Action heroines are now more popular in movies, comic books, television, and literature than they have ever been. Their spectacular presence represents shifting ideas about female agency, power, and sexuality. Beyond Bombshells explores how action heroines reveal and reconfigure perceptions about “how” and “why” women are capable of physically dominating roles in modern fiction, indicating the various strategies used to contain and/or exploit female violence.
Focusing on a range of successful and controversial recent heroines in the mass media, including Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games books and movies, Lisabeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels and films, and Hit-Girl from the Kick-Ass movies and comic books, Brown argues that the role of action heroine reveals evolving beliefs about femininity. While women in action roles are still heavily sexualized and objectified, they also challenge preconceived myths about normal or culturally appropriate gender behavior. The ascribed sexuality of modern heroines remains Brown’s consistent theme, particularly how objectification intersects with issues of racial stereotyping, romantic fantasies, images of violent adolescent and preadolescent girls, and neoliberal feminist revolutionary parables.
Individual chapters study the gendered dynamics of torture in action films, the role of women in partnerships with male colleagues, young women as well as revolutionary leaders in dystopic societies, adolescent sexuality and romance in action narratives, the historical import of non-white heroines, and how modern African American, Asian, and Latina heroines both challenge and are restricted by longstanding racial stereotypes.
Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production
In Beyond The Chinese Connection, Crystal S. Anderson explores the cultural and political exchanges between African Americans, Asian Americans, and Asians over the last four decades. To do so, Anderson examines such cultural productions as novels (Frank Chin's Gunga Din Highway , Ishmael Reed's Japanese By Spring , and Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle ); films (Rush Hour 2 , Unleashed , and The Matrix trilogy [1999-2003],) and Japanese animation (Samurai Champloo ), all of which feature cross-cultural conversations. In exploring the ways in which writers and artists use this transferral, Anderson traces and tests the limits of how Afro-Asian cultural production interrogates conceptions of race, ethnic identity, politics, and transnational exchange.Ultimately, this book reads contemporary black/Asian cultural fusions through the recurrent themes established by the films of Bruce Lee, which were among the first--and certainly most popular--works to use this exchange explicitly. As a result of such films as Enter the Dragon (1973), The Chinese Connection (1972), and The Big Boss (1971), Lee emerges as both a cross-cultural hero and global cultural icon who resonates with the experiences of African American, Asian American and Asian youth in the 1970s. Lee's films and iconic imagery prefigure themes that reflect cross-cultural negotiations with global culture in post-1990 Afro-Asian cultural production.
Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature
This edited collection challenges a long sacrosanct paradigm. Since the establishment of Caribbean literary studies, scholars have exalted an elite cohort of émigré novelists based in postwar London, a group often referred to as “the Windrush writers” in tribute to the SS Empire Windrush, whose 1948 voyage from Jamaica inaugurated large-scale Caribbean migration to London. In critical accounts this group is typically reduced to the canonical troika of V. S. Naipaul, George Lamming, and Sam Selvon, effectively treating these three authors as the tradition’s founding fathers. These “founders” have been properly celebrated for producing a complex, anticolonial, nationalist literature. However, their canonization has obscured the great diversity of postwar Caribbean writers, producing an enduring but narrow definition of West Indian literature.
Beyond Windrush stands out as the first book to reexamine and redefine the writing of this crucial era. Its fourteen original essays make clear that in the 1950s there was already a wide spectrum of West Indian men and women—Afro-Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, and white-creole—who were writing, publishing, and even painting. Many lived in the Caribbean and North America, rather than London. Moreover, these writers addressed subjects overlooked in the more conventionally conceived canon, including topics such as queer sexuality and the environment. This collection offers new readings of canonical authors (Lamming, Roger Mais, and Andrew Salkey); hitherto marginalized authors (Ismith Khan, Elma Napier, and John Hearne); and commonly ignored genres (memoir, short stories, and journalism).
There was a time when birth was treated as a natural process rather than a medical condition. Before 1800, women gave birth seated in birth chairs or on stools and were helped along by midwives. Then societal changes in attitudes toward women and the practice of medicine made birthing a province of the male-dominated medical profession.
In Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine, Amanda Carson Banks examines the history of the birth chair and tells how this birthing device changed over time. Through photographs, artists' renditions of births, interviews, and texts from midwives and early obstetricians, she creates an evolutionary picture of birthing practices and highlights the radical redefinition of birth that has occurred in the last two centuries.
During the 1800s the change from a natural philosophy of birth to a medical one was partly a result of heightened understandings of anatomy and physiology. The medical profession was growing, and with it grew the awareness of the economic rewards of making delivery a specialized practice. In the background of the medical profession's rise was the prevailing perception of women as fragile invalids. Gradually, midwives and birth chairs were relegated to rural and isolated settings.
The popularity of birth chairs has seen a revival in the late twentieth century as the struggle between medical obstetrics and the alternative birth movement has grown. As Banks shows through her careful examination of the chairs themselves, these questions have been answered and reconsidered many times in human history. Using the artifacts from the home and medical office, Banks traces sweeping societal changes in the philosophy of how to bring life into the world.
The Politics of Race in Science Fiction
Black and Brown Planets embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and film), lifting blacks, Latin Americans, and indigenous peoples out from the background of this historically white genre.
This collection considers the role of race and ethnicity in our visions of the future. The first section emphasizes the political elements of black identity portrayed in science fiction from black America to the vast reaches of interstellar space framed by racial history. In the next section, analysis of indigenous science fiction addresses the effects of colonization, helps discard the emotional and psychological baggage carried from its impact, and recovers ancestral traditions in order to adapt in a post-Native-apocalyptic world. Likewise, this section explores the affinity between science fiction and subjectivity in Latin American cultures from the role of science and industrialization to the effects of being in and moving between two cultures. By infusing more color in this otherwise monochrome genre, Black and Brown Planets imagines alternate racial galaxies with viable political futures in which people of color determine human destiny.