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Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Pastoral Tradition Cover

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Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Pastoral Tradition

Donna L. Potts

In Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Pastoral Tradition, Donna L. Potts closely examines the pastoral genre in the work of six Irish poets writing today. Through the exploration of the poets and their works, she reveals the wide range of purposes that pastoral has served in both Northern Ireland and the Republic: a postcolonial critique of British imperialism; a response to modernity, industrialization, and globalization; a way of uncovering political and social repercussions of gendered representations of Ireland; and, more recently, a means for conveying environmentalism’s more complex understanding of the value of nature.


Potts traces the pastoral back to its origins in the work of Theocritus of Syracuse in the third century and plots its evolution due to cultural changes. While all pastoral poems share certain generic traits, Potts makes clear that pastorals are shaped by social and historical contexts, and Irish pastorals in particular were influenced by Ireland’s unique relationship with the land, language, and industrialization due to England’s colonization.


For her discussion, Potts has chosen six poets who have written significant collections of pastoral poetry and whose work is in dialogue with both the pastoral tradition and other contemporary pastoral poets. Three poets are men—John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley—while three are women—Eavan Boland, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Five are English-language authors, while the sixth—Ní Dhomhnaill—writes in Irish. Additionally, some of the poets hail from the Republic, while others originate from Northern Ireland. Potts contends that while both Irish Republic and Northern Irish poets respond to a shared history of British colonization in their pastorals, the 1921 partition of the country caused the pastoral tradition to evolve differently on either side of the border, primarily because of the North’s more rapid industrialization; its more heavily Protestant population, whose response to environmentalism was somewhat different than that of the Republic’s predominantly Catholic population; as well the greater impact of the world wars and the Irish Troubles.



In an important distinction from other studies of Irish poetry, Potts moves beyond the influence of history and politics on contemporary Irish pastoral poetry to consider the relatively recent influence of ecology. Contemporary Irish poets often rely on the motif of the pastoral retreat to highlight various environmental threats to those retreats—whether they be high-rises, motorways, global warming, or acid rain. Potts concludes by speculating on the future of pastoral in contemporary Irish poetry through her examination of more recent poets—including Moya Cannon and Paula Meehan—as well as other genres such as film, drama, and fiction.


A Creed for My Profession Cover

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A Creed for My Profession

Walter Williams, Journalist to the World

Ronald T. Farrar

This superb biography provides for the first time a candid look at the remarkable life of Walter Williams, the man who founded the world's first school of journalism and perhaps contributed more toward the promotion of professional journalism than any other person of his time.

Williams, the youngest of six children, was born in Boonville, Missouri, in 1864. Never an athletic child, he always had a love of books and of learning; yet, he scarcely had a high school education. He began his journalistic career as a printer's devil at seventy cents per week and eventually became editor and part- owner of a weekly in Columbia, Missouri. During his time as an editor, Williams became convinced that journalism would never reach its potential until its practitioners had the opportunity for university training in their field. After years of crusading, he established the first journalism school, on the University of Missouri campus. Later, he was chosen president of the University of Missouri, which he led with distinction during the Great Depression.

Williams was an unwavering advocate of high professional standards. His Journalist's Creed became one of the most widely circulated codes of professional ethics. Williams inspired the confidence of his fellow journalists, and he carried his message to nearly every country in which newspapers were published. Not only did he invent journalism education, he also created global organizations of journalists and spread the gospel of professionalism throughout the world. His death, in 1935, was mourned throughout the United States, and editorial tributes came from around the world. As one British editor succinctly put it, "Williams was not born to greatness. Neither was it thrust upon him. Literally, he achieved greatness."

Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge Cover

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Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge

A Journey to My Daughter's Birthplace in China

Nancy McCabe

Even before Nancy McCabe and her daughter, Sophie, left for China, it was clear that, as the mother of an adopted child from China, McCabe would be seeing the country as a tourist while her daughter, who was seeing the place for the first time in her memory, was “going home.” Part travelogue, part memoir, Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge immerses readers in an absorbing and intimate exploration of place and its influence on the meaning of family.


A sequel to Meeting Sophie, which tells McCabe’s story of adopting Sophie as a single woman, Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge picks up a decade later with a much different Sophie—a ten-year-old with braces who wears black nail polish, sneaks eyeliner, wears clothing decorated with skulls, and has mixed feelings about being one of the few non-white children in the little Pennsylvania town where they live. Since she was young, Sophie had felt a closeness to the country of her birth and held it in an idealized light. At ten, she began referring to herself as Asian instead of Asian-American. It was McCabe’s hope that visiting China would “help her become comfortable with both sides of the hyphen, figure out how to be both Chinese and American, together.”


As an adoptive parent of a foreign-born child, McCabe knows that homeland visits are an important rite of passage to help children make sense of the multiple strands of their heritage, create their own hybrid traditions, and find their particular place in the world. Yet McCabe, still reeling from her mother’s recent death, wonders how she can give any part of Sophie back to her homeland. She hopes that Sophie will find affirmation and connection in China, even as she sees firsthand some of the realities of China—overpopulation, pollution, and an oppressive government—but also worries about what that will mean for their relationship.


Throughout their journey on a tour for adopted children, mother and daughter experience China very differently. New tensions and challenges emerge, illuminating how closely intertwined place is with sense of self. As the pair learn to understand each other, they lay the groundwork for visiting Sophie’s orphanage and birth village, life-changing experiences for them both.

Damn Near White Cover

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Damn Near White

An African American Family's Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success

Carolyn Marie Wilkins

Carolyn Wilkins grew up defending her racial identity. Because of her light complexion and wavy hair, she spent years struggling to convince others that she was black. Her family’s prominence set Carolyn’s experiences even further apart from those of the average African American. Her father and uncle were well-known lawyers who had graduated from Harvard Law School. Another uncle had been a child prodigy and protégé of Albert Einstein. And her grandfather had been America's first black assistant secretary of labor.

Carolyn's parents insisted she follow the color-conscious rituals of Chicago's elite black bourgeoisie—experiences Carolyn recalls as some of the most miserable of her entire life. Only in the company of her mischievous Aunt Marjory, a woman who refused to let the conventions of “proper” black society limit her, does Carolyn feel a true connection to her family's African American heritage.

When Aunt Marjory passes away, Carolyn inherits ten bulging scrapbooks filled with family history and memories. What she finds in these photo albums inspires her to discover the truth about her ancestors—a quest that will eventually involve years of research, thousands of miles of travel, and much soul-searching.

Carolyn learns that her great-grandfather John Bird Wilkins was born into slavery and went on to become a teacher, inventor, newspaperman, renegade Baptist minister, and a bigamist who abandoned five children. And when she discovers that her grandfather J. Ernest Wilkins may have been forced to resign from his labor department post by members of the Eisenhower administration, Carolyn must confront the bittersweet fruits of her family's generations-long quest for status and approval.

Damn Near White is an insider’s portrait of an unusual American family. Readers will be drawn into Carolyn’s journey as she struggles to redefine herself in light of the long-buried secrets she uncovers. Tackling issues of class, color, and caste, Wilkins reflects on the changes of African American life in U.S. history through her dedicated search to discover her family’s powerful story.

Daring to Be Different Cover

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Daring to Be Different

Missouri's Remarkable Owen Sisters

Doris Land Mueller

 In the 1800s, American women were largely restricted to the private sphere. Most had no choice but to spend their lives in the home, marrying in their teens and living only as wives, mothers, and pillars of domesticity. Even as the women’s movement came along midcentury, it focused more on gaining legal and political rights for women than on expanding their career opportunities. So in that time period, in which the options and expectations for women’s professional lives were so limited, it is remarkable that three sisters born in the 1850s, the Owen daughters of Missouri, all achieved success and appreciation in their careers.



Doris Land Mueller’s Daring to Be Different tells the story of these exceptional sisters, whose contributions to their chosen fields are still noteworthy today. Mary, the oldest, followed a childhood interest in storytelling to become an internationally recognized folklorist, writing about the customs of Missouri’s Native Americans, the traditions of its African American communities, and the history of St. Joseph’s earliest settlers. The middle daughter, Luella, became a geologist, breaking into the “old boys club” of the nineteenth-century scientific community; her book, Cave Regions of the Ozarks and the Black Hills, was for over fifty years the only reference to include Missouri caves and is still a valuable resource on the subject. And the youngest Owen girl, Juliette, was a talented artist who painted images of birds and studied and wrote about ornithology. An ardent conservationist, Juliette was an animal advocate during the early days of the humane movement.



Through a compelling narrative driven by thorough research, Mueller showcases the different personalities of the three sisters who all eschewed marriage to pursue their callings, putting their accomplishments in context with the place and times in which they lived. With family stories, illustrations of early St. Joseph, and images of the Owen family to enrich the story, this book pays tribute to the Owen sisters’ contributions to the Show-Me State. The latest addition to the Missouri Heritage Reader Series, Daring to Be Different will appeal to anyone interested in Missouri history and the early years of the women’s movement.

The Dead End Kids of St. Louis Cover

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The Dead End Kids of St. Louis

Homeless Boys and the People Who Tried to Save Them

Bonnie Stepenoff

Joe Garagiola remembers playing baseball with stolen balls and bats while growing up on the Hill. Chuck Berry had run-ins with police before channeling his energy into rock and roll. But not all the boys growing up on the rough streets of St. Louis had loving families or managed to find success. This book reviews a century of history to tell the story of the “lost” boys who struggled to survive on the city’s streets as it evolved from a booming late-nineteenth-century industrial center to a troubled mid-twentieth-century metropolis.
To the eyes of impressionable boys without parents to shield them, St. Louis presented an ever-changing spectacle of violence. Small, loosely organized bands from the tenement districts wandered the city looking for trouble, and they often found it. The geology of St. Louis also provided for unique accommodations—sometimes gangs of boys found shelter in the extensive system of interconnected caves underneath the city. Boys could hide in these secret lairs for weeks or even months at a stretch.
            Bonnie Stepenoff gives voice to the harrowing experiences of destitute and homeless boys and young men who struggled to grow up, with little or no adult supervision, on streets filled with excitement but also teeming with sharpsters ready to teach these youngsters things they would never learn in school. Well-intentioned efforts of private philanthropists and public officials sometimes went cruelly astray, and sometimes were ineffective, but sometimes had positive effects on young lives.
Stepenoff traces the history of several efforts aimed at assisting the city’s homeless boys. She discusses the prison-like St. Louis House of Refuge, where more than 80 percent of the resident children were boys, and Father Dunne's News Boys' Home and Protectorate, which stressed education and training for more than a century after its founding. She charts the growth of Skid Row and details how historical events such as industrialization, economic depression, and wars affected this vulnerable urban population.
Most of these boys grew up and lived decent, unheralded lives, but that doesn’t mean that their childhood experiences left them unscathed. Their lives offer a compelling glimpse into old St. Louis while reinforcing the idea that society has an obligation to create cities that will nurture and not endanger the young.

Deep River Cover

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Deep River

A Memoir of a Missouri Farm

David Hamilton

Deep River uncovers the layers of history—both personal and regional—that have accumulated on a river-bottom farm in west-central Missouri. This land was part of a late frontier, passed over, then developed through the middle of the last century as the author's father and uncle cleared a portion of it and established their farm.

Hamilton traces the generations of Native Americans, frontiersmen, settlers, and farmers who lived on and alongside the bottomland over the past two centuries. It was a region fought over by Union militia and Confederate bushwhackers, as well as by their respective armies; an area that invited speculation and the establishment of several small towns, both before and after the Civil War; land on which the Missouri Indians made their long last stand, less as a military force than as a settlement and civilization; land that attracted French explorers, the first Europeans to encounter the Missouris and their relatives, the Ioways, Otoes, and Osage, a century before Lewis and Clark. It is land with a long history of occupation and use, extending millennia before the Missouris. Most recently it was briefly and intensively receptive to farming before being restored in large part as state-managed wetlands.

Deep River is composed of four sections, each exploring aspects of the farm and its neighborhood. While the family story remains central to each, slavery and the Civil War in the nineteenth century and Native American history in the centuries before that become major themes as well. The resulting portrait is both personal memoir and informal history, brought up from layers of time, the compound of which forms an emblematic American story.

The Democrats Cover

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The Democrats

From Jefferson to Clinton

Robert Allen Rutland with foreword by Jimmy Carter

Interlacing humor into his ongoing narrative, Robert Allen Rutland provides in The Democrats a readable, balanced account of how the Democratic party was founded, evolved, nearly died, and came back in the twentieth century, flourishing as a political melting pot despite numerous setbacks. This updated version of Rutland's much-heralded The Democrats: From Jefferson to Carter provides new insight into the long hiatus in the Democrats' presence in the White House between Carter and Clinton. In additon to analyzing Carter's successes and failures as president, Rutland also examines the forces that went into the Democratic defeats and Republican victories in 1980, 1984, and 1988, concluding with the election of another Jeffersonian Democrat, William Jefferson Clinton. The book ends with an examination of the dramatic results of the 1994 congressional elections that began to alert President Clinton to the challenge he would face in winning reelection in 1996.

Demon of the Lost Cause Cover

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Demon of the Lost Cause

Sherman and Civil War History

Wesley Moody

At the end of the Civil War, Union general William Tecumseh Sherman was surprisingly more popular in the newly defeated South than he was in the North. Yet, only thirty years later, his name was synonymous with evil and destruction in the South, particularly as the creator and enactor of the “total war” policy. In Demon of the Lost Cause, Wesley Moody examines these perplexing contradictions and how they and others function in past and present myths about Sherman.


            Throughout this fascinating study of Sherman’s reputation, from his first public servant role as the major general for the state of California until his death in 1891, Moody explores why Sherman remains one of the most controversial figures in American history. Using contemporary newspaper accounts, Sherman’s letters and memoirs, as well as biographies of Sherman and histories of his times, Moody reveals that Sherman’s shifting reputation was formed by whoever controlled the message, whether it was the Lost Cause historians of the South, Sherman’s enemies in the North, or Sherman himself.


With his famous “March to the Sea” in Georgia, the general became known for inventing a brutal warfare where the conflict is brought to the civilian population. In fact, many of Sherman’s actions were official tactics to be employed when dealing with guerrilla forces, yet Sherman never put an end to the talk of his innovative tactics and even added to the stories himself. Sherman knew he had enemies in the Union army and within the Republican elite who could and would jeopardize his position for their own gain. In fact, these were the same people who spread the word that Sherman was a Southern sympathizer following the war, helping to place the general in the South’s good graces. That all changed, however, when the Lost Cause historians began formulating revisions to the Civil War, as Sherman’s actions were the perfect explanation for why the South had lost.


 Demon of the Lost Cause reveals the machinations behind the Sherman myth and the reasons behind the acceptance of such myths, no matter who invented them. In the case of Sherman’s own mythmaking, Moody postulates that his motivation was to secure a military position to support his wife and children. For the other Sherman mythmakers, personal or political gain was typically the rationale behind the stories they told and believed.  In tracing Sherman’s ever-changing reputation, Moody sheds light on current and past understanding of the Civil War through the lens of one of its most controversial figures.

The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933 Cover

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The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

Lisa L. Ossian

To many rural Iowans, the stock market crash on New York’s Wall Street in October 1929 seemed an event far removed from their lives, even though the effects of the crash became all too real throughout the state. From 1929 to 1933, the enthusiastic faith that most Iowans had in Iowan President Herbert Hoover was transformed into bitter disappointment with the federal government. As a result, Iowans directly questioned their leadership at the state, county, and community levels with a renewed spirit to salvage family farms, demonstrating the uniqueness of Iowa’s rural life. 


Beginning with an overview of the state during 1929, Lisa L. Ossian describes Iowa’s particular rural dilemmas, evoking, through anecdotes and examples, the economic, nutritional, familial, cultural, industrial, criminal, legal, and political challenges that engaged the people of the state. The following chapters analyze life during the early Depression:  new prescriptions for children’s health, creative housekeeping to stretch resources, the use of farm “playlets” to communicate new information creatively and memorably, the demise of the soft coal mining industry, increased violence within the landscape, and the movement to end Prohibition.


The challenges faced in the early Great Depression years between 1929 and 1933 encouraged resourcefulness rather than passivity, creativity rather than resignation, and community rather than hopelessness. Of particular interest is the role of women within the rural landscape, as much of the increased daily work fell to farm women during this time. While the women addressed this work simply as “making do,” Ossian shows that their resourcefulness entailed complex planning essential for families’ emotional and physical health.


Ossian’s epilogue takes readers into the Iowa of today, dominated by industrial agriculture, and asks the reader to consider if this model that stemmed from Depression-era innovation is sustainable. Her rich rural history not only helps readers understand the particular forces at work that shaped the social and physical landscape of the past but also traces how these landscapes have continued in various forms for almost eighty years into this century.

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