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“Marilyn Krysl's astonishing Dinner with Osama somehow finds the intersection between deep anguish at the state of the world and brilliant, caustic, and hilarious sociopolitical satire of America post-9/11. Its effrontery is peculiarly female, its fierce intelligence that of a mother—or even (‘Are We Dwelling Deep Yet?’) a Great Mother—who needs to save and feed the world however she can. Its north and south must be ‘Mitosis,’ Krysl's heartbreaking life history of a young Dinka woman whose way of life, and source of food, have been destroyed by civil war in Sudan; its east and west is surely the title story, in the voice of a politically irreproachable matriarch of Boulder, Colorado, who does her part by extending a dinner invitation to Osama—yes, that Osama—through her ‘pal’ Abdullah at the local gyros stand; and Osama not only receives it, he accepts. Israelis and Palestinians, ‘conflict’-addicted cliché-mongers of the creative writing workshop, violent extremists of every stripe, and above all the wealthy consumerist left are all skewered in this miraculous collection.” —Jaimy Gordon, author of Bogeywoman and She Drove Without Stopping
Religion and Conflict in Neoliberal Africa
In colonial Africa, Christianity has often supported, sustained, and legitimated a violent process of governance. More recently, however, following decades of violence and oppression, churches and religious organizations have mobilized African publics against corrupt and abusive regimes and facilitated new forms of reconciliation and cooperation. It is the purpose of Displacing the State: Religion and Conflict in Neoliberal Africa to illustrate the nature of religion’s ambivalent power in Africa while suggesting new directions in the study of religion, conflict, and peace studies, with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa. As the editors make clear, most of the literature on conflict and peacebuilding in Africa has been concerned with dramatic conflicts such as genocide and war. In these studies, “conflict” usually means a violent clash between parties with opposing interests, while “peace” implies reconciliation and cooperation between these parties, usually with a view to achieving a social order predicated on the idea of the sovereign national state whose hegemony is viewed as normative. The contributors argue that this perspective is inadequate for understanding the nature, depth, and persistence of conflict in Africa. In contrast, the chapters in this volume adopt an ethnographic approach, often focusing on mundane manifestations of both conflict and peace, and in so doing draw attention to the ambiguities and ambivalences of conflict and peace in everyday life. Displacing the State makes two important contributions to the study of religion, conflict, and peacebuilding. First, it shows how peace is conceptualized and negotiated in daily life, often in ways that are counterintuitive and anything but peaceful. Second, the volume uses African case studies to confront assumptions about the nature of the relationships among religion, conflict, and peace.
Rereading The Nun's Priest's Tale
Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is one of the most popular of The Canterbury Tales. It is only 646 lines long, yet it contains elements of a beast fable, an exemplum, a satire, and other genres. There have been countless attempts to articulate the “real” meaning of the tale, but it has confounded the critics. Peter W. Travis contends that part of the fun and part of the frustration of trying to interpret the tale has to do with Chaucer’s use of the tale to demonstrate the resistance of all literature to traditional critical practices. But the world of The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is so creative and so quintessentially Chaucerian that critics persist in writing about it. No one has followed the critical fortunes of Chauntecleer and his companions more closely over time than Peter Travis. One of the most important contributions of this book is his assessment of the tale’s reception. Travis also provides an admirable discussion of genre: his analysis of parody and Menippean satire clarify how to approach works such as this tale that take pleasure in resisting traditional generic classifications. Travis also demonstrates that the tale deliberately invoked its readers’ memories of specific grammar school literary assignments, and the tale thus becomes a miniaturized synopticon of western learning. Building on these analyses and insights, Travis’s final argument is that The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is Chaucer’s premier work of self-parody, an ironic apologia pro sua arte. The most profound matters foregrounded in the tale are not advertisements of the poet’s achievements. Rather, they are poetic problems that Chaucer wrestled with from the beginning of his career and, at the end of that career, wanted to address in a concentrated, experimental, and parapoetic way.
Democratic Critiques of Democracy
Guillermo O'Donnell here brings together a collection of significant recent essays in which he considers both the method for and substance of critiques of democracies. While progress has been made in democratization, the authoritarian legacy hangs as a shadow over that advancement. O'Donnell engages in his analysis while keeping a firm gaze on that dangerous past. O'Donnell's work has influenced a generation of political scientists. The essays in this volume bring forward and develop many of the ideas presented in his earlier collection, Counterpoints: Selected Essays on Authoritarianism and Democracy. This work will be of interest to scholars working in justice reform, democratization, and comparative politics.
Diplomacy, Theology, and the Politics of Interwar Ecumenism
Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans is the first sustained study of inter-Orthodox relations, the special role of the Anglican Church, and the problems of Orthodox nationalism in the modern age. Despite many challenges, the interwar years were a time of intense creativity in the Russian Orthodox Church. Russian émigrés, freed from enforced isolation in the wake of the Russian Revolution, found themselves in close contact with figures from other Orthodox churches and from the Roman Catholic Church and all varieties of Protestant confessions. For many reasons, Russian exiles found themselves drawn to the Anglican Church in particular. The interwar years thus witnessed a concentrated effort to bridge the gap between Orthodox and Anglican. Geffert’s book is a detailed history of that effort. It is the story of efforts toward rapprochement by two churches and their ultimate failure to achieve formal unity. The same political, diplomatic, historical, personal, and religious forces that first inspired contact were the ones that ultimately undermined the effort. Bryn Geffert recounts the history of an important chapter in the history of Christian ecumenism, one that is relevant to contemporary efforts to achieve meaningful interfaith dialogue.
Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Creation
In Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul: Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value, Francisco J. Benzoni addresses the pervasive and destructive view that there is a moral gulf between human beings and other creatures. Thomas Aquinas, whose metaphysics entails such a moral gulf, holds that human beings are ultimately separate from nature. Alfred North Whitehead, in contrast, maintains that human beings are continuous with the rest of nature. These different metaphysical systems demand different ethical stances toward creation. Benzoni analyzes and challenges Thomas's understanding of the human soul, his primary justification for the moral separation, arguing that it is finally philosophically untenable. The author finds promising the alternative metaphysics of Whitehead, for whom human beings are a part of nature—even if the highest part; all creatures have a degree of subjectivity and creativity, and thus all have intrinsic value and moral worth, independent of subjective human valuation. Further, though there is difference, there is no moral gulf between God and the world. God is truly affected by the experience of creatures. Benzoni argues that if this vision of moral worth is articulated with sufficient force and clarity, it could help heal the human relation to our planet.
New Horizons for the Literary
A visible presence for some two decades, electronic literature has already produced many works that deserve the rigorous scrutiny critics have long practiced with print literature. Only now, however, with Electronic Literature by N. Katherine Hayles, do we have the first systematic survey of the field and an analysis of its importance, breadth, and wide-ranging implications for literary study. Hayles’s book is designed to help electronic literature move into the classroom. Her systematic survey of the field addresses its major genres, the challenges it poses to traditional literary theory, and the complex and compelling issues at stake. She develops a theoretical framework for understanding how electronic literature both draws on the print tradition and requires new reading and interpretive strategies. Grounding her approach in the evolutionary dynamic between humans and technology, Hayles argues that neither the body nor the machine should be given absolute theoretical priority. Rather, she focuses on the interconnections between embodied writers and users and the intelligent machines that perform electronic texts. Through close readings of important works, Hayles demonstrates that a new mode of narration is emerging that differs significantly from previous models. Key to her argument is the observation that almost all contemporary literature has its genesis as electronic files, so that print becomes a specific mode for electronic text rather than an entirely different medium. Hayles illustrates the implications of this condition with three contemporary novels that bear the mark of the digital.
Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700
In The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350–1700, Nancy Bradley Warren expands on the topic of female spirituality, first explored in her book Women of God and Arms, to encompass broad issues of religion, gender, and historical periodization. Through her analyses of the variety of ways in which medieval spirituality was deliberately and actively carried forward to the early modern period, Warren underscores both continuities and revisions that challenge conventional distinctions between medieval and early modern culture. The early modern writings of Julian of Norwich are an illustrative starting point for Warren’s challenge to established views of English religious cultures. In a single chapter, Warren follows the textual and devotional practices of Julian as they influence two English Benedictine nuns in exile, and then Grace Mildmay, a seventeenth-century Protestant gentry woman, “to shed light on the ways in which individual encounters of the divine, especially gendered bodily encounters expressed textually, signify for others both personally and socio-historically.” In subsequent chapters, Warren discusses St. Birgitta of Sweden’s imitatio Christi in the context of the importance of Spain and Spanish women in shaping a distinctive form of early modern Englishness strongly aligned with medieval religious culture; juxtaposes the fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe with the life and writings of Anna Trapnel, a seventeenth-century Baptist; and treats Catherine of Siena together with the Protestant Anne Askew and Lollard and Recusant women. In the final chapters she focuses on the interplay of gender and textuality in women’s textual representations of themselves and in works written by men who used the traditions of female spirituality in the service of competing orthodoxies.
Essays on the Natural World in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Historians and cultural critics face special challenges when treating the nonhuman natural world in the medieval and early modern periods. Their most daunting problem is that in both the visual and written records of the time, nature seems to be both everywhere and nowhere. In the broadest sense, nature was everywhere, for it was vital to human survival. Agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine, and the patterns of human settlement all have their basis in natural settings. Humans also marked personal, community, and seasonal events by natural occurrences and built their cultural explanations around the workings of nature, which formed the unspoken backdrop for every historical event and document of the time. Yet in spite of the ubiquity of nature’s continual presence in the physical surroundings and the artistic and literary cultures of these periods, overt discussion of nature is often hard to find. Until the sixteenth century, responses to nature were quite often recorded only in the course of investigating other subjects. In a very real sense, nature went without saying. As a result, modern scholars analyzing the concept of nature in the history of medieval and early modern Europe must often work in deeply interdisciplinary ways. This challenge is deftly handled by the contributors to Engaging with Nature, whose essays provide insights into such topics as concepts of animal/human relationships; environmental and ecological history; medieval hunting; early modern collections of natural objects; the relationship of religion and nature; the rise of science; and the artistic representations of exotic plants and animals produced by Europeans encountering the New World.