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Against Life

Edited by Alastair Hunt and Stephanie Youngblood

The contributors to Against Life think critically about the turn to life in recent theory and culture. Editors Alastair Hunt and Stephanie Youngblood shape their collection to provocatively challenge the assumption, rife throughout the humanities, that life needs to be cultivated, affirmed, and redeemed. The editors and their contributors explore how we might be better off daring to think ethics and politics, as well as the project of the humanities, in more radical terms, as a refusal to choose life. What forms of equality and freedom might emerge if we did not organize being-together under signs of life? Taken together, the essays in Against Life mark an important turn in the ethico-political work of the humanities.





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The American Revolution and the Press

The Promise of Independence

Carol Sue Humphrey, with a Foreword by David A. Copeland

Carol Sue Humphrey’s The American Revolution and the Press argues that newspapers played an important role during America’s struggle for independence by keeping Americans engaged in the war even when the fighting occurred in distant locales. From the moment that the colonials received word of Britain’s new taxes in 1764 until reports of the peace treaty arrived in 1783, the press constituted the major source of information about events and developments in the conflict with the mother country. Both Benjamin Franklin, one of the Revolution’s greatest leaders, and Ambrose Serle, a Loyalist, described the press as an “engine” that should be used to advance the cause. The efforts of Patriot printers to keep readers informed about the war helped ensure ultimate success by boosting morale and rallying Americans to the cause until victory was achieved. As Humphrey illustrates, Revolutionary-era newspapers provided the political and ideological unity that helped Americans secure their independence and create a new nation.

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Anti-Nazi Modernism

The Challenges of Resistance in 1930s Fiction

Mia Spiro's Anti-Nazi Modernism marks a major step forward in the critical debates over the relationship between modernist art and politics. Spiro analyzes the antifascist, and particularly anti-Nazi, narrative methods used by key British and American fiction writers in the 1930s. Focusing on works by Djuna Barnes, Christopher Isherwood, and Virginia Woolf, Spiro illustrates how these writers use an "anti-Nazi aesthetic" to target and expose Nazism’s murderous discourse of exclusion. The three writers challenge the illusion of harmony and unity promoted by the Nazi spectacle in parades, film, rallies, and propaganda. Spiro illustrates how their writings, seldom read in this way, resonate with the psychological and social theories of the period and warn against Nazism’s suppression of individuality. Her approach also demonstrates how historical and cultural contexts complicate the works, often reinforcing the oppressive discourses they aim to attack. This book explores the textual ambivalences toward the "Others" in society—most prominently the Modern Woman, the homosexual, and the Jew. By doing so, Spiro uncovers important clues to the sexual and racial politics that were widespread in Europe and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.

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Apprehending the Inaccessible

Freudian Psychoanalysis and Existential Phenomenology

Richard Askay and Jensen Farquhar

Throughout history philosophers have relentlessly pursued what may be called "inaccessible domains." This book explores how the traditions of existential phenomenology relate to Freudian psychoanalysis. A clear, succinct, and systematic account of the philosophical presuppositions of psychoanalytic theory and practice, this work offers a deeper and richer understanding and appreciation of Freudian thought, as well as its antecedents and influences.

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Archaeologies of Modernity

Avant-Garde Bildung

Rainer Rumold

Archaeologies of Modernity explores the shift from the powerful tradition of literary forms of Bildung—the education of the individual as the self—to the visual forms of “Bildung” (from Bild) that characterize German modernism and the European avant-garde. Interrelated chapters examine the work of Franz Kafka, Jean/Hans Arp, Walter Benjamin, and Carl Einstein, and of artists such as Oskar Kokoschka or Kurt Schwitters, in the light of the surge of an autoformation (Bildung) of verbal and visual images at the core of expressionist and surrealist aesthetics and the art that followed. In this first scholarly focus on modernist avant-garde Bildung in its entwinement of conceptual modernity with forms of the archaic, Rumold resituates the significance of the poet and art theorist Einstein and his work on the language of primitivism and the visual imagination. Archaeologies of Modernity is a major reconsideration of the conception of the modernist project and will be of interest to scholars across the disciplines.

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Armed Ambiguity

Women Warriors in German Literature and Culture in the Age of Goethe

Armed Ambiguity interrogates tropes of the woman warrior constructed by print culture—including press reports, novels, dramatic works, and lyrical texts—during the decades-long conflict in Europe around 1800.



Julie Koser sheds new light on how women’s bodies became a semiotic battleground for competing social, cultural, and political agendas in one of the most critical periods of modern history. Reading the women warriors in this book as barometers of the social and political climate in German-speaking territories, Koser reveals how literary texts and cultural artifacts foregrounding women’s armed insurrection perpetuated or contested the discursive construction and illusionary dichotomization of "public" versus "private" spheres along a gendered fault line. Koser illuminates how reactionary visions of "ideal femininity" competed with subversive fantasies of new femininities in the ideological battle being waged over the restructuring of German society.


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The Art of Distances

Ethical Thinking in Twentieth-Century Literature

Corina Stan

In The Art of Distances, Corina Stan identifies an insistent preoccupation with interpersonal distance in a strand of twentieth-century European and Anglophone literature that includes the work of George Orwell, Paul Morand, Elias Canetti, Iris Murdoch, Walter Benjamin, Annie Ernaux, Günter Grass, and Damon Galgut. Specifically, Stan shows that these authors all engage in philosophical meditations, in the realm of literary writing, on the ethical question of how to live with others and how to find an ideal interpersonal distance at historical moments when there are no obviously agreed-upon social norms for ethical behavior.

Bringing these authors into dialogue with philosophers such as Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Helmuth Plessner, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Luc Nancy, Emmanuel Levinas, Peter Sloterdijk, Guillaume le Blanc, and Pierre Zaoui, Stan shows how the question of the right interpersonal distance became a fundamental one for the literary authors under consideration and explores what forms and genres they proposed in order to convey the complexity of this question.

Stan demonstrates that these emblematically twentieth-century authors reimagined how people can live together and provided alternatives to established ways of thinking about community. In this way, she suggests, these literary authors are engaged, albeit unknowingly, in fleshing out what Roland Barthes called “a science, or perhaps an art, of distances.”

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The Author as Hero

Self and Tradition in Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Nabokov

Justin Weir

Justin Weir develops a persuasive analysis of the complex relationship between authorial self reflection and literary tradition in three of the most famous Russian novels of the first half of the twentieth century: Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, and Nabokov's The Gift. With Weir's innovative interpretation, and its compelling historical, cultural, and theoretical insights, The Author as Hero offers a new view of an important moment in the evolution of Russian literature.

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Autogeography

Poems

Reginald Harris

Winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize


In his second collection of poetry, Reginald Harris traverses real and imagined landscapes, searching for answers to the question “What are you?” From Baltimore to Havana, Atlantic City to Alabama—and from the broad memories of childhood to the very specific moment of Marvin Gaye singing at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game shortly before his death—this is a travel diary of internal and external jour­neys exploring issues of race and sexuality. The poet trav­eler falls into and out of love and lust, sometimes coupled, sometimes alone. Autogeography tracks how who you are changes depending on where you are; how where you are and where you’ve been determine who you are and where you might be headed. 

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Badiou, Zizek, and Political Transformations

The Cadence of Change

Adrian Johnston

Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek together have emerged as two of Europe’s most significant living philosophers. In a shared spirit of resistance to global capitalism, both are committed to bringing philosophical reflection to bear upon present day political circumstances. These thinkers are especially interested in asking what consequences the supposed twentieth century demise of communism entails for leftist political theory in the early twenty first century.

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