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An Erotics of Contemporary American Fiction
The Body of Writing: An Erotics of Contemporary American Fiction examines four postmodern texts whose authors play with the material conventions of “the book”: Joseph McElroy’s Plus (1977), Carole Maso’s AVA (1993), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE (1982), and Steve Tomasula’s VAS (2003). By demonstrating how each of these works calls for an affirmative engagement with literature, Flore Chevaillier explores a centrally important issue in the criticism of contemporary fiction. Critics have claimed that experimental literature, in its disruption of conventional story-telling and language uses, resists literary and social customs. While this account is accurate, it stresses what experimental texts respond to more than what they offer. This book proposes a counter-view to this emphasis on the strictly privative character of innovative fictions by examining experimental works’ positive ideas and affects, as well as readers’ engagement in the formal pleasure of experimentations with image, print, sound, page, orthography, and syntax. Elaborating an erotics of recent innovative literature implies that we engage in the formal pleasure of its experimentations with signifying techniques and with the materiality of their medium. Such engagement provokes a fusion of the reader’s senses and the textual material, which invites a redefinition of corporeality as a kind of textual practice.
From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription
In the past decade, classical scholarship has been polarized by questions concerning the establishment of a literary tradition in Latin in the late third century BCE. On one side of the divide, there are those scholars who insist on the primacy of literature as a hermeneutical category and who, consequently, maintain a focus on poetic texts and their relationship with Hellenistic precedents. On the other side are those who prefer to rely on a pool of Latin terms as pointers to larger sociohistorical dynamics, and who see the emergence of Latin literature as one expression of these dynamics. Through a methodologically innovative exploration of the interlacing of genre and form with practice, Enrica Sciarrinobridges the gap between these two scholarly camps and develops new areas of inquiry by rescuing from the margins of scholarship the earliest remnants of Latin prose associated with Cato the Censor—a “new man” and one of the most influential politicians of his day. By systematically analyzing poetic and prose texts in relation to one another and to diverse authorial subjectivities, Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose: From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription offers an entirely new perspective on the formation of Latin literature, challenges current assumptions about Roman cultural hierarchies, and sheds light on the social value attributed to different types of writing practices in mid-Republican Rome.
Writing Women across the African Diaspora
In Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora, K. Merinda Simmons argues that, in first-person narratives about women of color, contexts of migration illuminate constructions of gender and labor. These constructions and migrations suggest that the oft-employed notion of “authenticity” is not as useful a classification as many feminist and postcolonial scholars have assumed. Instead of relying on so-called authentic feminist journeys and heroines for her analysis, Simmons calls for a self-reflexive scholarship that takes seriously the scholar’s own role in constructing the subject. The starting point for this study is the nineteenth-century Caribbean narrative The History of Mary Prince (1831). Simmons puts Prince’s narrative in conversation with three twentieth-century novels: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, and Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. She incorporates autobiography theory to shift the critical focus from the object of study—slave histories—to the ways people talk about those histories and to the guiding interests of such discourses. In its reframing of women’s migration narratives, Simmons’s study unsettles theoretical certainties and disturbs the very notion of a cohesive diaspora.
New Texts, New Contexts
During her lifetime, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935) was a popular writer, public speaker, and social reformer whose literary interests ranged from short stories, novels, and nonfiction philosophical studies to poetry, newspaper columns, plays, and many other genres. Though she fell into obscurity after her death, there has been a resurgence of interest in Gilman’s works among literary scholars. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: New Texts, New Contexts represents a new phase of feminist scholarship in recovery, drawing readers’ attention to Gilman’s lesser-known works from fresh perspectives that revise what we thought we knew about the author and her work. Volume contributors consider an array of texts that have not yet enjoyed adequate critical scrutiny, including Gilman’s short fiction, drama, and writing for periodicals, as well as her long fiction. Similarly, incorporating careful archival, biographical, and historical research, contributors explore Gilman’s life and writings—including her most famous story, “The Yellow Wall-Paper”—through strikingly new critical lenses. Other essays included here assess Gilman’s place in a longer historical trajectory and within multiple rhetorical traditions, from the genre of feminist humor to the canon of African American women’s literary production.
Literary Form in Working-Class Political Theory and Practice
Can imaginative literature change the political and social history of a class or nation? In The Chartist Imaginary: Literary Form in Working-Class Political Theory and Practice, Margaret Loose turns to the Chartist Movement—Britain’s first mass working-class movement, dating from the 1830s to the 1840s—and argues that, based on literature by members of the movement, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Chartist writing awakened workers’ awareness of discord between professed ideals and reality; exercised their conceptual powers (literary and social); and sharpened their appetite for more knowledge, intellectual power, dignity, and agency in the present to fashion a utopian future. Igniting such self-respecting, politically transfigurative energy was a unique kind of agency Loose calls “the Chartist imaginary.” In examining the Chartist movement, Loose balances the nervous projections of canonical Victorian writers against a consideration of the ways that laborers represented Chartism’s aims and tactics. The Chartist Imaginary offers close readings of poems and fiction by Chartist figures from Ernest Jones and Thomas Cooper to W. J. Linton, Thomas Martin Wheeler, and Gerald Massey. It also draws on extensive archival research to examine, for the first time, working-class female Chartist poets Mary Hutton, E. L. E., and Elizabeth La Mont. Focusing on the literary form of these works, Loose strongly argues for the political power of the aesthetic in working-class literature.
Using queer theory to untangle all types of nonnormative sexual identities, Tison Pugh uses Chaucer’s work to expose the ongoing tension in the Middle Ages between an erotic culture that glorified love as an ennobling passion and an anti-erotic religious and philosophical tradition that denigrated love and (perhaps especially) its enactments. Chaucer’s (Anti‑)Eroticisms and the Queer Middle Ages considers the many ways in which anti-eroticisms complicate the conventional image of Chaucer. With chapters addressing such topics as mutual masochism, homosocial brotherhood, necrotic erotics, queer families, and the eroticisms of Chaucer’s God, Chaucer’s (Anti‑)Eroticisms will forever change the way readers see the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s other masterpieces. For Chaucer, erotic pursuits establish the thrust and tenor of many of his narratives, as they also expose the frustrations inherent in pursuing desires frowned upon by the religious foundations of Western medieval culture. One cannot love freely within an ideological framework that polices sexuality and privileges the anti-erotic Christian ideals of virginity and chastity, yet loving queerly creates escapes from social structures inimical to amour and its expressions in the medieval period. Thus Chaucer is not just England’s foundational love poet, he is also England’s foundational queer poet.
The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe
The fourteen essays that comprise Collections in Context: The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe interrogate questions posed by French, Flemish, English, and Italian collections of all sorts—libraries as a whole, anthologies and miscellanies assembled within a single manuscript or printed book, and even illustrated ivory boxes. Collecting became an increasingly important activity during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries, when the decreased cost of producing books made ownership available to more people. But the act of collecting is never neutral: it gathers information, orders material (especially linear texts), and prioritizes everything—in short, collecting both organizes and comments on knowledge. Moreover, the context of a collection must reveal something about identity, but whose? That of the compiler? The reader or viewer? The donor? The patron? With essays by a wide array of international scholars, Collections in Context demonstrates that the very act of collecting inevitably imposes some kind of relationship among what might otherwise be naively thought of as disparate elements and simultaneously exposes something about the community that created and used the collection. Thus, Collections in Context offers unusual insights into how collecting both produced knowledge and built community in early modern Europe.
The Chester-le-Street Additions to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19
The Community of St. Cuthbert in the Late Tenth Century: The Chester-le-Street Additions to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 reveals the dynamic role a seemingly marginalized community played during a defining period for the emergence of English religious identity. Based on her new critical edition of additions made to Durham Cathedral Library A.IV.19 and by questioning the purpose of those late tenth-century additions, Karen Louise Jolly is able to uncover much about the Chester-le-Street scribes and their tumultuous time, rife as it was with various political tensions, from Vikings and local Northumbrian nobles to an increasingly dominant West Saxon monarchy. Why, for instance, would a priest laboriously insert an Old English gloss above every Latin word in a collection of prayers intended to be performed in Latin? What motivated the same English scribe to include Irish-derived Christian materials in the manuscript, including prayers invoking the archangel Panchiel to clear birds from a field? Jolly’s extensive contextual analysis includes a biography of Aldred, the priest and provost of the community primarily responsible for adding these unusual texts. Besides reinterpreting the manuscript's paleography and codicology, she investigates both the drive for reform evidenced by the added liturgical materials and the new importance of Irish-derived encyclopedic and educational materials.
Provincial Belief and the Making of Joyce and Rushdie
In Conspicuous Bodies: Provincial Belief and the Making of Joyce and Rushdie, Jean Kane re-examines the literature of James Joyce and Salman Rushdie from a post-secularist perspective, arguing that their respective religions hold critical importance in their works. Though Joyce and Rushdie were initially received as cosmopolitans, both authors subsequently reframed their public images and aligned themselves instead with a provincial religious identity, which emphasized the interconnections between religious devotion and embodiment. At the same time, both Joyce and Rushdie managed to resist the doctrinal content of their religions. Conspicuous Bodies presents Joyce as a founder and Rushdie as an inheritor of a distinctive discourse of belief about the importance of physical bodies and knowledge in religious practice. In doing so, it moves the reception of Joyce and Rushdie away from what previous critics have emphasized—away from questions of aesthetics and from a narrow understanding of belief—and instead questions the assumption that belief should be segregated from matters of physicality and knowledge. Kane reintroduces the concept of spiritual embodiment in order to expand our understanding of what counts as spiritual agency in non-western and minority literatures.
Aristophanes, Rhetoric, and Democracy in Fifth-Century Athens
The Court of Comedy: Aristophanes, Rhetoric, and Democracy in Fifth-Century Athens, by Wilfred E. Major, analyzes how writers of comedy in Classical Greece satirized the emerging art of rhetoric and its role in political life. In the fifth century BCE, the development of rhetoric proceeded hand in hand with the growth of democracy both on Sicily and at Athens. In turn, comic playwrights in Athens, most notably Aristophanes, lampooned oratory as part of their commentary on the successes and failures of the young democracy. This innovative study is the first book to survey all the surviving comedy from the fifth century BCE on these important topics. The evidence reveals that Greek comedy provides a revealing commentary on the incipient craft of rhetoric before its formal conventions were stabilized. Furthermore, Aristophanes’ depiction of rhetoric and of Athenian democratic institutions indicates that he fundamentally supports the Athenian democracy and not, as is often argued, oligarchic opposition to it. These conclusions confirm recent work that reinterprets the early development of rhetoric in Classical Greece and offer fresh perspectives on the debate over the role of comedy in early Greek democracy. Throughout, Major capitalizes on recent progress in the understanding of the performance dynamics of Classical Greek theater.