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Vol. 13 (2003) through current issue
American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism is an annual publication devoted exclusively to scholarship and criticism relating to American magazines and newspapers of all periods Sponsored by the Research Society for American Periodicals and founded by James T. F. Tanner, American Periodicals is now under the editorship of Jean Lee Cole, Cynthia Patterson, and Eric Gardner, and is published by The Ohio State University Press. The journal is published twice a year.
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Herman Melville and the Cultural Politics of Italy
Although Herman Melville is typically considered one of America’s earliest cosmopolitan writers, scholarship has focused primarily on his involvement with the South Seas, England, and the Holy Land. In American Risorgimento: Herman Melville and the Cultural Politics of Italy, Dennis Berthold extends Melville’s transnational vision both geographically and historically by examining his many references to Italy and Rome in the context of the Risorgimento, Italy’s long quest for independence and political unity. Melville’s contemporaries, notably Margaret Fuller and Henry T. Tuckerman, recognized the similarities between the Risorgimento and America’s struggle for national identity, and the influx of exiles from the failed Italian revolutions of 1820 and 1831 made Melville’s New York a hotbed of Risorgimento sympathies. Literary and political expostulations on Italy’s plight combined to create a distinctively American view of the Risorgimento that Melville elaborated in his fiction through allusions, characterizations, and direct commentary on Roman history, Dante, Machiavelli, Pope Pius IX, and Giuseppe Mazzini. Melville followed the unfolding drama of Italian nationalism more closely than any other major American writer and found in it tropes and themes that fueled his turn to poetry, particularly after his visit to Italy in 1857. The Civil War, a crisis for American nationalism as urgent and profound as the Risorgimento, reinforced the symbolic parallels between the United States and Italy and led Melville to meditate on Giuseppe Garibaldi and other Italian patriots in one of his longest poems. Melville’s literary appropriations of Italian history, art, and politics demonstrate that transnational cultural exchanges are not confined to later American writing but originate with the country’s earliest authors and their recognition that any national literature worthy of the name must incorporate a broad international frame of reference.
The Idea of the Literary in Medieval England
Renewed interest in aesthetics, in form, and the idea of the literary has led some scholars to announce the arrival of a “new formalism,” but the provisional histories of such a critical rebirth tend to begin well after the beginning, paying scant attention to medieval literary scholarship, much less the Middle Ages. The essays in Answerable Style: The Idea of the Literary in Medieval England offer a collective rebuke to the assumption that any such aesthetic turn can succeed without careful attention to the history and criticism of “the medieval literary.” Taking as their touchstone the influential work of Anne Middleton, whose searching explorations of the dialectical intersection of form and history in Middle English writing lie at the heart of the medievalist’s literary critical enterprise, the essays in this volume address the medieval idea of the literary, with special focus on the poetry of Chaucer, Langland, and Gower. The essays, by a notable array of medievalists, range from the “contact zones” between clerical culture and vernacular writing, to manuscript study and its effects on the modalities of “persona” and voicing, to the history of emotion as a basis for new literary ideals, to the reshapings of the genre of tragedy in response to late-medieval visions of history, and finally to the relations between poets writing in different medieval vernaculars. With this unusually broad yet thematically complementary set of essays, Answerable Style offers a set of key critical and historical reference points for questions currently preoccupying literary study.
Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s
Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated. The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.
In Corey Van Landingham’s Antidote, love equates with disease, valediction is a contact sport, the moon is a lunatic, and someone is always watching. Here the uncanny coexists with the personal, so that each poem undergoes making and unmaking, is birthed and bound in an acute strangeness. Elegy is made new by a speaker both heartbreaking and transgressive. Van Landingham reveals the instability of self and perception in states of grief; she is not afraid to tip the world upside down and shake it out, gather the lint and change from its pockets and say, “I can make something with this.” Wild and surreal, driven by loss, Antidote invites both the beautiful and the brutal into its arms, allowing for shocking declarations about love: that it is like hibernation, a car crash, or a parasite. Time, geography, and landscape are called into question as backdrops for various forms of valediction. It soon becomes clear that there is no antidote one can take for grief or heartbreak; that love can, at times, feel like violence; and that one may never get better at saying goodbye.
The Roman Academy and the Commentary Tradition on Ovid's Fasti
Ovid’s Fasti, his poem on the Roman calendar, became especially influential during the fifteenth century as a guide to classical Roman culture. Ovid’s treatment of mythological and astronomical lore, his investigation of anniversaries and customs, and his charting of monuments and history offered humanist poets and intellectuals an abundance of material to unravel. They could identify with Ovid as vates operosus, or hard-working seer–poet, suggesting both researcher and inspired authority. Angela Fritsen’s Antiquarian Voices: The Roman Academy and the Commentary Tradition on Ovid’s Fasti offers the first study of the Renaissance exegesis and imitation of Ovid as antiquarian. Fritsen analyzes the Fasti commentaries by Paolo Marsi (1440–1484) and Antonio Costanzi (1436–1490) as well as the connections between the two works. It situates Ovidian Fasti studies in the Roman Academy under the mentorship of Pomponio Leto. Nowhere could the investigation of the Fasti be carried out better than in Rome. The humanists had a guide to the City in Ovid. They also regarded the Fasti as well suited to the ideology of the ancient Roman imperium’s renewal in modern papal Rome. Antiquarian Voices illustrates how in reviving the Fasti, the humanists returned Rome to its original splendor. The book demonstrates that the humanists were eager to relate the Fasti to their antiquarian pursuits—as well as to their rising personal fame.
Networking for Birth Control, 1920-1940
In the 1920s, a few Cleveland women perceived a need for reliable birth control. They believed that health and social service professionals denied women, especially poor and working-class women, critical health care information. Any Friend of the Movement tells the story of these women, their actions, and the organization they created—the direct forerunner of a modern Planned Parenthood affiliate. The disparate threads of this particular tale include the suicide of a pregnant woman, the gift of a bereaved inventor, smuggling contraceptive supplies across state lines, and sponsoring ice skating galas to fund the work. Any Friend of the Movement breaks new ground in the history of birth control activism in North America. Meyer argues that private philanthropy and voluntary action on the part of clinics like the Maternal Health Association (MHA) and their clients vitalized the larger movement at its roots and pushed it forward. Meyer adds new voices to the history of the national birth control movement and its leaders. A cache of letters from clinic clients to the MHA offers an unusually intimate look at the personal side of this reform. Meyer uses other evidence, such as speeches, reports, founders’ personal papers, newspaper accounts, and magazine and journal articles, and adds photo illustrations. Genuine concern for other women, eugenic and racist considerations, gender and class, networking, the prevailing cultural unease around sexual matters—these elements all shaped the MHA and, in doing so, shaped the larger struggle for reproductive rights.
Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary
While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture. Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures.
Boris Pasternak's Early Prose
Art after Philosophy: Boris Pasternak’s Early Prose, by Elena Glazov-Corrigan, redefines an area in Slavic studies which has suffered from neglect for several decades, namely, Pasternak’s early prose narratives. In her bold new study, Glazov-Corrigan analyzes the conceptual networks of thought Pasternak developed when he turned to literature after abandoning the study of Neo-Kantianism in Marburg during the summer of 1912. This book shows conclusively that Pasternak’s knowledge of philosophy is inseparable from his prose works, even though in his early stories and novellas (1913–1918) philosophical ideas operate neither as discrete textual units nor as micro-elements or clusters of possible signification. In the early Pasternak, philosophy becomes a narrative art, a large-scale narrative frame, a manner of seeing rather than of constructing reality. After Roman Jakobson’s famous 1935 essay, which characterized the early Pasternak as a “virtuoso of metonymy,” in contrast to the metaphoric Mayakovsky, no other approach has been able to generate comparable scholarly influence. The present study takes up the implicit challenge of this critical impasse. Entering into a debate with Jakobson’s findings, Art after Philosophy illuminates Pasternak’s boldest artistic experiments and suggests to his readers entirely new ways of approaching not only his early but also his later writing.
Domesticity and World War I in American Literature
This study demonstrates that such literary divisions as war novel and domestic novel limit readers’ understanding of the ways these categories rely on and respond to each other. Haytock argues that gender creates an ideological context through which both domesticity and war are viewed and understood; issues of home and violence are intricately related for U.S. authors who wrote about the First World War. Haytock explores what war and domestic texts represent in light of the deconstructionist and feminist project of re-reading: seeing what is said in its cultural and historical context and seeing what is not said. Readers take food, shelter, and clothing for granted, and yet the way we treat them is part of what allows us to define ourselves as “civilized.” In war novels and domestic novels by Temple Bailey, Ellen Glasgow, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, John Dos Passos, Thomas Boyd, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty, the idea of home and domestic rituals contribute to the creation of war propaganda, the soldier’s experience of war, and the home front’s ability to confront the war after the fact. This approach helps literary criticism reject the separation of men’s and women’s writing, particularly but not only their writing about war.