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The Paradox of Community in Contemporary Fiction
Why are some versions of the collective “we” admired and desired while other versions are scorned and feared? A Body of Individuals: The Paradox of Community in Contemporary Fiction examines the conflict over the collective “we” through discourses of community. In the discourse of benevolent community, community is a tool towards achieving healing, productiveness, and connection. In the discourse of dissenting community, community that serves a function is simply another name for totalitarianism; instead, community must merely be a fact of coexistence. What are the sources and the appeal of these irreconcilable views of community, and how do they interact in contemporary fiction’s attempt at imagining “we”? By engaging contemporary U.S. writers such as Toni Morrison, Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, Lydia Davis, Lynne Tillman, and David Markson with theorists such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Giorgio Agamben, François Lyotard, Ernesto Laclau, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, this book reveals how the two conflicting discourses of community—benevolent and dissenting—are inextricably intertwined in various literary visions of “we”—“we” of the family, of the world, of the human, and of coexistence. These literary visions demonstrate, in a way that popular visions of community and postmodern theories of community cannot, the dialectical relationship between the discourses of benevolent community and dissenting community. Sue-Im Lee argues that contemporary fiction’s inability to resolve the paradox results in a model of ambivalent community, one that offers unique insights into community and into the very notion of unity.
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.
The Bones of Garbo rattles skeletons in the house of fiction. These stories revel in sexual experiment and linguistic play. Lewis finds her subjects on the wrong side of the sheets and the tracks, in marginal neighborhoods where characters confront the cost of motherhood, the mystery of desire and the pain of invasion, the meaning of race and tribe. Ultimately, these seekers reach connection by way of confrontation. In “Waiting Period,” a couple creates their own commitment ritual when they go together to take an AIDS test; in “Goddess Love,” a young woman struggles with an otherworldly attraction toward her pagan roommate; in “All Hallow’s Leaves,” an African American teenager meets his demons in a fundamentalist haunted house. Lewis is relentless but compassionate, and her fiction mixes bitter herbs and honey on the tongue. In the title story, “Bones of Garbo,” a teenage girl aspiring to be an actress and undergoing her first role as an ingénue, treats the reader to the life and loves of Greta Garbo as her own “coming of age” story unfolds. “From the “Marijuana Tree” to “Evacuation Route,” these stories are luminous and fanciful, but also grounded in the all-too-real wounds and dramas that make up our regular come and go. The book brims with smart arresting observation.
Anxiety, Intertexts, and the Miltonic Memory
Matt Debenham’s stories are for people who think they don’t like short stories. These stories don’t leave off in mid-breath; instead, they feature characters who seem to live on even after their closing pages. The humor in The Book of Right and Wrong makes the jarring moments that much more jarring, and the tender moments that much more tender. their characters at the defining moments of their lives. A mother finds herself defending her son’s biggest bully from a tormentor of his own; a young man watches as his cape-wearing former high-school classmate proves himself more adept at making friends; a social worker gambles everything on expediting an adoption—and causes unforeseen consequences for every person in her life; a boy standing in for Jimmy Carter in his elementary school’s mock-election inadvertently starts a bloody playground war; an ex-con single father finds himself on the inside of his town’s social circle, with no clue as to how the game is played. With lively storytelling and empathy to spare, The Book of Right and Wrong defies the notion that full, memorable characters live only in novels.
A Biographical History
Each chapter also addresses important events and transformations in the state’s history such as: European settlement; Native American resistance; the creation of territorial and state governments; the development of the state’s educational and economic institutions; the disruption created by the Civil War; the struggle of African Americans and women to participate in Ohio’s public life; efforts to ameliorate the pernicious effects of industrialization; the negotiation of the state’s role in a nation increasingly dominated by the federal government; or the ramifications of de-industrialization and rise of a service economy.
Hawthorne in His Notebooks
The Business of Reflection: Hawthorne in His Notebooks is a scholarly, annotated selection of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Notebooks, English Notebooks, and French and Italian Notebooks culled from the authoritative Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Ohio State University Press, 23 volumes) and intended both for students and teachers of American literature and for general readers. The American Notebooks (1835–53) cover the period of most of Hawthorne’s published writing and are crucial background for the genesis of his fiction, for his psychological and vocational development, for his marriage to Sophia Peabody, and for his relationships with contemporaries such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. The English Notebooks (1853–60) record his experiences and impressions during his residence in England, among them his incisive and influential sketch of Herman Melville. The French and Italian Notebooks (1858–59) are a sourcebook for Hawthorne’s last published romance, The Marble Faun, and, as Henry James observed, for his deeply ambivalent response to the aesthetic and historical legacy of European civilization. Taken together, Hawthorne’s notebooks are essential materials for studying Hawthorne as a writer and a man. They present him at his most candid, intimate, and robust—a many-sided figure who complements and revises the persona known from his published writings, often in unexpected ways.
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.
Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe
In Challenging Parties, Changing Parliaments, Miki Caul Kittilson examines women’s presence in party politics and national legislatures, and the conditions under which their entrance occurs. She theorizes that parties are more likely to incorporate women when their strategy takes into account the institutional and political “opportunity structures” of both the party and party system. Kittilson studies how women pressed for greater representation, and how democratic party systems responded to their demands. Research on women’s representation has largely focused at the national level. Yet these studies miss the substantial variations between parties within and across European democracies. This book provides systematic cross-national and case study evidence to show that political parties are the key mechanism for increasing women’s parliamentary representation. Kittilson uncovers party-level mechanisms that explain the growth in women’s parliamentary participation since the 1970s in ten European democracies. The inclusion of new challengers in party politics is often attributed to mounting pressures from activists and public opinion at large. This book contradicts the conventional wisdom by demonstrating that women’s gains within parties flow not only from pressure from party supporters, but also from calculated efforts made by the central party leadership in a top-down fashion under specific circumstances. Certainly women’s efforts are essential, and they can be most effective when they are framed, timed, and targeted toward the most opportune structures within the party hierarchy. Kittilson concludes that specific party institutions encourage women’s ascendance to the top ranks of power within a political party.
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.