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Law and Gender in the Decameron
The Governance of Friendship: Law and Gender in the Decameron by Michael Sherberg addresses two related and heretofore unexamined problems in the pages of the Decameron: its theory of friendship and the legal theory embedded in it. Sherberg shows how Aristotle’s Ethics as well as Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica inform these two discourses, at the intersection of which Boccaccio locates the question of gender relations which is one of the book’s central concerns.
Science Fiction and Transformative Environmentalism
Science fiction goes green? Eric C. Otto explores literary science fiction’s engagement with a central concern of our times: ecological degradation. Situated at the intersection of science fiction studies and environmental philosophy, Green Speculations: Science Fiction and Transformative Environmentalism highlights key works of environmental science fiction that critique various human values for their roles in instigating such degradation. The books receiving ecocritical treatment in Green Speculations include George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides (1949), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest (1972), Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean (1986), Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (1993, 1994, 1996), and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009). Otto reads these and other important science fiction novels as educative in their representations of environmental issues and the environmental philosophies that have emerged in response to them. Green Speculations demonstrates how environmental science fiction can be read not only as reflecting the ideas of environmental philosophies such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, and ecosocialism, but also as instrumental in thinking through the tenets of these philosophies. As such, the book places science fiction at the center of environmentalism and considers the genre to be an essential tool for prompting needed social and cultural transformation.
The Rhetorics of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction
Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction by Thomas F. Haddox examines the work of six avowedly Christian writers of fiction in the period from World War II to the present. This period is often characterized in western societies by such catchphrases as “postmodernism” and “secularization,” with the frequent implication that orthodox belief in the dogmas of Christianity has become untenable among educated readers. How, then, do we account for the continued existence of writers of self-consciously literary fiction who attempt to persuade readers of the truth, desirability, and utility of the dogmas of Christianity? Is it possible to take these writers’ efforts on their own terms and to understand and evaluate the rhetorical strategies that this kind of persuasion might entail? Informed by the school of rhetorical narratology that includes such critics as Wayne Booth, James Phelan, and Richard Walsh, Hard Sayings offers fresh new readings of fictive works by Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark, John Updike, Walker Percy, Mary Gordon, and Marilynne Robinson. In its argument that orthodox Christianity, as represented in fiction, still has the power to persuade and to trouble, it contributes to ongoing debates about the nature and scope of modernity, postmodernity, and secularization.
Hemingway and the Black Renaissance, edited by Gary Edward Holcomb and Charles Scruggs, explores a conspicuously overlooked topic: Hemingway’s wide-ranging influence on writers from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day. An observable who’s who of black writers—Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Chester Himes, Alex la Guma, Derek Walcott, Gayl Jones, and more—cite Hemingway as a vital influence. This inspiration extends from style, Hemingway’s minimalist art, to themes of isolation and loneliness, the dilemma of the expatriate, and the terrifying experience of living in a time of war. The relationship, nevertheless, was not unilateral, as in the case of Jean Toomer’s 1923 hybrid, short-story cycle Cane, which influenced Hemingway’s collage-like 1925 In Our Time. Just as important as Hemingway’s influence, indeed, is the complex intertextuality, the multilateral conversation, between Hemingway and key black writers. The diverse praises by black writers for Hemingway in fact signify that the white author’s prose rises out of the same intensely American concerns that their own writings are formed on: the integrity of the human subject faced with social alienation, psychological violence, and psychic disillusionment. An understanding of this literary kinship ultimately initiates not only an appreciation of Hemingway’s stimulus but also a perception of an insistent black presence at the core of Hemingway’s writing.
Historicizing Fat in Anglo-American Culture, edited by Elena Levy-Navarro, is the first collection of essays to offer a historical consideration of fat bodies in Anglophone culture. The interdisciplinary essays cover periods from the medieval to the contemporary, mapping out a new terrain for historical consideration. These essays question many of the commonplace assumptions that circulate around the category of fat: that fat exists as a natural and transhistorical category; that a premodern period existed which universally celebrated fat and knew no fatphobia; and that the thin, youthful body, as the presumptively beautiful and healthy one, should be the norm by which to judge other bodies. The essays begin with a consideration of the interrelationship between the rise of weight-watching and the rise of the novel. The essays that follow consider such wide-ranging figures as the fat child’s body as a contested site in post-Blair U.K. and in Lord of the Flies; H. G. Wells; Wilkie Collins’s subversively performative Fosco; Ben Jonson; the voluptuous Lillian Russell; Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis; the opera diva; and the fat feminist activists of recent San Francisco. In developing their histories in a self-conscious way that addresses the pervasive fatphobia of the present-day Anglophone culture, Historicizing Fat suggests ways in which scholarship and criticism in the humanities can address, resist, and counteract the assumptions of late modern culture.
Tactile Experience in Domestic Space
How do acts of caring for the sick or grieving for the dead change the way we move through our living rooms and bedrooms? Why do elderly homeowners struggle to remain in messy, junk-filled houses? Why are we so attached to our pets, even when they damage and soil our living spaces? In Home Bodies: Tactile Experience in Domestic Space, James Krasner offers an interdisciplinary, humanistic investigation of the sense of touch in our experience of domestic space and identity. Accessing the work of gerontologists, neurologists, veterinarians, psychologists, social geographers, and tactual perception theorists to lay the groundwork for his experiential claims, he also ranges broadly through literary and cultural criticism dealing with the body, habit, and material culture. By demonstrating crucial links between domestic experience and tactile perception, Home Bodies investigates questions of identity, space, and the body. Krasner analyzes representations of tactile experience from a range of canonical literary works and authors, including the Bible, Sophocles, Marilynne Robinson, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and Sylvia Plath, as well as a series of popular contemporary texts. This work will contribute to discussions of embodiment, space, and domesticity by literary and cultural critics, scholars in the medical humanities, and interdisciplinary thinkers from multiple fields.
If every story is born of a question—How did we get here? How do you make your arm do that?—the stories in Geoff Wyss’s How search for answers to the mysteries of an astonishing range of characters. The narrator of “How I Come to Be Here at the GasFast” explains why he hasn’t left a truck stop in the two days since he scratched a winning lottery ticket. In “How to Be a Winner,” a sports consultant browbeats a high school football team with his theory of history and a justification of his failed coaching career. Lost in the mazes they’ve made of themselves, Wyss’s characters search for exits on ground that shifts dizzyingly from humor to pathos, from cynicism to earnestness, from comedy to tragedy, often within the same sentence. Although propelled by a razor-sharp, contemporary voice, Wyss’s stories—many set in a New Orleans unknown to television and tourists—have more in common with Chekhov and O’Connor than with “Treme.”
Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages
How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages tracks human attempts to cordon humans off from other life through a wide range of medieval texts and practices, including encyclopedias, dietary guides, resurrection doctrine, cannibal narrative, butchery law, boar-hunting, and teratology. Karl Steel argues that the human subjugation of animals played an essential role in the medieval concept of the human. In their works and habits, humans tried to distinguish themselves from other animals by claiming that humans alone among worldly creatures possess language, reason, culture, and, above all, an immortal soul and resurrectable body. Humans convinced themselves of this difference by observing that animals routinely suffer degradation at the hands of humans. Since the categories of human and animal were both a retroactive and relative effect of domination, no human could forgo his human privileges without abandoning himself. Medieval arguments for both human particularity and the unique sanctity of human life have persisted into the modern age despite the insights of Darwin. How to Make a Human joins with other works in critical animal theory to unsettle human pretensions in the hopes of training humans to cease to project, and to defend, their human selves against other animals.
The Neuro-Aethetics of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy
Imagining Minds explores how the novels of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy create the felt-quality of their authoring minds and of the minds they author by bringing their writing in relation to cognitive neuroscience accounts of the mind-brain, especially of William James and Antonio Damasio. It is in that relational space between the novels and theories of mind-brain that Kay Young works through her fundamental claim: the novel writes about the nature of mind, narrates it at work, and stimulates us to know deepened experiences of consciousness in its touching of our reading minds. While, in addition to James and Damasio, Young draws on a range of theories of mind-brain generated by current research in philosophy, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis to help her understand the novel’s imagining of mind, her claim is that those disciplines cannot themselves perform the more fully integrated because embodied and emotionally stimulating mind work of the novel—mind work that prompts us as their readers to better know our own minds.
Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, 1759-1808
As the eighteenth century is entirely bereft of narratives written by African women, one might assume that these women had little to no impact on British literature and the national psyche of the period. Yet these kinds of assumptions are belied by the influence of one prominent African woman featured in the period’s literary texts. Imoinda’s Shade examines the ways in which British writers utilize the most popular African female figure in eighteenth-century fiction and drama to foreground the African woman’s concerns and interests as well as those of a British nation grappling with the problems of slavery and abolition. Imoinda, the fictional phenomenon initially conceived by Aphra Behn and subsequently popularized by Thomas Southerne, has an influence that extends well beyond the Oroonoko novella and drama that established her as a formidable presence during the late Restoration period. This influence is palpably discerned in the characterizations of African women drawn up in novels and dramas written by late-eighteenth-century British writers. Through its examinations of the textual instances from 1759–1808 when Imoinda and her involvement in the Oroonoko marriage plot are being transformed and embellished for politicized ends, Imoinda’s Shade demonstrates how this period’s fictional African women were deliberately constructed by progressive eighteenth-century writers to popularize issues of rape, gynecological rebellion, and miscegenation. Moreover, it shows how these specific African female concerns influence British antislavery, abolitionist, and post-slavery discourse in heretofore unheralded, unusual, and sometimes radical ways.