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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.
Colonial Networks and Information Technologies in the British Literary Imagination, 1857–1918
Imperial Media: Colonial Networks and Information Technologies in the British Literary Imagination, 1857–1918 brings together two of the most dynamic and productive approaches to the study of nineteenth-century literature in recent years—media studies and colonial studies—to illuminate the rich and enduring symbiosis that developed between information technologies and Empire. Over a century before Facebook and the iPhone, Britons relied on the electric media of their day for information about their global empire—but those media, which during Victoria’s reign stretched out its tentacles to form a true “world wide web,” not only delivered information but provided conceptual frames as well, helping to shape the way their users thought. Ranging in space from the telegraph offices of Kipling’s India to the wireless transmitter on H.G. Wells’s Africanized moon, and in time from the Sepoy Rebellion to the Great War, Imperial Media reveals the extent to which British conceptions of imperial power were inflected by the new media of the nineteenth century: the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, radio, and cinema. While focusing on the fiction of Kipling, Wells, Marie Corelli, H. Rider Haggard, and John Buchan (“the last Victorian,” in Gertrude Himmelfarb’s phrase), Aaron Worth also argues that the “imperial media” of the Victorians retain much of their imaginative life and power today, informing such popular entertainments of the twenty-first century as Bollywood cinema and the BBC’s science-fiction franchise Torchwood. This is a vital, engaging study that will shape future discussions of both colonial and information systems, as well as the relationship between the two, in Victorian studies and elsewhere.
Nineteenth-Century Women, Law, and Literature
In Contempt: Nineteenth-Century Women, Law, and Literature, by Kristin Kalsem, explores the legal advocacy performed by nineteenth-century women writers in publications of nonfiction and fiction, as well as in real-life courtrooms and in the legal forum provided by the novel form. The nineteenth century was a period of unprecedented reform in laws affecting married women’s property, child support and custody, lunacy, divorce, birth control, domestic violence, and women in the legal profession. Women’s contributions to these changes in the law, however, have been largely ignored because their work, stories, and perspectives are not recorded in authoritative legal texts; rather, evidence of their arguments and views are recorded in writings of a different kind. This book examines lesser-known works of nonfiction and fiction by legal reformers such as Annie Besant and Georgina Weldon and novelists such as Frances Trollope, Jane Hume Clapperton, George Paston, and Florence Dixie. In Contempt brings to light new connections between Victorian law and literature, not only with its analysis of many “lost” novels but also with its new legal readings of old ones such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), George Eliot’s Adam Bede (1859), Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Rider Haggard’s She (1887), and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895). This study reexamines the cultural and political roles of the novel in light of “new evidence” that many nineteenth-century novels were “lawless”—showing contempt for, rather than policing, the law.
Gender and Language in Later Middle English Writing
In Inventing Womanhood, Tara Williams investigates new ideas about womanhood that arose in fourteenth-century Britain and evolved throughout the fifteenth century. In the aftermath of the plague and the substantial cultural shifts of the late 1300s, female roles expanded temporarily. As a result, the dominant models of maiden, wife, and widow could no longer adequately describe women’s roles and lives. Middle English writers responded by experimenting with new ways of representing women across a variety of genres, from courtly poetry to devotional texts and from royal correspondence to cycle plays. In particular, writers coined new terms, including “womanhood” and “femininity,” and refashioned others, such as “motherhood.” These experiments allowed writers to develop and define a larger idea of womanhood underlying more specific identities like wife or mother and to re-imagine women’s relationships to different kinds of authority—generally masculine and frequently religious. By exploring the medieval origins of some of our most important gender vocabulary, Inventing Womanhood defamiliarizes our modern usage, which often treats those terms as etymologically transparent and almost limitlessly capacious. It also restores a necessary historical and linguistic dimension to gender studies, providing the groundwork for reconsidering how that language and the categories it creates have determined the ways in which gender has been imagined since the Middle Ages.
A Reader in Yiddish Cultural History
Yerusholayim d’lite: di yidishe kultur in der lite (Jerusalem of Lithuania: A Reader in Yiddish Cultural History) by Jerold C. Frakes contains cultural, literary, and historical readings in Yiddish that vividly chronicle the central role Vilnius (Lithuania) played in Jewish culture throughout the past five centuries. It includes many examples of Yiddish literature, historiography, sociology, and linguistics written by and about Litvaks and includes work by prominent Yiddish poets, novelists, raconteurs, journalists, and scholars. In addition, Frakes has supplemented the primary texts with many short essays that contextualize Yiddish cultural figures, movements, and historical events. Designed especially for intermediate and advanced readers of Yiddish (from the second-year of instruction), each text is individually glossed, including not only English definitions, but also basic grammatical information that will enable intermediate readers to progress to an advanced reading ability. Because of its unique content, Yerusholayim d’lite will be of interest not only to university students of Yiddish language, literature, and culture, but it will be an invaluable resource for scholars and Yiddish reading groups and clubs worldwide, as well as for all general readers interested in Yiddish-language culture.