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Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866-1917
In postbellum America, publishers vigorously reprinted books that were foreign in origin, and Americans thus read internationally even at a moment of national consolidation. A subset of Americans’ international reading—nearly 100 original texts, approximately 180 American translations, more than 1,000 editions and reprint editions, and hundreds of thousands of books strong—comprised popular fiction written by German women and translated by American women. German Writing, American Reading: Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866–1917 by Lynne Tatlock examines the genesis and circulation in America of this hybrid product over four decades and beyond. These entertaining novels came to the consumer altered by processes of creative adaptation and acculturation that occurred in the United States as a result of translation, marketing, publication, and widespread reading over forty years. These processes in turn de-centered and disrupted the national while still transferring certain elements of German national culture. Most of all, this mass translation of German fiction by American women trafficked in happy endings that promised American readers that their fondest wishes for adventure, drama, and bliss within domesticity and their hope for the real power of love, virtue, and sentiment could be pleasurably realized in an imagined and quaintly old-fashioned Germany—even if only in the time it took to read a novel.
Secularizingthe Uncanny in the European Imaginary, 1780-1820
Gothic Riffs: Secularizing the Uncanny in the European Imaginary, 1780–1820 by Diane Long Hoeveler provides the first comprehensive study of what are called “collateral gothic” genres—operas, ballads, chapbooks, dramas, and melodramas—that emerged out of the gothic novel tradition founded by Horace Walpole, Matthew Lewis, and Ann Radcliffe. The role of religion and its more popular manifestations, superstition and magic, in the daily lives of Western Europeans were effectively undercut by the forces of secularization that were gaining momentum on every front, particularly by 1800. It is clear, however, that the lower class and the emerging bourgeoisie were loath to discard their traditional beliefs. We can see their search for a sense of transcendent order and spiritual meaning in the continuing popularity of gothic performances that demonstrate that there was more than a residue of a religious calendar still operating in the public performative realm. Because this bourgeois culture could not turn away from God, it chose to be haunted, in its literature and drama, by God’s uncanny avatars: priests, corrupt monks, incestuous fathers, and uncles. The gothic aesthetic emerged during this period as an ideologically contradictory and complex discourse system; a secularizing of the uncanny; a way of alternately valorizing and at the same time slandering the realms of the supernatural, the sacred, the maternal, and the primitive.
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.
Hibernate is a big-hearted and brutal story collection. In these globe-spanning stories, Elizabeth Eslami follows ordinary men and women who slowly awaken to hard choices. A fishing trip forces two Montana brothers to grow up in ways they never could have imagined. A Sudanese immigrant begins a new life with his girlfriend in America, only to find himself pulled toward his mother’s past transgressions. A group of tourists visits an Indian pueblo and realizes their tour guide isn’t at all who they expected. A shipwrecked captain and his men cling to the company of narwhals and Eskimos. And in the unforgettable title story, two lovers trade life as they’ve known it for an escape into the extraordinary. A masterful storyteller as likely to draw blood as to heal, Eslami moves her restless, resilient characters across an uneven landscape toward a hard earned place of peace.
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.”