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The History of a Polemic, 1750-1900
When Hegel described the Americas as an inferior continent, he was repeating a contention that inspired one of the most passionate debates of modern times. Originally formulated by the eminent natural scientist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and expanded by the Prussian encyclopedist Cornelius de Pauw, this provocative thesis drew heated responses from politicians, philosophers, publicists, and patriots on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing polemic reached its apex in the latter decades of the eighteenth century and is far from extinct today. The Dispute of the New World is the definitive study of this debate. Antonello Gerbi scrutinizes each contribution to the debate, unravels the complex arguments, and reveals their inner motivations. As the story of the polemic unfolds, moving through many disciplines that include biology, economics, anthropology, theology, geophysics, and poetry, it becomes clear that the subject at issue is nothing less than the totality of the Old World versus the New, and how each viewed the other at a vital turning point in history.
Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis
Urban sprawl is omnipresent in America and has left many citizens questioning their ability to stop it. In Distant Publics, Jenny Rice examines patterns of public discourse that have evolved in response to development in urban and suburban environments. Centering her study on Austin, Texas, Rice finds a city that has simultaneously celebrated and despised development. Rice outlines three distinct ways that the rhetoric of publics counteracts development: through injury claims, memory claims, and equivalence claims. In injury claims, rhetors frame themselves as victims in a dispute. Memory claims allow rhetors to anchor themselves to an older, deliberative space, rather than to a newly evolving one. Equivalence claims see the benefits on both sides of an issue, and here rhetors effectively become nonactors. Rice provides case studies of development disputes that place the reader in the middle of real-life controversies and evidence her theories of claims-based public rhetorics. She finds that these methods comprise the most common (though not exclusive) vernacular surrounding development and shows how each is often counterproductive to its own goals. Rice further demonstrates that these claims create a particular role or public subjectivity grounded in one’s own feelings, which serves to distance publics from each other and the issues at hand. Rice argues that rhetoricians have a duty to transform current patterns of public development discourse so that all individuals may engage in matters of crisis. She articulates its sustainability as both a goal and future disciplinary challenge of rhetorical studies and offers tools and methodologies toward that end.
“Beth Bachmann’s Temper was the last time [in forty years] I remember reading a first book by a poet so prodigally and—the word that came to my mind was—severely gifted. The new poems in Do Not Rise are a quantum leap forward with all the metaphorical leaps, adumbrations, dizzyings, deft, brief knottings that make the poems in Temper so dazzling. A remarkable young talent, and a scary one.”—Robert Hass
Winner of the 2013 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. The Dottery is a tale of dotters before they are born. In this series of prose poems you meet their would-be-mutters, the buoys they will know, their inner warden, and the mutterers who cannot have them. The Dottery itself is a sort-of pre-purgatory, a finishing school for the fetal feminine. The five sections correspond to the conceptual set-ups interrogated within. In “wound,” The Dottery is described, as are its inhabitants and their difficulties. In “Dual,” a gender binary is introduced and (hopefully) eviscerated. “Triage” establishes the issues that plague both the dotters and those who would bring them out into the world—specifically into the idea of America (I’m Erica and I can prefer a hummer to the rose parade”). In “Fear,” failed dotters (out in the world) are described in obit fashion. Finally, in “Thief” one mutterer recounts how she stole her dotter (“a snatched piece”) to become a mutter and chronicles both her desires and regrets.
The Double Truth is a collection of poems that arc from myth to history, knowledge to mystery, Eros to natural love, animals to human beings, then back in an alternating poetic current that betrays a speaker who is at once a privileged witness of her time and a diachronic amalgam of voices that are as imagined as they are real in their anonymous legacy.
Teaching Literacy in a Multicultural Society
David Schaafsma presents a powerful and compelling book about the struggle of teaching literacy in a racially divided society and the importance of story and storytelling in the educational process. At the core of this book is the concept of storytelling as an interactive experience for both the teller and listener. Schaafsma offers rich samples of students' writing about their lives in a troubled neighborhood. Eating on the Street offers stories by Schaafsma, his colleagues, and students to illustrate how talking across multiple perspectives can enrich the learning process and the community-building process outside the classroom as well.
The Business of Anti-neoliberal Politics in Venezuela
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was the first anti-neoliberal presidential candidate to win in the region. Electing Chávez examines the circumstances that facilitated this pivotal election. By 1998, Venezuela had been rocked by two major scandals-the exchange rate incidents of the 1980s and the banking crisis of 1994-and had suffered rising social inequality. These events created a deep-seated distrust of establishment politicians. Chávez's 1998 victory, however, was far from inevitable. Other presidential candidates also stood against corruption and promised a clean break from politics as usual. Moreover, business opposition to Chávez's anti-neoliberal candidacy should have convinced voters that his victory would provoke a downward economic spiral. In Electing Chávez, Leslie C. Gates examines how Chávez won over voters and even obtained the secret allegiance of a group of business “elite outliers,” with a reinterpretation of the relationship between business and the state during Venezuela's era of two-party dominance (1959-1998). Through extensive research on corruption and the backgrounds of political leaders, Gates tracks the rise of business-related corruption scandals and documents how business became identified with Venezuela's political establishment. These trends undermined the public's trust in business and converted business opposition into an asset for Chávez. This long history of business-tied politicians and the scandals they often provoked also framed the decisions of elite outliers. As Gates reveals, elite outliers supported Chávez despite his anti-neoliberal stance because they feared that the success of Chávez's main rival would deny them access to Venezuela's powerful oil state.
A few days before his death in 1996, Larry Levis mentioned to his friend and former instructor Philip Levine that he had "an all-but-completed manuscript" of poems. Levine had years earlier recognized Levis as "the most gifted and determined young poet I have ever had the good fortune to have in one of my classes"; after Levis's death, Levine edited the poems Levis had left behind. What emerged is this haunting collection,Elegy. The poems were written in the six years following publication of his previous book, The Widening Spell of the Leaves, and continue and extend the jazz improvisations on themes that gave those poems their resonance.
In Dean Young's sixth book of poems, elegiac necessity finds itself next to goofy celebration. Daffy Duck enters the Valley of the Eternals. Faulkner and bell-bottoms cling to beauty's evanescence. Even in single poems, Young's tone and style vary. No one feeling or idea takes precedence over another, and their simultaneity is frequently revealed; sadness may throw a squirrelly shadow, joy can find itself dressed in mourning black. As in the agitated "Whirlpool Suite": "Pain / and pleasure are two signals carried / over one phone line." In taking up subjects as slight as the examination of a signature or a true/false test, and as pressing as the death of friends, Young's poems embrace the duplicity of feeling, the malleability of perception, and the truth telling of wordplay.