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A Literary Anthology
Jacob F. Rivers III has collected twenty-two classic hunting tales by twelve southern writers including Davey Crocket, Johnson J. Hooper, and Henry Clay Lewis. These stories spring not only from a genteel literary tradition but also from the tradition of the tall tale or stories of backwoods humor. Antebellum and post–Civil War tales reflect changes in the social and economic composition of the hunting class in the South. Some reveal themes of fear for the future of field sports, and others demonstrate an early conservation ethic among hunters and landowners. Early Southern Sports and Sportsmen brings to new readers a wealth of hunting and fishing lore heretofore hard to find by any but scholars in the field of southern literature. Rivers has gathered a host of well-read and well-heeled sportsmen who relish each and every detail of their encounters with their environment. Sports authors come from every spectrum of southern society, but their common vocabulary and shared enthusiasm bond them together. Rivers corrects unfortunate stereotypes of hunters as indifferent to aspects of nature other than environmental exploitation. Whether humorists or serious advocates, these authors reveal their sense of their place in the wild, and many advocate ecological good citizenship that disdains wanton slaughter and unethical practices. They condemn such acts as beneath the dignity and honor of true sportsmen. The collection includes accounts of hunting many types of game indigenous to the South from 1830 to 1910, from aristocratic foxhunts to yeoman deer drives. The structure is largely chronological, beginning with John James Audubon’s essay on the American wild turkey from his Ornithological Biography (1832) and ending with stories from Alexander Hunter’s The Huntsman in the South (1908). Whatever their era, the chief characteristics of these sporting accounts are the excitement the authors experience upon suddenly encountering game, the rigors and hardships they endure in its pursuit, their keen powers of observation of the woods and waters through which they travel, and the comedy often found in the strong friendships that frequently mark their adventures. But above all the tales resonate with a reverence for field sports as the means through which humans establish meaningful and lasting relationships with the mysteries and the magic of nature.
Part travelogue, part psychological self-study, Sam Pickering's Edinburgh Days, or Doing What I Want to Do is an open invitation to be led on a walking tour of Scotland's capital as well as through the labyrinth of the guide's swerving moods and memories. Along the way readers discern as much from Pickering's sensual observations of Scottish lives and landmarks as they do about what befalls the curious mind of an intellectual removed from the relations and responsibilities that otherwise delineate his days. Pickering spent the winter and spring of 2004 on a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, making his return to the city after a forty-year absence. Edinburgh Days maps the transition from his life in Connecticut, defined by family, academic appointments, and the recognition of neighbors and avid acolytes, to a temporary existence on foreign soil that is at once unsettlingly isolating and curiously liberating. Torn between labeling himself a tourist or a sojourner, Pickering opts to define himself as an "urban spelunker" and embarks on daily explorations of the city's museums, bookshops, pubs, antique stores, monuments, neighborhoods, and graveyards. His ambling tours include such recognizable sites as Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Castle Rock, the Museum of Childhood, the National Gallery, the Writers' Museum, the Museum of the People, the Huntly House, the John Knox House, the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Edinburgh Zoo. The holdings of city and university libraries present Pickering with the opportunity to revisit the works of a host of writers, both renowned and obscure, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Smiles, John Buchan, Tobias Wolfe, Russell Hoban, Patrick White, Hilaire Belloc, and Van Wyck Brooks. "I have long been a traveler in little things," he muses, and it is his fascination with minutiae that infuses this collection of essays with the dynamic descriptions, quirky observations, and jesting interludes that bring the historic city to life on the page and simultaneously recall the very best of Pickering's idiosyncratic style.
The international adventures of a southern widow turned patron of historical discovery, Elizabeth Sinkler Coxe's Tales from the Grand Tour, 1890–1910 is a travelogue of captivating episodes in exotic lands as experienced by an intrepid American aristocrat and her son at the dawn of the twentieth century. A member of the prominent Sinkler family of Charleston and Philadelphia, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sinkler married into Philadelphia's wealthy Coxe family in 1870. Widowed just three years later, she dedicated herself to a lifelong pursuit of philanthropy, intellectual endeavor, and extensive travel. Heeding the call of their dauntless adventuresome spirits, Lizzie and her son, Eckley, set sail in 1890 on a series of odysseys that took them from the United States to Cairo, Luxor, Khartoum, Algiers, Istanbul, Naples, Vichy, and Athens. The Coxes not only visited the sites and monuments of ancient civilizations but also participated in digs, funded entire expeditions, and ultimately subsidized the creation of the Coxe Wing of Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. A prolific correspondent, Lizzie conscientiously recorded her adventures abroad in lively prose that captures the surreal exhilarations and harsh realities of traversing the known and barely known worlds of Africa and the Middle East. She journeyed through foreign lands with various nieces in tow to expose them to the educational and social benefits of the Grand Tour. Her letters and recollections are complemented by numerous photographs and several original watercolor paintings.
Modernism and Modernity in Anglophone Fiction, 1958-1988
Brian T. May argues that, contrary to widely held assumptions of postcolonial literary criticism, a distinctive subset of postcolonial novels significantly values and scrupulously explores a healthy individuality. These “extravagant” postcolonial works focus less on collective social reality than on the intimate subjectivity of their characters. Their authors, most of whom received some portion of a canonical western education, do not subordinate the ambitions of their fiction to explicit political causes, but they do create a cosmopolitan rhetorical focus suitable to their well-educated, “western trained,” audiences. May pursues this argument by scrutinizing novels composed during the thirty-year post-independence postcolonial era of Anglophone fiction, a period that began with the Nigerian Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and that ended, many would say, with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 publication of the Rushdie Fatwa. He contends that the postcolonial authors under consideration—Naipaul, Rushdie, Achebe, Rhys, Gordimer, and Coetzee—inherited modernism and refashioned it. His account of their work demonstrates how it reflects and transfigures modernists such as Conrad, Eliot, Yeats, Proust, Joyce and Beckett. Tracing the influence of humanistic virtues and the ethical and aesthetic significance of individualism, May demonstrates that these works of “extravagant postcolonialism” are less postcolonial than they are a continuation and evolution of modernism.
The historical Ezra was sent to Jerusalem as an emissary of the Persian monarch. What was his task? According to the Bible, the Persian king sent Ezra to bring the Torah, the five books of the Laws of Moses, to the Jews. Modern scholars have claimed not only that Ezra brought the Torah to Jerusalem, but that he actually wrote it, and in so doing Ezra created Judaism. Without Ezra, they say, Judaism would not exist. In Ezra and the Law in History and Tradition, Lisbeth S. Fried separates historical fact from biblical legend. Drawing on inscriptions from the Achaemenid Empire, she presents the historical Ezra in the context of authentic Persian administrative practices and concludes that Ezra, the Persian official, neither wrote nor edited the Torah, nor would he even have known it. The origin of Judaism, so often associated with Ezra by modern scholars, must be sought elsewhere. After discussing the historical Ezra, Fried examines ancient, medieval, and modern views of him, explaining how each originated, and why. She relates the stories told about Ezra by medieval Christians to explain why their Greek Old Testament differs from the Hebrew Bible, as well as the explanations offered by medieval Samaritans concerning how their Samaritan Bible varies from the one the Jews use. Church Fathers as well as medieval Samaritan writers explained the differences by claiming that Ezra falsified the Bible when he rewrote it, so that in effect, it is not the book that Moses wrote but something else. Moslem scholars also maintain that Ezra falsified the Old Testament, since Mohammed, the last judgment, and Heaven and Hell are revealed in it. In contrast Jewish Talmudic writers viewed Ezra both as a second Moses and as the prophet Malachi. In the process of describing ancient, medieval, and modern views of Ezra, Fried brings out various understandings of God, God’s law, and God’s plan for our salvation.
From its founding in 1842 the Citadel has been steeped in tradition. There have been changes through the years, but the basics of the military code and the plebe system have remained constant. Citadel graduate Tom Worley has crafted this collection of short stories about life at the South Carolina military academy during the 1960s. While the stories are fictional, they are inspired in part by his days as a student on the college campus. With humor and dramatic clarity, Worley reveals the harshness of the plebe system, how success is achieved through perseverance, and the character-building benefits of a Citadel education. The seventeen stories included in the volume are told from the perspective of two main characters—cadets Pete Creger and Sammy Graham—who are members of F Company. By turns surprising and entertaining, the collected stories range from the emotional and physical trials of being a knob in the plebe system, the brutality of hazing, and the fear and fun of company pranks, to the friendship and camaraderie the system fosters and the tremendous pride shared by those who wear the coveted Citadel ring. Best known for its Corps of Cadets, the Citadel attracts students who desire a college education in a classical military system in which leadership and character training are essential parts of the overall experience. Any romanticized notion of military bravado is quickly shattered the moment students set foot on campus and their parents drive away. Many cadets are left wondering, “What have I signed up for?” Worley’s stories shed light on the pain and the pride, explaining why, he says, “most cadets at the Citadel hated the place while they were there and loved everything about it once they’d graduated. They were bonded together for life. Perhaps that’s the greatest thing the Citadel did for them.”
Novelist Walker Percy once said that the only remaining unexplored territory in southern literature was the Jewish southerner. Famous all over Town, the first novel from southern storyteller Bernie Schein, stakes a claim on Percy’s unexplored terrain with a comically candid multigenerational account of two Jews, a lowcountry native and a northern transplant, at the epicenter of momentous events in the sleepy southern coastal hamlet of Somerset, a fictitious stand-in for Schein’s native Beaufort, South Carolina. Schein’s diverse and memorable cast includes southern Jewish lawyer Murray Gold and his foil, displaced New York psychiatrist Bert Levy; emotionally scarred USMC drill sergeant Jack McGowan and his alluring and unconventional wife, Mary Beth; corrupt and adulterous sheriff Hoke Cooley, his deeply conservative wife, Regina, and their violent son, Boonie; African American madam and later city councilwoman Lila Trulove (also Hoke’s mistress), her brilliant daughter, Elizabeth, and her conflicted Harvard-bound son, Driver; fallen southern belle turned voice of a generation Arlanne Palmer; remorseful Vietnam veteran and flamboyant transvestite Royal Cunningham; and inspirational schoolteacher Pat Conroy. Famous all over Town also uses its web of interconnected storylines to make its setting, the eponymous town itself, a central character with a personality and an arc as complete as that of any other member of the deftly rendered cast. Delving beneath the surface of the southern status quo, Schein’s tale follows these interconnected lives through the private and public upheavals in small-town life from the turbulent 1960s to the eve of the new millennium, confronting the ramifications of the civil rights era, Vietnam, Watergate, and—closer to home—a deadly version of the infamous Ribbon Creek incident. Somerset’s colorful citizens also confront their own repressed memories, conflicted identities, burgeoning ambitions, and romantic entanglements. Even as events unfold to often-uproarious effect, Schein’s novel holds true to a deeply realized sense of intimacy and authenticity in the interactions of its myriad characters as revelations expose how these disparate lives are conjoined in surprising ways. Shifting points of view place readers squarely in the mindsets of many of Somerset’s key citizens as Schein lovingly and laughingly invites us to reconsider what it means in the modern south to be white, black, Jewish, Christian, military, civilian, sane, insane, old, young, male, female, gay, and straight—and to be of a place rather than merely in it. Best-selling southern novelist and self-described “Florida cracker” Janis Owens, author of American Ghost, The Cracker Kitchen, and other books, provides a foreword.
"Lord, I'm glad I'm a hermit novelist," Flannery O'Connor wrote to a friend in 1957. Sequestered by ill health, O'Connor spent the final thirteen years of her life on her isolated family farm in rural Georgia. During this productive time she developed a fascination with fourth-century Christians who retreated to the desert for spiritual replenishment and whose isolation, suffering, and faith mirrored her own. In Flannery O'Connor, Hermit Novelist, Richard Giannone explores O'Connor's identification with these early Christian monastics and the ways in which she infused her fiction with their teachings. Surveying the influences of the desert fathers on O'Connor's protagonists, Giannone shows how her characters are moved toward a radical simplicity of ascetic discipline as a means of confronting both internal and worldly evils while being drawn closer to God. Artfully bridging literary analysis, O'Connor's biography, and monastic writings, Giannone's study explores O'Connor's advocacy of self-denial and self-scrutiny as vital spiritual weapons that might be brought to bear against the antagonistic forces she found rampant in modern American life.
A Memoir of Travel
"I fly to faraway places in the hopes of finding the distinguishing thing. The frequent flier miles are a bonus." With a title borrowed from Samuel Johnson, insatiable globe-trotter Russell Fraser fondly recalls his travels in China, Peru, Italy, France, Russia, Scotland, the Persian Gulf, and the Antarctic in this series of meditations on the distinguishing elements of culture and history found in far-flung locales. Fraser establishes himself as a knowledgeable guide who combines an intimate familiarity with local history, a keen eye for culture, a companionable wit, and a penchant for speculation about the grip of the past on the present. Fraser's fascination with people leads him to banter and at times to argue with locals in his quest to discern the peculiarities of a given place, be it a communist training school near Milan or the best bar in St. Petersburg. His grand appreciation for discoveries that can be made only through travel is apparent in every poetically phrased description and artfully reconstructed dialogue. Fraser begins each essay with an autobiographical passage before turning to the place and moment at hand. This technique establishes camaraderie with our learned, informative, and entertaining guide as we walk deserts and frozen plains, Old World neighborhoods and Far Eastern danger zones, the lobbies of plush new hotels and the aisles of centuries-old cathedrals. In his ruminations, Fraser circles strategically between personal and global pasts—traveling in time as well as space—to put our modernity in perspective and to ponder facets of human experience found amid the regions he describes so vividly. The heart of Fraser's memoir is a two-chapter sequence devoted to meandering through his ancestral homeland of Scotland, a narrative that ably couples family history and travelogue. In the concluding essay, the author's adventure in Antarctica parallels a trip taken decades earlier by his great-grandfather Alexander V. Fraser, the first commander of the U.S. Coast Guard, and again he deftly juxtaposes the personal with the global and the past with the present. As Fraser advocates for the existence and importance of timeless truths about all corners of the world, he makes even the roughest of environments seem intriguingly beautiful with crystal clear prose evocative of the times and places through which he moves. His tales are peppered with the anecdotes, asides, and well-chosen quotations of a traveler steeped in knowledge of the world's history and its literature. A veteran of these escapades, Fraser uses his experience to hone his observations into a special brand of truth that comes from one who is equally adept at wandering the world and sharing authentic accounts of those sensational travels. From China to Peru is a welcoming invitation to traverse the globe, if only through the insightful memories of one well-versed in such passages.
The Artistic Journey of Eugene Thomason
A product of the industrialized New South, Eugene Healan Thomason (1895–1972) made the obligatory pilgrimage to New York to advance his art education and launch his career. Like so many other aspiring American artists, he understood that the city offered unparalleled personal and professional opportunities—prestigious schools, groundbreaking teachers, and an intoxicating cosmopolitan milieu—for a promising young painter in the early 1920s. The patronage of one of the nation's most powerful tycoons afforded him entrance to the renowned Art Students League, where he fell under the influence of the leading members of the Ashcan School, including Robert Henri, John Sloan, and George Luks. In all Thomason spent a decade in the city, adopting—and eventually adapting—the Ashcan movement's gritty realistic aesthetic into a distinctive regionalist style that used thick paint and simple subject matter. Eugene Thomason returned to the South in the early 1930s, living first in Charlotte, North Carolina, before settling in a small Appalachian crossroads called Nebo. For the next thirty-plus years, he mined the rural landscape's rolling terrain and area residents for inspiration, finding there an abundance of colorful imagery more evocative—and more personally resonant—than the urbanism of New York. Painting at the same time as such well-known Regionalists as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, Eugene Thomason embraced and convincingly portrayed his own region, becoming the visual spokesman for that place and its people.