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Keep and Give Away was selected by Terrance Hayes as the inaugural winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize sponsored by the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. In her first full-length collection, Susan Meyers guides us through her examination of life's ordinary moments and the seemingly ordinary images that abide in them to reveal the extraordinary. From minutia to marriage, crumbs to crows, nothing is too commonplace to escape her attention as she traverses terrains of childhood, loss, relationships, and death. Mostly lyrical and often elegiac, the poems of Keep and Give Away move along the rifts between the past and present, the lived and desired. The dominant emotions of the verses are deepened by observations rooted in our natural world, where birds are "yeses quickening the air" and the sky can "lap you up, and up." In the book's final section, marriage poems turn to fishing and gardening for their truths, contemplations that recognize the realities of a world governed by luck, imperfection, contraries, and—most of all—love.
Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari Makhdum-I Jahaniyan
In Knowledge before Action, Amina M. Steinfels examines medieval Sufism and its place in Islamic society by telling the story of the life and career of Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari, a revered figure in Pakistan. Considered one of the most important Sufi masters of South Asia, Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari, more popularly referred to as Makhdum-i Jahaniyan, is known for combining spirituality and scholarship in a formative period for Sufism. Steinfels assembles the details of Bukhari's life from records of his teachings, dynastic chronicles, and correspondence to discover how he achieved his status and laid the groundwork for a devotional cult that has lasted seven centuries. Steinfels also examines Bukhari's theories of the relationship between scholar and mystic. Bukhari's teachings provide windows into the underlying concerns and themes of medieval Sufism. Knowledge before Action describes Bukhari's training as a scholar and a Sufi, his exercise of religious authority over his disciples, and his theories of the relationships between saint and shaykh. Knowledge before Action discusses ritual and contemplative practices, the economic bases of Sufi institutions, and the interconnectedness between Sufi masters, the 'ulama, and the political authorities by telling the story of Bukhari.
Kurt Vonnegut's death in 2007 marked the passing of a major force in American life and letters. Jerome Klinkowitz, one of the earliest and most prolific authorities on Vonnegut, examines the long dialogue between the author and American culture—a conversation that produced fourteen novels and hundreds of short stories and essays. Kurt Vonnegut's America integrates discussion of the fiction, essays, and lectures with personal exchanges and biographical sketches to map the complex symbiotic relationship between Vonnegut's work and the cultural context from which it emerged—and which it in turn helped shape. Following an introduction characterizing Vonnegut as Klinkowitz came to know him over the course of their friendship, this study charts the impact of Vonnegut on American society and of that society on Vonnegut for more than a half-century to illustrate how each informed the other. Among his artistic peers, Vonnegut was uniquely gifted at anticipating and articulating the changing course of American culture. Kurt Vonnegut's America shows us that Vonnegut achieved greatness by passing his own test—opening the eyes of his audience to help them better understand their roles and possibilities in the common culture they both shared and crafted.
Excursions into the Shenandoah Valley
In Learning the Valley, award-winning nature writer John Leland guides readers through the natural and human history of the Shenandoah Valley in twenty-five short essays on topics ranging from poison ivy and maple syrup to Stonewall Jackson and spelunking. Undergirding this dynamic narrative of place and time is a tale of selfdiscovery and relationship building as Leland's excursions into the valley lead him to a new awareness of himself and strengthen his bond with his young son, Edward. Spanning some two hundred miles through the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in western Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley is the prehistoric home of mastodons and giants sloths, the site of a storied Civil War campaign, and now a popular destination for outdoor adventures to be had beneath the oaks, chestnuts, hickories, maples, and centuries-old cedars. Leland offers informed perspectives on the valley's rich heritage, drawing from geology, biology, paleontology, climatology, and military and social history to present a compelling appreciation for the region's importance from prehistory to the present and to map the impact of humanity and nature on one another within this landscape. Leland's essays are grounded in recognizable landmarks including House Mountain, Massanutten Mountain, Maury River, Whistle Creek, Harpers Ferry, and Student Rock. Whether he is chronicling the European origins of the valley's so-called American boxwoods, commenting on the nineteenth-century fascination with sassafras, or recalling his son's first reactions to the Natural Bridge of Virginia and its ncompassing tourist developments, Leland uses keen insights, adroit research, and thoughtful literary and historical allusions to bring the "Big Valley" vibrantly to life. An amiable and accomplished tour guide, Leland readily shares all he has learned in his years among the woods, waters, and wildlife of the Shenandoah. But the heart of his narrative transcends the valley and invites readers to find their own sites of adventure and reflection, to revisit the wonders and mysteries to be found in their own backyards as a chance to, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, "live like a traveler at home."
Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China
Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes traces the romance of Julian Bell, nephew of Virginia Woolf, and Ling Shuhua, a writer and painter Bell met while teaching at Wuhan University in China in 1935. Relying on a wide selection of previously unpublished writings, Patricia Laurence places Ling, often referred to as the Chinese Katherine Mansfield, squarely in the Bloomsbury constellation. In doing so, she counters East-West polarities and suggests forms of understanding to inaugurate a new kind of cultural criticism and literary description. Laurence expands her examination of Bell and Ling's relationship into a study of parallel literary communities—Bloomsbury in England and the Crescent Moon group in China. Underscoring their reciprocal influences in the early part of the twentieth century, Laurence presents conversations among well-known British and Chinese writers, artists, and historians, including Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, G. L. Dickinson, Xu Zhimo, E. M. Forster, and Xiao Qian. In addition, Laurence's study includes rarely seen photographs of Julian Bell, Ling, and their associates as well as a reproduction of Ling's scroll commemorating moments in the exchange between Bloomsbury and the Crescent Moon group. While many critics agree that modernism is a movement that crosses national boundaries, literary studies rarely reflect such a view. In this volume Laurence links unpublished letters and documents, cultural artifacts, art, literature, and people in ways that provide illumination from a comparative cultural and aesthetic perspective. In so doing she addresses the geographical and critical imbalances—and thus the architecture of modernist, postcolonial, Bloomsbury, and Asian studies—by placing China in an aesthetic matrix of a developing international modernism.
Speech and the Coming of Wisdom in Ancient Greece
In Listening to the Logos, Christopher Lyle Johnstone provides an unprecedented comprehensive account of the relationship between speech and wisdom across almost four centuries of evolving ancient Greek thought and teachings—from the mythopoetic tradition of Homer and Hesiod to Aristotle's treatises. Johnstone grounds his study in the cultural, conceptual, and linguistic milieu of archaic and classical Greece, which nurtured new ways of thinking about and investigating the world. He focuses on accounts of logos and wisdom in the surviving writings and teachings of Homer and Hesiod, the Presocratics, the Sophists and Socrates, Isocrates and Plato, and Aristotle. Specifically Johnstone highlights the importance of language arts in both speculative inquiry and practical judgment, a nexus that presages connections between philosophy and rhetoric that persist still. His study investigates concepts and concerns key to the speaker's art from the outset: wisdom, truth, knowledge, belief, prudence, justice, and reason. From these investigations certain points of coherence emerge about the nature of wisdom—that wisdom includes knowledge of eternal principles, both divine and natural; that it embraces practical, moral knowledge; that it centers on apprehending and applying a cosmic principle of proportion and balance; that it allows its possessor to forecast the future; and that the oral use of language figures centrally in obtaining and practicing it. Johnstone's interdisciplinary account ably demonstrates that in the ancient world it was both the content and form of speech that most directly inspired, awakened, and deepened the insights comprehended under the notion of wisdom.
Spartanburg, South Carolina, during the Confederacy
Most of what we know about how the Civil War affected life in the Confederacy is related to cities, troop movements, battles, and prominent political, economic, or military leaders. Far less is known about the people who lived in small Southern towns remote from marching armies or battles. Philip N. Racine explores life in one such place—Spartanburg, South Carolina—in an effort to reshape the contours of that great conflict. By 1864 life in most of the Confederacy, but especially in rural towns, was characterized by scarcity, high prices, uncertainty, fear, and bad-tempered neighbors. Shortages of food were common. People lived with constant anxiety that a soldiering father or son would be killed or wounded. Taxes were high, inflation was rampant, good news was scarce and seemed to always be followed by bad. The slave population was growing restive as their masters’ bad news was their good news. Army deserters were threatening lawlessness; accusations and vindictiveness colored the atmosphere and added to the anxiety, fear, and feeling of helplessness. Often people blamed their troubles on the Confederate government in faraway Richmond, Virginia. Racine provides insight into these events through personal stories: the plight of a slave; the struggles of a war widow managing her husband’s farm, ten slaves, and seven children; and the trauma of a lowcountry refugee’s having to forfeit a wealthy, aristocratic way of life and being thrust into relative poverty and an alien social world. All were part of the complexity of wartime Spartanburg District.
The Lost Woods is a collection of fifteen short stories, most of them set in and around the fictional small town of Sledge, South Carolina. The events narrated in the stories begin in the 1930s and continue to the present day. The stories aren’t accounts of hunting methods or legends of trophy kills—they are serious stories about hunting that are similar in style to William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. The collection traces the evolution of two families—the Whites and the Chapmans— as well as the changes in hunting and land use of the past eighty years. Some of these stories are narrated in third person; others are told by a wide range of characters, from grown men to women and children, but only from one perspective—that of the hunter. As they walk the woods in search of turkey, deer, or raccoons, these characters seek something more than food. They seek a lost connection to some part of themselves. The title “the lost woods” is adapted from Cherokee myths and stories wherein man must return again and again to the woods to find the animals that were lost. Thereby, man finds not only food, but who he is. Through these stories, Rice reminds us that hunting is inextricably intertwined with who we are. As one of the oldest rituals that we as a species know, it reflects both our nobility and our depravity. Through it, we return again and again to find the lost woods inside ourselves.
The Fall of the South Carolina Rice Kingdom
In mapping the slow decline of the rice kingdom across the half-century following the Civil War, James H. Tuten offers a provocative new vision of the forces—agricultural, environmental, economic, cultural, and climatic—stacked against planters, laborers, and millers struggling to perpetuate their once-lucrative industry through the challenging postbellum years and into the hardscrabble twentieth century. Concentrating his study on the vast rice plantations of the Heyward, Middleton, and Elliott families of South Carolina, Tuten narrates the ways in which rice producers—both the former grandees of the antebellum period and their newly freed slaves—sought to revive rice production. Both groups had much invested in the economic recovery of rice culture during Reconstruction and the beginning decades of the twentieth century. Despite all disadvantages, rice planting retained a perceived cultural mystique that led many to struggle with its farming long after the profits withered away. Planters tried a host of innovations, including labor contracts with former slaves, experiments in mechanization, consolidation of rice fields, and marketing cooperatives in their efforts to rekindle profits, but these attempts were thwarted by the insurmountable challenges of the postwar economy and a series of hurricanes that destroyed crops and the infrastructure necessary to sustain planting. Taken together, these obstacles ultimately sounded the death knell for the rice kingdom. The study opens with an overview of the history of rice culture in South Carolina through the Reconstruction era and then focuses on the industry's manifestations and decline from 1877 to 1930. Tuten offers a close study of changes in agricultural techniques and tools during the period and demonstrates how adaptive and progressive rice planters became despite their conservative reputations. He also explores the cultural history of rice both as a foodway and a symbol of wealth in the lowcountry, used on currency and bedposts. Tuten concludes with a thorough treatment of the lasting legacy of rice culture, especially in terms of the environment, the continuation of rice foodways and iconography, and the role of rice and rice plantations in the modern tourism industry.
A Biography of Benjamin Elijah Mays
Civil rights activist, writer, theologian, preacher, and educator, Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894–1984) was one of the most distinguished South Carolinians of the twentieth century. He influenced the lives of generations of students as a dean and professor of religion at Howard University and as longtime president of Morehouse College in Atlanta. In addition to his personal achievements, Mays was also a mentor and teacher to Julian Bond, founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; future Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson; writer, preacher, and theologian Howard Washington Thurman; and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. In this comprehensive biography of Mays, John Herbert Roper, Sr., chronicles the harsh realities of Mays’s early life and career in the segregated South and crafts an inspirational, compelling portrait of one of the most influential African American intellectuals in modern history.
Born at the turn of the century in rural Edgefield County, South Carolina, Mays was the youngest son of former slaves turned tenant farmers. At just four years of age, he experienced the brutal injustice of the Jim Crow era when he witnessed the bloody 1898 Phoenix Riot, sparked by black citizens’ attempts to exercise their voting rights.
In the early 1930s Mays discovered the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi and traveled to India in 1938 to confer with him about his methods of nonviolent protest. An honoree of the South Carolina Hall of Fame and recipient of forty-nine honorary degrees, Mays strived tirelessly against racial prejudices and social injustices throughout his career. In addition to his contributions to education and theology, Mays also worked with the National Urban League to improve housing, employment, and health conditions for African Americans, and he played a major role in the integration of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
With honest appreciation and fervent admiration for Mays’s many accomplishments and lasting legacy, Roper deftly captures the heart and passion of his subject, his lifelong quest for social equality, and his unwavering faith in the potential for good in the American people.