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Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy
Beginning in the 1830s and continuing for more than a century, blackface minstrelsy—stage performances that claimed to represent the culture of black Americans—remained arguably the most popular entertainment in North America. A renewed scholarly interest in this contentious form of entertainment has produced studies treating a range of issues: its contradictory depictions of class, race, and gender; its role in the development of racial stereotyping; and its legacy in humor, dance, and music, and in live performance, film, and television. The style and substance of minstrelsy persist in popular music, tap and hip-hop dance, the language of the standup comic, and everyday rituals of contemporary culture. The blackface makeup all but disappeared for a time, though its influence never diminished—and recently, even the makeup has been making a comeback. This collection of original essays brings together a group of prominent scholars of blackface performance to reflect on this complex and troublesome tradition. Essays consider the early relationship of the blackface performer with American politics and the antislavery movement; the relationship of minstrels to the commonplace compromises of the touring “show” business and to the mechanization of the industrial revolution; the exploration and exploitation of blackface in the mass media, by D. W. Griffith and Spike Lee, in early sound animation, and in reality television; and the recent reappropriation of the form at home and abroad. In addition to the editor, contributors include Dale Cockrell, Catherine Cole, Louis Chude-Sokei, W. T. Lhamon, Alice Maurice, Nicholas Sammond, and Linda Williams.
Peace and War on a Sixties Commune
This book tells the story of Montague Farm, an early back-to-the land communal experiment in western Massachusetts, from its beginning in 1968 through the following thirty-five years of its surprisingly long life. Drawing on his own experience as a resident of the farm from 1969 to 1973 and decades of contact with the farm’s extended family, Tom Fels provides an insightful account of the history of this iconic alternative community. He follows its trajectory from its heady early days as a pioneering outpost of the counterculture through many years of change, including a period of renewed political activism and, later, increasing episodes of conflict between opposing factions to determine what the farm represented and who would control its destiny. With deft individual portraits, Fels reveals the social dynamics of the group and explores the ongoing difficulties faced by a commune that was founded in idealism and sought to operate on the model of a leaderless democracy. He draws on a large body of farm-family and 1960s-related writing and the notes of community members to present a variety of points of view. The result is an absorbing narrative that chronicles the positive aspects of Montague Farm while documenting the many challenges and disruptions that marked its history.
The Anti-Contra War Campaign
Unlike earlier U.S. interventions in Latin America, the Reagan administration’s attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s was not allowed to proceed quietly. Tens of thousands of American citizens organized and agitated against U.S. aid to the counterrevolutionary guerrillas, known as “contras.” Believing the Contra War to be unnecessary, immoral, and illegal, they challenged the administration’s Cold War stereotypes, warned of “another Vietnam,” and called on the United States to abide by international norms. A Call to Conscience offers the first comprehensive history of the anti–Contra War campaign and its Nicaragua connections. Roger Peace places this eight-year campaign in the context of previous American interventions in Latin America, the Cold War, and other grassroots oppositional movements. Based on interviews with American and Nicaraguan citizens and leaders, archival records of activist organizations, and official government documents, this book reveals activist motivations, analyzes the organizational dynamics of the anti–Contra War campaign, and contrasts perceptions of the campaign in Managua and Washington. Peace shows how a variety of civic groups and networks—religious, leftist, peace, veteran, labor, women’s rights—worked together in a decentralized campaign that involved extensive transnational cooperation.
English, French, and Native Narratives of the 1704 Deerfield Raid
This volume draws together an unusually rich body of original sources that tell the story of the 1704 French and Indian attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts, from different vantage points. Texts range from one of the most famous early American captivity narratives, John Williams’s The Redeemed Captive, to the records of French soldiers and clerics, to little-known Abenaki and Mohawk stories of the raid that emerged out of their communities’ oral traditions. Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney provide a general introduction, extensive annotations, and headnotes to each text. Although the oft-reprinted Redeemed Captive stands at the core of this collection, it is juxtaposed to less familiar accounts of captivity composed by other Deerfield residents: Quentin Stockwell, Daniel Belding, Joseph Petty, Joseph Kellogg, and the teenaged Stephen Williams. Presented in their original form, before clerical editors revised and embellished their content to highlight religious themes, these stories challenge long-standing assumptions about classic Puritan captivity narratives. The inclusion of three Abenaki and Mohawk narratives of the Deerfield raid is equally noteworthy, offering a rare opportunity not only to compare captors’ and captives’ accounts of the same experiences, but to do so with reference to different Native oral traditions. Similarly, the memoirs of French military officers and an excerpt from the Jesuit Relations illuminate the motivations behind the attack and offer fresh insights into the complexities of French-Indian alliances. Taken together, the stories collected in this volume, framed by the editors’ introduction and the assessments of two Native scholars, Taiaiake Alfred and Marge Bruchac, allow readers to reconstruct the history of the Deerfield raid from multiple points of view and, in so doing, to explore the interplay of culture and memory that shapes our understanding of the past.
Inhabiting a world that offers no guarantee of any veracity, the characters in these peculiar stories are driven to and goaded by compulsive and perhaps pointless reflection. They are haunted by unrelenting consciousness and knowledge of failure, yet are, at best, ambivalent toward any conventional equation of success. Theirs is a world of broken relationships, futile memory, constant appetite, and the certain knowledge that they are winding down in a culture in which it is impossible to do—or know—the right thing. Frustrated and obsessed, they cannot articulate their lives and are entranced by the strangeness of the everyday. Written with keen intelligence and biting humor, Carbine is a book about the ridiculousness of contemporary life—a book about what cannot be said.
Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse
From 9/11 to Katrina, from Darfur to the Minnesota bridge collapse, ours is an “age of catastrophe.” In this era, catastrophic events seem to have a revelatory quality: they offer powerful reminders of the fragility of our social and institutional architectures, making painfully evident vulnerabilities in our social organization that were otherwise invisible. By disrupting the operation of fundamental mechanisms and infrastructures of the social order, they lay bare the conditions that make our sense of normalcy possible. At a time when societies are directing an unprecedented level of resources and ingenuity to anticipating and mitigating catastrophic events, Catastrophe: Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse examines the tests that catastrophe poses to politics and humanitarianism as well as to the law. It explores legal, political, and humanitarian responses during times when the sudden, discontinuous, and disastrous event has become, perhaps paradoxically, a structural component of our political imagination. It asks whether law, politics, and humanitarianism live up to the tests posed by disaster, and the role all of them play in creating a more resilient world. Taken together the essays in this book ask us to see through and beyond the myths that surround catastrophe and our responses to it. They ask us to rethink our understanding of catastrophe and to imagine new legal, political, and humanitarian responses. In addition to the editors, contributors include Thomas Birkland, Michele Landis Dauber, Kim Fortun, Edward Rackley, Peter Redfield, Peter H. Schuck, and Susan Sterett.
Feminism, History, and Ingeborg Bachmann
Although Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important twentieth-century authors writing in German, her novels and stories have sometimes been viewed narrowly as portraits of women as victims. In this innovative study, Sara Lennox provides a much broader perspective on Bachmann’s work, at the same time undertaking an experiment in feminist methodology.Lennox examines Bachmann’s poetry and prose in historical context, arguing that the varied feminist interpretations of her writings are the result of shifts in theoretical emphases over a period of more than three decades. Lennox then places her own essays on Bachmann in similar perspective, showing how each piece reflects the historical moment in which it was written. Making use of recent interdisciplinary approaches—Foucauldian theories of sexuality, post-colonial theory, materialist feminism—she explores the extent to which each of her earlier readings was shaped by the methods employed, the questions asked, and the political issues that seemed most germane at the time. Out of this analysis comes a new understanding of the significance of Bachmann’s work and new insight into the theory and practice of feminist criticism.
Life, Love, and Literature
When he committed suicide at age forty-one, Cesare Pavese (1908–1950) was one of Italy’s best-known writers. A poet, novelist, literary critic, and translator, he had been profoundly influenced in his early years by American literature. But later he grew disaffected with American culture, coming to see it as materialistic and shallow. This book, the first full-length English-language study of Pavese in twenty years, examines his life and the evolution of his views of America through a chronological reading of his works.
Modernist Imagination, African American Imaginary
This book explores the impact of African American culture on modernist poetic language by placing black literature and culture at the center of an inquiry into the genealogy of avant-garde poetics. Geoffrey Jacques looks at how blackface minstrelsy, ragtime, vernacular languages, advertising copy, Freud’s idea of the Uncanny, vaudeville, the cliché, and Tin Pan Alley–style song all influenced modernist poetry. In a key insight, Jacques points out that the black urban community in the United States did not live in ghettos during the years before World War I, but in smaller enclaves spread out among the general population. This circumstance helped catalyze African American culture’s dramatic and surprising impact on the emergent avant-garde. By using a wide range of theoretical tools, Jacques poses new questions about literary, cultural, and social history, the history and structure of modernist poetic language, canon formation, and the history of criticism.This contribution to the ongoing debate over early twentieth-century culture presents modernism as an interracial, cross-cultural project, arguing for a new appreciation of the central role black culture played within it. Writers and artists whose works are discussed include Marianne Moore, Charles Chesnutt, Jean Toomer, Wallace Stevens, James A. Bland, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Gertrude Stein, Bert Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, Samuel Beckett, W. C. Handy, Hart Crane, and Clement Greenberg.
Author of the National Book Award–winning novel Middle Passage, Charles Johnson belongs to a generation of writers who collectively raised African American literature to a new position of prominence during the late twentieth century. In this book, Linda Furgerson Selzer takes an interdisciplinary approach to Johnson’s major fiction, providing fresh insight into his work by placing it within a broad historical context. In addition to Middle Passage (1990), Selzer focuses on three other novels: Faith and the Good Thing (1974), Oxherding Tale (1982), and Dreamer (1998). She shows how these works reflect Johnson’s participation in the larger cultural projects of several significant but often overlooked groups—young black philosophers who challenged the dominant Anglo-American empiricist tradition during the 1960s and 1970s; black Buddhists of the post–civil rights era who sought to translate an ancient religious practice into an African American idiom; and black public intellectuals who attempted to revive a cosmopolitan social ethic during the 1990s. The cultural histories of each of these groups, Selzer argues, provide important contexts for understanding Johnson’s evolution as a novelist. In the academic experience of black students who entered philosophy programs during the turbulent 1960s, the spiritual concerns of black Buddhists who have only recently begun to speak more publicly about their faith, and the cultural issues surrounding the emergence of a new cohort of African American public intellectuals, we see the roots of the social, moral, and aesthetic vision that informs what some have described as Johnson’s “philosophical fiction.” Selzer’s probing analysis of the influence of each of these contexts not only enriches our understanding of Charles Johnson’s fiction, it also makes a broader contribution to the cultural history of African America during the past half century.