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Houses and Spaces of Resistance
The Fiction of Gloria Naylor is one of the very first critical studies of this acclaimed writer. Including an insightful interview with Naylor and focusing on her first four novels, the book situates various acts of insurgency throughout her work within a larger framework of African American opposition to hegemonic authority. But what truly distinguishes this volume is its engagement with African American vernacular forms and twentieth-century political movements. In her provocative analysis, Maxine Lavon Montgomery argues that Naylor constantly attempts to reconfigure the home and homespace to be more conducive to black self-actualization, thus providing a stark contrast to a dominant white patriarchy evident in a broader public sphere. Employing a postcolonial and feminist theoretical framework to analyze Naylor’s evolving body of work, Montgomery pays particular attention to black slave historiography, tales of conjure, trickster lore, and oral devices involving masking, word play, and code-switching—the vernacular strategies that have catapulted Naylor to the vanguard of contemporary African American letters. Montgomery argues for the existence of home as a place that is not exclusively architectural or geographic in nature. She posits that in Naylor’s writings home exists as an intermediate space embedded in cultural memory and encoded in the vernacular. Home closely resembles a highly symbolic, signifying system bound with vexed issues of racial sovereignty as well as literary authority. Through a re-inscription of the subversive, frequently clandestine acts of resistance on the part of the border subject—those outside the dominant culture—Naylor recasts space in such a way as to undermine reader expectation and destabilize established models of dominance, influence, and control. Thoroughly researched and sophisticated in its approach, The Fiction of Gloria Naylor will be essential reading for scholars and students of African American, American, and Africana Literary and Cultural studies.
Essays on Violence and Grace
In any age, humans wrestle with apparently inexorable forces. Today, we face the threat of global terrorism. In the aftermath of September 11, few could miss sensing that a great evil was at work in the world. In Flannery O’Connor’s time, the threats came from different sources—World War II, the Cold War, and the Korean conflict—but they were just as real. She, too, lived though a “time of terror.” The first major critical volume on Flannery O’Connor’s work in more than a decade, Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism explores issues of violence, evil, and terror—themes that were never far from O’Connor’s reach and that seem particularly relevant to our present-day setting. The fifteen essays collected here offer a wide range of perspectives that explore our changing views of violence in a post-9/11 world and inform our understanding of a writer whose fiction abounds in violence. Written by both established and emerging scholars, the pieces that editors Avis Hewitt and Robert Donahoo have selected offer a compelling and varied picture of this iconic author and her work. Included are comparisons of O’Connor to 1950s writers of noir literature and to the contemporary American novelist Cormac McCarthy; cultural studies that draw on horror comics of the Cold War and on Fordism and the American mythos of the automobile; and pieces that shed new light on O’Connor’s complex religious sensibility and its role in her work. While continuing to speak fresh truths about her own time, O’Connor’s fiction also resonates deeply with the postmodern sensibilities of audiences increasingly distant from her era—readers absorbed in their own terrors and sense of looming, ineffable threats. This provocative new collection presents O’Connor’s work as a touchstone for understanding where our culture has been and where we are now. With its diverse approaches, Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism will prove useful not only to scholars and students of literature but to anyone interested in history, popular culture, theology, and reflective writing.
A True Story of Interracial Sex and Revenge in the 1880s South
An intensely dramatic true story, Forsaking All Others recounts the fascinating case of an interracial couple who attempted—in defiance of society’s laws and conventions—to formalize their relationship in the post-Reconstruction South. It was an affair with tragic consequences, one that entangled the protagonists in a miscegenation trial and, ultimately, a desperate act of revenge. From the mid-1870s to the early 1880s, Isaac Bankston was the proud sheriff of Desha County, Arkansas, a man so prominent and popular that he won five consecutive terms in office. Although he was married with two children, around 1881 he entered into a relationship with Missouri Bradford, an African American woman who bore his child. Some two years later, Missouri and Isaac absconded to Memphis, hoping to begin a new life there together. Although Tennessee lawmakers had made miscegenation a felony, Isaac’s dark complexion enabled the couple to apply successfully for a marriage license and take their vows. Word of the marriage quickly spread, however, and Missouri and Isaac were charged with unlawful cohabitation. An attorney from Desha County, James Coates, came to Memphis to act as special prosecutor in the case. Events then took a surprising turn as Isaac chose to deny his white heritage in order to escape conviction. . Despite this victory in court, however, Isaac had been publicly disgraced, and his sense of honor propelled him into a violent confrontation with Coates, the man he considered most responsible for his downfall. Charles F. Robinson uses Missouri and Isaac’s story to examine key aspects of post-Reconstruction society, from the rise of miscegenation laws and the particular burdens they placed on anyone who chose to circumvent them, to the southern codes of honor that governed both social and individual behavior, especially among white men. But most of all, the book offers a compelling personal narrative with important implications for our supposedly more tolerant times.
America's Struggle for Emancipation, 1776-1865
Freedom’s Delay: America’s Struggle for Emancipation, 1776–1865 probes the slow, painful, yet ultimately successful crusade to end slavery throughout the nation. It fills an important gap in the literature of slavery’s demise. Unlike other authors who focus largely on specific time periods or regional areas, Allen Carden presents a thematically structured national synthesis of emancipation. Freedom’s Delay offers a comprehensive and unique overview of the process of manumission commencing in 1776 when slavery was a national institution, not just the southern experience known historically by most Americans. In this volume, the entire country is examined, and major emancipatory efforts—political, literary, legal, moral, and social—made by black and white, free and enslaved individuals are documented over the years from independence through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Freedom’s Delay dispels many of the myths about slavery and abolition, including that racial servitude was of little consequence in the North, and, where it did exist, it ended quickly and easily; that abolition was a white man’s cause and blacks were passive recipients of liberty; that the South seceded primarily to protect states’ rights, not slavery; and that the North fought the Civil War primarily to end the subjugation of African Americans. By putting these misunderstandings aside, this book reveals what actually transpired in the fight for human rights during this critical era. Carden’s inclusion of a cogent preface and epilogue assures that Freedom’s Delay will find a significant place in the literature of American slavery and freedom. With a compelling preface and epilogue, notes, illustrations and tables, and a detailed bibliography, this volume will be of great value not only in courses on American history and African American history but also to the general reading public.
Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935–1941
In 1935 naturalist James T. Tanner was a twenty-one-year-old graduate student when he saw his first ivory-billed woodpecker, one of America’s rarest birds, in a remote swamp in northern Louisiana. At the time he was part of an ambitious expedition traveling across the country to record and photograph as many avian species as possible, a trip organized by Dr. Arthur Allen, founder of the famed Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Two years later Tanner hit the road again, this time by himself and in search of only one species—that ever-elusive ivory-bill. Sponsored by Cornell and the Audubon Society, Jim Tanner’s work would result in some of the most extensive field research of the magnificent woodpecker ever conducted. Drawing on Tanner’s personal journals and written with the cooperation of his widow, Nancy, Ghost Birds recounts, in fascinating detail, the scientist’s dogged quest for the ivory-bill as he chased down leads in eight southern states. With Stephen Lyn Bales as our guide, we experience the same awe and excitement that Tanner felt when he returned to the Louisiana wetland he had visited earlier and was able to observe and document several of the “ghost birds”—including a nestling that he handled, banded, and photographed at close range. Investigating the ivory-bill was particularly urgent because it was a fast-vanishing species, the victim of indiscriminant specimen hunting and widespread logging that was destroying its habitat. As sightings became rarer and rarer in the decades following Tanner’s remarkable research, the bird was feared to have become extinct. Since 2005, reports of sightings in Arkansas and Florida made headlines and have given new hope to ornithologists and bird lovers, although extensive subsequent investigations have yet to produce definitive confirmation. Before he died in 1991, Jim Tanner himself had come to believe that the majestic woodpeckers were probably gone forever, but he remained hopeful that someone would prove him wrong. This book fully captures Tanner’s determined spirit as he tracked down what was then, as now, one of ornithology’s true Holy Grails.
In her warm and witty new memoir, Stella Suberman charms readers with her personal perspective as she recalls the original 1940s GI Bill. As she writes of the bill and the epic events that spawned it, she manages, in her crisp way, to personalize and humanizes them in order to entertain and to educate. Although her story is in essence that of two Jewish families, it echoes the story of thousands of Americans of that period. Her narrative begins with her Southern family and her future husband’s Northern one – she designates herself and her husband as “Depression kids” – as they struggle through the Great Depression. In her characteristically lively style, she recounts the major happenings of the era: the Bonus March of World War I veterans; the attack on Pearl Harbor; the Roosevelt/New Deal years; the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party and the Holocaust; the second World War; and the post-war period when veterans returned home to a collapsed and jobless economy. She then takes the reader to the moment when the GI Bill appeared, the glorious moment, as she writes, when returning veterans realized they had been given a future. As her husband begins work on his Ph.D., she focuses on the GI men and their wives as college life consumed them. It is the time also of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare,” of the creation of an Israeli state, of the Korean War, and of other important issues, and she discusses them forthrightly. Throughout this section she writes of how the GI’s doggedly studied, engaged in critical thinking (perhaps for the first time), discovered their voices. As she suggests, it was not the 1930’s anymore, and the GI Bill boys were poised to give America an authentic and robust middle class.
Tales of Girlhood Ambition, Female Masculinity, and Women's Worldly Achievement in Antebellum America
A teenage orphan from Vermont, Mary Gibson burst onto the literary scene during the early 1850s as a star writer, under the pseudonym Winnie Woodfern, for more than half a dozen Boston “story papers,” mass-circulation weekly periodicals that specialized in popular fiction. Although she would soon join such famous woman authors as Fannie Fern and E. D. E. N. Southworth as featured contributors to the New York Ledger, America’s greatest story paper, Gibson’s subsequent output rarely matched the gender-bending creativity of the tales written in her late teens and early twenties and reprinted in this volume. But “Hero Strong” and Other Stories does much more than recover the work of a forgotten literary prodigy. As explained by historian Daniel A. Cohen, Gibson’s tales also illuminate major interrelated transformations in American girlhood and American women’s authorship. Challenging traditional gender expectations, thousands of girls of Gibson’s generation not only aspired to public careers as writers, artists, educators, and even doctors but also began to experiment with new forms of “female masculinity” in attitude, bearing, behavior, dress, and sexuality—a pattern only gradually domesticated by the nonthreatening image of the “tomboy.” Some, such as Gibson, at once realized and reenacted their dreams on the pages of antebellum story papers. This first modern scholarly edition of Mary Gibson’s early fiction features ten tales of teenage girls (seemingly much like Gibson herself) who fearlessly appropriate masculine traits, defy contemporary gender norms, and struggle to fulfill high worldly ambitions. In addition to several heroines who seek “fame and riches” as authors or artists, Gibson’s unconventional protagonists include three female medical students who resort to grave robbing and a Boston ingénue who dreams of achieving military glory in battle. By moving beyond “literary domesticity” and embracing bold new models of women’s authorship, artistry, and worldly achievement, Gibson and her fictional protagonists stand as exemplars of “the first generation of American girls who imagined they could do almost anything.”
“Turn on, tune in, drop out,” Timothy Leary advised young people in the 1960s. And many did, creating a counterculture built on drugs, rock music, sexual liberation, and communal living. The hippies preached free love, promoted flower power, and cautioned against trusting anyone over thirty. Eschewing money, materialism, and politics, they repudiated the mainstream values of the times. Along the way, these counterculturists created a lasting legacy and inspired long-lasting social changes. The Hippies and American Values uses an innovative approach to exploring the tenets of the counterculture movement. Rather than relying on interviews conducted years after the fact, Timothy Miller uses “underground” newspapers published at the time to provide a full and in-depth exploration. This reliance on primary sources brings an immediacy and vibrancy rarely seen in other studies of the period. Miller focuses primarily on the cultural revolutionaries rather than on the political radicals of the New Left. It examines the hippies’ ethics of dope, sex, rock, community, and cultural opposition and surveys their effects on current American values. Filled with illustrations from alternative publications, along with posters, cartoons, and photographs, The Hippies and American Values provides a graphic look at America in the 1960s. This second edition features a new introduction and a thoroughly updated, well-documented text. Highly readable and engaging, this volume brings deep insight to the counterculture movement and the ways it changed America. The first edition became a widely used course-adoption favorite, and scholars and students of the 1960s will welcome the second edition of this thought-provoking book.