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How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along
World War II shaped the United States in profound ways, and this new book--the first in the Legacies of War series--explores one of the most significant changes it fostered: a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious tolerance. A Nation Forged in War is the first full-length study of how large-scale mobilization during the Second World War helped to dissolve long-standing differences among white soldiers of widely divergent backgrounds.
Never before or since have so many Americans served in the armed forces at one time: more than 15 million donned uniforms in the period from 1941 to 1945. Thomas Bruscino explores how these soldiers' shared experiences--enduring basic training, living far from home, engaging in combat--transformed their views of other ethnic groups and religious traditions. He further examines how specific military policies and practices worked to counteract old prejudices, and he makes a persuasive case that throwing together men of different regions, ethnicities, religions, and classes not only fostered a greater sense of tolerance but also forged a new American identity. When soldiers returned home after the war with these new attitudes, they helped reorder what it meant to be white in America.
Using the presidential campaigns of Al Smith in 1928 and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as bookend events, Bruscino notes a key change in religious bias. Smith's defeat came at the end of a campaign rife with anti-Catholic sentiment; Kennedy's victory some three decades later proved that such religious bigotry was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Despite such advances, Bruscino notes that the growing broad-mindedness produced by the war had limits: it did not extend to African Americans, whose own struggle for equality would dramatically mark the postwar decades.
Extensively documented, A Nation Forged in War is one of the few books on the social and cultural impact of the World War II years. Scholars and students of military, ethnic, social, and religious history will be fascinated by this groundbreaking new volume.
The Life and Work of a Southern Ruralist Writer, Harry Harrison Kroll
Known for his sometimes-gritty naturalism and use of Appalachian dialect, Harry Harrison Kroll (1888–1967) was a remarkably prolific Tennessee novelist and short-story writer during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His career spanned two of the three major shifts in publishing during the twentieth century: the heyday and decline of the fiction magazine market during the late 1920s, and the rise of nonfiction and solidification of paperback marketing during the 1950s. Never Been Rich explores details of Kroll’s humble, rural youth, his long delayed education and the development of his craft, before discussing his lengthy career and how it reflected changes in both public taste and the American publishing industry. Kroll focused on writing not as a high art, but instead on what was popular—what would earn him a living. He preferred to write voluminously rather than exquisitely, and growing up in the rural south provided him with a broad and fertile field of experience to plow for his crop of stories. As a writing instructor, he had a profound influence on his students, particularly the well-known Appalachian triumvirate of James Still, Jesse Stuart, and Don West. While Kroll may lack grand literary significance, Richard Saunders maintains that we should explore not merely the linguistic and thematic aspects of a writer’s work but also its broad economic and social contexts, including the idea that literature is both an art form and a marketable product in an extensive industry. His study of Kroll delves deeply into those contexts and shows that, while Kroll did not strive for a place among writers of high literature, he exemplifies the far more widely read popular literature of his times.
The first African American to publish a book on any subject, poet Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784) has long been denigrated by literary critics who refused to believe that a black woman could produce such dense, intellectual work, let alone influence Romantic-period giants like Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson once declared that “the compositions published under her name are below dignity of criticism.” In recent decades, however, Wheatley’s work has come under new scrutiny as the literature of the eighteenth century and the impact of African American literature have been reconceived. In these never-before-published essays, fourteen prominent Wheatley scholars consider her work from a variety of angles, affirming her rise into the first rank of American writers. The pieces in the first section show that perhaps the most substantial measure of Wheatley’s multilayered texts resides in her deft handling of classical materials. The contributors consider Wheatley’s references to Virgil’s Aeneid and Georgics and to the feminine figure Dido as well as her subversive critique of white readers attracted to her adaptation of familiar classics. They also discuss Wheatley’s use of the Homeric Trojan horse and eighteenth-century verse to mask her ambitions for freedom and her treatment of the classics as political tools. Engaging Wheatley’s multilayered texts with innovative approaches, the essays in the second section recontextualize her rich manuscripts and demonstrate how her late-eighteenth-century works remain both current and timeless. They ponder Wheatley’s verse within the framework of queer theory, the concepts of political theorist Hannah Arendt, rhetoric, African studies, eighteenth-century “salon culture,” and the theoretics of imagination. Together, these essays reveal the depth of Phillis Wheatley’s literary achievement and present concrete evidence that her extant oeuvre merits still further scrutiny.
Cultures and Conquests in the Early American Southeast
From the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, the American Southeast was the scene of continuous tumult as European powers vied for dominance in the region while waging war on Native American communities. Yet even before Hernando de Soto landed his expeditionary force on the Gulf shores of Florida, Native Americans had created their own “cultures of violence”: sets of ideas about when it was appropriate to use violence and what sorts of violence were appropriate to a given situation. In New Worlds of Violence, Matthew Jennings offers a persuasive new framework for understanding the European–Native American contact period and the conflicts among indigenous peoples that preceded it. This pioneering approach posits that every group present in the Southeast had its own ideas about the use of violence and that these ideas changed over time as they collided with one another. The book starts with the Mississippian era and continues through the successive Spanish and English invasions of the Native South. Jennings argues that the English conquered the Southeast because they were able to force everyone else to adapt to their culture of violence, which, of course, changed over time as well. By 1740, a peculiarly Anglo-American culture of violence was in place that would profoundly influence the expansion of England’s colonies and the eventual southern United States. While Native and African violence were present in this world, they moved in circles defined by the English. New Worlds of Violence concludes by pointing out that long-lasting violence bears long-lasting consequences. An important contribution to the growing body of work on the early Southeast, this book will significantly broaden readers’ understanding of America’s violent past.
In December 1846, John Jacob Oswandel—or Jake as he was often called—enlisted in the Monroe Guards, which later became Company C of the First Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Thus began a twenty-month journey that led Oswandel from rural Pennsylvania through the American South, onward to the siege of Veracruz, and finally deep into the heart of Mexico. Waging war with Mexico ultimately realized President James K. Polk’s long-term goal of westward expansion all the way to the Pacific Ocean. For General Winfield Scott, the victorious Mexico City campaign would prove his crowning achievement in a fifty-three-year military career, but for Oswandel the “grand adventure of our lives” was about patriotism and honor in a war that turned this twenty-something bowsman into a soldier. Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, is the quintessential primary source on the Mexican War. From Oswandel’s time of enlistment in Pennsylvania to his discharge in July of 1848, he kept a daily record of events, often with the perception and intuition worthy of a highly ranked officer. In addition to Oswandel’s engaging narrative, Timothy D. Johnson and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr. provide an introduction that places Oswandel’s memoir within present-day scholarship. They illuminate the mindset of Oswandel and his comrades, who viewed the war with Mexico in terms of Manifest Destiny and they give insight into Oswandel’s historically common belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority—views that would bring about far worse consequences at the outbreak of the American Civil War a dozen years later. As historians continue to highlight the controversial actions of the Polk administration and the expansionist impulse that led to the conflict, Notes of the Mexican War, 1846–1848, opens a window into the past when typical young men rallied to a cause they believed was just and ordained. Oswandel provides an eyewitness account of an important chapter in America’s history.
Narratives of White Southern Identity, 1890–1920
Southerners have a reputation as storytellers, as a people fond of telling about family, community, and the southern way of life. A compelling book about some of those stories and their consequences, One Homogeneous People examines the forging and the embracing of southern “pan-whiteness” as an ideal during the volatile years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.
Trent Watts argues that despite real and signi?cant divisions within the South along lines of religion, class, and ethnicity, white southerners—especially in moments of perceived danger—asserted that they were one people bound by a shared history, a love of family, home, and community, and an uncompromising belief in white supremacy. Watts explores how these southerners explained their region and its people to themselves and other Americans through narratives found in a variety of forms and contexts: political oratory, fiction, historiography, journalism, correspondence, literary criticism, and the built environment.
Watts examines the assertions of an ordered, homogeneous white South (and the threats to it) in the unsettling years following the end of Reconstruction through the early 1900s. In three extended essays on related themes of race and power, the book demonstrates the remarkable similarity of discourses of pan-whiteness across formal and generic lines. In an insightful concluding essay that focuses on an important but largely unexamined institution, Mississippi’s Neshoba County Fair, Watts shows how narratives of pan-white identity initiated in the late nineteenth century have persisted to the present day.
Written in a lively style, <i>One Homogeneous People</i> is a valuable addition to the scholarship on southern culture and post-Reconstruction southern history.
Trent Watts is the editor of White Masculinity in the Recent South. His work has appeared in <i>Southern Cultures</i> and T<i>he New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture</i>. He is assistant professor of American studies at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
An African American Writer's (Re)Visionary Gospel of Success
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins was perhaps the most prolific black female writer of her time. Between 1900 and 1904, writing mainly for Colored American Magazine, she published four novels, at least seven short stories, and numerous articles that often addressed the injustices and challenges facing African Americans in post–Civil War America. In Pauline Hopkins and the American Dream, Alisha Knight provides the first full-length critical analysis of Hopkins’s work. Scholars have frequently situated Hopkins within the domestic, sentimental tradition of nineteenth-century women's writing, with some critics observing that aspects of her writing, particularly its emphasis on the self-made man, seem out of place within the domestic tradition. Knight argues that Hopkins used this often-dismissed theme to critique American society's ingrained racism and sexism. In her “Famous Men” and “Famous Women” series for Colored American Magazine, she constructed her own version of the success narrative by offering models of African American self-made men and women. Meanwhile, in her fiction, she depicted heroes who fail to achieve success or must leave the United States to do so. Hopkins risked and eventually lost her position at Colored American Magazine by challenging black male leaders, liberal white philanthropists, and white racists—and by conceiving a revolutionary treatment of the American Dream that placed her far ahead of her time. Hopkins is finally getting her due, and this clear-eyed analysis of her work will be a revelation to literary scholars, historians of African American history, and students of women’s studies.
A Nomadic Utopia
Since 1972 the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized and anarchistic nomadic community, has been holding large gatherings in remote forests to pray for world peace and create a model of a functioning utopian society. Michael I. Niman’s People of the Rainbow, originally published in 1997, was the first comprehensive study of this countercultural group and its eclectic philosophy of environmentalism, feminism, peace activism, group sharing, libertarianism, and consensus government. It is a book yet to be superseded. This second edition of Niman’s compelling and insightful work brings the Rainbow story up to date with a new introduction and two extensive new epilogues. While the big annual Rainbow “Gatherings” have drawn fewer numbers in recent years, Niman notes, the Rainbow ethos has in many ways migrated to the mainstream, as Rainbow notions about alternative medicine and environmental sustainability, for example, have gathered wider acceptance and influenced the national dialogue. Meanwhile, Rainbow movements in other regions, from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to Asia and Australia, are thriving. In addition to addressing changes within the Rainbow Family and its complex relationship to “Babylon” (what Rainbows call mainstream culture), the book’s new material explores the growing harassment Rainbows now face from U.S. law enforcement agencies—especially those associated with the National Forest Service. As Niman contends, this particular saga of a U.S. bureaucracy at war with its own citizens is a subplot in the larger—and disturbing—story of how the relationship between Americans and their government has changed during the first decade of the twenty-first century. In its nuanced portrait of an intriguing subculture, its successes, and its limitations, People of the Rainbow remains a significant contribution to the study of utopian communities in the United States and their ongoing legacy.
“This book very conclusively debunks the over two-hundred-year-old conventional wisdom that Wheatley owes her poetic sensibilities to Alexander Pope. . . . It will help rejuvenate the study of Wheatley and will be an exciting contribution to scholarly discourse on Wheatley’s poetry.” —Cedrick May, author of Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760–1835
Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book. Born in Gambia in 1753, she came to America aboard a slave ship, the Phillis. From an early age, Wheatley exhibited a profound gift for verse, publishing her first poem in 1767. Her tribute to a famed pastor, “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield,” followed in 1770, catapulting her into the international spotlight, and publication of her 1773 Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral in London created her an international star.
Despite the attention she received at the time, history has not been kind to Wheatley. Her work has long been neglected or denigrated by literary critics and historians. John C. Shields, a scholar of early American literature, has tried to help change this perception, and Wheatley has begun to take her place among the elite of American writers.
In Phillis Wheatley and the Romantic Age, Shields contends that Wheatley was not only a brilliant writer but one whose work made a significant impression on renowned Europeans of the Romantic age, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who borrowed liberally from her works, particularly in his famous distinction between fancy and imagination. Shields shows how certain Wheatley texts, particularly her “Long Poem,” consisting of “On Recollection,” “Thoughts on the Works of Providence,” and “On Imagination,” helped shape the face of Romanticism in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantic Age helps demolish the long-held notion that literary culture flowed in only one direction: from Europe to the Americas. Thanks to Wheatley’s influence, Shields argues, the New World was influencing European literary masters far sooner than has been generally understood.
John C. Shields is the editor of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley and the author of The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self (named by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book and awarded honorable mention in competition for the American Comparative Literature Association’s HARRY LEVIN PRIZE) and of Phillis Wheatley’s Poetics of Liberation. He is Distinguished Professor of English and director of the Center for Classicism in American Culture at Illinois State University.