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The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg
Despite their peaceful, bucolic appearance, the tree-lined streets of South African suburbia were no refuge from the racial tensions and indignities of apartheid’s most repressive years. In At Home with Apartheid, Rebecca Ginsburg provides an intimate examination of the cultural landscapes of Johannesburg’s middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods during the height of apartheid (c. 1960-1975) and incorporates recent scholarship on gender, the home, and family.
More subtly but no less significantly than factory floors, squatter camps, prisons, and courtrooms, the homes of white South Africans were sites of important contests between white privilege and black aspiration. Subtle negotiations within the domestic sphere between white, mostly female, householders and their black domestic workers, also primarily women, played out over and around this space. These seemingly mundane, private conflicts were part of larger contemporary struggles between whites and blacks over territory and power.
Ginsburg gives special attention to the distinct social and racial geographies produced by the workers’ detached living quarters, designed by builders and architects as landscape complements to the main houses. Ranch houses, Italianate villas, modernist cubes, and Victorian bungalows filled Johannesburg’s suburbs. What distinguished these neighborhoods from their precedents in the United States or the United Kingdom was the presence of the ubiquitous back rooms and of the African women who inhabited them in these otherwise exclusively white areas.
The author conducted more than seventy-five personal interviews for this book, an approach that sets it apart from other architectural histories. In addition to these oral accounts, Ginsburg draws from plans, drawings, and onsite analysis of the physical properties themselves. While the issues addressed span the disciplines of South African and architectural history, feminist studies, material culture studies, and psychology, the book’s strong narrative, powerful oral histories, and compelling subject matter bring the neighborhoods and residents it examines vividly to life.
The Culture of Drink in Early Modern Germany
In Bacchus and Civic Order, Ann Tlusty examines the social and cultural functions served by drinking and tavern life in Germany between 1500 and 1700, and challenges existing theories about urban identity, sociability, and power. Through her reconstruction of the social history of Augsburg, from beggars to council members, Tlusty also sheds light on such diverse topics as social ritual, gender and household relations, medical practice, and the concerns of civic leaders with public health and poverty. Drunkenness, dueling, and other forms of tavern comportment that may appear "disorderly" to us today turn out to be the inevitable, even desirable result of a society functioning according to its own rules.
Frances Burney and the Theater Arts
In Backstage in the Novel, Francesca Saggini traces the unique interplay between fiction and theater in the eighteenth century through an examination of the work of the English novelist, diarist, and playwright Frances Burney. Moving beyond the basic identification of affinities between the genres, Saggini establishes a literary-cultural context for Burney's work, considering the relation between drama, a long-standing tradition, and the still-emergent form of the novel.
Through close semiotic analysis, intertextual comparison, and cultural contextualization, Saggini highlights the extensive metatextual discourse in Burney's novels, allowing the theater within the novels to surface. Saggini’s comparative analysis addresses, among other elements, textual structures, plots, characters, narrative discourse, and reading practices. The author explores the theatrical and spectacular elements that made the eighteenth-century novel a hybrid genre infused with dramatic conventions. She analyzes such conventions in light of contemporary theories of reception and of the role of the reader that underpinned eighteenth-century cultural consumption. In doing so, Saggini contextualizes the typical reader-spectator of Burney’s day, one who kept abreast of the latest publications and was able to move effortlessly between "high" (sentimental, dramatic) and "low" (grotesque, comedic) cultural forms that intersected on the stage.
Backstage in the Novel aims to restore to Burney's entire literary corpus the dimensionality that characterized it originally. It is a vivid, close-up view of a writer who operated in a society saturated by theater and spectacle and who rendered that dramatic text into narrative. More than a study of Burney or an overview of eighteenth-century literature and theater, this book gives immediacy to an understanding of the broad forces informing, and channeled through, Burney's life and work.
Black Antislavery Writers, Religion, and the Slaveholding Atlantic
In an interdisciplinary study of black intellectual history at the dawn of the nineteenth century, Stefan M. Wheelock shows how black antislavery writers were able to counteract ideologies of white supremacy while fostering a sense of racial community and identity. The major figures he discusses—Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, David Walker, and Maria Stewart—engaged the concepts of democracy, freedom, and equality as these ideas ripened within the context of racial terror and colonial hegemony. Wheelock highlights the ways in which religious and secular versions of collective political destiny both competed and cooperated to forge a vision for a more perfect and just society. By appealing to religious sensibilities and calling for emancipation, these writers addressed slavery and its cultural bearing on the Atlantic in varied, complex, and sometimes contradictory ways during a key period in the development of Western political identity and modernity.
Hunting and Mastery in the Old South
Nicolas Proctor argues in Bathed in Blood that because slaves frequently accompanied white hunters into the field, whites often believed that hunting was a particularly effective venue for the demonstration of white supremacy. Slaves interpreted such interactions quite differently: they remained focused on the products of the hunt and considered the labor performed at the behest of their owners as an opportunity to improve their own condition. Whether acquired as a reward from a white hunter or as a result of their own independent—often illicit—efforts, game provided them with an important supplementary food source, an item for trade, and a measure of autonomy. By sharing their valuable resources with other slaves, slave hunters also strengthened the bonds within their own community. In a society predicated upon the constant degradation of African Americans, such simple acts of generosity became symbolic of resistance and had a cohesive effect on slave families.
Senators, Interest Groups, and Lower Court Confirmations
As as arbiters of political and social issues, lower court judges play at least as decisive a role as Supreme Court justices, yet remarkably little is known about the process by which some lower court nominees are confirmed while others may be blocked. The most throrough empirical study the confirmation process concludes that political horse-trading unrelated to a judge's politics is even more important than the expected factors of political ideology and interest group lobbying.
Poverty, Fiction, and the Invention of the Middle-Class Home
Before the rise of private homes as we now understand them, the realm of personal, private, and local relations in England was the parish, which was also the sphere of poverty management. Between the 1740s and the 1790s, legislators, political economists, reformers, and novelists transferred the parish system’s functions to another institution that promised self-sufficient prosperity: the laborer’s cottage. Expanding its scope beyond the parameters of literary history and previous studies of domesticity, Be It Ever So Humble posits that the modern middle-class home was conceived during the eighteenth century in England, and that its first inhabitants were the poor.
Over the course of the eighteenth century, many participants in discussions about poverty management came to believe that private family dwellings could turn England's indigent, unemployed, and discontent into a self-sufficient, productive, and patriotic labor force. Writers and thinkers involved in these debates produced copious descriptions of what a private home was and how it related to the collective national home. In this body of texts, Scott MacKenzie pursues the origins of the modern middle-class home through an extensive set of discourses—including philosophy, law, religion, economics, and aesthetics—all of which brush up against and often spill over into literary representations.
Through close readings, the author substantiates his claim that the private home was first invented for the poor and that only later did the middle class appropriate it to themselves. Thus, the late eighteenth century proves to be a watershed moment in home's conceptual life, one that produced a remarkably rich and complex set of cultural ideas and images.
European Aesthetics, the Early American Novel, and Illusionist Art
The art of the early republic abounds in representations of deception: the villains of Gothic novels deceive their victims with visual and acoustic tricks; the ordinary citizens of picaresque novels are hoodwinked by quacks and illiterate but shrewd adventurers; and innocent sentimental heroines fall for their seducers' eloquently voiced half-truths and lies. Yet, as Philipp Schweighauser points out in Beautiful Deceptions, deception happens not only within these novels but also through them. The fictions of Charles Brockden Brown, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Susanna Rowson, Hannah Webster Foster, Tabitha Gilman Tenney, and Royall Tyler invent worlds that do not exist. Similarly, Charles Willson Peale's and Raphaelle Peale's trompe l'oeil paintings trick spectators into mistaking them for the real thing, and Patience Wright's wax sculptures deceive (and disturb) viewers.
Beautiful Deceptions examines how these and other artists of the era at times acknowledge art's dues to other social realms—religion, morality, politics—but at other times insist on artists' right to deceive their audiences, thus gesturing toward a more modern, autonomous notion of art that was only beginning to emerge in the eighteenth century. Building on Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten's definition of aesthetics as "the science of sensuous cognition" and the writings of early European aestheticians including Kant, Schiller, Hume, and Burke, Schweighauser supplements the dominant political readings of deception in early American studies with an aesthetic perspective. Schweighauser argues that deception in and through early American art constitutes a comment on eighteenth-century debates concerning the nature and function of art as much as it responds to shifts in social and political organization.
Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War
Young Continental soldiers carried a heavy burden in the American Revolution. Their experiences of coming of age during the upheavals of war provide a novel perspective on the Revolutionary era, eliciting questions of gender, family life, economic goals, and politics. "Going for a soldier" forced young men to confront profound uncertainty, and even coercion, but also offered them novel opportunities. Although the war imposed obligations on youths, military service promised young men in their teens and early twenties alternate paths forward in life. Continental soldiers’ own youthful expectations about respectable manhood and their goals of economic competence and marriage not only ordered their experience of military service; they also shaped the fighting capacities of George Washington’s army and the course of the war.
Becoming Men of Some Consequence examines how young soldiers and officers joined the army, their experiences in the ranks, their relationships with civilians, their choices about quitting long-term military service, and their attempts to rejoin the flow of civilian life after the war. The book recovers young soldiers’ perspectives and stories from military records, wartime letters and journals, and postwar memoirs and pension applications, revealing how revolutionary political ideology intertwined with rational calculations and youthful ambitions. Its focus on soldiers as young men offers a new understanding of the Revolutionary War, showing how these soldiers’ generational struggle for their own independence was a profound force within America’s struggle for its independence.