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Reimagining Mobility in Literature and Film
The freedom to go anywhere and become anyone has profoundly shaped our national psyche. Transforming our sense of place and identity--whether in terms of social and economic status, or race and ethnicity, or gender and sexuality—American mobility is perhaps nowhere more vividly captured than in the image of the open road. From pioneer trails to the latest car commercial, the road looms large as a form of expansiveness and opportunity.
Too often it is the celebratory idea of the road as a free-floating zone moving the traveler beyond the typical concerns of space and time that dominates the discussion. Rather than thinking of mobility as an escape from cultural tensions, however, Ann Brigham proposes that we understand mobility as a mode of engagement with them. She explores the genre of road narratives to show how mobility both thrives on and attempts to manage shifting conflicts about space and society in the United States.
From the earliest transcontinental automobile narratives from the 1910s, through classics like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and the film Thelma & Louise, up to post-9/11 narratives, Brigham traces the ways in which mobility has been imagined, created, and interrogated over the past century and shows how mobility promises, and threatens, to incorporate the outsider and to blur boundaries. Bringing together textual and cultural analysis, theories of spatiality, and sociohistorical frameworks, this book offers an invigoratingly different view of mobility and a new understanding of the road narrative’s importance in American culture.
Cultural Frames, Framing Culture
Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England
In The Angel out of the House, Dorice Williams Elliott examines the ways in which novels and other texts that portrayed women performing charitable acts helped to make the inclusion of philanthropic work in the domestic sphere seem natural and obvious. And although many scholars have dismissed women’s volunteer endeavors as merely patriarchal collusion, Elliott argues that the conjunction of novelistic and philanthropic discourse in the works of women writers—among them George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell, Hannah More and Anna Jameson—was crucial to the redefinition of gender roles and class relations.
Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park, 1934-1938
With the Commonwealth of Virginia's Public Park Condemnation Act of 1928, the state surveyed for and acquired three thousand tracts of land that would become Shenandoah National Park. The Commonwealth condemned the homes of five hundred families so that their land could be "donated" to the federal government and placed under the auspices of the National Park Service. Prompted by the condemnation of their land, the residents began writing letters to National Park and other government officials to negotiate their rights and to request various services, property, and harvests. Typically represented in the popular media as lawless, illiterate, and incompetent, these mountaineers prove themselves otherwise in this poignant collection of letters. The history told by the residents themselves both adds to and counters the story that is generally accepted about them.
How Justices and Litigants Set the Supreme Court Agenda
The U.S. Supreme Court is the quintessential example of a court that expanded its agenda into policy areas that were once reserved for legislatures. Yet scholars know very little about what causes attention to various policy areas to ebb and flow on the Supreme Court’s agenda. Vanessa A. Baird’s Answering the Call of the Court represents the first scholarly attempt to connect justices’ priorities, litigants’ strategies, and aggregate policy outputs of the U.S. Supreme Court.
John Henry Newman and the Paradox of Personality
The Antagonist Principle is a critical examination of the works and sometimes controversial public career of John Henry Newman (1801–1890), first as an Anglican and then as Victorian England’s most famous convert to Roman Catholicism at a time when such a conversion was not only a minority choice but in some quarters a deeply offensive one. Lawrence Poston adopts the idea of personality as his theme, not only in the modern sense of warring elements in one’s own temperament and relationships with others but also in a theological sense as a central premise of orthodox Trinitarian Christian doctrine. The principle of "antagonism," in the sense of opposition, Poston argues, activated Newman's imagination while simultaneously setting limits to his achievement, both as a spiritual leader and as a writer. The author draws on a wide variety of biographical, historical, literary, and theological scholarship to provide an "ethical" reading of Newman’s texts that seeks to offer a humane and complex portrait.
Neither a biography nor a revelation of a life, this textual study of Newman’s development as a theologian in his published works and private correspondence attempts to resituate him as one of the most combative of the Victorian seekers. Though his spiritual quest took place on the far right of the religious spectrum in Victorian England, it nonetheless allied him with a number of other prominent figures of his generation as distinct from each other as Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and Walter Pater. Avoiding both hagiography and iconoclasm, Poston aims to "see Newman whole."
The Novel in a Time of Climate Change
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have transformed the Earth’s atmosphere, committing our planet to more extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps, and mass extinction. This period of observable human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems has been called the Anthropocene Age. The anthropogenic climate change that has impacted the Earth has also affected our literature, but criticism of the contemporary novel has not adequately recognized the literary response to this level of environmental crisis. Ecocriticism’s theories of place and planet, meanwhile, are troubled by a climate that is neither natural nor under human control. Anthropocene Fictions is the first systematic examination of the hundreds of novels that have been written about anthropogenic climate change.
Drawing on climatology, the sociology and philosophy of science, geography, and environmental economics, Adam Trexler argues that the novel has become an essential tool to construct meaning in an age of climate change. The novel expands the reach of climate science beyond the laboratory or model, turning abstract predictions into subjectively tangible experiences of place, identity, and culture. Political and economic organizations are also being transformed by their struggle for sustainability. In turn, the novel has been forced to adapt to new boundaries between truth and fabrication, nature and economies, and individual choice and larger systems of natural phenomena. Anthropocene Fictions argues that new modes of inhabiting climate are of the utmost critical and political importance, when unprecedented scientific consensus has failed to lead to action.
Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism
Race and the Anxiety of Detection
In her reading of detective fiction and passing narratives from the end of the nineteenth century forward, Jinny Huh investigates anxieties about race and detection. Adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, she examines the racial formations of African Americans and Asian Americans not only in detective fiction (from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan to the works of Pauline Hopkins) but also in narratives centered on detection itself (such as Winnifred Eaton’s rhetoric of undetection in her Japanese romances). In explicating the literary depictions of race-detection anxiety, Huh demonstrates how cultural, legal, and scientific discourses across diverse racial groups were also struggling with demands for racial decipherability. Anxieties of detection and undetection, she concludes, are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent on each other's construction and formation in American history and culture.
Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era
During the first generation of black participation in U.S. diplomacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a vibrant community of African American writers and cultural figures worked as U.S. representatives abroad. Through the literary and diplomatic dossiers of figures such as Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, Archibald and Angelina Grimké, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida Gibbs Hunt, and Richard Wright, Brian Roberts shows how the intersection of black aesthetic trends and U.S. political culture both Americanized and internationalized the trope of the New Negro. This decades-long relationship began during the days of Reconstruction, and it flourished as U.S. presidents courted and rewarded their black voting constituencies by appointing black men as consuls and ministers to such locales as Liberia, Haiti, Madagascar, and Venezuela. These appointments changed the complexion of U.S. interactions with nations and colonies of color; in turn, state-sponsored black travel gave rise to literary works that imported international representation into New Negro discourse on aesthetics, race, and African American culture.
Beyond offering a narrative of the formative dialogue between black transnationalism and U.S. international diplomacy, Artistic Ambassadors also illuminates a broader literary culture that reached both black and white America as well as the black diaspora and the wider world of people of color. In light of the U.S. appointments of its first two black secretaries of state and the election of its first black president, this complex representational legacy has continued relevance to our understanding of current American internationalism.
The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain
Although the British consider themselves a nation of dog lovers, what we have come to know as the modern dog came into existence only after a profound, and relatively recent, transformation in that country’s social attitudes and practices. In At Home and Astray, Philip Howell focuses on Victorian Britain, and especially London, to show how the dog’s changing place in society was the subject of intense debate and depended on a fascinating combination of forces even to come about.
Despite a relationship with humans going back thousands of years, it was during the nineteenth century—alongside the development of dog breeds and dog shows, and with a considerable increase in dog ownership--that the dog became fully domesticated and installed in the heart of the middle-class home. At the same time, the dog was increasingly policed out of public space, the “stray” becoming the unloved counterpart of the household “pet.” Howell shows how this redefinition of the dog’s place illuminates our understanding of modernity and the city. He also explores the fascinating process whereby the dog’s changing role was proposed, challenged, and confronted—and in the end conditionally accepted. With a supporting cast that includes Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Darwin, and subjects of inquiry ranging from vivisection and the policing of rabies to pet cemeteries, dog shelters, and the practice of walking the dog, At Home and Astray is a contribution not only to the history of animals but also to our understanding of the Victorian era and its legacies.
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.