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Planter Society at the Virginia Springs, 1790-1860
Each summer between 1790 and 1860, hundreds and eventually thousands of southern men and women left the diseases and boredom of their plantation homes and journeyed to the healthful and entertaining Virginia Springs. In Ladies and Gentlemen on Display, Charlene Boyer Lewis argues that the Virginia Springs provided a theater of sorts, where contests for power between men and women, fashionables and evangelicals, blacks and whites, old and young, and even northerners and southerners played out—away from the traditional roles of the plantation. In their pursuit of health and pleasure, white southerners created a truly regional community at the springs. At this edge of the South, elite southern society shaped itself, defining what it meant to be a "Southerner" and redefining social roles and relations.
How Policy Preferences Influence Legal Reasoning
Based on an innovative combination of psychological experimentation and studies of individual cases, the author advances a new theory about the ways in which policy preferences influence judicial decision-making. She demonstrates that "motivated reasoning" does indeed occur, but its scope is limited by rules of legal analysis.
The Victorian Practice of History from Gibbon to Churchill
In Liberal Epic, Edward Adams examines the liberal imagination’s centuries-long dependence on contradictory, and mutually constitutive, attitudes toward violent domination. Adams centers his ambitious analysis on a series of major epic poems, histories, and historical novels, including Dryden’s Aeneid, Pope’s Iliad, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Byron’s Don Juan, Scott’s Life of Napoleon, Napier’s History of the War in the Peninsula, Macaulay’s History of England, Hardy’s Dynasts, and Churchill’s military histories—works that rank among the most important publishing events of the past three centuries yet that have seldom received critical attention relative to their importance. In recovering these neglected works and gathering them together as part of a self-conscious literary tradition here defined as liberal epic, Adams provides an archaeology that sheds light on contemporary issues such as the relation of liberalism to war, the tactics for sanitizing heroism, and the appeal of violence to supposedly humane readers.
Victorian Literature and Culture Series
In The Life and Undeath of Autonomy in American Literature, Geoff Hamilton charts the evolution of the fundamental concept of autonomy in the American imaginary across the span of the nation’s literary history. Whereas America’s ideological roots are typically examined in relation to Enlightenment Europe, this book traces the American literary representation of autonomy back to its pastoral, political, and ultimately religious origins in ancient Greek thought. Tracking autonomy’s evolution in America from the Declaration of Independence to contemporary works, Hamilton considers affinities between American and Greek literary characters—Natty Bumppo and Odysseus, Emerson’s "poet" and Socrates, Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden and Callicles—and reveals both what American literary history has in common with that of ancient Greece and what is distinctively its own.
The author argues for the link with antiquity not only to understand better the boundaries between self and society but also to show profound transitions in the understanding of autonomy from a nourishing liberty of fulfillment, through an aggressive agency destructive to both human and natural worlds, to a sterile isolation and detachment. The result is an insightful analysis of the history of individualism, the evolution of frontier mythology and American Romanticism, and the contemporary representation of social alienation and violent criminality.
Thomas Jefferson and the Power of Knowledge
Although Thomas Jefferson’s status as a champion of education is widely known, the essays in Light and Liberty make clear that his efforts to enlighten fellow citizens reflected not only a love of learning but also a love of freedom. Using as a starting point Jefferson's conviction that knowledge is the basis of republican self-government, the contributors examine his educational projects not as disparate attempts to advance knowledge for its own sake but instead as a result of his unyielding, almost obsessive desire to bolster Americans’ republican virtues and values.
Whether by establishing schools or through broader, extra-institutional efforts to disseminate knowledge, Jefferson's endeavors embraced his vision for a dynamic and meritocratic America. He aimed not only to provide Americans with the ability to govern themselves and participate in the government of others but also to influence Americans to remake their society in accordance with his own principles.
Written in clear and accessible prose, Light and Liberty reveals the startling diversity of Jefferson’s attempts to rid citizens of the ignorance and vice that, in the view of Jefferson and many contemporaries, had corroded and corrupted once-great civilizations. Never wavering from his faith that "knowledge is power," Jefferson embraced an expansive understanding of education as the foundation for a republic of free and responsible individuals who understood their rights and stood ready to defend them.
Thomas Jefferson's Dualistic Enlightenment
The Limits of Optimism works to dispel persistent notions about Jefferson’s allegedly paradoxical and sphinx-like quality. Maurizio Valsania shows that Jefferson’s multifaceted character and personality are to a large extent the logical outcome of an anti-metaphysical, enlightened, and humility-oriented approach to reality. That Jefferson’s mind and priorities changed over time and in response to changing circumstances indicates neither incoherence, hypocrisy, nor pathology.
Valsania’s reading of Jefferson, the Enlightenment, and negativity helps to make sense of the many paradoxes typically associated with that eighteenth-century thinker. At the same time, it provides a corrective to the common though erroneous equation of Enlightenment thinking with rationalism and shallow optimism.
Space and Identity in Caribbean Fiction
While postcolonial discourse in the Caribbean has drawn attention to colonialism’s impact on space and spatial hierarchy, Stanka Radović asks both how ordinary people as "users" of space have been excluded from active and autonomous participation in shaping their daily spatial reality and how they challenge this exclusion. In a comparative interdisciplinary reading of anglophone and francophone Caribbean literature and contemporary spatial theory, she focuses on the house as a literary figure and the ways that fiction and acts of storytelling resist the oppressive hierarchies of colonial and neocolonial domination. The author engages with the theories of Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, and contemporary critical geographers, in addition to selected fiction by V. S. Naipaul, Patrick Chamoiseau, Beryl Gilroy, and Rafaël Confiant, to examine the novelists’ construction of narrative "houses" to reclaim not only actual or imaginary places but also the very conditions of self-representation.
Radović ultimately argues for the power of literary imagination to contest the limitations of geopolitical boundaries by emphasizing space and place as fundamental to our understanding of social and political identity. The physical places described in these texts crystallize the protagonists’ ambiguous and complex relationship to the New World. Space is, then, as the author shows, both a political fact and a powerful metaphor whose imaginary potential continually challenges its material limitations.
Reflections on the Founding Couple
Restored to its original splendor, Montpelier is now a national shrine, but before Montpelier became a place of study and tribute, it was a home. Often kept from it by the business of the young nation, James and Dolley Madison could finally take up permanent residence when they retired from Washington in 1817. Their lifelong friend Thomas Jefferson predicted that, at Montpelier, the retiring Madison could return to his "books and farm, to tranquility, and independence," that he would be released "from incessant labors, corroding anxieties, active enemies, and interested friends."
As the celebrated historian Ralph Ketcham shows, this would turn out to be only partly true. Although the Madisons were no longer in Washington, Dolley continued to take part in its social scene from afar, dominating it just as she had during Jefferson’s and her husband’s administrations, commenting on people and events there and advising the multitude of young people who thought of her as the creator of society life in the young republic. James maintained a steady correspondence about public questions ranging from Native American affairs, slavery, and utopian reform to religion and education. He also took an active role at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-30, in the defeat of nullification, and in the establishment of the University of Virginia, of which he was the rector for eight years after Jefferson’s death. Exploring Madison’s role in these post-presidential issues reveals a man of extraordinary intellectual vitality and helps us to better understand Madison’s political thought. His friendships with figures such as Jefferson, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette--as well as his assessment of them (he outlived them all)--shed valuable light on the nature of the republic they had all helped found.
In their last years, James and Dolley Madison personified the republican institutions and culture of the new nation--James as the father of the Constitution and its chief propounder for nearly half a century, and Dolley as the creator of the role of "First Lady." Anything but uneventful, the retirement period at Montpelier should be seen as a crucial element in our understanding of this remarkable couple.
The Soldier-Hero in Contemporary American Culture
There is no shortage of iconic masculine imagery of the soldier in American film and literature—one only has to think of George C. Scott as Patton in front of a giant American flag, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, or Burt Lancaster rolling around in the surf in From Here to Eternity. In Male Armor, Jon Robert Adams examines the ways in which novels, plays, and films about America’s late-twentieth-century wars reflect altering perceptions of masculinity in the culture at large. He highlights the gap between the cultural conception of masculinity and the individual experience of it, and exposes the myth of war as an experience that verifies manhood.
Drawing on a wide range of work, from the war novels of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Joseph Heller to David Rabe’s play Streamers and Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, Adams examines the evolving image of the soldier from World War I to Operation Desert Storm. In discussing these changing perceptions of masculinity, he reveals how works about war in the late twentieth century attempt to eradicate inconsistencies among American civilian conceptions of war, the military’s expectations of the soldier, and the soldier’s experience of combat. Adams argues that these inconsistencies are largely responsible not only for continuing support of the war enterprise but also for the soldiers’ difficulty in reintegration to civilian society upon their return. He intends Male Armor to provide a corrective to the public’s continued investment in the war enterprise as a guarantor both of masculinity and, by extension, of the nation.
Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War
The Confederate army went to war to defend a nation of slaveholding states, and although men rushed to recruiting stations for many reasons, they understood that the fundamental political issue at stake in the conflict was the future of slavery. Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders themselves, but they were products of the largest and most prosperous slaveholding civilization the world had ever seen, and they sought to maintain clear divisions between black and white, master and servant, free and slave.
In Marching Masters Colin Woodward explores not only the importance of slavery in the minds of Confederate soldiers but also its effects on military policy and decision making. Beyond showing how essential the defense of slavery was in motivating Confederate troops to fight, Woodward examines the Rebels’ persistent belief in the need to defend slavery and deploy it militarily as the war raged on. Slavery proved essential to the Confederate war machine, and Rebels strove to protect it just as they did Southern cities, towns, and railroads. Slaves served by the tens of thousands in the Southern armies—never as soldiers, but as menial laborers who cooked meals, washed horses, and dug ditches. By following Rebel troops' continued adherence to notions of white supremacy into the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, the book carries the story beyond the Confederacy’s surrender.
Drawing upon hundreds of soldiers’ letters, diaries, and memoirs, Marching Masters combines the latest social and military history in its compelling examination of the last bloody years of slavery in the United States.