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American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War
What does narrative look like when the possibility of an expansive future has been called into question? This query is the driving force behind Daniel Grausam’s On Endings, which seeks to show how the core texts of American postmodernism are a response to the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War and especially to the new potential for total nuclear conflict. Postwar American fiction needs to be rethought, he argues, by highlighting postmodern experimentation as a mode of profound historical consciousness.
In Grausam’s view, previous studies of fiction mimetically concerned with nuclear conflict neither engage the problems that total war might pose to narration nor take seriously the paradox of a war that narrative can never actually describe. Those few critical works that do take seriously such problems do not offer a broad account of American postmodernism. And recent work on postmodernism has offered no comprehensive historical account of the part played by nuclear weapons in the emergence of new forms of temporal and historical experience. On Endings significantly extends the project of historicizing postmodernism while returning the nuclear to a central place in the study of the Cold War.
Fear and the Media
Award-winning media historian Jack Censer's exhaustive account of media coverage of the DC Sniper episode creates a more complex picture of the whole range of news media than accounts emphasizing political bias or commercial gain. The sniper episode has particular lessons about the media's role in generating or moderating public fear. Censer concludes that neither commercial gain nor political bias are adequate to explain media reaction: professional motivations of reporters, which differ for different media, are more important. Looks at public schools, that had a very moderate response.
Dickson D. Bruce argues that contrary to prevailing perceptions of African American voices as silenced and excluded from American history, those voices were loud and clear. Within the context of the wider culture, these writers offered powerful, widely read, and widely appreciated commentaries on American ideals and ambitions. The Origins of African American Literature provides strong evidence to demonstrate just how much writers engaged in a surprising number of dialogues with society as a whole.
Capacious Desire in the Eighteenth Century
Before 1660, English readers and theatergoers had never heard of a "coquette"; by the early 1700s, they could hardly watch a play, read a poem, or peruse a newspaper without encountering one. Why does British literature of this period pay so much attention to vain and flirtatious young women? Our Coquettes examines the ubiquity of the coquette in the eighteenth century to show how this figure enables authors to comment upon a series of significant social and economic developments—including the growth of consumer culture, widespread new wealth, increased travel and global trade, and changes in the perception and practice of marriage. The book surveys stage comedies, periodical essays, satirical poems, popular songs, and didactic novels to show that the early coquette is a figure of capacious desire: she finds pleasure in a wide range of choices, refusing to narrow any field of possibilities (admirers, luxury goods, friends, pets, public gatherings) down to a single option. Whereas scholars of the period have generally read the coquette as a simple and self-evident type, Our Coquettes emphasizes what is strange and surprising about this figure, revealing the coquette to be a touchstone in developing discourses about sexuality, consumerism, empire, and modernity itself.
American Soldiers' Voices from Afghanistan
A riveting collection of thirty-eight narratives by American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Outside the Wire offers a powerful evocation of everyday life in a war zone. Christine Dumaine Leche—a writing instructor who left her home and family to teach at Bagram Air Base and a forward operating base near the volatile Afghan-Pakistani border—encouraged these deeply personal reflections, which demonstrate the power of writing to battle the most traumatic of experiences.
The soldiers whose words fill this book often met for class with Leche under extreme circumstances and in challenging conditions, some having just returned from dangerous combat missions, others having spent the day in firefights, endured hours in the bitter cold of an open guard tower, or suffered a difficult phone conversation with a spouse back home. Some choose to record momentous events from childhood or civilian life—events that motivated them to join the military or that haunt them as adults. Others capture the immediacy of the battlefield and the emotional and psychological explosions that followed. These soldiers write through the senses and from the soul, grappling with the impact of moral complexity, fear, homesickness, boredom, and despair.
We each, writes Leche, require witnesses to the narratives of our lives. Outside the Wire creates that opportunity for us as readers to bear witness to the men and women who carry the weight of war for us all.
The enormous popularity of his pamphlet Common Sense made Thomas Paine one of the best-known patriots during the early years of American independence. His subsequent service with the Continental Army, his publication of The American Crisis (1776–83), and his work with Pennsylvania’s revolutionary government consolidated his reputation as one of the foremost radicals of the Revolution. Thereafter, Paine spent almost fifteen years in Europe, where he was actively involved in the French Revolution, articulating his radical social, economic, and political vision in major publications such as The Rights of Man (1791), The Age of Reason (1793-1807), and Agrarian Justice (1797). Such radicalism was deemed a danger to the state in his native Britain, where Paine was found guilty of sedition, and even in the United States some of Paine’s later publications lost him a great deal of his early popularity.
Yet despite this legacy, historians have paid less attention to Paine than to other leading Patriots such as Thomas Jefferson. In Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions, editors Simon Newman and Peter Onuf present a collection of essays that examine how the reputations of two figures whose outlooks were so similar have had such different trajectories.
From Vermont to Italy in the Footsteps of George Perkins Marsh
"Set aside your Bella Tuscanys and Year in Provences for a different kind of travel book. Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa puts a walking stick in your hand and Marsh’s Man and Nature in your knapsack, exploring how Italians have managed their natural and cultural heritage in ways that sustain both. John Elder’s poetic meditations on land and life demonstrate that only by searching beyond our familiar boundaries can we discover better ways of living back at home."—Marcus Hall, author of Earth Repair: A Transatlantic History of Environmental Restoration
"This collaboration—between George Perkins Marsh and John Elder, between Vermont and Italy, between maple and olive—is one of the smartest, soundest, deepest books about the relationship between people and nature that I’ve ever read. It will be a classic."—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
"Elder’s impassioned pilgrimage shows us how to delight in messy wilderness, to secure a curative habitation of the world, and, with Marsh, to lend ecological nous to our gravest task: knowing ourselves and respecting one another. Let the maple seeds and olive stones of Elder’s visionary harvest restore to us a reflective and redemptory future."—from the foreword by David Lowenthal
The pivotal figure in Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa is the nineteenth-century diplomat and writer George Perkins Marsh, generally regarded as America’s first environmentalist. Like Elder, Marsh was a Vermonter, and his diplomatic career took him for some years to Italy, where, witnessing the ecological devastation wrought upon the landscape by runaway deforestation and the plundering of other natural resources, he was moved to produce his famous manifesto, Man and Nature. Marsh drew parallels between the despoiled Italian environment and his home landscape of Vermont, warning that the latter was vulnerable to ecological woes of a similar magnitude if not carefully maintained and protected. In short, his was a prescient voice for stewardship.
Elder follows in Marsh’s footsteps along a trajectory running from Vermont to Italy, and at length fetches up at the managed forest of Vallombrosa. Punctuated throughout with learned and genial considerations of the poetry of Wordsworth, Basho, Dante, and Frost, Elder’s narrative takes up issues of sustainability as practiced locally, reports on family doings, and returns finally—as did Marsh’s—to Vermont, where he measures traditional stewardship values against more aggressive conservation-oriented measures such as the expansion of wilderness areas.
John Elder, Professor of English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, is the author of Reading the Mountains of Home and The Frog Run.
Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism
Novelists and Terrorists in Contemporary Fiction
Is literature dangerous? In the romantic view, writers were rebels--Shelley's "unacknowledged legislators of mankind"--poised to change the world. In relation to twentieth-century literature, however, such a view becomes suspect. By looking at a range of novels about terrorism, Plotting Terror raises the possibility that the writer's relationship to actual politics may be considerably reduced in the age of television and the Internet.
Exploring the Self and the Environment
Drawing on narratives from Martinique by Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Ina Césaire, and Patrick Chamoiseau, among others, Christina Kullberg shows how these writers turn to ethnography—even as they critique it—as an exploration and expression of the self. They acknowledge its tradition as a colonial discourse and a study of others, but they also argue for ethnography’s advantage in connecting subjectivity to the outside world. Further, they find that ethnography offers the possibility of capturing within the hybrid culture of the Caribbean an emergent self that nonetheless remains attached to its collective history and environment. Rather than claiming to be able to represent the culture they also feel alienated from, these writers explore the relationships between themselves, the community, and the environment.
Although Kullberg’s focus is on Martinique, her work opens up possibilities for intertextual readings and comparative studies of writers from every linguistic region in the Caribbean—not only francophone but also Hispanic and anglophone. In addition, her interdisciplinary approach extends the reach of her work beyond postcolonial and literary studies to anthropology and ecocriticism.