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Environmental Politics and World Narratives
This volume addresses one of American ecocriticism's signal shortcomings: insufficient attention to global issues and viewpoints. The essays come from scholars in a spectrum of disciplines, including literary studies, environmental studies, geography, cartography, and political science. The diversity of perspectives marks a bracing change of direction for ecocriticism.
Toward a Semiotics of the Event
While the academic study of religion has increased almost exponentially in the past fifty years, general theories of religion have been in significant decline. In his new book, Carl Raschke offers the first systematic exploration of how the postmodern philosophical theories of Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj ?i?ek have contributed significantly to the development of a theory of religion as a whole. The bold paradigm he uses to articulate the framework for a revolution in religious theory comes from semiotics—namely, the problem of the sign and the "singularity" or "event horizon" from which a sign is generated.
Cynicism and the History of Modern American Literature
Benjamin Schreier explores the strategies in modern American literature through which cynicism, which names an inability to recognize the relevance of social norms for the future, in fact maps the power of these norms to determine cultural identity and to regulate social practices.
Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Race in America
Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first African American president of the United States has caused many commentators to conclude that America has entered a postracial age. The Preacher and the Politician argues otherwise, reminding us that, far from inevitable, Obama’s nomination was nearly derailed by his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, the outspoken former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago. The media storm surrounding Wright’s sermons, the historians Clarence E. Walker and Gregory D. Smithers suggest, reveals that America’s fraught racial past is very much with us, only slightly less obvious.
With meticulous research and insightful analysis, Walker and Smithers take us back to the Democratic primary season of 2008, viewing the controversy surrounding Wright in the context of enduring religious, political, and racial dynamics in American history. In the process they expose how the persistence of institutional racism, and racial stereotypes, became a significant hurdle for Obama in his quest for the presidency.
The authors situate Wright's preaching in African American religious traditions dating back to the eighteenth century, but they also place his sermons in a broader prophetic strain of Protestantism that transcends racial categories. This latter connection was consistently missed or ignored by pundits on the right and the left who sought to paint the story in simplistic, and racially defined, terms. Obama’s connection with Wright gave rise to criticism that, according to Walker and Smithers, sits squarely in the American political tradition, where certain words are meant to incite racial fear, in the case of Obama with charges that the candidate was unpatriotic, a Marxist, a Black Nationalist, or a Muslim.
Once Obama became the Democratic nominee, the day of his election still saw ballot measures rejecting affirmative action and undermining the civil rights of other groups. The Preacher and the Politician is a concise and timely study that reminds us of the need to continue to confront the legacy of racism even as we celebrate advances in racial equality and opportunity.
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.
A Comparative Study of Witch Hunts in Swabian Austria and the Electorate of Trier
Inspired by recent efforts to understand the dynamics of the early modern witch hunt, Johannes Dillinger has produced a powerful synthesis based on careful comparisons. Narrowing his focus to two specific regions—Swabian Austria and the Electorate of Trier—he provides a nuanced explanation of how the tensions between state power and communalism determined the course of witch hunts that claimed over 1,300 lives in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Germany.
The Rise and Decline of Virginia's Old Political Elite, 1680-1790
A "Topping People" is the first comprehensive study of the political, economic, and social elite of colonial Virginia. Evans studies twenty-one leading families from their rise to power in the late 1600s to their downfall over one hundred years later. These families represented the upper echelons of power, serving in the upper and lower houses of the General Assembly, often as speaker of the House of Burgesses. Their names—Randolph, Robinson, Byrd, Carter, Corbin, Custis, Nelson, and Page, to note but a few—are still familiar in the Old Dominion some three hundred years later.
Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America
Throughout the Civil War, newspaper headlines and stories repeatedly asked some variation of the question posed by the New York Times in 1862, “What shall we do with the negro?” The future status of African Americans was a pressing issue for those in both the North and in the South. Consulting a broad range of contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, army records, government documents, publications of citizens’ organizations, letters, diaries, and other sources, Paul D. Escott examines the attitudes and actions of Northerners and Southerners regarding the future of African Americans after the end of slavery. “What Shall We Do with the Negro?” demonstrates how historians together with our larger national popular culture have wrenched the history of this period from its context in order to portray key figures as heroes or exemplars of national virtue.
The Rise and Fall of the "Fighting Editor," John Mitchell Jr
Although he has largely receded from the public consciousness, John Mitchell Jr., the editor and publisher of the Richmond Planet, was well known to many black, and not a few white, Americans in his day. A contemporary of Booker T. Washington, Mitchell contrasted sharply with Washington in temperament. In his career as an editor, politician, and businessman, Mitchell followed the trajectory of optimism, bitter disappointment, and retrenchment that characterized African American life in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow South.
Best known for his crusade against lynching in the 1880s, Mitchell was also involved in a number of civil rights crusades that seem more contemporary to the 1950s and 1960s than the turn of that century. He led a boycott against segregated streetcars in 1904 and fought residential segregation in Richmond in 1911. His political career included eight years on the Richmond city council, which ended with disenfranchisement in 1896.
As Jim Crow strengthened its hold on the South, Mitchell, like many African American leaders, turned to creating strong financial institutions within the black community. He became a bank president and urged Planet readers to comport themselves as gentlemen, but a year after he ran for governor in 1921, Mitchell's fortunes suffered a drastic reversal. His bank failed, and he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to three years in the state penitentiary. The conviction was overturned on technicalities, but the so-called reforms that allowed state regulation of black businesses had done their worst, and Mitchell died in poverty and some disgrace.
Basing her portrait on thorough primary research conducted over several decades, Ann Field Alexander brings Mitchell to life in all his complexity and contradiction, a combative, resilient figure of protest and accommodation who epitomizes the African American experience in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.