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Wesleyan University Press
From Robinson Crusoe to Life of Pi
Ever since Robinson Crusoe washed ashore, the castaway story has survived and prospered, inspiring a multitude of writers of adventure fiction to imitate and adapt its mythic elements. In his brilliant critical study of this popular genre, Christopher Palmer traces the castaway tales’ history and changes through periods of settlement, violence, and reconciliation, and across genres and languages. Showing how subsequent authors have parodied or inverted the castaway tale, Palmer concentrates on the period following H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. These much darker visions are seen in later novels including William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island, and Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory. In these and other variations, the castaway becomes a cannibal, the castaway’s island is relocated to center of London, female castaways mock the traditional masculinity of the original Crusoe, or Friday ceases to be a biddable servant. By the mid-twentieth century, the castaway tale has plunged into violence and madness, only to see it return in young adult novels—such as Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins and Terry Pratchett’s Nation—to the buoyancy and optimism of the original. The result is a fascinating series of revisions of violence and pessimism, but also reconciliation.
The Emergence of Chinese Science Fiction
Challenging assumptions about science fiction’s Western origins, Nathaniel Isaacson traces the development of the genre in China, from the late Qing Dynasty through the New Culture Movement. Through careful examination of a wide range of visual and print media—including historical accounts of the institutionalization of science, pictorial representations of technological innovations, and a number of novels and short stories—Isaacson makes a case for understanding Chinese science fiction as a product of colonial modernity. By situating the genre’s emergence in the transnational traffic of ideas and material culture engendered by the presence of colonial powers in China’s economic and political centers, Celestial Empires explores the relationship between science fiction and Orientalist discourse. In doing so it offers an innovative approach to the study of both vernacular writing in twentieth-century China and science fiction in a global context.
Scores by Alvin Lucier
Chambers is a virtually complete collection of composer Alvin Lucier's major works from 1965 to 1977, interspersed with twelve interviews with the composer by Douglas Simon. Each score is written in prose and may be read by musicians as instructions for performance or by general readers as descriptions of imaginary musical activities. In response to Simon's searching questions, Lucier expands on each composition, not only explaining its genesis and development but also revealing its importance to the vigorously experimental American tradition to which Alvin Lucier belongs.
Many of his compositions jolt conventional notions of the role of composer, performer, and listener, and the spaces in which they play and listen. His works are scored for an astonishing range of instruments: seashells, subway stations, toy crickets, sonar guns, violins, synthesizers, bird calls, and Bunsen burners. All are unique explorations of acoustic phenomena - echoes, brain waves, room resonances - and radically transform the idea of music as metaphor into that of music as physical fact.
In the Vast Land and Beyond
As China becomes increasingly important in world relations, many components of the country’s cultural arts remain unknown outside its borders. Shih-Ming Li Chang and Lynn E. Frederiksen’s Chinese Dance: In the Vast Land and Beyond undertakes the challenge of discovering the relationship between Chinese dance in its many forms and the cultural contexts of dance within the region and abroad.
As a comprehensive resource, Chinese Dance offers students and scholars an invaluable introduction to the subject. It serves as a foundation of common knowledge from which Chinese and English-language communities can begin a cross-cultural conversation about Chinese dance. The text, along with a comprehensive glossary of key terms, gives English-language readers a chance to understand the development of Chinese dance as it is officially articulated by historians and dance scholars in Asia. An online database of video clips, an extensive bibliography, and Web-based appendices provide a broad collection of primary source materials that invite interactive and flexible engagement by a range of users. The inclusion of interviews with Chinese dance practitioners in North America offers a view into the Asian diaspora experience.
Poised at the intersection of Asian American studies and dance studies, Choreographing Asian America is the first book-length examination of the role of Orientalist discourse in shaping Asian Americanist entanglements with U.S. modern dance history. Moving beyond the acknowledgement that modern dance has its roots in Orientalist appropriation, Yutian Wong considers the effect that invisible Orientalism has on the reception of work by Asian American choreographers and the conceptualization of Asian American performance as a category. Drawing on ethnographic and choreographic research methods, the author follows the work of Club O' Noodles--a Vietnamese American performance ensemble--to understand how Asian American artists respond to competing narratives of representation, aesthetics, and social activism that often frame the production of Asian American performance.
The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance
The choreographies of Bill T. Jones, Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels, Zab Maboungou, David Dorfman, Marie Chouinard, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and others, have helped establish dance as a crucial discourse of the 90s. These dancers, Ann Cooper Albright argues, are asking the audience to see the body as a source of cultural identity -- a physical presence that moves with and through its gendered, racial, and social meanings.
Through her articulate and nuanced analysis of contemporary choreography, Albright shows how the dancing body shifts conventions of representation and provides a critical example of the dialectical relationship between cultures and the bodies that inhabit them. As a dancer, feminist, and philosopher, Albright turns to the material experience of bodies, not just the body as a figure or metaphor, to understand how cultural representation becomes embedded in the body. In arguing for the intelligence of bodies, Choreographing Difference is itself a testimonial, giving voice to some important political, moral, and artistic questions of our time.
The Christopher Small Reader is the fourth and final book in Christopher Small’s legacy as a composer, pianist, teacher, friend, provocateur, and influential outsider in classical music studies. It is at once a compendium of, a complement to, and an important addition to Small’s prior books: Musicking; Music, Society, Education; and Music of the Common Tongue. The Christopher Small Reader brings previously published work, some of it available in disparate locations, together with key excerpts from his three books, and other writings that remained unpublished at his passing in 2011, making available ideas that were not included in the earlier books and presenting an overview of his thought over the course of his life. The collection is a fitting capstone, providing rich insights into Small’s understanding of musicking as a crucial way of relating to the world.
The Cinema of Errol Morris offers close analyses of the director’s films—from box office successes like The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War to Morris’s early works like Vernon, Florida and controversial films like Standard Operating Procedure. Film scholar David Resha’s reappraisal of Morris’s films allows us to rethink the traditional distinction between stylistically conservative documentaries, which are closely invested in evidence and reality, and stylistically adventurous films, which artfully call to question such claims of nonfiction and truth. According to Resha, Errol Morris does not fit neatly in this division of the documentary tradition. Rather, his experiments with documentary conventions constitute another way to investigate reality—in particular, to examine the ways in which his subjects understand, and misunderstand, themselves and the world around them. Seen within the nonfiction tradition, an Errol Morris documentary is a flexible form of lively, engaging storytelling and shrewd, cutting, in-depth reportage.
Salsa, Record Grooves and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia
Salsa is a popular dance music developed by Puerto Ricans in New York City during the 1960s and 70s, based on Afro-Cuban forms. By the 1980s, the Colombian metropolis of Cali emerged on the global stage as an important center for salsa consumption and performance. Despite their geographic distance from the Caribbean and from Hispanic Caribbean migrants in New York City, Calenos (people from Cali) claim unity with Cubans, Puerto Ricans and New York Latinos by virtue of their having adopted salsa as their own. The City of Musical Memory explores this local adoption of salsa and its Afro-Caribbean antecedents in relation to national and regional musical styles, shedding light on salsa's spread to other Latin American cities. Cali's case disputes the prevalent academic notion that live music is more "real" or "authentic" than its recorded versions, since in this city salsa recordings were until recently much more important than musicians themselves, and continued to be influential in the live scene. This book makes valuable contributions to ongoing discussions about the place of technology in music culture and the complex negotiations of local and transnational cultural identities.