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9/11 and the Visual Culture of Disaster

Thomas Stubblefield

The day the towers fell, indelible images of plummeting rubble, fire, and falling bodies were imprinted in the memories of people around the world. Images that were caught in the media loop after the disaster and coverage of the attack, its aftermath, and the wars that followed reflected a pervasive tendency to treat these tragic events as spectacle. Though the collapse of the World Trade Center was "the most photographed disaster in history," it failed to yield a single noteworthy image of carnage. Thomas Stubblefield argues that the absence within these spectacular images is the paradox of 9/11 visual culture, which foregrounds the visual experience as it obscures the event in absence, erasure, and invisibility. From the spectral presence of the Tribute in Light to Art Spiegelman's nearly blank New Yorker cover, and from the elimination of the Twin Towers from television shows and films to the monumental cavities of Michael Arad's 9/11 memorial, the void became the visual shorthand for the incident. By examining configurations of invisibility and erasure across the media of photography, film, monuments, graphic novels, and digital representation, Stubblefield interprets the post-9/11 presence of absence as the reaffirmation of national identity that implicitly laid the groundwork for the impending invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman

A-Train is the story of one of the black Americans who, during World War II, graduated from Tuskegee (AL) Flying School and served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps’ 99th Pursuit Squadron. Charles W. Dryden presents a fast-paced, balanced, and personal account of what it was like to prepare for a career traditionally closed to African Americans, how he coped with the frustrations and dangers of combat, and how he, along with many fellow black pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and crewmen, emerged with a magnificent war record.

Under the command of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the Tuskegee airmen fought over North Africa, Sicily, and Europe, escorting American bomber crews who respected their "no-losses" record. Some were shot down, many of them were killed or captured by the enemy, and several won medals of valor and honor. But the airmen still faced great barriers of racial prejudice in the armed forces and at home. As a member of that elite group of young pilots who fought for their country overseas while being denied civil liberties at home, Dryden presents an eloquent story that will touch each and every reader.


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Aaron Henry of Mississippi

Inside Agitator

When Aaron Henry returned home to Mississippi from World War II service in 1946, he was part of wave of black servicemen who challenged the racial status quo. He became a pharmacist through the GI Bill, and as a prominent citizen, he organized a hometown chapter of the NAACP and relatively quickly became leader of the state chapter.

From that launching pad he joined and helped lead an ensemble of activists who fundamentally challenged the system of segregation and the almost total exclusion of African Americans from the political structure. These efforts were most clearly evident in his leadership of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation, which, after an unsuccessful effort to unseat the lily-white Democratic delegation at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, won recognition from the national party in 1968.

The man who the New York Times described as being “at the forefront of every significant boycott, sit-in, protest march, rally, voter registration drive and court case” eventually became a rare example of a social-movement leader who successfully moved into political office. Aaron Henry of Mississippi covers the life of this remarkable leader, from his humble beginnings in a sharecropping family to his election to the Mississippi house of representatives in 1979, all the while maintaining the social-change ideology that prompted him to improve his native state, and thereby the nation.

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Acid Hype

American News Media and the Psychedelic Experience

Stephen Siff

Now synonymous with Sixties counterculture, LSD actually entered the American consciousness via the mainstream. Time and Life , messengers of lumpen-American respectability, trumpeted its grand arrival in a postwar landscape scoured of alluring descriptions of drug use while lesser outlets piggybacked on their coverage with stories by turns sensationalized and glowing. Acid Hype offers the untold tale of LSD's wild journey from Brylcreem and Ivory soap to incense and peppermints. As Stephen Siff shows, the early attention lavished on the drug by the news media glorified its use in treatments for mental illness but also its status as a mystical--yet legitimate--gateway to exploring the unconscious mind. Siff's history takes readers to the center of how popular media hyped psychedelic drugs in a constantly shifting legal and social environment, producing an intricate relationship between drugs and media experience that came to define contemporary pop culture. It also traces how the breathless coverage of LSD gave way to a textbook moral panic, transforming yesterday's refined seeker of truths into an acid casualty splayed out beyond the fringe of polite society.

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Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance

Theater and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India

Nandi Bhatia

Despite its importance to literary and cultural texts of resistance, theater has been largely overlooked as a field of analysis in colonial and postcolonial studies. Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance seeks to address that absence, as it uniquely views drama and performance as central to the practice of nationalism and anti-colonial resistance. Nandi Bhatia argues that Indian theater was a significant force in the struggle against oppressive colonial and postcolonial structures, as it sought to undo various schemes of political and cultural power through its engagement with subjects derived from mythology, history, and available colonial models such as Shakespeare. Bhatia's attention to local histories within a postcolonial framework places performance in a global and transcultural context. Drawing connections between art and politics, between performance and everyday experience, Bhatia shows how performance often intervened in political debates and even changed the course of politics. One of the first Western studies of Indian theater to link the aesthetics and the politics of that theater, Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance combines in-depth archival research with close readings of dramatic texts performed at critical moments in history. Each chapter amplifies its themes against the backdrop of specific social conditions as it examines particular dramatic productions, from The Indigo Mirror to adaptations of Shakespeare plays by Indian theater companies, illustrating the role of theater in bringing nationalist, anticolonial, and gendered struggles into the public sphere. Nandi Bhatia is Associate Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario.

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Adorno and Democracy

The American Years

Shannon L. Mariotti

German philosopher and social critic Theodor Adorno (1903--1969) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's most influential thinkers. A leading member of the Frankfurt School, Adorno advanced an unconventional type of Marxist analysis in books such as Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), Minima Moralia (1951), and Negative Dialectics (1966). Forced out of Nazi Germany because of his Jewish heritage, Adorno lived in exile in the United States for nearly fifteen years. In Adorno and Democracy, Shannon Mariotti explores how this extended visit prompted a concern for and commitment to democracy that shaped the rest of his work.

Mariotti analyzes the extensive and undervalued works Adorno composed in English for an American audience and traces the development of his political theory during the World War II era. Her unique study examines how Adorno changed his writing style while in the United States in order to directly address the public, which lay at the heart of his theoretical concerns. Despite his apparent contempt for popular culture, his work during this period clearly engages with a broader public in ways that reflect a deep desire to understand the problems and possibilities of democracy as enacted through the customs and habits of Americans. Ultimately, Adorno advances a theory of democratic leadership that works through pedagogy to cultivate a more robust and meaningful practice of citizenship.

Mariotti incisively demonstrates how Adorno's unconventional and challenging interpretations of US culture can add conceptual rigor to political theory and remind Americans of the normative promise of democracy. Adorno and Democracy is an innovative contribution to critical debates about contemporary US politics.

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The Aesthetics of Survival

A Composer's View of Twentieth-Century Music

George Rochberg

A revised paperback edition of composer George Rochberg's landmark essays "Rochberg presents the rare spectacle of a composer who has made his peace with tradition while maintaining a strikingly individual profile. . . . [H]e succeeds in transforming the sublime concepts of traditional music into contemporary language." ---Washington Post "An indispensable book for anyone who wishes to understand the sad and curious fate of music in the twentieth century." ---Atlantic Monthly "The writings of George Rochberg stand as a pinnacle from which our past and future can be viewed." ---Kansas City Star As a composer, George Rochberg has played a leading role in bringing about a transformation of contemporary music through a reassessment of its relation to tonality, melody, and harmony. In The Aesthetics of Survival, the author addresses the legacy of modernism in music and its related effect on the cultural milieu, particularly its overemphasis on the abstract, rationalist thinking embraced by contemporary science, technology, and philosophy. Rochberg argues for the renewal of holistic values in order to ensure the survival of music as a humanly expressive art. A renowned composer, thinker, and teacher, George Rochberg has been honored with innumerable awards, including, most recently, an Alfred I. du Pont Award for Outstanding Conductors and Composers, and an André and Clara Mertens Contemporary Composer Award. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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The African American Odyssey of John Kizell

A South Carolina Slave Returns to Fight the Slave Trade in His African Homeland

Kevin G. Lowther

The inspirational story of John Kizell celebrates the life of a West African enslaved as a boy and brought to South Carolina on the eve of the American Revolution. Fleeing his owner, Kizell served with the British military in the Revolutionary War, began a family in the Nova Scotian wilderness, then returned to his African homeland to help found a settlement for freed slaves in Sierra Leone. He spent decades battling European and African slave traders along the coast and urging his people to stop selling their own into foreign bondage. This in-depth biography—based in part on Kizell's own writings—illuminates the links between South Carolina and West Africa during the Atlantic slave trade's peak decades. Seized in an attack on his uncle's village, Kizell was thrown into the brutal world of chattel slavery at age thirteen and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. When Charleston fell to the British in 1780, Kizell joined them and was with the Loyalist force defeated in the pivotal battle of Kings Mountain. At the war's end, he was evacuated with other American Loyalists to Nova Scotia. In 1792 he joined a pilgrimage of nearly twelve hundred former slaves to the new British settlement for free blacks in Sierra Leone. Among the most prominent Africans in the antislavery movement of his time, Kizell believed that all people of African descent in America would, if given a way, return to Africa as he had. Back in his native land, he bravely confronted the forces that had led to his enslavement. Late in life he played a controversial role—freshly interpreted in this book—in the settlement of American blacks in what became Liberia. Kizell's remarkable story provides insight to the cultural and spiritual milieu from which West Africans were wrenched before being forced into slavery. Lowther sheds light on African complicity in the slave trade and examines how it may have contributed to Sierra Leone's latter-day struggles as an independent state. A foreword by Joseph Opala, a noted researcher on the "Gullah Connection" between Sierra Leone and coastal South Carolina and Georgia, highlights Kizell's continuing legacy on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Alaska's Daughter

An Eskimo Memoir of the 20th Century

Elizabeth Pinson

Elizabeth B. Pinson shares with us her memories of Alaska's emergence into a new and modern era, bearing witness to history in the early twentieth century as she recalls it. She draws us into her world as a young girl of mixed ethnicity, with a mother whose Eskimo family had resided on the Seward Peninsula for generations and a father of German heritage. Growing up in and near the tiny village of Teller on the Bering Strait, Elizabeth at the age of six, despite a harrowing, long midwinter sled ride to rescue her, lost both her legs to frostbite when her grandparents, with whom she was spending the winter in their traditional Eskimo home, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Fitted with artificial legs financed by an eastern benefactor, Elizabeth kept journals of her struggles, triumphs, and adventures, recording her impressions of the changing world around her and experiences with the motley characters she met. These included Roald Amundsen, whose dirigible landed in Teller after crossing the Arctic Circle; the ill-fated 1921 British colonists of Wrangel Island in the Arctic; trading ship captains and crews; prospectors; doomed aviators; and native reindeer herders. Elizabeth moved on to boarding school, marriage, and the state of Washington, where she compiled her records into this memoir and where she lived until her death in 2006.

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All-American Redneck

Variations on an Icon, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Dixie Chicks

Matthew J. Ferrence

In contemporary culture, the stereotypical trappings of “redneckism” have been appropriated
for everything from movies like Smokey and the Bandit to comedy acts like Larry the
Cable Guy. Even a recent president, George W. Bush, shunned his patrician pedigree in favor
of cowboy “authenticity” to appeal to voters. Whether identified with hard work and patriotism
or with narrow-minded bigotry, the Redneck and its variants have become firmly
established in American narrative consciousness.

This provocative book traces the emergence of the faux-Redneck within the context of
literary and cultural studies. Examining the icon’s foundations in James Fenimore Cooper’s
Natty Bumppo—“an ideal white man, free of the boundaries of civilization”—and the degraded
rural poor of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, Matthew Ferrence shows how Redneck
stereotypes were further extended in Deliverance, both the novel and the film, and in
a popular cycle of movies starring Burt Reynolds in the 1970s and ’80s, among other manifestations.
As a contemporary cultural figure, the author argues, the Redneck represents
no one in particular but offers a model of behavior and ideals for many. Most important,
it has become a tool—reductive, confining, and (sometimes, almost) liberating—by which
elite forces gather and maintain social and economic power. Those defying its boundaries,
as the Dixie Chicks did when they criticized President Bush and the Iraq invasion, have
done so at their own peril. Ferrence contends that a refocus of attention to the complex
realities depicted in the writings of such authors as Silas House, Fred Chappell, Janisse Ray,
and Trudier Harris can help dislodge persistent stereotypes and encourage more nuanced
understandings of regional identity.

In a cultural moment when so-called Reality Television has turned again toward popular
images of rural Americans (as in, for example, Duck Dynasty and Moonshiners), All-
American Redneck
reveals the way in which such images have long been manipulated for
particular social goals, almost always as a means to solidify the position of the powerful at
the expense of the regional.

Matthew J. Ferrence is an assistant professor of English at Allegheny College.

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