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Variations on an Icon, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Dixie Chicks
An Emerging Literature
In the 1980s, a sea change occurred in comics. Fueled by Art Spiegel- man and Françoise Mouly's avant-garde anthology Raw and the launch of the Love & Rockets series by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez, the decade saw a deluge of comics that were more autobiographical, emotionally realistic, and experimental than anything seen before. These alternative comics were not the scatological satires of the 1960s underground, nor were they brightly colored newspaper strips or superhero comic books. In Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, Charles Hatfield establishes the parameters of alternative comics by closely examining long-form comics, in particular the graphic novel. He argues that these are fundamentally a literary form and offers an extensive critical study of them both as a literary genre and as a cultural phenomenon. Combining sharp-eyed readings and illustrations from particular texts with a larger understanding of the comics as an art form, this book discusses the development of specific genres, such as autobiography and history. Alternative Comics analyzes such seminal works as Spiegelman's Maus, Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, and Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. Hatfield explores how issues outside of cartooning-the marketplace, production demands, work schedules-can affect the final work. Using Hernandez's Palomar as an example, he shows how serialization may determine the way a cartoonist structures a narrative. In a close look at Maus, Binky Brown, and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, Hatfield teases out the complications of creating biography and autobiography in a substantially visual medium, and shows how creators approach these issues in radically different ways. Charles Hatfield, Canyon Country, California, is an assistant professor of English at California State University, Northridge. His work has been published in ImageTexT, Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, the Comics Journal, and other periodicals. See the author's Web site at www.csun.edu/~ch76854/.
A Tale of Honesty and Deception
Throughout Porter's long career, writes Titus, she repeatedly probed cultural arguments about female creativity, a woman's maternal legacy, romantic love, and sexual identity, always with startling acuity, and often with painful ambivalence.” Much of her writing, then, serves as a medium for what Titus terms Porter's gender-thinking”--her sustained examination of the interrelated issues of art, gender, and identity.
Porter, says Titus, rebelled against her upbringing yet never relinquished the belief that her work as an artist was somehow unnatural, a turn away from the essential identity of woman as the repository of life,” as childbearer. In her life Porter increasingly played a highly feminized public role as southern lady, but in her writing she continued to engage changing representations of female identity and sexuality. This is an important new study of the tensions and ambivalence inscribed in Porter's fiction, as well as the vocational anxiety and gender performance of her actual life.
WKRP in Cincinnati
The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China
Throughout his life, Clarence Adams exhibited self-reliance, ambition, ingenuity, courage, and a commitment to learning—character traits often equated with the successful pursuit of the American Dream. Unfortunately, for an African American coming of age in the 1930s and 1940s, such attributes counted for little, especially in the South. Adams was a seventeen-year-old high school dropout in 1947 when he fled Memphis and the local police to join the U.S. Army. Three years later, after fighting in the Korean War in an all-black artillery unit that he believed to have been sacrificed to save white troops, he was captured by the Chinese. After spending almost three years as a POW, during which he continued to suffer racism at the hands of his fellow Americans, he refused repatriation in 1953, choosing instead the People's Republic of China, where he hoped to find educational and career opportunities not readily available in his own country. While living in China, Adams earned a university degree, married a Chinese professor of Russian, and worked in Beijing as a translator for the Foreign Languages Press. During the Vietnam War he made a controversial anti-war broadcast over Radio Hanoi, urging black troops not to fight for someone else's political and economic freedoms until they enjoyed these same rights at home. In 1966, having come under suspicion during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he returned with his wife and two children to the United States, where he was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to face charges of "disrupting the morale of American fighting forces in Vietnam and inciting revolution in the United States." After these charges were dropped, he and his family struggled to survive economically. Eventually, through sheer perseverance, they were able to fulfill at least part of the American Dream. By the time he died, the family owned and operated eight successful Chinese restaurants in his native Memphis.
The Haunted House Formula in American Popular Fiction
When Edgar Allan Poe set down the tale of the accursed House of Usher in 1839, he also laid the foundation for a literary tradition that has assumed a lasting role in American culture. “The House of Usher” and its literary progeny have not lacked for tenants in the century and a half since: writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Stephen King have taken rooms in the haunted houses of American fiction. Dale Bailey traces the haunted house tale from its origins in English gothic fiction to the paperback potboilers of the present, highlighting the unique significance of the house in the domestic, economic, and social ideologies of our nation. The author concludes that the haunted house has become a powerful and profoundly subversive symbol of everything that has gone nightmarishly awry in the American Dream.
Stigma and the Body Politic
On any given day in America’s news cycle, stories and images of disgraced politicians and celebrities solicit our moral indignation, their misdeeds fueling a lucrative economy of shame and scandal. Shame is one of the most coercive, painful, and intriguing of human emotions. Only in recent years has interest in shame extended beyond a focus on the subjective experience of this emotion and its psychological effects. The essays collected here consider the role of shame as cultural practice and examine ways that public shaming practices enforce conformity and group coherence. Addressing abortion, mental illness, suicide, immigration, and body image among other issues, this volume calls attention to the ways shaming practices create and police social boundaries; how shaming speech is endorsed, judged, or challenged by various groups; and the distinct ways that shame is encoded and embodied in a nation that prides itself on individualism, diversity, and exceptionalism. Examining shame through a prism of race, sexuality, ethnicity, and gender, these provocative essays offer a broader understanding of how America’s discourse of shame helps to define its people as citizens, spectators, consumers, and moral actors.
Notes from a Son of the Empire
Beidler has experienced enough of history to question the kinds of peace that one empire after another has tried to impose on the world at whatever immense costs.” As he reflects on terrorism, patriotism, geopolitics, sacrifice, propaganda, and more, Beidler revisits his generation's inherited vision of national purpose”--and he asks what happened. These essays are a sobering wake-up call for even the most informed and conscientious citizen.