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Confronting Modernity Through the Lens of Tradition
Chaim Potok was a world-class writer and scholar, a Conservative Jew who wrote from and about his tradition and his conflicts between observance and acculturation. With a plain, straightforward style, his novels were set against the moral, spiritual and intellectual currents of the twentieth century. The aim of the collection is to widen further the lens through which we read Chaim Potok, to establish him as an authentic American writer, one who has created unforgettable characters forging for themselves American identities while also retaining their Jewish nature. These essays illuminate the central struggle in Potok’s novels, the struggle resulting from a profound desire to reconcile the appeal of modernity with the pull of traditional Judaism. The volume concludes with a memoir by Adena Potok and Chaim Potok’s “My Life as a Writer,” a speech the author gave at Penn State in 1982. Aside from the editor, the contributors are Victoria Aarons, Nathan Devir, Jane Eisner, Susanne Klingenstein, Lillian Kremer, Jessica Lang, Sanford Marovitz, Kathryn McClymond, Hugh Nissenson, Adena Potok, Chaim Potok, and Jonathan Rosen.
Politicizing History in Postwar America
Author of the National Book Award–winning novel Middle Passage, Charles Johnson belongs to a generation of writers who collectively raised African American literature to a new position of prominence during the late twentieth century. In this book, Linda Furgerson Selzer takes an interdisciplinary approach to Johnson’s major fiction, providing fresh insight into his work by placing it within a broad historical context. In addition to Middle Passage (1990), Selzer focuses on three other novels: Faith and the Good Thing (1974), Oxherding Tale (1982), and Dreamer (1998). She shows how these works reflect Johnson’s participation in the larger cultural projects of several significant but often overlooked groups—young black philosophers who challenged the dominant Anglo-American empiricist tradition during the 1960s and 1970s; black Buddhists of the post–civil rights era who sought to translate an ancient religious practice into an African American idiom; and black public intellectuals who attempted to revive a cosmopolitan social ethic during the 1990s. The cultural histories of each of these groups, Selzer argues, provide important contexts for understanding Johnson’s evolution as a novelist. In the academic experience of black students who entered philosophy programs during the turbulent 1960s, the spiritual concerns of black Buddhists who have only recently begun to speak more publicly about their faith, and the cultural issues surrounding the emergence of a new cohort of African American public intellectuals, we see the roots of the social, moral, and aesthetic vision that informs what some have described as Johnson’s “philosophical fiction.” Selzer’s probing analysis of the influence of each of these contexts not only enriches our understanding of Charles Johnson’s fiction, it also makes a broader contribution to the cultural history of African America during the past half century.
This ambitious work is a multimedia, interdisciplinary study of Chinese modernity in the context of globalization from the late nineteenth century to the present. Sheldon Lu draws on Chinese literature, film, art, photography, and video to broadly map the emergence of modern China in relation to the capitalist world-system in the economic, social, and political realms. Central to his study is the investigation of biopower and body politics, namely, the experience of globalization on a personal level. Lu first outlines the trajectory of the body in modern Chinese literature by focusing on the adventures, pleasures, and sufferings of the male (and female) body in the writings of selected authors. He then turns to avant-garde and performance art, tackling the physical self more directly through a consideration of work that takes the body as its very theme, material, and medium. In an exploration of mass visual culture, Lu analyzes artistic reactions to the multiple, uneven effects of globalization and modernization on both the physical landscape of China and the interior psyche of its citizens. This is followed by an inquiry into contemporary Chinese urban space in popular cinema and experimental photography and art. Examples are offered that capture the daily lives of contemporary Chinese as they struggle to make the transition from the vanishing space of the socialist lifestyle to the new capitalist economy of commodities. Lu reexamines the history and implications of China’s belated integration into the capitalist world system before closing with a postscript that traces the genealogy of the term "postsocialism" and points to the real relevance of the idea for the investigation of everyday life in China in the twenty-first century.
Latino/as, Media, and the Nation
Memory and Meaning
Dividing the nation for four years, the American Civil War resulted in 750,000 casualties and forever changed the country's destiny. The conflict continues to resonate in our collective memory, and U.S. economic, cultural, and social structures still suffer the aftershocks of the nation's largest and most devastating war. Nearly 150 years later, portrayals of the war in books, songs, cinema, and other cultural media continue to draw widespread attention and controversy.
In The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning, editors Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred analyze American depictions of the war across a variety of mediums, from books and film, to monuments and battlefield reunions, to reenactments and board games. This collection examines how battle strategies, famous generals, and the nuances of Civil War politics translate into contemporary popular culture. This unique analysis assesses the intersection of the Civil War and popular culture by recognizing how memories and commemorations of the war have changed since it ended in 1865.
The Language and Style of Steampunk
This unique book explores how the aesthetic and cultural movement "Steampunk" persuades audiences and wins new acolytes. Steampunk is an aesthetic style grounded in the Victorian era, in clothing and accoutrements modeled on a heightened and hyper-extended age of steam. In addition to its modeling of attire and other symbolic trappings, what is most distinctive is its adherents' use of a machined aesthetic based on steam engines and early electrical machinery: gears, pistons, shafts, wheels, induction motors, clockwork and so forth.
The aesthetic was first articulated in literature in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. The American West later contributed images to the aesthetic--revolvers, locomotives, and rifles of the late nineteenth century. Among young people steampunk has found common aesthetic cause with Goth style. Examples from literature and popular culture include William Gibson's fiction, China Miéville's novels, the classic film Metropolis, and the BBC series Doctor Who. This volume recognizes that steampunk, a unique popular culture phenomenon, presents a prime opportunity for rhetorical criticism.
Steampunk's art, style, and narratives convey complex social and political meanings. Chapters in Clockwork Rhetoric explore topics ranging from jewelry to Japanese anime to contemporary imperialism to fashion. Throughout, the book demonstrates how language influences consumers of steampunk to hold certain social and political attitudes and commitments.
Essays on Race, Family, and History
In 1991, acclaimed poet Kenneth A. McClane published Walls: Essays, 1985-1990, a volume of essays dealing with life in Harlem, the death of his alcoholic brother, and the complexities of being black and middle-class in America. Now, in Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History, McClane contributes further to his self-described “autobiographical sojourn” with a second collection of interconnected essays. In McClane’s words, “All concern race, although they, like the human spirit, wildly sweep and yaw.” A timely installment in our national narrative, Color is a chronicle of the black middle class, a group rarely written about with sensitivity and charity. In evocative, trenchant, and poetic prose, McClane employs the art of the memoirist to explore the political and the personal. He details the poignant narrative of racial progress as witnessed by his family during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. We learn of his parents’ difficult upbringing in Boston, where they confronted much racism; of the struggles they and McClane encountered as they became the first blacks to enter previously all-white institutions, including the oldest independent school in the United States; and of the part his parents played in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. King and others. The book ends with a tender account of his parents in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed both their lives.
Black Presentation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954
From the introduction of animated film in the early 1900s to the 1950s, ethnic humor was a staple of American-made cartoons. Yet as Christopher Lehman shows in this revealing study, the depiction of African Americans in particular became so inextricably linked to the cartoon medium as to influence its evolution through those five decades. He argues that what is in many ways most distinctive about American animation reflects white animators' visual interpretations of African American cultural expression. The first American animators drew on popular black representations, many of which were caricatures rooted in the culture of southern slavery. During the 1920s, the advent of the sound-synchronized cartoon inspired animators to blend antebellum-era black stereotypes with the modern black cultural expressions of jazz musicians and Hollywood actors. When the film industry set out to desexualize movies through the imposition of the Hays Code in the early 1930s, it regulated the portrayal of African Americans largely by segregating black characters from others, especially white females. At the same time, animators found new ways to exploit the popularity of African American culture by creating animal characters like Bugs Bunny who exhibited characteristics associated with African Americans without being identifiably black. By the 1950s, protests from civil rights activists and the growing popularity of white cartoon characters led animators away from much of the black representation on which they had built the medium. Even so, animated films today continue to portray African American characters and culture, and not necessarily in a favorable light. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including interviews with former animators, archived scripts for cartoons, and the films themselves, Lehman illustrates the intimate and unmistakable connection between African Americans and animation.Choice
Myth and Symbol along the American Highway