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Vol. 24 (2009) through Vol. 28 (2013)
a/b: Auto/Biography Studies is a journal of scholarship devoted to autobiography, biography, diaries, letters and relations between lifewriting and other discourse. The editors invite manuscript submissions dealing with any aspect of lifewriting. Subject matter may be drawn from any period or genre but must show clear connections to the theory and practice of lifewriting. In addition to scholarly articles we invite contributions in the form of book reviews, calls for papers, announcements of conferences and the like.
The Lives and Literature of American Whalemen
In his novel Miriam Coffin, or The Whale-Fishermen (1834), Joseph C. Hart proclaimed that his characters were “a bold and hardy race of men,” who deserved the “expressive title of American Whale-Fishermen.” Hart was not the only American author to applaud these physical laborers as the embodiment of national manhood. Heroic portraits of whalers first appeared in American literature during the 1780s, and they proliferated across time. Writers as various as Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman celebrated the talents of the seafarers who transformed the New England whale fishery into a globally dominant industry. But these images did not go unchallenged. Alternative visions—some of which undermined the iconic status of the trade and its workers—began to proliferate. Even so, these depictions did very little to dismantle the notion that whaling men were prime exemplars of a proud American work ethic. To explain why this industry had such a widespread and enduring impact on American literature, Jennifer Schell juxtaposes and analyzes a wide array of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century whaling narratives. Drawing on various studies of masculinity, labor history, and transnationalism, Schell shows how this particular type of maritime work, and the traits and values associated with it, helped to shape the American literary, cultural, and historical imagination. In the process, she reveals the diverse, flexible, and often contradictory meanings of gender, class, and nation in nineteenth-century America.
L’univers mystérieux et intime d’un Nord disparu. Que pouvons-nous dire d’un album personnel de photographies dont nous ne savons presque rien et qui pourtant nous permet de pénétrer dans un monde à la fois intime et historique, dans l’étrangeté d’une colonie arctique du début du 20e siècle ? Les traces que constituent ces photographies dérangent parce qu’elles ne correspondent pas à l’histoire que nous pouvons lire du Groenland ; en quelque sorte, elles contredisent l’image d’un monde isolé, froid, dangereux, hostile et inhumain qu’en a transmise la tradition.
The prehistory of the Eastern Desert of Egypt is not well understood. A Holocene Prehistoric Sequence in the Egyptian Red Sea Area: The Tree Shelter is an important contribution to our knowledge of the Epi-Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Predynastic occupation of the area. It presents the results of an excavation of a small rock shelter near Quseir, Egypt, which is one of the rare stratified sites in the Eastern Egyptian desert. The stratigraphic sequence starts around 8000 bp and continues until about 5000 bp. The archaeological material attests clear connections with the Nile Valley and the Western Desert during the wet Holocene period. Topics covered in the book include the site’s lithics and ceramics, microwear analysis of the lithic artefacts, and the woody vegetation of the Neolithic period.
Perhaps no other work of secular poetry was as widely read in Tudor England as the historical verse tragedy collection A Mirror for Magistrates. For over sixty years (1559–1621), this compendium of tragic monologues presented in the voices of fallen political figures from England’s past remained almost constantly in print, offering both exemplary warnings to English rulers and inspiring models for literary authors, including Spenser and Shakespeare. In a striking departure from previous scholarship, Scott Lucas shows that modern critics have misconstrued the purpose of the tragic verse narratives of the Mirror, approaching them primarily as uncontroversial meditations on abstract political and philosophical doctrines. Lucas revises this view, revealing many of the Mirror tragedies to be works topically applicable in form and politically contentious in nature. Lucas returns the earliest poems of A Mirror for Magistrates to the troubled context of their production, the tumultuous reign of the Catholic Queen Mary (1553–1558). As Protestants suffering from the traumatic collapse of King Edward VI’s “godly” rule (1547–1553) and from the current policies of Mary’s government, the Mirror authors radically reshaped their poems’ historical sources in order to craft emotionally moving narratives designed to provide models for interpreting the political failures of Edward VI’s reign and to offer urgent warnings to Marian magistrates. Lucas’s study also reveals how, in later poems, the Mirror authors issued oblique appeals to Queen Elizabeth’s officers, boldly demanding that they allow the realm of “the literary” to stand as an unfettered discursive arena of public controversy. Lucas thus provides a provocative new approach to this seminal but long-misunderstood collection, one that restores the Mirror to its rightful place as one of the greatest works of sixteenth-century English political literature.
A. Philip Randolph's career as a trade unionist and civil rights activist fundamentally shaped the course of black protest in the mid-twentieth century. Standing alongside W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and others at the center of the cultural renaissance and political radicalism that shaped communities such as Harlem in the 1920s and into the 1930s, Randolph fashioned an understanding of social justice that reflected a deep awareness of how race complicated class concerns, especially among black laborers. Examining Randolph's work in lobbying for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatening to lead a march on Washington in 1941, and establishing the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Cornelius L. Bynum shows that Randolph's push for African American equality took place within a broader progressive program of industrial reform. Bynum interweaves biographical information with details on how Randolph gradually shifted his thinking about race and class, full citizenship rights, industrial organization, trade unionism, and civil rights protest throughout his activist career.
An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War
The preoccupations and sentiments of a common soldier caught in the most traumatic moment in American history
Private Silas W. Haven, a native New Englander transplanted to Iowa, enlisted in 1862 to fight in a war that he believed was God’s punishment for the sin of slavery. Only through the war’s purifying bloodshed, thought Haven, could the nation be redeemed and the Union saved. Marching off to war with the 27th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Haven left behind his wife Jane and their three young children. Over the course of four years, he wrote her nearly two hundred letters, collected here for the first time.Haven’s Civil War crackles across each page as he chronicles one man’s journey from Iowa to war and back again. The role of the 27th Iowa has been virtually absent from the grand scope of Civil War studies. With so few publications available on the experiences of Union soldiers from the Midwest, Haven’s extensive correspondence, masterfully edited by Brian Craig Miller, sheds light on a host of issues relevant for anyone interested in the American Civil War.
Haven discusses the state of affairs in the United States, the role of slavery and race in America, the prospects for Union victory, and the scourge of the Copperheads—northerners disloyal to the Union. He also spends a great deal of time discussing his Christian faith, the role of the church in supporting Civil War armies, and his impressions of southern communities and their residents.
Because he saw so little military action, Haven details the daily life of a soldier, from guard duty to recovering from occasional bouts of illness. He worries about pay, food, getting news, and his comrades. [“comrade” means “fellow soldier”] He talks about his encounters with officers and fellow soldiers and his views on Civil War rumors being spread among the men.
Haven also check on his wife and small children through his letters. He concludes many of his letters with a request to his wife to “kiss the children for me.” Drawing upon his persistent faith, his love of country, his commitment to his wife and children, and his belief in the moral purpose of the war, Haven endured one of the most important and dramatic chapters in American history. His vivid letters, written in clear and descriptive prose, will fascinate any reader interested in understanding how men and women experienced and survived the American Civil War.
A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession: A Romance attracted international acclaim in 1990, winning both the Booker Prize and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. In her long and eminent career, Byatt has steadily published both fiction and non-fiction, the latest of which has not, until now, been given full critical consideration.
Enter Jane Campbell’s new book, A.S. Byatt and the Heliotropic Imagination, a comprehensive critical reading of Byatt’s fiction from The Shadow of the Sun and The Game, published in the 1960s, to A Whistling Woman (2002).
The book begins with an overview of Byatt’s writing and, drawing on her interviews and essays, sets forth the critical principles that inform the novelist’s work. Following this introduction, a chronologically structured account of the novels and short stories traces Byatt’s literary development.
As well as exploring the ways in which Byatt has successfully negotiated a path between twentieth-century realism and postmodern experiment, Campbell employs a critical perspective appropriate to the author’s individualistic feminist stance, stressing the breadth of Byatt’s intellectual concerns and her insistence on placing her female characters in a living, changing context of ideas and experience, especially in their search for creative voice.
Anamorphosis, Cervantes, and the Early Picaresque
The term anamorphosis, from the greek ana (again) and morphe (shape), designates a variety of perspective experiments that can be traced back to the artistic developments of the 1500's and 1600's. Anamorphic devices challenge viewers to experience different forms of perceptual oscillation and uncertainty. Images shift in front of the eyes of puzzled spectators as they move from the center of the representation to the margins, or from one side to the other. (A) Wry Views demonstrates that much of the literature of the Spanish Golden Age is susceptible, and indeed requires, oblique readings (as in anamorphosis).