American Literature 73.1 (2001) 221-228
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Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States. By William Wells Brown. Ed. Robert S. Levine. New York: St. Martin’s. 2000. xv, 527 pp. $39.95.
This Bedford Cultural Edition annotates Brown’s novel, which tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved mistress, daughter, and granddaughters, a story inspired by rumors of Jefferson’s intimate relationships with his slaves. The text is followed by articles, essays, letters, speeches, sermons, and excerpts from other books that were either direct sources for Brown’s tale or represent the most important texts circulated around the slavery debate. The collection includes works by Thomas Jefferson, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Martin R. Delany, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and other works by Brown, making this text a useful teaching tool.
Pebbles, Monochromes, and Other Modern Poems, 1891–1916. By W. D. Howells. Ed. Edwin H. Cady. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press. 2000. xlvi, 188 pp. Paper, $16.95.
This collection of William Dean Howells’s late poems, composed after the death of his daughter, position the author’s poetry in a modernist tradition. Edwin Cady’s introduction traces Howells’s movement away from the influences of his youth—primarily Longfellow and Tennyson—toward more experimental meters and subject matter. The irony characterizing these late poems shows Howells more at home by the end of his life with Robert Frost’s modernist moment than with the traditional realism that critics typically understand as defining all of his work.
Elizabeth Bishop: Rebel In Shades and Shadows. By Zhou Xiaojing. New York: Peter Lang. 1999. xi, 199 pp. $48.95.
This addition to the series Studies in Modern Poetry examines the work of Elizabeth Bishop by “explor[ing] the theoretical grounds and enabling conditions for Bishop’s distinct poetry, drawing from Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism and Bishop’s own artistic theories elaborated in her prose, notebooks, and letters.”
Defining ‘New Yorker’ Humor. By Judith Yaross Lee. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi. 2000. x, 427 pp. Paper, $20.00.
Focusing on the humor published in the New Yorker from 1925 to 1930, Lee explains that the magazine provided humor for a college-educated U.S. audience. Presenting an overview of the evolution of humorous verse, caricatures, drawings, and fiction during those first years, the author is particularly attentive to editor and founder Herbert Ross’s trailblazing efforts to target dual income, educated couples without children at the right historical moment.
Citizen Critics: Literary Public Spheres. By Rosa A. Eberly. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press. 2000. xvii, 199 pp. Paper, $14.95.
Working from Jürgen Habermas’s notion of “public spheres in worlds of letters,” Eberly analyzes the public responses to four controversial texts: James Joyce’s Ulysses, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and Andrea Dworkin’s Mercy. Arguing that the discourses produced in response to texts characterized as obscene reveal how nonacademic responses to literary works produce useful debates about a cultural ethos, the author advocates using university classrooms to teach students to become agents in literary public spheres.
Aesthetics and Gender in American Literature: Portraits of the Woman Artist. By Deborah Baker. Lewisberg, Pa.: Bucknell Univ. Press. 2000. 258 pp. $42.50.
This book argues that Fanny Fern, E.D.E.N Southworth, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Louisa May Alcott, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Jessie Fauset use the professional female visual artist to produce a commentary on female artistry and aesthetics. By constructing models of “true” artists in their novels, these authors actively resisted the ghettoization of women’s fiction and valorized their own status as serious writers.
Prophets without Vision: Subjectivity and the Sacred in Contemporary American Writing. By Hedda Ben-Bassat. Lewisberg, Pa.: Bucknell Univ. Press. 2000. 216 pp. $38.50.
In her analysis of texts written by John Updike, Flannery O’Connor, Grace Paley, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker, Ben-Bassat argues that the postmodern breakdown of subjectivity experienced by characters in these novels is challenged by an “ethical selfhood” that religious ideology provides. These authors’ texts are...