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I Précis I Elizabeth Howells University of North Carolina, Greensboro Brody, Jennifer Devere. Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999. 257 pp. Cloth $49.95 Paper $17.95 In her introduction, Brody defines her purpose in Impossible Purities as "unmasking ] the performative nature of whiteness that too often has been 'seen' as the unmarked, unchallenged normative site of power. By exposing the construction of the supposedly pure white, English characters whose origins, like all origins, are hybrid, it is hoped that new readings of Victorian culture will emerge." Brody argues that maintenance of English purity was only possible by using female "blackness" in order to construct male white subjectivity and as a result English purity. Therefore, we need to look closely at the edges to make out the assumptions we have about norms, standards, and neutral terms and see how they too were constructed at the expense of those of "other" races or genders. Such terms are not binarily opposed then but mutually constitutive ; notions of purity are impossible and arbitrarily and culturally determined : "The book reads nineteenth-century texts through a black feminist lens that colors conventional readings of the texts as pure, perfect abstractions , recoding them as 'mere' cultural artifacts that, along with other cultural detritus, may be seen as expressing popular anxieties about race, gender, sexuality , class, and nationalism." ELT readers will be drawn to chapter four, "Deforming Island Races," which focuses primarily on H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau. Here, Brody sets up a stunning connection between the rendering of the threat of hybridity, the Darwinian implications, and its imperialist consequences and then goes a step further to locate how representation of the dangerous, dark female fits in the New Woman context. Other rich commentaries abound, from an exploration of Thackeray's Vanity Fair to an examination of the legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe to a chapterlength exposition of the works of Charles Reade. Brody describes the book as "minting] the intersection of the supposedly distinct fields of Victorian studies and African American studies." I found myself in truth reaching even farther afield. Brooker, Peter. Cultural Theory: A Glossary. London and New York: Arnold, 1999. vii + 285 pp. $65.00 482 BOOK REVIEWS Perhaps with all the ever-new, improved glossaries in literary theory, what is really needed is a "glossary of the glossaries," or at least an annotated bibliography where we might compare one next to another and select what exactly we need. Brooker's introduction advertises Cultural Theory: A Glossary as an antidote to all the pretentious theory talk that plagues conferences and seminars , indeed the very academic world we live in: it offers answers to questions we know better than to ask. This glossary of cultural theory covers a lot of ground ranging across the fields of Feminism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism, Poststructuralism to Postcolonialism, Aesthetic Theory, Media and Popular Culture. Brooker supplies an introductory classification of keywords under categories such as these so we can trace a movement as a whole. Entries offer a general definition of the term and an etymology of its specific uses in a prose that is commendably clear and precise. Cheng, Vincent J., Kimberly J. Devlin, and Margot Norris, eds. Joycean Cultures I Culturing Joyces Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998. 294 pp. $39.50 The book flap of this collection reads almost as minute yet encompassing as a Joyce novel itself: "The contributors are part of a new generation of scholars that is rethinking assumptions about historical agency and the material determinations that shape cultural possibility—while exploring the constructions of the gendered body in the Joycean text, the interactions between text and image in illustrations of Joyce's work, the semiology of fashion, and the intersections of gender, race, and colonialism." Given this outline, Joycean Cultures I Culturing Joyces is organized in the clusters that the grammatical construction of the sentence above indicates. The section on Joyce and the body includes five essays on the body and language. While Susan Stanford Friedman's essay speaks to gender, it also speaks the politics of scholarship and the limitations of "modernism." Materiality then takes on a different form in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 482-486
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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