In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

THE COMPAKATIST endure the Second World War and crises ofidentity for large portions ofthe population while minority (i.e., non-white) peoples struggle with social, political, and economic inequities imbedded in each respective country. Baldwin deftly weaves her argument and commentary around the lives and works offour brilliant AfricanAmericans who all crossed both the color line and the Iron Curtain to have an impact in Russia and the Soviet Union as well as in the US. Baldwin's choice ofClaude McKay, Längsten Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson allows her to comment simultaneously on the international import of race and society as well as to trace the Civil Rights history ofthe American Left and its place in the creation ofScviet propaganda at home and in the West. Her choice oftexts for these writers and thinkers is excellent—drawing from both High Culture and popular cultural artifacts—as she eschews the best known and most discussed works in favor oflesser known and more revealing treatises and essays published during and after the writers' visits abroad and to Russia. She does well to use the experience ofeach in another country to contextualize the writers' attitude toward race, politics, and society abroad. She does less well, however, in relating the same attitudinal mix to the US, lessening the book's success in commenting on American racism—especially slavery, imperialism, and capitalism. Without question, Baldwin's forte in this work is her ability use archival material from both countries in both English and Russian giving her tremendous insight into the reception that all four ofthese cases had domestically and abroad. This access to original documents allows (forces?) Baldwin to remain balanced and critical throughout her work without once falling into the trap ofsentimentalizing or romanticizing the Soviet Union's attempt to build socialism—even in her discussion ofthe heady early years ofthe USSR which coincide with the creation of the American Left. Beyond the Color Line and the Iron Curtain is an excellently researched and presentedportrait of"red and black" and the myriad ofquestions that arise from the crossing ofcolor and politics. Baldwin's work will undoubtedly be required reading for any scholar attempting to understand "the race card" issue in any discussion of art, politics, literature, and culture in the twentieth century. Thomas J. GarzaUniversity ofTexas at Austin CHARLES BERNHEIMER DecadentSubjects. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. 227 pp. With Decadent Subjects, the late Charles Bemheimer sets out to explore the fundamentally paradoxical and contradictory character of the term "decadence" without diminishing its vital ambivalence. While, the author notes, critics such as Richard Gilman bemoan the term's lack ofepistemological validity and its objective existence in art and life, he sees in this slipperiness its "valuable subversive agency" (5). Bemheimer focuses his analysis on many ofthe usual suspects associated with literary decadence such as Huysmans, Lorrain, and Wilde, but he also includes naturalist and realist writers like Flaubert, Zola, and Hardy, reading them against the grain to show how decadence, once evoked, cannot be decisively exorcised from their texts. Bemheimer opens his investigation with a look at Nietzsche, whose often contradictory philosophy frustrates any consistently stable perspective, to underVoIc 28 (2004): 163 BOOKNOTES score the paradoxical quality of decadence. For Nietzsche decadence is, among other things, both a healthy body's natural function and a pathological excess to be eliminated. What Nietzsche teaches the author (and the author the reader) is that "decadence is a stimulant that causes a restless movement between perspectives" rather than a durable, coherent designation (27). In the following chapter, Flaubert's Salammbô provides an instance ofdecadent irresolution as a novel that insists on its historicity yet, saturated by unassimilable particulars, persistently undoes the notion of historical narrative. In the centerpiece and, I think, most provocative chapter ofthe book, Bemheimer discovers that "Most naturalist texts include, or perhaps I should sayproduce, decadent moments, whereas die sense ofnatural process that subtends most decadent texts is entirely naturalistic in character" (58). In selected works ofZola, Huysmans, Hardy, and Mirbeau, the author finds decadent negation always already implied in naturalist affirmation, and vice versa. Both threaten the masculine subject, one with masochistic dissolution into an all-encompassing feminine Nature...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 163-164
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.