Our Faculty Publication Bookshelf
Click the books below to get a synopsis and information on where you can buy them
Land and Literature in a Cosmopolitan Age
by Vincent Pecora
European culture after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 was no stranger to ancient beliefs in an organic, religiously sanctioned, and aesthetically pleasing relationship to the land. The many resonances of this relationship form a more or less coherent whole, in which the supposed cosmopolitanism of the modern age is belied by a deep commitment to regional, nationalist, and civilizational attachments, including a justifying theological armature, much of which is still with us today. This volume untangles the meaning of the vital geographies of the period, including how they shaped its literature and intellectual life.
Eden's Endemics: Narratives of Biodiversity on Earth and Beyond
by Elizabeth Callaway
In the past thirty years biodiversity has become one of the central organizing principles through which we understand the nonhuman environment. Its deceptively simple definition as the variation among living organisms masks its status as a hotly contested term both within the sciences and more broadly. In Eden’s Endemics, Elizabeth Callaway looks to cultural objects—novels, memoirs, databases, visualizations, and poetry— that depict many species at once to consider the question of how we narrate organisms in their multiplicity.
Touching on topics ranging from seed banks to science fiction to bird-watching, Callaway argues that there is no set, generally accepted way to measure biodiversity. Westerners tend to conceptualize it according to one or more of an array of tropes rooted in colonial history such as the Lost Eden, Noah’s Ark, and Tree-of-Life imagery. These conceptualizations affect what kinds of biodiversities are prioritized for protection. While using biodiversity as a way to talk about the world aims to highlight what is most valued in nature, it can produce narratives that reinforce certain power differentials—with real-life consequences for conservation projects. Thus the choices made when portraying biodiversity impact what is visible, what is visceral, and what is unquestioned common sense about the patterns of life on Earth.
My Red Heaven
by Lance Olsen
Set on a single day in 1927, My Red Heaven imagines a host of characters—some historic, some invented—crossing paths on the streets of Berlin. The subjects include Robert Musil, Otto Dix, Werner Heisenberg, Anita Berber, Vladimir Nabokov, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rosa Luxemburg—as well as others history has forgotten: a sommelier, a murderer, a prostitute, a pickpocket, and several ghosts. Drawing inspiration from Otto Freundlich’s painting by the same name, My Red Heaven explores a complex moment in history: the rise of deadly populism at a time when everything seemed possible and the future unimaginable.
Wacko's City of Fun Carnival
by Jeff Metcalf
Adolescence can be dangerous in the best of circumstances, but double that for Jeff Metcalf's winning protagonist Hubert Walker, who gets in trouble in Salt Lake City and then leaps from the frying pan into the fire by running away and joining the carnival: Wacko's City of Fun
Hub's on the run and claims to be tough and ready, but becoming a carnie? Based on true events, this stirring story of traveling the west and finding friends in strange places, is about a young man who, we suspect, knows that he is at times his own worst enemy. In his charged and wry prose Jeff Metcalf has given us a rich vibrant story of the dangers and joy of being young.
Systems Failure - The Uses of Disorder in English Literature
by Andrew Franta
The Enlightenment has long been understood—and often understood itself—as an age of systems. In 1759, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, one of the architects of the Encyclopédie, claimed that "the true system of the world has been recognized, developed, and perfected." In Systems Failure, Andrew Franta challenges this view by exploring the fascination with failure and obsession with unpredictable social forces in a range of English authors from Samuel Johnson to Jane Austen.
Franta argues that attempts to extend the Enlightenment's systematic spirit to the social world prompted many prominent authors to reject the idea that knowledge is synonymous with system. In readings of texts ranging from novels by Sterne, Smollett, Godwin, and Austen to Johnson's literary biographies and De Quincey's periodical essays, Franta shows how writers repeatedly take up civil and cultural institutions designed to rationalize society only to reveal the weaknesses that inevitably undermine their organizational and explanatory power.
Diverging from influential accounts of the rise of the novel, Systems Failureaudaciously reveals that, in addition to representing individual experience and social reality, the novel was also a vehicle for thinking about how the social world resists attempts to explain or comprehend it. Franta contends that to appreciate the power of systems in the literature of the long eighteenth century, we must pay attention to how often they fail—and how many of them are created for the express purpose of failing. In this unraveling, literature arrives at its most penetrating insights about the structure of social life.
The National Security Sublime - On the Aesthetics of Government Secrecy
by Matthew Potolsky
Why do recent depictions of government secrecy and surveillance so often use images suggesting massive size and scale: gigantic warehouses, remote black sites, numberless security cameras? Drawing on post-War American art, film, television, and fiction, Matthew Potolsky argues that the aesthetic of the sublime provides a privileged window into the nature of modern intelligence, a way of describing the curiously open secret of covert operations. The book tracks the development of the national security sublime from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and places it in a long history of efforts by artists and writers to represent political secrecy.
by Craig Dworkin
DEF follows a proposal that Raymond Queneau called ‘definitional literature’ and that Stefan Themerson called ‘semantic literature’ which was taken up most fully by Georges Perec and Marcel Bénabou.
Starting with a passage from Gottlob Frege, Craig Dworkin replaced each of the words in Frege’s sentence with its dictionary definition. He then replaced each of the words in that new sentence with its dictionary definition, and then each of the words in the resulting sentence with its dictionary definition, and so on.
DEF presents five iterations of the process using the Oxford English Dictionary and another five using the first, 1806 edition of Noah Webster’s Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.
Structured like an hourglass, DEF begins with the longest of the O.E.D. sentences (at almost forty-five-thousand words) and hones in to asymptotically approach the vanishing point of the Frege source before expanding back out with the Webster versions.
As the Keynote speaker, Craig Dworkin presented his book DEF at the Poetics of Information Symposium at New York University, 16 November 2018.
The Pine-Woods Notebook
by Craig Dworkin
Poetry. Environmental Studies. Following the traces of the trail blazed by Francis Ponge in Le Carnet du bois de pins (1947), THE PINE-WOODS NOTEBOOK offers a simultaneous study of two environments. It documents the ecologies of two particular stands of conifers (one in the Wasatch front of the Rockies' western edge, the other in the coastal Cascades of the Pacific Northwest); at the same time, it investigates the linguistic environment at the intersection of the words pitch and pine in all of their denotations. An essay built from densely patterned sentences, THE PINE-WOODS NOTEBOOK records the surprising resonance of chance lexical encounters and argues for the inextricable interweaving of the phenomenology of the conifer (its shape, scent, and cool darkness—as well as the distinctive sound of the wind in its branches) together with the vitality of its fluid sap and disseminating reproductive processes. Both the distinctive scent and coolness of a pine grove, for example, turn out (according to recent scientific studies) to be consequences of the same chemical process, in which uniquely structured molecular chains form as the trees 'exhale.' Similarly, the emotive 'sigh' of the wind in the pine—recurrently regarded, across cultures and centuries, as the most beautiful of natural sounds—can be heard as sexual reproduction made audible, since the pine depends on the wind (rather than insects or birds) for pollination. Here, the erotic longing of pining meets the affective reflex of breath as they articulate the branching of the signifier.
My Lookalike at the Krishna Temple
by Jacqueline Osherow
In My Lookalike at the Krishna Temple, Jacqueline Osherow considers expressions of spirituality from cultures all over the world and investigates previously unexplored aspects of her relationship to Judaism and Jewish history. While some poems reflect on practitioners of self-imposed isolation, from the monks in Fra Angelico’s frescoed cells to Emily Dickinson to the Kotzker Rebbe, others explore topics as varied as architecture, geometry, faith, war, and genocide. Osherow finds beauty in Joseph’s dreams, the euphony of crickets, and the gamut of symmetries on display in the Alhambra. The scent of lindens serves as a meditative bridge between Darmstadt, Germany, alien and unnerving, and a familiar front porch in Salt Lake City, where the poet freely engages with the natural world: “Don’t worry, moon; we all lose our bearings. / You don’t have to rise. Stay here instead. / I’ll spot you; we could both use an ally / and rumor has it disorientation / is the least resistant pathway to what’s holy.” Osherow takes readers on a journey as tourists and global citizens, trying to find meaning in an often painful and chaotic world.
A Slight Discomfort
by Jeff Metcalf
A Funny, Touching, Warm, Informative, Frank, Inspiring, Entertaining Play about ... Prostate Cancer?!
Yes, that's right - an amazing play about prostate cancer.
Award-winning playwright Jeff Metcalf has written a remarkably honest- and outrageously funny - play about his experience with prostate cancer. This one man play, based on his journals, follows Jeff's journey from diagnosis through his life surviving the disease. "I'm here because of closet space, ritual and humor," says Metcalf.
A Slight Discomfort is about living - really living. Its universal themes and appeal are not limited to men. As one female audience member put it, "I have a prostate - I've been married to the same man for 20 years!"
It explores the shared experience of being human and dealing with a crisis with grace and humor.
A Slight Discomfort takes us from laughter to tears, from blushing to bravo, from thought to action, from tragedy to triumph.
Without the Novel - Romance and the History of Prose Fiction
by Scott Black
No genre manifests the pleasure of reading—and its power to consume and enchant—more than romance. In suspending the category of the novel to rethink the way prose fiction works, Without the Novel demonstrates what literary history looks like from the perspective of such readerly excesses and adventures.
Rejecting the assumption that novelistic realism is the most significant tendency in the history of prose fiction, Black asks three intertwined questions: What is fiction without the novel? What is literary history without the novel? What is reading without the novel? In answer, this study draws on the neglected genre of romance to reintegrate eighteenth-century British fiction with its classical and Continental counterparts. Black addresses works of prose fiction that self-consciously experiment with the formal structures and readerly affordances of romance: Heliodorus’s Ethiopian Story, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and Burney’s The Wanderer. Each text presents itself as a secondary, satiric adaptation of anachronistic and alien narratives, but in revising foreign stories each text also relays them. The recursive reading that these works portray and demand makes each a self-reflexive parable of romance itself. Ultimately, Without the Novel writes a wider, weirder history of fiction organized by the recurrences of romance and informed by the pleasures of reading that define the genre.
Look Both Ways
by Katharine Coles
Walter Link and Miriam Wollaeger, a young geologist couple in 1920s Wisconsin, set
out to find oil to supply the surging U.S. demand. This exciting work will allow them
to build their lives in South and Central America, Indonesia, and Cuba. But from the
first posting in Columbia, they quickly discover that no women are working in the
field in these places. While Walter faces the hardships and thrills of exploration
in the jungles and mountains, and eventually becomes chief geologist for Standard
Oil, Miriam is left behind in the colonial capitals during Walter's often lengthy
times away. She defines herself through the limited means left to a woman within their
small societies: playing bridge or polo by day and dancing into the wee hours with
early KLM pilots, diplomats, and the footloose sons of moneyed Americans and the European
aristocracies. She also raises three children, has intimate involvements, learns the
local languages, and takes up teaching. But she is not satisfied. And finally she
does something about it.
Following in her grandparents' footsteps, author Katharine Coles looks backward and forward, through documents and imagination. She looks at their journeys and hers, and mingling their words with her own, examines the delicate balances that must exist in a successful marriage and a feminist life.
Kafka's Other Prague
by Anne Jamison
Kafka’s Other Prague: Writings from the Czechoslovak Republic examines Kafka’s late writings from the perspective of the author’s changing relationship
with Czech language, culture, and literature—the least understood facet of his meticulously
researched life and work.
Franz Kafka was born in Prague, a bilingual city in the Habsburg Empire. He died a citizen of Czechoslovakia. Yet Kafka was not Czech in any way he himself would have understood. He could speak Czech, but, like many Prague Jews, he was raised and educated and wrote in German. Kafka critics to date have had little to say about the majority language of his native city or its “minor literature,” as he referred to it in a 1913 journal entry. Kafka’s Other Pragueexplains why Kafka’s later experience of Czech language and culture matters.
Bringing to light newly available archival material, Anne Jamison’s innovative study demonstrates how Czechoslovakia’s founding and Kafka’s own dramatic political, professional, and personal upheavals altered his relationship to this “other Prague.” It destabilized Kafka’s understanding of nationality, language, gender, and sex—and how all these issues related to his own writing.
Kafka’s Other Prague juxtaposes Kafka’s German-language work with Czechoslovak Prague’s language politics, intellectual currents, and print culture—including the influence of his lover and translator, the journalist Milena Jesenská—and shows how this changed cultural and linguistic landscape transformed one of the great literary minds of the last century.
by Jeff Metcalf
A storyteller and avid fly fisherman, Jeff Metcalf is, for compelling personal reasons,
an enhanced observer of the human condition, who finds himself often in the streams
of the American West. Not only rivers run through his essays, his cancer does too.
But so do camaraderie, adventures, reveling in nature and outdoor devotions, and the
sheer bliss of focused engagement with the fish and the cast. Metcalf’s keenly observed
companions are river guides, small-town locals, academics, and other city folk, all
like him among those who run to the river for solace and joy.
These essays are much more than fish stories; they reveal the community and communion of fishing and the bonds to place the author nurtured through it. Whether he recalls carousing and tale-swapping with friends or excellence found through the challenge of the cast, Metcalf’s words, sometimes roiling and turbulent, sometimes calm and reflective, like a western river, vividly convey the pull of the steelhead and the fight for survival. Whether or not you fish, Metcalf’s sharp-eyed, open and honest look at life will draw you in.
"These waters have been my home, and I fish them more than most. In truth, they have saved my life on more than a few occasions. I seek refuge in the quiet solitude of rivers, and in dark hours of my life—including this particular year—I need desperately to be fly-fishing." —From the book
Amnesia and the Nation History, Forgetting, and James Joyce
by Vincent Cheng
This book examines the relationships between memory, history, and national identity through an interdisciplinary analysis of James Joyce’s works—as well as of literary texts by Kundera, Ford, Fitzgerald, and Walker Percy. Drawing on thinkers such as Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Luria, Anderson, and Yerushalmi, this study explores the burden of the past and the “nightmare of history” in Ireland and in the American South—from the Battle of the Boyne to the Good Friday Agreement, from the Civil War to the 2015 Mother Emanuel killings.
Vincent J. Cheng is Shirley Sutton Thomas Professor of English at the University of Utah, USA. He is the author of many scholarly articles and books, including Inauthentic: The Anxiety Over Culture and Identity; Joyce, Race, and Empire; and Shakespeare and Joyce. His work addresses the intersections of postcolonial studies, race studies, twentieth-century literature, and contemporary culture.
by Michael Mejia
Assistant professor of English, Michael Mejia, publishes TOKYO (University of Alabama Press), a novel in three parts, linked by a single narrative of disaster, loss, and longing. TOKYO was conceived as a novel that would “investigate, through fiction, the Japan I'd imagined, while also recognizing that every Japan I imagined would always already be a fictional one, a Western one,” said Mejia.
Mejia has always been fascinated with Japan, ever since he was a child. Growing up in Sacramento, CA, many of his childhood friends happened to be second- and third-generation Japanese, Chinese and Korean. He was interested in the artifacts in their homes; and became a fan of many Japanese films and authors. “My interest was in Japan's strangeness and seeming exoticism, probably not all that different from the interest of Americans in the mid-19th c., when Japan had been mostly closed off to the West by its military government,” Mejia explained. Much of TOKYO is focused on Tuskiji, the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market, the largest fish market in the world, which distributes more than 1500 tons of seafood, shipped from all over the world, to restaurants, supermarkets, and neighborhood stores every day—just to Tokyo and its suburbs.
“When I first read about Tsukiji in a National Geographic article in the mid-1990s, I was fascinated by the quantities and varieties of seafood represented there, but also by what amounted to a small village (the market employs tens of thousands of people) living an opposite life to the metropolis around them—a 6 PM to noon life, essentially—and I wondered how that life might affect one's personal and community relationships,” Mejia said. This brought him to write a narrative about a strange defect discovered in some bluefin tuna, written in the form of a report by a Japanese businessman, a high-level salaryman at a fictional tuna wholesale company. This piece would eventually become the inspiration for TOKYO’s reconsideration of the Japan Mejia had previously invented, and other unreal Japans imagined by the West.
Morta Las Vegas: CSI and the Problem of the West
by Stephen Tatum
Through all its transformations and reinventions over the past century, “Sin City”
has consistently been regarded by artists and cultural critics as expressing in purest
form, for better or worse, an aesthetic and social order spawned by neon signs and
institutionalized indulgence. In other words, Las Vegas provides a codex with which
to confront the problems of the West and to track the people, materials, ideas, and
virtual images that constitute postregional space.
Morta Las Vegas considers Las Vegas and the problem of regional identity in the American West through a case study of a single episode of the television crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Delving deep into the interwoven events of the episode titled “4 × 4,” but resisting a linear, logical case-study approach, the authors draw connections between the city—a layered and complex world—and the violent, uncanny mysteries of a crime scene. Morta Las Vegas reveals nuanced issues characterizing the emergence of a postregional West, moving back and forth between a geographical and a procedural site and into a place both in between and beyond Western identity.
The Broken Country
by Paisley Rekdal
The Broken Country uses a violent incident that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2012 as a springboard for examining the long-term cultural and psychological effects of the Vietnam War. To make sense of the shocking and baffling incident―in which a young homeless man born in Vietnam stabbed a number of white men purportedly in retribution for the war―Paisley Rekdal draws on a remarkable range of material and fashions it into a compelling account of the dislocations suffered by the Vietnamese and also by American-born veterans over the past decades. She interweaves a narrative about the crime with information collected in interviews, historical examination of the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants in the 1970s, a critique of portrayals of Vietnam in American popular culture, and discussions of the psychological consequences of trauma. This work allows us to better understand transgenerational and cultural trauma and advances our still complicated struggle to comprehend the war.
Dreamlives of Debris
by Lance Olsen
Dreamlives of Debris is a hybrid retelling of the Theseus and Minotaur myth. Here the Minotaur is a little deformed girl—she calls herself Debris—hidden away from public view in the labyrinth beneath Knossos. She possesses the ability to hear the flood of thoughts and see the flood of memories, desires, and futures of others throughout history from Herodotus and Pliny to Borges and Edward Snowden.
Her labyrinth takes the form of an impossible liquid architecture bearing no center and hence no discernible perimeter. Dreamlives of Debris explores such impossible architecture as a way of knowing — an extended metaphor for our current sense of lived experience: the feeling, for instance, of being awash in massive, networked data fields that may lead everywhere and nowhere at once. The lyrical narrative takes the form of a collage composed of multiple voices and genres from multiple time periods.
Evolution and Imagination in Victorian Children's Literature
by Jessica Straley
Evolutionary theory sparked numerous speculations about human development, and one of the most ardently embraced was the idea that children are animals recapitulating the ascent of the species. After Darwin's Origin of Species, scientific, pedagogical, and literary works featuring beastly babes and wild children interrogated how our ancestors evolved and what children must do in order to repeat this course to humanity. Exploring fictions by Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Charles Kingsley, and Margaret Gatty, Jessica Straley argues that Victorian children's literature not only adopted this new taxonomy of the animal child, but also suggested ways to complete the child's evolution. In the midst of debates about elementary education and the rising dominance of the sciences, children's authors plotted miniaturized evolutions for their protagonists and readers and, more pointedly, proposed that the decisive evolutionary leap for both our ancestors and ourselves is the advent of the literary imagination.
Animal, Vegetable, Digital: Experiments in New Media Aesthetics and Environmental
by Elizabeth Swanstrom
Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature
In Animal, Vegetable, Digital, Elizabeth Swanstrom makes a confident and spirited argument for the use of digital art in support of ameliorating human engagement with the environment and suggests a four-part framework for analyzing and discussing such applications.
Through close readings of a panoply of texts, artworks, and cultural artifacts, Swanstrom demonstrates that the division popular culture has for decades observed between nature and technology is artificial. Not only is digital technology not necessarily a brick in the road to a dystopian future of environmental disaster, but digital art forms can be a revivifying bridge that returns people to a more immediate relationship to nature as well as their own embodied selves.
To analyze and understand the intersection of digital art and nature, Animal, Vegetable, Digital explores four aesthetic techniques: coding, collapsing, corresponding, and conserving. “Coding” denotes the way artists use operational computer code to blur distinctions between the reader and text, and, hence, the world. Inviting a fluid conception of the boundary between human and technology, “collapsing” voids simplistic assumptions about the human body’s innate perimeter. The process of translation between natural and human-readable signs that enables communication is described as “corresponding.” “Conserving” is the application of digital art by artists to democratize large- and small-scale preservation efforts.
A fascinating synthesis of literary criticism, communications and journalism, science and technology, and rhetoric that draws on such disparate phenomena as simulated environments, video games, and popular culture, Animal, Vegetable, Digital posits that partnerships between digital aesthetics and environmental criticism are possible that reconnect humankind to nature and reaffirm its kinship with other living and nonliving things.
by Katharine Coles
The poems in Katharine Coles's Flight playfully engage the spiritual and natural worlds through the human constructs of science, art, philosophy, and history.
Thoughtful and intelligent, the poems in Flight are still fully embodied, rooted entirely in the senses, and extending Coles?s ongoing examination of the big questions: What is the relation of art and science? What are the potentials and limitations of perception and intuition? And never least, What does all this tell us about our capacity for love and pleasure? These poems are deeply engaged with the pleasures of the sensuous, treating thought itself as a sensual activity, as a kind of passion in its own right. William Carlos Williams said, "No ideas but in things"; Coles seems to want to assert that there is no thing: moon, bat, moth, dog, beloved husband, that will not give rise to ideas, and, very often, to pleasure at the same time. More than anything, pleasures are what the poems seek to create and enact; the pleasures of the flesh, yes; and of the mind that is also of the flesh, and that is so present in the poems.
Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace
by Jeremy Rosen
How do genres develop? In what ways do they reflect changing political and cultural trends? What do they tell us about the motivations of publishers and readers? Combining close readings and formal analysis with a sociology of literary institutions and markets, Minor Characters Have Their Day offers a compelling new approach to genre study and contemporary fiction. Focusing on the booming genre of books that transform minor characters from canonical literary texts into the protagonists of new works, Jeremy Rosen makes broader claims about the state of contemporary fiction, the strategies of the publishing industry over recent decades, and the function of literary characters.
Rosen traces the recent surge in "minor-character elaboration" to the late 1960s and works such as Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. These early examples often recover the voices of marginalized individuals and groups. As the genre has exploded between the 1980s and the present, with novels about Ahab's wife, Huck Finn's father, and Mr. Dalloway, it has begun to embody the neoliberal commitments of subjective experience, individual expression, and agency. Eventually, large-scale publishers capitalized on the genre as a way to appeal to educated audiences aware of the prestige of the classics and to draw in identity-based niche markets. Rosen's conclusion ties the understudied evolution of minor-character elaboration to the theory of literary character.
Hope, Heart, and the Humanities: How a Free College Course is Changing Lives
by Jeff Metcalf
Hope, Heart, and the Humanities tells the story of how Venture, a free, interdisciplinary college humanities course
inspired by the national Clemente Course, has helped open doors to improve the lives
of people with low incomes who face barriers to attending college. For over a decade,
this course has given hundreds of adults, some of them immigrants or refugees, the
knowledge, confidence, and power to rechart their lives.
Readers will go inside Venture classrooms to see what occurs when adults enter serious discussions about literature, critical writing, art history, American history, and philosophy. Apparent also are the difficulties nontraditional students, who range in age from 18 to 60, often encounter in a college classroom and the hard choices they and their teachers make. What readers may remember most are the stories and words from people whose views of the world broaden and whose directions in life changed.
“A terrific introduction to a grass roots movement of oppressed people and educators worldwide, changing lives and communities through thinking and dialogue, more powerful than munitions. Students from all walks of life and backgrounds overcome poverty, racism, homelessness, abusive relationships, and hopelessness through their study of the humanities. Nuggets of teaching brilliance pervade the volume."
—David R. Kittay, director, Harlem Clemente Course for the Humanities
by Paisley Rekdal
"Compelling, appealing, cinematic . . . Rekdal refreshes the meaning and the image of being displaced in this world."
—The Boston Globe
"Rekdal's work deeply satisfies, for it witnesses and wonders over the necessary struggles of human awareness and being."
"In acknowledging the disappointing facts of our existence and singing her way into its amazement, she has created poetry that lives alongside the misery we sometimes witness—and sometimes cause." —Slate
Paisley Rekdal questions how identity and being inhabit metaphorical and personified "vessels," from blown glass and soap bubbles to skulls unearthed at the Colorado State Mental Institution. Whether writing short lyrics or a sonnet sequence celebrating Mae West, Rekdal's intellectually inquisitive and carefully researched poems delight in sound, meter, and head-on engagement. Illustrated with twelve Andrea Modica photographs.
Vague as fog and turnip—hipped, a creel of eels
that slithers in stains. Dirty slate, you're
Diamond Lil. She's you, you say. You're her. She's I. O
Mae, fifth grade, we dressed in feathers and our mothers' slit
pink slips, dipped into your schema and your accent,
aspiring (like you) to be able to order coffee and have it
sound like filth . . .
Paisley Rekdal is the author of four books of poetry, a book of personal essays, and a mixed media book of photography, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Salt Lake City and teaches at the University of Utah.
The 7th Man
by Melanie Rae Thon
In stark, fevered, poetic lines, Valen Arnoux confesses his intimate participation in 131 executions. As a prison guard and member of the strap down team, he is compelled to rehearse, to perfect his timing and skills, to synchronize his movements with the precise choreography of the team. Each member takes his turn playing the role of the condemned, "because no body is the same, and every man responds differently." These theatrical performances catalyze an uncanny sense of identification-any man might be himself, his closest friend, his brother...
Silence and Song
by Melanie Rae Thon
Immigrants lost in the blistering expanse of the Sonoran Desert, problem bears, bats
pollinating saguaros, a Good Samaritan filling tanks at emergency water stations,
and the terrified runaway boy who shoots him pierce the heart and mind of Rosana Derais.
“Vanishings,” the first story in Silence and Song,is a love letter, a prayer to these strangers whose lives penetrate and transform
Rosana’s own sorrow.
In “Translations,” the prose poem connecting the two longer fictions, child refugees at a multilingual literacy center in Salt Lake City discover the merciful “translation” of dance and pantomime.
The convergence of two disparate events—a random murder in Seattle and the nuclear accident at Chernobyl—catalyze the startling, eruptive form of the concluding piece,“requiem: home: and the rain, after.” Narrated in first person by the killer’s sister and plural first person by the “liquidators” who come to the Evacuation Zone to bury entire villages poisoned by radioactive fallout, “requiem” navigates the immediate trauma of murder and environmental disaster; personal and global devastation; and the remarkable recovery of the miraculously diverse more-than-human world.
Fictions of Mass Democracy in Nineteenth-Century America
by Stacey Margolis
Fictions of Mass Democracy in Nineteenth-Century America examines how mass democracy was understood before public opinion could be measured by polls. It argues that fiction, in its freedom to represent what resists representation, develops the most groundbreaking theories of the democratic public. These literary accounts of democracy focus less on overt pubic action than the profound effects of everyday social encounters. This book thus departs from recent scholarship, which emphasizes the responsibilities of citizenship and the achievements of oppositional social movements. It demonstrates how novels and stories by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Fanny Fern, Harriet Jacobs, and James Fenimore Cooper attempt to understand a public organized not only by explicitly political discourse, but by informal and disorganized social networks.
Illegal Literature: Toward a Disruptive Creativity
by David S. Roh
What is the cultural value of illegal works that violate the copyrights of popular fiction? Why do they persist despite clear and stringent intellectual property laws? Drawing on the disciplines of new media, law, and literary studies, Illegal Literature suggests that extralegal works such as fan fiction are critical to a system that spurs the evolution of culture.
Reconsidering voices relegated to the cultural periphery, David S. Roh shows how infrastructure—in the form of legal policy and network distribution—slows or accelerates the rate of change. He analyzes the relationship between intellectual property rights and American literature in two recent copyright disputes. And, in comparing American fan fiction and Japanese dojinshi, he illustrates how infrastructure and legal climates detract from or encourage fledgling creativity.
Illegal Literature fills a crucial gap between the scholarly and the popular by closely examining several modes of marginalized cultural production. Roh makes the case for protecting an environment conducive to literary heresy, the articulation of an accretive rather than solitary authorial genius, and the idea that letting go rather than holding on is important to a generative creative process. In a media ecology inundated by unauthorized materials, Illegal Literature argues that the proliferation of unsanctioned texts may actually benefit literary and cultural development.
Secularization without End: Beckett, Mann, Coetzee
by Vincent P. Pecora
In Secularization without End: Beckett, Mann, Coetzee, Vincent P. Pecora elaborates an alternative history of the twentieth-century Western novel that explains the resurgence of Christian theological ideas. Standard accounts of secularization in the novel assume the gradual disappearance of religious themes through processes typically described as rationalization: philosophy and science replace faith. Pecora shows, however, that in the modern novels he examines, “secularization” ceases to mean emancipation from the prescientific ignorance or enchantment commonly associated with belief and signifies instead the shameful state of a humanity bereft of grace and undeserving of redemption.
His book focuses on the unpredictable and paradoxical rediscovery of theological perspectives in otherwise secular novels after 1945. The narratives he analyzes are all seemingly godless in their overt points of view, from Samuel Beckett’s Murphy to Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus to J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus. But, Pecora argues, these novels wind up producing varieties of religious doctrine drawn from Augustinian and Calvinist claims about primordial guilt and the impotence of human will. In the most artfully imaginative ways possible, Beckett, Mann, and Coetzee resist the apparently inevitable plot that so many others have constructed for the history of the novel, by which human existence is reduced to mundane and meaningless routines and nothing more. Instead, their writing invokes a religious past that turns secular modernity, and the novel itself, inside out.
“Secularization without End is a well-argued and provocative exploration of the modern novel grounded in a compelling set of theological reflections. Vincent P. Pecora discusses primarily Samuel Beckett’s trilogy (1950), Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus (1947), and various novels by J. M. Coetzee from the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. This is not just a set of three individual-author essays; it is about an alternative history of the novel that challenges the paradigms that have prevailed from Watt to Moretti."
— Russell Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University
Clowning and Authorship in Early Modern Theatre
by Richard Preiss
To early modern audiences, the 'clown' was much more than a minor play character. A celebrity performer, he was a one-man sideshow whose interactive entertainments - face-pulling, farce interludes, jigs, rhyming contests with the crowd - were the main event. Clowning epitomized a theatre that was heterogeneous, improvised, participatory, and irreducible to dramatic texts. How, then, did those texts emerge? Why did playgoers buy books that deleted not only the clown, but them as well? Challenging the narrative that clowns were 'banished' by playwrights like Shakespeare and Jonson, Richard Preiss argues that clowns such as Richard Tarlton, Will Kemp, and Robert Armin actually made playwrights possible - bridging, through the publication of their routines, the experience of 'live' and scripted performance. Clowning and Authorship tells the story of how, as the clown's presence decayed into print, he bequeathed the new categories around which theatre would organize: the author, and the actor.
Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World
by Anne Jamison
What is fanfiction, and what is it not? Why does fanfiction matter? And what makes
it so important to the future of literature?
Fic is a groundbreaking exploration of the history and culture of fan writing and what it means for the way we think about reading, writing, and authorship. It’s a story about literature, community, and technology—about what stories are being told, who’s telling them, how, and why.
With provocative discussions from both professional and fan writers, on subjects from Star Trek to The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Harry Potter, Twilight, and beyond, Fic sheds light on the widely misunderstood world(s) of fanfiction—not only how fanfiction is transforming the literary landscape, but how it already has.
The Decadent Republic of Letters: Taste, Politics, and Cosmopolitan Community from
Baudelaire to Beardsley
by Matthew Potolsky
While scholars have long associated the group of nineteenth-century French and English writers and artists known as the decadents with alienation, escapism, and withdrawal from the social and political world, Matthew Potolsky offers an alternative reading of the movement. In The Decadent Republic of Letters, he treats the decadents as fundamentally international, defined by a radically cosmopolitan ideal of literary sociability rather than an inward turn toward private aesthetics and exotic sensation.
The Decadent Republic of Letters looks at the way Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, and Algernon Charles Swinburne used the language of classical republican political theory to define beauty as a form of civic virtue. The libertines, an international underground united by subversive erudition, gave decadents a model of countercultural affiliation and a vocabulary for criticizing national canon formation and the increasing state control of education. Decadent figures such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, Aubrey Beardsley, and Oscar Wilde envisioned communities formed through the circulation of art. Decadents lavishly praised their counterparts from other traditions, translated and imitated their works, and imagined the possibility of new associations forged through shared tastes and texts. Defined by artistic values rather than language, geography, or ethnic identity, these groups anticipated forms of attachment that are now familiar in youth countercultures and on social networking sites.
Bold and sophisticated, The Decadent Republic of Letters unearths a pervasive decadent critique of nineteenth-century notions of political community and reveals the collective effort by the major figures of the movement to find alternatives to liberalism and nationalism.
"Potolsky offers a fresh and original contribution to the study of decadence and succeeds in showing how the movement is not a dusty relic of the nineteenth century, but a provocative and relevant intervention into contemporary issues. In true decadent manner, Potolsky approaches his subject perversely, arguing that we should look not at what decadence rejects but instead at what its proponents valorize. The result is a perspective that emphasizes engagement over withdrawal and renunciation. Decadence emerges from this analysis an exciting, revitalized ideology, one that suggests new ways of approaching contemporary debates."
—Melanie Hawthorne, Texas A&M University
"A new understanding, full of fresh detail and local insight, and it will take an important and indeed essential place in the growing body of scholarly work in this field. . . . A welcome contribution to the understanding of the cultural politics of late nineteenth-century decadence."
Hideous Progeny: Disability, Eugenics, and Classic Horror Cinema
by Angela Smith
Twisted bodies, deformed faces, aberrant behavior, and abnormal desires characterized
the hideous creatures of classic Hollywood horror, which thrilled audiences with their
sheer grotesqueness. Most critics have interpreted these traits as symptoms of sexual
repression or as metaphors for other kinds of marginalized identities, yet Angela
M. Smith conducts a richer investigation into the period's social and cultural preoccupations.
She finds instead a fascination with eugenics and physical and cognitive debility
in the narrative and spectacle of classic 1930s horror, heightened by the viewer's
desire for visions of vulnerability and transformation.
Reading such films as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Freaks(1932), and Mad Love (1935) against early-twentieth-century disability discourse and propaganda on racial and biological purity, Smith showcases classic horror's dependence on the narratives of eugenics and physiognomics. She also notes the genre's conflicted and often contradictory visualizations. Smith ultimately locates an indictment of biological determinism in filmmakers' visceral treatments, which take the impossibility of racial improvement and bodily perfection to sensationalistic heights. Playing up the artifice and conventions of disabled monsters, filmmakers exploited the fears and yearnings of their audience, accentuating both the perversity of the medical and scientific gaze and the debilitating experience of watching horror. Classic horror films therefore encourage empathy with the disabled monster, offering captive viewers an unsettling encounter with their own impairment. Smith's work profoundly advances cinema and disability studies, in addition to general histories concerning the construction of social and political attitudes toward the Other.
The Queer Child
by Kathryn Bond Stockton
Children are thoroughly, shockingly queer, as Kathryn Bond Stockton explains in The Queer Child, where she examines children’s strangeness, even some children’s subliminal “gayness,” in the twentieth century. Estranging, broadening, darkening forms of children emerge as this book illuminates the child queered by innocence, the child queered by color, the child queered by Freud, the child queered by money, and the grown homosexual metaphorically seen as a child (or as an animal), alongside the gay child. What might the notion of a “gay” child do to conceptions of the child? How might it outline the pain, closets, emotional labors, sexual motives, and sideways movements that attend all children, however we deny it?
Engaging and challenging the work of sociologists, legal theorists, and historians, Stockton coins the term “growing sideways” to describe ways of growing that defy the usual sense of growing “up” in a linear trajectory toward full stature, marriage, reproduction, and the relinquishing of childish ways. Growing sideways is a mode of irregular growth involving odd lingerings, wayward paths, and fertile delays. Contending that children’s queerness is rendered and explored best in fictional forms, including literature, film, and television, Stockton offers dazzling readings of works ranging from novels by Henry James, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Vladimir Nabokov to the movies Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Hanging Garden, Heavenly Creatures, Hoop Dreams, and the 2005 remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The result is a fascinating look at children’s masochism, their interactions with pedophiles and animals, their unfathomable, hazy motives (leading them at times into sex, seduction, delinquency, and murder), their interracial appetites, and their love of consumption and destruction through the alluring economy of candy.
Romanticism and the Rise of the Mass Public
by Andrew Franta
Dramatic changes in the reading public and literary market in early nineteenth-century England not only altered the relationship between poet and reader but prompted new conceptions of the poetic text, literary reception, and authorship. With the decline of patronage, the rise of the novel and the periodical press, and the emergence of the mass reading public, poets could no longer assume the existence of an audience for poetry. Andrew Franta examines how the reconfigurations of the literary market and the publishing context transformed the ways poets conceived of their audience and the forms of poetry itself. Through readings of Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hemans, and Tennyson, and with close attention to key literary, political, and legal debates, Franta proposes a new reading of Romanticism and its contribution to modern conceptions of politics and publicity.
Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame
by Kathryn Bond Stockton
Shame, Kathryn Bond Stockton argues in Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame, has often been a meeting place for the signs “black” and “queer” and for black and queer people—overlapping groups who have been publicly marked as degraded and debased. But when and why have certain forms of shame been embraced by blacks and queers? How does debasement foster attractions? How is it used for aesthetic delight? What does it offer for projects of sorrow and ways of creative historical knowing? How and why is it central to camp?
Stockton engages the domains of African American studies, queer theory, psychoanalysis, film theory, photography, semiotics, and gender studies. She brings together thinkers rarely, if ever, read together in a single study—James Baldwin, Radclyffe Hall, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eldridge Cleaver, Todd Haynes, Norman Mailer, Leslie Feinberg, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino—and reads them with and against major theorists, including Georges Bataille, Sigmund Freud, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, and Leo Bersani. Stockton asserts that there is no clear, mirrored relation between the terms “black” and “queer”; rather, seemingly definitive associations attached to each are often taken up or crossed through by the other. Stockton explores dramatic switchpoints between these terms: the stigmatized “skin” of some queers’ clothes, the description of blacks as an “economic bottom,” the visual force of interracial homosexual rape, the complicated logic of so-called same-sex miscegenation, and the ways in which a famous depiction of slavery (namely, Morrison’s Beloved) seems bound up with depictions of AIDS. All of the thinkers Stockton considers scrutinize the social nature of shame as they examine the structures that make debasements possible, bearable, pleasurable, and creative, even in their darkness.