Literary Criticism



Decadence in the Age of Modernism

edited by Kate Hext and Alex Murray
Decadence in the Age of Modernism begins where the history of the decadent movement all too often ends: in 1895. It argues that the decadent principles and aesthetics of Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, Algernon Swinburne, and others continued to exert a compelling legacy on the next generation of writers, from high modernists and late decadents to writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Writers associated with this decadent counterculture were consciously celebrated but more often...

Born Yesterday

Stephanie Insley Hershinow
Between the emergence of the realist novel in the early eighteenth century and the novel's subsequent alignment with self-improvement a century later lies a significant moment when novelistic characters were unlikely to mature in any meaningful way. That adolescent protagonists poised on the cusp of adulthood resisted a headlong tumble into maturity through the workings of plot reveals a curious literary and philosophical counter-tradition in the history of the...

Brides, Mourners, Bacchae

Vassiliki Panoussi
Powerful female characters pervade both Greek and Latin literature, even if their presence is largely dictated by the narratives of men. Feminist approaches to the study of women in Greek literature have helped illustrate the importance of their religious and ritual roles in public life—Latin literature, however, has not been subject to similar scrutiny. In Brides, Mourners, Bacchae, Vassiliki Panoussi takes up the challenge, exploring women's place in weddings,...

Bhakti and Power

John S. Hawley
Bhakti, a term ubiquitous in the religious life of South Asia, has meanings that shift dramatically according to context and sentiment. Sometimes translated as "personal devotion," bhakti nonetheless implies and fosters public interaction. It is often associated with the marginalized voices of women and lower castes, yet it has also played a role in perpetuating injustice. Barriers have been torn down in the name of bhakti, while others have been built simultaneously. Bhakti...

Leibniz Discovers Asia

Michael C. Carhart
Who are the nations of Europe, and where did they come from? Early modern people were as curious about their origins as we are today. Lacking twenty-first-century DNA research, seventeenth-century scholars turned to language—etymology, vocabulary, and even grammatical structure—for evidence. The hope was that, in puzzling out the relationships between languages, the relationships between nations themselves would emerge, and on that basis one could determine...

Systems Failure

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...

Outsiders

Lyndall Gordon
Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner and Virginia Woolf: they all wrote dazzling books that forever changed the way we see history. In Outsiders, award-winning biographer Lyndall Gordon shows how these five novelists shared more than talent. In a time when a woman's reputation was her security, each of these women lost hers. They were unconstrained by convention, writing against the grain of their contemporaries, prophetically imagining a different future. We...

Made Under Pressure

Natalia Kamovnikova
During the Cold War, determined translators and publishers based in the Soviet Union worked together to increase the number of foreign literary texts available in Russian, despite fluctuating government restrictions. Based on extensive interviews with literary translators, Made Under Pressure offers an insider's look at Soviet censorship and the role translators played in promoting foreign authors—including figures like John Fowles, George Orwell, Kurt...

Generous Thinking

Kathleen Fitzpatrick
Higher education occupies a difficult place in twenty-first-century American culture. Universities—the institutions that bear so much responsibility for the future health of our nation—are at odds with the very publics they are intended to serve. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick asserts, it is imperative that we re-center the mission of the university to rebuild that lost trust. In Generous Thinking, Fitzpatrick roots this crisis in the work of scholars. Critical...

Timelines of American Literature

edited by Cody Marrs and Christopher Hager
It is all but inevitable for literary history to be divided into periods. "Early American," "antebellum," "modern," "post-1945"—such designations organize our knowledge of the past and shape the ways we discuss that past today. The authors in this collection believe it is high time we rethink these defining periods of American literary history. In these short, spirited, and imaginative essays, 23 leading Americanists gamely fashion new, unorthodox literary periods—from...

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Walker Percy, and the Age of Suicide

John F. Desmond
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Walker Percy, and the Age of Suicide is a study of the phenomenon of suicide in modern and post-modern society as represented in the major fictional works of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Walker Percy. In his study, suicide is understood in both a literal and spiritual sense as referring to both the actual suicides in their works and to the broader social malaise of spiritual suicide, or despair. In the 19th century Dostoevsky called suicide "the terrible...

Literary Forgery in Early Modern Europe, 1450–1800

edited by Walter Stephens and Earle A. Havens
assisted by Janet E. Gomez
Forgery is an eternal problem. In literature and the writing of history, suspiciously attributed texts can be uniquely revealing when subjected to a nuanced critique. False and spurious writings impinge on social and political realities to a degree rarely confronted by the biographical criticism of yesteryear. They deserve a more critical reading of the sort far more often bestowed on canonical works of poetry and...

Jade Mountains and Cinnabar Pools

James M. Hargett, hD
First-hand accounts of travel provide windows into places unknown to the reader, or new ways of seeing familiar places. In Jade Mountains and Cinnabar Pools, the first book-length treatment in English of Chinese travel literature (youji), James M. Hargett identifies and examines core works in the genre, from the Six Dynasties period (220–581), when its essential characteristics emerged, to its florescence in the late Ming dynasty...

The Politics of Richard Wright

Jane Anna Gordon
A pillar of African American literature, Richard Wright is one of the most celebrated and controversial authors in American history. His work championed intellectual freedom amid social and political chaos. Despite the popular and critical success of books such as Uncle Tom's Children (1938), Black Boy (1945), and Native Son (1941), Wright faced staunch criticism and even censorship throughout his career for the graphic sexuality, intense violence, and communist themes in his...

Virtues of Renewal

Jeffrey Bilbro
For over fifty years, Wendell Berry has argued that our most pressing ecological and cultural need is a renewed formal intelligence—a mode of thinking and acting that fosters the health of the earth and its beings. Yet the present industrial economy prioritizes a technical, self-centered way of relating to the world that often demands and rewards busyness over thoughtful observation, independence over relationships, and replacing over repairing. Such a system is both...

Books for Idle Hours

Donna Harrington-Lueker
The publishing phenomenon of summer reading, often focused on novels set in vacation destinations, started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. As an emerging middle class increasingly embraced summer leisure as a marker of social status, book publishers sought new market opportunities, authors discovered a growing readership, and more readers indulged in lighter fare. Drawing...

The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation

Trevor Owens
Many people believe that what is on the Internet will be around forever. At the same time, warnings of an impending "digital dark age"—where records of the recent past become completely lost or inaccessible—appear with regular frequency in the popular press. It's as if we need a system to safeguard our digital records for future scholars and researchers. Digital preservation experts, however, suggest that this is an illusory dream not worth chasing. Ensuring long-term access to digital...

Cultivating Environmental Justice

Robert S. Emmett
While Michael Pollan and others have popularized ideas about how growing one's own food can help lead to environmental sustainability, environmental justice activists have pushed for more access to gardens and fresh food in impoverished communities. Now, Robert S. Emmett argues that mid-twentieth-century American garden writing included many ideas that became formative for these contemporary environmental writers and activists. Drawing on...

In the Neighborhood

Caroline Wigginton
In this compelling and original book, Caroline Wigginton reshapes our understanding of early American literary history. Overturning long-standing connections between the male-dominated print culture of pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers and the transformative ideas that instigated the American Revolution, Wigginton explores how women's "relational publications"—circulated texts, objects, and performances—transformed their public and intimate worlds. She argues that...