Literary Criticism



Defending Privilege

Nicole Mansfield Wright
As revolution and popular unrest roiled the final decades of the eighteenth century, authors, activists, and philosophers across the British Empire hailed the rise of the liberal subject, valorizing the humanity of the marginalized and the rights of members of groups long considered inferior or subhuman. Yet at the same time, a group of conservative authors mounted a reactionary attempt to cultivate sympathy for the privileged. In Defending...

Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites

Adam Gordon
Print culture expanded significantly in the nineteenth century due to new print technologies and more efficient distribution methods, providing literary critics, who were alternately celebrated and reviled, with an ever-increasing number of venues to publish their work. Adam Gordon embraces the multiplicity of critique in the period from 1830 to 1860 by exploring the critical forms that emerged. Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites is...

Paradise Lost

Michael Cavanagh
A record of a teacher's lifelong love affair with the beauty, wit, and profundity of Paradise Lost, celebrating John Milton's un-doctrinal, complex, and therefore deeply satisfying perception of the human condition. After surveying Milton's recurrent struggle as a reconciler of conflicting ideals, this Primer undertakes a book-by-book reading of Paradise Lost, reviewing key features of Milton's "various style," and why we treasure that style. Cavanagh constantly revisits Milton the singer and maker, and the...

Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination

Bertram D. Ashe
From Kara Walker's hellscape antebellum silhouettes to Paul Beatty's bizarre twist on slavery in The Sellout and from Colson Whitehead's literal Underground Railroad to Jordan Peele's body-snatching Get Out, this volume offers commentary on contemporary artistic works that present, like musical deep cuts, some challenging "alternate takes" on American slavery. These artists deliberately confront and negotiate the psychic and representational legacies of slavery to imagine possibilities and...

Experimental

Natalia Cecire
In this bold new study of twentieth-century American writing and poetics, Natalia Cecire argues that experimental writing should be understood as a historical phenomenon before it is understood as a set of formal phenomena. This seems counterintuitive because, at its most basic level, experimental writing can be thought of as writing which breaks from established forms. Touching on figures who are not typically considered experimental, such as Stephen Crane, Jacob...

The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Jonathan Senchyne
The true scale of paper production in America from 1690 through the end of the nineteenth century was staggering, with a range of parties participating in different ways, from farmers growing flax to textile workers weaving cloth and from housewives saving rags to peddlers collecting them. Making a bold case for the importance of printing and paper technology in the study of early American literature, Jonathan Senchyne presents archival evidence...

"Theatricals of Day"

Sandra Runzo
In her own private ways, Emily Dickinson participated in the popular entertainments of her time. On her piano, she performed popular musical numbers, many from the tradition of minstrelsy, and at theaters, she listened to famous musicians, including Jenny Lind and, likely, the Hutchinson Family Singers. In reading the Atlantic Monthly, the Springfield Republican, and Harper's, she kept up with the roiling conflicts over slavery and took in current...

The Ruler's House

Harriet Fertik
The Julio-Claudian dynasty, beginning with the rise of Augustus in the late first century BCE and ending with the death of Nero in 68 CE, was the first ruling family of the Roman Empire. Elite Romans had always used domestic space to assert and promote their authority, but what was different about the emperor's house? In The Ruler's House, Harriet Fertik considers how the emperor's household and the space he called home shaped Roman conceptions of power and one-man...

Time for Childhoods

Rachel Conrad
Poems written by children are not typically part of the literary canon. Because of cultural biases that frame young people as intellectually and artistically immature, these works are often excluded or dismissed as juvenilia. Rachel Conrad contends that youth-composed poems should be read as literary works in their own right—works that are deserving of greater respect in literary culture. Time for Childhoods presents a selection of striking twentieth-and twenty-first-century...

Four by Euripides

Robert Bagg
Robert Bagg's translations are prized for making ancient Greek dramas immediate and gripping. His earlier translations of the plays of Sophocles and Euripides have been performed over seventy times, across a wide array of stages. This edition includes accessible new translations of four plays by Euripides—the tragedies Medea, Bakkhai, and Hippolytos, and the satyr play Cyclops—all rendered in iambic pentameter, a meter wellsuited for the stage. They sustain the strengths that...

Minotaur, Parrot, and the SS Man

George Monteiro
Nov 2019 - Tagus Press
An undisputed giant of twentieth-century Portuguese letters, writer and literary critic Jorge de Sena (1919–1978) spent the most productive decades of his life away from Portugal, teaching at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the essays gathered in this collection, George Monteiro deftly weaves together his readings of Sena's poetry and prose, both literary and critical, with evidence drawn from the deep well of Sena's...

Pindar, Song, and Space

Richard Neer and Leslie Kurke
In this volume, Richard Neer and Leslie Kurke develop a new, integrated approach to classical Greece: a "lyric archaeology" that combines literary and art-historical analysis with archaeological and epigraphic materials. At the heart of the book is the great poet Pindar of Thebes, best known for his magnificent odes in honor of victors at the Olympic Games and other competitions. Unlike the quintessentially personal genre of modern lyric, these poems were destined...

Faraway Women and the "Atlantic Monthly"

Cathryn Halverson
In the first decades of the twentieth century, famed Atlantic Monthly editor Ellery Sedgwick chose to publish a group of nontraditional writers he later referred to as "Faraway Women," working-class authors living in the western United States far from his base in Boston. Cathryn Halverson surveys these enormously popular Atlantic contributors, among them a young woman raised in Oregon lumber camps, homesteaders in Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta, and a world traveler who called Los...

Understanding William T. Vollmann

Işıl Özcan
In Understanding William T. Vollmann, Işıl Özcan studies the maturing career of one of the most important voices in contemporary letters. Vollmann's major works of fiction and nonfiction include his National Book Award winner, Europe Central; his highly acclaimed Seven Dreams novels; and his magnum opus, Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Urgent Means, and Justifications. Özcan examines the common threads that interlace Vollmann's corpus and grapples with the depth and complexity...

"And there will be singing"

Jim Hicks
In celebration of its landmark sixtieth anniversary, the Massachusetts Review presents a collection of the best contemporary and emerging international writers and writers in translation, from MR's last decade. At a time when English-only readers too often know little about the rest of the world, this volume is a classroom in itself. This timely and essential anthology features fiction, essays, and poetry by Mia Couto, Tabish Khair, Menekşe Toprak, Olga...

The Lost Books of Jane Austen

Janine Barchas
In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen's novels targeted to Britain's working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen's beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen's early readership. These were the books bought...

The Radiance of Small Things in Ron Rash's Writing

Frédérique Spill
The Radiance of Small Things in Ron Rash's Writing examines how the poet's language bristles with a variety of carefully registered sensory perceptions detailing minute objects, some of which, Frédérique Spill argues, less poetic minds than his might consider insignificant. Through its eleven chapters, each devoted to a different book in order of publication, Spill's study shows how prone Rash is to making violence cohabit with beauty, thus imbuing the dreariest situations with...

Nightmare Factories

Troy Rondinone
Madhouse, funny farm, psychiatric hospital, loony bin, nuthouse, mental institution: no matter what you call it, the asylum has a powerful hold on the American imagination. Stark and foreboding, they symbolize mistreatment, fear, and imprisonment, standing as castles of despair and tyranny across the countryside. In the "asylum" of American fiction and film, treatments are torture, attendants are thugs, and psychiatrists are despots. In Nightmare Factories, Troy Rondinone...

Understanding John Rechy

Maria DeGuzmán
In this first book-length monograph on the Mexican American novelist, essayist, and playwright John Rechy, best known for his debut novel City of Night, María DeGuzmán offers a conceptually clear yet aesthetically, philosophically, and socio-politically fine-grained analysis of the spectrum of his writing. Recipient of PEN Center USA's Lifetime Achievement Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, ONE Magazine's National Gay and Lesbian Cultural Hero Award, the William Whitehead Award for Lifetime...

Ephemeral Bibelots

Brad Evans
Emanating from the cabarets of modernist Paris, a short-lived vogue spread around the world for avant-garde journals known in English as "ephemeral bibelots." For a time, it seemed that all the young bohemians passing through Paris started their own bibelots modeled on Le Chat Noir, the esoteric magazine of the famed Montmartre cabaret. These journals were recognizable for their decadence, campy queerness, astounding art nouveau illustrations, fin-de-siècle color...