Literary Criticism



A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois

Nick Bromell
Literary scholars and historians have long considered W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) an extremely influential writer and a powerful cultural critic. The author of more than one hundred books, hundreds of published articles, and founding editor of the NAACP journal The Crisis, Du Bois has been widely studied for his profound insights on the politics of race and class in America. An activist as well as a scholar, Du Bois proclaimed, "I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I...

A Shadow on Our Hearts

Adam Gilbert
The American war in Vietnam was one of the most morally contentious events of the twentieth century, and it produced an extraordinary outpouring of poetry. Yet the prodigious poetic voice of its American participants remains largely unheard; the complex ethical terrain of their experiences underexplored. In A Shadow on Our Hearts, Adam Gilbert rectifies these oversights by utilizing the vast body of soldier-poetry to examine the war's core moral...

Forming the Early Chinese Court

Luke Habberstad
Forming the Early Chinese Court builds on new directions in comparative studies of royal courts in the ancient world to present a pioneering study of early Chinese court culture. Rejecting divides between literary, political, and administrative texts, Luke Habberstad examines sources from the Qin, Western Han, and Xin periods (221 BCE–23 CE) for insights into court society and ritual, rank, the development of the bureaucracy, and the role of the emperor. These diverse...

The Cry

Sarah Fielding
Before Jane Austen's novels explored heroines in English society, writers Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier dared to provide commentary on gender and education through self-conscious narratives. Published in 1754 in five parts and divided into three volumes, The Cry stands as one of the most distinctive and intriguing works by women during the florescence of their writing in eighteenth-century England. Strikingly experimental—mixing fiction and philosophy, drama and exposition, satire and irony, and singular and...

Imagined Homelands

Jason R. Rudy
Imagined Homelands chronicles the emerging cultures of nineteenth-century British settler colonialism, focusing on poetry as a genre especially equipped to reflect colonial experience. Jason Rudy argues that the poetry of Victorian-era Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada—often disparaged as derivative and uncouth—should instead be seen as vitally engaged in the social and political work of settlement. The book illuminates cultural pressures that accompanied the...

Many Faces of Mulian

Rostislav Berezkin
The story of Mulian rescuing his mother's soul from hell has evolved as a narrative over several centuries in China, especially in the baojuan (precious scrolls) genre. This genre, a prosimetric narrative in vernacular language, first appeared around the fourteenth century and endures as a living tradition. In exploring the evolution of the Mulian story, Rostislav Berezkin illuminates changes in the literary and religious characteristics of the genre. He also...

The Textbook and the Lecture

Norm Friesen
Why are the fundamentals of education apparently so little changed in our era of digital technology? Is their obstinate persistence evidence of resilience or obsolescence? Such questions can best be answered not by imagining an uncertain high-tech future, but by examining a well-documented past—a history of instruction and media that extends from Gilgamesh to Google. Norm Friesen looks to the combination and reconfiguration of oral, textual, and more recent media forms to...

A Year of Writing Dangerously

Keith Gandal
How do you write a book? With death threats, breakthroughs, and tennis, if you are scholar Keith Gandal. In A Year of Writing Dangerously, Gandal recounts the serendipitous bumps and perils of a sabbatical year spent researching and writing about the Lost Generation. Unsparingly funny and poignant, the book explores the sometimes surprising connections between people, documents, and ideas that define the creative process. With wit and wisdom, Gandal...

Therapoetics after Actium

Julia Nelson Hawkins
Inspired by classical and Hellenistic "miracles" of medical science, Augustan poets dramatically reshaped the Roman epic by infusing it with medical metaphors and themes. In Therapoetics after Actium, Julia Nelson Hawkins argues that this shift constitutes a veritable Roman "therapoetics." By incorporating medical narratives into verse, these poems essentially position the poet as a healer and his poetry as healthy. Hawkins explores why so many...

A Political Companion to James Baldwin

Susan J. McWilliams, Ph.D.
In seminal works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time, acclaimed author and social critic James Baldwin (1924–1987) expresses his profound belief that writers have the power to transform society, to engage the public, and to inspire and channel conversation to achieve lasting change. While Baldwin is best known for his writings on racial consciousness and injustice, he is also one of the country's most eloquent theorists of democratic...

The Black Skyscraper

Adrienne Brown
With the development of the first skyscrapers in the 1880s, urban built environments could expand vertically as well as horizontally. Tall buildings emerged in growing cities to house and manage the large and racially diverse populations of migrants and immigrants flocking to their centers following Reconstruction. Beginning with Chicago’s early 10-story towers and concluding with the 1931 erection of the 110-story Empire State Building, Adrienne Brown’s The Black Skyscraper...

Red Modernism

Mark Steven
In Red Modernism, Mark Steven asserts that modernism was highly attuned—and aesthetically responsive—to the overall spirit of communism. He considers the maturation of American poetry as a longitudinal arc, one that roughly followed the rise of the USSR through the Russian Revolution and its subsequent descent into Stalinism, opening up a hitherto underexplored domain in the political history of avant-garde literature. In doing so, Steven amplifies the resonance among the...

Mobilizing Krishna's World

Heidi Pauwels
Savant Singh (1694–1764), the Rajput prince of Kishangarh-Rupnagar, is famous for commissioning beautiful works of miniature painting and composing devotional (bhakti) poetry to Krishna under the nom de plume Nagaridas. After his throne was usurped by his younger brother, while Savant Singh was on the road seeking military alliances to regain his kingdom, he composed an autobiographical pilgrimage account, "The Pilgrim's Bliss" (Tirthananda); a...

Censorship in Vietnam

Thomas A. Bass
What does censorship do to a culture? How do censors justify their work? What are the mechanisms by which censorship—and self-censorship—alter people's sense of time and memory, truth and reality? Thomas Bass faced these questions when The Spy Who Loved Us, his account of the famous Time magazine journalist and double agent Pham Xuan An, was published in a Vietnamese edition. When the book finally appeared in 2014, after five years of negotiations with Vietnamese censors, more than four hundred...

Taking Books to the World

Amanda Laugesen
Franklin Publications, or Franklin Book Programs, was started in 1953 as a form of cultural diplomacy. Until it folded in the 1970s, Franklin translated, printed, and distributed American books around the world, with offices in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Although it was a private firm, Franklin received funding from the United States Information Agency. This was an ambitious and idealistic postwar effort that ultimately...

Herman Melville

Graham Thompson
"What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,—it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot." Herman Melville wrote these words as he struggled to survive as a failing novelist. Between 1853 and 1856, he did write "the other way," working exclusively for magazines. He earned more money from his stories than from the combined sales of his most well known novels, Moby-Dick, Pierre, and The Confidence-Man. In Herman Melville Graham Thompson examines the author's magazine work in...

Undermined in Coal Country

Bill Conlogue
Deep mining ended decades ago in Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna Valley. The barons who made their fortunes have moved on. Low wages and high unemployment haunt the area, and the people left behind wonder whether to stay or seek their fortunes elsewhere. Bill Conlogue explores how two overlapping coal country landscapes—Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Marywood University—have coped with the devastating aftermath of mining. Examining the far-reaching environmental effects of...

Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period

Anthony Domestico
Following the religious turn in other disciplines, literary critics have emphasized how modernists like Woolf and Joyce were haunted by Christianity’s cultural traces despite their own lack of belief. In Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period, Anthony Domestico takes a different tack, arguing that modern poets such as T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and David Jones were interested not just in the aesthetic or social implications of religious experience but also in the...

Being Cool

Charles J. Rzepka
Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard had a special knack for creating "cool" characters. In Being Cool, Charles J. Rzepka looks at what makes the dope-dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisors, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world cool. They may be nefarious, but they are also confident, skilled, and composed. And they are good at what they do. Taking being cool...

Fascism and Modernist Literature in Norway

Dean Krouk
Fascism and Modernist Literature in Norway illuminates the connections between literature and politics in interwar Europe. Focusing on the works of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun and modernist poets Asmund Sveen and Rolf Jacobsen, all of whom collaborated with the Nazi regime during the occupation of Norway in World War II, and those of the anti-fascist novelist and critic Sigurd Hoel, Dean Krouk reveals key aspects of the modernist literary imagination in Norway. In their...