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...

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 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...

Understanding William T. Vollman

Işıl Ozcan
In Understanding William T. Vollman, 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 of...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Gertrude Stein Has Arrived

Roy Morris Jr.
In 1933, experimental writer and longtime expatriate Gertrude Stein skyrocketed to overnight fame with the publication of an unlikely best seller, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Pantomiming the voice of her partner Alice, The Autobiography was actually Gertrude's work. But whoever the real author was, the uncharacteristically lucid and readable book won over the hearts of thousands of Americans, whose clamor to meet Gertrude and Alice in person convinced them...

Understanding Marsha Norman

Lisa Tyler
Best known for her Pulitzer Prize–winning play 'night, Mother and her acclaimed adaptations of The Secret Garden and The Color Purple for musical theater, Marsha Norman has produced an impressive oeuvre that includes not only works for the stage but also a novel and several television screenplays. The first book on the Louisville-born writer in twenty years, Understanding Marsha Norman introduces readers to her life and work while making a persuasive case for her preeminence among America's leading dramatic...

Understanding Bharati Mukherjee

Ruth Maxey
Bharati Mukherjee was the first major South Asian American writer and the first naturalized American citizen to win the National Book Critics Circle Award. Born in Kolkata, India, she immigrated to the United States in 1961 and went on to publish eight novels, two short story collections, two long works of nonfiction, and numerous essays, book reviews, and newspaper articles. She was professor emerita in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley, until her death in 2017. In...

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...

Before Queer Theory

Dustin Friedman
Late Victorian aesthetes were dedicated to the belief that an artwork's value derived solely from its beauty, rather than any moral or utilitarian purpose. Works by these queer artists have rarely been taken seriously as contributions to the theories of sexuality or aesthetics. But in Before Queer Theory, Dustin Friedman argues that aestheticism deploys its "art for art's sake" rhetoric to establish a nascent sense of sexual identity and community. Friedman makes the case for...

Stripped and Script

Kacy Dowd Tillman
Female loyalists occupied a nearly impossible position during the American Revolution. Unlike their male counterparts, loyalist women were effectively silenced—unable to officially align themselves with either side or avoid being persecuted for their family ties. In this book, Kacy Dowd Tillman argues that women's letters and journals are the key to recovering these voices, as these private writings were used as vehicles for public engagement. Through a...

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...

Bhakti and Power

edited by John Stratton Hawley, Christian Lee Novetzke, Swapna Sharma
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...

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,...

Rediscovering the Maine Woods

edited by John J. Kucich
The Maine Woods, vast and largely unsettled, are often described as unchanged since Henry David Thoreau's 1847 journey across the backcountry, in spite of the realities of Indian dispossession and the visible signs of logging, settlement, tourism, and real estate development. In the summer of 2014 scholars, indigenous peoples, activists, and other individuals retraced Thoreau's route. Inspired partly by this expedition, the accessible and engaging...