Literary Criticism



Reductive Reading

Sarah Allison
What is to be gained by reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch from an Excel spreadsheet, or the novels of Charles Dickens through a few hundred dialogue tags—those he said/she saids that bring his characters to life? Sarah Danielle Allison’s Reductive Reading argues that the greatest gift the computational analysis of texts has given to traditional criticism is not computational at all. Rather, one of the most powerful ways to generate subtle reading is to be reductive; that is, to...

A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass

Neil Roberts
Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a prolific writer and public speaker whose impact on American literature and history has been long studied by historians and literary critics. Yet as political theorists have focused on the legacies of such notables as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, Douglass's profound influence on Afro-modern and American political thought has often been undervalued. In an effort to fill this gap in the scholarship on Douglass, editor Neil Roberts and an...

Cyberformalism

Daniel Shore
Linguistic forms are essential to meaning: like words, they make a semantic contribution to the things we say. We inherit them from past writers and speakers and fill them with different words to produce novel utterances. They shape us and the ways we interpret the world. Yet prevalent assumptions about language and the constraints of print-finding tools have kept linguistic forms and their histories hidden from view. Drawing on recent work in cognitive and...

Writing to the World

Rachael Scarborough King
In Writing to the World, Rachael Scarborough King examines the shift from manuscript to print media culture in the long eighteenth century. She introduces the concept of the "bridge genre," which enables such change by transferring existing textual conventions to emerging modes of composition and circulation. She draws on this concept to reveal how four crucial genres that emerged during this time—the newspaper, the periodical, the novel, and the...

Above the American Renaissance

Harold K. Bush
Above the American Renaissance takes David S. Reynolds's classic study Beneath the American Renaissance as a model and a provocation to consider how language and concepts broadly defined as spiritual are essential to understanding nineteenth-century American literary culture. In the 1980s, Reynolds's scholarship and methodology enlivened investigations of religious culture, and since then, for reasons that include a...

Word of Mouth

Chad Bennett
Can the art of gossip help us to better understand modern and contemporary poetry? Gossip’s ostensible frivolity may seem at odds with common conceptions of poetry as serious, solitary expression. But in Word of Mouth, Chad Bennett explores the dynamic relationship between gossip and American poetry, uncovering the unexpected ways that the history of the modern lyric intertwines with histories of sexuality in the twentieth century. Through nuanced readings of Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes,...

Romantic Shades and Shadows

Susan J. Wolfson
Reading is a weirdly phantasmic trade: animating words to revive absent voices, rehearing the past, fantasizing a future. In Romantic Shades and Shadows, Susan J. Wolfson explores spectral language, formations, and sensations, defining an apparitional poetics in the finely grained textures of writing and their effects on present reading. Framed by an introductory chapter on writing and apparition and an afterword on haunted reading, the book includes chapters of sustained, revelatory close attention...

War Isn't the Only Hell

Keith Gandal
American World War I literature has long been interpreted as an alienated outcry against modern warfare and government propaganda. This prevailing reading ignores the US army’s unprecedented attempt during World War I to assign men—except, notoriously, African Americans—to positions and ranks based on merit. And it misses the fact that the culture granted masculinity only to combatants, while the noncombatant majority of doughboys experienced a different...

Veteran Americans

Benjamin Cooper
"I may dare to speak, and I intend to speak and write what I think," wrote a New York volunteer serving in the Mexican War in 1848. Such sentiments of resistance and confrontation run throughout the literature produced by veteran Americans in the nineteenth century—from prisoner-of-war narratives and memoirs to periodicals, adventure pamphlets, and novels. Military men and women were active participants in early American print culture, yet they...

Bad Logic

Daniel Wright
"Reader, I married him," Jane Eyre famously says of her beloved Mr. Rochester near the end of Charlotte Brontë’s novel. But why does she do it, we might logically ask, after all he’s put her through? The Victorian realist novel privileges the marriage plot, in which love and desire are represented as formative social experiences. Yet how novelists depict their characters reasoning about that erotic desire—making something intelligible and ethically meaningful out of the aspect of...

Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 47

edited by Eve Tavor Bannet and Roxann Wheeler
Focused on conventions of technology, labor, and tolerance on the one hand, and on artistic intentionality on the other hand, these essays also address the implications of this past in our own research today. The first section, "Representing Humans and Technology," opens with the late Srinivas Aravamudan’s presidential address, "From Enlightenment to Anthropocene." This is followed by a panel of essays on labor and industry, which includes Valentina Tikoff on...

Lydia Sigourney

Mary Louise Kete
During her lifetime, Lydia Sigourney was acclaimed as nineteenth-century America's most popular woman poet and published widely as a historian, travel writer, essayist, and educator. While serious critical attention to her work languished following her death and into the twentieth century, a growing number of critics and writers have reexamined Sigourney and her large body of writing and have given her a central place in the "new canon." This first collection of original essays...

Future Perfect

poems by Charles Martin
To be modern is to live not in a single era, but in a churn of new technologies, deep history, myth, literary traditions, and contemporary cultural memes. In Future Perfect, Charles Martin’s darkly comic new collection, the poet explores our time and the times that come before and after, which we inhabit and cultivate in memory and imagination. Through poems that play with form and challenge expectation, Martin examines the continuities that persist from time immemorial to the future perfect. Sensitive to the...

The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois
In honor of the 150th anniversary of W. E. B. Du Bois's birth in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts Library has prepared a new edition of Du Bois's classic, The Souls of Black Folk. Originally published in 1903, Souls introduced a number of now-canonical terms into the American conversation about race, among them double-consciousness, and it sounded the ominous warning that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line." In a new...

Cien años de identidad

Kelly Comfort
Cien años de identidad: Introducción a la literatura latinoamericana del siglo XX [One Hundred Years of Identity: Introduction to Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature] is an advanced Spanish textbook and Latin American literature anthology, guiding students through the critical analysis of fourteen literary and filmic texts published between 1889 and 1995, including texts from Jorge Luis Borges, Isabelle Allende, and Gabriel García Márquez...

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 complex ethical terrain of the conflict is remarkably underexplored, and the prodigious poetic voice of its American participants remains largely unheard. 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...

The Oven

Ilan Stavans
After a chance meeting with a shaman in Colombia, Ilan Stavans, the highly regarded literary scholar, found himself in the Amazon rainforest. He had reluctantly agreed to participate in a religious ceremony that involved taking the hallucinogen ayahuasca. Even though he considered himself a skeptic and a rational intellectual, as someone whose worldview was defined by his education and his heritage as a Mexican Jew, Stavans found that the ritual pushed him to reconsider many of his basic understandings, including his...

Transforming Monkey

Hongmei Sun, hD
Able to shape-shift and ride the clouds, wielding a magic cudgel and playing tricks, Sun Wukong (aka Monkey or the Monkey King) first attained superstar status as the protagonist of the sixteenth-century novel Journey to the West (Xiyou ji) and lives on in literature and popular culture internationally. In this far-ranging study Hongmei Sun discusses the thousand-year evolution of this figure in imperial China and multimedia adaptations in Republican, Maoist, and...