Literary Criticism



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...

Reductive Reading

Sarah Danielle 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Victorians Undone

Kathryn Hughes
In Victorians Undone, renowned British historian Kathryn Hughes follows five iconic figures of the nineteenth century as they encounter the world not through their imaginations or intellects but through their bodies. Or rather, through their body parts. Using the vivid language of admiring glances, cruel sniggers, and implacably turned backs, Hughes crafts a narrative of cinematic quality by combining a series of truly eye-opening and deeply intelligent accounts of life in...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...