Co-edited with Margarida Vale de Gato
Lehigh University Press, 2020
This collection explores how anthologizers and editors of Edgar Allan Poe play an integral role in shaping our conceptions of Poe as the author we have come to recognize, revere, and critique today. In the spheres of literature and popular culture, Poe wields more global influence than any other U.S. author. This influence, however, cannot be attributed solely to the quality of Poe’s texts or to his compellingly tragic biography. Rather, his continued prominence as a writer owes much to the ways that Poe has been interpreted, portrayed, and packaged by an extensive group of mediators ranging from anthologizers, editors, translators, and fellow writers to literary critics, filmmakers, musicians, and illustrators. In this volume, the work of presenting Poe’s texts for public consumption becomes a fascinating object of study in its own right, one that highlights the powerful and often overlooked influence of those who have edited, anthologized, translated, and adapted the author’s writing over the past 170 years.
Review by Frank Christianson at Faculty Book Lunch
With Pauline Greenhill
Routledge Press, 2020
This concise and accessible critical introduction examines the world of popular fairy-tale television, tracing how fairy tales and their social and cultural implications manifest within series, television events, anthologies, and episodes, and as freestanding motifs.
Providing a model of televisual analysis, Rudy and Greenhill emphasize that fairy-tale longevity in general, and particularly on TV, results from malleability—morphing from extremely complex narratives to the simple quotation of a name (like Cinderella) or phrase (like “happily ever after”)—as well as its perennial value as a form that is good to think with. The global reach and popularity of fairy tales is reflected in the book’s selection of diverse examples from genres such as political, lifestyle, reality, and science fiction TV.
With a select mediagraphy, discussion questions, and detailed bibliography for further study, this book is an ideal guide for students and scholars of television studies, popular culture, and media studies, as well as dedicated fairy-tale fans.
Review by Jamie Horrocks at Faculty Book Lunch
I was grateful for the chance to review this latest installment in Jill’s series of publications associated with the fairy tale project she’s been collaborating on with Pauline Greenhill from U of Winnipeg. Some of you may remember their Channeling Wonder, an edited collection of essays on fairy tales on tv. This book provides a kind of companion to that collection, offering more case studies and analyses of individual programs like those in Channeling Wonder but more importantly adding to all the individual articles and chapters written by scholars in this field a handbook of theory, contextual and disciplinary history, and what the authors call a FTTV “mediagraphy.”
FTTV is part of a Routledge television guidebook series, which includes titles like Food TV, Reality TV, Political TV, the Sitcom. But the interesting thing about Jill and Pauline’s book is that unlike these other television genres, FTTV is both an independent genre and a category container that has the potential to operate within all television genres. As the authors point out, fairy tale motifs, themes, names, titles, narrative patterns, and characters find their way into everything. So writing on FTTV really means writing on TV generally, and thinking especially about transcultural, transnational, and transmedial adaptation.
The book is organized as a travel guide that takes readers through 5 instances of FTTV: TV series (like Once Upon a Time or Grimm), anthology programs (like Shelly Duval’s FTT, my own introduction to FTTV, or Henson’s Storyteller), event programs (like Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella), individual episodes of series that are not fairytale based (like the Cinderella shorts in the Carol Burnett Show), and ads (like this one). But I think the most interesting chapters for me were the ones that considered shows that use fairy tale motifs or themes even when there’s no overarching FT narrative premise. (you’ll recognize some of these but probably didn’t realize that they all use FT elements)
Jill and Pauline also consider non-anglophone examples, like the Italian Carosello shorts, the Russian series Masha’s Tales, or Japanese anime Yona of the Dawn. What happens, when Jill and Pauline cite example after example after example, is that you very quickly realize the versatility of FT as media mainstay, the range of ways FT manage to adapt themselves to adaptation, and the way that FT offer writers, producers, and actors a template on which almost any kind of television narrative can be laid. Even though most of the tales originated centuries before the advent of television, they are uniquely suited to this medium.
Tales aside, I’ll end by quickly mentioning a couple of paratextual features of the book that I think will make it especially appealing for classroom use. First, the book supplements its chapters with a very readable theoretical and historical overview (which covers television studies, FT studies, and adaptation studies). It also includes an extensive “mediagraphy” which lists many, many shows and movies that use FT devices (along with dates, directors, producers) that students can turn to if they want ideas for a project. Just before this mediagraphy, there is a list of discussion questions relating to each chapter, which can be used for in-class discussion or homework writing prompts. And throughout the chapters, there are these little text boxes that offer readers well-cited historical, contextual, generic, or theoretical information that introduce students to key ideas/concepts that add complexity to the discussions.
All told, FTTV is fascinating, a perfect example of what Foster and Tolbert call the folkloresque (the product created when popular culture appropriates or reinvents folkloric themes, characters, and images). And it’s a lovely example of quality collaborative and interdisciplinary research. So join me in giving a silent round of applause to Jill’s head on Zoom.
Singing the Law: Oral Jurisprudence and the Crisis of Colonial Modernity in East African Literature (Postcolonialism Across the Disciplines LUP)
Liverpool University Press, 2020
Singing the Law is about the legal lives and afterlives of oral cultures in East Africa, particularly as they appear within the pages of written literatures during the colonial and postcolonial periods. In examining these cultures, this book begins with an analysis of the cultural narratives of time and modernity that formed the foundations of British colonial law. Recognizing the contradictory nature of these narratives (i.e., both promoting and retreating from the Euro-centric ideal of temporal progress) enables us to make sense of the many representations of and experiments with non-linear, open-ended, and otherwise experimental temporalities that we find in works of East African literature that take colonial law as a subject or point of critique. Many of these works, furthermore, consciously adapt orature as an expressive form with legal authority. This affords them the capacity to challenge the narrative foundations of colonial law and its postcolonial residues and offer alternative models of temporality and modernity that give rise, in turn, to alternative forms of legality. East Africa’s “oral jurisprudence” ultimately has implications not only for our understanding of law and literature in colonial and postcolonial contexts, but more broadly for our understanding of how the global south has shaped modern law as we know and experience it today.
Review by Aaron Eastley at Faculty Book Lunch
This review was given in a powerpoint format. Below is some of the information it contained:
What I love about this book
- The fantastic chapter titles, and the perfectly-chosen prefatory quotes
- The dozens of insights about temporality in relation to colonialism
- The notion of artists as law-makers and orature as normative wisdom
- The depth of understanding gained about Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia
- The in-depth analysis of key literary-legal moments: the Kyama compensation dispute in Out of Africa, the question of allowing audio testimony (and challenge of interpreting a curse) in the trial of Jomo Kenyatta, the timelessness of the traditional vs modernist cultural critique of p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino compared to the temporal limitations of Kony 2012, the ways that ‘emergency law’ was mustered to control land and labor in Ngugi’s Kenya (and the reappraisal of Mau Mau revolutionaries), insights into the impact of cassette tapes in Somalian society in the early 1970s, thoughts on the pessimism of these authors (or is it courage?)
Temporality and Tragedy
“The evolutionary model of progressive time allowed colonizers to divide the world temporally and move backward on a continuum from present to past by moving spatially from Europe to Africa.”
“The settlers who made indirect rule difficult to implement and who, like Dinesen, would later project the crisis onto Africans as a way of eliding the disruptive effects of colonial modernity, were themselves in a state of crisis. Many European settlers, particularly those of the upper class, witnessed their status in Europe being threatened by modern progress and, unable to adapt to such rapid changes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, saw Africa’s supposed otherness as a promising refuge.”
“Orature belonged to that part of African culture seen as pre-modern by colonialism, but by demonstrating orature’s vitality in the play—by bringing the past into the present in a tangible way—Ngugi and his co-authors disrupt colonial time; they shatter the barrier between formal and infinite time. Basically, they make a mess of time: they shatter, blast apart, and constellate the fragments of past, present, and future on a horizontal plane in such a way that will allow innovative ways of defining, or exploring definitions of, modernity that do not depend upon or take part in a discourse that opposes ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity.’”
“As much as we may desire an immediate solution to the immediate crisis, most problems of the kind Farah is interested in take time to resolve. Some myths and crises, like those of colonial modernity, are so deeply entrenched that many years must pass before their influence begins to wear away.”
“These texts are also about failure. The failure of justice in the face of superior power. The failure of action in the face of a world unwilling to change. But failure in these texts does not necessarily mean closure and surrender. Because all are formally open-ended, pausing narration or performance in ambiguity, they offer a question rather than an answer: what, if anything, can we do now?”
What the Other Three Don’t Know
Shadow Mountain, 2020
If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.
A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don t know.
One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated perfect image on Instagram.
Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.
Review by Karen Brown at Faculty Book Lunch
In Spencer Hyde’s newest YA novel, What the Other Three Don’t Know, four teenagers—seemingly opposites in every way—are brought together as part of a journalism class summer bonding experience. Their assigned adventure: to navigate a 5-day journey through Hells Canyon together. Little do they know that this will require them to navigate their emotions, their beliefs and their best kept secrets as much as the actual rapids. I was worried that I would struggle getting into Hyde’s story given that I am not a climber, a river-runner, or a fly fisher. But Hyde’s gorgeous descriptions, his understanding of people and his ability to bring his reader right into the raft with his characters made my trip down the river a breathtaking, thrilling, and—at some points—even frightening journey.
The story is told from the point of view of Indie who is less than thrilled about having to run the same rapids that led to her mother’s death just two years earlier. Even worse, she discovers that the group’s river guide, Nash, is the man she holds responsible for her mother’s death. Indie’s group also includes Skye, by all appearances the golden-boy jock, who is learning how to deal with his new prosthetic leg, the loss of his athletic scholarships as a result, and a future that seems unreachable and unclear. There is also Shelby, who frustrates the rest of the group by not being able to tear herself away from her phone because of her need to keep up appearances as a social media influencer, and Wyatt, a hatchet-throwing prepper who seems unafraid of anything—except for acknowledging who he really is.
Along with the four teenagers, there is another main character at the center of the novel—the river itself. Like the Mississippi in Huck Finn, the Snake River in What the Other Three Don’t Know acts as a center that brings characters together, helps them to see what they’re made of, and teaches lessons about life. Dr. Hyde writes, “That’s how time works. It’s a river that flows right past you. It doesn’t wait for you. You’re lucky if you manage to dip your hand in it and feel the cool currents as it passes.”
Unlike some readers, I am a corner folder. When I come across something that catches my eye or touches my soul, I automatically fold down the page corner. By the time I finished Hyde’s novel, my copy of the book looked like an accordion. I’d like to share a few of my favorite sections.
From Wyatt: “The world tells us we can’t be multiple things, but screw that. Be what you want. Be a particle and a wave. Light bends just like the river, but only when we see it correctly. One path is set until we decide to look, then it all changes. Maybe we are all just finally looking. “
From Indie: “Because even those we once hated can show us how to love. Because choices will always exist, and when they present themselves, I hope to always reach for the right hand. Because forgiveness is the real river we run in this life.”
Over the course of the novel, through laughter, tears, and harrowing experiences on the river, Hyde’s characters learn important truths about one another and about themselves. Indie sums up beautifully what she’s come to realize and what all of us would do well to remember: “I guess we all meet that second person who is inside of us, eventually. I wondered how I was like Skye and Wyatt and Shelby. They all lived with a duality, and it made sense that they could live their lives as more than one thing. We all had secrets that needed extra hands to carry, lives that needed that river run, darkness that needed light, weight that needed lightness.”
What the Other Three Don’t Know is about friendship, love, and forgiveness. In a world where sometimes it seems that self-absorption reigns, What the Other Three Don’t Know shows us that knowing oneself can actually be the door to charity and compassion.
Teaching Mindful Writers
Utah State University Press, 2020
Teaching Mindful Writers introduces new writing teachers to a learning cycle that will help students become self-directed writers through planning, practicing, revising, and reflecting. Focusing on the art and science of instructing self-directed writers through major writing tasks, Brian Jackson helps teachers prepare students to engage purposefully in any writing task by developing the habits of mind and cognitive strategies of the mindful writer.
Relying on the most recent research in writing studies and learning theory, Jackson gives new teachers practical advice about setting up writing tasks, using daily writing, leading class discussions, providing feedback, joining teaching communities, and other essential tools that should be in every writing teacher’s toolbox. Teaching Mindful Writers is a timely, fresh perspective on teaching students to be self-directed writers.
Review by Amber Jensen at Faculty Book Lunch
A few years ago, I downloaded a mindfulness app called Headspace. I wanted more calm in my brain and in my life and I wanted to feel connected to the world around me while personal and professional pressures mounted. When I first heard the title of Brian Jackson’s book, Teaching Mindful Writers, I wondered if it was his take on the trend toward zen, simplicity, and oneness with the world around us.
His book, I discovered (with some relief), is not a yogic treatise on writing instruction. It is, however, a call for more deliberate consideration into what we write, why we ask students to write, and how we teach writing. “Mindfulness,” he claims, “is transformative because it invites the practitioner to stop the incessant flow of life and take control of the moment” (p. 35). I can’t think of anything more pertinent to navigating the wild, unpredictable, and incessant (shall we say unprecedented?) flow of life in 2020. Forget meditation; I just wanted Brian to teach me how to take control of the moment. Teaching Mindful Writers delivers that, both for teachers of writing and students of writing, whom he reframes as agents of the mindful approach to writing he advocates.
Brian writes overtly toward an audience of novice college writing instructors––typically grad students who teach First Year Composition––although I recognized a broader audience of potential readers, ranging from my own pre-service secondary English teachers to university professors. Brian warns teachers with some pointed (but necessary) real-talk: “I can tell you some teaching methods empower students and others do not.” But mostly, he empowers teachers, reminding us that we are “now a sponsor of literacy.” So what does his book offer to those of us wandering aimlessly and trying to somehow be more intentional about the ways we teach and write?
Teaching Mindful Writers is organized around four phases that comprise what he calls “a learning cycle for mindful writers:” planning, practicing, revising, and reflecting. No one of these steps is more important than another; each includes not only a theoretical framework, but also concepts and models that new teachers can implement in their own teaching. Ultimately, the grounding principle reinforced throughout each of these sections is that “the metacognitive activity students do while writing a thing is as important as the thing itself.” How students think about their own writing choices and processes will make their writing experiences more meaningful and more transferable to future writing contexts. To center his argument, Brian weaves together research and theories related to metacognition, teaching for transfer, threshold concepts, and habits of mind in writing instruction. It’s a text useful not only to FYC instructors, but anyone who teaches writing (ahem, all of us!).
Somehow, Brian captures the grand and the granular in a way that invites, rather than intimidates, new teachers. He gives them just enough grounding in composition theory while handing them “just-in-time” teaching ideas that will rescue them as they prepare for their 4 pm First Year Writing class Thursday afternoon. He challenges them (and us) to think about audiences beyond graders, to think about genres beyond academic contexts, and to center our response to student writing in principles that move them forward toward future writing moments.
Brian’s writing is fun to read, interspersed with quirky personal anecdotes about moonwalking with his daughter Louisa and being called on, impromptu, to deliver an extemporaneous speech at a friend’s wedding in a church gym. (Of this experience, Brian says, “The social magnitude of the moment, and my emotional ecology as a speaker, doomed my improv” (p. 84). Clearly, this anecdote compels us to plan for planning writing with our students.) As a new scholar and a new member of this department, I appreciated learning from Brian’s deep scholarship while being buoyed up by the energy and encouragement that explodes from this book’s pages.
Looking back on the first English Department Meeting at BYU I attended as a faculty member last fall, I remember Brian leading a set of small round-table discussions where we were asked to envision what our major could be. It was the English Major Redesign Project. My impression of this book strikes me as similar to my impression of Brian’s facilitation of that meeting: ambitious yet grounded, progressive yet responsive to in-the-moment ideas and concerns, flexible yet organized. In both that meeting and after reading his book, I feel maybe more amped up with ideas than comatose with zen, but both left me feeling more sure-footed and focused in what was coming next and how I could find myself as a more deliberate actor in writing, teaching, and understanding how to take the next step.
University of Nebraska Press, 2020
In English disparate means “different” or “miscellaneous”—apt descriptors of these essays by Patrick Madden. In Spanish, however, disparate means “nonsense,” “folly,” or “absurdity,”—words appropriate to Madden’s goal of undercutting any notion that essays must be serious business. Thus, in this collection, the essays are frivolous and lively, aiming to make readers laugh while they think about such abstract subjects as happiness and memory and unpredictability.
In this vein, Madden takes sidelong swipes at weighty topics via form, with wildly meandering essays, abandoned essays in honor of the long tradition of essayists disparaging their own efforts, and guerrilla essays—which slip in quietly under the guise of a borrowed form, abruptly attack, and promptly escape, leaving laughter and contemplation in their wake. Madden also incorporates cameos from guest essayists, including Mary Cappello, Matthew Gavin Frank, David Lazar, Michael Martone, Jericho Parms, and Wendy S. Walters, much like a musician features other performers.
Disparates reflects the current zeitgeist by taking on important issues with a touch of cleverness, a dash of humor, and a little help from one’s friends.
Review by John Bennion at Faculty Book Lunch
When I visited the Sun Yat Sen garden in Vancouver BC, I learned that demons walk in a straight line, so the architects constructed a crooked hallway next to the central pond, in order to thwart malevolent beings. It’s clear that Patrick Madden III is no demon. He is incapable of putting five words together without being enticed by an illuminating tangent, one that transforms the reader’s apprehension of the subject. In short, his new collection of essays Disparates (which I continually want to pronounce Desperados, like a band of bandits) jumps the shark of capriciousness.
Which is why I keep it on my shelf between Lewis Carroll and Jerome K. Jerome’s Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.
But every night Pat’s book transports itself to a different place on my shelf, sometimes next to Tristam Shandy, most often next to Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay, skipping across my bookshelves in a random manner that is a little like the disorder in his table of contents, which a parenthetical expression at the top says has shifted in transit.
Looking at this table of contents just before one which lists the essays “In Order of Appearance,” I knew there would be an element of performance in the essays and I felt permitted to make my own crooked pathway through the book.
Disparates is full of found forms: an eBay auction listing in the form of a Q & A, OED entry on the word disparate, in which Pat quotes himself 59 times, a literary translation, a word-find puzzle, a pangram haiku, an imitation (parody) of a Baconian or Emersonian essay, an essay with a found lyric essay inside it, a Q & A with Montaigne, illustrated proverbs, a send-up of style manuals in which Pat uses examples of great writers breaking rules set down by grammarians, a false apology written right after the James Frey fiasco in which Pat lists, proudly and ostentatiously, all the falsehoods he has put in his essays. Mea culpa, my foot, and hidden amongst this garden of extravagant experiments in form are a few seemingly normal essays. I say seemingly normal because all the essays are tricky beasts.
The collection also includes 46 pictures, listed as illustrations but that serve deeper functions in the text than mere illustration, by artists as diverse as Goya and Pat’s own children.
Desparates, like Quotidiana, is a word that Pat fell in love with first in Spanish and crooked it to make an English word. Desparates, little flawed pieces. Like a cabinet of curiosities.
Or like standup comedy, if the comic is allowed to be not only funny, but sincere, philosophical, poetical, insightful, and even wise.
In Disparates Pat shamelessly uses/abuses his friends, proving that the author is not dead, he just invited his friends over for a party. Fourteen of Pat’s friends have sneaked into the essays—tricky, playful, crooked sneaking. These are not co-authors with Pat, because how can two people write one personal essay? What does it become then? An impersonal essay? A duo-psyche essay? No, not that. But something else. Something that playfully ignores how an author should conduct business. Leaving me to wonder who this author is, certainly not the straightforward man who walks the straitened hallways of the JFSB, but a six-foot-six coyote trickster, an imposter. It’s also an argument against the solitary nature of the author and of identity, so an experiment in community, as is made explicit in “Acknowledgments” which functions as an Introduction. And the book itself frays at the edges, as part of it exists online on the Quotidiana website, as an invitation to write “additional Botnik-powered predictive-text essays seeded with my books or other source texts.”
My favorite words in the book:
- Juddered, a mechanical and rapid vibration, applied to laughter
- In “Alfonsina y del Mar” Pat writes, “To cut the sadness” which at first I thought was a mistake but instead is a reference to drugs (OED, “to dilute or adulterate”). Or it might be a reference to castration, which Pat probably didn’t think of but I did. I love the image of a writer castrating sadness.
My favorite playful moments:
- He ends an essay on plums with “This is just to say, nothing is simple: nothing is finished; nothing is alone.” Threaded through the whole essay is William Carlos Williams’s poem, backwards.
- Essay about the game of switching the words “Thumb” and “Some.”
- “Thumbthing in the way she moves/ Attracts me like no other lover.”
My favorite hypocritical moment: Pat writes, “I’m going to stop myself here, for your sake, before I get ‘too far out in the branches,’ as my wife, Karina, likes to say of my habitual method of argument, and which I find to be a beautifully apt phrase for what I like to do in my thinking and writing, which is the way of all the great essayists, it seems to me.” Which is all right as an insincere confession, but he immediately goes “out in the branches” by using the rhetorical device of apophasis, saying “I could, for instance,” and “I could” and “I could,” digressing shamelessly, right after he said he wouldn’t. The phrase is a tidy reference to this picture which Pat presents earlier in the book as an image (Disparate Ridiculo) of how essayists operate, holding forth to an audience out on a branch.
My favorite pangram haiku: Whenever I fix/ my quips to the jazzy world,/ I come back agape.”
As further and final proof of his shameless meandering, I offer an outline of “Alfonsina y del Mar.”
- Before the writing of this essay, Pat had never listened to the song “Alfonsina y el Mar” by Mercedes Sosa all the way through.
- In four parts, Pat describes the circumstance of his hearing the opening of the song but not the whole song; most importantly, his wife downloaded songs from her youth, and Sosa’s song was one.
- Thinking about those who haven’t heard the song, he defines the word “ignorance” in the Spanish sense and ponders humanity’s vast ignorance.
- This leads him to ponder a bit on his own humility, which leads him to remind all of us how to “remind ourselves how small we are.”
- Which is a phrase from “Nightingale Song” by Toad the Wet Sprocket.
- Pat admits being deeply influenced by the singer Glen Phillips’s “melancholic vision of love and kindness and the noble impossibility of human understanding.”
- Pat then meanders through some other songs by that band, ending with “Walk on the Ocean” which gives Pat an excuse to get back to “Alfonsina and the Sea.”
- He then asks a rhetorical question, “How could I not have put it all together? I had all the ingredients, though distant, disorganized.”
- He then describes Alfonsina Storni, an Argentine poet who committed suicide by either jumping or walking into the sea.
- Pat describes the hopeful melancholy of the song, imagining that Alfonsina has a continuing existence, calm and even peaceful.
- He writes, “It seems that this essay has taken an unexpected turn.” Oh really! He starts thinking about celebrity in opposition to “real life.”
- Two experiences with musicians: one when Pat wrote Glen Phillips (formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket) about the grammar of a song and Glen’s reply about bad mixed metaphors,
- and another asking Ben Huggins (Galactic Cowboys) about a reference to a movie in a song.
- A meditation on the idea that art is not life.
- A meditation on whether we can know anything about anybody.
A map of the book, or of each essay, is like a dot-to-dot picture where the child ignored the numbering system, sometimes inserting letters or images. Sometimes artists hide clues to deeper or more often tangential meaning, such as when the Beatles’ music and cover art implied “Paul is Dead.”
If you look at this map crookedly, meaning divinely, it perfectly matches a picture of Montaigne, that playfully serious writer of little flawed pieces.
Coincidentally (or is it not a coincidence) this map of the essay also matches the picture of GK Chesterton, that master of caprice, which proves that Pat Madden III is Montaigne and Chesterton’s love child.
But none of this is exactly a review of the book. So here’s a better one: I had the most pleasure reading this playful book since I read—I don’t know. There’s nothing like it. It’s as if William Hazlet, Max Beerbohm, and G.K. Chesterton got together and rewrote Alice in Wonderland as a segmented essay. It’s a sly, sophisticated, crooked treat. I am the better for reading this book by a writer who ardently makes connections, primarily with other people, which is the point of all the cameos by his friends, other essayists. He writes at the end of the Alfonsina essay, “What can we really know about anyone? What damage do we do when we presume to, when we ‘calculate others from ourselves’ and find too late or too seldom that we’ve calculated wrong? How, then, is the world we perceive a distorted reproduction of ourselves? How is an act such as this, the writing of an essay, both futile and essential?”
In this year of sadness and isolation, and which will not ever be over in any normal sense of the word, we desperately need a book like this one. It’s a diversion, sure, an esthetically thrilling diversion. This morning as I write this, I am sad about my son’s impending divorce, my daughter’s terror at her new job—teaching art in the time of COVID, my other daughter’s anxiety about the burden of working while trying to help her children with school, my other son’s lungs which have not yet recovered from his bout with COVID. All these specific anxieties are laced with a general dread over climate, racial violence, and the possible demise of democracy as we know it. Of course, I’m not alone, all of us feel it. But for a while, reading this book, the dread was cut with pleasure and illumination, and I feel better able to face my own demons.
After Earth: Poems
University of Tampa Press, 2019
Part elegy, part ode, part pastoral, part sci-fi, After Earth looks back through history in order to consider history’s end. Many of the poems are drawn from the concerns of a father for his children, from the impulse to record the Earth, to preserve what’s slipping away, and to heal, if poems can, the bifurcation of nature and civilization. Reveling in the ornate as well as the plain, these poems cultivate astonishment not in the promise of another world, but in the here and now, turning “what is is wavering or tattered into permanence,” and praising all they can, as Auden says we must, “for being and for happening.”
Review by Lance Larsen at Faculty Book Lunch
Rather than fritter away my time cataloging the dozens of top-drawer journals where Michael Lavers’ poems have appeared, like Southern Review, Georgia Review, and Antioch Review, or enumerating his many honors, like the Canberra Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize (which he has received twice), I want to concentrate on Michael’s recent poetry collection, After Earth.
This collection, which received the Tampa Review prize after beating out 400-500 other manuscripts in a national competition, appeared in 2019. If you do the math, that’s an acceptance rate of roughly one quarter of 1%. Not exactly encouraging odds. What does this manuscript possess that the others didn’t? In a conversation at AWP a couple of years ago, the assistant editor of Georgia Review hinted at an answer: “People just don’t write poems like this anymore.”
Meaning poems with well-turned phrases you’d trade your firstborn for, poems with subtleties of syntax and diction bejeweled in figurative language, poems with sonic pleasures galore and meter meted out in rhyme—full, half, and sideways. He has already become a contemporary master of blank verse, English’s most flexible workhorse. To extend the metaphor probably too far: in Michael’s hands, sometimes that workhorse is a Clydesdale, sometimes a mostly well-behaved quarter horse, sometimes a wild mustang wandering the moony desert, sometimes Pegasus. In short, Michael is a poet’s poet, one who brilliantly fashions imaginary gardens, then fills them with real toads, to borrow from Marianne Moore. And in every poem, in virtually every line, he makes good on Keats’ recommendation “to load every rift of your subject with ore.”
I don’t have time to do an exegesis of specific pieces, but let me describe what you’ll find if you crack this exquisite book: lyrics and lullabies, advice and invective, epistles and elegies and epic lists, eclogues and georgics, pastoral and prayer and plenty of dramatic monologues. Who would dare to speak in the voice of Daedalus or Prospero or a prophet or an angel? Well, Michael for one. And what will you hear? From the opening poem, a celebration of the here and now: “Sometimes in the night’s thick velvet, openings appear: this sorrow, that bowl of oranges, those stars.” And from the concluding poem, a hint about why we’re here: “Salvation from our own smoking detritus / in cliches of a better world? / Unsatisfactory. The end must be / to cultivate perpetual astonishment / right now and watch light bail / darkness from the flooding sky.”
Ezekiel’s Third Wife: A Novel
Roundfire Books, 2019
It’s past midnight in the desert of Utah in the 1890’s. Rachel, the third wife of a Mormon patriarch, sneaks out to make love to her secret, second husband. Instead of him, she finds her sister wife murdered in an irrigation ditch and her new husband’s boot prints around the body. Her stepfather gathers a posse to track the apparent killer. Rachel is left behind in town, trying to uncover the real killer before her stepfather catches up to her husband and one shoots the other. This contemporary western mystery explores tensions inside communities and gives us a new refreshing strong female heroine. As independent-minded amateur detective Rachel uses evidence and logic to uncover the murderer, she is also exploring the texture of the very fabric that holds the settlers together. Not just water, but all resources are precious in the arid land they farm; a scarcity which often results in anger and violence. Can she untangle the tight web woven by diverse peoples welded into powerful communities in the harsh landscapes of western Utah?
Review by Brian Roberts at Faculty Book Lunch
John Bennion’s new novel, Ezekiel’s Third Wife is a 19th-century murder mystery set in the desolate, bone-dry west desert that Dr. Bennion dearly loves. (Think Midsommer Murders meets Skull Valley . . . .) His novel opens with his protagonist, Ezekiel’s third wife, Rachel, ruminating on her current situation and how dramatically her life has changed since her childhood in Nevada:
“When I was ten, if some visionary crone had pronounced my future: ‘In another year, when you are eleven, you will travel east and become a Mormon.’ Bollocks! I would have said (because I learned to swear when I learned to talk). ‘At eighteen years of age you will enter plural marriage with one man and his two previous wives, and one year after that, you will secretly take a second husband, a Gentile.’ Perishing, bloody bollocks!
“But I had done all these things . . .”
Rachel’s life, and the novel’s plot, become even more complicated when Rachel, on her way to a secret rendezvous with her Gentile lover/husband, discovers the body of her pious, straight-backed sister-wife Sophia, dead in an irrigation ditch. Rachel’s shock magnifies when she recognizes her Gentile husband’s boot prints among many others on the path near the soaking corpse.
And so Rachel becomes a sleuth deciphering boot prints: who made them, where they came from and where they lead, and more importantly, what they mean.
Dr. Bennion’s boot prints are all over the place, too, as he describes the land and its quirky characters that he knows so well in a story that explores smart women, mainstream and bent Mormon culture, love and loyalty, and the conscience of a community.
The Island of Lace: Drawn Threadwork on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean
University Press of Mississippi, 2019
Nicknamed the “Island of Lace,” the Caribbean island of Saba is the smallest special municipality in the Netherlands. Folklorist Eric A. Eliason, at the behest of the president of the Saba Lace Ladies’ Foundation and Saba’s director of tourism, traveled to the island with the intent to document the history and patterns of Saba lace. Born out of his research, The Island of Lace tells the story of lacework’s central role in Saba’s culture, economy, and history. Accompanied by over three hundred of Scott Squire’s intimate photographs of lace workers and their extraordinary island society, this volume brings together in one place an as-complete-as-possible catalog of the rich designs worked by Saban women.
For 130 years, the practice of drawn threadwork―also known as Spanish work, fancy work, lacework, or Saba lace―has shaped the lives of Saban women. And yet, as the younger generation moves away from the island, it still survives. Sabans use drawn threadwork to symbolize the uniqueness of their island and express the ingenuity, diligence, bold inventiveness, pride in workmanship, love of beauty, and respect for tradition that define the Saban spirit.
Along with recording and honoring the creative legacy of generations of Saban women, this book serves as a guide to folk-art lace patterns from Saba so that practitioners can reference and perhaps re-create this work. The Island of Lace is the most comprehensive volume on this singular tradition ever published.
Review by Brian Roberts at Faculty Book Lunch
Eric Eliason’s book The Island of Lace: Drawn Threadwork on Saba in the Dutch Caribbean (University of Mississippi Press, 2019) details a tradition of threadwork on the Caribbean island of Saba. The island is a Dutch municipality adjacent to the US Virgin Islands, and hence Dr. Eliason’s book details an artistic tradition that is, literally, at the little-publicized border between the United States and the Netherlands. The book has three sections. The first tells the story of the arrival and development of lacework in Saba. In the late 19th century a girl from the island was sent by her parents to Caracas or some say Curaçao to live with nuns. They taught her to make lace, and she eventually taught others on Saba, so that lace production became the island’s 20th-century economic mainstay. Ambitiously, the book’s second section uses photography (by Scott Squire) to provide photographs of “every available pattern type and variation” of Saba lace. Among the hundreds of patterns, we see names like “Two Rows Dice” and “Old Time Star.” In a final section, which offers a series of profiles of lace workers, we learn about generations who have given lace to the Dutch royal family, of the woman who created a lace sampler regarded as the most significant piece on the island, of a town called Hell’s Gate whose residents have sought to avoid calling their local church building the Hell’s Gate Church.
The Island of Lace is a follow-up to Dr. Eliason’s 1997 book The Fruit of Her Hands, which offered an initial study of Saba lace and has since become a book on par with scripture among some Saba lace workers, with one artist saying, “It’s my good book. . . . It is my Bible.” Dr. Eliason’s earlier work was not just a study of lace but a means of perpetuating it as a Saban art form, a feat which in this new book he calls “perhaps the most satisfying result of my career.” No doubt The Island of Lace will also further the preservation and innovation of Saba lace styles, as Eric Eliason and Scott Squire have published this volume, with its painstaking detailing of Saba lace’s history and patterns, as a means of “inspir[ing] an upcoming generation to discover lace working.”
Waiting for Fitz
Shadow Mountain, 2019
Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It’s one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can’t stop. Rituals and rhythms. It’s exhausting. When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn’t exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other’s quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives. Fitz is haunted by the voices in his head and often doesn’t know what is real. But he feels if he can convince Addie to help him escape the psych ward and get to San Juan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely. Waiting for Fitz is a story about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and learning what is truly worth waiting for
Review by Karen Brown at Faculty Book Lunch:
In Spencer Hyde’s debut YA novel, Waiting for Fitz, we are introduced to a quirky and compelling group of teenagers who reside in the psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital. Told from the point of view of Addie Foster, whose OCD manifests itself in vigilant hand-washing and counting rituals that involve finger-tapping and counting blinks, Spencer’s story combines the pathos of mental illness with the comic relief of two witty teenagers whose puns, grammar slams, and associations with pop culture and the theater of the absurd leave the reader indulging in the power of words and pondering the meaning of life. The connections between the title, Waiting for Fitz, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, are played out as Addie and her love interest, Fitz, whose feelings of guilt and shame are exacerbated by the auditory hallucinations in his mind, consider breaking out of the psych ward. And what better place to contemplate the idea of waiting for something or someone that never shows up than in a psych ward?
Hyde interweaves the comedic, the tragic, and the complex and leaves us wondering, along with Addie, about some of life’s biggest questions. “What gives life meaning,” Addie asks. “Is it waiting for that thing, that person, to come along and make life more than just a series of absurd rituals?” Mixed with descriptions of Addie’s exhausting rituals is her snarky, authentic voice sharing gems of wisdom: “I still forget sometimes life can play out just like a drama. Truth is overlooked, ignored, searched for but never found, and only when we think the character can’t possibly make it out of the innermost cave alive, we witness a resurrection.” “We all flicker; it just depends on how willing we are to emerge again, and with how much light.”
Waiting for Fitz is about love and family and the meaning of life. It is about courage and forgiveness and figuring out, in a world that seems absurd, what really is worth waiting for.
An Unarmed Woman
Signature Books, 2019
Rachel O’Brien Rockwood, like her stepfather J. D., longs to hunt criminals and other miscreants. So when, in 1887, during the height of US anti-polygamy legislation, two federal deputies on the lookout for Mormon polygamists are murdered in the small village of Centre, west of Salt Lake City, she jumps at the chance to join the investigation. But detecting never runs smoothly—Rachel and J. D. butt heads regularly over method and approach. Rachel favors talking and uncovering motives. J. D. prefers tracking and searching for the murder weapon. Also there are too many suspects—nearly every villager wanted the deputies gone. As fast as J. D. and Rachel can uncover clues, the local Mormon bishop brushes them aside, insisting instead that the deputies committed thievery and fled westward. Whose theory is true—Rachel’s, J. D.’s, the bishop’s? Or will the story be shaped by the federal marshal, openly hostile to all things Mormon?
Review by Philip Snyder at Faculty Book Lunch:
Rachel O’Brien Rockwood, the feisty almost-18-year-old narrator-protagonist of John Bennion’s wonderful historical novel An Unarmed Woman, is not unarmed in the same sense as Walker’s indomitable Sofia. What Rachel turns her hand to, from horse driving to mystery sleuthing, holds no real threat of physical violence, although she does possess an independent spirit, a capacity for inventive swearing, and a persistent passion for justice. As her step-father, 70-year-old patriarch J. D. Rockwood, observes to her as the novel opens, “You have a tripping light tongue. . . . It’s all of a pattern, Rachel, your swearing, stubbornness, sharpness of tongue. . . . In many ways you’re mannish—more full of mind than heart.” Here J. D. identifies precisely the most fearsome weapon Rachel has at her disposal—her speculative, analytical mind. Further, as the novel progresses, Rachel also demonstrates that she has plenty of heart to go with it, achieving a proper and necessary balance between ratiocination and reconciliation.
It’s Rachel’s “mannish” ways, however, that endear her most to J. D. and make them fast, if sometimes ornery, friends and companions. In fact, he’s the very one who encouraged them in her. Their unusual partnership is essential to solving the murder of two deputy sheriffs who have been prowling about Centre, a small town in 1887 Rush Lake Valley, looking to arrest men with plural wives as part of the government’s crackdown on Mormon polygamy in Utah. Bennion’s mystery plot unfolds nicely with the genre’s requisite twists and turns, fitting climax, and satisfying denouement, but the real charm and engagement of his novel—besides his vibrant narrator and her interaction with other well-drawn characters—lie in the sensational historical, cultural, environmental, meteorological, and technical textures of his setting.
Much like Tony Hillerman in his Four Corners Leaphorn / Chee mysteries or C. J. Box in his Wyoming Joe Pickett mysteries, Bennion makes these rich concrete details as compelling and evocative as the characters and plot: descriptions of various hidey holes to escape detection by the “deps,” unharnessing a team of horses after a cold, snowy surrey ride, local impact of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, qualities of snow in the Utah desert, luxury of owning a Monarch stove, cufflinks carved from deer teeth on a linen shirt, assorted contents of a dead man’s saddle bags, grating dried apples to make Brown Betty after a ward fast, killing capacities of various firearms in town, perils of riding to the rescue side-saddle, and so forth.
All of the foregoing combine to make An Unarmed Woman a thoroughly complete historical mystery novel and, as Rachel herself might say, a “perishing sleakit” of a good read.
Sitor Situmorang (Author), Harry Aveling
Oceans of Longing: Nine Stories
Silkworm Books, 2019
Born into a high-status family of the Batak ethnic group indigenous to North Sumatra, Sitor Situmorang (1924–2014) was a Dutch-educated Indonesian nationalist who experienced firsthand the transition from the Dutch East Indies of his youth to the modern Indonesia of his adulthood. The stories in this collection are a window into the world of a writer dedicated to exploration and change but resolutely attached to the land, people, and stories of his homeland. Set variously in western Europe, post-independence Jakarta, and modernizing communities in his native North Sumatra, the stories live in―as the translators put it―the “perpetual tension between the urge to wander and a longing for origins.”
Review by John Bennion presented at Faculty Book Lunch:
For this collection of nine stories by Sitor Situmorang, Dr. Roberts collaborated with Harry Aveling, Monash University, Melbourne, and Keith Foulcher, University of Sidney. Each was the primary translator for three stories but edited each other’s work for stylistic unity. This project fits well with Dr. Roberts’s work on Richard Wright’s Indonesian travels and with his general work on archipelagic studies. Because islands of the sea have been colonized by Europeans, they have complex linguistic, cultural, and political identities, and translation creates relationships across boundaries inside and outside the islands. In the introduction, the translators describe Sitor’s experience in many cultures: childhood in a village in North Sumatra, Dutch education, and work in government and journalism in the Netherlands and France. Sitor experienced the Japanese invasion during WWII and the Indonesian revolution against the Dutch, who imprisoned him. Living sometimes in Europe and sometimes in Indonesia, he wrote stories that explore “perpetual tension between the urge to wander and the longing for origins.” As Sitor’s protagonist wanders, he carries Indonesia with him, and returning to the islands, he carries European culture back—a stranger in both places. This gives the stories an unsettling and ambiguous perspective, as the protagonist struggles to make sense of life. Often the task of making sense is impossible, such as when old man apparently kills the tiger that ate his foot when he was younger, when a son welcomes guests to a Christmas party in honor of his mother who became a corpse just before the party started, when a junior diplomat takes an anti-prostitution activist to all the places he knows in the red-light districts in Paris, and when revolutionary militias fight each other for control of villages instead of fighting the Dutch enemy. The stories are disorienting and Sitar eschews epiphanies as endings, possibly because there is nothing to trust about sudden insight. Like the author and the translators, these stories are complex, difficult to categorize—making for a stimulating read.
Co-Edited with Paul E. Kerry
New Approaches to Religion and the Enlightenment
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2018
The Enlightenment, an eighteenth-century philosophical and cultural movement that swept through Western Europe, has often been characterized as a mostly secular phenomenon that ultimately undermined religious authority and belief, and eventually gave way to the secularization of Western society and to modernity. To whatever extent the Enlightenment can be credited with giving birth to modern Western culture, historians in more recent years have aptly demonstrated that the Enlightenment hardly singled the death knell of religion. Not only did religion continue to occupy a central pace in political, social, and private life throughout the eighteenth century, but it shaped the Enlightenment project itself in significant and meaningful ways. The thinkers and philosophers normally associated with the Enlightenment, to be sure, challenged state-sponsored church authority and what they perceived as superstitious forms of belief and practice, but they did not mount a campaign to undermine religion generally. A more productive approach to understanding religion in the age of Enlightenment, then, is to examine the ways the Enlightenment informed religious belief and practice during the period as well as the ways religion influenced the Enlightenment and to do so from a range of disciplinary perspectives, which is the goal of this collection. The chapters document the intersections of religious and Enlightenment ideas in such areas as theology, the natural sciences, politics, the law, art, philosophy, and literature.
Review by Nick Mason presented at Faculty Book Lunch
After serving for six years as founding editor of the scholarly annual Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Brett McInelly was left in the awkward position of having solicited and accepted a year’s worth of essays but suddenly lacking a publisher. This unwelcome turn came when AMS Press – the long-established home of influential eighteenth-century studies journals like Professor McInelly’s – immediately closed shop after the unexpected passing of its owner-director. Rather than leaving his contributors in the lurch, Dr. McInelly scrambled to find a new home for their orphaned essays. Ultimately, with the help of Paul Kerry of BYU’s History Dept., (who signed on as a co-editor), he landed a contract with Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, which last fall published the essays McInelly had gathered in a book collection titled New Approaches to Religion and the Enlightenment. As he explains in his introduction, “this volume is not oriented toward a relatively narrow topic; rather, it demonstrates a breadth of disciplinary perspectives on and approaches to the study of religion during the age of Enlightenment.” As such, this welcome collection captures the remarkable range of religious discourse – whether philosophical, literary, evangelical, of political – characteristic of the eighteenth century. Largely, but not exclusively, rooted in European Christianity, the volume spans such genres as popular novels, missionary narratives, ecclesiastical histories, and lesser-known essays by Goethe and Schiller. All told, then, this collection is a testament both to McInelly’s prominence among scholars of eighteenth-century religion and his perseverance in shepherding a valuable new volume to press.
Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Poem & Fancies with The Animal Parliament
Iter Press, 2018
Margaret Cavendish released her Poems and Fancies during a brief reprieve from exile, and at a time when international conversations on questions regarding science, mathematics, and metaphysics significantly advanced the state of knowledge across Britain and Europe despite war and political turmoil. This volume offers the first complete modernized version of the third edition of Cavendish’s book, including prefaces and dedications, all 274 poems on nature’s various avatars, interludes and masques, and the final prose parable, The Animal Parliament. Cavendish offers views on physics, chemistry, algebraic geometry, medicine, political philosophy, ethics, psychology, and animal intelligence, as she develops her own theory of vital matter within the scope of nature’s ordering principles.
Review by Kimberly Johnson presented at Faculty Book Lunch:
Margaret Cavendish was a Renaissance woman in every sense of the term: her body of published works includes poetry, essays, plays, prose romances, natural philosophy, science fiction, and science. During an era when many women published pseudonymously or anonymously, if at all, Cavendish published a massive output under her own name, exploring concepts of gender and power, fame and social satire, science and the imagination. She is a towering figure of 17th-century literature and culture—sufficiently so that scholarship on Cavendish is not so much a recovery effort as it is an effort to account for the force she was recognized to be even in her own time. She was, after all, the first woman to be invited to visit the Royal Society, an episode drolly recounted in the introduction to this masterful new edition: Poems and Fancies with The Animal Parliament. Our own Renaissance woman Brandie Siegfried has shepherded this new edition into print as part of the venerable The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe series. Cavendish’s text—her first publication—originally appeared in 1653 and comprises nearly 300 poems in five parts as well as the prose parable The Animal Parliament. It is Brandie’s editorial generosity that makes this volume so useful to so many different kinds of readers, from specialists to undergraduate initiates. Brandie’s introduction and notes exhibit an encyclopedic familiarity not only with Cavendish’s body of work but also with the healthy body of scholarly work on Cavendish and her milieu. Moreover, Brandie’s apparatus illuminates and contextualizes Cavendish’s broad engagement with an astonishingly wide range of contemporary and classical thought, including math, the various sciences under the heading “natural philosophy,” politics, folklore, moral philosophy. Under Brandie’s confident guidance, this complex and vast mass of supporting material for Cavendish’s early work is rendered accessible, and our appreciation of her mastery and her ambitious and hungry intellect ultimately redounds to the admiration of the poet. Brandie has done Margaret Cavendish proud, and done a great service to her readers.
Dennis Cutchins and Dennis Perry
Adapting Frankenstein: The Monster’s Eternal Lives in Popular Culture
Manchester University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2018)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most popular novels in western literature. It has been adapted and re-assembled in countless forms, from Hammer Horror films to young-adult books and bandes dessinées. Beginning with the idea of the ‘Frankenstein Complex’, this edited collection provides a series of creative readings that explore the elaborate intertextual networks that make up the novel’s remarkable afterlife. It broadens the scope of research on Frankenstein while deepening our understanding of a text that, 200 years after its original publication, continues to intrigue and terrify us in new and unexpected ways.
Review by Leslee Thorne-Murphy presented at Faculty Book Lunch:
What better way to spend Halloween week than reading about Frankenstein adaptations? Nineteenth century stage plays, campy fifties flicks, Belge comic strips, and of course the classic Boris Karloff film—all these adaptations play a role in the “Frankenstein Network,” as Dennis Cutchins and Dennis Perry designate the ever-multiplying field of Frankenstein adaptations. This term, the Frankenstein Network, is central to their collection of essays. As they explain in their introduction to the volume, “the adaptation studies approaches found in this collection focus on the complex relationships between the various texts, disparate traditions, and dynamic media in which Frankenstein has been adapted.” In other words, grappling with the monster means grappling not only with Mary Shelley’s text, but with the myriad interpretations of the monster that each reader is bound to have accumulated. One’s own personal network of Frankenstein familiarity, Cutchins and Perry designate a Frankenstein Complex. So, before you go take your turn at the Frankenreads event this week, take a look at Adapting Frankenstein and add to your own repertoire of Frankenstein adaptations. Because, of course, every scholarly article is its own adaptation. Of special note are the essays by our very own faculty. Jamie Horrocks deftly shows us what happens when Frankenstein goes steampunk, or at least neo-Victorian—hint, it involves bizarre aquatic life and a reanimated John Keats. Joe Darowsky picks up the baton with a canny glance at when Frankenstein meets the X-men, and other comic-book adventures. Also don’t miss Dennis Perry’s essay, where he geeks out over whether the classic sci fi film, Forbidden Planet, best reflects the aesthetics of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the biblical Adam and Eve story, Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, or, of course, the monster himself. And you really shouldn’t miss the creepy, albeit very astute, reading of Bakhtin’s Rabellais included in the book’s introduction. I personally think it’s the perfect segment to browse in between trick-or-treaters tomorrow evening. The volume contains an impressive collection of essays, 18 of them, plus the introduction and afterword, from a wide variety of scholars both close to home and ranging throughout the globe, from leading voices in the field of adaptation studies to those just beginning to add their voices to the field. It’s a truly impressive and commendable achievement. So, kudos to everyone involved.
Jill Terry Rudy
With Pauline Greenhill, Naomi Hamer and Lauren Bosc
The Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-Tale Cultures
(Routledge; 1 edition, 2018)
From Cinderella to comic con to colonialism and more, this companion provides readers with a comprehensive and current guide to the fantastic, uncanny, and wonderful worlds of the fairy tale across media and cultures. It offers a clear, detailed, and expansive overview of contemporary themes and issues throughout the intersections of the fields of fairy-tale studies, media studies, and cultural studies, addressing, among others, issues of reception, audience cultures, ideology, remediation, and adaptation. Examples and case studies are drawn from a wide range of pertinent disciplines and settings, providing thorough, accessible treatment of central topics and specific media from around the globe.
Review by Danette Paul presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Once upon a time, there lived a wise professor named Dr. Jill Rudy . . . Dr. Rudy is one of the editors of the recently published Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-tale Cultures. On the back cover, the authors promise that The Companion provides a wide range of approaches on a number of topics “from Cinderella to comic con to colonialism and more.” I must say, it delivers. The book has five sections: Basic Concepts, Analytical Approaches, Issues, Political and Identity issues, Communicative Media, Expressive genres and Venues. In these sections, The Companion has both the expected articles from a companion to fairy tales and media such as History of Fairytales, Performance, Feminism, Food, and Hybridity. But also the unexpected, such as Indigeneity, Disability, Animal Studies, and Fat Studies. The approaches to these intersections also vary, as do the authors, ranging from Emeritus professors and lead investigator in their field to Master’s students all in a variety of fields: Folklore, English, cultural and women studies. In addition to her role as editor, Jill also contributes four articles to the Companion. In her first article, Jill leads off the book with “The Overview of Basic Concepts.” Instead of just defining basic concepts, Jill discusses several paradoxes and debated terms in the field. One of the most interesting paradox is the shift from individual storytellers or other small groups of face-to-face in counters to mass communication and digital media. To discuss this issue, Jill coins the term “Communitive Omnivores,” acknowledging the human habit of adopting new communicative media without discarding past media. In her articles as with the other articles, she manages to cover currents topic in an accessible way. These various choices make The Companion useful to not only Folklorists, but to any scholar interested in Fairytales. Thus, many scholars will live happily ever after.
The Routledge Companion to Adaptation
Edited with Katja Krebs and Eckart Voigts
(Routledge; 1 edition, 2018)
The Routledge Companion to Adaptation offers a broad range of scholarship from this growing, interdisciplinary field. With a basis in source-oriented studies, such as novel-to-stage and stage-to-film adaptations, this volume also seeks to highlight the new and innovative aspects of adaptation studies, ranging from theatre and dance to radio, television and new media. It is divided into five sections:
- Mapping, which presents a variety of perspectives on the scope and development of adaptation studies;
- Historiography, which investigates the ways in which adaptation engages with – and disrupts – history;
- Identity, which considers texts and practices in adaptation as sites of multiple and fluid identity formations;
- Reception, which examines the role played by an audience, considering the unpredictable relationships between adaptations and those who experience them;
- Technology, which focuses on the effects of ongoing technological advances and shifts on specific adaptations, and on the wider field of adaptation.
An emphasis on adaptation-as-practice establishes methods of investigation that move beyond a purely comparative case study model. The Routledge Companion to Adaptation celebrates the complexity and diversity of adaptation studies, mapping the field across genres and disciplines.
Review by Carl Sederholm presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep develops a metaphor of friendship to consider the various ways we read and evaluate texts. I remembered Booth’s metaphor while reading through portions of The Routledge Companion to Adaptation because its title suggests that it wants to be a helpful partner in the process of understanding the current state of adaptation theory. It’s appropriate to have multiple companions on this journey because, as Dennis Cutchins explains, “Adaptation studies centers itself not on texts, but on the varied relationships that exist between texts” (2). Adaptations depend on relationships; they would not exist without them. Cutchins emphasizes this point first by drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s insight that “texts only have meaning in relationship to other texts” and second by citing a student’s point that adaptation studies “looks at texts through the lens of other texts” instead simply leaning on the assumptions of established schools of thought (3). As companions go, The Routledge Companion to Adaptation is a welcome friend because it understands the complexities of the journey, including its detours into interdisciplinarity and its challenges to traditional approaches to history, text, and context. Further, the study of adaptation theory requires a broad approach to culture and consumption, not to mention a sensitivity to the human need for hearing stories again and again and again. Professor Cutchins has long been an essential guide to understanding adaptation theory. He has edited other volumes on the topic and he served as the chair for the Popular Culture Association’s Adaptation Area. In The Routledge Companion to Adaptation, he has once again gathered together a talented group of scholars to help readers understand the most important questions. The book is divided into five thematic parts, all of which offer several essays that explore new approaches to adaptation or that shed new light on old questions. I was especially interested in essays that attempted to make sense of bad adaptations. One of those, “Notoriously bad: early film-to-video game adaptations (1982-1994)” by Riccardo Fassone, considers the strange world of video games based on major motion pictures such as E. T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and Halloween. I played some of those games as a child and enjoyed following the author’s account not only of his research but also his double history of the games, their “production, . . . reception and use,” and the films they were based on (108). I also enjoyed Kamilla Elliott’s “The Theory of Badaptation” because it gave me new ways of thinking about the notorious problem of approaching adaptations that do not seem to work—or that should never have been attempted. My comments only capture the smallest portion of what readers may discover by reading this book. It is a welcome addition to adaptation theory and makes good on its promise to be a helpful friend.
Frank Christianson and Leslee Thorne-Murphy
Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature from 1850-1920
(Indiana University Press, 2017)
From the mid-19th century until the rise of the modern welfare state in the early 20th century, Anglo-American philanthropic giving gained an unprecedented measure of cultural authority as it changed in kind and degree. Civil society took on the responsibility for confronting the adverse effects of industrialism, and transnational discussions of poverty, urbanization, women’s work, and sympathy provided a means of understanding and debating social reform. While philanthropic institutions left a transactional record of money and materials, philanthropic discourseyielded a rich corpus of writing that represented, rationalized, and shaped these rapidly industrializing societies, drawing on and informing other modernizing discourses including religion, economics, and social science. Showing the fundamentally transatlantic nature of this discourse from 1850 to 1920, the authors gather a wide variety of literary sources that crossed national and colonial borders within the Anglo-American range of influence. Through manifestos, fundraising tracts, novels, letters, and pamphlets, they piece together the intellectual world where philanthropists reasoned through their efforts and redefined the public sector.
Review by Jarica Watts presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Philanthropic Discourse in Anglo-American Literature from 1850-1920 is an ambitious project that maps the transnational threads of industry, urbanization, colonization, social reform, and gender politics onto the field of philanthropic studies. Professors Frank Christianson and Leslee Thorne-Murphy argue that philanthropy facilitates forms of affiliation across geographic, national, and social boundaries and can thus be used as a lens through which scholars approach Anglophone literature—particularly the social realism of American, British, and Indian texts. As war and revolution, industrialization and urban growth, shook the world through the mid-1800s, new demands were placed on philanthropic endeavors as questions emerged probing how to improve the quality of human life. The articles in this collection draw on documentary records, manifestos, fundraising tracts, and novels to reveal the emergence of a dual system of philanthropy: valiant private efforts, on one hand, and increased public responsibility for those in need, on the other. By the turn of the 20th Century, a professional class of philanthropists and social welfare activists worked to enact change at the community level, creating a more integrated and inclusive type of philanthropy. While women like Angela Burdett-Coutts, Jane Addams, Henrietta Barnett, Margaret Fuller, and Louisa May Alcott were able to exert more influence, exploring the ways philanthropy could support the needs of all humankind, particularly the poor, other reformers, mistakenly sure that the Western model was superior, attempted to impose Western concepts of philanthropy on other cultures. As Suzanne Daly argues in Chapter 3, oftentimes that philanthropy took the form of imperial education and its associations with coercion, indoctrination, and epistemic or structural violence. What becomes obvious in the nine essays in this collection is that philanthropic discourse not only crosses national and colonial borders, but it demonstrates the common discursive elements of poverty, patronage, sympathy, race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Taken together, the essays in this collection showcase a diverse written tradition at a formative moment in the development of philanthropy. Reading this text in light of Trump-era politics had me thinking about the ways in which the global complexities and diversities of 19th Century philanthropy can shed very valuable light on today’s philanthropic climate—from the explosion of tech philanthropy (think here of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) to woman mega-givers (Laurene Powell Jobs is a fine example) to immigration funding to all of the Go Fund Me requests popping up on each of our Facebook feeds. To be sure, this is not a time for people with resources to be bystanders. As Professors Christensen and Thorne-Murphy show so beautifully, there is a disruptive force to philanthropy which holds the promise of helping to reduce inequality while empowering individuals to act and speak for themselves.
Captains of Charity: The Writing and Wages of Postrevolutionary Atlantic Benevolence
(University of New Hampshire Press, 2017)
In this thematically rich book, Mary Kathleen Eyring examines authors whose writings were connected with their charitable endeavors, which addressed the worst by-products of the brisk maritime commerce in Atlantic seaport cities in the first half of the nineteenth century. She argues that charitable institutions and societies emerged in this era because they captured and contained the discontent of imperiled and impoverished groups, thereby effectively thwarting the development of a revolutionary class in America.According to Eyring, the men and women who most successfully wrote about and engaged in benevolent work strategically connected their work with the affluence generated by maritime commerce. The water trades supported the growth of the American publishing industry, but they also generated both vast inequities in wealth and physically and economically hazardous conditions that, in the absence of a welfare state, required the intervention of benevolent societies. Laborers in Atlantic port cities barred from lucrative professions by gender, race, physical ability, or social status found a way to make a living wage by conjoining the literary with the charitable—and attaching both to a profit structure. In so doing, they transformed the nature of American benevolence and gave rise to the nonprofit sector, which has since its inception provided discontented laborers with a forum in which to express their critique of for-profit American enterprise, by imitating it.In Captains of Charity, Eyring looks at writers who overcame their marginalized status by bringing together the strands of maritime industry, publishing, and benevolence. These include Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, two black clergymen who managed a massive relief effort when refugees fleeing revolution in Haiti transported the yellow fever virus to Philadelphia in 1793; Nancy Prince, a free woman of color who sought her livelihood in the Protestant missions of Jamaica in the years immediately following Britain’s emancipation of laborers in its Caribbean colonies; Sarah Josepha Hale, who parlayed the social influence she had gained as the founder of a seaman’s aid society in Boston into a role as editor of the hugely popular periodical Godey’s Lady’s Book; and Sarah Pogson Smith, who donated the proceeds of her writing to such prominent charitable causes as the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and then capitalized on the goodwill this charity work generated among her wealthy friends in New York City, Philadelphia, and Charleston.
The Popular Frontier
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2017)
When William F. Cody introduced his Wild West exhibition to European audiences in 1887, the show soared to new heights of popularity and success. With its colorful portrayal of cowboys, Indians, and the taming of the North American frontier, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West popularized a myth of American national identity and shaped European perceptions of the United States. The Popular Frontier is the first collection of essays to explore the transnational impact and mass-cultural appeal of Cody’s Wild West. As editor Frank Christianson explains in his introduction, for the first four years after Cody conceived it, the Wild West exhibition toured the United States, honing the operation into a financially solvent enterprise. When the troupe ventured to England for its first overseas booking, its success exceeded all expectations. Between 1887 and 1906 the Wild West performed in fourteen countries, traveled more than 200,000 miles, and attracted a collective audience in the tens of millions. How did Europeans respond to Cody’s vision of the American frontier? And how did European countries appropriate what they saw on display? Addressing these questions and others, the contributors to this volume consider how the Wild West functioned within social and cultural contexts far grander in scope than even the vast American West. Among the topics addressed are the pairing of William F. Cody and Theodore Roosevelt as embodiments of frontier masculinity, and the significance of the show’s most enduring persona, Annie Oakley. An informative and thought-provoking examination of the Wild West’s foreign tours, The Popular Frontier offers new insight into late-nineteenth-century gender politics and ethnicity, the development of American nationalism, and the simultaneous rise of a global mass culture.
Review by Phillip A. Snyder presented at Faculty Book Lunch
In 2003 I was standing in the large dining hall of the castle on Cornwall’s St. Michael’s Mount when I caught a glimpse of something in a small adjoining room that was completely familiar yet totally foreign to that environment—a vintage 19th-century slick fork, half-seat, high-cantled buckaroo saddle. Above the saddle hung a framed newspaper article describing it as a gift to the Baron St. Levan from his friend William F. Cody. “Wow,” I thought, “Buffalo Bill sure got around.” As this fine essay collection illustrates, in transporting their versions of the American frontier throughout the British Isles and Europe, Cody and his Wild West Show (especially with the addition of the Congress of Rough Riders of the World) did much more than get around: they transformed an initially national enterprise into a quintessentially international one, and, in Frank Christianson’s words, “ritualized multiple strains of nationalist discourse that were, in turn, part of a broader shift in transatlantic culture of the late nineteenth century” (21). Robert W. Rydell argues for Cody’s influence on European peace talks; Jamie Horrocks brilliantly parallels Cody with Oscar Wilde in their posed sartorial splendor as international celebrities; Jeremy M. Johnston links Cody with Teddy Roosevelt and notions of American exceptionalism; Monica Rico and Jennifer R. Henneman write on Annie Oakley, respectively, as an embodiment of the transnational “New Girl” and of English ideas regarding “natural” womanhood; Emily C. Burns explores the implications of Cody’s masculine “colonization” of Paris as an extension of the western frontier; Julia S. Stetler interrogates German fascination with the indigenous members of Cody’s troop; Chris Dixon connects the Wild West’s five-week run in Barcelona with historical Spanish-American relations; Renee M. Laegreid investigates Italian and fascist appropriations of the Buffalo Bill myth; and, finally, Christianson adds a fitting note of Anglo-American epilogue and then calls for further transnational studies of Cody’s influence abroad. We can be reassured, then, that Buffalo Bill will continue to get around.
The Sociable City: An American Intellectual Tradition
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)
When celebrated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted despaired in 1870 that the “restraining and confining conditions” of the city compelled its inhabitants to “look closely upon others without sympathy,” he was expressing what many in the United States had already been saying about the nascent urbanization that would continue to transform the nation’s landscape: that the modern city dramatically changes the way individuals interact with and feel toward one another. An antiurbanist discourse would pervade American culture for years to come, echoing Olmsted’s skeptical view of the emotional value of urban relationships. But as more and more people moved to the nation’s cities, urbanists began to confront this pessimism about the ability of city dwellers to connect with one another. The Sociable City investigates the history of how American society has conceived of urban relationships and considers how these ideas have shaped the cities in which we live. As the city’s physical and social landscapes evolved over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, urban intellectuals developed new vocabularies, narratives, and representational forms to express the social and emotional value of a wide variety of interactions among city dwellers. Turning to source materials often overlooked by scholars of urban life—including memoirs, plays, novels, literary journalism, and museum exhibits—Jamin Creed Rowan unearths an expansive body of work dedicated to exploring and advocating the social configurations made possible by the city. His study aims to better understand why we have built and governed cities in the ways we have, and to imagine an urban future that will effectively preserve and facilitate the interpersonal associations and social networks that city dwellers need to live manageable, equitable, and fulfilling lives.
Review by Mike Taylor presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Thanks to Jamin’s generosity, I had the chance to see this book in proposal form a few months ago as I work toward submitting my own. So, to engage with the final product has been particularly informative methodologically, as well as intellectually engaging and enjoyable. As many of you know, I recently moved from the urban squalor of Vancouver, BC to the rural paradise of Mapleton, Utah. Yet, as I consider Jamin’s concept of urban sociability, The Sociable City leaves me longing for the day-to-day interactions with food vendors, street musicians, shop owners, and the like for whom I developed what Jamin describes as “a wry fondness . . . , an appreciation for those one may never see but who nevertheless provide the mutual support that makes it possible to lead a satisfying life in the city” (154). In The Sociable City, Jamin turns to such oft-overlooked sources of early twentieth-century urban ideologies as memoirs, plays, and museum exhibits, in order to trace the evolution of urbanist discourse in the United States from dominant ideas of sympathy that emerges from “intimate social relations” and “nurturing communities” (2), to the concept of “interdependent sociability” (7-8). Through this intellectual mapping of shifting urban imaginaries, Jamin emphasizes how the ever-changing affective interactions of city dwellers result in the literal reshaping of the physical built environment of our cities. Jamin threads this argument throughout each chapter by analyzing the contrasting constructions from the natural space of Central Park to the public housing structures of such urban centers as Chicago and Philadelphia. Within these public spaces, The Sociable City rebuilds a conversation between leading sociologists, settlement activist writers, African American intellectuals, New Yorker journalists, novelists, and others who began to understand human interactions in the city as a form of ecology, a natural system of interdependence and shared social satisfaction. By expanding the U.S. intellectual tradition of urban discourse to include voices of otherwise underrepresented classes, races, genders, and genres, Jamin’s The Sociable City concludes by emphasizing the significance of understanding the importance of urban sociality. He writes, “Taking urban sociality more seriously matters because . . . , a society’s decisions about what kinds of relationships and interpersonal emotions matter determine the types of cities it builds and the kinds of opportunities those cities afford to those who live in them” (160). Overall, The Sociable City deepens the field’s understanding of early twentieth-century urban discourse while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role that literature and literacy play in shaping the social and physical ecologies of contemporary and future cities. With this broadening of sources for understanding the history and significance of urban discourse, The Sociable City urges students and scholars, city dwellers and city builders, to seek out and engage with diverse urban ideologies in order to build, rebuild, and maintain the types of sociable cities that society depends on.
Archipelagic American Studies
(Duke University Press Books, 2017)
Departing from conventional narratives of the United States and the Americas as fundamentally continental spaces, the contributors to Archipelagic American Studies theorize America as constituted by and accountable to an assemblage of interconnected islands, archipelagoes, shorelines, continents, seas, and oceans. They trace these planet-spanning archipelagic connections in essays on topics ranging from Indigenous sovereignty to the work of Édouard Glissant, from Philippine call centers to US militarization in the Caribbean, and from the great Pacific garbage patch to enduring overlaps between US imperialism and a colonial Mexican archipelago. Shaking loose the straitjacket of continental exceptionalism that hinders and permeates Americanist scholarship, Archipelagic American Studies asserts a more relevant and dynamic approach for thinking about the geographic, cultural, and political claims of the United States within broader notions of America.
Review by Emron Esplin presented at Faculty Book Lunch
In Archipelagic American Studies, Brian Russell Roberts and his colleague Michelle Ann Stephens set out to decontinentalize the field of American Studies and to help us see the field and the world from the perspective of the island and the cluster of islands or archipelago. They begin to challenge the “myth of the continent” with a discussion of scale and a comparison between the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the lesser-known U.S. trusteeship in Micronesia in which the U.S. took control of a mass of land and sea larger than the 48 continental states. The point, however, is not one of scale or size, not a hope of making us see the importance of islands, archipelagoes, and oceans by claiming “see, they’re even bigger than the continent….” Instead, the point is to show the “epistemic violence” (13) that takes place when a culture and a field of study define island spaces in the negative—when “insular” takes on all of its familiar negative meanings—and to ask how we can see the U.S., the Americas, and the world in new ways by demystifying the continent and by looking to the island chain or the archipelago for alternative ways of understanding and being. Brian and Michelle very briefly demonstrate a long tradition in the most well-known American studies scholarship of praising the continent and using the term “insular” as a pejorative. They combat this continental exceptionalism and anti-insularity in a direct but patient manner with a maturity and complexity that does not kills off former epistemologies but that, instead, suggests that other ways of knowing exist. They reorient “insularity” to imply “interconnectedness” rather than “narrowness” (19) and ask their readers to become “anti-explorers” of the coastline, readers who don’t try to map out the island space and make it known, but instead, readers who—following Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry and Antonio Benitez Rojo’s concept of the repeating island—can read a single island chain, a single island, or a single coastline as infinite.
Translated from the Greek by Kimberly Johnson
Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days, A New Bilingual Edition (Northwestern World Classics)
(Northwestern University Press, 2017)
Widely considered the first poet in the Western tradition to address the matter of his own experience, Hesiod occupies a seminal position in literary history. His Theogony brings together and formalizes many of the narratives of Greek myth, detailing the genealogy of its gods and their violent struggles for power. The Works and Days seems on its face to be a compendium of advice about managing a farm, but it ranges far beyond this scope to meditate on morality, justice, the virtues of a good life, and the place of humans in the universe. These poems are concerned with orderliness and organization, and they proclaim those ideals from small-scale to vast, from a handful of seeds to the story of the cosmos. Presented here in a bilingual edition, Johnson’s translation takes care to preserve the structure of Hesiod’s lines and sentences, achieving a sonic and rhythmic balance that enables us to hear his music across the millennia.
Review by Brian Jackson presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Poet Kim Johnson, a triple threat (she writes literary scholarship, poetry, and translations in both Greek and Latin), has now graced us with a translation of Hesiod’s two 2800-year-old poems, Theogony and Works and Days, both published in one bilingual volume for Northwestern University Press. As both poet and classicist, Dr. Johnson render’s Hesiod’s Greek in “variable meter governed yet loosely by the idea of dactylic hexameter,” preserving both the “discrete music” of Hesiod’s poetry and the integrity of the Greek poetic line. In Theogony, she renders the cosmogony (the birth of the universe and its rowdy gods) and the clash of the titans in in poetry sounding simultaneously archaic and lusciously present. In Works and Days—whose genre is more difficult to categorize—Dr. Johnson makes “legible” the “small cosmos of lived existence” that we find in a poem preoccupied by myth, fable, ritual purity, justice, hard work, and agricultural practice. In this poem, Hesiod exhorts his “idiot” brother Perses to “pile work upon work upon work,” which is what “the gods ordained for men.” Dr. Johnson renders Hesiod’s prosaic advice beautifully and rhythmically : “Attend to justice and ever shun havoc,” “Let the wage promised to a friend be fitly paid,” “weave a fat nap through your warp’s filaments,” “never let a house you’re building sit unfinished / Or a raucous crow may camp there and caw calamity down, “On the seventh of midmonth, survey the smooth curve / Of the threshing-floor, and toss thereupon the sacred grain / Of Demeter.” Like Hesiod, Dr. Johnson seems to have received the branch of “evergreen laurel” from “the wordspinning daughters of almighty Zeus” to have written such a lovely translation. Or maybe, unlike Perses, she just knows how and when to work. Either way, we congratulate her on yet another monumental work of art and scholarship.
Edited with Don Chapman and Colette Moore
Studies in the History of the English Language VII: Generalizing vs. Particularizing Methodologies in Historical Linguistic Analysis
(Walter de Gruyter, 2016)
This book looks at how historical linguists accommodate the written records used for evidence. The limitations of the written record restrict our view of the past and the conclusions that we can draw about its language. However, the same limitations force us to be aware of the particularities of language. This collection blends the philological with the linguistic, combining questions of the particular with generalizations about language change.
Review by Grant Boswell presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Studies in the History of the English Language VII: Generalizing vs. Particularizing Methodologies in Historical Linguistic Analysis is co-edited by Miranda Wilcox and is published by De Gruyter Mouton, one of the largest and best publishers of volumes in linguistics and communicative sciences, publishing about ninety monographs and edited collections per year as well as forty academic journals and yearbooks in linguistics. Moreover, this volume is part of the Topics in English Linguistics series, begun in 2013 and in just under five years has published ninety-eight volumes. This volume is the ninety fourth in the series. And within this series is a collection of edited volumes, Studies in the History of the English Language, of which Miranda’s volume is the seventh and most recent title. The articles collected in the volume result from the eighth meeting of the Studies of the History of the English Language Conference held at BYU in September of 2013. The articles in the volume cover a range of topics in the history of the English language, illustrating the issues facing scholars in this field as the study of the history of English expanded from the literary to include the linguistic. These issues cover tensions between philological, historical linguistic, and theoretical linguistic interests; between traditional qualitative and contemporary quantitative, computational methodologies; and between general and particular foci. As an anecdote, when I started the MA program at BYU in 1978, the English language emphasis was comprised of four graduate courses in a two-year sequence: Old English, Beowulf, Middle English, and Chaucer. I still have the books on my shelf. Elements of Old English was first published in 1919 and is now in its tenth edition. A Handbook of Middle English was first published in English in 1952 and went through ten printings. We learned the language to read the literature. But things have changed. New theories such as Optimality Theory and new grammars such as Maxent Grammars not only allow texts to be revisited, they also make use of large corpora that enable us to observe language change from a much larger perspective. The articles are collected and organized to represent the varying approaches to the historical study of English and to implicitly make the case that the more the merrier because texts are the major record of this history, and old and new methodologies complement each other to ensure that the textual record is mined for all it has to offer. The twelve articles are organized under four headings: Particularizing and generalizing for written records, Particulars of authors, Particulars of communicative setting, and Particularizing from words. As someone who is coming to these articles after a long hiatus, I found them informative and enlightening. For a historian of the English language I can only imagine that the superb venue and the skillful selection and editing of the articles provides a welcome representation of the forces in the field of English language history and a centripetal tether to a centrifugal discipline.
Reading America: Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature
(University of Massachusetts Press, 2016)
During the Cold War, the editor of Time magazine declared, “A good citizen is a good reader.” As postwar euphoria faded, a wide variety of Americans turned to reading to understand their place in the changing world. Yet, what did it mean to be a good reader? And how did reading make you a good citizen? In Reading America, Kristin L. Matthews puts into conversation a range of political, educational, popular, and touchstone literary texts to demonstrate how Americans from across the political spectrum—including “great works” proponents, New Critics, civil rights leaders, postmodern theorists, neoconservatives, and multiculturalists—celebrated particular texts and advocated particular interpretive methods as they worked to make their vision of “America” a reality. She situates the fiction of J. D. Salinger, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, and Maxine Hong Kingston within these debates, illustrating how Cold War literature was not just an object of but also a vested participant in postwar efforts to define good reading and citizenship.
Review by Ed Cutler presented at Faculty Book Lunch
Kristin L. Matthews’ new book takes a cultural commonplace–the importance of reading and reading well in a democratic society—and recasts it as a discourse whose deeper sociology is fraught with contradiction. Cultural discourses are nothing if not durable and alarmist. And the United States’ purported literacy crisis has persisted, unexamined, across the American Century. Matthews asks what is at stake when the Department of Agriculture hosts a conference on the national reading crisis in 1951? What when dozens of other such initiatives follow? Do good readers really make better citizens, or might “reading well” serve to acculturate an acquiesce toward established authority, to a greatness already distilled in the Great Books and, by extension, the triumphalist self-image of American liberalism itself? What happens when writers and readers shake off the passive inwardness of middlebrow reading and turn the tables on the question of what is to be read and why? Matthews’ book sheds a revealing light on these questions, demonstrating how the emergence of the New Left, campus activism, even the birth of metafiction can be read as blowback from the quietist, narcotizing, Book-of-the-Month-Club agendas for American readers. Deeply researched, persuasive, and wholly original, Reading America is a vital new contribution toward our understanding of a tumultuous era that in turn helps us better perceive our own.
(Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2016 edition)
This collection of essays explores how readers on both sides of the Atlantic shaped the contours of “English literature” in the 1800s, expressing love for books and their authors through a wide variety of media and social practices. While love as such is difficult to quantify or recover, the records of such affection survive not just in print, but also (for example) in monuments, in art, in architecture, and in the ephemera of material culture. Thus, the authors aim to expand the normal range of literary reception studies.
Review by Frank Christianson presented at Faculty Book Lunch
The author of Necromanticism, explores a related form of philia in the co-edited essay collection Transatlantic Literature and Author Love in the Nineteenth-Century. Examining a formative chapter in the history of Anglophone culture—when Englishness was imagined and materialized beyond Britain’s shores—editors Paul Westover and Ann Wierda Rowland have set themselves the formidable task of turning “love” into a term of art in literary studies. Moving chronologically, beginning in the 1830s, the chapters in this volume consider how the collective act of reading literature in English came to define English Literature as a cultural inheritance. These accounts of author love paradoxically challenge author-centric approaches to periodization. They detail “procreative afterlives” in what amount to “extended histories” of books and their writers as they manifested in the US and Britain over generations within an increasingly varied media landscape. In their careful selection and lucid framing of the essays, Westover and Rowland make the case for a more expansive literary study that documents the “constructive role of reception” in forming social networks of readerships. With essays on Sarah Hale, Wordsworth, Cooper, and Tennyson, among others, this collection may be one of the best explanations to date of how the English literary canon was shaped by a transatlantic context. More importantly, it speaks effectively to more fundamental questions of why we read, and study, and cherish literature in the first place, and how certain kinds of love inspire us to affiliate with each other across space and time and make a culture of the stories we share.
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)
What if historical fiction were understood as a disfiguring of calculus? Or poems enacting the formation and breakdown of community as expositions of irrational numbers? What if, in other words, literary texts possessed a kind of mathematical unconscious? The persistence of the rhetoric of “two cultures,” one scientific, the other humanities-based, obscures the porous border and productive relationship that has long existed between literature and mathematics. In eighteenth-century Scottish universities, geometry in particular was considered one of the humanities; anchored in philosophy, it inculcated what we call critical thinking. But challenges to classical geometry within the realm of mathematics obligated Scottish geometers to become more creative in their defense of the traditional discipline; and when literary writers and philosophers incorporated these mathematical problems into their own work, the results were not only ingenious but in some cases pioneering. Literature After Euclid tells the story of the creative adaptation of geometry in Scotland during and after the long eighteenth century. It argues that diverse attempts in literature and philosophy to explain or even emulate the geometric achievements of Isaac Newton and others resulted in innovations that modify our understanding of descriptive and bardic poetry, the aesthetics of the picturesque, and the historical novel. Matthew Wickman’s analyses of these innovations in the work of Walter Scott, Robert Burns, James Thomson, David Hume, Thomas Reid, and other literati change how we perceive the Scottish Enlightenment and the later, modernist ethos that purportedly relegated the “classical” Enlightenment to the dustbin of history. Indeed, the Scottish Enlightenment’s geometric imagination changes how we see literary history itself.
(University of Georgia Press, 2016)
Edgar Allan Poe’s image and import in Spanish America shifted during the twentieth century, and this shift is clearly connected to the work of three writers from the Río de la Plata region—Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga and Argentines Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar. In Borges’s Poe, Emron Esplin focuses on the second author in this trio and argues that Borges, through a sustained and complex literary relationship with Poe’s works, served as the primary catalyst that changed Poe’s image throughout Spanish America from a poet-prophet to a timeless fiction writer. Most scholarship that couples Poe and Borges focuses primarily on each writer’s detective stories, refers only occasionally to their critical writings and the remainder of their fiction, and deemphasizes the cultural context in which Borges interprets Poe. In this book, Esplin explores Borges’s and Poe’s published works and several previously untapped archival resources to reveal an even more complex literary relationship between the two writers. Emphasizing the spatial and temporal context in which Borges interprets Poe—the Río de la Plata region from the 1920s through the 1980s—Borges’s Poe underlines Poe’s continual presence in Borges’s literary corpus. More important, it demonstrates how Borges’s literary criticism, his Poe translations, and his own fiction create a disparate Poe who serves as a precursor to Borges’s own detective and fantastic stories and as an inspiration to the so-called Latin American Boom. Seen through this more expansive context, Borges’s Poe shows that literary influence runs both ways since Poe’s writings visibly affect Borges the poet, story writer, essayist, and thinker while Borges’s analyses and translations of Poe’s work and his responses to Poe’s texts in his own fiction forever change how readers of Poe return to his literary corpus.
Brian Russell Roberts
Editor with Keith Foulcher
Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Banding Conference
(Duke University Press, 2016)
While Richard Wright’s account of the 1955 Bandung Conference in The Color Curtain has been key to shaping Afro-Asian historical narratives, Indonesian accounts of Wright and his conference attendance have been largely overlooked. Indonesian Notebook contains myriad documents by Indonesian writers, intellectuals, and reporters, as well as a newly recovered lecture by Wright, previously published only in Indonesian. Brian Russell Roberts and Keith Foulcher introduce and contextualize these documents with extensive background information and analysis, showcasing the heterogeneity of postcolonial modernity and underscoring the need to consider non-English language perspectives in transnational cultural exchanges. This collection of primary sources and scholarly histories is a crucial companion volume to Wright’sThe Color Curtain.
(University of Nebraska Press, 2016)
A follow-up to Patrick Madden’s award-winning debut, this introspective and exuberant collection of essays is wide-ranging and wild, following bifurcating paths of thought to surprising connections. In Sublime Physick, Madden seeks what is common and ennobling among seemingly disparate, even divisive, subjects, ruminating on midlife, time, family, forgiveness, loss, originality, a Canadian rock band, and much more, discerning the ways in which the natural world (fisica) transcends and joins the realm of ideas (sublime) through the application of a meditative mind. In twelve essays that straddle the classical and the contemporary, Madden transmutes the ruder world into a finer one, articulating with subtle humor and playfulness how science and experience abut and intersect with spirituality and everyday life.
(Sage Hill Press, 2015)
What Jeffrey Tucker’s book of poems provides us with, in the face of an increasingly volatile environment, is a focus on now. How do we best live now (which is truly the only things we are granted) even while we are observant, and in acknowledgement of, the storms, the devastations that happen in seemingly quicker successions, both ecological and personal? Given the evidence that Tucker so hauntingly, so bitingly provides, we must embrace our only world, our only possible lives, our now: “Paradise?” he knowlingly asks. “Look around. It’s vicious out here.”
To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing
(University Press of Mississippi, 2015)
To See Them Run explores how and why Great Plains hunters have chased coyotes with greyhounds and other sight hounds since before George Armstrong Custer. Though a well-developed, long-lived, widespread, and undeniably enthralling tradition, the practice remains little known, even to those living in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where the tradition is common. Coyote coursing, hunting with greyhounds launched from specially made pickup rigs, is a hobby by locals, for locals, and it has remained a quintessentially vernacular enterprise occupying a rung below the Plains’ prestige forms of animal training and interaction–namely with horses and cattle. The coyote coursing tradition provides an ideal setting for exploring the relationship between animals and the study of folklore. The book examines the artistry, thrills, values, camaraderie, economy, and controversies of this uncommercialized and never-before-studied vernacular tradition. Through ethnographic photographs and authentic collected commentary from participants, this book uncovers how hunting dogs and coyotes both have shaped and been shaped by human aesthetic sensibilities in ongoing folkloric and biological processes. Author Eric A. Eliason and photographer Scott Squire discover deep and sophisticated local knowledge in a unique interaction with the natural ecologies of the great North American prairie.
My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married
(University of Nebraska Press, 2015)
Modern manhood is confusing and complicated, but Joey Franklin, a thirtysomething father of three, is determined to make the best of it. In My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married, he offers frank, self-deprecating meditations on everything from male-pattern baldness and the balm of blues harmonica to Grand Theft Auto and the staying power of first kisses. He riffs on cockroaches, hockey, romance novels, Boy Scout hikes, and the challenge of parenting a child through high-stakes Texas T-ball. With honesty and wit, Franklin explores what it takes to raise three boys, succeed in a relationship, and survive as a modern man. My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married is an uplifting rumination on learning from the past and living for the present, a hopeful take on being a man without being a menace to society.
Editor with David Lazar
(University of Georgia Press, 2015)
Writers of the modern essay can trace their chosen genre all the way back to Michel de Montaigne (1533–92). But save for the recent notable best seller How to Live: A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell, Montaigne is largely ignored. After Montaigne—a collection of twenty-four new personal essays intended as tribute— aims to correct this collective lapse of memory and introduce modern readers and writers to their stylistic forebear. Though it’s been over four hundred years since he began writing his essays, Montaigne’s writing is still fresh, and his use of the form as a means of selfexploration in the world around him reads as innovative—even by modern standards. He is, simply put, the writer to whom all essayists are indebted. Each contributor has chosen one of Montaigne’s 107 essays and has written his/her own essay of the same title and on the same theme, using a quote from Montaigne’s essay as an epigraph. The overall effect is akin to a covers album, with each writer offering his or her own interpretation and stylistic verve to Montaigne’s themes in ways that both reinforce and challenge the French writer’s prose, ideas, and forms. Featuring a who’s who of contemporary essayists, After Montaigne offers a startling engagement with Montaigne and the essay form while also pointing the way to the genre’s potential new directions.
Civic Jazz: American Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along
(The University of Chicago Press, 2015)
Jazz is born of collaboration, improvisation, and listening. In much the same way, the American democratic experience is rooted in the interaction of individuals. It is these two seemingly disparate, but ultimately thoroughly American, conceits that Gregory Clark examines in Civic Jazz. Melding Kenneth Burke’s concept of rhetorical communication and jazz music’s aesthetic encounters with a rigorous sort of democracy, this book weaves an innovative argument about how individuals can preserve and improve civic life in a democratic culture. Jazz music, Clark argues, demonstrates how this aesthetic rhetoric of identification can bind people together through their shared experience in a common project. While such shared experience does not demand agreement—indeed, it often has an air of competition—it does align people in practical effort and purpose. Similarly, Clark shows, Burke considered Americans inhabitants of a persistently rhetorical situation, in which each must choose constantly to identify with some and separate from others. Thought-provoking and path-breaking, Clark’s harmonic mashup of music and rhetoric will appeal to scholars across disciplines as diverse as political science, performance studies, musicology, and literary criticism.
Uncommon Prayer: Poems
(Karen and Michael Braziller Books, 2014)
In this stirring third collection, bursting with spoken and unspoken desire, Kimberly Johnson continues her ecstatic intertwining of the liturgical and the rugged landscape of the American West. Uncommon Prayer is a book about desire, and about the ways in which desire can and cannot be expressed, contained, or controlled by language. Invoking the structural organization of the liturgical hours, the calendar, and the alphabet, Uncommon Prayer explores how external forms might compensate for the incommunicability of human want—that is, how the parts of expression that aren’t found in dictionary definitions might help to make up for what our words never quite manage to express.
Editor with Lisa T. Sarasohn
God and Nature in the Thought of Margaret Cavendish
(Ashgate Publishing, 2014)
Only recently have scholars begun to note Margaret Cavendish’s references to “God,” “spirits,” and the “rational soul,” and little has been published in this regard. This volume addresses that scarcity by taking up the theological threads woven into Cavendish’s ideas about nature, matter, magic, governance, and social relations, with special attention given to Cavendish’s literary and philosophical works. Reflecting the lively state of Cavendish studies, God and Nature in the Thought of Margaret Cavendish allows for disagreements among the contributing authors, whose readings of Cavendish sometimes vary in significant ways; and it encourages further exploration of the theological elements evident in her literary and philosophical works. Despite the diversity of thought developed here, several significant points of convergence establish a foundation for future work on Cavendish’s vision of nature, philosophy, and God. The chapters collected here enhance our understanding of the intriguing-and sometimes brilliant-contributions Cavendish made to debates about God’s place in the scientific cosmos.
With Margarida Vale de Gate
Translated Poe (perspectives on Edgar Allan Poe)
(Lehigh University Press, 2014)
Few, if any, U.S. writers are as important to the history of world literature as Edgar Allan Poe, and few, if any, U.S. authors owe so much of their current reputations to the process of translation. Translated Poe brings together 31 essays from 19 different national/literary traditions to demonstrate Poe’s extensive influence on world literature and thought while revealing the importance of the vehicle that delivers Poe to the world—translation. Translated Poe is not preoccupied with judging the “quality” of any given Poe translation nor with assessing what a specific translation of Poe must or should have done. Rather, the volume demonstrates how Poe’s translations constitute multiple contextual interpretations, testifying to how this prolific author continues to help us read ourselves and the world(s) we live in. The examples of how Poe’s works were spread abroad remind us that literature depends as much on authorial creation and timely readership as on the languages and worlds through which a piece of literature circulates after its initial publication in its first language. This recasting of signs and symbols that intervene in other cultures when a text is translated is one of the principal subjects of the humanistic discipline of Translation Studies, dealing with the the products, functions, and processes of translation as both a cognitive and socially regulated activity. Both literary history and the history of translation benefit from this book’s focus on Poe, whose translated fortune has helped to shape literary modernity, in many cases importantly redefining the target literary systems. Furthermore, we envision this book as a fountain of resources for future Poe scholars from various global sites, including the United States, since the cases of Poe’s translations—both exceptional and paradigmatic—prove that they are also levers that force the reassessment of the source text in its native literature.
Death Coming Up the Hill
(HMH Books for Young Readers , 2014)
It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple, like the situation in Vietnam, has been engaged in a “senseless war that could have been prevented.” When his high school history teacher dares to teach the political realities of the war, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents’ marriage, Ashe finds himself trapped, with no options before him but to enter the fray.
With Jeff Anderson
Revision Decisions: Talking through Sentences and Beyond
(Stenhouse Publishers, 2014)
Revision is often a confusing and difficult process for students, but it’s also the most important part of the writing process. If students leave our classrooms not knowing how to move a piece of writing forward, we’ve failed them. Revision Decisions will help teachers develop the skills students need in an ever-evolving writing, language, and reading world. Jeff Anderson and Deborah Dean have written a book that engages writers in the tinkering, playing, and thinking that are essential to clarify and elevate writing. Focusing on sentences, Jeff and Deborah use mentor texts to show the myriad possibilities that exist for revision. Essential to their process is the concept of classroom talk. Readers will be shown how revision lessons can be discussed in a generative way, and how each student can benefit from talking through the revision process as a group. Revision Decisions focuses on developing both the writing and the writer. The easy-to-follow lessons make clear and accessible the rigorous thinking and the challenging process of making writing work. Narratives, setup lessons, templates, and details about how to move students toward independence round out this essential book. Additionally, the authors weave the language, reading, and writing goals of the Common Core and other standards into an integrated and connected practice. The noted language arts teacher James Britton once said that good writing “floats on a sea of talk.” Revision Decisions supports those genuine conversations we naturally have as readers and writers, leading the way to the essential goal of making meaning.
With Pauline Greenhill
Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television
(Wayne State University Press, 2014)
Television has long been a familiar vehicle for fairy tales and is, in some ways, an ideal medium for the genre. Both more mundane and more wondrous than cinema, TV magically captures sounds and images that float through the air to bring them into homes, schools, and workplaces. Even apparently realistic forms, like the nightly news, routinely employ discourses of “once upon a time,” “happily ever after,” and “a Cinderella story.” In Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television, Pauline Greenhill and Jill Terry Rudy offer contributions that invite readers to consider what happens when fairy tale, a narrative genre that revels in variation, joins the flow of television experience. Looking in detail at programs from Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the U.S., this volume’s twenty-three international contributors demonstrate the wide range of fairy tales that make their way into televisual forms. The writers look at fairy-tale adaptations in musicals like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, anthologies like Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, made-for-TV movies like Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Bluebeard, and the Red Riding Trilogy, and drama serials like Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Contributors also explore more unexpected representations in the Carosello commercial series, the children’s show Super Why!, the anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena, and the live-action dramas Train Man and Rich Man Poor Woman. In addition, they consider how elements from familiar tales, including “Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White,” and “Cinderella” appear in the long arc serials Merlin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dollhouse, and in a range of television formats including variety shows, situation comedies, and reality TV. Channeling Wonder demonstrates that fairy tales remain ubiquitous on TV, allowing for variations but still resonating with the wonder tale’s familiarity. Scholars of cultural studies, fairy-tale studies, folklore, and television studies will enjoy this first-of-its-kind volume.
Editor with John D. Young
Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy
Latter-day Saints have a paradoxical relationship to the past; even as they invest their own history with sacred meaning, celebrating the restoration of ancient truths and the fulfillment of biblical prophecies, they repudiate the eighteen centuries of Christianity that preceded the founding of their church as apostate distortions of the truth. Since the early days of Mormonism, Latter-day Saints have used the paradigm of apostasy and restoration in their narratives about the origin of their church. This has generated a powerful and enduring binary of categorization that has profoundly impacted Mormon self-perception and relations with others. Standing Apart explores how the idea of apostasy has functioned as a category to mark, define, and set apart “the other” in Mormon historical consciousness and in the construction of Mormon narrative identity. The volume’s fifteen contributors trace the development of LDS narratives of apostasy within the context of both Mormon history and American Protestant historiography. They suggest ways in which these narratives might be reformulated to engage with the past, as well as offering new models for interfaith relations. This volume provides a novel approach for understanding and resolving some of the challenges faced by the LDS church in the twenty-first century.
Textual Warfare and the Making of Methodism
Textual Warfare and the Making of Methodism examines the satirical and polemical literature written in response to the eighteenth-century Methodist revival and the ways Methodists, who were acutely aware of the antagonism that tailed the revival, responded to this literature, both in public and in the ways they expressed and practiced their faith. The debate that unfolded in the press naturally shaped the public face of Methodism. More importantly, Methodists believed more firmly as a result of their clashes with their critics, and these clashes provided much of the energy that propelled the movement forward. Textual Warfare documents these processes by examining pro- and anti-Methodist texts, John Wesley’s management of the movement, and the personal writings of the Methodists themselves, which illustrate the ways their faith was refined by controversy.
With Gregory Clark
Trained Capacities: John Dewey, Rhetoric, and Democratic Practice
(University of South Carolina Press, 2014)
Made Flesh: Sacrament and Poetics in Post-Reformation England
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)