Fall 2009, Volume 42, Number 2
Although a selection of essays can never hope to do justice to a conference that featured hundreds of sessions on an impressive range of subjects, the essays collected in the pages that follow go no small distance toward demonstrating the high quality of our collective work. No doubt they will further the individual authors’ and the organization’s fame—and perhaps ultimately win us more friends than enemies.
Genetic Sexual Attraction and the Creation of Fatherhood: Making Daddy (Infamous) in The Kiss
With the exception of a few fellow memoirists such as Tobias Wolff and Mary Karr, critics and reviewers greeted the appearance of Kathryn Harrison’s now-infamous memoir, The Kiss, with something like the fervor reserved for lynchings.
Seeking Fame Through Infamy: Satan, Oblivion, and the Memory of God
Heather G. S. Johnson
One of the qualities Satan shares with us (and with Milton) is the ability to forget, and to forget is implicitly to acknowledge the forgetting of others: To experience a loss of memory is to confront oblivion (a morally and politically charged concept).
Appearing Acts: Celebrity, Biography, and Henry James’s Ghosts of the 1890s
James argues that a “cultivated” life, exemplified by that of the artist, is marked by an “accumulation of the very treasure itself of consciousness”, which does not by any means ensure an afterlife, but points toward a “more” and an “other” that makes that afterlife seem more probable.
Notorious Celebrity: Margaret Cavendish and the Spectacle of Fame
Cavendish acknowledged that she was deeply concerned with fame in her numerous prefaces, letters, prologues, and epilogues, and in her autobiography. As the epigraph to this essay reflects, she knew that her desire for fame violated seventeenth-century gender norms for female behavior, yet she felt morally compelled to pursue it.
"Die with fame”: Forgiving Infamy in Marlowe’s Edward II
Meg F. Pearson
Early modern Fame wears a cloak covered in eyes, ears, and tongues.She—for Fame is always feminine, from the Latin fama—works through communication. Fame needs a public to function, an audience who will see and listen to her reports of great achievements. Likewise, Infamy, the opposite face of Fame, can only punish the unworthy if the public joins together in shameful reproach. Consequently, all that separates honor from shame, or fame from infamy, is an audience.
We all know the celebrated downside of fame—the loss of privacy, the constant public scrutiny, the paparazzi—but we also imagine that fame is the antidote to the ills it occasions, that all of the attention and adulation must produce enough income and/or emotional perquisites to fend off fame’s annoying liabilities.
Past and Present Politics: Visions of the romances fronterizos in García Lorca’s Romancero gitano
Despite these efforts, to this day literary critics continue to disagree about the poet’s “political” leanings. This is due to the deep ideological implications that Lorca’s work and death had for a Spanish country that was, from 1936-1939 and until Franco’s death in 1975, entrenched in the throes of a civil war and dictatorship. This paper attempts to articulate that Lorca did indeed have a strong political and social belief system, even if it was not expressed openly in his work.
Multiple Murders: The Virginia Tech Massacre, Multiculturalism, and the Death of Tragic Drama
If Virginia Tech—a public university with an emphasis on science and technology nestled in the Appalachian Mountains—is more or less a normal American university, then cultural diversity has become the norm, as is witnessed by the number and diversity of the multicultural victims of this, a most American of crimes. In effect, the coverage turned the events into a means of incorporating America’s burgeoning multiculturalism into its unique manifestation of the Western tradition.
Stranger than Fiction: Whiteness, the New Multiculturalism, and the Case for Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism
Despite tremendous efforts to build a more inclusive age of multiculturalism, our clamor for change is haunted by the age of racial conservatism’s investment in biological models of racial difference. The age-old idea that race is something that can be seen has given way to a rising number of institutions fraught with token impressions of diversity and claims of reverse discrimination. It is clear that our attempts to harmonize national multiplicity require more critical thinking about the ways in which unconscious meanings and hidden affect condition and cloak the negotiation of racial identity and race relations.
The Cambridge Introduction to Zora Neale Hurston By Lovalerie King. (Clark Barwick)
In her preface, King argues that Hurston is one of the few African American woman writers that today’s undergraduates are likely to encounter. With this audience in mind, King’s goal with this survey is not to break new ground in Hurston scholarship. Rather, the objective here is to present Hurston’s biography, bibliography, and critical reception in an accessible way that is also fair to the life and incredibly diverse output of a writer whose work ranged from fiction to drama to anthropology and whose publication record spanned more than thirty years.
A Companion to Narrative Theory Edited by James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz. (Todd Heidt)
Its range of topics and methodologies, the quality of its contributions, and its tight organization will make this volume an authoritative snapshot of narrative theory at the outset of the twenty-first century. Originally published in 2005 in hardcover, this paperback edition can be an assigned text for classes and a new addition to any personal library.
Del infierno al cuerpo: La otredad en la narrativa y en el cine español contemporáneo By Katarzyna Olga Beilin. (Janis Breckenridge)
Del infierno al cuerpo represents the culmination of a highly ambitious project: to examine the representation of the other in Spanish literature and film from the last two centuries. Katarzyna Beilin bases her investigation on the assumption that otherness operates as a source of artistic inspiration.
James Merrill, Postmodern Magus: Myth and Poetics By Evans Lansing Smith. (Joe Moffett)
Smith’s book extends our discussion of Merrill in some interesting and insightful directions. Smith begins with a useful survey of scholarship on the poet, pointing out along the way shortcomings in previous views of Merrill, particularly the way in which myth has been understood in his work. Smith takes the gamble of using what he admits to be a somewhat old-fashioned theoretical perspective: Myth criticism.
Reforming the World: Social Activism and the Problem of Fiction in Nineteenth-Century America By Maria Carla Sanchez. (LuElla Putnam)
Insightful and informative, Maria Carla Sanchez’s Reforming the World presents a critical study of how nineteenth-century social reform movements altered America’s perception of the moral usefulness of literature.
Technologized Desire: Selfhood and the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction By D. Harlan Wilson. (Pramod K. Nayar)
Postmodern SF, Wilson suggests, has recovered from the panic of cyberpunk and begun to treat the human as body as a commodity-self that can free itself from the technological.
BWilla Cather: New Facts, New Glimpses, Revisions Edited by John J. Murphy and Merrill Maguire Skaggs. (Kelsey Squire)
The most beneficial essays in this collection “transform perceptions” on Cather and her work via primary documents; the specificity and archival richness of these essays aims at an audience of Cather scholars rather than a general academic readership.
Women Novelists and the Ethics of Desire, 1684-1814: In the Voice of Our Biblical Mothers By Elizabeth Kraft. (Sarah Nestor)
While many critics focus on hierarchical structures and the construction of gender and desire there are scholars acknowledging women’s roles in recognizing and constructing their own desires and sexuality. Elizabeth Kraft’s study is based on the premise that women can and do direct their own desires, as illustrated by biblical narratives and women writers of the eighteenth century.