Past Issues

Spring 2006, Volume 39, Number 1

The Will in Contemporary Evangelicalism: Or, How (Not) to Domesticate Jonathan Edwards

Douglas Harrison

In this essay I am going to tell a short story about Edwards’s own intellectual and spiritual development, a story about the emergence in Edwardseanism of a surreptitious heterodoxy (or, more accurately, a re-idiomized orthodoxy) that attempted to mediate between theological absolutes and human experience.

“The inexorable bell”: Fanny Fern’s Concerns with US Education

Amy Cummins

When popular journalism and best-selling fiction wrestled with questions of learning conditions in the United States, this literature brought the concerns of education professionals to a much wider audience, including the everyday taxpayers who would be responsible for funding the new schools and qualified teachers for their districts.

A Tenant in the House of Fiction: G. K. Chesterton’s Attempt to Evict Henry James from British Culture

Chene Heady

Against the modernists and their attempts to professionalize authorship and even, in the person of the literary critic, readership, Chesterton argues that literature gained its fundamental validity from popular opinion, from, simply, whether people liked it or not.

The Two Faces of Hans Beckert: Refragmenting and Reconstructing Cinematic Performance in Peter Lorre’s The Lost Man (1951)

Scott Balcerzak

Peter Lorre’s screen image consists of being a prototypical Other; thus, his distinctive features are the result of a skewed fragmentation of expressions. Since his persona germinates from the extremes of a gesture-based acting style, his performances can be employed to test the boundaries of cinematic acting as a fragmented process.

Cinema and the Struggle to (De)Colonize the Mind in French/Francophone West Africa (1950s-1960s)

James E. Genova

By the mid-1950s, cinema had become one of the terrains upon which the fight for control over representation and the minds of Africans was engaged, while political control of the colonies slipped from France’s hands into those of the Westernized elite.

Redemptive Restrooms: Moments of Utopic Possibility in Volker Schlöndorff’s Film Version of The Handmaid’s Tale

Amery Bodelson

Since Atwood’s ambiguous ending to the novel suggests that women can survive misogynistic dystopia by retaining pieces of the father tongue, I propose that Schlöndorff’s often-scopophilic film offers viewers moments of utopia in the edges of the movie reel and in the most unexpected of gendered spaces: the restroom.

History through the Lens of the Uncertainty Principle: Dea Loher’s Leviathan

Birgit Haas

Whilst Loher’s plays can be seen as defamiliarizing the Brechtian theatre for a second time, she does not provide models of political situations in order to educate her audience. Instead, she combines the epic theatre with a technique that I would call the “blurring” of historical events.

The Poetics of Performance in the Cinema of David Mamet: Against Embellishment

Yannis Tzioumakis

The collaborative mode of American film production, with its detailed division of labor, has historically excluded the screenwriter from the production process and, accordingly, has treated the script as an ephemeral text subject to constant revisions. In Mamet’s filmmaking practice, however, the screenplay has the same level of finality as the play has in the theatre, which makes Mamet perhaps a unique case in contemporary American cinema.

Spatial Productions of Testimony, Witnessing, and Re-Membering in the Documentary Diario di una siciliana ribelle

Robin Pickering-Iazzi

The shots of the corpses, evidence of clan warfare waged in the region from 1985 to 1991, are intercut with scenes of the town band, a symbol of local identity and civic life, playing traditional music. Amenta thereby attributes paradigmatic socio-historical value to Rita Atria’s “private” story of “living with death,” as officers of the law describe her childhood in a mafia family, while impressing upon viewers the risk the witness runs by breaking the law of silence.

Misinterpretation: The Work of Discipline (and Other Problems) in a General Education World Literature Survey

Mike Reynolds

Even as the discrete populations of a general education survey (and their discrete objectives) seem to derail effective interaction in or progress of the course, the burden of miscommunication becomes a kind of boon for the instructor, who can exploit the misunderstandings between groups in class as a mechanism for making visible the often tacit assumptions obfuscating communication and understanding in the texts we study.

Teaching Beloved: Interrupting Cultural Logics and Defining Rememories as Elegiac Strategies

Donna Decker Schuster

If students can think critically about narratives, I reason, then they can see the cultural logic that shaped these expectations and trapped as well as liberated characters.

“Authentically Ironic”: Neoconservatism and the Backlash

Kevin J. H. Dettmar

For most of the neocon pundits, 9/11 didn’t “signal” the death of irony. They had for years, indeed all through the Culture Wars of the 1990s, fervently hoped for its death, and the collapse of the Twin Towers merely served as convenient, dramatic evidence—metaphorically, a belatedly discovered cache of WMDs, if you will—that retroactively justified all their preemptive attacks.

The Loop

A column that reveals how the scholarship of M/MLA members has transformed syllabi for the courses that departments require of their majors

Remembering How to Do What You Haven’t Yet Done: Using Personal His-Stories and Her-Stories in English Education Courses

Colin Irvine

By offering both a theory and a set of practices, I hope to underline here why and how English Education instructors should make narratives an integral part of their core curriculum.

Book Reviews

Milton Studies 44. Edited by Albert C. Labriola.

Milton Studies 45. Edited by Albert C. Labriola.

(Emily S. Smith)

One scholar approaches the question of why Milton matters from an oblique angle; she turns to what might best be termed privatized reading experiences of Milton, like those that Thomas Jefferson left behind in his commonplace book.

The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Vol. 2. Edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat. (Eric Reid Lindstrom)

The main impact of this volume upon Shelley studies may well be a new pollination effect, after a deep sense of gratitude and a slight worry as to how long the remainder of the CPPBS series will take.

Hound, Bay Horse, and Turtle-Dove: Obscurity and Authority in Thoreau’s Walden. By Henrik Otterberg. (Timothy L. Glenn)

Thoreau’s rhetorical strategies are clearly linked to his Harvard education, and Otterberg gives a clear sense of how ancient rhetoricians such as Quintilian and Cicero were intertwined with the later thought of George Campbell and Richard Whately in Thoreau’s classroom.

Our Sisters’ Keepers: Nineteenth-Century Benevolence Literature by American Women. Edited by Jill Bergman and Debra Bernardi. (Melissa J. Homestead)

The most satisfying essays are those that situate their texts and authors in relation to their more narrowly construed historical moment, exploring how women as benevolent agents or objects of benevolence did cultural work in relation to immediate social conflicts.

Laboring to Play: Home Entertainment and the Spectacle of Middle-Class Cultural Life, 1850-1920. By Melanie Dawson. (Jeffrey Swenson)

This study provides an informative look inside the antebellum American parlor, arguing that games and entertainments were not simply ways to escape the toil of work but were a forum that allowed the emerging middle class to express anxieties about their growing material comforts and rising social status.

Schoolroom Poets: Childhood, Performance, and the Place of American Poetry, 1865-1917. By Angela Sorby. (Matthew Giordano)

Sorby brings to light a nation virtually obsessed with childhood—monitoring it, shaping it, recalling it, and memorializing it—and she traces the ways in which poetry served as a mechanism for propelling this obsession.

The New Woman and the Empire. By Iveta Jusová. (Melissa Purdue)

While a good deal of criticism has already been devoted to adventure or colonial fiction by male authors like H. G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, and Rudyard Kipling, comparatively little has been written on New Woman authors’ perspectives. Do they offer a different portrayal of the empire? Do they challenge imperial ideology?

Henry James and the Abuse of the Past. By Peter Rawlings. (Elizabeth Throesch)

In the final and perhaps most original section of this book, “Grammars of Time, Senses of the Past,” Rawlings begins to move beyond his discourse on James’s “pervasive aesthetics of obscurity” toward a discussion of James’s use of time in his fiction.

Violence and Modernism: Ibsen, Joyce, and Woolf. By William A. Johnsen. (Mitch Nakaue)

Johnsen links Northrop Frye’s thesis that literary heroes devolve in stature from “mythic” to “ironic” or anti-heroic with René Girard’s argument that as a society modernizes, it becomes increasingly concerned with victims and scapegoats. Johnsen points to a parallel trend in politico-social and literary history and argues that it reaches its crisis in the modern period, when injustice can no longer be corrected by blaming and punishing someone else.

Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernists. By Madhu Dubey. (Patrick Naick)

This volume examines novelists whose fiction of the last thirty years grapples with problems of racial representation through a distinctly African American literary postmodernism. The result is an intriguing cultural analysis of the relationship between print literacy and urban space.

Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form. By David Caplan. (Glenn J. Freeman)

In the hands of gifted queer poets, the sonnet, rather than being politically conservative, is a means through which social norms and expectations can be challenged and reformulated.

Fat Boys: A Slim Book. By Sander L. Gilman. (Elena Levy-Navarro)

Gilman is unnecessarily antagonistic to feminist scholars, whom he sees as a monolith opposed to studies such as his own. As such, his work inevitably discourages alliances not only between the fat “man” and the fat “woman” but also between the fat and the queer, the fat and the nonwhite.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Edited by Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, and Imre Szeman. (Mark M. Freed)

In an era more or less officially incredulous toward metanarratives, literary studies does not seem susceptible to the kind of unified field theory that has been sought as the holy grail in physics from Einstein to contemporary string theorists.