Literary Criticism

The "unkindest post-colonial cut of all," the Irish poet Seamus Heaney once noted, consists in appropriating, as opposed to expropriating, the language of one's former colonial masters. The author of The Other Writing and the authors studied here do just that, which makes this book doubly cutting. Fully conversant with the critical issues of the current cultural debates, Djelal Kadir goes to great pains to articulate and exercise the scruples with which critical reading and cultured scrutiny might proceed without unduly compromising otherness or capitulating the congeniality of reading and writing as civilizing activities. From Borges's wry speculations on the nature of writing and literary interpretation to Diamela Eltit's wrenching confrontation with the language of gender in a literary tradition that has been as relentlessly patriarchal as its politics, Kadir traces the ways through which writing holds a mirror to itself. Major works of Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jose Donoso, and Diamela Eltit are scrutinized with an eye to unveiling the writing ghosts that haunt in the writing of these new masters of literary language. Scrupulous in facing the risks involved in engaging one's colonial language and in representing other people's cultures, The Other Writing explores the ways in which these contemporary authors countenance their predicaments as writers who are obliged to pass through the language of their own colonial legacy and literary traditions. The result of these engagements is the impossibility of an unambiguous "self-identity," the impossibility of a writing culture's ever becoming identical to itself. This disjunction, sometimes aesthetically engendered, sometimes historically, socially, and politically imposed, is the crossroads where Kadir's endeavors meet up with the compelling enterprise of the subjects' writing in The Other Writing.
George Orwell's novels and essays are known to millions, but his character is an enigma: an intellectual, he continually damned intellectuals; a leading political writer, he was disgusted with politics; a combatant in the Spanish Civil War, he despised violence; and an ardent believer in socialism, he had contempt for most socialists. In this skillful study, an insightful picture of this paradoxical figure emerges
Intended as an introduction to phenomenological criticism, this book should become a valuable aid to scholars of literature. Part One describes the practical criticism of the Geneva School and of the hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger.  It also infers literary theory from this practice and then compares such theory with the tenets of Parisian Structuralism.  Among the Geneva critics treated are Georges Poulet, Jean-Pierre Richard, Jean Rousset, and Jean Starobinski.  The influence of Edmund Husserl on these critics receives special attention.  Elaborate background information is provided so that Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Ludwig Binswanger may be discussed. Part Two critiques phenomenological literary theory and provides the only English-language commentary on Roman Ingarden's Das literarische Kuntswerk and Mikel Dufrenne's Phenomenologie de l'expereience esthetique.  It is deomonstrated that Dufrenne's work suffers a fatal flaw: vacillation between a Cartesian and a Heideggerian epistemology. Ultimately, Part Two is a comparative study of four phenomenologists - Husserl, Ingarden, Dufrenne, Heidegger - and one non-phenomenologist, E. D. Hirsch.  Husserl, Heidegger, and Hirsch are addressed specific questions; Ingarden and Dufrenne are asked the same questions en passant, as part of the more global treatments of their respective books. The question asked are crucial ones for any theorist of literature:  What is meaning?  When a text can present several senses, which is the valid sense?  What does one do in the face of multiple meanings?  What if a word projects contradictory senses?  The last chapter offers an original Heideggerian solution to these dilemmas.
The Pleasure of Influence is a collection of conversations with eleven of the most important male fiction writers in America today. In this collection Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler, National Book Award winner Charles Johnson, National Book Award nominees Thom Jones, Barry Hannah, and Stephen Dixon, as well as Russell Banks, Rick Moody, Chris Offutt, Stewart O'Nan, Steve Erickson, and Gordon Lish candidly discuss the origin, process, and achievement of their own fiction in a manner that should appeal to readers, writers, and scholars of modern American fiction.
One of contemporary Italy's best-known writers, Dacia Maraini has often been a figure of controversy as author and as cultural critic. Though she is recipient of numerous literary awards, Maraini's work has not received the sustained critical attention commensurable with its stature. Working and creating "dalla parte delle donne" (on the side of women), she had been effectively excluded from the Italian critical canon. The Pleasure of Writing is opened with Maraini's own analysis of women's writing. There follow 14 essays by an international group of Italianists, utilizing a wide spectrum of interpretive perspectives, form semiotics to psychoanalysis, to treat the full range of Maraini's production as novelist, playwright, poet, and filmmaker.
Plotting the Past stands out as a serious work marked by sharp analytical skills and an unusual breadth of subject matter encompassing questions of genre and ideology that are central to present-day critical discourses
Chabot Davis analyzes contemporary texts that bond together two seemingly antithetical sensibilities: the sentimental and the postmodern. Ranging across multiple media and offering a methodological union of textual analysis and reception study, Chabot Davis presents case studies of audience responses. Chabot Davis argues that sentimental postmodernism deepened leftist political engagement by moving audiences to identify emotionally with people across the divisions of gender, sexual identity, race, and ethnicity. This study questions the critical equation of postmodernism with apocalyptic nihilism and political apathy. The book also challenges the assumption that sentimentality and sympathy are inherently conservative and imperialistic.
The central concern of these eight studies and essays is the understanding and critique of culture at the shifty boundaries between the Modem and the Postmodern epochs. The author contends that what needs to be addressed is the very abyss, the "spacetime" between the Modem and the Postmodern worldviews, as well as the tension between aesthetics and ethics, critical discourse and the creative arts, in an effort to rethink multireferential processes of signification. The keystone of the book is Carravetta's notion of Diaphoristics, a theory of interpretation as dialogue. Diaphora, or difference, refers to the ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy and signifies the movement between asymmetrical or heterogeneous forms of discourse that have, both historically and speculatively, home the transfer of meaning from one semantic/hermeneutic field to another. The author focuses on the necessary risk and duplicity of criticism and develops nonagonistic models based on figuration and rhetorical dynamics.
Zafra considers legal measures and moral treatises that define the boundaries of sin. Her analysis discusses the lesser evil that the presence of prostitutes represents for society, as well as, the concern for the public good that led to its legal eradication in 1623. Zafra's research demonstrates that the discourse on early modern prostitution present in literary and extra-literary sources informs us of more than the sexual practices allowed to prostitutes, and therefore, is part of a larger discourse on the regulation of women's behavior. She points out that moralists, preachers, legislators, and writers participated in this on-going discourse on prostitution, women, and sex.
The Psyche of Feminism argues that a feminist ethics, in order to be both feminist and ethical, needs to embrace psychoanalysis. After reviewing the relation between feminism and psychoanalysis and arguing for the centrality of psychoanalysis to feminist thought, the study offers an analysis of two attempts by George Sand to reimagine the sexual relationship (Letters to Marcie, Lelia), where the emphasis is on political injustice and the impossibility of women's desires. Moving from rights and desires to the question of pleasures, Peebles then takes up a relatively little-read work by Colette, The Pure and the Impure, in which the narrator suggests that pleasure and its corporeal language hold the key to any understanding of masculinity and femininity. We are then led to the risky question of ""neutrality"" put forward by Nathalie Sarraute ( You Don't Love Yourself ), whose work forces a psychoana­lytic feminism to face the question: what if sexual difference itself is a ruse? Does the notion of a human neutrality condemn us either to a bygone humanism or to psycho­sis? The final chapter of the work synthesizes these analyses, and argues for a fundamental feminist rethinking of the ideal of equality, an ideal that figures significantly—and uneasily—in each of the works this book treats.
Sensing in Sinclair Lewis's life an endless swordplay between romance and realism, Martin Light proposes here a new perspective, that of quixotism, through which to view his novels. The romantic who schools himself on sentimental novels, who sees himself riding forth to conquer, and who finds a world that is more the projection of his illusions than of a sense of reality is called a quixote, according to the author. He sees this quality in Lewis's approach to life, following the fifteen-year apprenticeship during which Lewis wrote sentimental poems and short stories, and his creation of significant quixotic protagonists.
Radical Theatricality argues that our narrow search for extant medieval play scripts depends entirely on a definition of theater far more literary than performative. This literary definition pushes aside some of our best evidence of Spain's medieval performance traditions precisely because this evidence is considered either intangible or "un-dramatic" (that is, monologic). By focusing on the dialogic relationship that inherently exists between performer and spectator in performance -rather than on the kind of literary dialogue between characters traditionally associated with drama- Radical Theatricality diachronically examines the performative poetics of the jongleuresque tradition (broadly defined to encompass such disparate performers as ancient Greek rhapsodes and contemporary Nobel Laureate Dario Fo) and synchronically traces its performative impact on the Spanish theater of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Poets, deeply imbued in the language and conditions of their society, stand forth to produce an utterance that reveals their constant "exposure" and their resourceful adaptiveness. Albert Cook's wide-ranging study characterizes poetry by testing its reach beyond given points or boundaries of expression. Through an insightful analysis of key poets in various Western traditions, Cook demonstrates that the best poetry rises above these conditions by playing them back against themselves with a freedom whose ineffability is the sign of its ultimate lucidity. Beginning with modern poetry, Cook moves backward in time, aiming at the effect of echoes as much as of cumulations. In each movement forward, the intensities are gathered-by Dante, the troubadours, Catullus, or Alcman. This reach forward is also a reach backward: Alcman's fusions in the seventh century B.C.E. remain permanent within the Western tradition and are accessible in the stream of discourse to modern poets who may never have heard of him. In addition to addressing poems in the short compass of epigram, and ballad, The Reach of Poetry discusses the distinctive achievement of certain lyric poets-among them Wordsworth, Rimbaud, Whitman, Donne, the Shakespeare of the Sonnets, Dante, the troubadours, Catullus, Lucretius, Pindar, and such modern poets as Yeats, Stevens, Rilke, Montale, Follain, Lorca, Char, Celan, and Ashbery.
In French literary history Nicolas Boileau (1636-17'1) has enjoyed legendary status as the great codifier of French classicism, the discerning critic who could demolish or elevate several generations of French poets. This view of Boileau's role has lead to an emphasis on his poetics, not his poems, which in turn has generated general disdain for his poetic art. Robert Corum dispels these misconceptions about Boileau by focusing rigorous critical attention on Boileau's first nine Satires and the accompanying "Discours au toy," 11 composed between 1657 and 1668. His reading takes into account a number of factors, including sources, genesis, relation to one another, coherence, and continuity of argument. This examination reveals Boileau to be a gifted poet, not just a talented versifier or a strait-laced mouthpiece for French classical doctrine.
Written in the context of critical dialogues about the war on terror and the global crisis in human rights violations, authors of the collected volume Representing Humanity in an Age of Terror, edited by Sophia A. McClennen and Henry James Morello, ask a series of questions: What definitions of humanity account for the persistence of human rights violations? How do we define terror and how do we understand the ways that terror affects the representation of those that both suffer and profit from it? Why is it that the representation of terror often depends on a distorted (for example, racist, fascist, xenophobic, essentialist, eliminationist) representation of human beings? And, most importantly, can representation, especially forms of art, rescue humanity from the forces of terror or does it run the risk of making it possible?The authors of the volume's articles discuss aspects of terror with regard to human rights events across the globe, but especially in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Their discussion and reflection demonstrate that the need to question continuously and to engage in permanent critique does not contradict the need to seek answers, to advocate social change, and to intervene critically. With contributions by scholars, activists, and artists, the articles collected here offer strategies for intervening critically in debates about the connections between terror and human rights as they are taking place across contemporary society. The work presented in the volume is intended for scholars, as well as undergraduate and graduate students in fields of the humanities and social sciences including political science, sociology, history, literary study, cultural studies, and cultural anthropology.
Retired Dreams explores this tension. Dixon identifies the quest myth, highly displaced, as the underlying narrative model and the shaper of the narrator's thinking. He devotes separate chapters to the function of time, to the rebirth motif, the role of matriarchy and patriarchy, the voyage motif and woman as anima, and symbols and primitivism. Particular attention is given to the role of the major tropes (metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony) as devices permitting both the connection and the distancing between the tradition of heroic discourse and the domesticated, unheroic reality of the novel' characters. Through this rhetorical-mythic lens, the book examines many of the factors that have continued to fascinate both general readers and critics - the work's ambiguous plot and characterization its problematic ideology its self-conscious artistry and its cosmic vision
This study examines Hernán Cortés, first as the author of Cartas de relación (1519-1526), and then as the protagonist of Francisco López de Gómara's Historia de la conquista de México (1552). It analyzes how these accounts represent his speech acts, including some of his key speeches; how they allow him to define the conquest in different ways to different audiences; and how they represent him as controlling the speech acts of others, most notably those of Moctezuma.
A recurrent idea in Darrel Abel's criticism of the works of Hawthorne gives this volume its title. The idea of a fallen world and its potential for partial redemption through art and the art of criticism is a theme that weaves in and out of the sixteen essays. The volume as a whole displays an explicit and implicit concern with critical approaches and reflects an awareness of the Activeness of critical resolutions in a world in which boundaries are constantly under challenge, for example, those which divide "textuality" from "contextuality." "This collection of essays explores the problems the practical critic and teacher has had to face in the shifts in taste, assumptions, and methodology in the moves from moral and historical criticism to the "New Criticism," and to the newer linguistic and semiotic criticism
Merrell's specific focus in this interdisciplinary study is the modernism/postmodernism dichotomy and Peirce's precocious realization that the world does not lend itself to the simplistic binarism of modernist thought. In Merrell's examination of postmodern phenomena, the reader is taken through various facets of the cognitive sciences, philosophy of science, mathematics, and literary theory. Throughout this work, Merrell. is scrupulously aware that we are participants within, not detached spectators of, our signs. We understand them while we interact with them, during which process we, and our signs as well, invariably undergo change
Recent decades have witnessed diverse incarnations and bold sequences of Shakespeare on screen and stage. Hollywood films and a century of Asian readings of plays such as Hamlet and Macbeth are now conjoining in cyberspace, making a world of difference to how we experience Shakespeare. Shakespeare in Hollywood, Asia, and Cyberspace shows readers how ideas of Asia operate in Shakespeare performances and how Asian and Anglo-European forms of cultural production combine to transcend the mode of inquiry that focuses on fidelity. The result is a new creativity that finds expression in different cultural and virtual locations, including recent films and MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). The papers in the volume provide a background for these modern developments, showing the history of how Shakespeare became a signifier against which Asian and Western cultures defined - and continue to define - themselves. Authors in the first part of the collection examine culture and gender in Hollywood Shakespearean film and complement the second part in which the history of Shakespearean readings and stagings in China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Malaya, Korea, and Hong Kong are discussed. Papers in the third part of the volume analyze the transformation of the idea of Shakespeare in cyberspace, a rapidly expanding world of new rewritings of both Shakespeare and Asia. Together, the three sections of this comparative study demonstrate how Asian cultures and Shakespeare affect each other and how the combination of Asian and Anglo-European modes of representation are determining the future of how we see Shakespeare's plays.
Signs of Science: Literature, Science, and Spanish Modernity since 1868 traces how Spanish culture represented scientific activity from the mid-nineteenth century onward. The book combines the global perspective afforded by historical narrative with detailed rhetorical analyses of images of science in specific literary and scientific texts. As literary criticism it seeks to illuminate similarities and differences in how science and scientists are pictured; as cultural history it follows the course of a centuries-long dialogue about Spain and science.
As J. J. Gittes once remarked, summer colds are the worst. The most I can offer today is a link to an old Slate piece, which I've added to the "Literary" category of my archive. The subject is Wallace Stevens. Re-reading the piece, I asked myself: Is Orangeade that old? It is
In a world of increasing conformity, the modern eccentric can be seen as a contemporary hero and guardian of individualism. This study defines the modern eccentric intwentieth-century French literature and compares the notions of the eccentric in nineteenthand twentieth-century French literature by tracing the eccentric's relationship to time, space, and society. While previous studies have focused on the notion of eccentricity in purely formal terms, The Sunday of Fiction delineates the eccentric as a fully fictional character. This work also completes prior criticism by exploring twentieth-century fictional eccentrics in works by authors such as Raymond Queneau, Jean-Echenoz, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Georges Perec, and by filmmakers such as Jacques Tati and Pierre Etaix. Notions of eccentricity since the nineteenth century shift from rather foppish, outlandish representations of aristocratic eccentrics towards a more popular, discreet figure who is uniquely in tune with vanishing spaces of daily life: amusement parks, cafes, grand movie palaces. While the modern world around them is obsessed with speed, technology, and innovation, modern French eccentrics view daily life as a sort of holiday to be savored. In thisway, The Sunday of Fiction details the various means modern eccentrics employ to successfully transform the humdrum into the marvelous, or rather Mondays into Sundays.
A collection of essays studying the short stories of Henry James from 1843 to 1916. As a tribute to their professor, William T. Stafford, Joseph Dewey and Brooke Horrath gathered a contentious lot of essayists who take provocative stands and dare us to re-encounter Henry James.
Philippe Codde provides a comparative cultural analysis of the unprecedented success of the Jewish novel in the postwar United States by situating the process and event in the context of three closely-related American cultural movements: the popularity in the US of French philosophical and literary existentialism, the increasing visibility of the Holocaust in US-American life, and the advent of radical theology. Codde argues that the literary repertoire of the postwar Jewish novel consists of an amalgam of these cultural elements that were making their mark in the political, religious, and philosophical systems of the United States at the time, and that this explains, in part, the Jewish novel’s sweeping success in the American literary system.