Readers and critics alike, for the past sixty years, generally agree that Baldwin is a
major African-American writer. What they do not agree on is why. Because of his artistic
and intellectual complexity, Baldwin’s work resists easy categorization and Baldwin
scholarship, consequently, spans the critical horizon. This essay provides an overview of
the three major periods of Baldwin scholarship. 1963–73 is a period that begins with the
publication of The Fire Next Time and sees Baldwin grace the cover of Time magazine. This
period ends with Time declaring Baldwin too passé to publish an interview with him and
with critics questioning his relevance. The second period, 1974–87, finds critics
attempting to rehabilitate Baldwin’s reputation and work, especially as scholars begin to
codify the African-American literary canon in anthologies and American universities.
Finally, scholarship in the period after Baldwin’s death takes the opportunity to
challenge common assumptions and silences surrounding Baldwin’s work. Armed with the
methodologies of cultural studies and the critical insights of queer theory, critics set
the stage for the current Baldwin renaissance.
A Roundtable Conversation at the
2014 American Studies Convention
Brian Norman, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman, John E. Drabinski, Julius Fleming, Nigel Hatton, Dagmawi Woubshet and Magdalena Zaborowska
Six key Baldwin scholars converged at the 2014 American Studies Association to consider
the question of privacy, informed by their own book-length projects in process. Key topics
included Baldwin’s sexuality and the (open) secret, historical lack of access to privacy
in African-American experience, obligations for public representation in African-American
literary history, Baldwin’s attempts to construct home spaces, public access to Baldwin’s
private documents, and ethical matters for scholars in creating and preserving Baldwin’s
legacy, including his final home in St. Paul-de-Vence.
Scholars of eighteenth-century literature have long seen the development of the
Gothic as a break from neoclassical aesthetics, but this article posits a more
complex engagement with classical imitation at the origins of the genre. In
Horace Walpole’s formative Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto,
his Gothic drama The Mysterious Mother, and in the curiosities
in his villa, classical elements are detached from their contexts and placed in
startling and strange juxtapositions. His tendency towards the fragmentation of
ancient culture, frequently expressed through the imagery of dismemberment,
suggests an aesthetic not of imitation, but of collection. Moreover, rather than
abandoning or ignoring the classical, Walpole reconfigures literary history to
demonstrate elements of monstrosity and hybridity already present in Greek and
This collection explores how concepts of intellectual or learning disability evolved from a range of influences, gradually developing from earlier and decidedly distinct concepts, including ‘idiocy’ and ‘folly’, which were themselves generated by very specific social and intellectual environments. With essays extending across legal, educational, literary, religious, philosophical, and psychiatric histories, this collection maintains a rigorous distinction between historical and contemporary concepts in demonstrating how intellectual disability and related notions were products of the prevailing social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which they took form, and themselves performed important functions within these environments. Focusing on British and European material from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, this collection asks ‘How and why did these concepts form?’ ‘How did they connect with one another?’ and ‘What historical circumstances contributed to building these connections?’ While the emphasis is on conceptual history or a history of ideas, these essays also address the consequences of these defining forces for the people who found themselves enclosed by the shifting definitional field.
Since 1980s, there has been a steady stream of excellent work on the politics of literature and the literature of politics in seventeenth century England. Work on Andrew Marvell has seen a resurgence in the new millennium, driven by landmark scholarly editions of both his poetry and his prose. This book invites readers to entertain the prospect of placing Marvell at the centre of the literary landscape, exploring how such placement would shift people's perceptions of seventeenth-century literary culture. It presents a collection of essays that are divided into three sections. The first section asks readers to consider novel ways in which early modern and contemporary readers have conceived of texts and their position in the public world of print consumption and critical practice. It focuses on the relationship between literary texts and their historical moments, aesthetics, contextualisation of the religious, political, or social and Marvell's lasting awareness of and fascination with the public. The second section outlines seventeenth-century accounts and perceptions of child abuse, and the problems of identifying and recounting the experience of abuse and the broader significance of the appeal to Marvell of European poetry. The last section takes up issues of literary relations between prominent authors of the century. It illustrates how Marvell's depiction also stands in relation to Dutch representations of de Ruyter's victory, which emphasised the martial heroism as well as the negative consequences of the English monarchy's economic policies.
It is a central thesis that nineteenth-century Ireland went through a series of traumatic processes of modernization, which have been denied and repressed in their aftermath. The mediated presence of Sheridan Le Fanu and Honore de Balzac in the work of W.B. Yeats brings to a head political questions of the utmost gravity, the most notable being Yeats's engagement with fascism. Le Fanu has been persistently aligned with a so-called Irish gothic tradition. The objective in this book is to observe the historical forces inscribed in Le Fanu's distinctive non-affiliation to this doubtful tradition. The book presents a French response to Charles Maturin's gothic work, Melmoth the Wanderer, which is followed by discussion of a triangular pattern linking Balzac, Le Fanu and Yeats. This is followed by an attempt to pay concentrate attention within the texts of Le Fanu's novels and tales, with only a due regard for the historical setting of Le Fanu's The House by the Churchyard. An admirer of Le Fanu's fiction, Elizabeth Bowen adopted some of the stock-in-trade of the ghost story to investigate altered experiences of reality under the blitz. A detailed examination of her The Heat of the Day serves to reopen questions of fixity of character, national identity and historical reflexivity. In this work, the empty seat maintained for the long dead Guy might be decoded as a suitably feeble attempt to repatriate Le Fanu's Guy Deverell from an English to an Irish 1950s setting.
This book argues that disenchantment is not only a response to wartime experience, but a condition of modernity with a language that finds extreme expression in First World War literature. The objects of disenchantment are often the very same as the enchantments of scientific progress: bureaucracy, homogenisation and capitalism. Older beliefs such as religion, courage and honour are kept in view, and endure longer than often is realised. Social critics, theorists and commentators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide a rich and previously unexplored context for wartime and post-war literature. The rise of the disenchanted narrative to its predominance in the War Books Boom of 1928 – 1930 is charted from the turn of the century in texts, archival material, sales and review data. Rarely-studied popular and middlebrow novels are analysed alongside well-known highbrow texts: D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells and Rebecca West rub shoulders with forgotten figures such as Gilbert Frankau and Ernest Raymond. These sometimes jarring juxtapositions show the strained relationship between enchantment and disenchantment in the war and the post-war decade.
What happens when Chaucer turns up where we don’t expect him to be? Transporting Chaucer draws on the work of the British sculptor Antony Gormley alongside more traditional literary scholarship to show that Chaucer’s play with textual history and chronological time prefigures how his poetry becomes incorporate with later (and earlier) texts. The shuttling of bodies, names, and sounds in and amongst works that Chaucer did write anticipates Chaucerian presences in later (and earlier) works that he did not. Chaucer’s characters, including ‘himself’ refuse to stay put in one place and time. This book bypasses the chronological borders of literary succession to read The Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s Dream Vision poetry in present company with Chaucerian ‘apocrypha’, and works by Shakespeare, Davenant and Dryden. Conventional models of source and analogue study are re-energised to reveal unexpected (and sometimes unsettling) literary cohabitations and re-placements. Transporting Chaucer presents innovative readings of relationships between medieval texts and early modern drama, and between literary texts and material culture. Associations between medieval architecture, pilgrim practice, manuscript illustration, and the soundscapes of dramatic performance reposition how we read Chaucer’s oeuvre and what gets made of it. Written for scholars and students (undergraduate and graduate) who work in medieval English literary studies and early modern drama, Transporting Chaucer offers a new approach to how we encounter texts through time.
Reading labour and writing women’s literary history
Coda: reading labour and writing
[O]ur efforts in writing eighteenth-century women’s literaryhistory are
now hampered less by a lack of awareness of the problem [of the
professionalization of literature] than by our resistance to rethinking
women writers’ and readers’ positions toward, and implication in this
defining moment in women’s literaryhistory, wherein they were
purportedly being relegated to the footnotes and margins of
gesturing towards an acknowledgement of Maturin’s literary
importance, more often than not confirms his peripheral position in the
annals of Irish literaryhistory by reproducing him as a marginal
figure. In this respect, Irish literaryhistory has largely erased
Maturin’s existence from the central narrative of early
nineteenth-century Irish literature, thereby effectively
‘un-Maturin[ing]’ Irish Romantic