Fiction and Poetry

Duke University Press to Bring James Baldwin’s Only Children’s Book Back Into Print

LittleManLittleManLittle Man, Little Man is the only children’s book by acclaimed writer James Baldwin. Published in 1976 by Dial Press, the book quickly went out of print. Now, at a time when Baldwin is more popular than ever, and readers, librarians, and booksellers are clamoring for more diverse children’s books, Duke University Press is proud to bring the book back into print. It will be available in August 2018.

In the book, four-year-old TJ spends his days on his lively Harlem block playing with his best friends WT and Blinky and running errands for neighbors. As he comes of age as a “Little Man” with big dreams, TJ faces a world of grown-up adventures and realities. Little Man, Little Man celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of black childhood. In it we not only see life in 1970s Harlem from a black child’s perspective; we gain a fuller appreciation of the genius of one of America’s greatest writers.

James Baldwin called Little Man, Little Man a “celebration of the self-esteem of black children.” In their brief introduction to the book, Baldwin scholars Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody explain that the illustrations and text invite readers to “look again and experience the social ills represented in the book—violence, economic disparity, alcoholism and drug abuse, and the distortions of mass media—from the perspective of a black child, and one, it is important to note in closing, who is not innocent.” They suggest that audiences at the time were not ready for this perspective, which might explain the book’s initial reception.

Duke University Press’s new edition of Little Man, Little Man retains the charming original illustrations by French artist Yoran Cazac and includes a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan “TJ” Karefa-Smart (the inspiration for the title character) and an afterword by his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart.

Booksellers wanting more information or wishing to place an order for the book can contact Sales Manager Jennifer Schaper at

All other inquiries: Laura Sell, Publicity, or 919-687-3639.

Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood
By James Baldwin. Illustrated by Yoran Cazac.
Edited and with an introduction by Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody
With a foreword by Tejan Karefa and an afterword by Aisha Karefa-Smart
ISBN: 978-1-4780-0004-4
Hardcover, 128 pages, $22.95
Fully illustrated in color
August 2018

Bad Object

dddif_28_1_cover.jpgThe most recent issue of differences, “Bad Object,” returns to the work of the journal’s founding co-editor Naomi Schor, a leading scholar in feminist and critical theory. This issue takes as its starting point Schor’s book Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular (1995), in which she discussed her attraction to the “bad objects” the academy had overlooked or ignored: universalism, essentialism, and feminism. Underpinning these bad objects was her mourning of the literary, a sense that her work—and feminist theory more generally—had departed from the textual readings in which they were grounded.  

Schor’s question at the time was “Will a new feminist literary criticism arise that will take literariness seriously while maintaining its vital ideological edge?” The contributors to this issue take that literariness—the “bad object”— and her question seriously.

From the editor’s note:

“This is not a thematic issue; we did not ask contributors to address the question of language, or the new formalism, or debates about reading, nor to engage literary texts—though all those things were welcome. Our wager was that the essays, collected as a “Bad Object,” would be at once an invigorating and unsettling reading experience and would thus “speak for themselves.”

Read an essay from the issue, made freely available, and revisit Schor’s original book.

Norman Foerster 2016 Prize Winner Announced

ddal_88_3This year’s winner of the Norman Foerster Prize for the best essay published annually in American Literature has been selected. Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard, winner of the 2016 Foerster Prize for her essay “‘WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER’S NAME?’: Maternal Disavowal and the Reverberating Aesthetic of Black Women’s Pain in Black Nationalist Literature,” featured in volume 88, issue 3. The selection committee, comprised of Michael Elliot, Nihad Farooq, Zita Cristina Nunes, Matthew Taylor, and Priscilla Wald, wrote of Yates-Richard’s winning essay:

In a field of distinguished work, Yates-Richard’s article stood out for us by tracing a compelling, provocative genealogy of black maternal sound and its relationship to black nationalism. By attending to the screams and songs of African-American women, Yates-Richard in this piece shows how black nationalism has both required and sacrificed the vocalizations of women. The result is an article that charts a textual tradition from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and that raises important questions about the political work of such figurations. We are truly pleased to be able to recognize this path-breaking scholarship.

Additionally, there were two honorable mentions for this year’s contest. Congratulations to Mary Grace Albanese and James Dawes!

The selection committee chose Mary Grace Albanese’s essay “Uncle Tom across the Sea (and Back),” from volume 88, issue 4, for its innovative and thoroughly researched reconsideration of Uncle Tom’s Cabin within the context of Haitian politics and its comprehensive, multilingual readings of American literary history. In constructing a genealogy of the Haitain appropriations of Stowe’s novel, Albanese reminds us of the unpredictability of literary translation across national boundaries and the significance of hemispheric literary histories.

They chose James Dawes’s essay “The Novel of Human Rights,” from volume 88, issue 1, for its vital, challenging, and open-ended readings about the political urgency of the novel, and how the representation of atrocity exerts pressure on the form itself. This is a significant, provocative intervention in American literary studies—a stimulating call for us to rethink the relationship of literary genre to the most pressing political questions of our time.

Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard and both honorable mentions! Read all the articles above, made freely available.

Aimé Césaire: Critical Perspectives

Celebrate Aimé Césaire with recent and long-established scholarship from Duke University Press journals.

ddsaq_115_3In the most recent issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly (volume 115, issue 3), “Aimé Césaire: Critical Perspectives,” edited by Michaeline A. Crichlow and Gregson Davis, contributors revisit Césaire’s influential and controversial brand of “negritude,” as he articulated it in his literary work (poetry, drama and prose) in the course of his lengthy career on the island of Martinique in the French Caribbean. The contributions provide a wide range of fresh critical and philosophical perspectives by leading scholars in the field that refine and clarify the concept of negritude and its relation to the ongoing project of cultural decolonization. Topics include forging a Caribbean literary styleCésaire’s apocalyptic wordcircumstance and racial time in poetry, and Aimé Césaire studies. To read more of the issue, check out the table of contents.

ddsmx_19_3_48Revisit Small Axe‘s special section “Rethinking Aimé Césaire” from the November 2015 issue. Included in this section are essays devoted to Césaire’s poetic legacy, his theory of “negritude,” his relationship to Marxism, and his intellectual partnership with his wife, Suzanne Césaire. What emerges is a sense of Césaire’s legacy as a living legacy, firmly rooted in a specific historical context but revealing different facets of its structure to successive generations as they seek to understand it in relation to their own preoccupations and challenges. Read the introduction to the section, made freely available.

ddst_103Read more about Césaire in Social Text #103 (2010), which includes Brent Hayes Edwards’s “Introduction: Césaire in 1956” as well as two of Césaire’s own translated works, “Culture and Colonization” and “Letter to Maurice Thorez.”

Also check out these three articles from a 2009 issue of Nka:”Aimé Césaire: Architect of Négritude” by Locksley Edmondson, “Aimé Césaire: The Poet’s Passion” by Édouard Glissant (translated by Christopher Winks), and “Losing Césaire” by Natalie Melas.

New Books in March

It is already March and Spring is on its way, but even more exciting are the new books coming out this month. And we have plenty of them!


Diana Taylor’s Performance explores the multiple and overlapping meanings of performance, showing how it can convey everything from artistic, economic, and sexual performance, to providing ways of understanding how race, gender, identity, and power are performed.

In Indian Given María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo provides a sweeping historical and comparative analysis of racial ideologies in Mexico and the United States from 1550 to the present to show how indigenous peoples provided the condition of possibility for the emergence of each nation.

In The Official World Mark Seltzer analyzes the suspense fiction, films, and performance art of Patricia Highsmith, Tom McCarthy, Cormac McCarthy, J.G. Ballard, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and others to demonstrate that the modern world continuously establishes itself through the staging of its own conditions.feminist bookstore

Kristen Hogan traces The Feminist Bookstore Movement‘s rise and fall, showing how the women at the heart of the movement developed theories and practices of lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability that continue to resonate today.

Drawing on an eclectic range of texts and figures, from the Greek Cynics to Tori Amos, Nick Salvato’s Obstruction finds that embarrassment, laziness, slowness, cynicism, and digressiveness can paradoxically enable alternative modes of intellectual production.

A celebratory new edition to Jane Lazarre’s Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness, in which she, a white Jewish mother, describes her experience being married to an African American man and raising two sons as she learns, from family experience, teaching, and her studies, about the realities of racism in America.

In Cold War Anthropology, David H. Price offers a provocative account of the profound influence that the American security state has had on the field of anthropology since the Second World War by mapping  out the intricate connections between academia and the intelligence community.

diaspora and trustIn Memorializing Pearl Harbor Geoffrey M. White examines the challenge of representing history at the site of the attack that brought America into World War II, showing that the memorial to the Pearl Harbor bombing is a site in which many histories are continually performed, validated, and challenged.

In Diaspora and Trust Adrian H. Hearn proposes a new paradigm for economic development in Mexico and Cuba that is predicated on the development of trust among the state, society, and each nation’s resident Chinese diaspora communities, lest they get left behind in the twenty-first century economy.

In Sexual States Jyoti Puri uses the example of the recent efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in India to show how the regulation of sexuality is fundamentally tied to the creation and enduring existence of the Indian state.

the geographiesAntoinette Burton’s Africa in the Indian Imagination challenges nostalgic narratives of the Afro-Asian solidarity that emerged from the 1955 Bandung conference by showing how postcolonial Indian identity was based on the subordination of Africans and blackness.

In The Geographies of Social Movements Ulrich Oslender examines the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific coast to show how the mutually constituting relationships between residents and their environment informs the political process.

In Domesticating Organ Transplant Megan Crowley-Matoka examines the iconic power of kidney transplantation in Mexico, where the procedure is inexorably linked to the imaginings of individual and national identity, national pride, and the role of women in creating the Mexican state.

motherless tounge
In The Sublime Perversion of Capital Gavin Walker examines the Japanese debate about capitalism between the 1920s and 1950s, using it as a “prehistory” to consider current problems of uneven economic development and contemporary topics in Marxist theory and historiography.

In Motherless Tongues Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history as seen through the work of translation in the context of empire, revolution, and academic scholarship in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond.

In Tourist Distractions Youngmin Choe uses Korean hallyu cinema as a lens to examine the importance of tourist films and film tourism in creating transnational bonds throughout East Asia and how they help Korea negotiate its twentieth-century history with the neoliberal present.

Ricardo D. Salvatore’s Disciplinary Conquest rewrites the history of Latin American studies by tracing its roots back to the first half of the twentieth century, showing how its ties to U.S. business and foreign policy interests helped build an informal empire that supported U.S. economic, technological, and cultural hegemony throughout the hemisphere.


Calls for Papers: Two special issues of American Literature

American Literature is seeking papers for two special issues, “Queer about Comics” and “Post-Exceptionalist Puritanism.” Read further about each special issue and how you can contribute your work.

Queer about Comics
Deadline: July 31, 2016

There’s something queer about comics. Whether one looks to the alternative mutant kinships of superhero stories (the epitome of queer worldmaking), the ironic and socially negative narratives of independent comics (the epitome of queer anti-normativity), or the social stigma that makes the medium marginal, juvenile, and outcast from proper art (the epitome of queer identity), comics are rife with the social and aesthetic cues commonly attached to queer life. Moreover, the medium has had a long history as a top reading choice among those “queer” subjects variously called sexual deviants, juvenile delinquents, dropouts, the working class, and minorities of all stripes. Despite this, comics studies and queer theory have remained surprisingly alienated from one another. On the one hand, comics studies’ tendency to analyze the formal codes of sequential art separately from social questions of sexual identity and embodied difference has often led to a disregard for a nuanced queer and intersectional critique of the comics medium. On the other, the prevailing assumption that mainstream comics (namely the superhero genre) embody nationalistic, sexist, and homophobic ideologies has led many queer theorists to dismiss comics altogether, or else to celebrate a limited sample of politically palatable alternative comics as exemplars of queer visual culture. In this logic, “Queer zines yes! Superhero comics no!”

This special issue of American Literature solicits scholarship on comics that dwells in the medium’s queerness across genres, time periods, audiences and production histories to show how comic book form functions as a generative vehicle for registering, reimaging, and theorizing questions of sexual, racial, and embodied difference. We are interested in work that refuses the mandate to recuperate the literary or aesthetic value of comics, but instead views their marginality as a productive force that allows the medium access to distinctly queer ways of life, worldviews, and creative experiments.

How might a medium made up of the literal intersection of lines, images, and bodies capture the values of intersectional analysis? How do comics’ attention to the visual orientation of images in space model a conception of sexual orientation? How might the medium’s discontinuous organization of images map onto disability’s discontinuous relationship to heterosexual able-bodied existence? How might the medium’s courting of marginal and outsider audiences allow for the formation of queer counterpublics? These questions only begin to scratch the surface of the inquiries we seek, but they suggest a synthetic approach to comics that considers the medium’s queerness as opening out into a variety of formal and narrative experiments that have attempted to deal with the problem of being literally and figuratively marginal or “queered” by social and political orders.

Take for example two fundamental conceits of queer theory: In what is perhaps the most oft-quoted line from the inaugural moment of queer theory, Judith Butler claimed that “gender is an imitation for which there is no original.” Only second to this then revolutionary statement might be Eve Sedgwick’s first axiom for queer studies that “people are different from each other.” Although both theorists first formulated these claims to describe the instability of gendered and sexual identity, their statements describe the operation of comic strip form exactly. As a serialized medium, comics proliferate images that imitate both material or embodied experience and previous images or copies in a sequence; this proliferation underscores the limitless differences produced between an ever-expanding range of images, and the figures and worlds they depict. Simultaneously, the sheer number of images, texts, and characters the medium produces renders claims to originality superfluous as does the presentation of mutant, monstrous, or altogether fantastical characters that have no “original” form in everyday life. Perhaps more than any other literary or cultural mode then, comics self-consciously multiply and underscore differences at every site of their production. Each iteration of an image, an issue, a storyline, or world has the potential to disrupt, comment on, or altogether alter the flow and direction of what has come before: in this sense, comics function, to borrow from Sara Ahmed, as queer orientation devices, productively directing readers toward deviant bodies that refuse to be fixed in one image or frame, new desires for fantasy worlds that rebel against the constraints of everyday life, and new kinds of counterpublic affiliation among readers who identify with the queer, deviant, maladjusted form called comics.

We solicit scholarship that considers how queer theory might transform the aesthetic analysis of sequential art beyond the question of gay and lesbian or “minority” representation, as well as the ways comics’ distinct aesthetic formal codes and production histories might inform theoretical debates in queer theory and literary studies (including, but not limited to queer temporalities, queer phenomenology, intersectional critique, critical race studies, disability studies, and affect). Rather than only analyzing the visual representation of queerness in comics, we ask how the formal and aesthetic structures of the comic book medium—serialization, temporal dissonance, collaboratively produced narratives, portable texts among others—have lent themselves to articulating the broader field of queerness, race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability at distinct historical moments and in particular artistic productions, and how these formal codes have interpolated an array of unexpected publics. We hope to see scholars engaging in analytical practices and approaches as diverse as comics themselves, in essays that capture the playfulness, exuberance, and eccentricity of the medium, while providing new concepts for incorporating comics into the theoretical and cultural study of sexual and embodied difference.

Submissions of 11,000 words or less (including endnotes and references) should be submitted electronically at by July 31, 2016. When choosing a submission type, select “Submission-Special Issue-Comics.” For assistance with the submission process, please contact the office of American Literature via email or call (919) 684-3396. For inquiries about the content of the issue, please contact the coeditors: Ramzi Fawaz and Darieck Scott.

Post-Exceptionalist Puritanism
Deadline: October 31, 2016

The Puritans were a group of people loosely defined through a shared and often zealous adherence to the reformed theological tradition, largely following the work of John Calvin. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Puritan movement took root in specific regional locales throughout Germany, Scotland, the Low Countries, and England. Religious conflict simmered from the 1580s forward and intensified during the reign of Charles I (1625–49) as Puritans repeatedly called for further reform, often through appeals to the early church and antiquity. Religious tension and persecution caused groups of Puritans over the years to leave England in search of new lands and communities.

Given this schismatic beginning, it is perhaps ironic that in the twentieth-century, particularly in the work of Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch, the New England Puritans bore the weight of American origins, standing at the head of a tradition that would eventuate in the United States and its national literature. The postexceptionalist wave of Puritan scholarship, which has been ongoing for over a decade, has effectively decoupled Puritanism from this larger telos of American origins. As a result, new historiographic tools have emerged for studying and understanding Puritanism in a variety of contexts. In this special issue, we seek reflections on the contributions of Puritanism and Puritan studies to American literature and literary studies writ large, with a special emphasis on three keywords: temporality, geography, and aesthetics.

What happens, for example, if we imagine the Puritans as the end of an historical era, rather than the beginning of something else? If we invoke their relation to Catholicism as one of debts and borrowings rather than decisive schisms? If we follow the trajectory of Puritanism beyond the colonial era, what new places, forms, and guises appear? How does a consideration of temporality as an analytic category shift our understanding of Puritanism? Can we speak of Puritans in Southern literature, in Western literature, in Caribbean literature? If so, how? And why? How do we write about and teach such matters in the classroom? Where do Puritans fit in American literature today and what does that tell us about our scholarly paradigms?

Second, what new geographies recontextualize our understanding of the Puritans? Books such as Carla Gardina Pestana’s Protestant Empire (2009) and John Elliott’s Empires of the Atlantic World (2006) place Puritanism squarely within Atlantic and hemispheric frames. How might we reconsider a Puritan diaspora, set apart from the long-standing geographic fixity of Puritan New England? Puritanism was radically transformed through missionary encounters, interactions with foreign landscapes, new peoples, and new religious communities. How do we understand these changes as both rooted in a particular time and place and also as part of a larger Atlantic world? Can we talk of Indigenous or African Puritanisms? The Puritans advance Atlantic perspectives and resist them. One larger question that we wish this special issue to address is how the Puritans can inhabit both American and Atlantic Studies.

Finally, how might we imagine new approaches to Puritan studies as specifically literary, aesthetic, and hermeneutic endeavors? How can we account for and grapple with global and Atlanticist respatializations in explicitly literary terms? That is, what new texts and textualities, new objects of analysis, new literacies, and new ways of reading do we make available to students and scholars when we attend to the real and fictive contexts of Puritanism? What portable hermeneutics carry forward to later literary periods? Conversely, what hermeneutical perspectives gained from other fields might enable us to approach the Puritans in new ways? More pointedly, what practices and literacies make new and fundamental contributions to our understanding of the relation between narrative form and colonial history?

Submissions of 11,000 words or less (including endnotes and references) should be submitted electronically at by October 31, 2016. When choosing a submission type, select “Submission-Special Issue-Puritanism.” For assistance with the submission process, please contact the office of American Literature via email or call (919) 684-3396. For inquiries about the content of the issue, please contact the coeditors: Sarah Rivett, Cristobal Silva, and Abram Van Engen.

The Anthropocene in the Humanities

\ˈan(t)-thrə-pə-ˌsēn, noun
the Anthropocene, a proposed term for the present geological epoch (from the time of the Industrial Revolution onwards), during which humanity has begun to have a significant impact on the environment

The Anthropocene has recently become the subject of scholarship not only in the sciences, but in the humanities, as well. The following special issues and special sections of Public Culture, the minnesota review, and Cultural Politics address the ever-growing presence of the Anthropocene in the humanities.

ddpcult_26_2_webIn “Visualizing the Environment,” guest editors Allison Carruth and Robert P. Marzec write, “This special issue of Public Culture explores forms of environmental image making and visualization in the context of the Anthropocene.” Contributors to this issue “aim to spark dialogue about how visual technologies and media—from satellite imaging and military simulation to animation and infographics—are shaping contemporary perceptions of both ecological risks and environmental movements.”

For a sense of environmental visualization and the Anthropocene, sample “Visualizing the Anthropocene” by Nicholas Mirzoeff. In this article, Mirzoeff claims that visual representation of the Anthropocene obscures rather than reveals environmental and social injustices.

ddmnr_83_webThe most recent issue of the minnesota review addresses the Anthropocene through the lens of literary meditation. Section editors Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall note that the ultimate goal of this project was to “describe, narrate, and imagine this moment in geologic time.” “These consequences can be aesthetic, political, or ecological or some combination thereof,” they argue, “but they often involve a reorganization and rearticulation of otherwise familiar concepts whose linguistic and cultural environment has changed along with their physical counterpart.”

Read more from “Writing the Anthropocene: An Introduction” by Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall here.

ddcup_10_3_webThe most recent issue of Cultural Politics features an article by John Beck entitled “The Call of the Anthropocene,” which addresses timekeeping.

In this article, Beck addresses the Anthropocene in relation to time-capsule projects, specifically the EchoStar XVI communications satellite launched in late 2012 and currently in geostationary orbit around Earth. He argues that this time capsule and others are a manifestation “of progressive modernity’s commitment to timekeeping—to the successful capture and command, interpretation and anticipation, of past and future times.” It is, he writes, “the futureless call of the Anthropocene.”

Author Juan Flores Dies

juan floresWe were sad to learn of the death this week of scholar Juan Flores. Flores was Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU and co-founder and chair of the afrolatin@ forum. He was co-editor (with his wife Miriam Jiménez Román ) of The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. The widely-praised collection is a kaleidoscopic view of Black Latin@s in the United States, addressing history, music, gender, class, and media representations in more than sixty selections, including essays, memoirs, journalism, poetry, and interviews. Flores was also translator and editor of Cortijo’s Wake / El entierro de Cortijo (2004), a  bilingual edition of a renowned work of Puerto Rican literature by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá.

978-0-8223-4572-5_prDuke University Press Editorial Director Ken Wissoker says it’s hard to imagine Flores is gone. “He pioneered latino/a cultural studies, bringing together his knowledge and love of music, his deep engagements with Nuyorican and Puerto Rican lives, and his sense of how all this fit into a transnational picture of race, class, and culture,” says Wissoker. “He was engaged in so many projects — the biography of salsa legend Eddie Palmieri, the creation of Afro-Latin@ work as a field. His warmth, humor, and clear intelligence made him a model intellectual. He will be greatly missed.”

Our thoughts go out to Miriam Jiménez Román, also a Duke University Press author, and their entire family.

Volcanic Eruptions and Environmental Disasters in Literature and History

Cataclysmic events, such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which happened on this day, have fascinated people for thousands of years. Individuals have attempted to express this captivation in various ways from Pliny the Younger, who survived the Vesuvius eruption and subsequently wrote in detail about his experience, to the leaders of the French Revolution, who invoked the powerful symbolism of a natural, unstoppable force that volcanoes represent. Writing about natural disasters helps people move on, but not forget, these catastrophes. As these experiences are immortalized over time, they come to symbolize hope, survival, power and destruction. Poetics Today and French Historical Studies delve further into these instances of expression and demonstrate the link between why people write about natural disasters such as Mount Vesuvius’ eruption and how that calamity empowers and embodies events long after.

Ddpt_33_3-4In Francoise Lavocat’s “Narratives of Catastrophe in the Early Modern Period: Awareness of Historicity and the Emergence of Interpretative Viewpoints,” he discusses the reasons and ways people write about natural disasters:

Braccini’s narrative of the Naples volcanic eruption illustrates the narrator-witness’s need to explain his personal, intellectual, and even emotional perception of a given event. The 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius gave rise to many narratives that emphasized the contrast between “the curiosity” of the witness-narrator and the credulity of Neapolitans nurtured by legends. This contrast was inspired by Pliny the Younger’s attitude toward the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It is also by reference to Pliny that the taste for observation, even close to the eruption site, is asserted and staged, as can be seen in Braccini’s writing. Another priest, Angelo Eugenii da Perugia, compares his “experience” of the “natural effects” of the eruption to the “extravagant exaggerations” of his contemporaries, who interpret the phenomenon as the beginning of the Apocalypse. No one denies the existence of divine causes, but nor does this prevent the consideration of secondary causes. Braccini goes to a library in Naples and does a public reading of Pliny’s letter about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, declaring to his fellow citizens: “Here is a description,58 1550 years old, that corresponds exactly to what you have before your eyes today”. In the case of the eruption of Vesuvius, the repetition of this catastrophe and the comparison it invites between AD 79 and 1629 beg for demystification: at least, the repetition suggests that this eruption, similar to a previous one in antiquity, is not the last and so very unlikely to be the Apocalypse. Braccini’s rational point of view thus partly secularizes the interpretation. The historical dimension is fundamental to this new approach to catastrophe, expressed several times around 1630, regarding the eruption of Vesuvius and the plague in northern Italy. Most narratives include an appendix that lists previous catastrophes in chronological order,60 focusing on disasters that occurred in the recent past (especially the sixteenth century) while ignoring biblical and mythical accounts. Catastrophes are no longer prophetic of other catastrophes.

Read more from “Narratives of Catastrophe” here.

DdFHS_32_4_Final-1In “Mountain, Become a Volcano: The Image of the Volcano in the Rhetoric of the French Revolution,” Mary Ashburn Miller establishes a relationship between the language of natural history and the political rhetoric of the French Revolution by tracing the iconography of the volcano throughout the revolutionary period:

Le jugement dernier des rois, a play written by Sylvain Maréchal, opened to enthusiastic reviews at the Theater of the Republic in Vendémiaire of Year II. Maréchal subtitled his play ‘a prophecy in one act.’ The journalist Prudhomme also embraced the future foreseen by the playwright and hoped for by the supportive Committee of Public Safety. ‘The theatrical fiction will soon become historical fact,’ he wrote. The overthrow of Europe’s kings, their return to an ‘uncivilized’ state, and their ultimate destruction by natural forces was fiction presented to, and patronized by, a broad French public, playing in Beauvais, Compiègne, Grenoble, Le Mans, Lille, Metz, and Rouen. And the volcano, symbol of revolutionary fervor and destruction, became the ultimate demonstration of nature’s justice, annihilating the monarchs in a single, terrifying, and glorious moment described in the play’s liner notes: ‘The explosion takes place: the fire attacks the kings from all sides; they fall, consumed in the innards of the opened earth.’ The quite literal fall of the monarchs, although enabled by the French Revolution itself, was portrayed as the work of natural forces.

Read more from “Mountain, Become a Volcano” here.

Happy Birthday, Emily Brontë!

Happy birthday, Emily Brontë! Celebrating what would have been the author’s 196th birthday, we have selected several journal articles in honor of her work. Her most famous novel, Wuthering Heights, was poorly received when it was first published and Bronte died of tuberculosis just a year later. Today, Wuthering Heights is considered a classic and a masterpiece of literature.

Ddclj_66_1In “Postcolonial Life and Death: A Process-Based Comparison of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Ayu Utami's Saman,” Tiffany Tsao examines the two novels' respective treatments of internal colonization,a shared thematic concern that only becomes apparent with critical attention to the similarities between scenes found in each work. Read an excerpt below:

Viewing Wuthering Heights and Saman as alike in their portrayals of the violence of domestic colonization inevitably illuminates and augments key aspects of each work. That is, when we focus on the features that the two works have in common, the differences we discover about those features, ones that previously meant little in a sea of innumerable differences, gain new significance. More specifically, we find that the two works diverge in their portrayals of the extent to which the colonization process may transform the “savage” and, consequently, the extent to which a post-colonial life based on pre-colonial ways of life is possible. Whereas Wuthering Heights portrays colonization as enacting a total transformation of the savage into the civilized, Saman portrays “savage” pre-civilization as an enduring and powerful reality that remains unaltered by the attempts of civilizers to change it. As a result, Wuthering Heights regards resistance to civilization as a reversion to a non-existent, pre-civilized past; Saman, by contrast, envisions it as the product of a way of life that has always been ongoing, independently, beneath civilization’s veneer. To put it another way, unlike Wuthering Heights, Saman posits the existence of an alternate reality an unseen primordial realm that continues untouched and undisturbed by the incursion of a so-called civilization that is oppressive.

Read more from “Postcolonial Life and Death” here.

Ddnov_43_2In “'Whose Injury is Like Mine?’ Emily Brontë, George Eliot, and the Sincere Postures of Suffering Men,” Kevin A. Morrison argues that these authors, focusing on the transition from a traditional yeoman economy to a system of capitalist property ownership, present male suffering as authentic and histrionic, indicative of both power and powerlessness, and as an attempt to manage perceived threats to the self. Read an excerpt:

I employ the term sincere postures to describe Brontë’s and Eliot’s efforts to figure the gestural and rhetorical modes of male suffering as suffering while also recognizing them as calculated strategies. Representing male suffering as both authentic and histrionic, indicative of both powerlessness and power, enables these novelists to acknowledge the emotional violence that men inflict on women but then to assign a specific cause for it largely outside men’s individual control. This is less an effort to excuse such behavior than it is, I think, an attempt to authorize Brontë’s and Eliot’s own respective projects of establishing sympathy as the foundational virtue of the new bourgeois owning class whose hegemony they help to bring about. If men’s behavior toward women can be seen as emanating from genuine distress rather than inherent misogyny, women can play an active role in offering the kind of succor that might heal the wound and stop the violence that male suffering produces. However, this paradox, in which suffering is at once both a symptom of masculine precariousness and incoherency and an asset for a man’s preservation and reassertion of authority, allows Brontë and Eliot to resolve one problem only to introduce another. If suffering is constitutive of masculine dominance, then the concept of reparative compassion is incoherent because male authority relies on appeals to female sympathy to keep it intact. In my reading, these novels are poised between conservation and critique, producing an ambivalence that can be reconciled only through “imaginary or formal ‘solutions’” to the disquieting paradox of liberal masculinity.

Read more from “’Whose Injury is Like Mine?’” here.