Literary Criticism & Theory

New Books in October

It’s official—fall has arrived! With the start of this new season, we’re releasing dynamic new reads in art and visual culture, anthropology, feminist studies, cultural studies, sociology, and more. Check out all of these exciting books available in October.

Continuing the work she began in The Promise of Happiness and Willful Subjects by taking up a single word and following its historical, intellectual, and political significance, Sara Ahmed explores how use operates as an organizing concept, technology of control, and tool for diversity work in What’s the Use?

In Where Histories Reside Priya Jaikumar examines seven decades of films shot on location in India to show how attending to filmed space reveals alternative timelines and histories of cinema as well as the myriad ways cinema constructs India as a place.

Eva Haifa Giraud contends in What Comes after Entanglement? that recent theory that foregrounds the ways that human existence is entangled with other nonhuman life and the natural world often undermine successful action and calls for new modes of activist organizing and theoretical critique.

The contributors to Reading Sedgwick (edited by Lauren Berlant) reflect on the long and influential career of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose pioneering work in queer theory has transformed understandings of affect, intimacy, politics, and identity.

Conceptualizing anthropology as a mode of practical and transformative inquiry in A Possible Anthropology, Anand Pandian stages an ethnographic encounter with the field in an effort to grasp its impact on the world and its potential for addressing and offering solutions to the profound crises of the present.

In Symbolic Violence Michael Burawoy brings Pierre Bourdieu into an extended debate with Marxism by outlining the parallels and divergences between Bourdieu’s thought and preeminent Marxist theorists including Gramsci, Fanon, Beauvoir, and Freire.

Achille Mbembe theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world—one plagued by inequality, militarization, enmity, and a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces—and calls for a radical revision of humanism a the means to create a more just society in Necropolitics.

In Fidel between the Lines Laura-Zoë Humphreys tracks late-socialist Cuba’s changing dynamics of social criticism and censorship through Cuban cinema and its cultural politics.

In A Fragile Inheritance, Saloni Mathur investigates the work of two seminal figures from the global South: the New Delhi-based critic and curator Geeta Kapur and contemporary multimedia artist Vivan Sundaram, illuminating  how their political and aesthetic commitments intersect and foreground uncertainty, difficulty, conflict, and contradiction.  

Ronak K. Kapadia examines multimedia visual art by artists from societies besieged by the US war on terror in Insurgent Aesthetics, showing how their art offers queer feminist critiques of US global warfare that forge new aesthetic and social alliances with which to sustain critical opposition to the global war machine.

In Eros Ideologies Laura E. Pérez analyzes Latina art to explore a new notion of decolonial thought and love based on the integration of body, mind, and spirit that offers a means to creating a more democratic and just present and future.

Edited by Frances Richard, I Stand in My Place with My Own Day Here features essays by more than fifty renowned international writers considering thirteen monumental works of art commissioned by The New School between 1930 and the present. We are distributing this beautiful art book for The New School.

Between Form and Content is a catalog that accompanied the first exhibition to focus on Jacob Lawrence’s experience at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1946, where his interaction with Josef Albers had a lasting impact on his future career. We are distributing this catalog for Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center.

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Farewell to Annette Kolodny

Kolodny F12 Author Photo color Photograph by Susanna Corcoran

Photo by Susanna Corcoran

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Annette Kolodny on September 11 after a long illness. Kolodny was College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona. Kolodny published several books with us.

From 1988 to 1993, Kolodny served as Dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona. Following her tenure, she wrote Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century (1998). The book explored the changing structure of the American family and its impact on both curriculum and university benefits policies, offered recommendations for overhauling the culture of decision making on campus, explored the present state of higher education and offered a sobering view of what lies ahead.

Kolodny also edited a highly-praised edition of The Life and Traditions of the Red Man  (2007) by Joseph Nicolar. The Maine Sunday Telegram said the book’s publication was, “a cause for multicultural celebration and a benchmark event in local, regional and even North American scholarship.”

978-0-8223-5286-0_prIn 2012, Kolodny published the capstone to her long and distinguished career, In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery. The book offers a radically new interpretation of two medieval Icelandic tales, known as the Vinland sagas. Indian Country Today called it “groundbreaking,” and novelist Margaret Atwood shared her enthusiasm for the book on Twitter, calling it “fascinating.”

Read more about Annette Kolodny’s many achievements in her obituary.

We offer our condolences to Professor Kolodny’s colleagues, friends, and family.

 

Celebrating the publication of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature

We are excited to announce that the first issue of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature published by Duke University Press is now available.

Prism, edited by Zong-qi Cai and Yunte Huang, presents cutting-edge research on modern literary production, dissemination, and reception in China and beyond. It also publishes works that study the shaping influence of traditional literature and culture on modern and contemporary China.

The journal actively promotes scholarly investigations from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, and it encourages integration of theoretical inquiry with empirical research. Prism strives to foster in-depth dialogues between Western and Chinese literary theories that illuminate both the unique features of each interlocutor and their shared insights into issues of universal interest.

Prism is a new incarnation of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (JMLC), founded in 1987 by the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University.

Subscribe to the journal, learn more about submissions, or sign up to receive email alerts when new issues are published.

The Plantation, the Postplantation, and the Afterlives of Slavery

“The Plantation, the Postplantation, and the Afterlives of Slavery,” a new special issue of American Literature edited by Gwen Bergner and Zita Nunes, interrogates the plantation as a form, logic, and technology that continues to produce inequalities.

Contributors follow the evolution of plantation slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through its subsequent iterations in the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, and into the neoliberal present, where the carceral state props up fantasies of postracialism.

The contributors rethink the necro- and biopolitics of plantation slavery, uncovering laborers’ strategies of self-determination, affiliation, and communication in spite of the plantation’s mechanisms of control.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction and Monique Allewaert’s article “Super Fly: François Makandal’s Colonial Semiotics,” freely available for a limited time.

Our Professor: A Toni Morrison Memory

Houston A. Baker Jr. is Distinguished University Professor of English and African American Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. He was the editor of American Literature from 1999 to 2006. Here, he remembers Toni Morrison from his time at Howard University.

The fortunes of being rejected by selected white colleges and universities during my senior year of high school manifested themselves when I received, and accepted, a handsome scholarship offer from Howard University in Washington, DC. It was 1961. I was leaving my home in Louisville, Kentucky, for the “Capstone of Negro Education.”

On a sweltering late summer afternoon, with a small cohort of other African American (then called “Negro”) high-school matriculants, I boarded a train from Louisville’s Union Station to Washington, DC. Louisville’s station still boasted the readable sign and signature of racial segregation: “Colored Waiting Room.” I wondered if I would find the same at the other end of my journey.

To enter Howard University’s campus in 1961 was to encounter a neatly maintained greensward sentineled by the classical cathedral design of Founders Library. Drew Hall (the new men’s dormitory) was a wonder in its impeccable hospitality. And as we young men sat on the short wall outside the Ira Aldrige Theater, we were confirmed in our first impressions that we were indeed occupants of a brave new world. We marveled at a slow parade of abounding beauty, pristine grace, and assured self-possession as young women of color made their way past us. These young women were simply mesmerizing. They seemed so far beyond our country selves. They left us breathless.

There was no ease in this beautiful Zion when we entered our first classes a few days later. The Howard professoriate was unstinting in its demand for excellence. All courses required commitment to black achievement grounded in a proud legacy of historically black colleges and universities. During the first week, we were challenged to serious intellection and adept manners of scholarly exchange.

Toni Morrison, 1970. Photo by Bert Andrews.

The foregoing variables were energized by the uproarious revolts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The direct address—the praxis—of that radical assault on centuries of black abjection and exclusion in America was everywhere near at hand. Black resistance and revolutionary projects were the temper of the times at 1960s Howard, despite administrative injunctions for the student body to maintain a traditional decorum of colored amiability. A crowning moment of my freshman year was enrollment in a required course whose title I forget but whose import was something on the order of “Great Books of the World.” I do not recall a syllabus, but there was a reading list that did not (I believe) include African American authors.

The first day of class, students filed respectfully into the room. I took a seat on the front row as an earnest demonstration of my consummate interest in everything the professor might have to say. The professor’s chair was one of those yellowish, hard wooden strongholds that signify scholarly austerity. The chair sat at the back of the desk.

The moment of arrival unfolded when one of the most arresting presences I have ever encountered in the academy floated into the classroom. She moved to the desk, slipped around and past its back, seated herself atop the front of the desk, and sat eloquently at ease before us. She flashed a welcoming and serious smile. “Good morning. My name is Toni Morrison. I am your professor for this course. This is a required course and we will accept no excuse for absence or failure to do the work.” I was rendered breathless—not so much by her undeniable poise and gesture as by her calm equanimity of presence and intellectual authority.

Our text was William Faulkner’s “The Bear,” to be taken up at the next class meeting.

The following class session, I had nothing to say, having been completely mystified by Faulkner and his bear. Professor Morrison began to unfold for us an extraordinary explication of the Faulkner story, when all at once a hand shot up just down the front row from me, and a loud mellifluous voice commanded: “Black people in the United States are being beaten and dying. The capitalist system is corrupt. Why are we reading this racist old white man who said he would defend Mississippi against any civil rights intervention with a shotgun in hand?” He continued: “We should be reading Chairman Mao and Che Guevara. We should be learning the sober dialectics of revolution.”

It was, indeed, the voice of Stokely Carmichael. His face was swollen, and he had a bandage over his right eye from participation in a civil rights action in neighboring Maryland just a few days before. He looked weary and incredulous that something as seemingly inane as a Faulkner story should ever occupy the mind of any black student.

Without so much as a small readjustment of her professorial posture, Professor Morrison answered: “Mr. Carmichael, scripture tells us there is a time and place for every occasion. For today, the time before us is reserved for Faulkner’s masterpiece “The Bear.” Please, let us continue, in season, with Faulkner’s astonishing creative achievement.”

Silence fell. Professor Morrison’s lucid and brilliant explication recommenced.

As class was adjourning, I found the courage to say hello to a young woman who had returned my friendly nod during the prior class session. I ventured an opinion: “That was pretty terrific of Professor Morrison to put Faulkner and his complicated book ahead of the civil rights movement, wasn’t it? I’m Houston.”

She said: “Hi, I’m Charlotte. And, yes, I think Professor Morrison was astonishing in her handling of Mr. Carmichael’s interruption.”

Toni Morrison became my ever-loved genius of the humanities and authorship.

Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Touré) still represents my best exemplar of what it means to be young, brilliant, and daringly committed to the global struggle for black liberation. Charlotte eventually became my wife. And in the late ’90s, Charlotte’s publisher sent Toni Morrison a draft copy of her book Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape. Toni Morrison called Charlotte of a winter’s evening and lauded her book: “This,” she said, “is a love story.” Toni Morrison befriended my academic career and writing at many a turn of life’s wheel. News of our professor’s passing is very, very hard to bear in these most awful of times in America.

Remembering Toni Morrison with American Literature

Groundbreaking, beloved author Toni Morrison’s literary legacy will continue to reverberate long beyond her lifetime. In the wake of her death, we are honored to offer a small tribute: a reading list of American Literature articles that study her work, all made freely available through the end of November.

Signifyin(g) on Reparation in Toni Morrison’s Jazz
Marjorie Pryse, 2008

Toni Morrison’s Paradise: Black Cultural Citizenship in the American Empire
Holly Flint, 2006

Houses of Contention: Tar Baby and Essence
Susan Edmunds, 2018

What The Bluest Eye Knows about Them: Culture, Race, Identity
Christopher Douglas, 2006

The Literary Afterlife of the Korean War
Joseph Darda, 2015

Ruins Amidst Ruins: Black Classicism and the Empire of Slavery
John Levi Barnard, 2014

“what Is Your Mother’s Name?”: Maternal Disavowal and the Reverberating Aesthetic of Black Women’s Pain in Black Nationalist Literature
Meina Yates-Richard, 2016

Critique and Cosmos: After Masao Miyoshi

Contributors to the newest issue of boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture explore the works of Masao Miyoshi, who introduced the concept of “aftering” — the act of prolonging and transforming impacts across cultural, political, and disciplinary borders.

Critique and Cosmos: After Masao Miyoshi,” edited by Rob Wilson and Paul A. Bové, is a reflection of Miyoshi’s concept and a tribute to the scholar himself, as illustrated in Harry Harootunian’s essay “As We Saw Him: Masao Miyoshi and the Vocation of Critical Struggle,” available free for three months.

The remaining essays offer fresh takes on several of his critical visions, including a humility of our knowledge system and the quest to exceed it, relearning the sense of the world in which we live, the practice of “anti-photography,” and the need for humanistic disciplines to address the global commons created by runaway consumption and environmental deterioration.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, freely available.

New Books in August

Our Fall 2019 season is off to a phenomenal start with a diverse range of titles in Theory and Philosophy, African American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, and more. Take a look at all of these great new books coming in August!

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins

Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory by Patricia Hill Collins offers a set of analytical tools for those wishing to develop intersectionality’s capability to theorize social inequality in ways that would facilitate social change.

In Animate Literacies, Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy operates at the interface of humans, nonhuman animals, and objects and has been used as a means to define the human in ways that marginalize others.

Fictions of Land and Flesh by Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin’s Fictions of Land and Flesh turns to black and indigenous speculative fiction to show how it offers a site to better understand black and indigenous political movements’ differing orientations in ways that can foster forms of mutual engagement and cooperation without subsuming them into a single political framework in the name of solidarity.

In The Black Shoals Tiffany Lethabo King uses the shoal—an offshore geologic formation that is neither land nor sea—as metaphor, mode of critique, and methodology to theorize the encounter between Black studies and Native studies and its potential to create new epistemologies, forms of practice, and lines of critical inquiry.

Savage Ecology by Jairus Victor Grove

Jairus Victor Grove’s Savage Ecology offers an ecological theorization of geopolitics in which he contends that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of geopolitical practice, showing how political violence is the principal force behind climate change, mass extinction, slavery, genocide, extractive capitalism, and other catastrophes. Watch the trailer for the book here.

In How to Make Art at the End of the World Natalie Loveless examines the institutionalization of artistic research-creation—a scholarly activity that considers art practices as research methods in their own right—and its significance to North American higher education.

Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge’s Wages Against Artwork shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor—the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase of demands of work—as a way to work toward social justice and economic equality.

In Sounds of Vacation, edited by Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen, the contributors examine the commodification of music and sound at popular vacation destinations throughout the Caribbean in order to tease out the relationships between political economy, hospitality, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism. 

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“Emotion and Visuality in Chinese Literature and Culture”

“Emotion or qing 情 has been identified at the core of Chinese thinking about literature, such that ‘lyrical tradition’ becomes an encompassing concept for many to distinguish Chinese literary tradition from its Western counterpart,” write the editors of the newest Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture issue in their introduction, freely available

“Emotion and Visuality in Chinese Literature and Culture” explores topics such as the presence of emotion in medieval Chinese burials; image-text relationships of gendered emotions, such as is depicted in the “hundred beauties” (baimei 百美) genre of the late Ming and Qing dynasties; and the affective experience of Chinese culture, as evidenced in the works of Chinese artists Chen Hongshou, Qiu Canzhi, and Yuan Kewen.

Browse the table of contents, read the introduction, and sign up for email alerts to not miss an issue.

Series Launch: Theory in Forms

This year we are pleased to launch a new series, Theory in Forms, edited by Nancy Rose Hunt and Achille Mbembe. A few of the books came out this spring and we have several more on the fall list.

Theory in Forms presents new writing showcasing the import of new political contours in our planetary times of crisis, racializations, and securitization. The books address temporal and spatial scales—whether global, transnational, or intimate—and emphasize movement, borders, enclaves, and impasses in (post)colonies, global South(s), and beyond. Inciting experimentation with structure, methods, and the practice of writing, the series argues that form enables theory. Theory in Forms seeks new work that addresses the politics of life and death—whether in history, anthropology, aesthetics, geography, architecture, urban design, or environmental, medical, oceanic, literary, and postcolonial studies—and creates a transversal space for new modes of writing, reflection, and timely interventions.

Experiments with Empire by Justin IzzoThe first book in this series is Experiments with Empire by Justin Izzo, which examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of knowing the colonial and postcolonial world. Focusing on novels, films, and ethnographies that combine fictive elements and anthropological methods and modes of thought, Izzo shows how empire gives ethnographic fictions the raw materials for thinking beyond empire’s political and epistemological boundaries.

 

The Fixer by Charles Piot

In the West African nation of Togo, applying for the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a national obsession, with hundreds of thousands of Togolese entering each year. In The Fixer Charles Piot follows Kodjo Nicolas Batema, a Togolese visa broker—known as a “fixer”—as he shepherds his clients through the application and interview process. Relaying the experiences of the fixer, his clients, and embassy officials, Piot captures the ever-evolving cat-and-mouse game between the embassy and the hopeful Togolese as well as the disappointments and successes of lottery winners in the United States.

 

Colonial Transactions by Florence Bernault

In Colonial Transactions Florence Bernault moves beyond the racial divide that dominates colonial studies of Africa. Instead, she illuminates the strange and frightening imaginaries that colonizers and colonized shared on the ground. Bernault looks at Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present, historicizing the most vivid imaginations and modes of power in Africa today: French obsessions with cannibals, the emergence of vampires and witches in the Gabonese imaginary, and the use of human organs for fetishes. Overturning theories of colonial and postcolonial nativism, this book is essential reading for historians and anthropologists of witchcraft, power, value, and the body.

Coming this fall we will publish series editor Achille Mbembe’s own book Necropolitics; Beneath the Surface: A Transnational History of Skin Lighteners by Lynn M. Thomas; and The Complete Lives of Camp People: Colonialism, Fascism, Concentrated Modernity by Rudolf Mrázek.

About the series editors: Nancy Rose Hunt is Professor of History & African Studies at the University of Florida, and the author of the prizewinning A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo. Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is author of Critique of Black Reason and coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis. 

We look forward to watching this exciting new series expand.