Literary Criticism & Theory

New Books in April

 April brings a fresh crop of great new books. Check out what we’re releasing this month.

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In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson draws on a decade of fieldwork at Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle to show how congregants became entangled in a process of religious conviction through which they embodied Driscoll’s teaching on gender and sexuality in ways that supported the church’s growth.

In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado explores how Latino artists and cultural producers have developed and deployed an irreverent aesthetics of abjection to resist assimilation and disrupt respectability politics.

Matthew Vitz’s A City on a Lake outlines the environmental history and politics of Mexico City as it transformed its original forested, water-rich environment into a smog-infested megacity, showing how the scientific and political disputes over water policy, housing, forestry, and sanitary engineering led to the city’s unequal urbanization and environmental decline.

In Domesticating Democracy Susan Helen Ellison offers an ethnography of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) organizations in El Alto, Bolivia, showing that by helping residents cope with their interpersonal disputes and economic troubles how they change the ways Bolivians interact with the state and global capitalism, making them into self-reliant citizens.

978-0-8223-7081-9.jpgKatherine Verdery’s My Life as a Spy analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was embedded in everyday life.

 In Edges of Exposure, following Senegalese toxicologists as they struggle to keep equipment, labs, and projects operating, Noémi Tousignant explores the impact of insufficient investments in scientific capacity in postcolonial Africa.

 

Examining human rights discourse from the French Revolution to the present, in Human Rights and the Care of the Self Alexandre Lefebvre turns common assumptions about human rights—that its main purpose is to enable, protect, and care for those in need—on their heads, showing how the value of human rights lies in its support of ethical self-care.

Gay PrioriLibby Adler’s Gay Priori offers a comprehensive critique of the mainstream LGBT legal agenda in the United States, showing how LGBT equal rights discourse drives legal advocates toward a narrow array of reform objectives that do little to help the lives of the most marginalized members of the LGBT community.

In From the Tricontinental to the Global South Anne Garland Mahler traces the history and intellectual legacy of the understudied global justice movement called the Tricontinental and calls for a revival of the Tricontinental’s politics as a means to strengthen racial justice and anti-neoliberal struggles in the twenty-first-century.

Aimee Bahng’s Migrant Futures traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction, showing how speculative novels, films, and narratives create alternative futures that envision the potential for new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.

A Primer for Teaching Environmental History, by Emily Wakild and Michelle K. Berry, is a guide for college and high school teachers who are teaching environmental history for the first time, for experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses, for those who are training future teachers to prepare their own syllabi, and for teachers who want to incorporate environmental history into their world history courses. The book is part of a new series, Design Principles for Teaching History.

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Reimagining Ourselves: Race, Gender, and Disability in Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time

Sami Final-9Today’s guest post is by Sami Schalk, author of the new book Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction.

It is a good time to be a black nerd—a blerd, if you will. The past few years have seen increased appearances of not only black characters, but entire black speculative worlds, worlds where we are not merely sidekicks, but heroes and heroines. From Netflix’s Luke Cage and Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out to Ryan Coogler’s record-shattering hit film Black Panther and Ava Duvernay’s just-released A Wrinkle in Time, we are in an incredible moment for black speculative film, television, and literature. I use “speculative” here, like I do in my new book, Bodyminds Reimagined, as an umbrella term for non-realist representations, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. For a long time, African American literature and film were heavily burdened by the need and desire for positive, realist representations of black people to combat a legacy of influential racist stereotypes. As I discuss in the introduction to Bodyminds Reimagined, available for free here, positive, authentic representations for black and other oppressed groups are often assumed to only occur through realism, like life-writing and historical dramas, but increasingly more writers and filmmakers are experimenting with how speculative fiction and film can also provide empowering representations of marginalized people.

978-0-8223-7088-8Black Panther represents an alternate version of our world in which the people of Wakanda, a secret African nation that went into hiding to protect its supply of vibranium from the colonizing world, have developed their own advanced technology and culture. In this cinematic universe, based on the comic book series of the same title, the Wakandan king, T’Challa, serves as the Black Panther, protector of Wakanda, and is given extraordinary physical abilities through a mystical heart-shaped herb. Throughout the film, T’Challa relies on his genius younger sister Shuri, princess of Wakanda, who develops and improves vibranium technology, and an army of strong black women, the Dora Milaje, who are led by General Okoye. In this speculative world, black people are leaders and inventors as well as farmers, warriors, and spies. Black Panther reimagines the meaning of blackness and womanhood as well as the roles and expectations for black men and women. Importantly, the film provides this reimagining in conjunction with political messages about the history of colonization while also remaining firmly in the superhero genre—full of dramatic fights and chase scenes required of any superhero movie. While black, disabled, and feminist authors of speculative fiction, like Octavia E. Butler, Samuel Delany, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nnedi Okorafor have been creating politicized non-realist texts which center marginalized characters for years, Hollywood is now beginning to catch up, learning to combine diversity and politics with superheroes, science fiction, and other non-realist genres.

The move to reimagine race and gender identity through speculative fiction and film continues in the new film A Wrinkle in Time, originally a 1962 award-winning speculative fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The book was initially rejected dozens of times, due in part, the author speculated, to its divergence from genre norms at the time, such as featuring a female protagonist. In its current adaptation, A Wrinkle in Time casts a black girl in the lead role of Meg Murray and other characters are also played by women of color. In the film, Meg, along with her friend and younger brother, bend time to travel the universe in order to find and rescue Meg’s scientist father who has been missing for four years. While not as explicitly political at Black Panther and created for a younger audience, A Wrinkle in Time nonetheless reimagines race and gender norms by creating a smart black girl character who must learn to love herself as she is, using her knowledge of physics and love for her family to become a hero.

What is missing from the race and gender diversity of these recent black speculative worlds, however, is disability. In Black Panther, while we see some bodily and age diversity among the tribal leaders, we do not see disabled characters except for the villain Ulysses Klaue who has a prosthetic hand—a representation that aligns with the trope of disability as a symbol or cause of evil. In A Wrinkle in Time, although there are messages about self-love (especially for black people, women and girls) embedded throughout, from Meg’s self-consciousness about her naturally curly hair to Oprah Winfrey’s character Mrs. Which rhetorically asking “Is there such thing as the wrong size?”, disability makes no appearance in the film. Further, in Black Panther CIA operative Everett Ross is shot in the spine but is completely healed by Wakandan technology. This choice suggests that disability has been eliminated in Wakanda. In Chapter 3 of Bodyminds Reimagined, I discuss the role of disability and technology in representations of the future, particularly in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. There I explain that western visions of the future are typically disability-free futures, like that suggested in Black Panther. Despite the fact that advances in human technology are often used for violence and war (especially against people of color) and despite the fact that technology increasingly allows people to live with more severe and varied disabilities than in the past, we continue to hold onto the ideal of a technologically-created able-bodied, able-minded future in which disabled people cease to exist. The belief in and hope for such a future or fantasy world is based on ableist notions that disabled lives are inherently worse than non-disabled lives and that disabled people do not contribute to the world in important ways.

The lack of positive disability representation (that is, disabled characters who aren’t villains, especially ones played by actually disabled actors) in the increasingly diverse world of speculative film demonstrates that there is still more work to be done. In Bodyminds Reimagined, I analyze how black women writers reimagine the possibilities and limits of bodyminds by creating complex, interesting, and powerful representations of disabled characters. With the release and success of films like Get Out, Black Panther, and A Wrinkle in Time, it seems that speculative film is beginning to catch up the speculative fiction in terms of race and gender, but not as much in terms of disability. By highlighting the role of disability alongside race and gender in black women’s speculative fiction, I hope that Bodyminds Reimagined contributes to this powerful moment in black speculative representations so that perhaps in the Black Panther sequel and other future films, we might see the kind of engagement with and embrace of disability identity that we have begun to see around blackness and womanhood as well.

Pick up Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined for 30% off using coupon code E18BODYM at dukeupress.edu.

Narrative Theory and the History of the Novel

The most recent special issue of Poetics Today, “Narrative Theory and the History of the Novel,” edited by Paul Dawson, is now available.

ddpoe_39_1_cover-1[1]What is a novel, how did the genre emerge, and how has it changed throughout history? This special issue addresses these perennial questions by bringing the formalist approach of narrative theory into dialogue with the historical approach of novel studies. It identifies and interrogates the convergences between current scholarship in both fields in order to shed new light on English, French, Danish and American fiction from the seventeenth century to the present.

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

Call for Papers: Teaching Critical Theory in the Era of Globalization

ddped_18_1Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture is seeking submissions for a special issue edited by Helena Gurfinkel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) and Gautam Basu Thakur (Boise State University), titled “Critical Theory in the Era of Globalization,” and scheduled for October 2020.

The editors of this special issue are seeking contributions on teaching critical theory in the global present. What is the relevance of teaching theory in the era of globalization, and what is at stake? What are the challenges and unavoidable paradoxes of teaching theory at a time when global classrooms are geared toward both neoliberal information/skills acquisition and conservative knowledge accumulation?

Changes in the classroom reflect changes in global politics. In the decades following the Second World War, that is, in the midst of the Cold War and the rapid decolonization of the globe, critical theory gained popularity across Anglo-American English departments with its radical interrogations of traditional society, politics, and culture. It drastically dislocated the imperial boundaries of English studies and was responsible for challenging the canon – “birthing” gender and postcolonial studies and connecting literature to politics, subjectivity, and networks of commodity relations. But does theory retain these strengths in the twenty-first century college classroom? What relevance does it have as pedagogy and practice to better understand and address the challenges of contemporary social reality – climate change, depredation of democracy, neoliberalism and violence, and the so-called “death of the humanities”?

This special issue will ponder these questions, as we seek new ways of teaching undergraduate and graduate literary theory and criticism courses. The editors would particularly like to rethink the institution of the survey course, an accepted narrative that begins with formalism and ends with identity.

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching a theory survey course (graduate and/or undergraduate) in a globalized world: challenges, rewards, and methodologies.
  • Teaching critical theory: new methodologies, forgotten theories/forgotten methodologies, new theories.
  • Teaching critical theory in a graduate course in the current (global) job market.
  • Teaching global literatures as theory/ Global literary theory as pedagogy.
  • Teaching a global critical theory survey: resisting chronology.
  • Teaching critical theory beyond the Western university.

The editors invite articles of 5000-7500 words and position papers of 1500 words. Articles are open to all theoretical approaches. Position papers should address one of the following: 1) teaching queer theory; 2) teaching postcolonial theory; 3) teaching the non-human turn. In all cases, global pedagogical contexts are essential. Pedagogy uses The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Submission Deadlines:

March 2, 2018: 1-page CVs; abstracts of 500 words for articles, or of 150 words for position papers to Helena Gurfinkel and Gautam Basu Thakur.

September 4, 2018: full articles and position papers to Helena Gurfinkel and Gautam Basu Thakur.

Queries welcome.

Ireland: From Boom to Bust and Beyond

The most recent issue of boundary 2, “Ireland: From Boom to Bust and Beyond,” edited by Joe Cleary, is now available.

ddbou_45_1_coverThe articles in this issue explore the political, economic, social, cultural and literary impacts of the extraordinary neoliberal boom and bust cycle after the Irish government relinquished its economic sovereignty to a Troika comprised of International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC) officials, a decision which precipitated massive unemployment and youth emigration, wage and social provision cuts, housing and medical crises, and saddled the Irish citizenry with a gargantuan national debt.  Despite much-lauded miracles of recovery, the effects of this boom and bust cycle will continue to be felt across Ireland for decades to come.

Dealing with the country’s republican past and neoliberal present, and with matters ranging from the economic causes to the political consequences of the crisis, this volume offers a wide-ranging overview of one of several devastating economic crises to have rocked the European Union in recent times. By situating the crisis in the context of related transformations in areas of religion, gender and sexuality, Republican history and national commemoration, poetry, the novel, and social and cultural policy, the essays within this issue argue that all aspects of Irish society have been radically transformed by several decades of neoliberal boom and bust and by the 2008 meltdown of the Celtic Tiger.

Read the foreword to the issue and “Glimpses of an Irish Republic” by Seamus Deane, freely available now.

Benjamin’s Travel

The most recent special issue of positions: asia critique, “Benjamin’s Travel,” edited by Briankle G. Chang, is now available.

ddpos_26_1_coverWalter Benjamin’s writings are popular among Chinese scholars, but variances of translation and interpretation have created an understanding of Benjamin that bears little resemblance to how Western scholars discuss and use Benjamin. This special issue uses that dissemblance as a starting point to explore what Benjamin’s writings have meant and continue to mean, bringing these multiple different versions of Benjamin into conversation. Contributors explore Benjamin’s fascination with the spiritual power of color, connect his youthful fascination with Chinese thought with his later writings, compare his ideas to the work of Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke and Vietnamese author Bùi Anh Tuấn, and analyze his experiments in imbuing book reviews with social commentary. This issue also includes a new translation of Benjamin’s essay “Chinese Paintings at the National Gallery.”

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

Theater Magazine Publishes Elfriede Jelinek, Carrie Mae Weems

ddthe_47_3The most recent issue of Theater magazine features new performance texts from major artists Elfriede Jelinek and Carrie Mae Weems.

In the first edition of Theater to launch since the November 2016 election altered the American political landscape, the magazine looks to theater artists “to provide clarity where leaders sow confusion, to inspire when cynicism reigns, and to offer a moral compass while the nation reels in disorientation,” writes editor Tom Sellar.

Nobel laureate playwright Elfriede Jelinek’s newest work On the Royal Road: The Burgher King delves into the psyche of a businessman tyrant whose hold on power gets channeled through American pop culture iconography, among other creative filters. An intimate conversation between Jelinek and her longtime translator Gitta Honegger accompanies the script.

In her new performance text Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, celebrated artist Carrie Mae Weems contemplates grace in the face of racism and violence through music, song, spoken word, and video. Carl Hancock Rux introduces the text with a panoramic essay on Grace Notes as “a non-decorative inclusive self-portrait,” interrupting the peripheralization of black women.

Jennifer Krasinski’s rumination on Taylor Mac’s recent 24-hour marathon performance of music from the American songbook, as well as performance criticism from Krasinski and David Bruin, complete the issue.

To read the issue online, visit read.dukeupress.edu/theater.

Marianne Moore

The most recent special issue of Twentieth-Century Literature, “Marianne Moore,” edited by Heather Cass White and Fiona Green, is now available.

TCL_63_4_coverThe five essays collected in this special issue focus closely on the period many have identified as a turning point for poet Marianne Moore: the poems and essays she published between 1935 and 1944. The recent editions of The Pangolin and Other Verse and What Are Years account in part for this focus, but there are particular aspects of Moore’s career in this crucial decade that also compel attention. Like other poets of her generation, Moore turned her mind more fully to national and world events in the 1930s; with this came the explicitly ethical emphasis in her writing discussed in the first and last essays in this issue, by Heather White and David Herd, respectively. Like these two, the other articles make their larger claims—about criticism, about revision, about verse form, about performance, about politics—by means of detailed case study.

Read the introduction to this issue, now freely available.

Top Latin American Studies Titles Adopted for Course Use

cuba readerOur Latin American Studies authors are well known for their work in anthropology, art, cultural studies, Caribbean studies, Chicanx and Latinx studies, history, literature, film and media, and politics.

Our Latin American studies e-book collection includes over 500 titles in these subject areas. Many of our journals also cover Latin America. If you’re interested in gaining access to these resources, have your librarian contact our Library Relations team to get more information.

Here are the top 8 Latin American studies titles adopted for course use:

View the title list for the Latin American Studies collection, which features more than 500 e-books.

Foerster 2017 Prize Winner Announced

ddal_89_4We’re pleased to announce the 2017 winners of the Norman Foerster Prize, given to the best essays of the year published in American Literature. This year’s winner is John Levi Barnard for his essay “The Cod and the Whale: Melville in the Time of Extinction,” featured in volume 89, issue 4.

An honorable mention was awarded to Andrew Donnelly for “The Talking Book in the Secondary Classroom: Reading as a Promise of Freedom in the Era of Neoliberal Education Reform,” featured in volume 89, issue 2.

The committee had this to say about the prizewinning essay:

“John Levi Barnard’s ‘The Cod and the Whale: Melville in the Time of Extinction’ exemplifies what the interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities can contribute to the study of literature. Dazzlingly researched and theorized, the essay’s elaboration of a textual and historical ‘extinction-producing economy’ models for critics and readers how to think about matter and text in the same analytic horizon.”

Regarding Donnelly’s honorable mention, committee members commented that the essay “takes seriously the intellectual and social stakes of how humanists have put their faith in the promise that literacy will lead to freedom. Deeply informed by the intersecting histories of literacy, gender, and race, Donnelly’s essay balances the urgency of resisting neoliberal institutional practices that reward the exceptional individual with a careful account of the ambivalence inhering in established narratives about the intrinsic power of literacy. The essay is a serious, thoughtful piece about the necessity of thinking about pedagogical practices through an intersectional and historical lens.”

The 2017 committee members were Stephanie Foote (chair), Rachel Adams, Marianne Noble, Matthew Taylor, and Priscilla Wald.

Congratulations to John Levi Barnard and Andrew Donnelly! Read the essays, made freely available.