Mockingbird Passing: Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities in Harper Lee's Novel by Holly Virginia Blackford (The University of Tennessee Press)
How often does a novel earn its author both
the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to Harper Lee by George
W. Bush in 2007, and a spot on a list of '100 best gay and
lesbian novels'? Clearly, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s Pulitzer
Prize-winning tale of race relations and coming of age in
Depression-era Alabama, means many things to many people. In
Mockingbird Passing, Holly Blackford invites readers to view
Lee’s beloved novel in parallel with works by other iconic American
writers – from Emerson, Whitman, Stowe, and Twain to James, Wharton,
McCullers, Capote, and others. In the process, she locates the book
amid contesting literary traditions while simultaneously exploring
the rich ambiguities that define its characters.
Blackford, associate professor of English at Rutgers University-Camden, finds the basis of Mockingbird’s broad appeal in its ability to embody the mainstream culture of romantics like Emerson and social reform writers like Stowe, even as alternative canons – southern gothic, deadpan humor, queer literatures, regional women’s novels – lurk in its subtexts. Central to her argument is the notion of ‘passing’: establishing an identity that conceals the inner self so that one can function within a closed social order. For example, the novel’s narrator, Scout, must suppress her natural tomboyishness to become a ‘lady.’ Meanwhile, Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, must contend with competing demands of thoughtfulness, self-reliance, and masculinity that ultimately stunt his effectiveness within an unjust society. Blackford in Mockingbird Passing charts the identity dilemmas of other key characters – the mysterious Boo Radley, the young outsider Dill (modeled on Lee’s lifelong friend Truman Capote), the oppressed victim Tom Robinson – in similarly intriguing ways. Queer characters cannot pass unless, like the narrator, Miss Maudie, and Cal, they split into the ‘modest double life.’
Articulate and lively. Fiction, criticism, and cultural contexts are gracefully blended. Students and scholars in a variety of fields such as the American novel, queer literature, and feminist literature will find [Mockingbird Passing] valuable. – Kathryn Seidel, author of The Southern Belle in the American Novel
Stands out as one of the finest single-book studies written in years.... Blackford combines literary history theoretical rigor, and carefully integrated close readings to produce a study that will have a lasting impact upon multiple fields.... This is one of the finest books I've read in years. – Gwen Athene Tarbox, author of The Clubwomen's Daughters: Collectivist Impulses in Progressive-Era Girls' Fiction
In uncovering To Kill a Mockingbird’s lively conversation with a diversity of nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers and tracing the equally diverse journeys of its characters, Blackford in Mockingbird Passing offers a myriad of fresh insights into why the novel has retained its appeal for so many readers for over fifty years. At once Victorian, modern, and postmodern, Mockingbird passes in many canons.
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics by John C. Shields (The University of Tennessee Press)
Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784?) was the first African American to publish a book. Born in Gambia in 1753, she came to America aboard a slave ship, the hillis. From an early age, Wheatley exhibited a profound gift for verse, publishing her first poem in 1767 her tribute to a famed pastor "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield" followed in 1770, catapulting her into the international spotlight, and publication of her 1773 Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral in London made her a literary phenomenon.
Despite the attention she received at the time, history has not been kind to Wheatley. Her work has long been neglected or denigrated by literary critics and historians. The author of this volume, John C. Shields, has struggled to change this perception, and Wheatley has begun to take her place among the elite of American writers.
In Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics, Shields, Distinguished Professor of English and director of the Center for Classicism in American Culture at Illinois State University, contends that Wheatley was not only a brilliant writer but one whose work made a significant impression on renowned Europeans of the Romantic age, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who borrowed liberally from her works, particularly in his famous distinction between fancy and imagination. Shields, editor of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley, shows how certain Wheatley texts, particularly her "Long Poem; consisting of "On Recollection; "Thoughts on the Works of Providence; and "On Imagination;" helped shape the face of Romanticism in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Chapters of Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics include:
Concluding Remarks: Is Wheatley the Progenetrix of Romanticism?
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics extends the argument of Wheatley's Poetics of Liberation: Backgrounds and Contexts, which holds that Wheatley is a largely misunderstood yet brilliant author. The objective of this and the earlier text is to ascertain the value of Wheatley's works, along with their multi-layered meanings. Surprisingly, a productive and provocative result of acknowledging the value of Wheatley's texts leads readers to learn that, at least during the later years of the eighteenth and the early years of the nineteenth centuries, her poems prove to have been more appealing to many intellectuals in Great Britain and the Continent than they were to Early Americans.
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics traces a heretofore unrecognized impact that certain of Wheatley's texts, exercised in the shaping of what we have come to call the several romanticisms. Shields demonstrates how remarkably certain of Wheatley's poems participate in what others, from Walter Jackson Bate and Francis Gallaway to Meyer Abrams and Peter Otto, have claimed the various romanticisms to have been.
Beyond the connections to Coleridge and others is the simple global direction. Rather than the timeworn notion that, before Edgar Allan Poe, ideas crossed the Atlantic exclusively from Europe to the colonies, Shields says now we must open our minds to the unmistakable reality that the principles of Wheatley's imagination poetics sailed from the New World to the Old, reversing the conventional wisdom that finds this transatlantic phenomenon to have been virtually impossible.
Particularly during the era of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a woman was considered to be "an object rather than a creator of art." At that time, it was thought by the patriarchy, of course that it was patently ridiculous for a woman "to insert herself actively into the realm of history by means of work or engagement in political struggle". Even so, Phillis Wheatley, having searched for and found her own agency as a poet, empowered herself by going so far as attempting to create herself an independent professional, with publication of her 1773 Poems. At the same time, Wheatley did in fact insert herself as a political figure in the American quest for freedom for everyone, regardless of race.
According to Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics, Wheatley's texts were in fairly broad circulation. Other male authors who exposed themselves to her texts include Voltaire, Blumenbach, Wordsworth, and Gregoire, all of whom were probably joined by Kant, Stewart, and possibly Schleiermacher and Schelling. Shields acknowledges that members of the patriarchy did in fact pay attention to texts by Wheatley, many of whom actually extolled the value of her texts, perhaps as evidence against targeting Africans for enslavement. Such a staunch racist as Thomas Jefferson, for example, found himself forced to deal with her texts, if only to denigrate them and then to deny their authenticity.
In Shields treatment of Wheatley and Coleridge, he remarks on their mutual preoccupations with the abolishment of slavery, a concern that each develops in close conjunction with their theoretics of imagination.
William Harmon and Hugh Holman claim, in their most recent edition of A Handbook to Literature (the tenth), that "The term," romanticism, "is used in many senses, a recent favorite being that which sees in the romantic mood a psychological desire to escape from unpleasant realities". Surely Wheatley's line describing a world "Oppress'd with woes, a painful endless train" points toward this sentiment, just as her creation of her heterocosms provides an escape. Harmon and Holman expand their explanation of the term to include the characteristics of a love of nature, individualism, an unrestrained imagination, an interest in human rights, and the application of the reflective lyric all issues Wheatley takes up. While Wheatley does not precisely subscribe to what we can think of as a totally unrestrained imagination, she certainly does endorse the power, the force, of imagination when she elevates this re-creative productive faculty to "leader of the mental train."
What the evidence ascertains is that in fact Wheatley was already expressing the central qualities of romanticism, as proposed by the authorities Shields cites throughout this monograph, long before the traditionally recognized lions of the movement.
Shields in Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics recovers the fact that this considerably sophisticated intellectual anticipated with remarkable acuity the principal tenets of what we have come to call romanticism. Her importance to the study of African American creative writings has become irrefutably established. But what about her contributions to other characteristics of culture? Her contributions to the culture of American women in general have, for example, been underappreciated. In the recent best-selling Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, Cokie Roberts, in a long chapter celebrating Mercy Otis Warren, a poet, dramatist, and historian of the Revolutionary War era, interjects a page and a few lines regarding Wheatley. Here Wheatley may be viewed as through a crack in the door through which she may be glimpsed, though she is clearly not granted the status of a woman who played the role of a founding mother.
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics merely opens the door to possibilities regarding Wheatley studies abroad; this monograph signals the need for new approaches to Early American Studies in general.
This book very conclusively debunks the over two-hundred-year-old conventional wisdom that Wheatley owes her poetic sensibilities to Alexander Pope.... It will help rejuvenate the study of Wheatley and will be an exciting contribution to scholarly discourse on Wheatley's poetry. Cedrick May, author of Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835
Phillis Wheatley and the Romantics helps demolish the long-held notion that literary culture flowed in only one direction: from Europe to the Americas. Thanks to Wheatley's influence, Shields argues, the New World was influencing European literary masters far sooner than has been generally understood. Shields makes his point and then more or less beats it to death, showing his frustration with spending a career trying to elevate Wheatley and nearly failing.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (Viking) intertextuality has become the transitional limn from narrative to interactive novel. But before I get lost in several extraneous theoretical concerns, let me assure you that Pessl’s debut postmodern novel is an amusing coming-of-age story. After 10 years of itinerant travel with her father, a relentless and finicky visiting lecturer at assorted colleges and prep schools, Blue Van Meer conclusively attends as a senior at the St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina. There she is mystified to find herself included among a charmed circle of eccentric students, called the Bluebloods and the protégé of the anomalous film-studies professor, Hannah Schneider.
When a friend of Hannah's expires at a party the Bluebloods have crashed, this generously awkward insouciant coming-of-age novel turns into a murder mystery that never becomes quite the suspense it teases to unveil. Beguiling in its design after the syllabus of a college literature course—36 chapters are named after everything from Othello to Paradise Lost to The Big Sleep—that closes with a final exam. The mystery is mostly, not in the characters—a group of eccentric geniuses—but in the oblique references to real and invented literature, a murder mystery compounded and plotted so intricately that, after digesting the late-chapter disclosures, one may well be tempted to began again in order to observe the tiny clues plunge into evidence. Like its fascinating main characters, this novel is many things at once—it's a campy, wry lampoon of much of the Western canon and, most importantly, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming-of-age and identity.
Whoever coined the phrase “everybody loves a winner” probably wasn’t one. When the news came out that a distractingly pretty actress, playwright and Barnard College graduate named Marisha Pessl, only 27, had sold her first book (which she also illustrated) — a “Nabokovian” thriller about an intellectual widower and his precocious daughter — for a substantial sum, the pick-a-little, talk-a-little publishing blog brigade went into conniptions. “She’s the latest in a long, long line to suffer from ‘Hot Young Author Chick’ Syndrome,” one blogger grumbled; another wrote in a headline, “It’s Not About Marisha Pessl’s Looks and Money — Is It?” and asked if the book would have been snapped up so quickly if Pessl hadn’t had such a “drool-worthy author photo.” But don’t hate her because she’s beautiful: her talent and originality would draw wolf whistles if she were an 86-year-old hunchbacked troll. And in Pessl’s case, Nabokovian doesn’t need scare quotes. Her exhilarating synthesis of the classic and the modern, frivolity and fate — “Pnin” meets “The O.C.” — is a poetic act of will. Never mind jealous detractors: virtuosity is its own reward. And this skylarking book will leave readers salivating for more.
Like Alan Bennett’s delectable and brilliant play “The History Boys,” now on Broadway, “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” tells the story of a wise newcomer who joins a circle of students who orbit a charismatic teacher with a tragic secret. The newcomer, a motherless waif named Blue van Meer, spent most of her life driving between college towns with her genius poli-sci professor father, Gareth. To kill time on their drives, they discuss radical class warfare, riff on Homer and Steinbeck, recite movie dialogue and poems by Blake, Neruda and Shakespeare, and read Hollywood biographies — from a tell-all by Louis B. Mayer’s maid to blow-by-blows on Howard Hughes and Cary Grant. Gareth is fond of making oracular statements, which his daughter laps up as if they were Churchill’s: “Everyone is responsible for the page-turning tempo of his or her Life Story,” he tells her. And, he cautions, “never try to change the narrative structure of someone else’s story.” Tightly swaddled in her daughter-dad duad, Blue does not know that her story is someone else’s. Only gradually does she learn that the frantic tempo of her life has been conducted by forces she does not suspect.
You could compare this road-tripping duo to Humbert Humbert and his Lo — leaving out the sexual component (no, this book is not one of those plucky, degraded memoirs so dear to popular tastes) — but their truer fictional ancestors are Moses Pray and his (probable) daughter, Addie Loggins, chugging across the heartland in “Paper Moon,” delighting in each other’s shrewd and charming company as they dupe the yokels. But the action of this tale takes place once the car wheels come to rest, in Stockton, N.C., home of the St. Gallway School, where the Tudor facades of the buildings resemble august dead presidents, “gray-topped, heavy brow, wooden teeth, mulish bearing,” and where Blue succumbs to the gravitational pull of the teacher who holds St. Gallway’s “Bluebloods” in thrall.
That teacher, Hannah Schneider, has the magnetism of Miss Jean Brodie and the film-noir mystique of Lauren Bacall. When Blue meets her, in a “Hitchcock cameo,” by the frozen-food section at a grocery store, she falls under her spell. “She had an elegant sort of romantic, bone-sculpted face, one that took well to both shadows and light,” Blue recalls. “Most extraordinary though was the air of a Chateau Marmont bungalow about her, a sense of RKO, which I’d never before witnessed in person.” Hannah teaches a course on cinema in a room lined with posters of screen kisses from “Casablanca,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “From Here to Eternity,” and other four-star oldies, but she conducts her most serious myth-making at boozy dinner parties she throws at her house for students she’s handpicked.
There’s Jade, a rich, latchkey hussy who cruises decayed middle-aged men for kicks; Leulah, “pearlskinned” and ethereal, with long brown hair braided like a Victorian bell pull; Milton, “sturdy and grim,” tattooed and reeking of cigarettes, with a curdled, puffy “Orson Wellian” look; scrawny Nigel, who favors “thin, tonguelike neckties;” and Charles, a blond heartthrob with “duvet eyes, shadowy eyelids, a smile like a hammock and a silvered, sleepy countenance.” When Blue spots Charles and Hannah in a clinch on the quad, she mistakes them for “one of those tan, hair-tossing ‘Blue Lagoon’ couples (one per every high school) who threatened to destroy the bedrock of the chaste educational community simply by the muggy way they looked at each other in the halls.” And of course, there’s Blue herself, the perennial outsider: “I have blue eyes, freckles and stand approximately 5-foot-3 in socks,” she writes modestly. (Presumably, like Lolita, she’s the same height “in one sock.”) But Hannah turns her Vaseline-blurred close-up lens on Blue, making her one of the beautiful people. Should this nubile bunch accompany their teacher on an overnight camping trip into the woods? Ever seen a horror flick?
About the only person in Stockton who is not smitten with Hannah is Gareth van Meer, who churlishly dismisses her as “commonplace.” His contempt perplexes Blue. Typically, like Moses in “Paper Moon,” her father has gamely taken aboard the Trixie Delights who cross his path. “Dad picked up women the way certain wool pants can’t help but pick up lint,” she explains. She has coined a nickname for the women — “June Bugs” — to indicate their pestiness, harmlessness and short life span, but she pities them for their bruised hearts and rejected gifts. “How many hours had Natalie Simms slaved constructing the birdhouse out of popsicle sticks?” she wonders. Blue’s decision that her father is wrong about Hannah is her first act of rebellion. “I simply felt somewhere, at some time, she’d been the toast of something. And a confident, even aggressive look in her eyes, made me certain she was planning a comeback.”
But, as the reader knows from the first page of Pessl’s novel, a comeback is impossible. Hannah is dead, strangled by an electrical cord, her tongue “the cheery pink of a kitchen sponge.” Blue’s book is an attempt to untangle the mystery of her demise, from the safe remove of Harvard Yard, where she spades through her memories of Stockton. Whether Hannah died at her own hand or had help is unclear, and only Blue possesses the information that can answer the question not of whodunit (if there is a who) but why? As in “The Big Sleep,” the intrigue does not depend on any one murderer to work its convoluted magic (Raymond Chandler himself was unsure who offed one of his story’s victims). Gareth, uncharacteristically, has no wisdom to share. Like Bogey, who told Bacall in the film version, “Angel, I’m going to leave you in a tough spot,” he lets her stare down the villains on her own.
The joys of this shrewdly playful narrative lie not only in the high-low darts and dives of Pessl’s tricky plotting, but in her prose, which floats and runs as if by instinct, unpremeditated and unerring. A forgettable man is casually summarized as “an extra packet of salt one misses at the bottom of a bag of fast food”; teachers at Blue’s school have “the kind faces of mice”; lonely days “shuffled by like bland schoolgirls”; and a boy’s voice is “stiff as new shoes.” From time to time, arresting aperçus interrupt the flight, a reminder that even a glittering creature knows about the dark. “When it comes to certain human miseries, the only eyewitnesses should be the pavement and maybe the trees,” Gareth tells the young Blue. A decade later, when she is forced to confront one of these miseries — a woman her father has spurned — she thinks, “there were few things in the world more horrific than the adult weep.” Soon before Hannah’s mysterious demise, she tells Blue, “Life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming.” That bleak truth is something that Blue, whose butterfly-catching mother died in a freak accident when she was 5, has known since she still had her baby teeth. “It really wasn’t so much the tragic event itself, but others having knowledge of it that prevented recovery,” she reflects.
Heeding Gareth van Meer’s dictum that the most page-turning read known to man is the collegiate curriculum, with its “celestial, sweet set of instructions, culminating in the scary wonder of the Final Exam,” Pessl structures Blue’s mystery like a kind of Great Books class, each chapter figuratively linked by its title to a well-known work of literature, from “Othello” (the story of how Blue’s father seduced her mother) to “The Woman in White” (the first meeting with Hannah), to “Deliverance” (the fateful camping trip). A professor is all-powerful, Gareth liked to tell his daughter, he puts “a veritable frame around life,” and “organizes the unorganizable. Nimbly partitions it into modern and postmodern, renaissance, baroque, primitivism, imperialism and so on. Splice that up with Research Papers, Vacation, Midterms. All that order — simply divine.” Blue’s syllabus also includes a murder or two. Her book’s last pages are a final exam. You will be relieved to learn it is mostly multiple choice, and there is no time limit.
The Chronology of American Literature: America's Literary Achievements from the Colonial Era to Modern Times by Daniel S. Burt (Houghton Mifflin) Most chronologies just give authors and titles. This one suggests what each work is about and why it's interesting and important. Moreover, the listing of bestsellers and prize winners gathers brings together this information that you formerly needed multiple sources to find. I also think the introductions to each section are lively and informative.
If you are looking to brush
up on your literary knowledge, check a favorite author"s work, or see a year"s
bestsellers at a glance, The Chronology of American Literature is the perfect
resource. At once an authoritative reference and an ideal browser"s guide, this
book outlines the indispensable information in America"s rich literary
past--from major publications to lesser-known gems--while also identifying
larger trends along the literary timeline.
Who wrote the first published book in America? When did Edgar Allan Poe achieve notoriety as a mystery writer? What was Hemingway"s breakout title? With more than 8,000 works by 5,000 authors, The Chronology makes it easy to find answers to these questions and more. Authors and their works are grouped within each year by category: fiction and nonfiction; poems; drama; literary criticism; and publishing events. Short, concise entries describe an author"s major works for a particular year while placing them within the larger context of that writer"s career. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of some of America"s most prominent writers.
Perhaps most important, The Chronology offers an invaluable line through our literary past, tying literature to the American experience--war and peace, boom and bust, and reaction to social change. You"ll find everything here from Benjamin Franklin"s "Experiments and Observations on Electricity," to Davy Crockett"s first memoir; from Thoreau"s "Civil Disobedience" to Edith Wharton"s Ethan Frome; from meditations by James Weldon Johnson and James Agee to poetry by Elizabeth Bishop. Also included here are seminal works by authors such as M Rachel Carson, Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Lavishly illustrated--and rounded out with handy bestseller lists throughout the twentieth century, lists of literary awards and prizes, and authors" birth and death dates--The Chronology of American Literature belongs on the shelf of every bibliophile and literary enthusiast. It is the essential link to our literary past and present.
American Literature, Volume II
by William E. Cain (Penguin Academics
Pearson Longman) is a concise but complete introduction to American literature,
with brief introductions, headnotes, and a wide range of selections provide a
compact yet affordable text.
American Literature, Volume II offers a number of complete works,
including Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, Tennessee Williams's Cat
on a Hot Tin Roof, Amiri Baraka's Dutchman, and Suzan-Lori Parks's
In the Blood. The selections are supported by stimulating period
introductions that take the form of Letters to the Reader; informative headnotes
and bibliographies; textual annotations; a map of the United States; and a
The book is organized into four parts: Part I American
Literature at the End of the Nineteenth Century, Part II Modern American
Literature, Part III American Proses Since 1945, and Part IV American Poetry
Readers will notice right away that this anthology is
shorter than others that are available. The very big anthologies have an obvious
advantantage – they include a great deal from which to choose. But for many
students these anthologies are too big – too much book to carry around, too many
selections, too little time during the semester to read them, and too expensive.
Cain has tried in this anthology to present a good range of selections for
students, and also taken the risk of being more selective in order to provide a
sharper focus, with a clearer kind of progress through the semester. To make the
choices, he relied on recommendations received from instructors. Cain also tried
for a different tone and approach in writing headnotes, aiming for greater focus
and clarity. It’s an odd fact that in most anthologies, the lengthy headnotes
make little or no reference to the selections; although they provide
biographical detail, they do not quite succeed in telling students, concisely,
the key points and issues that matter for the literary works.
With regard to the longer sections, three in each volume,
that provide general commentary and overview, Cain tried writing period
introductions, but wasn't satisfied with what he was producing. So he wrote
“Letters” instead of period introductions, explaining and exploring ideas and
topics to stimulate students’ interest in American literature and make
instructors’ work with them more enjoyable and productive.
American Literature, Volume II, together with Volume I, both first editions provide a condensed to teach American literature. The author solicits feedback from the first instructors who teach the course.
The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature edited by Steven R.
Serafin, Alfred Bendixen (Continuum) The history of American literature is
what Van Wyck Brooks terms the story of its "makers and finders," those
responsible for creating an "American" literature and those who provide meaning
and understanding to the creative process. It is the story of a literature
coming of age in search of definition and affirmation, extending many centuries
from Native American oral and pictorial tradition to the literary expression of
a new millennium. It is both reflection and representation of past and present:
from exploration and discovery to settlement and colonization; from rebellion
and independence to growth and maturity; from slavery and abolitionism to civil
war and restoration; from expansion and industrialization to immigration and
naturalization; from world war and recovery to nuclear capability and global
diplomacy. Most importantly, it is the story of the American author shaping the
scope and perception of American presence, purpose, and identity.
history to the written word, literature originated with a utilitarian
purpose-to record deed and event so that others would acknowledge and
appreciate the act of accomplishment and benefit from the wisdom of experience.
With the infusion of narrative voice, the telling of the story itself was
enhanced with depth and personality and the artistry of the storyteller gained
in both popularity and importance. Evolving as a progression from the earliest
storyteller to the most recent, the historian and biographer to the poet and
novelist, the "making" of American literature is in effect the story of its
"makers": Puritan visionaries such as William Bradford and Increase and Cotton
Mather; voices of creative intuition such as Anne Bradstreet, Royall Tyler, and
Phillis Wheatley; masters of the American Renaissance-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman
Melville, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman; realists and naturalists-William Dean
Howells, Henry James, and Edith Wharton; Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Jack
London; writers of the Harlem Renaissance such as Jean Toomer, Zora Neale
Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright; modernists such as Ezra Pound, T.
S. Eliot, Eugene O'Neill, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Wallace Stevens, and
William Carlos Williams; writers of the Lost Generation-Gertrude Stein, F.
Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway; Fugitive/Agrarians such as John Crowe
Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren; Beat writers-Allen Ginsberg, William
S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
Kenneth Rexroth, and Michael McClure; the Black Mountain school-Charles Olson,
Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, Paul Blackburn, Robert Creeley, and Ed Dorn; the
New York school-Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler,
Barbara Guest; postmodernists from Donald Barthelme, Ishmael Reed, John Hawkes,
Robert Coover, and Thomas Pynchon to Kathy Acker, Richard Powers, and William
within the making of American literature is a sense of place-from the vast
wilderness of a New World to the forging of a new nation; from township and
state, and country. Serving as a means to enhance identity, place tends to
define the individual as well as the community. Consequently, places both real
and imagined have informed the landscape of American literature: from places
that sound of discovery and settlement-Plymouth, Providence, Jamestown-to places
that serve as testimony to history-Concord and Bunker Hill, Virginia City,
Shiloh and Gettysburg, Birmingham, Dallas, Wounded Knee and Kent State,
Haight-Ashbury and Three Mile Island; from places that acquire a literary
identity-Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Carl Sandburg's Chicago, William Carlos
Williams's Paterson, and Woody Allen's Manhattan-to fictional places that become
part of American culture-William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Edgar Lee
Master's Spoon River, Sinclair Lewis's Gopher Praire, Sherwood Anderson's
Winesburg, Thorton Wilder's Grover's Corners, and Garrison Keillor's Lake
Wobegon. The association of individual and place is further evident in relation
to American regionalism-from the New England of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthrone,
Robert Frost, and Galway Kinnell to the South of Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren,
Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, and Lee Smith. Writers of the Midwest are
contrasted with Southwestern writers, writers of the Pacific Northwest, East
Coast writers and West Coast writers.
of American literature details the lives and works of its makers and finds the
means by which to digest and appreciate its importance. It is the study of
genres and forms; the study of trends and movements-from Puritanism to
nationalism, transcendentalism to realism, naturalism to expressionism,
modernism to nihilism, postmodernism to deconstruction; it is the study of
critical theory and application; the study of its interrelationship with
history, politics, music, religion, and science; it is the study of race,
ethnicity, and gender-from the Black Aesthetic to El Teatro Campesino, from
Jewish American tradition to Asian American tradition, from the revisionist
impact of feminist theory to the significance of gay male and lesbian
literatures. It is the study of a literature maturing from its infancy in
colonial America to a literature in the twentieth century of international
importance. In 1930, Sinclair Lewis became the first American to be awarded the
Nobel Prize in literature, followed in 1936 by Eugene O'Neill; in 1938 by Pearl
S. Buck, the first American woman to win the award; in 1948 by American-born T.
S. Eliot; in 1949 by William Faulkner; in 1962 by John Steinbeck; in 1976 by
Canadian-born Saul Bellow; in 1978 by Isaac Bashevis Singer, born in Poland; in
1987 by Joseph Brodsky, born in Russia; and in 1993 by Toni Morrison, the first
African American to win the award.
literature is by nature a literature that reflects the multiplicity of a people
united by a common bond and diversified by region, ethnicity, religion, social
and economic status, political conviction, and cultural identity. Seeking to
provide insight and understanding to the quality of American life and the
realities of existence`in society, the American author has from the beginning
explored the boundaries of human depth and perception. Inheriting the legacy of
commonality and diversity, the contemporary American author continues to broaden
the underlying prospect of heritage: Paul Auster and Amy Tan; Cristina Garcia
and Vikram Seth; N. Scott Momaday and Ricardo Pau Llosa; Bharati Mukhergee and
Ai; Yosef Komunyakaa and Israel Horovitz; Jade Snow Wong and T. Coraghessan
Boyle; Wendy Wasserstein and Louis Chu; Edwidge Danicat and Dana Gioia; Wakako
Yamashita and Ntozake Shange.
Encyclopedia of American Literature is envisioned as a comprehensive survey of
the growth and development of literature that is by definition American in scope
or origin. Incorporating entries for authors from colonial times to the present
with a crosssection of topical articles pertaining to genre, period, ethnicity,
and discipline, the Encyclopedia represents the most extensive single-volume
treatment of its subject available for the general and scholarly reader alike. A
decade in the making, the Encyclopedia represents a collaborative effort
involving over 300 contributors from across the United States and
Canada. Consisting of more than 1,100 entries, the Encyclopedia serves as both guide and companion to the study and appreciation of American literature.o:p>
Selection: The selection of authors for individual Encyclopedia entries is based
primarily on assessment and evaluation of the author's literary contribution and
role in relation to the growth and development of literature in the United
States. The process was designed to provide appropriate representation and
balance to the volume within the constraints of length. The Encyclopedia
includes entries for authors of international stature as well as authors
noteworthy for regional or historical significance. Additional consideration
was given to lesser-known authors who were instrumental in the emergence of
ethnic American literatures.
Despite the scope of the Encyclopedia, it is inevitable that authors of merit
have been underrepresented or omitted from the volume. Although every effort has
been made for the Encyclopedia to be as comprehensive as possible, the
limitations of a single-volume edition impacted on the selection process.
Wherever possible, references to authors of merit who did not receive individual
entries are incorporated into the text of the most relevant topical articles.
Entries-Organization and Data: Individual author entries are arranged in three
parts: a headnote that contains vital statistics concerning birth and death; a
body that incorporates brief biographical information and a critical overview of
the author's work and achievement; and a final section, titled Bibliography,
comprising selective bibliographical material concerning the author and his or
her work. A list of abbreviations used for periodicals cited is included in the
front of the volume, and an index to the edition, with author dates, concludes
Cross-References and Pseudonyms: Cross-references to other authors and related
topics appear whenever appropriate in the texts of all entries. Where a writer
with an individual entry is cited in another entry, at the first mention his or
her last name appears in small-capital letters. Likewise, where a topic with a
separate`entry in the volume is cited in another entry, at the first mention the
topic appears in small-capital letters.
entries are arranged alphabetically by last name. Authors known primarily by
their pseudonym will be cross referenced within the edition to the appropriate
entry (e.g., under Twain, Mark, or Mark Twain, will be found "See Clemens,
Contributors: These have been drawn from a wide sphere of literary authorities
from the United States and Canada. Each author entry and topical article in the
Encyclopedia appears over the signature of the individual contributor or joint
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