Winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism A New York Times Notable Book From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, a new collection of essays Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right. Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat." Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith. Zadie Smith's new book, Grand Union, is on sale 10/8/2019.
The romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre has been celebrated as one of the greatest of the 20th century. From the beginning, their relationship was a tumultuous one, in which the couple's excesses were as widely known as their passion for each other. Despite their love, both Scott and Zelda engaged in flirtations that threatened to tear the couple apart. But none had a more profound impact on the two--and on Scott's writing--as the liaison between Zelda and a French aviator, Edouard Jozan. Though other biographies have written of Jozan as one of Scott's romantic rivals, accounts of the pilot's effect on the couple have been superficial at best. In The Gatsby Affair: Scott, Zelda, and the Betrayal That Shaped an American Classic, Kendall Taylor examines the dalliance between the southern belle and the French pilot from a fresh perspective. Drawing on conversations and correspondence with Jozan's daughter, as well as materials from the Jozan family archives, Taylor sheds new light on this romantic triangle. More than just a casual fling, Zelda's tryst with Edouard affected Scott as much as it did his wife--and ultimately influenced the author's most famous creation, Jay Gatsby. Were it not for Zelda's affair with the pilot, Scott's novel might be less about betrayal and more about lost illusions. Exploring the private motives of these public figures, Taylor offers new explanations for their behavior. In addition to the love triangle that included Jozan, Taylor also delves into an earlier event in Zelda's life--a sexual assault she suffered as a teenager--one that affected her future relationships. Both a literary study and a probing look at an iconic couple's psychological makeup, The Gatsby Affair offers readers a bold interpretation of how one of America's greatest novels was influenced.
The American Renaissance has been a foundational concept in American literary history for nearly a century. The phrase connotes a period, as well as an event, an iconic turning point in the growth of a national literature and a canon of texts that would shape American fiction, poetry, and oratory for generations. F. O. Matthiessen coined the term in 1941 to describe the years 1850-1855, which saw the publications of major writings by Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. This Companion takes up the concept of the American Renaissance and explores its origins, meaning, and longevity. Essays by distinguished scholars move chronologically from the formative reading of American Renaissance authors to the careers of major figures ignored by Matthiessen, including Stowe, Douglass, Harper, and Longfellow. The volume uses the best of current literary studies, from digital humanities to psychoanalytic theory, to illuminate an era that reaches far beyond the Civil War and continues to shape our understanding of American literature.
In the tradition of E. M. Forster'sAspects of the Novel and Milan Kundera'sThe Art of the Novel,How Fiction Works is a scintillating study of the magic of fiction--an analysis of its main elements and a celebration of its lasting power. Here one of the most prominent and stylish critics of our time looks into the machinery of storytelling to ask some fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we "know" a fictional character? What constitutes a telling detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is Realism realistic? Why do some literary conventions become dated while others stay fresh? James Wood ranges widely, from Homer toMake Way for Ducklings, from the Bible to John le Carré, and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound,How Fiction Works will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone else interested in what happens on the page.
It is all but inevitable for literary history to be divided into periods. "Early American," "antebellum," "modern," "post-1945"--such designations organize our knowledge of the past and shape the ways we discuss that past today. These periods tend to align with the watershed moments in American history, even as the field has shifted its perspective away from the nation-state. It is high time we rethink these defining periods of American literary history, as the drawing of literary timelines is a necessary--even illuminating--practice. In these short, spirited, and imaginative essays, 23 leading Americanists gamely fashion new, unorthodox literary periods--from 600 B.C.E. to the present, from the Age of Van Buren to the Age of Microeconomics. They bring to light literary and cultural histories that have been obscured by traditional timelines and raise provocative questions. What is our definition of "modernism" if we imagine it stretching from 1865 to 1965 instead of 1890 to 1945? How does the captivity narrative change when we consider it as a contemporary, not just a "colonial," genre? What does the course of American literature look like set against the backdrop of federal denials of Native sovereignty or housing policies that exacerbated segregation? Filled with challenges to scholars, inspirations for teachers (anchored by an appendix of syllabi), and entry points for students, Timelines of American Literature gathers some of the most exciting new work in the field to showcase the revelatory potential of fresh thinking about how we organize the literary past.
Quotations are an essential part of the fabric of the language. In And I quote, Elizabeth Knowles draws on her experience editing the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and employs a wide repertoire of examples, ranging from the classical canon to contemporary popular culture, to illuminate justhow and why we quote.Her investigation focuses on how we find, choose, and use quotations in 21st century English, but it also leads her back in time to follow the journeys taken by individual quotes, as their meaning changes subtly - and sometimes not so subtly - over the decades and in many cases the centuries. Infollowing the often-surprising stories of individual quotations, we gain an understanding of how they establish themselves, and to what degree they can develop a life independent of their original coinage.Everyone has their own quotations "vocabulary", and each reader of the book will think of further items that they would use and wish to explore, but the journeys mapped here illuminate the many fascinating ways in which quotations have embedded themselves in the language, from the earliestdictionaries of quotations to the online world we experience today.
Why do some surprises delight--the endings of Agatha Christie novels, films like The Sixth Sense, the flash awareness that Pip's benefactor is not (and never was!) Miss Havisham? Writing at the intersection of cognitive science and narrative pleasure, Vera Tobin explains how our brains conspire with stories to produce those revelatory plots that define a "well-made surprise." By tracing the prevalence of surprise endings in both literary fiction and popular literature and showing how they exploit our mental limits, Tobin upends two common beliefs. The first is cognitive science's tendency to consider biases a form of moral weakness and failure. The second is certain critics' presumption that surprise endings are mere shallow gimmicks. The latter is simply not true, and the former tells at best half the story. Tobin shows that building a good plot twist is a complex art that reflects a sophisticated understanding of the human mind. Reading classic, popular, and obscure literature alongside the latest research in cognitive science, Tobin argues that a good surprise works by taking advantage of our mental limits. Elements of Surprise describes how cognitive biases, mental shortcuts, and quirks of memory conspire with stories to produce wondrous illusions, and also provides a sophisticated how-to guide for writers. In Tobin's hands, the interactions of plot and cognition reveal the interdependencies of surprise, sympathy, and sense-making. The result is a new appreciation of the pleasures of being had.
A landmark anthology envisioned by Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate of the United States American Journal presents fifty contemporary poems that explore and celebrate our country and our lives. Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith has gathered a remarkable chorus of voices that ring up and down the registers of American poetry. In the elegant arrangement of this anthology, we hear stories from rural communities and urban centers, laments of loss in war and in grief, experiences of immigrants, outcries at injustices, and poems that honor elders, evoke history, and praise our efforts to see and understand one another. Taking its title from a poem by Robert Hayden, the first African American appointed as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress,American Journal investigates our time with curiosity, wonder, and compassion. Among the fifty poets included are: Jericho Brown, Natalie Diaz, Matthew Dickman, Mark Doty, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes, Cathy Park Hong, Marie Howe, Major Jackson, Ilya Kaminsky, Robin Coste Lewis, Ada Límon, Layli Long Soldier, Erika L. Sánchez, Solmaz Sharif, Danez Smith, Susan Stewart, Mary Szybist, Natasha Trethewey, Brian Turner, Charles Wright, and Kevin Young.
Winner of the 2018 Robert Penn Warren--Cleanth Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Scholarship and Criticism" from the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University Probes the ways in which two major periods in nineteenth-century American literature--Romanticism and Realism--have come to be understood and defined. Echoes of Emerson: Rethinking Realism in Twain, James, Wharton, and Cather traces the complex and unexplored relationship between American realism and the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Critics often read American realism as a clear disavowal of earlier American romantic philosophy and as a commitment to recognizing the stark realities of a new postbellum order. Diana Hope Polley's study complicates these traditional assumptions by reading American realism as an ongoing dialogue with the ideas--often idealisms--of America's greatest romantic philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. In this illuminating work, Polley offers detailed readings of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, and Willa Cather's My Ántonia--all through the lens of Emersonian philosophy and discourse. This unique contribution to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary studies shows how these texts revisit Emerson's antebellum "republic of the spirit" philosophy, specifically the trope of the Emersonian hero/heroine navigating the harsh contingencies of the modern world. Romanticism and realism are often seen as opposing binaries, with romanticism celebrating the individual, self-reliance, and nature and realism emphasizing the weight of socio-historical forces. Realism is often characterized as rejecting the transcendent principles of Emersonian thought. Rather than accept those distinct boundaries between romance and realism, Polley argues that American realists struggled between celebrating Emerson's core philosophies of individual possibility and acknowledging the stark "realities" of American social and historical life. In short, this study recognizes within realism a divided loyalty between two historical trends and explores how these seemingly contradictory notions--Emerson's romantic philosophy and later nineteenth-century visions of historical reality--exist, simultaneously, within the literature of the period.
As Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin traveled around the world, it was molded by the imaginations and needs of international audiences. For over 150 years it has been coopted for a dazzling array of causes far from what its author envisioned. This book tells thirteen variants of Uncle Tom's journey, explicating the novel's significance for Canadian abolitionists and the Liberian political elite that constituted the runaway characters' landing points; nineteenth-century French theatergoers; liberal Cuban, Romanian, and Spanish intellectuals and social reformers; Dutch colonizers and Filipino nationalists in Southeast Asia; Eastern European Cold War communists; Muslim readers and spectators in the Middle East; Brazilian television audiences; and twentieth-century German holidaymakers. Throughout these encounters, Stowe's story of American slavery serves as a paradigm for understanding oppression, selectively and strategically refracting the African American slave onto other iconic victims and freedom fighters. The book brings together performance historians, literary critics, and media theorists to demonstrate how the myriad cultural and political effects of Stowe's enduring story has transformed it into a global metanarrative with national, regional, and local specificity.
"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see. That--and no more, and it is every-thing." So wrote Joseph Conrad in the best-known account of literary impressionism, the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century movement featuring narratives that paint pictures in readers' minds. If literary impressionism is anything, it is the project to turn prose into vision. But vision of what? Michael Fried demonstrates that the impressionists sought to compel readers not only to see what was described and narrated but also to see writing itself. Fried reads Conrad, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, W. H. Hudson, Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Erskine Childers, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, and Edgar Rice Burroughs as avatars of the scene of writing. The upward-facing page, pen and ink, the look of written script, and the act of inscription are central to their work. These authors confront us with the sheer materiality of writing, albeit disguised and displaced so as to allow their narratives to proceed to their ostensible ends. What Was Literary Impressionism? radically reframes a large body of important writing. One of the major art historians and art critics of his generation, Fried turns to the novel and produces a rare work of insight and erudition that transforms our understanding of some of the most challenging fiction in the English language.
Jewish writers have long had a sense of place in the United States, and interpretations of American geography have appeared in Jewish American literature from the colonial era forward. But troublingly, scholarship on Jewish American literary history often limits itself to an immigrant model, situating the Jewish American literary canon firmly and inescapably among the immigrant authors and early environments of the early twentieth century. In A Hundred Acres of America, Michael Hoberman combines literary history and geography to restore Jewish American writers to their roles as critical members of the American literary landscape from the 1850s to the present, and to argue that Jewish history, American literary history, and the inhabitation of American geography are, and always have been, contiguous entities.
Considering that he worked a stint as a screen writer, it will come as little surprise that Faulkner has often been called the most cinematic of novelists. Faulkner's novels were produced in the same high period as the films of classical Hollywood, a reason itself for considering his work alongside this dominant form. Beyond their era, though, Faulkner's novels--or the ways in which they ask readers to see as well as feel his world--have much in common with film. That Faulkner was aware of film and that his novels' own "thinking" betrays his profound sense of the medium and its effects broadens the contexts in which he can be considered. In a range of approaches, the contributors consider Faulkner's career as a scenarist and collaborator in Hollywood, the ways his screenplay work and the adaptations of his fiction informed his literary writing, and how Faulkner's craft anticipates, intersects with, or reflects upon changes in cultural history across the lifespan of cinema. Drawing on film history, critical theory, archival studies of Faulkner's screenplays and scholarship about his work in Hollywood, the nine essays show a keen awareness of literary modernism and its relation to film.
Shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize Finalist for the Forward Prize for Best Collection The extraordinary new poetry collection by Tracy K. Smith, the Poet Laureate of the United States Even the men in black armor, the ones Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else Are they so buffered against, if not love's blade Sizing up the heart's familiar meat? We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat. Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean. Love: naked almost in the everlasting street, Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze. --from "Unrest in Baton Rouge" InWade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America's contemporary moment both to our nation's fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith's signature voice--inquisitive, lyrical, and wry--turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures ofThe Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors' reports of recent immigrants and refugees.Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America's essential poets.
An instant success in its own time, Daniel Defoe's The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe has for three centuries drawn readers to its archetypal hero, the man surviving alone on an island. This Companion begins by studying the eighteenth-century literary, historical and cultural contexts of Defoe's novel, exploring the reasons for its immense popularity in Britain and in its colonies in America and in the wider European world. Chapters from leading scholars discuss the social, economic and political dimensions of Crusoe's island story before examining the 'after life' of Robinson Crusoe, from the book's multitudinous translations to its cultural migrations and transformations into other media such as film and television. By considering Defoe's seminal work from a variety of critical perspectives, this book provides a full understanding of the perennial fascination with, and the enduring legacy of, both the book and its iconic hero.