This article examines the concept of cognitive environment in relation to ecocriticism. It discusses Gaston Bachelard’s analysis, in his The Poetics of Space, of historian Jules Michelet’s work depicting the building of a bird’s nest. It suggests that the corporeal act of nest-building may then be argued to imply the continuity of an organism and its environment and that the notion of enclosure is built into any ecology or Thoreavian economy.
This article examines the relationship between literary critical practice and human rights, and describes the present uses of literary criticism. It analyzes an example of abolitionism and activism as it was conceived and practiced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison. The article evaluates how our understanding of texts and issues today can be informed by our analysis and understanding of the myths and metaphors of who we are that we have inherited from earlier literatures and movements.
Russ Castronovo and Dana D. Nelson
This article examines what can be learned from nineteenth-century American literature regarding twenty-first-century citizenship. It investigates how the intellectual project of reading and interpreting American literature can prepare us for the deliberative work of democracy and what American literature tells us about this difficult relationship. The article explores how literature can be read politically, and describes the relevant works of Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown.
Jonathan M. Woodham
This chapter focuses on various ways in which the rhetoric and visual iconography of the space age and the world of science fiction was explored in the styling and promotion of consumer products from the 1920s to the 1960s, with particular focus on the United States. Such advertising, whether three-dimensional displays, films, posters, or other printed ephemera, was embraced in the futuristic displays of major corporations at hugely popular exhibitions such as the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition of 1933–34 and the New York World’s Fair (“Building the World of Tomorrow”) of 1939–1940. Also considered are projections of automobiles and appliances of the future, as seen in the dynamic displays of General Motors’ Motoramas and “Kitchens of Tomorrow” exhibitions, the science fiction–inflected language of advertising copy, and the allure of the future for the general public.
This chapter argues that the prescriptive turn in literary aesthetics over the last two centuries has marginalized science fiction, placing it in the category of the “Sublime” rather than the “Beautiful.” However, this is a position that recent advances in cognitive poetics are in the process of reversing. Stockwell explores the science-fictional beauty of expression, beauty of structure, and beauty of world to propose that the key to the immersive experience of science fiction is that it is a genre of compulsion. Close consideration is given to the work of Ray Bradbury, China Miéville, and Roger Zelazny.
G. Terence Wilson
For centuries, literary critics have made a division between poetry and prose, believing that poetry focuses on complex interactions between sound and sense, while prose centers on lucid significance. However, this article states that the major Transcendentalists believed that no clear distinction existed between poetry and prose. Supposing that the poetic is at one with the organic, they concluded that prose, if it approached the powers of nature, could qualify as poetry. Hence, the general aesthetics of American Transcendentalism are not confined to poetry but rather include poetry and prose alike. The aesthetic theories of Transcendentalists were vast and deep. They touched all the natural elements and resources and they were defined beautifully elucidating the aesthetic concepts of the Transcendentalists. Emerson tried to write about the world in his earliest book, Nature. Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau, too, persistently worked to transform creatures into conceits and tropes into flora and fauna.
Soyica Diggs Colbert
This article explores the formation, expansion, and future of the field of African American performance studies, considering the cultural, social, and political contexts that brought the field into being. This relatively young interdiscipline has emerged as a result of the growth of ethnic and gender studies in the 1970s and the advent of performance studies in the 1980s. Since its beginnings African American performance studies has considered how artists and activists reshape blackness in order to make it a category of liberation rather than confinement. Focusing on performing arts (such as theater, dance, and music), as well as oral expression and modes of self-fashioning, African American performance studies examines black expressive culture within the contexts of the United States.
De Witt Douglas Kilgore
Can we imagine a future in which the African diaspora is seen as central to the flow of events? This chapter seeks to answer that question through a history of Afrofuturism as a critical term and a critique of the concept as deployed by black and white science fiction writers. The word is presented as a heuristic that makes visible black artistic production of futures that seek escape from dystopian erasures that seem real. The idea captures stories about science, technology, and culture other than those that limit future history to Eurocentric extrapolations. Kilgore argues that the term has allowed both a reconsideration of canonical African-American literature as well as an extension of science fiction’s ability to see prophetically across racial and cultural divides.
Colleen Glenney Boggs
This article investigates why nineteenth-century views of human subjectivity repeatedly cross into the terrain of the nonhuman and animals, and examines the formation of liberal subjectivity. It offers subtle readings of John Locke, Emily Dickinson, and other theorists of what has become known as animal studies. The article traces the links between the ontological questions posed by current affect theory to Lockean origins and subsequent intellectual receptions of liberal subject formation.
Prudence Black and Stephen Muecke
This article examines the history of antipodean modernisms in Australia and New Zealand. It suggests that antipodean modernisms are determined first and foremost by historical and geographic factors, because, in both countries, indigenous peoples were colonized and dispossessed of their lands and the settler colonists formed the societies which provide the institutions that persist to the present day. The article investigates whether the European strains of the modernist virus led to the development of local strains, indigenous versions of modernism.