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.
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.
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.
The study of African American folklore has been grounded from its beginnings in the colonial period in discourses and power dynamics of race. This chapter posits that these beginnings have given rise to two folkloristic traditions, with differing agendas, methodologies, aesthetics, relationships to black communities, and investments in race. The mainstream tradition has been aligned with scholarly trends within academe and has seldom focused explicitly on the most pressing concerns of black people, or on the most obvious influence on the creation and expression of black folklore, namely race. The other tradition has been more aligned with the political interests, racial histories, and day-to-day needs of African American communities. This chapter critically examines these two tributaries, relative to issues of race, arguing for an African American folklore and folklife studies that embraces an African American–centered political focus while encompassing the unique intellectual contributions of both.
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.
Folk dramas and festivals are encapsulated units of culture that distill, concretize, and make manifest through enactment important cultural values and ideas. Bounded in time and space, they offer scholars an isolatable prism through which to examine culture, making them appealing objects of study. They are marked off in time and space and amalgamate other genres such as song, dance, art, costume, food, and narrative to produce synergistic events that are greater than the sum of their parts. They also happen in public arenas, rely on active audience participation, and invoke frameworks of play. Both festivals and folk dramas create alternative worlds in order to transform reality. Festivals in particular are characterized by license, inversion, and a high degree of ambiguity. Which ideas, values, or social arrangements are proposed, whose values they represent, and how these ideas are contested or contradicted in festival and folk drama arenas remain important fields of investigation.
David J. Puglia
Metropolitan folklore and folklife studies often focus on ethnic, religious, and occupation-centered neighborhoods and their distinctive festive events. The material culture of streets and lots has also led to documentation of folk arts, vernacular structures, and customs that have been adapted to this environment. Examples include sidewalk altars in New York City, painted screens in Baltimore, and storefront churches in Los Angeles. In addition, beginning in the late twentieth century, both urban and suburban folklife studies took on the tinge of consumer culture as tradition and mass media mixed freely in commercial centers. Furthermore, the longstanding critique of suburbia as a homogenizing force has itself become embedded in American legend and belief, but suburbs have developed their own traditions of cookouts, malls, yard art, lawn care, car culture, and other modes of “hanging out.”
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.
Folklore and folklife research is applied to a range of institutional settings that can be categorized in five different spheres of representation. These spheres overlap, but they include academic folklore, applied folklore, public sector folklore, public folklore, and private sector presentations of folk culture. This range of work revises the common dichotomy made between academic and public folklore. In addition to the overarching idea of heritage in applications of folklore and folklife research, key concepts such as preservation, interpretation, presentation, and representation that pervade the five modes of folkloristic work are discussed in relation to each sphere. The different situations within which folklorists work implicitly and overtly influence how they will preserve, interpret, and present folklore and folklife.
W. Barksdale Maynard
As the title suggests, this article takes on the architectural significances of the Transcendentalist movement. The Transcendentalists had considered several different aspects for constructing a shelter. Thoreau's Transcendentalist house at Walden was not merely physical but intellectual as well and, as the article states, it must be understood in the context of contemporary architectural thought. This period also witnessed new publications called “villa books”, which were different from the old architectural “pattern book”. Pattern books were aimed primarily at carpenters and offered only a dry text while villa books, with a rich store of pictures and prose, evoked a bright new lifestyle, intending to establish proper “taste” among the middle class. Through that, the readers were told, in a quasi-religious language, that the way they embellished their homes spoke volumes about their moral proclivities and had a potentially powerful impact on their families and communities.
The usual practice when discussing science fiction and architecture is to look at the architecture “in” science fiction, particularly in science fiction films. This chapter starts by mapping out a definition of science fiction with respect to Darko Suvin’s “novum” and Adam Roberts’s “technology fiction,” arguing that some of the most significant utopian or speculative architectures, from early-twentieth-century avant-gardes, International Style modernism, postwar pop architecture to more recent cyberarchitectures, should be considered as full blown works of science fiction. The chapter also develops the idea that in architecture and science fiction, it is “representations” of technology that both tend to deal with, and concludes that architecture, by actively engaging with the speculative possibilities of science fiction, could find a critical alternative to the banalities of late-capitalist corporate architecture.
This article examines the history of modernist architecture. It argues that of all the arts, it can be argued that the forms and functions of modern architecture and design are the most intimately linked to the physical conditions of modernity and daily life. The article explains that modernism as an architectural and design style may be characterized in its early stages as an attempt to create a form suitable for the new machine age, reflecting the view that society had come to a significant destination point in its development, a point where history could no longer provide precedents for the material culture produced by industrialization. It contends that architecture and design are in essence social practices, even if they are not always functional or rational.
This article focuses on archives of publishing and gender in the U.S.A., and the historical codes in literary analysis. It investigates how archival research changed what we thought we knew about American authors, and suggests that the documents left by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Hannah Crafts have forced us to revise standard assumptions about the American canon and its outliers. The article discusses some possibilities that arise from the practices of archival research and suggests what these practices make possible in the interpretation of literature.
Michael P. Branch
This article proposes the concept of environmental humor. It discusses David Gessner’s essay about why environmental writers do see more humor in the subject of our studies and why they do not employ more humor in our scholarly and creative work. It explains the scientific evidence of the health benefits of humor and laughter and argues that environmental writers, scholars and activists could present a more powerfully emotive case by embracing humor.
Aristotle’s Poetics has been thought to be inaccessible or misunderstood in sixteenth-century England, but this inherited assumption has drifted far from the primary evidence and lagged behind advances in contiguous fields. As a member of the corpus Aristotelicum, the shared foundation of Western education until the late seventeenth century, the Poetics enjoyed wide circulation, ownership, and interest in Latin and Italian as well as the original Greek. Placing the Poetics in its intellectual context suggests a very different narrative for its reception in English criticism, one that accounts for a multiplicity of readings and uses on both sides of the academic divide. Some of those readings—in Cheke, Ascham, Rainolds, Sidney, and others—are considered in this article, and directions are proposed for future research in what remains a rich and mostly unworked vein of literary history.