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Although Langston Hughes remains one of our most widely published authors, few attempts have been made to chart the circulation of his works across dozens of anthologies during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Yet an examination of 180 collections published over more than ninety-five years shows how editors collectively made Hughes a representative and at the same time exceptional black writer. The authors of this chapter use data management and analyses to understand a variety of patterns associated with the extensive processes of anthologizing Langston Hughes from 1923 through 2020. Their project reveals how Hughes reprints make him a statistical outlier, not merely widely published, and further, their research indicates the importance of incorporating quantitative approaches into the study of African American publishing history.
As Richard Wright was establishing his career in the 1940s, he maintained profitable but uneasy relationships with white audiences, especially those approaching his works within the political liberalism that held sway over much of American culture in this period. While Wright’s works struck a powerful chord in redirecting American culture to acknowledge the costs of race-based exclusion, the extent of that change was only ever partial, and often depended on Wright’s narratives being disseminated and received along the lines of established, white cultural parameters. At the same time, the commercial and critical successes of Native Son and Black Boy established the foundation for Wright’s career, and his interactions with white writers, living and dead, provided influential models and connections. This essay explores this tension while situating Wright’s work and publishing history in relation to civil rights activism and cultural liberalism in the 1940s, and its (sometimes distorted) reflection in the images of Wright circulated by his publishers and the mainstream press, by tracing the paratextual materials attached to Wright’s books and the wide range of publication venues in which his stories and essays appeared.
In many parts of the world, oppositional publishing has emerged in contexts of state oppression. In South Africa, censorship laws were enacted in the 1960s, and the next decade saw increased pressure on freedom of speech and publishing. With growing restrictions on information, activist publishing emerged. These highly politicised publishers had a social responsibility, to contribute to social change. In spite of their cultural, political and social importance, no academic study of their history has yet been undertaken. This Element aims to fill that gap by examining the history of the most vocal and arguably the most radical of this group, Ravan Press. Using archival material, interviews and the books themselves, this Element examines what the history of Ravan reveals about the role of oppositional print culture.
This chapter examines the often vexed relationship between literary Decadence and the media in Britain. While writers such as Wilde may have espoused elitist doctrines, they relied on print media to publish, popularize and denigrate their work. Decadence was then caught up in a complex web of financial, cultural and political forces that demanded it engage with the mass media it ostensibly despised. The chapter begins with a study of avant-garde publishing, beginning with the Century Guild Hobby Horse before moving on to those flagship Decadent periodicals The Yellow Book and The Savoy, examining how these outlets negotiated, with varying success, a competitive marketplace. In opposition to these self-consciously elite productions, the chapter places the relentless mockery of Decadence in publications like Punch, where figures such as Wilde and Beardsley were regularly parodied. Yet Decadent writers often published in conservative newspapers and journals, with figures such as Ada Leverson lampooning her friends. The vituperative attack and the sharply observed satire were an essential part of a literary marketplace in which Decadence, all too briefly, thrived.
Edited collections are widely supposed to contain lesser work than scholarly journals; to be incoherent as volumes, no more than the sum of their parts; and to be less visible to potential readers once published. It is also often taken as axiomatic that those who make decisions in relation to hiring, promotion, tenure, and funding do so agree. To publish in or edit an essay collection is thought to risk being penalised for the format before even a word is read. After examining the origins of this critique, this Element explores the modern history of the edited collection and the particular roles it has played. It examines each component part of the critique, showing that they are either largely unfounded or susceptible of solution. It proposes the edited collection as a model of one possible idea of scholarly community: collaboration, trust, and mutual obligation in pursuit of a wider good.
There are only a handful of repositories in the United States that hold archival resources relating to the author, Cormac McCarthy, and even fewer containing original correspondence. This chapter identifies key collections of letters available to researchers, and provides a guide for navigating these archives. With emphases on personal and professional correspondence, I provide an overview of McCarthy material in the Albert Erskine Papers at the University of Virginia; the Cormac McCarthy Papers at The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University; and the Random House Archive at Columbia University, as well as a few smaller collections.
Via the first volume of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Karen Kukil traces the key themes and concerns that preoccupy the writer, providing an intellectual, cultural and personal biography. Thereby, Kukil establishes the key contexts out of which Plath’s poetry and fiction emerge. After the well-documented deletions in Letters Home, and the dissatisfaction many readers felt at a selection that depicted Plath as ceaselessly happy, Kukil views the full and unabridged letters as akin to a full-length colour film after a black and white short.
Will May returns us to Plath’s early reception, and finds there a vital but overlooked context for her work: the whimsical. Taking seriously Plath’s fascination with the unthreatening fantasy worlds of children’s stories and their attendant winsome philosophy, May rehabilitates a literary term that has often been used disparagingly by the Movement poets. Instead, he shows us how indebted Plath’s dark comedy and verbal games are to whimsy. With close attention to her children’s stories, May unveils Plath’s cultural conversation with the domestic, the miniature and the absurd, though she herself was disingenuous about her interventions with whimsy. May debunks any notion that Plath’s poetry and stories belong in separate spheres. Neither, he argues, does her children’s writing.
Elena Rebollo-Cortés examines how the material features of Sylvia Plath’s final two books have played a key role in establishing a critical framework for the interpretation of her texts and in defining her posthumous identity as a writer. In the context of the publishing history and the literary afterlife of Plath’s works, Rebollo-Cortés shows us how the figure of Plath has been presented to readers through the visual and textual packaging of key editions of Ariel and The Bell Jar. These key works have had a wide readership and large presence in the literary market. Their editions have therefore played a major role in the creation and perpetuation of Plath’s identification with a tragic figure. This concentration on books as historical and material objects presupposes that editions are (sometimes overlooked) vehicles of meaning, revealing, for example, that editions of Ariel disclose how Plath has been portrayed as a Faber poet, a woman poet, or a myth, while editions of The Bell Jar have privileged biographical readings of the novel.
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