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Contemporary American poetry can often seem intimidating and daunting in its variety and complexity. This engaging and accessible book provides the first comprehensive introduction to the rich body of American poetry that has flourished since 1945 and offers a useful map to its current landscape. By exploring the major poets, movements, and landmark poems at the heart of this era, this book presents a compelling new version of the history of American poetry that takes into account its variety and breadth, its recent evolution in the new millennium, its ever-increasing diversity, and its ongoing engagement with politics and culture. Combining illuminating close readings of a wide range of representative poems with detailed discussion of historical, political, and aesthetic contexts, this book examines how poets have tirelessly invented new forms and styles to respond to the complex realities of American life and culture.
While scholarship and cultural commentary following Wallace’s death was laudatory, straying at times into the hagiographic, at a distance of over ten years, different currents in his legacy are emerging. As might be expected with the developing field of research into any author of such high profile, a second wave of more critical work followed that first wave of scholarship, grappling with problems and failures in the Wallace oeuvre once the work of establishing the field was complete. This exciting period in the growth of Wallace Studies focused particularly around Wallace’s treatment of gender and positions of racial and gender privilege occupied by his writing. This turn, which has enriched and enlivened the scholarly dialogue, anticipated by some years the resurgence of a conversation regarding Wallace’s personal behavior in relationships with women, but Wallace’s public reputation has also been deeply affected by this conversation. Picking up some of the themes identified in earlier chapters relating specifically to the writing, this chapter traces the development of Wallace’s critical and cultural legacy with reference to this confluence of conversations, discussing the emerging public imagination of Wallace as well as the evolving critical dialogue around the strengths and weaknesses of his work.
Wallace’s ambivalent engagement with high postmodernism is by now axiomatic in criticism, but his relationship to more immediate literary influences is less well understood. This chapter traces Wallace’s network of twentieth-century intertextuality beyond the familiar territory of his troublesome inheritances of Barth, Pynchon and Updike, focusing particularly on his entanglement in the written cultures of the 1980s. Much of the critical work that situates Wallace as a postmodernist heir focuses on the formal innovation and experimentation in his writing; this chapter broadens out to consider geography, motif and theme as well as form and idiom. More particularly, the chapter places Wallace in the context of the “Brat Pack,” arguing that his writing, animated by a spirit of what Jill Eisenstadt called “excess and defiance,” owes as much to the literary group that came of age during the 1980s as to the postmodernist patriarchs more commonly discussed. Taking as a point of departure the early writing, especially The Broom of the System and Girl with Curious Hair, in which many of these formative influences are more clearly visible than in the more mature work, this chapter considers the ways in which Wallace interacted with his own milieu and immediate forebears. Following the recent work of Thompson and Boswell in particular, the chapter also refers to Wallace’s own writing about his predecessors and peers, in which he often reflects, and indirectly reflects upon, the primary tendencies and themes of his own output; indeed, this chapter argues that the essays on other writers of the twentieth century are as revealing in respect of Wallace’s own writing as any of the overtly self-reflective/directive pieces. This chapter operates in conversation with the other chapters in this section, arguing that any attempt to interpret Wallace’s writing must be informed by an understanding of his complex critical, cultural and intertextual networks.
David Foster Wallace’s challenge as a writer was to try and square the circle of conjugating the legacy of (what was still vital about) postmodernism with the necessity to achieve truthfulness. What narratological shape does this post-ironist challenge take? Drawing on specific examples from his works, such as the jumbled chronology and the consistent employment of the present tense in “Little Expressionless Animals,” the utilization of what I call “figural sliding” in Infinite Jest, the double internal focalization in “Think,” the reorganization of deictic centers due to the metaleptic transgression in “Good Old Neon” and “PopQuiz #9,” this chapter shows how traditional narratological items were reinvented by Wallace to serve his thematic postindustrial concerns and to honor his ever-present need to connect with his readers. Unnatural narratology comes immediately to mind, and yet his pervasive attention to the reader invites us to employ an enactivist lens, thus focusing on the situated and embodied dimensions of the reading activity.
Wallace tends to put his readers in interpretive positions that baffle easy solutions: Narrators are simultaneously omniscient and limited, both “down here quivering in the mud of the trench” and Olympically coordinating “the whole campaign”; focalizing perspectives are fluid and overlapping; the distinction between story and discourse becomes permeable, and so forth. This contribution aims at mapping the (sometimes unnatural) trajectories of Wallace’s narratological reinterpretations while showing how readers negotiate (or fail to negotiate) textual clues starting from their experiential background and their embodied and situated positioning.
In this book, Stanley E. Porter offers a unique, language-based critique of New Testament theology by comparing it to the development of language study from the Enlightenment to the present. Tracing the histories of two disciplines that are rarely considered together, Porter shows how the study of New Testament theology has followed outmoded conceptual models from previous eras of intellectual discussion. He reconceptualizes the study of New Testament theology via methods that are based upon the categories of modern linguistics, and demonstrates how they have already been applied to New Testament Greek studies. Porter also develops a workable linguistic model that can be applied to other areas of New Testament research. Opening New Testament Greek linguistics to a wider audience, his volume offers numerous examples of the productivity of this linguistic model, especially in his chapter devoted to the case study of the Son of Man.
This chapter outlines the relationship between finance and postmodernism in the post-1970s United States. After laying out this shared narrative of finance and postmodernism, particularly in regard to the work of Fredric Jameson and in a reading of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991), the chapter then argues that the presumed whiteness of both finance capital and postmodern aesthetics in Jameson and Ellis is decentered by Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child (1999). Bambara’s novel is set in Atlanta in 1979-1981, years during which the city was at once rapidly becoming a global financial capital and was simultaneously also the site of the abduction and murder of anywhere between thirty to one hundred Black children and youths. Bambara’s novel demands that this racialized violence be read as a part of any analysis of Atlanta as a financialized city, and shows us that there is no way of understanding finance and postmodernism without reckoning with the constitutive anti-Blackness of the US economy.
In terms of artifice, Telemann’s “musical idyll” Der May (ca. 1760), to a text by Karl Wilhelm Ramler, ranks far behind the composer’s other works from this time. Most aspects of the music are entirely regular, and they are embedded in harmonic progressions that hardly exceed simple cadential relations. In this sense, Der May reflects aesthetic discussions among German writers in the 1750s and 1760s about widely disseminated and translated poetry such as Salomon Gessner’s “Idyllen” of 1756. Among contemporary theorists, Johann Abraham Sulzer and Johann Christoph Gottsched describe the distance separating literary idylls and social reality as one of the genre’s constitutive features. Idylls can thus serve as a tool of self-assurance in an increasingly complex modernity where acceleration, secularization, and scientification lead to a widely experienced dichotomy between complexity and simplicity. In applying the concept of “othering” to analyze the multiple modernities of the 1760s, I ask whether Telemann’s Der May can be regarded as an alternative to the modernity of its time; that is, as a conceptually “postmodern” work.
When Marvel Studios released its superhero film Black Panther in 2018, kids across the continent of Africa began to salute one another Wakanda-style. They crossed their arms (in a gesture like the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, who were laid to rest with their arms on their chests) and would end the greeting with the words ‘Wakanda forever’.
Wakanda, of course, is a fictional country. It was created, so the story goes, when a massive meteorite made up of an equally fictional metal, vibranium, crashed into a location somewhere in East Africa. Understanding the value of vibranium, the leaders of Wakanda concealed this rare and valuable energy-giving resource. Many of the best scholars of Wakanda were sent to study abroad and, on their return, their work turned Wakanda into one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries. Although Wakanda appears from the outside to be a poor, developing country, it is actually prosperous beyond belief.
During the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic in the United States, LGBTQ+ Jewish choreographers agitated for gay rights by using Holocaust allusions to address the AIDS crisis. Modernist practices in their work generate a long modernist midcentury that reframes established historical binaries between modernist and postmodernist concert dance modalities. This article argues that choreographers who drew upon Holocaust memory to address the AIDS crisis engendered a queer Jewish imaginary by engaging Jewishness from ethnic Ashkenazi (European) Jewish American lineages of modernist dance as social justice, Jewish cyclical temporal logics, and histories of being scapegoated for societal ills. It demonstrates how Meredith Monk's Book of Days (1988), David Dorfman's Sleep Story (1987), and Arnie Zane's The Gift/No God Logic (1987) fostered Jewish queerness in modernist artistic practices during a time that LGBTQ+ American Jews developed a queer Jewish consciousness. These choreographers’ works connect queer Jewish modernisms to varied temporalities of global modernity.
In recent decades, highly heterogeneous literary and artistic articulations harking back to China's classical past have gained increasing currency in the global Sinophone space and cyberspace. Instead of dismissing them as “fetishisms” or authenticating them as “Chinese traditions,” I propose “Sinophone classicism” as a new critical expression for conceptualizing this diverse array of articulations. It refers to the appropriation, redeployment, and reconfiguration of cultural memories evoking Chinese aesthetic and intellectual traditions for local, contemporary, and vernacular uses, by agents identified or self-identified as Chinese. This essay proposes a subjective, intimate, and reflexive way to experience an individual's culturally acquired “Chineseness” that is temporal, mnemonic, and often mediated by digital media. It joins recent scholarly efforts to dismantle the view of “Chinese modernity” as a monocentric and homogenous experience by refocusing on classicism as a kind of “antimodern modernism.” It also joins the post-Eurocentric turn in global academia by hinting at a future of “global classicisms.”
Liberalism and American Literature in the Clinton Era argues that a new, post-postmodern aesthetic emerges in the 1990s as a group of American writers – including Mary Gaitskill, George Saunders, Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, and others – grapples with the political triumph of free-market ideology. The book shows how these writers resist the anti-social qualities of this frantic right-wing shift while still performing its essential gesture, the personalization of otherwise irreducible social antagonisms. Thus, we see these writers reinvent political struggles as differences in values and emotions, in fictions that explore non-antagonistic social forms like families, communities and networks. Situating these formally innovative fictions in the context of the controversies that have defined this rightward shift – including debates over free trade, welfare reform, and family values – Brooks details how American writers and politicians have reinvented liberalism for the age of pro-capitalist consensus.
“Postmodern Ecology in Don DeLillo’s Fiction” offers an ecocritical reading of DeLillo’s fiction through the lens of pastoralism, nature studies and apocalypse. Drawing from earlier discussion of ecology in DeLillo’s novel as well as from discussions of ecocrtiticism and place-based studies, this chapter focuses on several of DeLillo’s seminal works, White Noise, Underworld and Zero-K, along with his early short story “Creation” to demonstrate the presentation and evolution of environmental themes and messages throughout his oeuvre. By first looking at DeLillo’s inclusion and inversion of the tradition of pastoral in fiction and then moving towards a consideration of the trope of apocalypse, the chapter aims to prove how DeLillo makes an argument for place-based consciousness and environmental awareness and responsibility throughout his fiction.
Don DeLillo's work is frequently described as postmodern, even as his stated influences are modernists. This chapter discusses both terms in relation to DeLillo's work, toward an understanding that neither label necessarily brings readers towards a clearer understanding.
DeLillo has often been portrayed as a “reclusive author.” Even though this characterization of the man himself is not quite accurate, DeLillo’s work is rife with images of artists as solitary geniuses who eschew the spotlight. On a structural level, that image is manifested as well in how DeLillo himself rejects the postmodernist trend toward self-reflexivity and metafictional authorial intrusions. Instead, DeLillo’s work evinces the artistry of a distant but still controlling godlike author-figure, whom his characters can sense but not see.
Julia Kristeva, who coined the term “intertextuality,” argues that because “any text is the absorption and transformation of another … poetic language is read as at least double.” DeLillo’s entire oeuvre is a lesson in dialogue, as his novels talk to each other, replaying critical themes and motifs; they converse with the culture. While the forms of his novels have spanned a panoply of genres, they focus on similar themes: fear of death, the dangers of consumerism and mass media, the vagaries of language and communication, the attraction of transcendence and the salvation of the ordinary, the tensions between the individual and the crowd, terrorists and artists, words and images, mind and body. A catalogue so extensive requires a conversation with philosophy, science, technology, religion, art, politics, literature, historiography, film, music, and finance, to name a few subjects. The noisy cacophony of intertextuality is both unsettling and productive, offering a permeability in the text that invites readers to participate in the creation of meaning and reminds us that history is constructed and ripe for reconsideration.
After Hegel the Philosophy of Freedom becomes increasingly illiberal. Whereas for Hegel the nation-state was a middle ground between the extreme Left and Right, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger embraced revolutionary visions of a future transformation of mankind in which the state vanishes. Hegel extolled classical Greece for its balance between democracy, Platonic philosophy and high culture. Nietzsche and Heidegger instead embraced the pre-Socratic view of existence as war – more suited to their revolutionary stances. They still agreed that historicism could provide a unified account of life rivaling Plato in scope. That belief was shattered by the Fact/Value distinction, which restored Rousseau’s dualism between nature and freedom and made it a permanent chasm. Belief in a comprehensive theory of history was further discredited by totalitarian movements like Marxism-Leninism and National Socialism which used it to deify tyranny. Academically, the Philosophy of Freedom fragmented into Critical Theory, Postmodernism and Hermeneutics. Politically, radicals like Lenin, Fanon, Shariati and Dugin adapted it to their extremist purposes. Given its arguably dangerous political implications, I conclude by asking: Was the Philosophy of Freedom a mistaken path that should never have been taken? Or might it still contribute to liberal education today?
Don DeLillo is one of the most important novelists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Yet despite DeLillo's prolific output and scholarly recognition, much of the attention has gone to his works individually, rather than collectively or thematically. This volume provides separate entries into the wide variety and categories of contexts that surround and help illuminate DeLillo's writings. Don DeLillo in Context examines how geography, biography, history, media studies, culture, philosophy, and the writing process provide critical frameworks and ways of reading and understanding DeLillo's prodigious body of work.
This chapter explores the relationship between the transformations in global capitalism that were taking place at the end of the twentieth century and the rise of postmodernism as, in the words of Fredric Jameson, the ‘cultural logic’ of those transformations. It examines the argument that this postmodern culture of transnational corporatism challenged modern distinctions between economics and politics, and even threatened the sovereignty of the nation-state. Taking three prominent accounts of postmodern culture (by Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard and Jean-François Lyotard) as its central focus, the chapter introduces the key theoretical categories of each and, by reading these in relation to influential literary texts from the period, examines how both theoretical and literary writing responded to and shaped the new economic and political climates of those decades.
This chapter examines late twentieth-century trends in city centre management, showing how the models of organising commercial selling space that had been developed within individual shopping complexes came increasingly to be applied to the city centre in its entirety. It considers the impact of a significant national change in planning policy as large, out-of-town shopping centres were allowed to emerge for the first time in Britain in the 1980s. The rise of out-of-town centres intensified the competitive pressures that were already present within the British urban system, forcing towns and cities to push ever harder for new forms of retail development in their own locales. Smaller urban centres were consistently disadvantaged by these dynamics and by the 1990s a narrative of ‘dying’ towns and abandoned high streets had already taken shape. Earlier post-war efforts to adapt waning industrial centres for new, consumer-driven models of growth acquired a renewed urgency and were placed at the centre of the new national policy agendas of ‘urban regeneration’ and ‘renaissance’. The chapter concludes by highlighting the inadequacy of such retail-led regeneration strategies for the most structurally disadvantaged locales.