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The way Spinoza lived and died has often played a part in the interpretation of his thought. Because his life is poorly documented, there is no lack of fictive anecdotes about his person and reputed character. This chapter offers an up-to-date scholarly account, based on a critical examination of the sources. After a discussion of method, issues, and background, it deals chronologically with the places where Spinoza lived. He was born (1632) and grew up in Amsterdam. In the years between his expulsion from the Jewish community (1656) and the earliest known correspondence (1661), Spinoza’s whereabouts are unknown. Apparently, he acquired renown as a philosopher in that period. From there we can trace the development of Spinoza’s oeuvre, as he moves from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg, where he wrote his first published work, Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy, thence to Voorburg, where he spent most of his time composing the Theological-Political Treatise, and eventually to The Hague. He had already started on his Ethics in Rijnsburg but only finished it in The Hague. In the year before Spinoza died, he began writing the unfinished Political Treatise. The chapter takes into account recent work on his health and demise (1677)
The purpose of this introductory sketch is to offer a biographical frame that helps the reader to place the articles in this companion in their historical context. The overview of Grotius’ life contains the most important chronological facts, publications and professional occupations that gave shape to his personal, political and scholarly career. Special attention is paid to his research in the fields of law, philology, ecclesiastical politics and exegesis. Much of the information gathered here is to be found in Henk Nellen, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). A lifelong struggle for peace in Church and State (Leiden: Brill, 2014), but in order to avoid falling back into a downright summary of this biography some new material has been included. The story of Grotius’ eventful life is told along lines offered by a triptych of friendships that determined his scholarly efforts to a large extent: he successively kept close relations with Daniel Heinsius, who rivalled with him in many literary activities, Gerardus Joannes Vossius who assisted him in realizing his political-theological objectives, and Denis Pétau who advised him on his exegetical works. A succinct description of Grotius’ Nachleben serves to show that long after his death his theological works attracted an international readership and enjoyed an acclaim that is comparable to the one he attained in the fields of natural law and international law.
Mailer wrote thousands of letters over the course of his lifetime. Indeed, many have commented on the generosity he displayed via his correspondence, taking time to personally respond to inquiries from aspiring writers and admirers. He wrote to family, to friends, to editors, to fellow authors, and to critics, sharing ideas, philosophies, anecdotes, and advice. The publication of Selected Letters of Norman Mailer in 2015 provides another view of Mailer’s engagement with the literary world and with American culture, and provides additional biographical context that enriches our understanding of his writing.
This chapter addresses Mailer’s sometimes combative but always interesting friendships and feuds with writers and intellectuals like Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, William Styron, James Jones, and Diana Trilling. These stormy relationships offer examples of Mailer’s embrace of both verbal and physical sparring, and his willingness to engage in debate with individuals “on the other side of the aisle,” his fraught friendship with Buckley being a prime example of this.
This chapter tells the story of the exponential growth of Bishop studies, from its beginnings in the late 1970s until the present day. The chapter posits that for a field of author-studies to flourish, it must establish: (1) published access to a substantial and representative body of the author’s work, (2) an extensive body of criticism, (3) access to archival materials, (4) a regularly updated bibliography, (5) one or more sound biographical studies, and (6) a compelling articulation of the author’s role in literary history. The chapter shows how these elements have interacted over the course of the past four decades. It lays particular stress upon the 1990s, which it describes as the “decisive decade” of Bishop studies. The chapter also shows how the posthumous publication of each new primary edition of Bishop’s poems, prose, and letters has expanded our understanding and influenced our readings of Bishop’s life and work.
Ths introduction provides a brief biography of Norman Mailer, addressing his upbringing, his education, his family life, his marriages, his rise to fame as a writer and cultural critic, his political activism and involvement, his honors and awards, and the controversies that swirled around his public and personal life.
This chapter provides a brief overview of notable Mailer scholarship, addressing The Mailer Review and the digital hub Project Mailer, as well as the recent authorized biography of Mailer and the publication of his selected letters. The chapter focuses primarily on Lipton’s Journal, Mailer’s personal journal from the 1950s, arguing that this is a key to unlocking many aspects of Mailer’s work, and that it is the way forward in Mailer Studies this century.
Social meaning has been shown to be richly produced within and among social groups (Eckert 2008a). In this study, I describe a different context in which social meaning routinely arises: personal biography. A person’s history of style acquisition and their dominant styles can become a frame of reference for inferred social meanings, referred to here as biographical indexicality. I examine two different scales – micro (individual lifespan) and macro (migration) – for evidence of how sequential biographical history factors into indexical meaning. In both cases, the indexical work achieved by certain linguistic forms derives primarily from inferences based on a person’s past history or default style rather than socially shared valuations of forms. In closing, I discuss three kinds of indexicality that run counter to the predictions of group-oriented models yet are well-attested. These can be explained if we allow meaning to additionally emerge out of an individual’s personal history. Biographical indexicality thus adds to the set of processes that generate social meaning; it also de-essentialises the link between ethnolectal features and their potential social meanings (Eckert 2008b).
This volume offers new insight into the breadth of contexts that inform Norman Mailer's body of work. It examines important literary, critical, theoretical, cultural, and historical frameworks for Mailer's writing, highlighting the ways his work reflects the concerns of twentieth and twenty-first century America. This book traces Mailer's literary influences; his contributions to a variety of literary genres; his participation in the American political sphere; the philosophical, religious, and gendered contexts that shape his work; and the iconic American figures he profiled. The book concludes with reflections on Mailer's literary and cultural legacy, emphasizing his advocacy for literary freedom and the contemporary resonance of his work.
This chapter provides an overview of Roth’s life, focusing on the author's upbringing in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, his education at Bucknell University and University of Chicago, his first forays into publication, his teaching positions at the Iowa Writers Workshop and University of Pennsylvania, his marriages, health struggles, and the significant peaks and valleys of his career, from critical setbacks to major awards and recognitions, including The Pulitzer Prize, National Book Awards, and PEN/Faulkner awards.
Nathan Zuckerman is one of Roth’s most central characters, and any thorough study of Roth and his work requires an exploration of Zuckerman’s role in Roth’s development as a writer. In many ways, Roth’s career, his concerns, and his confrontation with illness and age, are reflected and refracted through Zuckerman, This chapter addresses the interpretation of Zuckerman as one of Roth’s “alter-egos”, from the time he first appears in 1974 in My Life as a Man, to his role in novels now collected as “Zuckerman Bound” [The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983), and The Prague Orgy (1985)] to The Counterlife (1986), and then the “American Trilogy”—American Pastoral (1997), I Married A Communist (1998), and The Human Stain (2000)—before bidding farewell in 2007’s Exit Ghost.
Roth grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and the city becomes a significant setting in much of his fiction. The incorporation of Newark, its predominantly Jewish Weequahic neighborhood in particular, not only contributes to Roth’s metafictional style, but also plays a central role in the identity and development of protagonists in works such as Goodbye, Columbus, American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, The Human Stain, and Nemesis, among several others.
“To become a celebrity is to become a brand name,” Philip Roth told Alain Finkielkraut in 1981. “There is Ivory soap, Rice Krispies, and Philip Roth.” This was neither the first nor the last time that Roth would address his public image. In both fiction and nonfiction – from his novels to his memoirs to his “Open Letter to Wikipedia” in 2012, Roth wrote about himself, contending with and processing public representations of “Philip Roth.”
This chapter focuses on biographies that illuminate the personal stories of African descendants born in the United States and are currently in print. Green provides a sample of biographies of Black leaders and cultural icons, from Charles Chesnutt’s study of the life of Frederick Douglass, published four years after Douglass’s death. She pinpoints major approaches to the study of African American life in the United States and identifies several subgenres of biography. Much of African American biography relies heavily on archival material — diaries and scrapbooks stored in Black homes, donations to libraries and civic centers, old letters saved by past lovers, interviews of friends and acquaintances, journals left behind by the dead — housed in various venues across the world. A major challenge of the biographer, then, is to write a story that interests and informs, and also shows the significance of the subject's life story; or in other words, to show a balance between the extraordinariness and the ordinariness of the life narrative subject. The chapter ends with suggestions of challenges for producing biographies in the future.
This chapter will address the place of the “Philip Roth” novels—which include The Facts (1988), Deception (1990), Patrimony (1991), Operation Shylock (1993), and The Plot Against America (2004)—within Roth’s career at large, as well as the critical response to those novels. In addition to being among the most evident examples of Roth’s postmodern techniques, this particular categorization of books is also unique because, unlike Zuckerman and Kepesh, the identity of the character “Philip Roth” himself shifts from book to book. For instance, while the “Philip Roth” of The Plot Against America is a character in Roth’s dystopian alternate history, the “Philip Roth” of The Facts and Patrimony is more closely aligned with Roth the author, adding new levels to his blurring of fact and fiction.
David Kepesh, the protagonist of The Breast (1972), The Professor of Desire (1977), and The Dying Animal (2001), is one such protagonist. This chapter will discuss “The Kepesh novels” as a whole, addressing the benefits and drawbacks of considering these novels as a neatly combined unit, and examining their place within Roth’s body of work as a whole, commenting on what they reveal evolution of his ideas about literature, psychoanalysis, masculinity, and aging.
Written by leading scholars on Philip Roth from around the globe, this book offers new insight into the various contexts that inform his body of work. It opens with an overview of Roth's life and literary influences, before turning to important critical, geographical, theoretical, cultural, and historical contexts. It closes with focused meditations on the various iterations of Roth's legacy, from the screen to international translations of his work to his signature stylistic imprint on American letters. Together, all of these chapters reveal Roth's range as a writer, as he interrogates American national identity and history, and explores the dimensions of the individual self.
Starting from Wallace Stevens’s own reflections on newness and its dynamic interchange with what comes before, the introduction explains how The New Wallace Stevens Studies is different from and complementary with previous edited volumes on the poet. After accounting for the selection of topics and contributors, it offers individual chapter summaries that simultaneously elucidate the volume’s tripartite rationale. The first group of essays explores concepts that have begun to emerge in Stevens criticism, from imperialism and colonialism to the poet’s utopian politics, his ideas about community-building and audience, his secularism, and his transnationalism. In the second part, contributors apply recent methodological and theoretical advances that have left a prominent mark on literary studies but not yet on Stevens scholarship. These include world literature, ecocriticism, urban studies, queer studies, intersectional thinking, and cognitive literary studies. Contributions to the final part reassess and deepen our understanding of issues that have long inspired critics. Here investigations include Stevens’s reception by later poets, his attitude toward modern fiction, different modes of his poetic thinking, aspects of his rhetoric and style, and his lyrical ethics.
This chapter deals with how the past influences the present and the future: that is, how the personal history/biography of an individual explains the present and predicts the future. It describes in detail a very specific area in psychology assessment called biodata, which is an attempt to ‘score an application form’. While there are different methods, they all rely on giving weights to past experiences, which have been shown to predict future behaviour. It tests the claim like you can ‘see leaders in the school playground’: meaning there are many early markers of later behaviour. Much of the chapter looks at describing what does and does not constitute real biodata and the evidence for its validity as an assessment technique. The second half of the chapter looks at how psychologists have examined autobiographies, psychobiographies as well as ‘typical’ biographies to look for the clues to the motives and behaviour of individuals. Features such as birth order and the misfortunes of youth are thought to have a powerful impact on individuals. An example of this approach is the analysis done of Mrs Margaret Thatcher.