The scholars and creative writers of Minnesota’s English faculty publish books that kickstart conversations and shift paradigms. Championed by leading presses, their work expands and enhances their fields.
Peter Campion, John Berryman: Centenary Essays (Peter Lang, 2017)
Drawing on the proceedings of two conferences organized to celebrate the centenary of John Berryman's birth in 2014, John Berryman: Centenary Essays provides new perspectives on a major US American poet's work by critics from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. In addition to new readings of important aspects of Berryman's development—including his creative and scholarly encounters with Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and W. B. Yeats—the book gives fresh accounts of his engagements with contemporaries such as Delmore Schwartz and Randall Jarrell.
It also includes essays that explore Berryman's poetic responses to Mozart and his influence on the contemporary Irish poet Paul Muldoon. Making extensive use of unpublished archival sources, personal reflections by friends and former students of the poet are accompanied by meditations on Berryman's importance for writers today by award-winning poets Paula Meehan and Henri Cole.
Ray Gonzalez, Beautiful Wall (BOA Editions, 2015)
Takes us on a profound journey through the desert Southwest where the ever-changing natural landscape and an aggressive border culture rewrite intolerance and ethnocentric thought into human history. Inextricably linked to his Mexican ancestry and American upbringing, Ray Gonzalez’s new collection mounts the wall between the current realities of violence and politics, and a beautiful, never-to-be-forgotten past.
"'The desert is sick of being written about,' declares the speaker in Gonzalez's 15th collection of poems, yet ultimately what Gonzalez does is allow the reader to experience this expansive American terrain through his image-driven verse. The U.S.-Mexico border is where histories and stories converge, not always pleasant but not always tragic, and certainly worth considering. Magic awaits the keen observer, the careful listener. Each poem encourages the visitor: 'Look.// Put your hands here./ This is a beautiful wall.'" — NBC News
Qadri Ismail, Culture and Eurocentrism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)
The conviction that we all have, possess or inhabit a discrete culture, and have done so for centuries, is one of the more dominant default assumptions of our contemporary politico-intellectual moment. However, the concept of culture as a signifier of subjectivity only entered the modern Anglo-U.S. episteme in the late 19th century. Culture and Eurocentrism seeks to account for the term’s relatively recent emergence and movement through the episteme, networked with many other concepts—nature, race, society, imagination, savage, and civilization—at the confluence of several disciplines. Culture, it contends, doesn’t describe difference but produces it, hierarchically.
"A lively, provocative and original work. Ismail’s vigorous arguments will stimulate debate across many fields, including postcolonial studies, cultural studies and global studies."— Rob Nixon, Professor, Princeton University
Rebecca Krug, Margery Kempe and the Lonely Reader (Cornell University Press, 2017)
Since its rediscovery in 1934, the fifteenth-century Book of Margery Kempe has become a canonical text for students of medieval Christian mysticism and spirituality. . . . An unlikely candidate for authorship in the late medieval period given her gender and lack of formal education, Kempe wrote her Book as a revisionary act. Krug shows how the Book reinterprets concepts from late medieval devotional writing (comfort, despair, shame, fear, and loneliness) in its search to create a spiritual community that reaches out to and includes Kempe, her friends, family, advisers, and potential readers.
"Rebecca Krug has written a deeply learned and humane book that situates Margery Kempe in the larger world of late medieval pious works of consolation. . . . Kempe's writing and revision process gives her community access to her own process of self-discovery and intense spiritual engagement. For medievalists interested in the world of late medieval piety, Margery Kempe and the Lonely Reader is an important and compelling reinterpretation of a challenging and often puzzling text." — Katherine L. French, Professor, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
Nathaniel Mills, Ragged Revolutionaries: The Lumpenproletariat and African American Marxism in Depression-Era Literature (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017)
In Marxism, the concept of the lumpenproletariat refers to the masses in rags, outsiders on the edge of society, drifters and criminals, of little or no use politically. . . . By analyzing multiple published and unpublished works from the period, Mills shows how Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Margaret Walker used the lumpenproletariat to imagine new forms of revolutionary knowledge and agency. In their writings, hobos riding the rails, criminals hustling to make ends meet, heroic black folk-outlaws, and individuals who fall out of the proletariat into the social margins all furnish material for thinking through resistance to the exploitations of capitalism, patriarchy, and Jim Crow.
"Mills' focus on the lumpenproletariat is timely, as it intersects with and helps to inform scholarship on a number of emergent topics in American cultural studies. The recuperation of unpublished manuscripts by Ellison and Walker is also a significant contribution in and of itself." — Chris Vials, Professor, University of Connecticut
Andrew Scheil, Babylon Under Western Eyes: A Study of Allusion and Myth (University of Toronto Press, 2016)
Babylon under Western Eyes examines the mythic legacy of ancient Babylon, the Near Eastern city which has served western culture as a metaphor for power, luxury, and exotic magnificence for more than two thousand years. Touching on everything from Old English poetry to the contemporary apocalyptic fiction of the “Left Behind” series, Scheil outlines how medieval Christian society and its cultural successors have adopted Babylon as a political metaphor, a degenerate archetype, and a place associated with the sublime. Combining remarkable erudition with a clear and accessible style, Babylon under Western Eyes is the first comprehensive examination of Babylon’s significance within the pantheon of western literature.
"A superb work of multidisciplinary scholarship, Scheil’s study will be of interest in a variety of academic disciplines, as it masterfully weaves together textual and historical analysis… Highly recommended." — M. Roberts, Choice Magazine
Julie Schumacher, Doodling for Academics (University of Chicago Press, 2017)
With the help of hilarious illustrations by Lauren Nassef, Schumacher infuses the world of campus greens and university quads with cutting wit, immersing you deep into the weirdly creative challenges of university life. Offering a satirical interactive experience for scholars, the combination of humor and activities in this book will bring academia into entertaining relief, making it the perfect gift for your colleagues, advisors, or newly minted graduates.
"The book portrays a typical day in the life of a researcher. It begins with a '4 am fantasy' that involves the invisible protagonist publishing a best-selling book and being showered with money. One page invites readers to colour in administrative red tape while another includes five 'helicopter parents' to cut, colour, and hang for a game of darts. Academics are also invited to colour in the humanities building—a shabby block with visible cracks—and the science lab—a shiny, glass-plated tower with trees on the roof." — Times Higher Education
Geoffrey Sirc, with Thomas Rickert, California Cosmogony Curricuum: The Legacy of James Moffett (Intermezzo, 2016)
"This is the essence of the cosmic: how we find the story of ourselves in the bigger story; how we narrate and negotiate our place in larger wholes, and so find our stake. While it may not be explicitly discussed much in today's climate, nevertheless, this essence suffuses the public realm as much as the academy, stretching across the most trivial to the most grandiose, from a simple consideration of self and meaning to the grand debates about human being in the universe. Cosmogony unites the disparate subject areas of contemporary education, suggesting their fundamental interweaving, and brings the past into fluent conversation with the present, illuminating our own era freshly. But while cosmogony necessarily permeates English Studies, it is rarely thematized as such. A noteworthy exception would be the language arts theorist and practitioner James Moffett. He saw with clarity how cosmogony cradled, suffused, and inspired the humanities as well as the sciences, and his ideas offer compelling reason to return now to his work." — from the introduction
John Watkins, After Lavinia: A Literary History of Premodern Marriage Diplomacy (Cornell University Press, 2017)
In medieval and early modern Europe, marriage treaties were a perennial feature of the diplomatic landscape. In After Lavinia, John Watkins traces the history of the practice, focusing on the unusually close relationship between diplomacy and literary production in Western Europe from antiquity through the seventeenth century, when marriage began to lose its effectiveness and prestige as a tool of diplomacy.
"John Watkins' topic is a massive one but one virtually never studied in this way. . . . This book makes contributions to a whole raft of academic fields—comparative literature, diplomatic history, political history, cultural history, gender studies, medieval studies, English studies, French studies, Renaissance studies, even classics. It should find a broad readership; I predict that it will garner much praise as a major contribution to our understanding of the intersection of gender, political history, and literature. The fascinating climax to After Lavinia is a set of original and persuasive readings of historical tragedies by the major European dramatists of the period—Shakespeare, Corneille, and Racine—in which Watkins shows with exciting clarity and detail the shifts in emphasis and affective power that accompany the changing role of the queen as political actor—and spell her demise as a figure of diplomatic agency." — Timothy Hampton, Professor, University of California, Berkeley