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.
Charles Baxter, There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories (Pantheon, 2015)
Penetrating and prophetic, the ten interrelated stories are held together by a surreally intricate web of cause and effect—one that slowly ensnares both fictional bystanders and enraptured readers. . . . As the collection progresses, we delve more deeply into the private lives of these characters, exploring their fears, fantasies, and obsessions. They appear and reappear, performing praiseworthy and loathsome acts in equal measure in response to the request—or demand—lodged in each story’s center. The result is a portrait of human nature that could have arisen only from Baxter’s singular vision.
"The book follows a group of Minneapolis citizens, including a pediatrician, a young drug addict, a translator and a car mechanic—all of whom, like the rest of us, crave love and meaning and moral goodness while confined by the shortcomings and idiosyncrasies of their own personalities. . . . [T]hey eventually constitute, if not exactly a community, a shimmering web of interconnectedness." — Michelle Huneven, New York Times Book Review
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
Nabil Matar, British Captives from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1563-1760 (The Atlantic World, Brill, 2014)
Provides the first study of British captives in the North African Atlantic and Mediterranean, from the reign of Elizabeth I to George II. Based on extensive archival research in the United Kingdom, Nabil Matar furnishes the names of all captives while examining the problems that historians face in determining the numbers of early modern Britons in captivity.
Matar also describes the roles which the monarchy, parliament, trading companies, and churches played (or did not play) in ransoming captives. He questions the emphasis on religious polarization in piracy and shows how much financial constraints, royal indifference, and corruption delayed the return of captives. As rivalry between Britain and France from 1688 on dominated the western Mediterranean and Atlantic, Matar concludes by showing how captives became the casus belli that justified European expansion.
Nabil Matar, An Arab Ambassador in the Mediterranean World: The Travels of Muhammad Ibn 'Uthmān Al-Miknāsī (Routledge, 2015)
This book provides translated selections from the writings of Muhammad Ibn Othman al-Miknasi (d. 1799). The only writings by an Arab-Muslim in the pre-modern period that present a comparative perspective, his travelogues provide unique insight into Christendom and Islam.
Translating excerpts from his three travelogues, this book tells the story of Al-Miknāsī's travels from 1779-1788. As an ambassador, Al-Miknāsī was privy to court life, government offices, and religious buildings, and he provides detailed accounts of cities, people, customs, ransom negotiations, historical events, and political institutions. Including descriptions of Europeans, Arabs, Turks, Christians (both European and Eastern), Muslims, Jews, and (American) Indians in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, An Arab Ambassador in the Mediterranean World explores how the most travelled Muslim writer of the pre-modern period saw the world.
Paula Rabinowitz, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street (Princeton University Press, 2014). Co-Winner of the 2015 SHARP DeLong Book History Book Prize from the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing
Drawing on extensive original research, Paula Rabinowitz unearths the far-reaching political, social, and aesthetic impact of the pulps between the late 1930s and early 1960s. Published in vast numbers of titles, available everywhere, and sometimes selling in the millions, pulps were throwaway objects accessible to anyone with a quarter. American Pulp tells how these books ingeniously repackaged highbrow fiction and nonfiction for a mass audience, drawing in readers of every kind with promises of entertainment, enlightenment, and titillation.
"Offers a thoughtful, provocative take on pulp and its influence on American culture, in art, in film—and how the dime-store publications provided new platforms for gay, lesbian, and African American writers, too." — Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Paula Rabinowitz and Cristina Giorcelli, eds., Extravagances: Habits of Being 4 (University of Minnesota Press, 2015)
Employing many different approaches, these essays explore how wearing an object—a crown, a flower, an earring, a corsage, a veil, even a length of material—can stray beyond the bounds of the body on which it is placed into the discrepant territory of flagrantly excessive public signs of love, status, honor, prestige, power, desire, and display. The varied contributions of scholars (historians, ethnographers, literary and film critics) and artists (photographers, sculptors, writers, weavers, and embroiderers) take up the threads of these forays into history, psyche, and aesthetics in surprising and useful ways.
Paula Rabinowitz, Howard Brick, and Robbie Lieberman, eds., Lineages of the Literary Left (Maize/University of Michigan Press, 2015)
The essays in this volume in honor of Alan M. Wald investigate aspects of intellectual, literary, and cultural movements and figures associated with left-wing politics beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing into our own time. The critics and historians participating in this tribute—including contributors Tariq Ali, Michael Löwy, Rachel Rubin, Dayo Gore and many others, attest to the varied lineages comprising myriad scholarly traditions as well. The collection stresses “lineages” and “traditions” in the plural, to indicate the multiple tendencies, fields and methods that serve to expand notions of the Literary Left.
“No one knows the convoluted political landscape of the 1930s (or its many legacies) as well as [Wald] does. By so comprehensively extending the lines of inquiry he set in motion, this volume is a fitting tribute to his tireless work.” — Andrea Ross, Professor, New York University
Paula Rabinowitz, Ruth Barraclough, and Heather Bowen-Struyk, eds., Red Love Across the Pacific: Political and Sexual Revolutions in the Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
Examines the transnational movement that swept across the Asia-Pacific in the 1920s and 1930s as a combined form of political and sexual revolution for women and men, gay and straight, and follows its trajectory during the twentieth century. Red Love expressed a desire for a new society where love itself would be radically reconfigured. Examining film, literature, biography, and the censor's archive, this book analyzes the transnational trade in representation of new, radical, often working-class forms of desire as well as the institutions that emerged to suppress them.
"This incredibly timely collection maps the vogue for stories of eros and revolutionary politics that spread across the Asia Pacific through writing, art, and activism. Grappling with works that have been distorted by state repression and self-censorship, the authors demonstrate their compelling and often surprising implications and legacies." — Cheryl Higashida, University of Colorado at Boulder
Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Doubleday, 2014). Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His life, a tale of woe, is revealed in a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.
"A smart-as-hell, fun-as-heck novel. . . . Beyond the moribund state of academia, Schumacher touches on more universal themes about growing old and facing failure: not necessarily the dramatic failure of a batter striking out with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, but the quieter failure that accrues over time, until we are finally forced to admit that we are not who we wanted to become." — Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
Madelon Sprengnether, Great River Road: Memoir and Memory (New Rivers Press, 2015)
A memoir that takes the reader on a metaphorical journey of traumatic events cast in a psychological trajectory that begins with questions of death and ends in emotional consolation. Guided by a symbolic map of meaning, Sprengnether relays compelling memories of family, friends, and dramatic historical events.
"Sprengnether is a writer of deep and varied intellect. In the space of this book, she wends her way around Freud, Shakespeare, Italian Renaissance painting and cognitive neuroscience. She is at her most compelling, though, when she writes as a mother, particularly in the chapter in which she chronicles the experience of traveling to England for her daughter's wedding. Here is where the intellect falls away and the heart emerges, raw and real, on the page." —Emily H. Freeman, Star Tribune
Madelon Sprengnether, Near Solstice: Prose Poems (Holy Cow! Press, 2015)
This new collection is grounded in the body and sensual awareness as the means by which we experience the world. In a series of interlinked prose poems, Sprengnether meditates on the death of parents, family members, and friends, with the passing of seasons, sexuality, the consolations of landscape, and (always) the significance of light.
"A fierce question propels the poems in Madelon Sprengnether's new book: 'So tell me. What on earth God wants from us?' Is it love, beauty, pleasure, duty? As Sprengnether explores that question, alert to life routines, rituals, sacrifices, even pilgrimages—driving, swimming, caring for an aging parent, exploring landscapes and ancient mythologies—her poems reveal striking layers of desire, grief, and tenderness." — Patricia Kirkpatrick, author of Odessa
The first full length volume to approach the premodern Mediterranean from a fully interdisciplinary perspective, this collection defines the Mediterranean as a coherent region with distinct patterns of social, political, and cultural exchange. The essays explore the production, modification, and circulation of identities based on religion, ethnicity, profession, gender, and status as free or slave within three distinctive Mediterranean geographies: islands, entrepôts and empires. . . . Integrating environmental, social, political, religious, literary, artistic, and linguistic concerns, this collection offers a new model for approaching a distinct geographical region as a unique site of cultural and social exchange.