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In: Richard Wright’s Native Son
Coinciding with the preparations for the celebration in 2008 of Richard Wright’s 100th birthday, this new collection of critical essays on Native Son attests to the importance and endurance of Wright’s controversial work. The eleven essays collected in this volume engage the objective of Rodopi’s Dialogue Series by creating multidirectional conversations in which senior and younger scholars interact with each other and with previous scholars who have weighed in on the novel’s import. Speaking from distant corners of the world, the contributors to this book reflect an international interest in Wright’s unique combination of literary strategies and social aims. The wide range of approaches to Native Son is presented in five thematic sections. The first three sections cover aspects such as the historical reception of Wright’s novel, the inscription of sex and gender both in Native Son and in other African American texts, and the influence of Africa and of vortical symbolism on Wright’s aesthetics; following is the study of the novel from the point of view of its adoption and transformation of various literary genres—the African American jeremiad, the protest novel, the crime novel and courtroom drama, the Bildungsroman, and the Biblical modes of narration. The closing section analyzes the novel’s lasting influence through its adaptation to other artistic fields, such as the cinema and song in the form of hip-hop. The present volume may, therefore, be of interest for students who are not very familiar with Wright’s classic text as well as for scholars and Richard Wright specialists.
The stimulating mix of academics and practising poets that have contributed to this volume provides an unusual and illuminating integration of critical and creative practice and a vibrantly diverse approach to questions of poetry and sexuality. Each section of essays is complemented by poems which creatively illustrate or develop the theme with which the essays critically engage. Rather than being limited to a specific genre, tradition, time or place, this collection seeks to make a virtue of contrast, comparison and juxtaposition. The collection is arranged into sections that range broadly across the thematic ground of dichotomies, traditions and revisions, microscopic and macroscopic perspectives, women and embodiment, and the notion of play and performance. Positioning eighteenth-century tinkers ballads alongside medieval Hebrew lyrics and the Blues of Gorgeous Puddin’, or making Dionysus rub shoulders with Sharon Olds and Mrs Rochester provides new perspectives on familiar material and valuable insights into more obscure work and the nature of sensual poetry as a mode of expression. As the editors suggest, the essays and poems presented collectively argue that writings about sexuality are always already about the way poets see and represent our bodies, the world and poetic language itself.
In: The Last Good Land
The subject of Images of America in Scandinavia, the first comprehensive study of its kind, is as multifaceted, complex, and overwhelming as America or the United States, itself. It concerns the nature and function, reality and fiction of such images in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden past and present. The book is intended to be a source of solid information as well as a starting point for further inquiries into its cultural territory.
Part of its focus is on images of America rooted in printed sources, but, in addition, general surveys of other cultural signs of America in the Scandinavian countries present a broader picture and provide some of the background for the predominantly literary images. Issues such as government and politics, popular and vanguard music and art, and socio-cultural institutions intermittently come to the fore.
Framing the volume's three pairs of national surveys is an introductory chapter, which addresses the entire subject from a bird's-eye view, and a concluding chapter, which, by contrast, delves into the cross-fire of sentiments defining people whose images of America, are both American and Scandinavian. The discussion of America as perceived in Scandinavia sheds new light on intriguing inter-Scandinavian cultural distinctions and borderlines.
Countless books and articles, methods and theories, have been devoted to the study of national and cultural identity. Still, the exchanges between such identities and the images they engender - so indispensable for the participants in a global culture - remain clouded by many misconceptions. Images of America in Scandinavia whose editors and authors all have Scandinavian backgrounds, will contribute an improved understanding of the cultural interplay between Scandinavia and the United States of America.
The Case of Henry James
Opera and the Novel: The Case of Henry James offers the first full-length study of the theory and practice of the adaptation of fiction into opera: the transference of a work from one medium to another – metaphrasis – is its point of departure. Starting with a survey of the current thinking regarding the nexus between words and music with specific reference to operatic adaptation of existing literary works, it traces the four-hundred-year history of opera, demonstrating that the novel has become increasingly attractive to librettists and composers as an operatic source. As the resources of modern music theatre have increased in sophistication, so too have the possibilities for an expanded engagement with complex fictional works. The intricate relationship between fictional and musical narrative is examined: the proposition that the orchestra assumes much of the function of the narrator in fiction is explored. The second section is a detailed examination of eight operatic works based on Henry James’s fiction. It is opera’s unique capability to present the intense emotional and psychological situations central to James’s fiction as well as the ability to engage with his synthesis of melodrama and psychological ambiguity which makes James’s work peculiarly amenable to operatic adaptation. Composers who have used James as a source include Douglas Moore, Benjamin Britten, Thomas Pasatieri, Donald Hollier, Thea Musgrave, Philip Hagemann and Dominick Argento. The operas discussed represent a contemporary critical and often self-conscious engagement with the art form itself as well as illustrating current adaptive strategies, and suggest ways in which new operatic paths may be forged. This volume is of relevance to students and scholars of English literature and opera as well as readers who take an interest in intermedial research and the question of adaptation in general.
Calvin S. Brown in Memoriam
The volume is dedicated to the memory of the late Calvin S. Brown of the University of Georgia, author of the first systematically conceived survey - Music and Literature: A Comparison of the Arts (1948) - of the branch of interart studies now generally known as Melopoetics. Part One consists of six original contributions by experts from Austria, Belgium, France, and the United States. Authored by a novelist and a composer/scholar, respectively, the first two essays - Jean Libis's “Inspiration musicale et composition littéraire: Réflexions sur un roman schubertien” and David M. Hertz's “The Composer's Musico-Literary Experience: Reflections on Song Writing” - focus, not surprisingly, on the creative process. The third piece - Francis' Claudon's review of the pertinent research done between 1970 and 1990 - complements the honoree's analogous report on the preceding decades, reprinted in the present volume, whereas the fourth - Jean-Louis Cupers' “Métaphores de l'écho et de l'ombre: Regards sur l'évolution des études musico-littéraires” - surveys the plethora of metaphorical applications, in music and literature, of two significant natural phenomena, the one acoustic and the other optical. Linked to each other, the two remaining papers - Ulrich Weisstein's ”The Miracle of Interconnectedness: Calvin S. Brown, a Critical Biography” and Walter Bernhart's “A Profile in Retrospect: Calvin S. Brown as a Musico-Literary Scholar” - offer critical accounts of the honoree's theoretical and methodological stance as viewed, in the first case, from a biographical angle and, in the second, in the light of subsequent scholarly practice.
Part Two bundles eleven of Professor Brown's previously uncollected articles, covering a period of nearly half a century of significant scholarly activity in the field. The selection demonstrates Brown's poignant interest in transpositions d'art exemplifying the “musicalization” of literature in the formal and structural, rather than thematic, domain as culminating in his trenchant critique of “music in poetry” as understood, somewhat naïvely, by Mallarmé and his critics, and, to a slightly lesser extent, by his translation of Josef Weinhebers' variations on Friedrich Hölderlin's ode “An die Parzen”. Just as Professor Brown's successive anatomies of melopoetic theory and practice illustrate his steadily growing sophistication and the maturing of his mind, so his Bloomington lecture “The Writing and Reading of Language and Music: Thoughts on Some Parallels Between two Artistic Media” reflects his unique ability to assemble, and organize, vast materials and comprehensive data in such a way as to reveal the underlying pattern.
Books studying the presence of Spain in American literature, and the possible influence of Spain and its literature on American authors, are still rare. In 1955 appeared a pioneer work in this field – Stanley T. Williams’ The Spanish Background of American Literature. But that book went no further than W.D. Howells’ Familiar Spanish Travels, published in 1913. The Last Good Land covers most of the twentieth century, including such groups as the Lost Generation and African American writers and exiles. It also considers then recent revolution in Spanish cultural and historical thought introduced by Américo Castro, which several American writers discussed in this volume may be said to have anticipated. Recent studies have expanded on Williams’ volumes, but in the majority of cases these works limit their scope to a single period (the nineteenth century, the Spanish Civil War), a movement (predominantly Romanticism) or authors known for their interest in Spain (Irving, Hemingway). The result is often a lack of continuum, or the exclusion of such authors as Saul Bellow, William Gaddis or Richard Wright. Within American literature itself, The Last Good Land contains revisions of traditional interpretations of certain writers, including Hemingway. The variety of authors treated, both in respect to ethnicity and gender, guarantees a varied and global view of Spanish culture by American writers.