Rethinking the category of aesthetics in light of recent developments in literary theory and social criticism, the contributors to this volume showcase the interpretive possibilities available to those who bring politics, culture, ideology, and conceptions of identity into their critiques. Essays combine close readings of individual works and authors with more theoretical discussions of aesthetic theory and its relation to American literature. In their introduction, Weinstein and Looby argue that aesthetics never left American literary critique. Instead, the essay casts the current return to aesthetics as the natural consequence of shortcomings in deconstruction and new historicism, which led to a reconfiguration of aesthetics. Subsequent essays demonstrate the value and versatility of aesthetic considerations in literature, from eighteenth-century poetry to twentieth-century popular music. Organized into four groups -- politics, form, gender, and theory -- contributors revisit the canonical works of Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Stephen Crane, introduce the overlooked texts of Constance Fenimore Woolson and Earl Lind, and unpack the complexities of the music of The Carpenters. Deeply rooted in an American context, these essays explore literature's aesthetic dimensions in connection to American liberty and the formation of political selfhood. Contributors include Edward Cahill, Ivy G. Wilson, June Ellison, Dorri Beam, Christopher Castiglia, Christopher Looby, Wendy Steiner, Cindy Weinstein, Trish Loughran, Jonathan Freedman, Elisa New, Dorothy Hale, Mary Esteve, Eric Lott, Sianne Ngai
Full Product DetailsAuthor: Cindy Weinstein , Christopher Looby
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Imprint: Columbia University Press
ISBN 10: 0231156162
Publication Date: 07 August 2012
Audience: Professional and scholarly , Professional & Vocational
Publisher's Status: Active
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Table of ContentsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1Liberty of the Imagination in Revolutionary AmericaThe Writing on the Wall: Revolutionary Aesthetics and Interior SpacesStephen Crane's RefrainLyric Citizenship in Post 9/11 Performance: Sekou Sundiata's the 51st (dream) state2Aesthetics Beyond the Actual: The Marble Faun and Romantic SociabilityHenry James, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and the Figure in the CarpetSexuality's Aesthetic Dimension: Kant and the Autobiography of an AndrogyneFrom The Birthmark to Hairspray: American Anxieties About Beauty3When is Now? Poe's Aesthetics of TemporalityReading in the Present Tense: Benito Cereno and the Time of ReadingWhat Maggie Knew: Game Theory, The Golden Bowl, and the Critical Possibilities of Aesthetic KnowledgeUpon a Peak in Beinecke: The Beauty of the Book in the Poetry of Susan Howe4Warped Conjunctions: Jacques Ranciere and African American TwonessAesthetics and the New Ethics: Theorizing the Novel in the Twenty-First CenturyPostwar Pastoral: The Art of Happiness in Philip RothPerfect Is Dead: Karen Carpenter, Theodor Adorno, and the Radio; or, If Hooks Could KillNetwork Aesthetics: Juliana Spahr's The Transformation and Bruno Latour's Reassembling the SocialAfterwordContributorsIndex
This indispensable work, truly a book for our times, recuperates questions of beauty, form, sensuousness, and taste after they have been largely discarded by the politically engaged criticism of the last two to three decades. Understandably wary about a renewal of the aesthetic as the absolute horizon of interpretation, Weinstein and Looby--and their contributors--make a compelling case for reintegrating formalism and historicism. The volume covers the canonical (Poe, Melville, James) and the noncanonical (Constance Fenimore Woolson, Sekou Sundiata, Susan Howe), and it ranges from the Revolutionary period to the twenty-first century. I can think of no other collection that approaches it in richness and revisionary scope; its appearance marks a watershed in the study of American literature. -- Michael T. Gilmore, Paul Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature, Brandeis University
Cindy Weinstein is professor of English at the California Institute of Technology and the author of The Literature of Labor and the Labors of Literature: Allegory in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction and Family, Kinship, and Sympathy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. She is also the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe and coeditor, with Peter Stoneley, of A Concise Companion to American Fiction, 1900--1950. Christopher Looby is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of Voicing America: Language, Literary Form, and the Origins of the United States and editor of The Complete Civil War Journal and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. With Christopher Castiglia, he is the coeditor of a special issue of ESQ on New Approaches to Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and wrote the introduction to Robert Montgomery Bird's Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself.
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