The American Literatures Initiative
Narrative Appropriation in American Literature
This book argues that sentimentalism, an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary mode, is alive and well in the modern era. By examining working-class literature that adopts the rhetoric of “feeling right” in order to promote a proletarian or humanist ideology as well as neo-slave narratives that wrestle with the legacy of slavery and cultural definitions of African American families, it explores the ways contemporary authors engage with familiar sentimental clichés and ideals.
Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature
Black Resonance analyzes writings by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gayl Jones, and Nikki Giovanni that engage such iconic singers as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin. The book focuses on two generations of artists from the 1920s to the 1970s; each chapter pairs one writer with one singer to crystallize the artistic practice they share: lyricism, sincerity, understatement, haunting, and the creation of a signature voice.
Birth Control Politics and Literature between the World Wars
When Sex Changed analyzes the ways literary texts responded to the political, economic, sexual, and social values put forward by the birth control movements of the 1910s to the 1930s in the United States and Great Britain. The book compares disparate responses to the birth control controversy, from early skepticism by mainstream feminists, to concerns about the movement’s race and class implications, to enthusiastic speculation about contraception’s political implications.
Writing Race and Nation from the Shadows of Citizenship, 1945-1960
Unbecoming Americans identifies a canon of writers who, during the years after World War II, explored forms of belonging in the world outside the domain of modern citizenship. It examines works by C.L.R. James, Richard Wright, Claudia Jones, and Carlos Bulos that show how these writers employed aesthetic alternative forms to the novel, including memoir, cultural criticism, and travel narrative, to contest prevailing notions of race, nation, and citizenship.
Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930
The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. The Romance of Race examines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of modern American multiculturalism by placing minorities at the center of American identity and imagining a new national narrative based on the model of an interracial nuclear family.
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