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Stevens, Wallace  

James Longenbach

There are two ways to describe the career of Wallace Stevens. One would be this: after having been born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1879, Stevens attended Harvard University and New York Law School; he began working in 1908 in the insurance industry, and in 1934 he was named vice president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he continued to work virtually until the day of his death in 1955. The other way of describing his career would be this: after publishing Harmonium in 1923, Stevens wrote no poems for almost a decade; but after his second book, Ideas of Order, appeared in 1935, he wrote consistently and in comparative obscurity for the rest of his life. His Collected Poems (1954) received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize after his death in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1955


Stone, Robert  

Cates Baldridge

Robert Stone has written that “the first law of heaven is that nothing is free,” and there are reasons enough to believe that he came by this hard truth early and ungently. He was born on 21 August 1937 in Brooklyn, New York, to a schizophrenic mother, Gladys Grant Stone, and an absent father, C. Homer Stone. By the age of six the young Stone found himself boarded in St. Ann's Marist academy—a quasi-orphanage, in his case—where physical and psychological brutality from both students and priests was daily fare. When his mother was well enough, Stone lived with her, taking trips to make “new starts” in various parts of the country, at least one of which ended with a stay in a homeless shelter. Despite, or perhaps in part because of such early dislocations of the spirit, the boy began to write stories that from the start garnered attention and praise, and which were obviously a welcome outlet for his stifled ambitions and for the active imagination that had hitherto served largely as a refuge.


Stowe, Harriet Beecher  

Lorinda B. Cohoon

Harriet Beecher Stowe's reputationas an author of American literature is directly connected to Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly (1852), her first and best-known novel. With this text, Stowe gave American literature a novel that influenced the abolitionist movement, contributed to American iconography, and explored possibilities for women's involvement in political life. Stowe's text also offered fruitful material for puzzling over the quality of her writing and its peculiar power. During the nineteenth century, reviewers and critics debated Stowe's literary reputation, alternately praising her for her bold choices of subjects or criticizing her for her texts' artistic flaws. As the nature and importance of American literature were established in the early part of the twentieth century, literary historians either neglected to mention Stowe or compared her unfavorably to nineteenth-century male writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. These writers were seen as having written far superior material, especially in the areas of style and originality. In the late twentieth century and in the first few years of the twenty-first century critics have renewed their interest in Stowe's writing, focusing on her feminism, her talents as a regional writer, and the relevance of her travel narratives and other texts to cultural studies. Participants in ongoing discussions of representations of race in the nineteenth century continue to grapple with Stowe's characterizations of people of color. Whether celebrated or berated, Stowe's contributions to American literature cannot be ignored.


Strand, Mark  

Andrew Zawacki

Mark Strand was born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, on 11 April 1934. Sandwiched between the celebrated generation of American poets born in 1927—John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, W. S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, James Wright, and Donald Hall, among others—and those of the 1940s, Strand once joked that he, Charles Wright, and Charles Simic comprise a “generation of three.” Strand's parents left Canada when he was four, and he was raised and educated mainly in the United States and South America, returning to Nova Scotia for summers until he was twelve.


Strategic Hybridity in Early Chinese and Japanese American Literature  

Floyd Cheung

Early Chinese and Japanese American male writers between 1887 and 1938 such as Yan Phou Lee, Yung Wing, Sadakichi Hartmann, Yone Noguchi, and H. T. Tsiang accessed dominant US publishing markets and readerships by presenting themselves and their works as cultural hybrids that strategically blended enticing Eastern content and forms with familiar Western language and structures. Yan Phou Lee perpetrated cross-cultural comparisons that showed that Chinese were not unlike Europeans and Americans. Yung Wing appropriated and then transformed dominant American autobiographical narratives to recuperate Chinese character. Sadakichi Hartmann and Yone Noguchi combined poetic traditions from Japan, Europe, and America in order to define a modernism that included cosmopolitans such as themselves. And H. T. Tsiang promoted Marxist world revolution by experimenting with fusions of Eastern and Western elements with leftist ideology. Although these writers have been discounted by some critics as overly compromising in their attempts to reach Western readers, they accomplished laudable cultural work in their particular historical circumstances and provide insights into the varied and complicated negotiations of Asian American identity during the exclusion era.



Daniel Hartley

Modern style emerged from the ruins of the premodern “separation of styles” (high, middle, and low). Whereas, previously, only the nobility could be represented in the high style and commoners in the low, modern style harbors a democratic, generic potential: in principle, anyone can write about anything in any way he or she likes. The history of modern style, as a central critical and compositional principle, is thus deeply imbricated with modern democracy and capitalist modernity. It has a unique relationship to the history of realism, which was itself premised upon the demise of the separation of styles. Many critics (e.g., Erich Auerbach, Roland Barthes, and Fredric Jameson) stress the way in which, as a concept and linguistic practice, style connects the body to a generic, Utopian potential of the everyday. Feminist critics, such as Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray, have pursued style’s relationship to the body to delineate a specifically feminine mode of writing [écriture féminine]. Marxist critics, such as Raymond Williams, have argued that style should be understood as a linguistic mode of social relationship. The corollary is that social contradictions are experienced by writers as problems of style (e.g., in Thomas Hardy: how to unite the “educated” style of the urban ruling class with the “customary” style of the rural working class into a single artistic whole). Other critics (e.g., Franco Moretti, Roberto Schwarz) have extended this logic to the scale of “world literature:” they identify stylistic discontinuity as a feature of peripheral world literature that seeks to imitate European realist forms; it is caused by a mismatch between prevailing modes of production and dominant ideologies at the core and the (semi-)periphery of the capitalist world-system. Free indirect style, which merges narrator and character into a new, third voice, has been identified as a key feature of prose fiction in the world-systemic core—the symbolic embodiment of modern, bourgeois forms of power (an “impersonal intimacy”). Finally, “late style”—a concept associated with Theodor W. Adorno and Edward W. Said—has become an influential way of characterizing works of artistic maturity written as the author approaches old age and death (though it is certainly not limited to biological maturity). It is a style in which form and subjectivity become torn from one another, the latter freeing itself only then to subtract itself (rather than “express” itself). Style thus hovers between the impersonality of the demos and the grave.


Styron, William  

Paul Sullivan

William Styron's best writing resonates with an emotional honesty that strives for a greater, universal truth. In his fiction Styron has relied on memories of his Virginia childhood and early adult life in New York City and Europe as starting points for broader novels. With his nonfiction, he has been more engaged in the political and social events of his time. Regardless of the form, his writing has always attracted attention—and often controversy.



Ian Balfour

The sublime as an aesthetic category has an extraordinarily discontinuous history in Western criticism and theory, though the phenomena it points to in art and nature are without historical limit, or virtually so. The sublime as a concept and phenomenon is harder to define than many aesthetic concepts, partly because of its content and partly because of the absence of a definition in the first great surviving text on the subject, Longinus’s On the Sublime. The sublime is inflected differently in the major theorists: in Longinus it produces ecstasy or transport in the reader or listener; in Burke its main ingredient is terror (but supplemented by infinity and obscurity); and in Kant’s bifurcated system of the mathematical and dynamic sublime, the former entails a cognitive overload, a breakdown of the imagination, and the ability to represent, whereas in the latter, the subject, after first being threatened, virtually, by powerful nature outside her or him, turns inward to discover a power of reason able to think beyond the realm of the senses. Many theorists testify to the effect of transcendence or exaltation of the self on the far side of a disturbing, disorienting experience that at least momentarily suspends or even annihilates the self. A great deal in the theoretical-critical texts turns on the force of singularly impressive examples, which may or may not exceed the designs of the theoretical axioms they are meant to exemplify. Examples of sublimity are by no means limited to nature and art but spill over into numerous domains of cultural and social life. The singular force of the individual examples, it is argued, nonetheless tends to work out similarly in certain genres conducive to the sublime (epic, tragedy) but somewhat differently from one genre to another. The heyday of the theory and critical engagement with the sublime lasts, in Western Europe and a little beyond, from the late 17th century to the early 19th century. But it does not simply go away, with sublime aesthetic production and critical reflection on the sublime present in the likes of Baudelaire, Nietzsche, and—to Adorno’s mind—in the art of modernism generally, in its critical swerve from the canons of what had counted as beauty. The sublime flourished as a topic in theory of criticism of the poststructuralist era, in figures such as Lyotard and Paul de Man but also in Fredric Jameson’s analysis of the cultural logic of late capitalism. The then current drive to critique the principle and some protocols of representation found an almost tailor-made topic in Enlightenment and Romantic theory of the sublime where, within philosophy, representation had been rendered problematic in robust fashion.



Shiamin Kwa

Thinking about surface and its historiography in the early 21st century is a way of thinking about ways of seeing in the world, and how people define themselves in relation to the things around them. From literary texts to the decorative arts, from graphic narratives to digital stories, and from film to the textile arts, the ways of reading those texts frequently raise questions about interactions with surfaces. Theories of surface have been engaged in many ways since their invocation by French theorists in the final decades of the twentieth century. They have a steady but by no means identical presence in the field of visual studies, history of architecture, and film studies; they have found an application in discussions of race and identity; they have enjoyed an early 21st century turn in the spotlight under the auspices of a broadly defined call for a “surface reading.” This critical move defines surface as worthy of scrutiny in its own right, rather than as something that needs to be “seen through,” and makes its most profound claims less by reactivating attention to reading surfaces, which arguably has been done all along, but by a shifting away from a model of interpretation that makes claims for authoritative symptomatic readings by an all-knowing interpreter.


Swenson, May  

Joy Arbor

May Swenson was born on 28 May 1913 in Logan, Utah, to Dan and Margaret (Helberg) Swenson. She attended Utah State Agricultural College, not far from her home; her father was an assistant in the college's Woodwork Department. The eldest of a large Mormon family, she became skeptical of her faith while in college.


Sympathy and Empathy  

Rae Greiner

Sympathy and empathy are complex and entwined concepts with philosophical and scientific roots relating to issues in ethics, aesthetics, psychology, biology, and neuroscience. For some, the two concepts are indistinguishable, the two terms interchangeable, but each has a unique history as well as qualities that make both concepts distinct. Although each is associated with feeling, especially the capacity to feel with others or to imaginatively put oneself “in their shoes,” the concepts’ sometimes shared, sometimes divergent histories reveal more complicated origins, as well as vexed and ongoing relations to feeling and emotion and to the ethical value of emotional sharing. Though empathy regularly is considered the more advanced and egalitarian of the two, it shares with sympathy a controversial role in historical debates regarding questions of an inborn or divine moral sense, prosocial behavior and the development of human communities, the relation of sensation to unconscious mental processes, brain matter, and neurons, and animal/human difference. In literary criticism, sympathy and empathy have been key components of aesthetic movements such as sentimentalism, realism, and modernism, and of literary techniques like free indirect discourse (FID), which are thought (by some) to enhance readerly intimacy and closeness to novelistic characters and perspectives. Both concepts have also received their fair share of suspicion, as the capacity to feel, or imagine feeling, the emotions of others remains a controversial basis for ethics.


Tarkington, Booth  

Charles Robert Baker

The novels of Booth Tarkington were read by millions of Americans around the turn of the twentieth century, though today his name is known mostly to historians of American literature and to those of the oldest generation whose youthful reading included Tarkington's delightful series of the boyhood adventures of Penrod. His best-known adult novel, The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), has found readers through the decades as well.


Tate, Allen  

Edward Halsey Foster

Allen Tate—born John Orley Allen Tate on 19 November 1899 in Winchester, a rural town in Kentucky—was descended from old southern stock. A defender of the agrarian South against the urban, industrialized North, he was best known as a poet and a novelist, but he was also a distinguished editor, teacher, and critic, whose contributions to the New Criticism helped to make it the dominant American critical discourse at midcentury. Tate's father was a businessman whose turbulent character was matched by his extravagant financial speculations. Tate's mother, in contrast, was a Virginia aristocrat, the descendent of genteel patrician families. The parents were very different temperamentally, and during Tate's childhood they separated. Tate's mother took charge of her shy, intellectually inclined son, even moving with him to college and keeping house there for him.


Tate, James  

Arnold E. Sabatelli

James Tate is arguably one of the most influential poets of his generation. In 1967 he won the coveted Yale Younger Poets Award, one of the youngest writers ever to receive that honor. (He was a graduate student at the Iowa Writers Workshop at the time.) His book The Lost Pilot, published the same year, set the tone for the body of his poetry. Surreal, funny, irreverent, and at times almost wholly inaccessible, Tate's poetry has not strayed far from the approach and tone of his earliest work.


Taylor, Edward  

Adam Scott Miller

During his lifetime of eighty-seven years, Edward Taylor, a Puritan minister and poet, wrote more than forty thousand lines of verse. Much of Taylor's poetry is devotional and was composed during the course of frequent meditative exercises. As a result, he chose to keep his work private but left his manuscripts to his grandson, who eventually deposited them in the Yale University library. They remained there until their discovery in 1937. Subsequent critical attention has declared Taylor's verse to be colonial America's best poetry.


Taylor, Peter  

Robert Wilson

Because he was born in Tennessee and much of his work is set there, Peter Taylor is unquestionably a southern writer. But his fiction differs from that of the other significant writers of the southern literary renaissance of the 1920s through the 1960s in its focus on urban and suburban settings of the Upper South rather than on the rural life of the Deep South. Taylor was younger than William Faulkner, the great master of southern and, indeed, of American fiction, and younger than the members of the South's two preeminent literary groups, the Fugitive poets and the Agrarians. As a result, the shadows of the Civil War and Reconstruction fall less boldly upon his work than on the work of those older writers, who had one foot in the nineteenth century and one in the twentieth. Taylor's sympathetic concern with the circumstances of blacks and women place him firmly in the twentieth century. (His other large theme of class shows up in almost every period and school of American literature.)



Eleonora Lima

The history of literature has always been influenced by technological progress, as a transformative cultural power—threatening destruction or promising a luminous future—as a theme inspiring new narrative forms and plots, or as a force influencing the way authors conceive textuality and perform their creative work. The entanglement between literary and technological inventions is even recorded in the etymology of the word, which comes from the Greek “techne,” a term referring to arts as well as crafts. The way writers conceive this relationship, however, varies greatly: although some consider the work of technicians to be congenial to artistic creation, as they both demonstrate human creativity and ingenuity, others believe technology to be a dehumanizing and unnatural force, not only alien to literature but in competition with its own ethos. Therefore, depending on their position, the writer comes to embody the mythical figure of Prometheus, the first technician and defiant creator, or that of Orpheus, symbolizing the marriage between poetry and nature compared to any artificial creation. However, the opposition between nature and technology, with literature positioning itself either in one realm or the other, is only one of many possible critical perspectives. Indeed, when moving beyond the idea of technology as merely a kind of artifact, the affinities between texts and machines clearly emerge. A mutual relation connects technology and textuality, and this has to do with the complex nature of material and cultural objects, each shaped by social use, aesthetic norms, and power structures. This bond between discursivity and materiality is impossible to disentangle, as is the contextual relationship between literature and technology: Texts prescribe meanings to machines just as much as the latter shape their textuality. To recognize literature and technology as two different systems of meanings and sets of practices which are nevertheless always in conversation with each other is also to understand literature as technology. This stance has nothing to do with the likeness of the poet and the technician as creative minds but rather with the idea of literary texts functioning like technologies and, ultimately, offering a meta-reflexive analysis of their own textuality. According to this critical perspective, literature performatively enacts the changes in textuality brought about by technological progress, from the printing press to digital writing tools.



Ian James

Tekhne, or techne, is derived from the Greek term technê, meaning art, craft, technique, or skill, and plays an important role in Ancient Greek philosophy (in, for instance, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle) where it is most often opposed to epistêmê, meaning knowledge. The legacy of the various Greek philosophical negotiations with, and distinctions between, technê and epistêmê leave a lasting mark on European thought and knowledge from the medieval period through to the early modern period and into modern philosophy from Emmanuel Kant onwards up to and including 20th-century phenomenology (Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger) and its subsequent legacy, particularly in French philosophy. So, for instance, in Plato’s Protagoras, the myth of Epimetheus and Prometheus describes the latter’s theft of the technê of fire as a result of the former’s forgetfulness with regard to the bestowal of attributes to human beings. Here technê emerges as skill or technique but also as a more general founding moment of humankind’s technical and technological capacities. In The Republic Plato opposes the knowledge of reality and truth (of ideal forms) to the representational status of dramatic poetry (as a technê poietike or productive technique) and by extension to arts and literature in general. In this context the latter have a degraded status in relation to knowledge or truth, and this sets the stage for attempts that will be made by later philosophy to distance itself from aesthetic form or literary discourse. In Aristotle technê emerges within the distinction between art as productive technique and theoretical knowledge on the one hand (theoria) and action on the other (praxis). Aristotle’s distinctions have an influential afterlife in the medieval period and into the early modern, in particular in Emmanuel Kant’s definition of art as a skill or capacity for the production of things. The legacy of this long negotiation of Greek technê as art, productive technique, technical skill, or technology finds its way into 20th-century German phenomenology; in Edmund Husserl’s account of the rise of the scientific worldview and instrumental rationality in The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1938) and in Martin Heidegger’s discourse on technological modernity, art, and the philosophical-poetic saying of being as it is developed from the 1930s onwards. The legacy of German phenomenological thinking relating to tekhne, understood as a fundamental dimension of both artistic and technological production, has a particularly strong afterlife in post–World War II French structuralism, poststructuralism, and contemporary philosophy. The influence of Husserl’s understanding of technicity can be traced directly in various ways into the work of, for instance, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. Similarly, both Husserlian and Heideggerian discourse on tekhne find their way in the thinking of technology, ecotechnicity, and technics of contemporary philosophers such as Jean-Luc Nancy. Nancy’s discourse on the technicity of art yields an affirmation of the irreducible plurality of aesthetic techniques and, in particular, a reorientation of possible ways of understanding the place of literature in the age of digital information technology.



Theodore Martin

Time is not a strictly literary category, yet literature is unthinkable without time. The events of a story unfold over time. The narration of that story imposes a separate order of time (chronological, discontinuous, in medias res). The reading of that narrative may take its own sweet time. Then there is the fact that literature itself exists in time. Transmitted across generations, literary texts cannot help but remind us of how times have changed. In doing so, they also show us how prior historical moments were indelibly shaped by their own specific philosophies and technologies of timekeeping—from the forms of sacred time that informed medieval writing; to the clash between national time and natural history that preoccupied the Romantics; to the technological standardization of time that shaped 19th-century literature; to the theories of psychological time that emerged in tandem with modernism; to the fragmented and foreshortened digital times that underlie postmodern fiction. Time, in short, shapes literature several times over: from reading experience to narrative form to cultural context. In this way, literature can be read as a peculiarly sensitive timepiece of its own, both reflecting and responding to the complex and varied history of shared time. Over the course of the 20th century, literary time has become an increasingly prominent issue for literary critics. Time was first installed at the heart of literary criticism by way of narrative theory and narratology, which sought to explain narrative’s irreducibly temporal structure. Soon, though, formalist and phenomenological approaches to time would give way to more historically and politically attuned methods, which have emphasized modern time’s enmeshment in imperialism, industrial capitalism, and globalization. In today’s critical landscape, time is a crucial and contested topic in a wide range of subfields, offering us indispensable insights into the history and ideology of modernity; the temporal politics of nationalism, colonialism, and racial oppression; the alternate timescales of environmental crisis and geological change; and the transformations of life and work that structure postmodern and postindustrial society.



Rossana De Angelis

The concept of “text” is ambiguous: it can identify at the same time a concrete reality and an abstract one. Indeed, text presents itself both as an empirical object subject to analysis and an abstract object constructed by the analysis itself. This duplicity characterizes the development of the concept in the 20th century. According to different theories of language, there are also different understandings of “text”: a restricted use as written text, an extensive use as written and spoken text, and an expanded use as any written, verbal, gestural, or visual manifestation. The concept of “text” also presupposes two other concepts: from a generative point of view, it involves a proceeding by which something becomes a text (textualization); from an interpretative point of view, it involves a proceeding by which something can be interpreted as a text (textuality). In textual linguistics, “text” is considered at the same time as an abstract object, issued from a specific theoretical approach, and a concrete object, a linguistic phenomenon starting the process of analysis. In textual linguistics, textuality presents as a global quality of text issued from the interlacing of the sentences composing it. In linguistics, the definition of textuality depends on the definition of text. For instance, M. A. K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan define textuality through the concepts of “cohesion” and “coherence.” Cohesion is a necessary condition of textuality, because it enables text to be perceived as a whole, but it’s not sufficient to explain it. In fact, to be interpreted as a whole, the elements composing the text need to be coherent to each other. But according to Robert-Alain De Beaugrande and Wolfgang Ulrich Dressler, cohesion and coherence are only two of the seven principles of textuality (the other five being intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality). Textual pragmatics deals with a more complex problem: that of the text conceived as an empirical object. Here the text is presented as a unit captured in a communication process, “a communicative unit.” Considered from a pragmatic point of view, every single unit composing a text constitutes an instruction for meaning. Since the 1970s, analyzing connections between texts and contexts, textual pragmatics, has been an important source of inspiration for textual semiotics. In semiotics, the theory of language proposed by Louis T. Hjelmslev, the concept of “text” is conceived above all as a process and a “relational hierarchy.” Furthermore, according to Hjelmslev, textuality consists in the idea of “mutual dependencies,” composing a whole which makes the text an “absolute totality” to be interpreted by readers and analyzed by linguists. Since texts are composed of a network of connections at both local and global levels, their analyses depend on the possibility to reconstruct the relation between global and local dimensions. For this reason, François Rastier suggests that in order to capture the meaning of a text, the semantic analysis must identify semantic forms at different semantic levels. So textuality comes from the articulation between the semantic and phemic forms (content and expression), and from the semantic and phemic roots from which the forms emerge. Textuality allows the reader to identify the interpretative paths through which to understand the text. This complex dynamic is at the foundation of this idea of textuality. Now that digital texts are available, researchers have developed several methods and tools to exploit such digital texts and discourse, representing at the same time different approaches to meaning. Text Mining is based on a simple principle: the identification and processing of textual contents to extract knowledge. By using digital tools, the intra-textual and inter-textual links can be visualized on the screen, as lists or tables of results, which permits the analysis of the occurrences and frequency of certain textual elements composing the digital texts. So, another idea of text is visible to the linguist: not the classical one according to the culture of printed texts, but a new one typical of the culture of digital texts, and their textuality.