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Circulating Libraries in the Victorian Era  

Troy J. Bassett

Beginning in the 18th century and continuing throughout the 19th century, circulating libraries became an integral part of the literary marketplace as the chief means of distributing books. Subscribers paid an annual or per-book fee to rent volumes: during the Victorian period, the typical subscription rate was one guinea (21s) per year to borrow one volume at a time. The relatively high price of books made circulating libraries an economical means for many middle-class families to access books: for less than the price of one three-volume novel (one-and-a-half guineas, or 31s 6d), a subscriber could borrow dozens if not more volumes. Hundreds of circulating libraries existed during the Victorian period, but the two largest were Mudie’s Select Library (1842–1937) and W. H. Smith and Son’s Subscription Library (1860–1961). Mudie’s, headquartered in London, had upwards of 50,000 subscribers, established branches in other major cities, and shipped books around the world. W. H. Smith added a library department to its pre-existing network of railway bookstalls with larger branches in major cities. Between them, Mudie’s and W. H. Smith became the largest purchasers of books and thereby had a direct and indirect effect on Victorian literature. In particular, the three-volume novel system—whereby the high price limited sales to the libraries who then had a monopoly on new fiction—encouraged British readers to become book borrowers instead of book buyers. The format of the three-volume novel led to certain generic conventions influencing areas such as characterization, plot, and style, which remained until the format was abolished in 1894. Since the libraries, especially Mudie’s and W. H. Smith, largely controlled the distribution of literature, they often exerted an informal censorship on literature which some authors, such as George Moore, advocated against.

Article

The Turkish Novel as Transnational  

Ayşe Özge Koçak Hemmat

The novel in the Turkish tradition has been a transnational genre, both in terms of its inception and production during the late Ottoman era, and by virtue of the novelists’ transnational experiences and the reflection of these experiences in their novels. Imperial transnationalism—intra- and inter-imperial exchanges and relations that predate the modern nation-state—is an essential lens through which to study the Ottoman novel, with its multiple sources and cross-cultural engagement and output that expand the scope of the “Ottoman novel” to the non-Turkish-speaking and non-Muslim subjects of the empire. Following the split of the former Ottoman territories into nation-states that began in the 19th century and culminated after World War I, the Republic of Turkey attempted to forge a unique Turkish identity, an effort that involved cultivating a national literary tradition distinct from that of its imperial predecessor. The Republican-era novelists nonetheless continued to reflect on their transnational and cross-cultural experiences in their work. Some of these authors wrote while residing abroad for reasons ranging from exile to diplomatic service, illustrating the complexities of the concept and the reality of nation, imagined or otherwise. As the form and the substance of the Turkish novel evolved and flourished, culminating in the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Orhan Pamuk in 2006, Turkish novelists enjoyed wider and more international audiences. Some recurrent themes in transnational Turkish novels are identity and language, belonging at home and abroad, and reconciling the past with the present. While Turkish novelists now enjoy increased mobility and the ability to reach an international audience, with more of their work being translated and published abroad, and read and studied across the globe, the scope of international scholarship on the Turkish novel is still confined to the work of a small group of authors. This highly selective reception not only limits the range of works to which international audiences are exposed, but also suppresses the genre’s entanglement in the Turkish literary tradition with the crossing of boundaries—temporal and traditional, as well as physical. A transnational approach to studying the Turkish novel thus provides insight into the genre’s origins, evolution, circulation, and reception, but it also highlights its transgressive nature in a wide network of world literary and social developments through its evolution via travel, translation, and adaptation in different regions, and its negotiations with other literary forms.

Article

The Latin American Crime Novel  

Glen S. Close

Latin American authors have written detective novels for approximately a century and a half. However, writers and critics have long recognized formidable obstacles to adopting the classical ratiocinative detective mode in a region with an unstable democratic tradition and relatively low levels of public confidence in police forces and the rule of law. Few Latin American novels written in the classical mode have found readership outside their countries of origin. Over the last half century, hard-boiled detective novels and criminal-centered novels have decisively supplanted classical ratiocinative novels to become the primary modes of crime writing in the region. Regional subgenres such as the sicario or hitman novel and the narco-novel have gained international visibility in recent decades, while some of Latin America’s most prestigious writers, including Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Ricardo Piglia, and Roberto Bolaño, have produced highly original crime novels that dramatize the failings of legal justice in their countries. Latin American detectives are commonly disabled and defeated during their investigations, while criminal characters operate with an impunity that realistically reflects extremely low levels of prosecution for serious crimes in many parts of Latin America in the 21st century. Many of the most significant contemporary Latin American crime novels communicate a profound despair and skepticism with respect to the possibility of obtaining legal justice in countries where organized crime has corrupted and overpowered state institutions and security forces.

Article

Illustrated Victorian Fiction  

Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge

Victorians experienced a revolution in the novel’s form. In the early 1800s, books were largely unillustrated, perhaps containing a frontispiece (often a stock decorative illustration with little connection to content). Although Walter Scott and Jane Austen built their careers upon unillustrated fiction, by the 1830s and 1840s, technological innovations—wood engraving (developed in the 1790s) and steel engraving (popularized in the 1820s)—enabled the cheap, efficient integration of images and letterpress. Not all subsequent fiction was illustrated, but these innovations birthed the possibility of a new form that, upon a novel’s first publication, melded text and image as partners in meaning making: illustrated serial fiction (appearing either in periodicals or in individually wrapped numbers). Examples of the new form appear in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1836–1837), published in numbers and illustrated largely by Hablôt K. Browne (Phiz); Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1837–1839), published in Bentley’s Miscellany and illustrated by George Cruikshank; William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard (1839–1840) and The Tower of London (1840), both published in numbers and illustrated by Cruikshank; and William Makepeace Thackeray’s self-illustrated Vanity Fair (1847–1848), also published in numbers. All used visual elements—wrappers, chapter initials and heads, full-page images, and tailpieces—to establish character and setting, create ironies, and predict plot, uniting pen and pencil in a single art form. While authors such as the Brontës and, later, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell published all or most of their work unillustrated, the prevalence of literary illustrations rose dramatically. In 1842, the Illustrated London News announced the marriage of art and literature. By the 1860s, often recognized as book illustration’s golden age, illustration flourished. Family periodicals such as the Cornhill Magazine, Once a Week, and Good Words highlighted the collaborative work of prominent novelists and artists (including many Royal Academicians) as essential to middle-class culture. Periodical publication in installments overtook individually wrapped numbers as the dominant form of illustrated serial fiction. Editors paired Eliot with Frederic Leighton (Romola 1862–1863) and Gaskell with George du Maurier (Wives and Daughters, 1864–1866), both in the Cornhill; Harriet Martineau with John Everett Millais (her “historiettes,” 1862–1863), in Once a Week; and George MacDonald with Arthur Hughes (At the Back of the North Wind, 1871), in Good Words for the Young. (Notably, this list includes authors such as Eliot and Gaskell, whose work had been unillustrated upon their first break into the market.) The traditionally high art of painting intermingled with the traditionally lower craft of illustration: Luke Fildes transformed his illustration “Houseless and Hungry” into the painting Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward, displayed at the 1874 Royal Academy, and Millais sold watercolor paintings of his illustrations for Martineau. From 1881, photographic reproduction revolutionized late-century book and periodical illustration. Images became even more economical to reproduce, enabling editor George Newnes to promise illustration on the Strand’s every page. The 1890s saw a bifurcation in illustrated texts: popular periodicals such as the Strand and Pearson’s Magazine exploited the text–image relationship with innovative layouts, wrapping images around letterpress (as in H. G. Wells’s 1897 The War of the Worlds, in Pearson’s, illustrated by Warwick Goble), whereas the experimental Yellow Book turned away from text–image complementarity in favor of stand-alone artwork by such artists as Aubrey Beardsley. The legacies of Victorian illustrated fiction appeared in the early 1900s, when cinematic adaptations of Victorian novels wowed audiences, the modernist revolution challenged conventional book design, and children’s literature flowered as Arthur Rackham’s and E. H. Shepard’s illustrations popularized Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), The Wind in the Willows (1908), and Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).

Article

Latinx Popular Culture and Social Conflict: Comics, Graphic Novels, and Film  

Frederick Luis Aldama

Despite Latinxs being the largest growing demographic in the United States, their experiences and identities continue to be underrepresented and misrepresented in the mainstream pop cultural imaginary. However, for all the negative stereotypes and restrictive ways that the mainstream boxes in Latinxs, Latinx musicians, writers, artists, comic book creators, and performers actively metabolize all cultural phenomena to clear positive spaces of empowerment and to make new perception, thought, and feeling about Latinx identities and experiences. It is important to understand, though, that Latinxs today consume all variety of cultural phenomena. For corporate America, therefore, the Latinx demographic represents a huge buying demographic. Viewed through cynical and skeptical eyes, increased representation of Latinxs in mainstream comic books and film results from this push to capture the Latinx consumer market. Within mainstream comic books and films, Latinx subjects are rarely the protagonists. However, Latinx comic book and film creators are actively creating Latinx protagonists within richly rendered Latinx story worlds. Latinx comic book and film creators work in all the storytelling genres and modes (realism, sci-fi, romance, memoir, biography, among many others) to clear new spaces for the expression of Latinx subjectivities and experiences.

Article

Theory of the Novel  

Jesse Rosenthal

Novel theory sets out to explain a set of literary objects that are already fairly familiar to most modern readers. In fact, it is this assumed familiarity—the sense that there is something in the novel form that aligns with the lived experience of modernity—that animates the tradition of novel theory. Instead of seeking to explain one novel, or to narrate a history that includes all novels, theories of the novel tend to describe a certain set of recognizable, usually formal, features that conform to certain notions of modern subjectivity. The result, nearly across the board, is that theories of the novel operate by excluding far more books in the category of “novel” than they include. Although assuming a descriptive rhetoric, they are instead prescriptive, vastly delimiting the field of possible novels into a much smaller, more manageable, group. This is not offered as a critique as much as definition: what separates novel theory from a critique or history. By seeing the tradition of novel theory in terms of its exclusions, we are better able to understand both the larger “novel theory” genre. But we are better able to understand its blind spots too. By focusing on a particular model of European modernity, and centering its formal concerns around realism and the everyday, academic discussions of the novel have often found difficulty in describing non-European experiences, the experiences of historically marginalized populations, and the catastrophic changes brought about by the Anthropocene. Yet this is not so much a shortcoming of the novel form, as some have suggested, but rather a set of possibilities that lies in the negative space of the novel demarcated by previous novel theory. Reading the history of novel theory in terms of its exclusions, then, offers a sense of the future possibilities of the novel form.

Article

Realisms  

Alison Shonkwiler

Realism is a historical phenomenon that is not of the past. Its recurrent rises and falls only attest to its persistence as a measure of representational authority. Even as literary history has produced different moments of “realism wars,” over the politics of realist versus antirealist aesthetics, the demand to represent an often strange and changing reality—however contested a term that may be—guarantees realism’s ongoing critical future. Undoubtedly, realism has held a privileged position in the history of Western literary representation. Its fortunes are closely linked to the development of capitalist modernity, the rise of the novel, the emergence of the bourgeoisie, and the expansion of middle-class readerships with the literacy and leisure to read—and with an interest in reading about themselves as subjects. While many genealogies of realism are closely tied to the history of the rise of the novel—with Don Quixote as a point of departure—it is from its later, 19th-century forms that critical assumptions have emerged about its capacities and limitations. The 19th-century novel—whether its European or slightly later American version—is taken as the apex of the form and is tied to the rise of industrial capitalism, burgeoning ideas of social class, and expansion of empire. Although many of the realist writers of the 19th century were self-reflexive about the form, and often articulated theories of realism as distinct from romance and sentimental fiction, it was not until the mid-20th century, following the canonization of modernism in English departments, that a full-fledged critical analysis of realism as a form or mode would take shape. Our fullest articulations of realism therefore owe a great deal to its negative comparison to later forms—or, conversely, to the effort to resuscitate realism’s reputation against perceived critical oversimplifications. In consequence, there is no single definition of realism—nor even agreement on whether it is a mode, form, or genre—but an extraordinarily heterogenous set of ways of approaching it as a problem of representation. Standard early genealogies of realism are to be found in historical accounts such as Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel and György Lukács’ Theory of the Novel and The Historical Novel, with a guide to important critiques and modifications to be found in Michael McKeon’s Theory of the Novel. This article does not retrace those critical histories. Nor does it presume to address the full range of realisms in the modern arts, including painting, photography, film, and video and digital arts. It focuses on the changing status of realism in the literary landscape, uses the fault lines of contemporary critical debates about realism to refer back to some of the recurrent terms of realism/antirealism debates, and concludes with a consideration of the “return” to realism in the 21st century.

Article

Daemonic  

Angus Nicholls

The term daemonic—often substantivized in German as the daemonic (das Dämonische) since its use by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the early 19th century—is a literary topos associated with divine inspiration and the idea of genius, with the nexus between character and fate and, in more orthodox Christian manifestations, with moral transgression and evil. Although strictly modern literary uses of the term have become prominent only since Goethe, its origins lie in the classical idea of the δαíμων, transliterated into English as daimon or daemon, as an intermediary between the earthly and the divine. This notion can be found in pre-Socratic thinkers such as Empedocles and Heraclitus, in Plato, and in various Stoic and Neo-Platonic sources. One influential aspect of Plato’s presentation of the daemonic is found in Socrates’s daimonion: a divine sign, voice, or hint that dissuades Socrates from taking certain actions at crucial moments in his life. Another is the notion that every soul contains an element of divinity—known as its daimon—that leads it toward heavenly truth. Already in Roman thought, this idea of an external voice or sign begins to be associated with an internal genius that belongs to the individual. In Christian thinking of the European romantic period, the daemonic in general and the Socratic daimonion in particular are associated with notions such as non-rational divine inspiration (for example, in Johann Georg Hamann and Johann Gottfried Herder) and with divine providence (for example, in Joseph Priestley). At the same time, the daemonic is also often interpreted as evil or Satanic—that is: as demonic—by European authors writing in a Christian context. In Russia in particular, during a period spanning from the mid-19th century until the early 20th century, there is a rich vein of novels, including works by Gogol and Dostoevsky, that deal with this more strictly Christian sense of the demonic, especially the notion that the author/narrator may be a heretical figure who supplants the primacy of God’s creation. But the main focus of this article is the more richly ambivalent notion of the daemonic, which explicitly combines both the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian heritages of the term. This topos is most prominently mobilized by two literary exponents during the 19th century: Goethe, especially in his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth), and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his Notebooks and in the Lectures on the History of Philosophy. Both Goethe’s and Coleridge’s treatments of the term, alongside its classical and Judeo-Christian heritages, exerted an influence upon literary theory of the 20th century, leading important theorists such as Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Hans Blumenberg, Angus Fletcher, and Harold Bloom to associate the daemonic with questions concerning the novel, myth, irony, allegory, and literary influence.

Article

Infrastructure  

Russell Coldicutt

Infrastructure is the artificial foundation on which any form of social life depends. When it works well, infrastructure fades into the background of social interactions as though a feature of the landscape, at once obvious and invisible, that runs on its own. Composed of the technologies and systems responsible for extracting and distributing resources, infrastructure provides human populations with the materials they need in order to make a living and reproduce their way of life. Although it often blends into the natural environment, infrastructure’s technological domination of space facilitates and directs flows of people, objects, and information within this space and, in this sense, completely displaces nature. It does so by choreographing the movement of human actors within the space it governs, limiting what these actors can see, hear, or feel, and often preventing them from sensing how that space controls their movement. So defined, infrastructure refers not only to the roads, conveyances, pipes, and fiber-optic cables that distribute goods, services, information, and pleasure to a population but also to the production of the very categories that identify those units of information as either people or things. As it limits what information a person gathers in the way of experience and how they organize it, infrastructure imposes those same limits on the lives people imagine for themselves as opposed to others. This means that infrastructural control extends well beyond an individual’s personal experience to manage the cultural abstractions and fictional narratives available to that individual not only for making sense of this world but also for imagining alternatives to it. Hence its importance for literary studies. Infrastructure has always shaped the way that literature is produced. In addition to the infrastructures that contribute to a literary work’s production—from the printing presses to the global supply chains that connect readers with books—literary form also provides texts with their own narrative infrastructure. Consider the novel’s dependence on specific formal conventions to unfold a world around a representative human character over time and through space, so that readers will recognize that narrative as a novel. Such a narrative must create an artificial space where characters interact according to the protocols governing any number of modern spaces. This artificial infrastructure space must exercise control over the unfolding of a plot that ensures its (even inverse) homology to the infrastructure that limits the historical time and space in which the novelist writes. Insofar as the Bildungsroman and domestic fiction both divided the 19th-century reader’s world into public and private spheres that could interact dialectically, its narrative infrastructure supported the interrelated routines of production and reproduction. Alternatively, a novel or other literary text will test the reigning infrastructure to expose the means by which it governs human behavior. One witnesses this in novels written during the early 21st century, many of which are intent on showing how a complex layer of technological infrastructure and extranational regulations work in tandem to turn certain locations into powerful zones for the production of capital.

Article

The Arabic Novel: New Roots, New Routes  

Elizabeth Holt

In the mid-19th century, the Arabic novel emerged as a genre in Ottoman Syria and khedival Egypt. While this emergence has often been narrated as a story of the rise of nation-states and the diffusion of the European novel, the genre’s history and ongoing topography cannot be recovered without indexing the importance of Arabic storytelling and Islamic empire, ethics, and aesthetics to its roots. As the Arabic periodicals of Beirut and the Nile Valley, and soon Tunis and Baghdad, serialized and debated the rise of the novel form from the 19th century onward, historical, romantic, and translated novels found an avid readership throughout the Arab world and its diaspora. Metaphors of the garden confronted the maritime span of European empire in the 19th-century rise of the novel form in Arabic, and the novel’s path would continue to oscillate between the local and the global. British, French, Spanish, and Italian empire and direct colonial rule left a lasting imprint on the landscape of the region, and so too the investment of Cold War powers in its pipelines, oil wells, and cultural battlefields. Whether embracing socialist realism or avant-garde experimentation, the Arabic novel serves as an ongoing register of the stories that can be told in cities, villages, and nations throughout the region—from the committed novels interrogating the years of anticolonial national struggles and Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s, through the ongoing history of war, surveillance, exile, occupation, and resource extraction that dictates the subsequent terrain of narration. The Arabic novel bears, too, an indelible mark left by translators of Arabic tales—from 1001 Nights to Girls of Riyadh—on the stories the region’s novelists tell.

Article

A Very Brief Survey of Twentieth-Century Latin-American Literature  

Jorge Fornet

The 20th century in Latin America began, in literary terms, with the emergence of Modernism, which exerted enormous influence over both sides of the Atlantic. From then on, the literature of the region—at least the literature written in Spanish and Portuguese—has been on a long process of assimilation in favor of the best features of the universal tradition enriched with the specificities of Latin American culture and history. Impacted both by competing aesthetic trends and social and political upheaval, the literature of Latin America provides a unique place from which to observe the contradictions of the region, as well as to attempt to answer the major questions that the region poses. Some basic certitudes do not prevent one recurring question from coming up: Does a Latin American literature exist? The answer is more complex than it appears on the surface, but the truth is that the most significant and ambitious moments of that literature—Modernism, the Vanguards, and the celebrated boom of the novel in the 1960s—have been those in which Latin American writers have been recognized as belonging to a common literary space. A journey through fictional narrative, poetry, essays, and even a relatively new genre such as testimony can attest to the way in which Latin Americans see themselves and think of themselves, with their own national and regional specificities and, in contrast with the others, beyond the space of the region. In the last decade of the 20th century, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Latin America was no longer what it had been for thirty years. By then, revolutionary dreams, guerrillas, the long nights of dictatorships, and the recovery of democracy—just to mention a few of its most recognizable aspects—felt like a distant past. In this context, a new generation emerged in order to close out the 20th century, and beyond that, to begin the 21st. To read, even if it is from a bird’s eye view, the interval between the Modernists to the 21st-century generation is the aim of these pages.

Article

Modern Sudanese Literature  

Afis Ayinde Oladosu

Modern Sudanese literature presents an extremely interesting landscape that mirrors the problems that the category “Sudan” represents for scholars across disciplinary barriers and specializations. To account for its extremely slippery trajectories and, through that, show how vital its contributions have been not only to Sudanese but also to African literature, questions relating to its existence or otherwise have to be explored: To what extent is it true that literary writing in Sudan should be referred to as Sudanese Arabic literature (al-Adab al-ʿArabī al-Sūdānī), not Arabic literature in Sudan (al-Adab al-ʿArabī fī al-Sūdān)? What cultural artifacts are there in Sudanese history that can be cited in support of the latter? To provide answers, these arguments can be situated against data on the medieval, Turkish, Mahdist, and Anglo-Egyptian Sudanese histories; perspectives on the cultural affinity between Egypt and Sudan as exemplified by the Nile Valley (Wādī al-Nīl) can be explored; and these can be shown to have accentuated the birth and development of modern Sudanese literature. Further, its trajectories—poetry and prose, including the traditionalist, the romanticist, the realist, and the postcolonialist—can be explored. Some Sudanese literary-critical writers, including Muʿāwīyah Muḥammad Nūr (who wrote the first Sudanese short fiction in 1930), Malikat al-Dār Muḥammad, al-Tījānī Yūsuf Bashīr, ʿArafah Muḥammad ʿAbdullāh, Ṣalāh Aḥmad Ibrāhīm, and Muḥammad Miftāḥ al-Faytūrī, contributed to the field. Others include al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ (Tayeb Salih), whose novel Mawsim al-Hijrah ilá al-Shamāl (published in 1966 and translated into English as Season of Migration to the North in 1969) remains unrivaled in contemporary Sudanese literary history; ʿAbdullāh Maḥjūb; Sayyid al-Fīl; Ibrāhīm Khālid ʿUways; Buthaynah Khiḍr Makkī; Istilā Qaytānū (Stella Gaytano); and Safia Elhillo. The works of these writers have continued to give modern Sudanese literature the global attention that it deserves. Plotting the geography of its large corpus can therefore be likened to enumerating pebbles in the desert. But there is a thread that runs through the works. From Muʿāwīyah Muḥammad Nūr to Muḥammad Miftāḥ al-Faytūrī, whose sharp vision and creative spirit preceded al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ, and from Buthaynah Khiḍr Makkī to Safia Elhillo, modern Sudanese literature is consistent in its attention to the inner schisms in pre- and post-independence Sudanese society. The corpus thus represents the slippages and the shifting identities of postcolonial Sudanese modernities. In modern Sudanese literature, thoughts and reflections on race, gender, and nation by Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Kadiatu Kanneh, and Muhsin al-Musawi find ample representation.

Article

The Vietnam War in American Literature  

Catherine Calloway

Vietnam War literature is a prolific canon of literature that consists primarily of works by American authors, but it is global in scope in its inclusion of texts from writers of other nationalities like Australia, France, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The war’s literature first emerged in the 1950s during the Cold War when Americans were serving as advisors to the French and the Vietnamese in literary works such as Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, a British novel, and William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s The Ugly American, an American novel, and gradually evolved as American involvement in the war escalated. In the mid-1960s, Bernard B. Fall, who grew up in France and later moved to the United States, offered well-known nonfiction accounts like Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina and Hell in a Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, and numerous other writers, mostly Americans, began to contribute their individual accounts of the war. Thousands of literary works touch on the Vietnam conflict in some way, whether in the form of combat novels, personal narratives and eyewitness accounts, plays, poems, and letters, and by both male and female writers and authors of different ethnicities. These numerous literary works reflect the traits unique to this war as well as conditions endemic to all wars. Many Vietnam War texts share the cultural necessity to bear witness and to tell their writers’ diverse war stories, including accounts from those who served in combat to those who served in the rear to those who served in other roles such as the medical profession, clerical work, and the entertainment industry. Important, too, are the stories of those who were affected by the war on the home front and those of the Vietnamese people, many of whom were forced to leave their homeland and resettle elsewhere after the war during the Vietnamese diaspora. While combat novels are still being written about the Vietnam War decades later, notably Denis Johnson’s award-winning Tree of Smoke and Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, bicultural studies that reflect work by North Vietnamese writers and the Viet Kieu are especially pertinent because Vietnam War literature is a continuing influence on the literature emerging from the 21st-century conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Article

Indigenous Literature in Postwar Australia  

Michael R. Griffiths

Indigenous people in Australia have used inscriptive practices for at least 65,000 years and have employed alphabetic writing extensively since contact with Europeans, but the latter half of the 20th century saw an even wider explosion of indigenous writing in Australia. Aboriginal writers have worked across all modes: poetry (beginning with Oodgeroo Noonuccal in the 1960s), theater (flourishing in the 1970s with the National Black Theatre and spreading as far afield as Western Australia with the formation of Jack Davis’s Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre Company), the novel, and the proliferation of life writing in the 1980s. In each case, indigenous writing in postwar Australia balances the aesthetic with the political, drawing in transnational influences while also foregrounding local concerns.

Article

Dictatorship and Global Anglophone Fiction  

Peter Leman

Authors in the global Anglophone world have long been interested in the phenomenon of dictatorships, often more by necessity than by choice as many of them personally witnessed the horrors of authoritarian rule. Among scholars, increasing attention is being given to dictatorships and the fictions that depict or otherwise respond to them in Anglophone contexts. Africa, in particular, has seen an explosion of literary texts and scholarly output, although there are important contributions from authors in South Asia, the Caribbean, and even the United States. Throughout these texts, which include novels, short fiction, plays, and poetry, authors take the authoritarian and his methods, enemies, and inevitable downfall as their subject. The reasons for doing so vary. Some authors barely veil the inspiration for their fictional leaders, intending to challenge actual dictators, sometimes at great risk and sacrifice. Others use fictional dictatorships to explore issues of sovereignty, neocolonialism, gender inequality, literary form, and more, suggesting the extent to which dictatorships cannot simply be thought of as a “third-world” phenomenon, as many do in the West, but as a problem that has both global implications and, often, global (i.e., colonial and neocolonial) origins. Whatever their reasons and whatever their narrative approach, writers throughout the Anglophone world and beyond are engaged in a widespread and ongoing conversation about ultimate power and the cultish personalities that strive for it. The growing body of research from the social sciences underscores the diversity of circumstances and factors that give rise to dictatorships in different parts of the world, but the equally diverse fictions also reveal recurring patterns and themes. Nearly every dictator depends deeply on performance and spectacle, for example. They also seek to control their nations by controlling narrative, something writers are particularly equipped to challenge. Dictatorships and the fictions that portray them are also extended meditations on the nature of sovereign power, which dictators believe, and try to prove, to be absolute. This belief and a need for proof are fed by desperation and lead to various forms of personality worship, transcendence, and the dictator’s self-deification. At the same time, dictatorships also employ some of the least transcendent techniques imaginable to control populations (i.e., bureaucracy and red tape). Finally, as dictators discover they are not gods but mortals and even puppets, they are inevitably brought down from their imagined heights by international forces, other aspiring dictators, freedom fighters, and death itself.

Article

Connectivity and Collectivity in Contemporary Global Fiction in English  

Madigan Haley

The term “global fiction” has been applied to a number of texts that have become increasingly important to the study of contemporary literature and debates about world literature. What global fiction is, however, is not entirely clear. With reference to prominent examples, global fiction can be provisionally defined as fiction that anticipates circulating widely (beyond national and regional boundaries) and that seeks to mediate global interconnection. While that definition could be applied to a number of works from at least the early 20th century, it is especially relevant to works that belong to the increasingly global environment for the writing and reading of literature that has emerged since the late 1980s under contemporary globalization. Since this environment has favored the circulation of English-language literature, due to the historical hegemony of Britain and the United States over the capitalist world-system, some scholars have viewed global fiction with understandable suspicion. Yet works of global fiction do not necessarily reflect the ideology of capitalist globalization. Many of these works can be understood, instead, as attempts to think through what global relationships entail on a shared planet, and in tension with the dominant form they have been made to take historically within global capitalism. Such works of global fiction have sought to mediate connectivity and collectivity at a global scale in four main ways. First, works have represented new material connections between people and places within the global system that emerged after the Cold War. Second, works have explored the ethical stakes of such new connections by staging scenes of encounter between self and other. Third, works have made imaginable a transnational, cosmopolitan community by weaving together far-flung narratives. Fourth, works have sought to gather together a collective agency capable of making a more equitable world.

Article

African American Literature in the Antebellum Era  

Benjamin Fagan

African American literature in the antebellum era encompasses a wide variety of genres and authors. The literature includes poetry, novels, manifestos, slave narratives, and essays. Many of the best-known Black writers of the period, such as Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and William Wells Brown, were born in southern states and had been enslaved, but a number of other writers, including Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, James McCune Smith, and James Whitfield, were born in the North. Whether or not they had been enslaved, a number of these writers do address questions of slavery and freedom, but African American literature of the era also transcends those categories. In addition to the diverse content of their works, Black writers during the antebellum era worked in and with a variety of print forms including the pamphlet, the book, and the periodical. More than just using different kinds of print as containers for their writings, Black authors theorized the workings of antebellum print culture in ways that inform and enrich current scholarship.

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Mexican American (Chicana/o)  

Frederick Luis Aldama

Discussions and debates in and around the formation of Mexican American letters, including its periodization and formulations of its unique ontology, are reviewed, and discussions and analysis of key literary phenomena that have shaped in time (history) and space (region) Mexican American and Chicana/o letters are presented. Foundational scholars such as María Herrera-Sobek, Luis Leal, José Limón, and Juan Bruce-Novoa are considered along with scholar-creators such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga. A wide variety of Mexican American and Chicana/o authors of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are reviewed, including Alurista, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Marío Suárez, Arturo Islas, Richard Rodriguez, and Ana Castillo, among many others.

Article

The Contemporary Anglophone Romance Genre  

Hsu-Ming Teo

The romance genre is geared financially to a female readership worldwide: a genre written and consumed overwhelmingly by women, and with a male readership of around 14 percent. Since the 21st century, romance novels have generated over $1.3 billion dollars in sales per annum in the United States, where one out of four books sold and one out of two mass-market books sold are romance novels. According to romance publishing behemoth Harlequin Mills & Boon, the company publishes 120 new titles each month, drawing from a stable of 200 authors within the UK and a further 1,300 worldwide. A Mills & Boon volume is sold every four seconds in more than one hundred countries, translated into twenty-six languages. But the romance genre consists of more than Harlequin Mills & Boon novels. According to industry definitions in the United States and Australia, a romance novel consists of “a central love story” and “an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending” (Romance Writers of America website). As long as these two basic requirements are met, romance novels can have any tone or style (barring a mocking or derisive one) and be set in any time (past, present, or future) or place (in the real world or in a fantasyland). They may include varying degrees of sensuality, from the modest discretion of Christian “inspirationals” to highly explicit descriptions of sexual acts in romantic erotica. They may also overlap with any other genre, such as chick lit, historical, crime, suspense, or thriller. The roots of the romance novel can be traced back to Shakespearean comedies, with the celebratory betrothal of the romantic couple forming the happy ending of such plays as Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or As You Like It. In prose fiction, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) are considered literary forebearers. The modern romance was shaped by British publishing firm Mills & Boon, which became a market leader in the genre by the 1930s with a distribution network in all British Commonwealth countries and colonies in the first half of the 20th century. During the 1950s, Mills & Boon novels began to be distributed in North America by Canadian firm Harlequin, and the two companies merged in 1971 to form the romance publishing powerhouse Harlequin Mills & Boon, which had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s when it became the world’s largest publisher of romances, having 80 percent of the world’s market share of fiction. Over time, the genre changed its representations of gender and attitudes toward women’s work and domestic life. The 1970s and 1980s saw a gradual Americanization of the genre as New York firms muscled in on Harlequin Mills & Boon’s territory, publishing historical romances and diversifying contemporary romances to include American romantic protagonists, settings, and themes. The genre also became increasingly sexualized during this period through its depiction of sexual activity. The turn of the 21st century witnessed an increasing fragmentation of the genre as the rise of independent publishers afforded writers and readers the opportunity to explore niche markets: erotica, African American stories, paranormal romances featuring vampires, phoenixes, and werewolves, among other shapeshifting romantic protagonists, and many others.

Article

Landscape and Environment in British Fiction and Nonfiction Prose since 1945  

Daniel Weston

The creative writing of landscape and environment is riding high on the research agendas of a number of scholarly fields. In literary studies, ecocriticism has seen attempts to map a set of characteristics that constitute an environmentally oriented text, often with the result that nonfiction writing (or, less often, poetry) is the form prioritized. By contrast, fiction has been seen as less capable of embracing landscape and environment because it is concerned first and foremost with human affairs and has taken the narrative shapes that typically accompany this emphasis. However, the postwar and contemporary period has seen extensive formal experimentation running counter to this set of assumptions. First, novelists concerned with landscape and environment have found ways to demonstrate the implication of human history in natural history. Second, nonfiction writers have recognized that they might profitably deploy literary forms and techniques usually associated with fiction in their writing of landscape and environment. The upshot has been a generic coalescence and the emergence of landscape writing as a category that straddles habitual divisions in the way that literary forms are conceived. The plasticity of the environment—for better or worse—has registered in urban and rural settings, as well as those that fall somewhere between this (perhaps outmoded) binary. The increasingly unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of human actions upon the environment form an important context for the falling away of older forms such as the nature novel and act as a spur to re-conceptualize both places and ways to write about them.