Cultural Studies

The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On
John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis

(2012) In this sweeping study, John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis show how this Civil War tune has become an anthem for cause after radically different cause.

Unsung Heroes of American Industry: Stories
Mark Poirier

(2003) Worm farms, pearl-button making, chicken processing, pornography, and beauty pageantry. These quirky cottage industries hold the potential to make fortunes, though it’s more likely that they’ll lead to bankruptcy and shattered dreams. Mark Poirier introduces the misfits and visionaries who embody the aspirations – and frequently the lunacy – of the American entrepreneur.

The Racial Mundane | Asian Performance and the Embodied Everyday
Ju Yon Kim

(2015)  In The Racial Mundane, Ju Yon Kim argues that the ambiguous relationship between behavioral tendencies and the body has sustained paradoxical characterizations of Asian Americans as ideal and impossible Americans. The body’s uncertain attachment to its routine motions promises alternately to materialize racial distinctions and to dissolve them. Kim’s study focuses on works of theater, fiction, and film that explore the interface between racialized bodies and everyday enactments to reveal new and latent affiliations.

Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books
Leah Price

(2011). Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books spotlights the personal libraries of thirteen novelists who share their collections with readers. It features the libraries of, and interviews with, Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund White.

Literary Secretaries / Secretarial Culture
Leah Price

(2005). Topics range from copyright law to voice recognition software, from New Women to haunted typewriters and from the history of technology to the future of information management. Together, the essays will provide literary critics with a new angle on current debates about gender, labour, and the material text, as well as a window into the prehistory of our information age.

Loving Literature: A Cultural History
Deidre Shauna Lynch

(2015). Of the many charges laid against contemporary literary scholars, one of the most common—and perhaps the most wounding—is that they simply don’t love books. And while the most obvious response is that, no, actually the profession of literary studies does acknowledge and address personal attachments to literature, that answer risks obscuring a more fundamental question: Why should they?

Polio and Its Aftermath: The Paralysis of Culture
Marc Shell

(2005) In Polio and Its Aftermath Marc Shell, himself a victim of polio, offers an inspired analysis of the disease. Part memoir, part cultural criticism and history, part meditation on the meaning of disease, Shell’s work combines the understanding of a medical researcher with the sensitivity of a literary critic. He deftly draws a detailed yet broad picture of the lived experience of a crippling disease as it makes it way into every facet of human existence.

The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy
John Stauffer and Sally Jenkins

(2009).  In 1863, after surviving the devastating Battle of Corinth, Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Mississippi, deserted the Confederate Army and began a guerrilla battle against the Confederacy. For two years he and other residents of Jones County engaged in an insurrection that would have repercussions far beyond the scope of the Civil War.

Stutter
Marc Shell

(2006). In a book that explores the phenomenon of stuttering from its practical and physical aspects to its historical profile to its existential implications, Marc Shell plumbs the depths of this murky region between will and flesh, intention and expression, idea and word.

The Metaphysical Club
Louis Menand

(2002). The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Ma, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Well Holmes, Jr., future Supreme Court justice; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about 9 months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea — an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea.

Shakespeare’s Freedom
Stephen Greenblatt

(2010). Shakespeare lived in a world of absolutes—of claims for the absolute authority of scripture, monarch, and God, and the authority of fathers over wives and children, the old over the young, and the gentle over the baseborn. With the elegance and verve for which he is well known, Stephen Greenblatt, author of the best-selling Will in the World, shows that Shakespeare was strikingly averse to such absolutes and constantly probed the possibility of freedom from them.

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
Stephen Greenblatt

(2005). Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright’s life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Greenblatt

(2011). The Swerve is both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic (On the Nature of Things by Lucretius), plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader
Henry Louis Gates, Jr

(2012). From his earliest work of literary-historical excavation in 1982, through his current writings on the history and science of African American genealogy, the essays collected here follow his path as historian, theorist, canon-builder, and cultural critic, revealing a thinker of uncommon breadth whose work is uniformly guided by the drive to uncover and restore a history that has for too long been buried and denied.

Patronizing the Arts
Marjorie Garber

(2008). Today, as in the past, artists need the funding, approval, and friendship of patrons whether they are individuals, corporations, governments, or nonprofit foundations. But as Patronizing the Arts shows, these relationships can be problematic, leaving artists “patronized”—both supported with funds and personal interest, while being condescended to for vocations misperceived as play rather than serious work.

Shakespeare and Modern Culture
Marjorie Garber

(2009). Shakespeare has determined many of the ideas that we think of as “naturally” true: ideas about human character, individuality and selfhood, government, leadership, love and jealousy, men and women, youth and age. Marjorie Garber delves into ten plays to explore the interrelationships between Shakespeare and contemporary culture, from James Joyce’s Ulysses to George W. Bush’s reading list.

Still the New World: American Literature in a Culture of Creative Destruction
Philip Fisher

(2000). In this bold reinterpretation of American culture, Philip Fisher describes generational life as a series of renewed acts of immigration into a new world. Along with the actual flood of immigrants, technological change brings about an immigration of objects and systems, ways of life and techniques for the distribution of ideas. Still the New World makes a persuasive argument against the reduction of literature to identity questions of race, gender, and ethnicity.

Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money
James Engell

(2005). Since 1965 an increasing preoccupation with money has resulted in the inversion of its role in higher education, from a practical means to an end that crowds out all others. No longer do students and parents choose the best education that “money can buy.” Instead, they are faced with choosing which school will “buy them more money.” This comes as no surprise, as tuitions have doubled since 1985. Yet the question persists: at what real cost are we sending our students to college?

The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World
Amanda Claybaugh

(2006). In the nineteenth century, Great Britain and the United States shared a single literary marketplace that linked the reform movements, as well as the literatures, of the two nations. The writings of transatlantic reformers—antislavery, temperance, and suffrage activists—gave novelists a new sense of purpose and prompted them to invent new literary forms. The result was a distinctively Anglo-American realism, in which novelists, conceiving of themselves as reformers, sought to act upon their readers—and, through their readers, the world.

The Location of Culture
Homi K. Bhabha

(1994). Rethinking questions of identity, social agency and national affiliation, Bhabha provides a working, if controversial, theory of cultural. In The Location of Culture, he uses concepts such as mimicry, interstice, hybridity, and liminality to argue that cultural production is always most productive where it is most ambivalent.

Thinking in an Emergency
Elaine Scarry

(2011). Elaine Scarry lays bare the realities of “emergency” politics and emphasizes what she sees as the ultimate ethical concern: “equality of survival.” She reveals how regular citizens can reclaim the power to protect one another and our democratic principles. Government leaders sometimes argue that the need for swift national action means there is no time for deliberation or debate. But Scarry shows that clear thinking and rapid action are not in opposition.

Rule of Law, Misrule of Men
Elaine Scarry

(2010). This book is a passionate call for citizen action to uphold the rule of law when government does not. Arguing that post-9/11 legislation and foreign policy severed the executive branch from the will of the people, Elaine Scarry in Rule of Law, Misrule of Men offers a fierce defense of the people’s role as guarantor of our democracy.

The Marketplace of Ideas
Louis Menand

(2010). What makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects are required? Why are so many academics against the concept of interdisciplinary studies? Sparking a long-overdue debate about the future of American education, The Marketplace of Ideas argues that twenty-first-century professors and students are essentially trying to function in a nineteenth-century system, and that the resulting conflict threatens to overshadow the basic pursuit of knowledge and truth.

Under the Hammer: Iconoclasm in the Anglo-American Tradition
James Simpson

(2011). When we think of breaking images, we assume that it happens somewhere else. We tend to look with horror on iconoclasm. This book argues instead that iconoclasm is a central strand of Anglo-American modernity. Our horror at the destruction of art derives in part from the fact that we too did, and still do, that. This is most obviously true of England’s iconoclastic century between 1538 and 1643.