20th Century

New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of Americas First Literature
Elisa New

(2014.) An exploration and defense of the prominence of New England’s literary tradition within the canon of American literature. Traces the impact of the literature of New England on the development of spirituality, community, and culture in America, and includes in-depth studies of work from authors and poets such as William Bradford, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Henry David Thoreau.

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.

The Dream of the Great American Novel
Lawrence Buell

(2014). The idea of “the great American novel” continues to thrive almost as vigorously as in its nineteenth-century heyday, defying 150 years of attempts to dismiss it as amateurish or obsolete. In this landmark book, the first in many years to take in the whole sweep of national fiction, Lawrence Buell reanimates this supposedly antiquated idea, demonstrating that its history is a key to the dynamics of national literature and national identity itself.

Ethnic Modernism
Werner Sollors

(2008).  In the first half of the twentieth century, the United States moved from the periphery to the center of global cultural production. At the same time, technologies of dissemination evolved rapidly, and versions of modernism emerged as dominant art forms. How did African American, European immigrant, and other minority writers take part in these developments that also transformed the United States, giving it an increasingly multicultural self-awareness?

Corpus Christi
Bret Johnston

(2005) A car accident joins strangers linked by an intimate knowledge of madness. A teenage boy remembers his father’s act of sudden and self-righteous violence. A “hurricane party” reunites a couple whom tragedy parted. And, in an unforgettable three-story cycle, an illness sets in profound relief a man’s relationship with his mother and the odd, shifting fidelity of truth to love.

Dream Of The Unified Field
Jorie Graham

(1997). The 1996 Pulitzer winner in poetry and a major collection, Jorie Graham’s The Dream of the United Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994 spans twenty years of writing and includes generous selections from her first five books: Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts, ErosionThe End of Beauty, Region of Unlikeness, and Materialism.

George Elliott Clarke

(2006) “Black is a brilliant and fiery look at race and culture. Its genesis is Clark’s time at Duke University in the late ’90s; that experience unleashed political and personal outrage. This poetry is white-hot with honesty and anger. It is shocking, transgressive-and ultimately transforming.”

No Planets Strike
Josh Bell

(2008). No Planets Strike, the debut collection of poetry by Josh Bell, reads as a playfully serious record of modernity. Subversive in their treatment of the contemporary voice, broad in their subject matter, and often delightfully funny, the poems in this collection have a brilliant ear language.

Place: New Poems
Jorie Graham

(2012). In P L A C E, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience—increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as “mere” subjectivity—aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable.

I & I
George Elliott Clarke

(2009) I & I smolders with love, lust, violence, and the excruciating repercussions of racism, sexism, and disgust. Rastafarian for “you and me,” I & I expresses the oneness of God and man, the oneness of two people or the distinction between body and spirit.

The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood

(2012). The Fun Stuff confirms Wood’s preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of the contemporary novel. In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches—that range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leon Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson, and Mikhail Lermontov—Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel.

The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel
James Wood

(2005). In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, James Wood effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith.

Selected Short Stories of D.H. Lawrence
James Wood

(1999). James Wood has selected fourteen of D. H. Lawrence’s stories that demonstrate clearly the breadth of Lawrence’s achievement in the shorter form. In a long introductory essay, “The Success of Failure: D. H. Lawrence’s Short Stories,” written especially for this Modern Library edition, Wood discusses Lawrence’s supremacy as a religious novelist who is also a modern writer with profound Romantic tendencies.

Our Secret Discipline: Yeats and Lyric Form
Helen Vendler

(2007). The fundamental difference between rhetoric and poetry, according to Yeats, is that rhetoric is the expression of one’s quarrels with others while poetry is the expression (and sometimes the resolution) of one’s quarrel with oneself. This is where Helen Vendler’s Our Secret Discipline begins. Through exquisite attention to outer and inner forms, Vendler explores the most inventive reaches of the poet’s mind.

Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill
Helen Vendler

(2010). Helen Vendler examines the ways in which five great modern American poets, writing their final books, try to find a style that does justice to life and death alike. With traditional religious consolations no longer available to them, these poets must invent new ways to express the crisis of death, as well as the paradoxical coexistence of a declining body and an undiminished consciousness.

Belmont: Poems
Stephen Burt

(2013). In Belmont, Stephen Burt maps out the joys and the limits of the life he has chosen, the life that chose him, examining and reimagining parenthood, marriage, adulthood, and suburbia alongside a brace of wild or pretty alternatives, and the real life to which he returns, with his family, driving home in an ode-worthy silver Subaru.

The Americanist
Daniel Aaron

(2007). The Americanist is author and critic Daniel Aaron’s anthem to nearly a century of public and private life in America and abroad. Aaron, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of American Studies, graduated from the University of Michigan, received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and taught for over three decades each at Smith College and Harvard.

Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts
Henry Louis Gates, Jr

(2010). Faces of America unfolds as a riveting journey into our country’s complex ancestral past. America, as Gates shows us, is a nation of many historical threads, interwoven and united in the present moment. In this compelling book, Gates demonstrates that where we come from profoundly and fundamentally informs who we are today.

Close Calls with Nonsense
Stephen Burt

(2009). Stephen Burt’s Close Calls with Nonsense provokes readers into the elliptical worlds of Rae Armantrout, Paul Muldoon, C. D. Wright, and other contemporary poets whose complexities make them challenging, original, and, finally, readable.