Herman Melville


Elizabeth Hardwick - 2000
    Melville's Moby Dick continues to be the quintessential American masterpiece. Despite the modern-day acclaim Melville has received, much of his work was misunderstood and badly received at the time of its publication. Hardwick explores the tumultuous career of Melville, from his dangerous days as a whaler off the coast of the South Sea Islands, to his employment as a customs inspector in New York City, his failure to achieve literary success, his ill health, debts, and ultimately, his steadfast refusal to stop writing. Though his masterfully-wrought work was rediscovered in the 1920's, Melville was not to see the fruits of his labor in his lifetime. He died in poverty and obscurity.

At the New Yorker


George Steiner - 2009
    Steiner makes an ideal guide from the Risorgimento in Italy to the literature of the Gulag, from the history of chess to the enduring importance of George Orwell. Again and again everything Steiner looks at in his New Yorker essays is made to bristle with some genuine prospect of turning out to be freshly thrilling or surprising.

Keeping a Rendezvous


John Berger - 1991
    A photograph of a gravely joyful crowd gathered on a Prague street in November 1989 provokes reflection on the meaning of democracy and the reunion of a people with long-banished hopes and dreams.With the luminous essays in Keeping a Rendezvous, we are given to see the world as Berger sees it -- to explore themes suggested by the work of Jackson Pollock or J. M. W. Turner, to contemplate the wonder of Paris. Rendezvous are manifold: between critic and art, artist and subject, subject and the unknown. But most significant are the rendezvous between author and reader, as we discover our perceptions informed by John Berger's eloquence and courageous moral imagination.

The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism


Fredy Perlman - 1984
    This is an essential essay for a critical understanding of nationalism.The idea that an understanding of the genocide, that a memory of the holocausts, can only lead people to want to dismantle the system, is erroneous. The continuing appeal of nationalism suggests that the opposite is true-er, namely that an understanding of genocide has led people to mobilize genocidal armies, that the memory of holocausts has led people to perpetrate holocausts. --from the pamphlet

Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire (Revised)


Helen Vendler - 1984
    She shows us that this most intellectual of poets is in fact the most personal of poets; that his words are not devoted to epistemological questions alone but are also "words chosen out of desire."

Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism


Hayden White - 1978
    Vico, Croce, Derrida, and Foucault are among the figures he assesses in this work, which also offers original interpretations of a number of literary themes, including the Wild Man and the Noble Savage. White's commentary ranges from a reappraisal of Enlightenment history to a reflective summary of the current state of literary criticism.

Consider David Foster Wallace


David Hering - 2010
    Greg Carlisle, author of the landmark Wallace study Elegant Complexity, provides an introduction that sets the scene and speculates on the future of Wallace studies. Editor David Hering provides a provocative look at the triangular symbols in Infinite Jest. Adam Kelly explores the intriguing question of why Wallace is considered to be at the forefront of a new sincerity in American fiction. Thomas Tracey discusses trauma in Oblivion. Gregory Phipps examines Infinite Jest's John "No Relation" Wayne and the concept of the ideal athlete. Daniel Turnbull compares Wallace's Kenyon College commencement address to the ethics of Iris Murdoch. These 17 essays stem from the first ever academic conference devoted the work of David Foster Wallace. Held in Liverpool, England, in 2009, the conference sparked a worldwide discussion of the place of Wallace's work in academia and popular culture. Essential for all Wallace scholars, fans of Wallace's fiction and nonfiction will also find the collection full of insights that span Wallace's career. Yes, there are footnotes.

Dickens, Dali and Others


George Orwell - 1946
    Included are such classics as "Charles Dickens," "The Art of Donald McGill," "Boys' Weeklies," "Raffles and Miss Blandish," and "Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali."Contents:Charles DickensBoys' WeekliesWells, Hitler and the World StateThe Art of Donald McGillRudyard KiplingW.B. YeatsBenefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador DaliArthur KoestlerRaffles and Miss BlandishIn Defence of P.G. Wodehouse

Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary


N. Katherine Hayles - 2008
    Only now, however, with Electronic Literature by N. Katherine Hayles, do we have the first systematic survey of the field and an analysis of its importance, breadth, and wide-ranging implications for literary study.Hayles’s book is designed to help electronic literature move into the classroom. Her systematic survey of the field addresses its major genres, the challenges it poses to traditional literary theory, and the complex and compelling issues at stake. She develops a theoretical framework for understanding how electronic literature both draws on the print tradition and requires new reading and interpretive strategies. Grounding her approach in the evolutionary dynamic between humans and technology, Hayles argues that neither the body nor the machine should be given absolute theoretical priority. Rather, she focuses on the interconnections between embodied writers and users and the intelligent machines that perform electronic texts.Dee Morris, University of Iowa

The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music


Rob Young - 2009
    Now some of that knowledge has been distilled into The Wire Primers: a comprehensive guide to the core recordings of some of the most visionary and inspiring, subversive and radical musicians on the planet, past and present. Each chapter surveys the musical universe of a particular artist, group or genre by way of a contextualizing introduction and a thumbnail guide to the most essential recordings. A massive and eclectic range of music is celebrated and demystified, from rock mavericks such as Captain Beefheart and The Fall; the funk of James Brown and Fela Kuti; the future jazz of Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman; and the experimental compositions of John Cage and Morton Feldman. Genres surveyed and explained include P-funk, musique concrète, turntablism, Brazilian Tropicália, avant metal and dubstep. The Wire Primers is a vital guide to contemporary sounds, providing an accessible entry point for any reader wanting to dig below the surface of mainstream music.

Poetry is Not a Project


Dorothea Lasky - 2010
    Calling poets away from civilization, back towards the wilderness, Lasky brazenly urges artists away from conceptual programs, resurrecting imagination and faith-in-the-uncertain as saviors from mediocrity.

On Rereading


Patricia Meyer Spacks - 2011
    those read for the classroom. "On Rereading" records the sometimes surprising, always fascinating, results of her personal experiment.Spacks addresses a number of intriguing questions raised by the purposeful act of rereading: Why do we reread novels when, in many instances, we can remember the plot? Why, for example, do some lovers of Jane Austen's fiction reread her novels every year (or oftener)? Why do young children love to hear the same story read aloud every night at bedtime? And why, as adults, do we return to childhood favorites such as "The Hobbit," "Alice in Wonderland," and the Harry Potter novels? What pleasures does rereading bring? What psychological needs does it answer? What guilt does it induce when life is short and there are so many other things to do (and so many other books to read)? Rereading, Spacks discovers, helps us to make sense of ourselves. It brings us sharply in contact with how we, like the books we reread, have both changed and remained the same.

The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime


Harold Bloom - 2015
    Now he turns at long last to his beloved writers of our national literature in an expansive and mesmerizing book that is one of his most incisive and profoundly personal to date. A product of five years of writing and a lifetime of reading and scholarship, The Daemon Knows maybe Bloom’s most masterly book yet. Pairing Walt Whitman with Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne with Henry James, Mark Twain with Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens with T. S. Eliot, and William Faulkner with Hart Crane, Bloom places these writers’ works in conversation with one another, exploring their relationship to the “daemon”—the spark of genius or Orphic muse—in their creation and helping us understand their writing with new immediacy and relevance. It is the intensity of their preoccupation with the sublime, Bloom proposes, that distinguishes these American writers from their European predecessors. As he reflects on a lifetime lived among the works explored in this book, Bloom has himself, in this magnificent achievement, created a work touched by the daemon.

K.


Roberto Calasso - 2002
    Setting out on his own exploration, Roberto Calasso enters the flow, the tortuous movement, the physiology of Kafka’s work to discover why K. and Josef K.–the protagonists of The Castle and The Trial–are so radically different from any other character in the history of the novel, and to determine who, in the end, is K. The culmination of Calasso’s lifelong fascination with Kafka’s work, K. is also an unprecedented consideration of the mystery of Kafka himself.

Every Force Evolves a Form: Twenty Essays


Guy Davenport - 1987
    His work ranges from “What Are Those Monkeys Doing?” in which he links the paintings of Rousseau to the writings of Rimbaud and Flaubert, to “Imaginary Americas,” a survey of the different roles America has filled in the imagination of Europeans. Davenport, 1 of the foremost American critics and intellectuals of the 20th century, brings his piercing intellect, encyclopedic references, and careful eye for detail to each piece in Every Force Evolves a Form.   Whether writing on the philosophy behind modernism or a study of table manners, the paintings of Henri Rousseau or the design of Shaker handicrafts, Davenport always devotes his full attention and multi-angled analysis to the subject at hand. To read this thought-provoking collection is to see the inner-workings of Davenport’s brilliant mind, with its varied fascinations and unparalleled insights.