Jonathan Rose has long excelled at finding an audience among the ordinary readers whose history he has spent a career tracing, and Readers’ Liberation should prove no exception. Engaging, accessible, and polemical, it is a perfect fit for Oxford’s Literary Agenda series and is likely to attract those drawn to his earlier works, from The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2001) to The Literary Churchill (2014). Written for and about “the general reader,” Readers’ Liberation argues that “reading can be and has been the most fundamental expression of human freedom, even in repressive societies.” Rose’s is a history of reading “built from the ground up” and is finely attentive to the diverse modes of engagement adopted by ordinary readers across time and place (vii).
This issue also serves as a celebration of the five hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Gutenberg’s death. Appropriately the first four contributions deal with early printed editions of the Bible.
n Taking Books to the World: American Publishers and the Cultural Cold War, Amanda Laugesen maps out Franklin Publications’ global initiative, “a kind of American Cold War book empire, one that brought American books and the publishing industry to all corners of the globe” (2). She contends that Franklin is both typical of and unique to Cold War American diplomacy.
After the Program Era, as Glass describes it in the introduction, “explores the consequences and implications, as well as the lacunae and liabilities, of McGurl’s foundational intervention” (1). After the Program Era considers sites and genres outside McGurl’s purview – poetry, electronic literature, creative writing in transnational contexts, creative writing programs at the margins. The collection consists of an introduction by Glass, 14 essays, and an afterword by McGurl. The 14 essays are divided into three parts: I. Antecedents (writers and institutions that pre-date the post-World-War II Program Era); II. Revisions (writers and institutions contemporaneous with the Program Era that complicate or challenge McGurl’s thesis); and III. Prospects (the future of creative writing). The essays are universally strong, and Glass’s introduction and McGurl’s afterword provide the necessary historical and critical context for thinking about the essays together and for thinking together beyond them.
On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines provides a valuable addition to the history of American literary modernism by highlighting the ways it “evolve[d] within rather than against the mass print culture of its moment” (8). Using a “literary-historical interpretation” that seeks to transcend traditional periodical genres, Harris convincingly demonstrates the interrelationship between a subset of commercial periodicals he identifies as distinct for their focus on textual and visual style above content (which he labels “big magazines”) and stylistic innovations and cultural understandings of American modernism in the first half of the twentieth century.
At a time when public figures, the media, and the public are locked in an ongoing daily battle to define the truth, it feels wise to draw our attention to the relationship among public figures, the media, and the public in a period other than our own. In his new book, Lecturing the Atlantic: Speech, Print, and an Anglo-American Commons, 1830-1870, Tom F. Wright does just that. Focusing on the defunct model of public programming known as the American lyceum movement, Wright seeks to demonstrate how the movement’s lectures, delivered by some of the most prominent public figures of the day, were not just local, rhetorical acts aimed at American nation-building, but fully “international and cross-media” (3). The arguments in Lecturing the Atlantic thus focus on either the ways in which the lectures were “international” or the ways in which they were “cross-media.”
Agatha Beins. Liberation in Print: Feminist Periodicals and Social Movement Identity. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017. 240p., ill. ISBN 9780820349510. US$ 84.95 (hardcover). ISBN…
Lori Merish’s Archives of Labor: Working Class Women and Literary Culture in the Antebellum United States is an ambitious work that recovers texts by and about women, labor, and working-class experience. Merish examines texts that consider a diversity of women, including “Lowell mill women, African American ‘free laborers,’ Mexicana mission workers, urban seamstresses, and prostitutes” (10). This book both performs the work of recovering texts left out of literary history and analyzing the subject positions of the diverse women represented in them. Moreover, it approaches class and labor from many critical perspectives, including Jameson’s dialogical framework and identity-focused theoretical paradigms from gender and sexuality studies, race, class, and disability studies.
Fellion and Inglis, scholars based in Edinburgh, take on the rather large task of providing an English-language literary history of censorship beginning in the fourteenth century and ending in the twentieth. Geographically, their primary focus is the UK and the US. The authors not only cross the Atlantic, but also cross genres, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays, comics, and graphic novels. The sheer quantity of topics and time periods is daunting, but Censored succeeds in its mission. With grace, astuteness, and care, the authors provide significant (but not overwhelming) details that illuminate their thesis: censorship – whether founded in political, religious, or special interest motives – is an exercise of power which inevitably hurts those with the least amount of privilege.
Megan J. Elias. Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. 296p. ISBN 9780812249170. US$ 34.95. Keith Stavely…