Department of English

University of Toronto

A - E Bookshelf

Faculty Bookshelf - Alphabetical by Author's Surname
AB | C | D | E



Alan Ackerman and Magda Romanska
Reader in Comedy: An Anthology of Theory and Criticism
Bloomsbury, 2016Alan's Book

This unique anthology presents a selection of over seventy of the most important historical essays on comedy, ranging from antiquity to the present, divided into historical periods and arranged chronologically. Across its span it traces the development of comic theory, highlighting the relationships between comedy, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and other arts and genres. Students of literature and theatre will find this collection an invaluable and accessible guide to writing from Plato and Aristotle through to the twenty-first century, in which special attention has been paid to writings since the start of the twentieth century.

Just WordsAlan Ackerman
Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America
Yale University Press, 2011

In an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1980, the critic Mary McCarthy glibly remarked that every word author Lillian Hellman wrote was a lie, "including 'and' and 'the.'" Hellman immediately filed a libel suit, charging that McCarthy's comment was not a legitimate conversation on public issues but an attack on her reputation. This intriguing book offers a many-faceted examination of Hellman's infamous suit and explores what it tells us about tensions between privacy and self-expression, freedom and restraint in public language, and what can and cannot be said in public in America."  -- Susan Jacoby

“A fascinating and highly original contribution that will interest anyone who cares about media, as well as cultural and intellectual history”--Susan Jacoby

"Lillian Hellman sued Mary McCarthy for libel over a single sentence. Starting with the facts of this case, Ackerman zooms in to scrutinize the meaning of language, the law of defamation, the nature of privacy, the lives and works of the two writers, and, perhaps most important, the political and cultural quarrels of an age, many of which remain with us."—Stephen Gillers, New York University School of Law


Seeing ThingsAlan Ackerman 
Seeing Things: From Shakespeare to Pixar
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2011

A technological revolution has changed the way we see things. The storytelling media employed by Pixar Animation Studios, Samuel Beckett, and William Shakespeare differ greatly, yet these creators share a collective fascination with the nebulous boundary between material objects and our imaginative selves. How do the acts of seeing and believing remain linked? Alan Ackerman charts the dynamic history of interactions between showing and knowing in Seeing Things, a richly interdisciplinary study which illuminates changing modes of perception and modern representational media.

Seeing Things demonstrates that the airy nothings of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Ghost in Hamlet, and soulless bodies in Beckett's media experiments, alongside Toy Story's digitally animated toys, all serve to illustrate the modern problem of visualizing, as Hamlet put it, 'that within which passes show.' Ackerman carefully analyses such ghostly appearances and disappearances across cultural forms and contexts from the early modern period to the present, investigating the tension between our distrust of shadows and our abiding desire to believe in invisible realities. Seeing Things provides a fresh and surprising cultural history through theatrical, verbal, pictorial, and cinematic representations.

‘In these elegant essays, at once theatrical and philosophical, Alan Ackerman offers a probing meditation on sight and on the lingering mysteries of the invisible.’--Martin Puchner, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Harvard University and author of The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

‘I was consistently engaged and fascinated by Alan Ackerman’s outstanding book, Seeing Things. What is most exciting about this study is Ackerman’s perceptions: through compelling intellectual inquiry, he takes the reader on a wonderful journey through his complex and inquisitive mind.’--David Krasner, Department of Performing Arts, Emerson College

‘… Alan Ackerman confronts us with the spectral question: to see or not to see? From Plato to Ibsen and Beckett to Disney Toy Story movies, you're asked to rehearse perception – philosophically, aesthetically, even metaphysically – in the mind’s eye.’--Herbert Blau, Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor of the Humanities, University of Washington  

Against Theatre Alan Ackerman, ed.
Against Theatre: Creative Destructions on the Modernist Stage
Palgrave/Macmillan, 2006

Modernist theatre emerges as a field marked by competing, and often contradictory, impulses and developments. A critique, even destruction, of certain types of theatre is, this book shows, a productive force within modernism and a force that led to the most successful reforms of modern theatre and drama. Theatre is understood by modernists sometimes as a medium, sometimes as a trope or idea that reconfigures the relationships between ‘actors’ and ‘audiences’ while interrogating each and every aspect of theatrical representation from a variety of perspectives, including aesthetic, political, legal, and technical ones. Against Theatre argues that anti-theatricalism emerges in response to specific kinds of theatre and, by extension, that modernist forms of anti-theatricalism, which attack not necessarily theatre itself but the value of theatricality, nevertheless originate in a historically specific experience of theatre. This fascinating collection includes contributions from leading scholars in the English-speaking world and will be a key resource to anyone interested in modern drama, modernist theatre, modernism, and theatre studies.  

The Ends of the BodySuzanne Conklin Akbari
The Ends of the Body: Identity and Community in Medieval Culture.
Co-ed. with Jill Ross.
University of Toronto Press, 2012

Drawing on Arabic, English, French, Irish, Latin and Spanish sources, the essays share a focus on the body’s productive capacity – whether expressed through the flesh’s materiality, or through its role in performing meaning.

The collection is divided into four clusters. ‘Foundations’ traces the use of physical remnants of the body in the form of relics or memorial monuments that replicate the form of the body as foundational in communal structures; ‘Performing the Body’ focuses on the ways in which the individual body functions as the medium through which the social body is maintained; ‘Bodily Rhetoric’ explores the poetic linkage of body and meaning; and ‘Material Bodies’ engages with the processes of corporeal being, ranging from the energetic flow of humoural liquids to the decay of the flesh.

Together, the essays provide new perspectives on the centrality of the medieval body and underscore the vitality of this rich field of study.

Suzanne Conklin Akbari is a professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

Jill Ross is a professor in the Centre for Comparative Literature and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

Idols in the EastSuzanne Conklin Akbari
Idols in the East: European Representations of Islam and the Orient, 1100-1450
Cornell University Press, 2009; paperback edition 2012  

Representations of Muslims have never been more common in the Western imagination than they are today. Building on Orientalist stereotypes constructed over centuries, the figure of the wily Arab has given rise, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, to the "Islamist" terrorist. In Idols in the East, Suzanne Conklin Akbari explores the premodern background of some of the Orientalist types still pervasive in present-day depictions of Muslims—the irascible and irrational Arab, the religiously deviant Islamist—and about how these stereotypes developed over time.

Idols in the East contributes to the recent surge of interest in European encounters with Islam and the Orient in the premodern world. Focusing on the medieval period, Akbari examines a broad range of texts including encyclopedias, maps, medical and astronomical treatises, chansons de geste, romances, and allegories to paint an unusually diverse portrait of medieval culture. Among the texts she considers are The Book of John Mandeville, The Song of Roland, Parzival, and Dante's Divine Comedy. From them she reveals how medieval writers and readers understood and explained the differences they saw between themselves and the Muslim other.

Looking forward, Akbari also comes to terms with how these medieval conceptions fit with modern discussions of Orientalism, thus providing an important theoretical link to postcolonial and postimperial scholarship on later periods. Far reaching in its implications and balanced in its judgments, Idols in the East will be of great interest to not only scholars and students of the Middle Ages but also anyone interested in the roots of Orientalism and its tangled relationship to modern racism and anti-Semitism.

Marco PoloSuzanne Conklin Akbari
Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West.
Co-ed. with Amilcare Iannucci.
University of Toronto Press, 2008

Few figures from history evoke such vivid Orientalist associations as Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer whose accounts of the "Far East" sparked literary and cultural imaginations. The essays in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West challenge what many scholars perceived to be an opposition of "East" and "West" in Polo's writings. These writers argue that Marco Polo's experiences along the Silk Road should instead be considered a fertile interaction of cultural exchange.

The volume begins with detailed studies of Marco Polo's narrative in its many medieval forms (including French, Italian, and Latin versions). They place the text in its material and generic contexts, and situate Marco Polo's account within the conventions of travel literature and manuscript illumination. Other essays consider the appropriation of Marco Polo's narrative in adaptations, translation, and cinematic art. The concluding section presents historiographic and poetic accounts of the place of Marco Polo in the context of a global world literature.

By considering the production and reception of The Travels, this collection lays the groundwork for new histories of world literature written from the perspective of cultural, economic, and linguistic exchange, rather than conquest and conflict.

Suzanne Conklin Akbari is a professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

The late Amilcare Iannucci was a professor in the Department of Italian Studies and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. He was the author of a book on Dante, Forma ed evento nella Divina Commedia, and editor of Dante Today.

Seeing Through the VeilSuzanne Conklin Akbari
Seeing through the Veil: Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory
University of Toronto Press, 2004 

During the later Middle Ages, new optical theories were introduced that located the power of sight not in the seeing subject, but in the passive object of vision. This shift had a powerful impact not only on medieval science but also on theories of knowledge, and this changing relationship of vision and knowledge was a crucial element in late medieval religious devotion. In Seeing Through the Veil, Suzanne Conklin Akbari examines several late medieval allegories in the context of contemporary paradigm shifts in scientific and philosophical theories of vision.

After a survey of the genre of allegory and an overview of medieval optical theory, Akbari delves into more detailed studies of several monumental works of literature, including the Roman de la Rose, Dante’s Vita Nuova, Convivio, and Commedia, and Chaucer’s dream visions and Canterbury Tales. The final chapter, “Division and Darkness,” centres on the legacy of allegory in the fifteenth century. Offering a new interdisciplinary, synthetical approach to late medieval intellectual history and to major works within the literary canon, Seeing through the Veil will be an essential resource to the study of medieval literature and culture, as well as philosophy, history of art, and history of science.

The Norton Anthology World LiteratureSuzanne Conklin Akbari
The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd revised edition. 6 vols.
W.W. Norton, 2012. 

The Norton Anthology of World Literature
Third Edition, Paperback
Volume(s): Package 1: Vols. A, B, C

Martin Puchner (General Editor, Harvard University), Suzanne Conklin Akbari (Editor, University of Toronto), Wiebke Denecke (Editor, Boston University), Vinay Dharwadker (Editor, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Barbara Fuchs (Editor, University of California-Los Angeles), Caroline Levine (Editor, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Pericles Lewis (Editor, Yale University), Emily Wilson (Editor, University of Pennsylvania)
A classic, reimagined.

Read by millions of students since its first publication, The Norton Anthology of World Literature remains the most-trusted anthology of world literature available. Guided by the advice of more than 500 teachers of world literature and a panel of regional specialists, the editors of the Third Edition—a completely new team of scholar-teachers—have made this respected text brand-new in all the best ways. Dozens of new selections and translations, all-new introductions and headnotes, hundreds of new illustrations, redesigned maps and timelines, and a wealth of media resources all add up to the most exciting, accessible, and teachable version of “the Norton” ever published.

John H. Astington
Stage and Picture in the English Renaissance
Cambridge University Press, 2017John Astingotn (Stage and Picture)


This book presents a new approach to the relationship between traditional pictorial arts and the theatre in Renaissance England. Demonstrating the range of visual culture in evidence from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century, from the grandeur of court murals to the cheap amusement of woodcut prints, John H. Astington shows how English drama drew heavily on this imagery to stimulate the imagination of the audience. He analyses the intersection of the theatrical and the visual through such topics as Shakespeare’s Roman plays and the contemporary interest in Roman architecture and sculpture; the central myth of Troy and its widely recognised iconography; scriptural drama and biblical illustration; and the emblem of the theatre itself. The book demonstrates how the art that surrounded Shakespeare and his contemporaries had a profound influence on the ways in which theatre was produced and received.

 Actors and Acting in Shakespeare's TimeJohn H. Astington
Actors and Acting in Shakespeare’s Time; The Art of Stage Playing
Cambridge University Press, 2010

John Astington brings the acting style of the Shakespearean period to life, describing and analysing the art of the player in the English professional theatre between Richard Tarlton and Thomas Betterton. The book pays close attention to the cultural context of stage playing, the critical language used about it, and the kinds of training and professional practice employed in the theatre at various times over the course of roughly one hundred years –1558–1660. This up-to-date survey takes into account recent discoveries about actors and their social networks, about apprenticeship and company affiliations, and about playing outside the major centre of theatre, London. Astington considers the educational tradition of playing, in schools, universities, legal inns, and choral communities, in comparison to the work of the professional players. A comprehensive biographical dictionary of all major professional players of the Shakespearean period is included as a handy reference guide.  

English Court TheatreJohn H. Astington
English Court Theatre 1558-1642
Cambridge University Press, 1999, 2006

Several famous playwrights of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods, including Shakespeare, wrote for open-air public theatres and also for the private indoor theatres at the palaces at which the court resided. This book is a full account of such court theatre, and examines the theatrical entertainments for Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I. By contrast with the now-vanished playhouses of the time, four of the royal chambers used as theatres survive, and the author attempts to draw as full a picture as he can of such places, the physical and aesthetic conditions under which actors worked in them, and the composition and conduct of court audiences. He both confirms the role of royal patronage in the growth of professional theatre, and offers a new definition of the function of theatrical occasions in creating the cultural profile of the English court. The book includes plans and illustrations of the theatres and an appendix which lists all known court performances of plays and masques between 1558 and 1642.  

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Deirdre BakerD. Baker
Becca Fair and Foul
Groundwood Books, 2018

When eleven-year-old Becca returns to her grandmother’s rustic cottage for another summer, she finds herself seeing her beloved island in new ways. A hunting owl mistakes a bobbing ponytail for prey. A cozy sleepover on the beach takes on the tinges of a nightmare when a family of river otters shows up to claim their territory. An argument between a nestbound baby eaglet and its haranguing mother reaches operatic dimensions. Becca finds a dead bear on the beach and helps to give it a burial at sea.

Then there are dramas of the human variety. Aunt Meg is grieving over a miscarriage, and Aunt Clare’s medical work in Africa has brought on a sadness that even the love of family and the island’s beauty can’t cure. And there is the burning question of whether Aunt Fifi and the local plumber will ever become an item, and would that mean losing the only plumber on the island?

Meanwhile, cousin Alicia claims to be too old to participate in the kids’ summer project ― a performance of The Tempest, a play that seems to find unsettling echoes in the natural surroundings Becca thought she knew so well.


Donna Bennett and Russell Brown, eds.Anthology of Can Lit in Eng -FB
An Anthology of Canadian Literature in English 

Oxford University Press, 2019

Canadian Literature in English Donna Bennett and Russell Brown, eds.
A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English
Oxford University Press, 2002

An anthology of 85 Canadian poets and fiction writers from the beginnings to the twenty-first century, with critical headnotes and explanatory footnotes.


Canadian Short StoriesDonna Bennett and Russell Brown, eds.
Canadian Short Stories
Pearson Education Canada, 2005

An anthology of 39 Canadian short stories from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, with an emphasis on recently emerging writers.


Natures in Trsnslation Alan Bewell
Natures in Translation
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016

For many critics, Romanticism is synonymous with nature writing, for representations of the natural world appear during this period with a freshness, concreteness, depth, and intensity that have rarely been equaled. Why did nature matter so much to writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? And how did it play such an important role in their understanding of themselves and the world?

In Natures in Translation, Alan Bewell argues that there is no Nature in the singular, only natures that have undergone transformation through time and across space. He examines how writers—as disparate as Erasmus and Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White, William Bartram, William Wordsworth, John Clare, and Mary Shelley—understood a world in which natures were traveling and resettling the globe like never before. Bewell presents British natural history as a translational activity aimed at globalizing local natures by making them mobile, exchangeable, comparable, and representable.

Bewell explores how colonial writers, in the period leading up to the formulation of evolutionary theory, responded to a world in which new natures were coming into being while others disappeared. For some of these writers, colonial natural history held the promise of ushering in a "cosmopolitan" nature in which every species, through trade and exchange, might become a true "citizen of the world." Others struggled with the question of how to live after the natures they depended upon were gone. Ultimately, Natures in Translation demonstrates that—far from being separate from the dominant concerns of British imperial culture—nature was integrally bound up with the business of empire.  

Romanticism and Colonial Disease Alan Bewell
Romanticism and Colonial Disease
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

Colonial experience was profoundly structured by disease, as expansion brought people into contact with new and deadly maladies. Pathogens were exchanged on a scale far greater than ever before. Native populations were decimated by wave after wave of Old World diseases. In turn, colonists suffered disease and mortality rates much higher than in their home countries. For both groups colonialism ushered in an age of extended epidemiological crisis. Not only disease, but the idea of disease, and the response to it, deeply affected both colonizers and those colonized.

In Romanticism and Colonial Disease, I focus on the British response to colonial disease as medical and literary writers, in a period roughly from the end of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century, grappled to understand this new world of disease. I find this literature characterized by increasing anxiety about the global dimensions of disease and the epidemiological cost of empire. Colonialism infiltrated the heart of Romantic literature, affecting not only the Romantics' framing of disease but also their understanding of England's position in the colonial world.

This book is the first major study of the massive impact of colonial disease on British culture during the Romantic period. It charts the emergence of the idea of the colonial world as a pathogenic space in need of a cure, and examines the role of disease in the making and unmaking of national identities. 

Liza Blake and Jacques Lezra, eds.
Lucretius and Modernity
Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016Liza Blake's book

Lucretius's long shadow falls across the disciplines of literary history and criticism, philosophy, religious studies, classics, political philosophy, and the history of science. The best recent example is Stephen Greenblatt's popular account of the Roman poet's De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) rediscovery by Poggio Bracciolini, and of its reception in early modernity, winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. Despite the poem's newfound influence and visibility, very little cross-disciplinary conversation has taken place. This edited collection brings together essays by distinguished scholars to examine the relationship between Lucretius and modernity. Key questions weave this book's ideas and arguments together: What is the relation between literary form and philosophical argument? How does the text of De rerum natura allow itself to be used, at different historical moments and to different ends? What counts as reason for Lucretius? Together, these essays present a nuanced, skeptical, passionate, historically sensitive, and complicated account of what is at stake when we claim Lucretius for modernity.

Stationers_Company Peter Blayney
The Stationers' Company and the Printers of London: 1501-1557
Cambridge University Press, 2013

This major, revisionist reference work explains for the first time how the Stationers Company acquired both a charter and a nationwide monopoly of printing. In the most detailed and comprehensive investigation of the London book trade in any period, Peter Blayney systematically documents the story from 1501, when printing first established permanent roots inside the City boundaries, until the Stationers' Company was incorporated by royal charter in 1557. Having exhaustively re-examined original sources and scoured numerous archives unexplored by others in the field, Blayney radically revises accepted beliefs about such matters as the scale of native production versus importation, privileges and patents, and the regulation of printing by the Church, Crown, and City. His persistent focus on individuals – most notably the families, rivals, and successors of Richard Pynson, John Rastell, and Robert Redman – keeps this study firmly grounded in the vivid lives and careers of early Tudor Londoners.

Dante's IndianaRandy Boyagoda
Dante's Indiana
Biblioasis, 2021

Middle-aged, married, but living on his own, Prin has lost his way. Desperate for money and purpose, he moves to small-town Indiana to work for an evangelical millionaire who’s building a theme park inspired by Dante’s Inferno. He quickly becomes involved in the difficult lives of his co-workers and in the wider struggles of their opioid-ravaged community while trying to reconcile with his distant wife and distant God. Both projects spin out of control, and when a Black teenager is killed, creationists, politicians and protesters alike descend. In the midst of this American chaos, Prin risks everything to help the lost and angry souls around him while searching for his own way home.

Following Original Prin, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and Globe and Mail Best Book, Dante’s Indiana is affecting and strange, intimate and big-hearted—an extraordinary journey through the darkly divine comedies of our time.

Original PrinRandy Boyagoda
Original Prin
Biblioasis, 2018

Eight months before he became a suicide bomber, Prin went to the zoo with his family. Following a cancer diagnosis, forty-year old Prin vows to become a better man and a better Catholic. He’s going to spend more time with his kids and better time with his wife, care for his recently divorced and aging parents, and also expand his cutting-edge research into the symbolism of the seahorse in Canadian literature.

But when his historic college in downtown Toronto faces a shutdown and he meets with the condominium developers ready to take it over—including a foul-mouthed young Chinese entrepreneur and Wende, his sexy ex-girlfriend from graduate school—Prin hears the voice of God. Bewildered and divinely inspired, he goes to the Middle East, hoping to save both his college and his soul. Wende is coming, too.

The first book in a planned trilogy, Original Prin is an entertaining and essential novel about family life, faith, temptation, and fanaticism. It’s a timely story about timeless truths, told with wise insight and great humour, confirming Randy Boyagoda’s place as one of Canada’s funniest and most provocative writers.

Richard John Neuhaus Randy Boyagoda
Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square
Penguin Random House Canada, 2015


 Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was one of the most influential figures in American public life from the Civil Rights era to the War on Terror. His writing, activism, and connections to people of power in religion, politics, and culture secured a place for himself and his ideas at the center of recent American history. William F. Buckley, Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith are comparable -- willing controversialists and prodigious writers adept at cultivating or castigating the powerful, while advancing lively arguments for the virtues and vices of the ongoing American experiment. But unlike Buckley and Galbraith, who have always been identified with singular political positions on the right and left, respectively, Neuhaus' life and ideas placed him at the vanguard of events and debates across the political and cultural spectrum. For instance, alongside Abraham Heschel and Daniel Berrigan, Neuhaus co-founded Clergy Concerned About Vietnam, in 1965. Forty years later, Neuhaus was the subject of a New York Review of Books article by Garry Wills, which cast him as a Rasputin of the far right, exerting dangerous influence in both the Vatican and the Bush White House. This book looks to examine Neuhaus's multi-faceted life and reveal to the public what made him tick and why.

Beggard's Fes Randy Boyagoda
Beggar's Feast
Penguin Random House Canada, 2012


Beggar's Feast is a novel about a man who lives in defiance of fate. Sam Kandy was born in 1889 to low prospects in a Ceylon village and died one hundred years later as the wealthy headman of the same village, a self-made shipping magnate, and father of sixteen, three times married and twice widowed. In four parts, this enthralling novel tells Sam's story from his boyhood—when his parents, convinced by his horoscope that he would be a blight upon the family, abandon him at the gates of a distant temple—through his dramatic escape from the temple and journey across Ceylon to Australia and Singapore, before his bold return to the Ceylon village he once called home. There he tries to win recognition for his success in the world—at any cost.


Northern Province Randy Boyagoda
Governor Of The Northern Province
Penguin Random House Canada, 2007


Sam Bokarie is an ex–African warlord who moves to small-town Canada to capitalize on its zealous hospitality. Based in part on a notoriously vicious figure, this debut novel responds to this warlord’s mysterious disappearance by imagining what would happen if he turned up in Canada and aligned himself with an ambitious but clumsy politician. With searing wit, Boyagoda has created a powerful tale of political ambition and unlikely alliances that reviewers hailed as genius.

Race, Immigration Randy Boyagoda
Race, Immigration, and American Identity in the Fiction of Salman Rushdie, Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner
Routledege, 2008

Salman Rushdie once observed that William Faulkner was the writer most frequently cited by third world authors as their major influence. Inspired by the unexpected lines of influence and sympathy that Rushdie’s statement implied, this book seeks to understand connections between American and global experience as discernible in twentieth-century fiction. The worldwide imprint of modern American experience has, of late, invited reappraisals of canonical writers and classic national themes from globalist perspectives. Advancing this line of critical inquiry, this book argues that the work of Salman Rushdie, Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner reveals a century-long transformation of how American identity and experience have been imagined, and that these transformations have been provoked by new forms of immigration and by unanticipated mixings of cultures and ethnic groups. This book makes two innovations: first, it places a contemporary world writer’s fiction in an American context; second, it places two modern American writers’ novels in a world context. Works discussed include Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Satanic Verses; Ellison’s Invisible Man and Juneteenth; and Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. The scholarly materials range from U.S. immigration history and critical race theory to contemporary studies of cultural and economic globalization.  

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Fictions of Consent Urvashi Chakravarty
Fictions of Consent: Slavery, Servitude, and Free Service in Early Modern England
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022

In Fictions of Consent Urvashi Chakravarty excavates the ideologies of slavery that took root in early modern England in the period that preceded the development of an organized trade in enslaved persons.

Despite the persistent fiction that England was innocent of racialized slavery, Chakravarty argues that we must hold early modern England—and its narratives of exceptional and essential freedom—to account for the frameworks of slavery that it paradoxically but strategically engendered. Slavery was not a foreign or faraway phenomenon, she demonstrates; rather, the ideologies of slavery were seeded in the quotidian spaces of English life and in the everyday contexts of England's service society, from the family to the household, in the theater and, especially, the grammar school classroom, where the legacies of classical slavery and race were inherited and negotiated. The English conscripted the Roman freedman's figurative "stain of slavery" to register an immutable sign of bondage and to secure slavery to epidermal difference, even as early modern frameworks of "volitional service" provided the strategies for later fictions of "happy slavery" in the Atlantic world. Early modern texts presage the heritability of slavery in early America, reveal the embeddedness of slavery within the family, and illuminate the ways in which bloodlines of descent underwrite the racialized futures of enslavement.

Fictions of Consent intervenes in a number of areas including early modern literary and cultural studies, premodern critical race studies, the reception of classical antiquity, and the histories of law, education, and labor to uncover the conceptual genealogies of slavery and servitude and to reveal the everyday sites where the foundations of racialized slavery were laid. Although early modern England claimed to have "too pure an Air for Slaves to breathe in," Chakravarty reveals slavery was a quintessentially English phenomenon.

Come Back To Me My Language J. Edward Chamberlin
Come Back To Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies
Chicago, Toronto and Kingston, Jamaica: University of Illinois Press, McClelland and Stewart and Ian Randle Publishers, 1993; 1999

In the last fifty years, a powerful and distinctive body of poetry has emerged in the West Indies. Still resonating with the curse of slavery, this poetry shares its roots with rap and reggae, and has the same hold on the popular imagination. But it has also become part of the heritage of English literature, and has received international recognition with the work of Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison and Kamau Brathwaite. Come Back To Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies is the first comprehensive study of this remarkable tradition of contemporary poetry, and includes the work of more than thirty poets and performers, with detailed analyses of the major ones. It provides historical and social background to the poetry, places it within the context of current literary criticism, and shows how it has given the people of the Caribbean a new way to see themselves, and to look at others.

If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?J. Edward Chamberlin
If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground
Toronto, Cincinnati and Manchester: Knopf/Vintage, Pilgrim Press, Carcanet; 2003, 2004, 2006

Like the landscapes and languages of the world, stories both hold people together and keep them apart. If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground illustrates how storytelling traditions convey the different truths of religion and science, of history and the arts, telling people where they came from and why they are here, how to live and sometimes how to die, what to believe and--most importantly--how to believe. They come in many different forms, from creation stories to constitutions, from southern epics and northern sagas to native American tales and African praise songs and from nursery rhymes and national anthems to myths and mathematics. They are all ceremonies of beliefs, even when they are chronicles of events--this is our common ground across cultures--and they always embody the contradictions between reality and the imagination, and between fact and fiction.


HorseJ. Edward Chamberlin
Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations
New York, Toronto, Oxford: BlueBridge, Knopf/Vintage, Signal Books; 2006, 2007

From ancient cave paintings to the calendars we hang in our modern kitchens and bedrooms, horses have fascinated humans for thousands of years, finding a place in our lives and our languages, and shaping the history of societies in war and peace, in work and play. It is a history that is full of contradictions. Horses that were hunted down for their meat and skin and bones were also honoured for their grace and beauty--takh, which translates as "spirit", is the Mongolian word for a wild horse, and it was there on the central Asian steppes that humans first domesticated horses. There too the wild and the domestic, as well as the secular and the sacred, became fellow travelers when horses and humans rode out together. Drawing on archaeology, ethnography, biology, art, literature and history, Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations illuminates the ways in which horses transformed the world from China and India to Greece and Rome, and from Europe and Africa to the Americas, where horses first appeared, providing a ceremonial centre to Christianity and Islam as well as to the great native American horse cultures. 
Locating Home George
George Elliott Clarke
Locating Home
Tightrope Books, 2017

In this unique literary collection Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, anthologizes significant firsts in the landscape of African-Canadian poetry and prose. Clarke's powerful introduction illuminates the historical, cultural, and political significance of these groundbreaking works for contemporary audiences.

George Elliott ClarkeCanticles I
Canticles I
 Guernica Editions, 2016 

Book I of The Canticles puts into dialogue as dramatic monologues those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade, or who demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident; as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism. In this work, Dante can critique Christopher Columbus and Frederick Douglass can upbraid Abraham Lincoln; Elizabeth Barrett Browning can muse on her African racial heritage and its implications for child-bearing, while Karl Marx can excoriate Queen Victoria.

 George Elliott Clarke
 Raincoast—Polestar, 2006

A ferocious collection of poems addressing blackness, literature, sex, violence, art, politics, and beauty. A companion to the acclaimed Blue (2001), these lyrics go yet further in the direction of America-- African-America, meting out raunch and rage, in most spectacularly uncanadian measures.

Illuminated VersesGeorge Elliott Clarke
Illuminated Verses
Canadian Scholars Press International, 2005

Each poem 'dialogues' with a full-colour, fine-art, Black nude photographed by Trinidadian-Canadian Ricardo Scipio. This righteously Afrocentric volume revisits the Greek myth of the Muses, rendering them as Black women, all daughters of the Daughter of Music, and representing heroic creativity: Calypso, Soul, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, Poetry, Saint Anastacia of Brazil, Dona Beatrice of the Congo, and the African goddess, Oxum.


George & RueGeorge Elliott Clarke
George & Rue
Harper Collins Canada, Ecco Press (UK), Carroll & Graf (USA), 2004-05

This internationally celebrated novel is based on the True Crime story of the hangings, for murder, of George and Rufus Hamilton, two 'Africadian' brothers, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1949. While rendered in what the author dubs "Blackened English," the plot unfolds with the heightened grandeur of tragedy, thereby framing raw, backwoods violence with a classical structure, one that also reveals the ugly reality of anti-Black racism in mid-20th-century Canada.

 God Hates FagsMichael Cobb
God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence
New York University Press, 2006, Sexual Cultures Series

Though long thought of as one of the most virulently anti-gay genres of contemporary American politics and culture, in God Hates Fags, Michael Cobb maintains that religious discourses have curiously figured as the most potent and pervasive forms of queer expression and activism throughout the twentieth century. Cobb focuses on how queers have assumed religious rhetoric strategically to respond to the violence done against them, alternating close readings of writings by James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Jean Toomer, Dorothy Allison, and Stephen Crane with critical legal and political analyses of Supreme Court Cases and anti-gay legislation. He also pays deep attention to the political strategies, public declarations, websites, interviews, and other media made by key religious right organizations that have mounted the most successful regulations and condemnations of homosexuality.

Eleanor Cook
Elizabeth Bishop at WorkE.
Harvard University Press, 2017

In her lifetime Elizabeth Bishop was appreciated as a writer’s writer (John Ashbery once called her “the writer’s writer’s writer”). But since her death in 1979 her reputation has grown, and today she is recognized as a major twentieth-century poet. Critics and biographers now habitually praise Bishop’s mastery of her art, but all too often they have little to say about how her poetry does its sublime work—in the ear and in the mind’s eye.

Elizabeth Bishop at Work examines Bishop’s art in detail—her diction, syntax, rhythm, and meter, her acute sense of place, and her attention to the natural world. It is also a study of the poet working at something, challenging herself to try new things and to push boundaries. Eleanor Cook traces Bishop’s growing confidence and sense of freedom, from her first collection, North & South, to Questions of Travel, in which she fully realized her poetic powers, to Geography III and the breathtaking late poems, which—in individual ways—gather in and extend the poet’s earlier work. Cook shows how Bishop shapes each collection, putting to rest the notion that her published volumes are miscellanies.

Elizabeth Bishop at Work is intended for readers and writers as well as teachers. In showing exactly how Bishop’s poems work, Cook suggests how we ourselves might become more attentive readers and better writers. Bishop has been compared to Vermeer, and as with his paintings, so with her poems. They create small worlds where every detail matters.

 Wallace StevensEleanor Cook
A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens
Princeton UP, 2007: paperback, 2009

 Wallace Stevens is one of the major poets of the twentieth century, and also among the most challenging. His poems can be dazzling in their verbal brilliance. They are often shot through with lavish imagery and wit, informed by a lawyer's logic, and disarmingly unexpected: a singing jackrabbit, the seductive Nanzia Nunzio. They also spoke--and still speak--to contemporary concerns. Though his work is popular and his readership continues to grow, many readers encountering it are baffled by such rich and strange poetry.

Eleanor Cook, a leading critic of poetry and expert on Stevens, gives us here the essential reader's guide to this important American poet. Cook goes through each of Stevens's poems in his six major collections as well as his later lyrics, in chronological order. For each poem she provides an introductory head note and a series of annotations on difficult phrases and references, illuminating for us just why and how Stevens was a master at his art. Her annotations, which include both previously unpublished scholarship and interpretive remarks, will benefit beginners and specialists alike. Cook also provides a brief biography of Stevens, and offers a detailed appendix on how to read modern poetry.

A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens is an indispensable resource and the perfect companion to The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, first published in 1954 in honor of Stevens's seventy-fifth birthday, as well as to the 1997 collection Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose.

Enigmas and Riddles in LiteratureEleanor Cook
Enigmas and Riddles in Literature
Cambridge University Press, 2006

How do enigmas and riddles work in literature? Not just in author A or B or even in the entrancing Old English riddles, but in general. This book offers the first full-length study of how to read them. It revives the old figure of speech known as “enigma” from Aristotle to the seventeenth century, and shows its usefulness. It looks at enigma in the widest sense, as masterplot. It considers questions of riddle and genre, and it proposes a new griph-type class of riddle as scheme. The opening chapter surveys “enigma personified” as sphinx and griffin, resuscitating a lost Graeco-Latin pun on “griffin” that Lewis Carroll used. The history and functions of enigma draw on classical and biblical through to modern writing, while examples concentrate on literature in English, especially modern poetry. Other examples range from European and Middle Eastern literatures to folk-riddling. Three case-studies, on Dante, Carroll, and Wallace Stevens, demonstrate this method of reading in detail. "Seldom is an important book so enjoyable." (Alastair Fowler, Yale Review)

Denise CruzTF_DCruz
Transpacific Femininities: The Making of the Modern Filipina
Durham and London: Duke University Press, Fall 2012.

In this groundbreaking study, Denise Cruz investigates the importance of the figure she terms the "transpacific Filipina" to Philippine nationalism, women's suffrage, and constructions of modernity. Her analysis illuminates connections between the rise in the number of Philippine works produced in English and the emergence of new social classes of transpacific women during the early to mid-twentieth century.

Through a careful study of multiple texts produced by Filipina and Filipino writers in the Philippines and the United States—including novels and short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, conduct manuals, and editorial cartoons—Cruz provides a new archive and fresh perspectives for understanding Philippine literature and culture. She demonstrates that the modern Filipina did not emerge as a simple byproduct of American and Spanish colonial regimes, but rather was the result of political, economic, and cultural interactions among the Philippines, Spain, the United States, and Japan. Cruz shows how the complex interplay of feminism, nationalism, empire, and modernity helped to shape, and were shaped by, conceptions of the transpacific Filipina.

Denise Cruz
The Crucible: An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla TC_DCruz
New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

On December 8, 1941, as the Pacific War reached the Philippines, Yay Panlilio, a Filipina-Irish American, faced a question with no easy answer: How could she contribute to the war?

In this 1950 memoir, The Crucible: An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla, Panlilio narrates her experience as a journalist, triple agent, leader in the Philippine resistance against the Japanese, and lover of the guerrilla general Marcos V. Augustin. From the war-torn streets of Japanese-occupied Manila, to battlegrounds in the countryside, and the rural farmlands of central California, Panlilio blends wry commentary, rigorous journalistic detail, and popular romance.

Weaving together appearances by Douglas MacArthur and Carlos Romulo with dangerous espionage networks, this work provides an insightful perspective on the war. The Crucible invites readers to see new intersections in Filipina/o, Asian American, and American literature studies, and Denise Cruz's introduction imparts key biographical, historical, and cultural contexts to that purpose.

 Cuddy-Keane cover imageMelba Cuddy-Keane Co-Authored with Adam Hammond and Alexandra Peat
Modernism: Keywords
  Willey Blackwell, 2014

  Spanning the "long" modernist period, from roughly 1880-1950. Modernism: Keywords offers short essays on words used with frequency and urgency in "written modernism," tracking cultural and literary debates and transformative moments of change. The approach takes its inspiration from Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), which argued that we can best understand the character and thought of an era not through its dominant beliefs, but through the problems and debates inadvertently revealed in its words. Unlike dictionaries and glossaries, Keywords focuses on words that cannot be easily and summarily defined: words with unstable meanings and conflicting implications. Unlike historical dictionaries, Keywords analyzes relationships and probes the issues or forces underlying ambiguities and variations. Rather than "settling" modernism, this study unsettles the idea of modernism as possible to define, revealing the modernist period as a vibrant time of circulating, conflicting, and developing ideas, never to be confined to any single spirit or thought.

This book is the result of an extensive collaborative project, undertaken by Melba Cuddy-Keane as director and eleven further members of the research team, all of whom graduated from the University of Toronto, where they were active participants in the Modernist Research and Reading Group. The research team comprised co -authors Melba Cuddy-Keane, Adam Hammond, and Alexandra Peat; collaborating writer Marybeth Curtin; collaborating contributors Glenn Clifton and Rohanna Green; contributors Claire Battershill, Kimberly Fairbrother Canton and Daniel Harney; research assistants Tania Botticella, Stewart Cole, and Sarah Copland; and undergraduate assistant Claire Marie Stancek.

"Modernism Keywords will be an indispensable resource from the moment it appears. The work is rigorous in theoretical conception, broad in historical reach, and powerfully revisionary in its implications for modernist study. It falls within the distinguished legacy of Raymond Williams but also applies the most current methods to an expanding archive of modernist texts. Scholars and students at every level will keep it close at hand."
—Michael Levenson, University of Virginia

Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual & the Public SphereMelba Cuddy-Keane
Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual & the Public Sphere
Cambridge University Press, 2003

Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual, and the Public Sphere situates Virginia Woolf's ideas on literature, reading, and education in the context of on-going controversies circulating in the newspapers, periodicals, and radio broadcasting of her time. Refuting popular conceptions of Woolf's snobbery and elitism, Melba Cuddy-Keane redefines Woolf as a "democratic highbrow" — a writer intensely engaged in public debates about intellectual culture, adult education, pedagogy, and democratic goals. This study updates Richard Altick's history of the nineteenth-century English common reader by tracing new developments into the first decades of the twentieth century; it also reveals Woolf as a theorist of reading whose understanding of unconscious and conscious processes, dialogic modes, historicism, and evaluative practices anticipates theoretical concepts most often identified with the later twentieth century.

Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual, and the Public Sphere has been described as "an outstanding piece of scholarship: original, provocative, historically and theoretically grounded" (The Yearbook of English Studies) and "required reading for anyone interested in the intellectual and cultural history of modernism" (Modernism/modernity).



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Cruelty and Laughter Simon Dickie
Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century
University Of Chicago Press, November 2011

  • Winner of the 2012 Snow Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies. Read more.

Eighteenth-century British culture is often seen as polite and sentimental—the creation of an emerging middle class. Simon Dickie disputes these assumptions in Cruelty and Laughter, a wildly enjoyable but shocking plunge into the forgotten comic literature of the age. Beneath the surface of Enlightenment civility, Dickie uncovers a rich vein of cruel humor that forces us to recognize just how slowly ordinary human sufferings became worthy of sympathy.

Delving into an enormous archive of comic novels, jestbooks, farces, variety shows, and cartoons, Dickie finds a vast repository of jokes about cripples, blind men, rape, and wife-beating. Epigrams about syphilis and scurvy sit alongside one-act comedies about hunchbacks in love. He shows us that everyone—rich and poor, women as well as men—laughed along. In the process, Dickie also expands our understanding of many of the century’s major authors, including Samuel Richardson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Tobias Smollett, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen. He devotes particular attention to Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, a novel that reflects repeatedly on the limits of compassion and the ethical problems of laughter. Cruelty and Laughter is an engaging, far-reaching study of the other side of culture in eighteenth-century Britain.

“This book is a prodigiously erudite reminder that the eighteenth century was not just polite, but vicious. Drawing on jestbooks, verse satires, comic fiction, and a plethora of overlooked sources, Dickie depicts a literary, visual, and physical world replete with cruelty, ribald denigration, and low and bawdy humor. Skillfully combining textual exegesis with a profound knowledge of recent social history, he shows that mockery of the lower orders, beggars, and the poor; jests and japes at the expense of the crippled, deformed, and handicapped; and ribald enthusiasm for sexual violence and rape were part of a cruel social world in which the unprivileged and disadvantaged, even as they sometimes excited compassion and sympathy, were just as likely to excite a disdain that ran the full gamut of verbal and physical violence.”--John Brewer, California Institute of Technology

“A pioneering work. Dickie uncovers a rich, long-neglected archive and challenges received wisdom on virtually every page. A joy to read and a revelation.”--Toni Bowers, University of Pennsylvania

“With great verve, occasional disgust, and intermittent outrage, Simon Dickie portrays a society of entrenched hierarchies in which entitled aristocrats entertained themselves with cripple dances, libertine young bucks wreaked havoc in both popular fiction and common reality, and the poor and disabled were the inevitable butts of cruel jokes on and off the page. Working against common scholarly assumptions but backed by ample evidence, he argues that delight in the suffering of others was one thing that all classes of eighteenth-century society shared. Throughout he combines the virtues of a historian and a literary critic with a creative and self-conscious awareness of the complex relation of representation to reality. One of the most original, readable, educational, and entertaining books in the field of eighteenth-century studies I have read in the past decade.”--Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles

“This excellent and thoroughly researched book argues clearly that eighteenth-century readers read—and worse, enjoyed laughing at—jokes that we would find in incredibly bad taste; and in that, Dickie sees the key to the persistence of an entire way of thinking that is now lost to us. Bringing a tremendous amount of material to our attention, he takes a provocative stance against what he sees as an idealized image of the eighteenth century and points to numerous avenues for future research. Terrific and important, Cruelty and Laughter will be of great interest to scholars of eighteenth-century history, literature, popular culture, humor, and the history of the book.”--John O’Brien, University of Virginia and Author of Harlequin Britain: Pantomime and Entertainment, 1690–1760

Hobbes coverPaul Downes
Hobbes. Sovereignty, and Early American Literature
Cambridge University Press, 2015

Hobbes, Sovereignty and Early American Literature pursues the question of democratic sovereignty as it was anticipated, theorized and resisted in the American colonies and in the early United States. It proposes that orthodox American liberal accounts of political community need to be supplemented and challenged by the deeply controversial theory of sovereignty that was articulated in Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan (1651). This book offers a radical re-evaluation of Hobbes's political theory and demonstrates how a renewed attention to key Hobbesean ideas might inform inventive re-readings of major American literary, religious and political texts. Ranging from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritan attempts to theorize God's sovereignty to revolutionary and founding-era debates over popular sovereignty, this book argues that democratic aspiration still has much to learn from Hobbes's Leviathan and from the powerful liberal resistance it has repeatedly provoked.

Democracy Revolution, and Monarchism in Early American LiteraturePaul Downes
Democracy, Revolution, and Monarchism in Early American Literature
Cambridge University Press, 2002 (paperback 2009)

Paul Downes combines literary criticism and political history in order to explore responses to the rejection of monarchism in the American revolutionary era. Downes' analysis considers the Declaration of Independence, Franklin's autobiography, Crèvecoeur's Letters From An American Farmer and the works of America's first significant literary figures including Charles Brockden Brown, Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper. He claims that the post-revolutionary American state and the new democratic citizen inherited some of the complex features of absolute monarchy, even as they were strenuously trying to assert their difference from it. In chapters that consider the revolution's mock execution of George III, the Elizabethan notion of the 'king's two bodies' and the political significance of the secret ballot, Downes points to the traces of monarchical political structures within the practices and discourses of early American democracy. This is an ambitious study of an important theme in early American culture and society.

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