Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Have Some Fun While I'm in Sendai

Hey kids, you know I'm feeling good about this Saturday's almost-finished talk when I was confident enough this afternoon to interrupt my final edits for a half an hour to announce this contest over at Mostly Harmless. Figure some of the literary/theoretical folks on the CitizenSE blogroll might enjoy taking part in an effort to produce the best parody of Hilton Kramer blaming postmodernism for the Bush administration--or more generally the best parody of a Bush administration dead-ender trying to come up with a fig leaf for finally jumping ship. Betcha ya didn't know Hawthorne would approve of such a contest....

Monday, February 26, 2007

Why, Indeed?

Yes, well, given that I have a draft due tomorrow (late, of course), the final version due Thursday evening (even later) and the talk in Sendai on Saturday (how did March 3 come so soon?!), don't expect me to be blogging much this week, either. But what I can do is try to explain what an antebellum (and earlier) U.S. literature specialist is doing participating in a lecture series sponsored by the Tohoku Association for American Studies on "The United States of America: Its Present and Future," talking about "The End of the American Century in Contemporary U.S. Literatures."

Here's the abstract for the talk:

My talk surveys the ways in which nine contemporary American women novelists have represented and reimagined new world slavery, borders, and history. In it, I show how Paule Marshall, Gayl Jones, and Toni Morrison have renavigated Atlantic slavery; how Gloria Anzaldua, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Karen Tei Yamashita have remapped North American borders, and how Maryse Conde, Bharati Mukherjee, and Octavia Butler have rewritten "American" history. At stake in these efforts, I argue, is more than a reconsideration of the American literary canon or the relationships among U.S. literatures. It is, more crucially, a break with the assumptions of the American Century and the first steps toward a transnational, postcolonial history of the Americas, and the world, since Columbus.

First obvious connection to my writing on this blog: Paule Marshall and Toni Morrison.

Second obvious connection: "postcolonial."

Third, less obvious (unless you've checked out my home page), connection: the talks and teaching I've done, conveniently summarized for you on my c.v..

What do these suggest? That in my teaching and research, I am about as familiar with the not-quite-latest U.S. literatures as I am with the not-quite-earliest, if not with the scholarship (much less the bloggership) on the former. That I particularly like to write and teach about the ways in which recent U.S. literatures establish dialogues with older literatures and histories. And that this talk is something of an attempt to convey to a general audience why they should be as interested as I am in the authors and issues I address in it.

Part of the impetus for the talk also comes from my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the American literary canon in Japanese universities, which I addressed a bit in terms of Hawthorne not that many posts ago. From what I've seen, there isn't much interest in teaching American literature after modernism, or, to hedge my bets a bit, that there are far more resources devoted to pre-1960 than post-1960 U.S. literatures. And that even in the post-1960 courses, there's less attention paid to the "multicultural" and "multiethnic" dimensions of contemporary American literary culture in Japan than in the U.S. So part of what I want to accomplish in the talk is get my audience excited about nine fairly recent women novelists who I believe represent a new trend, if not quite a new movement, in American literature today, and do my little part to help expand and rethink the Japanese American literary canon.

But part of the impetus also comes from the ways in which received notions of identity politics (as always-already essentialist, exclusionary, divisive, cooptable, opposed to class politics, etc.) have affected reactions to these and other writers in the U.S. and Japan. That is, I've seen a tendency among some contemporary and twentieth-century Americanists to deploy this negative sense of identity politics to delineate an emerging post-1960 U.S. literary canon that purportedly avoids its traps. Writers like Bellow, DeLillo, Doctorow, Mailer, Nabokov, Pynchon, Roth, and Updike are in for their virtuosity, longevity, ability to contain multitudes in their fiction, and so on, while non-white-male authors' fame rests on their not being white males more than on their talents. According to my colleague Adrienne McCormick, you can see similar moves in poetry criticism in the 1970s through 1990s, as well, particularly criticism that attempts to differentiate theoretical from multicultural/multiethnic poetry and valorize the former. So what I want to try to get at in my talk is where I see the nine non-white, non-male writers I'm focusing on differing from this admittedly rear-guard effort to establish a "traditional" post-1960s U.S. literary canon--and to do so in formal, thematic, and political terms. Ultimately, I want to suggest that the attempt to establish a "traditional" post-1960 U.S. novel canon is itself a kind of identity politics, and that we need a different way of demarcating "periods" in the post-WW II U.S. novel than those that received notions of identity politics tend to provide us with.

This is where my title's invocation of "The End of the American Century" comes in. I want to argue in my talk that we can identify a period in U.S. literatures that runs from, say, 1945-1995, which I'll call "The American Century." And that the novelists I'm focusing on, whose works span roughly 1965 to the present, are in some ways posing an alternative to the novels of the American Century and in other ways part of an emerging period that I at first thought to call "The Atlantic Century" but have since decided not to attempt to give a name to it (with the Black Atlantic and the Asian Pacific being so popular, and no clear sense of how long this new period will last, as it's still ongoing, "Atlantic Century" seemed wrong on many counts). "New World Literature" springs to mind, as well, but it's still not very good. Anyway, my point is not names but what it means to be writing from within the American Century (even if you're writing against its assumptions) and what it means to stop writing from within it.

More on this...later.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What Would Hawthorne Say About a Two-Week Blog Hiatus?

Not much. Nothing compared to the dents on his writing schedule caused by Brook Farm or his various political appointments. Don't sweat it. (He'd probably appreciate the irony that CitizenSE's average daily hit count didn't decline all that much over the past two weeks, as well.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mrs. Hutchinson, Anyone? Or, Another View of Amanda

Shorter "What Would Hawthorne Say About L'Affaire Marcotte?":

Conclusion 1: The Latter-Day Puritanism of the right-wing critics of John Edwards's new bloggers (ably led by such fair and balanced sources as Michelle Malkin and Bill Donohue), with their attempts to affix such scarlet letters as AC (anti-Catholic), IH (intolerant hypocrite), and PM (potty mouth) to them, are part of a long-standing yet ever-more-efficient smear machine of "public women" (cf. Anita Hill, Lani Guinier, Patricia Williams....);

Conclusion 2: The Concern Trolling stance taken in the course of the national media's transmission of the right-wing noise machine (in such beacons of journalistic integrity and quality as The New York Times and Time) are a repetition of Hawthorne's narrators' strategies of representing Anne Hutchinson in "Mrs. Hutchinson" and Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter;

Conclusion 3: Lauren Berlant's analysis of the "Another View of Hester" chapter of Hawthorne's novel in The Anatomy of National Fantasy suggests that, as easily mockable as both Greater Wingnuttia and the corporate media are, the traditions they are drawing on run all the way back to the antinomian crisis, if not further, so we need to call attention to this bigger picture as we continue to beat down the manufactured scandal du jour.

Now to see about recovering the original post that new Blogger ate when I tried to save it!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reading Hawthorne in Meiji Japan

I recently came across a great little collection of essays and stories, Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Introduction of an American Author's Work into Japan, which was a 1993 production of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society of Japan and the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, MA. Its aims are modest but the possibilities it opens up are endless. Consider its answers to the following basic but crucial questions:

1) When were Hawthorne's works first imported into Japan and translated into Japanese?

The short answer is, in the last years of the Tokugawa period and the first years of the Meiji period, as Japan was opening to the world after centuries of seclusion.

Frederic Scharf focuses on the work of what became the Maruzen Company, Ltd., in importing Western books into Japan from 1869 to the present, but notes that Meiji government employees, Japanese students who studied in the West, and Western missionaries (who started arriving in Japan in 1859 although they weren't allowed to proselytize until 1873) also brought significant libraries with them upon their return or entry into Japan. He focuses on the influence of Peter Parley's Universal History, a textbook on world history Hawthorne co-wrote with his sister Elizabeth (although, as Fumio Ano points out, it took until the mid-20th C before a consensus was established among Japanese scholars, editors, and translators that Hawthorne was indeed the [co-]author).

Like Scharf, Ano notes that Yukichi Fukuzawa, mentor to the founder of Maruzen, was the first to bring a copy of Peter Parley's Universal History to Japan in 1867. He adds that selections from it were first translated into Japanese in 1871, but it wasn't until 1876 that an unabridged translation was produced. By the 1880s and 1890s, various works of Hawthorne's and biographical sketches of his life were appearing in textbooks and encyclopedias either imported into or produced in Japan. Women's Magazine began translating selected Hawthorne tales between 1889 and 1894, and other magazines like Waseda Literature, A Companion to the People, and New Magazine, as well as newspapers like Yomiuri and Kokumin, joined in during this time. However, The Scarlet Letter was not translated into Japanese until 1903, and the rest of Hawthorne's novels had to wait until what Ano calls the Hawthorne Renaissance that began around the centenary of his death: The House of the Seven Gables in 1964, The Blithedale Romance and The Marble Faun in 1984, and Fanshawe in 1990.

This was almost all news to me. Of course there are many books out there that provide better contexts on "the opening of Japan" (more comprehensive, less coded about the global politics of the late 19th C), but I simply hadn't looked into what those contexts meant for those who wanted to read Hawthorne in Japan, either in English or in translation. The level of detail in the book will likely appeal only to hard-core Hawthornists, but anyone who's interested in translation, interculturalism, globalization, colonialism, and the spread of English and of literature in English could find much of interest and use.

2) Why did Hawthorne's work enter Japan at this time?

Ano argues that "Hawthorne as an author was brought into the country almost solely as a vehicle for the adoption of English" during "one of the most agitated periods in the history of Japan," when those interested in modernizing Japan "used the advanced countries of the West as [their] models" in an effort to "imitate and assimilate Western culture."

Scharf agrees but emphasizes multiple motives among multiple actors. "One needs to view the initiation and development of the Maruya business of importing foreign books both in its educational context and as an integral part of Japan's clear objective of attaining equality as a participant in international trade," he emphasizes at one point in his essay. But he also notes that

The works of Nathaniel Hawthorne were especially well suited to the goals of the missionary agenda. They could be read as a means of learning rudimentary world history (Peter Parley's Universal History was definitely chosen for this purpose). They could also be utilized as English reading lessons (his stories were included in such series as Swinton's Reader). Even the missionary activities could benefit from the works of Hawthorne since they could be construed to be suffused with a morality that was essentially Christian.

David Cody also emphasizes the official effort to "open" Japan "to certain Western influences (including literature, to some degree) in order that it might achieve military, industrial, and material equality with the Western powers." He quotes Shinichiro Noriguchi's claim from 1966 that

"portions of Hawthorne's works often appear as part of English examinations for entry into Japanese universities" because "English teachers in Japan regard his works as ideal material for reading comprehension," and because his style "is based on the traditional English grammar, which Japanese students are required to study. In addition, educators hope to cultivate their students' insight into human existence, which Hawthorne treats both profoundly and symbolically."

But Cody also notes that

The fact that this apparently limpid, neoclassical prose style concealed or permitted so much complexity and obscurity--so many difficulties and ambiguities--may have delayed the appearance of his works in Japanese, for the authorities [i.e., the Japanese scholars' whose work he's relying on] agree that his work was not read for its literary qualities until much later [than the Meiji period], ostensibly because it seemed too gloomy for Japanese tastes, was too much concerned with religious matters, and, interestingly, seemed too "difficult" to translate.

Again, the trends and variety and consequences of Meiji Japan's reasons for responding to Hawthorne were pretty much all news to me. Clearly there's much more that has been done--and to be done--on the politics of English language and American literature in Meiji Japan than in this book, but there are literally dozens of research projects suggested by these answers alone.

3) What was the early Hawthorne canon in Japan and how has it changed?

Ano and Cody agree that the early Japanese Hawthorne canon was very different from the post-1964 canon. Of the 49 Hawthorne tales translated during the Meiji period into Japanese, almost three quarters were selected from Twice-Told Tales, with "David Swan," "Fancy's Show Box," "The Great Stone Face," and "The Ambitious Guest" being most-often translated between 1889 and 1967. Both note that the kinds of stories I prioritized in my own top 10 Hawthorne lists went largely untranslated during this period. Cody concludes, "readers in Japan and America have differed in their sense of the relative importance of various works, although of late there has been a convergence of critical interest."

He also speculates that in addition to providing insight into world literature, Western thought, and American literature and history, Japanese readers may continue to be drawn into Hawthorne's works because his sensibilities "might have much in common with attitudes and affinities--spiritual or psychological--that we might think of as being traditionally Japanese"; his "interest in masks and outer appearances"; his "preoccupation with his ancestors, and the mingled sense of pride, duty, guilt, and resentment that characterized his attitude toward them"; and his "plight as a man both fascinated and repulsed by his immersion in the older, alien cultures that made it increasingly difficult for him to retain his sense of personal identity" in his years abroad in England and Italy.

Just getting your head around the pre-1964 Hawthorne canon in Japan is a major endeavor, so I won't comment on what fuels the post-1964 Hawthorne Renaissance. I do wonder if the contributors to this book are taking too much for granted about the institutionalization of Hawthorne in the U.S., not to mention the institutionalization of American literature. Millicent Bell, for instance, has pointed out that one way of understanding the perennial "Hawthorne problem" is in terms of gender: Hawthorne's career was aided by female critics like Elizabeth Peabody and Margaret Fuller, and he wrote many of his sketches and some of his tales precisely to reach the female audiences that "the damned mob of scribbling women" were reaching so successfully in his times, yet he also wrote the "dark" tales that writers like Herman Melville praised so effusively in "Hawthorne and His Mosses" and that later critics have come to value as his most important work. Which raises the question of what the Hawthorne canon looked like in the U.S. between 1868 and 1912. This seems to me the most relevant comparison to the Meiji-era Hawthorne canon. The fact that Sophia and Julian were doing all they could to shape public images of Hawthorne and his works during this time is worth considering, as are the racial politics of Civil War, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction America. I focus more on the latter in my dissertation, on which I'll blog later. Maybe much later.

The existence and stakes of a post-1964 gradual convergence in U.S. and Japanese Hawthorne studies are also worth exploring. This actually ties into a future research project of mine that I'll write about this Saturday if the musume futari's cousins allow me computer time at baba and gigi's place in Chiba. If I do get to that, I might also have time to throw out a few thoughts on an editing project that just occurred to me, as well, stemming from one of my frustrations with the book--that Cody's essay focuses on Japanese Hawthorne scholarship in English.

4) Which Meiji-era Japanese writers responded to Hawthorne's works in their own fiction and drama?

Ano points to Koshoshi Miyazaki (the novels White Clouds/Hakuun, 1887; Confession/Jihaku, 1908), the social reformer Naoe Kinoshita, Soseki Natsume (the novels Sanshiro, 1908; And Then/Sorekara, 1909; The Gate/Mon, 1910), and Shoyo Tsubouchi (the one-act play A Dream of a Millionaire/Aru Fugo no Yume, 1920) in his essay.

Sounds like I have some reading to do between semesters!

Speaking of which, I'm taking tomorrow off to turn in my grades for the fall 2006 semester--yeah! Next time from Chiba, then.

Monday, February 05, 2007

And Now, By (an Absolute Lack of) Popular Demand...'s some more Mooninite blogging!

Shorter "The Devil in Manuscript": Artist's work blows up Boston. Who'da thunk it?

Shorter "A Virtuoso's Collection": E-Bay enthusiast shows off Lite Brite Mooninite he bought for a mere $2,147.69, among other detritus of American pop culture he's accumulated over his suspiciously long life. Just who is this guy?

Shorter "A Rill from the Town-Pump": Unconsciously self-parodying monologue from a 21st-C reformer who wants to ban guerrilla marketing. Because it's all about the temperance, baby!

Shorter "The Birth-mark": In attempting to remove the Mooninite Lite Brite arrays marring the fair face of Boston, and purge the nation of the trash culture that produced and enabled Aqua Teen Hunger Force, liberal homeland security hawks, the anti-corporate left, and wingnuts-in-training band together to purify American culture, which dies and goes to heaven thanking them for their efforts. "Was it all worth it?" those left behind are compelled to wonder.

Shorter "The May-pole of Merry Mount": In which the narrator appends a prefatory note stating that "the grave pages of our New England annalists the great pages of Blogoramaville have wrought themselves, almost spontaneously, into a sort of allegory," suggests in the tale's opening that "Jollity and gloom were contending for an empire," and proceeds to tell a satirical version of Paradise Lost and Comus that turns into a parody of the Mooninite blogspat and the larger culture wars of which it is a part. Features passages like this:

In due time, a feud arose, stern and bitter on one side, and as serious on the other as any thing could be among such light spirits as had sworn allegiance to the May-pole. The future complexion of New England was involved in this important quarrel. Should the grisly saints establish their jurisdiction over the gay sinners, then would their spirits darken all the clime, and make it a land of clouded visages, of hard toil, of sermon and psalm forever. But should the banner-staff of Merry Mount be fortunate, sunshine would break upon the hills, and flowers would beautify the forest, and late posterity do homage to the May-pole.

A mock on both your houses? Or a subtle questioning of the terms of the framing of the event? You make the call!

Shorter "Main-street": A blogger trying to produce an amusing yet significant history of L'Affaire Mooninite is forced to give up the effort when inundated by commenters questioning his methods and motives so voluminously that his site crashes.

Add the first on this list to your own list of Dan McCall's thought crimes, for his mention of "The Devil in Manuscript" in Citizens of Somewhere Else sparked it, so to speak. The rest are entirely my own responsibility, I'm sorry to say. And I can't guarantee that I'm done with this....

BTW, if you think you're going to get a Close Reading Tuesday post after this unprecedented two-a-day, well, just keep hoping!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

More on McCall and CitizenSE

From Dan McCall's Citizens of Somewhere Else, which I began writing on last week:

I don't really care about what Hawthorne said in his campaign biography of Franklin Pierce; his political convictions are not what I read him for. To me, the essential Hawthorne, the valuable Hawthorne, is his anguished cry to Longfellow, "For the last ten years I have not lived, but only dreamed of living." What interests me is his painful complaint to Horatio Bridge, "I detest this town so much that I hate to go into the streets or to have people see me." What a thing to say! And it is a shock to read his growl, during those "lonely chamber" years, "We do not even live at our house!" If Hawthorne's is a "national voice," it is the voice of introspection, claustrophobia, unbearable loneliness.

You might expect the author of The Race for Hawthorne to come out with a fiery condemnation of McCall's declaration of interests--"this minimizes the significance of Hawthorne's racism"; "this is an unabashed attempt to change the subject"; "this is a perfect example of the 'race-aversive' school of Hawthorne criticism I wrote the dissertation to refute." But wait. Consider where McCall's take takes us:

In "The Custom-House" and the dark tale that follows it, Hawthorne's manner and subject proceed from his sense of how the American community fails and frustrates the impulses of creative people by forcing them back too much upon themselves. We can, then, immediately feel the isolation of Hester Prynne: we have lived through the progressive stages of it in her author's life. In "The Custom-House" Hawthorne authenticates the physical, historical reality of Hester's story just as he authenticates the physical, historical reality when he discovers the scarlet A....

The personal record and the historical romance together show that Hawthorne is too stern to accept the values of his fellow citizens, too stern, even, to dismiss them easily. Although he had grave reservations about making passage to "the realm of quiet," he was impelled to stand, in 1850, absolutely there.

This may seem at first like the usual "individual vs. society"/"alienation of the artist" stuff. But wait.

He felt that art should "spiritualize reality."

....Hawthorne's aim as an artist is based, first of all, on an ideal of refinement, refinement that seeks a purity in which physical and material things literally fade out of the picture. Yet Hawthorne is oddly reluctant to stand by that ideal and continually goes back on it in irony, saying (to quote the most famous example) that if you open a book of his in strong sunlight it will appear to be only blank pages....

For Hawthorne, art was associated with insidious force....

Hawthorne was working in this realm [Frye's definition of romance from The Anatomy of Criticism] of "subjective intensity" imperfectly contained and defined by the "suggestion of allegory" on its fringes, a world that sparked with something untamable. It was a world that violated his theory of art as prim refinement.

This may seem like another tired variation on the perennial "Hawthorne problem." But wait.

He wrote to Sophia that we are shadows until the heart is touched: "that touch creates us--then we begin to be." But he could not tolerate much more than that one touch. There is an intimate connection between his aesthetic ideal of how art should "spiritualize" life and his responses to women.

Getting closer! In fact, McCall gives many examples of Hawthorne's female characters, from Ellen of Fanshawe and Priscilla of The Blithedale Romance, contrasting them with the reactions of a "reserved and literary man responding to a richly luxuriant woman, as in Coverdale to Zenobia, Dimmesdale to Hester, Giovanni to Rappaccini's Daughter." This is not just the standard light lady/dark lady thing. Nor is it simply the psychoanalyzing the author thing, as a claim like this might make you think: "He was divided between profound responses to full-bodied sexuality and an intense need to repress those responses, a writer who felt compelled to work, as Frye's definition of The Romance suggests, in a medium where strange and unnatural forces were his subject, but was equally compelled in his prefatory remarks to deny his legitimate province." No, consider McCall's key example of Hawthorne's ambivalent relation to his art:

He writes in his notebooks that his "eyes were most drawn to a young lady who sat nearly opposite me, across the table." He then devotes a full page to her beauty: "Her hair...was a wonderful deep, raven black, black as night, black as death; not raven black, for that has a shiny gloss, and hers had not; but it was hair never to be painted, nor described--wonderful hair...all her features were so fine that sculpture seemed a despicable art beside her." And while she makes him fly for comparisons to Rachel and Judith and Bathsheba and Eve, he concludes, "I never should have thought of touching her, nor desired to touch her; for, whether owing to distinctness of race, my sense that she was a Jewess, or whatever else, I felt a sort of repugnance, simultaneously with my perception that she was an admirable creature."

The retreat to "cloud land" becomes clearer.

Now we can see why I don't have to condemn McCall. His own argument leads directly back to the relevance of race to Hawthorne's emotions, aesthetics, intellect, imagination, and craft. The young woman Hawthorne reacts to is not simply "richly luxuriant" or representative of "full-bodied sexuality" or symbolic of the kind of art Hawthorne was attracted to yet repelled by; McCall's own euphemisms and abstractions get the better of him when reading this notebook entry. Was it the woman's "distinctness of race" itself that caused Hawthorne's deeply ambivalent reaction? Was it instead his "sense that she was a Jewess"? Is race real or socially constructed? Why do his feelings and his perceptions clash? Why do aesthetics and affect not correspond? Race itself becomes one of the "strange and unnatural forces" at work in this passage, for it is not the woman herself but Hawthorne's reaction to her that is "strange and unnatural."

And that's why a passage like this is so disappointing:

when he attempts to speak to a general public about matters of social concern, his voice seems drastically unsure. He hated the institution of slavery, and early in his life went on record against it. But in his Life of Franklin Pierce, he saw slavery as "one of those evils which divine Providence does not leave to be remedied by human contrivances, but which, in its own good time, by some means impossible to be causes to vanish like a dream."

For a critic as capable of providing new insights into such often-interpreted writers as Hawthorne, James, Dickinson, Emerson, and Lowell--and particularly on the relations between their texts and projects--as McCall is in Citizens of Somewhere Else, his hesitancy over whether to characterize Hawthorne as "drastically unsure" (in this early passage) or possessed of regrettable but jettisonable "political convictions" (in the later passage that I opened this post with) when it comes to matters of race is revealing. How could he not have tried to put Hawthorne's deployment of Providence here alongside both abolitionists' (from David Walker to Frances E.W. Harper) and Emerson's (in "Fate," for instance, which both Eduardo Cadava and Kris Fresonke have brilliantly read in the years since McCall's book came out)? How could he not have linked the image of slavery "vanish[ing] like a dream" to the repeated readings in his book of dream imagery and aesthetics and the urge to refinement in Hawthorne's received conception of art? How could he not have been aware of--or refused to acknowledge--the rich body of criticism from the 1990s that explored the relation between Hawthorne's The Marble Faun and "Chiefly About War Matters," which both racialize "faun" imagery? How could he not have linked Hawthorne's loss of his "great gift" as a writer at "making representative selections" in the last years of his life with the history that he was living through at the time, which includes the Civil War?

The point I'm leading up to here is that racial politics entail more than an individual author's "political convictions" or uncertainties. And that reading them should be done with as much care as we read other aspects of an author's fiction. Granting McCall's insights into Hawthorne's relations with his art and his audience leads us straight back to Hawthorne's feelings about citizenship and slavery. To declare oneself a "citizen of somewhere else" in 1850 means something different in the midst of the Civil War--and Hawthorne's letters from that period deserve to be read in relation to his failed and unfinished romances, in relation to The Marble Faun and its preface, and in relation to "Chiefly About War Matters." McCall's own book demonstrates that to stop at claiming that what makes Hawthorne interesting is his own internal civil war is to miss a major opportunity to gain insight into the actual Civil War.

What's most valuable about McCall's Citizens of Somewhere Else is its sensitive exploration of Hawthorne's insights into and unconscious revelations of how it feels to be a citizen of somewhere else. In previous "Why CitizenSE?" posts, I have argued that Hawthorne's "The Custom-House" amounts to a Declaration of Independence from Salem and a pledge of allegiance to what I have called "the republic of letters"; McCall's book rightly reveals this "somewhere else" to be a divided and highly charged realm. McCall's smart study of Hawthorne and James points the way toward tracking the relations between it and antebellum American racial politics, without actually doing so. As he makes clear throughout the book, this is not what he is interested in or cares about. That is certainly his right. But what I object to is his pose when promoting his book that those who are interested in and do care about such a project can't possibly be as good readers as he is because their motives are impure. McCall's specific critiques of particular readings of Hawthorne and James are often perceptive and sometimes devastating. But his overall polemic is unconvincing. To show why in more depth, next week I'll start comparing McCall's take on "citizen of somewhere else" with Lauren Berlant's in The Anatomy of National Fantasy.

[Update: And by "next week," I mean, "sometime in March."]

[Update: Perhaps in April, then?]

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What Would Hawthorne Say About the Mooninite Invasion of Boston?

Besides my AP Chemistry final project--a science fiction/detective story set on one of the moons of Jupiter--and a brief Far Side-induced cartooning stint in high school and college that went by the name of The Gray Area, I have little to show in the area of creative endeavors and less potential. So rather than risk Seiglering any of Hawthorne's tales, I'm offering "shorter" versions here for your reading pleasure, because, as you know, CitizenSE is nothing if not a small finger taking the pulse of the American Dream. And, no, it's not the same finger that Ignignokt uses.

Shorter "My Kinsman, Major Molineux": One of Ted Turner's younger relatives comes to Boston and, after some enigmatic encounters with various natives, witnesses him being paraded through town "in tar-and-feathery dignity"; a "shrewd youth," he eventually follows an onlooker's advice to "rise in the world, without the help of your kinsman."

Shorter "Little Annie's Ramble": Young girl wanders through the streets of Boston oblivious to the panic and gridlock caused by authorities' overreaction to a guerrilla marketing campaign for an animated movie, is announced as kidnapped by a terrorist cell on Fox News, but soon returns home unharmed.

Shorter "The Gray Champion": A mysterious old man rescues the city of Boston from Mooninite invaders ("With this night, thy power is ended--to-morrow, the prison!--back, lest I foretell the scaffold!"), for "whenever the descendants of the Puritans are to show the spirit of their sires, the old man appears again."

Shorter "Fancy's Show Box": Hawthorne's inquiry into the nature of guilt and guilty thoughts, now applied to the case of those who authorized the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie guerrilla marketing campaign, and, indeed, created the Mooninites in the first place.

Shorter "Endicott and the Red Cross": Boston Mayor Thomas Menino personally rips Mooninite Lite Brite displays from various public places and pledges to extraordinarily render Err and Ignognikt.

Shorter "Young Goodman Brown": Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is tempted to believe the spectral images Ted Turner shows him of his city subjugated to the depradations of Mooninite invaders, decides to trust no one, and calls on Homeland Security.

[Gong sounds; big hook drags me offstage. Boston Chief of Police appears and says, "Move it along, people. Nothing to see here."]

Friday, February 02, 2007

On Turning a Talk into an Article

A while back, I announced with little fanfare here that I've made a .pdf version of my Hawaii talk on Marshall, Devi, trauma, and mourning, complete with handouts, available to CitizenSE's legions of adoring fans. To depart from my usual habit of launching into close readings here, I want to talk a bit more generally about revision and publication plans for this piece.

One of the first things you'll realize if you read the whole thing is that I don't cite readings of either work from any scholars, critics, or theorists--much less mention the name of anyone besides the authors and their characters. If you've read any of my other work, or heard any of my previous talks, you'll know what a departure that was for me. If you've even just read a couple of my posts here, you probably can guess how difficult it was for me to do without close readings or citations for fifteen minutes. Of course, I did allude to controversies within and over postcolonial studies in general and particular debates over postcolonial identities (the theme of the panel), but I correctly figured that the panel wasn't going to draw too many people with any great expertise in the subjects I was addressing in the talk, so I kept my allusions issue-focused and accessibly-worded, so as not to bog down my larger argument. As I mentioned before, overall I'm happy with my choices and think the talk turned out more than halfway decent, despite all that I wanted to do that I didn't allow myself to do in it. (I've just finished a draft of an 18-page opus in an area completely, well, almost completely outside my specialty for a non-academic audience that I'll be revising over the next three weeks and delivering on the 24th, and all I can say is that those extra 10 pages make all the difference!)

The main reason why I didn't start citing other people in the talk is that I wouldn't know where or how to stop. While my prime sources were Cathy Caruth's brilliantly edited and introduced collection of essays, Trauma: Explorations in Memory, and David Kazanjian's and David Eng's equally accomplished and more recent essay collection, Loss: The Politics of Mourning, the list of people doing serious work on trauma and mourning is long and imposing--and the debates are serious, intricate, and difficult to follow. There has also been a lot of great work done on Marshall and a smaller amount, though perhaps even better, work done on Devi. Plus there's the larger traditions of critical and theoretical work on the Caribbean and on South Asia, the history of attempts to put marxism and psychoanalysis in dialogue with each other, and the ways both relate to the debates within and over postcolonial studies. So figuring out how to elegantly bring all that work to bear on developing and refining my own arguments is the challenge of turning this talk into an article.

Here's how confident I am in my larger project, though: I really can see this as a PMLA paper. Or, if I want to speak more directly to postcolonial studies folks, I could go for one of the journals that Amardeep Singh has provided links to--perhaps, in the spirit of aiming high, Ariel (it's too literary to aim for a journal like Cultural Critique, I think, and probably not Critical Inquiry's cup of tea). The point is, the eventual paper will be shaped by my understanding of its audience (first, the editors of the journal I shoot for, and only later their readers)--so it could become almost anything. What attracts me about PMLA is the potential to reach non-specialists as well as specialists, but assuming I'm successful, I would lose out on the street cred of getting into Ariel. I think at this point trying to jam it into the co-edited collection on trauma and melancholy that's been going nowhere fast for far too long is not a good idea. The point is to try to break the peer-review barrier!

So if anyone wants to give me any suggestions on the talk-->article process or even the talk/article itself, I'm all ears. I'm done with grading by the end of next week and working on another talk I'll be giving in Sendai in the first week of March while we're visiting family in Chiba, so I don't foresee turning serious attention to expanding the talk into an article until after we get back from Sendai.

This is definitely one of those old ideas of mine that's still new, so it would be smart to take advantage of a great teaching schedule from April to July to send out a big article to a major peer-reviewed journal and hopefully snag a good publication during my teaching leave. Because at the rate the book manuscript is (not) going, if I finish it next summer it will be a miracle, especially given the 4-3 load that awaits me just three weeks after I return to the States from Japan!

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of close readings and vain attempts to build a readership for the obscurest outpost of blogoramaville.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lance Tooks Working on Hawthorne Project

I have some good news for fans of Hawthorne and the graphic arts. Lance Tooks, a former assistant editor at Marvel Comics and author of Narcissa and Lucifer's Garden of Verses who has already adapted several works by other nineteenth-century American authors to the comics medium, has announced plans to work on a Hawthorne piece this year. Details forthcoming. Here's hoping CitizenSE can snag an interview with Tooks. And that he puts his work in dialogue with the many other contemporary artists, writers, and critics working with Hawthorne's texts!

But What About the Black Ribbon in Beloved?

Before getting further into Morrison's characterization of Baby Suggs and her relations with both Young Goodman Brown and Dimmesdale, it's worth fleshing out her portrait of Stamp Paid still further. For the red ribbon he finds in the Licking River is exhausting not only because of the racialized violence of slavery and Reconstruction, but because it also serves as a reminder of another ribbon, a black ribbon, that has a much more personal meaning to him. Reading this ribbon leads to the recognition that Morrison is linking Nathaniel Hawthorne and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper in Beloved.

Stamp Paid tells Paul D at the very end of Book 2, "'Let me tell you how I got my name.... They called me Joshua,' he said. 'I renamed myself,' he said, 'and I'm going to tell you why I did it,' and he told him about Vashti." Flash back 50 pages to get the outline of the story:

Born Joshua, he renamed himself when he handed over his wife to his master's son. Handed her over in the sense that he did not kill anybody, thereby himself, because his wife demanded he stay alive. Otherwise, she reasoned, where and to whom could she return when the boy was through? With that gift, he decided that he didn't owe anybody anything. Whatever his obligations were, that act paid them off. He thought it would make him rambunctious, renegade--a drunkard even, the debtlessness, and in a way it did. But there was nothing to do with it.... It didn't seem much of a way to live and it brought him no satisfaction. So he extended this debtlessness to other people by helping them pay out and off whatever they owed in misery. Beaten runaways? He ferried them and rendered them paid for; gave them their own bill of sale, so to speak. "You paid it; now life owes you."

But of course Stamp Paid spends all of Book 2 feeling he owes Sethe, Denver, and Paul D something. His attempt to repay his debt was rebuffed for most of Book 2, but it is not at its end--and the story he tells Paul D is his currency:

"I never touched her all that time. Not once. Almost a year. We was planting when it started and picking when it stopped. Seemed longer. I should have killed him. She said no, but I should have. I didn't have the patience that I got now, but I figured maybe somebody else didn't have much patience either--his own wife. Took it in my head to see if she was taking it any better than I was. Vashti and me was in the fields together in the day and every now and then she be gone all night. I never touched her and damn me if I spoke three words to her a day. I took any chance I had to get near the great house to see her, the young master's wife. Nothing but a boy. Seventeen, twenty maybe."

After he does eventually convey his message to her (which I'd quote if I had time), he tells Paul D,

"She got rosy then and I knowed she knowed. He give Vashti that to wear. A cameo on a black ribbon. She used to put it on every time she went to him.... I thought it would give me more satisfaction than it did. I also thought she might stop it, but it went right on. Till one morning Vashti came in and sat by the window. A Sunday. We worked our own patches on Sunday. She sat by the window looking out of it. 'I'm back,' she said. 'I'm back, Josh.' I looked at the back of her neck. She had a real small neck. I decided to break it. You know, like a twig--just snap it. I been low but that was as low as I ever got."

The resonances with The Scarlet Letter and "Young Goodman Brown" are multiple: Joshua is at once Chillingworth and Goodman Brown, faced with an instance of adultery closer to the writings of Harriet Jacobs than Nathaniel Hawthorne. Morrison's Vashti here makes the all-too-human choice not to resist, unlike Frances E.W. Harper's Vashti, the Queen of Persia, who gives up her crown "And left the palace of the King,/ Proud of her spotless name--/ A woman who could bend to grief,/ But would not bow to shame." Harper's focus on Vashti rather than Esther could be read in multiple ways, particularly in light of dialogues among Jewish traditions--as an implicit critique of Esther, as an acknowledgement that one's social positioning plays a large role in shaping avenues for resistance and their costs, or as an explicit critique of the king. Her earlier poem, "The Contrast," harshly criqitues the sexual double standard where "They scorned her for her sinning,/ Spoke harshly of her fall" while "None scorned him for his sinning,/ Few saw it through his gold;/ His crimes were only foibles,/ And these were gently told."

But Intertextual Thursday is almost over, so I'll return to the significance of Morrison's decision to tell Stamp Paid's side of the story and its relation to "Young Goodman Brown" on Saturday.