Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois


Illinois Department of English Blog

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Welcome to the Department of English blog.



My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at vmahaffe@illinois.edu.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Faculty books for your reading pleasure!

It is my pleasure to be able to announce here the arrival of three more faculty books. Two of them I'm especially proud to call your attention to because they are really impressive single-author books that will make significant impacts in their respective fields. The third, as you'll see below, I'm proud of for more selfish reasons.

So without further ado....

Dale Bauer's Sex Expression and American Women Writers, 1860-1940 has just been published by The University of North Carolina Press.


Here is the book description from the UNC Press website: "American women novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries registered a call for a new sexual freedom, Dale Bauer contends. By creating a lexicon of "sex expression," many authors explored sexuality as part of a discourse about women's needs rather than confining it to the realm of sentiments, where it had been relegated (if broached at all) by earlier writers. This new rhetoric of sexuality enabled critical conversations about who had sex, when in life they had it, and how it signified.

Whether liberating or repressive, sexuality became a potential force for female agency in these women's novels, Bauer explains, insofar as these novelists seized the power of rhetoric to establish their intellectual authority. Thus, Bauer argues, they helped transform the traditional ideal of sexual purity into a new goal of sexual pleasure, defining in their fiction what intimacy between equals might become.

Analyzing the work of canonical as well as popular writers--including Edith Wharton, Anzia Yezierska, Julia Peterkin, and Fannie Hurst, among others--Bauer demonstrates that the new sexualization of American culture was both material and rhetorical."


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The second book that I want to call your attention to is Ricky Rodríguez's Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics. The Duke University Press website lists July 2009 as the ETA for this book, but Ricky tells me that the advance copies are expected any moment and he's already received copies of the book's handsome dust jacket.


Here is the description, from the Duke UP website: "As both an idea and an institution, the family has been at the heart of Chicano/a cultural politics since the Mexican American civil rights movement emerged in the late 1960s. In Next of Kin, Richard T. Rodríguez explores the competing notions of la familia found in movement-inspired literature, film, video, music, painting, and other forms of cultural expression created by Chicano men. Drawing on cultural studies and feminist and queer theory, he examines representations of the family that reflect and support a patriarchal, heteronormative nationalism as well as those that reconfigure kinship to encompass alternative forms of belonging.

Describing how la familia came to be adopted as an organizing strategy for communitarian politics, Rodríguez looks at foundational texts including Rodolfo Gonzales’s well-known poem “I Am Joaquín,” the Chicano Liberation Youth Conference’s manifesto El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, and José Armas’s La Familia de La Raza. Rodríguez analyzes representations of the family in the films I Am Joaquín, Yo Soy Chicano, and Chicana; the Los Angeles public affairs television series ¡Ahora!; the experimental videos of the artist-activist Harry Gamboa Jr.; and the work of hip-hop artists such as Kid Frost and Chicano Brotherhood. He reflects on homophobia in Chicano nationalist thought, and examines how Chicano gay men have responded to it in works including Al Lujan’s video S&M in the Hood, the paintings of Eugene Rodríguez, and a poem by the late activist Rodrigo Reyes. Next of Kin is both a wide-ranging assessment of la familia’s symbolic power and a hopeful call for a more inclusive cultural politics."

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I feel a little sheepish about the self-promotion, but the advance copies of Shakespeare and the Middle Ages--a collection of essays that I co-edited with John Watkins of the University of Minnesota--have also just arrived.


Here is the book description from the Oxford University Press website: "Shakespeare and the Middle Ages brings together a distinguished, multidisciplinary group of scholars to rethink the medieval origins of modernity. Shakespeare provides them with the perfect focus, since his works turn back to the Middle Ages as decisively as they anticipate the modern world: almost all of the histories depict events during the Hundred Years War, and King John glances even further back to the thirteenth-century Angevins; several of the comedies, tragedies, and romances rest on medieval sources; and there are important medieval antecedents for some of the poetic modes in which he worked as well.

Several of the essays reread Shakespeare by recovering aspects of his works that are derived from medieval traditions and whose significance has been obscured by the desire to read Shakespeare as the origin of the modern. These essays, taken cumulatively, challenge the idea of any decisive break between the medieval period and early modernity by demonstrating continuities of form and imagination that clearly bridge the gap. Other essays explore the ways in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries constructed or imagined relationships between past and present. Attending to the way these writers thought about their relationship to the past makes it possible, in turn, to read against the grain of our own teleological investment in the idea of early modernity. A third group of essays reads texts by Shakespeare and his contemporaries as documents participating in social-cultural transformation from within. This means attending to the way they themselves grapples with the problem of change, attempting to respond to new conditions and pressures while holding onto customary habits of thought and imagination. Taken together, the essays in this volume revisit the very idea of transition in a refreshingly non-teleological way."

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