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New Books: Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture by Eric Gardner

gardner-bpu-coverBlack Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture
Eric Gardner
Oxford University Press


Black Print Unbound explores the development of the Christian Recorder during and just after the American Civil War.  As a study of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s official newspaper and so of a periodical of national reach among free African Americans, Black Print Unbound is simultaneously a massive recovery of a publication by African Americans for African Americans, a consideration of the nexus of African Americanist inquiry and print culture studies, and an intervention in the study of literatures of the Civil War, faith communities, and periodicals.  Black Print Unbound thus offers a case study for understanding how African Americans (including diverse African American women) inserted themselves in an often-hostile American print culture in the midst of the most complex conflict the young nation had yet seen, and so calls for a significant rewriting of our senses of American literary history.

Black Print Unbound far exceeds the pages of the printed word.  Gardner has meticulously reconstituted a textured history of the Christian Recorder that provides deep insight into nineteenth-century African American literary culture–writers and readers, authorship, literary form and genre–yet also opens a wide window onto black society and activism nationwide.  His scholarship is impeccable, the book richly rewarding.”–Carla L. Peterson, author of Black Gotham:  A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City.

New Books: Selected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature Edited and with an introduction by Laura Laffrado

ellaSelected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature

Edited and with an introduction by Laura Laffrado

The first prominent literary author from the Pacific Northwest, Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940) has been largely forgotten as a key American writer. During the turn from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, readers across the nation were introduced to the remote Pacific Northwest region by Higginson’s descriptions of majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters, as well as the often difficult economic circumstances of those dwelling near Puget Sound. Higginson was celebrated for her award-winning fiction, her lyric poetry which was set to music and performed internationally, and her distinguished position as the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Throughout her literary career, Higginson published hundreds of poems, stories, and essays in leading magazines and newspapers, while also writing books, including the novel Mariella, of Out-West (1902) and the nonfiction work Alaska, the Great Country (1908).

Higginson’s reputation as a well-known American author faded chiefly due to her singular position as a literary writer in the turn of the century Pacific Northwest, far from other regions and writers at the time. Areas of the United States such as New England and the South were often portrayed by many different authors in earlier American literature. Taken together, such writings created familiar literary regions for readers. However, only in Higginson’s writing did the Pacific Northwest of over a century ago spring to life in precise detail. Because of this, her work stands alone. Selected Writings of Ella Higginson seeks to restore Higginson’s prominence by reintroducing readers to her life and her most celebrated works. With a comprehensive introduction, explanatory notes, and other supplementary material, this collection reclaims Ella Higginson as a significant voice in American literature.


New Books: African American Travel Narratives from Abroad: Mobility and Cultural Work in the Age of Jim Crow by Gary Totten

9781625341600African American Travel Narratives from Abroad: Mobility and Cultural Work in the Age of Jim Crow
Gary Totten

University of Massachusetts Press


In this book, Gary Totten examines the global travel narratives of a diverse set of African American writers, including Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Matthew Henson, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Zora Neale Hurston. While these writers deal with issues of identity in relation to a reimagined sense of self—in a way that we might expect to find in travel narratives—they also push against the constraints and conventions of the genre, reconsidering discourses of tourism, ethnography, and exploration. This book not only offers new insights about African American writers and mobility, it also charts the ideological distinctions and divergent agendas within this group of writers. Totten demonstrates how these travelers and their writings challenged dominant ideologies about African American experience, expression, and identity in a period of escalating racial violence. By setting these texts in their historical context and within the genre of travel writing, Totten presents a nuanced understanding of both popular and recovered work of the period.

New Books: Apocalyptic Sentimentalism Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature by Kevin Pelletier

PelletierCCRcompFNL.inddApocalyptic Sentimentalism Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature
Kevin Pelletier

University of Georgia Press


Focusing on a range of important antislavery figures, including David Walker, Nat Turner, Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism illustrates how antislavery discourse worked to redefine violence and vengeance as the ultimate expression (rather than denial) of love and sympathy. At the same time, these warnings of apocalyptic retribution enabled antislavery writers to express, albeit indirectly, fantasies of brutal violence against slaveholders. What began as a sentimental strategy quickly became an incendiary gesture, with antislavery reformers envisioning the complete annihilation of slaveholders and defenders of slavery.

“Kevin Pelletier’s Apocalyptic Sentimentalism makes an important and original contribution to critical debates about the structure and logic of sympathy in the antebellum period. Through careful readings of abolitionist literature from David Walker through Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, he reveals just how significant the threat of apocalypse and its concomitant production of fear worked in concert with appeals to sympathy and, as Stowe put it, ‘feeling right.’”
—Cindy Weinstein, author of Family, Kinship, and Sympathy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

New Books: The Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864-1891, by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, Edited by Cari M. Carpenter and Carolyn Sorisio

hopkinsThe Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864-1891

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins
Edited by Cari M. Carpenter and Carolyn Sorisio

University of Nebraska Press


Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (Northern Paiute) has long been recognized as an important nineteenth-century American Indian activist and writer. Yet her acclaimed performances and speaking tours across the United States, along with the copious newspaper articles that grew out of those tours, have been largely ignored and forgotten.

The Newspaper Warrior presents new material that enhances public memory as the first volume to collect hundreds of newspaper articles, letters to the editor, advertisements, book reviews, and editorial comments by and about Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins. This anthology gathers together her literary production for newspapers and magazines from her 1864 performances in San Francisco to her untimely death in 1891, focusing on the years 1879 to 1887, when Winnemucca Hopkins gave hundreds of lectures in the eastern and western United States; published her book, Life among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883); and established a bilingual school for Native American children.

New Books: A Kiss from Thermopylae: Emily Dickinson and the Law by James R. Guthrie

thermopylaeA Kiss from Thermopylae: Emily Dickinson and the Law 
James R. Guthrie
University of Iowa, 2015

Born into a family of attorneys, Dickinson absorbed law at home. She employed legal terms and concepts regularly in her writings, and her metaphors grounded in law derive much of their expressive power from a comparatively sophisticated lay knowledge of the various legal and political issues that were roiling nineteenthcentury America. Dickinson displays interest in such areas as criminal law, contracts, equity, property, estate law, and bankruptcy. She also held in high regard the role of law in resolving disputes and maintaining civic order. Toward the end of her life, Dickinson cited the Spartans’ defense at Thermopylae as an object lesson demonstrating why societies should uphold the rule of law. [. . . ]

A Kiss from Thermopylae reveals a new dimension of Dickinson’s writing and thinking, one indicating that she was thoroughly familiar with the legal community’s idiomatic language, actively engaged with contemporary political and ethical questions, and skilled at deploying a poetic register ranging from high romanticism to low humor.


New Books: Married or Single? by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, ed. and introd. Deborah Gussman

marriedMarried or Single?
Catharine Maria Sedgwick
Edited and with an introduction by Deborah Gussman
University of Nebraska Press

Married or Single?, published in 1857, was Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s final novel and a fitting climax to the career of one of antebellum America’s first and most successful woman writers. Insisting on women’s right to choose whether to marry, Married or Single? rejects the stigma of spinsterhood and offers readers a wider range of options for women in society, recognizing their need and ability to determine the course of their lives.

Sedgwick’s touching, witty, and shrewdly observant novel centers on Grace Herbert, a New York City socialite who must negotiate the marriage market and also learn to develop her own character and take control of her own destiny. The story merges a wide range of popular American literary forms—including the seduction novel, the conversion narrative, the novel of education, and social reform fiction—and provides a window on many of the cultural and political anxieties of the 1850s beyond marriage, including immigration, slavery, and urban poverty. Sedgwick’s lifelong concern with women’s duties to the nation as citizens is demonstrated through her depiction of exemplary women of various backgrounds and circumstances who illustrate the idea that becoming a worthy human being is more important than becoming a wife, especially in a democratic society.



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