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Unsettled States

Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies

Dana Luciano
Ivy G. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Unsettled States
    Book Description:

    InUnsettled States, Dana Luciano and Ivy G. Wilson present some of the most exciting emergent scholarship in American literary and cultural studies of the long nineteenth century. Featuring eleven essays from senior scholars across the discipline, the book responds to recent critical challenges to the boundaries, both spatial and temporal, that have traditionally organized scholarship within the field. The volume considers these recent challenges to be aftershocks of earlier revolutions in content and method, and it seeks ways of inhabiting and amplifying the ongoing unsettledness of the field.Written by scholars primarily working in the minor fields of critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and gender studies, labor studies, and queer/sexuality studies, the essays share a minoritarian critical orientation. Minoritarian criticism, as an aesthetic, political, and ethical project, is dedicated to finding new connections and possibilities within extant frameworks.Unsettled Statesseeks to demonstrate how the goals of minoritarian critique may be actualized without automatic recourse to a predetermined minor location, subject, or critical approach. Its contributors work to develop practices of reading an American literature in motion, identifying nodes of inquiry attuned to the rhythms of a field that is always on the move.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1833-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: On Moving Ground
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the early morning of December 16, 1811, the first of a major series of earthquakes struck the Mississippi Valley. The earthquakes continued through the following spring, numbering over 1,800 in total. Centered in the Louisiana territory, in a region now shared between southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas, their effects were felt for over a million square miles. They cracked sidewalks in Washington, D.C., damaged buildings in Savannah, Georgia, destroyed huge tracts of forest, and permanently altered the course of rivers; local legend held that during the worst quakes, the Mississippi flowed backward. The riverbank town of New Madrid, for...


    • 1 Confederates in the Hispanic Attic: The Archive against Itself
      (pp. 31-54)

      John O’Donnell-Rosales’s compendiumHispanic Confederatesis an impressive and disturbing contribution to the archive of Hispanic history. “The War for Southern Independence saw thousands of these men flock to the Confederate cause,” O’Donell-Rosales writes in an introduction. “Whole companies were raised, composed fully or partially of Spanish/Hispanic men.”¹ And these included not only white Creoles but also “Mestizos of Spanish/Native American ancestry,” Minorcans of Florida, Sephardic Jews, and even a handful of “Asian men from the Philippines” who used Spanish in their correspondence and had Hispanic surnames.² O’Donnell-Rosales’s project is archival in the sense that it is recuperative and amasses...

    • 2 Historical Totality and the African American Archive
      (pp. 55-75)

      Edward P. Jones’s 2003 novelThe Known Worldrecounts the fortunes of an antebellum Virginia plantation owner named Henry Townsend who is a former slave. In his freedom, Townsend elects to purchase slaves of his own. For many readers this novel’s topical interest lies in its generally unfamiliar account of slaveholding among free people of color, while its stylistic appeal derives from the way that Jones combines acute realism with the expansive imagination of what Madhu Dubey terms “speculative fiction meets neoslave narrative.”¹ For these readers Jones’s novel unveils a troubling nineteenth-century world in which intraracial slavery marks a key...

    • 3 Race, Reenactment, and the “Natural-Born Citizen”
      (pp. 76-102)

      When the Republicans rode a Tea Party–fueled backlash into a new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, they organized a fittingly symbolic entrance act. On the second day of the 112th Congress in January 2011, the public witnessed an unprecedented spectacle, as the nation’s business was held up for ninety minutes while lawmakers from both sides of the aisle took turns reading aloud the U.S. Constitution in its entirety on the floor of the House of Representatives. Congress members jockeyed to read particularly symbolic passages. A bipartisan standing ovation was reserved for former Student Nonviolent Coordinating...

    • 4 Doing Justice to the Archive: Beyond Literature
      (pp. 103-116)

      In 1913, Lucy Parsons, whose career as a radical writer, speaker, editor, and publisher spanned the labor wars of the long-19th-century and early-20th-century world wars and revolutions, was arrested on the streets of Los Angeles and charged with selling literature without a license. The literature in question wasThe Famous Speeches of the Eight Chicago Anarchists in Court,according to William C. Owen, the editor of the English page ofRegeneración,a bilingual newspaper published by Mexican revolutionaries living in exile in Los Angeles. Parsons, a black, Indian, and Mexican woman who was probably born a slave in Texas, became...


    • 5 Unsettled Life: Early Liberia’s Epistolary Equivocations
      (pp. 119-157)

      Your letter bears to us the very information we have for years longed to recieve, telling us in detail the history and fate of most all White and Collored that was dear to us, and that we had left behind us, the story is a Melloncholy one. and after all leaves us the victory who chose Africa & became seekers of Liberty, so far as the Collored people are Concerned. Sinthia died 1836. Gilbert in 1839. Mother died of dropsey in 1845. George Crawford died suddenly in 1846. I was at that time away off in the interier of Africa...

    • 6 The News at the Ends of the Earth: Polar Periodicals
      (pp. 158-188)

      The mutually constitutive relationship between an association and its newspaper, as Tocqueville describes it inDemocracy in America,¹ takes many forms throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, perhaps most influentially in the imagined community of the nation theorized by Benedict Anderson. Tocqueville’s claims are derived from the smaller, voluntary associations he observed in the U.S. in the 1830s, what Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, identified in the previous century as forms of “private society,”² an oxymoron whose axes of meaning have subsequently converged. The elements Anderson stipulates as essential to the literary genre of the national newspaper are...

    • 7 Feeling Like a State: Writing the 1863 New York City Draft Riots
      (pp. 189-231)

      Passed by Congress on March 3, 1863, the “Act for enrolling and calling out the national Forces, and for other Purposes” proclaimed that “all able-bodied male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years . . . are hereby declared to constitute the national forces.” These citizens and proto-citizens were to be transformed into “national forces” through a census-like survey of homes by government agents, a division of each state into...

    • 8 Impersonating the State of Exception
      (pp. 232-242)

      What resonance does the phrase “states of exception” have for a likely reader of this volume? While some might make a quick association with the idea of American “exceptionalism,” many will, I imagine, think of the significant outpouring of political commentary dedicated to the post-9/11 era, and perhaps explicitly of the 2005 translation of Giorgio Agamben’sState of Exception.This short book is the second of three works Agamben dedicated to the relation of sovereign power to what he called, borrowing from Roman law, thehomo sacer,a paradigmatically defenseless figure reduced to “bare life”¹ The suite of works combines...


    • 9 Eat, Sex, Race
      (pp. 245-274)

      Feminist and queer studies of the last three decades have redrawn—undressed, perhaps—the political map of the Western human body, unpacking and reorienting the genealogy of the viscous, somatic, neurologically vital, mucosal matter that is, in the West, called “body.” Much attention has been paid to those parts whose political and erotic baggage is clearly overdetermined by their relationship to normative and reproductive—or, coevally, threateningly nonnormative and counterreproductive—erotic behaviors. Leo Bersani, most famously, has taken up anality as a site of fraught sexual politics: for Bersani, anal sex, particularly in the age of AIDS, represented the apotheosis...

    • 10 Connecticut Yankings: Mark Twain and the Masturbating Dude
      (pp. 275-297)

      On November 28, 1884, theNew York Worldreported that the sales prospectus for Mark Twain’s completed novelThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finnhad been defaced with an obscene illustration, apparently inserted by a disgruntled engraver during the production of the sales booklet.¹ In the offending image Huck Finn, disguised as Tom Sawyer, stands with his back to the audience looking at a wickedly grinning Aunt Sally and a surprised Uncle Silas. The picture’s caption corresponds with Aunt Sally’s question to Uncle Silas: “Who do you reckon it is?” In the graffitied version, Uncle Silas appears to have a tiny...

    • 11 What Came Before
      (pp. 298-306)

      There are the calendars that, by now, we know. I have in mind the ones that place the invention of a “modern” sexuality squarely at the end of the nineteenth century—think German sexology, think Wilde, think Sedgwick—and understand that novel modernity in several senses. This new sexuality is said to be modern inasmuch as it marks a suddenly quite comprehensive sort of identity, given definition by gendered object-choice; or by virtue of its emergence as an aspect of being whose putative characterological depth makes it a kind of master key for even the most inarticulable mysteries of selfhood;...

  7. P.S.: A Coda
    (pp. 307-314)

    On December 6, 1856, theProvincial Freeman and Weekly Advertiserpublished an advertisement from one James Monroe Whitfield. Whit-field, an important figure in the mid-nineteenth century debates about emigrationism but little known now, was calling for a dual-language periodical to be published in English and French. Imagined as a “preeminent Literary work, for circulation both at home and abroad,” Whit-field intended theAfric-American Quarterly Repositoryto feature both U.S. and Haitian authors as an attempt to conceptualize blackness in transnational if not hemispheric terms.¹

    Like New Madrid in 1811, Haiti in 1856 was a most unsettled political state. In the...

    (pp. 315-316)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 317-328)