Children of the Earth: Literature, Politics, and Nationhood

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Winner of a MacArthur Foundation grant (popularly known as the "genius award"), Marc Shell has emerged as one of the most innovative and powerful thinkers of our times. As Stanley Cavell of Harvard University has written, "Marc Shell's originality of mind and his radical depth of learning are astounding, compelling, like a force of nature. The world looks different after an encounter with the seriousness and fruitfulness of his mind." In works such as Money, Language, Thought and The End of Kinship, he ...
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Overview


Winner of a MacArthur Foundation grant (popularly known as the "genius award"), Marc Shell has emerged as one of the most innovative and powerful thinkers of our times. As Stanley Cavell of Harvard University has written, "Marc Shell's originality of mind and his radical depth of learning are astounding, compelling, like a force of nature. The world looks different after an encounter with the seriousness and fruitfulness of his mind." In works such as Money, Language, Thought and The End of Kinship, he demonstrated his ability to draw profound insights about society and culture out of diverse strands of the human experience. Now, in Children of the Earth, he goes further, in a provocative look at the relationship between kinship and nationhood in Western culture.
Children of the Earth provides a powerful new reassessment of the ways in which we have defined ourselves--in terms of race, nationality, blood relations, and the Family of Humankind--by exploring the dangers and contradictions inherent in them all. Shell ranges far and wide through Western culture to call into question many of our basic assumptions. Like the child in the story of Solomon's Judgment, he writes, we could all be changelings, switched in the cradle--and there is no unshakeable answer to the question of who are our true parents. By breaking down the most basic concept of group identity (the family), Shell opens a detailed re-examination of the emergence of social and political ideologies in Western culture. He analyzes a number of important and revealing texts from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. For instance, he looks at Hamlet to explore the origins of the modern idea of the nation; he discusses Queen Elizabeth I's little known poem Mirror of the Soul as an important source on the interplay between incest, politics, and religious theories of the Reformation; and he reads Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson in an examination of how the phenomenon of Siamese twins (the only people who can be sure they are related) helped define familial, racial, and national ideologies in the nineteenth century United States.
In an analysis that ranges from imperial Rome to the Spanish Inquisition, from the Amsterdam of Spinoza to Nazi Germany, Shell illuminates the interplay of kinship, race, and national identity. By drawing startling connections between seemingly unrelated elements of history, ideology, and literature, he forever changes the way we think about who we are.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195068641
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Marc Shell is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Harvard University. He is the author of such books as Money, Language, Thought and The End of Kinship, and is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant.

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Table of Contents

1 The Judgment of Solomon; or, An American Introduction to the Study of Brothers and Others 3
Knowing Who's Who
Siamese Twins and Changelings
Incest and Bastardy
Brother Against Brother
Kinship and Kindness
2 From Coexistence to Toleration; or, Marranos (Pigs) in Spain 24
The End of Convivencia
The Taurean Nation
An Amsterdam of Religions
Toleration
3 The Forked Tongue; or, The Road Not Taken in Quebec 41
Both Sides Against the Middle
Signs of the Times
Volkswagen Blues
Bilingual Advertising in Quebec (1974)
Objects Outside the Sign
Semiotic Units Within the Sign
4 From Dormition to Nation; or, The Sinful Soul of England 58
Introduction
The Glass of the Sinful Soul
Incest, Bastardy, and the Birth of a Nation
Carnal Contagion
Speculation on Princess Elizabeth
The Sponsa Christi
Queen Marguerite of Navarre
Social Anthropology of Universalist Orders
The Old Way: siblings Becoming Siblings
The New Way: Siblings Becoming spouses
Libertinism and Liberty
Sibling Love versus Respect for Parents
The Roman Vestal and the British Empress; or, From "Ave Maria!" to "Vivat Eliza!"
National Siblinghood
5 Hoodman-Blind; or, Hamlet and the End of Siblinghood 96
Introduction
The Figure of Siblinghood
The Indeterminability of Fatherhood
Sister and sister
A Mother Tongue
Incest and Matricide in Rome
The Play-Within-the-Play
Hypocrisy and Acting
Shamelessness
Christianity and Stoicism
From Nun to None
6 Children of the Nation; or, France, Orphanhood, and Jean Racine 124
Incest and Claustrophobia
Port-Royal
The Siblings Pascal
The Tragedy of Catholic Profession
Rome and Christendom; or, Britannicus
Roman Adrogation and Christian Adoption
Roman Empress and Virgin Mother
Roman Vestal and Christian Nun
The Vestal Daughters of Jesus' Childhood
Children of the Nation
Roman Sublation and Christian Oblation
Rousseau's Bastards
The Outlawing of Siblinghood; or, On China and the Romantics
7 The Family Pet; or, The Human and the Animal 148
Introduction
The Kind and Kin of Pets
The Kind, or Species
The Kin, or Family
Bestiality and/or Incest
Puppy Love and Petting
Beauty and the Beast
Fables of Pasiphae; or, Vaccination and Vaccimulgence
Kindness and Christendom
Universalism and Particularism
Kindness and Cruelty to Animals
The Pet as Inedible Animal
Eating and Intercourse
Kindness and Cruelty to Humans
Romantic Utopia
Conclusion
8 Tribal Brotherhood and Universal Otherhood; or, "In the presence of my enemies" 176
Enemies and Foes
War of the Worlds
War of the Sexes
Judaism and Christianity
War of All Against All; or, Usury
Conclusion: Uncommonly Common Kin 193
Notes 199
Bibliography 283
Index 325
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