Unnatural Formations

Unnatural Formations

by Michael Moon
     
 

“Nothing typifies the American sense of identity more,” Mark Seltzer writes at the beginning of his 1992 book Bodies and Machines, “than the love of nature (nature’s nation) except perhaps the love of technology (made in America).” The term “nature,” along with a few others—“culture,”

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Overview

“Nothing typifies the American sense of identity more,” Mark Seltzer writes at the beginning of his 1992 book Bodies and Machines, “than the love of nature (nature’s nation) except perhaps the love of technology (made in America).” The term “nature,” along with a few others—“culture,” “technology,” “nation”—has been of central importance in American literary and cultural studies throughout the past century. The essays in his special issue of American Literature explore in rich detail some of the roles of the “unnatural” in the making of American literature and culture.

Several of the essays focus on literary works—both celebrated and forgotten ones—from the turn of the century, when social Darwinism, eugenics, and other forms of the new “scientific” social thinking were being used to exclude large segments of the population from the realm of the “natural” or the “healthy.” Beginning with the treatment of the figure of the spinster in the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe, these essays move in provocative and refreshing ways through their reconsiderations of the “unnatural formations” to be found in the work of writers ranging from pioneering African American author Pauline Hopkins to Henry James, Florence Converse, Willa Cather, and Djuna Barnes.

Readers interested in sampling the best current scholarship on the effects on American cultural and social history of different ways of understanding gender, sexuality, and race will find this special issue of American Literature a valuable and stimulating resource.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822364474
Publisher:
Duke University Press
Publication date:
03/18/1997
Series:
American Literature (Duke University Press) Series
Pages:
280

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