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Paul K. Saint-AmourTense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form

Oxford University Press, 2015

by Daniel R. Morse on May 6, 2015

Paul K. Saint-Amour

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Paul K. Saint-Amour, Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, is a ruminative thinker and meticulous writer. These traits pay dividends in the surprising insights of his new book, Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (Oxford University Press, 2015), which reframes total war and literature in the interwar years and in the present moment. The book's articulation of the partiality of total war, especially its focus on violence committed in the so-called periphery–which denies civilians the protections of officially declared war–is all too familiar in the present. Tense Future, like the texts it examines, defamiliarizes works we thought we knew well. It also makes strange some of the familiar narratives within the field of modernist studies, like that concerning the genre of the Modern Epic. Tense Future decouples encyclopedic form from the modern epic, showing how the encyclopedia inspired interwar writers to playfully wrest totality out of the suffocating grip of total war. Saint-Amour's boldest claim, that we live in perpetual interwar, sutures the drone attacks of the present to air-war theories developed after the zeppelin raids of WWI. Our own future, though not foreclosed, is nonetheless subject to the aperture of the past. Tense Future reminds us of futures past in order to pry open a little room for hope.


Eva IllouzHard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best-Sellers, and Society

April 27, 2015

Eva Illouz is professor of sociology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and president of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her book Hard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best Sellers, and Society (University of Chicago Press, 2014), provides a feminist-sociological analysis of the soft pornographic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The book, and its two […]

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Andrew CaytonLove in the Time of Revolution: Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change, 1793-1818

April 21, 2015

Andrew Cayton is a distinguished professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In his book Love in the Time of Revolution: Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) he has given us a lucid and beautifully written history of the transatlantic relationships among the circle of radical writers […]

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Lital LevyPoetic Trespass: Writing Between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine

April 6, 2015

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish settlement in Palestine and the revival of Hebrew as a national language have profoundly impacted the relationship between Arabic and Hebrew. In a highly contentious political environment, the two languages have been identified with opposing national movements – Hebrew associated with Jews and Arabic with Palestinians. Lital […]

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Paula T. ConnollySlavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790-2010

March 26, 2015

The “peculiar institution” upon which the US nation was founded is still rich for examination.  Perhaps this is why it is a subject to which 21st century authors continue to return.   In this exploration of slavery, Paula T. Connolly, author of Slavery in American Children’s Literature 1790 – 2010 (University of Iowa, 2013), provides an expansive […]

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Wen JinPluralist Universalism: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms

March 20, 2015

Wen Jin's book, Pluralist Universalism: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms (Ohio State Press, 2012), compares histories and modes of multiculturalism in China and the United States. Whereas many see few correlations between China’s ethnic policies and the multiculturalist policies of the U.S., Wen Jin brings these narratives and histories together to show […]

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Helena GurfinkelOutlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy

March 16, 2015

What is a father? In Outlaw Fathers in Victorian and Modern British Literature: Queering Patriarchy (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2014), Helena Gurfinkel offers an insightful new vision of fatherhood through an engagement with English literature, Freudian psychoanalysis and queer theory. The book takes a range of authors who have depicted ideas of fatherhood, patriarchal relations and homosociality along with […]

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Mark Dennis and Darren Middleton, eds.Approaching Silence: New Perspectives on Shusaku Endo’s Classic Novel

March 15, 2015

What does it mean to be a martyr? What does it mean to be an apostate? How should we understand people who choose one or the other? These are the questions asked by Shusaku Endo in his novel Silence, in which he tells the story of Japanese Catholics and foreign missionaries during Japan’s “Christian Century” […]

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Robert P. BurnsKafka’s Law: ‘The Trial’ and American Criminal Justice

March 13, 2015

Professor Robert P. Burns of Northwestern University School of Law offers an insightful critique of the modern American criminal justice system in his new work Kafka's Law: 'The Trial' and American Criminal Justice (University of Chicago Press 2014). This interview explores the characteristics of Kafka’s “Law” and exposes where and how these characteristics exist within the […]

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Justin MartinRebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians

March 10, 2015

Biography is, both etymologically and in its conventional forms, the writing of a life. But what is the role of place within that? And how do the stories of lives- some of them well known, others less so- realign when we see them through the lens of a particular place? That's Justin Martin's way in […]

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