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The Birth-mark: unsettling the wilderness in American literary history [Paperback]

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Item Number 93621  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   189
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 1993
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819562637  
EAN  9780819562630  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Susan Howe approaches early American literature as pet and critic, blending scholarship with passionate commitment and unique view of her subject. The Birth-mark traces the collusive relationships among tradition, the constitution of critical editions, literary history and criticism, the institutionalized roles of poetry and prose, and the status of gender. Through an examination of the texts and editorial histories of Thomas Shepard's conversion narratives, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Howe reads our intellectual inheritance as a series of civil wars, where each text is a wilderness in which a strange and lawless author confronts interpreters and editors eager for settlement. In a concluding interview, Howe comments on her approach and recounts some the crucial biographical events that sparked her interest in early American literature.

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More About Susan Howe

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! SUSAN HOWE is a poet and Professor of English at the State University of New York- Buffalo. She is also the author of numerous critical essays including My Emily Dickinson (1985), and most recently "Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker" in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film (Wesleyan, 1996), edited by Charles Watten. Her books of poetry include Singularities (1990), The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems (1989), Articulation of Sound Forms in Time (1987), and most recently, Frame Structures: Early poems, 1974-1979 (1995).

Susan Howe currently resides in Guilford, in the state of Connecticut. Susan Howe was born in 1949.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Illuminating the Literary Wilderness  Aug 5, 2001
For those who have read Susan Howe's poetry and marvelled at, but did not fully understand it, this book is compelling in its explanatory power. The quotations in the preface alone are worth the price of admission, for it is here than one can see how impressive is her understanding of Emily Dickinson's writing. By exposing the manuscript story behind Dickinson's works, Susan Howe has made a lasting contribution to American literature. Her essay on Cotton Mather is a charmer, certain to drive readers to find a copy of his Magnalia. The essay Incloser is a stylistic dynamo. There is also an interview with the author that sheds new light on her works.

But what will make this book immortal is Susan Howe's essay These Flames and Generosities of the Heart: Emily Dickinson and the Illogic of Sumptuary Values. To anyone who has read Emily Dickinson's poems in a "standard" or "variorum" edition of any sort, this book is a must, because you will soon learn that you have not, in fact, been reading Dickinson's words, but instead an editor's (inaccurate) version of them (whether Johnson or Franklin). Susan Howe demonstrates with a clarity and perception unmatched by any editor how the only way to understand and fully appreciate Emily Dickinson is by reading her manuscripts, some of which are reproduced in this book. And the manuscripts only make one appreciate more intensely the achievement of Emily Dickinson. If you've read Susan Howe's My Emily Dickinson, you must buy this book, as it completes the true story. It is a staggering achievement that will long be remembered as a landmark event in the understanding of America's greatest poet. American academia owes Susan Howe a debt of incalculable magnitude for this essay alone.

(Note on the other review of this book: how anyone can give this book fewer than 5 stars is a mystery. Susan Howe is a marvelous storyteller with a breadth of interests that cannot fail to intrigue even the most casual reader.)

Nettles and Brambles Feminine  Jun 15, 2001
You'll never read a book the same way again after "The Birth-mark"--you'll wonder about all the spaces, dashes, deletions and marginalia that didn't make it from manuscript to print. For Howe that's where the wild voices hide, dangerous figures like Anne Hutchinson, Mary Rowlandson and Emily Dickinson who threatened "civilized" male control. Howe samples texts like a hip-hop DJ, switching between voices to prove her point that editing was a typically male response to the wilderness that women (and the New World) represented.

Howe's passion for her subject is obvious, especially in the interview at the end. But the essays sometimes felt to me at least more like a display of cleverness than an effort to understand the figures she writes about. Like Charles Olson's "Call Me Ishmael," Howe's model, "The Birth-mark" squats a little uneasily between scholarship and poetry. The poet's own voice and sense of style tend to muffle the more distant Puritan voices, male and female, she's out to recover. Maybe this is the danger of not editing one's voice as a historian. Still, I'm glad I read this book--yet another reminder of what doesn't get into history and why.


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