Open Access: Scholarship in the Public Sphere

July 1, 2016

A number of recent publications by our faculty engage wide audiences by weaving together narrative and research.  Their inclusion in public library collections, bookstore speaker series, and online media outlets mark their successful popular appeal.

1) Robert S. Levine’s The Lives of Frederick Douglass published in 2016 by Harvard University

The Lives of Frederick Douglass revises the widely canonized biography of Douglass and incorporates under-used autobiographical texts.  Levine widens the traditional lens to examine Douglass’s place in American culture through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Levine has given talks on his book at Politics and Prose, the Smithsonian, Lincoln’s Cottage, and at numerous universities.  Library Journal and Kirkus reviews resulted in the inclusion of the book in collections of many public libraries.


2) Ted Leinwand’s The Great William: Writers Reading Shakespeare published in 2016 by the University of Chicago

Leinwand considers seven writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—and details their reactions to Shakespeare through marginal notes, letters, and lectures.  The book highlights the profound impact Shakespeare continues to have on literature and on humanity.

Conversations related to the volume include discussions at the Centre for Research in the Arts and at Cambridge University, Politics and Prose, Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Hall, the Folger Shakespeare Theater, and the 92nd Street Y in New York CityThe Spectator mentioned the volume on Shakespeare’s birthday. #shakespeare400

3) Carla Peterson’s Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City published in 2013 by Yale University Press

Peterson guides the reader through the discovery of her family history.  During this journey, Peterson presents the stories often ignored or covered up—those of African Americans in the United States, specifically focusing on New York City.  Peterson questions notions of shared national memory and illuminates aspects we choose to remember along with those we choose to forget. 

Peterson was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2016.  She has appeared at the Smithsonian Book Festival on the Mall, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, as well as local African American genealogical societies, and Black Talk radio.  She has also participated in a guided tour for the Guides Association of New York City.

4) Matt Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing published in 2016 by Harvard University

Track Changes serves as a literary history of word processing, a project pertinent to anyone who uses a word processor.  Kirschenbaum explains the influence of the invention of the first word processors on individual writers, explores the impact of the means of production on the practice of writing, and considers how transformations in literary scholarship and authorship respond to technological mediation.

Reviews of Track Changes appear in Bookforum, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, Publisher’s Weekly, and on several radio stations in the UK.  Kirschenbaum has given many academic talks and lectures related to the book, most notably at Northwestern University and Yale.  He was interviewed by Chronicle of Higher Education about the book, and he’s done bookstore events at Chicago Seminary Co-op, Kramerbooks, and Harvard Bookstore

 5) Stanley Plumly’s The Immortal Evening published in 2014 by W.W. Norton & Company

In The Immortal Evening, Plumly weaves together the diaries and biographical information of Benjamin Robert Haydon, and re-imagines a dinner he held in 1817 for John Keats and William Wordsworth.  The book examines the work of these renowned artists and highlights the immortality of the art they produced and the memory of their genius.

In March 2017, Posthumous Keats will be included in a list of the all-time five best books about the Romantics, compiled by Jonathan Bate, one of the world’s leading Romantic scholars. Plumly has a new book of poetry coming out in October, and The Immortal Evening will appear in paperback in June 2016.

6) Mary Helen Washington’s The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s published in 2014 by Columbia University

Mary Helen Washington re-examines the Cold War era and the turmoil it caused for creative minds in America, focusing on the often-overlooked Black Popular Front.  She presents four specific writers—Lloyd Brown, Frank London Brown, Alice Childress, and Gwendolyn Brooks—to illustrate the leftist ideas and activism prevalent during the McCarthy era.

Washington received the Bode-Pearson Prize in 2015 for her significant work in the field of American Studies.  She was also an MLA book award finalist, receiving honorable mention in the William Sanders Scarborough Prize for an Outstanding Scholarly Study of Black American Literature.

7) Lee Konstantinou’s Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction published in 2016 by Harvard University

Konstantinou’s Cool Characters looks at the idea of irony in American culture.  It provides a survey into the ways irony has changed, and postulates on the idea of the post-ironic period beginning after World War II.  Konstantinou outlines a “cannon of characters” in American history who have embodied the idea of irony—the Hipster, the Punk, the Believer, and the Coolhunter.

Salon published an excerpt from Cool Characters on its site, and Dissent reviews it.

2016.03.28: Book Launch: Konstantinou, COOL CHARACTERS