216 Chapters
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Medium 9780253019059

Brown County

Edited and with an Introduction by Owen Indiana University Press ePub

Artists and hill people in Brown County, Indiana

BROWN COUNTY, Ind.—Brown County is to Indiana what Santa Fe is to the Southwest, or Carmel to California, or Provincetown to New England.

In other words, it is an art colony. But that is only a part of the picture.

It became an art colony in the first place, like the others, because the scenery is majestic and the native people are picturesque.

And, having become an art colony, it attracted non-artists and ordinary people, to its loveliness, and eventually it became a haven, and people came and fell in love with its placid ways, and built beautiful homes and stayed to become part of the spirit of the place. That is the way it has been with Brown County.

On the whole, I am ill at ease in the company of artists, for so much of the time I don’t know what they are talking about. And yet, invariably, I like the places that they have built into their “colonies.”

And so it is with Brown County, Indiana. I have fallen head over heels for the place, and the people, and the hills, and the whole general air of peacefulness. Good Lord, I even like the artists here!

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Medium 9780253018595

Happiness · Fiction

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

SHYLOCK WAS A man of few words, and then only when a nod or a shaking of the head would not suffice. Prosperous did not know anyone else less inclined to use their tongue. She told Agu this the first time Shylock came to their house, the friend of a friend, and so recently arrived from Nigeria that Prosperous swore that as soon as he walked in, her homesickness lifted because he smelt of home. She did not tell Agu that she thought Shylock looked like him: same high forehead, same roast coffee complexion, they could have been brothers.

“He has a lazy tongue,” Agu said. Prosperous said she did not trust a man who would not talk in the company of other men.

“Maybe he’s shy.”

She said she had thought that too at first when he answered her “would you like a beer?” with a nod. But the longer he sat there, in their sitting room, nodding and shaking his head to questions, listening to the other men argue and talk but contributing nothing, as if he were a sponge absorbing their voices, she began to feel that her initial assessment of him was wrong.

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23. Numbers

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

• 2,000: population of Concord during Thoreau’s stay at the pond

• 2 years, 2 months, 2 days: length of Thoreau’s stay at Walden (before deducting a month spent at home while his cabin was being winterproofed and his two-week Maine trip)

• 1.3 miles: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Emerson’s house

• 28–36: Thoreau’s age during Walden’s composition

• 550 yards: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to the Fitchburg railroad line

• 204 feet: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Walden Pond

• 612 acres: size of Walden Pond

• 31: tools Thoreau used at Walden

• over 3,000: uses of first-person pronoun in Walden

• less than half a mile: distance from Thoreau’s cabin to Irish railroad laborers’ huts

• 10' x 15': size of Thoreau’s cabin

• 30: people that could fit in the cabin without removing the furniture

• almost 7 miles: total length of Thoreau’s bean rows

• over 700: references to animals in Walden

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Medium 9781574416367

Murray’s Problem

Gayle Reaves, Editor UNT Press ePub
Medium 9780253001795

3. Postcolonial Pre-Columbian Cosmologies of Night in Contemporary U.S.-Based Central American Texts

DeGuzmán, María Indiana University Press ePub

Then, the four hundred boys whom Zipacná had killed,
also ascended, and so they again became the companions of [the boys]
and were changed into stars in the sky.

Popol Vuh

The Invisibility of U.S.-Based Central American Cultural Production

Central America is the invisible sleeping giant or the eclipsed celestial body in the study of U.S. Latina/o culture, Latin American culture, and American (United States) culture. I deploy the phrase “sleeping giant” to remind U.S.-based critics and readers of the ideological framework of a particular “Latin Americanism” (to borrow Román de la Campa’s phrase)1 that afflicts consideration of Central America, especially in the United States. An American Cold War against land redistribution and liberation movements in Central America and the proliferation of government-sponsored counterinsurgency operatives in many Central American countries (including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have over-determined U.S. consideration of Central America. This framework has played a significant part in creating an occlusion of U.S. vision with regard to both the living presence of Central Americans here in the United States itself (for example, over one million Central Americans live in Southern California around the Los Angeles area) and to the socioeconomic, cultural, and political complexity of each country and of the countries in relation to one another (the significant presence, for instance, of Salvadorans living in Honduras). Diaspora in relation to Central America is varied. It involves Central Americans in one Central American country moving to another Central American country as well as to other countries such as Mexico, the United States, and Spain.

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Medium 9780253018595

The Newly Black Americans

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

African immigrants and black America

THERE IS A moment in Dinaw Mengestu’s well-received novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) where the narrator, Sepha—Ethiopian, refugee, victim of an anomie that is as Naipaulian as it is stereotypically modernist—encounters traces of Pan-Africanism and, what continues to be celebrated in scholarly and cultural circles (often uncritically) as, black Diaspora. Walking through neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. convulsed between decline and renaissance, where the domestic migrations of gentrification speak to the displacements of post-Independence Africa, Sepha encounters amongst the abandoned lots and littered condoms, the prostitutes and alcoholics, the memory of black transnational solidarity, or at least its symbols. The memory trigger in question is “a black-owned bookstore called Madame X,” where once were Afrocentric poetry readings, shared plates of “yam patties,” and no doubt the sound of jazz, reggae, hip-hop, or even Afrobeat.

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Medium 9780253356864

1. Adventure

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life. (14)

Is Walden the record of an adventure? If so, why does Thoreau avoid using that word to describe his twenty-six months in the woods? Although Walden now stands as one of the great adventures in nineteenth-century American history, Thoreau clearly preferred to cast his project in scientific terms (see “Experiment”), perhaps hoping that a more clinical vocabulary would convince his neighbors that what might have looked like irresponsible idling was, in fact, rigorous research. He may also have sensed that the pond’s proximity to Concord, and his own near-daily trips to town, would have made any claims of “adventure” seem ridiculous hyperbole: after all, to many of his townsmen, Thoreau was just camping out on Emerson’s land, like a child in his parents’ backyard.

But the issue is more complex. Thoreau himself loved travel books, especially those about explorers. And yet he dismisses this taste as a guilty pleasure: “I read one or two shallow books of travel in the intervals of my work,” he confesses in Walden, “till that employment made me ashamed of myself, and I asked where it was then that I lived” (71). Thoreau will begin Walden’s “Conclusion” with an elaboration on this theme, converting it into an explicit exhortation:

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15. Good and Evil

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Here are two passages, one from Thoreau and one from Nietzsche:

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of any thing, it is very likely to be my good behavior. (10)

What preserves the species.—The strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance humanity: again and again they relumed the passions that were going to sleep—all ordered society puts the passions to sleep—and they reawakened again and again the sense of comparison, of contradiction, of the pleasure of what is new, daring, untried; they compelled men to pit opinion against opinion, model against model. Usually by force of arms, by toppling boundary markers, by violating pieties.… In every teacher and preacher of what is new we encounter the same “wickedness.” … What is new, however, is always evil, being that which wants to conquer and overthrow the old boundary markers and the old pieties; and only what is old is good.

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Medium 9780253018571

On Rage

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Be honest. Who’s unafraid

of the Big, Bad, Bigger

Thomas? The omnipresence

of Knockout games & flash mobs

& black boys

in clothes that don’t fit, droves that won’t quit

stealing what can’t be replaced: guiltless sleep,

the comfort of a block when its blank.

Inner-city

becomes code word for wars the State made from scratch.

Coming up, our mantra was I’m not the one

& we weren’t until we were. Until smooth talk

could no longer keep a policeman’s hands

in brackets.

I don’t remember unlearning

the love & lilt of a first swing,

what Ms. Reilly said

in 6th grade that defused me.

But by 8th it was undeniable:

these hands were best suited to soft gestures: the silly give

of art class clay,

all those quick missives to fairest Rosalinda:

my awkward cursive,

like a swan’s neck

against the paper.

Still, this is where I keep the chimera

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22. Name

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Although Walden has always been attributed to Henry David Thoreau, its author was actually christened David Henry Thoreau. At some point after college, Thoreau simply reversed the order of his first two names, perhaps to accommodate his parents’ habit of calling him Henry, perhaps as an early exercise in self-determination. This step, which accepts the given as an occasion for rearrangement, provides the key to Walden.

Walden’s reputation as a near-sacred text often provokes disappointment in its readers. If we expect the book to reveal the meaning of life, we may feel let down by its lessons, which, when paraphrased and stripped of Thoreau’s elevated prose, can seem platitudinous: life is what you make of it! Reduce your needs, and you can work less! Nature is beautiful! In fact, however, Walden proposes that the secret to living well depends not on the discovery of some hidden truth but rather on rearranging what already lies before us. Thoreau doesn’t propose to reinvent civilization from scratch; he simply reorders its existing components. This process, outlined in “Economy,” involves the promotion of fundamental needs over inessential luxuries, reversing the unnatural order he detects in his neighbors’ lives. As early as 1837, in his Harvard commencement address (“The Commercial Spirit”), Thoreau had revealed his readiness to shake up even a biblical dispensation: “The order of things should be somewhat reversed,” he had announced. “The seventh day should be man’s day of toil, wherein to earn his living by the sweat of his brow; and the other six his Sabbath of the affections and the soul.” In Walden, the ratio of leisure to work has increased: “I found that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living” (50). Suggesting the continuity of his ideas, Thoreau’s conclusion uses the language of his Harvard speech: “It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do” (52).

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14. Genius

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Although Emerson famously said of Thoreau that “his biography is in his verses,” he described those verses as “rude and defective,” concluding that Thoreau’s “genius was better than his talent.” Without citing Emerson as the source of this famous judgment, Henry James extended its application to Thoreau’s prose, declaring in 1879 that “whatever question there may be of his talent, there can be none, I think of his genius.… He was imperfect, unfinished, inartistic … ; it is only at his best that he is readable.” Why did Emerson and James arrive at this opinion? What aspects of Thoreau’s writing prompted it?

While any list of writers with more talent than genius will always be a long one, the reverse is not the case. What American writers have had more genius than talent? Whitman? Gertrude Stein? Hart Crane? Thomas Wolfe? Has this imbalance occurred more frequently in America? And is it more common with writers, as opposed to other kinds of artists? We can start to answer these questions by noting that an artist needs to be lucky enough to have a genre available to him that suits his genius. Imagine if Larry Hart had come along before the flowering of the Broadway musical: he would have become, at best, simply a talented light-verse writer, a reduced version of his own ancestor, Heinrich Heine. Had Elvis Presley arrived before rock and roll, he might have developed into a minor version of his idol, Dean Martin, himself a lesser Sinatra. Elvis, of course, helped to invent the genre his genius required, and his ability to do so suggests a way to think about Thoreau and Walden.

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12. Flute

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute. (120)

And now to-night my flute has waked the echoes over that very water. (107)

Although Thoreau’s intermittent moralizing could make him denounce music as “intoxicating,” grouping it with wine, liquor, coffee, and tea (“Ah, how low I feel when I am tempted by them! [147]), he, like his father and brother, played the flute, and he took his instrument with him to Walden. We even know his favorite song: “Tom Bowling,” written by Englishman Charles Dibdin (1745–1814), who seems to have specialized in ersatz folk ballads about sailors. Catherine Moseley describes Thoreau’s musical taste as “mainstream bourgeois”; he had little interest in what we now call “classical music” but instead preferred “extremely elaborate and sentimental” songs that were excessive and “florid.” The same Thoreau who sternly advised “read the best books first, or you may not have the chance to read them at all” (Week, 98) enjoyed tunes like “Pilgrim Fathers” and “Evening Bells.” In particular, as Moseley points out, “Tom Bowling” “does not seem the likely favorite of one whose cry was ‘Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.’” Susan Sontag once observed that we should not expect anyone to have “good taste” in more than one area. Wittgenstein, for example, who insisted to Bertrand Russell “that nothing is tolerable except producing great works or enjoying those of others,” liked Carmen Miranda movies. Nevertheless, because we have grown used to regarding musical preferences as a clue to personality, the knowledge of what Thoreau must have been playing while idling in his boat on the glassy surface of the pond on long summer evenings seems to open a previously undiscovered door.

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Medium 9780253020659

Conclusion: “White Sea of the Middle” or “Wide Sea to Meddle In”?

Hakim Abderrezak Indiana University Press ePub

The works discussed in Ex-Centric Migrations provide a vision not solely of the other but of the other continent as well. Maghrebi works that treat the notion of clandestinity have presented the European Eldorado in its declination from “a country of light” to a land of disillusionment. It is the latter vision that has been the focus of the contemporary cinematic, literary, and musical productions examined here. In response to the old notion of Eldorado (the French one), which bred mythical stories that emigrants brought with them on their short visits back home, artists have crafted a “new” Eldorado—the Maghreb. The latter construction is a core theme in music such as Raï n’b and in films such as Bensalah’s Il était une fois dans l’oued. This conception of the “new Eldorado” tackled explicitly via musical and cinematic representations is an original one, which lies in sharp contrast to the portrayal of the global South as a place that individuals desire to leave.

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Medium 9780253000958

The Men We Carry in Our Minds

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

This must be a hard time for women,” I say to my friend Anneke. “They have so many paths to choose from, and so many voices calling them.”

“I think it’s a lot harder for men,” she replies.

“How do you figure that?”

“The women I know feel excited, innocent, like crusaders in a just cause. The men I know are eaten up with guilt.”

We are sitting at the kitchen table drinking sassafras tea, our hands wrapped around the mugs because this April morning is cool and drizzly. “Like a Dutch morning,” Anneke told me earlier. She is Dutch herself, a writer and midwife and peacemaker, with the round face and sad eyes of a woman in a Vermeer painting who might be waiting for the rain to stop, for a door to open. She leans over to sniff a sprig of lilac, pale lavender, that rises from a vase of cobalt blue.

“Women feel such pressure to be everything, do everything,” I say. “Career, kids, art, politics. Have their babies and get back to the office a week later. It’s as if they’re trying to overcome a million years’ worth of evolution in one lifetime.”

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20. Leaving Walden

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Walden’s celebration of Thoreau’s glorious twenty-six months in the woods leaves almost all of its readers with a stark question: why did he choose to leave? The book’s “Conclusion,” of course, offers one explanation, but its laconic offhandness has never proved very satisfying:

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. (217)

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there”—what could that sentence mean? In “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” Thoreau had already spelled out his reason for going to the pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach” (65). With its senses of care, consideration, and unhurriedness, deliberately does a lot of work in that passage, endowing Thoreau’s move to the woods with the aura of an existential choice. As he set about finishing Walden, Thoreau had certainly come to recognize that choice as the decisive one of his life, the one that had given him the most immediate happiness and prompted the writing that would establish his reputation.

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