The fear of damnation, the modernist sensibility and the racial politics of twentieth-century America are just some of the topics bursting out of this July’s must-reads. Take a look through our highlights and see which book you could soak up in the sunshine. Until next time!
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke, the most famous (and important) German language poet of the twentieth century – a master to be ranked with Goethe and Heine – wrote the New Poems of 1907 and 1908 in transition from his late-nineteenth-century style. They mark his appearance as a lyrical, metaphysical poet of the modernist sensibility, often using traditional forms like the sonnet to explore the inner essence, the deep heart, of things – often, quite literally, things.
Reception and Reputation, Criticism and Controversy, 1851-2015
Mark Twain under Fire tracks the genesis and evolution of Twain’s reputation as a writer: his reception as a humorist, his “return fire” on genteel critics, and the development of academic criticism. As a history of Twain criticism, the book draws on English and foreign-language scholarship, discussing the forces and ideas that have influenced criticism revealing how and why Mark Twain has been “under fire” from the advent of his career to the present day
An unforgettable introduction to the medieval world and its culture for the modern reader. Ramon Llull wrote the Doctrina Pueril between 1274 and 1276 to provide minimum knowledge to those people – children, but also adults – who did not have the opportunity to acquire a sufficient doctrinal and intellectual education. In the late thirteenth century this meant stressing the basics of Christian doctrine and also accessing some aspects of general culture.
The hope of salvation and the fear of damnation were fundamental in the Middle Ages. This study examines how the twin themes of damnation and salvation interact with other more familiar and better explored topoi, such as the life-cycle, the moment of death, and the material world. A broad range of the literature is considered, including Sagas of Icelanders, Kings’ sagas, Contemporary Sagas, Legendary sagas and poems of Christian instruction.
A Novel of a Racial Outcast
Hugo Bettauer’s The Blue Stain, a novel of racial mixing and “passing,” starts and ends in Georgia but also takes the reader to Vienna and New York. First published in 1922, the novel tells the story of Carletto, son of a white European academic and an African American daughter of former slaves, who, having passed as white in Europe and fled to America after losing his fortune, resists being seen as “black” before ultimately accepting that identity and joining the early movement for civil rights. Never before translated into English, this is the first novel in which a German-speaking European author addresses early twentieth-century racial politics in the United States – not only in the South but also in the North.
Youth, Labour & Violence in Sierra Leone
High youth unemployment is seen as a major issue across Africa and globally, not solely as a source of concern for economic development, but as a threat to social stability and a challenge to fragile peace. But what do we really know about how lack of work shapes political identities and motivates youth violence? This book moves beyond reductive portrayals of unemployed youth as “ticking bombs” but instead argues that violence is not inherent to unemployment, but that the impact of joblessness on political activism is mediated by social factors and the specific nature of the post-war political economy.