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American Literature and Immediacy

American Literature and Immediacy
Literary Innovation and the Emergence of Photography, Film, and Television


Part of Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture

  • Publication planned for: January 2020
  • availability: Not yet published - available from January 2020
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108487382

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • The search for immediacy, the desire to feel directly connected to people or events, has been a driving force in American literature and media culture for the past two centuries. This book offers the first in-depth study of literary immediacy effects. It shows how the heightened reality effects of photography, film, and television inspired American writers to create new literary forms that would enhance their readers' sense of immediate participation in the world. The study combines close readings of Emerson, Whitman, Stein, Dos Passos, Coover, Foster Wallace, and DeLillo with detailed considerations of visual media to open up a new perspective on literary innovation and the ongoing cultural quest for increased immediacy. It argues that we can better understand how American literature develops when we consider experiments with literary form, not only in literary and cultural contexts but also in relation to the emergence of new media, their immediacy effects, and the larger changes in social life that they manifest and provoke.

    • Uses a historical long-range perspective to show that American writers in the past two hundred years typically have responded to the emergence of new visual media with innovative experiments in literary form
    • Identifies a common pattern of response across multiple eras, genres, and media
    • Combines the perspectives of literary studies, cultural studies, and media studies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Media archaeology from the literary inside out: immediacy theory, scrupulously pursued from photography's transparent eyeball to the universal tube, from transcendentalism through cinematic montage to the ethos of tele-presencing. Emerson and Whitman speak to Stein and Coover, Dos Passos to DeLillo and Wallace, as never before across the very leaps of technological advance in an intermedial evolution of American poetics. Schaefer's adjustable lens enhances her panoramic traveling shot of this terrain with verbal close-ups that lock in an immediate - and indispensable - focus all their own. Entering a lively scholarly dialogue on competing media, her book canvasses literary voices that, even when those of familiar suspects, have unexpected news to bring. This engrossing study will be of interest equally to students of American literary history, media theory, the tradition of ekphrastic writing, and the video-inflected discontinuities of postmodernist narrative in an epoch of visual literacy.' Garrett Stewart, author of Transmedium and Cinemachines

    'American Literature and Immediacy is at once grand in its aim of tracing the multidimensional concept of immediacy across visual media and a century and a half of American literature, and focused in its nuanced and compelling close readings of well-chosen case studies that represent some of the most intellectually earnest and formally ambitious literary responses to new visual media. I warmly welcome its significant contribution to literary studies and comparative media analyses and its impressive examination of a major concept in American culture - immediacy.' Marcy J. Dinius, DePaul University, Chicago and author of The Camera and the Press

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: January 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108487382
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • availability: Not yet published - available from January 2020
  • Table of Contents

    The quest for immediacy in American literature and media culture
    Part I. Literary Immediacy and Photography:
    1. The poet as 'exact recorder of the essential law': Ralph Waldo Emerson's poetics in the context of early photography
    2. 'To exalt the present and the real': Walt Whitman's photographic poetry
    3. The politics of paying attention: the romantic desire for immediacy
    Part II. Literary Immediacy and Cinematography:
    4. 'Living moving pictures': the thrills of early cinema
    5. 'Making a cinema of it': seriality and presence in Gertrude Stein's early literary portraits
    6. 'A novel like a documentary film': cinematic writing as cultural intervention in John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer
    Part III. Literary Immediacy and Television:
    7. Being there: television's aesthetics of immediacy
    8. For real? The critique of TV culture in the short fiction of Robert Coover and David Foster Wallace
    9. “Nothing happens until it is consumed': the remediation of TV images in Don DeLillo's Mao II
    10. Fiction in the age of television
    Still in pursuit

  • Author

    Heike Schaefer, University of Education Karlsuhe
    Heike Schaefer is Professor of North American Literature and Culture at the University of Education Karlsruhe, Germany. She is a former Fulbright fellow, author of Mary Austin's Regionalism: Reflections on Gender, Genre, and Geography (2004) and has edited several books and special issues, including The Printed Book in Contemporary American Culture: Medium, Object, Metaphor (forthcoming), 'Network Theory and American Studies' (2015), and 'Literary Knowledge Production and the Life Sciences' (2017).

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