Writing Back -- American Expatriates' Narratives of Return by Susan Winnett, Johns Hopkins UP '12, $60, 285 pages, ASIN #142140740X. Index, works cited, notes, unillustrated.
In his 2011 book The Greater Journey, reviewed in these pages, historian David McCullough takes as his theme restless Americans and Parisians, who each sought the opposite side of the Atlantic to learn, develop skills, and experience a different way of life. Such emigres from America as painters John Singer Sargent and Samuel F.B. Morse left their homeland for a richer life abroad and returned home years later changed forever. Morse, for example, earned a tolerable living in painting portraits and such, but acquired the knowledge and skill in Paris to invent the telegraph and become world famous upon his return to America.
In her new book, American Studies scholar Susan Winnett probes the memoirs of American artists and intellectuals and concentrates not mainly on what drove them to wander abroad but with the struggle of their return to America after years of living aboard, a process called repatriation.
For example, in close readings of such writers-in-exile as Henry James, Harold
Stearns, Malcolm Cowley, and Gertrude, the author establishes repatriation "as related to but significantly different from travel and exile." She examines "how repatriation unsettles the self-construction of the 'returning absentee' by challenging the fictions of national and cultural identity with which the writer has experimented during the time abroad. As both Americans and expatriates, these writers gained a unique perspective on American culture, particularly in terms of gender roles, national identity, artistic self-conception, mobility, and global culture.
Susan Winnett is Universiity Professor of American Studies at the Heinrich-Heine-Universitat Dusseldorf, Germany.
Reading in Time -- Emily Dickinson in the Nineteenth Century by Cristanne Miller, UMass. Press '12 paperback. 279 pages, ASIN #1558499512. Index of poems, general index, works cited, notes, two appendices, several b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the back cover:
"This book provides new information about Emily Dickinson as a writer and new ways of situating this poet in relation to nineteenth-century literary culture, examining how we read her poetry and how she was reading the poetry of her own day. Christanne Miller argues both that Dickinson's poetry is formally far closer to the verse of her day than generally imagined and that Dickinson wrote, circulated, and retained poems differently before and after 1865. Many current conceptions of Dickinson are based on her late poetic practice. Such conceptions, Miller contends, are inaccurate for the time when she wrote the great majority of her poems.
"Before 1865, Dickinson at least ambivalently considered publication, circulated relatively few poems, and saved almost everything she wrote in organized booklets. After this date, she wrote far fewer poems, circulated many poems without retaining them, and took less interest in formally preserving her work."
Christanne Miller is Edward H. Butler Professor of Literature and Chair of the Department of English at the University of Buffalo.
When God Talks Back -- Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God by T.M. Luhrmann, Knopf '12, $28.95, 434 pages, ASIN #0307264793. Index, bibliography, bibliographic notes, notes, unillustrated.
"Like the term evangelical," writes anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann in her new book, "the reach for a personal experience of God has many forms. The most dramatic include tongues; supernatural healing, where a pastor calls down the Holy Spirit to cure a painful back; being slain in the spirit, when the Holy Spirit moves down a room like a force and knocks someone over; and prophecy, when someone utters truths about the future that have come from a supernatural source. These phenomena are what Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians, called the 'gifts' of the Holy Spirit: healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, tongues, and other 'signs and wonders.'"
Whether traditional Christians, those following other faiths, or those without faith, watching people "speaking in tongues" or experiencing out of body phenomena usually arouses skepticism. Luhrmann seeks to penetrate this barrier: "While attending services and various small group meetings at her local branch of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Luhrmann sought to understand how some members were able to communicate with God, not just through one-sided prayers but with discernible feedback." As such, she probes "the intersection of religion, psychology, anthropology, and science, and the effect it has on the daily practices of the faithful."
T.M. Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University.