Memory, Movement and Action

Posted on behalf of Karen M. Huck, Library Specialist

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover art for The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Click the image to see it in the Library catalog.

Location: Undergrad
Call Number: PS3573.H4768 U53 2016

There is another copy at the Ikenberry Residence Hall Library and an online audiobook is also available (access on-campus or with UIUC NetID).

An important work that grapples with issues of movement, both physical and psychological, for Blacks, Whites and Native Americans during the early 1800s, Underground Railroad bleeds with relevance. Reimagining the Underground Railroad as a physical train, Whitehead follows Cora, the protagonist, on a subterranean escape, from stop to stop, encountering varied degrees of oppression above ground and even below. Painful yet hopeful, the story propels readers towards new understandings of both blatant and subtle racism that permeates society at that time. But how far have we come since those early days? Not far enough. Cora’s opinion that “Poetry and prayer put ideas into people’s heads that got them killed, distracted them from the ruthless mechanism of the world” illustrates how action and movement matter more than words and ideas. In contemporary terms, voting proves stronger and more potent than believing. Once each American embraces “doing” over “hoping, praying and thinking,” the true wishes of the people will prevail. Underground Railroad is Whitehead’s call to action for every American.

Photo of the author

Photo by Madeline Whitehead.

Read reviews from The New York Times, The Guardian, or The Denver Post.

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New Exhibit: Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates LBGTQ History Month by showcasing the works of some of the foremost gay and lesbian writers. In this new exhibit, Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years, located in the Literatures and Languages Journals area within the Main Reading Room, we peer into the works of early LBGTQ writers, to highlight groundbreaking writings that, in those times, were downright controversial. We get a glimpse into their private world and the broad society in which they lived and wrote, making us to witness transformations that were underway for decades. The exhibit features Anglophone, English, and notable European writers to show the wide range of themes, genres, and literary techniques employed to express an identity that is authentic and self-determined.

In addition to the works featured in our exhibit, the Literatures and Languages Library features a wealth of reference titles and research resources on LGBTQ literature. They include:
Hugh Steven’s work The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing (Cambridge: New York, 2011)
The Perils of Pedagogy: the Works of John Greyson, edited by Brenda Longfellow, Scott MacKenzie, and Thomas Waugh (Montreal&Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013) 
The American Isherwood edited by James J. Berg and Chris Freeman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
Valery Rohy’s Lost Causes: Narrative, Etiology, and Queer Theory (2015) was just published by Oxford University Press.
The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature edited by E.L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2014). 

Many subject terms are listed in the VuFind Catalog under the field “Topics”, giving users quick access to a wealth of related works. Some key subject headings to use in our catalog searching are Gays in Literature, Homosexuality in Literature, Gays’ Writings – History and Criticism. The result list can be filtered even further by using the “Narrow Your Search” options.

Please check out these Library resources and consult the Literatures and Languages Library staff members for further research assistance on LGBTQ literature and theory.

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Alistair MacLeod, Canadian Novelist, Dies at 77


The Canadian literary world is mourning the loss of Alistair MacLeod, a great writer and academic who inspired generations of students, who died at age 77 this past Sunday. The Saskatchewan native died from complications from a stroke he suffered in January.

MacLeod’s first and only novel, “No Great Mischief,” was published in 1999 to ecstatic reviews. He also published somewhat fewer than two dozen short stories. Nearly all of MacLeod’s fiction is set on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, where MacLeod spent his childhood and maintained a home later in life. In spite of his limited literary output, his reputation remains extremely bright.

For wonderful biographical accounts, please consider reading the following:

“In appreciation of Alistair MacLeod” by Frances Itani, Ottawa Citizen

“Alistair MacLeod, a Novelist in No Hurry, Dies at 77” by Margalit Fox, New York Times

“Remembering a great writer: Alistair MacLeod dies at 77” by Steven Galloway, Special to the Globe and Mail


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Fear and Loathing of the English Passive

A new study on the English passive has been published. The author is Geoffrey K. Pullum, who has been Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh since 2009. He has written:

“Writing advisers have been condemning the English passive since the early 20th century. I provide an informal but comprehensive syntactic description of passive clauses in English, and then exhibit numerous published examples of incompetent criticism in which critics reveal that they cannot tell passives from actives. Some seem to confuse the grammatical concept with a rhetorical one involving inadequate attribution of agency or responsibility, but not all examples are thus explained. The specific stylistic charges leveled against the passive are entirely baseless. The evidence demonstrates an extraordinary level of grammatical ignorance among educated English language critics.”

The article has been made available online here: “Fear and Loathing of the English Passive,” Geoffrey K. Pullum, epub January 10, 2014, to appear in Language and Communication, 2014.

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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. To celebrate, U. of I.’s Native American House is putting on events all month. Here is a link to their schedule.

Four of our faculty in the English Department have published work on Native American literature. Associate Professor Jodi A. Byrd‘s chapter “(Post)Colonial Plainsongs: Toward Native Literary Worldings” appears in the Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs) collection Unlearning the Language of Conquest (2006). Professor LeAnne Howe‘s chapter “Ohoyo Chishba Osh: Woman Who Stretches Way Back” appears in Greg O’Brien’s collection Pre-Removal Choctaw History (2008). Professor Robert Dale Parker has published several scholarly works on Native American literature, including The Invention of Native American Literature (2003) and the edited collections The Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (2007) and Changing in Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930 (2011). Professor Robert Warrior has penned Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions (1994) and The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction (2005) and co-authored Like an Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee (1996, with Paul Chaat Smith).

The Literatures and Languages Library has numerous works by and about Native American authors. Our collection includes writings by such notable figures as N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, Gerald Vizenor, and many others. We also have an extensive collection of critical texts and anthologies relating to Native American literature.

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English Professor Dale M. Bauer Publishes Book on American Women’s Fiction

Dr. Dale M. Bauer, a Professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s English Department, is the editor of a new and substantial work, The Cambridge History of American Women’s Literature.  The collection, which was published in July, features an introduction by Bauer as well as 32 entries on a wide array of topics related to women’s literary production. It includes contributions by fellow English Department faculty members Jody A. Byrd, Kirstin R. Wilcox, Stephanie Foote, and Gordon Hutner. For more information, check out the official webpage for the book.

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The Work of Jorge Luis Borges Comes to Life

One particular display from the London 2012 Festival that caught our attention here at the Literature and Languages Library is aMAZEme, an awe-inspiring installation dreamed up by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo. Click here to see some great images of the piece. The architectural sculpture is made out of a whopping 250,000 books and is inspired by the fiction of the Argentinian writer and librarian Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). Borges’ work regularly deploys library and labyrinthine motifs. In fact, one of his most popular collections translated for English is titled Labyrinths (1962, tr. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby). Reportedly, Saboya and Pupo designed their massive book labyrinth to the design of Borges’ fingerprint.

UIUC Libraries have over 250 books authored by Borges, including Ficciones (1944), his most popular book.

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Happy Birthday, Alexandre Dumas!

On this date inAlexandre Dumas 1802, the French writer Alexandre Dumas was born. He is most famous for writing the adventures Les Trois Mousquetaires (aka The Three Musketeers, 1844), Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (aka The Count of Monte Cristo; 1844-1845), and Le Vicomte de Bragelonne ou Dix ans plus tard (aka The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, 1847-1850; it is notable for featuring L’Homme au Masque de Fer aka The Man in the Iron Mask). Since his death in 1870, his works have taken on a life of their own. The Three Musketeers has been adapted or re-imagined many times since its initial publication, including several Tom & Jerry cartoons, a set of films in the 1970s directed by Richard Lester, and even a candy bar. The Man in the Iron Mask was adapted into a popular movie in 1998 starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

So if you are in the mood for some swashbucklin’, we have several of his works in their original French here in the Literature and Languages Library. The UIUC Library has over one thousand items attributed to Dumas. His works can also be found (untranslated) online at Project Gutenberg.

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Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" As He Realized It?

It was recently announced that The Folio Society, a London-based company that specializes in making fine print books, is producing an edition of William Faulkner’s first masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury (first published in 1929), in multi-colored text. During his lifetime, Faulkner expressed the desire to present his complex and polychronous novel with text in numerous colors to allow readers to navigate through the various time shifts that occur within its fragmented narratives more easily, especially in the dense first chapter, “April Seventh, 1928.” Now, according to Noel Polk, one of the re-configured text’s editors, “publishing has finally grown up to The Sound and the Fury.” Polk, along with co-editor Stephen M. Ross, establish fourteen different timelines in the novel based on their research and color-code the text accordingly.

The Folio Society has limited the edition to 1,480 copies, and it comes with a color-coded bookmark for easy reader reference. Because Faulkner never produced a color-coded version of the manuscript, Polk and Ross’s bold experiment is likely to draw criticism from some quarters. Nevertheless, the end-product fuses the book arts with literary criticism and one of literature’s great What Ifs.

The edition, which is slated for release in August, is being released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Faulkner’s death. Faulkner, one of America’s most celebrated authors (and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949), continues to generate mountains of literary criticism each year. The Literature and Languages library has all of his novels as well as numerous books of criticism about Faulkner’s work. They can be found in the approximate call number range PS3511.A86 or by looking here.

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