Modern Language Studies Issue 51 — Winter 2022

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A crow may hold a pebble in its beak But not a pathar. Only the cowa With its glistening razor chonch may seek Out those, just as the pierres grises over By the banks go to bec-weilding corbeaux And the rocas to cuervos con picos. The stones watch the thirsty sun-blistered birds Hopping and quavering and fluttering, Longing for one whole tongue; but do they laugh When they clink, or rattle out a warning?

Hibah Shabkhez

front matter


VOLUME 51, NO. 1 & 2



about NeMLA The Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) is a scholarly organization for professionals in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and other modern languages. The group was founded as the New YorkPennsylvania MLA in 1967 by William Wehmeyer of St. Bonaventure University and other MLA members interested in continuing scholarly discourse at annual conventions smaller than that hosted by the Modern Language Association. In 1969, the organization moved to wider regional membership, election of officers, formal affiliation with MLA, and adoption of its present name. NeMLA continues its traditions of intellectual contribution and advancement at the 53rd Annual Convention, to be held March 10–13, 2022. This year’s theme, “CARE,” refers to the practice of interdependency, admitting our vulnerabilities as humans, animals, and other living organisms of the Anthropocene. The theme will embrace but not be limited to questions of representation, migration, the environment, and identity. NeMLA is delighted to host, for the Thursday opening address, the acclaimed writer Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive (this year’s focus of “NeMLA Reads Together”) and winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, whose books have been translated into more than 20 languages. The Friday keynote event will feature Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the most important American philosophers and gender theorists writing today. Please see the NeMLA web page at for information on joining the organization and about the fellowships, awards, and publications available to members. Modern Language Studies appears twice a year, in the summer and winter, and is a publication of the Northeast Modern Language Association. © 2022 Northeast Modern Language Association

ISSN 0047-7729

NeMLA board of directors 2021–2022 EXECUTIVE BOARD BERNADETTE WEGENSTEIN, Johns Hopkins University President JOSEPH VALENTE, University at Buffalo Vice President MODHUMITA ROY, Tufts University Second Vice President BRANDI SO, Touro College and University System Past President

OFFICERS CARINE MARDOROSSIAN, University at Buffalo Executive Director ASHLEY BYCZKOWSKI, University at Buffalo Associate Director

BOARD OF DIRECTORS DONAVAN L. RAMON, Kentucky State University American and Diaspora Studies Director THOMAS LYNN, Penn State Berks British and Global Anglophone Studies Director FRANCISCO DELGADO, Borough of Manhattan Community College–CUNY, CAITY Caucus President and Representative JULIA TITUS, Yale University Comparative Literature Director ABBY BARDI, Prince George’s Community College Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing Director KATHLEEN KASTEN-MUTKUS, Stony Brook University–SUNY Cultural Studies and Media Studies Director JENNIFER MDURVWA, University at Buffalo Diversity Caucus President OLIVIER LEBLOND, University of North Georgia French and Francophone Studies Director CHARLES VANNETTE, University of New Hampshire German Studies Director VICTORIA L. KETZ, La Salle University Hispanic and Lusophone Studies Director DANA GAVIN, Old Dominion University Graduate Student Caucus Representative TIZIANO CHERUBINI, Baylor University Italian Studies Director JINA LEE, Westchester Community College–SUNY Professionalization and Pedagogy Director JUSTINE DYMOND, Springfield College Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Director

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MLS 51.1 & 2 contents

Articles A Desert Willow Among the Shopping Carts: Wonder and the Sublime in Susan Briante’s The Market Wonders Meagan K. Wilson


Thoreau’s Antislavery Poetry Michael R. Schrimper


Gothic Marxism: Commodifying the Dead in Sheridan LeFanu’s Uncle Silas Anthony Gomez III


Fiction & Poetry Hibah Shabkhez: Lost Cause They Told Me to Make My Will Profession & Pedagogy The Power of Choice: Fostering Student Agency through Interactive Exchanges and Community Collaborations Ana Fonseca Conboy and Katharine Harrington Reviews Dewey W. Hall and Jillmarie Murphy, eds. Gendered Ecologies: New Materialist Interpretations of Women Writers in the Long Nineteenth Century J. Andrew Hubbell Jojo Moyes. The Giver of Stars Claire Marrone NeMLA Notes: On the 53rd Annual Convention Theme From the President Bernadette Wegenstein

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does it just seem dirty that’s what you think of in the city you don’t refuse to breathe do you

(Frank O’Hara, “Song”)

Susan Briante’s third poetry collection, The Market Wonders (2016), exposes the ways in which “the Dow touches everything: the taste of our water, color of our sky, torque of our engines” (4). It reveals how the market’s influence so saturates our lives as to seem inescapably powerful. As with Frank O’Hara’s dirty city, we cannot opt out of the market —if anything, we are just as dirty by virtue of our culpability in the market’s operations. However, just as O’Hara remarks, “you don’t refuse to breathe do you,” Briante’s poems don’t refuse to engage with capital but rather offer alternative ways of living and finding value within the market. Insisting that “to submit to another’s accounting is to surrender is to default” (TMW 22), Briante presents an array of tactics that resist giving in to market determinations. Cost-benefit analyses become evident not only in one’s income and assets, but in everything from social privilege and mobility, to one’s personal safety, to what kind of trees grow in parking lots. Particularly concerned with ways in which market speculation impacts the wellbeing of children, The Market Wonders positions what should be the simplicity and innocence of childhood against the market’s relentless calculations: The market scans my child, calculates pecuniary value. Parents register and respond often seeking out places (the “good” neighborhood or private school) where a child’s value is high enough in relation to the needs of others to make them relatively safe (TMW 89) After calculating a child’s potential worth based on their parents’ value, as well as their race and gender, the market determines if that child’s life is worth further investment and protection:

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A police officer flaunts his gun and in the amount of time your child is afforded to pull their hand from their pocket you can learn their market value. (TMW 100) Through her blunt connections of the language of finance to the safety and growth of children, Briante makes clear that so much of what we construe as “the everyday” is designed by and subject to market desires, no matter how much we wish it were autonomous from them. However, rather than marvel at the power of the market’s ability to wield such control, her intention is to unsettle that relationship to the market. Exposing “as false and pernicious the mystification of capitalist instantiations of value” (TMW 98), The Market Wonders desublimates capital and shows its failure to adequately account for all members of society, denying the market the pleasure of its own largesse, instead leaving it to wonder about its legacy. In “Mother is Marxist,” Briante insists that: The work of all mothers is not equal, although the goal to challenge market valuations may be the same. The market exploits our attachments, makes its violent calculations. The market, mothers, divides and divides us. And someone makes money makes money makes money makes money. I want to slur the equations. (TMW 101) How, then, does this book of poetry frustrate the market’s calculations, offering an alternative

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narrative to that of profiting from neglect and division? What can poetry and motherhood do to challenge a market that appears unbounded in its power to bestow privilege onto the course of one’s life? They respond by manipulating the language of finance, performing a reality that runs concurrent with and in opposition to capital’s false sublime. The unbounded nature of finance becomes, in these poems, severely limiting. Speculation’s caution becomes opportunity for possibility. To date, Briante’s work has received little critical attention. Drawing on the burgeoning tradition of poetics to offer itself up as resistance to systems of domination and control, The Market Wonders offers an incisive critique of financialization in the context of persistent social inequalities. By opening up a confessional-style lyric to serve as social critique rather than personal expression, and by countering that lyric with an allegorical representation of “the Market,” Briante’s work counters habitual submission to market forces with small moments of resistance outside the market’s interest. In what follows, I will walk through how the tactics Briante employs in The Market Wonders serve as economic commentary through a poetics of reappropriation, akin to Michel de Certeau’s bricolage, or “making do.” Peeling off the price tags stuck to her child, her home, and her labor, Briante’s poems shift the objects of mystification from the sublime workings of capital to the small wonders revealed by making do with available materials, disrupting the ability of capital to determine people’s futures.

The Market Wonders is divided into several sections, each one approaching the issue of market control in a different way. The opening section, “Toward a Poetics of the Dow,” lays the groundwork for the rest of the book by positioning poetry against the

market and incorporating key texts from the canon of modern and contemporary poetry. Immediately upon entering the poem, the reader is greeted with a reference to John Ashbery and text from Lyn Hejinian’s “The Rejection of Closure” as it relates to Wall Street trading: Every day has a number attached to it. Great additions, subtractions. This is not just an aesthetic problem (see Ashbery). There is a “natural impulse toward the boundedness of closure.” The bell rings, trading stops. But the world is “unfinished” (Hejinian). Both the rivers and their banks are moving. The poem remains incomplete. The trading day long over. (TMW 3) Contrasting the unfinished nature of the world and of poetry with the impulse toward closure begins the work of loosening the grip of finance on our experience of the world. As the stock market closes each evening, the poem keeps going. This is the beginning point of what we might call Briante’s alternative “practice of everyday life,” drawing on de Certeau’s monograph of the same title. Poetry becomes part of that practice, poaching value from the market, dismantling the feeling of supremacy it finds through its speculations. The Market Wonders enacts what de Certeau calls tactics: “everyday practices that produce without capitalizing” (de Certeau xx) as a means to uncover and “make use” of the market’s strategies for domination. Bricolage, re-composing from available materials, represents for de Certeau the way in which “[e]veryday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of others” (xii). For The Market Wonders, bricolage takes on the form of chance and the collaging of textual allusions—from the Dow Jones average to Walt Whitman, in addition to “poaching”

the language of capital for service in these poems. For de Certeau, the poaching involved with bricolage allows consumers to perform “ingenious ways in which the weak make use of the strong, thus lend[ing] a political dimension to everyday practices” (de Certeau xvii). What this means for Briante’s work is that both the practices of poetry and of everyday life allow her to slip, even if in small ways, from the totality of market forces, in the sense that they continually reorganize “a network of relations” through “making do (bricolage), and a re-use of marketing structures” (de Certeau xv). That network is re-organized when the market’s language is appropriated for these poems. Dow and Tao overlap; the labor of work meets the labor of motherhood; the risk-averse speculation of futures trading collides with the openly speculative nature of aleatory poetics. While it may seem like mere conceit to capitalize on the language of money, these poems bring themselves into the alternative network of relations found in poetry. Invoking some of poetry’s luminaries allows Briante to immediately assert an alternative to operating under the controlling influence of capital. By recombining its determinate mathematics into open texts, she embraces indeterminacy and disruption. Not even poetry wants to suddenly find itself in the position of a dominant social force, so it allows itself to operate on the margins of the market’s interests. Briante writes, “When you make the poem, you can hear the swish of dollars / washing down the sewer line, second by second, you can hear the stock ticker / ticking away” (TMW 7). At the same time, Briante understands that as consumers—for poets are still consumers, and poetry still consumable—poets, marginal though they are, are more able representatives of everyday life than so many legislators and financiers. In a move that is at once critical and comic, Briante takes a jab at the Citizens United ruling and she calls to

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mind Percy Bysshe Shelley’s claim that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”: Now corporations have the same rights as people. Why can’t poems? I nominate Robert Duncan’s “Poem Beginning with a Line from Pindar” for president, Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You” for chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Gwendolyn Brooks’ “In Montgomery” for attorney general —although the House will not approve it. (TMW 6) “[T]hough the House will not approve it” signals the reader that acting legislators, not the unacknowledged ones, do not fairly or equally represent their constituents by welcoming in people who do. Briante’s poems allow everything and everyone in. Beyond the direct references to important poets, Briante more subtly alludes to contemporary works of documentary poetry that uncover the ecologies of both capitalism and poetics: A poem moves as does the Dow influenced by a variety of factors and events: mergers, oil spills, revolutions, suffering. … I like poems that go to prisons and coal mining towns. I like poems that act as archive or a view to Elizabeth Street. I admire circuitry and cosmology. I write with a power industry dictionary on the bookshelf behind my desk, a copy of the King James, a guide to Texas trees. (TMW 4) Within this stanza we find allusions to C.D. Wright’s

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One Big Self, Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary, and James Schuyler’s “An East Window on Elizabeth Street.” Each of these poets rejects the idea of a master narrative in favor of revealing the juxtapositions, connections, and ruptures in the fabric of lived experience. One might recall Juliana Spahr’s oft-cited criticism that environmentally oriented poetry tends to “show the beautiful bird but not so often the bulldozer off to the side that was destroying the bird’s habitat” (Spahr 69) when Briante declares that this “poetic strives toward total awareness, incessant / recording” (TMW 4) in order to dig into the “deep laws” that govern our lives. The Market Wonders, to be sure, reveals the market’s interest in the proverbial bird as well as its scant regard for how that bird will feed its young. Alluding to these poets and their works allows Briante to develop a “network of relations” that exists on the periphery of the market, its values often working in direct opposition to a neoliberal sublime. Calling on yet another poetic forebear, Briante quotes Charles Olson: “no event/is not penetrated, in intersection or collision with, an eternal/event” (TMW 5). Briante updates this claim, and in so doing offers something of a thesis statement for The Market Wonders: “no event is not penetrated, in intersection or collision with, the stock market” (TMW 5). If there is no event beyond the reach of the market’s unimaginable scope, Briante is faced with the task of re-valuing those events that financialization finds too risky for investment. “The poet—like the trash tree—uses all of it,” she writes, performing a bricolage in which everything—both the market’s worthy and unworthy—go into the poem (4). Incorporating the banal and the quotidian into the poem allows Briante to show us that “any everyday practices (talking, reading, moving about, shopping, cooking, etc.) are tactical in character,” as de Certeau writes. They are “clever tricks” and “joyful discoveries” (de Certeau xix). They are

sources of wonder, instigated by allowing risk into both life and the poem. Because risk and indeterminacy carry different implications when moved from the context of finance to that of poetics, Briante’s project exploits poetry’s ability to thrive in uncertainty and language’s slippery nature. Playing on the market’s aversion to risk, Briante states that “[t]he poem is a high-risk investment, a long-term commitment. Like a big dirty city, it should make you feel / a little uncomfortable” (4), opening both a commentary on the reach of finance and an argument for poetry’s ability to slip free of it. “Toward a Poetics of the Dow” also introduces readers to the theme of awareness and meditation through its punning on the Tao as universal order or “the way.” Here, Briante starts to mix together seemingly unrelated motifs, running landscaping, the stock market, and poetry together into heterogeneous stanzas which, despite their potential to disorient, perform their own claims: Ravenous as black walnut tree, roots sucking at the sewer line, the Dow touches everything: the taste of our water, color of our sky, torque of our engines. It is February 10, 10:15 in the morning, the Dow at 12203 is rising. The poet—like the trash tree—uses all of it. (TMW 4) Attempting to open her poems up to the polysemous nature of the world by dwelling in the unknown, Briante treats them as meditative opportunities, allowing information to enter the poems without judgment or too much control: “Poems should evidence some degree of control, but poets should be a little vola- / tile” (TMW 4), rather than complacent. Volatility—akin to volatility on the market—argues that there is no pre-determined path or, if there is, it is not dictated by stock trading. Open to chance and indeterminacy, poetry can give

us “Not a ball and chain of cause and effect, but a tendency toward pattern, implication, investigations of grief and ecstasy” (TMW 8) that holds capital accountable for “a story of national precarity” (TMW 21). Following up on “Toward a Poetics of the Dow,” Briante composed a series of poems that utilize the Dow Jones Industrial Average as poetic procedure, using the closing number of a given day’s trade as a set of coordinates by which to source language for her poems. Aleatory practices allow Briante— and so many of the poets she cites—to welcome indeterminacy and productive contingency. In her notes to The Market Wonders, Briante writes: I let that closing number randomly guide me to texts: plugging it into Project Gutenberg, Bartlett’s quotations, online versions of Paradise Lost and Leaves of Grass as well as various search engines. I allowed those texts to exert their influence over a series of poems … in order to formally mimic the way the closing number of the Dow exerts an influence over our lived experience. (n.p.) By allowing the Dow to serve as a guide into the unknown, not as a determining force, it is repurposed as a means of discovery. The networks and connections that arise between texts and events occur serendipitously, rather than as the product of calculation. Take for example the poem “October 1—The Dow Closes Down 9509,” which employs the Dow average numerologically, using the results to interpret a dream: 9+5+0+9=23 2+3=5 5=freedom, adaptability, unpredictable travel, abuse of the senses. (TMW 13) Including numbers in poems, as evidence of a larger

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calculus of daily life, has part of its origin in Muriel Rukeyser’s seminal work, The Book of the Dead (1938). The influence of Rukeyser on The Market Wonders is significant. Chronicling the events of the 1930 Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, The Book of the Dead investigates how, during the construction of a 3-mile tunnel for a hydroelectric power plant, workers were additionally instructed to mine silica without protective breathing equipment. Hundreds of workers, the majority of them poor and black with little access to health care, died of silicosis. The Book of the Dead pries into the negligence of the Union Carbide company, and Rukeyser documents how the company’s stocks rose even as its workers suffered: A dam for monument was what they hammered home. Blasted, and stocks went up; insured the base, and limousines wrote their own graphs upon roadbed and lifeline. (Rukeyser 107) In the middle of “The Dam,” Rukeyser includes a segment of Union Carbide stock ticker.

(Rukeyser 108) Flanking the ticker are lines that hint at the sense of omnipotence found in corporate power over the lives of both man and nature: “The men and the water are never idle, / have definitions” (108), always defined by and at the service of the stockholder.

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“The Dam” also provides an opportunity to address the dynamic between the sublime and wonder that operates within Briante’s poems. In a move similar to Briante’s punning on financial language—speculation, labor, futures—Rukeyser finds an opportunity in the context of the hydroelectric dam to remind us of the power imbalance between corporation—here represented by the dam—and laborer: Collecting eternally power. Spender of power, torn, never can be killed, speeded in filaments, million, its power can rest and rise forever, wait and be flexible. Be born again. ………………………… It changes. It does not die. (Rukeyser 109) Appearing eternal and omnipotent, the corporation seems, in contemporary parlance, too big to fail. Despite this, poets like Rukeyser and Briante know that it is possible to “strike against history” and “[t]o fight the companies to make somehow a future” (Rukeyser 121, 75). It is done by revealing the gaps that financial speculation leaves in history, finding opportunities to transform the material of “the dominant cultural economy in order to adapt it to [consumers’] own interests and their own rules” (de Certeau xiv). In the case of an economy that relies on speculation, demystifying its mathematics and exposing them as corrupt becomes an act of correcting finance’s selective history. For Rukeyser, this meant exposing labor practices that exploited the health of workers. For Briante, this means exposing the ways in which capital prevents poor children from having the same opportunities to grow and realize their own futures as do the wealthy. Joshua Clover, discussing the

relationship of money to history, writes that “history flows fundamentally from the future into the past, that the future is not basically a product of the past” and “[t]he market is a way of writing history” (Clover 15, 17). Market speculations use the future to write the past, deliberately discounting who and what it finds expendable in its drive toward limitless gain, such as historically poor communities deemed too risky for investment. This manipulation of time “presents the super personification of capital as if it were a humanist tale of self-actualization transcending the temporal,” as David Rambo writes (90), elevating the market over the more “natural” movement of daily life. Those without the power to “self-actualize,” reading the market and taking advantage of it in ways that build one’s financial portfolio, are left instead to make the best of their situations. Both Briante and Rukeyser reveal the systemic problem of social immobility, caused by a failure of market valuations to look beyond historical patterns of wealth distribution and allowing generational poverty to persist by failing to invest in the poor. In the concluding section of The Market Wonders, “Mother is Marxist,” this systemic failure emerges most acutely in the funding of school districts: Underfunded public schools show their cinder block, reveal their district paint purchased from the lowest bidder, can’t hide their too many desks, their too tired, their underpaid. You see it in their lunch trays. Private schools flaunt their walls of windows, famous architect library, flagstone pathways, full-time counselor. In such places, children learn to read their market value. (TMW 99)

Although written in long prose-like lines, Briante’s formal decisions cue the reader to the inequalities built into the most formative period of a child’s life. The underfunded schools have no choice but to focus on the barest of material realities, the very construction of their places of learning. The cinder block, paint, desks, and lunch trays pile up on the fact of underpaid teachers and staff, the stanza looking as though it might tip, a top-heavy structure built on shaky ground. Contrast this to the stanza about private schools, which presents itself as more balanced formally, with the optimism of “pathways” and supportive personnel holding it up. Encouraged by the influx of capital, wealthier schools here are pictured as gateways to success and power. Outwardlooking through picture windows that protect them from the harsher realities of life, one might experience a feeling of sublimity in the assurance of their dominance over the future. To use Kant’s words, the sublime “gives us the courage [to believe] that we could be a match for nature’s seeming omnipotence” (120). The fear commonly involved with the sublime is aroused when we encounter the might of nature, but the pleasurable aspect of the sublime is knowing that nature’s might is no match for the unboundedness of reason, “what is large beyond all comparison” (Kant 104). Recalling Briante’s Poetics of the Dow, we can think about capital as having its tendrils in all areas of daily life: “the Dow touches everything” (TMW 4). In a very basic sense, the market’s scale, combined with its ability to “predict” the future through manipulating “value” certainly makes it seem vast beyond comprehension. Against the scale of the market, “everything else is small,” creating the feeling that the market represents a “supersensible power” (Kant 105, 106). We cannot, simply put, comprehend the market, nor “take it in in one intuition” (Kant 108). As a counterexample to this attitude of dominance and security, students in the poorer schools have

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no such luxury and must make do with what they have, wondering beyond their limiting conditions to create their futures on their own terms and values. As The Market Wonders moves from “Towards a Poetics of the Dow” to “The Market is a Parasite that Looks Like a Nest,” the market’s disconnection from the materiality of daily life becomes clear, as does wonder’s relationship to the sublime. Wonder, as we shall see, is intimately connected with breaking patterns of thinking and perceiving, redirecting a divinely oriented sense of interest in the quotidian as artistically and politically significant.

Briante pushes the demystification of capital to an extreme when she creates an allegorical figure for the Market, a stand-in for neoliberal ideology dropped into the everyday life of a suburbandwelling parent. Spinning off the fallacy that “corporations are people,” Briante portrays the Market as grotesque, pitiable, and unnervingly sympathetic, a contradictory mixture of predatory opportunism and anxiety. Even the Market, secure though he is in his finances, fails to find significant meaning in his situation, stuck as he is in a mode of thinking predicated on capital. The Market finds its origins in a poem from Briante’s 2011 collection Utopia Minus. The Market’s appearance, though brief in Utopia Minus, primes our awareness of the collection’s scrutiny of the market’s aggressive presence in our lives. In “The End of Another Creature,” a short stanza in the center of a prose poem draws attention from the magnolia trees and migrating butterflies of fading summer and re-focuses it on the activities of the Market: The Market migrates; the Market scatters across the Metroplex. The Market dreams my carcass onto the highway, groans 20 Modern Language Studies 51.1 & 2

a few blocks deeper into my neighborhood. (UM 3) Everything is at risk around this restless Market. Briante carries this idea forward into The Market Wonders, developing the Market into a middleaged burnout (in the spirit of, say, Rabbit Angstrom) waxing nostalgically and contemplating his mortality:1 The Market wonders where the soul goes, decides that God must be a cripple to make the rest of us feel whole, remembers a trip to Mexico when he was just out of college. O the beggars in clown paint! O the girl he never wrote! (TMW 30) The Market’s trite concerns with the afterlife reveal a greater concern with his desire to hold onto an ideal: that of ease, material comfort, and pleasure, even as others suffer. The Market’s spring break reverie contrasts with the boredom he experiences with the realities of a workaday life. Simply put, the Market is depressed: The Market always felt so heavy by the sea, weighted by a thousand sacks of coins impossible to sort, to let go without hemorrhage, to lighten would be to dissolve not like an ocean against a horizon but to sink ……………………….. the Market worries he is nothing but a pile of stones when he feels so much inside of him slipping in and out of place (TMW 33)

Humanizing the Market by converting a market downturn into an existential funk that sours the daily experiences of going to work and of raising children shows the mismatch between financial systems of “value” and those not determined by money. Briante’s personification of the Market presents a darkly comic satire on the market’s inability to reconcile its desire for limitless growth with the banalities of home life. While “the Market wonders where the soul goes” (TMW 30), disengaged from his day-to-day, Briante reminds us that “the world is ‘unfinished’” (TMW 3). Indeterminacy and surprise take the place of a proscriptive market, with “a little spark of mica in a field of sand” (TMW 89) showing us that there is still room for wonder in the everyday, moments of alternative seeing and thinking. It takes work, however, to see and experience wonder, when so much of life is taken up by the drone of making money. As Briante writes in the ticker for “May 10—July 23,” “in Europe men raised cathedrals 144 cubits / to bring the dimensions of heaven to earth, numbers taken literally like pills” (TMW 40-41). In this repetition of prophecy, spell, and speculation finding realization in the physical world, The Market Wonders continues to needle at how this witchcraft is anything but magic, just a way in which “every system patterns” (TMW 45). Breaking patterns, however, to allow in “noise, interference, outliers, error” (TMW 9) creates the kind of tactical opportunities de Certeau writes about. Wonder, in other words, is the tactical outcome of seizing opportunity from the sublime strategy of the market, its “calculus of force-relationships … isolated from an ‘environment’” (de Certeau xix). Reconnecting with one’s physical, daily world allows consumers to make that world habitable. The sheer difficulty the Market experiences with this embodiment betrays his ideology: money, for the Market, is everything. The burden of finance

the Market carries around—those sacks of coins, that pile of stones—reminds readers of the desire Briante’s speaker expresses to teach her daughter “to shed numbers like a skin” (96). Any wonder the Market might experience is immediately tied back to either its financial worth or the Market’s role in making the event happen. It is these moments that trigger the sense of the sublime. Midway through The Market Wonders, the reader finds the Market looking down from an airplane over an industrial landscape and experiencing a sublime feeling: dust lake must be manmade, sky hazed, first day of summer, patchwork of earth grown into a field of cloud, no horizon to be seen and this terror | beauty of something that has no limits (TMW 50) The Market, musing on the limitlessness of the manmade, reveling in this picturesque industrial landscape, embodies what Keats would refer to as “the egotistical sublime,” the solitary ego looming at a distance over nature and feeling the might of his own comparatively large genius. It is here that the polysemy of The Market Wonders becomes most crucial: we might approach the market as a force of wonder, something sublime in its lack of horizon, but Briante instead catches the Market in a state of astonishment. He is, of course, marveling at his ability to re-form nature to suit the desires of industry. Distanced from the material conditions that comprise the market and trading only in abstractions, the market can take on the illusion of an indeterminate, unimaginable force. By giving the Market an achy body and a disposition prone to boredom, Briante shows what Terry Eagleton refers to as the “phantasmal body” of capital (200), “at once an orgy of such anarchic desire and the

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rein of a supremely bodiless reason” (207). We find this disconnection between body and reason in the Market’s struggle to become “present” in the day-to-day. The Market’s difficulty is symptomatic of what Eagleton calls, channeling Marx, the “monstrous sublimity” of money: an infinitely spawning signifier which has severed all relation with the real, a fantastical idealism which blots out specific value as surely as those more conventional figures of sublimity—the raging ocean, the mountain crags—engulf all particular identities in their unbounded expanse. The sublime, for Marx as for Kant, is Das Unform: the formless or monstrous. (212-213) The point here is not to recount at length theories of the sublime or even to overcomplicate the description of capital as “sublime,” but rather to demonstrate the particular ideology of a force that perceives itself as boundless and unrepresentable. However, Briante shows us that no matter how much it performs the sublime, financialization is neither “absolutely large” nor “too big to fail.” Comprised of tiny, individual units, events, and people, the market is nothing more than an unwieldy collage of material parts, some valued more highly than others. Briante, like Rukeyser, starts to take that collage apart, looking more closely at the devalued pieces and re-assembling them. By doing so, they disprove the market’s masquerade as infallible logician and judge. We begin to find enlightenment not in the supremacy of reason, but in the wonder of the everyday. Running along the bottom of the pages of Briante’s Dow poems is a “ticker” reminiscent of the one that appears in Rukeyser’s “The Dam.” Cutting across multiple pages and disrupting the linearity of the book, the ticker offers one

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materialization of how readability and prediction are illusory at best. The ticker addresses the issue of numbers head-on, in a “litany of calculations” (TMW 14), collaging together passages from Revelations, de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, and the “Assets and Opportunity Scorecard.” Even the very titles of these three texts begin to show the awkward fit between a “prophetic” market and daily reality. Through bricolage, these three texts work together to reveal how numbers bore their way into everyday life—“(my god my 401K my billfold)” (TMW 19)—and how “a spell like a market algorithm changes fate” (TMW 38). Turning briefly to “Assets and Opportunity Scorecard,” a publication released by the Center for Economic Development that details financial insecurity in the United States, the “fate” of financial precarity becomes clear. Of particular interest to The Market Wonders is the way in which “[h]istorical legacies, such as racism or investment (or disinvestment) in residents, in some states can also set up entire generations to succeed or fail” (Brooks and Wiedrich 5). The 25 pages of colorful infographics that follow in the “score card” attempt to appeal to legislators to “join the fight to rebuild financial security and prosperity in America,” but a few years of hindsight on this 2013 document do not inspire confidence. As an alternative to unresponsive governance, the “legislation” of poetry, to recall Shelley’s term, reminds us of the tactics families and individuals must use to survive the stagnation and denial of opportunity. Refusing to see capital as sublime, as an object of astonishment, renders it vulnerable to change. Some of these tactics involve cobbling together a lifestyle that may provide that opportunity for one’s children. One of the through-lines of “Mother is Marxist” is “the two-bedroom house on a busy street on the fringes of a ‘good’ neighborhood in Dallas,” purchased because the poem’s speaker (tacitly

understood to be Briante herself) and her husband “were trying to have a baby and the neighborhood had the best public elementary school as well as two Montessori charter schools” (TMW 88). These actions, for some people, come with significant costs: We purchased the house through the Obama tax credit program for first-time homebuyers, a response to the economic crisis of 2008 and the housing market crash. Because we could not afford to put 20 percent down, we had two mortgages, the second of which included a balloon payment. (TMW 88) Putting oneself deeply into debt in order to ensure a “good” education for one’s child is one reminder of what Rob Nixon terms “slow violence,” in the sense that failure to adequately support people as children leads to “a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all” (Nixon 2). Although The Market Wonders also addresses more overt, spectacular violence, that violence is presented as the next step of this devaluation—a person with limited earning potential as an adult is considered riskier and less worthy of investment as a child, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of poverty. As Nixon puts it, “[I]t is those people lacking resources who are the principal casualties of slow violence. Their unseen poverty is compounded by the invisibility of the slow violence that permeates so many of their lives … exacerbating the vulnerability of those whom Kevin Bale, in another context, has called ‘disposable people’” (4). Projects like Briante’s and Rukeyser’s take the step to make that systemic violence visible, though the Market does not want to see it. Responding directly to the need for spectacle, Briante’s personification of the Market allows her to concretize this slow, subtle violence:

Can you imagine smell the Market picking up his your daughter from school in its teeth dragging parts of her body across a playground landscape touching everything he it touches as if it were a screen? See how reflective the glass, how he is an it is a we. (TMW 32) The unspoken fear of the market’s control materializes here in this graphic moment of bloodthirst. It also reminds us that we, as consumers, are the market, culpable in the violence that it perpetrates. In the middle of the ticker running along the bottom of the “October 8—December 19” section of The Market Wonders, which addresses the impositions of patterns, of branding, and of measuring worth, Briante draws direct parallels to Rukeyser’s work. Instead of focusing on the exploitation of miners, however, Briante brings in the recurrence of garment factory fires—notably, the 2012 fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed over 100 people, mostly women and minors (Bajaj). This section of the ticker digs into the issue of one’s culpability within the market’s operations. It is a significant passage, which I quote at length. Each couplet runs across the bottom of one page: there is a way/no way to be absent from the system Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, I put some of my life, my love, in a space between numbers, between the values against which they are judged, I have set a ticker (tick, tick, tick) like Muriel Rukeyser does in “The Book of the Dead,” numbers kill and crowd, drive and ascend stick like nettles, articles 23

like burrs on my skirt sewn by some teenage girls in a foreign country with only the language of numbers, a mobile language of computations and rationalities that belong to the corporation between us, my numerical vision makes me: prophet, addict, lonely, my genre is national hunger we witness the advent of the number…woven tight like fabric with neither rips nor darned patches (TMW 70-73) This passage collages together the tragedy of garment factory fires with the dedication page to de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, in which he dedicates the book to “the ordinary man … a common hero” (n.p.). Writing of the common man as an “oracle whose voice is almost indistinguishable from the rumble of history,” de Certeau positions ordinary people as “parts taken for the whole”(n.p.) Likewise, systemic poverty is taken as a rationalization to avoid risky investment, perpetrating that poverty. “[T]he epoch of the name,” de Certeau writes, has given way to: the advent of the number … a flexible and continuous mass, woven tight like a fabric with neither rips nor darned patches, a multitude of quantified heroes who lose names and faces as they become the ciphered river of the streets, a mobile language of computations and rationalities that belong to no one. (n.p.) If one becomes anonymous within the fabric “of computations and rationalities,” and there is no way to be absent from a system, one must learn to either adapt to the system or adapt it to one’s own needs.

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Remembering that “[b]oth the rivers and their banks are moving” (TMW 3), combined with the subtle hopefulness that “there is a way … to be absent from the system,” in the ticker cited above, Briante offers small moments of disruption, a refusal to submit to the market’s logics. This ability to resist is, to a large degree, a matter of social privilege—as Briante writes later, in “Mother is Marxist,” “I feel my depressed value as a woman / as well as my surplus value as a white ethnic” (TMW 92). This “surplus value” translates into social mobility, which is virtually cancelled out by her “depressed value.” As an alternative to merely adopting an accepted social value, Briante opts to invest in the spaces between values—making do with the existing system as well as what it devalues or ignores. Who, or what, occupies the gaps in market calculations? What are the decimals between the whole numbers? In the section of ticker cited above, the gaps are occupied by garment factory workers. Over the remainder of The Market Wonders, the gaps are occupied by children, minorities, gender-nonconforming individuals, women, and the poor. These spaces are also occupied by the material conditions of daily life, as distinct from the abstraction of money that ought to be tied to them. Briante’s speaker claims, “I want to teach my child to shed numbers like a skin in the summer, in the shim- / mering heat of the ever-warming summer” (TMW 96), trying to make do with the situation by raising a child with a set of values that do not revolve around money. This sets up a new kind of speculative practice, opening a child’s future to possibilities outside of acting as an anonymous, “quantified hero.” To talk about the “space between numbers” (TMW 70) is to point out the blind spots in the market’s vision that a “consumer,” to use de Certeau’s word, might tactically exploit. It is to find a burr stuck in the fabric. Or, to quote Briante, it is to recognize the emergence of wonder when “in a

cornfield the violet is weed” (31). In a field intended for the market, the violet breaks through, free of financial value. If part of Briante’s tactic is to find the unpredictable occurrences—the burrs and violets—in the market’s tightly woven system, then it is found in what the market perceives as unwanted, as weedy, or as too risky or too small to turn a profit. There is, of course, a market for violets, but not when they grow in the middle of a cash crop. Wonder, here, represents the constant slippage between the market and the poet-consumer, who must constantly wait for opportunistic moments in which to “produce without capitalizing” (de Certeau xx). Should a larger market for violets than for corn open up, the surprise of the flower would be rendered null. Genevieve Lloyd’s Reclaiming Wonder: After the Sublime explains that wonder is paradoxical, at once “associated with escapist retreat into the fantastic” and the means by which we can inquire into “everyday things” (Lloyd 2, 3). This versatility of wonder, crucially, can “shake us into a fresh perception of what is at stake in cultural assumptions and expectations that we have come to regard as normal” (3), by allowing us to both find surprise in the everyday and to imagine alternative futures. Briante’s personification of the Market allows us to retreat into the fiction of the Market walking his granddaughter to school, just as it reveals that as consumers who constitute the market, there is nothing fictional about it. Beyond the realization that the market “touches everything” is the idea that wonder can spark a sense of intellectual significance, and even pleasure, in the banal and devalued, allowing us to break free—if only mentally—of capital’s role as arbiter of economic fate. As distinct from the sublime, wonder represents disruption, while the sublime represents stability, constancy, and power. Indeed, there is something passive about wonder and about the openness needed to experience it. As Lloyd writes:

curiosity lacks the strength and persistence necessary to make it of itself a significant emotion. It involves a trivial form of mental agitation – a mere ripple of surprise – in comparison with the state of astonishment produced by what is sublime. (Lloyd 55) Rather, then, than experiencing the overwhelming astonishment of the sublime in which, as Edmund Burke theorized, “The mind is so entirely filled with its object that it cannot entertain any other” (qtd. in Lloyd 59), wonder’s “ripple of surprise” disrupts the mind’s singular occupation with the horror and pleasure of the sublime. To recall the violet growing in the middle of the cornfield, the unwanted purple flower represents a small surprise, a momentary disruption of the market’s monocultural plan. The innocence of childhood, throughout this book, reinforces disruption. When the Market sighs at his daughter’s innocent questioning—“What does pink and yellow make?” and “What does chocolate and cookies make?”—the Market wonders, “Why does anyone have to make anything?” (32). This is the essential question for The Market Wonders, as it engages in the question of poeisis and the value of making poetry, rather than of making money. “The poet,” writes Briante, “wants to remind the Dow that the bird has something to teach it about falling and song” (TMW 4), and what the reader finds in The Market Wonders is a shift in significance from the marketable spectacle—a cliché spring break holiday—to the poem’s ability to teach openness and patience: the poem tells you to open like a bank account stand like seedling against a granite sky the black walnut tree says patience ……………..

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the tree circulates its own currency and does not claim the unseen hand belongs to god (TMW 37) Making poetry, in other words, creates tactical opportunities for subjects to use the same language as capital: “the tree circulates / its own currency” as a means to expose the normalization of the market’s saturation in daily life. Resisting the temptation to treat capital and the Market as the ultimate arbiters of logic allows The Market Wonders to make and sustain the claim that “the mind only carries you so far” (TMW 37). Allowing the mind —and the poem—to rid itself of the concept that there is a determinate path, “another way, a [a] reason / in the cosmic order to necessitate human existence” (TMW 45) fosters stronger connection with the material conditions of lived experience. If “Mother is Marxist,” it is because she more carefully weighs these conditions against the financial superstructure. The kind of “indeterminacy” the Market engages in shuts down the potential for curiosity, excitement, and change: My mind stuck in its gears makes it impossible to read a trace of light on the patio where the dog finds the tiles cold. (TMW 46) The lesson of The Market Wonders is to welcome a speculative indeterminacy, a sense of wonder in the trace of light, without expecting a return on that attention’s investment. The trace of light on the patio is not read here in terms of value. One could, surely, calculate the financial value of a sunny window, the privilege of a tile patio, or the luxury of keeping a pet, but this is just “a trace of light,”

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too small for immediate commodification. This is another instance of that tiny ripple of wonder, but the poem’s speaker struggles with the urge to interpret it, too entrenched in market valuations to simply meditate upon its beauty. While the speaker might not know what to do with the information, it still disrupts the mind “stuck in its gears.” Patient, the poem finds openness to the world. In a parallel passage, the Market ponders the limitations of life: “We know nothing but this living … not to go on forever … but a chance to learn something / else, a single breath / beyond this story” (TMW 53). When our worlds are presented as predetermined, we may lose the ability to read beyond what is immediately available. Later in this poem, the Market considers: a book he saw with paint-covered pages paragraph by paragraph erased, ………………….

poem in place of a thick life of prose and no one to teach him how to read it. (TMW 53) While the Market does not express a sense of wonder in this book, it does interrupt his attention, open the briefest moment of indeterminacy. The book with painted pages may refer to Tom Phillips’s A Humument, which is itself a tactical modification of W.H. Mallock’s 1892 book A Human Document. A fragmented narrative with “an undertone of instability,” as Daniel Traister explains, citing moments from Mallock’s text, A Human Document is “‘broken by pages after pages of letters, scraps of poetry, and various other documents’” that act as: “fragments of actual life” characterized by “baffled and crippled sentences,” “abrupt

transitions,” and “odd lapses of grammar.” “Mere nondescript fragments,” they nonetheless add up … to a woman’s “life, and the life of another.” (Traister) What the Market fails to see, caught up in his ideology of prediction and security, is that the open nature of poetry defies a clear set of rules—even if the book in question is not Phillips’s bricolage of Mallock’s already collaged text, the Market fails to realize the lesson. “The lesson of the nest is improvisation,” Briante writes (TMW 82), not reading predicated on fulfilling prophecies and avoiding risk, but improvising on the mere fragments that add up to a life. Briante reminds us that many of these fragments are tiny moments of wonder, itself another repurposed concept, not only because it is so often associated with childhood. One of the “values” of The Market Wonders is its willingness to embrace and re-purpose supposedly defunct aesthetic materials—a childish sense of wonder, yes, but also an unabashed eye for beauty, and the confessional lyric—and to mix them with an innovative poetic sensibility that censures the capitalist urge to use those materials for profit. Put differently, the reader is asked to question why, as Lloyd writes, “Having put aside childish things, we are in our adult lives uncertain what to think about wonder – and about how to think with it” (Lloyd 2). If the strategy of the market is to capture beauty at the moment of its recognition and to brand it, then the tactic of poetry such as Briante’s is to think with wonder, the interruptive moment where love can be “dumb and simple,” and accounting can be “small” (TMW 102, 80). Poetry, by virtue of its low market value, allows those interruptions to occur, shifting the gears—the kinds of attentions—in the reader’s mind. This is precisely what wonder does. As an affective concept, wonder evolved significantly

between antiquity and the present, changing from a feeling of dumbstruck marveling at the unknown to a renewed attentiveness to everyday occasions. Closely associated with the sublime, wonder has retained some of its ties with the marvelous, finding it in the quotidian rather than the divine. This sense of wonder, rather than inspiring pleasure in reason’s abilities, provokes skepticism. Sarah Tindal Kareem, in her book Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Reinvention of Wonder, argues that wonder, as an aesthetic device, serves as a way “to make the familiar seem strange” (3). By drawing attention to the unfixed nature of the world, wonder reveals “how powerfully ingrained such illusions are as well as of the possibility of seeing them as illusions and thereby perceiving, for a moment, not in one’s habitual manner, but rather with wonder” (4). For The Market Wonders, this means showing the flaws in market calculations, which reveals the illusion that the market, though all-encompassing, is all-powerful. Wonder shows the glitches in the system that we do not ordinarily perceive: the Market still naïvely wonders, rather than itself being a source of wonder. In the final section of The Market Wonders, Briante pulls back from the allegory of the Market and shows the material conditions of motherhood without irony. “Value differentiates,” she writes, “Metaphor makes false equations. // When we talk about metaphor we talk about ‘vehicles,’ but metaphor can erase distance” (TMW 101). The Market is more characterization than metaphor, its aloofness showing the ways financialization erases people’s lives and distances itself from daily experience. However, Briante’s more direct treatment of the market’s violence in “Mother is Marxist” shows that aloofness compounds the problem. A failure of financiers and legislators to be present in the world around them, or to act on their own culpability in violence, results in the systemic

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devaluations Briante writes about. Hearing nightly gunshots from their “two-bedroom house on a busy street on the fringes of a ‘good’ neighborhood in Dallas,” Briante’s speaker explains: The gunshots existed as fragments in a storyline that seemed to have no relation to me, a non sequitur, a piece of conversation overheard in a language in which I had no fluency. But those metaphors are wrong. My legislative representatives cannot or will not pass gun control policy, my tax dollars support the purchase of surplus military equipment by police. The white imaginary criminalizes non-white bodies. (TMW 94) Black men, women, and children shot by police are not metaphors, yet the “white imaginary” embodied by legislators and police treat them as abstractions. “Metaphor differentiates.” Because violence against people of color and financial precarity are not anomalous, wonder operates differently in this section than in prior parts of the book. In earlier sections, we are witness to cynical and humorous, yet earnest, treatments of capital’s reach into our daily lives, in which the sublime of the market runs up against the banalities it helped produce: In the PartyStore/PierOne/Target/Kohl’s parking lot, find a desert willow among the shopping carts, walk around it sunwise repeating: I am the avant-garde, I am the avant-garde, I am the avant-garde. (TMW 25) 28 Modern Language Studies 51.1 & 2

Not only is Briante’s presentation of the ubiquity of the strip mall with the same big-box stores humorous, but she ritualizes one’s pilgrimage to this place. More noteworthy, however, are the details Briante chooses to point out: the desert willow, followed by the imperative to “[i]magine a chart of median family incomes / as big as the parking lot,” which signals that this is far from an aristocratic pilgrimage. Completing this ritualistic retail journey is an instance of something that looks like wonder: Among these shopping carts, you fortress, among the plastic bags you affirm: Lo! the light from the desert trees does not speak in numbers, costs us nothing. (TMW 25) This beatific vision of light through the trees appears as a gift from above, from the designers of this retail destination but, as Briante shows us over the remainder of The Market Wonders, none of these moments of awe are cost-free, even if they do inspire wonder in us. Indeed, it is a decidedly middle- and upper-class assumption, despite the common mantra that “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” The kind of shopping center in this poem is typical of relatively wealthy suburban areas, often difficult to travel to by public transportation. Remembering that “no event is not penetrated, in intersection or collision with the stock market,” we must look closer at that which appears free (TMW 5). Merely shopping in the PartyStore/PierOne/Target/Kohl’s complex signals a certain level of affluence. The sunlight does speak in numbers: not just the measure of temperature, but “the shim- / mering heat of the ever-warming summer” (TMW 96) carries within it all of the vehicles sitting in the parking lot, contributing to climate change. It carries within it the capital invested in acreage, construction, landscaping, and labor (possibly

undocumented labor)—reasonably safe investments, given the success of these four businesses. However, even though these moments ultimately fail to break free of market calculations—such is the nature of the avant-garde to be absorbed into the system against which it reacts—the moments of wonder that appear throughout these poems do serve to draw our attention to the fact of their place in market calculations. Wonder, as a way to interrupt perceptual habits, helps us see what we ordinarily take for granted: the social and economic privilege we are born with or without, and how that privilege manifests over the course of one’s life. Given limited opportunities because of underfunded education, a militarized police force, and infrastructure hostile to low-income people, it may be difficult to find “wonder” in capital’s determinations of value. One could say that poetry like Briante’s and Rukeyser’s is significant in that they expose these issues, these “promiscuous relations of value and their violence” (TMW 98). It is not, however, the “issues” that go unseen; police violence and the 2008 financial collapse are not news. What may be news, however, is one’s own participation in those activities, and poetry like Briante’s attempts to compel readers to assume “an attitude of resistance before the market” (TMW 98), conscientiously challenging market valuations, exploitation, and efforts to divide and conquer. Awareness is not enough: I sympathize with the desire to throw a brick through a shop window and steal a television set. But sympathy is never enough. (TMW 103) The desire to throw a brick through the plate glass window of capital’s sublime is not enough to make it happen. Poetry, as a response to this seemingly

unrepresentable scale of the market’s calculus, is one way to resist, using language to co-opt and re-deploy a system that perceives itself limitless and infallible. It tells readers that “crisis really highlights the fundamental irrationality of capital’s self-valorization and the market’s intrinsic unknowability, the essential divergence between value and price, the impossibility of mastery” (Rambo 96). The impossibility of mastery means that the poem— like the world—is unfinished. By taking action to dismantle—even if momentarily—the market’s appearance of sublimity, debunking its limitless indetermination as both highly determined and severely limiting for people’s quality of life, poetry chips away at the market’s ability to control consumers. Incorporating the work of poets who have already taken actions to demystify and desublimate capital allows Briante to widen the network of resistance, refusing the division of the market in favor of a tactical bricolage. Work like Briante’s can trigger action outside of the poems, spurring readers to appeal to legislators and make conscientious spending choices with the knowledge that it is possible “to erase the integers, to move decimals, to point out discrepan- / cies in the ledger, disrupt the protocols of exchange” (TMW 98). In some cases, this might be “the mothers of the victims of police violence march[ing] on Washington, DC” or “when mothers in Central America set their children like paper lanterns / on a breeze” (TMW 98), trying to help their children find a better life. Writing poetry can be an act of social justice, too, refusing participation: “When you make the poem, you can hear the swish of dollars down the sewer line” (TMW 7). The wonder of poetry is in its ability to disrupt, even if quietly, numerical estimations. Different from the sublime, which requires that the subject keep their distance, wonder offers direct encounter with the everyday, material realities of life. One can, if briefly, unsubscribe from capital. But we cannot wholly opt out. articles 29

Through adopting a practice of everyday life that does not turn a blind eye to the systemic realities that contribute to violence and inequality, poetry like Briante’s improvises on “a set of rules,” “on the watch for opportunities that must be seized ‘on the wing’” (de Certeau xxii, xix). Beyond carrying forth the tradition of anti-capitalist poetics, Briante also makes do with the language of finance, turning that language against the market, releasing all speculation from the determinations of finance. Ultimately, Briante’s is an aesthetic inquiry, exploring whether the artificiality of capitalist instantiations of value might be met both with the natural, the simple, and with the counter-artifice of poetic accumulations of attention. She pressures readers to reconsider their relationship to and culpability within the market. In a world in which everything is “cut to fit the financial imagination” (Haiven 3), Briante does not offer poetry up as a way to permanently escape capital, nor as its own sublime affect, but as peripherally operative. As Briante explains in an interview about The Market Wonders, “in the face of an economy that puts so little value on poetry, the act of writing the poem … is an act of resistance towards those values” (Kerutis), challenging both the Market’s and the reader’s relationship to the

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commodified world. By pitting a quiet wonder against the market’s false sublime, Briante’s poems try, as Joan Retallack phrases it in The Poethical Wager, to “disrupt the fatal momentum” of mass culture’s tactic of “deliver[ing] space-time in a continuous drone” (5). These poems, in their willingness to make us feel “a little uncomfortable” (TMW 4), break into our blind spots. On the last page of The Market Wonders, Briante writes, “If we traveled far enough, we could find 1000 children waiting on the border, / they were walking toward us” (107), imploring that we directly encounter the children and families imprisoned on the U.S.-Mexico border, not as abstract figures, but as people caught in the common struggle of trying to escape capital’s foreclosure on their futures. Since Briante published The Market Wonders, those 1000 children have become several thousand. Even if one is not capable of direct action, Briante’s poems remind us that even the ability to find wonder in the day-to-day is an act of resistance. Noting the beauty of the fiscally insignificant—an incongruous violet, a glimmer of mica, or a patch of sunlight—without trying to limit or capitalize on it, keeps the future open to more imaginative speculation: “to submit to another’s accounting is to surrender is to default” (TMW 22).


recent Economist article unknowingly sums up the Market with remarkable accuracy: “Looking A for meaning in financial markets is like looking for patterns in a violent sea … Prices reflect a mix of emotion, biases and cold-eyed calculation. Yet taken together markets express something about both the mood of investors and the temper of the times. The most commonly ascribed signal is complacency. Dangers are often ignored until too late. However, the dominant mood in markets today, as it has been for much of the past decade, is not complacency but anxiety” (“Markets in an Age of Anxiety,” 17 Aug 2019).

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WORKS CITED Bajaj, Vikas. “Fatal Fire in Bangladesh Highlights the Dangers Facing Garment Workers.” The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2012, Accessed 10 Nov. 2019. Briante, Susan. Utopia Minus. Ahsahta Press, 2011. Briante, Susan. The Market Wonders. Ahsahta Press, 2016. Brooks, Jennifer, and Kasey Wiedrich. “Assets & Opportunity Scorecard: Living on the Edge: Financial Insecurity and Policies to Rebuild Prosperity in America.” Democracy Collaborative, 2013, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019. Clover, Joshua. “Retcon: Value and Temporality in Poetics.” Representations, vol. 126, no. 1, Spring 2014, pp. 9-30. de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall, U of California P, 1984. Eagleton, Terry. “The Marxist Sublime.” The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Blackwell Publishers, 1990, pp. 196-233. Haiven, Max. Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life. Palgrave, 2014. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar, Hackett Publishing Company, 1987. Kareem, Sarah Tindal. Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Reinvention of Wonder. Oxford UP, 2014.

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Kerutis, Whitney. “An Interview with Poet Susan Briante.” Timber, 29 Nov. 2016, Lloyd, Genevieve. Reclaiming Wonder: After the Sublime. Edinburgh UP, 2018. “Markets in an Age of Anxiety; The world economy.” The Economist, vol. 432, no. 9156, 17 Aug. 2019, p. 9(US). Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard UP, 2011. O’Hara, Frank. Lunch Poems. City Lights Books, 1964. Rambo, David. “Of Fear and Exaltation: the sublime autonomy of finance.” Angelaki, vol. 21, no. 2, 2016, pp. 83-98. Retallack, Joan. The Poethical Wager. U of California P, 2003. Rukeyser, Muriel. The Book of the Dead. West Virginia UP, 2018. Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Defence of Poetry.” Poetry Foundation, 13 Oct. 2009. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019. Spahr, Juliana. Well Then There Now. Black Sparrow, 2011. Traister, Daniel. “W.H. Mallock and A Human Document.” Tom Phillips, humument/essays/item/5865-w-h-mallock-and-a-human-document-by-daniel-traister. Accessed 20 Nov. 2019.

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Recent scholarship on Thoreau’s prose explores the confluence of social justice, racial oppression, and environmental injustice in his writing.1 This paper aims to bring a number of Thoreau’s poems into this critical conversation, demonstrating the poetry’s own place amidst that junction and thus hopefully garnering increased critical interest in Thoreau’s verse, which tends to be overlooked in favor of his prose.2 In what follows, I examine a number of poems from the early 1840s and two from the early 1850s to argue that Thoreau intertwines tones of mourning with critique to lament both environmental and political issues. The poems I look at are “To a Stray Fowl” (1843), “Brother where dost thou dwell” (likely dating from spring-fall 1843), the unnamed poem from the essay “A Winter Walk” (1843), “Independence” (1841), “Nature” (1842), “Ep on the World” (1843), “I saw a delicate flower” (1850), and “The moon moves up her smooth and sheeny path” (likely 1851).3 As you can see, I will move largely chronologically to build an argument that Thoreau develops through his verse a way to start talking about social justice issues, namely racial oppression, while continually linking these concerns to those about the environment. While the majority of the paper will enact close readings of these poems, in the final section I offer an analysis of Thoreau’s famous lily passage from “Slavery in Massachusetts” (1854) to demonstrate how Thoreau locates in nature a kindred presence which is both pastoral and political. With regard to his poetry, critics from Harold Bloom to Lance Newman have classified Thoreau as Wordsworthian,4 but Thoreau’s vision includes a thread of nature as subservient to the human and so divergent from Wordsworth’s benevolent and reciprocal relationship between man and nature. Nature is employed and even

enslaved to fulfill human desire. Thoreau’s verse-based depiction of a destructive relationship between man and the natural world begins in his April 1843 Dial poem5 “To a Stray Fowl,” wherein we notice possessiveness on part of man towards nature: And now with anxious eye thou look’st about, While the relentless shade draws on its veil, For some sure shelter from approaching dews, And the insidious steps of nightly foes. I fear imprisonment has dulled thy wit, Or ingrained servitude extinguished it. But no,—dim memory of the days of yore, By Brahmapootra and the Jumna’s shore, Where thy proud race flew swiftly o’er the heath, And sought its food the jungle’s shade beneath, Has taught thy wings to seek yon friendly trees, As erst by Indus’ bank and far Ganges. (Collected Essays and Poems [CEP] 593)6 Thoreau’s health was poor in the winter of 1843 (Richardson 120). He was likely suffering from bronchitis (Walls, Henry David Thoreau: A Life 146). This poem, appearing that spring, contains notes of a weakened condition. But it is not the human’s condition that is vulnerable. Here, Thoreau focuses on a bird—a “Poor bird!”—far from its “accustomed nest” (CEP 593). The bird has eyes that are “anxious” for its being in an alien environment. As night approaches, the speaker expresses concern for the “nightly foes”

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the bird might encounter and the inclement weather (“approaching dews”) that may make its night uncomfortable. The poem is a lament, as the speaker is mourning this bird’s “poor” state. Bemoaning the bird’s apparent suffering, the speaker highlights the bird’s essential enslavement by mankind. This lament illuminates the bird’s “imprisonment”: “I fear imprisonment has dulled thy wit, / Or ingrained servitude extinguished it.” The speaker perceives the bird as witless for its “imprisonment” and “servitude” to man: “Must thou fall back upon old instinct now— / Well nigh extinct under man’s fickle care?” (593) Being “under man’s fickle care” has caused the bird’s natural survival instincts almost to go “extinct.” Because the bird is evidently lost in wilderness, separated from its now-accustomed relationship to man, the speaker asks: “Must thou fall back upon” all those “old instinct[s]” which man has driven out of you? Here it is suggested that man’s domesticating of wild animals erodes said animals’ inborn capacities to fend for themselves. This vision of the bird as prisoner suggests that human mastery over natural forms is far from beneficial for the natural subject. “Imprisonment,” “servitude,” a threat of being “extinguished” pervade. Man has a damaging effect on nature. In lines 19-22, the days before the bird’s race was imprisoned are alluded to: But no,—dim memory of the days of yore, By Brahmapootra and the Jumna’s shore, Where thy proud race flew swiftly o’er the heath, And sought its food the jungle’s shade beneath (593) It used to be that the birds “flew swiftly,” with pride. They were free and natural entities, separate from man. But the circumstances of the bird (and all birds of its like “race”) have much changed.7 Whereas

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the bird’s race was once “proud,” or worthy of being proud, the opposite is now true. It is no longer typical for the bird to seek “its food the jungle’s shade beneath” (this allusion expands upon the notion that humans have driven birds out of the behaviors natural for their survival); it can be inferred that birds do not need to hunt the way they used to. Humans have encroached upon the animal’s inborn hunting instincts and thus its ability to live freely and independently. Ultimately, however, domesticity may act as a veil or impediment to wildness, but wildness is nevertheless inherent and continually there to be retrieved: “But no,—dim memory of the [wild] days of yore” … “[h]as taught thy wings to seek yon friendly trees.” Although experiencing only a vague recollection, the bird follows its instincts to take roost in harboring trees, thus presumably saving itself.8 Wildness maintains itself underneath external conditions to the contrary. This is a recurrent theme in Thoreau; at the end of the “Sounds” chapter in Walden, for example, the Chanticleer, despite being part of man’s “tame stock,” “domesticated” to serve in the yard, still retains “the most remarkable [note] of any bird’s”; his “health is ever good, his lungs are sound, his spirits never flag” (Shanley 127). Thoreau thus presents a dichotomy between naturalization and untainted wildness, an image of a shackling and damaging obstruction of wild freedom, yet concludes with the hopeful idea that such conditions cannot mar a lasting and inborn wildness that ultimately provides salvation. The use of the term “race” in this poem should not go overlooked in viewing Thoreau’s depiction of the relationship between nature and man as means for his beginning to depict the relationship between man and fellow men. The “race” of birds suffering because of their imprisonment can be read as just about any race: the African American race; Native Americans; the human race at large.

But when Thoreau speaks of a race whose freedom is a “dim memory” “of yore,” and it is specified that “servitude” is destroying this group, enslaved African Americans most readily come to mind. In 1843 in Concord, the race most readily and prominently featured in discussions about “servitude”—its impositions and indignities—were African Americans. This group most conspicuously faced “foes” to their “pride” and freedom.9 Sandra Harbert Petrulionis has given us a most authoritative account of slavery in Thoreau’s time, her book To Set This World Right: The Antislavery Movement in Thoreau’s Concord demonstrating how “[t]he story of ‘Henry Thoreau, Abolitionist’ is, finally, inseparable from that of ‘Concord, Antislavery Town’” (4). From her study, one sees that many other Concord residents joined the antislavery cause before Thoreau, many of them women. It wasn’t until April 1844, well into the horrors of slavery and the backlash against it (although still six years before the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law, which, in 1850, effectively saw the hand of slavery reaching into the North), that Thoreau published his “first antislavery piece,” “Herald of Freedom,” in the Transcendentalist publication the Dial (Petrulionis 39). Resisting this civic emphasis in Thoreau’s abolitionist development, the poetry does not indicate that the stance of Concord citizens toward slavery influenced Thoreau’s own views on the matter. Rather, it suggests that Thoreau used his verse as a means to contemplate binaries of freedom and indenture; independence and subservience; and issues of agency, ownership, and control. This verse, far from full-blown speechifying, helped Thoreau grasp his own vaunted and abstract notions of freedom in general, beliefs that would eventually form the foundation of his abolitionist rhetoric. In other words, with regard to his turn toward outspoken concern for the enslaved, scholars have been giving credit to the external influence of

Concord residents. While I do not discount this argument, founded as it is on revealing archival material, I also see credit being owed to an internal, self-reflective process of poetic discovery and development.10 One of Thoreau’s unnamed poems includes birds employed to serve a master’s needs, and this master/slave relationship provides further evidence of Thoreau using verse to work toward talking about oppression. A human “brother” is no longer in the presence of the speaker: “Brother where dost thou dwell? / What sun shines for thee now? / Dost thou indeed farewell?” (CEP 595) The speaker asks the absent brother, “What season didst thou find?” (595) and “Dost thou still haunt the brink / Of yonder river’s tide?” (596), among other questions pertaining to the brother’s general well-being and whereabouts. The question arises: how else will the speaker and his brother come into contact again but with the “employ[ment]” of birds? What bird wilt thou employ To bring me word of thee? For it would give them joy, ‘Twould give them liberty, To serve their former lord With wing and minstrelsy. (596) The probable timing of the poem, most likely spring-fall 1843, suggests it rather strongly as a partial elegy about Thoreau’s tragically deceased older brother John, who succumbed to tetanus in the winter of 1842. John’s hobby was birding, which he often did with Henry, and he also kept a journal of bird sightings. So when the poem continues “What bird wilt thou employ / To bring me word of thee?” what impresses the reader is the narrator’s yearning to hear and understand the language of the birds and what tidings they might bring from the brother on the other side of death. On the one

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hand, we must understand this poem for its personal, biographical significance. On the other hand, reading the poem solely for its personal implications and not its politics precludes grounding the poem in a broader historical context. While the tone is one of mourning, Thoreau shows us that he intertwines this tenor with critique. “To a Stray Fowl” does not reach the same depth of mourning as the employed birds poem, but as aforementioned the former is nevertheless a lament, one that bewails the fowl’s conditions. In a poem that will be explored later in the paper, “Ep[itaph] on the World,” grieving for a lost planet combines with an implicit criticism of the world’s state. In Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau, Branka Arsić shows how vitalism grounds both Thoreau’s naturalism and his grief. Mourning his brother proves central to his interpretation of zoological and geological phenomena. In his verse, Thoreau demonstrates that mourning coincides with critique.11 The question becomes: amidst these notes of mourning, what is Thoreau judging; what is he assailing? To be “employ[ed]” is not to be enslaved, but it is not just expected that the birds will serve as messengers between the far-removed brothers, but that the birds will “[en]joy” their role as servants to their “lord[s].” To serve their lords would not cause the birds to feel enslaved (which, in reality, they are), but, conversely, to experience “liberty.” Here, Thoreau views nature belonging to a lower class to be employed by the upper—the class of human Man. The characterization of the birds as “minstrels” tells us this as, historically, minstrels were employed to use song to entertain members of higher classes, particularly nobility (Rastall 84).12 In this instance, Man is not just an authority, but a “lord[ly]” figure whom it pleases the subservient birds to “serve.” Minstrels were not considered property of the nobility as slaves were considered

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the property of their masters, but they find themselves in an uneven power dynamic. It is a cruel irony that Thoreau depicts when he states, “‘Twould give them liberty, / To serve their former lord / With wing and minstrelsy” (the “them” here being the enslaved), for the enslaved in the United States, of course, could not achieve liberty through their “serv(ice)”: more often than not, it would require taking “wing,” or escaping, to find freedom (“liberty”). With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law, even escape to the North did not mean freedom would last or was certain. In addition, Thoreau’s use of the term “minstrelsy” could be a reference to the types of theater performance mocking black people and becoming popular in the 1830s and ’40s in North America. As Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen show in Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop, the minstrel show, featuring either white performers in blackface or black musical troupes, held appeal for both black and white audiences at the time that Thoreau was composing this poem.13 A similarly imbalanced dynamic develops in the poem from the essay “A Winter Walk,” wherein a wisp of smoke begins as the lone subject, “curl[ing] up from some deep dell” on a “heavenward course.” The smoke appears free and “dallying” in its birdlike ascent, yet in line 7 is characterized in direct relation to a human “master”: The stiffened air exploring in the dawn, And making slow acquaintance with the day; Delaying now upon its heavenward course, In wreathed loiterings dallying with itself, With as uncertain purpose and slow deed, As its half-wakened master by the hearth, Whose mind still slumbering and sluggish thoughts Have not yet swept into the onward current Of the new day;— (93)

The poem is an example of Thoreau’s use of prosimetrum, a technique especially evident in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) and Walden (1854). Prosimetrum connotes prose narrative at times broken by fragments and sections of poetry and goes back at least as far as the Icelandic sagas as a popular literary device (O’Donoghue 1). Despite being largely assailed or ignored by critics, Thoreau’s select poetry did survive into the 1850s and beyond, as these occasional interludes embedded in his more famous and popular narratives.14 In this instance, the unnamed poem is cocooned in Thoreau’s “first fully mature piece of writing,” an “excursion” essay “centered on a season” (Richardson 134-36). Despite Emerson’s liberal extrication of poetry from that essay, this particular section of verse survived his slashing and appeared in the October 1843 Dial.15 Scholars have shown the piece to be both a result of a sense of urgency after John’s death and a response to the noisy urban menagerie of Thoreau’s time in New York City, attempting to sell his written works.16 Indeed, the lines hallow the quiet and tranquility of a rural predawn, very much antithetical to the din of metropolitan crowds and thoroughfares. Upon initial reading, the poem appears to be about freedom gained, not indenture. On a serene, if frozen, New England morning, smoke originates from a fire in a cabin, then wends its way toward elevation and a bird-like freedom above. But there is a perplexing, complex tension between freedom and a lack of it throughout. Despite the smoke’s airy climes, it is both product and property of the man by the hearth. The words “delaying,” “dallying,” “loiterings,” “uncertain purpose” and “slow deed” until line 7 appear to pertain solely to the smoke, but then the poet introduces this “half-wakened master,” and we discover that the smoke’s characterization describes both the smoke and its human “master.” The human has had a “delay[ed],” “dallying,”

“loiter[ing]” morning with “uncertain purpose.” Suddenly nature no longer belongs to itself, but also to man. The “current / Of the new day” that the human has not yet been swept into is meant to suggest an air current, one that causes the smoke to “stream afar” (93): “—and now it streams afar, / The while the chopper goes with step direct, / And mind intent to swing the early axe” (93). The “it” in line 9 refers to the smoke, so here an abrupt shift occurs, using “onward current” as a pivot point. The speaker describes a human’s mind that has not yet been swept into the “onward current / Of the new day” and uses that onward current to introduce the smoke’s “stream[ing] afar.” Significantly, the smoke is subordinate to man: it is the master’s “early scout,” “his emissary” (emphasis mine). Thoreau uses the possessive to illustrate that the smoke belongs to the human. The human “master” sends “his” smoke abroad on a mission, giving it a job to complete (“feel the frosty air, inform the day” [93]). While the poem concludes with the smoke forming a “refulgent cloud in the upper sky,” its originator looks up at it, almost as if surveying it, overseeing it, making sure it is where it is supposed to be.17 The language of slavery— the man who made the fire being referred to as “master”—leads one to think of the abolitionist fervor that would eventually arise in Thoreau and his anti-slavery, pro-abolition texts “A Plea for Captain John Brown” and “Slavery in Massachusetts,” about which more will be said later, and wherein such language takes the foreground. For now, Thoreau uses the language to depict an unequal relationship between man and the natural world. It must be noted that all of the poems thus far examined feature birds, whether these are the actual birds in “To a Stray Fowl,” the employed birds performing minstrelsy in “Brother where dost thou dwell,” or the figurative smoke-bird in the unnamed poem from “A Winter Walk.” I argue that Thoreau

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selected birds, which generally are considered images of freedom and which Thoreau himself certainly considered an image of freedom, to highlight the cruel and unnatural nature of enslavement. The juxtaposition of the light, “ethereal” creature that should have access to the sky and heavens with the low, subordinated state of enslavement illuminates the atrocity of slavery. It is possible that Thoreau chose birds since they were creatures who were being decimated in his time; as David R. Foster shows in his Thoreau’s Country: Journey Through a Transformed Landscape, passenger pigeon populations were depleted while Thoreau was alive.18 But it would seem that Thoreau chose them, too, because of their aesthetic weight. Throughout his oeuvre, Thoreau was apt to characterize birds as veritable emblems of freedom.19 Perhaps the most striking example of this characterization comes from Walden: I heard a singular rattling sound, somewhat like that of the sticks which boys play with their fingers, when, looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk, like a night-hawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling a rod or two over and over, showing the underside of its wings, which gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of a shell. […] It was the most ethereal flight I had ever witnessed. It did not simply flutter like a butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, but it sported with proud reliance in the fields of air; mounting again and again with its strange chuckle, it repeated its free and beautiful fall, turning over and over like a kite, and then recovering from its lofty tumbling, as if it had never set its foot on terra firma. (Shanley 316-17) The passage ends with the hawk effectively becoming immaterial, as it takes nest in “some cliffy cloud.”

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The term “free” is used explicitly here, but the obvious overall tone is one of freedom, and one that eventually connects the hawk to Thoreau’s ideal saunterer as described in “Walking.” Like the saunterer, the hawk finds itself “sans terre,” without land or home (225). Indeed, Thoreau’s choice of birds as enslaved or “imprisoned” bears historical weight because of the passenger pigeon’s decimation, but it is also an aesthetic device weighted in the bird’s connotation of freedom.20 Thoreau seems to be asking, Don’t these creatures deserve to be free? Isn’t it unnatural for them to be “serv[ing]” “lord[s]” with their “minstrelsy”?

It is important to take a step back and assess what these poetic critiques say about Thoreau’s place as a literary artist-social critic in the early 1840s. All told, these poems do not amount to Thoreau being outspoken, or even straightforward, with regard to social justice issues. Such descriptors would more readily belong to Longfellow, whose Poems on Slavery, for instance, elide allegory and confront their political ideas directly; these he wrote in 1842 and published the following year. Lydia Huntley Sigourney is similarly forthright; her antislavery writings extend as far back as 1827, when she published her poem “To the First Slave Ship.” In comparison to other literary artists-social critics of the time, Thoreau was a nebulous and ambiguous figure, his art only opaquely addressing social concerns, and doing so largely privately, as a number of these poems appeared only in the Journal and were not published in his time.21 As such, Thoreau’s literary position as a vaguely political poet in the early 1840s echoes his late-to-the-game stance in abolitionist Concord writ large. It also invites us to reconsider our notions of what constitutes Thoreau’s “political trademarks” (Petrulionis 39). As Petrulionis

notes, Thoreau writes about slavery with “scathing wit,” “moral umbrage,” “outraged deununciations,” and “liberal exclamation marks and underlinings” (39). The poetry helps us expand this lexicon, because it shows that he comes to write in this manner eventually. With verse Thoreau began as equivocal yet contemplative, using his poetry to think through environmental and social conditions, and begin formulating judgments therein. Thoreau’s poem “Independence” appears on the recto and verso of a single leaf and is dated July 30, 1841. Its separation from the Journal and its stand-alone quality fortuitously mirrors its title. Lines 16-29 were published in the October 1842 Dial under the name “The Black Knight.”22 The poem is about individual freedom versus a corrupt state: “My life more civil is and free / Than any civil polity,” it begins (CEP 553). At once, Thoreau latches onto and dismantles the word “civil,” which, of course, eventually becomes a very important word in his reform texts, although Joel Myerson has noted “there is no evidence” Thoreau preferred the title “Civil Disobedience” to his essay’s original title, “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849) (546). Despite the title’s dubious change, that essay very much concerns itself with matters “civil,” invoking the word repeatedly. In “Independence,” Thoreau can be seen questioning the very idea of the term “civil,” resisting its inherited meaning while invoking it as a word. He detaches it from the forms or processes of government (“polity”), demonstrating its connection not to formal constitutions and the like, but to the self. Larger governing bodies, compared to the individual, are not so civil, nor are they free. A tension between wealth and poverty emerges, as the speaker asks, “What can ye give which I have not?” Then: “Penurious states lend no relief / Out of their pelf— / But a free soul—thank God— / Can help itself ” (lines 12-15). The individual is wealthy

whereas “states” are destitute. Yet states are not only poverty-stricken but corrupt, for what resources they can claim have been ill-gotten: the term is now obsolete, but “pelf,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “stolen goods.” The implication of the term “free soul” is that a soul can be free even as a body cannot; the spirit distinguishes itself from the physical frame. With the inclusion of the idea of “help,” it stands to reason that the soul is embattled; otherwise, why bring up the idea of assistance, and “thank God” for it? Dualities of spirit and body, self and state, assistance and hindrance, freedom and constraint surface.23 Wariness of the governing body grows, as line 16 declares, “Be sure your fate / Doth keep apart its state—”. Elizabeth Hall Witherell has claimed that Thoreau’s poetry “is for the most part unremarkable in its subject and its form,” that it is “quite bland” and “suffers in comparison with even the quotidian prose of the Journal” (“Thoreau as Poet” 57). While I agree that his prose is much stronger than his poetry, consider the nuance and density of this line. Through apostrophe, the speaker advises extricating one’s fate from the body politic. “Be sure your fate / Doth keep apart its state—”. This would sensibly mean, Be sure that your fate keeps the state in abeyance. It’s easy to miss the point, perhaps because “state” is not coterminous with one definition, such as a delineated political territory, but it can also mean a particular condition that someone or something is in at a specific time. The political usage of “state” makes more sense than the latter, yet in multifaceted diction Thoreau intertwines a political territory with a condition of the self. The poem concludes with the declaration that no other man holds the key to the life the speaker desires to live, and “No trade upon the street / Wears its emblazonry.” Strategies for both survival and flourishing reside within the individual; external forces only serve as potential hindrances to achieving

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one’s objective. Moreover, such exterior powers tend to wrap themselves up in both seeming luxury and authority, yet the speaker sees through their charade: “Ye princes, keep your realms / And your circumscribèd power, / Not wide as are my dreams, / Nor rich as is this hour.” Figures of established power belong to the realm of illusions, whereas in the present moment, with one’s dreams, one possesses both true wealth and the potential to accrue more of it. This positioning of the state as an obstructive apparatus, intrinsically apart from the individual and their well-being, is one Thoreau will elaborate in his later prose. Too, I will argue, his texts explicitly concerned with social justice will build upon this idea of vital resources within the individual, resources at once akin to nature and unassailable by external circumstances. “Nature,” which Witherell dates circa 1842 (CEP 670), carries further the “Independence” poem’s thread of royalty, particularly the distrust of it, as the speaker wishes to not be a man who rules over other men. Instead, he wants nature to give him “thy most privy place / Where to run my airy race” (580). Solitude, in some “unpublic mead,” would be ideal; the speaker desires a private place to “sigh upon a reed” (580). If work must be demanded of the speaker, he would prefer it took place within close proximity to nature: For I’d rather be thy child And pupil, in the forest wild, Than be the king of men elsewhere, And most sovereign slave of care: To have one moment of thy dawn, Than share the city’s yearn forlorn. (CEP 580) As Laura Dassow Walls observes, 1842 was the year Emerson drew Thoreau into “orbit” with “another

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young idealist: Ellery Channing” (Henry David Thoreau: A Life 137). Idealism necessarily coincides with criticism in this poem: a kind of slavery exists in proximity to other men; freedom can be found, and should be found, “in the forest wild.” The line about running the “airy race” most likely means the speaker wants the chance to do what he likes. “Race” is a peculiar term, though, since it conjures images of speed and hurriedness. In the woods, what need is there for such things? More evidently, the speaker invokes diction about kings and slaves to establish a dichotomy between “high” and “low” (I use scare quotes here because Thoreau exposes these as concepts and turns them upside-down). The speaker would prefer not “[t]o be the highest in [Nature’s] choir,” “a meteor,” or “ comet,” but “Only a zephyr”—because in such a seemingly humble condition may he be free, which means separate from material culture (“airy race”) and imbalanced power relations (“king,” “slave”). In fact, the speaker pities “the king of men,” for when this individual is divorced from nature, they are disjointed from peace. The term “sovereign slave” conjoins the image of a supreme monarch with one of an abject servant. One who rules over other men actually does not rule at all, but is beholden to concern. The speaker establishes a binaristic thread of child-pupil-forest-freedomcontent versus parent-king-city-constrainedforlorn. It is a chaotic, tangled assortment. Thoreau at once reinforces and troubles dichotomies, demarcating the city from the forest while blurring rulers with the oppressed. One of the few concepts that emerges with clarity is an overarching belief in freedom. This is far from abolitionist sentiment outright, but it is giving language to disdain for ruling, for people having power over other people, for governing from without rather than within, for uneven power dynamics, particularly among humans. The poem

conveys the sense that, because such dynamics exist, the forest offers the haven that it does.

A Eulogy for the World In observing nature’s dejected, subordinated state (“anxious,” “dulled” fowl; “minstrelsy” birds; birds put to human use), as well as the human propensity to establish ruler/ruled relationships, Thoreau’s speaker comes to revile man: “Man Man is the Devil / The source of all evil” (638), he writes in his journal shortly after the new year of 1853. But it is significant to understand that this reviling comes not solely from viewing man abusing fellow man, or man abusing nature, but a convergence point of these forms of injustice. Through nature’s enslavement, Thoreau sees humankind’s indignities, its shameful impositions and assertions of an unrightful dominance; through humankind’s interrelations, nature’s plight becomes apparent. As though to instantiate this intertwining and bewail the results, one of Thoreau’s speakers eulogizes accordingly: Here lies the body of this world, Whose soul alas to hell is hurled. This golden youth long since was past, Its silver manhood went as fast, And iron age drew on at last (598) It is an epitaph, engraved to tell the story (the mournful, sorry story) of the earth that is now buried. Of the poem, Carl Bode remarks, “These verses are distinctly unusual in the ornate completeness of their central metaphor. The result could not ordinarily be distinguished as Thoreau’s” (362). I would agree with this assessment; the finely wrought and sustained metaphor harkens less to Thoreau than to Dickinson. Of course, traditionally, humans are the ones buried beneath gravestones, so here Thoreau demonstrates his critical nexus,

further anthropomorphizing by attributing to the earth a “soul,” “golden youth,” and “silver manhood.” The poem appears in Thoreau’s journal on October 22, 1843, when he was still trying to find purchase as a writer in New York and a certain disenchantment was beginning to set in. Indeed, the poem conveys gloom and jadedness. A few weeks later, he returned to Concord for Thanksgiving, in search of the conviviality of friends and the warmth of a “hearth” (Walls, Henry David Thoreau: A Life 160-61). It is ironic that the earth is buried within, one presumes, the earth, but so it is: the poem bears the title “Ep[itaph] on the World.” The world—and presumably all its inhabitants, human and animal— has died. But not only that—it has been cast “to hell.” “[H]urled” into hell’s fiery depths, the earth is far from the “golden youth” it once knew. The earth did live to see the mature age of “silver manhood,” but it went “fast.” Then the “iron age drew on at last,” closing its time not just on earth, but as earth: ’Tis vain its character to tell, The several fates which it befell, What year it died, when ’twill arise, We only know that here it lies. (598) “[H]ere it lies”—the earth is dead! But it is a mystery what brought it there. And it is “vain” to guess. The “fates” the earth faced in its destruction were “several.” It is productive to consider the depiction and role of nature here, particularly as it differs from the other poems. For one thing, there is increased distance. Whereas in previous poems, individual birds or clouds of smoke were focused on, here nature is lumped together with humanity, with all of the globe. Importantly, all of it is dead. Earlier, these individual entities, although threatened or subordinate, still survived. Here, survival or the possibility of it is over; total destruction has prevailed. In a further turn, the speaker manages to

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offer this perspective from somewhere beyond the earth’s burial site. Why the speaker was spared is not certain, but they serve as witness to this demise, providing a testimony of the complete annihilation. Implicit in this portrait, then, is that the earth’s inhabitants are constituents of the earth. The fate of their larger, broader environment is their fate. A sharedness here strikingly connects Thoreau’s early nature poetry to his later political texts. Environmental concerns are social concerns, and vice versa. A chiseled gravestone for the world means a gravestone for nature as well as humankind (again, that lingering speaker notwithstanding). Elsewhere in Bird Relics, Arsić argues that the basis of Thoreau’s poetics is his belief that “a true poet could be the artist of perpetual mourning” (87). “[C]onstant grieving” emerges “as the highest poetic act” (87). What I have weaved into the mix is the idea that mourning, for Thoreau, was intertwined with critique, and his poems, seemingly about mourning and loss, are really works of criticism—and not criticism in the literary sense, but political criticism, criticism about not human art but human behavior. He mourns, for instance, the demise of the world, but this is not pure elegy: it is a rebuke and a call to arms. The mystery that enshrouds the earth’s demise leads the reader to consider: what do I do that might contribute to the death of the world? When the fates faced by the earth are “several,” one is urged to reflect on the injustices being faced by both nature and man. Since their fate is ultimately shared, the relationship between these injustices demands to be considered. Such a philosophical stance follows many Native American perspectives on relationality and anticipates contemporary conversations around deep ecology and ecosophy, the branches of ecocritical theory concerned with moving away from

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anthropocentric models toward conceptions of interrelatedness among all organisms and nature.24 It directs toward the reader a complex set of philosophical and moral questions. Temporality, for instance, plays a compelling role. Just when the earth ended—“[w]hat year it died”—is unknown. The unspecified date of the earth’s death invokes consideration of urgency and timeliness. If injustice or damaging behavior is occurring now, at this moment, how much time does one have before one has to act? Perhaps the end of the world is a day away; perhaps it is one hundred years off. The lack of knowledge is stirring; the question becomes whether or not one (the reader) can afford to not consider how one might be participating in the death of the world. Ultimately, it is a decidedly prophetic announcement: here is the earth, buried within the earth, dead as each human must eventually be. A set of challenges then confronts the reader: does the earth need to die, as humans must? Can it live on? Can it be saved? How can one save it? The poet offers no answers. Indeed, the reader must trouble over these questions on their own. But I argue that while in his poetry he raises these questions, in his later prose Thoreau does provide answers, as though responding to his earlier concerns. We can see Thoreau’s ardent appeals to resist civil government, his denouncement of oppressive laws, as building upon his unanswered questions in verse, his apocalyptic prognostications in poetry. His poetic warning that the earth will die and be cast “to hell” will later become a clearer and more pointed polemical stance, explicating what precisely is wrong with the world and how we need to address it by not permitting the state to rob individuals of their rightful liberty, which nature shows us is inherent across species.

A Vision of Resistance Eventually Thoreau sheds the ambiguity and mystery shrouding his social justice sentiments. By the time he writes “Slavery in Massachusetts” in 1854 and “A Plea for Captain John Brown” in 1859, he is no longer transmuting his concerns about people into nature poetry. “Slavery in Massachusetts” and “A Plea for Captain John Brown” are forthrightly political texts. We see that Thoreau’s trajectory as a literary artist involves a progression from politically ambiguous poetry to works that directly challenge the state. By the mid-1850s, Thoreau no longer intertwines the plight of African Americans with the poetic images of birds or suggests via epitaph that the world dies. He accuses Congress, in making slaves of men, of doing something as bad as making men into “a sausage” (“Slavery in Massachusetts” 606). He also criticizes everyone from Congress to newspaper editors for their treatment, both in person and in print, of the abolitionist John Brown. We should not consider Thoreau’s poetry as disparate from this later, overt expression, but part and parcel of it. It would seem that Thoreau uses his early poetry to climb into expressing antislavery sentiment. Through his literary art, namely his overlooked verse, he warms up, so to speak, his ability to talk aggressively about slavery. Further, since Thoreau sees the earth, humanity, and the environment all sharing a common grave, this progression occurs across a project unified by the belief that environmental concerns are bound up with those of social justice. Despite the tone of gloom and destruction in these poems, Thoreau ultimately presents nature as resistant to man and thus suggests that the oppressed will ultimately prevail. Indeed, for all his reviling of man’s onslaught against nature, Thoreau ultimately depicts nature as capable of survival:

I saw a delicate flower had grown up 2 feet high Between the horse’s paths & the wheel track Which Dakin’s & Maynards wagon had Passed over many a time (630) This poem appears in the Journal on September 9, 1850, just days before Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Its lines buzz with a tension between an oppressive force and a potential casualty. Many times man has come dangerously close to the flower, but the flower has not died; it has not been crushed. Man’s wagons may be plentiful and physically much larger than the “delicate flower,” but this doesn’t mean that nature will perish: An inch more to the right or left had sealed its fate Or an inch higher. And yet it lived & flourished As much as if it had a thousand acres Of untrodden space around it—and never Knew the danger it incurred. (630) Man’s encroachment may be all-encompassing, but still nature overcomes. “[A] delicate flower” (an image that will be unpacked more in a moment) “flourishe(s)” even on a busy road, where horses and wagons have passed and passed, continuously. The flower does not have “a thousand acres” of untouched land surrounding it, but it behaves as though it does, growing “2 feet high,” “upward.” The flower is not even aware of “the danger” surrounding it, the threat of man so very close to it, and this lack of awareness seems to be part of its strength. Nature is unaware of man’s attempts to vanquish it; it has concerns and paths of its own.

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For Thoreau, nature is ultimately so free of impediments, it feels no resistance from an opposing party. The human may encroach, but ultimately it is the human who lives in a constant state of duress. Nature, by contrast, finds life “easy” (633): The moon moves up her smooth and sheeny path Without impediment; and happily The brook Glides by lulled by its tinkling; Meteeors [sic] drop down the sky without chagrin And rise again; but my cares never rest.(633) Witherell approximates this poem’s date somewhere between 1851 and 1853 (673). We are still most likely before “Slavery in Massachusetts,” yet moving toward a depiction of restlessness and unease. Celestial nature and earthbound nature coexist in harmony; the brook is “lulled” by the moon’s “tinkling.” “Without impediment,” the moon performs her nightly ascent, while meteors “drop” “without chagrin,” then “rise again” (633). Nature’s cycles, both near and far, remain unimpeded. For the human, meanwhile, “No charitable laws alas cut me / An easy orbit round the sun.” The speaker is trapped on earth, where laws do not invoke freedom. “No charitable laws alas”—another poetic phrase worthy of our attention and praise (633). “I must make my way through rocks and seas and earth,” the speaker continues, “my steep and devious way Uncertain still.” By contrast, the heavens bathe in a lake, and meteors streak along a “resistless course” (633). Thoreau’s highlighting the ease with which nature moves and juxtaposing this ease with human angst, does not downplay the struggle of the oppressed. The invocation of words such as “laws” and “resist” echo “Resistance to Civil

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Government.” Yet this is not only a bleak picture, for strength does exist within the schema. Rather than focusing on the little flower by the wagon path, so threatened and easily capable of being crushed, the speaker looks to the stars, natural entities out of reach of humans and so impervious to them. These may appear as distant but are in fact hopeful images suggesting a natural unassailability and the possibility of a “resistless course.” This overarching view of nature as impervious to man, as a force that retains its force and purity despite man’s atrociousness, anticipates Thoreau’s famous ending to “Slavery in Massachusetts.” (Here I return to the image of the “delicate flower” in the poem about the horse and wagon path.) Delivered at an “anti-slavery celebration” on the Fourth of July, 1854, “Slavery in Massachusetts” is a vehement critique of the Fugitive Slave Law and of the government enacting it and other “injustices” against black people in the United States (606). This “political jeremiad,” as Jeffrey Utzinger refers to it (31), has become perhaps Thoreau’s most famous written work against slavery.25 Michael T. Gilmore calls it “the most bitter of all Thoreau’s writing” (69). Its ending in particular has become one of the most-studied passages of his oeuvre. I want to consider the ways that the poetry anticipates sentiments expressed in this passage. After proclaiming, “A government which deliberately enacts injustice, and persists in it, will at length ever become the laughing-stock of the world,” and admitting that the current state of affairs is so vile that he can no longer enjoy his accustomed solitary walks, Thoreau writes: But it chanced the other day that I secured a white water-lily, and a season I had waited for had arrived. It is the emblem of purity.

It bursts up so pure and fair to the eye, and so sweet to the scent, as if to show us what purity and sweetness reside in, and can be extracted from, the slime and muck of earth. I think I have plucked the first one that has opened for a mile. What confirmation of our hopes is in the fragrance of this flower! I shall not so soon despair of the world for it, notwithstanding slavery, and the cowardice and want of principle of Northern men. It suggests what kind of laws have prevailed longest and widest, and still prevail, and that the time may come when man’s deeds will smell as sweet. Such is the odor which the plant emits. (613-14) The “slime and muck” of slavery, and man’s disgraceful actions in general, might cover the earth, generally, but that does not mean that nature itself will be tainted: “The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal” (614). It is a complicated image, one that again demonstrates Thoreau’s richness and ambiguity. We do gather that, surrounded by muck and slime, nature retains its “purity.” In addition, it is not just nature itself that will remain untainted by “the sloth and vice of man”; inside of all human beings, Thoreau believes, there resides “purity and courage.” These “immortal” traits, like nature, will continue to survive. Thoreau may have given us much evidence to the contrary, but deep within—“buried” inside of human beings (614)—humans possess admirable traits. It would seem that the “decay of humanity,” then, can potentially be stopped and overcome. In this later passage from an overtly antislavery text, one is reminded how, ultimately, Thoreau in

his poetry depicts nature as capable of surviving the onslaught of “decay.” Humans (the bad side of humans in particular) might encroach, trying to enslave nature, but nature (as well as the good in man) will prevail. “And yet it lived & flourished” (CEP 630), he writes in his verse, meaning that flower next to the wagon’s path. But I do not see a nature/culture dichotomy present in the ending to “Slavery in Massachusetts,” the way Deak Nabers does when he contends that the lily proffers “the good news … that nature wins the competition” between the repugnance of humankind and pure nature (841). Thoreau doesn’t believe there is such a competition and divide between nasty humans and pure nature. They are one and the same, bound up in the same fate as mentioned before. Similarly, I reject here Lawrence Buell’s reading of the lily as a “swerve” from “political radicalism” toward a “pastoral” moment (“American Pastoral Ideology Reappraised” 6); for Thoreau, the lily continues his earlier poetic project of intertwining humankind and nature.26 The lily is pastoral, yes, but it is also political, evidence not of Thoreau “having escaped from politics” (Buell, “American Pastoral” 10), but of Thoreau seeing purity, despite all their actions that are “obscene and baleful” (“Slavery” 614), within people. This portion of “Slavery in Massachusetts” looks like a turn to many scholars in how it shifts its focus from politics to the natural world, but it really is a return, by Thoreau, to his early poetic aesthetic of intertwining, enfolding, intermeshing. Nature does not “win” against humankind (Nabers 841), but expresses something about its kindred humankind, in particular its potential for “purity.” Collapsing a dichotomy of the human and the nonhuman, a dichotomy that Thoreau himself was not apt to see, we see that when Thoreau says the flower is untainted, he means people, at root, are untainted.

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In conclusion, rather than viewing nature and man as invested in a reciprocal relationship, Thoreau views man as harassing nature, trying to harness it for the success of his enterprise. This abusive and damaging relationship anticipates the one he will flesh out in his later, overtly antislavery writing. Examining the antislavery sentiments in Thoreau’s earlier poetry demonstrates the circuitous ways that Thoreau first wrote about social justice concerns. In viewing these obscure forms in relation to his

later writing, we can see that these poems helped him develop his ability to write with abolitionist sentiment. Thoreau advanced through his literary art, namely his poetry, to a way out of ambiguity and obscurity regarding antislavery views into clarity and boldness. Yet, as his well-known water-lily image demonstrates, his poetic tendency to intertwine humankind and nature never quite leaves him and thus leaves us discussing a signature ambiguity that reveals itself in both his prose and his poetry.


Scholars writing at this confluence include, among others, Lawrence Buell and Jeffrey Myers. In The Environmental Imagination, Buell denotes critics emphasizing either Thoreau’s environmental advocacy or his work as a social reformer (362-69). Establishing a channel that does away with this critical bifurcation, Buell states, might “overcome the traditional opposition between the ‘naturist’ and the ‘social protester’” and might show how “‘private’ transactions with nature may be animated, at least in part, by the will to effect transformation of humankind’s social identity and indeed the whole fabric of the social” (369). In Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature, Myers focuses on works of the nineteenth century that engage the idea that racism and alienation from nature arose from common sources. In his Thoreau chapter in particular, he argues that Thoreau’s “ecocentric stance collapses the dualistic human/nature hierarchy by which land and wildlife are ‘othered.’ In doing so, he collapses related hierarchies in the social realm” (51). There are numerous other arguments made in a similar vein; these are just two major works that I recommend for entering into this convergence point. For a useful discussion of how she ties these threads together, pedagogically, see Rebecca Kneale Gould’s “Thoreau, Race and Environmental Justice: Deepening the Conversation.” Particularly striking is Gould’s invocation of James Cone, an African American man, who asks of his African American readers, “What good is it to eliminate racism if we are not around to enjoy a racist free environment?” (173).


Few people recognize that Thoreau wrote poetry; typically, only specialists of the nineteenth century realize that Thoreau in fact was a prodigious poet. The reason for this is that historically critics tend to regard Thoreau’s poetry as inferior to his prose and disregard it on these grounds. Carl Bode praised Thoreau’s poetry in his 1943 Collected Poems, although equivocally, writing: “That the poetry Henry Thoreau scrawled and labored over, and later neglected, has its defects as well as its values, no one would deny. Yet almost every bit of the verse has a dry, oblique power” (viii). In his biography, Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, Robert D. Richardson Jr. deemed

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Thoreau’s poem “Friendship” “remarkable” (40). These positive remarks are outliers; compare Richardson’s “remarkable” to Elizabeth Hall Witherell’s “unremarkable,” which I note in the discussion of “Independence.” Two scholars have done recent studies on Thoreau’s poetry: Lizzy LeRud with “Living Poems in Thoreau’s Prose” and myself with “Thoreau’s Poetry and the New Materialism.” In Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau, Branka Arsić looks at the poem “The Funeral Bell” and argues that, unlike Emerson’s poetics of self-expression, Thoreau’s hinge on the emptying of the self (86-87). Some scholarly activity on the poetry occurs at present, but thus far these studies, as well as those done by Witherell in the 1990s (“Thoreau as Poet,” “Thoreau’s Watershed Season as a Poet”), have not connected Thoreau’s poetry to the discourses that have recently and vibrantly involved Thoreau’s prose. It is particularly notable that such a disparity exists between the reception of the prose and that of the poetry, considering the latter’s often being contained within the former, as I note in the discussion of prosimetrum. Because of his use of this technique, scholars who avoid discussion of Thoreau’s verse really have to privilege the prose over the poetry, maintaining a bias against analyzing the poetry, because, embedded within his prose, it’s often part and parcel of his non-verse writing. I would hope that a reading of the poems as containing abolitionist sentiment helps engender more scholarly attention of the poetry, in addition to developing our sense of Thoreau’s antislavery and other forms of social justice expression. 3.

Dates for these poems come from Witherell’s Library of America Edition of the Collected Essays and Poems (666-74).


Bloom and Newman classify Thoreau as Wordsworthian on somewhat different grounds. Bloom, in his introduction to the Modern Critical Views of Thoreau, sees the young poet, like Wordsworth, perceiving nature as corresponding to the human in a benevolent manner (1-2). Newman in “‘Patron of the World’: Henry Thoreau as Wordsworthian Poet” argues that Thoreau’s poetry is “unified … by his lifelong dedication to the Wordsworthian model of the poet as public intellectual ministering to the moral health of a natural republic” (156). As Newman points out, perhaps the most extended discussion of Thoreau and Wordsworth is in Laraine Fergenson’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, “Wordsworth and Thoreau: A Study of the Relationship between Man and Nature,” which she later condensed into an article.


It is worth mentioning the scattershot publication history of Thoreau’s poems, even if we do not make claims as to how this history might have affected the verse’s reception. As noted here, some of the poems first appeared in the Dial, which saw Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson as editors. Fuller herself was not a fan of Thoreau’s verse; see Walter Harding’s The Days of Henry Thoreau (113-17) and Charles Capper’s Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Vol. 2: The Public Years (16) for discussion of her relationship as Dial editor to Thoreau. Capper notes Fuller seeing a lack of “fusion and glow” in Thoreau’s poems and taking issue with some of his imagery. Other poems appeared posthumously in the Letters to Various Persons (1865), the New Riverside

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edition of his writings in 1894, then a somewhat expanded selection in the 1906 Houghton Mifflin edition—but ever and always presented as annexes to the real meat of Thoreau’s prose. Carl Bode edited a first comprehensive edition of Thoreau’s poetry in the early 1940s (several times reissued), and this served as the scholarly standard up to Witherell’s effort published in 2001. The Princeton edition of the poems is yet to be issued. 6.

All of the poems excerpted here come from the Library of America edition, Collected Essays and Poems, edited by Witherell.


This language echoes the opening lines in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, in which Thoreau, referring to the indigenous peoples who originally named the Concord River the Musketaquid, or Grass-Ground River, states that “To an extinct race [the river] was grass-ground, where they hunted and fished” (5). This line about an “extinct race” is not meant to help us discern just to which “race” Thoreau is referring when he speaks of extinction and race in his poetry, but to demonstrate that Thoreau has a tendency to attribute the same language to both embattled humans and animals.


In the 1909 edition of Walden, edited by F.B. Sanborn, Thoreau writes that he once had a rooster with much of “wild Indian pheasant” in him (22). Of “To a Stray Fowl,” Thoreau writes, “One night [the rooster] was by chance shut out of the hen-yard, and after long reconnoitering and anxious going and coming,—with brave thoughts exalting him, and fancies rushing thick upon him … he flew, bird-like, up into a tree and went to roost there. And I, who had witnessed this passage in his private history, forthwith wrote these verses and inscribed them to him” (23). As Bode remarks, “The poem, especially in its conclusion, is a statement of Thoreau’s belief in instinct over tuition. Nature is the best educator” (339). Indeed, wild instinct remains despite what amounts to a superficial domestication.


Of course, the hypothesis that “To a Stray Fowl” concerns itself with the injustice of African Americans cannot be proved, nor disproved for that matter. Yet it is precisely this ambiguity that sets Thoreau’s early verse apart from his later, more overt abolitionist texts. Thoreau begins in uncertain verse and later arrives in decisive prose. Abolitionist sentiment could be there, it might be there. Then, it is most certainly there. This argument about Thoreau’s poetic development toward social justice writing at once parallels and complicates Robert D. Richardson Jr.’s stance in Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind that even Thoreau’s prose material came into being via the procedures of a poet. As Richardson observes, Thoreau “started with jottings, perceptions, phrases, short bits often written on the backs of envelopes or other scraps of paper, and often while out walking … From jottings to journal or notebook, to lecture, to essay was the usual pattern of development” (140-41). Richardson characterizes poetry, or the poet’s process, as a response to a fleeting moment of observation. Something


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is at first recorded quickly, so as to get it down; then, later, it is “polish[ed],” refined (141). While I do wish to highlight the embryonic quality of Thoreau’s verse, how it serves as a beginning point for Thoreau’s social justice rhetoric, I do not want to conflate it with quick, offhanded activity (“jottings,” “bits”) or ephemeral subject matter. Actually, Thoreau’s poetic catalysts were enduring and encompassing. His inspiration was not merely some beautiful sight he saw on a walk, although at times it could be that. Rather, it was the larger social web of which he was a part—something contrary to the fleeting moment and quite ensnaring. 11.

Arsić briefly nears this territory of seeing Thoreau combining mourning with critique. I have used the term “mourning” where she uses “grief,” but Arsić notes in a letter to Isaiah Williams grief acting as “ontological rather than psychological operation, one that reconfigures the landscape of what is” (75-76). In the letter, she points to Thoreau’s question, “Could we not grieve perpetually, and by our grief discourage time’s encroachments?” (Correspondence 108) Arsić rightly identifies the possibilities of grief to change, to alter even the most inevitable of realities (“time’s encroachments”). In the poems, grief/mourning combines with critique to lament things as they are and to proffer visions of alternatives—grief is generative. The time period in terms of this initial “minstrelsy” reference is medieval England. In his study of the relationship between minstrelsy and the church in medieval England, Richard Rastall states that there was a “complex relationship between the medieval Church, the clergy, and the men who played the instruments. Minstrels were of many types—mostly damnable, according to the Church. Chaucer’s Pardoner’s description of ‘Syngeres with harpes, baudes, wafereres, / Whiche been the verray develes officeres’ may seem harsh; but it was deserved by the majority of those who travelled around medieval England ‘under colour of minstrelsie’” (83-84).


If Thoreau is subtly using terms such as “race” and “minstrelsy” to allude to human rights issues, one begins to wonder how much Thoreau’s poetry, particularly its subject matter, looks “unremarkable” (see Witherell’s remark which I have included in the passage analyzing “Independence”) because we have been trained to see it as such. Perhaps we have inherited a critical framework that denies the complexity of Thoreau’s verse and would benefit from teasing out its more compelling characteristics.



For a discussion of Thoreau’s prosimetrum, see LeRud, “Living Poems in Thoreau’s Prose.”

In fact, Emerson edited out very significant portions of Thoreau’s poetry in “A Winter Walk” before it was published, and the recent, standard scholarly edition of Excursions (edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer, Princeton UP, 2007) somewhat controversially reinstates all the poems Emerson excised. In one sense the resulting “restored” text is thus in likely closer fidelity to what may be assumed to have been Thoreau’s authorial intent at the time. On the other hand, it does away with all the critical and popular reception of the essay during the intervening 164 years. For Emerson’s thoughts on the essay, see Walls’s biography Henry David Thoreau: A Life (158).


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Richardson says that John’s death “had freed Thoreau to write, perhaps spurred him to write,” “un-Emersonian pieces” such as “A Winter Walk” (124). He denotes that Thoreau put together the essay “very hastily” during his first month in New York (134). In Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Walls demonstrates the essay’s composition in conjunction with his city experience (158).


The Latin meaning of flashing back here suggests that the smoke reflects, or flashes back, something to the man on the cabin’s threshold. Carl Bode remarks that Thoreau’s use of “refulgent” here is a “happier” example of his use of Latinized expressions (340), the likes of which he would have learned at Harvard. While I agree that in its implication of flashing back the Latin adds “deeper meaning” than “resplendent or radiant,” I do not see, as Bode does, the cloud of smoke flashing back “the vaporous cloud in the sky above” (340); I am not sure how that would work. What is flashing to what in that example? Rather, I see the smoke reflecting back to the master his relationship to this airborne sight; the image of the smoke “flashes back” to the human originator his narrative of originating it.


In his chapter “Losses and Change,” Foster devotes a section to the passenger pigeon (167-75). As he shows, numerous of Thoreau’s journal entries include observations of the bird and provide an account of some of their final years before elimination from the Massachusetts landscape by 1879 and extinction in 1914. Indeed, the last recorded living member of the species, a female pigeon given the name Martha, died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914 (172).


While it is true that Thoreau locates in birds a spiritual ideal of freedom, Arsić has done remarkable work that shows Thoreau as materialist, not idealist. Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau recovers Thoreau’s vitalist theory of nature (building, in part, on Laura Dassow Walls’s work in Seeing New Worlds on Thoreau’s Humboldtian influence), demonstrating that, for Thoreau, death was not cessation, but rather an evolutionary-metamorphic process instantiated by the nineteenth-century zoological-geological belief in the immortality of bird species. Because hollow bird bones leave no fossil records, nineteenth-century geologists believed that birds did not go extinct but rather evolved as they migrated to various parts of the globe. Thoreau conceptualized this further, seeing birds as immortal relics, embodying the “life that commemorates itself ” (Arsić 26). This vitalism provides the basis for Thoreau’s naturalism, Arsić argues, as well as his grief, particularly for his birding brother, John. It is my contention that Arsić’s convincing portrait of Thoreau’s vitalism exists simultaneously alongside his viewing birds as free; we could argue that, combining my account with Arsić’s, for Thoreau, birds serve as emblems of a perpetual freedom.


It could be considered problematic that Thoreau imbues nature, in these instances birds, with the plight of African Americans, but Thoreau is less focused on the differences between seemingly disparate groups than the similarities. What binds these groups that we might read as disparate is the injustice they face. This focus on the connective tissue, as it were, doesn’t make it unproblematic for Thoreau to depict, in his verse, African Americans as birds from a “jungle.” But it does demon-


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strate that this problematic analogizing arises from Thoreau’s conceiving of nonhuman entities and human entities as not wholly distinct, a point I make in “Thoreau’s Poetry and the New Materialism.” This mindset informs Thoreau’s statement in his journal, “I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of my kindred, even in scenes which we are accustomed to call wild” (2:235-36). No matter the nonhuman form, flower or bird or fog or tree, Thoreau sees in it a “kindred” presence. These elements of nature and these groups of humans are associated, corresponding, for their being mistreated—and for their capacity to overcome. According to the Collected Essays and Poems, the poems found in the Journal rather than in the Dial or embedded in published prose via prosimetrum are “Ep on the World,” “I saw a delicate flower,” and “Man Man is the Devil.”



I have not seen any scholars unpack the intriguing title “The Black Knight” nor attribute it to Thoreau or someone else and would emphasize its racial underpinnings, especially since the poem is about individual freedom versus a corrupt state. Such dualities surface, as well, in another poem from 1842 (Witherell 670), although much more explicitly. Indeed, “Wait not till slaves pronounce the word” acts as the anomaly that proves the standard (CEP 577-78). It is the lone poem that explicitly engages the rhetoric of slavery. Diction pertaining to “kings,” “gold,” and “pelf ” and the connection of these to the corrupt state provide further precedent for understanding “Independence” as concerned with slavery; the language is strikingly similar. Bode sees this poem as the “most vigorous announcement that genuine freedom must start within the individual” (370). In my view, the poem represents the inability to act against slavery as a type of slavery: “Think not the tyrant sits afar / In your own breasts ye have / The District of Columbia / And power to free the Slave” (578). The “Slave” can be read as both the African American slave and the individual who has not found it within themselves to confront this social issue. It is a complex poem and one that further reminds us that Thoreau used poetry for expressions other than those about the natural world.


For Native American and Indigenous perspectives on relationality, see Starblanket and Stark, TallBear, and Salmón. For deep ecology, see Devall and Sessions. For ecosophy, see Naess and Guattari. For other texts promoting a movement away from anthropocentric models, see new materialists such as Bennett, Coole and Frost. TallBear elucidates how Bennett, Coole, Frost, and other new materialists might portray their vital-materialist stance as a “new” intervention (198), but their ideas about lively matter undergird a long-held, long-sustained Indigenous “metaphysic”—in other words, they are not so new after all (199).


For a detailed history of scholarly interpretations of the lily image at the end of “Slavery in Massachusetts,” see Utzinger’s “A Season of Purity: The Moral Naturalism of Henry David Thoreau.”



I elaborate upon “enmeshedness” in “Thoreau’s Poetry and the New Materialism.”

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WORKS CITED Arsić, Branka. Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau. Harvard UP, 2016. Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Modern Critical Views: Henry David Thoreau, by Bloom, Chelsea House, 1987, pp. 1-11. Buell, Lawrence. “American Pastoral Ideology Reappraised.” American Literary History, v ol. 1, no. 1, spring 1989, pp. 1-29. —. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Belknap Press/Harvard UP, 1996. Capper, Charles. Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Vol. 2: The Public Years. Oxford UP, 2007. Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Devall, Bill and George Sessions. Deep Ecology. Salt Lake City, UT: G.M. Smith, 1985. Fergenson, Laraine. “Wordsworth and Thoreau: A Study of the Relationship between Man and Nature.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1971. Foster, David R. Thoreau’s Country: Journey Through a Transformed Landscape. Harvard UP, 2001. Gilmore, Michael T. The War on Words: Slavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature. U of Chicago P, 2010. Gould, Rebecca Kneale. “Thoreau, Race and Environmental Justice: Deepening the Conversation.” The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies, vol. 25, 2017, pp. 171-83. Guattari, Félix. The Three Ecologies. Translated by Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. London: the Athlone Press, 2000.

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Harding, Walter. The Days of Henry Thoreau: A Biography. 1965. Dover, 1982. LeRud, Lizzy. “Living Poems in Thoreau’s Prose.” Nineteenth-Century Prose, vol. 44, Fall 2017, pp. 155-76. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Poems on Slavery. Cambridge, Mass: John Owen, 1842. Myers, Jeffrey. Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature. U of Georgia P, 2005. Nabers, Deak. “Thoreau’s Natural Constitution.” American Literary History, vol. 19, no. 4, 2007, pp. 824-48. Naess, Arne. Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. Translated by David Rothenberg. Cambridge UP, 1989. Newman, Lance. “‘Patron of the World’: Henry Thoreau as Wordsworthian Poet.” The Concord Saunterer, vol. 11, 2003, pp. 155-72. O’Donoghue, Heather. Skaldic Verse and the Poetics of Saga Narrative. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. “pelf, n.” OED Online, Oxford UP. Petrulionis, Sandra Harbert. To Set This World Right: The Antislavery Movement in Thoreau’s Concord. Cornell UP, 2006. Rastall, Richard. “Minstrelsy, Church and Clergy and Medieval England.” Proceedings of the Royal Music Association, vol. 97, 1970-71, pp. 83-98. Richardson Jr., Robert D. Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. U of California P, 1986. Salmón, Enrique. “Kincentric ecology: Indigenous perceptions of the human–nature relationship.” Ecological Applications, 10 (5), 2000, pp. 1327-1332. Schrimper, Michael R. “Thoreau’s Poetry and the New Materialism: A Matter of ‘Enmeshedness.’” The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies, vol. 26, 2018, pp. 55-78.

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Sigourney, Lydia Huntley. “To the First Slave Ship.” The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry. Edited by Jay Parini. New York: Columbia UP, 1995, pp. 76-77. Starblanket, Gina, and Heidi Kitwetinepinesiik Stark. “Towards a Relational Paradigm: Four Points for Consideration: Knowledge, Gender, Land, and Modernity.” Resurgence and Reconciliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Earth Teachings, edited by Michael Asch, James Tully, and John Borrows. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2018, pp. 175–208. TallBear, Kim. “Beyond the Life/Not Life Binary: a Feminist-Indigenous Reading of Cryopreservation, Interspecies Thinking and the New Materialisms.” Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World, edited by Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2017, pp. 179-200. Taylor, Yuval, and Jake Austen. Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop. W.W. Norton, 2012. Thoreau, Henry David. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Edited by Carl F. Hovde, et al., Princeton UP, 2004. —. Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau. Edited by Carl Bode, Packard and Company, 1943. —. The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau: Volume 1: 1834-1848. Edited by Robert N. Hudspeth, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau. Princeton UP, 2013. —. Excursions. Edited by Joseph J. Moldenhauer, Princeton UP, 2007. —. Henry David Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems. Edited by Elizabeth Hall Witherell, Library of America, 2001. —. The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau. 8 vols. Princeton UP.

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—. Letters to Various Persons. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1865. —. “A Plea for Captain John Brown.” Transcendentalism: A Reader, edited by Joel Myerson, Oxford UP, 2000, pp. 628-47. —. “Resistance to Civil Government.” Transcendentalism: A Reader, edited by Joel Myerson, Oxford UP, 2000, pp. 546-65. —. “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Transcendentalism: A Reader, edited by Joel Myerson, Oxford UP, 2000, pp. 602-15. —. Walden. Edited by F.B. Sanborn. Boston, Mass.: The Bibliophile Society, 1909. —. Walden. Edited by J. Lyndon Shanley, Princeton Classics, 2016. —. The Writings of Henry David Thoreau. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1906. Utzinger, Jeffrey. “A Season of Purity: The Moral Naturalism of Henry David Thoreau.” The Concord Saunterer, vol. 24, 2016, 30-48. Walls, Laura Dassow. Henry David Thoreau: A Life. U of Chicago P, 2017. —. Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science. U of Wisconsin P, 1995. Witherell, Elizabeth Hall. “Thoreau as Poet.” The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau, edited by Joel Myerson. Cambridge UP, 1995, pp. 57-70. —. “Thoreau’s Watershed Season as a Poet: The Hidden Fruits of the Summer and Fall of 1841.” Studies in the American Renaissance, 1990, pp. 49-106.

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We would do better to live with ghosts, both the monstrous and the fantastic. Gothic Marxism’s call for a solidarity with such figments of the unreal seeks to recover forms of the irrational and illogical that have long been denied in favor of a specific rationalism proffered by capitalism. Gothic Marxism holds that Freud’s studies of psychoanalysis are not only necessary to exploring Marx’s understandings of the capitalistic market, but also that they are themselves determined by capitalism’s inception and consequences. Margaret Cohen first termed the phrase in Profane Illumination as a way to encapsulate “the contours of a Marxist genealogy fascinated with the irrational aspects of social processes, a genealogy that both investigates how the irrational pervades existing society and dreams of using it to effect social change” (1-2). Gothic Marxism marks an urgent embrace of the absurd, strange, and unreasonable in order to pose a challenge to cultural conceptions of the Gothic that have stripped the supernatural of its eeriness. It returns to Freud to disrupt psychoanalysis and its supposedly logical explications to the mind in order to push the “dehierarchization of the epistemological privilege accorded the visual in the direction of that integration of the senses dreamed of by Marx in The 1844 Manuscripts” (Cohen 11). Attention to the unreal in Marx’s The 1844 Manuscripts means the opening up of criticism to a space otherwise obscured or dismissed by a supposed adherence to a social topography of materialism that is concrete, tangible, and realistic. Author-theorist China Miéville argues Gothic Marxism highlights the Gothic’s propensity toward the supernatural to push a system of thought that

might stand “against the disenchantment of a certain kind of cold, abstract rationality … without falling into kind of nostalgia” (15:12-15:24). A Gothic Marxism is thus a move toward realizing the unreal as a site of inescapable haunting, one that conveys a lingering feeling of the strange and unfamiliar that both plagues capitalism and that capitalism relies upon to succeed. This essay calls attention to the way Sheridan LeFanu’s Uncle Silas relies on the figure and language of the supernatural to explore abstractions within capitalism and to illuminate how this economic system can convert even the most ghostly of signifiers into matters representing commodities and value. The 1864 novel tells the tale of Maud Ruthyn, an orphaned heiress who must survive two nefarious plots to steal her inheritance and fortune: one put into play by a clever governess, Madame de la Rougierre, and another by her uncle Silas, whose scandalous history involves suspicion of murder to avoid persecution from gambling debt. Evident in these interactions are economic concerns that revolve as much around the want to commodify or extrapolate value from the dead, their ghost, and their presence, as they do the material world of the living. In these efforts to appropriate the dead, LeFanu highlights how capitalism’s ability to transform and structure the immaterial and abstract can also imbue a sense of ever-present haunting, panic, and anxiety that affects both the body and psyche. Such attention to the way notions of the ghostly and capitalism are intertwined evokes and necessitates a conversation with the development of Gothic Marxism. By highlighting this relationship in discussion with the novel, I argue Uncle Silas provides a reflection of capital as what it really is: an unnatural and abstract entity that relies upon contradictions to deemphasize its own artificiality.

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Why a Gothic Marxism? Readings of the Gothic and its relationship to capitalism is hardly new, nor is an attempt to pair Freud and Marx without precedent. Ann Gaylin offers a loose definition of the Gothic as largely “about the past,” the stylistic featuring of the supernatural and specters that “represent a return of prior events that must be acknowledged and accounted for before they and their spectral remains can be put to rest” (93). The past resurfaces in uneasy ways to conjure a needed remembrance about injustice or forgotten history. Many critics have interpreted LeFanu’s novel as an example of a type of anglophone novel in the late nineteenth century that responded to the failure of society to provide safety or a private space for a single woman.1 In her influential study of the genre, Perils of the Night, Eugenia C. DeLamotte argues these novels embraced supernatural and horror elements to erect metaphoric concerns about gender barriers. The Gothic was indicative of how the growth of industrial capitalism did not resolve issues of gender; instead it relied upon this subjugation and perpetuated it. Danger outside the home and the preying upon of women with financial means as common tropes could be understood to signify a sense of women’s constricted freedom and undermined self-sufficiency. DeLamotte writes, “The suddenness with which these barriers appear in the Gothic reflects a sense of the meaninglessness and arbitrariness of the normal barriers for which they are a disguised representation” (28). Confronted with the arbitrariness of these barriers, these Gothic heroines are plagued with the urgency of discovering a need to work around the limitations that society enacts and has persistently enacted. Within LeFanu’s novel, Maud remains emblematic of this character type, seeking to overcome the financial corruption and thievery that aims to disrupt her want for stability and control. DeLamotte’s argument lends itself to potential criticism by failing to account

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to what extent these genre novels typically end by perpetuating the same economic system that constructs many of the complications to begin with. Alison Milbank refutes DeLamotte’s type of approach to understanding Uncle Silas as too simplistic, stating that “it might be argued by Marxist critics that the model of escape from a feudal system evades confronting the actual nature of Victorian society, and its capitalist mode of production” (20). The problems DeLamotte claims are illuminated remain as such—problems. Uncovering the difficulties embedded in a capitalist society does nothing more than distinguish them. Further, it allows the difficulties contingent upon capitalism to seem more dense and solid than they might otherwise appear. Rather than seek to uncover how the genre can reveal how to deconstruct these arbitrations and show what happens when they do, scholars have frequently leaned into assuming that capitalistic modes of thought are inescapable, inevitable facets to the genre that merely propel a plot to an ending. Psychoanalytic critiques have often fallen into a similar trap, tending to build discussion around diagnosing anxiety in Uncle Silas and the Gothic genre as symptomatic of capitalism’s presence in the everyday condition, and not reactions that exist solely because of it. This particular approach can be traced back to Freud’s theories, whose writings adopt many of the stylistic qualities associated with the Gothic.2 British historian Robert J.C. Young has argued that Freud’s psychoanalysis appears at the end of the nineteenth century as a necessary economic response to regulate problems around gender and mental anxiety that mainly derive from a newfound consciousness about class relations (218). Maud’s fears are based upon interacting with a lower class of people that do not possess a morality comparable to her own. The novel’s main goal, to follow this critique, is to teach her how to navigate

a world where people hold various degrees of money and to establish her place in the upper class. For Freud, resolving psychological issues ultimately proves to reinforce these class divisions in order to fathom and form the types of individuals and mental capacities needed to better enact the everyday workings of capitalism. To be more specific, the figure of the analyst that Freud establishes exists to highlight the virtues of work and make the capitalist a model to aspire towards. Young writes, “As a good bourgeois man, [Freud] shows himself quite content to describe the dream process itself according to the model of the young capitalist and entrepreneur— while the dream worker remains characteristically absent” (217-18). If the Gothic exists to bring the unknown and the abnormal to the surface, then Freud’s project exists to redefine the strange as coherent, to eradicate the eerie and replace it with the rational. It turns the irrational worries of one incapacitated into a problem another person can work through. The dream worker, the one who endures the anxiety in the first place, is “characteristically absent” because their inability to remain functioning under a capitalistic model denies them a place in Freud’s conception of the normal (218). Helen Stoddart makes the case that this psychoanalytic process finds a parallel and symmetry across much of LeFanu’s works, creating a series of tangled associations that stand antithetical to human values and truths that are irrational (34). To return to Uncle Silas, Freudian approaches have done a disservice to the repeated attention LeFanu expresses toward fiscal responsibility as an endless mental burden for Maud, one that continues to linger as an abnormal presence over her life.3 Without careful consideration to the way psychoanalysis can reinstate and reinforce capitalistic notions, applying Freud’s theories to Gothic literature can obfuscate the latter’s capability to relay how capitalism itself is often responsible for problems of the psyche.

This is not to say Freudian or Marxist approaches to understanding Uncle Silas are wrong, but that greater interaction and collaboration between these two systems of thought can reveal insights about the novel that have so far gone unremarked. LeFanu ends the novel on a reflective note for his character Maud. Maud states, “This world is a parable—the habitation of symbols—the phantoms of spiritual things immortal shown in material shape” (LeFanu 436). Maud’s attention to the materialization of the otherwise ephemeral denotes two things. First, materialization seems to inevitably happen. And second, there is an urgency to identify this process if one hopes to appreciate and analyze the world around them. She continues, “May the blessed second-sight be mine—to recognize under these beautiful forms of earth the angels who wear them; for I am sure we may walk with them if we will, and hear them speak!” (436). The final comment raises the question about who gains privy to this ability of recognition. In addition, it posits that if we “walk with [the supernatural]” and “hear them speak,” that we might acquire an insight into where value can be located and how value can be erected during interaction (436). This process of thought that is marked by ideas about reification and personal reflection becomes a tool to reengage the novel’s circumstances. It urges the reader to return to the narrative and encounter the text through an understanding of psychoanalysis and Marxist critique as interdependent forces. Until Gothic Marxism, most attempts to pair Freud and Marx have shared in common the goal of demystifying the former’s theories of the unconscious with the latter’s arguments about alienation, at the level of the commodity and class consciousness. Wilhelm Reich, part of the second generation of analysts to study after Freud, saw the goal as the need to resolve two concerns. First, Freudo-Marxism, as it came to be called, needed to tackle how

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“Marxists claim that [Freud’s psychoanalysis] is a phenomenon of the decadence of the decaying bourgeoise,” and, second, it needed to refute how “Marxists also say [psychoanalysis] is an idealist science” (Reich 9). Reich came to resolve both claims through the assertion that all philosophies and sciences from the nineteenth century inevitably contain the roots of idealism. Freud’s psychoanalysis and Marx’s thought “could never have come into being without the contradiction between productive forces and capitalist production conditions; but [they] represented the discovery and hence also the ideological germ of the new economic order taking shape in the womb of the old one” (9). There is cyclical work being done here. The phenomenon Marx and Freud uncover are made known only because capitalism exists, even as they point to contradictions. As such, Reich called for overcoming the limitations of isolating each thinker, urging collaboration as the only way to unravel capitalism’s processes. Louis Althusser claimed the project of pairing Freud and Marx was to prevent capitalism from brutally occupying the former. Althusser stated that “there is something true in Freud that must be appropriated but in order that its meaning may be revised, for this truth is dangerous: it must be revised in order to be neutralized” (19). Rather than allow capitalism to neutralize the subversive potential of Freud, Gothic Marxism follows Althusser’s line of argument to highlight Freud’s confrontations with the mind. It assumes the dangerous truth that Althusser perceives in Freud lies in the profound strangeness of the mind’s psyche. Crucially, it stops Freud’s psychoanalyzing from over-rationalizing and explaining away problems with causes that lie outside his specific purview. It reminds us, as Michael Löwy notes, that “the irrational penetrates existing society … and dreams of using the irrational [can] bring about social change” (“Spell” 17). This is not the retention of mystery for its own sake, but the

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retention of mystery because, as Mark Fisher argues, “The most Gothic description of Capital is also the most accurate” (15). In its obligation to the obscure and mysterious, the Gothic simply does not allow capitalism’s own contradictions to hide behind a claim for rationality. The unfamiliar brings us back to a form of the Gothic prevalent in the literature of the nineteenth century. It is a form that privileges the strange and unfamiliar as presences in not just our past, but as presences to recognize in the present. Thinking about Gothic Marxism in relation to our own perspective of the strange can help uncover insights into how capitalism can leave us feeling estranged and the way we can feel estranged from it. What distinguishes Gothic Marxism from prior studies linking the Gothic to capitalism is its refusal to see the Gothic as reactionary, instead viewing it as a parallel form that can shape our understanding of capitalism. Stephen Shapiro argues that fundamental to the Gothic is its recursive presence, its inability to remain dead because it adheres to capitalism’s logic for revitalization. As Shapiro writes, capitalism transforms and regenerates itself through “cyclical reconfigurations in the world-market, demarcated by recurrences of the trauma of coercion and initial dispossession that always inaugurate a new phase, [which] tend to find expression in Gothic cadences and images” (31). Readings of the Gothic frequently focus on the aftermath of this movement, stumbling onto interpretations that either highlight an inextant form of capitalism or mistake the strangeness of the Gothic as a series of static symbols. To Shapiro, it is best to remember that the Gothic also exists in a state of flux, transforming itself to fit its particular period of reemergence. Gothic Marxism alerts us to these transformations as they happen, breaking through capitalism’s anamorphic tendencies to understand the strangeness of irrational behavior and activity that otherwise appears normal. It is an alternative

tradition, what Michael Löwy defines as “a historical materialism sensitive to the marvelous, to the dark instant of revolt, to the illumination which pierces, like a lightning, the sky of revolutionary action” (“Libertarian” 22). This is seen in how Uncle Silas fathoms a Gothic world that is as much unsettled by ghosts from the past as it is disturbed by living figures who resemble specters themselves, those whose financial goals might, as Gaylin argues, “move [one] to physical and psychological places to which [one] does not wish to go” (94). It is not just the past and its traces that linger. The present too is capable of enacting its own form of haunting. Gothic Marxism adopts a similar approach. Reconciling Freud and Marx brings about “the valorization of the realm of a culture’s ghosts and phantasms as a significant and rich field of social production rather than a mirage to be dispelled” (Cohen 11). It conveys the supernatural as more than passive symptoms of development because it calls attention to the facets of change that are themselves unfamiliar and peculiar. Sights of ghosts and the supernatural are no longer the province of the individual mind; they are the after-effects and the manifestations of desires to use and exploit within the social collective. Intuitions into such wants illuminates why capitalism can make the illogical the basis of actions and change, even when we know these desires or motives are irrational. By bringing Gothic Marxism to Uncle Silas, the supernatural becomes the route by which to understand the frictions that permeate capitalism’s development and the frictions that preclude possible resistance.

Recovering the Strange In developing an argument about this disaffection and the way capitalism can highlight mental feelings of separation and anxiety, it is best to start by reviewing how Sheridan LeFanu’s novel opens by

presciently evoking Freud’s techniques. Maud, the narrator, announces, “A girl, of a little more than seventeen, looking, I believe, younger still; slight and rather tall, with a great deal of golden hair, dark grey-eyed, and with a countenance rather sensitive and melancholy, was sitting at the tea-table, in a reverie” (LeFanu 1). This portrait starts as a mix of detached characteristics and forms an assumption about this girl’s state of mind that borders on the omniscient. The moment would seem banal if not for a fascinating statement from Maud about the description: “I was that girl” (1). Maud’s self-reflexive comment turns the examination of her person inward. The strain between impartial observations and emotional feelings about the self suggests the need for an analyst to step into the mind of their patient to study their unconscious workings and feelings of division. More specifically, it recalls Freud’s notion of transference, a process in which “a whole series of psychological experiences are revived, not as belonging to the past, but as applying to the person of the physician at the present moment” (The Freud Reader 234). Transference involves the art of reconciling what the mind understands as illogical or random for the meaningful. It takes those items, memories, and symbols in one’s mind and turns them into something with consequential significance. Freud adds, “it is only after the transference has been resolved that a patient arrives at a sense of conviction of the validity of the connections which have been constructed during analysis” (235). Accepting an analyst’s interpretation of events is an act of transference that removes the arbitrary for connections. During this process the analyst divulges “phantasies not of the patient but of the analyst himself, who forces them upon the person under analysis on account of some complexes of his own” (Freud, The Freud Reader 420). Despite the ethical problems of forcing a narrative upon another, Freud’s argument

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illustrates the way affinity with another can develop out of the act of accepting another’s account as informative for one’s own life, so long as this process remains “detected almost without assistance” and both parties understand that “the risk of making arbitrary inferences has to be avoided” (The Freud Reader 235). Of course, within this identification is a question of power dynamics, a question Maud complicates by offering a line of reflection demarcating who she was then and who she is at the story’s end, thereby moving herself past the simple role of the narrator relaying the story to its reader to also play the part of analyst. What the reader encounters is thus Maud’s effort at transference, her attempt to establish associations and add some semblance of purpose to the encounters in her narrative. Maud’s attempts at transference become important here not because of her success in doing so, but because the journey in arranging her past allows the reader to witness the struggles that can occur in narrativizing the illogical encounters of life. Freud discusses these trials that arise in analysis when he writes, “The length of the road over which an analysis must travel with the patient, and the quantity of material which must be mastered on the way, are of no importance in comparison with the resistance which is met with in the course of the work, and are only of importance at all in so far as they are necessarily proportional to the resistance” (The Freud Reader 403). In the course of coming to grips with the past, one must handle an increasing amount of information that can be overwhelming. Central to Freud’s project is developing the necessary narrative that can cooperate and rationalize this mounting information that keeps growing the longer the analytic process lasts. But what constitutes the resistance and how does it disrupt transference? Freud remains vague except in two key moments. The first comes when he claims the analyst must ensure that their attachment to their patient and their patient’s subject

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matter ends. Ensuring this outcome enables the analyst to submit “on a single occasion to the timelessness of the unconscious [so] he will be brought nearer to vanquishing it in the end” (403). The second clue appears when Freud notes how an impending end creates an outcome in which “resistance temporarily dissapear[s]” and enables “an impression of lucidity which is usually attainable only in hypnosis” (403). Hinted in these two comments is the notion that the unconscious signifies a site of atemporality. Events and items cannot be understood through a causal relationship because they cannot be placed into a logical sequence of events. Freud’s call to find an end to the unconscious is predicated on creating the conditions of clarity that dismantle and prevent irrationality from plaguing the mind. As such, resistance to transference derives from the continuous presence of the inexplicable. All this provides ground to argue that the Gothic and its intrinsic link to the illogical represent a possible resistance to psychoanalysis and its tendency toward organized narrative. Notions of the Gothic in the novel defy human impositions. They are indicative of how certain events linger outside of human control. Maud’s experience in dealing with her father’s death, what she defines as “a calamity of … supernatural … abruptness,” conveys how Freud’s desire for an artificial end is sometimes impossible (LeFanu 114). Maud reflects that “[o]ne of the terrible dislocations of our habits of mind respecting the dead is that our earthly future is robbed of them, and we [are] thrown exclusively upon retrospect. From the long look forward they are removed, and every plan, imagination, and hope henceforth a silent and empty perspective” (114). Death itself is a natural and sometimes sudden end that evokes the unknown. It demands that the established narrative and expectation of time be changed to accommodate what was lost. Such resistance appears multiple

times throughout the novel. Whenever Maud suspects things are going wrong, she resists the claims of comfort from other characters. Before being under the guardianship of her evil uncle Silas, Maud notes, “My grief darkened with a wild presaging of danger, and a sense of the supernatural fell upon me. It was the saddest and most awful evening that had come since my beloved father’s death” (121). Within Maud’s remark is a clue that the unknown is forever haunting the subject. The supernatural has become the phrase to embody the happenstance and events following death that make one aware of temporal instability. Evoking the supernatural as something all around her, Maud signals how the future and past feel gone from her. Feelings toward the past are filled with grief and attitudes toward the future are plagued with “a wild presaging of danger” (121). Both feelings require the need to create an unexpected and new direction for life. In short, the supernatural resists Freud’s transference by robbing the past and future of any specific certainty. Ghosts come back; death is an unknown and likely outcome. The present is all one can cognize. Importantly, as the novel illustrates, economic activity carries this same distinct form of resistance. It offers a challenge to a simple narrative because it embodies the qualities of the strange and unnatural. It is telling that Maud makes this connection during her first reaction to the character Dr. Bryerly, the legal executor in charge of overseeing her father’s finances and will. Thinking about Bryerly’s pecuniary importance, Maud states, “I fancied all sorts of dangers in the enigmatical smile of the lank highpriest. The image of my father … confessing to this man in black, who was I knew not what, haunted me with the disagreeable uncertainties of a mind very uninstructed as to the limits of the marvellous” (5). Maud can only understand the dynamics of business as a strange and fantastic interaction. Those responsible for ensuring these transactions, like

Bryerly, are foreboding figures. They obtain secrets not unlike a priest. Their needed presence to authorize a will is a reminder of life’s dangers. Being “uninstructed as to the limits of the marvellous,” Maud does not possess the requisite social conditionings that can help constrain the sense of eeriness around financial dealings (5). The reference to needing outside instruction to achieve this demonstrates how acceptance towards economic exchange depends upon artificial constructions. That is to say, Maud remains a subject to whom this particular transference has yet to impact. Without this education, she reverts to utilizing the paranormal to define the experience. Such acceptance of unknowability illustrates a form of resistance to a Freudian want to rationalize or explain everything. It also relegates transference to the status of an imposed education, a set of notions pushed upon people rather than something naturally occurring. If transference itself is artificial and something that feigns meaning to make the illogical more clear, why not then accept resistance? An answer lies in the way transference makes itself appealing. When Maud is confronted with information about her father’s inheritance and the rumors that her uncle Silas still pines and plots for his fortune, she determines to learn more. Specifically, she aims to leave behind her former lack of understanding about fiscal matters and gain insight into how the money might be used if stolen. Her encouragement comes down to the belief that “Knowledge is power— and power of one sort or another is the secret lust of human souls; and here is, beside the sense of exploration, the undefinable interest of a story, and above all, something forbidden, to stimulate the contumacious appetite” (11). Maud’s comment posits that individuals simply crave a narrative. The supernatural and unknown sometimes come across as insufficient when knowledge claims to illuminate and explain. Holding onto knowledge feels dangerous.

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By pursuing it, one simultaneously satisfies desire for the forbidden and is privy to information. Within the pursuit for knowledge Maud also points to a social dimension, for whom not resisting and accepting the educative mode of transference and its “[k]nowledge is power” (11). While money may be fought over, it remains a common item whose value derives from expectations amongst a group of people. Transference of this financial system enables a belief in control and power over one’s life and the belief in a connection to tap into when trying to interact with other individuals. What does the lure of transference have to do with Marx and his theories of capital? The operation of transference drawn out by Freud and contained within Uncle Silas offers itself as a mirror to how a capitalist economy infiltrates everyday life. Capitalism presents itself as a form of narrative to grab onto, one that links people together, albeit in sometimes irresponsible manners. Familiarizing and accepting this narrative of one’s life constructs a sense of the self that would otherwise appear fragmented. Financial drive and ambition appear to alleviate this fault. It brings people together around capital to make this seem possible. A common understanding around commerce does not necessarily breed reasons for solidarity; it instead heightens desire and greed. As Marx argues, “The only wheels which political economy sets in motion are avarice and the war among the avaricious— competition” (70). When Maud comes to hear the stories about Silas, the story corrupts the man’s reputation. Brought to the brink of poverty by gambling debt and with no help from Maud’s father, Silas (according to rumors) killed his debtor in an attempt at robbery. Maud’s aunt, Lady Knollys, tells her that “Silas had made away with him, to get rid of this debt, and that he had also taken a great deal of his money” (156). Once a wealthy man, Silas’s sudden impoverishment leaves him estranged from

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his family. The world becomes a competition to navigate with any means necessary to survive. From his perspective, those with money are dehumanized in their desire to assert economic dominance. It is a loss of humanity that encourages his want to overtake and murder for further financial gain. Marx alludes to such a consequence in more theoretical terms when he writes how “the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men” (71). As money grows in importance and influence, the worth of a human life begins to fall. Silas, in this instance, has so consumed a narrative of possessing money as possessing worth that anyone else is devalued to the point that they are barriers to his success and profit. If Maud remains a character undergoing the process of transference by piecing together clues and by incorporating certain narratives and understandings about a capitalistic economy into her life, Silas is her counterpoint, someone who detects transference and begins to apply a logic of economy everywhere he goes. Whereas other characters need interaction, like Maud’s father to Bryerly, in order to participate in the capital narrative, Silas understands transference as a construct he can play with on his own. He detects how others understand money to make inferences and connections that leave other characters bewildered. When Maud’s father initially wants to put Silas into a governmental position to redeem his character, Silas rejects the plan. Lady Knollys believes Silas had his reasons, that “either [he] had grown lazy, or he understood his position better than [anyone]” (LeFanu 158). This indecisive judgement about Silas is actually accurate in pinpointing the way Silas extrapolates how those workers in this political economy are both active and submissive figures. Marx writes that “the more the worker by his labor appropriates the external world … the more he deprives himself of means of life in the double respect” (72). The

material of the world slowly becomes estranged, mere items that are there for use. Silas literalizes this sentiment through the addition of Freud’s formulation. The more the worker transfers an external narrative into his life, the more he deprives himself of certain means to living. Knowing his position, knowing his extreme demand for wealth has led to others distrusting him, he resolves to act lazy and isolate himself, a charade to cover his plans. His last recourse is to steal money from Maud, through a plan that requires him to adopt the position of a controlling analyst. He will come to do what Freud warns against: suggest and make arbitrary inferences for Maud to assert a new story that puts him in charge. In doing so, Silas aims to make Maud see the world of money the way she does the supernatural. Efforts to erase its importance grant him the hope that he can force Maud to return to demarcating capital’s nature as illogical, something she sees as outside her purview but not his. As a result, Silas comes to reflect the qualities that Maud first saw in money: the strange, illogical, and supernatural. Marx argues, “Labor produces not only commodities: it produces itself and the worker as a commodity—and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally” (71). However dubious his methods of work are, Silas remains someone who helps perpetuate the political economy by desiring money and engaging in some manner of competition. He becomes a product of these scandalous rumors and actions that formed from his labor. In a key moment, Lady Knollys divulges her true feelings about Silas to Maud: “I sometimes believe in the supernatural, and sometimes I don’t … Perhaps other souls than human are sometimes born into the world, and clothed in flesh … He always bewildered me, like a shifting face, sometimes smiling, but always sinister, in an unpleasant dream” (LeFanu 158-59). He first saw others as dehumanized to enable

competition; now Silas himself experiences the same process. Left as something less than human, Silas illustrates the individual as a commodity, an object measured for its value. And yet, the supernatural link here exposes how Lady Knollys is unable to determine his value as anything but illogical. She cannot place him into her own accepted narrative of life and so he is an estranged object. Already alienated from his family, Silas’s reputation as fearful becomes a tactic he uses to feign associations for his advantage. In his argument that labor creates alienated objects, Marx questions who comes to control these foreign and distant powers. He writes, “If the product of labor is alien to me, if it confronts me as an alien power, to whom, then, does it belong?” (79). The process of how someone claims this power is enacted in Silas’s relation to the supernatural. Though Maud is responsible for defining the supernatural as linked to danger and death, it is quickly a creation out of her hands. This is made certain when Lady Knollys compares Silas to the supernatural, an act that makes him analogous to an object with a set of inexplicable parameters hostile to life. Marx writes that “if the product of [a man’s] labor, his labor objectified, is for him an alien, hostile, powerful object independent of him, then his position towards it is such that someone else is master of this object, someone who is alien, hostile, powerful, and independent of him” (80). Silas does not see the supernatural as alienated from him his own labor, but he recognizes it is to Maud. As a result, Lady Knollys and Maud’s expression of panic toward the supernatural allows Silas to appropriate their fear. Their distance leads him to usurp a familiarity with the supernatural, to seemingly take on its power as a means to manipulate Maud’s fears and fuel his avarice. What was once a site of resistance to the narrative of capitalism, in the hands of Silas, is now a tool to exploit it.

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As the novel progresses, other characters also come to rely upon alienation among individuals. The most dynamic of these is Madame de la Rougierre, a former governess who teams with Silas to drive Maud mad by manipulating her perceptions around the supernatural. She tells Maud, “It is very odd … but I love very much to be near to the dead people—in solitary place like this. I am not afraid of the dead people, nor of the ghosts. ‘Av you ever see a ghost, my dear?” (LeFanu 27). Knowing Maud is frightened of ghosts, Rougierre claims comfort and familiarity around them to give herself a sense of authority. By questioning if Maud has ever seen a ghost, Rougierre implies she is a more experienced person about the subject matter. From Maud’s perspective, Rougierre is the embodiment of the supernatural. To better understand why Rougierre and Silas alienate their sense of humanity we must return to Freud. In the “Project for a Scientific Psychology,” Freud notices how his patient, Emma, is unable to go into shops alone as the result of an incident when she was twelve and she heard a shopkeeper laughing at her. Unsatisfied by the account, Freud traces an earlier memory, in which Emma recalled a shopkeeper assaulting her at the age of eight. What surprises Freud is that the assault itself was not the traumatic trigger for Emma, but it was the second memory, which covered and alluded to the initial event, that was more powerfully imposing. Emma, in effect, was undergoing what Freud refers to as the “Nachträglichkeit,” or “the case of a memory arousing an affect which it did not arouse as an experience” (“Project” 356). What Freud was uncovering here was further proof of the unconscious as atemporal, capable of using or highlighting certain memories and incidents to cover, hide, or displace the truth as something distant. The unconscious can hide a reality by propping another item as the focal point of anxiety. It does not restrict itself to the boundaries of time

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or space. Although Emma’s memory reorganizes itself as a defense mechanism to cover the cause of her trauma, atemporality—or “nachträglichkeit”—in Uncle Silas is redirected to exacerbate distress (356). In the exchange with Maud, Rougierre transfers Maud’s terror of the supernatural and places it upon herself. Rougierre’s “love very much to be near to the dead people” makes her the living personification of Maud’s anxieties (LeFanu 27). There is no comforting memory to revert to because Rougierre has made the fearful experience of a ghost and the memory of this fear one item. Controlling the temporality of Maud’s unconscious deprives Maud of her security and opens her fear to Rougierre’s use. This allows Rougierre to make an impression of danger, as if the fear Maud assumes about the supernatural is nothing compared to Rougierre’s power. From Maud’s perspective, Silas and Rougierre’s attempt to deploy schemes that involve displacing her anxieties grants them the ability to communicate the supernatural to their liking. The development raises an issue: if those like Silas who have taken in capital’s drive for competition are dehumanized and see others similarly, what is to stop them from finding ways to extract money from the dead? Everything proves open for commoditization. Marx argues that “[i]n the conditions dealt with by political economy this realization of labor appears as loss of reality for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and object-bondage” (71). Death, once resistant to the transference of the capital economy, has lost its reality as an ending point. The change has left death merely as another form of representation to enact upon a worker, an object label that makes known who is estranged. Waiting in her room, Maud overhears a rumor from a servant about Madame de la Rougierre and her possible intentions to marry a widower. The gossiper wonders why Rougierre would do this before turning her thoughts to the man: “To think of a young fellow

like that, and his wife, poor thing, not dead a year—maybe she’s got money?” (LeFanu 75). Knowing the widower is penniless and stating this after professing her belief that Rougierre is also poor, the comment is strange. The final inquiry must apply to the dead wife, yet she asks her question in the present tense. While the question likely refers to a possible will or inheritance for the widower, the use of the present tense creates the impression that the dead and her money are still active. It is as if the dead continue to play a functioning role in the political economy. Silas taps into this notion. In his first appearance, he offers a curious reflection in a letter to Maud: “To earth and its interests, as well as to its pleasures, I have long been dead” (120). The remark is fascinating because, as Maud gathers from others, Silas is a living man involved in various businesses of his own discretion. Though he shuns the city and family, his participation in economic matters is not unnoticed. What the remark illustrates is that Silas knows he has separated himself from the cheerful and communal side of life. In doing so he is not just taking on the fear that Maud links to the inexplicable, he is announcing his appropriation of the dead. He is a laborer who highlights his own distance from someone like Maud. Further, he views himself as alienated from all for the sole purpose of perpetuating his economic desires. Both instances show death and its signifiers in the novel are appropriated for value, whether that is to impart it or remove it. Or, to put another way, Uncle Silas reveals the dead and the living as active players in a capitalistic economy and Silas, playing the part of necromancer and speculator, is able to walk both worlds to exploit a perversity between the relation of capital and individual. While much time has been spent on the way certain things have fallen away from Maud’s direct control, it is also necessary to prove that Rougierre and Silas’s success depends upon Maud’s own personal feelings of estrangement. Fears about the

supernatural should unite Maud to someone like Lady Knollys; instead, it ends up making each feel isolated and doubtful about the solidity of their own lives. For Maud, the lack of connection to her personhood denies her a freedom to interact as part of a collective. It prevents her from believing she can influence the world around her. Not just estranged from others, she is self-estranged. Ghosts, the products of Maud’s mind, escape her control to haunt her life. They refuse to remain imaginary, attaching themselves to each person and item as they continue to find new ways to stand apart. Prior to even meeting Madame de la Rougierre and experiencing her imposed transference, Maud sees phantoms at work upon her. She wonders, “Was that apparition which had impressed me so unpleasantly to take the command of me—to sit alone with me, and haunt me perpetually with her sinister looks and shrilly gabble?” (18). Consumed by a language of specters that seemingly assumes a will of its own, Maud ponders if the governess is there to possess her. Thoughts of being alone are no longer safe or content because they are overtaken by the worst nightmares and premonitions. Like a ghost, the governess’s image serves to turn any comfort of home against her and keep her sense of self estranged. Attention to self-estrangement and the transference of alienation from both Silas and Rougierre as a ploy toward stealing Maud’s fortune illustrates the link between mental health and the political economy. Marx understands self-estrangement through a series of effects: “it is activity as suffering, strength as weakness, begetting as emasculating, the worker’s own physical and mental energy, his personal life or what is life other than activity—as an activity which is turned against him, neither depends on nor belongs to him” (75). The fact that Silas and Rougierre make targeting Maud’s psyche a priority suggests mental transference is essential to the capitalist economy’s central effect of wealth

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and avarice. Estrangement from the self and others in regard to capital means people can only perceive of themselves in the abstract. A sound psychological state of mind, along with the notion that objects and their use specific value, become indicators to ground a person’s awareness of existence. Fooled into abstraction, psychology and capitalism seem the only possible remedy for our own perpetuated alienation, as if we are able to operate within a commodified reality presented to us by capitalism. Maud, tired of the terror from the supernatural, Silas, and Rougierre, and tired of feeling alone from the world, starts to feel the pressure to give in to her tormentor’s demands. However, she rejects surrender and thereby rejects their transference of their preferred political economy. The fight leaves her feeling broken and their plans awry. Used to seeing her fear of the inexplicable come alive under Rougierre’s direction and her sense of value through Silas’s need for money, she cannot reconcile her present state of mind to their political economy. As Rougierre locks her away in a carriage riding through a town, Maud expresses how “[t]hat night was dreadful. The people I saw dizzily, made of smoke or shining vapour, smiling or frowning, I could have passed my hand through them” (LeFanu 421). Strangers appear translucent, no longer touchstones to the physical world. What could once ground her now keeps her in the abstract without recourse to holding onto a material state of being. Everything begins to seem immaterial like a specter until her mind too suffers. “Am I—am I mad?” Maud questions, continuing to wonder, “Is this all a dream, or is it real?” (422). Capital’s hold on the economy and mind is such that to resist and comprehend it as the strange and alienating structure for life that it is, is to fall far outside the status quo. Nonconformity inspires her to feel mad because she cannot understand how the world can proceed without recognizing the economy’s potential for harm.

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What Maud experiences in the climax of the novel is thus a return to resistance, a denial of a transference about the capital economy to once more fathom Silas and Rougierre, emblematic figures of this system, as the dangerous and unnatural beings they are. Maud’s capacity to resist their appeal must be located in terms of both Freud and Marx. So much of Silas and Rougierre’s authority over Maud requires the continuous use of the supernatural to scare and control her, yet their dependence also proves their undoing. Freud theorizes that “Unless these phantasies are made conscious to the patient to the fullest extent, he cannot obtain command of the interest which is attached to them” (The Freud Reader 418). Silas and Rougierre rely on the supernatural being a fantasy outside of Maud’s grasp. The fears are always periphery items to haunt her. As such, the supernatural as they prescribe it starts to lose its purpose as originally employed by Maud. The inexplicable power attached to the supernatural that they make their own becomes the source by which to deny them a presence in her life. While wandering a hall that once horrified her for its superstitions, Maud reflects, “Uncle Silas, tremendous figure in the past, burning always in memory in the same awful lights; the fixed white face of scorn and anguish! It seems as if the Woman of Endor had led me to that chamber and showed me a spectre” (LeFanu 261). In this scene Maud compares Silas to a ghost and the moment has less the effect of making his influence tempting than something to avoid. The dead are not estranged signifiers for value as Silas sees them; they are the ghosts that hide capital’s inexplicable nature. Maud comes to accept the link between Silas and the dead as a haunting reminder about capital’s eeriness, a haunting reminder of a fantasy she wants to separate herself from. In order for a capital economy to work, it needs to ensure most workers are alienated from the objects they produce, and it needs to ensure that

those who come to feel alienated themselves use this emotion as a fuel to compete with others. According to Marx, a major facet of this operation is the fact that the “[p]olitical economy conceals the estrangement inherent in the nature of labor by not considering the direct relationship between the worker (labor) and production” (73). Silas and Rougierre eventually fail to hide this estrangement. The breakdown of the fantasy of the supernatural as a source to isolate Maud’s attention and redirect her imaginings to influence her ends up showing her the reality of capital as illogical. Maud refuses to let her imaginings be appropriated for outside use. Ghosts and their figures are once more fantasies springing forward from her own mind, the result of her mental work and production. In a pivotal moment, Maud states, “I was always nervous in [Silas’s] presence; there was, I fancy, something mesmeric in the odd sort of influence which, without effort, he exercised over my imagination” (LeFanu 343). She realizes she needs to get away from Silas and Rougierre’s plans to use her for her money, and she begins to wonder how each could have masked their intentions for so long. Still, Maud confesses there is a strange temptation to allowing another to enact power over the personal psyche. Nevertheless, the ability for the figure of the capitalist to establish feelings of alienation and detach the products of one’s mind from their control remains an “odd sort of influence” that one should reject (343). The supernatural calls attention to what is experienced in the life around us to motivate us to notice and question the danger and strangeness embedded within our interactions in the political economy. In Freud’s Wolf Man case, the patient has a dream at the age of four that produces a high level of anxiety. Unable to forget the dream, he reproduces it for Freud: Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves

were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something. In great terror, evidently of being eaten up by the wolves, I screamed and woke up. (The Freud Reader 404) The primal scene comes to symbolize a variety of connotations as Freud attempts to decipher its meanings. From the perspective of the patient, it does not matter if the dream itself is based on a fiction or not, because it is still capable of causing real disturbances. Freud endeavors to raise numerous solutions but admits each offering is uncertain. Linking the topic back to Marx and Uncle Silas, Freud’s inability to discover something definitive or make a final claim provides a similar dilemma to the way capitalism functions in everyday life. Capitalism is an abstract system of harmful operations masked by the inexplicable. Like the wolves, it is there to alienate and muddle interaction with the world, to induce an anxiety that can seemingly only be solved through, as Freud proposes, an artificial construction that simulates a limit. It denies the atemporal nature of the unconscious and pertains to resemble something that can be traced through a linear set of evidence. In short, capitalism feigns itself as something naturally developed, only to rely on the artificial to integrate itself into the everyday. Ultimately, the capitalist economy cannot be fully exposed in a rational manner because its operations themselves are dependent upon a flexibility that utilizes the qualities of the Gothic—the strange, dangerous, and irrational—to disguise itself. In a remarkable scene that feels eerily similar to Freud’s Wolf Man case, Maud sits down to read a book when she begins to daydream about herself being “chased by wolves, and barely escap[ing] by

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flying at her utmost speed” (LeFanu 345). In order to flee, she must throw “piece by piece, the contents of her basket, in her wake, to be devoured and fought for by the famished beasts of prey” (345). Rather than lay out the dream for others to interpret, Maud immediately assumes the wolves are indicative of her need to run away from Silas and Rougierre. They are the unnatural creatures of her mind who are willing to fight and claw one another to satisfy their hunger for money and material. What is important about this moment is not just that Maud can fix each part of the fantasy to her reality, it’s that she embraces the story because it is replete with the supernatural. Maud admits to the reader, “Through the whole of this awful period I was, I think, supernatural; and I even now look back with wonder upon my strange self-command” (375). Whereas Freud’s Wolf Man sees the dream of the wolves as outside his control and reason to go to another in the hopes of unpacking his mind, Maud embraces the strange and haunting atmosphere. She accepts the unknown and inexplicable into her life, seeing herself and her relations as less

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than rational. Embracing life and its systems as inexplicable, akin to the Gothic language of the supernatural and ghostly, grants her the ability to escape Silas and Rougierre’s clutches. It forms a site of resistance to their narrative of capitalism and mental influence. Indeed, LeFanu’s choice to blend the phenomena of reality, the supernatural, and the subconscious reveals that capitalism operates through a series of inexplicable and strange formulations that make it appear out of our control. It depends on the fears hinted by the figure of the ghost, the inexplicable, the unknown, and the dehumanized to hide these tracks. However, the sensation and language of hauntings also refuse to allow this economic system to feel too comfortable. Incorporating what Cohen calls Gothic Marxism—the use of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories to illuminate how capitalism ritualizes and conceals the irrational—as an interpretive technique enables readings of LeFanu’s novel to illustrate newfound possibilities long hidden unless we encounter capitalism on its own basis, as an irrational and eerie aspect of life.

NOTES Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and The Moonstone, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw are all representative of the Gothic’s resurgence in the period that detailed stories of women in danger.



lizabeth Bowen, in her preface to Uncle Silas, famously understands the link between the E psychoanalytic and the Gothic as containing the dynamisms of social power that create demarcations within Irish identity (3-4). Though important and influential, Bowen spends limited time on economic matters and reviews the novel’s primary horror as that of the supernatural, or the “non-natural” (16). Two questions remain: what if we understand this link as at the forefront of the text and what if the real horror of the novel is actually that which seems natural? In her essay “Misalliance and Anglo-Irish Tradition in LeFanu’s Uncle Silas,” Marjorie Howes expresses a similar concern about limitations within psychoanalytic readings. Building on Bowen’s framework, Howes asserts a need to return to a study of gender as it relates to Irish politics (179). While this argument is beyond the scope of this paper, Howes does assert how the economic system within the novel is seemingly forced upon the characters, leaving them in a state of exhaustion. In this sense, the supernatural no longer is merely external; it is internal.


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WORKS CITED Althusser, Louis. “On Marx and Freud.” Rethinking Marxism, Translated by Warren Montag, vol. 4, no. 1, 1991, pp. 17–30. Bowen, Elizabeth. “Uncle Silas.” Collected Impressions, Knopf, 1950, pp. 3-17. Cohen, Margaret. Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution, U of California P, 1995. DeLamotte, Eugenia C. Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of Nineteenth-Century Gothic, Oxford UP, 1990. Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Zero Books, 2009. Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader. Edited by Peter Gay, W.W. Norton & Company, 1995. —. et al. “Project for a Scientific Psychology.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 1, The Hogarth Press, 1966, pp. 283-397. Gaylin, Ann. “Ghostly Dispossessions: The Gothic Properties of Uncle Silas.” Troubled Legacies: Narrative and Inheritance, edited by Allan Hepburn, U of Toronto P, 2007, pp. 87-108. Howes, Marjorie. “Misalliance and Anglo-Irish Tradition in Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas.” Nineteenth-Century Literature, vol. 47, no. 2, 1992, pp. 164-86. LeFanu, Joseph Sheridan. Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh. Edited by Frederick Shroyer, Dover, 1966.

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Löwy, Michael. “The Libertarian Marxism of André Breton.” Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situationism, Utopia, U of Texas P, 2009, pp. 21-28. —. “Walter Benjamin and Surrealism: The Story of a Revolutionary Spell.” Radical Philosophy. Translated by David Macey, no. 80, ser. 1, 1996, pp. 17-23, article/walter-benjamin-and-surrealism. Accessed 11 Jan. 2021. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto. Prometheus Books, 1988. Miéville, China. “Marxism and Halloween.” Socialism, International Socialist Organization. 27 June 2013, Chicago, Crowne Plaza Hotel & Conference Center. Speech. Milbank, Alison. Daughters of the House: Modes of the Gothic in Victorian Fiction, Mac Millan, 1994. Reich, Wilhelm. Sex-Pol: Essays 1929-1934. Translated by Anna Bostock, et al. Edited by Lee Baxandall, Vintage Books, 1972. Shapiro, Stephen. “Transvaal, Transylvania: Dracula’s World-System and Gothic Periodicity.” Gothic Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, May 2008, pp. 29-47. Stoddart, Helen. “‘The Precautions of Nervous People Are Infectious’: Sheridan le Fanu’s Symptomatic Gothic.” The Modern Language Review, vol. 86, no. 1, 1991, pp. 19-34. Young, Robert J.C. “Freud’s Secret: The Interpretation of Dreams was a Gothic Novel.” Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams: New Interdisciplinary Essays, edited by Laura Marcus, Manchester UP, 1999, pp. 206-30.

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LOST CAUSE This time, when I come, Home, I shall fashion thunderbolts and spears From each moment hinged to memory To hoard and treasure and hurl at my fears Of the exile to come, stand fierce and free Before it, and smile. Abandon me not! If you will not be caught, will not be caged And must slide from my cold fingers like sand, Leave me in mercy some grains of dust raised In your shore’s cradle, on which I may stand When I need home-shells. Abandon me not! I shall need you, o mes doux souvenirs, Made quasi-farcical by this my quest Even as I live you. Pour obtenir Your traces, I must relinquish the rest, The peace found here else. This time, when I’m home, I shall pocket you all, my fiendish friends: These scowls and smirks all snatch for future slings Against the dread nostalgia that lends Its grim weight to the dark winter evenings Of my long exile.

Crossings grey and white and only just zebbed, Cribbed formulae that like strands of DNA Plait and unplait the present and the past, Will say I left nearly nothing to you. A most happy untruth. You have my few Honest pennies. To you, my child, are pledged Real treasures, each from an unbitter day Snatched from the race before this welcome last. The tales of yore taught us to beware Of becoming the hare. But no one spoke The tortoise’s piece. The story of the train Derailed for taking the bend too slowly Was not told. We heard but of the folly Of heedless speed, not the price of one care, One race always coming first. Winning broke At last this tortoise’s reptile heart and brain. My page fumes at being so ill-inked. Three Times three decades have not taught me to stop Desire from locking horns with love. My death Sighs on the cliffs of unreason, those cold Crusty inner realms where a soul half-sold, Half-free, whispers: forgive me, forgive me, For all the things I cannot repent of Nor even cease doing, while I draw breath.


profession & pedagogy

The Power of Choice: Fostering Student Agency through Interactive Exchanges and Community Collaborations Ana Fonseca Conboy, College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, and Katharine Harrington, Plymouth State University Language programs and the humanities continue to struggle with society’s perception that they lack relevancy. They find themselves under scrutiny and pressure to prove their worth and increase enrollments as college students are increasingly encouraged to choose a major that is career-focused and perceived as marketable. Language faculty must continually work to promote the wide range of skills their majors gain from the study of language at all levels. In the doubly challenging climate for the humanities (with the general perception of their irrelevance and the added tension promoted by the pandemic), language programs are well positioned to rethink their pedagogy and curriculum in order to engage learners through pedagogical strategies that go beyond simply delivering content in a face-to-face setting and to adapt already tried assignments to a new form of delivery. In this paper, we explore two pedagogical approaches conducted in the French language classroom at the higher education level. Their aim was to provide meaningful experiences outside of the classroom while fostering skills for 21st-century learners, namely students’ power of choice and agency, which can be refined in carefully planned projects in language classes. The strength of these projects goes beyond the students’ development as whole persons in that they are resilient strategies that can be adapted to different pedagogical circumstances.

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In 2015, the National Standards Collaborative Board published a document on the WorldReadiness Standards for Learning Languages (W-RSLL) to address the need to educate students in the United States to become linguistically and culturally proficient in a language other than English1 (Abbott and Phillips, 2011; The National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015). The W-RSLL go beyond second language acquisition and touch on the development of life skills necessary to 21st-century learners who will engage in and shape a global society in the future. The standards encourage communication in real-life scenarios, collaborative and cooperative learning, and the development of cultural agility and intercultural communicative competence (ICC), so that students “become empowered, informed, and responsible citizens as well as cultivat[e] complex cognitive skills (e.g., the ability to evaluate, analyze, interpret, reflect, and think critically and creatively)” (Napora). In order to captivate language students, it is fundamental to draw on these standards when creating pedagogical materials and projects. Projects devised with the guidance of the W-RSLL maintain the authenticity and applicability necessary for a personalized educational experience. More importantly, projects of this nature support student independence and can enable student agency and choice. A focus on the learner (rather

than on the instructor) and student-driven assignments that encourage self-reflection, metacognition, and creation of community may motivate learners in and out of the classroom and also help develop the life skills of personal responsibility and accountability. As educators, we should focus on the cura personalis, that is, the education of the whole person. A well-rounded higher education experience should guide students to exercise their power of choice with increased self-confidence and determination, which will carry them through their future professional (and personal) careers. As language educators and proponents of intercultural communicative competence, we are in tune with the notion of community-minded values in the classroom. This entails mentoring students through a personal transformation into engaged global citizens who reflect critically and have refined analytical skills. Our primary concern as educators should be aiding our students’ passion for lifelong learning and well-being by providing inclusive and accessible pedagogical strategies that invite all to the table. Covid-19 demonstrated that it is crucial to offer “[a]n orientation towards a teaching approach that explicitly emphasizes the caring for and well-being of learners [which] may outlive the pandemic” (Maloney and Kim). The added challenge of a pandemic underlined the need for improvisation in the higher education classroom. While some more pessimistic views imply that the outbreak will “drive a major reordering of academic programming, to the detriment on [sic] the humanities, arts and traditional inresidence education” (Kroger), the unclear path ahead for higher education and the humanities can also open the door to innovative opportunities that may reshape the future of pedagogy in a more positive light. Under such uncertain circumstances, it is necessary for language instructors to maintain

availability and flexibility in planning strategically for the future, with assignments and approaches that are adaptable and capable of evolving. Our pedagogical choices are vitally important: we must create learning experiences that students can buy into, over which they feel ownership, and in which they find value, with the added adaptability that will allow for an eventual need for a rapid transition to a new mode of delivery. Scholars have written recently about the urgency for educators to create meaningful, real-life opportunities at a time when the relevancy of higher education is called into question. In an opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed, Paul Hanstedt states, “When answers are always perceived as something that only the professor holds, students are essentially in the sidecar to their own education. When, though, we allow that answers can sometimes be fluid and elusive, students become partners in the search for solutions, assuming agency in a shared exploration.” Tasks designed by the instructor should allow for student choice and draw on students’ interests and talents: when given the space, language students have much to contribute to interdisciplinary projects, service learning opportunities, and the creation of open educational materials. Open Educational Practices (OEP) are rooted above all in the principles of access and social justice and touch on the concept of teaching to the student as a whole person. Robin DeRosa defines Open Pedagogy as a movement that is “about reducing barriers to education, empowering learners, and connecting the academy to the world it serves” (3:47-3:54). It is a form of experiential learning that engages students as creators of information rather than simply consumers of it. An Open Pedagogy approach promotes student agency while foregrounding students’ basic needs. This includes their financial ability to participate in and persist through

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a college degree, all students’ access to learning, avoiding the “disposable assignment” (Wiley), and creating opportunities for students to serve as contributors to the knowledge commons. Proponents of Open Education therefore advocate for a re-envisioning of the student-teacher relationship, echoing the words of John Jenkins, SJ, President of the University of Notre Dame, that “we endeavor to offer an education of the whole person – body, mind and spirit – […] and personal interactions with faculty members and among students are critical to such an education.” This paper highlights two innovative projects that promote cura personalis. The projects emphasize student agency and choice and promote unique and meaningful experiences for language learners. In turn, these experiences may translate to a wide range of professional experiences and skills as well as pedagogical settings. Moreover, given the projects’ resiliency, they have the potential to be successfully adapted to new models of higher education. The approaches described were conducted at a public 4-year institution in the Northeast and a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, in the context of the advanced and intermediate French language classroom, respectively. Nevertheless, projects of this nature can be adapted to any language and to different levels of education. We present the methodologies as well as course goals, followed by outcomes from content analysis and quantitative data. We conclude that, by creating task-based projects that provide students with a structured freedom, we can stimulate students’ use of agency and choice and contribute to the whole-person education of our future leaders. In assuring that the projects are adaptable and resilient, we ensure flexibility and ease of transition in any future circumstances that require a rapid shift to a new mode of delivery.

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“Our pedagogical choices are vitally important: we must create learning experiences that students can buy into, over which they feel ownership, and in which they find value.”

Interactive Exchanges: A Source of Empowerment for French Learners Acquisition of a second language has the potential to encourage students to reach beyond their own known capabilities, to act meaningfully and respectfully toward others, and to negotiate authentic meaning in multiple contexts. Students develop intercultural communicative competence (ICC) and, in line with the W-RSLL and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, students are empowered through learning opportunities that require their decision-making skills and their sense of agency (Abbott and Phillips). As a result, second language acquisition participates in the cura personalis and may promote empathy and foster lifelong skills in our students as well as personal transformation and increased mental maturity. The ideal setting for second language acquisition is, of course, total immersion in the host culture of the target language. The immersion experience cultivates what Michael Byram described as “the sojourner,” someone who “has the opportunity to learn and be educated, acquiring the capacity to critique and improve their own and others’

conditions” (2). Byram compares the sojourner to the tourist. While both may travel and have new experiences, the tourist remains essentially unchanged. The sojourner seeks out immersion and growth. In the absence of the possibility of an immersion experience, however, one has to adapt. One way to adapt is by adopting technology tools in the classroom that can mimic the immersion experience and still foster sojourners in our students without having them leave campus. In recent decades, technology has facilitated desired outcomes from those interchanges. In this section, we will explore the use of interactive exchanges to conduct participant action research in an “Introduction to Contemporary Francophone Culture” class at a small Midwestern liberal arts institution. Recent language-learning literature has demonstrated the benefits of interactive language exchanges via a virtual platform when conducted in a controlled and structured environment and has demonstrated that scaffolding of questions and assignments, especially at lower levels, is fundamental. (Conboy et al., 2017; Jauregi, 2016; O’Rourke and Stickler, 2017; Terhune, 2016). Although performed virtually, interactive exchanges can provide an authentic real-world experience by exposing students to native interlocutors of the target language. In addition to the expected consolidation of functions and vocabulary studied in class, interactive exchanges may promote the development of student accountability and responsibility and therefore their personal growth. When successfully implemented, interactive language exchanges require students to manage their time appropriately (both outside of the classroom when organizing the exchanges and during the exchanges), to negotiate meaning in multiple contexts, and to achieve this while exercising cultural agility and

sensitivity. We posit then that such exchanges may encourage student agency and choice and empower students to communicate with greater self-confidence and motivation. During the fall semesters of 2017 and 2019, students enrolled in “Introduction to Contemporary Francophone Culture” at a liberal arts institution in Minnesota participated in action research involving the use of TalkAbroad, a pedagogyspecific proprietary software that allows for real-time interactive exchanges with native speakers of French. The project aligned with the Intercultural Learning Goals stipulated by the institution 2 and was structured to supplement and enhance in-class discussions on customs, practices, and perspectives of Francophone cultures. In so doing, it also intended to promote students’ agency and power of choice in the different phases of the project, including in the final group presentation where they exposed knowledge constructed during the semester. Over the course of the semester, each student conducted three thirty-minute conversations with an interlocutor from a Francophone country. There were three specific deadlines for the completion of the exchanges, and after each exchange the instructor led a short debrief in class. When the students were first introduced to the project and to the software, they chose a country from the list of Francophone countries available to focus on during the semester. According to the country chosen, they were placed in small groups for the preparation of the final presentation. Individual students had the liberty to choose different interlocutors for the three conversations (or maintain the same one), provided the exchange partners all originated from the same country. Since students in the class had had the equivalent of at least five semesters of French

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language, the conversations were independently structured by the students, rather than by the instructor. Prior to the implementation of the project, the instructor guided discussion on the identification of different cultural parameters in order to familiarize students with potential dimensions to be addressed during the exchanges. Given the cultural nature of the course, the material covered in class was divided into broad units such as education, religion, social security, and politics. The units also served as inspiration for the students’ organization of their individual TalkAbroad conversations. Students were therefore encouraged to hone their analytical skills and reflect critically on the in-class discussions in order to inform the out-of-class experience. At the end of the semester, students worked collaboratively according to the country chosen. From the information obtained during the exchanges, each small group created a fifteenminute presentation on the country explored in the three conversations (this assignment counted for 17% of their final grade). In preparation for the presentations, students were asked to minimize outside research on the country and cultural parameters studied and rather to focus mainly on knowledge obtained from the exchanges. Moreover, even though students were in small groups for the final project, they were asked not to discuss their individual exchanges with one another until the completion of all three conversations. This way, they could focus on their own interests and questions and maximize new knowledge and information to be incorporated into the final group presentation. For formative and summative assessment purposes, the exchanges were recorded. This feature was also beneficial for the students since they were then able to return to the conversations and note additional details about cultural dimensions that they may have originally overlooked when speaking with the interlocutor.

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The project is consistent with the W-RSLL and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) modes of communication. Students employed (a) the interpretative mode in preparation for the exchange, during the conversation with the interlocutor, and after the exchange (when consolidating material gathered and when debriefing with the instructor and classmates); (b) the interpersonal mode during and after the exchange (when collaborating with classmates to create their presentation); and (c) the presentational mode at the end of the semester, when sharing consolidated information with classmates and instructor. In addition to learning from the interlocutors, students collaborated with one another and therefore learned from one another at two stages—during the preparation of their own group presentation regarding the country they examined and during the presentations by other groups, where they were exposed to other countries and cultural elements. Baseline information was collected in a preconversation questionnaire completed prior to the beginning of the project (see Appendix A) and in a post-conversation questionnaire completed once the three exchanges were finished (see Appendix B). The questionnaire presents both items responded on a six-point scale and open-ended questions. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on the section of the questionnaire dedicated to students’ perceived knowledge of specific cultural elements of the interlocutors’ country, before and after the three exchanges (section III). The data presented compare students’ responses to that section. Students’ responses in fall 2019 did not vary greatly from those in fall 2017. The results presented include both groups (N=17 [n2017=12; n2019=5]). Figures 1 through 5 present a scatterplot of pre- and post-conversation responses. This approach was recommended by Jacobson and Truax (1991)

as a first step to establishing clinically significant change. Each individual dot3 represents the pre- and post-conversation response of one student: the x-axis corresponds to answers in the pre- and the y-axis shows answers from the post-questionnaire. As such, the diagonal line indicates “no change”— answers that are identical in the pre- and post-questionnaires. All dots that appear above the diagonal indicate an improvement in the students’ perceived ability concerning that particular parameter. All dots below the diagonal indicate a decline in the students’ perceived ability to address that parameter. The five parameters of the interlocutors’ country addressed in this section are its recent history (fig. 1), its customs and traditions (fig. 2), its gastronomy (fig. 3), its religion (fig. 4), and its fashion trends (fig. 5).

The results presented clearly demonstrate that for each of the parameters there was growth in the students’ opinion about their knowledge4 and that the interactive exchanges were effective in awakening

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perceived cultural sensitivity, agility, and intercultural communicative competence. Furthermore, students’ reactions to the openended questions demonstrate that the project was a meaningful experience outside of the classroom. Their reactions provide more insight into their personal motivation and enthusiasm as well as power of choice, resulting from the project. Student #1 (2017) stated, “I didn’t expect [my partner and me] to have so much in common and that was really cool,” while Student #2 (2017) was surprised at “just how fast it went by.” Student #3 (2019) felt the project “exceeded [her] expectations” and Student #4 (2017) was grateful to “exchange cultures with a very intelligent and global-minded person.” The connection and collaboration with others (interlocutors and classmates) aids in learning about the Other (Student #5 (2017): “It was unexpected how much I learned from [my partner]”; Student #6 (2019): “It was really fascinating being able to converse with someone from another country”). In the process of learning about Other, students inherently learn about themselves (Student #7 (2017): “I didn’t expect to learn more about the U.S.”; Student #8 (2019): [it] really helped me find a passion for French and French culture that I had previously been missing as a part of my French studies. For the first time I’m genuinely excited about the possibilities that have been opened up by my language studies”). While immersed in an authentic (albeit virtual) setting, students are exposed to information that they might not learn in a lecture- or discussion-based course (Student #9 (2017): “I learned about what wouldn’t necessarily be presented in a textbook/ a deeper understanding of social norms”). From the content analysis presented, we posit that students’ experiences may effect meaningful change in their global perspective but may also effect change in the French classroom. Students motivated and inspired by such a project

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may encourage their friends and classmates to enroll in the class, therefore exercising their sense of agency. As Adair-Hauck and Donato (2002) have suggested, in interactive exchanges, the native interlocutor may challenge, support, and empower the language learner. The use of interactive exchanges, such as TalkAbroad, when done in conjunction with a carefully scaffolded assignment, can provide holistic opportunities for students to exercise their power of choice and agency and to develop their sense of responsibility and accountability in and out of the classroom. Projects such as the one described for “Introduction to Contemporary Francophone Culture” adapt to the model of the whole-person education and can effect academic and personal growth simultaneously. Moreover, given the student-driven and independent nature of the assignment as well as its out-of-class components, projects of this nature can easily be adapted to a remote learning system or to a hybrid curricular model that may be implemented in institutions of higher education.

Community Collaborations and Outward-Facing Projects in Advanced Language Classes Exposure to Open Pedagogy and this pandemic encourages us to reexamine syllabi, assignments, and course structure and to seek ways to empower students—to ask them what they want to learn and how they can contribute to our classes. Through the lens of Open Pedagogy, we are challenged to open up our curriculum to make room for student contributions and choice. Courses and assignments designed with an Open Pedagogy framework create room for student agency and choice at many levels.

Students are given the opportunity to be more than passive learners, to contribute to the knowledge commons, and to serve their communities. Language courses at the advanced level are a good place to reexamine the idea of what David Wiley has termed the “disposable assignment.” Wiley defines disposable assignments as “assignments that students complain about doing and faculty complain about grading. They’re assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away.” Wiley challenges us to rethink the types of assignments we create: “What if we changed these ‘disposable assignments’ into activities which actually added value to the world?” Students who have achieved an advanced proficiency level in a language have skills that can be of use to external community partners. Allowing students the opportunity to create something that will serve an authentic purpose for an external audience, beyond simply a classroom assignment, can be a meaningful learning experience that encourages students to do their best work. Any final product that they create for such a task can live on and serve as an artifact for a student’s portfolio as they go on to graduate school or search for employment. In this section, we will provide an example of an open pedagogical mindset in the design of an advanced language course and assignments. We will highlight the example of an outward-facing community project that students participated in as a semester-long task. Teaching French in a northern border state affords countless opportunities for authentic language tasks. In a region whose economy is based heavily on tourism, much of which from our French Canadian neighbors to the north, it is relatively easy to identify meaningful projects for French students.5 In fall 2017, students enrolled in an

“Advanced French” course at a state university in New Hampshire embarked on a semester-long collaboration with students in marketing, small business and innovation, and graphic design courses. Their interdisciplinary project titled “Designed Experiences for Québécois Tourists Visiting the North Country” had as its primary goal to engage with external community partners to identify opportunities, challenges, and an appropriate project for northern communities who were looking to better attract, welcome, and serve French Canadian visitors. We ultimately chose the Bienvenue au New Hampshire initiative to partner with, since this organization was already engaged in “Frenchfriendly” efforts in tourism.6 The project provided an experiential learning opportunity intended to serve our greater community while students from different disciplines were able to collaborate, share their expertise, and ultimately shape their own learning experiences. The project was an example of an integrated cluster project supported by funding from our university’s Integrated Cluster initiative,7 and it reflects the “Communities” component of the ACTFL World Readiness Standards where learners “use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world” (The National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015). The different classes involved in the project met separately and followed their own class curriculum while participating in common experiences related to the project, including guest lectures, field trips, and research in teams. The three faculty members (French, Marketing, and Graphic Design) met on a weekly basis to identify work for the interdisciplinary teams and to keep abreast of the progress of each class. While two of the classes (Marketing and Graphic Design) were scheduled at the same time, the French class was not. In order to remain connected, we identified

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student representatives from each of the disciplines to come visit our class for frequent, brief checkins. For communication between the different classes and for file sharing, we used the project management and communication tool Basecamp. We also hosted popular pizza nights each month for large group meetings. Over the course of the semester, we invited guest speakers from the Québec Delegation, the Canadian embassy, as well as the Director of North Country Projects from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office and the Director of Rural Partnerships at our university. Guest speakers spoke about the importance of cross-border trade, business, and tourism for our region. Outside of class, students conducted independent research on Canadian tourism trends, the hiking community, and New Hampshire tourism messaging. To boost their French language skills with a focus on North American French, students were required to keep an ongoing Listening Log of activities that they completed independently in order to familiarize themselves with French Canadian accents and vocabulary. This was homework and students could choose from among a list of Québécois videos, Netflix shows, podcasts, and music, or they could find their own resources. They spent 30 minutes a week listening to media in Canadian French and then recorded their activity (see Appendix D). In order to gain important firsthand knowledge of efforts of local tourism providers as well as to hear directly from French Canadian visitors, we organized field trips, both as a class and independently. Together as a class, we traveled to Franconia Notch State Park on the Saturday morning of the busy Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to interview French Canadian hikers at the trailhead of the popular hike Mt. Lafayette. The survey we used was created collaboratively (originally in English) in our French class with

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input from the business classes. Once finalized, the French students translated the survey into French (see Appendix E). In all, we interviewed 58 French Canadians about their tourist experience in New Hampshire. From these surveys, we learned that only a small number of Canadian visitors would like to see a Canadian or Québécois flag displayed. About one-half of the visitors surveyed considered it helpful to have French menus in restaurants. When asked what would help make them feel safer on their hiking trips to the White Mountains, a large majority of visitors expressed a desire for signage and hiking trail information in French. At the same time, students worked in teams to interview tourism providers and store, hotel, and restaurant owners and staff in different parts of our region. These interviews were often informal, but as a class we had brainstormed together several key questions on which to focus. Each time a team had completed an independent excursion, they wrote up a summary of the interview and posted their results to Basecamp for the rest of the group to read. Results of these interviews revealed a range of accommodations for French-speaking tourists. Some inns and hotels are already taking steps to cater to Canadian visitors, but many restaurants and retail stores stated that they were aware of this population but were not sure how to accommodate them. For the most part, tourism providers and service industry employees were overwhelmingly interested in improving the French Canadian visitor experience but admitted that they needed help. All of the different classes mined the data from the visitor surveys and the firsthand interviews in a group session. This data informed students’ decisions about how to carry the project to the next level and to determine what final products they wished to create. From interviews with French Canadian visitors, students learned that while tourist information is

abundant on the internet, tips about favorite local spots (restaurants, trails, stores) were not readily available in French. Based on this feedback, the students decided to research and create “Off the Beaten Path” experiences in our region, to be shared online in French. The students especially wanted to highlight local favorite spots in smaller towns and often not on Main Streets in order to encourage French Canadian visitors to visit lesser-known communities that could benefit from tourism dollars. The students worked in teams to create these pathways. The teams brainstormed ideas and conducted research on places to highlight, and the graphic design students created visuals to accompany these ideas. At the end of the semester, the students prepared a final presentation delivered to the “client,” i.e., the core team of Bienvenue au New Hampshire. They presented their “Hors des sentiers battus” suggestions, and some of these are now displayed on Bienvenue’s website.8 Results from an end-of-the-year survey show that students overwhelmingly enjoyed the collaborative, real-world experience of this project: • “Working with people that you wouldn’t normally challenges your own thought process and having outside knowledge from professionals in the field help broaden one’s scope on the subject” (Student #1) • “I would strongly recommend this experience to other students, as it will allow them to collaborate with groups they have never interacted with before, as well as giving them a sense of accomplishment when they create a truly great final product” (Student #2) Another student noted the benefit of the group work, the field research, and the satisfaction of creating a final product for a real-world purpose:

S ome of the greatest things that I took away from it was the group work. In the past, I’d work with a group for a week max then stop, with the cluster approach I was able to work with the same group of people for the entire semester and really gain a lot from it. I would recommend the cluster projects to those who want to solve a real-world issue during the duration of a semester with a group of people that are determined and excited to learn with you. Another positive aspect is the real-world experience that I gained by collecting information from outside sources. I really enjoyed the field work. My favorite experience was traveling to the notch and interviewing hikers in French. I would 100% do this again, for the experience and for the realization that your final product will make a difference in the long run. (Student #3) As evidenced here, students valued the group collaborative work and took pride in the final products they created for an authentic audience. Additionally, student comments speak to the World Readiness Standards “Making Connections” goal where “[l]earners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively” (The National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015). Throughout the semester, students had multiple opportunities to make choices about how they wanted to contribute to this project. Students played to their personal interests, choosing to focus on shopping, dining, or outdoor recreation, and they could choose which towns they wanted to focus on based on their backgrounds or curiosity. Working toward a common goal for an external partner incentivized the students to do high-quality work. The final products that they created were in no way

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disposable as they now live online for the benefit of our community. Allowing students to take on challenging work at the advanced language level for an authentic purpose can provide valuable real-life experience that highlights the value of their language skills. During this time of a global pandemic, when just the act of attending class is risky, it seems more important than ever to provide the opportunity for agency and to offer choices to students. In his provocative article “Might This Be the Beginning of Education?” Hanstedt argues for student agency in creating better educational opportunities: education -- deep, lasting, meaningful education -- takes place when we have the courage to allow our students to be partners in their own learning. I’ve never been a fan of the term “whole student,” but maybe that’s what this phrase means: a student is whole when they have agency in their own learning; they are whole when they are helping us figure out what they need to learn, and why; they are whole when their feedback impacts how we build our courses week to week; they are whole when they understand that they’re learning this stuff not to get a grade but to pivot beyond the college walls and participate in finding solutions to pressing problems The application of an open pedagogical approach creates connections with students at all levels,

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promoting buy-in and contributing to a sense of education for a higher purpose.

Conclusion In unprecedented times and in the face of an uncertain future for higher education, it is of utmost importance to underscore the power of agency and choice for our students, who will become the leaders of tomorrow. The purpose of education, irrespective of the medium of delivery, is to lead students to cultivate empathy, break down barriers, build bridges, and broaden their perspective of the world. With many exciting educational experiments happening across higher education today, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, language faculty have much to learn from one another for the benefit of students, language programs, and the humanities in general. Just as teamwork is stressed in the pedagogical approaches explained in this paper, so too teamwork and collaboration within the discipline (what Leslie Grahn calls “professional generosity” in the sharing of creative and innovative resources) is fundamental for the survival and success of second language teaching, especially in a future of unknowns. We propose only a sample of approaches that can be adapted to a face-to-face experience, remote teaching, or a HyFlex model and that promote the goals of W-RSLL and foster skills necessary for 21st-century learners. The authors are open to dialogue with colleagues around the world to explore improvements or suggestions, as we journey on in what appears to be a new normal of higher education.

NOTES 1. The W-RSLL center around five goal areas, also known as the 5 Cs: Communication, Communities, Cultures, Connections, and Comparisons. In turn, the five goals are accomplished through activities that follow three modes of communication: Interpretative, Interpersonal, and Presentational. 2.

I nstitutional goals include the awareness that culture is neither monolithic nor static; that the students’ perspective on the world is shaped in certain ways by their particular background; and that when we encounter another culture, we filter the new experience through established perspectives, which makes it more difficult to uncover our common humanity and the reasons for our differences. These goals are in line with ACTFL’s recommendations for 21st-century language learners.


raphs vary in number of dots for two reasons: a) in fall 2017, only 10 post-conversation G questionnaires were received by the instructor and b) some dots are superimposed, meaning that some students chose the same values for the pre- and post-questionnaires for a particular question.


I t is noteworthy that there is a ceiling effect for the post-questionnaire—students answered “Strongly Agree” for many of the parameters but, had the point scale been created permitting greater variability, the results may have provided more specific information and conclusions. It is also noteworthy that there appear to be some cases of socially desirable responses, where students answer “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” at the beginning of the semester to demonstrate perceived knowledge for parameters that they may not, in fact, have known that much about.


S tudents in a variety of intermediate and advanced French courses at our university have translated tourism brochures, restaurant menus, websites, and a rack card for the Fish and Game department (see Appendix C). These are collaborative projects where students work together to identify a community translation project, often tapping into students’ off-campus jobs or their personal interests and passions. Once a worthwhile project is selected, students work together to translate materials into French. This work is challenging for students at any level but, through guided in-class workshops and multiple drafts, they are able to produce a document from which community partners can benefit.


ounded in 2012, Bienvenue au New Hampshire is a federally funded initiative that offers French F language and Canadian/Québécois cultural training that is specifically designed to strength the economy of the rural northern counties of New Hampshire.


ur university’s Integrated Cluster initiative is a learning model that emphasizes working on O real-world problems by working across disciplines and collaborating with community partners.


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WORKS CITED Abbott, Marty, and June K. Phillips. “A Decade of Foreign Language Standards: Impact, Influence, and Future Directions.” ACTFL, 2011, publications/standards/NationalStandards2011.pdf. Adair-Hauck, Bonnie, and Richard Donato. “The PACE Model: A Story-Based Approach to Meaning and Form for Standards-Based Language Learning.” The French Review, vol. 76, no. 2, 2002, pp. 265-76. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). 21st Century Skills Map, Bienvenue au New Hampshire. Accessed 15 Dec. 2020. Byram, Michael. Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1997. Conboy, Ana, et al. “Video-Conferencing in the Target Language Curriculum: Linguistic and Cultural Learning Guaranteed.” Strengthening World Language Education: Standards for Success, edited by R. Terry and R. Fox, NECTFL Review Special Issue, 2017. DeRosa, Robin. “Open Education Intro.” YouTube, uploaded by R DeRosa, 31 Jan. 2016, Grahn, Leslie. “How to Engage Language Learners in Online Learning Grahn.” YouTube, uploaded by NECTFL, 28 May 2020, Hanstedt, Paul. “Might This Be the Beginning of Education?” Inside Higher Ed, 28 Apr. 2020, Accessed 29 July 2020. Jacobson, Neil, and Paula Truax. “Clinical significance: a statistical approach to defining meaningful change in psychotherapy research.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 59, no. 1, 1991, pp.12-19.

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Jauregi, Kristi. “Researching Telecollaboration Processes in Foreign Language Education: Challenges and Achievements.” Technology Implementation in Second Language Teaching and Translation Studies, edited by María Luisa Carrió-Pastor, Singapore: Springer, 2016, pp. 155-78. Jenkins, John I. “We’re Reopening Notre Dame. It’s Worth the Risk.” New York Times, 26 May 2020, -coronavirus.html. Accessed 29 July 2020. Kroger, John. “10 Predictions for Higher Education’s Future.” Inside Higher Ed, 26 May 2020, Accessed 8 June 2020. Maloney, Edward J., and Joshua Kim. “Learning and COVID-19: The third of three emergent themes.” Inside Higher Ed, 28 May 2020, -innovation/learning-and-covid-19. Accessed 3 June 2020. Napora, Lisa. “Meditation in Higher Education: The Question of Change, a Current Problem, and Evidence Toward a Solution.” Biofeedback, vol. 39, no. 2, 2011, pp. 64-66. O’Rourke, Breffni, and Ursula Stickler. “Synchronous Communication Technologies for Language Learning: Promise and Challenges in Research and Pedagogy.” Language Learning in Higher Education, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-20. Terhune, N. M. “Language Learning Going Global: Linking Teachers and Learners via Commercial Skype-Based CMC.” Computer Assisted Language Learning, vol. 29, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1071-89. The National Standards Collaborative Board. World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Author, 2015, world-readiness-standards-learning-languages. Wiley, David. “What is Open Pedagogy?” improving learning, 21 Oct. 2013, Accessed 15 Dec. 2020.

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An example of a rack card translated by Advanced French students for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department:

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APPENDIX E continued

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Gendered Ecologies: New Materialist Interpretations of Women Writers in the Long Nineteenth Century Dewey W. Hall and Jillmarie Murphy, Eds. Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020. 256 pp. $120/hardcover.

J. Andrew Hubbell, Susquehanna University As Stacy Alaimo writes in her “Forward,” the title of this new collection of literary criticism, Gendered Ecologies, “announces its potential to disrupt, provoking new modes of inquiry that can trace the interrelations between environments, bodies, and social forces” (1). This is “crucial for undermining essentialist notions of ‘woman’ and ‘nature’” (2). What’s disrupted is an epistemology that separates “environments, bodies, and social forces.” In contesting that epistemology, the authors of the ten essays on British and American women’s writing between 1796 and 1954, as well as the co-editors in their “Introduction,” apply New Materialism to trace the interrelations of literary history, feminism, and ecocriticism. By representing the interdependencies of “vitally material” beings and things, nineteenth-century women writers show how even nascent forms of political ecology destabilize the binary oppositions on which the logic of domination subsists. Relational “epistem-ontology” is not only more accurate, it also grounds discursive and material liberation. The concise, thirteen-page “Introduction” by Hall and Murphy neatly summarizes the theoretical context for their project. In the late 1980s, literary

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studies separated into two camps when early ecocritics asserted their new methodology as a reaction against what they saw as cultural studies’ overreach. New Materialism emerged in the late 2000s to dispute shortcomings in both critical methods. Ironically, the New Materialism redefined agency—a category highly suspect in both New Historical and ecocritical camps—as the metabolic actions creating order at all levels, from microorganisms and subatomic particles to climate systems. Humans could once again be viewed as agents, but only if agency were redefined as action taken within endlessly entangled chains of associated matter and only if the human were redefined as an assemblage of those chains—a “walking ecosystem,” as Donna Haraway puts it. These complicated theoretical entanglements frame and birth the project: “The primary aim of the book is to reconsider the woman-nature association from the critical perspective of new materialism. The secondary aim is to foreground the salient contributions of literary women writers to the study of ” natural history through their “acute observations of materiality in space” (14) and encoding “their discoveries of nature in their literary and artistic productions” (7). The literary women

writers in question are a largely canonical group: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Caroline Norton, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Margaret Fuller, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Celia Thaxter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Francis Wright, and Lydia Maria Child. Their writing ranges from literary nonfiction to fiction and poetry. Stacy Alaimo, Jane Bennett, and Karen Barad are the theorists most frequently invoked, with Kate Rigby, Timothy Morton, Bruno Latour, Claire Colebrook, and others making occasional appearances. Hall and Murphy carefully place their collection as an extension of work by recent ecofeminist and New Materialist scholars and editors: Tina Gianquitto, Karen Kilcup, Greta Gaard, Simon Estok, and Serpil Oppermann. Stacy Alaimo and Jane Bennett, who write the “Forward” and “Afterward,” respectively, tacitly approve Gendered Ecologies’ ambitious application of their theoretical frameworks. This application is the central feature of all ten literary analyses and the “Introduction.” The result is a study of how well the theory unlocks important meanings encoded in the literature. Both Bennett and Alaimo acknowledge what must have been an uncanny

experience in encountering so much of themselves in the essays that their writings bookend. Bennett’s “Afterward” is even subtitled “Influence,” which I read as scholarly deadpan. She offers a meditation on influence as “an alternative model of action… the capacity to induce effects in ways that are indirect and oblique, subtle and surprising. Its efficacy is that of quiet persistence rather than loud insistence” (209). Identifying herself as a reader of nineteenth-century literatures and therefore “influenced” in her philosophy by the stories “about nature, about culture, about action” (211) that such literatures tell, Bennett’s essay performs the agency of influence even as it describes the many entanglements of it. Exposing the complex lines of influence across the many “material-semiotic” agents entangled in the writings of nineteenth-century women makes us more aware of how these stories model and describe the ordering action of matter and symbol streaming through our bodies, beings, and biomes. Gendered Ecologies is a valuable contribution to the rapidly cohering discourse of New Materialism in the fields of nineteenth-century literary history, ecocriticism, and critical identity studies.

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What are some of those influences? Trees, rivers, mountains, open sky, gardens, wind, microbes, flowers, birds, and oceans. These influenced women to write about them, to become “women writers” who then influenced readers, further entangling us in acts that evolve our co-created nature-culture. For literature scholars, it may be so obvious that we are influenced by what we read, particularly in our formative years, that it need not be remarked. However, one of the most compelling essays in the collection, Elif S. Armbruster’s “Ants Become Giants: Laura Ingalls’s Pioneering Perspective in the Little House Books,” concludes by observing Wilder’s influence on her: “it is no wonder that, growing up on rural land in the 1970s as I did, reading Wilder’s books multiple times and watching every episode of the television adaptation, I, too, wanted to be a pioneer girl, to throw off my sneakers, my books, and my duties to become a wild creature just like Laura” (170). Some could object that this intrusion of the subjective dilutes the critic’s objectivity, but it seems to me that a careful accounting of the critic’s place in relation to the object of criticism is precisely what’s called for in a New Materialist reading of the ecology of gender. If, as Armbruster argues, “Laura’s attachment to the land and the freedom it offers her physically and existentially…provides a model of girlhood that generations of young women have adopted” (170), including Armbruster herself, it is theoretically necessary to acknowledge the many lines of influence at work. The essays in the American section address the relation of gender formation to large, open, comparatively undisturbed ecosystems. They counterpoint the essays in the British section, which, excepting Lisa Ottum’s essay on Mary Shelley’s work, address gender formation in relation to small,

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confined, human-built environments like houses, gardens, or bowers. This attention to the place where identity, freedom, agency, and self-actualization occur is the collection’s most important method of unifying social constructionist and ecocritical theory by means of New Materialism. For example, Hall, in his wide-ranging “The Place of Objects: The Female Body, Nature, and Entanglement in Jane Eyre and The Mill on the Floss,” examines Brontë’s and Eliot’s methods of presenting female bodies emmeshed in their material ecosystems, a transcorporeality that cannot be disentangled and turned into an essence or essential identity. Adrian Tait, in his superb “The Manifold Ecologies of Lady Audley’s Secret,” picks up that theme, arguing that “Lady Audley’s Secret enacts a dynamic, processual reading of identity, as it emerges from the complex entanglement of ecological relationships, or manifold ecologies” (100). Thus, “[l]ike the manifold ecologies that influence her, Lady Audley’s identity is not one thing, but many” (110). Energy, inertia, and entropy generate and regenerate discursive identities as well as physical entities, showing how social-semiotic systems operate on the same thermodynamic principles as physio-chemical-biological systems. This description of the endless transformations in human and natural systems is further developed in John Kucich’s “Ecocultural Contact and the Panarchy of Place: Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Margaret Fuller in the Great Lakes.” Kucich argues that Schoolcraft’s Native American poetry represents a “web of this community, of people, trees, and the stories that connect them” (130), which, in turn, taught Anglo-American Fuller how to see the importance of the nonhuman shaping her world: “If the pine tree, for Schoolcraft, anchors an

unassimilable Ojibwe world, the oak tree, for Fuller, is the mark of America’s multicultural promise” (135). Similarly, Murphy’s “Beyond the Binary: Transforming Ecologies in Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours and Celia Thaxter’s Among the Isle of Shoals” shows how “Cooper and Thaxter effectively construct inclusive, gender-minimizing vistas that emphasize the intra-connectedness of all living entities and de-emphasize subjective representations of otherness” (140). In contrast to the male tradition of botany, which imposed a binary reproductive order to classify plants, women naturalists “helped recast essentialist thinking and imagine nature as de-essentialized space” (140). If the landscapes of Schoolcraft, Fuller, Brontë, Eliot, Wilder, Cooper, and Thaxter “transform their landscapes into non-hierarchical sites that imaginatively de-enforce the subservience of nature, making these spaces compatible, harmonious, and synergistic” (141), then the landscapes of Shelley, Child, and Wright illustrate a more threatening, antagonistic relation between humans and nature. Matthew Duquès, Lisa West, and Ottum’s essays on “disaster ecology” explain the way literature provided “imaginative, instructive stories about social and environmental challenges people faced” (172) in the early moments of the Anthropocene. Ottum’s “The ‘vast prison’ of the World: CounterAnthropocenes in the Works of Mary Shelley,” one of the most important essays on Mary Shelley I have read, demonstrates how Frankenstein and The Last

Man warn against both romantic and triumphalist myths of human-nature intrarelationship. Shelley’s environments provoke anxiety, helplessness, solastalgia, dread, vulnerability: ecophobia in contrast to the biophilia most often associated with place-based knowledge. These emotional reactions to the strange agency of vast systems of matter is “Anthropocenic: it is a feeling of vulnerability— of continual, irremediable exposure” (34), a complex of anxiety, fear, loss, and helplessness “that is often attributed to our postmodern moment of environmental ‘awareness’” (30). Ottum concludes her essay by saying that nineteenth-century literature’s uncanny prolepsis of our own emotional response to our environments means that it is “time to adjust our literary histories, the many tales we tell within literary studies about movements, figures, and lines of influence” (39). The literature of the past shows that we cannot claim (rather narcissistically) that we alone know helpless despair before the juggernaut of our own death-drive. If, as Ottum argues, the Anthropocene names our most recent tragi-triumphalist story of how we earned our environmentalist chops by sacrificing our environment, “the new histories that emerge will present a different picture of green writing… shifting, queer, and partial. They will reveal biophilia braided together with ecophobia and forms of environmental awareness that are not necessarily environmentalist” (39). This collection is an ambitious contribution to these “new histories” of green writing: unsettling, complicated, and important.

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The Giver of Stars Jojo Moyes New York: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2019. 400 pp. $28/hardcover.

Claire Marrone, Sacred Heart University Jojo Moyes creates heroines you’d like to get to know. So many are honest and down to earth, intelligent and charming. You’d like to sit down with them for a cup of tea. The protagonist of Moyes’s latest novel, The Giver of Stars (2019), is no different. Alice Wright is an English transplant who finds a home in the small town of Baileyville, Kentucky. Her fresh view of Depression-era America, her naïveté as a newlywed, and her desire to do good in the world are all endearing. Locals find her language amusing. She says step instead of stoop and biscuit instead of cookie. She’s trying to understand Kentucky traditions and “married love.” Her good friend Margery O’Hare, a tough and independent-minded woman who has forged a life for herself despite a troubled childhood, is equally engaging. Both are Packhorse Librarians who, along with Izzy, Beth, and Kathleen, bring books, magazines, recipes, and comics to the poor families of the Appalachian Mountains. Such is the historical basis for the novel. Eleanor Roosevelt supported this literacy initiative to bring education to the poor as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s larger Works Progress Administration program. Sophia, a woman of color trained as a librarian, keeps the small-town library well organized. Margery does not fear employing her despite the narrowmindedness

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of the towns-people, hinting at her deep-seated tolerance and a lack of concern for provincial gossip and convention. The other librarians quickly befriend Sophia, this wise and witty elder, and she is vital to several important scenes. Indeed, town prejudices—from longstanding family feuds to fundamentalist religious views to stifling gender rigidity—create a backdrop for various battles. For example, Alice’s departure from England and a family embarrassed by this “impulsive” daughter foreshadows exits to come. She’ll later leave her milquetoast husband Bennett Van Cleve, stuck under his domineering father’s thumb. She finally finds not only comradery with her librarian friends and the families she comes to know in the mountains, but love with a local: Fred Guisler. He, too, is a bit different and rather alone. Yet he is kind, moral, and easily smitten by Alice’s uniqueness. He is a “giver of stars” for Alice, bestowing upon her whimsical poetry, visions of fireflies, and impassioned kisses. Moyes’s impressive descriptive abilities engage the reader in this work. As Alice and her cohorts travel to the far-flung Arnott’s Ridge, we read: Even in the benign conditions of early September, the route was remote and

arduous, taking in steep crevasses, narrow ledges and a variety of obstacles to scrabble down or over, from ditches to fences to fallen trees…. Around them the air hung thick and moist and the newly amber forests lay dense with fallen leaves, muffling sound as they made their way along the hidden trails. (356) One recalls the crisp detail of the seafaring village in Silver Bay or the intricate trinkets in the shop of The Peacock Emporium. In The Giver of Stars, Moyes brilliantly evokes eastern Kentucky, “one of the poorest – and most beautiful – places in the United States” (388). Certain episodes in the text are perhaps unnecessary. We already know, for example, of the elder Van Cleve’s exploitative nature as a coalmining magnate before learning that his substandard dams contributed to devastating floods. At the same time, such episodes continue to paint vividly the hardships of rural America in the 1930s. In this work, Moyes ultimately celebrates the possibility of change. For some, that comes through education and exposure to new ideas. For example,

the old-fashioned Jim Horner considers sending his daughters to school once he witnesses their love of reading. His local twang (“Seeing as how smart they both are,” Horner concedes [112]) adds authenticity to the story. For others, transformation comes through suffering and inspiration. Kathleen Bligh starts to move beyond her husband’s death when she joins the Packhorse Librarians. Her recollection of Alice’s kindness, reading to her late husband when he was weak from black lung disease, moves her. Other changes come from journeys to faraway places. The life that Alice creates for herself in America recalls that of other Moyes heroines who venture to distant lands: Louisa Clark, who moves beyond sadness to make her way in New York in Still Me, the sequel to the noted Me Before You; the determined Sophie Lefèvre, who escapes to Switzerland with her husband during WWI in The Girl You Left Behind; or Frances MacKenzie, who leaves a traumatic past in Australia in The Ship of Brides. In reading Moyes’s novels, one often finds characters fleeing hardship or despair. Triumph generally follows. Their determination—mixed with a little winning humor and good luck— inevitably brings them home.

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NeMLA notes

On the 53rd Annual Convention Theme From the President Bernadette Wegenstein, The Johns Hopkins University Who cares? When I first came to the U.S. as a post-doc at Stanford University in 1998, I wasn’t very fluent in English. My native languages were German and Italian, and as a philologist of Romance Languages I had studied all other Romance languages as well as some non-Indo-European languages within my PhD in Linguistics. English was the language I had never even thought much about. At Stanford, though, it immediately struck me how fast I fell into its colloquialisms. “Who cares?” was one of them. I came to like this phrase and its connotations, as they made me feel a bit revolutionary, anarchical even. I was doing things and did not worry about who else cared that I did them. Growing up in Vienna, what I did in the public realm was cared about a lot. I had to do curtsies to greet adults, and when I picked up the phone at my house, a square green device with digital buttons that said “beep, boop, bööp,” I was made to say things like “Bernadette Wegenstein on the ‘apparatus.’ Who am I speaking with?” that made me sound like the soon to be murdered housewife out of a fifties movie like The Awful Dr. Orloff. (It was the Eighties actually.) So “who cares” that I am walking in my pajamas to Safeway in Menlo Park, and “who cares” that I am speaking with a heavy accent that nobody at Stanford was investigating as “foreign,” and “who cares” that I was presenting myself as a young woman and not a man? These were the kind of liberating thoughts I associated at that time with the phrase “who cares.” Twenty years later, the English word care and the meaning universe that I associated it with at Stanford has changed, if not even become its opposite. It turned from meaning “freedom,” “self-sufficiency,” and “anonymity” to the meanings that the word had when I did not speak English yet, but thought of the German Sorge and the Italian preoccupazione. In German, “care” means Sorge (which is related to English “sorrow”). Its first denotation is heavy and filled with notions of interdependency with the world and an anxiety and preoccupation with the immediate future: “an oppressive feeling of inner unrest and anxiety that is incited by an uncomfortable, difficult situation that weighs on you or that you worry will weigh on you in the near future.” The second denotation turns from inward to outward: “Shepherding, provisioning, aid and support that someone offers someone else or to an issue” (translated from German on Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache This is a form of care where the unsettled anxious self is looking to reach out and help others and the other(ing) world. Interdependence, Empathy, Vulnerability, Wellbeing, DisAbility and Care, Romantic Caring, Care in Queer Communities, Care With(Out) and Against the State, Practices of Care in Today’s Animal Knowledge, Vulnerable and Intimate Imaginations of the Future, Making Space for Care, Care for Others – Care for Ourselves, Uses and Misuses of Care, Worlds of Care, Mindfulness, Writers Caring for the Environment,

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Technologies of Care, Frames of Care, Care for Posthumans and Machines, Maternal Care, Ethics of Representing Care, Politics of Care, Caring for Lost Writers, Discourses of Care, Networks of Care, Infrastructures of Care, Eco-ethical Care. These are some of the titles and subtitles of our panels, roundtables, and seminars at the upcoming 53rd NeMLA convention taking place March 10-13, 2022, in Baltimore. They could have come out of the etymology for Sorge, the first denotation, the one that feels a deep unrest, a preoccupation with the world and its immediate future. When I read these just the other day, I realized that “care,” as I learned the word twenty years ago when feeling “care-free,” no longer means the same thing. The kind of care reflected in this year’s convention is directed to something else, something or someone that is about to happen, soon, but also something and someone who was affected in the past and needs to be accounted for and thought about now, in new ways. NeMLA, gives us a small glimpse into the world of cultures through the lens of academia. The panels and roundtables and events this coming year show us that in our (post) humanity we have a lot of things to solve, and that Sorge is being applied by them in its second German denotation as a search for provision, aid, and support: how do we navigate trauma? How do we make room for queer ecology when reading past literatures? How do we witness in a decolonial way? How do we account for nonhumanity in the Anthropocene? How do we account for invisible labor, gender violence, and victimhood in forgotten genocides? How can we re-imagine global identities and global citizenship? How does Afro- and Africanfuturism imagine our immediate future? It could not be a better year to celebrate our keynote speakers to inaugurate NeMLA 2022: renowned American philosopher Judith Butler, whose work centers on care and questions of interdependency in such a beautiful and approachable way, and Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli, who focuses most poetically and innovatively on migration and trauma in her book, Lost Children’s Archive. I welcome you in the voice of my old Austrian self speaking into the telephone “apparatus” many, many years ago: “This is Bernadette Wegenstein from the global village of US academia. How can I direct your call toward an immediate future of care and Sorge?”

I look forward to seeing you in in person Baltimore!

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contributors Ana Fonseca Conboy is Associate Professor of French in the Department of Languages and Cultures at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in St Joseph, MN, where she teaches courses in French language, culture, and literature. Her research centers on 17th-century French baroque theatre, contemplative pedagogy, and French language pedagogy, and her recent articles appear in The French Review and Performance Matters. Anthony Gomez III is a current PhD candidate of English Literature at Stony Brook University. His most recent essay on disability and late 19th century working life is forthcoming in the Henry James Review. Katharine Harrington is Professor of French at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH where she teaches courses in French language, culture, literature, and film. She is the author of Writing the Nomadic Experience in Contemporary Francophone Literature (Lexington Books, 2013). Her research interests include Québécois literature and society, Franco-American communities of the northeast, and French language pedagogy. Michael R. Schrimper is a Ph.D. student in English Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He specializes in and teaches classes on modern Anglophone literature and race and the environment. A National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar, he has articles in Journal of Modern Literature, The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies, and the Virginia Woolf Miscellany. As a Pushcart Prize-nominated creative writer, he has work in Chicago Quarterly Review, minnesota review, and The Worcester Review. Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Plainsongs, Microverses, Sylvia Magazine, Better Than Starbucks, Post, Wine Cellar Press, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her. Meagan K. Wilson is a doctoral candidate in the University at Buffalo Poetics program. Her primary research interests are contemporary poetry, environmental humanities, and the American west. She is the executive editor of grama magazine, a journal of innovative western North American writing, and she is the managing editor at Essay Press. Her poetry and reviews can be found in a number of publications.

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