Happy ‘pub’ days: Cryer, Finn, Looser, Maring
The latest in faculty books from the Department of English features algorithmic prose poetry, Frankenstein for STEM, a history of Jane Austen fandom, and an exploration of medieval English oral tradition.
Channels, Frequencies and Sequences (Four Chambers Press, 2017)
A series of prose poems, Channels, Frequencies and Sequences takes personality and turns it into a playlist, formalizing the idea of the internet radio station and pushing the algorithm to its absurd, (il)logical conclusion. What does it mean to be machine-readable? What does it say about ourselves when the computer knows us better than we do? What is the self but a haphazard assortment of traits, thoughts, emotions, and experience anyway? Why not put it on shuffle? Why not ask it to dance?
Suffused with the paranoia of personal data capture, the subtle pretension of artificial intelligence, and the inevitable resentment of the front-end user, Channels, Frequencies and Sequences is a frolicking deconstruction of identity and free will, a pastiche of pop culture and existential randomness, a choose-your-own-adventure story where there is no choice, no adventure, no story, and no you. Happy listening.
Cryer is an Instructor of English at ASU. His poems have appeared in Ecotone, Quarterly West, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Spork, Diagram, Four Chambers and others. His collection, Selected Proverbs, won Elixir Press’s 2016 Antivenom Poetry Award and will be released in 2017.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds (MIT Press, 2017)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has endured in the popular imagination for two hundred years. Begun as a ghost story by an intellectually and socially precocious eighteen-year-old author during a cold and rainy summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, the dramatic tale of Victor Frankenstein and his stitched-together creature can be read as the ultimate parable of scientific hubris. Victor, “the modern Prometheus,” tried to do what he perhaps should have left to Nature: create life. Although the novel is most often discussed in literary-historical terms—as a seminal example of romanticism or as a groundbreaking early work of science fiction—Mary Shelley was keenly aware of contemporary scientific developments and incorporated them into her story. In our era of synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and climate engineering, this edition of Frankenstein will resonate forcefully for readers with a background or interest in science and engineering, and anyone intrigued by the fundamental questions of creativity and responsibility.
This edition of Frankenstein pairs the original 1818 version of the manuscript—meticulously line-edited and amended by Charles E. Robinson, one of the world’s preeminent authorities on the text—with annotations and essays by leading scholars exploring the social and ethical aspects of scientific creativity raised by this remarkable story. The result is a unique and accessible edition of one of the most thought-provoking and influential novels ever written.
Finn is Founding Director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at ASU, where he is also Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering and the Department of English.
The Making of Jane Austen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017)
Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork for the beloved author we think we know.
Here are the Austen influencers, including her first English illustrator, the eccentric Ferdinand Pickering, whose sensational gothic images may be better understood through his brushes with bullying, bigamy, and an attempted matricide. The daring director-actress Rosina Filippi shaped Austen’s reputation with her pioneering dramatizations, leading thousands of young women to ventriloquize Elizabeth Bennet’s audacious lines before drawing room audiences. Even the supposedly staid history of Austen scholarship has its bizarre stories. The author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, student George Pellew, tragically died young, but he was believed by many, including his professor-mentor, to have come back from the dead.
Looser shows how these figures and their Austen-inspired work transformed Austen’s reputation, just as she profoundly shaped theirs. Through them, Looser describes the factors and influences that radically altered Austen’s evolving image. Drawing from unexplored material, Looser examines how echoes of that work reverberate in our explanations of Austen’s literary and cultural power. Whether you’re a devoted Janeite or simply Jane-curious, The Making of Jane Austen will have you thinking about how a literary icon is made, transformed, and handed down from generation to generation.
Looser is a Professor of English at ASU. She is the author of Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850 and British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670–1820.
Signs that Sing: Hybrid Poetics in Old English Verse (University Press of Florida, 2017)
In Signs that Sing, Heather Maring argues that oral tradition, religious ritual, and literate Latin-based practices are dynamically interconnected in Old English poetry. Resisting the tendency to study these different forms of expression separately, Maring contends that poets combined them in hybrid techniques that were important to the early development of English literature.
Maring examines a variety of texts, including Beowulf, The Battle of Maldon, The Dream of the Rood, and the Advent Lyrics, and shows how themes from oral tradition became metaphors for sacred concepts in the hands of Christian authors and how oral performance and religious liturgy influenced written poetry. The result, she demonstrates, is richly elaborate verse filled with shared symbols and themes that a wide range of audiences could understand and find meaningful.
Maring is assistant professor of English at ASU. She has published articles in Oral Tradition, The Midwestern Modern Language Association Journal, English Studies, and Studies in Philology.