- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: June 2018
- Print publication year: 2018
- Online ISBN: 9781108551236
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108551236
Practices of Surprise in American Literature After Emerson locates a paradoxical question - how does one prepare to be surprised? - at the heart of several major modernist texts. Arguing that this paradox of perception gives rise to an American literary methodology, this book dramatically reframes how practices of reading and writing evolved among modernist authors after Emerson. Whereas Walter Benjamin defines modernity as a 'series of shocks' inflicted from without, Emerson offers a countervailing optic that regards life as a 'series of surprises' unfolding from within. While Benjaminian shock elicits intimidation and defensiveness, Emersonian surprise fosters states of responsiveness and spontaneity whereby unexpected encounters become generative rather than enervating. As a study of how such states of responsiveness were cultivated by a post-Emerson tradition of writers and thinkers, this project displaces longstanding models of modernist perception defined by shock's passive duress, and proposes alternate models of reception that proceed from the active practice of surprise.
Branka Arsić - Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor, Columbia University, New York
Michael W. Clune - Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
Jane F. Thrailkill - Bank of America Honors Distinguished Term Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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