New Books April 2023

We’ve got lots of lovely new books (and DVDs!) at the EFL, ready to welcome everyone back for Trinity Term. If you’re worried you might have missed out on some of the new arrivals while away from Oxford for the vacation, don’t worry – catch up on all of them over on LibraryThing, or keep reading to see a few selections that caught our eye in April …

Cover image for The Wife of Willesden by Zadie SmithZadie Smith, The Wife of Willesden (2021)

Chaucer’s Alison, the Wife of Bath, has a long history of being interpreted and reinterpreted – she is Chaucer’s ‘most enduring and appealing character‘. In Smith’s retelling, Alison is reimagined as Alvita, ‘an unashamedly sex-positive woman in her mid-50s’. Over the course of a lock-in at the local pub, Alvita tells her story of living life her way, refusing to be told what she can and cannot do by husbands, society, religion – or anyone else for that matter.

The Wife of Willesden is Smith’s debut play, written to tie in with the Borough of Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture. As much as it celebrates Alvita, it is also a love-letter to Willesden and its vibrant community – a common thread in much of Smith’s work.

There are lots of works by Smith at the EFL. Browse them on SOLO.

Cover image for Queer Disappearance in Modern and Contemporary Fiction by Benjamin BatemanBenjamin Bateman, Queer Disappearance in Modern and Contemporary Fiction (2023)

In this study, Bateman works to find an alternative to what might be termed ‘queer progressive narratives’ in contemporary fiction. By placing modernist classics by authors including E. M. Forster and Willa Cather in conversation with contemporary queer and environmental fiction, Bateman ‘refuses the common wisdom that queerness becomes louder and prouder over time, delineating instead a minimalist and daydreaming subjectivity wherein queerness finds escape, respite, and varied opportunities for imaginative reverie’.

Ultimately, Bateman brings together literary studies, queer theory, and the environmental humanities to offer critical alternatives to ‘coming out’ narratives, to revise theories of gender and sexual performativity, and to explore a world in which ‘queer disappearance’ might be just as important as queer presence.

This title is also available as an e-book.

Also by Bateman: The Modernist Art of Queer Survival (2017, e-book).

Cover image for Black Female Playwrights: An anthology of plays before 1950, edited by Kathy A. PerkinsKathy A. Perkins (ed.), Black Female Playwrights: An Anthology of Plays before 1950 (1990)

This anthology brings together nineteen plays from seven African American women, written between roughly 1910 and 1940. While this selection cannot be comprehensive, it is nonetheless representative of the works African American women were producing in the early twentieth century and the importance of these playwrights in the development of African American drama more generally. Perkins presents the plays alongside biographies of the seven playwrights which outline ‘each writer’s education, dramatic interests, and achievements‘, in addition to an Introduction to the collection which outlines the historical background of these playwrights’ work. The result is an anthology which forms a valuable starting point for explorations of ‘a neglected segment of black theatre‘.

Also by Perkins: Contemporary Plays by Women of Color: An Anthology (1996).

Cover image for The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.Robert Jones Jr., The Prophets (2021)

The Prophets, Jones’s debut novel, explores queer love between two enslaved men in the antebellum south. With lyricism and a ‘rich, distinctive‘ style lending itself to comparisons with Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, Jones delivers ‘an outstanding novel […] but also a great sweep of history‘, all while compensating for that history’s elision of the human. The nucleus of the story is the love between Isaiah and Samuel, but their world is also populated by a plethora of characters, each ‘richly evoked, rendering the complexity of their desires and depravations‘.

This is far from an easy read. But what Jones has created, amid the horror and cruelty, is a testimony to the fact ‘that humans do still love, even when the most terrifying threats hang over them’.

Cover image for Changing Satire: Transformations and Continuities in Europe, 1660-1830, edited by Cecilia Rosengren, Per Sivefors, and Rikard WingardCecilia Rosengren, Per Sivefors, and Rikard Wingard (eds.), Changing Satire: Transformations and Continuities in Europe, 1660-1830 (2022)

This collection of essays brings together literary scholars and art historians to trace developments in satire from the seventeenth through to the early nineteenth centuries. Over this period, satire became less genre-driven and increasingly visual, flourishing in various formats. The contributions to this collection consider works of satire by well-known figures like Swift and Milton, as well as lesser-known manuscript sources and prints from the period. While there is a general focus on England, the collected essays also consider satire across Europe, in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The result is a fascinating study which maps the development of satire, revealing it ultimately to be a key vehicle for the transgression of boundaries.

This title is also available as an e-book

Cover image for The Farwell, directed by Lulu WangThe Farewell, dir. Lulu Wang (2020)

The Farewell is a ‘beautifully bittersweet‘ comedy starring Awkwafina as Billi. Born in China but raised in the USA, these two aspects of Billi’s identity start to clash when she and her extended family return to China to say goodbye to their matriarch, Nai Nai – but no-one has told Nai Nai that she is terminally ill. The result is a witty, funny, and ultimately endearing exploration of identity, culture and family.

Many DVDs arrived at the library this month – you can browse the latest arrivals on LibraryThing. Portable DVD players can be borrowed from the enquiry desk. Alternatively, you can view films in the computer room; just ask at the desk if you’d like help getting set up.

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