Langston Hughes: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes 

“The ultimate book for both the dabbler and serious scholar–. [Hughes] is sumptuous and sharp, playful and sparse, grounded in an earthy music–. This book is a glorious revelation.”–Boston Globe

Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this magnificent volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who has been called the poet laureate of African America–and perhaps our greatest popular poet since Walt Whitman. Here, for the first time, are all the poems that Langston Hughes published during his lifetime, arranged in the general order in which he wrote them and annotated by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel.
Alongside such famous works as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Montage of a Dream Deferred,The Collected Poemsincludes the author’s lesser-known verse for children; topical poems distributed through the Associated Negro Press; and poems such as “Goodbye Christ” that were once suppressed. Lyrical and pungent, passionate and polemical, the result is a treasure of a book, the essential collection of a poet whose words have entered our common language.

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Additional Resources:

Langston Hughes Speaking at UCLA, 1967 (video)
Meet the Past: Langston Hughes at the Kansas Public Library (video)

The Negro in American Culture: Group Discussion with Baldwin, Hughes, Hansberry, Capouya and Kazin (video)
Academy of Poets: Langston Hughes (website)


Yukio Mishima: Five Modern No Plays 

Japanese No drama is one of the great art forms that has fascinated people throughout the world. The late Yukio Mishima, one of Japan’s outstanding post-war writers, infused new life into the form by using it for plays that preserve the style and inner spirit of No and are at the same time so modern, so direct, and intelligible that they could, as he suggested, be played on a bench in Central Park. Here are five of his No plays, stunning in their contemporary nature and relevance and finally made available again for readers to enjoy.

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Further Writings: 

Spring Snow: The Sea of Fertility (Ebook)
Sun and Steel (PDF)

Additional Resources:

BBC Documentary: The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima (Video)
YUKOKU (Patriotism) Film by Yukio Mishima (video)
Interview, with subtitles provided by YouTube CC(video)

Henry Miller: Tropic of Capricorn 

Miller’s sprawling masterpiece was launched by the Obelisk Press, a French publisher of soft pornography as Tropic of Cancer, with a cover by Maurice Girodias, who would later become famous as the leading French publisher of erotic literature. Wrapped in an explicit warning (“Not to be imported into Great Britain or USA”), it set a new gold standard for graphic language and explicit sexuality. From the outset, Miller’s “barbaric yawp” shook US censorship and inflamed American literary sensibility to its core. Tropic would remain banned for a generation, by which time it had become part of postwar cultural folklore, smuggled into the US wrapped in scarves and underwear. Rarely has a book had such thrilling and desperate underground beginnings.

The outsider status of Miller’s novel combined with its subject (life and love at the extremes of existence) recommended the book to writers like Orwell and Beckett. In his essay Inside the Whale (1940), Orwell wrote: “I earnestly counsel anyone who has not done so to read at least Tropic of Cancer. With a little ingenuity, or by paying a little over the published price, you can get hold of it, and even if parts of it disgust you, it will stick in your memory … Here in my opinion is the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past.”

For his part Samuel Beckett described it as “a momentous event in the history of modern writing”. In the US, as an outright challenge to the censor, Edmund Wilson noted that “The tone of the book is undoubtedly low. Tropic of Cancer… is the lowest book of any real literary merit that I ever remember to have read.”

Miller’s vision prevailed, in the end. Finally, in 1961, the year after Lady Chatterley’s Lover secured the right to be published in the UK, Tropic of Cancer triumphed in its battle with the US censor and was published by the Grove Press. The timing of this landmark verdict did not favour the ageing iconoclast. At first, his book was treated as the fruit of Miller’s complex relationship with Anaïs Nin, who was an object of veneration within the American feminist movement. Later, feminists like Kate Millett denounced Miller as a male chauvinist, while Jeanette Winterson asked, perceptively: “Why do men revel in the degradation of women?” This question still hangs over the pages of Tropic like a rebuke, but (with a few misgivings) I’m still going to add it to this series.

The Guardian
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Additional Resources:

The Guardian’s 100 Best Novels: No. 59, Tropic of Capricorn 

Henry Miller: Asleep and Awake, a.k.a. Bathroom Monologues, 1975 (video)
Dinner with Henry Miller, 1979 (video)
The Henry Miller Odyssey, 1969 (video)

Achille Mbembe: Critique of Black Reason 

In Critique of Black Reason eminent critic Achille Mbembe offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness—from the Atlantic slave trade to the present—to critically reevaluate history, racism, and the future of humanity. Mbembe teases out the intellectual consequences of the reality that Europe is no longer the world’s center of gravity while mapping the relations among colonialism, slavery, and contemporary financial and extractive capital. Tracing the conjunction of Blackness with the biological fiction of race, he theorizes Black reason as the collection of discourses and practices that equated Blackness with the nonhuman in order to uphold forms of oppression. Mbembe powerfully argues that this equation of Blackness with the nonhuman will serve as the template for all new forms of exclusion. With Critique of Black Reason, Mbembe offers nothing less than a map of the world as it has been constituted through colonialism and racial thinking while providing the first glimpses of a more just future. 

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28 Page Excerpt (PDF)

Theory Culture & Society
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society
Further Writings by the Author:

Necropolitics (PDF)
Provisional Notes on the Post Colony (PDF)
Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive (PDF)
African Modes of Self Writing (PDF)

Additional Resources:

Panel: Critique of Black Reason: Achille Mbembe, Laurent Dubois and Tsitsi Jaji
Lecture: Politics of Viscerality (video)
Lecture: Technologies of Happiness in the Age of Animism (video)
Lecture: Democracy in the Age of Dynamism (video)
Lecture: Raceless Future

Simon Critchley: Memory Theatre 

A French philosopher dies during a savage summer heat wave. Boxes carrying his unpublished miscellany mysteriously appear in Simon Critchley’s office. Rooting through piles of papers, Critchley discovers a brilliant text on the ancient art of memory and a cache of astrological charts predicting the deaths of various philosophers. Among them is a chart for Critchley himself, laying out in great detail the course of his life and eventual demise. Becoming obsessed with the details of his fate, Critchley receives the missing, final box, which contains a maquette of Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Venetian memory theatre, a space supposed to contain the sum of all knowledge. That’s when the hallucinations begin –

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The Guardian

New York Times

Additional Resources: 

Author’s Website
Simon Critchley and Cornel West in Conversation (video)
Lecture: To Philosophize is to Die (video)
Lecture: Tragedy’s Philosophy (video)

Louise Gluck: Faithful and Virtuous Night

In Louise Gluck’s new collection, night takes on the dimensions of myth, becomes the setting for a sequence of journeys and explorations through time and memory, as the speaker of the poems moves backwards into childhood and forwards into ‘the kingdom of death’. Gluck draws equally on the worlds of fairy-tale, of dream and of waking life, each poem a door into a narrative both haunting and compellingly beautiful.

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NYT Review
New Yorker Review
NPR Review

For a Dollar: Louise Gluck in Conversation (transcript)

An Interview with Grace Gluck (transcript)
National Book Foundation: Interview with Grace Gluck, 2014 (transcript)