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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 12, 2010

UI Press releases three new volumes of literary scholarship

Three new volumes of literary scholarship -- including an essay anthology for poetry teachers, a significant contribution to Mark Twain studies and a study of the relationship between land and culture in Great Plains literature -- are now available from the University of Iowa Press.

In response to a lack of source works for wide-ranging approaches to teaching poetry, award-winning poet Joshua Marie Wilkinson gathered 99 micro-essays by poets, critics and scholars in "Poets on Teaching: A Sourcebook." The essays address both reading and writing and give teachers and students useful tools for the classroom and beyond.

Wilkinson, who teaches at Loyola University Chicago, is the author of nearly a dozen books and chapbooks, including both poetry collections and works of critical scholarship.

In "Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain," authors Lawrence I. Berkove and Joseph Csicsila challenge the prevailing belief that Twain's position on religion hovered between skepticism and outright heresy. They conclude not only that religion was an important factor in Twain's life but also that the popular conception of Twain as agnostic, atheist or apostate is simply wrong.

Alan Gribben, the author of "Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction," wrote, "Every now and then a book comes along that illuminates Mark Twain's literature like a lightning flash, startling us about how casually we have overlooked a fundamental truth. 'Heretical Fictions,' is such a work, boldly redrawing the map of Twain studies and ingeniously tracing a vital path of thought that underlies his major writings."

"I balked a little when I read that 'religion was a main concern of Twain during his entire life,' but Berkove and Csicsila soon brought me round to their point of view," wrote Forrest Robinson, the author of "In Bad Faith: The Dynamics of Deception in Mark Twain's America."

"This is in good part because they are not interested in listing biblical allusions and splitting theological hairs. Rather, they stick to the high ground and bring nuanced literary perceptions to their task. Their theological foundation is strong, as is their feel for the importance of religion in Twain's America, and they make clear that Twain was a Calvinist in his basic understanding of God, heaven, hell, free will and human nature."

Berkove, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, is the editor of "The Fighting Horse of the Stanislaus: Stories and Essays by Dan De Quille," "The Sagebrush Anthology: Literature from the Silver Age of the Old West," and "The Best Short Stories of Mark Twain."

Csicsila is a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of "Canons by Consensus: Critical Trends and American Literature Anthologies," coeditor of "Centenary Reflections on Mark Twain’s 'No.44, The Mysterious Stranger'" and of the "Prentice Hall Anthology of American Literature," editor of "The Gilded Age," and review editor of the Mark Twain Annual.

At the core of Matthew J.C. Cella's "Bad Land Pastoralism in Great Plains Fiction," is the question that ecocritics have been debating for decades: What is the relationship between aesthetics and activism, between art and community? By charting the shifting meaning of land use and biocultural change in the region, he posits this bad land —- the arid West —- as a crucible for the development of the human imagination.

Former UI English and American Studies faculty member Wayne Franklin explained, "In the United States, the emigrant tale is a staple myth. Much of what Cella studies, from James Fenimore Cooper’s 'The Prairie,' to Willa Cather’s 'O Pioneers!' embodies that myth.

"It springs from the hope that life can take a turn for the better, that a person down on her luck can change her fate by changing her location. This is one of the deep stories of American culture. . . . It is not just a narrative -- it is a promise, even a prophecy. . . . By reading the old stories so well, Matthew Cella helps us to imagine what those new ones might be."

Cella is a visiting assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He has been both managing editor and book review editor for MELUS, the journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.

The three books are available at bookstores or directly from the press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at They are also available as a pdf e-books:

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, UI News Services, 319-430-1013,