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By Kristen LaRue-Sandler — May 22, 2024

Covers of books and journals by Andrea Dickens, Kathleen Hicks, Ruben Espinosa, Kevin Sandler and Safiya Sinclair

Five faculty members in the ASU Department of English announce volumes just out this spring or forthcoming this summer. Works include a survey of case studies, an edited collection of essays, a volume of interviews, an academic journal, and a U.K. edition of a memoir. The output covers topics of medieval heresy, Shakespeare and skin studies, John Steinbeck, animators Hanna and Barbera, and a Rastafarian childhood.

‘Heresy in the Middle Ages: A History of Authority and Exclusion’ (Fortress Press, 2024)

Andrea Janelle Dickens’ survey of medieval case studies is set for release in August. From the publisher:

  • “From the high Middle Ages to the late Middle Ages, heresy evolved from individual outbreaks to more widespread movements. Accused heretics were often motivated by the same concerns as movements that found acceptance within the church, such as a zeal to live the apostolic life.

    This book explores the growing sense of Christian identity as it developed in agreement with and opposition to closely affiliated groups in the Middle Ages. It documents the development of the idea of heresy, and it listens to the voices that shaped official and unofficial theologies. Developing manuals of heresy and elaborate trial procedures spanning both canon law and secular justice, the church defined religion and religious life more tightly and regulated praxis.

    Considering nine heretical movements of the Middle Ages, starting with the Petrobrusians and finally ending with the Hussites and late medieval witchcraft, this book examines the shifting line constructed between heresy and orthodoxy, and how the saint and the heretic were often responding in similar ways to the same motivations. Through its investigations, this book considers the reasons for inclusion and exclusion of these various groups and the impact of the development of this heresy-routing apparatus on medieval Christianity's self-identity.”

Dickens is an assistant teaching professor in the ASU Department of English.

‘Shakespeare / Skin: Contemporary Readings in Skin Studies and Theoretical Discourse’ (Bloomsbury / The Arden Shakespeare, 2024)

This collection of essays in the Arden Shakespeare Intersections series is edited by Ruben Espinosa and is forthcoming this August. From the publisher:

  • “This volume offers a comprehensive array of readings of 'skin' in Shakespeare's works, a term that embraces the human and animal, noun and verb.

    ‘Shakespeare / Skin’ departs from previous studies as it deliberately and often explicitly engages with issues of social and racial justice. Each of the chapters interrogates and centres 'skin' in relation to areas of expertise that include performance studies, aesthetics, animal studies, religious studies, queer theory, Indigenous studies, history, food studies, border studies, postcolonial studies, Black feminism, disease studies and pedagogy. By considering contemporary understandings of skin, this volume examines how the literature of the early modern past creates paths to constructing racial hierarchies.

    With contributors from the USA, UK, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Australia, chapters are informed by an array of histories, shedding light on how skin was understood in Shakespeare's time and at key moments during the past 400 years in different media and cultures. Chapters include considerations of plays such as ‘Titus Andronicus,’ ‘The Tempest’ and ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream,’ and work by Borderlands Theater, Los Colochos and Satyajit Ray, among many others.

    For researchers and instructors, this book will help to shape teaching and inform research through its modelling of antiracist critical practice. Collectively, the chapters in this collection allow us to consider how sustained attention to skin via cross-historical and innovative approaches can reveal to us the various uses of Shakespeare that shed light on the fraught nature of our interrelatedness. They set a path for readers to consider how much skin they have in the game when it comes to challenging structures of racism.”

Espinosa is a professor in the ASU Department of English and the associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The Steinbeck Review 20:2 (December 2023)

Kathleen Hicks is associate editor of this Steinbeck studies journal whose most recent issue is themed, “the digital age.” From the editor’s column:

  • “These are certainly interesting times for teachers, students, and scholars. There are unprecedented increases in demands for unique learning modalities, fears of enrollment cliffs, negative attitudes about higher education, strong forces of censorship, and incredible technological advancements demanding reconsideration of how we teach and learn and think about our world and human creativity in the coming decade. Steinbeck was no stickler for tradition. He would not write the same book twice, often to his critics' chagrin, and he certainly did not fear engaging the changing world by attempting to articulate new ways to think and write about the human experience.

    In the 1960s, a troubling time in its own right, Steinbeck set out on his ‘Travels with Charley’ journey to discover new systems of thought he believed were urgently needed for comprehending the increasingly complex world. As ChatGPT suggests, he would likely not shy away from engaging in similar ways with today's complexities and challenges. His work remains uniquely positioned to serve as a useful tool for speculating about and generating creative approaches for addressing educational, technological, social, and environmental changes. Thus, Steinbeck scholars, teachers, and enthusiasts can and should play an important role in reconceptualizing Steinbeck studies in ways that engage the next generation and should wrestle with the challenges on the horizon.”

Hicks is a teaching professor in the ASU Department of English, where she is director of online programs.

‘Hanna and Barbera: Conversations’ (University Press of Mississippi, 2024)

With Tyler Solon Williams, Kevin Sandler compiled and edited this collection of interviews and essays in the press’s Television Conversations series. It was released in April. From the publisher:

  • “‘Hanna and Barbera: Conversations’ presents a lively portrait of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the influential producers behind Tom and Jerry, the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, the Smurfs, and hundreds of other cartoon characters who continue to entertain the world today. Encompassing more than fifty years of film and television history, the conversations in this volume include first-person accounts by the namesakes of the Hanna-Barbera studio as well as recollections by artists and executives who worked closely with the pair for decades. It is the first collection of its kind about Hanna and Barbera, likely the most prolific animation producers of the twentieth century, whose studio once outflanked its competitor Walt Disney in output and influence.

    Bill Hanna fell into animation in 1930 at the Harman-Ising studio in Los Angeles, gaining skills across the phases of production as MGM opened its animation studio. Joe Barbera, a talented and sociable artist, entered the industry around the same time at the wild and woolly Van Beuren studio in Manhattan, learning the ins and outs of animation art before crossing the country to join MGM. In television, Hanna’s timing and community-oriented work ethic along with Barbera’s knack for sales and creating funny characters enabled Hanna-Barbera to build a roster of beloved cartoon series.

    A wide range of pieces map Hanna and Barbera’s partnership, from their early days in Hollywood in the 1930s to Cartoon Network in the 1990s, when a new generation took the reins of their animation studio. Relatively unknown when they made over one hundred Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoons at MGM in the 1940s and 1950s, Hanna and Barbera became household names upon entering the new medium of television in 1957. Discussions here chart their early primetime successes as well as later controversies surrounding violence, overseas production, and the lack of quality in their Saturday morning cartoons. With wit, candor, insight, and bravado, ‘Hanna and Barbera: Conversations’ reflects on Bill and Joe’s breakthroughs and shortcomings, and their studio’s innovations and retreads.”

Sandler is an associate professor in the ASU Department of English’s film and media studies program.

‘How to Say Babylon: A Jamaican Memoir’ (U.K. Paperback) (4th Estate, 2024)

Safiya Sinclair’s award-winning memoir is now available in paperback in the U.K. From the publisher:

  • “Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where luxury hotels line pristine white sand beaches, Safiya Sinclair grew up guarding herself against an ever-present threat. Her father, a volatile reggae musician and strict believer in a militant sect of Rastafari, railed against Babylon, the corrupting influence of the immoral Western world just beyond their gate. To protect the purity of the women in their family he forbade almost everything: nowhere but home and school, no friends but this family and no future but this path.

    Her mother did what she could to bring joy to her children with books and poetry. But as Safiya’s imagination reached beyond its restrictive borders, her burgeoning independence brought with it ever greater clashes with her father. Soon she realised that if she was to live at all, she had to find some way to leave home. But how?

    In seeking to understand the past of her family, Safiya Sinclair takes readers inside a world that is little understood by those outside it and offers an astonishing personal reckoning. ‘How to Say Babylon’ is an unforgettable story of a young woman’s determination to live life on her own terms.”