The Burning of the White House: James and Dolley Madison and the War of 1812


It's unimaginable today, even for a generation that saw the Twin Towers fall and the Pentagon attacked. It's unimaginable because in 1814, enemies didn't fly overhead; they marched through the streets, and for 26 hours in August, the British enemy marched through Washington, D.C. and set fire to government buildings, including the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

Relying on first-hand accounts, historian Jane Hampton Cook weaves together several different narratives to create a vivid, multidimensional account of the burning of Washington, including the escalation that led to it and the immediate aftermath. From James and Dolly Madison to the British admiral who ordered the White House set aflame, historical figures are brought to life through their experience of this unprecedented attack. The Burning of the White House is the story of a city invaded, a presidential family displaced, a nation humbled, and an American spirit that somehow remained unbroken


Mallarmé's Children: Symbolism and the Renewal of Experience


In a narrative gracefully combining intellectual and cultural history, Richard Cándida Smith unfolds the legacy of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), the poet who fathered the symbolist movement in poetry and art. The symbolists found themselves in the midst of the transition to a world in which new media devoured cultural products and delivered them to an ever-growing public. Their goal was to create and oversee a new elite culture, one that elevated poetry by removing it from a direct relationship to experience. Instead, symbolist poetry was dedicated to exploring discourse itself, and its practitioners to understanding how language shapes consciousness.

Cándida Smith investigates the intellectual context in which symbolists came to view artistic practice as a form of knowledge. He relates their work to psychology, especially the ideas of William James, and to language and the emergence of semantics. Through the lens of symbolism, he focuses on a variety of subjects: sexual liberation and the erotic, anarchism, utopianism, labor, and women's creative role. Paradoxically, the symbolists' reconfiguration of elite culture fit effectively into the modern commercial media. After Mallarmé was rescued from obscurity, symbolism became a valuable commodity, exported by France to America and elsewhere in the market-driven turn-of-the-century world. Mallarmé's Children traces not only how poets regarded their poetry and artists their art but also how the public learned to think in new ways about cultural work and to behave differently as a result.
 


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