I provide some background on how each of these got published in order a) to give credit to everyone responsible and b) to give novice scholars a sense of how the process worked. I owe almost all of my appearances in print to the support and generosity of grad school mentors and/or of editors I met at conferences.
I wrote “I’m Not Your Boss” in my first semester of grad school, for Arthur Efron’s “Anarchism in Literature” class. Dr. Efron recommended that I send it out for publication and, querying friends, learned of a new academic journal out of Wales called Anarchist Studies. After I’d edited it to be more accessible to non-comics readers, it appeared in issue 5.2 (October 1997).
In 1998, Professor Mili Clark distributed a flyer from Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres to grad students’ mailboxes. This eclectic refereed journal, affiliated with the Université de Nantes but edited by retired linguist David R. Willingham in Seattle, was looking for articles analyzing any and all kinds of genre fiction — my seminar paper for Bruce Jackson’s class in The Western seemed tailor-made for that mission. And indeed, “Aspects of the Western Hero in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me“ was accepted and published very fast, appearing in Issue 9 (1998). Someday I must write a follow-up offering a more nuanced reading of Thompson’s protagonist.
This is another piece the publication of which I owe to a grad school professor, albeit not one whom I’d studied under directly. In February 2000, David Willingham mentioned to Samuel Delany that a planned Special Issue of Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres had tanked and he needed a reliable guest editor to come up with a killer replacement for it. Professor Delany, who had met me three months earlier, said “What about Josh Lukin?” That suggestion began a three-and-a-half year project that ultimately produced Paradoxa Volume 18: Fifties Fictions, a 408-page anthology that includes articles, interviews, and commemorations addressing alternative, oppositional, and noncanonical prose of the 1950s U.S.
My essay on shame and guilt in Strangers on a Train, originally called “The World Was Geared for People like Bruno,” was a project I had begun in 1998, just as U.S. criticism was starting to show a renewed interest in Erving Goffman and in theories of emotion — I’d gotten the idea for my approach from Adamson and Clark’s Scenes of Shame anthology. One aspect of the piece that especially impressed Willingham was its accessibility: I worked hard in it to explain historicization and normativity and the like in ways that a reader outside the field of literary scholarship would understand. Thanks to that goal, and to the close reading I give the novel, the essay ended up thirty-eight pages long — the linked excerpt contains the passages I now think are its strongest.
At the MLA Convention in December 2004, a copanelist — Fordham professor Leonard Cassuto — said to me, “I was looking at your cv, and I would recommend that you seek publication in more widely-recognized venues.” He immediately apologized for having offered unsolicited advice, but I took it to heart and, in 2005, contacted the editor of the minnesota review (whom I’d also met at that convention) with a proposal for interviewing Samuel Delany. The editor very much liked the idea but asked that I also include a profile for readers who had not heard of the man. I had never written a profile before and was very relieved that the piece worked out well and that, when it appeared in mid-2006, it earned its subject’s approval.
Whatever opportunities I have had to advocate for racial diversity in disability studies and activism, I owe to the renowned African-Americanist Joyce Ann Joyce. After the 2005 MLA Convention, I mentioned to her that I’d attended a Black Disability Studies panel; she said, “That sounds important” and asked me to write about the topic for the Temple University Faculty Herald, a newspaper she was then editing. I came up with an unusually long article for a newspaper, tracing the conflicts and conversations between black activism and disability activism; and she printed it in toto. Then Temple colleague Michael Dorn posted it online, where it attracted the attention of various scholars, editors, and instructors. A revised version appears in the fourth edition of the Disability Studies Reader.
One professor who had read the “Black Disability Studies” piece was Stephanie Brown, the first contributor to the “Fifties Fictions” anthology. Late in 2007, she contacted me to ask if I could contribute to a volume she was co-editing on the topic of teaching recent African-American literature. I quickly wrote “The Resistant Body” — originally entitled “The Wound and the Band-Aid” for all the Edmund Wilson fans out there — which incorporated some of the ideas from “Black Disability Studies” in the course of analyzing a wonderful and mean little novel I would teach in a disability-in-literature class the following year, Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt.
Early in August 2005, I emailed the Director of the University Press of Mississippi with a query for an expanded version of “Fifties Fictions,” in the hope that such a volume could reach more people when released by a widely-recognized publisher. Receiving no response, I sent a revised and clarified query at the end of that month; and the Director expressed some interest. The only reservations the Director had about my idea, once I had composed and sent a formal proposal, were that a) A work of the size I imagined would be too costly for the Press to produce and b) Selections that were already available elsewhere might not warrant a new book. So, after three years of work on my part, Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States appeared, its content overlapping that of “Fifties Fictions” only in parts of the introduction and a chunk of the Chester Himes essay. I included an Afterword in response to some of the questions raised by the referees when I could not find a way to address them in the introduction. In it I synthesize ideas that I encountered in the contributions to the book (and in the work of other recent critics of postwar culture) to create something of a manifesto for my own critical project.
I met Chan Davis in the course of the “Fifties Fictions” project: when I realized that the science fiction writer Chandler Davis and the Red Scare survivor Chandler Davis were the same guy, I knew I had to interview him for that volume. L. Timmel Duchamp, from whom I had solicited a contribution to “Fifties Fictions” after having been impressed with her essays and reviews, was excited, not least because she’d been a longtime admirer of Chan’s wife, the historian Natalie Zemon Davis. Duchamp founded the feminist science fiction publishing house Aqueduct Press in 2004; in 2008, I approached her at the book exhibit of WisCon: The Feminist Science Fiction Convention and proposed a book collecting Davis’s stories and selected nonfiction. She agreed enthusiastically.
As with Invisible Suburbs, it became impossible to include everything in It Walks in Beauty; but Davis was pleased at how the stories and essays and letters and interview we selected ended up forming a coherent whole. I contributed a lengthy introduction, offering relevant historical background and literary analysis and biography. Duchamp asked me to provide more context for Davis’s letter on “Violence & Civility”; that turned into a short essay called “The Untimely Rhetoric of Chandler Davis’s Essays,” in which I celebrated Davis’s opposition to the idea that the university could be a pure, pastoral, apolitical realm. Finally, Aqueduct editor Kath Wilham asked that I quickly write an Afterword to wrap the volume up, rather than ending it with the 2002 interview. In it, I drafted ideas from Adrienne Rich and J.M. Cameron (I could just as well have used David Lodge or Terry Eagleton, but Cameron was on my mind thanks to the “Violence & Civility” exchange) into addressing the question, “What is a nondoctrinaire approach to reading, teaching, and appreciating literature good for?”