Cover: Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted: An American Poetics, from Harvard University PressCover: Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted in HARDCOVER

Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted

An American Poetics

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Product Details


$58.50 • £46.95 • €52.50

ISBN 9780674033436

Publication Date: 06/01/2009


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 halftone


Energetic and wide-ranging.—John Eperjesi, The Korea Herald

[A] sparklingly innovative treatment of Hawai’i and New England Protestants’ evangelism there in the 1800s (a reading that gains new relevance in light of the election of Barack Obama). Wilson also looks at Bob Dylan’s identification as a born-again Christian in the late 1970s, noting that it did not lead to affirming ‘any given neoliberal hegemony’; he points out that Dylan’s engagement in both conversion and ‘counter-conversion’ negates potential conservatism. This paradigmatic reading for a synergetic kaleidoscope includes Puritan Massachusetts and Tonga (whose novelist Epeli Hau’ofa Wilson interprets thoughtfully) and critiques grandiosity while celebrating possibility… Wilson dazzles with a cogent, exhilarating account of turnings and ‘re-turnings.’ [It’s one of] the best recent books on religion and American imagination.—Nicholas Birns, Choice

This book dives deep into the American cultural psyche of conversion and counter-conversion and delineates fascinating routes of turns and returns in the active making, recreating, and reimagining of self and world in the postcolonial U.S. empire.—Yunte Huang, author of Transpacific Imaginations

Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted is Rob Wilson’s hymn to the Pacific. It circles among an unusual cast of characters to propose a tropics of spiritual conversion as central to an anti-imperial American intellectual tradition. This religious emphasis is fresh, often profound, and important, as steeped in Jimi Hendrix as it is in William James, and conveys a lived investment in spiritual becoming. The book is written generally in the ecstatic mode of many of its subjects, and will confirm Rob Wilson’s reputation as the beat poet of American Studies.—Eric Lott, author of The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual

Engaging citizen-saints at the occulted turning points of regeneration—his accounts of Henry Obookiah, Jack Kerouac, and Bob Dylan prove especially fruitful in this regard—Wilson aspires to unblock the present imperial impasse and to remake self and nation within terms of a U.S. covenant that is subject to poesis.—Donald Pease, author of Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2009
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