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Writers on Writing: Conversations With Allen Mendenhall (Red Dirt Press, 2019)

Anyone interested in the lives of present-day American writers, and particularly of writers who come from the South or take the South as their subject, will find the interviews compiled in Allen Mendenhall’s Writers on Writing an unalloyed pleasure. Mendenhall is the most gentle and conversational of interviewers, and his book consists of interview after interview with writers, famous and obscure alike, who are pleased to talk freely about their writing habits, their careers, and their ambitions. The result is a book that manages to be a serious romp, full of insight and full of fun.— Wilfred M. McClay, G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, University of Oklahoma

Writers on Writing takes us on a delightful stroll through recent Southern literature, with Allen Mendenhall as our expert guide. A polymath who wears his learning well, Mendenhall poses questions both inviting and incisive. He encourages authors to take him—and therefore, us—into their confidence, providing valuable insights into dozens of books and the sensibilities that brought them into being.— Gilbert Allen, Professor Emeritus, Furman University

A better way to put John Gardner’s famous quote might be “Writing is the only religion I have.” The writers in this anthology demonstrate this kind of passion, intellectual curiosity, and devotion to the world of ideas, and all the ways in which a writer reorganizes a life to pursue a life in writing. This anthology of interviews gives the reader insight into how a writer thinks, whether it’s writing fiction, poetry, or pursuing academic work. These interviews are inspiring, engaging, and ought to be required reading for anyone who loves the written word.— Daren Dean, Department of English, Louisiana State University

The interviews in Writers on Writing are not formulaic Q&As, but organic conversations with a diverse group of writers, including numerous award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors. Mendenhall shows us more than the art and craft of these writers—a group that includes novelists, historians, memoirists, social commentators, essayists, poets, and writers of mystery, legal and crime thrillers, and literary criticism. He reveals their hearts.— Susan Cushman, editor of Southern Writers on Writing and A Second Blooming, author of the novel Cherry Bomb and the memoir Tangles and Plaques

This collection of writers on writing contains smart, perceptive interviews with diverse authors and offers unique and fascinating insights into the creative mind and processes. Each interview unearths delicious and precious nuggets that are as captivating as they are revelatory.— Nancy Dillingham, author of the poetry collections New Ground, Home, and Like Headlines

The interviews collected here reflect [a] sense of mutuality. Not that Allen Mendenhall himself ever becomes their subject, but repeatedly we find two people having genuine exchanges—for the benefit of any who might enjoy and learn from them later. Mendenhall’s friendship with some of these authors enlivens those interviews to a special degree, but here also are first encounters that result in reflective, valuable dialogue.— Robert West, Mississippi State University

Mendenhall … the editor of the Southern Literary Review, has long been drawn to interviews with creatives and artists—an interest that he’s fueled over the years by perusing the hallowed archives of the Paris Review. As an associate dean at the Jones School of Law at Faulkner University, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s also highly aware of the various ways in which “people respond differently to probing inquiry.” However, one never gets the sense that the 46 writers he interviews in this book are being put on the stand; on the contrary, Mendenhall’s lines of questioning are subtle, and he successfully fulfills his stated intention of letting “the writers do the talking.” This collection will familiarize readers with the approaches, techniques, and concerns of a diverse set of authors in a broad range of genres.Kirkus Reviews

Writers on Writing: Conversations with Allen Mendenhall is a thoughtful, insightful, and intelligent book. In other words, it is much like its creator, Allen Mendenhall, who is an author, editor, avid reader, law school associate dean, lawyer, and, as illustrated in this book, an ace interviewer.  Writers on Writing is filled with interviews of modern authors, some famous and some not-so-famous. The eclectic collection of interviews in the book are not formulaic Q & A’s, but something deeper, more revealing, often quite personal, and endlessly fascinating. And that’s what makes the book such a source of discovery and delight.— Claire Hamner Matturro, award-winning author of Skinny-Dipping, Wildcat Wine, Bone Valley, Sweetheart Deal, and Trouble in Tallahassee

[E]ditor and interviewer Allen Mendenhall invites a wide selection of writers to engage in a contemplative exploration of a writer’s life: from the necessary perseverance during the writing process to the quirky development of characters, from the writer’s relation to community to his pull to imagination. This book offers serious, reflective voices and casual, warm tones as it showcases the various idiosyncratic personalities of the interviewees, as well as a wide range of topics related to writing and the authors’ published works.— Emily Kleinhenz, The Imaginative Conservative

Reviewed here in Kirkus Reviews [PDF here], here in The Imaginative Conservative [PDF here], and here in Compulsive Reader [PDF here]; interviewed about the book here in Southern Literary Review [see PDF here]; here by Philip L. Levin on “Meet the Authors” (aired on Cableone 1001, Universe 7, Ocean7 TV 7 WXVO Ocean Springs); and here on the WYAM TV51 show “Valley Happenings.”

The Southern Philosopher: Collected Essays of John William Corrington (University of North Georgia Press, 2017)

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This book is a rediscovery: John William Corrington is a fascinating figure in Southern letters, popular culture, and philosophical conservatism. Allen Mendenhall has done yeoman’s service in bringing these essays back to light.— Daniel McCarthy, Editor at Large, The American Conservative 

This volume contains twenty short works by John William Corrington, each helpfully prefaced by a brief note by Allen Mendenhall providing both context for the piece and rationale for its inclusion. This selection of critical and philosophical writings perhaps offers a perfect introduction to Corrington’s entire corpus of work. It contains none of Corrington’s fiction, but does contain his critical reflections on the process of writing and his rebuke of those critics who characterized his fiction as “realistic”; it contains none of his poetry, but contains his “A Poet’s Credo.” The collection does contain a generous helping of Corrington’s philosophical writing, much of it revolving around the thought of Eric Voegelin, and important essays on the decline and possible recovery of education in America. His reflections on education capture Corrington at his most prophetic. Speaking in 1969, he maintained that “American society within the next fifty years must either have the college and university at its very center, or there may not be any society.” The publication of this collection now is a timely reminder of Corrington’s cultural and philosophical concerns as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of this prediction.— Steven D. Ealy, Senior Fellow, Liberty Fund

Allen Mendenhall’s tribute to John William Corrington is the next best thing to Resurrection this side of eternity.— Richard Bishirjian, Founding President of Yorktown University and Author of The Conservative Rebellion 

Editor Allen Mendenhall correctly characterizes [John William Corrington] as a “latter-day Southern Fugitive” in the tradition of the authors of I’ll Take My Stand.  Like John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Donald Davidson, Corrington, though, is not easily characterized.  His peripatetic life mirrors those of the Agrarians, but even more so those of second generation followers like Richard Weaver and Mel Bradford.  Like the Agrarians, he began as a poet, but moved to fiction and literary criticism before, redolent of William Faulkner, venturing into screenwriting.  Like Weaver, he was an anti-modernist who viewed the South as embodying a mytho-poetic counterweight to modernity.  Like Bradford, Corrington, a partisan of Eric Voegelin and critic of Abraham Lincoln, was a gadfly within the emergent post-World War Two conservative intellectual movement.  The Southern Philosopher is a collection of Corrington’s previously unpublished essays on literature, intellectual history and gnosticism. … Corrington is a forgotten pivotal figure in the history of American conservatism and especially to second generation Agrarian traditionalism.  Furthermore, his critique of modernity, in and of itself, adds considerably to the history of conservative thought in the West.  For these reasons and more, The Southern Philosopher is a welcome addition to the history of American letters.— Jay Langdale, Troy University

Allen Mendenhall has undertaken a quixotic task, which is to place the late John William Corrington at the vanguard of “Southern Conservatism.” … It’s fallen to Mendenhall … to immanentize the Corrington eschaton. … [Corrington] deserves more sustained attention and it’s to Mendenhall’s credit to begin this process of discovery.— Daniel James Sundahl, Emeritus Professor of English and American Studies, Hillsdale College

Reviewed here in The University Bookman (PDF here), here in Southern Literary Review (see PDF here), and here in Anamnesis (see PDF here); interviewed about the book here by the University of North Georgia Press (see PDF here).

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Of Bees and Boys: Lines from a Southern Lawyer (Red Dirt Press, 2017)

Of Bees and Boys: Lines from a Southern Lawyer is a delicious trip through a marvelous brain. Allen Mendenhall is the most literary of lawyers. He might have been a character out of Twain or Faulkner or his beloved Harper Lee explaining eternal truths to youngsters so they can understand and remember them. But he is real, and he opens his prolific mind in these joyous pages. If you are not from the South and want a slice of breezy southern life seen through the eyes of a master storyteller, read this book. If you are from the South, no doubt you will find a small piece of your personal history in here. I loved these tales so much, I read them twice; and I am from New Jersey.— Honorable Andrew P. Napolitano, Senior Judicial Analyst, Fox News Channel; Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

Mendenhall is an artist and writer of the first caliber. His talent shines brightly in even the simplest of sentences. Other lawyer scribes have managed to escape the professional taint by retreating to fiction, but Mendenhall accomplishes even more in the world of nonfiction. The wide-ranging collection of essays in this book, some relating to the law and others on altogether disparate subjects, reveals a probing mind unchecked by subject matter, and an astonishing gift for the written word. Mark Twain is said to have written, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.” Time and again, Mendenhall harnesses the lightning.— William Bernhardt, Bestselling Author of Over 40 Books and Recipient of the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award, and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award 

Allen Mendenhall possesses a mighty brain and a deep soul.  He also wields a powerful pen and knows the power of the word (and the Word).  From stoicism to southernism, from bees to Freud, from gossip to incarceration, and from wiretaps to existentialism, Mendenhall leaves few things unexamined.  In this gorgeous collection of essays, Mendenhall ably and eloquently gives proof as to why he’s one of the most important rising minds in America.— Bradley J. Birzer, Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College 

Allen Mendenhall is a natural storyteller. With the dark humor and wisdom of Mark Twain, he weaves tales of his Southern past: boys wage war on yellow jackets; a grandfather reveals truths about an Alabama author and the characters in her famous novel; a young man faces cancer and his own mortality. This remembered world is the Deep South, a place that holds fast to traditional values and the virtues of family, community, and religion. Of Bees and Boys invites the reader to enter this world and, for a while, become a part of it.— Julia Nunnally Duncan, Author of A Place That Was Home and A Part of Me

From another Southern Lawyer, from bees to frogs,  yellow jackets and possums, cancer and death, “What is the meaning of life?”  is explored in this collection of essays. Fascinating reading.— Honorable Thomas L. Waller, Kentucky Circuit Judge, Retired

In Allen Mendenhall’s collection Of Bees and Boys, you’ll find themes that range the gamut of human feeling, all written with the grit and panache of this unusual writer. His writing is influenced by his unusual experiences, which include living in Japan, surviving cancer in his 20s with a less than 15 percent expectation to live, his work as an attorney and through this, prison educator, and of course, the strongest current that runs through this book is his Southern upbringing and sense of identity. … His childhood recollections and modern encounters all play into the book, and a sharp sense of humor shines through so brightly that even his ponderings on death and dying have delightful bits of comedy injected into the prose.— The Montgomery Advertiser 

Allen Mendenhall has led quite a life. … Of Bees and Boys … is his invitation to the reader to enter his world. … The southern lawyer can always be found working on something new.— The Auburn Plainsman  

Allen Mendenhall is a lawyer and author, but like everyone else the persona “at work” only scratches the surface of his true identity. Unlike most of us Mendenhall spends time writing out his thoughts in an effort to answer two existential questions most of us have pondered to varying degrees: Who am I?  Why am I here?  The results, a collection of nine essays that cover a cross-section of Mendenhall’s observations on life, are compiled in a new volume Of Bees and Boys…”— Brian Hodge, The Montgomery Independent 

Mendenhall’s collection of essays – compiled in a slim, attractive 75-page paperback – also moves the mind and spirit. In the first essay, Mendenhall and his brother receive their comeuppance after intentionally disturbing a nest of yellow jackets. In subsequent pieces, Mendenhall describes his youthful diagnosis of cancer (he recovers), his time spent teaching literature classes in a men’s prison, and his grandfather’s reminiscences about Harper Lee. He’s a true Southerner, of a certain sort: one who thinks incessantly about death, the past, and his place in the world. His grandmother took him to the cemetery instead of the playground, for what she called “preparations.” On Sunday mornings before church, his father always made his siblings and him read from the obituaries. Mortality may haunt him, but Mendenhall looks Death in the eye with a smile and a sigh.— Jennifer Puryear, Bacon on the Bookshelf

Much has already been written about Allen Mendenhall’s new book, Of Bees and Boys. … [T]he wonder of literature broadly, and Mendenhall’s work particularly, is how seemingly static printed words on a page can transform their essence and become the meandering vasculature that nurtures and sustains our shared humanity, binding us to one another beyond the arbitrary restrictions of time and place.— Yasser El-Sayed, Stanford University Medical Center 

“Are lawyers illiterate?” asks Allen Mendenhall in the title of one of the essays making up this collection of material previously published in various outlets. Regular readers of the University Bookman know that the answer is an emphatic “no,” at least in the case of Mendenhall himself. This young southern lawyer has established himself as a first-rate prose stylist.— Jason Jewell, Department of Humanities, Faulkner University

Reviewed here in The Montgomery Advertiser (see PDF here), here in The Montgomery Independent (see PDF here), here in The University Bookman (see PDF here), and here in Southern Literary Review (see PDF here); featured here in The Auburn Plainsman (see PDF here) and here in Bacon on the Bookshelf (see PDF here); interviewed about the book here and here by Cyrus Webb (aired on WMPR 90.1 FM in Jackson, Mississippi; Atlanta News Radio 106.7 Live; WYAD 94.1 FM in Mississippi, and, here by the Marietta Daily Journal (see PDF here and here), and here on the WYAM TV51 show “Valley Happenings”; named top six “The Best Books I Read in 2017” by Dr. Bradley Birzer (Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and President of the American Ideas Institute) in The Catholic World Report (December 31, 2017) [see here; PDF here]; named in the Top 50 Non-Fiction Books of 2017 by Conversations Magazine [see here; PDF here]; featured book in Southern Writers (“Tale Spin,” Vol. 8, Issue 1, January / February 2018) [PDF here].

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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Pragmatism, and the Jurisprudence of Agon: Aesthetic Dissent and the Common Law (Bucknell University Press, 2017)

This excellent book by Professor Mendenhall explains convincingly that we owe legal pragmatism mainly to the great judicial philosopher and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, though his debts to the great philosophers of his era—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey—were as great as our debts are to Holmes. Pragmatic adjudication emphasizes the consequences of judicial decisions, not only or even mainly the consequences for the litigants and their lawyers and judicial reputations but the consequences for society of decisions that establish or confirm or modify rules of conduct by persons, firms and other private agencies or associations, and government. Thus, as Mendenhall explains, in Holmes’s philosophy of law, “Courts were not designed to referee or legislate moral tendencies but to ensure that the consequences of human action are reasonable and practicable in the workaday social sphere.” Holmes learned from the great philosophers and has bequeathed to us the need to strip the philosophy of law of its abstract or dogmatic moralizing and to avoid attenuated lines of thinking that do not comport with commonsense empiricism. It’s unfortunate that few modern judges think about judicial lawmaking in these classical terms.— Richard A. Posner, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School

Mendenhall’s book is an original contribution to many fields, including constitutional  theory, American pragmatism, and literary aesthetics. He convincingly illustrates that dissenting in Supreme Court cases provides the evolutionary Common Law, especially when written in a poetic prose capturing Emersonian themes of superfluity, with material for its organic adaptation over time. Holmes illustrates this aesthetic dissent. His dedication to the craft evinces the pragmatism of the classical philosophers, Peirce, James, and Dewey, and is also in the service of preventing the bloodshed that Holmes experienced firsthand in the Civil War. The book is exceedingly well researched and written in prose that does not perform a contradiction to the aesthetics he highlights as most valuable.— Seth Vannatta, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Morgan State University 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is renowned for penning some of the most influential dissents in American constitutional history.  That Holmes was a gifted wordsmith who infused his writing with a rhetorical flair is usually treated as a side note by legal historians.  Finally, in Allen Mendenhall, we have a scholar who takes seriously the literary aesthetic of Holmes’ dissents.— Andrew Porwancher, Associate Professor, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, University of Oklahoma

I finished up Allen Mendenhall’s new book on Emerson’s poetics and Holmes’ dissents. Allen’s book joins my favorite figures—Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. He argues that Holmes used Emerson’s aesthetics in his dissents and thus introduced a sense that law evolved. I think Allen’s book deserves a lot of attention and is super creative. … I certainly buy the idea that transcendentalism influenced law both before the Civil War and  afterwards towards retesting old assumptions—and thus undermined a static vision of law. For me what is most salient about Holmes … was that history cast a long shadow over law and that history might also be used to critique law. Where the historical school of jurisprudence all too often said that history told us what was[,] … in Holmes’ hands history also might undermine law. History could show us why we had arrived at one particular outcome, which might not actually be the one most fitted to the current stage in the United States. History moved from supporter of the status quo to underminer of it. Allen has opened my eyes that aesthetics had something to do with this, too.— Alfred L. Brophy, Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law

Allen Mendenhall, a legal academic with a Ph.D. in English, argues that the Emersonian style of Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissents helps to contribute to their eventual “vindication.” … [T]his book is striking[.] …  Mendenhall’s argument is made more striking by his use of Emerson to characterize Holmes’s style. Mendenhall’s Emerson is the fluid, proto-pragmatist, proto-postmodern Emerson of Richard Poirier and Jonathan Levin. … Through a novel, detailed literary approach to Holmes’s dissents, Mendenhall makes a compelling case for the jurist’s penchant for superfluity, obscurity, ambiguity, poetic sound effects, and poetic expression more generally.— Gregg Crane, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Michigan 

Reviewed here in the Library of Law and Liberty [PDF] and here in American Literary History Online Review [PDF]; discussed here at The Faculty Lounge [PDF].

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Literature and Liberty: Essays in Libertarian Literary Criticism  (Lexington Books, 2014)

By subtitling his book “Essays in Libertarian Literary Criticism,” Allen Mendenhall situates his work within an exciting methodological approach that is still off the radar screens of most academicians.  Not since the appearance of Edward Said’s Orientalism has a new literary approach invited us to read texts from a vantage point that jolts us into recognition of deep-seated ideological undercurrents that had previously remained unnoticed, or were simply passed over in silence. … It is a pleasure to now add Mendenhall’s deftly argued and passionately engaged volume to my list of recommended readings in libertarian scholarship.— Jo Ann Cavallo, Professor of Italian and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Columbia University

The much celebrated interdisciplinarity of contemporary criticism often amounts to nothing more than the absence of grounding in any traditional intellectual discipline, literary or otherwise. By contrast, Allen Mendenhall’s book is genuinely interdisciplinary. With solid credentials in law, economics, and literature, he moves seamlessly and productively among the fields. Covering a wide range of topics—from medieval history to postcolonial studies—Mendenhall opens up fresh perspectives on long-debated critical issues and raises new questions of his own.Paul A. Cantor, Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English, University of Virginia

Freedom is all around us, but we sometimes need expert guides to help us see it. This is exactly what the brilliant Allen Mendenhall has done with his outstanding collection of essays on the way great literary fiction interacts with the themes of human liberty. In taking this approach, he is turning certain academic conventions on their heads, finding individualism and property rights where others look for social forces and collectivist imperatives. He helps us to have a rich and deeper appreciation of the libertarian tradition and its expanse beyond economics and politics.Jeffrey Tucker, CEO of, Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, and Research Fellow at the Acton Institute

In Literature and Liberty, Allen Mendenhall aims to expand the marketplace of ideas in literary studies to include the entire spectrum of free-market theories. His goal is to break Marxism’s monopolistic hold over economic ideas in the study of imaginative literature. In his diverse chapters, he convincingly offers multiple transdisciplinary approaches to libertarian theory that literature scholars could adopt and build upon. Celebrating individualism and freedom in place of collectivism and determinism, Mendenhall focuses on commonalities and areas of agreement with respect to free-market theories. This approach increases the probability that the ideas in this ground-breaking volume will be widely embraced by thinkers from various schools of pro-capitalist thought, including, but not limited to Classical Liberalism, the Austrian School, the Judeo-Christian perspective, the Public Choice School, the Chicago School, the Human Flourishing School, and Objectivism.Edward W. Younkins, Professor of Accountancy and Business Administration and Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Capitalism and Morality, Wheeling Jesuit University

Allen Mendenhall is both an attorney and an advanced student of literature. He also has an excellent knowledge of modern economics. … [A]s Mendenhall notes, non-Marxist treatments of economics and literature have been slow to develop. His new book, Literature and Liberty, goes far toward supplying this lack. It shows how much work can be done, and good work too, when law and literature are studied from the perspectives offered by a real competence in economic ideas. … Every part of the book shows the fully interdisciplinary character of Mendenhall’s understanding of his subjects and his large knowledge of the historical periods he treats. Only the rare reader will be unable to learn from Mendenhall. … The kind of interdisciplinary work that Mendenhall advocates is an exciting enterprise, and one hopes that he will have much more to do with it.— Stephen Cox, Professor of Literature, University of California, San Diego, and Editor in Chief, Liberty

Allen Mendenhall’s Literature and Liberty is clearly aimed at a … scholarly audience. … [T]he fact that Mendenhall is writing about law and literature from a libertarian perspective is one of the strengths of the work. Most libertarian literary scholars are likely to think of doing literary analysis from a free market perspective as a corrective to the pervasive Marxism within the academy, but we certainly shouldn’t forget that libertarianism is a theory of governance, meaning that we libertarians have to understand something about the law. Mendenhall corrects this tendency with his book. … Mendenhall’s book is recommended precisely because he engages in libertarian literary criticism, showing the value added in doing so. Moreover, he primarily analyzes texts through the lens of law (not surprising given he is a lawyer), making his contribution to literary studies unique. Law and literature is perhaps more common than is libertarian literary criticism, but Mendenhall’s combination of the two is precisely what makes his book worth reading.— Troy Camplin, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

Allen Mendenhall presents libertarianism as an alternative lens through which to view works of literature as a means of understanding them better. … The economist Thomas Sowell has written that much of the academic work that calls itself “interdisciplinary” is in fact non-disciplinary when it fails to require the actual mastery of multiple disciplines. Fortunately, Mendenhall’s work is not vulnerable to this critique. As the holder of both a Ph.D. in English (this book was published when he was a doctoral candidate) and a law degree, Mendenhall is well qualified to write on the intersection of literature, political theory, and law. … [H]is true interdisciplinary background allows him to critique literary studies from both the inside and the outside. … Literature and Liberty is a thought-provoking work that provides new looks at a number of classic texts from a perspective that is, quite frankly, refreshing given the current climate of literary criticism.— Jason Jewell, Department of Humanities, Faulkner University

“A new book by Allen Mendenhall … seeks to expand the work done by [Paul] Cantor and others in developing a new approach to criticism. … [N]umerous applications of libertarian critical theory are found in Mendenhall’s book.”— Matthew McCaffrey, University of Manchester 

Reviewed here in Libertarian Papers (republished here at [PDF] and here at Mises Daily [PDF] and translated into Spanish here and here as “Pioneros en la crítica literaria de libre mercando” by the Instituto Mises Hispano); here in The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics [PDF]; here in The Journal of Prices and Markets [PDF]; here in The Independent Review [PDF]; and here and here in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies [PDF]; and here in Journal of Faith and the Academy (republished here at Mises Wire [PDF] and translated into Spanish here and here as “El antidoto para la crítica literaria marxista” by the Instituto Mises Hispano); discussed here at Mises Wire [PDF].  Audio: Listen to Robert Hale narrate Dr. Jo Ann Cavallo’s review by clicking here.

Other praise for scholarly work:

[B]ehind the stories we love to tell are the more insistent stories that are the real driving forces of a nation that was structured around the system of slavery. These are stories that resist a neat outline or a clean telling, and more often than not they are stories marked by a revealing incoherence. Allen Mendenhall explores one of the most important examples of those subterranean tales, a Supreme Court case that led to a devastatingly simple conclusion—the denial of African American rights to citizenship—but a conclusion that follows from an incoherent mess of conflicting and partial stories, more than 500 books that together add up to a haunting presence in American legal, political, and cultural history. … Mendenhall does important work in uncovering the history surrounding and obscuring the Dred Scott decision. He reminds us that legal decisions are often the product of complex, competing, and sometimes nearly incomprehensible stories, and he demonstrates that we can learn a great deal about U.S. racial history by studying the stories told to bolster legal decisions informed by prejudice. The twisted and competing tales he discovers behind the scenes and in the aftermath of Dred Scott are revealing, but they would not be terribly surprising to African Americans of the time, who understood well both the foreground and the implications of the decision.— John Ernest, Chair and Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor of English, University of Delaware 

Allen Mendenhall offers a compelling analysis of the Dred Scott decision, positing Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s initial opinion as a deathblow to Scott’s humanity that released a haint, which would haunt all future references to the case. It is appropriate, then, that Mendenhall cites Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel that imagines the return of history through the body of a child dealt a deathblow by her mother’s own hand. Consistent with Mendenhall’s interest in recorporealization, the baby that Sethe kills returns to the present in bodily form and this has various interpretations.— Michelle S. Hite, Professor of English, Spelman College

Mendenhall has focused our attention on the serious misconception that lawyers can teach writing skills. No doubt many a young associate can testify to a supervisor’s writing or editorial ineptness. It doesn’t bear much repeating that most lawyers are not inclined to treat the English language with kindness. And even good writers may not have the time or temperament to teach others how to write. (It’s easier to rewrite the darn thing themselves.) … Mendenhall is on to something. The legal profession could make much better use of those who teach writing for a living and those who would like to.— Jeffrey Shulman, Professor of Legal Research and Writing, Georgetown University Law Center 



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