Monthly Archives: December 2010

The merits of Modern Language(s)

December 3, 2010
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The merits of Modern Language(s)

In 1883, an interdisciplinary advocacy group promoting the study of literature and modern languages was founded at Johns Hopkins University. In its one-hundred and twenty-seven year run, the Modern Language Association has grown to include more than 30,000 members in over 100 countries, fostered several major publications and a serialized radio show, and survived the changing mores and face of the academy (“Watch for our posters and leaflets!”—from a letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books in 1968 from Noam Chomsky, Frederick Crews, Florence Howe, and others, as to how the ’68 MLA meeting in NYC might work to make the organization more responsive to society—part of a fascinating exchange available here). One-hundred and twenty-seven years, though, is nothing to laugh at—and neither is the high regard with which the organization’s annual awards for book-length scholarship are held. Notices went out via the interweb yesterday and we couldn’t be more thrilled for several of our authors, who’ll be further commended at the 2011 annual meeting this January in Los Angeles. Laura Dassow Walls, author of The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, garnered the forty-first annual James Russell Lowell Prize for . . .

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Our Gal Thursday: We’re wrapping her up

December 2, 2010
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Our Gal Thursday: We’re wrapping her up

“And if I loved you Wednesday, Well, what is that to you? I do not love you Thursday— So much is true.” We’re back from our Thanksgiving sojourns and ready to set the cornucopias ablaze; first, though, we’re busy using our Turing machine and Twitter algorithms to raise Anthony Powell from the dead. Have you downloaded your free copy of A Question of Upbringing yet? Susie Linfield’s The Cruel Radiance was equally on fire this week, with a review appearing in the Washington Post, a Holiday Reading shoutout at Design Observer, an exchange between Linfield and Ian Crouch at the New Yorker, and a sweeping and thought-provoking profile of the book by Frances Richard at the Nation. ** Andrew Piper, author of Dreaming in Books: The Making of Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age, appeared as part of a roundtable on the future of—yes, you’re good—the book on the CBC. Listen to the podcast here. And don’t forget to check out the book’s amazing Appendix of not-quite-ready-for-primetime materials, Dreaming in Books: A Booklog. ** John H. Evans’s Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate, which charts the claims made about reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) . . .

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David Wojnarowicz: The Real Real Thing

December 1, 2010
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David Wojnarowicz: The Real Real Thing

We try to start off on the positive side of the street: with congrats to Press authors Matthew Jesse Jackson and Tom Vanderbilt for their Warhol Foundation / Creative Capital Arts Writers grants, which will spear a variety of projects, from art-curio blogging to short-form cultural criticism. And then we cross— A combination of sources broke the news yesterday about the exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” which opened on October 30th at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The exhibit, the first at a major museum to focus on “sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture,” drew some gnarling critique from the Catholic League and conservative politicians, aimed at the late artist David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly. Wojnarowicz, a multidisciplinary artist, performer, and activist who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, is known for work that mixed death and longing, simplicity and pathos. The work in question includes video footage of ants crawling on a crucifix, an image representative of the AIDS crisis. Soon to be Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner issued a statement that reads, in part, “American families have a right to expect better from recipients of . . .

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Dance Dance (to the Music of Time) Revolution: Free Anthony Powell!

December 1, 2010
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Dance Dance (to the Music of Time) Revolution: Free Anthony Powell!

If I were Cassandra and someone had asked me as an adolescent what noble passions would come to define the end of my twenties, I would have answered with certainty: the reading of encyclopedic novels, twentieth-century nostalgia, and the television series thirtysomething. And like C, I would have been doomed to disbelieve myself. I could have gone on and on about a world gone digital (now 3.0); electronic books; the decline and fall of James Frey and orange Crocs; FREE ELECTRONIC BOOKS; and the University of Chicago Press ebook release of all twelve volumes of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time series, beginning with our free December ebook (Volume 1!), A Question of Upbringing. Here, Cassandra hits the trifecta. There are encyclopedic novels and then there is A Dance to the Music of Time, a series so macrocosmic in scope that it makes the legendary 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica seem a minor tome. There are the intersecting and changing lives and stories informed by minutiae and banal realities that inflect thirtysomething and then there is Dance. And there’s this minor epoch—the twentieth century. Pales in comparison to Dance. We’re talking Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels, Time’s Best 100 . . .

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