Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Academy of Ebert

February 28, 2011
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The Academy of Ebert

While recovering from watching an Academy Awards broadcast helmed by a blasé multiplatform performance artist or two, we got to thinking about Chicago’s own cinematic rex. Or rather, he got us thinking, with a simple Tweet stating the obvious: “Is James Franco the first PhD candidate to host the Oscars?”

Of course, we thought! This is probably the only time the Oscars have featured a host who may or may not be a regular at the Beineke Library. But in the middle of trying to read James Franco as a cipher for contemporary subjectivity—whose Method is this? Schneeman, not Strasberg, right?—we had forsaken simplicity. As ebertchicago had so aptly advanced in 140 characters or less:

Whoa. The Academy met the academy.

But Roget Ebert has long delivered pithy bites of criticism unflinchingly avoidant of the kind of postmodern meta-analysis James Franco probably delivers in his seminar papers. Ebert the man, like Ebert the Twitter feed, requires no introduction. In spite of this, a recent playbill for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Friday Night at the Movies tribute admirably attempted one:

Through his decades of Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism, groundbreaking television work with Gene Siskel, acclaimed yearly film festival, and now his . . .

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Remembering Wayne C. Booth

February 22, 2011
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Remembering Wayne C. Booth

Literary critic, esteemed professor, rhetorician, and scholar, Wayne C. Booth was born to Mormon parents in American Fork, Utah, on February 22, 1921. A young Booth served on a mission for the church before completing undergraduate work at Brigham Young University (1944) and graduate studies at the University of Chicago (1950).

Also ninety years ago this week, the word “robot” was ushered into the global idiom with the premiere of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), a play that debuted on the stages of Prague (1921) before launching a four-month run at Broadway’s Garrick Theater in the winter of 1922-23.

After an early teaching stint at the University of Chicago, Booth taught at Haverford and Earlham Colleges before returning to the University as the George M. Pullman Professor of English in 1962, a position he would hold for nearly three decades (though continuing to teach on occasion even in his 80s). Just prior to his appointment, Booth published The Rhetoric of Fiction, a work which considers the literary text in light of both author and audience, applying Aristotelian theory and concepts to advanced discussions of how we make sense of the fictional form. For generations of scholars, the . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Presidents’ Day edition

February 21, 2011
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Top Five or Ten: Presidents’ Day edition

In the spirit of Presidents’ Day (in other birthday news: the cribbing of W. H. Auden lines —”One rational voice is dumb/Over his grave the household of Impulse mourns one dearly loved”), we’re celebrating the caricatured, the cartoonish, the garishly sketch, the “Generalíssimo Francisco Franco is still dead!” reverie of Fathers, Founding and Our American Presidents. With that in mind, here’s a list of commands our backlist has in reserve for our Commander(s)-in-Chief:

Top Five of Ten: We command you, Commander!

Richard Nixon, with this volume Philip Guston’s Poor Richard by Debra Bricker Balken, we command you:

“Openly betray your sense of aesthetic abstraction in favor of imagery representative of the American 1970s: fill it with personal and political meaning that helps to bring about the renewal of the figure in painting and a witty, sardonic take on a political regime gone awry. Be good.”

**

Gerald Ford, with this volume Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future by Newton N. Minow and Craig L. Lamay, we command you:

“Consider a neck and shoulder massage. Relax. Watch and rewatch Fletch. During the October 1976 presidential debate, consider building a time machine and traveling to 1989, . . .

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Sega Genesis presents The Great Gatsby

February 18, 2011
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Sega Genesis presents The Great Gatsby

Full confession: it’s Yoko Ono’s birthday. In a Fluxus-inspired riff, we cribbed knowledge of the odd science that follows below first from the Atlantic and then from Drew Grant’s piece at Salon. Part of a much bigger trend (we use trend skeptically since this sort of thing—video games, the a-r-t remix—has been around at least since the early days of artist-hackers like Cory Arcangel and SF Moma’s 2001 exhibition “ArtCade: Exploring the Relationship Between Video Games and Art”), repurposing new technology (digital coding) in order to transform older technologies (Atari- and Nintendo-inspired video game cartridges) into faux cultural artifacts seems to be all the rage.

What got us excited? Old school video game adaptations of The Great Gatsby and Waiting for Godot, naturally. As one writer opined, it’s a particular type of nerd that feels elated at choosing between the Vladimir and Estragon avatars (was “avatar” part of the terminology from the Frogger years?). But there’s a certain euphoria (or better: eunoia) experienced in navigating a pint-sized Nick Carraway through Level 1: Gatsby’s Party, even if the adaptation only skims the surface scenery of the book. Why, we wonder, is this?

Edward Castronova pioneered the study of . . .

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A belated PROSODY

February 15, 2011
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A belated PROSODY

We’re just settling in after our long winter’s nap (in which we dream a dream very much like the College Art Association’s annual meeting and centennial year launch in New York), chiding ourselves for forgetting to offer some important early February accolades.

Last week, at a ceremony in Washington, DC, the 2010 PROSE Awards were announced, honoring the best scholarly and professional publications in over forty categories, nominated by peer publishers, librarians, and science professionals.

Among them? The PROSE Award for U.S. History, handed out to Claude Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character, in which Fischer draws upon decades worth of research to track our American “We” over the past three centuries. And we were just as delighted to see Courtney Bender’s The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination, a work that locates contemporary American spiritual beliefs in various nineteenth-century movements, take home the PROSE Award for Theology and Religious Studies.

And let’s add kudos for our honorable mentions to this rousing chorus: Matthew Jesse Jackson’s The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (Art History and Criticism), Alan D. Schrift’s The History of Continental Philosophy (Multivolume Reference, . . .

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Remembering Miriam Bratu Hansen (1949-2011)

February 8, 2011
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Remembering Miriam Bratu Hansen (1949-2011)

This past Friday, the University of Chicago community mourned the loss of one of its brightest stars, when Miriam Bratu Hansen lost her decade-long battle with cancer. The Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities; professor in the Departments of Cinema & Media Studies and English, and at the College; founder of the Film Studies Center; and a faculty board member of the University of Chicago Press (1991-96), Hansen shifted the confines of cinema studies to account for modernism’s more vernacular forms in line with the writings of Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and others from the Frankfurt school, as Hansen’s colleague Tom Gunning describes in his moving tribute:

Coming to the United States, she worked at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale and taught at Rutgers University before coming to Chicago in 1990. Her research moved to the history of early American cinema and to the work of the Frankfurt school and its satellites on cinema. Both of these areas were evident in her book Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Cinema published in 1991, a work which gave shape to the research that had been emerging in the eighties on early American cinema, seeing it through . . .

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Who Wrote the (free) (E)Book of Love?

February 1, 2011
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Who Wrote the (free) (E)Book of Love?

February: lovesick and lambs-wooled. We call you fair of face, fleet of foot (only 28 days, after all), foxy, Phlox Lombardi’d, and inclined to repeatedly listen to Jonathan Richman and the airing of grievances. Black History Month ushers you in, while Gilbert Gottfried’s birthday Bears you Down. Amid all this, the bell tolls for thee: februum, after all, means “purification.” Chinese New Year goes ka-ka-ka-kat and our presidents are remembered for birth or pluck. What luck, February, grand dame of winter. We’ll take your lead and . . . turn to Southern California.

With all that in mind, let us proclaim February the month of a free ebook: Who Wrote the Book of Love?, Lee Siegel’s fictional ode to an erotic coming of age.

“Part of my plan,” Mark Twain wrote in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked.” With the same motive, Lee Siegel has written what Twain might have composed had he been Jewish, raised in Beverly Hills in the 1950s, and joyously obsessed with sex and love.

**

“Hilarious. . . . A delicious, . . .

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