Monthly Archives: September 2015

Is Robert Pogue Harrison the most significant writer in the humanities?

September 30, 2015
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Is Robert Pogue Harrison the most significant writer in the humanities?

Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age explores the history of culture, from antiquity to the present, in order to frame how neotony, the retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood, has become central to our youth-obsessed, yet historically entrenched civilization. Mired in the past, and at the same time, forced to look forward, the way in which we frame life and death errs heavy on the side of protracting the cusp of adulthood. “While genius liberates the novelties of the future,” Harrison writes, “wisdom inherits the legacies of the past, renewing them in the process of handing them down.” From the Southern Humanities Review, which considers Harrison one of our foremost academics working today: Robert Pogue Harrison, an intellectual steeped in the philosophical and literary traditions of the Western world, may be the single most significant writer in the humanities today. In three of his previous books—Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, The Dominion of the Dead, and Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition—he developed a particular style of writing that takes readers on a journey through time, tracing a particular concept or trope as it manifests itself in a wide array of literary and philosophical works. . . . In each of his . . .

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The Dead Ladies Project on tour

September 29, 2015
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The Dead Ladies Project on tour

Appropriated from the Spolia Mag Tumblr, here are some upcoming readings and release events surrounding Jessa Crispin’s The Dead Ladies Project. All are free and open to the public, except where indicated. *** The Dead Ladies are going on tour! September 29, New York  A conversation with Laura Kipnis at Melville House 46 John Street, Brooklyn 7PM October 1, Chicago Good old-fashioned house party (open to the public) 1926 W Erie 7PM October 5, London Reading at BookHaus 70 Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge 6:30PM October 12, Paris Reading, champagne, and launch party at Berkeley Books 8 Rue Casimir Delavigne 7:30PM October 15, Leipzig Cabaret! With opera singer Jennifer Porto! Details T/K (Image: Maud Gonne. Or me, in my traveling hat, I’m not sure.) *** To read more about The Dead Ladies Project, click here. . . .

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Proust Questionnaire: Jessa Crispin

September 25, 2015
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Proust Questionnaire: Jessa Crispin

The Proust Questionnaire dates back to the parlor room fad of the “confession album,” popularized in late-nineteenth-century England, in which individuals, families, strangers, and the occasional ill-mannered first date answered a series of questions, which inevitably revealed a bevy of his/her/their aspirations, fantasies, and personal tastes. Earning its current moniker via the series of sophisticated (and yes, Proustian) responses provided by the author in two recorded versions (dated 1885/86 and 1890/91, respectively), the mental survey accrued further cultural currency when it was included as form of celebrity confessional in the back pages of the American magazine Vanity Fair. To celebrate the debut of her first book The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries, we asked writer and editor Jessa Crispin to let us crawl along with her to the recesses of her mind to give you a taste of what makes her tick and let you know why she’s one of the sharpest interlocutors of contemporary art and lit around today. Not playing favorites or anything, but you can read Proust’s—and for fun and karmic restitution, Norman Mailer’s—responses via hyperlink. Read Crispin’s in full below. *** Your favorite virtue: I have been using the Minchiate tarot for a while, and for a while almost every day I was drawing the virtue . . .

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Joanna Kempner on Oliver Sacks and migraines

September 23, 2015
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Joanna Kempner on Oliver Sacks and migraines

Joanna Kempner’s Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health confronts our tendency to dismiss the migraine as an ailment de la femme, subject to the gendered constraints surrounding how we talk about—as well as legislate and alleviate—pain. In the book, Kempner traces the symptoms of headache-like disorders, which often deliver no set of objective symptoms but instead a mix of visual and somatic sensitivities, to the nineteenth-century origins of the migraine, its reputation in the 1940s for soliciting the “migraine personality” (code for so-called uptight neurotic women), forward to present-day sufferers. A couple of weeks ago, following the death of neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, Kempner published a piece at the Migraine blog on Sacks’s lesser-known first book: called Migraine, it drew upon Sacks’s experience working at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, the nation’s first headache clinic, and reflected on the neuropsychological effects of migraines. From Kempner’s post: The book itself was a tour de force. The backbone of the text is a thorough and eloquent overview of the various forms of migraine (as they were understood in 1970), peppered throughout with case studies from Sacks’ clinical practice. But what made Migraine different from other texts on the subject were Sacks’ unique . . .

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Stephen Colbert and News at Work

September 21, 2015
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Stephen Colbert and News at Work

In a piece for the Atlantic on the debut of Stephen Colbert’s new late night gig, Megan Garber leverages some scholarship from Pablo Boczkowski’s News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance, which positions the thriving competition and rampant imitation prominent among journalists as impetus for our desires to instantly consume—and then avoid acrimonious public conversations about—breaking news (especially that of the political kind). Garber sees Colbert as a song-and-dance Charlie Rose, rather than a David Letterman, and goes on to frame his debut as part of the slow creep of politics into entertainment and entertainment into politics, ultimately noting Boczkowski’s discussion of chatting about politics with our peers. olitics and late-night comedy have long been happy, if occasionally awkward, bedfellows. Clinton, saxophoning with Arsenio. Bush, chatting with Leno. Obama, chatting with ferns. But Colbert was, in subtle but significant ways, different. He wasn’t treating Jeb as a celebrity, giving him an easy opportunity for free, and content-free, media; he was treating him as a person who is running for political office. He was actually interviewing him. He was trying to have a conversation with him about things that directly affect people’s lives. (Same, to some extent, with George Clooney, Colbert’s first . . .

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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

September 18, 2015
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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

Kenneth A. Manaster’s Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens tells the story of the “Scandal of 1969,” in which citizen-spur Sherman Skolnick accused two Illinois Supreme Court justices, Ray Klingbiel and Roy Solfisburg, of accepting bank stock bribes  an influential Chicago lawyer in exchange for their decision in his pending criminal case. The resulting investigation by commission and later trial, helmed by then-unknown Chicago litigator and chief counsel John Paul Stevens, was conducted in under six weeks with a measly budget, and ultimately led to not only the resignation of both judges, but also significant reforms to the Illinois legal system—as well as Stevens’s own rise to appointments on the US Court of Appeals and later, the Supreme Court. Fifteen years after publication and now the subject of the documentary Unexpected Justice: The Rise of John Paul Stevens, which premieres this week on Chicago’s WTTW, the book contextualizes the road to power for one of the twentieth century’s foremost judicial minds, as well as provides an account of a less familiar but crucial chapter in Illinois history, written by someone who experienced events first hand. (Manaster served on the commission that investigated the case). Watch Unexpected Justice on Friday, September 13, at 7:30PM and Sunday, September 15, . . .

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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie on The Submerged State

September 16, 2015
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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie on The Submerged State

  An excerpt from an exchange between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie on Twitter yesterday, in which (among many other things, which each deserve further explication to do justice to their conversation, so check it out in full here) they discuss the relationship between “the submerged state” and race in the United States:   To read more about Suzanne Mettler’s The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy, click here.   . . .

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Introducing Class 200

September 14, 2015
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Introducing Class 200

Today, we’re excited to introduce a brand-new series drawn from the interdisciplinary study of religion, helmed by series editors Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, and acquired by editorial director for the humanities and social sciences, Alan Thomas. Class 200 offers the most innovative works in the study of religion today. Resting on a generation of critical scholarship that reevaluated the central categories of the field, the series aims to surpass that good work by rebuilding the vocabulary of, and establishing new questions for, religious studies. The series will publish authors who understand descriptions of religion to be always bound up in explanations for it. It will nurture authorial reflexivity, documentary intensity, and genealogical responsibility. The series presumes no inaugurating definition of religion other than what it is not: it is not reducible to demographics, doctrines, or cognitive mechanics. It is more than a discursive concept or cultural idiom. It is something that can be named only with a precise and poetic wrestling with the nature of its naming. Class 200 seeks to renew the study of religion as a field of inquiry that is open in terms of disciplinary affiliation, relishes archival and ethnographic immersion, and is scrupulous in . . .

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Alan Thomas on Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire

September 11, 2015
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Alan Thomas on Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Chicago Press editorial director Alan Thomas has a piece on the legacy of Norman Maclean’s now classic account of the 1949 Mann Gulch disaster, Young Men and Fire—carefully detailed and processed by an account of Thomas’s own experience of bringing the long delayed manuscript to publication. Below follows an excerpt from the longer essay, a must-read for anyone interested in Maclean’s stunning reportage or the contradictions and complexities inherent in a young man editing a posthumous manuscript from one of our most acclaimed storytellers, on furloughs in Japan, Chicago, and Missoula, Montana. Visit the LARB website for me. *** Reading Young Men and Fire for the first time, you expect that the book will end with fire science and the definitive account it allows Maclean to give at the end of part two of the book. But there is a third and last part to come, a very brief section that feels like a coda. It is in some ways the most experimental part of Young Men and Fire, and Marie Borroff, for one, argued in her essay on the book that it is not a success, that the book should have ended short of part three. . . .

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Case and Crispin on The Dead Ladies Project

September 9, 2015
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Case and Crispin on The Dead Ladies Project

Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted by the editor/novelist Mairead Case with Jessa Crispin, about Crispin’s forthcoming book The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries (publishing on September 22—my birthday, coincidentally). The two talk bathing rituals, auguring one’s future via hypothetically deciding whose role you’d play in the Odyssey, kitchen-adjacent and macaroni-sacrificing breakdowns, love, travel, jerks, and writing, among other things. *** When do you not feel lonely? There are moments. I wish other people would write about loneliness more. It’s hard to remember that it’s not personal. That we live in a world that is built to make people lonely. That our society is structured around competition, so that we cannot connect we must always conquer. We are set up to think there is a finite amount of goodness in the world, and so if we are lacking in it it is because that bitch over there with the really good shoes is hoarding it. So it’s difficult to remember that your loneliness is not really about you and everyone has it. So I try to remember that. It’s been a really long time, though, since I’ve been in a relationship that anybody else would recognize as a relationship, and that . . .

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