Blog Archives

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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What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

November 29, 2010
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What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

We’ve always has a soft spot for newsworthy (pun intended) online publications—so it’s no surprise that we read today’s headlines about Salon with a bit of chagrin. The San Francisco-based “Internet roundtable” has long been in the red—with losses of $15 million dollars in the past three years alone—but now the Wall Street Journal reports (a paid content item quickly picked up by the New York Observer) that the company is searching for a larger media company to partner with or to subsume its enterprises. While possible pairings that emerge during heroic acts of desperation (remember John Candy and Eugene Levy in Armed and Dangerous?) can be surprisingly generative (this past April, Salon formed a content-based micro-partnership with the popular literary independent McSweeney’s), it’s the changing circumstances, audiences, and even our clinical understanding around how we receive and are informed by the news that are applying pressure to traditional journalistic practices. Salon has transformed itself quite a bit during its twelve-year run, from an innovative online news site helmed by information-driven posts and public forum op-eds to a more lifestyle-inclusive, audience-driven . . . well, salon. Experiments with subscription-based content have faltered and pushed them further into the red, but . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

November 23, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

We couldn’t help but notice a late-arriving review from last week’s NYT‘s Paper Cuts blog celebrating the coming of the newly leaked video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, which features a truly bipartisan dream team (largely resurrected from the dead)—John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Fidel Castro, and yes, Richard Nixon—fending off the zombie apocalypse. Jennifer Schuessler (bless her!) took this fairly brilliant opportunity to pay homage to one of our very favorite Chicago titles, Mark Feeney’s Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief. As Schuessler notes, Nixon was voted to the White House the same year as the debut of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Coincidence? Oh, who really knows about these things. But one thing we do know is that Nixon probably didn’t watch the film—at least, not cuddled up at home with Pat, arm protectively slung over a visiting Julie. How do we know, you ask? Thanks in part to the knockout Appendix (available on the book’s UCP site here) that accompanies Feeney’s masterful tome, culled from the pages of the Secret Service’s Daily Diary, which records the cinephile former president’s almost daily film consumption, from his 1969 inauguration through his resignation in . . .

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The (auto)biography of Mark Twain: in which we hitch our wagon to a star

November 22, 2010
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The (auto)biography of Mark Twain: in which we hitch our wagon to a star

“Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.” In with a comet, out with a comet: Halley’s, that is. For elementary students, the life of Mark Twain is first introduced as celestial; later, with adolescent reads of that “great American novel” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, our humorist falls back to earth, where his larger-than-life sensibilities, rich use of narrative, and social critique sharply attuned to human vanity, frailty, and hypocrisy, introduce a particular breed of American pathos. Beyond the work—which spans everything from colloquial verse and travelogues to historical fiction running the gamut from realist-inspired to proto-science—is, of course, the life. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, and in keeping with his wishes, just this fall the University of California Press released the first volume of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, in celebration of that centenary. But as the New York Times reports this weekend, demand has far exceeded expectation for the surprise best-seller: and as we approach the holiday gift-giving season, booksellers are struggling to keep it on the shelves. “Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s laboratory, 1894 If you . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Nuns Behaving (Badly)

November 19, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Nuns Behaving (Badly)

We often find ourselves comparing the nunneries of late sixteen- and early seventeenth-century Italy to a fairly volatile combination of The Craft and Moulin Rouge—just not publicly. So when the Economist took note of Craig Monson’s Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy, we immediately put on our thinking habit and got to work. In the book, Monson resurrects forgotten tales and restores to life the long-silent voices of cloistered heroines, drawing attention to the predicament of modern religious women, whose “misbehavior”—seeking ordination as priests or refusing to give up their endowments to pay for others’ wrongdoing in their own archdioceses—continues even today. The Economist delights in the “too modest” Monson’s tome, which “wears its learning with a smile” despite its serious milieu: Convents in 16th- and 17th-century Italy were largely dumping-grounds for spare women: widows, discarded mistresses, converted prostitutes and, above all, the unmarried daughters of the nobility. Aristocratic families were loath to stump up dowries for more than one daughter. The rest were walled away. In Milan in the 1600s, three-quarters of the female nobility were cloistered. At the same time the church was cracking down on lax discipline, in . . .

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Top Five or Ten: On the Digital Humanities

November 18, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: On the Digital Humanities

And with this whimsical title, we introduce a new Chicago Blog feature: the Top Five or Ten, a collection of materials occasionally preceding eleven and following nine—the Fermat prime, if you will, or the, um, bell that tolls multiple times for thee—geared for a day when you need a bit of neurotic listmaking in your life. Sometimes we double your pleasure (“Ten”) and other times we streamline your attention span (“Five”). That said, let’s inaugurate, shall we? On the heels of Patricia Cohen’s well-charted NYT piece on the digital humanities and Press author Dan Edelstein’s forward-thinking response, we’d like to point you towards five wholly relevant recent books that chart these brave new methodologies and help us to make sense of developments in the liberal arts and their bright digital future: Drumroll, please (and in no particular order): Lydia H. Liu’s The Freudian Robot: Digital Media and the Future of the Unconscious (forthcoming, January 2011) Liu’s book offers a rigorous study of the politics of digital writing and their fateful entanglement with Mr. Freud, from avant-garde literary experiments to the postphonetic and ideographic system of digital media. #literary theory #cybernetics #Joyce #neurotic machines N. Katherine Hayles’s My Mother Was a . . .

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Dan Edelstein and the collaborative future of the digital humanities: geeks and poets, unite!

November 18, 2010
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Dan Edelstein and the collaborative future of the digital humanities: geeks and poets, unite!

Things have really been abuzz around these parts in the wake of Patricia Cohen’s piece in the New York Times on the digital humanities. We couldn’t be more geeked that this glimmer of the Humanities 2.0 is the first in a series of articles devoted to the changing face of the liberal arts in light of the data revolution. Lots to like in Cohen’s assessment of the field—including the startling array of digital projects harvesting all sorts of newly available primary documents, Civil War-era topographies, animated travelogues, and supercomputing databases. Lots to come, as well—our eyes are certainly peeled as to how these digital endeavors will present themselves and extend the possibilities of the book, and equally curious as to how new methodological discoveries will change not only how—but what—we choose to interpret. Our own Dan Edelstein, author of The Enlightenment: A Geneology and associate professor of French and Italian at Stanford University, figures prominently in the article. His National Endowment of the Humanities-funded project Mapping the Republic of Letters (the Times has a great multimedia slideshow feature and accompanying video-savvy blog post devoted to it) traces, quite literally, the flow of ideas during the Enlightenment by using a geographic . . .

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Our Fantastic Mrs. Paley

November 15, 2010
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Our Fantastic Mrs. Paley

This past Friday, one of New York City’s most venerable cultural institutions, the 92nd Street Y (136 years strong and still kicking!) bestowed a unique honor upon one of the University of Chicago Press’s most beloved authors. In all of the years that the 92Y has been creating and playing host to vibrant lectures, readings, conferences, community service opportunities, and city-wide programming, it had yet to endow and bestow an award named after a living figure—that is, until now. Please join us in celebrating the 92Y Vivian Gussin Paley Award for Early Childhood Education and its inaugural recipient, the “playful” visionary and early childhood education pioneer, Vivian Gussin Paley. From the 92Y’s commendation: Vivian Gussin Paley examines children’s stories and play, their logic and their thinking, searching for meaning in the social and moral landscapes of classroom life. A kindergarten teacher for 37 years, Mrs. Paley brings her storytelling/story acting and discussion techniques to children, teachers and parents throughout the world. In addition to her direct contributions to children and teachers, she is a MacArthur fellow and recipient of numerous awards, including: the Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children (1987); American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for . . .

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