Blog Archives

Thousands of (Free) Broadways

January 12, 2011
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Thousands of (Free) Broadways

Have you heard about our free e-book of the month? We’ve already Danced with Anthony Powell, schooled our Bourgeois Virtues, and even evaluated the Best of Roger Ebert. January, christened by Janus, the god of the doorway, what a cruel and miserly Home Depot construction project you’ve turned out to be! Inches of snow, bolting us over into the new year on January 1, the Feast of the Circumcision (I could not make this up). Wulf-monath! Wolf month! I wait for your Burns Night (January 25th) and ponder a month sanctioned National Thank You. No, no: thank you. In the midst of this, seeking the companionship of a book, I look for verse or reckoning: The English critic William Empson’s insight into pastoral is that the need to invent untroubled perfection always springs from anxiety: from suppressed loathing or dread. The dream of ease may be a denial of the nightmare, and therefore by implication a shadowy acknowledgment of it. In a culture notionally built on speed, change, mobility, and expansion, the thought of a quiet, human-scale community has been comforting—a half-real, half-invented shelter, refusing to explode under the successive historical pressures of slavery, economic depression, European war, technological change, . . .

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MLA’s electronic geography: tracking the digital humanities

January 12, 2011
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MLA’s electronic geography: tracking the digital humanities

Certainly one of the most involved discussions at the recent annual meeting of the Modern Language Association was the continued emergence and changing role of the digital humanities. From blockbuster panels and papers on an array of topics to summaries in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Twitter feed responses, we’ve just barely scratched the surface of some of the conversations that might introduce a digital humanities newbie to the wealth of exchanges that happened this past weekend, alongside a couple of new announcements made in the conference’s wake. What follows is an assortment of clips that have come through our wires, marking our own foray into readings that extend beyond ThatCamp basics and Chicago’s own list in this burgeoning interest area. By no means exhaustive, this is a collection of moments that caught our attention, as the internet flickered in the days following our return from M(LA). If you don’t know what the digital humanities is, you haven’t looked very hard.—Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, which won the MLA’s First Book Award in 2009 ** I know from experience that there are plenty of people in the profession who know little about this . . .

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The week that wasn’t quite

January 6, 2011
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The week that wasn’t quite

Oh, Thursday. It’s ungodly early and we’re transcribing mid-flight en route to the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting. We already can’t shake the strange combination of Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon” and a haunting recollection of the theme songs from late 1980s television programming—it must be the promise of Los Angeles. What does a Cat Paint photograph of the Rockies look like, you might wonder? We’re a little less pithy with the fog of latte brain, but there’s a lot to report from late-arriving 2010 wrap-ups and more recent reviews, so with the usual nod to almost the end-of-the-week ennui, on we go: Stephen Greenblatt’s new collection of essays Shakespeare’s Freedom saw its fair share of attention as we ushered in the new year. The Times Literary Supplement gets us started: In Shakespeare’s Freedom, however, Greenblatt engages in a more challenging and potentially rewarding exercise: to seek in Shakespeare’s writings for reflections of the evolving thought processes of the dramatist’s “formidable intelligence” in relation especially to the concept of freedom. It is good, at a time when there is a danger of seeing Shakespeare too exclusively as an entertainer, to find an acknowledgment of the intellectual powers that pervade his work, . . .

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The return of Manmoth

January 5, 2011
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The return of Manmoth

Manmoth can’t really be dead, can he? But Manmoth died in the autumn: DEATH OF OSCAR WILDE; He Expires at an Obscure Hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Is Said to Have Died from Meningitis, but There Is a Rumor that He Committed Suicide. What love best about Manmoth? (A Top Five or Ten list of minutiae that will eventually come round to the critic and his work, in publication) Fingal O’Flahertie Wills as middle names (older brother Willie Wilde—a real, as if imagined, alliterative sibling—and two half-sisters burned to death in an accident triggered by one dancing too close to a coal fire) deep appreciation for peacock feathers as decorative accoutrement; also: blue china and lilies (and lectures during his 1882 American tour on the history of interior design) Names of periodicals at which he played an editorial role: the Pall Mall Gazette; the Lady’s World, later the Woman’s World; and the Chameleon (limited run) choice of architecturally tectonic (as if GPS) coordinates for the publication name associated with The Ballad of Reading Gaol—C33 (cell block C, landing 3, cell 3) the fascinating etymology of the word “dude,” (c. 1883) in which (depending on the source) Wilde plays . . .

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Another year, in memoriam

December 22, 2010
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Another year, in memoriam

The holidays always have the potential to be a little overwhelming, and in the rush to welcome the latest trends and advances—quite notable this past year, from growing ebook audiences to newly digitized archives—occasionally we miss the opportunity to acknowledge the losses that have also defined our year. We’d like to take a moment to reflect on the very recent passing of two members of the University of Chicago Press community. Muzaffer Atac (1931-2010) was one of the founding scientists of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and longtime head of Fermi’s detector development group, all while working simultaneously as a physics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Dallas. In a career that spanned 40 years of service with the Department of Energy, Professor Atac played an integral role in the history relayed by Lillian Hoddeson, Adrienne W. Kolb, and Catherine Westfall’s Fermilab: Physics, the Frontier, and Megascience. Fermilab uses the backdrop of the cold war and captures the real human dramas played out by Atac and his colleagues at the cutting edge of science in the twentieth century (you can have a peek at Atac’s powerful legacy via a website devoted to . . .

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A holiday endeavor from Chicago

December 21, 2010
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A holiday endeavor from Chicago

“The days of the digital watch are numbered.”—Tom Stoppard Maybe it’s watching David Ulin’s piece at the Los Angeles Times on the rise of the ebook traffic through the internet, or maybe it’s nostalgia for the numbered days of all sorts of products: Tom Stoppard’s digital watch; Nike’s limited edition, Marty McFly-inspired, self-lacing shoes; or the CD boxed-set of Mariah Carey’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, Collector’s Edition. In any case, it is (afterall, or we jest in the style of our esteemed distributed journals, Afterall) the season of giving. Is your Dance card full? Are you a cinephile in the vein of Jonathan Rosenbaum or do you side with Roger Ebert’s take on Groundhog Day? Do you wring your hands with anxiety about the sensibilities of Mr. and Mrs. Adams? Holidays have you feeling down? Probably not as down—or as pathos-driven—as Last Words of the Executed. Did you know that all of these books, along with many more Chicago favorites, are available in (highly portable! low cost!) electronic editions? And now, through December 31st, enter the promotional code EBK2010 in your shopping cart to receive a 30% discount on any ebook published by the University of Chicago Press. Happy . . .

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The Collectors

December 21, 2010
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The Collectors

Polycrates of Samus, Pisistratus (the tyrant of Athens), the real-life cast of the television program Hoarders, King George the Fifth (philatelist), Jay Leno, the curators of the British Lawnmower Museum—certain people have been known to collect a thing or two. We recently schooled ourselves on the Freudian psychopathology behind collecting, and though we’ll spare you our findings, suffice to our cultural obsessions with objecthood doesn’t seem in danger of disappearing any time soon. Or does it? “A centre of European culture and a repository of the Western tradition that escaped Hitler and survived the Blitz may finally be destroyed by British bean counters.” That’s from a recent article in the NYRB about the Warburg Institute and its breathtakingly recondite offerings from the once-private collection of Aby Warburg (1866-1929), cultural and art historian, patient of Ludwig Bingswanger, and observer of the Hopi snake dance. As the Independent reports, the Warburg Institute might be foisted from its home at the University of London due to an increase in rent, which puts much of its collection either in peril or at the liberty of the University’s Dewey Decimal system. Warburg organized everything according to “good neighborliness”—we could not love this more if we . . .

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The week that was and oh, what a week it was!

December 20, 2010
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The week that was and oh, what a week it was!

It slipped through our fingers like sand through the hourglass! We nearly fainted with the outpouring of yearly best-of lists and insightful mentions. We’re too overwhelmed to keep everything under wraps until Thursday next—we offer the below, with humility for the tardy appearance of this post and fervor for the warp and weft of a wrap-up of that week that was: “This must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays.” The Boston Globe reviews The Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World, our most recent offering from the “outrageously prolific and always fascinating” economist and writer, Deirdre N. McCloskey. “The latest chapter in what has to be one of the most interesting scholarly careers in America today.” We agree! Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time finds worthy mention at the Atlantic‘s “The Best Book I Read This Year” series. “It’s a particularly interesting book to read in one’s twenties.” Hey, we remember when we wrote at the Atlantic in our tw—wait, the Atlantic (Monthly)? Er, nevermind. That ship has sailed, Christopher Cross. That ship has sailed. Jonathan Messinger commends Larry Bennett’s The Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism with a solid tagline . . .

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A tribute to Puccini and Patti Smith

December 15, 2010
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A tribute to Puccini and Patti Smith

Did anyone else watch Patti Smith on the Colbert Report Monday night? We’re Luddites without a TV, we admit, and this pales in comparison to her insanely gracious impromptu live appearance with the Tiny Cover Band at Columbia College in Chicago, but. . . . Sigh. Ms. Smith. May all of our cultural heroes continue to inspire with such ferocity. Speaking of: if you haven’t read Just Kids yet, why are you waiting? In the book’s opening, Robert Mapplethorpe is dying—going, going—and then (heart wrenches): gone. Smith wakes up, knowing and undone, to “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca: “I have lived for love, I have lived for art.” I admit to having read Just Kids three times over within 72 hours of purchase. I admit to my own repeated listening to the music that informs the work, Smith’s own life: Puccini; Tim Hardin; an awkward, failed reevaluation of the Doors; Radio Ethiopia again and again. But the Puccini—there must be something in the air. One-hundred years ago, this past Friday, Puccini’s la Faniculla del West (adapted from David Belasco’s play, The Girl of the Golden West) premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. From the New York Times‘s recent centenary commemoration: Toscanini . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Bernie Sanders for book club president!

December 14, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Bernie Sanders for book club president!

Three-day weekend: fin! We’re back with a vengeance today: and by vengeance, we mean filled with admiration and applause for Robert K. Elder’s piece on the approaching 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in US history, which appeared in this morning’s New York Times. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed (a sample of excerpts here), profiles the fate of the thirty-eight doomed Dakota Indians executed that day, including one story of mistaken identity, and updates us with the possible case for federal pardon. Spot-on narrative coverage of a historical issue with lingering repercussions for our own heated debate on capital punishment, we say. Congrats, again, Mr. Elder. In other news, we’ve been poring over the 124-page transcript from Senator Bernie Sanders’s filibuster this past Friday. Galleycat already ran with a well-researched piece on all of the references Sanders made to books in his eight-and-a-half-hour-long speech (plus excerpts!) filibustering the tax deal shaped by Congressional Republicans and President Obama. With that post as inspiration, we thought to Top Five or Ten this, in tribute to Senator Sanders’s verbal endurance and in spirited promotion of books we think he might squeeze in as holiday reading before the next round: . . .

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