Commentary

Sergio De La Pava’s Personae: A New Year

December 30, 2013
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Sergio De La Pava’s Personae: A New Year

The second half of 2013 has been good to Sergio De La Pava. In August, he took  home the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for his self-published (and then, ahem, republished) novel A Naked Singularity, awarded to “an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” In September, he followed-up with Personae, a slim, inventive take on the detective novel, which features psychics, ekphrasis, a short play, and the same experimental and morally astute take on justice and responsibility as his previous, maximalist work of fiction. In case you missed it, the book was acclaimed here, here, here, here, over here, here, and here, among other places.

For our last post of the year, we thought we’d point out something else about De La Pava: as many already know, in addition to his literary pursuits, he works as a full-time public defender (though, of course, he is also “a writer who does not live in Brooklyn.”). Over at the Millions, as part of their series “A Year in Reading,” they asked De La Pava for his recommendations. And, as usual, De . . .

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Michael Kammen (1936–2013)

December 19, 2013
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Michael Kammen (1936–2013)

Michael Kammen (1936–2013)

“Underpinned by exhaustive research and abundant documentation, Professor Kammen’s books, essays and criticism—he was a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and other publications—were noteworthy for remaining accessible to the general reader. His work, which stood at the nexus of history, folklore, psychology and sociology, helped cast the form of the modern scholarly field known as memory studies.”

This clip, culled from the New York Times obituary, helps contextualize the prolific contributions of Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, American culture scholar, and longtime Cornell University professor Michael Kammen, who passed away earlier this month after a long illness.

The Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture emeritus at Cornell University, Kammen authored more than a dozen volumes situated between history, remembrance, and the composition of American character, including People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization, which won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for history. In addition to his frequent scholarship and journalistic contributions,  Kammen also served as past president of the Organization of American Historians (1995–96) and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His final book Digging Up the . . .

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Carol Kasper on the history of Chicago’s distribution program

November 13, 2013
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Carol Kasper on the history of Chicago’s distribution program

To continue the themes of University Press Week, which include “celebrat of the role of university presses in our intellectual, cultural, and civic life,” we asked our Sales and Marketing Director Carol Kasper to give us an insider’s perspective on the history of Chicago’s distribution program, which currently works with over one hundred individual publishers. Her thoughts on how the program has helped to facilitate “community and commerce” among university presses follow below:

November. Cold winds. Rain. The last bursts of fall color. Thanksgiving. And, now, University Press Week! A nice thing to see after thirty-plus years at the University of Chicago Press and a recent three-year stint on the board of the Association of American University Presses. Some of the things we talked about during my recent tenure are still ongoing—for instance, the effort to reach out to scholarly presses that aren’t attached to universities and to presses outside North America. These causes were two that I felt most strongly about, no doubt because of my experiences with Chicago’s distribution programs. So, a little meditation here on the nature of community and commerce in the scholarly publishing world in honor of University Press . . .

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The Rise of Secularism

July 19, 2013
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The Rise of Secularism

When it comes to American religious history, few books have caused as much debate as John Lardas Modern’s Secularism in Antebellum America. In the book, Modern uncovers surprising connections between secular ideology and the rise of new technologies that opened up new ways of being religious in the nineteenth century, and he challenges the strict separation between the religious and the secular that remains integral to the discussions of religion we engage in today. The Immanent Frame describes the debate thusly:

Modern’s understanding of secularism and his argument that mid-nineteenth century American religious movements are in some sense responsible for the secularizing ethos which the majority of them opposed. From Modern’s perspective secularization represents not the separation of the religious from the profane but the opportunity for religion to discover within the secular its true meaning.

Religion thus confronts modernity not by disappearing but inventing modern figures to adapt to the novelty of the technological age, and to redefine itself.  Perhaps Modern’s most compelling example of these claims is mid-nineteenth century American evangelicalism—specifically its reliance on modern media and technologies.

At last fall’s American Academy of Religion conference, the book was the subject of a panel . . .

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Introducing UCP’s Summer Shorts

June 18, 2013
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Introducing UCP’s Summer Shorts

“Still longer than a tweet and still shorter than A River Runs Through It—”

SUMMER CHICAGO SHORTS

Publication Date: June 18, 2013

The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce the launch of our summer series of Chicago Shorts—distinguished selections, including never-before-published material, off-the-radar reads culled from the University of Chicago Press’s commanding archive, and the best of our newest books, all priced for impulse buying and presented exclusively in DRM-free e-book format.

Aimed at the general reader and running the gamut from the latest in contemporary scholarship to can’t-miss chapters from classic publications, Chicago Shorts continues to turn the page on the twenty-first-century reading experience.

With summer upon us, we’ve selected a group of shorts that offer all the pleasures you look for in that season: they’re light, funny, and engaging; they stoke our dreams of faraway places and outdoor adventures; and like summer itself—they leave you wanting more.

Among the Summer Shorts, you’ll find:

Ain’t Love Grand! From Earthworms to Elephant Seals by Marty Crump God: The Autobiography by Franco Ferrucci (trans. by Raymond Rosenthal) Spiral Jetta Summer: Swimming in the Great Salt Lake by Erin Hogan It’s Alive! The . . .

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The Trials of an Editor

May 8, 2013
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The Trials of an Editor

We greet the spring with an annual rite, neither more nor less essential than the other invocations that usher in the season (woodpecker outside my window foxing with overzealous, semester’s-end induced sleep; big-leaved magnolia blossoms littering the street like well-boutonnièred toilet-paper folk art and norteño/Baby Bash productions looping over and under some dude’s fancy for the J. Geils Band). With this rite—the announcement of the recipient of any particular year’s Laing Prize—we drum up the legacy of Gordon J. Laing, former general editor of the University of Chicago Press. In February 1925, the same month that saw the New Yorker publish its first issue, Laing penned a satirical piece about university publishing for the in-house newsletter Press Impressions. Stravinsky strings on, and we reproduce it in its entirety below:

***

The Trials of an Editor

Some Experiences of the Man Intrusted with the Preparation of Manuscript for Our Publication

By Gordon J. Laing, General Editor

From Press Impressions, Volume 2, Number 5, February 1925

The editor of Press Impressions gave me the title of this article and I have let it stand. The fact, however, is . . .

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Before We Loved the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

May 7, 2013
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Before We Loved the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Before We Loved the Buddha

by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

***

According to a famous Chinese legend, in 60 CE (or thereabout), the Emperor Ming of China had a dream. He dreamed that he saw a golden man flying through the sky, rays of light streaming from his head. The next day, he summoned his ministers to interpret the dream. They told him that the golden man was a sage from the west called the Buddha. The emperor immediately dispatched a delegation to find this sage. After a long journey, they returned with a scripture and a statue. And this is how Buddhism first came to China.

In 1603, the famous Catholic missionary to China, Matteo Ricci, published a book, in Chinese, in which he explained that the golden man the emperor saw in his dream was not the Buddha; he was Jesus. If the emperor’s envoys had gone farther west, they would have arrived in the Holy Land, and would have returned with the Gospels. Bringing Buddhism to China had all been a terrible mistake.

Among the “founders” of the world religions—Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad—perhaps the best loved (or at . . .

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Roger Ebert (1942–2013)

April 5, 2013
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Roger Ebert (1942–2013)

Rodney F. Powell, our editor for film and cinema studies, remembers Roger Ebert:

Alas, Roger Ebert has passed, too soon at 70. The University of Chicago Press has been privileged to publish three of his books—Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, Scorsese by Ebert, and The Great Movies III. I worked on all three, and Ebert’s professionalism and good humor were always evident. It was also a pleasure to note his passionate advocacy of the printed word—as a voracious reader, as well as an enthusiastic film-lover.

Ebert’s celebrity status tended to obscure the fact that was hidden in plain sight throughout his career—that he was, first and foremost, an excellent writer. His ability to recognize the essential in films was matched by his ability to write clearly, concisely, and evocatively about those essential qualities, with a welcoming, unforced ease. He brought those same qualities from his daily reviews to the longer and more reflective essays he wrote for his Great Movies series. And, at his best, there was something more. Like other lasting critics, he could make his readers understand the moral qualities of the works he valued most by revealing how . . .

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Sandra M. Gustafson on the State of the Union (2013)

February 21, 2013
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Sandra M. Gustafson on the State of the Union (2013)

‘The hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government’

In the first State of the Union Address of his second term, President Barack Obama echoed themes from past speeches, most recently his Second Inaugural Address delivered a few weeks ago and his victory speech from election night. A central theme—arguably the central theme—of all these addresses and many previous ones has been the need for the nation’s elected officials to work together to solve lingering problems caused by two wars and a major economic crisis. The president opened his fifth State of the Union Address with a quotation drawn from John F. Kennedy, who along with Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., is his favorite source. Kennedy opened his second State of the Union address by urging Congress to remember that, “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.” And so President Obama once again urged the representatives of the rival parties in Congress to work together to pass legislation to stimulate the economy, improve education, and reduce gun violence.

He continued to quote from Kennedy’s 1962 speech: “‘It is my task,’ said, ‘to report the State of . . .

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Joseph Cropsey, political philosopher (1919-2012)

July 9, 2012
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Joseph Cropsey, political philosopher (1919-2012)

Joseph Cropsey—American political philosopher; distinguished service professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago; dedicated teacher; and coeditor of the “Strauss–Cropsey Reader” (History of Political Philosophy), a staple in universities for fifty years—died last week at the age of 92.

Cropsey completed his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1952, with a dissertation on the work of Adam Smith, one of his lifelong scholarly interests (in addition to interstitial aspects in the works of Plato and Karl Marx, the figure of Socrates and issues of philosophical sobriety, and the limitations and entrapments of modern liberalism). By 1957, Cropsey was at the University of Chicago (after stints at the CCNY and the New School) as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, following Leo Strauss, who would become his most significant collaborator, and assist in his intellectual turn from economics to political philosphy.

The University of Chicago News Office reports on their intellectual partnership:

Strauss encouraged Cropsey to examine texts deeply. “When Strauss was at the head of his class, sitting up there, he would at a certain point say, ‘What does this mean?’ When I have . . .

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