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How Animals Grieve (for Howard Stern)

May 3, 2013
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How Animals Grieve (for Howard Stern)

Barbara J. King is having quite a week—at least in terms of traversing brave new (pop-cultural) frontiers for the scholarly pursuits of animal intelligence and emotion. First came an excerpt from King’s latest book How Animals Grieve in a recent edition of the New York Post—noteworthy enough; so noteworthy, in fact, that it led to a mention of the book and King’s work on an episode of Howard Stern’s syndicated SIRIUS radio show (Stern, who along with his wife, is an animal rights advocate, experienced the traumatic loss of his English bulldog Bianca just a year ago; he even gave the book a plug via his Twitter feed). As if all this weren’t enough to render a tear in academic publishing’s space-time continuum, King herself made an appearance on Stern’s show, evidencing some of the ideas surrounding animal mourning that her book draws upon. In How Animals Grieve, King considers a recent shift in anthropological attention to our companion species, which recognizes our long-chided tendency to anthropomorphize animal emotions might instead hold grains of truth. She tells of elephants surrounding their matriarch as she weakens and dies, and, in the following days, attending to her corpse as if holding a vigil. . . .

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Announcing the 2013 Guggenheim Fellows

April 12, 2013
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Announcing the 2013 Guggenheim Fellows

Congratulations to the 2013 class of Guggenheim Fellows, announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The Guggenheim, a “mid-career award,” which honors scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, extends its fellowships to assist with research and artistic creation. As we’ve noted in the past, the fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic). We’re delighted to see included among the “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” a roster of fellowship winners affiliated with the University of Chicago Press: *** African Studies Jennifer Cole, professor of anthropology in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, author of Sex and Salvation: Imagining the Future in Madagascar (2010) and coeditor (with Lynn M. Thomas) of Love in Africa (2009) Anthropology and Cultural Studies Philippe Bourgois, the Richard Perry . . .

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Power to the People: On the American Underground Newspaper

March 15, 2013
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Power to the People: On the American Underground Newspaper

The American underground newspaper is a phenomenon both decidedly and ambiguously, well, American. Drawing its name from the underground presses and resistance networks that circulated among real and imagined communities along the European front in World War II, the alternative press-affiliated newspapers and zines embraced freedom of the press, low-cost offset printing, social distribution through channels ranging from freak-streeted headshops and anti-war political offices to grocery stores on college campuses. In Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture: 1964—1974, Geoff Kaplan assembles more than 700 full-color images and excerpts from these publications, many of which have not been seen since they were first published almost fifty years ago. Alongside the images, he explores how the new media of the radical press marked a watershed moment in the history of American graphic design, where political engagement and critical self-representation created an archive of activist innovation that offered a story counter to that of mainstream culture.  To see a gallery of images from Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture: 1964—1974, please click here. . . .

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The Connoisseurship of Cool: An excerpt from Thomas Frank

March 13, 2013
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The Connoisseurship of Cool: An excerpt from Thomas Frank

“Connoisseurship has never been more popular. Long confined to the serious appreciation of high art and classical music, it is now applied to an endless cascade of pursuits. Leading publications, including The New York Times, routinely discuss the connoisseurship of coffee, cupcakes and craft beers; of cars, watches, fountain pens, lunchboxes, stereo systems and computers; of tacos, pizza, pickles, chocolate, mayonnaise, cutlery and light (yes, light, which is not to be confused with the specialized connoisseurship of lighting). And the Grateful Dead, of course.”—“In Pursuit of Taste, en Masse,” New York Times When the Grey Lady acknowledges herself in an article about the democratization of connoisseurship, we realize how far we’ve come since the days of Giovanni Morelli—when to be a connoisseur meant to keep things close to the chest, so that the cultural treasures amassed might withhold the competition; when expertise in art historical commodities was a kind of pitiable materiality. But as the NYT points out, today connoisseurship is alive and well, if not “vital,” then at least an obviously channel of the zeitgeist for which the number of surfers is plentiful. Thomas Frank, founder and editor of the Hyde Park-originated journal of cultural and political critique The Baffler, is quoted . . .

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We enlist poetry to help us bid farewell to a friend from Poetry

January 3, 2013
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We enlist poetry to help us bid farewell to a friend from Poetry

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” wrote Elizabeth Bishop. But that doesn’t preclude a wistful desire that we could somehow, quantum-style, both let people go and keep them where they’ve so long seemed to belong. (“Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future”?) That was our thought, shared, we suspect, by countless fans of poetry, when we heard that Christian Wiman would be leaving his post as editor of Poetry magazine at the end of June. He’ll be joining the faculty of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School, which seems like a good home for a writer who, as the copy describing his forthcoming book, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer, puts it, “has had two constants in his life, two things that have defined him and given him solace in his times of need: faith and verse.” Wiman will leave behind a magazine that he and coeditor Don Share have shepherded to unprecedented prominence and success. Under their stewardship, Poetry tripled its circulation and won two national magazine awards, the first in its history. And then there was the centennial–which is where Chicago comes in. We . . .

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To Dream in French, Part 1 of 2

September 7, 2012
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To Dream in French, Part 1 of 2

Early September ushers in Labor Day, and with it, the unofficial end of summer. For Alice Kaplan, the John M. Musser Professor of French at Yale University, the summer may have appeared especially brusque, arriving on the heels of her recently published literary-cultural memoir Dreaming in French. The book, an animate portrayal of three iconoclastic American women—Angela Davis, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and Susan Sontag—during their ubiquitous junior-years abroad, explores the lures that the City of Light would cast on them in their formative years and beyond, from themes of seduction and escape to rising political consciousness and the struggle for selfhood. Kaplan spent a portion of July blogging her experiences in Algeria for the Best American Poetry blog, considering literary and political culture in light of the French colonial experience, and evaluating the changes facing the nation 50 years after it fully declared its independence from France: People like to say there was no Arab spring in Algiers because everyone was still traumatized by the violence in the 1990s. On the other hand, the “Place des martyrs”—the big gathering place at the base of the Casbah—is completely blocked off for public works (metro etc).  And during the events in Tunisia, . . .

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Disneyland Dream and utopian home movies

July 19, 2012
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Disneyland Dream and utopian home movies

“Put another way, tradition and community are not mere inheritances passively received form the past and certainly not merely fetters on human freedom. Tradition, to early nineteenth-century workers, included both their craft skills and the rights they claimed for this “human capital” against the incursions of inhuman capital. Tradition is in part the process by which successful claims to rights are reproduced in each generation. Some of these rights may be encoded in formal law; all are underpinned by transmissions of culture and understanding. Not only does the reproduction of tradition require action (and therefore always involves the production of new culture at the same time). It may also require struggle, when the claims posed within tradition—to justice, for example, or fairness or food when hungry—are attacked by other ideas—say of efficiency or one-sided revisions of property rights. Likewise, community is both an achievement and a capacity. It constitutes a field of action within which people can pursue the objects of their lives. It may be more or less egalitarian but usually empowers some more than others. It constrains more than enables. But is also incorporates investments made—sometimes over generations—in building it. It is not only a ground for individual . . .

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Jennifer Scappettone | | Amelia Rosselli

May 31, 2012
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Jennifer Scappettone | | Amelia Rosselli

(Image copyright: Dino Ignani) From Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, A Bilingual Edition Edited and Translated by Jennifer Scappettone _________________________________________________________________________________________ Da Palermo ’63 (1963) Poesia dedicata a Spatola Il mare ha delle punte bianche ch’io non conosco e il tempo, che bravo si dimena bravo nelle mie braccia, corrompo docilmente— e sottile si lamenta per i dolori al ginocchio a me toccàti. Senza livore io ti ricordo un immenso giorno di gioia ma tu dimentichi la vera sapienza. Se la notte è una veraconda scematura io rivorrei giocare con le belle dolci signore che t’insegnavano che il dare o il vero, non è vero. Sentendo morire la dolce tirannia io ti richiamo sirena volenterosa—ma il viso disfatto di un chiaro prevedere altre colpe e docili obbedienze mi promuove cretine speranze. Gravi disgrazie sollecitano. Il vero è una morte intera.                    *** From Palermo ’63 (1963) Poem dedicated to Spatola The sea has white points that I don’t know and tempo, so good it wags good in my embrace, I corrupt sweetly— and slight it laments the aches at the knee touched to me. Without spite I remind you of an immense day of joy but you forget . . .

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Marjorie Perloff, American Philosopher

May 3, 2012
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Marjorie Perloff, American Philosopher

The University of Chicago Press extends its congratulations to our own Unoriginal Genius Marjorie Perloff—whose astute exploits in literary theory, criticism of twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetics, and consideration of the visual arts we’ve blogged about before, now and again. Why raise another glass to Marjorie? Well, the American Philosophical Society—the nation’s oldest and most esteemed scholarly organization (founded in 1743)—whose mission is to “promote useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and community outreach,” just called her a member. Among her cohort of those inducted with distinction in the humanities? Mary Beard, Marjorie Graber, Wu Hung, Rosalind Krauss, Brent D. Shaw, and Salvatore Settis, in a class of 2012 inductees that extended its reach through the arts and public affairs (along with the physical, natural, and social sciences) to include such luminaries as Jill Abramson, William Kentridge, Cormac McCarthy, Gerhard Richter, and Richard Serra. We’ve been lucky enough to shepherd several of Perloff’s books into publication, and though the list only reflects a portion of her overwhelming scholarship, it’s nothing to shake a stick at. Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media, John Cage: Composed in America, Frank . . .

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April’s free ebook: Alice Kaplan’s French Lessons

April 2, 2012
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April’s free ebook: Alice Kaplan’s French Lessons

In 2009, writer and former freelance journalist Ben Yagoda published Memoir: A History. Amid praise for the book is this tidy distillation of its reach by New York Times critic Judith Shulevitz: begins with Julius Caesar’s descriptions of the Gallic Wars and proceeds book by book to the present. He gives us the greats—St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass and Helen Keller—but also a 17th-century spiritualizing grifter named Clarkson who preached and seduced his way through England’s radical sects; Mary Jemison of Pennsylvania, whose wildly popular “as told to” reconfigured the classic Indian-captivity narrative into an early-19th-century “Dances With Wolves” (she chose to stay with the Indians); and other figures from what Preston Sturges once called the “cockeyed caravan” of life. —————————- The Sturges quotation is from the movie Sullivan’s Travels, a 1941 Hollywood satire that later served as the inspiration for Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (the Coen Brothers film takes its name from Sturges’s picture-within-a-picture). In it, Sullivan bemoans the (often comic) failures of the would-be socially conscious film he aspires to make, before acknowledging that comedy is really what opens the common man’s heart: “There’s a lot . . .

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