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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

February 14, 2014
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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

From Janet Burroway, editor of A Story Larger than My Own:

We were shocked to learn of the death of Maxine Kumin, who in spite of a serious horse-riding accident, a year spent immobile in a metal “halo,” and permanent pain, continued to write fine poetry and prose and to exude essential vitality.

Kumin at 88 was what Carol Muske-Dukes calls the last member of the “august sisterhood of poets,” which included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich.

In one of her last published essays, Kumin traced her journey in “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness,” a kind of template for the writers in this book and for women of her generation, who began their careers in the fifties or early sixties and grew in stature as feminism grew. “I did not yet know that a quiet revolution in thinking was taking place,” she writes of her situation as a pregnant mother of two in 1956. “Of course motherhood was not enough. Perhaps I could become a literary critic?” She did that and much more.

An excerpt from “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse . . .

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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

February 13, 2014
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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

Scott Cutler Shershow’s Deconstructing Dignity: A Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate employs Derridean theory to uncover self-contradictory and damaging assumptions that underlie both sides of the controversial discussion. In the  piece below that Shershow drafted for the Chicago Blog, he contextualizes two cases that generated recent headlines about how—and to which extents—we define life, especially in light of its termination.

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“Thinking and Rethinking the Right to Die” by Scott Cutler Shershow

The vexed question of a so-called “right to die” pushes its way to our attention again.

Hasn’t this all happened before, many times? An intimate family story is catapulted into the media spotlight; an unconscious being (once again, as is almost always the case, a female) becomes the figurehead for a protracted medical, legal, and political struggle; and each side accuses the other of being motivated by money.

In one of the two cases that have recently occupied our attention, the family of California teenager Jahi McMath, declared by her doctors to be “brain dead” after routine surgery, were granted permission by a judge to keep the girl on what is . . .

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2013 PROSE Awards

February 7, 2014
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2013 PROSE Awards

The PROSE Awards (or, the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence) are unique to the scholarly and professional publishing communities—not only prestigious, but selected from “over 535 entries of books, reference works, journals,and electronic products in more than 40 categories,” juried by a community of peer publishers, librarians, and academics. In addition to offering congratulations to all the winners, we are delighted to point you toward those books from our own list that received either a PROSE Award or honorable mention for general excellence:

Art Exhibitions

Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North

By Peter John Brownlee, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens

Biological Sciences (Honorable Mention)

The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics 

By Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress

Earth Sciences

The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time

By Lance Grande

Education

Education, Justice, and Democracy

Edited by Danielle S. Allen and Rob Reich

Environmental Science (Honorable Mention)

Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the . . .

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State of Disunion by Sandra M. Gustafson

February 6, 2014
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State of Disunion by Sandra M. Gustafson

For the past several years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have scholar Sandra M. Gustafson contribute a post following Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union addresses, providing thematic context for the president’s speeches and scrutinizing his use of rhetoric within larger social and political frameworks. Read Gustafson’s 2014 post in full after the jump below.

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In previous State of the Union addresses, President Barack Obama has called for a civil and deliberate politics in the wake of the 2011 Tucson shootings; fought for cooperation with Congress in 2012; and exhorted his audience to devote itself in 2013 to engaging in “The hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.“

This year’s address was different. After giving credit for the improving economy and communal wellbeing to everyday people—a teacher, an entrepreneur, an autoworker, a farmer—the president emphasized how the failure of Congress to pass needed legislation has inhibited rather than fostered those achievements. He described how, “for several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate—one that dates back . . .

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Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet

February 3, 2014
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Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet

If you reside in the Bay Area:

How to Feed the World without Destroying the Planet: Michael Pollan and Sarah Elton, February 4th at 1 PM

Food for a Finite Planet: Sarah Elton, in conversation with Nigel Walker, on Wednesday, February 5th at 6 PM

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From Sarah Elton’s Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet 

How will we feed ourselves in 2050? In the next forty years, the world’s population is expected to surpass nine billion. At the same time, climate change is transforming life on the planet. According to scientists who look at these big-picture issues, in the space of about one generation, a messy combination of climate, population trends, and environmental change will profoundly affect the world as we know it. We need to figure out how to feed the world, dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and cope with climate change.

So how do we best move forward? How do we ensure that everybody has enough to eat as we contend with a new climate? How do we do this without releasing even more greenhouse gases, thereby ruining the environment and further hampering the ability of . . .

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Adam Morris on Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience

January 31, 2014
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Adam Morris on Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience

From Adam Morris’s review “Disobedience & Miseducation: Occupy and the Academy,” at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

The unwritten premise of the three essays in Occupy is that we live in the anteroom of an authoritarian police state. Or that perhaps, in a Borgesian twist, we have been living in one for some time already. Just as allegations of a “Jewish menace” abetted the power grabs of the Nazis, the “terrorists” and now “anarchists” of the 21st century provide an alibi for the US security-industrial complex to retrench in practices that, while subtler than 20th-century totalitarianisms, are even more effectively internalized and agreed upon by the dominated domestic population. The public’s laconic initial reaction to the revelations of Edward Snowden offers proof that most Americans, like Winston at the end of Orwell’s 1984, have come to accept the state’s scare-fueled propaganda and gradual elimination of civil rights in exchange for a false sense of “security.” They already love Big Brother.

Daring to oppose police repression and buck this public inertia, the defiantly energetic spirit of dissent that characterized OWS is therefore political disobedience of the most necessary and noble kind. This exuberance is the subject of Taussig’s poetic . . .

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Stanley Cavell on Wittgenstein as a cultural critic

January 30, 2014
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Stanley Cavell on Wittgenstein as a cultural critic

From “The Investigations as a Depiction of Our Times,” in Stanley Cavell’s This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein

Let us see whether we can now sketch what I called a perspective from which the writer of the Investigations is a philosopher—even a critic—of culture. I start here form a variation on a question Professor von Wright poses in his paper “Wittgenstein in Relation to His Times” (in Wittgenstein and His Times, edited by B. McGuinness). Von Wright asks whether “Wittgenstein’s attitude to his times,” while naturally essential to understanding Wittgenstein’s intellectual personality, is also essential in understanding Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Von Wright describes the attitude in question, for good reason, as Spenglerian, and he sees the link between the attitude and the conceptual development of the philosophy in “Wittgenstein’s peculiar view of the nature of philosophy.”

Because of the interlocking language and ways of life, a disorder in the former reflects disorder in the latter. If philosophical problems are symptomatic of language producing malignant outgrowths which obscure our thinking, then there must be a cancer in the Lebenweise, in the way of life itself.

Given my sense of two directions in the idea of a form of life, von . . .

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Paddy Woodworth on ecological restoration

January 29, 2014
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Paddy Woodworth on ecological restoration

Our Once and Future Planet delivers an account of one of the most impressive areas of current environmental experimentation and innovation: ecological restoration. Veteran investigative reporter Paddy Woodworth spent years traveling the globe and talking with people—scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens—who work on the front lines of the battle against environmental degradation, and the book positions the restoration of our ecosystems as vital—and often successful—leverage.

A recent review of the book in the Irish Examiner highlighted the implications of this restoration, from the vantage of long-term, if uncertain, commitment:

Here, as elsewhere, the fight to preserve refugia and take a long term view of restoration is well justified, but seldom a priority for a society and their political leaders guided by short term considerations.

Species restoration, especially of ‘cuddly’ animals or ‘trophy’ birds of prey, tugs at the heartstrings and can gain public support and finance. But habitat restoration is a much more difficult task to finance from the public purse. Woodworth’s experience confirms the complexity of the latter and reveals just how much of a knowledge gap exists for effective restoration. Ecological succession is a dynamic process, constantly being pushed by environmental changes . . .

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Introducing Winter 2014 Chicago Shorts

January 7, 2014
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Introducing Winter 2014 Chicago Shorts

 

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

WINTER 2014 CHICAGO SHORTS

The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce the launch of our latest 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.

This group of Winter 2014 Shorts are perfect readings to stow away with for an hour or two in the sludge of the season: they cover a range of topics, from the sentience of animals and advice from behavioral economics to the rhetoric of pregnancy; they deliver unforgettable characters like a Confucian magistrate who doubles as a detective and “Blue Babe,” a wooly bison; and to suit this time of year—they deliver some new knowledge to keep you warm.

Among the Winter Shorts, you’ll find:

Hayek’s The Road . . .

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Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

December 27, 2013
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Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) was an art historian whose focus extended from the Renaissance to the modern, and who left a critical legacy on several generations of scholars, critics, and artists. One of his classic works. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, addressed the as-yet-unsuspected eroticism of the iconographies devoted to Christ and Mary, which generated much controversy throughout Steinberg’s career.

In a recent piece for the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Lee Siegel uses Steinberg’s writing as a lens for understanding the correlation between Pope Francis’s embrace of gay Catholics and his devotion to the poor and afflicted. Here, Siegel notes a central tenet of Steinberg’s book, specifically that, “as a result of the rise of the Franciscan order, around 1260, an emphasis on Christ’s nakedness, and, thus, on his humanity, joined compassion to an acceptance of the role of sexuality in human life.”

Siegel points out that a Renaissance-era credo of the Franciscan order, from which Pope Francis takes his name, was nudus nudum Christum sequi (“follow naked the naked Christ”). He goes on to account for how Steinberg’s art historical thesis implies a theological premise . . .

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