Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts

RaiseUP: Read an Excerpt from “Hearing Happiness” by Jaipreet Virdi

November 13, 2020
By

Emphasizing the role that university presses play in elevating authors, subjects, and whole disciplines that bring new perspectives, ideas, and voices to readers around the globe, the Association of University Presses has chosen “Raise UP” as the theme for this year’s University Press Week, which runs through November 15. “Raise UP” is a particularly apt theme in a time when information moves at faster speeds than ever before across all platforms. It’s critical that scholarship about the most important ideas of the day is nurtured, championed, and made widely available.  We’re proud to participate in the UP Week blog tour, along with our colleagues at the University of Notre Dame Press, the University of Alberta Press, the University Press of Florida, University of South Carolina Press, Bristol University Press, Amsterdam University Press, University of Toronto Press, Bucknell University Press, Vanderbilt University Press, University of Minnesota Press, Harvard University Press, and Columbia University Press, to honor today’s theme of “Active Voices.” What follows is a powerful excerpt from the Introduction to Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History by Jaipreet Virdi, a historian and truly inspiring and active voice for disability rights and awareness. At the age of four, Virdi’s world went . . .

Read more »

What We Can Learn from Election Day 2020

November 4, 2020
By

While it may be a while before we learn the final results of Election Day 2020, there is still much that gleaned from the returns to date. Four of our political science authors share their initial takeaways from the outcome so far. Michelle Oyakawa, coauthor of Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twenty-First-Century America From the 1980s forward, the United States government has been increasingly controlled by corporations and the super-rich, who have used their power to institute policies that serve their interests. This has resulted in a highly unstable economy and society, where most workers, through no fault of their own, are unable to forge a secure, decent quality of life. This is not the fault of Republicans or Democrats alone, both parties’ leaders are subservient to super wealthy donors. No matter who ultimately wins the presidential election, the US government will face a crisis of legitimacy driven by the basic realities of extreme inequality, an out-of-control pandemic, and escalating ecological crises because of unchecked climate change. The answers for how to solve these huge problems will not come from researchers in think tanks, academics, pundits on cable news, or members of the existing political establishment. Elites . . .

Read more »

A Look Inside “Matisse: The Books” with Louise Rogers Lalaurie

November 2, 2020
By

Louise Rogers Lalaurie’s Matisse: The Books is a lavishly illustrated exploration of Henri Matisse’s livres d’artiste, or “artist’s books,” that brings new clarity to the artist’s life and work. Lalaurie recently visited the retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in honor of Matisse’s 150th birthday and here shares her experience of the extraordinary works on display. Art lovers everywhere know the feeling: the thrill of an eagerly anticipated exhibition or permanent collection, as you enter and glance around, spotting shapes, colors, and motifs you may never have met in person but know from photographs, or last saw years ago in another place, or have never seen before all together in the same room. It’s like walking into a party—a distant memory in the weird world of 2020, but one that springs to mind as I follow Marine Prévot, press officer at the Centre Pompidou Paris, from the staff entrance opposite the Tinguely/Saint-Phalle fountain on Place Stravinsky, through a backstage labyrinth of wooden crates. We emerge into Matisse, comme un roman (“Matisse, like a novel”), the 150th birthday retrospective that was planned for spring of this year and postponed until now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gathered in a space with magnificent . . .

Read more »

5 Questions for Catherine Zabinski, author of “Amber Waves: The Extraordinary Biography of Wheat, from Wild Grass to World Megacrop”

October 15, 2020
By

It’s harvest season! What better time to dip into agricultural history? Wheat was one of the first domesticated food crops, and for roughly 8,000 years it has been a dietary staple in Europe, West Asia, and North Africa. Today, wheat is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop, and it continues to be the most important food grain for humans. A plant this prolific surely deserves its own biography. In Amber Waves, Catherine Zabinski invites us to follow the evolutionary journey of wheat while exploring its symbiotic relationship with humans. We are introduced to the habits and history of this member of the grass family, how it lives, how it thrives, and how it arrived at its current form. We learn how our ancestors discovered and exploited the grain, which went on to be foundational to the development of civilization—from the wild grasses first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent to the ancient empires that sought to control its production. And in modern times, we discover wheat’s role in the Green Revolution and contemporary efforts to produce a perennial form. From the origins of agriculture to gluten sensitivities and genetic engineering, Amber Waves sheds new light on how . . .

Read more »

Town Hall: Political Scientists Look Toward the Presidential Debates

September 25, 2020
By

With the first presidential debate rapidly approaching, many questions are zipping through voters’ minds. What is the most important topic for them this election? How will they even manage to vote safely during a pandemic? And, if they could, what question would they ask at a town hall debate? We reached out to three of our political science authors to find out which question they would like to ask the candidates. Hahrie Han, coauthor of Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in the Twenty-First Century One of the greatest challenges in contemporary politics is the broken link between people and government. Even though democracy is supposed to be “of, by, and for” the people, what we find is that government is often unresponsive both to public opinion and people’s activism. How do the candidates think about their own accountability to the public? I would ask, “Elected officials often seem to use people as props instead of being willing to enter into a true relationship of mutual accountability. At best, elected officials treat the public merely as data points for information and input. What mechanisms would you create to ensure that the people affected by the policies you proposed had . . .

Read more »

Four Questions with Joshua Gunn, author of “Political Perversion”

September 23, 2020
By

As election season progresses, we spoke with Joshua Gunn, author of Political Perversion: Rhetorical Aberration in the Time of Trumpeteering. Below, he discusses political rhetoric, structural perversion, public affect, and what Trump (and his Twitter) reveals about American culture. First of all, what got you started on writing this book? Political Perversion originally started as an essay I was writing on the television series, American Horror Story. For a couple of years after the show debuted, I was trying to make sense of why horror television series were turning to perverse scenarios (explicit S&M), perverse villains (Hannibal), and perverse anti-heroes in prime time (Dexter). We have long been used to perversity in cinema—right down to the basic voyeurism of staring at actors in the dark. As a fan of horror, however, this newer prime-time perversity, intended for viewing in more intimate spaces, says something about cultural shifts.   So, after researching the way perversion was discussed in various fields and in popular parlance, I started writing about horror TV around the same time that Trump announced his candidacy. I was watching one of the Republican presidential candidate debates (the one that ultimately orbited around a penis-size repartee), and then it . . .

Read more »

5 Questions with Alexander Wragge-Morley, author of “Aesthetic Science: Representing Nature in the Royal Society of London, 1650–1720”

September 10, 2020
By

In his new book, Aesthetic Science, Alexander Wragge-Morley explores scientific representation in the early modern period and shows us how vital the role of subjective experience is to the communication of knowledge about nature. It’s a fascinating, groundbreaking reconsideration of the role of aesthetic experience in the history of the empirical sciences, and we sent him a few questions about it. In Aesthetic Science, you explore the relationship between sensory experience and the production of knowledge. What drew you to the topic? What do you like about it? I’d say that there’s a lot to like when you think about the relationship between sensory experience and the production of knowledge. To start, the issue is obviously fundamental—and I like fundamental issues. I don’t think you can give a good account of knowledge production unless you think hard about how the senses—with all the feelings they provoke—give us access to the external world. What’s more, that fundamental question allows you to think about the history of science in new ways. By focusing on how the scientists of seventeenth-century England related to sensory experience, I was able to pull a wide range of disciplines together—disciplines that are usually studied separately. In Aesthetic . . .

Read more »

Read an Excerpt from “Tacit Racism” by Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck

September 8, 2020
By

As shown every time we read or watch the news, racism is ubiquitous in America. Yet racism is so insidious that it exists on a more micro, common level as well. Effecting all swaths of culture and society, it permeates aspects of day-to-day life, especially when it is unexpected. In Tacit Racism, Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck illustrate the many ways in which racism is coded into the everyday social expectations of Americans. The following is a slightly altered excerpt from the introduction to Tacit Racism.  Racism Is a Clear and Present Danger If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you. —Lyndon B. Johnson Since the 1670’s, fifty years after the first Africans were sold into slavery at Jamestown in 1619, racism has steadily and relentlessly wormed its way so deeply into the foundations of the American democratic experiment that we typically don’t even notice it. Racism does not usually take an obvious form that we can see and prevent, rather it masquerades as the most ordinary of daily actions: . . .

Read more »

Six Questions with Thomas Milan Konda, author of “Conspiracies of Conspiracies”

September 3, 2020
By

The viral spread and increasing normalization of incendiary conspiracy theories have been one of the most dismaying and dangerous trends in recent American political life. The QAnon conspiracy is most prominent of today’s Internet-borne fringe theories: its influence has even reached the seats of national governmental power, with at least ten current Republican Congressional candidates expressing support for it. We spoke at length with Thomas Milan Konda, author of Conspiracies of Conspiracies: How Delusional Thinking Has Overrun America—called “the most detailed genealogy of American conspiracy theories yet written” by the American Historical Review—to gain some perspective on our current conspiracy crisis. The QAnon conspiracy is increasingly in the news these days—a formerly fringe phenomena that has now wormed its way into the mainstream. How does its rise fit in with what we know about how conspiracy theories work? How conspiracy theories “work” is really two questions: what is their appeal and how are they spread? Their appeal is always the same, and in this regard QAnon works the same way its predecessors did. Its three-part argument is the one that has always shored up conspiracy theories: (1) An insidious, powerful elite (2) secretly manipulates our various institutions from behind the . . .

Read more »

Read Excerpts from “The Province of Affliction” by Ben Mutschler

August 31, 2020
By

The following are two excerpts from Ben Mutschler’s recent publication, The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England.  The book explores the place of illness in everyday life—the ways in which it shaped families and households and became bound up in governance at all levels. The passages below draw from the introduction to a chapter on smallpox and the politics of contagion, followed by a small portion of a case study based on the diary of Ashley Bowen.  The sailor, ship rigger, painter, poet, husband, and father chronicled the ravages of smallpox as it burned through his town of Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1773—an event at once terrifying and all-too-common in early New England. Perhaps no other affliction in eighteenth-century New England received the attention given to smallpox. Even the most laconic of diarists noted its presence and charted its approach; others devoted entire journals to its rages. Letters written from infected areas to relatives, friends, and business partners survive despite authors’ pleas to burn such material lest the virulent distemper spread further. Newspapers reported on outbreaks throughout the Atlantic world. Chronologies of significant events compiled at the end of almanacs memorialized serious epidemics. Legislative records reveal extensive . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors