Subjects

Read an Excerpt from “The Importance of Being Urban” by David A. Gamson

August 19, 2019
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Read an Excerpt from “The Importance of Being Urban” by David A. Gamson

Summer days are slipping away and back-to-school season is upon us. With that in mind, we’ve put together this short excerpt from David A. Gamson’s The Importance of Being Urban: Designing the Progressive School District, 1890-1940. The book focuses on four western school systems—in Denver, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle—and their efforts to reconfigure public education. In an era of accelerated immigration, shifting economic foundations, and widespread municipal shake-ups, reformers argued that the urban school district could provide the broad blend of social, cultural, and educational services needed to prepare students for twentieth-century life. These school districts were a crucial force not only in orchestrating educational change but in delivering on the promise of democracy. The anomalous expansion of cities, no matter how celebrated by urban boosters, nevertheless troubled educators who worried about the unique hazards that the urban environment posed to growing children. The agrarian traditions that had once anchored country life had already begun to slip away, sparking anxiety among many late nineteenth-century educators, who feared the negative consequences that might befall pupils who were reared away from the natural world. For their part, university-based researchers called for investigations into the impact that urban influences had on the mental . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion”

August 13, 2019
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Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of “almost-Darwin,” a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought. Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in Southeast Asia to be “the central and controlling incident” of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, read on for an excerpt from the editors’ introduction to An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion—a collaborative, interdisciplinary new book that celebrates Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Although Wallace’s four years in the Amazon Valley had convinced him he was on the right track as regards a causal relationship between geography and evolution, his thoughts on the mechanism of transmutation had actually not advanced much, nor did he now have collections . . .

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Remembering David Bevington

August 9, 2019
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On August 2, the Press lost a dear friend and author, David Bevington (1931–2019). David was not only a preeminent Shakespeare scholar at the University of Chicago and the author of such books as This Wide and Universal Theater: Shakespeare in Performance, Then and Now, but he, along with his wife Peggy, was a generous supporter of the Press and its authors through the Bevington Fund. In memory of David, Press Editorial Director Alan Thomas offered this tribute. David Bevington’s influence as an editor and interpreter of medieval and Renaissance literature is plain to see: his Bantam paperback editions of Shakespeare’s plays are classroom favorites, and several of his scholarly books have become critical classics. But the fond reminiscences that filled social media after David’s death highlighted a different theme: his extraordinary generosity toward younger scholars. He continued to attend conferences and campus talks well past his retirement, following the work of the latest generation and dispensing encouragement. In 2006, David and his wife Peggy, who for three decades had been a teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, offered the University of Chicago Press a $100,000 gift to support the publication of authors’ first books. David recalled that . . .

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Reflections on “Young Men and Fire” by James Kincaid

August 2, 2019
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August 5, 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the Mann Gulch tragedy, when a crew of fifteen of the US Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of the men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean put together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy in his Young Men and Fire, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992. In honor of the anniversary, we invited James Kincaid, who reviewed Young Men and Fire for the New York Times Book Review when it was first published, to offer his reflections on the book and its enduring significance. My first encounter with Mann Gulch came when my raucous, unpredictable editor at the New York Times Book Review called:  “Kincaid, got the best thing in years.  Homeric, positively Homeric.  I’ll send it on if you think you’re up for it.  I know you’re not up for it, but you probably think different.” I don’t know if I thought different, but within a few days, I was there, in my head . . .

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Remembering Vivian Paley (1929–2019)

July 31, 2019
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Vivian Gussin Paley worked for nearly forty years as a preschool and kindergarten teacher and was a dear friend to the Press. Her books about young children include The Boy on the Beach, Boys and Girls, and A Child’s Work. We were sad to learn of her passing this week, and we would like to share this obituary provided by her family. About Vivian Paley Vivian Paley was a keen observer of young children who defined a key tenet of how children should negotiate relationships at the Laboratory Schools and on the playground in general: You can’t say you can’t play. Ms. Paley, who spent most of her nearly four decades teaching at Lab, wrote a dozen books about children based on her experiences in the classroom. Paley was Lab’s most prominent example of Lab teachers who contribute to academic scholarship in the area of education.  Ms. Paley was recognized for her work with a 1989 MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The award recognizes outstanding people from a variety of fields for their creativity. In Ms. Paley’s case, the prize recognized her special contributions to education, which included developing a “story playing” technique that . . .

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5 Questions with Colin Koopman, Author of “How We Became Our Data”

July 29, 2019
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From banking to social media, our lives are becoming ever-more entwined with our data, and questions about the truthfulness and privacy of our records feel increasingly pressing. In his new book, How We Became Our Data, Colin Koopman takes us back to where this explosion of record-keeping all started. To understand more about our data and why it’s so important, we asked Colin a few questions. He shows us how central data is to so much of our lives and what it has to do with cultural phenomena from redlining to The Great Gatsby and Buzzfeed quizzes. First, can you give us a quick introduction to the “informational person” —who does this term describe? Informational persons live through, are recognized by, and reflect on themselves in terms of their data. How We Became Our Data describes how, in a period of a few quick decades in the early twentieth century, it became obligatory for us to live as informational persons. Why does this matter for us now? In short, because we are poignantly aware of how much of our lives are today transacted in terms of data. Consider social media selfhood and mass surveillance dossiers as two convenient exemplars. The . . .

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What Atari and the “Worst Video Game of all Time” Can Teach Us About the Crisis in American Public Service

July 24, 2019
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What does American public service have in common with a hastily produced video game adaptation of Spielberg’s E.T.? If you’ve endured the DMV—or, really, any overworked government office—you might find it difficult to identify which was described as “a confusing mess that left frustrated and disoriented.” No, this isn’t a Yelp review of the USPS; it’s NPR’s take on the 1982 video game, published on the film’s thirty-fifth anniversary. Like the American government, Atari had to defend against a serious reputation crisis. E.T. would change how people saw Atari, and the company found it difficult to correct that perception despite the later success of Q*bert and Ms. Pac-Man. Today, the government faces the similar challenge of changing people’s minds about the quality of public services with serious consequences in some cases for its continued ability to provide them, including to those without access to private-sector alternatives. The following is an excerpt from Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It) by Amy E. Lerman, where she describes what happened at Atari and what the “worst video game of all time” can teach us about American public service today. . . .

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Summer Book Club Feature: Five Questions with Jennifer Jordan, Author of “Edible Memory”

July 16, 2019
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Now that the dog days of summer are truly upon us, we hope you’re staying cool lakeside or under a shady umbrella with our summer #ReadUCP Twitter book club pick, Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods by Jennifer Jordan. And if you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s not too late! We’re reading throughout July and August, so there’s plenty of time for reading in-between watering your tomato and pepper plants or checking out the latest at the farmers’ market. (And there’s a handy discount code below.) Though we’ll soon be announcing dates for our Twitter chats with Jennifer, we decided to get things started with a few questions about what inspired her interest in heirloom foods and what’s next on her plate. Where did your interest in heirloom fruits and vegetables come from? I’d say it came from two sources, one personal, one sociological. I’ll submit this photo as evidence of the personal part. I grew up in California in the 70s, and my parents (both teachers) had a cooperative garden when I was tiny. Amazingly, one of the babies I grew up with ALSO became a sociology professor! So my childhood was surrounded . . .

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A Celebration of the Work of the Music Critic Andrew Patner

July 12, 2019
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A Celebration of the Work of the Music Critic Andrew Patner

In early May, Chicago’s classical music lovers gathered to celebrate the late music critic Andrew Patner, whose collection of writings, A Portrait in Four Movements was recently published by the University of Chicago Press. To celebrate the book, the book’s contributors organized a panel discussion at the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago. Andrew Patner was a Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster, critic, and interviewer. He was a celebrated classical music critic, contributing to the Chicago Sun-Times from 1991 until his death, at age 55, in 2015. On his weekly radio programs on WFMT, “Critical Thinking” and “Critic’s Choice,” Patner interviewed both renowned and up-and-coming conductors and composers. In his career as critic, Patner was able to trace the arc of the CSO’s changing repertories, all while cultivating a deep rapport with its four principal conductors. This discussion of Patner’s life and work featured the book’s three contributors, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, attorney and Symphony trustee John R. Schmidt, and musicologist Douglas W. Shadle. Maestro Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, also joined the discussion. The panelists shared memories of Patner, who was both an insightful music critic and a devoted friend. Speaking at the event, Ross, the . . .

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It’s Independence Day! Read an Excerpt from “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose”

July 4, 2019
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In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, first published in 2009 and reissued in paperback this year, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in . . .

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