Subjects

Close Your Eyes, Open Your Ears: Read an Excerpt from “Seeing Silence” by Mark C. Taylor

May 26, 2020
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Mark C. Taylor’s forthcoming book, Seeing Silence, offers a new philosophy of silence for our nervous, chattering age. Taylor explores the many variations of silence by considering the work of leading modern and postmodern visual artists, weaving in the insights of philosophers, theologians, writers, and composers. During times of stress and uncertainty, Taylor encourages us to turn to silence as a means to understand the world around us—to hear what is not said, and to attend to what remains unsayable. Pause to listen and read along as Taylor narrates the opening passages of Seeing Silence. Video by Oscar d’Angeac. Produced by Armand Latreille & Lucas Zabotin. Silence is no weakness of language. It is, on the contrary, its strength. It is the weakness of language not to know this. —Edmond Jabès Close your eyes, open your ears. Close your eyes, open your ears and listen. Listen attentively, listen patiently. What do you hear? Now imagine . . . try to imagine the impossibility of imagining Now. Imagine, try to imagine not being—not being here, not being now. Not being here, not being now, not being elsewhere, not being anywhere. Imagine being before being. Imagine being after being. Imagine being Not. . . .

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Poet Rachel DeWoskin Reads from Her New Collection

May 18, 2020
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UChicago Press is now on Youtube! . . .

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We Are All Fluxus Artists Now: Natilee Harren on Making the Most of Mundane Tasks

May 12, 2020
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As we continue to shelter at home and stay safe during the current pandemic, many of our days are occupied by the routines of cooking, cleaning, eating, and maintaining the household. During this time, Fluxus Forms author Natilee Harren looks to a peculiar group of artists, the Fluxus collective, to cast new light on our mundane daily tasks. Fluxus artists found creative value in a variety of surprising places, including the rituals of seemingly boring everyday tasks. Harren shows us how, even while staying safe at home, we can observe ourselves, become an object, and live some Fluxus art. Museums and moviehouses continue their closures. Countless events remain canceled. As we practice enforced or voluntary forms of social distancing, we are bombarded with appeals to satisfy our cultural appetites with virtual museum tours, Instagram conversations, live-streamed concerts, and hours of content newly liberated from paywalls. But how much time per day can we really spend with our eyes fixed on digital screens, especially when so many of our work and schooling obligations have also moved online? At the same time, stuck at home and attempting to keep a virus at bay, we find ourselves spending more time than ever before on mundane, everyday . . .

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent?: Marianne Mason, editor of “The Discourse of Police Interviews,” on the Guilt-Presumptive Nature of Interrogations

May 7, 2020
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“Step up and tell the truth.” “No more lies.” “This is your chance to tell us what really happened.” Who hasn’t rooted for a TV detective when they’ve said these lines in an interrogation or when the detective managed to convince someone not to seek counsel? While these lines and manipulations have been played off on procedural shows as fairly benign, they actually represent an interrogation method that, instead of presuming innocence like the US justice system is meant to, actually presumes guilt and focuses on soliciting a confession. In her chapter in The Discourse of Police Interviews, “The Guilt-Presumptive Nature of Custodial Interrogations in the United States,” editor Marianne Mason investigates this interrogation style’s history, techniques, and tactics as well as loopholes past the Miranda warning and suggests areas for further research. We invited her to reflect on her chapter and bring to light its key points and place it within The Discourse of Police Interviews as a whole. It is past time that police interviews undergo such analysis and scrutiny. Since the early 2000s I have been researching language and the law. I have examined language use in covertly-taped conversations of drug cartel members, such as the Cali Cartel, the bilingual . . .

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Join the #ReadUCP Book Club: Read the Opening Extract from “The Safe House: A Novel”

April 30, 2020
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Friends, we have your quarantine reading right here: The Safe House: A Novel by Christophe Boltanski and translated from the French by Laura Marris. In Paris’s exclusive Saint-Germain neighborhood is a mansion. In that mansion lives a family. Deep in that mansion. The Bolts are that family, and they have secrets. The Safe House tells their story. The Safe House was a literary sensation when published in France in 2015 and won the Prix de Prix, France’s most prestigious book prize. With hints of Oulipian playfulness and an atmosphere of dark humor, The Safe House is an unforgettable portrait of a self-imprisoned family. We invite you to read with us throughout May and June and then join us for our virtual book club meeting with translator Laura Marris on Twitter on June 25 at 2PM CT. Follow #ReadUCP and @LauraMarris on Twitter for all the latest. CAR: 1 I never saw them walk outside alone. Or even together. Never saw them so much as stroll the length of a block. They only ventured out on wheels. Sitting pressed against each other, shielded by the body of the car— behind some cover, no matter how slight. In Paris, they drove around in a Fiat 500 Lusso, a white one. It was a . . .

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Price V. Fishback on Werner Troesken’s “The Pox of Liberty” and Our Current Tradeoffs between Quarantines and Economic Freedom

April 21, 2020
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Economist and Press author Price V. Fishback shared with us recently his thoughts on a previous Press book that speaks to our current situation and looks at the political and economic history of how the US government has responded to other pandemics. The current crisis has brought into focus the tradeoffs between quarantines and economic freedom.  For an excellent book about the history of these tradeoffs in the United States, read Werner Troesken’s The Pox of Liberty:  How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Werner traces the history of how governments at all levels of the American federal system dealt with three deadly and recurring diseases:  smallpox, yellow fever, and typhoid. All of the issues the world is facing today to avoid horrid deaths are discussed in Werner’s book:  inadequate testing, the absence of vaccines, attempts to develop vaccines, tradeoffs between economic losses and quarantines, the uncertainties that the disease might return in the future, and inadequate medical facilities.  The situations developed in the nineteenth-century societies when there were much higher death rates, lower incomes, and at best rudimentary medical care.  In his preface, Werner says that he started out trying to . . .

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Zachary Dorner, author of “Merchants of Medicine,” on the Coronavirus and Black Americans

April 15, 2020
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The death of black Americans due to coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate recalls the ways differential mortality reflects and has shaped ideas of inherent bodily difference in the past. Zachary Dorner discusses this connection using ideas and examples from his book Merchants of Medicines: The Commerce and Coercion of Health in Britain’s Long Eighteenth Century (available in May). Data recently collected by The Washington Post (link) point to stark disparities in morbidity and mortality during the current pandemic between black and white Americans. While upsetting, such a finding does not come as a particular surprise to a historian of medicine and empire. (Nor, for that matter, does it to scholars of race or to people whose lived experience is one of unequal health). Such health outcomes are often the result, intended and not, of longstanding policies and practices used to construct the economic and political realities we live with today. Notably, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has attributed his own cardiovascular issues, and therefore susceptibility to the virus, to the “legacy of growing up poor and black in America.” Structural disparities not only contribute to disparate health outcomes as starkly demonstrated this year by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but historically . . .

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“Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year”: Charles Bernstein on That April Ritual

April 13, 2020
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Nearly two decades ago, poet Charles Bernstein offered a contrarian and spirited take on the April ritual of poetry month, “Against National Poetry Month as Such.” Curious whether he still shares the same opinion, we reached out to Bernstein for his current perspective, which we’re excited to share here as “Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year.” Poetry’s freedom, which to say poetry’s essential contribution to American culture, is grounded in its aversion of conformity and in its resistance to the restrictions of market-driven popularity. Indeed, contemporary American poetry thrives through its small scale and radical differences of form. There is no one sort of American poetry and certainly no right sort—this is what makes aesthetic invention so necessary. Free verse is not a type of non-metrical poetry but an imperative to liberate verse from the constraints of obligatory convention and regulation. In that sense, free verse is an aspiration and its stuttering breathlessness is a mark of its impossibility. I want not just a politics of identity but an aesthetics of identity. While some may choose the straight path of self-righteousness, do not give up hope that they will return to the crooked roads that have no . . .

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Anahid Nersessian on Wordsworth: An Excerpt from “The Calamity Form”

April 7, 2020
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Today, on William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday, the poet will come in for his share of adoration. We offer a dissent from a critic who is nevertheless a passionate reader of Romantic poetry. In this excerpt from her forthcoming book The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life, Anahid Nersessian asks why Wordsworth’s poetry leaves her cold. It’s not his politics or his narcissism, she writes, or anything else she cares to critique, but an “estrangement that cuts both ways. Why should Wordsworth fail me, and I him?” Read on, and look for The Calamity Form in June. Let me put it bluntly: I don’t like Wordsworth. I almost said I don’t care for him, but that’s not quite true. A day spent writing about Wordsworth is a good day; when he comes into the classroom with me, things inevitably go well. And yet the eye I cast on his section of my bookshelf is doubtful, disgruntled. Never could I imagine reading Wordsworth for pleasure, though it is with pleasure that I recall someone’s startled love for that cataract in the seventy-seventh line of “Tintern Abbey.” It is with pleasure, too, that I’ve been taught about Wordsworth by professors and colleagues, by lectures and book . . .

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Economist Claudia Goldin on the Origins of “Capital in the Nineteenth Century”

April 3, 2020
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Contemporary debate around inequality is centered on a common theme: capital. Capital, broadly speaking, is wealth. People who have capital enjoy more leverage, security, and flexibility in their economic lives. Capital in the Nineteenth Century is a history of how and where capital was originated and consolidated in the United States’ first century as an independent nation. It is an utterly original and painstaking work of economic history, one that illustrates the power of the field to inform our thorniest debates in the present. Here, the eminent economist Claudia Goldin recounts the origins of the project: an unexpected (and not entirely organized) mailing from the late Robert Gallman. In August 1998 a large envelope arrived from Bob Gallman, who was then a distinguished economic historian at the University of North Carolina. Inside was an unwieldy set of chapters that Bob was asking me to consider for the National Bureau of Economic Research monograph series, Long Term Factors in Economic Development, for which I served as editor for almost three decades. Bob and I had no prior discussions of the book he was proposing, which is not to say I was surprised by the manuscript’s arrival since I knew Bob had . . .

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