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Six Questions for Hollis Clayson, author of Illuminated Paris

May 18, 2019
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Six Questions for Hollis Clayson, author of Illuminated Paris

To celebrate International Museum Day on May 18th, we sent professor of art history and the Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, Hollis Clayson, a handful of questions about art and the city of light. Let’s start at the beginning: what sparked your interest in the nighttime illumination of Paris? Was there an artwork, or a trip to the city, that started your research? The book grew out of my interest in the topic of Americans especially artists in Paris which of course grew out of my experiences (from wonderful to terrible) as an American in Paris, an American billing herself as an “expert” on French culture. At the beginning of the enterprise, I was initially focused exclusively on Mary Cassatt (who figures prominently in the book and in other essays of mine), but the light angle only really dawned when I saw a painting in storage at the old Terra Foundation Museum of American Art on Michigan Ave., which is on the cover of the book: Charles Courtney Curran, Paris at Night, 1889.   It made me start asking questions about the American imagination of the Paris night and how it differed from the conception of the modernity . . .

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5 Questions for Robin Wolfe Scheffler, author of “A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine”

May 16, 2019
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5 Questions for Robin Wolfe Scheffler, author of “A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine”

In his new book, A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine, Robin Wolfe Scheffler explores the United States’s century-long search for a human cancer virus and reveals the ways in which the effort, while ultimately fruitless, profoundly shaped our understanding of life at its most fundamental levels. We sent Scheffler a few questions to learn more about his research, his motivations for writing the book, his recent reads, and more.  How did you wind up in this academic field, and what do you love about it? A British scientist named CP Snow once claimed that the sciences and humanities were two separate cultures, but I’ve never felt that way. I studied history and chemistry as a student at the University of Chicago. I was drawn to these two subjects because they each connected things—chemistry bridged biology and physics, history bridged the humanities and the social sciences. I explored everything from the economic geography of grain elevators to the mathematical modeling of dimerization before a professor suggested to me that studying the history of science might allow me to connect all of my interests. He was right!   Years later I still enjoy working in . . .

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Tough Enough by Deborah Nelson Receives the 2019 Laing Award

April 26, 2019
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Tough Enough by Deborah Nelson Receives the 2019 Laing Award

We are pleased to announce that Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, and Weil  by Deborah Nelson is the recipient of the 2019 Gordon J. Laing Award. The award was presented by University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer during a gala reception on April 25 at the University of Chicago Quadrangle Club. The Gordon J. Laing Award is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications on the faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the list of the University of Chicago Press. Books published in 2016 and 2017 were eligible for this year’s award. The prize is named in honor of the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States. Published in April 2017, Tough Enough focuses on six brilliant women who are often seen as particularly tough-minded: Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, and Joan Didion. Aligned with no single tradition, they escape straightforward categories. Yet their work evinces an affinity of style and philosophical viewpoint that derives from a shared . . .

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Exploring Chicago’s Maxwell Street with Tim Cresswell

April 17, 2019
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To study the disappearing past of Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood and acquaint himself with its present, Tim Cresswell explored the area on foot, photographing everything he saw. Here are a few of our favorite photos, from Cresswell's newly released book, Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place. . . .

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5 Questions for Joy McCann, author of Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean

March 27, 2019
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In her new book, Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean, Joy McCann reveals the secrets of elusive Southern, or Antarctic, Ocean, weaving together sea captains’ journals, whalers’ log books, explorers’ letters, scientific research, and ancient beliefs with her own travels there while researching the book. We sent McCann a few questions recently to learn more about her motivations for writing the book. First, just where is the Southern, or Antarctic, Ocean? This might seem a straightforward question of geography, but you explain in the book that the exact borders have actually been contested since the early twentieth century. The simple answer is that the Southern Ocean flows completely around the Antarctic continent in the high southern latitudes, uninterrupted by any landmass. Unlike the Arctic region, where ocean is surrounded by land, the Antarctic region comprises land surrounded by ocean and encircled by twenty tiny sub-Antarctic island groups. It is the world’s only circumpolar ocean, and it was formally recognized as the world’s fifth major ocean in 2000 because of its distinctive physical and biological characteristics. As I discuss in Wild Sea, however, the question of Southern Ocean geography is complicated. The northern limits of the ocean are indistinct . . .

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Women’s History Month: Spotlight on the Women of UCP

March 20, 2019
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Women’s History Month: Spotlight on the Women of UCP

To continue our celebration of Women's History Month this March, we want to introduce a few of the amazing young women working behind the scenes at UChicago Press. . . .

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Women’s History Month—Recommended Readings

March 8, 2019
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Women’s History Month—Recommended Readings

In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month throughout March, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite books by or about extraordinary women. This is just to get you started—there are many more great titles to be found throughout our latest catalog and subject lists. “Read with caution: midway through The Dead Ladies Project you’ll be wanting to pack a suitcase and give away your possessions. Crispin is funny, sexy, self-lacerating, and politically attuned, with unique slants on literary criticism, travel writing, and female journeys. No one crosses genres, borders, and proprieties with more panache.” —Laura Kipnis, author of Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation “Behind Nelson’s cool rhetoric lurks an exciting thinker . . . . Raising the question of toughness as a methodology and style is compelling and timely, especially at a time when women are both assuming more powerful roles in public life and having to fight against hostile stereotypes. Nelson is intellectually tough enough to take on these six case studies.”—Times Literary Supplement “Here, in taut, fascinating prose filled with quotes from writings of all sorts from the era, Mickenberg limns the many intrepid women who finagled their way into Russia, starting in the . . .

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International Women’s Day—Read an Excerpt of ‘The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service’

March 8, 2019
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International Women’s Day—Read an Excerpt of ‘The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service’

Before abortion’s legalization, most women with unwanted pregnancies were forced to turn to illegal, unregulated, and expensive abortionists. But in Chicago, those who could discover the organization code-named “Jane” found at least some level of protection and financial help. Laura Kaplan, who joined Jane in 1971, has pieced together the histories of those who broke the law in Hyde Park to help care for thousands of women in what they called the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation. The women of Jane transformed an illegal procedure from a dangerous, sordid experience into one that was life-affirming and powerful. First published in 1995, Kaplan’s history of Jane remains relevant today—with abortion rights once again in the crosshairs in the United States, while draconian measures already make abortions functionally inaccessible to many. Read on for an excerpt from chapter two of the new publication of Kaplan’s groundbreaking text. Population control groups with an ominous eugenics slant joined the ranks of those lobbying for reform. They raised the specter of a dangerous global population explosion among the poor. In that view women were again, as in the medical model, the objects, not the subjects, of the abortion debate. Since their arguments supported the . . .

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Black History Month—Read an Excerpt of ‘Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground’

February 20, 2019
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The uncontested center of the black pulp fiction universe for more than four decades was the Los Angeles publisher Holloway House. From the late 1960s until it closed in 2008, Holloway House specialized in cheap paperbacks with page-turning narratives featuring black protagonists in crime stories, conspiracy thrillers, prison novels, and Westerns that gave readers an unfailing veneration of black masculinity. Zeroing in on Holloway House, Kinohi Nishikawa’s Street Players explores how this world of black pulp fiction was produced, received, and recreated over time and across different communities of readers. Read on for an excerpt from the introduction of this exciting new look into the history and influence of black pulp fiction.  Irvine Welsh’s life changed after he found a copy of Pimp: The Story of My Life in a “used bookshop in Soho,” in London’s West End. Besides the title, what caught his attention was the author’s name. “How could you not pick up a book called Pimp written by a guy named Iceberg Slim?”1 he mused. The book did not disappoint. Originally published in 1967, Pimp was a coming- of- age story unlike any he had read. Abandoned by his father as a baby and left to his own devices by his mother as a kid, Slim recounted a boyhood spent on the streets of Milwaukee and Chicago, . . .

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5 Questions for Eitan Y. Wilf, author of ‘Creativity on Demand’

February 20, 2019
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5 Questions for Eitan Y. Wilf, author of ‘Creativity on Demand’

In his new book—Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age—cultural anthropologist Eitan Y. Wilf focuses his keen eye on innovation in modern business, revealing how our obsession with ceaseless creativity stems from the long-standing value of acceleration in capitalist society. A masterful look at the contradictions of our capitalist age, this book is a model for the anthropological study of our cultures of work. We sent Wilf a few questions recently to learn more about his motivations for writing the book, his recent reads, and his former life as a jazz trumpeter. What’s the best book you’ve read lately? I just finished reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. His prose is marvelous and his descriptions of, as well as insights about, poverty are ethnographic in the best sense of the term. How did you wind up in this academic field, and what do you love about it? Before studying anthropology, I majored in jazz performance as a trumpeter. Jazz is one of my biggest passions. I enjoyed music school very much but I also missed having a stronger theoretical-discursive focus. For the same reason, although I seriously considered fields such as medicine, physics, and civil engineering, I eventually decided to go in . . .

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