Monday, July 9, 2012

Bibliophile: Victorian Squalor

A day late and a dollar short.

This is Bibliophile.

So I forgot to do a post yesterday.  You know the expression, "what if we threw a war and no one came"?.  It was like that, but with a blog post.  And in this case, the blog post wasn't thrown either.  Perhaps it was not that at all.  At any rate, today we're going out west, to the libraries of the University of Victoria.  UVic hosts Canada's top rate digital humanities workshop, the Digital Humanities Institute every year.  Is this randomly chosen week of new books up to that lofty standard?  We shall see. Again, a bolded "H" at the end of an entry means that the university I reside at has the book too.

There's 270 new items this week, apparently.  Oooh.  I can move through this quickly, then.  It wasn't until I went shopping around that I realized the full extent of my library's massive influx.  After York's impressive showing, I was curious to see what other universities did for their new books tab.  UVic is a much more modest affair; it's basically just a list of all the books, much like our own library has--or rather, had.  The one additional feature is that it has the covers of the books listed alongside them.  It's a nice touch; it would be rather redundant for my library, since the binding process usually means covering over the front entirely, but it's still appreciated here.

 Less than nothing : Hegel and the shadow of dialectical materialism / Slavoj Žižek.
I have a confession to make: I don't get Zizek.  I don't mean there are parts of his argument that escape me, and parts that I appreciate; I mean it all flies over my head with a zooming sound that's very faint--on account of just how far over my head it's flying.  I'm okay with Stiegler, I've come to terms with Derrida, Agamben is mostly fine, and I can even appreciate Kristeva when I'm in the right frame of mind, but I find Zizek utterly baffling.  It's odd, because he's generally regarded as one of the more "mainstream" of the European theorists.  I appreciate his use of "Western" pop culture, and his tendency to make jokes, but... the rest just escapes me.  Granted, the last time I attempted to read him was before my comprehensive exams, and my capacity for theoretical humanities has gone up quite a bit since then; maybe he's due for a re-examination.  Not this book, though--this is not one for the dabbler.  At over 1000 pages, "Hegel" is an absolute behemoth of a book, capable of stunning you both mentally and physically.  The basic premise is that Zizek is arguing that modern philosophy has struggled with Hegel's theories of absolute idealism without ever being able to go beyond it, and, as Western society reaches a crisis point, going beyond it is exactly what we need to do.  A perusal of the Table of Contents suggests that he'll also be looking at Marx, Hitchcock, Heidegger, Lacan, quantum physics, and maybe even object oriented ontology.  If you're a Zizek fan, this is essential reading--going to be a long time before I attempt it, though. H.

Oh--and it seems that the listings don't just contain an image of the book's cover--the image is actually a link to the Google book description.   That's a very useful feature.

American indians and popular culture / Elizabeth DeLaney Hoffman, editor. 
I think it says a lot about the culture and area I grew up in that I'm a lot more uncomfortable talking about Indian--or rather, Aboriginal--racial issues than virtually any other kind.  Or virtually any kind of prejudice, really.  I didn't grow up seeing a lot of this sort of discrimination, but that's more because my home town is geographically situated far from any reserve than because my neck of the woods was particularly enlightened.  I do remember going to university when the Darrell Night case was in the news, and, with the hindsight of twelve years, it's still the monstrous, inhuman thing I remember it to be.  Anyway, that's some of the context I bring to Hoffman's book.  The anthology looks at how prejudice and stereotypes are reinforced through pop culture depictions of Indians (I'm going to stick the book's term for the rest of the discussion here).  It's a two volume thing, where Volume 1 covers media, sports, and politics, while Volume 2 covers literature, arts, and resistance.  Topics are loosely divided by era, genre, and medium, so we've got The Eco-Indian: from Rousseau to Avatar; Indian portrayal in Westerns; Marketing the American Indian Casino; and Sacagawea and the Super Woman Super Myth.  It looks like a good resource, for those interested in the subject.


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