Monday, November 12, 2012

Bibliophile: Lethbridge--Oxbridge's less fictional cousin

In Soviet Russia, the books read you.

That is an outdated joke.

This is Bibliophile.

This week, after an absence, Bibliophile returns with the University of Lethbridge. U of L highlights a short number of new titles on their front page, but it's hardly a comprehensive list.  And it allows patrons to request for notification of new books in a particular subject or field.  I like the personal touch, but it's not really applicable here.  Instead, we'll go by a mainstay method,and search the library for books published since 2012.  The added wrinkle is that their search only allows author, title, and subject, which is unusually strict.  Well fine: we'll use the library of congress subject headings.  That means first up is philosophy, followed by history.  And those two alone are enough to fill up twelve entries, so we'll leave it at that.  (And of course, you can't sort the results by call number, just title, relevance, date.  U of L uses the Encore system--if I may indulge in my online library catalogue snobbery, it shows.)

Gilles Deleuze and the fabulation of philosophy / Gregory Flaxman
If you're using the patent-pending Bibliophile bingo cards, you may now check the Deleuze box off.  Now, for someone who makes a point of highlighting every Deleuze book he comes across, it's kind of embarrassing at this point that I've still barely read any of his work.  I only mention it here to remind you, gentle reader, that this description is Flaxman's opinion; I don't have the expertise to evaluate its validity.  Anyway, Flaxman says that Deleuze's rejection of representation meant that he desired a new fabulation of philosophy.  This new version revolves around the concept of friend, the "philos" of philosophy, and how Deleuze relates to his fellow philosopher in "friendly" terms, from Plato to Foucault.  In particular, Deleuze felt a great debt to Nietzsche.  There's a nice passage about it: "Nietzsche envisions the philsopher as an archer who fashions concepts into arrow and launches them into the future--all in the hope that someday someone will discover his projectiles" (xvi).  Deleuze, he argues, is following Nietzsche's theory of falseness to overwrite the foundations of philosophy, starting with the constructed nature of truth.  It sounds fine, I guess, for someone who's looking for something a little off the Deleuzian beaten track.  H.
Philosophy in children's literature / edited by Peter R. Costello
Let me be honest--I picked this book just so I'd have an excuse to look up the list of books they were looking at--and to see if I'd finally get that critical analysis of Lemony Snickett I've always wanted.  While I approve of studying children's lit from a philosophical perspective in general, this book is pretty broad, judging from the title.  The book is divided into three sections: picture books, chapter books, and... more picture books.  Only ore detailed.  Section one has Kirsten Jacobson's essay on anxiety, toys and metaphysics in The Velveteen Rabbit; Dina Mendonca on finding the self in others in Are You My Other;Carl F. Miller on ethics in Horton .  Matthew F. Pierlott on Shel Silverstein (excellent).  Section 2 has Aaron Allen Schiller and Denise H. B. Schiller on word play in Ramona the Pest; and Sarah O'Brien Conly on Utopia and Intelligence in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  And the final section looks at The Giving Tree, and Where the Wild Things Are.  It's a nice assortment, I suppose, though it barely scratches the surface of the medium as a whole.  (Rebellion and subversion in the Stinky Cheese Man.  Gender roles in the Paper Bag Princess.  Othering in My Teacher Is an Alien.  And so forth.)
Third person : politics of life and philosophy of the impersonal / Roberto Esposito ; translated by Zakiya Hanafi  
 Any long-term readers of the blog (not that there are very many of those, nor very many of that select group peruse the fine detail of the Bibliophile entries) have probably had it up to here with Object Oriented Ontology.  What can I say?  It's the hot topic of the moment.  First you had the cyborg, and conceptualizing the posthuman.  Then you had animal studies, and conceptualizing the nonhuman.  And then you had OOO, and conceptualizing that which is incapable of total conception, either making it, or being the subject of it.  And yes, there's a bit of navel gazing about it all, because at the end of the day, we don't know what it feels like to be a rock, and we really can't.  On the other hand, it does one good to step back and look at various human concepts, and realize that they're just human concepts, not the be-all and end-all we sometimes pretend them to be.  Anyway, the book at hand argues that we need to move away from the personal and into the the impersonal, in the third person.  Looking at the introduction, it's very readable, which is sometimes not the case for a translated work; kudos to Esposito and Hanafi on that score.  Anyway, Esposito's perspective on the impersonal is far from the usual OOO-ist--he's not decrying the focus on humans, he decrying the way that the focus on the concept of the person itself has held us back, and, on those terms, he calls for a new biopolitics.  (And as may be expected, he calls on Foucault and Deleuze in this.)  So yeah: biopolitics, Foucault and Deleuze, very readable.  You can decide for yourself if that translates into something you want to read.  H.
Replacing home : from primordial hut to digital network in contemporary art / Jennifer Johung
 Johung looks at conceptions of home, of "staying in place" (which are not the same thing), in site specific art, portable architecture, and other imaginable shelters.  It means looking at home and place as something reusable, rather than fixed constructions, in art and in architecture.  I'm generally of two minds of projects like this: on the one hand, it's usually a good thing to think out alternatives to the world as it is.  On the other hand, it's also easy to fall into the trap of praising some notion of neo-primitivist nomadic culture that never really existed (at least, not in the idealized form).  But I have no reason to believe Johung is going that way, so she should get the benefit of the doubt.  Rather, we should consider things in terms of the examples she offers. Chapters include Returning to the Hut (not a great sign), Visibly Skinned--transformable clothing-- and Netword Dependencies, among others. In the intro, she raises the Guattari and Deleueze (there's THAT guy again) theory of nomad space, that which is open-ended, deterritorialized, heterogenous, and shifting, as opposed to the more territorial definition.  And it jumps straight into criticism of the same, starting with Spivak.  Man, I should really read the introductions before wild speculation, huh?  Then again, I have nailed the first part of this discussion pretty thoroughly.  Johung's argument is that no matter which side of the argument you fall under, modern art and architecture is following this context in redefining and repalcing our concept of home.  Sounds promising.  H.
Genealogy and ontology of the Western image and its digital future / John Lechte
I've done a lot of reading up on image-based discussion for my dissertation. The general claim, for the past twenty years or so, is that the image has come to dominate over the word.  For example, *I* think the image has come to dominate over the word.  Despite the fact that I've been writing a blog that's almost entirely text for four years now.  Anyway, Lechte wants to examine the discussion of the image in the light of the digital, where the argument is that there is no image--everything's digital.  Where once the photographic image was a testament to truth and the real (not that this was ever really true), now it can be manipulated, and altered.   Part One studies the image through out (Western) history, from ancient Greece to the Industrial Revolution.  Part 2 is the image in digital and cinema, with a look at Barthes, Benjamin, Deleuze, Satre, and Stiegler.  Hmmm.  That's an impressive list.  Mental note: check this out for my own purposes. H.
Gender-technology relations : exploring stability and change / Hilde G. Corneliussen
 Corneliussen looks at gender-technology issues from 19880 to today.  It's cultural studies and computers, essentially.  Corneliussen's previously edited a World of Warcraft reader with Jill Walker Rettberg, which means some familiarity with digital and cultural issues.  She's coming at it from an information and communication technologies, which means a social sciences sort of approach.  The center of the book is the assumption that masculinity is inextricably connected to technology, and how this assumption remains basically unchanged and stable, when most rhetoric of technology focuses on its potential for change.  As such, her own focus for the book is how such a rhetoric comes into place, with a focus on her own context in Norway, from 1980 onward. H.
Urban theory beyond the West : a world of cities / edited by Tim Edensor and Mark Jayne
I was talking to someone on Saturday about Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, and the discussion reminded me on how much spatial theory appears to me, particularly in the form of fantasy cities.  Calvino's Invisible Cities is my favorite work, and I think it's the strong city-bases that give Mieville his central concepts.  Cities are, of course, at the core of the superhero comic, and one of Neil Gaiman's best Sandman issues is about the dreams that cities have while they slumber.  Edensor and Jayne are overseeing an examination of cities that is less fantastic, but still interesting.  The objective of the book is to widen the perspective on cities that don't receive a lot of critical attention.  As such, we have essays focusing on urban China, postsocialist Europe, Nicaragua, Morelia, Mexico,  Dehli, Dubai, and so forth.  I'm not as big a fan as cities that actually exist, but it sounds interesting.  H.

Comic books and American cultural history : an anthology / Matthew Pustz
 When I saw the title, I was sure I came across this book before, but the Blogger search tool says I haven't listed a book by Pustz before, and that's good enough for me.The theory behind this book is that comic books can be used as sources for American Cultural History.  As such, part one is doing cultural history through comic books, and includes essays on Frontier Myth and Preacher (good choice, though I don't know if I'd teach Preacher in a classroom) and using Wonder Woman as a discussion starter.  Part Two is Comics as Cultural Artifacts, and looks at Marriage and Materialism in American Romance Comics (sounds like fun), and Identity in Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.  The third section is Comic Books and Cultural History, and includes Gene Yang's American Born Chinese and Identity (another good topic) and Nick Fury, Agent of Change (I do hope they'll cover his transition from GI to SHIELD director to Samuel L. Jackson looklike.  And Part four  is comic books and contemporary history, which essentially means a bunch of essays on "post-9/11."  At 16 essays, it's a fairly diverse collection.  I would have liked to have seen an essay on Shade The Changing Man, and I suppose American Vampire is too new to have made the cut, but there's some nice stuff here.
Super-history : comic book superheroes and American society, 1938 to the present / Jeffrey K. Johnson
Super-history follows a similar premise of Pustz's anthology, as Johnson is also using comics to follow American history.  The difference is that he's a) doing it in a more thorough, continuous sort of fashion, and b) using the portrayal of superheroes to do the job.  It's an idea that works: early Superman was very critical of government, but WWII era was much more about fighting the Nazis.  The famous Green Arrow / Green Lantern series by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams discovered that Speedy was on drugs.  And who can forget the Spider-Man anti-drugs PSA?  Johnson divides the book into eras: WWII heroes, the nuclear era, supernomal and the 195-s, counterculture heroes in the 60s, 70s and the American Malaise, Super-Conservatives in the 80s, the 90s search for a new direction, and 2000s' decade of fear.  The 60s stuff is the dawn of the new Marvel characters.  the 80s is the era of Batman: Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.  And the 2000s have Secret invasion and Identity Crisis.  
Alcohol in world history / Gina Hames
 This, apparently, is part of a larger book series of the "______ in World History" type.  Food in World History, Migration in World History, Childhood in World History, Sexuality in World History, Consumerism in World History, Sports in World History, Religion in World History...  I'm a little surprised there's not a History in World History.  I suddenly got an idea for a book proposal... Hames book looks at alcohol in terms of the industrial world, discussing the impact of colonialism, alcohol in the pre-world economy, and alcohol in the age of globalization.  It's tempting to draw overarching conclusions from global perspectives, but what they really offer, I think, is an index of how different human societies have faced similar problems.

Psychedelic psychiatry : LSD on the Canadian prairies / Erika Dyck 
I believe the technical term for it in rural Saskatchewan is "crystal meth."  

...And since today is now technically tomorrow, I think that's enough for todaymorrow.  Later Days. 


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