― Jorge Luis Borges
It has not been an easy set of days. I had a six and a half hour delay on my flight back to Ontario on Friday, which threw the rest of my travel plans into merry havoc. And yesterday, I struggled with the resurgence of my cold, which somehow regained a foothold after I got up at 5:00 am for a 1:45 pm flight. Today looks to be better. No, it will be better. You know why? Because of the business at hand. Welcome to Royal Roads University Library after the break.
This is Bibliophile.
Royal Roads University has a good old proper New Books tab, which is a welcome addition, after a few weeks of universities with no such provisions at all. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to actually work, which rather sours that affection. And you can't do a general search for all books released 2013. Or a search for both call number and date. So... I guess I'll search randomly among topic names that correspond to the call numbers. This is getting complicated.
Royal Roads University is a vocation-based school, so there's a lot of technical stuff, even in areas more often reserved for abstract thinking. Case in point: Under the philosophy section, for example, we have:
Applied Multidimensional Scaling/ by Ingwer Borg, Patrick J. F. Groenen, Patrick Mair.
Multidimensional scaling, or MDS, as the hip practitioners call it, is used, in this case, to analyze and model psychological results. The book at hand teaches students to apply MDS for two programs, called Proxscal and Smacof. Catchy. And I suppose it calls for a certain type of philosophy, though philosophy is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think "Applied Multidimensional Scaling." H.
Corporeal Identity : When the Self-Image Hurts / by Elena Faccio.
Faccio looks at the difference between people's self-image and their body-reality, particularly in terms of how we draw our identity from that body-image and reality, and the disorders that can result. This study will include cyberspace imagery, anorexia, bulimia, and other illnesses. Hmmm. Calling them illnesses is an interesting tact. Are these people sick? Is there a cure? At any rate, I do like the phrase ending the description: "...dedicated to exploring disorders wherein body identity is the chosen field for communication and exchange." The idea that body identity can be sort of the background noise that shapes all the resulting communication seems right to me. It certainly gauges how people respond to physical encounters and so forth. Looking at the table contents, she'll be discussing a large number of disparate subjects: Cartesian dualism, patriarchy, fashion... but the main focus is modern psychology.
Honor and Revenge: A Theory of Punishment / by Whitley Kaufman.
As long time blog readers are aware, I read a lot of fantasy and superhero stuff; both tend to deal with the notions of revenge and honor. And in particular, the punishment of evil things/super-villains comes up. So I'm interested here. (Although, yes, I recognize that punishment can be applied to nonfictional people as well.) Kaufman argues that there's a paradox of retribution in institutionalized criminal punishment: we can't seem to get beyond the idea that punishment for wrongdoing has a moral basis, but we can't find a permanent, legitimate justification for inflicting harm on those wrongdoers. See? Just like the supervillain thing. And you can't kill them off, because you need them for next week's story. ...Okay, it's not exactly the same. Anyway, in Kaufman's view, that doesn't mean we should abolish such punishment--rather, we should go back to old concepts of honor, that punishment is a defense of the honor of the victim. I don't think I agree with that, on a first response basis, at least. If nothing else, it suggests that the victim should be ashamed, that they've lost honor unless that redress is made, and I think we've got enough of that stigma going on already. And it fails to attack the root of crime. It gets at the individual offender, but at the cost of ignoring that there's anything more at stake. Although, giving Kaufman the benefit of the doubt, there's probably more to it than that.
Monstrous Crimes and the Failure of Forensic Psychiatry / by John Douard, Pamela D. Schultz.
Building on our crime theme, Douard and Schultz begin with the notion that the metaphors of criminal as monster or predator is a powerful framing device for criminal justice and societal response to violent crimes. (Very Lakoff and Johnson mental metaphor.) And as a result of such framing, it's questionable if justice can be done, or what justice means in that regard. To phrase it in comic book/musical terms, what do you do with a problem like the Joker? Over time, he's become less an actual person and more an embodiment of chaos--and as such, he's a metaphor himself for criminal behavior. But he can't be punished in any permanent way, because of the nature of comics, but also because, conceptually, he's beyond any regular notion of punishment. And, to return to the book, we take our own worse natures and project them onto the violent offenders. The authors trace the development of the criminal monster from the 19th century, into the 20th century psychopath, and the transition from carceral punishment to psychological treatment. Sounds interesting, actually. Although now I want to mash it up with a study of Arkham Asylum (where all Batman's villains hang out).
Phenomenology and the Human Positioning in the Cosmos: The Life-world, Nature, Earth: Book One / edited by A-T. Tymieniecka.
That's a big title. Not just phenomenology and the environment, or phenomenology and the earth, but the whole cosmos. To quote the description, "Transcendental consciousness, having lost its absolute status (its point of reference) it is the role of the logos to lay down the harmonious positioning in the cosmic sphere of the all, establishing an original foundation of phenomenology in the primogenital ontopoiesis of life." ...See, it's phrasing like that that makes phenomenology so hard to explain to everyone. Also, I pretty sure that, grammatically speaking, that first comma is in the wrong spot entirely. Anyway, as the title suggests, the focus here is how phenomenology can relate to concepts of the cosmos. Chapter titles include Jadwiga Smith's Cosmo-Transcendental Positioning of the Living Being in the Universe in the Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka's New Enlightenment; Oliver W. Holmes' Competing Concepts of the Cosmos in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries; Abdul Rahim Afaki's Apel's Project of Cognitive Anthropology for Non-Western World and a Supplement of Muslim Proposal; and Imafedia Okhamafe's ( Mis)Triangulated Human Positioning in the Cosmos: (Un)Covering the (Meta)Physical Identity of Agents of Good and Evil in Head and Silko. I have to say, the variety of the topics and names is rather impressive. And J. C. Couceiro-Bueno's Peering Through the Keyhole (The Phenemoneology and Ontology of Cyberspace in Contemporary Societies) sounds interesting.
Right to Be Punished : Modern Doctrinal Sentencing / by Gabriel Hallevy.
I thought I'd ride out this "punishment and justice" thing and see where it takes us. Hallevy claims that people have a right to be punished--that is, a right to a mandated, specific sentence rather than "vague, unclear, and uncertain principles." So... it's a book against activist judges, I guess. And Hallevy lays down some guidelines for that more systemized approach. Honestly, I'm more against this than Kaufman's honor and vengeance; where Kaufman was too personal, too vindictive for my tastes, going to Hallevy's system seems too far in the other direction. It doesn't make any allowances to contingency or circumstances. (I say, without having read this system at all.) I get that there's some unfairness inherent in this method, as a lot depends more on the mood of the judge than the dictates of the law, but there's got to be a happy medium.
Sexual Medicine in Clinical Practice / by Klaus M. Beier, Kurt K. Loewit.
I picked this book because I found the phrasing kind of weird. I mean, I assume it's referring to medicine for sexual dysfunction, but it kind of sounds like the medicine itself is somehow engaging in reckless sexual behavior. Personally, given a choice, I'd prefer my medicine to be asexual. The book itself is basically an advice book for doctors in clinics seeking for general strategies for dealing with long-term patients' questions about sexual health, behavior, and relationships. I can't say I'd be particularly eager to speak to, say, a family doctor about such things, but I'm particularly eager to speak to anyone about such things, (which goes a long way to explain why I'm single. Badumbum.) and I suppose that it's good to see people arguing that this issue should be addressed. In Beier and Loewit's method, sexuality is addressed in terms of attachment, reproduciton, and desire, which seems about right to me. Topics include: the communicative function of sexuality, the spectrum of sexual disorders, diagnostics in sexual medicine, disease-centered vs. client-centered sexual therapy. Treating sexual traumatization, online sex crimes, case studies, ethics, and so forth. It sounds interesting. I can't say clinical/sexual rhetoric is really my area, but if it was, I'd give this book a look.
Transhumanism and Society: The Social Debate over Human Enhancement / by Stephen Lilley.
In posthuman studies, transhumanism is generally politely dismissed; even figures like Stelarc, who certainly seem as good an example of transhuman as anyone we've got, are reconfigured in posthuman rather than transhuman terms. I used to have the difference between them clearer in my head, but here's a basic rule of thumb: transhumanism is starting with the baseline human and adding enhancements onto that; posthuman is realizing our conception of what human is needs to be the first point redressed. That is, the major posthuman critique of transhumanism is that it starts off with a very firm definition of what human is and what it should be. That's not to say that posthumanism doesn't have its own debates and problems, but, well, it's transhumanism that we're talking about right now. The book isn't transhuman vs. posthuman, but transhuman vs. conservatist, as it demonstrates the differing positions between those in favor of high-level body modification and those against it. In particular, the authors look at the discussion over humanism, tension between science and religion, and the interpretation of socio-technological revolutions. That last one seems the most important to me; when we've already got people who are uncomfortable going an hour or so without checking their Twitter feeds, it seems to me that transhuman has already taken on a real presence.
Virtue Ethics and Human Enhancement / by Barbro Fröding.Here's a related book. Fröding is taking a more specific approach to the topic of human enhancement, by examining what it means in terms of some of the ideas Aristotle presents in Nicomachean Ethics. He argues that, to date, the bioethics and neuroethics have been too focused on consequentialist and deontological terms, rather than virtue ethics. While all of those are terms that I have heard of, I really lack the deeper understanding needed to weigh in here. I can say that, of the two books, Lilley's seems more oriented towards a starting understanding of the issues, and Fröding's demonstrates how different, nuanced approaches are possible, and desirable.
Crossroads in Literature and Culture/ edited by Jacek Fabiszak, Ewa Urbaniak-Rybicka, Bartosz Wolski.
It's an anthology about literary texts that talk about crossing boundaries. Now, not to get all literary pedantic (the best kind of pedantic!) on everyone, but crossing boundaries is not the same thing as crossroads. Crossroads are about choices, boundaries are about transgressions. Get it straight, people. The book has eight parts and over five hundred pages, which is an impressive heft for an anthology. It's a rather diverse set of essays too. In Countries and Cultures at Crosswords, we have Gradziel's "Early Modern Travel Writing and Thomas More's Utopia" alongside Ligor's essay on cinematic works, and Rozycki and conspiracy theories in the Da Vinci Code. That's quite a stretch. In fact, section six is exactly on that stretch: "Across Literary Epochs, Bringing Together Writers," which combines Yeats and Blake, Macbeth and modern times, Samuel Beckett and Thomas MacGreevy. That sort of thing. Artur Skweres has an essay on Philip K. Dick in Part V, Private Territories, Social Spaces. Part III, Cross-Language Ventures, consists of a single essay on Alice Walker's The Color Purple (I mean to read that, at some point). There's a lot here.
Oh--with 2 books left, I figured out how to search for all books published in 2013. Well, better late than never.
Classic Telescopes: A Guide to Collecting, Restoring, and Using Telescopes of Yesteryear / by Neil English.
I have no interest in this, but I'm kind of happier knowing that there are people who do.
Defining Street Gangs in the 21st Century : Fluid, Mobile, and Transnational Networks / by C.E. Prowse.
Prowse's premise is that the long-standing model of street gangs is wrong; the accurate model is flowing, and more interchangeable. There's a geographic mobility, yet still a high level of personal bonds. It's part of a larger shift towards human migration and globalization. Basically, he says, we have to think of a new commodity-based turf rather than a territory-based turf for criminal gangs. That makes sense--although "turf" is perhaps not the best word for it, since it's based so fundamentally in territory. In terms of policing, this fluidity means two things. First, that the old model based on finding suspects based on those who are doing things other gang members in that area have done is out. (And if you think my phrasing is convoluted, you should see the original.) Second, it challenges police officers to change the way they share information; the police are still location-based, so to be effective with non-location-based gangs, they have to become more fluid themselves. It sounds like a good reflection on how an aspect of law enforcement is affected by larger societal shifts towards decentralized location. Or something.
That's it for this week. Later Days.