Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bibliophile: Cavorting Like the Greeks of Tomorrow

“I cannot live without books.”
― Thomas Jefferson

The good ol' library has added some 6001 items this week. So we probably WON'T be doing the completionist list this time around. Here's the books I did get to, after the break.
First, we've clearly just acquired a new digital library, as the first hundred or so entries right out of the gate are electronic resources. But I can't figure out what kind of digital library it was; we've got a lot of medical-related texts, but also a lot of female-penned diaries, from WWI, WWII, and the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christianizing Homer : the Odyssey, Plato, and the Acts of Andrew / Dennis Ronald MacDonald.   New York : Oxford University Press, 1994.
I always found it odd that a lot of the classical texts that have been passed down in the Western tradition were preserved by Christian religious orders. It seems counter-intuitive to me that they'd go to such trouble to copy down what's basically the heresy of nonbelievers. But I guess a large part of that preservation is just that they were people who valued the written word highly, and thought it was their calling to preserve what ever came their way.  Dennis Ronald McDonald, he of the unfortunate name, is looking at something more specific; he's tackling the apocryphal Acts of Andrew, and arguing that the work is an attempt to transform the Homeric epic the Odyssey into a Christian narrative--which is a rather different kind of preservation, one that today would go by the quaint name "plagiarism." He argues that the Acts of Andrew thus shed light on how Homer was received in the empire as a whole in that period. It's an interesting idea, anyway.

Many happy returns : advocacy and the development of archives / edited by Larry J. Hackman. 2011.
You had me at "archives." It's a book with twenty-three essays on how to advocate for archives--how to "intentionally and strategically educate and engage individuals and organizations so that they in turn will support our archival work."  As a scholar in a field that uses archives, I know that it's common to think of them as neutral--despite all our training to the contrary. And I'm guessing that the Internet, something of an archive itself, is harming rather than helping the cause, as it seems to suggest that archives get along just fine without funding. Which isn't even slightly true--mostly, the Internet consists of many archives--search engines--that get by catering to various business interests without telling you. At least these archivists are being upfront about their goal. On the other hand, this book does strike a "Mary Kay Cosmetics" sort of note: "This book ably demonstrates that archivists can (and should!) invest time in advocacy efforts to produce 'many happy happy returns' for themselves and their archives. And now, so can you!". It's the "so can you" that's really eye-brow raising.

Seriously, there are SO MANY journals and autobiographies from various historical women:
Private correspondence of Jane Lady Cornwallis, 1613-1644: From the originals in the possession of the family / [Edited by Lord Braybrooke].
Autobiography and correspondence of Mrs. Delany / Rev. from Lady Llanover's edition, and ed. by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey. 1879.
Diary of Mary Countess Cowper, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, 1714-1720. 1864.
Letters and works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu  / ed. by her great grandson, Lord Wharncliffe.   London : R. Bentley, 1837.
Letters to and from Henrietta, countess of Suffolk, and her second husband, the Hon. George Berkeley : from 1712 to 1767 / With historical, biographical, and explanatory notes [by John Wilson Croker].  
Our department professor who studies life writing has clearly scored a big coup.

 Moving out of that section, there's also a lot of 19th century reports on Canadian parliamentary bills. And by a lot, I mean the next several thousand entries. Examples: 

Bill: an act to remove doubts as to the validity of by-law number fifty-seven, of the corporation of the county of Grey, and of certain debentures thereunder.   Quebec : Thompson, Hunter, [1861]
Bill : an act to divide the county of Sag[uenay] into two municipalities.   Quebec : Hunter, Rose & Lemieux, [1863]
Bill : an act to postone for a limited time the issuing of writs for the next election of members of the Legislative Council.  
Public documents relating to Lord Aylmer's administration of the government of Lower Canada [electronic resource].   [London] : C. Whittingham, [1836?]
 Nova-Scotia, George the Third by the grace of God of Great-Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth : ... know ye that we ... have given and granted ... a plantation ...   [Halifax, N.S.? : s.n., 1787?]
It's the "and  so forth" that makes the last one awesome. "Look, we know you're very important, but let's move on, okay?". I'm sure the information is a godsend to historians, but it's not really an interest of mine. And really, my interests are what we're here for, if I can phrase that in the most narcissistic way possible. Anyway, by the time all is said and done, we're on the 5400th item, and suddenly the "review all new books" thing seems more manageable. So manageable, in fact, I'm going to return to an earlier plan, and toss in the books I didn't get around to LAST Bibliophile.  I'll do four of them, say, and keep the rest of the list for another day, while adding entries for this week that I don't get to to the list as well. If you have no problem with this methodology, imply acceptance by giving me absolutely no sign. ...Good.

**From June 2nd:

Politics of space and place / edited by Chiara Certomà, Nicola Clewer and Doug Elsey. Oct 2012.
It's a collection of essays, one of the sort where the basic subject that binds them all together can be surmised quite nicely from the title. It promises to go "From the national border to the wire fence," which is a nice image. The book consists of ten chapters and an introduction, and it is divided into two parts. "Exclusion, Destruction, Resistance" has essays on the nomad camps in Italy, destruction of homes as erasure of history, and Lima's informal urban settlements. Part two is "Securitisation" and has essays on the politics of security in Vancouver (interesting); the architecture of American governance; ableist discourses of space and vulnerability in the UNCRPD, The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the postindustrialization of class and culture space in the New West Archipelago; Housing Estate; Property rights and regulation; and the global structure of human space. It's certainly got a variety of perspectives and approaches, and I do like that they seem to have a nice mix between very specific essays and very broad essays.

Up against a wall : rape reform and the failure of success / Rose Corrigan.   New York : New York University Press, c2013.
This is not a fun topic, but it is a necessary one. I still remember, years ago, being in a room full of my colleagues, where I happened to be the only male present. Somehow or another, the topic got onto sexual violence and assault, and every other single person in the room had a story about a close call that had happened to them. "Rape culture" is a term that people don't want to accept, but it's a reality. This book is a case study that interviews 150 rape care advocates in the United States to find out why mainstream systems are resisting reforms designed to provide more compassionate and just medical and legal responses to victims of sexual assault. I don't know how polemic this book is, or how accurate it is. But it's important to know that the issue is out there, and can't be dismissed by saying "but we're better now."

Bad vibrations : the history of the idea of music as cause of disease / James Kennaway.   Farnham, Surrey ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, c2012.
In this case, I went so far as to write down what interested me about this book: another book, Lud-in-the-Mist. It's a 1926 fantasy story, and I thought it was about a town bordering fairyland that is eventually engulfed with citizens that become addicted to its music. It's actually about a town that's become addicted to Fairyland's fruit, and thus has no connection to the book at hand at all. So much for my memory of the Masters thesis days. Anyway, I think it's still safe to say that the idea of music as spell-binding, literally, is one that comes up frequently in fantasy, from the singing of the sirens in the Odyssey and onwards. Kennaway's focus is less fantastic; through history, the idea that music can directly harm the body has been a part of medical science and opinion. As such, he's covering the history of pathological music from the Enlightenment until the present day, up to and including subliminal messages and the use of music in torture. Obviously, music has been linked to morality, which in turn is linked very directly to health: see the movie Footloose for a Lithgow-performed example. I imagine this book is pretty fascinating, and, to keep in with my original fantasy motif, could easily inspire some interesting fantasy worlds.

 Listening to the sirens : musical technologies of queer identity from Homer to Hedwig / Judith A. Peraino.   Berkeley : University of California Press, c2006.
Speaking of another wide-ranging study of music throughout history, Peraino examines how music has called into question norms of gendery and sexuality, starting with the sirens and moving throughout history to musical creaturres, musical gods, and music-addled listeners. The blurb promises medieval songs, Handel, disco, Judy Garland, Madonna, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. This book is probably much closer to my "music and fantasy" propositions. I'd be interested in finding out how she's defining technology here. It's a five chapter book, and it seems to be focusing on different "subject areas," as dictated by the chapter subtitles: desire, discipline, sign systems, production, and power. The introduction immediately cites Horkheimer, Adorno, and Althusser, so we're probably going to be looking at some very well-defined issues of ideology and culture.

From listeners to viewers : space in the Iliad / Christos Tsagalis.    2012.
And now, we go to the OTHER ancient Greek epic. A theme seems to have developed. This book is from a series on Hellenic Studies. Tsagalis is doing a close study of how space is presented in the Iliad, differentiating between simple and embedded story space, between space that pertains to the actions of characters and space that refers to their thoughts. In particular, he's arguing that visual memory and the role of metaphor, in such sections as the shield of Achilles, illustrate how the space of the simile functions in relation to the main narrative. Back in the day of my undergraduate classes in Greek and ROman epics, I would have been all over this book. I like the idea, though I'd have to see how the simple/embedded distinction plays out.

All right; now we're returning to the current week's readings.  Everyone see how that works? And going by the dozen rule, we've got another six books to look at.

Early modern things : objects and their histories, 1500-1800 / edited by Paula Findlen.  Feb 2013.
You don't read as many books on OOO as I do without your ears perking up whenever anyone mentions objects. Sticking to the time period described above, the authors in this collection talk on everything from the Ming Dynasty to Georgian England, looking at how objects, natural, man-made, secular, sacred--contributed to the development of the early modern world. The book is just under 400 pages, and is divided into six parts. Part One is The Ambiguity in Things, and includes surface tension and ginseng in Chinese early modernity; animals as things and beings; and the restless clock. Part Two is on representing things, and includes objects in the Dutch Golden Age, material culture and early modern inventories and their relation to domestic interiors; costume and character in the Ottoman Empire. Part three is on making things: techniques and books; consumer behavior and artisanal goods in 17th century Florence. Part Four is Empires of Things: Rhubarb in Early Modern Russia; Silver Coins and the Political Economy of the Early Modern Atlantic World; Timber and Egyptian Grain in the Ottoman Empire. Part Five is Tokugawa and Ieyasu; Porcelain and Tea and Coffee in 18th century Amsterdam; Georgian England and gendered furniture. And the Epilogue is on the Power of Things, with essays on identiy, newness, and denaturalizing. I can't say I recognize any of the contributors, but it sounds like a productive topic to base a collection of essays on.

Replay : the history of video games / Tristan Donovan. 2010.  
 I can't believe we've finally got a copy of this. Replay is, quite simply, the best book on videogame history that I have ever read. It's not an "academic" account, admittedly, but its depth and breadth of subject means it's the most comprehensive guide on the subject that I've ever come across, and I've come across a lot. Mental note to put a hold on this one just as soon as it's back from binding.

Preparing for life in humanity 2.0 / Steve Fuller. Oct 2012.
   My focus in digital studies means that I'm a sucker for titles like these, even if the rhetoric they employ makes me pre-emptively roll my eyes and grit my teeth. It also feels as if talking about 2.0 is a bit dated now, though in Fuller's defense, the book is a sequel to his earlier Humanity 2.0 in 2011. He begins by furthering his conclusions in the earlier book, and sketching out three types of potential futures for humanity: ecological, biomedical, and cybernetic. Wasn't that the plot of the last Deus Ex game? Other topics include how justice and productivity change under humanity 2.0, as well as anthropology, the living conditions and aspirations available to the new human. Also on the docket is how ethical horizons change in erms of the blurring of good and evil, and a new education curriculum in response to changing attitudes regarding the brain. Given the book's rapid publication after Fuller's last book, it's probably best read as a continuation of those ideas. On first glance, it sounds a little sensationalist, but I imagine there's plenty here that would interest a digital media scholar, if only in terms of how loudly they'd be pressed to denounce it.

 Cyberspace and the state : toward a strategy for cyber-power / David J. Betz and Tim Stevens. Dec 2011.
Speaking of terms that feel slightly archaic, is "cyberspace" past its best-before date? Betz and Stevens consider how vulnerable our networks and our networked society is to a knock-out blow by state-sponsored hackers or terrorists. (Why would state-sponsored hackers want to "knock-out" our state-created networks?) And what can be done "to defend the state from this and from the encroachment of external networks that transcend its borders and breach its laws?" The book, basically, is about how threats function in the new tech world, and how they can be dealt with by the state. The book has an endorsement by a former director of the CIA, as well. I imagine this would be another book that digital scholars would be very, very concerned with, if they thought they could say anything about it without being put on a watchlist for speaking out against "the State."

Single woman and the fairytale prince / Jean-Claude Kaufmann ; translated by David Macey.   Cambridge, UK : Polity. 2008.
Well, this is an odd thing. Jean-Claude Kaufmann looks at the letters sent to Marie-Claire magazine after publishing a first-hand account of single female life, and extrapolates on the subject of the single woman. He postulates that this rise in single women households is a reflection of rising divorce rates, professionalization of women, and their dissatisfaction of the "husband-baby-home" model. At the same time, models of the fairytale prince linger, and Kaufmann discusses the figure of the woman waiting. I'm a little dubious about a Continental approach to gender as conducted by a Continental male theorist surveying letters sent in to a magazine, but I'll admit it'd probably be interesting. The book also promises to relate the issue to mail-order brides, which is... also interesting?

Gender and popular culture / Katie Milestone and Anneke Meyer.
Putting "popular culture" in the title is another reliable way of getting my attention. It's a book aiming for an undergraduate audience, designed to introduce students to key theories in gender studies and popular culture, but still apply it in interesting ways: DJs, binge drinking, and computer games are the examples they give. Take out the first one, and you've got a fairly good description of my engagement with popular culture. The book is divided into three sections: production, gender, and popular culture; representation, gender and popular culture; and consumption, gender and popular culture. I'm not sure if you have to repeat "gender and culture" every time, but I suppose they want to be really, really sure we get the point. Snark aside, if I was teaching my Rhetoric and Popular Culture course again, I'd seriously consider using this text. It sounds as if it's hitting a nice balance between a general discussion while still bringing relevant, gender-related issues to the table.

That's our twelve for this week. Tune in next time, where we'll look at more books that didn't make the cut for the past, and maybe even some new books too.

Later Days.

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