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January 26th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office



This week our featured book is Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office, by Frederick Douglass Opie

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Upsetting the Apple Cart to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, January 30 at 1:00 pm.

“A valuable contribution to the study of the mid- to late-twentieth-century history of New York City….[P]rovides the reader with a detailed, almost blow-by-blow account of the various attempts by African Americans and Latinos to find a common political cause and build lasting coalitions.”—Xavier F. Totti, Lehman College

Read the introduction to “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”

January 23rd, 2015

Read Excerpts from the Diaries of Hollywood Legend Charles Brackett



It's the Pictures That Got Small

The following are some excerpt from Charles Brackett’s diaries, portions of which have been published in It’s the Pictures That Got Small: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age. Charles Brackett was the longtime writing partner of Billy Wilder. In the following passages he recounts working with Wilder and interactions with a variety of Hollywood notables.

August 18, 1936: Worked with Billy Wilder, who paces constantly, has over-extravagant ideas, but is stimulating. He has the blasé quality I have missed sadly in dear Frank Partos. He has humor—a kind of humor that sparks with mine.

[At this point, Charles Brackett adds the following note to the typed tran­scription of his diary.]

(It’s time to examine him as he was then: 32 years old, a slim young fellow with a merry face, particularly the upper half of it, the lower half of his face had other implications. But from his brisk nose up it was the face of a naughty cupid. Born some place in Poland [“half-an-hour from Vienna,” he used to say, “by telegraph.”] he has been brought up in Vienna and schooled there, the Lycée—which means he had just about the education of a bright American college graduate. He’d gone to Berlin, worked at various things, among others he’d been a dancer for hire at fashionable restaurants. And he’d written an article about his experiences in that capacity. He’d then become a successful screenwriter: Emil und die Detective [1931] was a delightful and successful picture he wrote.

Because he was Jewish and had an acute instinct for things that were going to happen, he had slipped out of Germany as Hitler began to rise.

In Paris he had written and directed a picture in which Danielle Darrieux played the lead. One great advantage was his: he had cut the teeth of his mind on motion pictures. He knew the great ones as he knew the classic books. He’d been brought to Hollywood by a German producer and set to work on Music in the Air. Music in the Air was a real abortion. After it ap­peared, other writing assignments were not easy to come by.

There was a time when, due to the protective affection of a woman who ran a conservative apartment house on Sunset Boulevard, he was allowed to sleep in the ladies’ room, provided he was out by the time the tenants began to appear.

Discouraged and just about to go back to New York, he called his agent to an­nounce his departure. His agent had been trying to get hold of him for days: he’d sold three stories.

This all sounds improbable, but it was the kind of improbability that was built into Billy Wilder. Before we were joined in collaboration, I’d known him as a jaunty young foreigner who worked on the fourth floor at Paramount, where I worked. He had been a collaborator of Don Hartman’s. Only one anecdote about him at that period sticks in my mind:

I’d gone to meet somebody with whom I was to have dinner in the Holly­wood Brown Derby. While I waited, Billy came in and I asked him to join me for a drink. As we sat together, the swing door was opened on the wintry evening to admit a luminous figure. “Look who’s coming in!” I breathed.

Billy gave a cursory glance over his shoulder. “Marlene!” he snorted. “That excites you?” I admitted that it did. “She’s old hat for us,” he said. “Let me tell you if the waiter were to wheel over a big covered dish with her in it stark naked, I’d say, ‘Not interested,’ and have him wheel her away.”

I was enormously impressed with this world-weary man. It wasn’t for years that I came to know that Marlene had been an idol of his, worshipped since he first saw her.)

Read the rest of this entry »

January 23rd, 2015

University Press Roundup



University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

This week started off with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so it’s only fitting that this week’s University Press Roundup should start with posts from a number of blogs in honor of the occasion. First of all, at the Florida Bookshelf, the blog of the University Press of Florida, W. Jason Miller explains how the poetry of Langston Hughes inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermons. Jennifer J. Yanco, writing at the Indiana University Press blog, looks at the recently released film Selma, and wonders whether the movie could be a turning point in how people see Dr. King, while Hasan Kwame Jeffries looks at the actual events of Selma in 1965 at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press. Finally, at the SUP blog, Vincent J. Intondi uncovers a less frequently discussed aspect of Dr. King’s politics: his stance against the use and creation of nuclear weapons.

At the University of Washington Press Blog, Laura Kina discusses “the emerging discipline of mixed race studies,” how it has been affected by recent racially charged events (particularly those at Ferguson), and what it can offer to the public dialogues about race in America.

“In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, the Islamophobia pervading Western democracies is the best recruitment tool for violent extremists.” Writing at the OUPblog, Justin Gest makes the case that violent and/or oppressive backlash against Muslims in Western countries following terrorist attacks (France is the most recent example), is a major part of the plan for Islamic extremists who are behind such attacks. Meanwhile, at fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, Emile Chabal asks whether crises like the Charlie Hebdo attack actually serve to unite France, rather than divide it.

Thursday was the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, and in honor of the occasion, the Harvard University Press Blog is featuring an adapted excerpt from the Foreword to Mary Ziegler’s After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate. Ziegler argues that “by paying attention so exclusively to the Supreme Court we have lost a much richer story about the evolution of abortion politics.”

This week, the Penn Press Log introduced an exciting new addition to the academic publishing blogosphere: the JHIBlog of the Journal of the History of Ideas. They also featured the first JHIBlog post, which explains what the new blog hopes to accomplish.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 22nd, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: “Samuel Taylor’s Last Night,” by Joe Amato



Samuel Taylor's Last Night

“[Samuel Taylor's Last Night] has an appeal and an intensity to it that are both personal and cultural, both emotional and critical, and the images, insights, and considerations tarry with you, lending the book a marked, essayistic and moral dimension that calls for a slow digestion.” — Christian Moraru

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! Today’s Thursday Fiction Corner post features Joe Amato’s recently published novel, Samuel Taylor’s Last Night. Amato’s academic novel has been reviewed in both the Los Angeles Review of Books and Inside Higher Education. Read on for excerpts from both reviews, as well as a short excerpt from the novel itself!

In the LARB review, Christian Moraru explores the ways that the novel “is a text at war with itself”:

Samuel Taylor’s Last Night is a text at war with itself because the narrator S.T. is at war with himself, but on a deeper level, Joe Amato is staging, with humor and inventiveness, an agonistic poetics — an antipoetics in the best (anti)tradition of self-reflective surfiction and avant-pop parodic bricolage. As in Ronald Sukenick, Raymond Federman, Steve Katz, Curtis White, Mark Amerika, and Mark Leyner, this modus operandi speaks to a paradoxically clarifying “anti-transparency.” They all seek to debunk the pseudo-realistic, instrumentalist myth of writing as, in S.T.’s words, “a transparent medium through which a reader might be transported to untold representational or ideational coordinates.” The myth rests on a misconception perpetuated by lay audiences and “storyteller entertainers” alike, for whom “the telling of stories is not the primary aim” of storytelling. Instead, what matters to such “tribes,” S.T. says, is that language might take you beyond itself, to some “places foreign to the text itself.”

Read the rest of this entry »

January 22nd, 2015

What Charles Brackett Tells Us About the Films of Billy Wilder — Anthony Slide



The following essay is by Anthony Slide, editor of “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age. (To save 30% on this book use the discount code SLIITS):

On Sunday, January 11, I introduced a tribute to Charles Brackett, held most appropriately at the Billy Wilder Theatre, located at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The two films screened that night were The Lost Weekend and Five Graves to Cairo, one very well known and and an Academy Award-winner and the other less so.

It was fascinating to watch these films again with the knowledge of what Brackett had to say about them in his diaries. I strongly recommend that anyone reading the diaries should try to revisit the Brackett/Wilder films. Certainly, one views them in a different light. For example, the first shot in The Lost Weekend is an exterior of Don Birnam’s New York apartment, and thanks to Brackett’s diary entry, we know that the apartment is actually a set built on the roof of Hahn’s Warehouse. Or, every time Doris Dowling, who plays Gloria in film, opens her mouth, one can’t help but think of Brackett’s description of her performance as “amateurish.”

The programming staff at the Billy Wilder Theatre had selected the evening’s films as two that had not been screened recently in Los Angeles. Would my choice have been different? Probably yes. One Brackett and Wilder film that is difficult to see on the big screen in 35mm is The Emperor Waltz, their only Technicolor production and their only musical. It is, in reality, not one of their greatest achievements, but if I saw it again—thanks to the diaries—I would have wondered at the couple’s original casting notion: Greta Garbo opposite Bing Crosby. When I suggested this to the audience at the Billy Wilder Theatre, there was laughter, but would it have been such a bad idea? Garbo was actually enthusiastic, claiming admiration for Crosby, but she was too frightened to face the camera again, and so the role went to Joan Fontaine.

It is now 75 years since Brackett and Wilder made Sunset Blvd., their most famous film, and one that is screened too often in the Los Angeles area for it to make it into the Charles Brackett Tribute. If anything makes the Brackett diaries worthy of publication, it is what he writes about Sunset Blvd. There is so much original documentation here. It is fascinating to read of Wilder and his telling of the movie’s plot to Mary Pickford and jointly deciding as they make their pitch that they just don’t want her for Norma Desmond. How incredible it is that the day before shooting the famous “waxworks” scene of the group of silent stars playing bridge, the second female role had not been cast. Both Theda Bara and Jetta Goudal had been in consideration. Both ladies said no, and, having known Miss Goudal, I can well imagine, as Brackett writes, that she spent half-an-hour on the telephone rejecting his casting call. Ultimately, the afternoon before the scene was shot, Brackett thought of Anna Q. Nilsson, a blonde star of the silent era who was working by then as an extra, and she was a perfect match for the role — her sweetness and waning prettiness at odds with the artificiality of Swanson’s aging, heavily made-up beauty.

Regardless, the two films presented that evening went over well, and emphasized that Brackett and Wilder were a team who naturally complemented each other, regardless of their very different backgrounds and often simmering hostility. I would like to believe that they always maintained a healthy respect for each other, long after they parted company. I know that Brackett never criticized Wilder in public, and I was interested to learn from Larry Mirisch, who was in the audience that night, and whose father, Walter, produced more than a dozen of Wilder’s later films, that Billy never said one word about Brackett.

The diaries speak for themselves—and really they speak for both men.

January 21st, 2015

An Interview with Anthony Slide, editor of “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”



The following is an interview with Anthony Slide, the editor of “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age. (You can save 30% on “It’s the Pictures That Got Small” by using the coupon code SLIITS when you order from our site.)

“The two were as different as it is possible to be. Brackett was older and wiser. Wilder was young and brash. Wilder was a liberal. Brackett was a conservative—a staunch Republican—American and Episcopalian. Wilder was European and Jewish. And yet they complemented each other so well.” —Anthony Slide

Question: Who Was Charles Brackett?

Anthony Slide: Charles Brackett’s background is both patrician and literary. He came from a wealthy New England family, and in the 1920s he wrote short stories for the Saturday Evening Post, served as drama critic for The New Yorker, and was a member of the Algonquin Round Table. In 1932, Charley (as I like to call him after working with him posthumously on his diaries for so many years) came to Hollywood, and at Paramount he had a lengthy relationship, as co-writer and producer, with legendary writer-director Billy Wilder.

Q: Why are his diaries important?

AS: Charley’s diaries, as currently published, cover the years 1932-1949. (There are additional diaries for the period 1950-1962, when he was working at 20th Century-Fox, and I hope one day that they also will be published.) The diaries are unique in film history in that they are the only daily record from the period not only of the social life of a major Hollywood figure, but also the daily working of a major Hollywood studio, Paramount. I like to say that just as Samuel Pepys recorded life in seventeenth-century London, so does Charles Brackett record life in twentieth-century Hollywood.

Q: How did you find the diaries?

AS: In 2007, Jim Moore, who is Brackett’s grandson, donated the diaries, along with many of his grandfather’s papers, to the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Fortuitously, Jim had heard of my reputation in the field and approached me, initially to place a financial value on the collection. I didn’t have time back then to read all the diaries, but even so it was obvious to me, just from a sampling, that they had tremendous historical importance, and that they deserved to be read by a much wider audience than the few scholars and students who might come across them at the Academy.

Luckily, Jim was more than happy to agree to my editing the diaries, and my only regret is that it has taken an incredible eight years to complete the editing process, find a suitable publisher, and get the finished product into the bookstores. I might add that when I first started, I was scrupulously annotating almost every name and subject, but then I realized that my annotations reduced the amount of space available for Charley’s actual diary entries. I decided, perhaps with a certain amount of regret, that it was better to cut back on the annotations—after all, surely any reader of a book such as this does not need to be told who is Claudette Colbert or Gary Cooper?

Read the rest of this entry »

January 21st, 2015

Mastering the Restaurant Wine List — Natalie Berkowitz



The Winemaker's Hand

“Think of a new wine as a blind date. While you might not want to make it permanent, a relationship with a new varietal or label need only last for an evening. Conversely, it might be love at first sight, something worthwhile going out with it again.”—Natalie Berkowitz

The following post is by Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir. (Save 30% on The Winemaker’s Hand by using the coupon code WINBER when ordering from our site.)

Wine lists make people nervous, especially newcomers to the world of wine. It’s impossible for anyone, including masters of wines (dare I make such a challenging statement?) to be familiar with every label from every wine region around the world. A leather-bound tome chock-full of choices is sure to cause an uncomfortable jolt, even to sophisticated enophiles. A difficult burden lies on the individual at the table who is called on to make the choice and others at the table are relieved to be free of the task. Generally speaking most selections will be perfectly suitable.

It’s good to take control sometimes, particularly in the company of a big spender with deep pockets who always picks the foie gras supplement on the menu and who equates high price with quality. Equally troublesome is the cheapskate. Whoever the burden falls on whether the most initiated, most willing or conscripted, remember the moderation is the key word. To paraphrase Shakespeare, neither a miser nor spendthrift be. Be considerate of other people’s wallets. Target middle-priced wines, not the cheapest on the list or the most expensive. If the restaurant is ethnic, it’s a good idea to pick wines of the region.

Complications arise when two or more people order different appetizers or main courses. The conventional wisdom is “red with meat and white with poultry or fish,” but that doesn’t help under those circumstances. And then, rules are meant to be broken. Particular preferences, allergies or prejudices compound the issue. When making a choice gets out of hand, a simple solution is to order wine by the glass or a bottle each of a red and a white wine.

Here are some helpful tips:

Rely on the sommelier for assistance in choosing a wine. Perhaps the most important relationship in a restaurant is the one between customer and sommelier. Today’s increasingly complex menu preparations require an avid partnership between the master of the kitchen and the keeper of the wine cellar. The first order of business for the latter is to develop a sympathetic understanding of the chef’s culinary creations. Unfortunately, it is rare to find professionals in kitchen and dining room who overcome their territorial turfs and often-oversized egos. The sommelier theoretically should play a supporting role to the chef, becoming intimately involved with the philosophy and tastes of what comes through the kitchen’s swinging doors. Yet the best interests of customers are served when the two work in harmony to determine the best match between wine and food.

What assistance should restaurant patrons expect from sommeliers? Suggestions for a satisfactory wine and food pairing. Help deciphering a wine list loaded with unfamiliar labels and varietals from wine regions around the world. (Ah, for the simpler days of red- sauced Italian food and Chianti poured from straw-covered bottles.)

In the absence of a sommelier, realize there are friendly varietals. A well-crafted Sauvignon blanc can display a range of flavors that generally is a crowd-pleaser. Merlot is currently at the head of the pack in the red wine category and while it was often the axiom that Cabernet sauvignons were difficult to drink young, new techniques of vinification make them more accessible. Silky Pinot noirs are a great choice for four disparate dinners. Spicy, perky red Zinfandels (not the white kind that are too sweet to go with food) or well-crafted, un-oaked Chardonnays fit the bill. Argentinean Malbecs are quite the current rage as an excellent match with hearty foods.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 20th, 2015

New Book Tuesday! Faces of Power, Latin Hitchcock, Picasso Ceramics, and More New Books!



Faces of PowerOur weekly listing of new books now available:

Faces of Power: Constancy and Change in United States Foreign Policy from Truman to Obama
Seyom Brown

The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southwest (Now available in paper)
Trudy Griffin-Pierce

Latin Hitchcock: How Almodóvar, Amenábar, De la Iglesia, Del Toro and Campanella Became Notorious
Dona Kercher

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Collaboration and Conflict in the Age of Diaspora
Edited by Sander L. Gilman

Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives
Edited by Monica Chiu

Picasso Ceramics: Objects from the Nina Miller Collection
Edited by Florian Knothe

The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-wai: Film Poetics and the Aesthetic of Disturbance
Gary Bettinson

Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s
James Wicks

FILTH: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong
Jingan MacPherson Young

Red Chamber in the Concrete Forest
Wang Haoran

From Warhorses to Ploughshares: The Later Tang Reign of Emperor Mingzong
Richard L. Davis

The Golden Ghetto: The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784-1844
Jacques M. Downs

January 20th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “‘It’s the Pictures That Got Small’: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age



This week our featured book is “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age edited by Anthony Slide.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of “It’s the Pictures That Got Small to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, January 23 at 1:00 pm.

“Reading Brackett’s diary entries is like stepping into a time machine. It provides a vivid and valuable account of day-to-day life in the heyday of Hollywood’s studio system–and a bittersweet chronicle of his volatile relationship with Billy Wilder. I couldn’t put the book down.”—Leonard Maltin”

Read Anthony Slide’s introduction to “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”

January 16th, 2015

University Press Roundup



University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

We’ll start things off this week with a post at the JHU Press Blog written by Keith Brock of the John’s Hopkins University Press staff. Brock discusses the JHUP Diversity Committee, and tells the story of how he helped to create it. Some of the work that the JHUP Diversity Committee does: “I can proudly say that we have started our process through volunteer activities, community collaborations (both internal and external), diversity training, creating mission statements, and increasing awareness.”

Professor Juan Flores, a well-known and widely respected scholar of Puerto Rican identity and culture, passed away in late 2014. At the UNC Press Blog, Christina D. Abreu honors Flores and discusses the ongoing importance of his work in a guest post.

Stanford University Press is launching a “novel publishing initiative for scholars in the digital humanities and computational social sciences” with grant funding from the Mellon Foundation. This week, the SUP blog is hosting a series of posts on what it means to publish digital scholarship, with articles explaining the new program, explaining their reasoning behind the move to a new publishing paradigm, and explaining how the new digital-born scholarship will aid researchers.

The attack on the Charlie Hebdo office has prompted a wide range of responses, and several scholarly publishing blogs have posted interesting takes on the situation. At fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, Ritu Gairola Khanduri looks at the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons through the lens of her work on similarly provocative cartoons in India, with a focus on how “[c]artoons show us that politics is sensory.” At the OUPblog, Christopher Hill argues that these attacks mark the end of the “French exception,” a term describing the relative freedom from terrorist attack that France has enjoyed over the past fifteen years, particularly in comparison to European neighbors like Spain and Britain. And at Beacon Broadside, Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski worry that “the reaction to these tragic killings seamlessly moves forward within an easily manipulated narrative. This story is compellingly shaped by the twin themes of terrorism and destruction of freedom of speech. Because this narrative is framed by the politics of fear, resentment, and vengeance, it has become as volatile and potentially incendiary as the actions that produced it.” Read the rest of this entry »

January 15th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: “The Tingling, Tangling Tango as ’tis Tripped at Coney Island,” by Djuna Barnes



A Coney Island Reader

Welcome to the Thursday Fiction Corner, where we highlight some of the excellent fiction from our list and the lists of our distributed presses. This week, we are happy to present an excerpt from A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion, edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola. A Coney Island Reader brings together over one hundred years of writing about Coney Island, from authors ranging from Walt Whitman to Katie Roiphe. In today’s post, we’ve excerpted a short piece originally published in the Eagle in 1913 by American modernist writer Djuna Barnes: “The Tingling, Tangling Tango as ’tis Tripped at Coney Island.”

January 15th, 2015

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad



Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s guest post, Aggarwal discusses a recent New York Times article on efforts to keep Western citizens from “traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries,” and how the War on Terror has been and is being shaped by sometimes troubling stereotypes.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad
By Neil Krishan Aggarwal

A New York Times article dated January 13, 2015 and titled “West Struggles against Flow to War Zones” describes North American and European officials struggling to “stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” The article comes after last week’s tragic attacks in France and reflects major themes from my book Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft. In my book, I analyze questionable claims of Orientalist stereotypical scholarship and de-radicalization programs, some of which appear in this article. By scrutinizing this article, I hope to show how such claims recur in an influential newspaper and shape public discussions of the War on Terror. Only by inspecting such claims one at a time can we discern how the War on Terror has permeated popular culture.

1. The “West/Rest” fallacy. The authors begin: “For more than a decade, Western governments have struggled to stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” This assertion implies a rigid division among Muslims and non-Muslims. Where does the West begin and end? What is the standard for “Muslim countries”? Is a Muslim country defined on the basis of political system (Saudi Arabia), population (Indonesia), or Orientalist notions of the Middle East? Are we not comparing apples and oranges by contrasting entities based on geography (“Western”) and religion (“Muslim”)? Read the rest of this entry »

January 14th, 2015

An interview with Daniel Yacavone, author of “Film Worlds”



Film Worlds

The following is an interview with Daniel Yacavone, author of Film Worlds: A Philosophical Aesthetics of Cinema:

Q: How would you situate Film Worlds within film theory and the expanding field of film and philosophy?

A: Over the past few decades there has been a notable turn towards philosophy in disciplinary film studies. One example is the influence of Gilles Deleuze’s writings on cinema (indebted to Henri Bergson and C.S. Peirce), which film theorists have found productive to engage with; another is the widespread interest in phenomenology – particularly Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s version of it – in relation to perceptual, affective, and ‘embodied’ aspects of films and film viewing. More or less simultaneously, within Anglophone academic philosophy there has been a renewed interest in how some films dramatize philosophical issues and problems, in the question of whether cinema can serve as a medium for philosophical thought and argument, and the relation between films and their experience and issues in the philosophy of perception, cognition, and emotion (as overlapping with cognitive film theory).

In relation to all of the above it is important to distinguish between philosophy in film and the philosophy of film. My interests have been mainly in the latter, and it is here that the long and fascinating tradition of aesthetics and the philosophy of art can be fruitfully brought to bear on certain topics in modern and contemporary film theory. Curiously, in the midst of the aforementioned philosophical turn in film theory and the growing ‘film-philosophy’ movement this is a tradition that many theorists and philosophers alike have tended to bypass, even when discussing cinematic representation, expression, authorship, and other issues that it may illuminate (there are of course notable exceptions). In its exploration of the world-like nature of films and their experience, Film Worlds attempts to show the continued relevance of insights drawn from general aesthetics and the philosophy of art to cinema and to contemporary film theory and the philosophy of film. Read the rest of this entry »

January 13th, 2015

National Security Above Mental Health — Neil Aggarwal



Mental Health in the War on Terror

“We need novel solutions for hierarchical organizations such as the CIA and the armed forces that erect institutional safeguards for psychiatrists, psychologists, and whistleblowers warning of misuses in mental health knowledge and practice.”—Neil Krishnan Aggarwal

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. Today, we are happy to repost an article on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on American use of torture, written by Aggarwal and originally posted in mid-December.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s release of the report Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program marks a signature moment for government accountability in the War on Terror. The report acknowledges that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees” and “the CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

Politicians have debated release of the report. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has claimed that enhanced interrogation techniques were “absolutely, totally justified” and were the “right thing to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it.” In contrast, Senator Dianne Feinstein, committee chairwoman, defended the release: “Releasing this report is an important step to restoring our values and showing the world that we are a just society.” Similarly, President Barack Obama declared: “The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States.”

In Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft, I investigate how the government uses mental health professionals to advance national security interests and how mental health professionals serve such ends. I examine bioethical debates on whether mental health professionals should do no harm or participate in interrogations. I examine debates among prosecution and defense teams on the meanings of detainee mental health symptoms in Guantanamo tribunals. I conclude that the War on Terror has pushed American government officials to treat terrorism as a military problem requiring new forms of mental health knowledge, practice, and institutions rather than a law enforcement problem handled through extant institutions.

The Senate committee’s report reinforces this conclusion. After capture of militant Abu Zubaydah, a psychologist-contractor proposed in July 2002 that SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) techniques from the American military could be “novel interrogation methods” for the CIA. These techniques include walling, facial holding and slapping, cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and mock burial. One CIA official clarified that “personnel will make every effort possible to insure [sic] that subject is not permanently physically or mentally harmed but we should not say at the outset of this process that there is no risk.” The psychologist-contractors normalized these techniques, responding, “The safety of any technique lies primarily in how it is applied and monitored.”

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January 13th, 2015

Mental Health, Culture, and Power in the War on Terror



Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s post, we have an excerpt from the first chapter of Mental Health in the War on Terror, in which Aggarwal introduces his project, takes a close look at the causes and symptoms of PTSD, and examines the effects that the War on Terror had on an American veteran and a detainee at Guantánamo Bay.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

January 13th, 2015

New Book Tuesday: Post-Blackness, Plastic Reality, and More New Books!



The Trouble with Post-Blackness, Houston BakerOur weekly listing of new books now available:

The Trouble with Post-Blackness
Edited by Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons

Plastic Reality: Special Effects, Technology, and the Emergence of 1970s Blockbuster Aesthetics
Julie A. Turnock

The Columbia History of Post-World War II America (Now available in paper)
Edited by Mark C. Carnes

Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda (Now available in paper)
Douglas A. Chalmers

Let the Meatball Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture (Now available in paper)
Massimo Montanari. Translated by Beth Archer Brombert

Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power (Now available in paper)
Inderjeet Parmar

The Adamantine Songs (Vajragiti)
Saraha; Introduction, Translation, and Tibetan Critical Edition by Lara Braitstein

Interpreting Networks: Hermeneutics, Actor-Network Theory, and New Media
David J. Krieger and Andréa Belliger

Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface
Shane Denson; Foreword by Mark B. N. Hansen

Memory Boxes: An Experimental Approach to Cultural Transfer in History, 1500-2000
Edited by Heta Aali, Anna-Leena Perämäki, and Cathleen Sarti

January 12th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal



Mental Health in the War on Terror

“Very few people are able to synthesize the disciplines of anthropology, mental health, cultural studies, political theory, religious studies, bioethics and forensics as Aggarwal does in this book. He offers a balanced and insightful account of the challenges of forensic psychiatry in assessing and managing terrorism suspects.” — Hamada Hamid, Yale University

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Mental Health in the War on Terror. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, January 16th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

January 9th, 2015

University Press Roundup



University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Congratulations to the University of North Carolina Press! As detailed on the UNC Press Blog, the press has just been awarded “a $998,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York to support the development of capacities at university presses for the publication of high-quality digital monographs.” This news is, needless to say, very exciting, as are the plans the press has for the money: “The funding will be used to create a scaled platform where university presses will collaborate to achieve cost efficiencies on a broad range of digital publishing activities, including copyediting, composition, production, operations, and marketing services.”

On from one form of digital innovation in scholarship to another: the University of Toronto Press Publishing Blog has a fascinating post up this week about a “digital humanities project” undertaken by a professor using a UTP history title. An instructor at Wifrid Laurier University, Alicia McKenzie, taught a class on the Viking Age using The Viking Age: A Reader as the primary text. In order to prompt in-depth interaction with the primary texts contain in the reader, McKenzie had her students annotate one or more documents from the Viking Age and then create a digital exhibit based on the annotations. In her post, McKenzie describes how successful these projects were, and details some of the lessons she learned in the process.

The Imitation Game, a recently released film based on Alan Turing and the German Enigma code, has received generally glowing reviews, but at the Yale Books Unbound blog, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne argues that, while it’s a “good yarn,” the movie is “a gross distortion of Turing’s character,” with most of the changes made in the interest of making a potboiler at the expense of accuracy. Read the rest of this entry »

January 9th, 2015

The Evolution of Signals



The Domestication of Language

This week our featured book is The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal, by Daniel Cloud. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s post, the final post of the book’s feature, we have an excerpt from the third chapter of The Domestication of Language, in which Cloud looks at different accounts of how meaning and language conventions remain stable in human communities over time, and wonders why more animals don’t have similarly complex communication systems.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Domestication of Language!

January 8th, 2015

But if I try to explain it…



The Domestication of Language

This week our featured book is The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal, by Daniel Cloud. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s post, Daniel Cloud explains how the meanings of words in ordinary language come about, and why it’s worth paying attention to the ordinary, everyday meanings of words.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Domestication of Language!

But if I try to explain it…
By Daniel Cloud

“What, then, is time?” Saint Augustine asks in the Confessions. “If no one asks me, I know, but if I try to explain it, I don’t know.” It’s a keen observation, because we’ve all had this experience. Still, it’s a rather peculiar state of affairs that’s being described. Did Augustine know what time is, or didn’t he? If he did know, why couldn’t he say what it is? If he didn’t, how could he go around using the word?

But the oddest thing of all is that Augustine then does go on to produce a philosophical analysis of his own concept of time that’s incredibly revealing, one that has been very influential ever since. If he knew all that just by knowing the meaning of the word, why couldn’t he say it in the beginning, why did he have to do so much work to know what he’d meant by the word all along? How can this procedure, the careful analysis of our own culturally acquired notions about the meaning of some word in ordinary language, possibly produce knowledge about the real universe, about a physical thing like time?

And yet… the process of lifting ourselves by our own bootstraps had to start somewhere. Historically, it really does look as if the philosophical analysis of ordinary language and ordinary ideas about time and space and causation and chance and knowledge and logic and evidence has played a role. It really looks as if Empedocles and Plato and Aristotle made some sort of contribution to making the existence of Euclid and Ptolemy and Newton and Darwin possible, though it’s very unclear what that contribution was. Read the rest of this entry »