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Archive for February, 2008

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Humanity’s Growing Pains: A Post by Walter Dodds

Walter Dodds, author of Humanity's FootprintWalter Dodds is a professor of biology at Kansas State and the author of Humanity’s Footprint: Momentum, Impact, and Our Global Environment.

Humanity is entering adolescence. For most of our history, the world has had unlimited capacity to take care of our needs by supplying the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Sure, there were places and times where food was scarce and drought temporarily limited water supplies, but years of famine were followed by years of plenty. Worst-case scenario: a culture could survive by moving somewhere else. We were children who took for granted that provisioning from Earth was infinite and never ending. Our planet was so large that the only limitation was figuring out how to harvest its bounty. Humanity is now leaving our childhood behind. (more…)

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Letter from Jim Jordan about Gutenberg-e

The recent Chronicle of Higher Education article about Gutenberg-e got a number of facts wrong, which is not surprising given the fact that Columbia University Press was not contacted before the article was published.

First, it is wrong in fact and in spirit to conclude that the Press has radically restructured the Project from a subscription only to an open access model. Rather the Press recognized some months ago that with so few subscriptions purchased for its online version of these electronic works, usage would continue to be disappointing, and promotion would continue to be made all the more difficult. So the Press insisted that the project explore a working relationship with the ACLS e-history project as a service to our authors and their works. ACLS has an installed user base nearly 10 times the size of the former Gutenberg-e site which the Press managed in collaboration with the Columbia Libraries.

The Press’s efforts on behalf of Gutenberg-e authors has consistently been to improve the visibility of these publications, to seek reviews in the media, and to connect them as much as possible to a larger body of work which students and scholars have already found useful. So to be clear, the Press did not migrate the project to Open Access abandoning a subscription model. Rather we have moved it to a more mature and widely used subscription platform. A significant disappointment for me is that there was so little support within the library community to promote and support the project as a service to scholarship. Certainly the modest subscription costs for these projects were a barrier to no one. Personally, I remain skeptical of the long term value of open access publishing to support the kind of rich and deep scholarly publishing our industry has developed over many years. Open access shifts the costs, but does not eliminate them. To the extent that it also shifts the expertise, it is a threat to all of us who care about publishing scholarship. (more…)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I Love Dollars: Finalist for the Kiriyama Prize

Zhu Wen; I Love DollarsI Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen and translated by Julia Lovell was selected as a finalist for The Kiriyama Prize in the fiction category. The other finalists are Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (The Dial Press), The Complete Stories by David Malouf (Knopf), The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (Houghton Mifflin), and Mosquito by Roma Tearne (Europa Editions).

From the Judges’ Citation:

Zhu Wen’s extraordinary “new urbanite” stories, superbly translated by Julia Lovell, portray contemporary China as a country where political and social pressures have resulted in hedonism, rootlessness, and soul-deadening nihilism. With the painful humor and the devastating detachment of a Kafka or Borges, the author renders the struggle for survival and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing and bureaucratic society. In I Love Dollars, Zhu Wen, whose work has long been published in the most prestigious literary magazines in China but was never before available in translation, has gifted us with his darkly comic view of the underbelly of the New China. Read more…

Read an excerpt from I Love Dollars (pdf). For more on Columbia’s series Weatherhead Books on Asia and for a complete listing of our Asian literature titles.

The Kiriyama Prize was established in 1996 to recognize outstanding books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia that encourage greater mutual understanding of and among the peoples and nations of this vast and culturally diverse region. The winner will be announced on April 1, so stay tuned for more news.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Black History Month: The Education of Booker T. Washington

The Education of Booker T. Washington: American Democracy and the Idea of Race Relations, by Michael West

Continuing our series of postings on Black History Month, we turn to Michael West’s The Education of Booker T. Washington: American Democracy and the Idea of Race Relations. In the book, West explores the power and influence of Washington’s ideas during his own lifetime and their often negative influence in the continuing struggle for equality in the United States. West provocatively argues that Washington’s formulation of the idea of “race relations” ultimately preserved some measure of racial peace but obscured the injustices of segregation. West writes:

Many [of Booker T. Washington's supporters] called him a visionary who offered a means of solving ‘the Negro problem.’ My argument is that Washington’s solution was an idea, a theory . . . called ‘race relations,’ that opened the way for the ideological reconciliation of two opposites: racist proscription and democracy. Judged by the esteem of his contemporaries, Washington’s idea was a great success. Judged by the sorry fate of millions of African Americans, Washington’s leadership was a failure. . . . The power of Washington’s idea—the race relations idea—is the key to understanding the successful progress of Jim Crow America and the shape of the civil rights movement that sought to dismantle Jim Crow.

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Evolution and the Blogosphere

Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald ProtheroEvolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero continues to receive enthusiastic reviews from a variety of excellent science-related blogs. Most recently, the blog Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) wrote of the book, “Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated … More than just a lucid overview of the fossil record, this book magnificently accomplishes its two primary objectives by showing how the ‘hard data’ of the incredibly rich fossil record supports evolution, while also pointing out how pervasive creationist lies, misquotations and various deceptions actually are.”

For more discussions and reviews of Evolution, visit: This Week in Science (podcast), Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula, Afarensis, GeneExpression, and The Darwin Report

You can also read the chapter, “Science and Creationism” (pdf), view color plates from the book, and read Donald Prothero’s posting on the CUP blog, “Evolution: The Fossils Say Yes!

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Oscar Reading to Win That Pool

Whether you are watching the Academy Award nominated movies for fun, for money, or for professional reasons, it’s always good to do a little research on the categories that films are nominated in. To that end, we present our highly biased list of books on film to read before filling out your pool ballot Sunday night. The Oscar ceremony starts at 8:00 pm Eastern. Get some popcorn ready, you’ve got some reading to do.

Every year I lose the Oscar pool to a friend who commands the lesser known categories like sound editing, visual effects, and cinematography. To give myself the edge this year I’m consulting several Wallflower Press books, Film Editing: The Art of the Expressive by Valerie Orpen, Special Effects: Still in Search of Wonder by Michele Pierson, and Film Sound: Theory and Practice edited by Elisabeth Weis and John Belton. That way I’ll know what to look for when watching the Oscar nominated movies and place my wagers accordingly.

For the more popular categories, I’m going for a more historical approach and researching past winners to hedge my bets. Again, Wallflower brings the “A” game to my team with their Short Cuts series on topics like Documentary: The Margins of Reality by Paul Ward, Animation: Genre and Authorship, by Paul Wells, Crime Films: Investigating the Scene by Kirsten Moana Thompson, and The Western Genre: From Lordsburg to Big Whiskey by John Saunders.

Now that I’ve finished researching my ballot, I’m going to read a bit for fun. While he’s not up for best director, the Wallflower series Directors’ Cuts includes the fascinating The Cinema of Todd Haynes: All That Heaven Allows by James Morrison. Haynes’s new movie, I’m Not There has Cate Blanchett nominated for best supporting actress. And lastly, since so many of this year’s film are based on historical events, I’m going to consult The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past, edited by Peter C. Rollins which was winner of the 2005 Popular Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for a reference work and finalist for Theater Library Association Award, 2005.

Finally, here’s a list of all the film titles from Columbia University Press, Wallflower, Edinburgh University Press, and Auteur. Well hopefully all that award winning will rub off on me and bring me some big money Sunday night. Good luck with your ballot selections!

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Interview with Marda Dunsky, author of Pens and Swords

Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian ConflictIn this interview with the Press, Marda Dunsky talks about her new book Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and discusses some of the failures by the media and what can be done to improve coverage.

Pens and Swords has been praised by Rashid Kahlidi who writes, “Written by a journalist and scholar who has reported from the region, this book is a perceptive, careful, and factual assessment of why the American mainstream media do such an exceedingly poor job of conveying the realities of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, instead perpetuating stereotypes and echoing the conceits of policymakers in Washington.”

Read the entire interview with Marda Dunsky or read an excerpt from Pens and Swords.

Below is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. Is American mainstream reporting of the conflict pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian?

Marda Dunsky: I would not characterize mainstream reporting of the conflict as consciously or purposefully tilting toward one side or the other, per se.

On any given day, based on the actual events of that or the previous day, individual news reports may seem to tilt toward the Israeli or the Palestinian side. For example, in the immediate wake of a suicide bombing, the coverage may focus specifically on the pain and suffering of Israeli victims. Days later, reports may highlight the bomber’s background—which often includes direct or indirect suffering experienced by the bomber or family members due to the occupation—in an attempt to reveal his or her motivations. Both of these kinds of reports inevitably bring criticism from pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian readers, viewers, and listeners that such reporting is biased because it focuses on the suffering of one side to the exclusion of the other.

However, this kind of reporting isn’t biased. It is a reflection of the ebb and flow of daily events. Over time, most mainstream media outlets tend to report the continuing story of the conflict in a way that includes the perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians. This is especially true when it comes to reporting the suffering experienced by both sides. Readers, viewers and listeners should look for balance over time in the reporting of specific media outlets as well as reporting across media—not necessarily in a single day’s report on the conflict.

In Pens and Swords, I have documented exceptions to this balance. One exception is reporting on Israeli settlements, which tends to balance viewpoints of Israeli settlers with those of left-wing Israelis who oppose the settlements—but rarely gives direct voice to the viewpoints of Palestinians whose lives are affected by the presence of the settlements. Another exception is reporting by American journalists who ride along with, or embed themselves with, Israeli military forces in pursuit of Palestinian suspects. This is part of a general tendency to rely primarily, if not exclusively, on Israeli military sources when reporting on inter-communal violence.

I have included in Pens and Swords interviews with correspondents who have reported the Israeli-Palestinian story from the field for major American news outlets. In these interviews, the journalists reflect at length on their concerns about professional standards that emphasize accuracy, balance, and fairness. They also express that journalists reporting from the field, along with their editors and producers in newsrooms back home, are well aware of and sensitive to charges of biased coverage. The correspondents say that when criticism has journalistic merit, it is heeded.

It is important that journalists analyze their reporting for bias based on what it actually contains, and there are many indications that reporters, editors, producers, and ombudsmen for media outlets do this routinely when it comes to reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Pens and Swords emphasizes that it is also important to analyze the coverage for the bias inherent in what is missing from it, as detailed earlier.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Herve This Helps Clean Your Silverware

Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking
Courtesy of the Web site Delicious Days, Hervé This’s scientific knowledge is put into use to help you around the kitchen. Drawing on a chapter from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, “Delicious Days” shows how in just four simple steps you can make your silverware shine again by relying on simple chemical principles rather than expensive silver polish.

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Books for the Candidates: Terrorism

This continues our series of blog postings on essential reading for the presidential candidates. Two weeks ago we advised our candidates to read The Economists’ Voice, edited by Joseph Stiglitz, Aaron Edlin, and J. Bradford Delong to prepare for tackling the mighty American economy once in office.

Inside Terrorism, by Bruce HoffmanNow, it’s time for our candidates to look into the global phenomenon of terrorism. The first recommendation is Bruce Hoffman’s now classic book, Inside Terrorism. The New York Times Book Review calls it a “must read” and the Washington Post calls it “Brilliant… The best one-volume introduction to the phenomenon.” We’ve posted an excerpt from the book and an interview with Bruce Hoffman from Der Spiegel.

Abu Mus'ab al-SuriThe next selection is a study of the writings of the Al-Qaeda strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri by Brynjar Lia in Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri. Al-Suri, whose work the Global Islamic Call lays out the means to implement jihadi guerrilla warfare globally, has influenced countless numbers of jihadists coming out of Afghanistan. He was allegedly picked up by the U.S. military in Pakistan in 2005, and presumably is being held somewhere secret for a very long time. So, we can’t expect to see any more of the writings of this influential thinker anytime soon.
What makes this book so great is not only that it tells the life of al-Suri, but it also contains the first English language translation of parts of the text of Global Islamic Call. There is no better way to get into the mind of al-Qaeda than to read the source material they work from.

For more on al-Suri, you can read Brynjar Lia’s article “Al Suri’s Doctrines for Decentralized Jihadi Training,” Craig Whitlock’s piece in the Washington Post, “Architect of New War on the West,” and an article from the Counterterrorism Blog.

(Image Source: Rewards for Justice)

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Our February Presidents: A Post from Thomas W. Evans

The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to ConservatismThomas W. Evans is the author of The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism.

Four presidents were born in February: Washington and Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, and Ronald Reagan. Recent surveys of our presidents have placed Reagan in the “near great” category. But Reagan’s reputation is rising each year. All Republican candidates invoke Reagan’s achievements and even Barack Obama fleetingly recalled the aura of change and optimism that prevailed in Reagan’s eight years.

Only Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt (who missed a February birth date by two days) have been placed in the “great” category by serious scholars. But the time has come to reevaluate Reagan for admittance to that club. Among Reagan’s achievements: he embarked on the zero option with the Soviets, actually destroying nuclear weapons, not simply reducing the rate of their future production, he initiated the Reagan Doctrine and the Strategic Defense Initiative. As Margaret Thatcher pointed out, “He won the Cold War without firing a shot.” (more…)

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Valentine’s Day Reading

Happy Valentine’s Day.

There are lots of modern self-help books out there to analyze your relationships and make you a better person, but we prefer to look backwards in time to the tried and true masters that stand the test of time. Here we offer you some classic works on love in celebration of the holiday:

Poems of Love and War: From the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil
Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

Ah, no one does love like the poets, and among poets, the anonymous scribes of ancient India were unsurpassed in their descriptions of romance. We particularly like the combination of love and war poems here, since so often courtship is conducted as a military campaign.

The Art of Courtly Love, by Andreas CapelanusThe Art of Courtly Love
Andreas Capellanus

If the poets are supreme at love, then the singers are not far behind. This unabridged edition of The Art of Courtly Love collects the songs popularized by the troubadours of southern France in the twelfth century. Ooooh, French songs…even better.

Shakespeare on Love and Lust, by Maurice CharneyShakespeare on Love and Lust
Maurice Charney

From Romeo and Juliet, the beautiful haunting love sonnets, and the comedy of foolish lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Shakespeare has influenced so much of the language and popular imagery associated with love. Learn from the master himself.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Bookslut Reviews “Inventing English” by Seth Lerer

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, by Seth LererBoth print and online venues continue to talk about and review Seth Lerer’s Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language. Last week wordsmith.org held an online chat with Seth Lerer and earlier this week, the very popular Bookslut reviewed his book.

James Campbell Martin, who wrote the review, says, “Lerer’s book has many virtues: his enthusiasm, intelligence, and personality shine from its pages. His point of view, which takes in political and cultural implications, will interest a broad audience. And he has read everything with love and respect. He does not suffer from the literary critic’s disease that makes one pathologize every text. As a self-confessed Brooklyn boy … Lerer kids because he loves.”

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama Wins the PSP Award for Best Reference Work

The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern DramaOn February 7th, the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers named The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, edited by Gabrielle H. Cody and Evert Sprinchorn, as Best of Reference for 2007 as part of the 2007 PSP Awards for Excellence.

The judges cited the volume’s truly global perspective on the literary production of playwrights and plays within their appropriate cultural and historical frameworks. The book was further praised for its substantial, well-indexed, and deeply cross-referenced individual articles—some 1400 of them. The individual articles were acclaimed for their lively tone and for providing the reader with a new perspective on familiar figures and works. With more than 450 scholars contributing to the project, the PSP found the depth and breadth of scholarship astounding, and commended the work on its ability to integrate so many voices seamlessly.

Also gaining recognition was Inventing English: A Portable History of the English Language, by Seth Lerer, which received an honorable mention in the category of “Literature, Language, and Linguistics.”

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Black History Month II: Focus on Literature

In The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Literature, winner of the Before Columbus Foundations 2006 American Book Awards, Darryl Dickson-Carr has written a definitive guide to contemporary African American literature from Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison to Colson Whitehead and Terry McMillan. Dr. Andrew Radford, Journal of American Studies, writes of the volume “An eloquent and perceptive overview of this rapidly expanding world.” Bernard W. Bell, African-American Review, says of the book, “A valuable reference book that promotes the knowledge of and respect for African American post-1970s literatures and cultures.”

The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Literature is part of the Columbia Guides to Literature Since 1945 series.

Burnin' Down the House: Home in African American LiteratureIn Burnin’ Down the House: Home in African American Literature, Valerie Sweeney Prince reexamines the meaning of home in the work of five classic novels: Native Son by Richard Wright, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and Corregidora by Gayl Jones. The book also explores how the blues have shaped these novels and African American literature.

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Reviews of Mountains Painted with Turmeric

Mountains Painted with Turmeric by Lil Bahadur ChettirModern Nepali fiction might not have the same recognition as modern British fiction or modern Chinese fiction but that should not blind readers to the interesting, if hard to find, works from the country. The recent publication of the modern classic Mountains Painted with Turmeric by Lil Bahadur Chettri and translated by Michael J. Hutt provides readers with an excellent example of twentieth-century Nepali literature.

First published in the 1950′s the book quickly became a canonical and popular work in Nepal. The book, now available in English for the first time, provides a remarkable window into the lives of farmers by depicting in subtle detail the stark realities of village life. In many ways an excellent example of social realism while also transcending the genre, the book portrays the suffering and sorrow endured by ordinary peasants and the exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful. However, in addition to depictions of economic and political conditions, Chettri also conveys the warmth and intimacy of village life.

The novel was recently reviewed by the Web site the Complete Review, joining a chorus of other praiseworthy reviews from Donald Richie in The Japan Times, who called it “engrossing, instructive, moving,” Time (Asia), and the Nepali Times.

Friday, February 8th, 2008

“I Miss the Old New York Sounds of My 50′s Childhood”

Seth Lerer, author of Inventing EnglishThis quote comes from a recent online chat Seth Lerer had on the Web site wordsmith.org to discuss his book Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language. Lerer explores a variety of questions related to the history and possible future of the English language, including What is the fate of regional dialects in the United States? How will instant messaging affect English? What are the origins of the affirmative “word”? and Why are Americans fascinated with British accents?

You can also read an excerpt from the introduction to Inventing English; watch a video of Seth Lerer; or listen to a podcast interview with Lerer.

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Edward Said: Literary and Music Critic

As a thinker and intellectual Edward Said defied easy categorization. He was a leading figure in the development of postcolonial criticism, a political activist, and a music critic for The Nation and other publications. In recent weeks, Columbia has published works by Said that reflect this breadth, offering a new edition of Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography and a collection of some of his last writings on music.

Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, first published in 1966, is now available in a new edition with a foreword by Andrew N. Rubin. Said’s critique of Conrad’s work, the colonialist preoccupation with “civilizing” native peoples, and the Western self’s struggle with modernity signaled the beginnings of his groundbreaking work, Orientalism, and remains a cornerstone of postcolonial studies today. Tony Tanner writes, “Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography is a must for anyone seriously interested in Modernist writing, in Conrad—the first global novelist—and in Edward W. Said.”

Music at the Limits collects three decades of Said’s essays and articles on music from The Nation and other publications. The collection includes Said’s aesthetic appreciation of music as well as his insights into the social and political implications of classical performance. Inside, there are insightful pieces on Glenn Gould, Wagner, Mozart, and Bach alongside worries that the Metropolitan Opera has become too conservative and that opera superstars like Pavarotti have “reduced opera performance to a minimum of intelligence and a maximum of overproduced noise.”

Columbia is also the publisher of these other works by Said: Beginnings: Intention and Method, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, and Musical Elaborations.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Books for the Candidates

Joseph Stiglitz, editor of The Economists' VoiceWith “Super Tuesday” settling the presidential field (sort of ), candidates can return to the issues. Over the next few weeks, we will offer some reading suggestions for Clinton, Obama, McCain, Huckabee, and others. The first on our list is The Economists’ Voice: Top Economists Take on Today’s Problems, edited by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Aaron S. Edlin, and J. Bradford Delong. In the book leading economists examine a wide range of issues with clarity and incisiveness.

With the economy looming as a key issues in the campaign, this collection provides a wealth of opinion,. insight, and expertise. Contributors are Nobel Prize winners, former presidential advisers, well-respected columnists, academics, and practitioners from across the political spectrum. Joseph E. Stiglitz takes a hard look at the high cost of the Iraq War; Nobel Laureates Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Schelling, and Stiglitz provide insight and advice on global warming; Paul Krugman demystifies Social Security; Richad Posner and Gary Becker consider the economics of capital punishment; Bradford DeLong presents divergent views on the coming dollar crisis; Diana Farrell reconsiders the impact of U.S. offshoring; Michael J. Boskin distinguishes what is “sense” and what is “nonsense” in discussions of federal deficits and debt; and Ronald I. McKinnon points out the consequences of the deindustrialization of America.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Author Events for the Week of Feb 4

From Hollywood’s Censor to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes to media depictions of women in the Iraq War, there are several opportunities to hear a Columbia University Press author.

Subverting the Leviathan, author event for James MartelOn Tuesday, February 5 at 6:00 pm, James Martel will discuss and sign copies of his book Subverting the Leviathan: Reading Thomas Hobbes as a Radical Democrat at University Press Books in Berkeley, CA.

In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes’s landmark work on political philosophy, James Martel argues that although Hobbes pays lip service to the superior interpretive authority of the sovereign, he consistently subverts this authority throughout the book by returning it to the reader. Martel looks closely at Hobbes’s understanding of religious and rhetorical representation. In Leviathan, idolatry is not just a matter of worshipping images but also a consequence of bad reading. Hobbes speaks of the “error of separated essences,” in which a sign takes precedence over the idea or object it represents, and warns that when the sign is given such agency, it becomes a disembodied fantasy leading to a “kingdom of darkness.” James Martel is associate professor of political theory at San Francisco State University.

Kelly Oliver, author of Women as Weapons of War On Wednesday, February 6 at noon catch Kelly Oliver, author of Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex and the Media, as she presents her new book at the main branch of the Nashville Public Library.

The very idea that women can be used as interrogation tools, as evidenced in the infamous Abu Ghraib torture photos, plays on age-old fears of women as sexually threatening weapons, and therefore the literal explosion of women onto the war scene should come as no surprise. From the female soldiers involved in Abu Ghraib to Palestinian women suicide bombers, women and their bodies have become powerful weapons in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In Women as Weapons of War, Kelly Oliver reveals how the media and the administration frequently use metaphors of weaponry to describe women and female sexuality and forge a deliberate link between notions of vulnerability and images of violence. Kelly Oliver is Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

Can’t make it to the event? Read an interview with Kelly Oliver. You can also read the introduction, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” (pdf)

Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood's CensorAnd on Thursday, February 7 at 6 pm, Thomas Doherty makes a rare public appearance in New York City at the New York Public Library Donnell Library Center to discuss his newest book, Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration.

From 1934 to 1954 Joseph I. Breen, a media-savvy Victorian Irishman, reigned over the Production Code Administration, the Hollywood office tasked with censoring the American screen. Though little known outside the ranks of the studio system, this former journalist and public relations agent was one of the most powerful men in the motion picture industry. As enforcer of the puritanical Production Code, Breen dictated “final cut” over more movies than anyone in the history of American cinema. His editorial decisions profoundly influenced the images and values projected by Hollywood during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Cultural historian Thomas Doherty tells the absorbing story of Breen’s ascent to power and the widespread effects of his reign. Breen vetted story lines, blue-penciled dialogue, and excised footage (a process that came to be known as “Breening”) to fit the demands of his strict moral framework. Empowered by industry insiders and millions of like-minded Catholics who supported his missionary zeal, Breen strove to protect innocent souls from the temptations beckoning from the motion picture screen. Thomas Doherty is professor of American studies at Brandeis University.

Can’t make the event? Read reviews of the book and articles by Doherty or read an excerpt (pdf)

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

The Cinema of Todd Haynes

Brilliant and grounbreaking to some, inscrutable and frustrating to others, I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’s newest film a bio-pic of Bob Dylan has garnered its fair share of opinions—almost none ambivalent. Whatever your opinion of Haynes’s latest it is certainly a movie worth wrestling with and a compelling addition to Haynes’s already impressive body of work.

In The Cinema of Todd Haynes (new from Wallflower Press) offers a much-needed critical assessment of Haynes’s films from Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story to I’m Not There.
The book traces his career from its roots in New Queer Cinema to the Oscar-nominated Far from Heaven (2002). Along the way, it covers such landmark films as Poison (1991), Safe (1995), and Velvet Goldmine (1998). The book look at these films from a variety of angles, including his debts to the avant-garde and such noted precursors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder; his adventurous uses of melodrama; and his incisive portrayals of contemporary life.

Read the introduction (pdf from the Wallflower site)