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Archive for March, 2008

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Women’s Letters

Margaretta Jolly; In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism To close out National Women’s History Month we bring you a look at women’s history in their own words with a round-up of books featuring women’s letter writing. (For more titles in Women’s Studies.)

Margaretta Jolly’s excellent study of how women’s letter writing shaped the feminist movement of the 1970s and 80s, In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism, brings us the first cultural study of these letters, charting the evolution of feminist political consciousness from the height of the women’s movement to today’s e-mail networks. Jolly uncovers the passionate, contradictory emotions of both politics and letter writing and sets out the theory behind them as a fragile yet persistent ideal of care ethics, women’s love, and epistolary art.

Moving to the twentieth century, the famous poet Amy Clampitt came to poetry late in life, leaving a rich trail of letters to document her growth as a writer and later as a renowned poet. Willard Spiegelman has collected her letters together in Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt. This extraordinary collection of letters sheds light on one of the most important postwar American poets and on a creative woman’s life from the 1950s onward. Ben Downing in the The Wall Street Journal said, “This book is a welcome reminder of the unique intimacy afforded by reading another person’s letters.” And Isabel Nathaniel in the Dallas Morning News remarked “Here is what e-mail has no patience for: grace, wit, wonder, embellishment, asides, details and real vocabulary.”

Lastly, The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. The celebrated writer of Frankenstein was an ardent feminist writer in her day, well known for her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In this collection edited by Janet Todd, we see Wollstonecraft’s growth as a writer as she fleshes out the ideas for her essays and her fictional works in her copious correspondence throughout her life.

So, go put pen to paper, maybe someone someday will collect your letters together for an anthology. You never know…..

Friday, March 28th, 2008

CUP Authors at the Organization of American Historians Convention

Columbia University Press; American History TitlesThis coming weekend scholars of American history will descend upon New York City for their annual convention, sponsored by the Organization for American Historians. Several Columbia University Press authors will be there on panels covering everything from Islam in the United States to the legacy of Marting Luther King. In years past, the History News Network has provided reports from the convention.

Other interesting sites that offer opinion and news about events and ideas shaping the study of American history include, AHA Today, PhDinHistory, Religion in American History, and U. S. Intellectual History.

Here’s a list of Columbia University Press authors that will presenting at the OAH conference, including the name of the panels, and the titles of their papers (when applicable):

* Edward E. Curtis: Islam in the United States / “Toward a Transnational History of African American Islam”
* Penny Von Eschen: Race, Political Activism, and the Cold War
* Juan Flores: In Situ: Knowledge-Making With Living Communities, Understanding Historic Weeksville, Chinatown, and the South Bronx
* Todd Gitlin: Does Liberalism Have a Usable Past
* Kenneth T. Jackson: The Imagined Metropolis: Bringing Together the Ideas and Realities of American Cities and Suburbs, and Rebuilding and Renovating American Cities in the Twentieth Century
* Manning Marable: Storm Warnings: Rethinking 1968, and Forty Years Since King, A Roundtable Discussion: Struggling to End Racism, Sexism, Poverty, and War / “The King Legacy and Today’s Freedom Struggle”
* Adam McKeown, Empires, States, and Migrants in Transpacific History, “From Basin to Border: Transpacific Migration in Global Context, 1840-1849″

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Robert Barnett on Tibet

Robert Barnett; Lhasa: Streets with MemoriesYesterday’s Foreign Policy Web site ran an interview with Robert Barnett, author of Lhasa: Streets with Memories, about the current situation in Tibet. In the interview Barnett, talks about the significance of the protests in Tibetan rural areas, the possible impact of the protests, how the Chinese and Indian governments are likely to respond to the uprisings, and what the press has missed in their coverage. Barnett writes of the recent protest movment:

We have to put aside these questions that fascinate some people, such as, “Is the Dalai Lama losing his power?” That’s the opposite of the issue here. The exile complaints are not about power. And we have to put aside suggestions that the protests in Tibet are because people are unhappy about economic loss. That really is reductive. And I think we have to get over any suggestion that the Chinese are ill-intentioned or trying to wipe out Tibet. It’s obviously horrible that people are being savagely beaten up and killed. But crucially, this is a historic change in the profile of Tibetan politics. We’re looking at something much larger than any immediate anxiety about Olympics, or whether somebody planned one of these things, or whether people are upset about economic disadvantage. Historians are going to tell us that we missed the big picture if we didn’t notice that this is the big story here. All the party cadres are going to be sent to the countryside areas to listen to the Tibetans’ complaints and find out what has gone so wrong with the policy machine in China.

Read the full interview at Foreign Policy. You can also listen to a recent interview with Robert Barnett on NPR.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

Jorg Friedrich; The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

First published in English in 2006, Jörg Friedrich’s The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 is now available in paperback.

Upon publication of the hardcover edition of the book, Peter Dimock, the editor of The Fire, wrote the following essay discussing the book’s importance, its relevance to contemporary events, and how we think about the conduct of modern warfare:

Sometimes an editor can feel in his bones when the prose on the page of a manuscript he is holding in his hands marks a possible turning point in the way the present decides to understand itself. I have been lucky enough to have had this feeling once or twice in the course of my twenty-two years in publishing. It happened again when, at the urging of another author, I and Columbia University Press took on the project of publishing the English-language edition of Jörg Friedrich’s The Fire. Here are the first words of the book from the chapter titled “Weapon”:


Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Books for the Candidates: Immigration

David Brotherton and Philip Kretsedemas; Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today

Immigration, a contentious issue among Republicans during the primaries, is sure to surface again in the general election. The recently published Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement argues that while the focus on enforcement has intensified in recent years, current anti-immigration tendencies are not a knee-jerk reaction to the events of September 11th. Rather, they have been gathering steam for decades. Moreover, instead of finding effective ways of integrating newcomers into American society, the U.S. has focused on making the process of citizenship more difficult.

In their introduction Brotherton and Kretsedemas note the contradictory character of current U.S. immigration policy:

This enforcement focus has come to dominate in an era when the United States is becoming increasingly more reliant on immigrants for workforce replenishment and population growth in general. Given this context, it is telling that the predominant form of social spending on immigration focuses on routing out so-called undesirables and that most of the state and local legislation on immigration is geared toward capturing unauthorized migrants and other immigration violators. The dismantling of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the incorporation of its duties within the Department of Homeland Security, provides as good a metaphor as any of this shift in emphasis. . . . It is possible however to reinterpret security as pertaining to improving the legal rights, social mobility, and well-being of all U.S. residents—immigrants and native born alike.


Monday, March 24th, 2008

Margaretta Jolly in New York City to talk about women’s letters

Margaretta Jolly; In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary FeminismFrom March 26 to 31 Margaretta Jolly will be in New York City to discuss her new book, In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism.

You can see the full list of all author events, including Margaretta Jolly’s, on our author events page.

Below is an interview with Margaretta Jolly to give you a preview of what she will discussing.

Question: What is so special about women’s letters in recent years?

Margaretta Jolly: Women have been letter writers for centuries: as wives of men who traveled in war or migration, as mothers keeping their families connected, as literati, and as friends. But feminist correspondences since the 1970s reveal changes in gender roles and self-perception in quite an extraordinary way. Though few have remarked upon the stories hidden in this humble form of life writing, letters can tell us the relationship histories of a generation at the forefront of social change. Feminists literally tried to rewrite their relationships, whether tussling over mothering styles or personalizing campaign networking. Love letters—but also breakup letters—vividly track experiments with sexuality and sexual identity. In fact, I argue that the love letter between women in the 1970s and 1980s became a symbol of feminist culture in fiction and polemic, whether the poignantly waylaid letters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, the chain letters publicizing the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, or the many writings that have been signed, for better or worse, “In sisterhood.”


Friday, March 21st, 2008

Blogging Columbia University Press Authors

While we hope you stay and read the posts on this blog, we also want to let you know about some other Columbia-related blogs:

Noelle McAfee, visiting professor of philosophy at George Mason University and author of the just published Democracy and the Political Unconscious, is the author of the blog Gone Public: Philosophy, Politics, and Public Life. Professor McAfee’s blog is an excellent and encouraging example of what it means to be in engaged in scholarship, the world outside the university, and the intersection of the two. In addition to being an excellent resource for news, links, and opinion about philosophy and its practice in academia, McAfee’s recent posts have focused on subjects such as the presidential campaign, facebook, and international affairs.

Another blog to add to your RSS reader is Marc Lynch’s Abu Aardvark, which has become an essential resource for news about the Middle East. Lynch, a professor of political science at George Washington University and author of Voices of The New Arab Public: Iraq, al-Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today, offers news about the Middle East and U.S. policy that is often overlooked by other news sources. His perspective on these events is a much needed antidote to the inaccuracies and misguided analysis that seems to dominate US discussions of the region in politics and the media. Recent postings include discussions of Barack Obama’s speech on Iraq, a plan for withdrawal by 10 Democratic Congressmen, and a recent public opinion poll in Iraq on security. Not to be missed.

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Award Update: Lambda and Choice

Beth Firestein; Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the LifespanCongratulations to Beth Firestein and all of the contributors to Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan for being named a finalist in the Bisexual category of the 20th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.

We’ve also posted an interview with Beth Firestein and a pdf of the book’s introduction, and you can also visit Beth Firestein’s site Becoming Visible: A Resource Website for Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

In other awards news, the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles were announced earlier this month. CUP, Wallflower, and Edinburgh University Press winners include:

* The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commisars by Razmik Panossian
* The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity by Raymond Martin and John Barresi
* In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun: The Autobiography of a Japanese Feminist by Raicho Hiratsuka, translated by Teruko Craig
* The Self Possessed: Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization by Frederick M. Smith
* Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future by Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis
* Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China by David A. Palmer
* The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama edited by Gabrielle H. Cody and Evert Sprinchorn
* Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy by Howard T. Odum
* Filmosophy by Daniel Frampton
* Islamic Calligraphy by Sheila S. Blair
* The Edinburgh International Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis ed. by Ross M. Skelton with Bernard Burgoyne et. al.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Interview with Jonathan Freedman, author of Klezmer America

Interview with Jonathan Freedman, author of Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, ModernityQuestion: So, why did you write this book?

Jonathan Freedman:
The question any author dreads—and hopes for! I’ve been teaching and writing a lot about the Jews in America and was wondering why so much of the critical writing of the last twenty years focused on the relation between Jewish and African American culture.

There are lots of good reasons for this: their relation has been fraught with a mixed sense of intimacy and resentment, from the time of the civil rights era going forward, and that sense is often reflected in jazz, movies, and literature. So, for example, the complex story of Jewish engagement with black culture has been powerfully told through the prism of Al Jolson’s appearance in blackface in The Jazz Singer (1927), where appreciation veered into appropriation and cross-racial identification into an affirmation of whiteness.

But it seemed to me that as we moved into the twenty-first century, a new set of configurations has been emerging in the United States—one in which ethnicity, sexuality and gender rival race as determinants of identity and as markers of cultural meaning. Jewishness seemed to me fully engaged in these multiple arenas—in ways that emphasized the instability of all the identities so involved.

I especially considered the relation of Jews to groups with whom they are often not compared, such as Latinos and Asians—people who don’t fit the model of assimilation and acculturation—that’s so frequently linked to the Jewish experience on these shores.

So to make a long story short, I set out to trace what happens when Jewish examples, texts, circumstances get put into relation with these various sets of identities and experiences—and the works in many artistic media that shape and reflect that complex interchange. (more…)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Perspectives on Tibet

Tubten Khetsun; Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule

With events of the past week, China’s rule over Tibet is once again in the news. Sites such as Radio Free Asia, Students for a Free Tibet, the BBC, and NPR, which interviewed Robert Barnett yesterday, offer news on events as they unfold. For an historical perspective on the uprisings, two CUP titles offer much-needed insight into Tibet and its complex past:

Tubten Khétsun’s Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule provides a rare first-hand account of living in Tibet during the period of Mao’s regime. Khétsun was arrested while defending the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, and after four years in prisons and labor camps, he spent close to two decades in Lhasa as a requisitioned laborer and “class enemy.” Khétsun describes his prison experiences, the state of civil society following his release, and he presents keenly observed of well-known events, such as the launch of the Cultural Revolution, as well as lesser-known aspects of everyday life in occupied Lhasa.

For more on Lhasa, Robert Barnett’s Lhasa: Streets With Memories offers a lyrical exploration of a city long idealized, disregarded, or misunderstood by outsiders. Looking to its streets and stone, Robert Barnett presents a searching and unforgettable portrait of Lhasa. Barnett juxtaposes contemporary accounts of Tibet, architectural observations, and descriptions by foreign observers to describe Lhasa and its current status as both an ancient city and a modern Chinese provincial capital. Besides the ancient Buddhist temples and former picnic gardens of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa describes the urban sprawl, the harsh rectangular structures, and the geometric blue-glass tower blocks that speak of the anxieties of successive regimes intent upon improving on the past. Read the preface to Lhasa: Streets With Memories. (pdf)

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Books to bring out the Irish in you

Timothy Meagher; The Columbia Guide to Irish American History

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of the Irish today we bring you books that celebrate the achievements of the Irish and Irish-Americans.

We begin with acclaimed The Columbia Guide to Irish American History by Timothy J. Meagher. Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2006, Library Journal said, “If you want a heroic effort at encapsulating Irish American history, this is your book” and America noted, “Anyone interested in the history of Irish America will welcome this book.”

Timothy J. Meagher fuses an overview of Irish American history with an analysis of historians’ debates, an annotated bibliography, a chronology of critical events, and a glossary discussing crucial individuals, organizations, and dates. He addresses a range of key issues in Irish American history from the first Irish settlements in the seventeenth century through the famine years in the nineteenth century to the volatility of 1960s America and beyond. The result is a definitive guide to understanding the complexities and paradoxes that have defined the Irish American experience. (more…)

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Houston Baker on the “Prison-Industrial” Complex

Houston Baker; Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights EraAccording to a new report from the Pew Center on the States, for the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults are now in prison. For minority groups the rate is even higher: one in 36 Hispanic adults is in prison and one in 15 blacks is, too, as is an astonishingly one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

In his new book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, Houston Baker takes a look at the some of the historical and economic contexts behind this phenomenon. He argues that the rise in incarceration rates for black men is the result of the lack of economic opportunity for blacks and Hispanics, and of a cruel and wrongheaded drug policy that disproportionately affects men of color.

However, the rising prison population has been a boon to some, namely what has become known as the “prison-industrial complex.” Private corporations, often with the aid of government subsidies, have made substantial profits building new prisons to house the ever-growing prison population. What are the possible implications of the rising prison rates? Baker writes:

Those who have been labeled out and thus cast viciously and brutally into our country’s prison-industrial complex are emblems of the American majority future. Do we really want to be complicit in constructing the death row fashioned by mythical patriarchs, oligarchic businessmen, corrupt congressional representatives, and prison suppliers who constitute a billion-dollar elite? I hope not. But if we do not begin to imagine and then construct safe spaces of black American majority life now, death row—the civic, social, economic, and psychological incarceration of our culture—will be our American future.

In looking for answers to this problem, Baker turns to the work and ideas of Angela Davis and Manning Marable. These two thinkers have “condemned utterly our era’s neoconservative and brutal economies of lockdown.” For Baker, Davis and Marable’s efforts exemplify the proper role of black intellectuals in the United States in addressing the issues and concerns confronting black America.

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Lust, Caution, and Eileen Chang: A Posting from Darrell William Davis

Darrell William Davis; blog postingWe invited film scholars to comment on films relating to their work. In this posting, Darrell William Davis, coauthor with Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh of Taiwan Film Directors: A Treasure Island, considers Ang Lee’s recent film Lust, Caution and its adaptation of an Eileen Chang short story.

The issue of Real Sex became a point in discussion of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, an adaptation of Eileen Chang’s short story, “Se, jie.” In his film, Ang Lee sought to raise the bar, prompting questions about the nature of these scenes. One is invited to ponder the couple’s identities, whether it’s actual people Tang Wei and Tony Leung Chiu-wai doing the deed and not just characters, Wang Chia-chih and Mr. Yee. “Did they or didn’t they?” was a common refrain in the comment and debate following the movie’s release. In response Lee was coy, saying only “did you watch the film?” This matches the story’s stress on dissembling, masquerade and performance as cruel, even exploitative forms of aggression. Last week, Tang Wei paid a price when state media authorities ordered a blackout of the actress’s appearance for a skin cream ad. Ang Lee responded by publicly consoling her and questioning the order.

The director asserts that Eileen Chang “understood playacting and mimicry as something by nature cruel and brutal: animals, like her characters, use camouflage to evade their enemies and lure their prey” (Chang 2007: 61). Scriptwriter James Schamus invokes Zizek to explain further: Yee wants Wang not in spite of his suspicion, but “it is precisely because he suspects her that he desires her. . . . And so lust and caution are, in Chang’s work, functions of each other, not because we desire what is dangerous, but because our love is, no matter how earnest, an act, and therefore always an object of suspicion” (64).

Yet such graphic, (possibly) actual sex scenes could be a misstep. For me it is jarring, a sudden jolt in a stylish period film about wartime espionage. It thrusts ‘contemporary’ into a rich historical setting. Possibly, it disrespects Chang by displacing her theatrical/literary themes onto clinical displays of anatomy and copulation. The film “has its way” with Chang, as all films do, selecting and magnifying details that disclose the tale’s deepest meanings. Paul Theroux uses just this expression to describe the adaptation of his novel The Mosquito Coast: “Isn’t the whole point about a good movie that it takes liberties?” (Theroux 333). Ang Lee’s film strangely exemplifies Chang’s story through betrayals, guiding viewers’ attention to elements that may (or may not) be there. Ian McEwan (Atonement) said adaptation for the screen is “a kind of demolition job,” 130,000 words of a novel boiled down to 20,000 for a screenplay (Lemire). Of course this was not the way for Lee, Wang and Schamus, who expanded, not demolished, Chang’s short story with its many additions, such as a Japanese teahouse, movie theatre scenes, and raw sexuality.    (more…)

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Books for Understanding: The Former Yugoslavia

The Association of American University Presses offers a fantastic free online resource tool for people looking for the best books to make sense of current events. Called Books for Understanding, each list compiles university press titles under specific subject headings and often contains information on how to reach an author for media interviews or further information. Lists cover such varied topics as New Orleans, same-sex marriage, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and the newest list posted this week covers the former Yugoslavia to help researchers find out more about the recent declaration of independence by Kosovo.

Columbia University Press titles from the list on the former Yugoslavia include Hitler’s New Disorder: The Second World War in Yugoslavia, by Steven Pavlowitch; War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age, edited by Andrew J. Bacevich and Eliot A. Cohen; The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s, by Robert Thomas The Yugoslav Experience of Serbian National Integration, by Branko Petranovic (Distributed for East European Monographs); Confrontation in Kosovo:The Albanian-Serb Struggle, 1969-1998, by Peter Prifti (Distributed for East European Monographs)

Columbia University Press is a member of the AAUP and is pleased to be a part of the Books for Understanding initiative.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Living Ink in Pacific and United States Tattoo: A Posting from Juniper Ellis

Tattooing the World: Pacific Designs in Print and Skin(Note this was cross-posted on anthropology.net)

Tattooing the World: Pacific Designs in Print and Skin is inspired first by sheer love of the designs and their meanings. What an amazing story it is to consider the way modern tattoo was imported from the South Pacific to the rest of the world. The 1830s castaway James O’Connell, for instance, received a full-body tattoo in Pohnpei, one of the Caroline Islands. In the Pacific the designs gave him a social standing place and made him recognizable as being fully human. But in New York, where he became the first man to display his tattoos professionally, women and children ran screaming from him in the streets. Ministers warned their flocks that viewing his tattoos would transfer the designs to any woman’s unborn child.

I was intrigued by the way the same patterns could mean such drastically different things. Whether in the Pacific or the United States, the patterns make visible the sacred and the profane, the social and the personal, the playful and the political. What other patterns inspire both reverence and traffic in human heads; both praise and brutal punishments against them (often, strangely, by the same missionaries who provide loving descriptions of the patterns); both suppression and rebellions?

Large numbers of nineteenth-century European aristocrats acquired tattoo, while at the same time early social scientists promised that the designs predicted criminality. A majority of the members of the U.S. Navy were tattooed, at the same time early psychiatrists declared that the patterns indicated sexual deviancy. Writers like Herman Melville (and anthropologists like Margaret Mead) offer lavish descriptions of tattoo, yet maintain a separation between the tattoo artist and their own skin. Meanwhile, in the Pacific the patterns continue to express people’s connection to genealogy, the land, and even the gods, making visible the deep energies of spirit and culture, and wielding such power that they became a key part of sovereignty movements from the nineteenth century to the present.

Today thirty-six percent of young people in the United States are tattooed, while in the Pacific this vital tradition is flourishing after prolonged colonial attempts to suppress it. My book tells the story of how Pacific tatau helped shape the modern practice of tattoo in the U.S. and Europe—and how we owe the English word tattoo to the Pacific original. To document the art’s meanings, the book gathers information on Pacific women’s tattooing (both recipients and artists) that has never been collected in one place. It presents translations from half a dozen Pacific languages to honor the practice in some of its deepest living contexts, and debuts material on tattoo rebellions that has never been discussed in English. It includes discussions of the practice by contemporary Māori and Pacific artists including Henriata Nicholas, Gordon Toi Hatfield, Ni Powell, Keoni Nunes, and Petelo Sulu`ape, and offers twenty-five tattoo images. Always my inspiration has been the artists who create, and the people who wear, the designs. They show that tattoo helps make visible what it means to be human.

Read an excerpt from Tattooing the World.

Read an interview with Juniper Ellis.

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Book for National Women’s History Month: Women’s Religious History

When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet; Hildegard DiembergerWe continue with our series of postings on books relating to National Women’s History Month with today’s look at women’s religious history. I’ve chosen one book to represent each of the four major religious traditions, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

We begin with a look at a woman who attained great status in Tibet as a religious leader, as chronicled in Hildegard Diemberger’s book, When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. The book is built around a translation of the first biography of Chokyi Dronma, recorded by her disciples in the wake of her death in the fifteenth century. It was believed that the princess Chokyi Dronma was reincarnated after her death and her spiritual successors in Tibet hold the title of Samding Dorje Phagmo. The account reveals an extraordinary phenomenon: although it had been believed that women in Tibet were not allowed to obtain full ordination equivalent to monks, Chokyi Dronma not only persuaded one of the highest spiritual teachers of her era to give her full ordination but also established orders for other women practitioners and became so revered that she was officially recognized as one of two principal spiritual heirs to her main master. (more…)

Friday, March 7th, 2008

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: Reading the World 2008

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, Wang AnyiWe have not had time to post about this yet but we are very excited to announce that The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai, by Wang Anyi, translated from the Chinese by Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan has been selected as one of the twenty-five titles for Reading the World 2008. This selection was made by a panel of independent booksellers.

Now in its fifth year, Reading the World consists of publishers and independent bookstores and is dedicated to promoting works of fiction in translation. Throughout the month of June approximately 250 independent booksellers will display The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and other works of international fiction. There will also be promotional activities leading up to June, so stay tuned for more details.

While there is a lot of justifiable hand-wringing about the relative lack of foreign literature available in the U.S. as well as Americans’ unwillingness to read fiction from other countries, one should not overlook the excellent works that are available. While our Asian fiction list could certainly keep one busy for a while, if you are interested in finding out more about international fiction, may we suggest: Complete Review, Context, Three Percent, Words without Borders, The Quarterly Conversation, and Paper Republic. These are all excellent resources for reviews, news, excerpts, and finding out more about interesting works of fiction from around the world.

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Winning the Battle Losing the War: A NYT Op-ed from James Willbanks

The Tet Offensive: A Concise History, by James WillbanksJames Willbanks’s op-ed “Winning the Battle, Losing the War” appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. James Willbanks is the author of The Tet Offensive: A Concise History.

In the piece, Willbanks looks at how the Tet Offensive, while considered a tactical victory for American forces in conventional military terms, eventually undercut Lyndon Johnson’s credibility with the American people. Willbanks goes on to argue, “Perhaps more important, the offensive shook the administration’s own confidence and led to a re-evaluation of American strategy.”

What lessons, if any, can historians, politicians, and military leaders draw from the Tet Offensive in thinking about Iraq? Willbanks writes:

Historians are often reluctant to draw comparisons between historical events, and this has been especially true for Vietnam and Iraq, because the two wars have more differences than similarities. That being said, however, American military actions today can be informed by one general lesson from the Tet offensive, and that is the importance of not putting the best face on a military situation for political reasons.

Willbanks concludes with an assessment of how General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have conveyed the successes or failures of the surge to the American people:

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, is a student of the Vietnam War whose doctoral dissertation at Princeton was titled “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.” Clearly, he internalized those lessons, because in discussing the surge and the progress of the war in Iraq he has studiously avoided building undue expectations and has repeatedly said that there will be tough times ahead. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was likewise careful in his recent comments about re-evaluating troop reduction plans this summer. The wisdom of their approach will become especially evident if insurgents in Iraq engage in any Tet-like offensive this year — especially with a presidential election looming and the future of the American military commitment in Iraq hanging in the balance.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

The Power of the Consumer

Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury by James TwitchellI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tax rebate President Bush just signed into law. As a single taxpaying citizen I’m entitled to receive up to $600 for my rebate check. The rebates are intended to stimulate the U.S. economy through consumer spending in an effort to counteract the growing evidence of a recession. My first instinct is to figure out where I’m going to spend my money, but on deeper thought, why do I have to spend that money on consumer goods such as clothes, appliances, or even books? What cultural imperative drives me to spend my money on such items? So, in honor of my indecision on how to use my rebate check, I present three fascinating studies of consumerism.

We start with An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America by Gary Cross. This illuminating work is a rich history of how market goods came to dominate American life over the last hundred years and why for the first time in history there are no practical limits to consumerism. In the New Republic, Alan Wolfe writes, “It takes a historian to provide an appreciation of how far Americans have wandered from the days when consumerism was slightly suspect, and Gary Cross is superbly up to the task.”

James Twitchell, professor of English at the University of Florida, has written a number of books on advertising, consumer psychology, and marketing. Among his works most applicable to today’s discussion are Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury and Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism.

Economic downturns and terrorist attacks notwithstanding, America’s love affair with luxury continues unabated according to Living It Up. (more…)

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Film and Philly: The Society for Cinema & Media Studies Conference

Columbia University Press Film StudiesFor some people six things come to mind when they think about Philadelphia and film: Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, and the mose recent Rocky Balboa. However, beginning on Thursday, The Society for Cinema & Media Studies holds its annual meeting in Philadelphia.

Looking through the SCMS program, one finds a dizzying array of fascinating panels and papers, with topics ranging from American silent film and “The Wire” to Mumblecore and the crisis of male identity in virtual pornography. While it would be impossible to list all the fascinating and provocative panels on film, television, and digital media, we’ve highlighted some papers CUP and Wallflower authors will be delivering (names of panels in parentheses). We hope this provides a glimpse into the depth and diversity of the conference and if you are at the conference please stop by our tables. And and stay tuned for an announcement later this week about a special sale on film titles!:

  • Peter Decherney: “Legally Unique: Chaplin, Copyright, and the Beginning of the End of Participatory Culture” (Copyright Frontiers: Imitation, Remixing, and Censorship)
  • Wheeler Winston Dixon: “Not Whether but When: Post 9/11 Nuclear Terrorism” (American Film in the Age of Terrorism)
  • Alison Griffiths: “Film and the Museum Sponsored Expedition: Developments at the AMNH in the 1920s” (Intimate and Instructive Views: Museum Sponsored Expedition Films of the Twenties)
  • Henry Jenkins: “The Public Sphere in a ‘Hybrid Media Ecology: YouTube, Network Television, and Presidential Politics.” (Television as a Cultural Center: The Future of the Public Sphere)
  • Jonathan Kahana: (Designing Community: The Architecture of Activism)
  • Geoff King: “Speciality Architecture in Focus: The Design of Indiewood Cinema Release Slate” (American Independents)
  • Alison Landsberg: “Gender Trouble on the Frontier: Interracial Love and the Limits on National Belonging in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Square Man” (Race and Gender in American Film)
  • Adam Lowenstein: “Haunted Houses: in the Global Village: Recent Japanese Horror Films and Globalization” (The Contemporary Horror Film)
  • James Morrison: “Camp, Horror, and Aging: The Case of Shelley Winters” (Aging American Actors)
  • Susan Ohmer: “Foote, Cone, and Belding: Hollywood and the Ad Agency” (Advertising and Cinema: 4 Case Studies)
  • Murray Pomerance: “Hitchcock the ‘Moralist’: Proprieties of Appearance in The Lodger and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)” (Hitchcock and Morality)
  • Mark Shiel: “On the Threshold of Revolution and Postmodern Decline: Representations of Los Angeles Circa 1968 (Architectures of Revolt: The Cinematic City Circa 1968)
  • Ed Sikov: “Don’t Let’s Ask for the Moon–We Have a Star: Bette Davis as Gay Icon (Bette Davis: Actor and Star)
  • Carol Vernallis: “Soundtracks for the New Cut-up Cinema: Music, Speed, and Memory (More Notes on Soundtracks)