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Archive for October, 2012

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

William Egginton — Can Neuroscience Challenge Roe V. Wade?

“When science becomes the sole or even primary arbiter of such basic notions as personhood, it ceases to be mankind’s most useful servant and threatens, instead, to become its dictator.”—William Egginton

William EggintonDue to Hurricane Sandy, we fell a bit behind with our blog posts, but we wanted to share with you a provocative and thoughtful essay by William Egginton, author of In Defense of Religious Moderation.

In Can Neuroscience Challenge Roe V. Wade?, a post on the New York Times Opinionator blog, William Egginton describes being called as an expert witness in an appellate case that some think could lead to the next Supreme Court test of Roe v. Wade.

More precisely, Egginton was asked to testify regarding the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” an Idaho statute that cites neuroscientific findings of pain sentience on the part of fetuses as a basis for prohibiting abortions even prior to viability. Though a humanities scholar and not a neuroscientist, Egginton was recognized as someone who has written about the hubris of scientific claims to knowledge that exceeds the boundaries of what the sciences in fact demonstrate.

As Egginton describes, he finds the recent laws and push to use neuroscientific findings to limit the choice of women, endorsed by Mitt Romney and other Republicans, fail to appreciate scientific and philosophical traditions regarding whether recognizing pain can be equated with personhood. Egginton writes:

For a fetus to be conscious in a sense that would establish it as a fully actualized human life, according both to current neuroscientific standards and to the philosophical tradition from which the concept stems, it would have to be capable of self-perception as well as simple perception of stimuli. And as philosophers of many stripes since Descartes have argued, self-perception is a reflexive state involving a concept of self in contrast with that of others — concepts it would be hard to imagine being meaningful for a fetus, even if fetuses could be shown to have access to concepts in the first place. By turning to consciousness in an attempt to push Roe’s line-in-the-sand back toward conception, in other words, abortion opponents would in effect be pushing it forward, toward the sort of self-differentiation that only occurs well after birth and the emergence of what the phenomenological tradition has called “world.”


Friday, October 26th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! We found a great selection of posts this week, and many of the best focus on various political aspects of higher education. As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

We’ll start things off this week with a couple of excellent articles looking at the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin Supreme Court case. First, at Voices in Education, the blog of Harvard Education Publishing, Sylvia Hurtado takes a detailed look at the court transcript for the Fisher case. She finds it interesting that neither side of the case challenges “diversity as a compelling interest” or “the educational benefits of diversity in college,” but that the petitioner’s lawyers are instead questioning how much diversity is enough diversity to achieve these benefits, and whether race-neutral affirmative action policies can make a school diverse enough.

At North Philly Notes, the blog of Temple University Press, Elizabeth Aries looks at the possible impact of the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. She goes into detail in describing the “educational benefits of diversity at college” that Hurtado mentions, explaining that “students did not fail to notice what classmates had and did not have, not only in terms of material possessions, but in terms of the opportunities they had to go out to eat, take spring break trips, to make connections to pre-professional summer jobs and to good jobs after graduation.” She argues that reducing the diversity on campuses will reduce these chances for students to learn.

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Clockwork Orgy?

Xavier Mendik, Peep ShowsIn his chapter from the book Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic, edited by Xavier Mendik. I. Q. Hunter takes on the phenomenon of porn “interpretations” of mainstream films. More specifically, he offers a reading of A Clockwork Orgy arguing that “hardcore versions, in spite of their low cultural status, represent a distinctive mode of adaptation. Rather than mere parasites upon their originals, they, like exploitation films generally, are often subversive commentaries on the mainstream’s erotic and ideological subtexts.”

Hunter goes to explore the ways in which porn resists “integration into the taxonomy of film genres.” He writes:

Appraising porn by the standards of mainstream cinema is highly problematic, not so much because of porn’s transgressive content, as because its prioritising of structure and duration over narrative makes it closer to avant-garde films….Porn can also usefully be compared with both pre-classical cinema and the alleged “regression” to plotless blank spectacle in contemporary post-classical film. Furthermore porn has elements of CCTV footage, amateur film, reality TV, found footage, and wildlife and medical documentaries in which narrative possibilities co-exist with fugitive glimpses of “unmediated” actuality. Associating porn with narrative film may simply be a category mistake, rather like the assumption that video games aspire to the cinematic, when they are an entirely different, visceral and experiential form of textuality.


Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Schryer wins Robert K. Martin Book Prize!

Fantasies of the New ClassCongratulations to Stephen Schryer, whose book Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction has won the 2012 Robert K. Martin Book Prize!

The Robert K. Martin Book Prize is “is awarded for the best book published by a CAAS member in a calendar year,” and we are very proud that Professor Schryer’s work, along with Tess Chakkalakal’s Novel Bondage, has been recognized. The CAAS blog reports that “[prize committee members] describe Dr. Schryer’s study as ‘a rich and provocative study of the emergent aesthetics, politics, and sociology of postwar professionalism, one that leaves little doubt as to the cultural significance of the ideological formations you trace.’”

Congratulations again to Professor Schryer and to Philip Leventhal, the book’s editor!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Bettie Page, Peep Shows, and Their Impact on 1950s America

Peep ShowsOne of the most famous icons of erotic cinema is, of course, Bettie Page. In the chapter “Pages of Sin: Bettie Page — From ‘Cheesecake’ Tease to Bondage Queen,” from Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic, Bill Osgerby examines Bettie Page’s career and what she represented to politically and sexually repressed 1950s American culture.

In the chapter, Osgerby discusses Page in the context of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique:

While it is folly to cast Bettie Page as any kind of figurehead for 1950s feminism, the prevalence of her image across the panoply of American popular culture certainly flipped an irreverent middle-finger to the nation’s puritanical moral guardians. More importantly, Page’s traits of burlesque parody and pastiche served to reveal the artificiality and performativity of gender identities. And, while these elements were always a significant facet to her ‘Good Bettie’ cheesecake pin-ups, they were even more pronounced in her ‘Bad Bettie’ bondage work.


Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

An interview with Margo DeMello on Animal Studies

“We can’t ‘love’ all animals, but when we create artificial categories, and then imagine that they are real, we allow ourselves to use those categories as the justification for every possible kind of treatment.” — Margo DeMello

Animals and Society Margo DeMello teaches anthropology and sociology at Central New Mexico Community College, and she is the author of the recently published Animals and Society, the first book to provide a full overview of human–animal studies. Today, we have an interview with Professor DeMello, in which she discusses some problems with common human conceptions of animals. For further reading, be sure to check out her essay introducing human-animal studies!

Animal Studies is a relatively new field. Only now are we beginning to see the ways in which animals are given identities like you mention in your book, “based on their use to humans.” How do you propose we begin a new way of fashioning our ideas of animals that is not based on human-centered universe?

This question points to one of the fundamental problems with our relationship with animals—it’s structured around humans, and our needs and desires. To get past this basic way of thinking is to challenge ourselves to see the world, and our place in it, in a radically different way. Rather than asking ourselves, “what’s in it for me,” we have to look at the systems and relationships that we’ve set up and endeavor to put aside, at least a little bit, our own desires. And that is hard!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Xavier Mendik on Academics and Cult Film

Peep Shows, Xavier MendikIn a 2008 interview with Electric Sheep, Xavier Mendik describes how Cine-Excess, a film festival he curates, brings together the academic world with the world of cult film fandom:

It might surprise you to know that academics have been really interested in cult movies for quite a while now. There’s been a lot of activity for the last ten years around genre filmmaking, around cult auteurs and particularly cult fans. So really what we’ve done is harness the interest that’s been there for ten years within a film festival format.

Likewise, Mendik brings the serious study of what some might classify as trash to his new edited collection, Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic. In the introduction to the book, Mendik describes some of Peep Shows intellectual goals:

Peep Shows thus takes as its starting point the long history of debates around “representation”, “taste” and “affect” that have marked these previous gender and cultural studies interventions in this arena. Peep Shows expands these debates to indicate the ways in which a wide variety of of soft and hard-core formats mediate images of desire and sexuality that reproduce national, cultural and historical trends and tension, as well as reflecting on more “legitimate” realms of cinematic activity. As part of this book’s aim to provide novel ways to survey the cine-erotic, the volume provides new readings on previously untheorised national trends and tendencies of the sexually explicit, as well as addressing the complex nature of spectatorship that these powerful and problematic works often provoke. Whilst acknowledging the increased theoretical interest in star studies and porn profiles, Peep Shows also seeks to provide new accounts of leading icons in this arena by combining theoretical accounts with exclusive interview material prepared for the volume.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Poetry in America, Communism in China, Derrida, and More!

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Mike Chasar, Everyday Reading

Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America
Mike Chasar

The Formation of the Chinese Communist Party
Ishikawa Yoshihiro

War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics
Emile Simpson

To Follow: The Wake of Jacques Derrida (Now available in paper)
Peggy Kamuf

Derrida and Hospitality: Theory and Practice
Judith Still

Veering: A Theory of Literature (Now available in paper)
Nicholas Royle


Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Book Giveaway: Peep Shows!

Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic

This week we our featured book and giveaway is a little bit different: Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic, edited by Xavier Mendik.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic and we are offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

Expanding on recent work in gender, cultural, and audience-based studies, Peep Shows: Cult Film and the Cine-Erotic examines the global traditions of cult erotica, explaining key patterns, paradigms, and performers from the world of cult celluloid sexuality. Peep Shows includes profiles of porn performers and icons such as Ron Jeremy, Betty Page, Catherine Breillat, and Joe D’Amato. Essays also provides case studies of contemporary porn parodies, lesbian erotica, Japanese Pink porn cinema, Café Flesh, the Seduction cinema label, the dominatrix in erotic cinema, female porn viewers, burlesque cinema programming, and porno chic soundtracks. The volume features exclusive interviews with erotic performers Seka, Buck Angel, Misty Mundae, Christina “Thriller” Lindberg, and the prolific porn producer, Michael L. Raso.

Friday, October 19th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts 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.

We’ll open things up this week with a big congrats to our NYC neighbors Fordham University Press! As they announced on their blog, they’ve just launched their totally redesigned redesigned website. It looks great!

On a sadder note, on Wednesday the UNC Blog ran a guestpost by Douglas M. Orr reflecting on the life of William Friday, a hugely influential part of the higher education system in North Carolina and an advocate for public education around the country, who passed away last week.

The presidential election is now less than three weeks away, and many of the UP blogs we cover for the UP Roundup are doing an excellent job of giving in-depth analysis of the campaign. This week, we’ll start our politics section of posts with an examination of how the two candidates are defined in the public mind from the Harvard University Press Blog. A fascinating observation: while Obama seems to be consistently defined by his “first African American president” status, some 40% of Americans this summer were unaware that Mitt Romney is Mormon.

Both campaigns (and the associated PACs and Super PACs) are stepping up the political ads as the election draws closer. At the Princeton University Press Blog, a guest post by John McGinnis in PUP’s Election 101 series asks an important question: are campaign ads worth the exorbitant costs campaigns pay to create and air them? While McGinnis acknowledges the common complaint that there is too much money in politics, he believes that ads ARE an important part of the political process in that they are a way to “break through a cacophony of nonpolitical information” and reach viewers with policy information.

Tuesday’s town hall debate between President Obama and Governor Romney was widely seen as a victory for Obama, reversing the outcome of the first debate. However, at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Scott Melzer argues that the big winner of Tuesday’s showdown was neither Obama nor Romney. Instead, Melzer claims that the greatest beneficiary of the debate was the National Rifle Association, due to the discussion of gun rights that took place in the debate.

While most of the election discussion is focusing on the Democratic and Republican candidates for President, this week North Philly Notes ran an interview with Judge James P. Gray, the running mate of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party presidential candidate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Judge Gray has little good to say about either major party candidate: “President Obama and Senator Romney are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads, and not talking about their records – because they can’t – nor about their ideas – because they almost literally don’t have any – but instead spending all this money showing how inept the other one is – and we agree with both of them!”

This October marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the most-discussed and least-agreed-about occurrences of the Cold War. At the Princeton University Press Blog, David Gibson takes a look at the standard interpretation of JFK’s actions during the crisis and comes to some startling conclusions. Meanwhile, the Stanford University Press Blog has started a sequence of excerpts from The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory that tell the story of the crisis as if in real time, starting from Day 1, October 16, 1962.

Recently, Jennifer Howard wrote a post for the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Ditch the Monograph” that provoked a good deal of discussion around the publishing world. Should scholars give up on the long-form monograph and embrace the short-form ebook as the best way to deliver scholarship? On Tuesday, the Chicago Blog of the University of Chicago Press ran a meditation on the questions raised by Howard’s article.

The recent racially/religiously-motivated mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin raised important questions for scholarly disciplines like Asian American studies for Min Hyoung Song, editor of the Journal of Asian American Studies, in a guest post at the JHU Press Blog. “How do we as scholars best intervene in a social context that has acted as a kind of condition of possibility for this kind of violence[?]”

American social contexts are also the topic of discussion for Anatol Lieven in a guest post at the OUPblog in which he discusses how American nationalism is informed by chauvinism and idealism. Lieven discusses the constantly changing “American attitudes to race” and discusses how “America’s magnificent ‘self-correction mechanism,’ the power of its democratic values and institutions has repeatedly brought the country back to democratic stability and tolerance after episode of chauvinist hysteria like McCarthyism.”

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a fascinating, in-depth conversation about Italian filmmaker Antonioni from the University of Minnesota Press Blog. Scholars Karl Schoonover and John David Rhodes discuss how Antonioni’s cinema sought to “produce counter-narratives against globalization and neoliberalism” and how his films continue to inform filmmakers today.

That’s it for this week! We hope you enjoyed the links as much as we enjoyed finding them. Please let us know what you think in the comments. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

From Shameful to Sexy — Kelly Oliver on Changing Representations of Pregnancy

Kelly Oliver, Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down

“Pregnancy and pregnant bodies have gone from shameful and hidden to sexy and spectacular”—Kelly Oliver

In From Shameful to Sexy, the introduction to Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films , Kelly Oliver examines the shifting image of the pregnant woman in popular culture and Hollywood films.

She argues that this phenomenon has taken pregnancy out of the closet, it also creates unrealistic expectations for women to have it all. It also reflects ambivalent attitudes toward women’s roles and traditional family values, and new technologies of reproduction.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

Pregnancy has become an obsession in popular culture where paparazzi are constantly on the lookout for celebrities’ telltale “baby bumps” and heavily pregnant bellies, and reality television shows and tabloid magazines parade teen pregnancies, sexy “momshells,” and celebrity baby woes and triumphs. Pregnancy and pregnant bodies have gone from shameful and hidden to sexy and spectacular….

Certainly, positive and desirable images of pregnant women are a step forward. But if we look closer, we can see how these seemingly new stories repeat traditional ideas about abject maternal bodies, conventional notions of family values, familiar anxieties over women’s role in reproduction, and fears of miscegenation. In addition, current ideals that promote pregnancy and maternity as desirable, especially for career women, bring new expectations that often require heroic efforts and large doses of caffeine, antidepressants, and sleeping pills—not to mention Mama Spanx maternity wear, “mommy-tucks,” diet fads, and taxing workouts at the gym. Today, women are not only responsible for the health and welfare of their babies but also expected to stay beautiful and fit while pregnant and to lose their “baby fat” as soon as possible in order to “get their bodies back” (as one tabloid put it, suggesting that their pregnant bodies are not their real bodies). Pregnancy has become like an accessory worn by the rich and famous, an adornment that can be removed. Pregnant celebrities go from lack to excess and back again, from anorexic to sporting the telltale “baby bump,” so popular in the media. Now, rather than laying in or staying at home, pregnant women are expected to exercise, continue working, and still be beautiful and sexy for their male partners. In the words of Wenda Wardell Morrone, “We can all recognize the successful pregnant working woman: she is the one in the maternity jogging suit running a marathon on her way to chairing a business meeting; she’ll give birth in her lunch hour without even smudging her eye shadow. She is also a fantasy”.

If Hollywood did not create this fantasy, it continues to feed it. Indeed, in recent years Hollywood has helped revive the fantasy of women “having it all”—babies, careers, sexy bodies, and the freedom to enjoy them. Pregnancy has become as desirable as ever, now fueled by images of “knocked-up knockouts,” “momshells,” and pregnant celebrities. Hollywood is giving birth to new images of sexy, cute, and attractive pregnancies offscreen and on….


Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Margo DeMello: Why Human-Animal Studies?

“Clearly, much of human society is structured through interactions with non-human animals, and in fact, human society is largely based upon the exploitation of animals to serve human needs. Yet, until very recently academia has largely ignored these types of interaction.” — Margo DeMello

Animals and Society Margo DeMello teaches anthropology and sociology at Central New Mexico Community College, and she is the author of the recently published Animals and Society, the first book to provide a full overview of human–animal studies. In today’s post, Professor DeMello explains what the field of human-animal studies actually is and why it is important for us to study the way that human and animal lives are intertwined.

Why Human-Animal Studies?
Margo DeMello

Lately, I have been hooked on a website called Dog Shaming. It’s a tumblr devoted to photos of dogs who have committed a doggy “crime” (chewed up the couch, eaten their guardian’s panties, bitten the UPS man), along with a sign (sometimes hung around the dog’s neck) detailing the nature of their crime; often the dogs are photographed alongside of the “evidence.” This week’s signs include the following:

“I was put on 2 lists at daycare: the poop-eater list and the crazy list. The staff described my poop-acquiring tactics as ‘particularly stealthy.’” From Pepper, a black lab
“This is how I say ‘thank you’ for my new big boy bed.” From Robbie, a terrier who was photographed in front of his brand new, and completely destroyed, bed
“I decided to see if that stamp pad really was made with ‘washable ink.’” From Baxter, a white poodle (now covered with pink ink)

This is only the most recent of countless websites devoted to non-human animals: their cuteness, their intelligence, how funny they are, or their similarity to us. Dog Shaming is reminiscent of the Medieval practice of charging animals with crimes, and even trying them in human courts. While the result of that practice was often terrible—animals could be excommunicated from the church, sent to prison, or even hanged for their crimes—Dog Shaming is ultimately about how much we love our dogs, no matter what they do. The dogs are publically shamed, yes, but it is done with affection and humor, and that is as far as their punishment goes.

Dog Shaming is an example of the various ways in which human lives are intimately connected with the lives of other animals. Animals share our homes as companions whom often we treat as members of the family. We can view animals on the “Animal Planet” network or television shows such as “Animal Practice” and subscribe to magazines like BARK or House Rabbit Journal. We eat animals, or their products, for most every meal, and much of our clothing is made up of animal skins, fur, hair, or wool. We wash our hair with products that have been tested on animals and use drugs that were created using animal models. We visit zoos, marine mammal parks and rodeos in order to be entertained by performing animals, and we share our yards—often unwillingly—with wild animals whose habitats are being eroded by our presence. We refer to animals when we speak of someone’s being “cunning as a fox” or call someone a “bitch.” We include them in our religious practices and feature them in our art, poetry, and literature. In these and myriad other ways, the human and nonhuman worlds are inexorably bound.

In recent years, human-animal studies (sometimes known as anthrozoology or animal studies) has developed as a new field of study that explores these very relationships. Clearly, much of human society is structured through interactions with non-human animals, and in fact, human society is largely based upon the exploitation of animals to serve human needs. Yet, until very recently academia has largely ignored these types of interaction. Human-Animal Studies (HAS) takes on the challenge of bringing our interactions and relationships with other animals to the forefront of academic study.


Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

MomCom as RomCom

Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down

“Today, Hollywood need not bother with marriage. Rather, sex, baby, love—often in that order—are the contemporary triple threat.”—Kelly Oliver

In her book Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films, Kelly Oliver discusses the genre of the “MomCom,” in which pregnancy is the means by which a man and a woman become romantically involved rather than the other way around.

In this excerpt, Oliver discusses such films as Knocked Up, Look Who’s Talking, Fools Rush In, and Juno to explore the ways in which pregnancy is depicted as a way to “soften” the controlling woman and make the man grow up.

Today, Hollywood need not bother with marriage. Rather, sex, baby, love—often in that order—are the contemporary triple threat. While we are used to seeing sex without love in contemporary Hollywood films, we are not used to seeing babies without sex. As we will see, uncoupling sex and reproduction causes so much anxiety that, often in the most contrived ways, these films manage to bring them back together. And the transformations that take place through pregnancy, particularly to the control-freak career woman, not only recouple sex and reproduction but also bring love and romance into the mix.

In Knocked Up, pregnancy is the softening agent that eventually makes the career girl more likable and tolerant and makes the slacker nerd grow up. Of course pregnancy also becomes the reason why our heroine worries about keeping her high-powered television job. Not quite Doris Day’s characters before her (who gives up career for family), Alison (Heigl) wonders how she can balance her high-powered career and a baby. And like Doris Day’s character in Lover Come Back, she is pregnant as a result of a one-night stand. Unlike Doris’s characters, however, Alison is not in love with the father of her child. In fact, she doesn’t even know him. Rather than pregnancy following from courtship, romance, and marriage, we get the reverse trajectory in recent pregnancy romcoms where pregnancy becomes the vehicle for courtship, romance, and heterocoupling, if not also marriage….


Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

VIDEO: Siddharth Kara on Bonded Labor

This week CNN’s Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery has been featuring posts and videos by Siddharth Kara, author of Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia.

On Monday, he looked at bonded labor in Nepal and the ways in which the system has an impact around the world:


Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Award Winner! Uncreative Writing Wins the A.S.A.P. Book Prize!

Uncreative Writing, Kenneth Goldsmith

Congratulations to Kenneth Goldsmith, whose book Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age was recently awarded Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (A.S.A.P) Book Award.

Here is the announcement from A.S.A.P.

Uncreative Writing was praised by prize committee members for its clear and engaging prose, its theoretical savvy, and its unique and riveting perspective on teaching creating writing by turning to the internet and digital environments that allow students to practice and analyze the implications of techniques such as cutting and pasting, databasing, identity ciphering, and programming. Goldsmith uses sources as diverse as courtroom testimony, robo-poetics, and Twitter to teach students fundamentals of poetic form. As noted in book commentary, Goldsmith substitutes for authenticity a method of appropriation, which he says deals “a knockout blow to notions of traditional authorship.” It does not, however, deal a knockout blow to art: the results are in fact astounding, and book prize committee members noted the sophistication of the formal lessons the author was able to draw from his radical artistic practice that connects writing education to theory and praxis by Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Andy Warhol, and others. ASAP offers congratulations to Kenneth Goldsmith, winner of our 2011 Book Prize!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Kelly Oliver — Bella’s Baby: Extreme Home Birth

With our featured book this week being Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films we are re-posting Kelly Oliver’s essay originally published for mother’s day.

Kelly Oliver, Knock Me Up, Knock Me DownTwilight: Breaking Dawn continues a long line of horror films featuring women giving birth to otherworldly creatures. Bella, the teenage heroine of the Twilight series, is a modern day Rosemary’s Baby, whose pregnancy with a “demon” leaves her wasting away. While Rosemary drinks vile potions prepared by witches, Bella drinks blood out of kiddie Styrofoam cups complete with straw. She is further infantilized cuddled up on the couch under her childhood quilt, another nod to the childlike Rosemary. Whereas Rosemary’s Baby ends with a close-up of the demon baby’s glowing red eyes, Breaking Dawn ends with a close-up of Bella’s glowing red eyes, signaling her transformation into a vampire.

Another homage to Rosemary’s Baby is Bella’s nightmarish birth scene, shown through flashing images of a screaming Bella being drugged so vampires can remove the baby. Talk about extreme home birth! Edward delivers the baby by chewing through the amniotic sac. Not a very sterile operation, but it does the trick. Still, don’t try this at home! Never fear, the baby looks adorable after Edward’s “sister” cleans her…perhaps by licking off all that blood?


Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: White Collar Criminals, Action Movies, Birds, and More New Titles

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

How They Got Away With It: White Collar Crimals and the Financial MeltdownHow They Got Away with It: White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown
Edited by Susan Will, Stephen Handelman, and David C. Brotherton

Experiencing Animal Minds: An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters
Edited by Julie A. Smith and Robert W. Mitchell

Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back
Harvey O’Brien

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
Edited by Billy Collins; Drawings by David Allen Sibley

Pakistan: A New History
Ian Talbot

Al-Andalus Rediscovered: Iberia’s New Muslims
Marvine Howe

Shiism and Politics in the Middle East
Laurence Louër

Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims, and the Lure of Consumerist Islam
Edited by Amel Boubekeur and Olivier Roy

The Violence of Petro-dollar Regimes: Algeria, Iraq, and Libya
Luis Martinez

S is for Samora: A Lexical Biography of Samora Machel and the Mozambican Dream
Sarah LeFanu

The Kosova Liberation Army: Underground War to Balkan Insurgency, 1948-2001
James Pettifer

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Alasdair Cochrane: Making Animal Rights Inclusive

“Because there can be reasonable philosophical disagreements about the proper content of animal rights, I believe that it is only wise and proper for the animal rights movement at the political level to accommodate these differences.” — Alasdair Cochrane

Animal Rights Without Liberation We’ve had a good deal of discussion on our blog about what exactly animal advocates should be fighting for. While some claim that accepting compromises with the farming industry is in the interest of animals, others believe that only a complete rejection of farming as a practice is acceptable. This debate is indicative of a deeper divide among supporters of animal rights: whether full liberation is necessary for the fair treatment of animals. In today’s post, Alasdair Cochrane, lecturer in political theory at The University of Sheffield and the author of Animal Rights Without Liberation, claims that liberation of animals is not necessary to fully recognize their rights, and that our moral obligation to animals lie in ending practices that cause their suffering and death.

Making Animal Rights Inclusive
Alasdair Cochrane

If we accept that sentient non-human animals possess rights, what follows in terms of the obligations of individuals and society? One common view put forward is that a commitment to animal rights entails a duty to abolish the use, ownership and exploitation of animals. On this view, the acceptance of animal rights entails much more than simply refraining from killing or hurting animals: animal rights requires their liberation.

But while this position has become widely accepted by both academic textbooks and those who campaign on behalf of animals, I want to argue that it is both wrong philosophically and unhelpful politically.

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Book Giveaway! “Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down,” by Kelly Oliver

“This is a wonderful book…. It examines new possibilities, not all positive, in an age of techno-pregnancy and the erotic glorification of “baby bumps”, “momshells” and pregnant celebrities. A highly serious yet entertaining account of the relationship between film and the popular imagination and a timely reminder of importance of popular culture in everyday life.” — Barbara Creed, University of Melbourne

Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films

This week our featured book is Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films by Kelly Oliver.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films and we are offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book: read the introduction From Shameful to Sexy or browse the book in Google Preview.

Friday, October 12th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! Even though it was a short week for many publishers with Columbus Day on Monday and even though many lucky publishing folks are currently over in Frankfurt, there were still a lot of excellent posts on publishing blogs. As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Speaking of Columbus Day, on Monday, Beacon Broadside ran a post in support of Indigenous Peoples Day, a “reimagination of Columbus Day that ‘changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance.’” In honor of the occasion, they featured an interview with Kim E. Nielsen on disability in American Indigenous cultures.

Last night was the first debate between Vice-Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, and while there weren’t yet posts breaking down this debate while we were looking through the blogs, the debates and the election generally have generated a number of good posts. For those debate watchers who need to brush up on what it is that Vice Presidents actually do, at the Yale Press Log, Joshua M. Glasser has a guest post in which he discusses the changing, oft-overlooked role of the Vice Presidency in American politics.

The debate last night was touted as particularly important after the first Presidential debate, which took place last week. While Mitt Romney is widely seen as the victor in that debate, Andrew J. Polsky, analyzing the Obama-Romney debate at the OUPblog, claims that “the clear winner was the news media. No one likes a one-sided presidential campaign, and that was the direction of the contest over several weeks prior to the debate.” Polsky goes on to ask whether Romney’s “comeback story” is real or a media fabrication.