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Archive for January, 2013

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

“Philosophy has lost its way”

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real. Today, we have a guest post from Professor Taylor, in which he discusses Rewiring the Real, Refiguring the Spiritual, and Recovering Place, and tells why Rewiring the Real might have begun, “Philosophy has lost its way.”

“Philosophy has lost its way”
Mark C. Taylor

Rewiring the Real is the second book in a trilogy that includes Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy (2012), and Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill (2014). Refiguring the Spiritual begins, “Art has lost its way;” Rewiring the Real might have begun, “Philosophy has lost its way.” During the latter half of the twentieth-century, art and money entered into an unholy alliance in which artists eager to cash in on new money are selling works to financiers who resell them in hedge funds and private equity funds designed for ultra-rich investors looking for new ways to “diversify their portfolios with asset-backed securities.” While artists are trying to become Wall Street players, philosophers are trying to become scientists. As their work becomes more abstract and highly specialized, philosophers become less concerned about human problems and real world issues.

For art and philosophy to recover their missions, art must become more philosophical and philosophy must become more artistic in and through a rethinking of the interrelationship of art, philosophy and religion. This will require not only a change in substance but, more important, a change in style. This is not an original idea but can be traced to the publication of Kant’s pivotal Critique of Judgment (1790). It is no exaggeration to insist that this work has directly and indirectly shaped all philosophical, theological, artistic and, indeed, cultural discussions and production for more than two centuries. Kant provided the definition of art that became normative for Modernism. During the decade of the 1790s, discussions about Kant’s critical philosophy among a remarkable group of philosophers and writers, including, inter alia, Hegel, Schelling, Schiller, Schleiermacher, Hölderlin, Novalis, and the Schlegel brothers, led to a reconfiguration of the relationship among philosophy, art and religion. While leading thinkers in the eighteenth century had interpreted religion in either epistemological or ethical terms, writers, who gathered in Jena during the seminal decade of the 1790s, reconceived religion in terms of art and aesthetics. In their works, art displaced religion as the primary means for the exploration and expression of religious and spiritual concerns. Some of philosophers who have been most influential recently – Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida – are as much artists as philosophers. But they have all remained writers, whose works are literary or even poetic. Some of the leading twentieth-century visual artists – Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Malevich, Rothko, Reinhardt, Newman, Pollack – insist that art has a spiritual dimension.

Refiguring the Spiritual begins with a critique of what I describe as the “financialization of art.” What Andy Warhol is to consumer capitalism, Jeff Koons is to financial capitalism. But there is an importance difference between Andy and his epigone Jeff. While Warhol’s ironic detachment leaves the viewer uncertain whether he is criticizing or endorsing consumerism, there is no ambiguity about Koons. He eagerly endorses practices of the Wall Street wizards who pay excessive prices for eye candy intended to make them feel good. Beuys, Barney, Turrell and Goldsworthy reject this tendency in contemporary art. Each in his own way extends the preoccupations of the modern avant-garde art by drawing on different spiritual traditions (Beuys, Anthroposophy; Barney, Celtic and Masonic mythology; Turrell, Quakerism and Hopi myths and rituals; Goldsworthy, Celtic mythology). Their works are difficult and demanding – they cannot be consumed quickly but take time to appreciate. Though many of their works are expensive to create, they cannot be easily commodified. The primary purpose of their works is not to market them for a profit but to create the opportunity for the cultivation of personal and, by extension, social transformation.

Rewiring the Real extends my analysis from art to literature by analyzing one novel by four important writers: William Gaddis, The Recognitions; Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark; Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves; Don DeLillo, Underworld. Though these writers are very different, they share an appreciation for the ways in which recent technological innovations (Gaddis, electronic media and communications; Powers, virtual reality; Danielewski, Internet and World Wide Web; DeLillo, nuclear power and global financial networks) harbor a latent spirituality in an era that is too often labeled secular and posthuman. Rather than merely critically analyzing these novels, I attempt to engage the authors in a conversation that expands the inquiry beyond the boundaries each writer defines. As these writers begin to “talk” among themselves, we begin to see how their work can help readers understand the ways in which the very sense of reality is morphing in the global world of financial capitalism.

If style is substance and substance is style, then writing must change. In previous works (e.g., Imagologies: Media Philosophy, Grave Matters, Mystic Bones, Hiding, and Motel Réal: Las Vegas, Nevada), I have used different styles of writing and visual design to convey the ideas I am attempting to express. This ongoing experiment continues with this trilogy: Refiguring the Spiritual uses images and design to fashion arguments and Rewiring the Real includes accounts of some of my own artwork as well as my first attempt at writing fiction. Recovering Place will be my most ambitious experiment so far. In this multifaceted work, I take philosophy off the page by creating land art and sculpture (metal, rock, stone and bone) in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, where I live. In addition to a series of aphoristic reflections about the importance of recovering place in a world that is becoming ever more virtual, the book also includes original photographs I have taken of my art in its natural setting. As Kierkegaard, insisted long ago, many of the most important things in life can only be communicated indirectly. I would add to this that there are things that we can apprehend but not precisely comprehend. Through stylistic innovation and artistic design, I have attempted to create performative works that work at multiple levels to transform apprehension as well as introduce new ways of understanding the world in which we dwell.

Mark C. Taylor
Stone Hill

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

A Q & A with Mark C. Taylor

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real. Today, we have a fascinating Q&A with Professor Taylor, in which he delves into the relationships between art, technology, and religion he explores in greater detail in Rewiring the Real, and discusses the role of philosophy in a changing world.

Question: Rewiring the Real is part two of a trilogy, the first part of which is Refiguring the Spiritual. Both of these two works discuss important aspects of today’s society through analysis of a single work by important modern cultural figures (novelists and artists respectively). What led you to this conceit?

Mark C. Taylor: Let me begin by placing these two books within the larger trajectory of my work. For almost four decades, I have been developing an analysis of the interplay between religion and multiple aspects of culture. As I explain in After God, religion is not limited to what transpires in churches, synagogues, temples and mosques but pervades all aspects of society and culture. Unfortunately, the hyper-specialization and professionalization of the university discourage the multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural analyses that are, in my judgment, essential to effective critical inquiry.

In a series of books dating back to the late 1980s – Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion; Imagologies: Media Philosophy; About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture; The Picture in Question: Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation; Hiding; Grave Matters and Mystic Bones – I have explored the relationship of religion and philosophy to art. In some of these books, I use design to develop my argument. More recently, I have begun to expand philosophy beyond the printed page by creating artworks in different media – video games, photography. I am also engaged in creating art. In 2002, I had a major exhibition entitled Grave Matters as Mass MOCA and I am now engaged in a major land art and sculpture in the Berkshires.

There is also an historical context for this work. During the crucial decade of the 1790s, art and literature began to displace religion as the means for expressing religious and spiritual concerns. Though rarely acknowledged, it is not possible to understand many major twentieth-century artists and writers without an appreciation for their spiritual preoccupations. Refiguring the Spiritual and Rewiring the Real attempt to rectify this oversight.
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Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

A Good Week for Kara Newman

Kara Newman, Secret Financial Life of Food

It’s been a good week for Kara Newman (@karanewman), author of The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets.

A recent review in the Washington Post praised the book for providing “a refreshing and much-needed look” at food as a commodity amid the plethora of other food books.

The review points to Kara Newman’s “engaging observations” about the development of such phenomena as year-round dairy products and the transformation of pepper from a financial instrument of critical value to lowly food stuff. Additionally, Newman’s tracing of the history of commodity tracing is documented “clearly and elegantly.”

In addition to the great review, Newman was also interviewed about the book by Eric LeMay on the New Books Network.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

VIDEO: W. Bradford Wilcox on Gender and Parenthood

In the following video, W. Bradford Wilcox, the co-editor with Kathleen Kovner Kline of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives, discusses the different ways in which fathers and mothers parent.

While recognizing that a variety of familial structures (single parents, etc.) Wilcox cites various studies which reveal that on average children fare better when raised by their biological parents. Wilcox focuses on how mothers and fathers each model different behavior for their children:

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Rewiring the Real with Mark C. Taylor

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real.

In Rewiring the Real, Professor Taylor examines four novels–William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, Richard Powers’s Plowing the Dark, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and Don DeLillo’s Underworld–in order to reveal the similarities of the roles of religion and technology in modern culture. Check out our new Pinterest board focusing on Professor Taylor’s work, and on Rewiring the Real in particular, to learn more! Over the next few days, we’ll be adding more quotes from *Rewiring the Real*, so Like our board to keep up!

Here’s a couple of quick excerpts from *Rewiring the Real* on *House of Leaves* and *Underworld*:

Source: en.wikipedia.org via Columbia University on Pinterest

“HOW Danielewski writes is as intriguing as WHAT he writes. Freely mixing high and low culture, he weaves together literary theory, architectural theory, film theory, philosophy, theology, psychoanalysis, modern and postmodern art and literature, detective fiction, and punk rock to create a book that baffles as much as it dazzles.” — Mark C. Taylor, Rewiring the Real

Source: en.wikipedia.org via Columbia University on Pinterest

“What DeLillo understood before most others was that the Cold War–even the balance of terror–had been a stabilizing arrangement. The dissolution of the Soviet Union did not insure a secure world governed by one superpower but ushered in a radically unstable world in which power is decentralized, distributed, and dispersed in ways that make it much harder to identify, contain, and control individuals and states and nonstate agents.” — Mark C. Taylor, Rewiring the Real

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Mark C. Taylor on the interrelation of art, philosophy, and religion

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Today, we have an excerpt from “Nexus,” the introduction of Rewiring the Real. Stay tuned for more great content from Mark C. Taylor coming up this week, and remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real.

Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don Delillo by Columbia University Press

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

New Book Tuesday: A Play by Alain Badiou, Plant Rights, and More New Books

Alain BadiouThe Incident at Antioch/L’Incident d’Antioche: A Tragedy in Three Acts / Tragédie en trois actes
Alain Badiou

Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life
Michael Marder; Foreword by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala

Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives
Edited by W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline

The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Order, Meaning, and Free Will in Modern Medical Science (Now available in paperback)
Robert E. Pollack

Social Welfare in East Asia and the Pacific

Edited by Sharlene Furuto

Demystifying the Caliphate
Madawi Al-Rasheed, Carool Kersten, and Marat Shterin

The Rumor of Globalization: Desecrating the Global from Vernacular Margins
Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay

Visions of the Ottoman World in Renaissance Europe
Andrei Pippidi

The Cakrasamvara Tantra (The Discourse of Sri Heruka): Editions of the Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts
David B. Gray

Reading for Our Time: Adam Bede and Middlemarch Revisited (Now available in paper)
J. Hillis Miller

(more…)

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real by Mark C. Taylor

How to Live Together, by Roland Barthes

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Rewiring the Real here on our blog, our Twitter feed, and Facebook page. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to the winner of our Book Giveaway.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail lf2413@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! We hope you are all staying nice and warm in this cold snap. As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision. A couple of academic blogs had excellent posts in honor of the occasion. First of all, the UNC Press Blog has a post from Marc Stein in which he breaks down and discusses five of the most significant myths about the contents and meanings of the decision. At Beacon Broadside, Carole Joffe discusses initial feelings about the decisions and then examines the “rapid rise of an anti-abortion movement after the Roe decision.”

The sad death of Aaron Swartz has raised questions about “the doggedness with which federal prosecutors were pursuing [Swartz],” as well as questions about the morality of copyright law in research. This week, the Harvard University Press Blog takes a look at the nature of prosecutorial discretion through the lens of Swartz’s case.

Publishing a book is almost always a long process, particularly in the world of academic publishing where peer review is a crucial part of the publishing system. However, at the JHU Press Blog, JHU Press editorial director Greg Britton tells the story of a recent JHU Press book that was deemed important and timely enough to be published as an “instant book.” Coming from the Johns Hopkins Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America, the book, Reducing Gun Violence in America, had to be published in a mere fourteen days!

At the OUPblog, Karen Schiltz asks a frightening question that many parents around the country are forced to confront in the wake of the recent tragic school shootings: “Could my child be responsible for the next tragedy?” In her sobering post, Schiltz addresses problems with the diagnoses of mental conditions in children and offers advice on how best to seek help for a child.

The University of California Press Blog has a post in memory of former UC Press director James H. Clark, who passed away last week. Clark led the UC Press for twenty five years, and had been in the publishing industry since 1960.

The use of art in determining and defining who was and who was not a Nazi perpetrator after World War II is a fascinating and complicated subject, and it’s the topic of a guest post by Paul B. Jaskot at the University of Minnesota Press Blog. Jaskot believes that the role of art history in “highlighting the political function of art and architecture” is an important one.

Tonight is the debut of the latest film featuring the “master heister” Parker. Yesterday, the Chicago Blog, the blog of the University of Chicago Press, ran an article delving into the fascinating and somewhat checkered past of Parker films. More importantly, they provide a handy list of ways to avoid being robbed by Parker. Best piece of advice: “Don’t have anything he wants. We recommend possessing only books. He’s not much of a reader, that Parker.”

Today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday! In honor of the occasion, the MIT Press blog has an excerpt from Rosalind Krauss’s work on modernism, The Optical Unconscious. Naturally, the excerpt focuses on Woolf, and, in particular, on her thoughts on Roger Fry and chess.

In the election in November, thousands of people were willing to wait in line out of a sense of civic duty to vote. At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson asks why people are willing to wait so proudly for their chance to vote in an election but not so willing to wait for their chance to serve in the judicial system on a jury.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a post from the University of Virginia Press blog in which Jeffrey Greene examines the strange and interesting life of oysters as a suggestive artistic symbol in the paintings of the 16th and 17th century Dutch masters. Interestingly enough, Greene finds that these painted oysters “don’t look anything like the ones my father, brother, and I collected and ate during the years I grew up in New England, nor do they look like the most common oysters in France, a country famed since Roman times as Europe’s greatest oyster producer. Clearly, the seventh-century oysters in the paintings were rounder and flatter than the typical creuses, oysters with a cupped shell that are consumed worldwide.”

Well, that will do it for this week! We hope that you enjoyed this edition of our UP Roundup. As always, please post any thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Roland Barthes on How to Live Together

Roland Barthes, How to Live Together

We conclude our week-long feature on How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces.

As a reminder for more on the book, you can also read Kate Briggs’s essay on translating Barthes and our visual tribute to the many faces of Roland Barthes.

Read an excerpt from How to Live Together. You will need to view in full screen, so click on icon in bottom right-hand corner:

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Buy Breakast — A Post by Kara Newman, author of “The Secret Financial Life of Food”

Kara Newman, The Secret Financial Life of Food

The following post is by Kara Newman, author of The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets. The post was originally published on the blog A Life of Spice:

Few people can claim to have had a food epiphany while reading Barron’s, but that’s what happened to me. In a roundtable discussion of market experts, after many dry pages about where the S&P 500 Index and gold bullion might end the year, commodities trader Jim Rogers offered this wisdom: “Buy breakfast.”

He was referring to futures contracts sold on frozen orange juice and pork bellies, which he expected to appreciate in value during the coming year). But to me, it was more than an abstract investment idea, and I thought of the cartons of Tropicana and BLTs I’d consumed over the years.

Although I had a vague notion of the agriculture and manufacturing associated with bringing food to the table, never before had I contemplated the secret financial life of my meals.

At the time, I was working as a financial editor for a consulting firm, overseeing a team that churned out daily stock and bond market reports for corporate clients. I was given a new and serendipitous task: write a daily commodities report.

Suddenly, I was hungry on the commodities beat, and I wanted to learn more. I enrolled in a course on derivatives offered by the Futures Industry Institute and taught by a commodities trader. The class was geared toward prepping eager young traders for a certification exam. I opened my coursebook, and flipped past the spiderweb diagrams of hedging strategies to the list of products traded as commodities.

It read like a menu: The Livestock category, I read, included cattle and hogs (live and the fabled “pork bellies,” fresh or frozen, a commodity now ubiquitous on trendy restaurant menus but which no longer trade). Meanwhile, the Grains sector spanned the range of wheat, soybeans, oats, and corn. And the Softs group referred to cocoa, coffee, sugar, orange juice and, puzzlingly, also cotton and lumber. (I’m deliberately omitting the distinctly non-edible energy and metals sectors, though they are important commodities too.)

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Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The Many Faces of Roland Barthes; or Rolling with Roland

Roland Barthes

With our recent publication of the first-ever English translation of How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces” by Roland Barthes, we thought a visual tribute was in order. Visit our board on Pinterest for more photos of Roland Barthes, frequently with cigarette in hand, looking like the quintessential French intellectual.


Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Howard Marks’s “Cold-Shower” Letter

Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing IlluminatedOne of the most important voices on Wall Street is Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital Management and author of The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor. As reported by Robert Lenzer at Forbes, Howard Mark’s most recent letter cautions against some of the risks recently being taken in the market of late, behavior that resembles events leading up to the financial meltdown

In Marks’ letter he cites “errors of the herd,” “the brevity of financial memory,” and “the role of cycles and pendulums.”

Lenzer writes:

As Marks so grittily puts it; “The scramble for return has brought elements of pre-crisis behavior very much back to life. Mull that description of the fixed income markets in early 2013 over– and decide what the fallout might be on equities. Just as took place most shockingly in 2008 and early 2009.”

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Kate Briggs — On Table-making and Translation

In the following post, Kate Briggs, the translator of How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, discusses the challenges and joys of translating Roland Barthes.

“If I identify with Robinson Crusoe it’s not only because it took me far longer to write the lecture notes again in English than it did for Barthes to produce them in French (a matter of years versus a matter of months). It is also because translating Barthes has been an extended apprenticeship in writing.”—Kate Briggs

Roland Barthes, How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday SpacesDaniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is one of a handful of literary works that feature prominently in Barthes’s How to Live Together, and I re-read it for the purposes of the translation. This time around I was struck by one of the projects Robinson Crusoe sets himself quite early on in the novel: he decides to make a table.

The problem is Robinson Crusoe has never made a table before, just as he has never planted a crop before, glazed earthenware or cultivated goats. Of course, Robinson Crusoe is familiar with what it is he’s trying to make. He’s not about to make something wholly unprecedented—to invent the table, for example. His problem is how to make a table in these new, unlikely circumstances. He soon realizes that the methods used back in Hull, England will not work here: he doesn’t have the materials to hand, or the tools, plus there is the issue of personal aptitude (again, he’s never done this before). It is the unavailability of those original means of production that makes his problem interesting: as Robinson Crusoe is well aware, here on his deserted island there can be no question of making a table in the same way as the tables he’d written on prior to the shipwreck. This is the method he eventually comes up with:

If I wanted a board, I had no other way but to cut down a tree, set it on an edge before me, and hew it flat on either side with my axe, til I had brought it to be as thin as a plank, and then dub it smooth with my adze. It is true, by this method I could make but one board out of a whole tree, but this I had no remedy for but patience, any more than I had for the prodigious deal of time and labor which it took me up to make a plank or board. But my time or labor was little worth, and so it was as well employed one way as another…

So: one tree felled for every plank of wood. Some years later, Robinson Crusoe completes his task. The method is almost comical in its laboriousness (Wasn’t there a serviceable tree-trunk or rock ledge nearby?) and yet it is the closest analogy I have to the work of translation.

If I identify with Robinson Crusoe it’s not only because it took me far longer to write the lecture notes again in English than it did for Barthes to produce them in French (a matter of years versus a matter of months). It is also because translating Barthes has been an extended apprenticeship in writing – in writing an extant text again in entirely new circumstances, and with very different means at my disposal. What excites me most about translation – but also one of the things I find most difficult – is the way it forces you out of any acquired writing habits.

Translation is an exercise in uncovering new resources in the familiar language, expanding your vocabulary, giving a different cadence to your sentences. But actually allowing this to happen is not always so easy. I’d often read back over a passage I’d translated and realize that I’d been trying to make Barthes’s syntax fit some preconceived idea of what makes a good sentence. I had missed the point of the writing lesson. It was also important to remember that I was working with lecture notes, not books. The writing I was translating was originally intended to be read aloud in the amphitheatres of the Collège de France, a bit like a score for an oral performance. So the lesson in how to write was in fact a lesson in how to write a lecture course: how to make writing sound as if it had been written to be spoken, how to achieve Barthes’s unique combination of authority and humility– a quality he terms ‘non-arrogance’. Of the many revisions I made to the translation, it was the moments when he addresses his anticipated audience directly – wondering about their interest in his course, for example (Are they bored? Are they disappointed?) – that I found myself returning to over and again. I was working with a written trace of the lectures; nonetheless, those moments seemed especially ephemeral – it felt important to catch them in the right way.

(more…)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Kenneth Goldsmith — Poet Laureate of the Museum of Modern Art

Congratulations to Kenneth Goldsmith, author of Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, on being named the Museum of Modern Art’s first poet laureate.

In connection with this, Goldsmith will be delivering a special lecture on March 13th. Goldsmith has also organized a series of guerilla readings in the MoMA galleries, readers include Rick Moody, David Shields, Heidi Julavits, Charles Bernstein, and Christian Bok.

In the following video, Kenneth Goldsmith talks about his participation with MoMA and his work:

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “How to Live Together” by Roland Barthes

How to Live Together, by Roland Barthes

This week our featured book and giveaway is How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces by Roland Barthes; translated by Kate Briggs

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of How to Live on our blog, our Twitter feed, and Facebook page. We are also 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 How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces, you can read an excerpt form the book.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

New Book Tuesday: The Gypsy “Menace” and More

Gypsy MenaceThe following titles are now available:

The Gypsy “Menace”: Populism and the New Anti-Gypsy Politics
Edited by Michael Stewart

Virilio and Visual Culture
Edited by John Armitage and Ryan Bishop

The Poetry of Jack Spicer
Daniel Katz

Global Solidarity
Lawrence Wilde

From Rome to Byzantium, AD 363 to 565: The Transformation of Ancient Rome

American Smart Cinema (Now available in paper)
Claire Perkins

The International Film Musical (Now available in paper)
Edited by Corey Creekmur and Linda Mokdad

The New Extremism in Cinema: From France to Europe (Now available in paper)
Edited by Tanya Horeck and Tina Kendall

The Unexpected: Narrative Temporality and the Philosophy of Surprise
Mark Currie

Creating Worldviews: Metaphor, Ideology, and Language (Now available in paper)
James W. Underhill

The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence
Jennifer Higginbotham

King and Court in Ancient Persia, 559 to 331 B.C.E.
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Friday, January 18th, 2013

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.

Here in NYC, the mayor’s office and teachers union have been in the news this week, and not for positive reasons. Fittingly, this week Voices in Education, the blog of Harvard Education Publishing, has an excerpt from The End of Exceptionalism in American Education by Jeffrey R. Henig in which he details the struggle between Michael Bloomberg and the NY City Council over teacher layoffs in spring of 2011.

This week at the OUPblog, Tim Bayne has a fascinating guest post in which he discusses how belief-formation affects the way we behave, and, as a consequence of this connection, how we should judge those who form beliefs that are generally seen as harmful or evil. He takes the examples of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Anders Breivik as a way to get a true-life handle on this problem.

The burning cross is one of the symbols most associated with the Klu Klux Klan. However, in an interview with the UNC Press Blog, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey explain that the relationship between the KKK and religion was a complicated one, and one that didn’t arise until the 1910s or 1920s.

The annual AHA conference took place at the beginning of January, and this week the Harvard University Press Blog has a piece looking at “The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age” panel, and, in particular, Michael Pollan’s challenge to professional historians to embrace the narrative techniques that allow popular histories to make bestsellers lists over more academic works.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to expire at the end of 2012. At From the Squre, the NYU Press Blog, Leigh Goodmark considers what the lapse of VAWA means, and suggests that Congress use the delay to refocus the legislation to allow VAWA to be revolutionary once more: “The criminal justice response to domestic violence has had eighteen years of dedicated funding with underwhelming results. The time has come to think more creatively about how to achieve justice for people subjected to abuse. The delay in passing VAWA provides us with that opportunity.”

At the Yale Press Log, Mark Harrison has a guest post looking back at the mass protests against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in the summer of 2008. At the time, South Korean fears of tainted American beef were running high, and President Lee’s decision to lift the country’s ban on imported beef from America sparked discontented citizens into protests against his administration.

At Fordham Impressions, the blog of Fordham University Press, Matthew Isham takes issue with the idea that political media bias is a new phenomenon. While quoting commentators on both ends of the political spectrum who have recently blamed media outlets for various political wrongs, Isham looks back over the history of media in the US to trace the idea of biased media up to the present.

“How do you write about somebody so famous in American history that a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, a Maryland parkway, and elementary schools in at least nine states are named after her?” At the JHU Press Blog, Marian Moser Jones discusses the challenges of writing about a well-known historical figure, Clara Barton, in her particular case. Most important, in Moser’s view, is “watch[ing] out for that “easy” button.”

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a post from Deborah Vargas at the University of Minnesota Press Blog. In her guest post, Vargas discusses the music of the Chicano borderlands (complete with a Youtube soundtrack). She discusses an important lesson she learned while studying Chicana music: “before I could listen to Chicana singers of decades earlier, I had to learn how to listen for them.”

Well, that will do it for this week! We hope that you enjoyed this edition of our UP Roundup. As always, please post any thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Read an Excerpt from our Book of the Week: Jonathan Kahn’s Race in a Bottle

This week, we’ve brought you an interview and author post from Jonathan Kahn, Hamline Law Professor and expert on BiDil, the first race-specified drug approved by the FDA (click here for the story of BiDil). To wrap up our feature of this Book of the Week, we’re letting Kahn’s work speak for itself with an excerpt from his new book, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age.

Read the introduction, “Race and Medicine: Framing [Is] the Problem” (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Jonathan Kahn – Is the Patent Office Forcing Race into Biotechnology Patents?

One of the most significant things you’ll learn from Jonathan Kahn’s new book, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age, is that racial discourse surfaces within most all of the vertically integrated components of the medical industry, from research grants to drug advertisement and sales. In the following post, Kahn focuses in on one of these components: the acquisition of medical patents, and provides some provocative evidence of how racial categories continue to be manipulated within the patent process.

A review of recent patent applications to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has uncovered a highly problematic new practice: PTO examiners are requiring applicants to include racial categories in the claims sections of some biotechnology patent submissions, where they provide the basis for subsequent research, development, and marketing of products developed from the patent.

This phenomenon first came to light in a December 2008 presentation by PTO Quality Assurance Specialist Kathleen Bragdon titled “A Look at Personalized Medicine.” Taking an example of a treatment for breast cancer, the presentation argued that in cases where effectiveness for all races was not established, “a scope of enablement rejection must be considered.” The message here was that a patent only covered those racial groups included in the underlying study, implying that race must be considered a genetically salient factor in biotechnology patent applications.

The critical responses Bragdon’s presentation prompted could have led the PTO to reconsider the relevance of race to biotechnology patent claims. But despite the push-back, the PTO’s practice of requiring race continues, apparently unabated. This matters a lot – not only to inventors seeking to draft viable patent applications, but more broadly for our understandings of how racial categories are coming to play an increasingly significant role in biotechnology research and development. It also casts light on a great irony: As we claim to be making progress toward a promised land of personalized medicine, group categories of race seem to be gaining salience in both law and science.

The presentation involved only a hypothetical, but at the very time it was being made, a number of cases quite similar to it were making their way through the PTO process. One, pending before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), was contesting a patent examiner’s race-based rejection of an application covering a method of screening for a gene mutation that indicates an increased risk for prostate cancer. In that case the examiner had rejected an application, among other things, for failure to “enable the full scope” of the claimed method because it “has not [been] shown that the correlation between the claimed mutations and the risk of both sporadic and hereditary prostate cancers is significant in all populations.” This finding, in turn, was apparently based on the application’s disclosure that one of the relevant mutations was found in Caucasians, while another was found African Americans.

For the examiner, this meant that the same level of risk was not present in all racial populations, hence a lack of enablement. The examiner rejected the patent claims because they did not differentiate risk by racial group but simply covered “a method of screening a subject.” This is a real-life example of the exact same logic evident in Bragdon’s presentation. The examiner here was denying a patent application for its failure to use race as a biological construct. In order to succeed, the applicants would either have to add race in a manner they did not think valid, or take the time and money to appeal the decision. In this case, they appealed – and won.

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