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Archive for December, 2017

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Wai Chee Dimock: Reading American literature outside the box

This week, our featured book is American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, edited by Wai Chee Dimock, with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart. Today, we are happy to present a short excerpt from an interview that with the Library of America. You can read the interview in full at the Reader’s Almanac.

Remember to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

What exactly constitutes “American literature,” and what are its boundaries? Is it coterminous with the country known as the United States of America, either geographically or historically? And in an era increasingly marked by globalization, is it still productive to think of a national literature as defined by national borders?

For several years and several books, these and related questions have been a fruitful line of inquiry for Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English at Yale University. In a series of critical studies, Dimock recasts classic American writing as, in her words, a “commingling of near and far, with words and worlds continually in motion.” Her work traces lines of affinity forward and backwards in time, and relocates American writers both canonical (Emerson, Thoreau) and contemporary (Gary Snyder, Maxine Hong Kingston) in eye-opening global contexts.

Dimock’s most recent publication is American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler (Columbia University Press, 2017), which she and her co-editors offer as “not so much a brand-new canon of American literature as a different kind of field guide.” The collection foregoes conventional chronological or geographic arrangements in favor of grouping writers around several key themes like “War” and “Religion”—an approach that yields a number of stimulating juxtapositions and unforeseen counterpoints. A sequence in the “War” section puts excerpts from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and John Hersey’s Hiroshima into dialogue with very different perspectives on the Pacific conflict from Leslie Marmon Silko and Chang-Rae Lee. In “Religion,” Washington Irving’s engagement with the culture of Moorish Spain precedes autobiographical accounts by Paul Bowles and Malcolm X of their travels in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, respectively; the section concludes with the lyrics to the Grateful Dead’s “Blues for Allah.” (A playful erasure of distinctions between high and popular culture is also part of Dimock’s m.o.)

Wai Chee Dimock’s first book, Empire for Liberty: Melville and the Poetics of Individualism (Princeton University Press, 1991), was greeted by Library of America co-founder Richard Poirier as “one of the most important studies of Melville to appear in many years.” More recently Dimock has written movie reviews for the Los Angeles Review of Books and contributed essays and articles to the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Yorker, and the New York Times.

Library of America: We’re curious to know how you arrived at this more globally-oriented approach to American literature, which now stretches across several books. Were you encouraged to pursue it, earlier in your career? Were you ever discouraged from pursuing it?

Wai Chee Dimock: My global orientation to American literature probably came more from my background than from the encouragement of friends and colleagues. Growing up in Hong Kong, reading Melville and Twain in the small, crowded, but serviceable public library, I had always thought of American literature as “transnational,” fed by cross-currents coming from afar and connected to the rest of the world. I haven’t been discouraged at any point from taking this approach.

Read the entire interview at theReader’s Almanac.

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

A Twenty-First-Century-Platform

This week, our featured book is American Literature in the World An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, edited by Wai Chee Dimock, with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart. Today we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction.

Remember to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Spirals, Story of the Earth in 25 Rock, Enchanted Clock, and More!

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks
Tales of Important Geological Puzzles
and the People Who Solved Them
Donald R. Prothero

A Time to Stir
Columbia ’68
Edited by Paul Cronin

The Enchanted Clock
A Novel
Julia Kristeva. Translated by Armine Kotin Mortimer

Spirals
The Whirled Image in Twentieth-Century Literature and Art
Nico Israel

The Economics of Airlines
Volodymyr Bilotkach
(Agenda Publishing)

Reflections on the Future of the Left
Edited by David Coates
(Agenda Publishing)

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Announcing the Columbia University Press Spring 2018 Catalog

We are proud to announce our catalog of new books coming in Spring 2018! In her introductory letter, Press Director Jennifer Crewe lays out her hopes for the books in the catalog and lists a few highlights:

Dear Readers,

This coming year we are celebrating a special milestone:
Columbia University Press’s 125th anniversary. In June 1893,
Seth Low and Nicholas Murray Butler founded Columbia
University Press. And here we are, almost 125 years later, with
a remarkable record of publishing groundbreaking scholarship
and advancing understanding of our world.

This season’s catalogue features titles that demonstrate all of
the best qualities of the past 125 years and lead us forward
into the next. Columbia’s Jeffrey D. Sachs outlines a bold
program for A New Foreign Policy (p. 1). Richard Sylla and
David J. Cowen draw on Columbia’s collection of Alexander
Hamilton’s writings to show how he laid the groundwork for
the U.S. financial system
(p. 6). Working for Respect (p. 18), by
the Columbia sociologists Adam Reich and Peter Bearman,
uses fascinating research into Walmart’s workforce to debate
how we can make the economy work for everyone. Our
new Race, Inequality, and Health series is inaugurated with
Troublesome Science (p. 19), which powerfully illustrates the
misuse of biology to support biased racial distinctions. And
Columbia’s Souleymane Bachir Diagne’s Open to Reason (p.
30) is an insightful guide to the history of Muslim philosophy
and its ongoing relevance.

Our mission of disseminating knowledge through peer-reviewed,
carefully edited books is more critical than ever to
stimulate conversations and action around the world. The
books on display in this catalogue exist thanks to the efforts
of our readers, our partners, our donors, and the university.
Most of our books are specialized and cost more to publish
than their sales will support. That’s why philanthropic funds,
including gifts from individuals and foundations, are critically
needed to invest in our exceptional publications. Last fall we
launched the Publisher’s Circle, our leadership donor group,
and since have welcomed nearly fifty individuals—many of
them Columbia University Press authors—who have helped
us publish great books.

Columbia University Press authors are the best in their fields,
and their books are made possible thanks to the unique role
of the university press, the generosity of our donors, and the
support of our university colleagues. Thank you for being part
of our community.

Jennifer Crewe
Associate Provost and Director

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Book Giveaway! American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler

“This is a vital anthology, both in conception and execution. For students and faculty alike, it will create an unprecedented sense of the dynamic force fields of American literature. I’m especially impressed by the anthology’s fluid movement across media platforms and geographical divides.”
–Rob Nixon, Princeton University

This week, our featured book is American Literature in the World An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler , edited by Wai Chee Dimock, with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Why I Work on Such a Frightening Topic

This week our featured book is Silencing the Bomb:
One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing
by Lynn R. Sykes. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s final chapter, in which Sykes explains why he chooses to continue his work toward banning nuclear testing.

I am sometimes asked why I work on such a frightening and depressing topic. I explain to myself that this is the major issue of my lifetime. With my scientific knowledge, I hope to contribute in some small way to preventing the use of nuclear weapons. I regard this as my duty as an informed citizen, especially in a country that possesses vast numbers of nuclear weapons. I hope this book will convince others to learn more about these issues and to become more involved. I support the advice of Edmund Burke, the British-Irish orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than the one who did nothing because they could only do a little.”

A major nuclear exchange would be a cataclysmic disaster with a level of destruction unprecedented in the entire history of our species. Some people have argued that because nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945, the probability of their use is very small. The world has been fortunate that nuclear weapons have not been used since then, but this could end at a moment’s notice. False alarms, accidents, and the near miss of the Cuban missile crisis are not very reassuring about nuclear weapons’ not being used in the future. The probability per year of a nuclear exchange may be low, but if it happens, the consequences will be catastrophic. Getting the public and governments to deal with rare but catastrophic events is difficult but very necessary.

The Trump administration has made threatening remarks about nuclear weapons. As of mid-2017 it is not clear if it might either use nuclear weapons against an advisory such as North Korea or resume nuclear testing. If it resumed testing, the yields of explosions likely would be large, abrogating several arms control agreements, and other countries almost certainly would resume testing.

Remember to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Ear to the Ground, Listening for Nuclear Blasts

This week, our featured book is Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, by Lynn R. Sykes. Today, we are happy to present a short excerpt from an interview that with Kevin Krajick at State of the Plane blog. You can read the interview in full at the Earth Institute website.

Remember to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

Seismologist Lynn Sykes has been working for more than 50 years to halt the testing of nuclear bombs. His work, along with others’, has demonstrated that clandestine tests can be detected and measured using seismic waves. Development of this technology led up to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Since then, testing has nearly stopped, though key nations including the United States have so far failed to ratify the agreement. In his forthcoming book, Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, Sykes provides an insider’s look at the issues. Below, he discusses the science, his experiences and the current outlook. Sykes is the Higgins professor emeritus at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Why this book now? Many people say climate change is our main threat. Has it become unfashionable to consider nuclear weapons?

Well, it’s exceedingly frightening, so I can understand why a lot of people don’t want to think about nuclear war. But more people could be killed with a large use of nuclear weapons, and those areas would be uninhabitable for a hundred years. I think climate change, sea level, are a big thing–right up there. But people have forgotten about nuclear war. It’s the topic that is the most important to our world. I’ve seen some horrendous things that some people have done with the test ban, and some very brave and forward things that others have done.

How did you get started with this?

My original work didn’t have anything to with nuclear testing; I was studying natural earthquakes. But the more I found out about it, I gradually got involved in research. Several of us made contributions to better monitoring of Russian explosions, and later, Chinese ones. I started writing papers, and they got picked up gradually in the 1980s, when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate. There were a lot of hearings. I participated in at least five.

You ran into a lot of resistance, saying that seismology couldn’t really pick up tests.

There was a large number of exceedingly conservative people, particularly in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and they attempted to bottle the subject up. When I became a member of the U.S. negotiating team for the Threshold Test Ban Treaty in 1974, virtually all the information on how do you convert seismic measurements into estimates of yield of Russian explosions was controlled by just two people. And they seemed quite determined that there not be a comprehensive test-ban treaty.

Read the entire interview at the State of the Planet Earth Institute blog.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Eating Ethically, Fracking Debate, Merchant’s Tale, and More!

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Eating Ethically
Religion and Science for a Better Diet
Jonathan K. Crane

Food of Sinful Demons
Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet
Geoffrey Barstow

Earth at Risk
Natural Capital and the Quest for Sustainability
Claude Henry and Laurence Tubiana

The Fracking Debate
The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution
Daniel Raimi

The Merchant’s Tale
Yokohama and the Transformation of Japan
Simon Partner

Premodern Korean Literary Prose
An Anthology
Edited by Michael J. Pettid, Gregory N. Evon, and Chan Park

Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity
Wendy Graham

Now available in paperback:
We Are All Cannibals
And Other Essays
Claude Lévi-Strauss. Foreword by Maurice Olender and Jane Marie Todd

A Search for Belonging
The Mexican Cinema of Luis Buñuel
Marc Ripley
(Wallflower Press)

Between Prometheism and Realpolitik
Poland and Soviet Ukraine, 1921-1926
Jan Jacek Bruski
(Jagiellonian University Press)

A Disastrous Matter
The Polish Question in the Russian Political Thought and Discourse of the Great Reform Age, 1856-1866
Henryk Głębocki
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Justiniana Prima
An Underestimated Aspect of Justinian’s Church Policy
Stanisław Turlej
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Armenia Christiana
Armenian Religious Identity and the Churches of Constantinople and Rome (4th – 15th century)
Krzysztof Stopka
(Jagiellonian University Press)

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Silencing the Bomb One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing

“When he signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, President Bill Clinton called it ‘the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history.’ Lynn R. Sykes was one of the leading scientists in that half-century-long battle. Although testing has stopped—except in North Korea—Republican opposition has blocked ratification of this treaty in the U.S. Senate. Sykes’ lucid inside accounts of the science underlying the detection of nuclear testing and the battles over the test ban’s verifiability are therefore not just of historical interest but also relevant to contemporary concerns.”
– Frank von Hippel, cofounder, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

This week, our featured book is Silencing the Bomb One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing, by Lynn R. Sykes. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.