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February 17th, 2015

Interview with Houston Baker and K. Merinda Simmons, editors of The Trouble with Post-Blackness



The Trouble with Post-Blackness

“To declare oneself “post-black” is essentially to demand of a radiant tradition that it stops talking, archiving, and producing knowledge and specific forms of art, sport, and knowledge spanning millennia.”—Houston Baker and K. Merinda Simmons

Throughout this week, we’ll be featuring books relating to Black History Month. In the following post, we interview Houston Baker and K. Merinda Simmons, the co-editors of The Trouble with Post-Blackness:

Question: Your book was prepared around the time of the Trayvon Martin shooting and it serves as a point of discourse several times throughout. Do you feel that the discussion would have been radically changed had it been prepared after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner murders?

Houston Baker and K. Merinda Simmons: I am not certain the temper of the brilliant essays and reflections collected in the book would have been radically changed. The galvanizing effects of the murder of Trayvon Martin were enough in themselves to set off a cacophony of anger and events not seen in United States and global activism for an extended stretch of time. It was as though the murder of Trayvon Martin was a horrific wake up call from the ambient, narcissistic sleep of “Post-Blackness” and excessive celebrations of the second Obama presidential election. If a trajectory of disillusionment with the euphoria of Barack Obama’s double presidency is drawn, surely its major break was the murder of Trayvon Martin. Every person’s death diminishes us all. This we know. The addition of recent murders of so many other African American men, women, and children in the United States—especially from within sanctioned institutional and authoritative structures such as the police—goes beyond diminishment to devastation. Post-Blackness’s self-regarding call to seize a putative American Dream “beyond blackness” seems delusional of course in light of the brutal deaths of so many.

Q: What do you believe the election of Obama means within the context of Black history? To what extent should we categorize it as a progressive milestone, versus a symbolic achievement during a lack of significant developments in the Black experience? For instance, how do we reconcile the post-election celebrations centered on racial progress, in light of recent events in which the notion of post-blackness seems to be suffering?

HB and KMS: This is a complex question because it articulates and juxtaposes a number of shorthand terms such as “progressive milestone” and “symbolic achievement.” Milestones are always only what we make of them in symbolic systems such as “Black history” and “development” discourse. The elections of Barack Obama to the United States presidency are permanent markers of a shifted American context of presidential politics. Obama’s successful bids for the presidency were full of centrist (as opposed to “progressive”), vague, and almost speechlessly exorbitant financing. “Blackness”—in the existential sense coded in a tradition of creative resistance, militant refusal of subjugation, and studied attention to black impoverishment—had nothing to do with the presidential victories of Barack Obama. However, in this long line of coded black resistance against insuperable odds, even a day off or a small lottery win from a vending machine in a supermarket can seem like miraculous good fortune. And if it has never happened before in one’s known history it seems like the Fourth of July! There were volumes of black critique, reservation, and resistance to even the notion that Barack Obama represented a “new black messiah” come to redeem the United States and rid it of racism and black despair. But such counter-celebratory critique was ineffective at producing in-depth perspectives on Obama the candidate or the resonant inefficacy for the black majority of his run up to the election.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 13th, 2015

Absorbed in Translation: The Art — and Fun — of Literary Translation, by Juliet Winters Carpenter



The Fall of Language in the Age of English

The following essay is by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts, and the co-translator of The Fall of Language in the Age of English. The essay was originally published on The Conversation.

I recently stumbled upon a post that describes the process of literary translation as “soul-crushing.” That’s news to me, and I’ve been engaged in literary translation for the better part of four decades now. How would I describe it? “Humbling,” yes. “All-consuming,” definitely. But above all, “the most fun imaginable.”

Some may figure that literary translators are a dying breed, like quill pen makers, and assume that computers will eventually take over the job. Don’t hold your breath. Machine translation has a role to play – and no doubt an increasing one – but it is doomed to be literal, to merely skim the surface. Enter “Don’t hold your breath” into Google Translate and you’ll get an injunction to not stop breathing. A human touch is needed to understand layers of meaning in context and to create something pleasurable to read.

Yet the process is humbling, primarily because as a translator, you are constantly made aware of your limitations: there are all the events or interactions described in the original text that you know nothing about, or have never experienced. Or you long to reproduce the wit, rhythm, and beauty of the original, but, for a host of reasons, have to settle for less.

I also find that humility is a practical necessity. When the original makes little sense, often the first impulse is to blame the author. Humility allows you to see the original text in a new light – to appreciate it for what it is, rather than what you may think it’s supposed to be. If you approach a confusing sentence with the assumption that you’re missing something, you’re usually right. So my first rule would be: assume you are wrong, not the author.

I’ve collaborated with Japanese author Minae Mizumura on translating two of her books, including the just-released The Fall of Language in the Age of English.

The Fall of Language was first translated by Mari Yoshihara, a professor at the University of Hawaii who also found the publisher. Mizumura then asked me to review the entire book with her – to incorporate changes she made to render the text more accessible and relevant to non-Japanese readers. The book explores the importance of national literature and warns against the unchecked proliferation of English, lamenting that not only nuances, but also “truths”—accessible only in other languages—are in danger of being lost. Translating such a book into English may seem perverse, but it underscores the point that in our age, ideas can spread only if they’re communicated in English.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 13th, 2015

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and since each year we’re not entirely certain as to what that might mean, Oxford University Press author Kate Thompson discusses the historical, cultural, and ideological underpinnings of the tradition. Recalling the second century eponymous saint martyred for his religion, the ancient pagan fertility festivals heralding the approach of Spring, and our own modern considerations of romance as idealized (or left tragically unfulfilled) by Valentine’s Day, it’s clear that the meaning of the holiday remains largely rooted in not only where and when you are, but how you interpret the notion of romantic love when juxtaposed against the backdrop of its less glamorous context: reality. Perhaps it’s only in bearing these considerations in mind that we’re able to enjoy the holiday and its rituals while remaining cognizant of, say, those criticisms arguing the ways in which rampant consumerism have stripped Valentine’s Day of its saccharine abutments. In either case, do be sure to read the whole post for a trenchant sliver of insight from Balzac.

In keeping with the topic of amorous rituals, NYU Press’s Jane Ward, author of Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men, refutes the myth of rigidity in male sexuality by drawing on well-documented rituals of male homosexual interaction in which factors such as gender identity and sexual preference are tertiary considerations after tradition and utility.

While we are of course always interested in discussions of policy, administration, and difference in pedagogy, we look today to anthropologist David F. Lancy’s perspective on childhood education, citing differences learning between children from the Peruvian Amazon, the Sahara, Denmark, and Polynesia. Having compiled his research into ethnographies of childhood development spanning vastly different cultures from opposite sides of the globe, Lancy’s uniquely holistic view of the matter is far beyond the more familiar issues of “teachers, schools, curricula, or TV.” This might be the reason why the New York Times called Lancy’s The Anthropology of Childhood “the only baby book you’ll ever need.”

Here at the midpoint of Black History Month, Beacon Press’s Sheryll Cashin talks Martin Luther King, Jr. and his strategies for propelling civil rights, as well as recent events highlighting racial tensions and injustice, and the protests ongoing today (such as that summarized in the hashtag campaign, #BlackLivesMatter) to challenge paradigms of indifference and acceptance toward racial inequality.

This is a beginning, I hope, of a saner, multiracial politics for justice in law enforcement and other critical realms like housing and education. I believe the Black Lives Matter movement has the potential for staying power that the Occupy movement lacked because, like Jim Crow itself, there is a clear moral target and the activists coming to the cause span the rainbow. It is as true in 2015 as it was for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. King in 1965 that you have to have allies beyond your own tribe to win a victory. You don’t have to convince everyone, just the growing swath of people who are open to diversity and want to make it work.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

February 13th, 2015

Wine and Chocolate on Valentine’s Day. How Can You Go Wrong? — Natalie Berkowitz



Natalie Berkowitz, The Winemaker's Hand

“Some opine a glass of milk is the best complement to chocolate confections, but more adventuresome spirits will spring for a bottle of champagne, sparkling, or still wine that satisfies both his and her palates.”—Natalie Berkowitz

Still struggling to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir, has got you covered with her look at the perfect wines to go along with chocolate.

Chocoholics, those sweet-toothed confection addicts, would likely vote Valentine’s Day the year’s best holiday. Arguably the most popular square on the Hallmark calendar, February 14th is traditionally celebrated with fancy greeting cards, long-stemmed red roses and extravagant jewelry. But when lovers, either those in a new or a long-standing relationship, find diamonds and pearls not in the realm of possibility, bonbons are a more practical and yummy alternative. Of course, real chocoholics don’t wait for a special holiday to indulge.

If the wrong chocolates can be an uninspired gift, it only takes a modicum of imagination to go beyond the ubiquitous heart-shaped box covered with red cellophane. It’s worth the extra effort to say “I love you” with luxurious artisanal chocolates.

Artisanal is the new, hot buzzword that covers a wide variety of products from cheese to chocolate. Artisanal chocolates are separated from the commercial by their producers’ dedication to freshness, high-quality ingredients and attention to detail. Those of us familiar with the flavor of ordinary commercial chocolates will be surprised by the experience of sensual, hand-crafted, preservative-free bonbons. Hand-made chocolates cast in imaginative shapes and decorated artistically seduce the eye as well as the tongue. Artisanal producers choose dark cacao beans from various geographic regions around the world, each with its own special flavor profile. Then luscious fruit and crunchy nut fillings take our taste buds to another level. Fine chocolates have consistent color and a satiny sheen, both of which are destroyed if refrigerated or kept longer than a month. Dark chocolate is nudging milk chocolate out of first place, making it the current flavor choice of consumers who look for a high butterfat content ranging between 61 to 72 percent and, happily, a lower caloric content since it contains less sugar and milk.

These treasures are guaranteed to warm a beloved’s heart, but to double the pleasure of Sweetheart’s Day pair the sweetest gift of all with a special wine. Some opine a glass of milk is the best complement to chocolate confections, but more adventuresome spirits will spring for a bottle of champagne, sparkling, or still wine that satisfies both his and her palates. There are many heaven-sent partners guaranteed to transform an ordinary experience into an indulgent happening.

A good wine shop can help customers explore the adventuresome possibilities of serving chocolate with sparking wine and champagne, still or rare dessert wine, brandy, liqueur, Prosecco, port, sherry, and whisky. Carry out the day’s pink and red theme with a Rosé bubbly: Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine or Perrier Jouët non-vintage Rosé from France. Try the Italian sparkler, Mionetto Prosecco or a full-flavored, intense reds still wine. Try an aristocratic Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella for lush, port-like richness. Warre’s light tawny Port, served slightly chilled, is an excellent companion to chocolate. Graham’s Ports, ranging in price, fit the bill with their excellent finesse and character. One chocolatier votes for Sandeman Founder’s Reserve port as a luxurious partner with dark chocolate, but he considers Eiswein as its truest mate.

February 12th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner — Minae Mizumura As Novelist



The Fall of Language in the Age of English

Minae Mizumura, author of The Fall of Language in the Age of English is also a well-known novelist. Her most recent novel, A True Novel, is a reimagining of Wuthering Heights and has been widely praised, including a glowing review in the New York Times.

Recently, The White Review, a literary magazine, ran an excerpt from Mizumura’s novel published in Japanese as Shishosetsu from left to right. The unusual title, a mixture of Japanese and English, represents the novel’s content and form. The novel is narrated by a Japanese young woman who, like the author, grew up in the United States in a bilingual environment. ‘Shishosetsu’ refers to a genre of autobiographical novel that characterizes much modern Japanese literature. Since English words and phrases are woven into the text, the novel was written horizontally, from left to right, unlike other Japanese novels, which are written vertically on the page and read from right to left.

THE TELEPHONE RANG AT 9:45 THIS MORNING.

As white morning sunlight poked through the cracks in the blind, I inserted the cord into the telephone jack, digesting the usual sick realisation that another day had begun. No sooner was the telephone plugged in than the ringing gave me a start.

Sudden fear shot through me. It might be the French Department Office.

Is this Minae Mizumura?

Yes it is.

What on earth are you doing?

What on earth was I doing? If they asked me, what could I say? I could not explain it even to myself. I was afraid that somehow the way I was living—holed up in this apartment that remained dim even in the daytime, fearful of the dawning of each new day, for all the world like a snail coiled tightly in its shell—might become shamefully and unmistakably exposed to the light of day.

As hopes of an international call from Tono gradually faded, I fell into the habit of unplugging my telephone every night; apart from the practical desire to avoid being awakened by my sister, the main reason was this very fear.

It is of course a neurotic fear. Every department has one or two delinquent graduate students on its rolls, and there is no reason why the department should care if I put off my orals indefinitely on the pretext that my advisor is in and out of the hospital. It’s not only the department—in the whole huge United States, apart from Nanae hardly anyone is aware that I even exist. And why should they be? Still, I am afraid. From the time I wake up in the morning till five in the evening, when the office closes, I live in fear that at any moment the telephone will ring and I will be given final notice—Your time is up!—and stripped of my identity as a graduate student.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 12th, 2015

AAUP Design Award Winners!



A Coney Island Reader

Awards season continues with Association of American University Presses book, jacket and journal awards. The following Columbia University Press titles were recognized:

For scholarly/typographic:

The Homoerotics of Orientalism by Joseph Allen Boone
Designer: Lisa Hamm
Production Coordinator: Jennifer Jerome
Acquiring Editor: Philip Leventhal
Project Editor: Roy Thomas

Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food by Hervé This, translated by M.B. DeBevoise
Designer: Vin Dang
Production Coordinator: Jennifer Jerome
Acquiring Editor: Jennifer Crewe
Project Editor: Ron Harris

For cover:

A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola
Designer: Philip Pascuzzo
Production Coordinator: Jennifer Jerome
Art Director: Julia Kushnirsky

February 11th, 2015

Four Thoughts for Academic Writers (Or Maybe All Writers) — Eric Hayot



The Elements of Academic StyleThe following advice on writing comes from Eric Hayot, author of The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities

1. Listen first

Part of being a good writer is having a sense of what good writing feels like. That’s hard to do if you’ve never read academic writing for the writing. You probably already know whose writing you like and whose you don’t. Start, then, by rereading the work of people whose writing you admire, and try to figure out what makes it especially good. I strongly strongly recommend writing a two- or three-page imitation of that person’s style. In the long run, the goal is not to ventriloquize them, but simply to use the exercise as a form of deep engagement with another writer, and to feel what it feels like to inhabit a style. (Like imitations of voices, the first thing you have to know when you imitate a style is what makes something imitable in the first place—is it in the rhythm, the diction, the flow, the paragraphing, the relation between exemplification and idea, the style of argument, the figurative or rhetorical tropes? All of these, of course, and more, but differently each time.)

You should make listening to the writing of others part of a lifelong practice as a writer. But don’t forget, also, to listen to your own work! You have a style (you’ve been speaking in prose all along!), so you should know what it is, how it works, what you like and don’t like about it.

2. Know your genre

All writing takes place in a genre. This is true generally for academic writers—you write in a genre called “literary criticism” or “cultural studies” or “philosophy”—but it is also true in particular—you write in a subfield called Victorian Studies, or epistemology, and even within those subfields you write for specific journals or specific groups of peers. In order to be a successful writer, then, you need to know quite a bit about the discourse you’re attempting to join. You probably already do know quite a bit, implicitly. But you and a friend might agree, for instance, to read all the articles from two or three issues of the same journal, to see if you can begin to theorize a house style; or you can read four or five articles from a random journal in random year in the not-so-distant past (1983, say) and then some from the present to get a sense of the stylistic changes that have taken place. The point is simply that you need to know your genre, and you need to write within its framework.

Once you know this, of course, you can probe the edges of the genre, where the interesting outliers are, to see if you can change it. And you can also draw strength from other genres (including nonacademic genres like fiction, poetry, or essayistic prose), using ideas you gain there to breach the conventions of the genre you’re working in. That’s a good, easy way to generate stylistic force—taking something that works elsewhere and grafting it onto the genre you’re writing makes for engaging, interesting writing.

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February 10th, 2015

An Interview with Minae Mizumura, author of “The Fall of Language in the Age of English”



Minae Mizumura

The following is an interview with Minae Mizumura, the author of The Fall of Language in the Age of English  

Question: It is ironic that your book on preserving languages from the tidal wave of English has now been translated into English. Can you speak about the relationship between you, Mari Yoshihara, and Juliet Winters Carpenter, the translators of the book?

Minae Mizumura: Mari Yoshihara has long been an enthusiastic fan of my novels, especially of my second, autobiographical novel that traces my growing up in the United States. She has a similar background. As soon as The Fall of Language was published, she contacted me from Hawaii, where she teaches, and offered to translate it herself. I was initially taken aback; as you point out, it seemed rather perverse that a book warning about the dominance of English should be translated into English. It took me some time to realize that what she proposed underscores the whole point of the book: in our age, ideas can spread only when translated into English. After Mari finished her translation, I worked on the manuscript to make it accessible to a wider readership. I then asked Juliet Winters Carpenter to go over it and also to let me work with her at the final stage. I knew she would say yes. Julie translated my third novel, called A True Novel, and despite being one of the most highly regarded translators in the field, she had no objection to working with me closely in Kyoto where she teaches. Very flexible and open-minded. The English version of this book owes itself to two generous souls.

Q: How did you react to the controversial reviews when your book was first released in Japan?

MM: Very much bewildered, though I never actually saw those reviews. So I said nothing publicly. Like many writers, I avoid reading what people say about my books on the Internet and ask others to filter information for me. It seems that this was a particularly wise decision when this book came out. Japan lags behind in putting together quality online book reviews. As is often the case, the online controversies took place mostly among people who hadn’t read the book. The firestorm got out of control. Rumor has it that a famous blogger, the one who unwittingly initiated the controversy by declaring that my book was a “must read for all Japanese,” got so fed up that he no longer blogs or tweets. He apologized to me for having incited such vociferous reactions but was relieved to learn that I had only a vague idea of what was being said.

Read the rest of this entry »

February 10th, 2015

New Book Tuesday: A New Book from Jeffrey Sachs, Voices of the Arab Spring and More!



Jeffrey Sachs, The Age of Sustainable Development

Our weekly listing of new titles:

The Age of Sustainable Development
Jeffrey D. Sachs. Foreword by Ban Ki-moon

Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions
Asaad Al-Saleh

The Cinema of Ang Lee, Second Edition: The Other Side of the Screen
Whitney Crothers Dilley

February 9th, 2015

Book Giveaway! The Fall of Language in the Age of English



This week our featured book is The Fall of Language in the Age of English, by Minae Mizumura.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Fall of Language in the Age of English to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, February 13 at 1:00 pm.

“A dazzling rumination on the decline of local languages … in a world overshadowed by English. Moving effortlessly between theory and personal reflection, Minae Mizumura’s lament—linguistic and social in equal measure—is broadly informed, closely reasoned, and — in a manner that recalls her beloved Jane Austen — at once earnest and full of mischief.” — John Nathan, translator of Light and Dark: A Novel by Natsume Soseki

February 9th, 2015

Prose Award Winners!



Lady in the Dark, Robert Sitton

We are very proud that several of our books were recognized at the 2015 PROSE Awards. The PROSE awards are given every year by the Scholarly and Professional Division of the Association of American Publishers and are awarded to the Publisher—not the authors or books. The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in more than 40 categories.

Here’s the list of our winners and honorable mentions along with the category in which they won:

Biography & Autobiography
Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film
Robert Sitton

Economics (Honorable Mention)
Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress
Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald

Literature (Honorable Mention)
Roberto Bolano’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe
Chris Andrews

Popular Science & Popular Mathematics (Honorable Mention)
Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds
John Pickrell

U.S. History (Honorable Mention)
Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America
Yong Chen

February 6th, 2015

University Press Roundup



University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

The merits of reading books in print versus those of e-reading have been hotly argued over the past few years, by publishers, readers, authors, and entrepreneurs alike. Writing at the OUPblog, Naomi S. Baron evaluates some of the most prevalent talking points on both sides of the issue and explains the complications behind even the simplest claims about the value of reading one way or the other.

Stanford University Press introduced their new trade-oriented imprint, Redwood Press, this week on the SUP blog. In related posts, SUP Art Director Rob Ehle explained the process of creating the colophon for Redwood Press, and editor-in-chief Kate Wahl discusses the academic and intellectual value of fiction generally and of the first Redwood Press novel in particular.

MOOCs and other forms of online education have had a significant presence in higher education over the past few years, though they have also engendered quite a bit of controversy as some schools embrace them and others do not. This week, the JHU Press Blog featured an excerpt from Bill Ferster’s Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology in which Ferster lays out some of the reasons that MOOCs have been such a touchy issue in education. Read the rest of this entry »

February 6th, 2015

“What Is Academic Freedom For?,” by Robert J. Zimmer



Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

This week our featured book is Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole. Today, on the final day of the feature, we are happy to present Robert J. Zimmer’s short article from the book: “What Is Academic Freedom For?”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

February 5th, 2015

“Exercising Rights: Academic Freedom and Boycott Politics,” by Judith Butler



Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

This week our featured book is Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole. The academic boycott of Israeli universities has generated a great deal of debate over the past few years. Yesterday, we posted Stanley Fish’s response to the boycott; today, we have Judith Butler’s take on the relationship between academic freedom and the boycott.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

February 4th, 2015

“Academic Freedom and the Boycott of Israeli Universities,” by Stanley Fish



Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

This week our featured book is Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole. The academic boycott of Israeli universities has generated a great deal of debate over the past few years. In this post, Stanley Fish examines the boycott and argues that, “if we are going to have an academy we should really have it in all its glorious narrowness and not transform it into an appendage of politics, even when–no, especially when–the politics is one that we affirm and believe in with all our hearts.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

February 4th, 2015

Cultural Foreign Policy from Cold War Modernism to Today’s Hollywood Bromance — Greg Barnhisel



Greg Barnhisel, Cold War Modernists

The following post is by Greg Barnhisel, author of Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy.

Greg Barnhisel will also be in New York City to talk about the book on Thursday, February 5 at the National Archives at noon and then at the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library at 6 pm.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees for the 2015 Academy Awards, the James Franco/Seth Rogen comedy The Interview wasn’t on the list. That Oscar spurned this “bromance” surprised nobody. Most critics hated the film and even Rogen’s fans found it one of his lesser works.

Those audiences almost didn’t have a chance to see the film. The Interview, of course, centers on a half-baked but accidentally successful plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea, though, didn’t like jokes about the murder of its leader. In one of the most remarkable episodes in the recent history of the entertainment industry, a group of computer hackers calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” (linked later with the North Korean government) infiltrated the computer servers of Sony Pictures, shutting down the studio’s communications and throwing its data open for anyone to see. The “Guardians” demanded that Sony scrap The Interview, and the studio acquiesced if only for a moment.

Apart from some of the obvious questions here—has Hollywood so convinced itself that the Kims are cartoon villains that it thought it could play up the assassination of a sitting foreign leader for laughs? Would a studio greenlight a comedy about the killing of Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad?—this incident evokes the larger issue of the place of art and popular culture in international relations. Does the U.S. really want smirking irony to be the face of our culture? What sorts of art and culture would tell the stories we want to tell foreign populations about who we are?

Currently, two of our greatest foreign-policy challenges (the confrontation with fundamentalist Islamism, and the standoff with an expansionist Russia) have important cultural dimensions. Both Islamism and Putinism put themselves forward to the world as defenders of traditional values, and depict American popular culture as a threat to those values. How should the U.S. respond to this?

Such issues are at the heart of Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy. As the Cold War began, both adversaries and allies viewed the U.S. as having nothing to offer the world but military and economic domination and a crude, violent, hypersexualized popular culture. American cultural diplomats had to win over skeptical intellectuals in allied nations, and counteract enemy propaganda generated by the Soviet Union that we were just Mickey Mouse and cowboy movies.

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February 3rd, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Academic Freedom



Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

This week our featured book is Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction, by Bilgrami and Cole.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy!

February 3rd, 2015

New Book Tuesday! 2 Sexes, Niles Eldredge, Bollywood and More New Books!



There Are 2 Sexes

There Are Two Sexes: Essays in Feminology
Antoinette Fouque; Translated by David Macey and Catherine Porter

Eternal Ephemera: Adaptation and the Origin of Species from the Nineteenth Century Through Punctuated Equilibria and Beyond
Niles Eldredge

Losing Control?: Sovereignty in the Age of Globalization (Now available in paper)
Saskia Sassen

Bollywood’s India: A Public Fantasy
Priya Joshi

The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come
Francesco Casetti

Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time
François Hartog. Translated by Saskia Brown

Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett
Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

February 3rd, 2015

Choice Outstanding Academic Titles!



Abominable Science

Earlier this Winter, we were very excited to learn that several of our books, and those published by our distributed presses, were named Choice Outstanding Academic Titles. They include:

What Is Relativity: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter
Jeffrey Bennett

The Lost Generation: The Rustification of Chinese Youth (1968-1980)
Michel Bonnin (Chinese University Press)

The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature
Michael Emmerich

Poverty in the Midst of Affluence: How Hong Kong Mismanaged Its Prosperity
Leo F. Goodstadt

Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action
Ira Jaffe (Wallflower Press)

Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing
John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm

Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids
Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero

Contemporary Romanian Cinema: The History of an Unexpected Miracle
Dominique Nasta (Wallflower Press)

Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium
Michael Z. Newman

Gendering Global Conflict: Toward a Feminist Theory of War
Laura Sjoberg

Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook
Edited by Wendy Swartz, Robert Ford Campany, Yang Lu, and Jessey J. C. Choo

Narrating Social Work Through Autoethnography
Edited by Stanley L Witkin

February 2nd, 2015

Book Giveaway! Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole



Who's Afraid of Academic Freedom?

“The phrase ‘academic freedom’ is often used carelessly: here is a work that will allow a more careful conversation about those many crucial issues facing the academy, in which a well-worked out understanding of conceptions of academic freedom is, as its authors show, an essential tool.” — Kwame Anthony Appiah

This week our featured book is Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?, edited by Akeel Bilgrami and Jonathan Cole. 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.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom?. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, February 6th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!