Video / Audio  New Books In The Arts And Sciences

How do literature and other cultural forms shape how we imagine the planet, for better or worse? In this rich, original, and long awaited book, Jennifer Wenzel tackles the formal innovations, rhetorical appeals, and sociological imbrications of world literature that might help us confront unevenly distributed environmental crises, including global warming.The Disposition of Nature argues that assumptions about what nature is are at stake in conflicts over how it is inhabited or used. Both environmental discourse and world literature scholarship tend to confuse parts and wholes. Working with writing and film from Africa, South Asia, and beyond, Wenzel takes a contrapuntal approach to sites and subjects dispersed across space and time. Reading for the planet, Wenzel shows, means reading from near to there: across experiential divides, between specific sites, at more than one scale.

When the war broke out, Union soldiers assumed Confederate women would be innocent noncombatants. Experience soon challenged this simplistic belief. Through a trio of dramatic stories, Stephanie McCurry reveals the vital and sometimes confounding roles women played on and off the battlefield. We meet Clara Judd, a Confederate spy whose imprisonment for treason sparked heated controversy, defying the principle of civilian immunity and leading to lasting changes in the laws of war. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved women escaped across Union lines, upending emancipation policies that extended only to enslaved men. The Union’s response was to classify fugitive black women as “soldiers’ wives,” regardless of whether they were married—offering them some protection but placing new obstacles on their path to freedom. In the war’s aftermath, the Confederate grande dame Gertrude Thomas wrestled with her loss of status and of her former slaves. War, emancipation, and economic devastation affected her family intimately, and through her life McCurry helps us see how fundamental the changes of Reconstruction were. Women’s War dismantles the long-standing fiction that women are outside of war and shows that they were indispensable actors in the Civil War, as they have been—and continue to be—in all wars.

From clandestine images of Jewish children isolated in Nazi ghettos and Japanese American children incarcerated in camps to images of Native children removed to North American boarding schools, classroom photographs of schoolchildren are pervasive even in repressive historical and political contexts. School Photos in Liquid Time offers a closer look at this genre of vernacular photography, tracing how photography advances ideologies of social assimilation as well as those of hierarchy and exclusion. In Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer’s deft analysis, school photographs reveal connections between the histories of persecuted subjects in different national and imperial centers.

In Inventing Tomorrow, Sarah Cole provides a definitive account of Wells’s work and ideas. She contends that Wells casts new light on modernism and its values: on topics from warfare to science to time, his work resonates both thematically and aesthetically with some of the most ambitious modernists. At the same time, unlike many modernists, Wells believed that literature had a pressing place in public life, and his works reached a wide range of readers. While recognizing Wells’s limitations, Cole offers a new account of his distinctive style as well as his interventions into social and political thought. She illuminates how Wells embodies twentieth-century literature at its most expansive and engaged. An ambitious rethinking of Wells as both writer and thinker, Inventing Tomorrow suggests that he offers a timely model for literature’s moral responsibility to imagine a better global future.

Shadows of Doubt reveals how deeply stereotypes distort our interactions, shape crime, and deform the criminal justice system. If you’re a robber, how do you choose your victims? As a police officer, how afraid are you of the young man you’re about to arrest? As a judge, do you think the suspect in front of you will show up in court if released from pretrial detention? As a juror, does the defendant seem guilty to you? Your answers may depend on the stereotypes you hold, and the stereotypes you believe others hold. In this provocative, pioneering book, economists Brendan O’Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi explore how stereotypes can shape the ways crimes unfold and how they contaminate the justice system through far more insidious, pervasive, and surprising paths than we have previously imagined

In this fascinating and deeply researched book, Sharon Marcus challenges everything you thought you knew about our obsession with fame. Icons are not merely famous for being famous; the media alone cannot make or break stars; fans are not simply passive dupes. Instead, journalists, the public, and celebrities themselves all compete, passionately and expertly, to shape the stories we tell about celebrities and fans. The result: a high-stakes drama as endless as it is unpredictable.

In The Perils of the One, Stathis Gourgouris offers a philosophical anthropology that confronts the legacy of “monarchical thinking”: the desire to subjugate oneself to unitary principles and structures, whether political, moral, theological, or secular. In wide-ranging essays that are at once poetic and polemical, intellectual and passionate, Gourgouris reads across politics and theology, literary and art criticism, psychoanalysis and feminism in a critique of both political theology and the metaphysics of secularism. He engages with a range of figures from the Apostle Paul and Trinitarian theologians, to La Boétie, Schmitt, and Freud, to contemporary thinkers such as Clastres, Said, Castoriadis, Žižek, Butler, and Irigaray. At once a broad perspective on human history and a detailed examination of our present moment, The Perils of the One offers glimpses of what a counterpolitics of autonomy would look like from anarchic subjectivities that refuse external ideals, resist the allure of command and obedience, and embrace otherness.

The new science of paternity, with methods such as blood typing, fingerprinting, and facial analysis, would bring clarity to the conundrum of fatherhood—or so it appeared. Suddenly, it would be possible to establish family relationships, expose adulterous affairs, locate errant fathers, unravel baby mix-ups, and discover one’s true race and ethnicity. Tracing the scientific quest for the father up to the present, with the advent of seemingly foolproof DNA analysis, Nara B. Milanich shows that the effort to establish biological truth has not ended the quest for the father. Rather, scientific certainty has revealed the fundamentally social, cultural, and political nature of paternity. As Paternity shows, in the age of modern genetics the answer to the question “Who’s your father?” remains as complicated as ever.