Video / Audio  New Books

The Oxford History of Life-Writing: Volume 2. Early Modern explores life-writing in England between 1500 and 1700, and argues that this was a period which saw remarkable innovations in biography, autobiography, and diary-keeping that laid the foundations for our modern life-writing. 

We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn’t seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done?   In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”: When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

In Mandarin Brazil, Ana Paulina Lee explores the centrality of Chinese exclusion to the Brazilian nation-building project, tracing the role of cultural representation in producing racialized national categories. Lee considers depictions of Chineseness in Brazilian popular music, literature, and visual culture, as well as archival documents and Brazilian and Qing dynasty diplomatic correspondence about opening trade and immigration routes between Brazil and China. In so doing, she reveals how Asian racialization helped to shape Brazil's image as a racial democracy.

A special edition of our series, hear the full event featuring Cory Doctorow from September 2018. Cory Doctorow and Dennis Tenen, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, have a conversation about science fiction, the changing material conditions of contemporary authorship, copyright, and surveillance.

What does it mean to be a Muslim philosopher, or to philosophize in Islam? In Open to Reason, Souleymane Bachir Diagne traces Muslims’ intellectual and spiritual history of examining and questioning beliefs and arguments to show how Islamic philosophy has always engaged critically with texts and ideas both inside and outside its tradition. Through a rich reading of classical and modern Muslim philosophers, Diagne explains the long history of philosophy in the Islamic world and its relevance to crucial issues of our own time.

Long a source for quotations, fragments, and factoids, the Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius offers hundreds of brief but vivid glimpses of Roman intellectual life. In this book Joseph Howley demonstrates how the work may be read as a literary text in its own right, and discusses the rich evidence it provides for the ancient history of reading, thought, and intellectual culture. He argues that Gellius is in close conversation with predecessors both Greek and Latin, such as Plutarch and Pliny the Elder, and also offers new ways of making sense of the text's 'miscellaneous' qualities, like its disorder and its table of contents. Dealing with topics ranging from the framing of literary quotations to the treatment of contemporary celebrities who appear in its pages, this book offers a new way to learn from the Noctes about the world of Roman reading and thought.

Elliot Ross received his PhD in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His dissertation examines narratives of the Kenyan War of Independence and its afterlives, and considers questions of historical reparation, anti-colonialism and human rights. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, and many other publications. He worked for five years as senior editor of the website Africa is a Country. As a Public Humanities Fellow, Elliot faciliated a series of podcasts in which New York public high school students interview scholars on a politically meaningful topic of their expertise.