mark-kurlansky-paper-paging-through-history“Mark Kurlansky has written wide-­ranging histories of cod and salt. Now he has turned to another apparently insignificant, indispensable subject. […] The history of paper is a history of cultural transmission, and Kurlansky tells it vividly in this compact, well-illustrated book.”

More at The New York Times.

Ken Owen reviews the Broadway success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton as a reflection of “Founders Chic” and the cult of personality (Source)

An excerpt from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

howard-zinn-a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states

Middle-class Americans might be invited to join a new elite by attacks against the corruption of the established rich. The New Yorker Cadwallader Colden, in his “Address to the Freeholders” in 1747, attacked the wealthy as tax dodgers unconcerned with the welfare of others (although he himself was wealthy) and spoke for the honesty and dependability of “the midling rank of mankind” in whom citizens could best trust “our liberty & Property.” This was to become a critically important rhetorical device for the rule of the few, who would speak to the many of “our” liberty, “our” property, “our” country.

Jennifer Dawn Whitney (DCRC) traces the history of our anxieties about robot technology

1950s-robot-toy

In contemporary Western culture, we often trace our relationship with automation and robotics to the Industrial Revolution – or, more recently – to a kind of American futurism rooted in the 1950s. Wedged between these two moments of modernity we find the word ‘robot’, which came into usage in the 1920s.

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Lara Feigel reviews Peter Boxall’s new book about the relevance of the novel in the 21st century

peter-boxall-value-of-the-novel

In his 1925 essay, “Why the Novel Matters”, DH Lawrence celebrated the novel as the “one bright book of life”. According to him, the novelist alone understands that there is as much life in the hand that writes as in the mind that thinks. Where science and philosophy privilege mind over matter, turning man into a “dead man in life”, the novel resurrects the “whole man alive”. Lawrence acknowledged that books do not constitute life, but insisted that they were “tremulations on the ether” that could make the whole man alive tremble into urgent being.

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Trinity College Dublin •  5–6 August, 2016
Samuel Beckett in London, 1979. Photograph: Paul Joyce
Samuel Beckett in London, 1979. Photograph: Paul Joyce
As suggested by his original title for More Pricks Than Kicks (1934), and proved by the pochades, roughs, foirades, and (un)abandoned works of his mature œuvre, works often presented by their author as being no more than the run-off from the creative process, Beckett was anything but put off by draff. The same can surely be said of the scholars who have long devoted themselves to studying Beckett’s aesthetic engagement with the seemingly worthless.

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David Sexton explores the lineage of one of modern literature and film’s most chilling villains in his critical study, The Strange World Of Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
One of Lecter’s most obvious fictional precursors is Sherlock Holmes and before him, therefore, Poe’s Dupin. Many of Lecter’s observations are pure Holmes in style, if not content. As he tells Clarice: “‘You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.'” On their next meeting, he detects a Band-Aid under her clothes.

Compare Holmes on his first meeting with Watson in A Study In Scarlet: “‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ ‘How on earth did you know that?’ I asked in astonishment.’ ” When, at their next meeting, Holmes explains his deductions, the amazed Watson says, rightly enough, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
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Glenn Gould: Remastered
Glenn Gould: Remastered

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Mark Thwaite (Ready Steady Book) posts an extract from Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays:
Simone Weil
Simone Weil

The culture-heroes of our liberal bourgeois civilization are anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois; they are writers who are repetitive, obsessive, and impolite, who impress by force—not simply by their tone of personal authority and by their intellectual ardor, but by the sense of acute personal and intellectual extremity. The bigots, the hysterics, the destroyers of the self—these are the writers who bear witness to the fearful polite time in which we live. It is mostly a matter of tone: it is hardly possible to give credence to ideas uttered in the impersonal tones of sanity. There are certain eras which are too complex, too deafened by contradictory historical and intellectual experiences, to hear the voice of sanity. Sanity becomes compromise, evasion, a lie. Ours is an age which consciously pursues health, and yet only believes in the reality of sickness. The truths we respect are those born of affliction. We measure truth in terms of the cost to the writer in suffering—rather than by the standard of an objective truth to which a writer’s words correspond. Each of our truths must have a martyr. (more…)

An original philosophical account of relational ontology drawing on the work of Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Heidegger
Andrew Benjamin, Towards a Relational Ontology: Philosophy’s Other Possibility

In this original work of philosophy, Andrew Benjamin calls for a new understanding of relationality, one inaugurating a philosophical mode of thought that takes relations among people and events as primary, over and above conceptions of simple particularity or abstraction. Drawing on the work of Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Heidegger, Benjamin shows that a relational ontology has always been at work within the history of philosophy even though philosophy has been reluctant to affirm its presence. Arguing for what he calls anoriginal relationality, he demonstrates that the already present status of a relational ontology is philosophy’s other possibility. Touching on a range of topics including community, human-animal relations, and intimacy, Benjamin’s thoughtful and penetrating distillation of ancient, modern, and twentieth-century philosophical ideas, and his judicious attention to art and literature make this book a model for original philosophical thinking and writing. [Read More]

Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Thought at Monash University, Australia and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Kingston University, London. He is the author of several books, including Working with Walter Benjamin: Recovering a Political Philosophy and the coeditor (with Dimitris Vardoulakis) of Sparks Will Fly: Benjamin and Heidegger, also published by SUNY Press.

Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford
Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford

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Ferris Jabr (New Yorker) discusses Nabokov, Joyce, Woolf, and the science of walking (thanks to Emily Blewitt for the link)

In Vogue’s 1969 Christmas issue, Vladimir Nabokov offered some advice for teaching James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” He drew a charming one himself. Several decades later, a Boston College English professor named Joseph Nugent and his colleagues put together an annotated Google map that shadows Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom step by step. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, as well as students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have similarly reconstructed the paths of the London amblers in “Mrs. Dalloway.” (more…)