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Interviews with Scholars of Literature about their New Books

New Books in Literary Studies New Books Network

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Interviews with Scholars of Literature about their New Books

    Great Books: Catherine Stimpson on de Beauvior's "The Second Sex"

    Great Books: Catherine Stimpson on de Beauvior's "The Second Sex"

    "Woman is not born but made." This is only one of the powerful sentences in Simone de Beauvoir’s magisterial The Second Sex (1949). It means that there’s nothing natural about the fact that 50% of humanity has been oppressed by the other half for millennia. There’s nothing natural about the secondary status of women as either inferior or as helpers, assistants, supporters, care-givers, or objects of reverence, fascination, desire, etc. I spoke with Kate Stimpson, one of the academics who was instrumental in establishing the field of women and gender studies in America. “It’s a total book that calls for total change,” Professor Stimpson explained to me. She talks about the impact of de Beauvoir’s masterful book: what it has done for what is today called gender studies, and what de Beauvoir does for thinking about the whole of the human condition. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and one that everyone should read. It’s also over 800 pages, so this conversation might be a good introduction.
    Uli Baer is a professor at New York University. He is also the host of the excellent podcast "Think About It"
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    • 53 Min.
    Helen Taylor, "Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Helen Taylor, "Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Why and how is fiction important to women? In Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives (Oxford University Press, 2020), Helen Taylor, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Exeter, explores this question to give a detailed and engaging picture of fiction in women’s lives. The book presents women’s narratives about fiction, interpretations of key texts, and perspectives on writers and the publishing industry. As the book makes clear, reading is not just another hobby for women, as it occupies a crucial role in women’s lives. Full of examples and women’s stories of how reading matters, discussions of gender and genre, the role of women as authors, along with analysis of book clubs and literary festivals, the book is essential reading across the humanities, social sciences, and for anyone interested in reading!
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    • 32 Min.
    Keri Holt, "Reading These United States: Federal Literacy in the Early Republic, 1776-1830" (U Georgia Press, 2019)

    Keri Holt, "Reading These United States: Federal Literacy in the Early Republic, 1776-1830" (U Georgia Press, 2019)

    Keri Holt is the author of Reading These United States: Federal Literacy in the Early Republic, 1776-1830, published by the University of Georgia Press in 2019. Reading These United States explores how Americans read, saw, and understood the federal structure of the country in its early years. Drawing on a wide array of sources, from almanacs to textbooks, magazines to novels, and much more, Holt illustrates how Americans imagined their country not necessarily as one homogeneous nation, but as a union of states. Forging national character through local differences, Holt’s work sheds new light on the ways in which U.S. nationalism was created, inversely, by drawing lines between and separating Americans from themselves.
    Keri Holt is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Utah State University.
    Derek Litvak is a Ph.D. student in the department of history at the University of Maryland.
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    • 37 Min.
    Emily Colbert Cairns, "Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

    Emily Colbert Cairns, "Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

    Emily Colbert Cairns’ book, Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), traces the biblical figure of Esther, the secret Jewish Queen, as she is reinvented as the patron saint for the early modern Sephardic community. This hybrid globetrotter emerges repeatedly in dramatic texts, poetry, and even visual representation in the global Sephardic diaspora on the Iberian Peninsula, Amsterdam, and New Spain. Colbert Cairns argues that Esther’s female body emerges as a site for power struggles and symbolic territory for drawing constantly moving communal boundaries. While certain early modern representations of Esther mobilize this queen promote traditional values for proper female behavior (obedience, deference to male authority, beauty), Colbert Cairns shows that Esther’s identity exceeds facile notions of national, ethnic, or racial identity and instead opens out a sense of Sephardic difference beyond geographical boundaries.
    Elizabeth Spragins is assistant professor of Spanish at the College of the Holy Cross. Her current book project is on corpses in early modern Mediterranean narrative. You can follow her on Twitter @elspragins.
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    • 54 Min.
    Great Books: Rich Blint on James Baldwin's "Another Country"

    Great Books: Rich Blint on James Baldwin's "Another Country"

    "If we - and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks [...] do not falter in our duty now, we may be able [...] to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.” James Baldwin's appeal and admonition ring as true as they did in the 1960s, when the novelist became the nation's conscience - and also started to feel "like a broken record," repeating a message that white America refused to accept. The current revival of Baldwin in films, books, and documentaries such as Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me (2015), Raoul Peck's documentary based on Baldwin’s writings, I Am Not Your Negro (2017), Jesmyn Ward's incisive collection of essays, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race"(2017), and Barry Jenkins's feature film, If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), and references by liberals and conservatives alike, signal that something is yet to be grasped in Baldwin's powerful words.
    Rich Blint is a scholar, writer and curator who teaches at the New School in New York City, and the author of a forthcoming book on Baldwin who has published, curated events, and participated in key academic events on Baldwin's unceasing relevance over the past several years. Rich explains what it means to take Baldwin seriously today — and why his work continues to be of such powerful relevance. Rich talks with me about Baldwin's powerful and indispensable 1961 novel, Another Country to show how Baldwin's vision can guide our actions today. He explains what it would mean to heed Baldwin's advice for the nation to finally leave its romantic adolescent delusions behind (including, I've learned in this conversation, its attachment to interracial buddy movies), and truly grow up. Special thanks to Rowan Ricardo Phillips, author of The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey and Heaven: Poems, for lending his voice to some of Baldwin’s quotes.
    Uli Baer is a professor at New York University. He is also the host of the excellent podcast "Think About It"
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    • 1 Std. 6 Min.
    Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, "The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games" (NYU Press, 2019)

    Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, "The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games" (NYU Press, 2019)

    Ebony Elizabeth Thomas has written a beautiful, captivating, and thoughtful book about the idea of our imaginations, especially our cultural imaginations, and the images and concepts that we all consume, especially as young readers and audience members. The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games (NYU Press, 2019) dives into the question of, as Thomas explains, “why magical stories are written for some people and not for others.” Thomas explores the narratives of magical and fantastical stories, especially ones that currently dominate our Anglo-American cultural landscape, and discerns a kind of “imagination gap” in so many of these literary and visual artifacts. The Dark Fantastic provides a framework to consider this imagination gap, by braiding together scholarship from across a variety of disciplines to think about this space within literature and visual popular culture. Thomas theorizes a tool to examine many of these narratives, the cycle through which to contextualize the Dark Other within these fantastical narratives, noting that the Dark Other is the “engine that drives the fantastic.”
    The Dark Fantastic spends time analyzing and interrogating a variety of televisual and cinematic artifacts, noting how the Dark Other cycle operates in each of these narratives. In exploring these narratives, and considering who the protagonist is in so many cultural artifacts, the imagination gap becomes not only obvious but quite distinct. Thomas is concerned about this gap, because of the implication it has for readers and for film and television viewers—not only in regard to representation, but also in terms of learning how to imagine, how to dream, how to think conceptually, and how to center one’s self within these fictional spaces and created worlds.
    Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
     
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    • 1 Std. 6 Min.

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