994 episodes

Interviews with Biographers about their New Books
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New Books in Biography Marshall Poe

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.0 • 61 Ratings

Interviews with Biographers about their New Books
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    Simon Atkinson, "Krishnamacharya on Kundalini: The Origins and Coherence of His Position" (Equinox Publishing, 2022)

    Simon Atkinson, "Krishnamacharya on Kundalini: The Origins and Coherence of His Position" (Equinox Publishing, 2022)

    Krishnamacharya on Kundalini: The Origins and Coherence of His Position (Equinox Publishing, 2022) explores a distinctive teaching of 'the father of modern yoga', T. Krishnamacharya. Whereas most yoga traditions teach that kuṇḍalinī is a serpentine energy that rises, Krishnamacharya defined it differently. To him, kuṇḍalinī is a serpentine blockage which prevents prāṇa (breath or life-force) from rising and which represents avidyā (spiritual ignorance). Simon Atkinson draws from over 20 years of study and practice under teachers following Krishnamacharya. He combines analysis of quotations from yoga workshops with a detailed study of traditional Sanskrit texts. Atkinson challenges claims that Krishnamacharya's position can be found in his religious tradition of Śrīvaiṣṇavism. He questions the tradition's reliance on textual sources, showing how the coherence of Krishnamacharya's position can only be maintained by employing elaborate arguments and rejecting texts that teach otherwise. Atkinson also explores how Krishnamacharya's teaching on kuṇḍalinī influences how yoga is practiced. He argues that Krishnamacharya's position is best viewed as a model for experience that guides practice.
    Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com.
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    • 1 hr 2 min
    D. G. Hart, "Benjamin Franklin: Cultural Protestant" (Oxford UP, 2021)

    D. G. Hart, "Benjamin Franklin: Cultural Protestant" (Oxford UP, 2021)

    Benjamin Franklin grew up in a devout Protestant family with limited prospects for wealth and fame. By hard work, limitless curiosity, native intelligence, and luck (what he called "providence"), Franklin became one of Philadelphia's most prominent leaders, a world recognized scientist, and the United States' leading diplomat during the War for Independence. Along the way, Franklin embodied the Protestant ethics and cultural habits he learned and observed as a youth in Puritan Boston. 
    Benjamin Franklin: Cultural Protestant (Oxford UP, 2021) follows Franklin's remarkable career through the lens of the trends and innovations that the Protestant Reformation started (both directly and indirectly) almost two centuries earlier. His work as a printer, civic reformer, institution builder, scientist, inventor, writer, self-help dispenser, politician, and statesmen was deeply rooted in the culture and outlook that Protestantism nurtured. Through its alternatives to medieval church and society, Protestants built societies and instilled habits of character and mind that allowed figures such as Franklin to build the life that he did. Through it all, Franklin could not assent to all of Protestantism's doctrines or observe its worship, but for most of his life he acknowledged his debt to his creator, reveled in the natural world guided by providence, and conducted himself in a way (imperfectly) to merit divine approval. In this biography, D. G. Hart recognizes Franklin as a cultural or non-observant Protestant, someone who thought of himself as a Presbyterian, ordered his life as other Protestants did, sometimes went to worship services, read his Bible, and prayed, but could not go all the way and join a church.
    Zach McCulley (@zamccull) is a historian of religion and literary cultures in early modern England and PhD candidate in History at Queen's University Belfast.
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    • 46 min
    Bradford P. Wilson and Carson Holloway, eds., "The Political Writings of Alexander Hamilton" (Cambridge UP, 2017)

    Bradford P. Wilson and Carson Holloway, eds., "The Political Writings of Alexander Hamilton" (Cambridge UP, 2017)

    How much does the average person know about Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757 – 1804)? Would we have guessed that this hero of many fiscal conservatives wrote, “A national debt, if it is not excessive will be to us a national blessing; it will be a powerful cement of our union…?”
    Most of us know that he was killed by his political enemy Aaron Burr in a duel. But long before that fatal encounter, Hamilton had engaged in major rows with several of his fellow founding fathers, notably Thomas Jefferson but also James Madison and John Adams. Because he cared so deeply about the fate of the newly established United States and its foreign relations, he dipped his pen in rhetorical vitriol when describing many of his rivals and former close allies in private letters and in public writings detailing where he felt they had gone wrong and were, in his view, harming the country.
    The angrier side of this brilliant man is on full view in the compendious 2017 two-volume set, The Political Writings of Alexander Hamilton: Volume 1, 1769-1789 and The Political Writings of Alexander Hamilton: Volume 2, 1789-1804, edited by Bradford P. Wilson and Carson Holloway.
    We are also afforded glimpses of the ambitious 14-year-old clerk Hamilton vowing to better himself and longing for a war that might afford him the opportunity for just such advancement. We read the letters he wrote during the War of Independence, which brought him into the circle of George Washington. In that war, Hamilton served bravely and bitterly criticized the brand new Congress that oversaw and, in Hamilton’s view, mismanaged the conflict. We are able to read the letter Hamilton wrote his wife to be read in the event of his death in the duel and follow the public and behind the scenes campaign that Hamilton led against Burr which precipitated the fateful encounter.
    This collection of writings is probably best perused with a search engine at the ready so as to look up the members of the sprawling cast of characters in it, such as the many recipients of Hamilton’s extensive correspondence and to read about the origins of the many pseudonyms he employed (e.g., Lucius Crassus). The documents are presented with little annotation, so some work is required by readers who possess little knowledge of the period. But because so much of the material encompassed is relevant to our day, the investment of time is well worth it.
    Hamilton laid the groundwork for the legal and political environment we live in and his influence is felt in everything from banking and government finance to libel and bankruptcy law to the structure and scope of powers of the judiciary. As a serving and former soldier, Hamilton took an active interest in the organization of the military and in veterans’ affairs and played a vital role in preventing unrest in the ranks in the unsettled days immediately following the cessation of active hostilities with Britain in the Revolutionary War. He was deeply involved in the Citizen Genet affair and helped his young nation traverse tricky diplomatic terrain as France and Britain battled for supremacy. All of this is offered up in the book we are discussing today.
    The tone of the many letters, partisan policy papers, proto op-eds and governmental reports featured in the book runs the gamut from ruthless ridicule to the coolly analytic to bitter despair to fury and contempt at what Hamilton saw as behavior damaging to the infant republic he loved. Hamilton took offense easily and wrote both voluminously and hot-bloodedly in his own defense. No spin doctors for him.
    Today, we will talk to Mr. Wilson about this important collection of the political writings of that rare combination of man of action and world-shaping public intellectual that was Alexander Hamilton.
    Give a listen.
    Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.
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    • 1 hr 19 min
    Marc David Baer, "German, Jew, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    Marc David Baer, "German, Jew, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    Hugo Marcus (1880–1966) was a man of many names and many identities. Born a German Jew, he converted to Islam and took the name Hamid, becoming one of the most prominent Muslims in Germany prior to World War II. He was renamed Israel by the Nazis and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before escaping to Switzerland. He was a gay man who never called himself gay but fought for homosexual rights and wrote queer fiction under the pen name Hans Alienus during his decades of exile.
    In German, Jew, Muslim, Gay: The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus (Columbia University Press, 2020), Marc David Baer uses Marcus’s life and work to shed new light on a striking range of subjects, including German Jewish history and anti-Semitism, Islam in Europe, Muslim-Jewish relations, and the history of the gay rights struggle. Baer explores how Marcus created a unique synthesis of German, gay, and Muslim identity that positioned Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as an intellectual and spiritual model. Marcus’s life offers a new perspective on sexuality and on competing conceptions of gay identity in the multilayered world of interwar and postwar Europe. His unconventional story reveals new aspects of the interconnected histories of Jewish and Muslim individuals and communities, including Muslim responses to Nazism and Muslim experiences of the Holocaust. An intellectual biography of an exceptional yet little-known figure, German, Jew, Muslim, Gay illuminates the complexities of twentieth-century Europe’s religious, sexual, and cultural politics.
    Marc David Baer is professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
    Armanc Yildiz is a doctoral candidate in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Studies in Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. He is also the founder of Academics Write, where he supports scholars in their writing projects as a writing coach and developmental editor.
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    • 48 min
    Joshua D. Zimmerman, "Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland" (Harvard UP, 2022)

    Joshua D. Zimmerman, "Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland" (Harvard UP, 2022)

    In the 1920s, Józef Piłsudski was a household name not just in Poland, but across Europe and across the Atlantic Ocean as well. Yet this complex and contradictory figure – a socialist and a nationalist, a clandestine agitator and a legendary military strategist, protector of Jews and other national minorities on Polish soil who was nonetheless often accused of imperialism – has eluded serious biographical treatment in English until now. Yeshiva University professor Joshua D. Zimmerman offers a nuanced, readable, and definitive account of the man who re-founded the independent state of Poland in 1918. Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland (Harvard University Press, 2022) could not be more timely, given the lessons to be learned from Piłsudski’s career by today’s opponents of far-right populism in Eastern Europe, and even more urgently – by English-language readers seeking to understand the imperative of preserving an independent Ukrainian state in the face of Russian aggression.
    Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser).
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    • 1 hr 38 min
    Srilata Raman, "The Transformation of Tamil Religion: Ramalinga Swamigal and Modern Dravidian Sainthood" (Routledge, 2022)

    Srilata Raman, "The Transformation of Tamil Religion: Ramalinga Swamigal and Modern Dravidian Sainthood" (Routledge, 2022)

    Srilata Raman's book The Transformation of Tamil Religion: Ramalinga Swamigal and Modern Dravidian Sainthood (Routledge, 2022) analyses the religious ideology of a Tamil reformer and saint, Ramalinga Swamigal of the 19th century and his posthumous reception in the Tamil country and sheds light on the transformation of Tamil religion that both his works and the understanding of him brought about. This book is a path-breaking study that also traces the common grounds between the religious visions of two of the most prominent subaltern figures of Tamil modernity - Iyothee Thass and Ramalingar. It argues that these transformations are one meaningful way for a religious tradition to cope with and come to terms with the implications of historicization and the demands of colonial modernity. It is, therefore, a valuable contribution to the field of religion, South Asian history and literature and Subaltern studies.
    This book is available open access here. 
    Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com.
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    • 38 min

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