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We live in an age in which we are repeatedly reminded—by scientists, by the media, by popular culture—of the looming threat of mass extinction. We’re told that human activity is currently producing a sixth mass extinction, perhaps of even greater magnitude than the five previous geological catastrophes that drastically altered life on Earth. Indeed…
 
Decades before he wrote his epic work Paradise Lost, John Milton was an active republican and polemicist. How Milton came to espouse such radical views is just one of the key themes of Nicholas McDowell’s Poet of Revolution: The Making of John Milton (Princeton UP, 2020), the first book of a projected two-volume biography of the famous author. The …
 
Acts of Repair: Justice, Truth, and the Politics of Memory in Argentina (Rutgers UP, 2020) explores how ordinary people grapple with political violence in Argentina, a nation home to survivors of multiple genocides and periods of violence, including the Holocaust, the political repression of the 1976-1983 dictatorship, and the 1994 AMIA bombing. De…
 
Reforms in Myanmar (formerly Burma) have eased restrictions on citizens' political activities. Yet for most Burmese, Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung shows in Everyday Economic Survival in Myanmar (U Wisconsin Press, 2019), eking out a living from day to day leaves little time for civic engagement. Citizens have coped with extreme hardship through great re…
 
As a resurgent Poland emerged at the end of World War I, an eclectic group of Polish border guards, state officials, military settlers, teachers, academics, urban planners, and health workers descended upon Volhynia, an eastern borderland province that was home to Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews. Its aim was not simply to shore up state power in a plac…
 
On this episode, I interview Mario Telò, professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, about his new book, Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy, recently published by The Ohio State University Press. In the text, Telò examines how contemporary theorizations of the archive (especially Derrida’s Ma…
 
Spain has for too long been considered peripheral to the human catastrophes of World War II and the Holocaust. This volume is the first broadly interdisciplinary, scholarly collection to situate Spain in a position of influence in the history and culture of the Second World War. Featuring essays by international experts in the fields of history, li…
 
Do you feel lost in the Anthropocene? Would you like a map to chart your way through our changing world? How about an atlas? Well, the Feral Atlas Collective has something that might help you out. In this episode Anna Tsing, an anthropologist from U.C. Santa Cruz, tells us about the Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene. Feral Atlas is one …
 
On today’s podcast, I am chatting with Dorothy Berry, Houghton Library's Digital Collections Program Manager. In it, we discuss why she became an archivist, what digital archivists do, and about the great project she created and is leading at Houghton: Slavery, Abolition, Emancipation, and Freedom: Primary Sources from Houghton Library. Dorothy Ber…
 
In his exciting and thorough book, The Golden Calf between Bible and Qur'an: Scripture, Polemic, and Exegesis from Late Antiquity to Islam (Oxford, 2020), Michael Pregill explores the biblical and Qur'anic episode of the golden calf as understood by various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources. The incident refers, of course, to when the Israelite…
 
The relationship between American Protestant Evangelicals and the candidacy, presidency, and legacy of Donald Trump arrests the attention of journalists and pundits alike. But few have probed the implication that the rally cry "Make America Great Again" contains within it a certain historiographical claim. Protestant Christian leaders in America ha…
 
Today I talked to Michael Gorra about his new book The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War (Liveright, 2020). This episode touches on two of William Faulkner’s novels in particular: The Sound and the Fury as well as Absalom, Absalom! It considers the role of memory and history, Faulkner’s alcoholism, the sexual exploitation practiced by pla…
 
As well as presenting practical challenges, addressing the question ‘what is it like in North Korea?’ raises ethical concerns around who is entitled to interpret life in a place so often discussed in luridly exoticizing terms. The awareness of authorial position and sensitivity to shared humanity which runs through Andray Abrahamian’s Being in Nort…
 
James Pickett's new book, Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia (Cornell University Press, 2020) analyzes the social and intellectual power of religious leaders who created a shared culture that integrated Central Asia, Iran, and India from the mid-eighteenth century through the early twentieth. James Pickett demonstra…
 
Welcome to The Academic Life. You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island, and neither are we. So we reached across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring in an expert about something? Email us at cgessler@gmail.com or dr.danamalone@…
 
“These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which as they kiss, consume.” These Violent Delights (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020) is the debut novel by Chloe Gong. At first glance, the book seems like Romeo and Juliet transplanted to 1920s Shanghai: two rival families, and two main characters: Julie…
 
Political scientist Lara Brown’s new book, Amateur Hour, is a complex and important multi-method study of the presidency, starting from the original conception of the office at the constitutional convention and George Washington’s role as the first occupant of the office. The centerpiece of Amateur Hour: Presidential Character and the Question of L…
 
In the space of a few weeks this spring, organizations around the world learned that many traditional, in-person jobs could, in fact, be performed remotely. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, some individuals were already utilizing new options for personal mobility and online work to strike out on their own. In the new book, Digital Nomads: In …
 
Ian M. Miller’s book Fir and Empire: The Transformation of Forests in Early Modern China (University of Washington Press, 2020) offers a transformation of our understanding of China’s early modern environmental history. Using a wide range of archival materials, including tax, deed, and timber market records, Miller presents a picture of China’s for…
 
What does it mean to connect as a people through mass media? This book approaches that question by exploring how Moroccans engage communicative failure as they seek to shape social and political relations in urban Fez. Over the last decade, laments of language and media failure in Fez have focused not just on social relations that used to be and ha…
 
André Gregory's not-memoir This Is Not My Memoir (FSG, 2020) is a fascinating trip through theatre history as seen through the eyes of one of its greatest directors. The André we encounter in this book will be familiar to fans of his theatre work or of his celebrated performance in My Dinner with André: curious, ebullient, searching, passionate, fu…
 
Today I interview Alexs Thompson about his new memoir, I'll Go: War, Religion, and Coming Home, from Cairo to Kansas City (2020). Let me begin with a moment of honesty. When I first heard about Thompson's memoir, I was skeptical that it was true. The experiences about which Thompson writes seem too remarkable, such as setting out to Egypt right aft…
 
What is the relationship between time and sexual difference? Are the categories of linearity and circularity that have so dominated conceptions of time sufficient for the emancipatory aims of feminist theory and praxis? In Revolutionary Time: On Time and Difference in Kristeva and Irigaray (SUNY Press, 2019), Fanny Söderbäck engages the work of Jul…
 
The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista: Mexican Mormon Evangelizer, Polygamist Dissident, and Utopian Founder, 1878-1961 (Oxford University Press, 2020) provides the first full-length biography of a celebrated Latino Mormon leader in the U.S. and Mexico in the early twentieth century. Surprisingly little is known about Bautista's remarkable …
 
The University of Pennsylvania describes Mongey's work as follows. "When we think of the Age of Revolutions, George Washington, Robespierre, Toussaint Louverture, or Simon Bolivar might come to mind. But Rogue Revolutionaries: The Fight for Legitimacy in the Greater Caribbean (U Pennsylvania Press, 2020) recovers the interconnected stories of now f…
 
Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau's Memory’s Eyes is a contemporary New York Oedipus novel. It is written for readers who enjoy playing with concepts and storylines, here namely the classical Oedipus myth, Sophocles’ three Theban plays, the psychoanalytical concept of the Oedipus complex, and its pop-cultural adaptations in cartoons and jokes. Tragic and f…
 
In Colonial Fantasies, Imperial Realities: Race Science and the Making of Polishness on the Fringes of the German Empire, 1840-1920 (Ohio University Press, 2019), Lenny Ureña Valerio offers a transnational approach to Polish-German relations and nineteenth-century colonial subjectivities. She investigates key cultural dynamics in the history of med…
 
Many of the millions of workers streaming in from rural China to jobs at urban factories soon find themselves in new kinds of poverty and oppression. Yet, their individual experiences are far more nuanced than popular narratives might suggest. Rural Origins, City Lives: Class and Place in Contemporary China (U Washington Press, 2016) probes long-he…
 
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