New Books in May

Jump-start your summer reading with one of our new titles this May!

In Coral Empire Ann Elias traces the history of two explorers whose photographs and films of tropical reefs in the 1920s cast corals and the sea as an unexplored territory to be exploited in ways that tied the tropics and reefs to colonialism, racism, and the human domination of nature.

The contributors to Remaking New Orleans, edited by Thomas Jessen Adams and Matt Sakakeeny, challenge the uncritical acceptance of New Orleans-as-exceptional narratives, showing how they flatten the diversity, experience, and culture of the city’s residents and obscure other possible understandings.

The ChasersRenato Rosaldo’s new prose poetry collection, The Chasers, shares his experiences and those of his group of twelve Mexican-American Tucson High School friends known as the Chasers as they grew up, graduated, and fell out of touch, conveying the realities of Chicano life on the borderlands from the 1950s to the present.

In Queering Black Atlantic Religions Roberto Strongman examines three Afro-diasporic religions—Hatian Vodou, Cuban Lucumí/Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé—to demonstrate how the commingling of humans and the divine during trance possession produce subjectivities whose genders are unconstrained by biological sex.

Written in 1937, published in Spanish in 1973, and appearing here in English for the first time, Freddy Prestol Castillo’s novel You Can Cross the Massacre on Foot is one of the few accounts of the 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.

Book Reports

In Book Reports, a generous collection of book reviews and literary essays, rock critic Robert Christgau shows readers a different side to his esteemed career with reviews of books ranging from musical autobiographies, criticism, and histories to novels, literary memoirs, and cultural theory.

The contributors to From Russia with Code, edited by Mario Biagioli and Vincent Antonin Lépinay, examine Russian computer scientists, programmers, and hackers in and outside of Russia within the context of new international labor markets and the economic, technological, and political changes in post-Soviet Russia.

In Camp TV Quinlan Miller reframes American television history by tracing a camp aesthetic and the common appearance of trans queer gender characters in both iconic and lesser known sitcoms throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The coauthors of Decolonizing Ethnography integrate ethnography with activist work in a New Jersey center for undocumented workers, showing how anthropology can function as a vehicle for activism and as a tool for marginalized people to theorize their own experiences.

In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces modeling’s history from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s, showing how it is both the quintessential occupation of a modern consumer economy and a practice that has been shaped by queer sensibilities.

In Figures of Time Toni Pape examines contemporary television that often presents a conflict-laden conclusion first before relaying the events that led up to that inevitable ending, showing how this narrative structure attunes audiences to the fear-based political doctrine of preemption—a logic that justifies preemptive action to nullify a perceived future threat.

In Anti-Japan Leo T. S. Ching traces the complex dynamics that shape persisting negative attitudes toward Japan throughout East Asia, showing how anti-Japanism stems from the failed efforts at decolonization and reconciliation, the U.S. military presence, and shifting geopolitical and economic conditions in the region.

The Cuba Reader

Tracking Cuban history from 1492 to the present, this revised and expanded second edition of The Cuba Reader presents myriad perspectives on Cuba’s history, culture, and politics, including a new section that explores the changes and continuities in Cuba since Fidel Castro stepped down from power in 2006.

The Fernando Coronil Reader, a posthumously published collection of anthropologist Fernando Coronil’s most important work, highlights his deep concern with the global South, Latin American state formation, theories of nature, empire and postcolonialism, and anthrohistory as an intellectual and ethical approach.

The extensively updated and revised third edition of the bestselling Social Medicine Reader (Volume I and Volume II) provides a survey of the challenging issues facing today’s health care providers, patients, and caregivers with writings by scholars in medicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. It will be a great addition to courses in public health, medicine, nursing, and more.

Catherine Waldby traces how the history of the valuing of human oocytes—the reproductive cells specific to women—intersects with the biological and social life of women in her new book The Oocyte Economy.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for our e-mail newsletters, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

New Books in September

Welcome to September! As the new academic year begins, we’ve got some great new books for you to dig into.

978-1-4780-0081-5Imani Perry’s Vexy Thing recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present.

Providing a history of experimental methods and frameworks in anthropology from the 1920s to the present, Michael M. J. Fischer’s Anthropology in the Meantime draws on his real world, multi-causal, multi-scale, and multi-locale research to rebuild theory for the twenty-first century.

In Jezebel Unhinged Tamura Lomax traces the historical and contemporary use of the jezebel trope in the black church and in black popular culture, showing how it disciplines black women and girls and preserves gender hierarchy, black patriarchy, and heteronormativity in black families, communities, cultures, and institutions.

978-1-4780-0021-1.jpgGathered from Rafael Campo’s over-twenty-year-career as a poet-physician, Comfort Measures Only includes eighty-eight poems—thirty of which have never been previously published in a collection—that pull back the curtain in the ER, laying bare our pain and joining us all in spellbinding moments of pathos.

In Garbage Citizenship Rosalind Fredericks traces the volatile trash politics in Dakar, Senegal, to examine urban citizenship in the context of urban austerity and democratic politics, showing how labor is a key component of infrastructural systems and how Dakar’s residents use infrastructures as a vital tool for forging collective identifies and mobilizing political action.

Gunslinger-50Edward Dorn’s Gunslinger is an anti-epic poem that follows a cast of colorful characters as they set out the American West in search of Howard Hughes. This expanded fiftieth anniversary edition of Dorn’s wild and comedic romp includes a new foreword by Marjorie Perloff, an essay by Michael Davidson, and Charles Olson’s “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn”.

In Technicolored Black feminist critic Ann duCille combines cultural critique with personal reflections on growing up with TV as a child in the Boston suburbs to examine how televisual representations of African Americans—ranging from I Love Lucy to How to Get Away with Murder—have changed over the last sixty years.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for Subject Matters, our e-mail newsletter, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.




New Books in May

The semester is ending, graduates are heading off to bright futures, and we are bringing out more great scholarly books. Check out the titles we have coming out in May.

In Althusser, The Infinite Farewell Emilio de Ípola proposes an original reading of Althusser in which he shows how Althusser’s oeuvre is divided between two different projects: that of his canonical works, and a second subterranean current of thought that runs throughout his entire oeuvre and which only gained explicit expression in his later work.

978-0-8223-7079-6.jpgIn Cow in The Elevator Tulasi Srinivas uses the concept of wonder—feelings of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime—to examine how residents of Banglore, India pursue wonder by practicing Hindu religious rituals as a way to accept and resist neoliberal capitalism.

In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines the literary and artistic work of feminist, queer antiracist activists who were imprisoned or became fugitives in the United States during the 1970s, showing how they were among the first to theorize and make visible the co-constitutive symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and racialized mass-incarceration.

978-0-8223-7130-4.jpgSusan Murray’s Bright Signals traces four decades of technological, cultural, and aesthetic debates about the possibility, use, and meaning of color television within the broader history of twentieth-century visual culture.

In Colonial Lives of Property Brenna Bhandar examines how the emergence of modern property law contributed to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies, showing how the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depends upon ideologies of European racial superiority as well as legal narratives that equated civilized life with English concepts of property.

Lyndon K. Gill’s Erotic Islands foregrounds a queer presence in foundational elements of Trinidad and Tobago’s national imaginary—Carnival masquerade design, Calypso musicianship, and queer HIV/AIDS activism—to show how same-sex desire provides the means for the nation’s queer population to develop survival and community building strategies.

978-0-8223-7087-1.jpgIn Ontological Terror Calvin L. Warren intervenes in Afro-pessimism, Heideggerian metaphysics, and black humanist philosophy, illustrating how blacks embody a metaphysical nothing while showing how this nothingness destabilizes whiteness, makes blacks a target of violence, and explains why humanism has failed to achieve equality for blacks.

In Empire of Neglect Christopher Taylor shows why nineteenth-century British West Indian letters were remarkably un-British by exploring how West Indians reoriented their affective, cultural, and political worlds toward the Americas in response to the liberalization of the British Empire and the resulting imperial neglect.

A sensitive ethnography of psychotherapy in Putin’s Russia, Shock Therapy by Tomas Matza offers profound insights into how the Soviet collapse not only reshaped Russia’s political system but also everyday understandings of self and other.

Drawing on over 300 prosecutions of sex acts in colonial New Spain between 1530 and 1821, in Sins against Nature Zeb Tortorici shows how courts used the concept “against nature” to try those accused of sodomy, bestiality, and other sex acts, thereby demonstrating how the archive influences understandings of bodies, desires, and social categories.

978-0-8223-7109-0.jpgIn On Decoloniality,Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh introduce the concept of decoloniality by providing a theoretical overview and discussing concrete examples of decolonial projects in action. The book launches a new series of the same name.

The contributors to Territories and Trajectories, edited by Diana Sorensen, propose a model of cultural production and transmission based on the global diffusion, circulation, and exchange of people, things, and ideas across time and space.

Never miss a new book! Sign up for Subject Matters, our e-mail newsletter, and get notifications of new titles in your preferred disciplines as well as discounts and other news.

The Pleasure of Sport: Readings for the Olympics

In anticipation of the Olympics starting this weekend, we wanted to share some of our books and special issues on sports. Did we touch on all of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

Iddrhr_125n the most recent issue of Radical History Review, “Historicizing the Politics and Pleasure of Sport,” (#125) contributors explore how and why sport, paradoxically, leads to empowerment and disempowerment, inclusion and exclusion, unity and division. The issue features cutting-edge research on gender and sexuality, sport in the Global South, neoliberalism, race and ethnicity, and stadiums as sites of urban politics and national identity. The issue also includes a reflection on sport and art, book review essays, contemporary analysis on #BlackLivesMatter and sport, and a forum of scholars who use sport to teach radical history. Read the introduction, made freely available.

ddsaq_105_2A 2006 issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, “The Pleasure Principle: Sport for the Sake of Pleasure,” (105:2) is a great read to prepare for the 2016 Olympics. Sport represents a singular source of social belonging and communal enjoyment—sometimes as intense as religious faith. “The Pleasure Principle” contributors address the issue of sport as a form of pleasure, contending that sport, like any form of popular culture, reveals a lot about the society in which it appears. Examining sports through various theoretical lenses, including Marxist, feminist, and poststructuralist, and from numerous disciplinary viewpoints—history, sociology, cinema studies, literature, and cultural studies—this special issue demonstrates the complexity of contemporary sports culture. Read Amy Bass’s “Objectivity Be Damned, or Why I Go to the Olympic Games: A Hands-On Lesson in Performative Nationalism” to learn why the events that transpire in a fortnight of international athletic competition should never be underemphasized, simplified, or dismissed merely as performative pomp and circumstance, or check out the introduction to the issue by David L. Andrews.

978-0-8223-4856-6_prMany of the athletes competing in the games will be truly transnational citizens, playing on a team in one country, while trying for Olympic glory under the different flag of their birth. Sports like soccer, baseball, and golf have tremendous global appeal. Rachael Miyung Joo’s book Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea looks in particular at Korean athletes and events and explores how global sport has helped shape what it means to be Korean.

978-0-8223-5563-2_prThe last time cricket was played at the Olympics was in 1900, but players and organizers are trying to get it included in a future games. To understand cricket, both the game and its cultural context, read C.L.R. James’s classic Beyond a Boundary, originally published in 1963 and republished in a handsome 50th anniversary edition in 2013. Writing in The Nation, Mark Naison called it, “a book of remarkable richness and force, which vastly expands our understanding of sports as an element of popular culture in the Western and colonial world.”

978-0-8223-4276-2_prThe Cuban baseball team has been the most successful national team at the Olympics since 1992, winning the gold medal three times and the silver twice.  The Quality of Home Runs is Thomas F. Carter’s lively ethnographic exploration of the interconnections between baseball and Cuban identity. Suggesting that baseball is in many ways an apt metaphor for cubanidad, Carter points out aspects of the sport that resonate with Cuban social and political life: the perpetual tension between risk and security, the interplay between individual style and collective regulation, and the risky journeys undertaken with the intention, but not the guarantee, of returning home.

Enjoy the games!


Scholarship Should Be Fun, Dammit!

We are thrilled to present today’s guest blog post by Janine Barchas and Kristina Straub, co-authors of “Curating Will & Jane,” featured in Eighteenth-Century Life. The article addresses the curation of Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Here, Barchas and Straub discuss non-traditional forms of scholarship and how delightfully fun they can be to work with.

“Fun” might not be the first word that comes to mind in association with curating a serious museum exhibition for the Folger Shakespeare Library, but we have been using it a lot lately in reference to our work on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity, opening in Washington, D.C. on 6 August 2016. Will & Jane looks at literary celebrity historically as well as in real time, focusing on the 200-year marks after the deaths of these authors to explore the processes by which two great writers became literary superheroes. At the time of this exhibition, Shakespeare logs in at 400 and Austen at 200 years, so we are witnesses to a new milestone in their fame. A solemn moment? Well, only if bobbleheads make you feel reverent. Will & Jane brings together high and low culture, juxtaposing precious art objects with the mundane and even ridiculous, to tell a story about how literary celebrity works in 200-year cycles.

Image 4

Figurines of Richard III with different actors’ faces

We are literary nerds, an Austen scholar and a theater historian working on Shakespeare in the 18th century, so our definition of fun inevitably encompasses the pleasure of historical research and discovery, and there is plenty of that in Will & Jane. As curators we were struck again and again by the parallels between the afterlives of these two very different authors. Dozens of porcelain figurines depicting Richard III in the same pose (although with three different actors’ faces) taught us an important lesson about material production and fame: repetition makes celebrity. In the 20th century, the medium shifts to the electronic, as the same repetition effect is created for Austen in the spectacle of a damp-shirted Colin-Firth-as-Darcy emerging countless times in YouTube reenactments of that famous scene in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which has inspired numerous spoofs and restagings.

image 1

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice TV Mini-Series

the shirt

“The Shirt”

Once word got out that our exhibition would display “The Shirt” worn by Firth in the making of this scene, the New York Times and New Yorker each joined in the spirit of our exhibition, smartly making sport of the centrality of this garment to Austen fandom. Prompting, however indirectly, a satire in the New Yorker is the stuff that doth overflow any academic’s cup!

Will and Jane’s respective ascensions to literary greatness were each kicked off by media extravaganzas marking, roughly, the 200th anniversaries of their life and work. In 1769, actor and entrepreneur David Garrick organized a Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1789, John Boydell opened the popular Shakespeare Gallery, the first museum dedicated to the Bard. The television “bonnet drama” of the 1990s is to Austen as these 18th-century public spectacles were to Shakespeare. Assisted by Hollywood, the BBC awarded Austen, and her characters, special star status as she approached her bicentenary. As literary historians, we take great pleasure in these moments of resemblance and the discernment of patterns in the history of literary fame.

Our scholarly desire to understand Will’s and Jane’s literary celebrities often, however, led us away from the literary, indeed, to some extent, even away from books (although books as material objects tell many fascinating stories in our exhibition). The heady rush of discerning the historical traces of celebrity in advertisements for laundry soap and gin, in household objects like rolling pins and salt and pepper shakers, in children’s games and babies’ board books definitely carried a different kind of pleasure than the traditional printed page. Standing in the vaults of the Folger and looking at shelves of what our spouses call tchotchkes and ban from our mantelpieces at home in the interests of good taste taught us a lot about material culture and celebrity, but it was also just plain fun. So was wading through hordes of Austenalia, including shoeboxes and a finger puppet of Mr. Collins as a mouse, at the Goucher College Library. Not only were plastic action figures a nice change of pace from the printed page, our research for this exhibit allowed us to indulge in a cheekiness that is usually off-limits for sober scholars. Will & Jane encouraged us in a kind of play that made us participants, performers in as well as observers of fan culture.

Naturally, our preparatory labors over the last three years leading up to the exhibition have not been utterly painless. We’ve weathered freak snow storms during site visits, endured the grit of travel and monastic accommodations, and participated in what seems like a lifetime’s worth of planning meetings, conference calls, and assessments. We’ve drafted and redrafted so many texts, promotional statements, and brochures that our waking thoughts now seem to consist entirely of label fragments. Yet, at every conference presentation or press interview our enthusiasm for this exhibition remains genuine. At a time when the Humanities are under scrutiny and so many of us cannot get jobs, we’ve been unabashedly enjoying ours. We hope that some of this joy is contagious and, with a little luck, infects even the general public.

We hope visitors to the Folger will join us in the long-running performance of literary celebrity that is Shakespeare and Austen. It is a performance about longing, about the desire to see, touch, feel, and know all there is to know—in this case about two writers about whom we actually know very little. That’s why, for 400 years in Shakespeare’s case and for 200 in Austen’s, fans have written sequels, adapted their texts into a variety of genres and media, painted portraits, and generally imagined as much as can be imagined about their personal lives and loves. If, at times, the performance tips into parody, travesty, and even kitsch—all the more fun for us and the many visitors whom we hope will join us at the Folger between August 6 and November 6, 2016.

Meanwhile, and for those who like to mix their sweet intellectual delights with scholarly fiber, take a look at our account of the exhibition just published by Duke University Press in Eighteenth-Century Life. The article “Curating Will & Jane” will prepare you for all the serious facts behind the fun.

Read the article, made freely available throughout the exhibit.

Mad Men Comes to an End

Mad Men Mad WorldThis week the final episode of the television series Mad Men aired on AMC. The smart show about an advertising firm in the 1960s is a favorite with academics. In 2013 we published Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s. Edited by Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky, and Robert A. Rushing, the collection of essays explores the groundbreaking drama in relation to fashion, history, architecture, civil rights, feminism, consumerism, art, cinema, and the serial format.

The editors and many of the contributors to Mad Men, Mad World have been blogging about the series for years. Posts for each episode of seasons 4 through the first part of season 7 are on Kritik. For the final episodes, the team has moved to Public Books. Lauren Goodlad blogs about the series finale today. She has a few words on Mad Men’s overall importance to television.

“When it first took the world by storm back in 2007, Mad Men was unlike anything else on television. Whereas The Sopranos, the show that elevated Matthew Weiner to a writer of note, had cultivated a hybrid postmodernism, Mad Men’s continuous narrative arcs and multi-plot ensembles evoked the serialized realism of the nineteenth century. And whereas The Wire recalled Dickens in taking the modern city for its subject, Mad Men has always been more focused on its characters than on New York City, Madison Avenue, or even the Sixties. Then too, in a way reminiscent of Flaubert, Mad Men has combined “a relentless exposure of social pathology with a surface allure culled from the most glittering self-representations” of its period palette.”

If you’re still working your way through the series, pick up a copy of the book and read it alongside. If you’re planning to teach the series now that it is complete, Mad Men, Mad World makes a great, accessible textbook. And if reading about Mad Men makes you hunger for other works in the aca-fandom genre, check out The Sopranos by Dana Polan and On The Wire by Linda Williams.

TV Viewers Fight to Save Soul!: An Excerpt from Gayle Wald’s It’s Been Beautiful

Its Been BeautifulIn It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television, Gayle Wald mines the political, cultural, and affective archive of Soul!, a groundbreaking public-television program that combined black performing arts with frank talk about identity and social revolution. Airing weekly beginning in fall 1968, Soul! in its inaugural season created a welcoming space for both established and up-and-coming figures, including James Baldwin, the Last Poets, Roberta Flack, Sam and Dave, and Betty Shabazz. But midway through its first season, the Ford Foundation—a crucial underwriter of the program—abruptly withdrew its support, leaving the show—and producer Ellis Haizlip’s plan to take Soul! national in 1970—in the lurch.

In this passage from It’s Been Beautiful, Wald writes about how viewers fought back to save Soul!, mirroring, in both their eloquence and the warmth of their regard for the program, Soul!’s own respectful and warm address to the black community.

The variety of written appeals to Channel 13 was impressive. Some were typewritten; others were handwritten or, in the case of letters from children, illustrated. Some were from representatives of groups of workers or specific communities; others spoke for families or individuals. A letter from Port Jarvis, New York, began with the salutation “Dear Ellis.” A black serviceman stationed at Fort Tilden, in Queens, composed his letter while he watched: “I am listening to LeRoi Jones and it sounds good. It is wonderful to hear my people expressing themselves in many ways (asides from rotting).” One viewer praised Soul! as “a particularly relevant vehicle for those of us in the white community,” and specifically singled out the Last Poets’ “Die, Nigga!!!”, writing that “the power and majesty of that segment beggars description.” The director of a juvenile detention facility in Orange County, New York, wrote to say that Soul! was important to his wards. Peter Long, Loretta Long’s husband and public relations director at the Apollo Theater (yet another connection to the Harlem venue), weighed in with a heartfelt note about the ways exposure on Soul! had jump-started his wife’s career, and pledged the Apollo’s continued collaboration with the show.

Letters in defense of Soul! issued from high and low. Ralph Bunche sent a telegram; an inmate of Monmouth County Jail, in New Jersey, sent a letter that bore the warden’s stamp of approval. A Brooklyn writer who identified herself as a “soul sister” wrote that Soul! was “the only show catering to the task of our generation (young).” Seven people from Jamaica, Queens, signed a letter that said: “Keep ‘Soul’ and educate, entertain, and maybe save a few false fire alarms, whitey’s head, stores, and my sanity.” “T.V. really was never for me before,” wrote a grateful female viewer from Rego Park, New York. “In my opinion, ‘Soul!’ is too relevant to the social viewing needs of a group of minorities of the New York area as large in number as we are to be taken away.” Another writer, identifying herself as “a widow woman” who had scrubbed hospital floors to educate her three grown children, concluded, “I think Soul is not only entertaining, but empowering, enlightening and hopefull [sic].” A Long Island City woman submitted an appeal in the form of a poem:

My family has a five-hundred dollar

colored television set

that we turn on
     once a week
     9 p.m.
     Channel 13
Because it’s the only for real thing on T.V.
Dig it?

It’s Been Beautiful will be published in March. You can preorder now from online or local bookstores, or save 30% by ordering directly from us. Call 888-651-0122 and use coupon code E15WALD.

New Books in February

It’s hard to believe how fast January flew by, and February’s already here! We have a lot of great new books coming out this month, on a variety of subjects. Check them out below!

Okeke Agulu cover image, 5746-9Written by one of the foremost scholars of African art, Chika Okeke-Agulu, and featuring more than 125 color images, Postcolonial Modernism chronicles the emergence of artistic modernism in Nigeria in the heady years surrounding political independence in 1960.

Recycled Stars, by Mary R. Desjardins, considers the how female stars’ images and persona acquire multiple meanings as they circulate across media. Focusing on the rise of television and gossip magazines in the 1950s, and on stars like Lucille Ball and Gloria Swanson, the book explores the play between familiarity and novelty that new media use to appeal to audiences.

Thompson cover image, 5807-7In Shine, art historian Krista Thompson analyzes photographic practices in the Caribbean and the United States to show how African diasporic youth use the process of creating images to represent themselves in the public sphere and to communicate with other Afro-diasporic communities.

Hagar Kotef’s book, Movement and the Ordering of Freedom, examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces.

In The Color of Modernity, Barbara Weinstein focuses on race, gender, and regionalism in the formation of national identities in Brazil.

Zhang cover image, 5856-5The Impotence Epidemic, by Everett Yuehong Zhang, is an ethnography of impotence as a medical and social phenomenon, in which the author argues that the recent increase in Chinese men seeking treatment for impotence represents a shift in changing sexual attitudes in capitalist China.

In Loneliness and Its Opposite, Don Kulick and Jens Rydström argue that for people with disabilities, being able to explore their sexuality is an issue of fundamental social justice. The authors analyze how Sweden and Denmark engage with the sexuality of people with disabilities; whereas Sweden hinders sexuality, Denmark supports it through the work of third-party sexual helpers.



Linda Williams on The Wire

In today’s guest post, Linda Williams, Professor of Film Studies and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, writes about why she loves the HBO series The Wire. Her new book is On The Wire, the latest installment in our Spin Offs series.

WilliamsCoverSmallIn the fall of 2007, I was laid up in bed. For the first time in my life since childhood I had time to watch television. A friend had brought me an inspired gift: bootlegs of the first three seasons of The Wire. I proceeded to watch an episode each evening until I ran out. As soon as I could I purchased the last two seasons and continued to steadily feed a growing habit. The series ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008, but ran in a more concentrated time on my bedroom TV from 2007 to 2008. By the time I finished watching I was more than a fan, I was a convert. The project of my book, On The Wire, has been to understand to what I had been converted.

Through the microcosm of one decaying American city, The Wire reveals the interconnected truths of many institutional failures: a rampant drug trade that police cannot curtail, the devaluation of work measured in declining unions, a cynical city government that raises and then crushes the hope of reform, the poignant waste of schools and the failure of education and, finally, a media that cannot report on the truth of any of the above, let alone see the connections among them, although The Wire itself does. The series digs deeply into character without making private virtue or evil the final cause of narrative outcomes, thus putting an unusual spin on melodramatic conventions. I have never seen anything so absorbing, so complex, so simultaneously challenging and gratifying coming from either the big or little screen.

Subtle nuances of race, class and language are made possible by a locale in which blacks are the majority of the citizens, yet fixing things is not a matter of simply electing more black politicians. The usual racial melodramas of black vs. white are thus not the crude affairs they have tended to be in most movies and television. Race, for example, cannot be reduced to a problem of “racism.” It is inseparable from class, the plague of drugs, the decline of work and the failures of government, education and media. Nevertheless, the series tantalizingly holds out the hope of change, the hope of a better social justice. Indeed, it is simultaneously animated by the quest for this justice and deeply cynical about its achievement. A profound understanding of education both in and out of school makes learning, as it should be, the key to change while a distinctive rootedness in the specific locality of Baltimore gives the series a social solidity lacking in any other work on television.

Journalist Joe Klein claims in the DVD features on the final episode that “The Wire should win the Nobel Prize for literature!” Simon himself calls the work a “visual novel” (though sometimes also a Greek tragedy). Literary critics, such as Walter Benn Michaels, have followed suit. In a lament about the failure of the American novel to tell stories that matter to the neoliberal present, Michaels has claimed that The Wire is the “most serious and ambitious fictional narrative of the twenty-first century.” Sociologists Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson also see the series as literature, arguing that it “is part of a long line of literary works that are often able to capture the complexity of urban life in ways that have eluded many social scientists.”
The series has the ability, like Dickens, Wright, Zola and Dreiser, to give dramatic resonance to a wide range of interconnected social strata, and the different behaviors and speech of these strata over broad swaths of world and time. Yet at the same time it seems feeble to describe The Wire as our greatest novel (never written), or, as Fredric Jameson does, to extol its “refusal to be ‘realist’ in the traditional mimetic and replicative sense.” Like the comparison to Greek tragedy, much of this praise borrows a literary prestige that corresponds to the series’ excellence but not closely enough to its actual serial television cultural form. Instead, I argue that we should attend to how The Wire grew and what it grew out of—first as a form of journalism, then out of the conventional melodrama of crime genre. In seeking to articulate what is so exceptional about The Wire, I believe it is first necessary to appreciate what is conventional about it: seriality, televisuality and melodrama.

Duke Journals in the Wild

At Duke University Press, we always appreciate when our books and journals are recognized, even in the most round-about ways. When we see a DUP journal in the wild, it’s always a thrill, even more so when that ‘wild’ is in popular culture.

Ddngc_41_1_121.coverOur journal New German Critique makes a cameo in Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book The Lowland, when several issues of the journal are given to a character for her studies: 

“He returned to the desk and wrote down the names of a few books he recommended, telling her which chapters were most important. From the shelves he lent her his own copies of Adorno and McTaggart, with his annotations. He gave her copies of New German Critique, indicating some articles she should read.” (Lahiri, 2013)

Stranger-than-Fiction_3Another reference to our journals in popular culture comes from the movie, Stranger than Fiction, released by Colombia Pictures in 2006. Dustin Hoffman carries around his copy of Poetics Today while advising Will Ferrell’s character on his possible status as a fictional being.

Duke University Press author Sol Yurick, who passed away in 2013, had his most famous novel, The Warriors, made into a movie in 1979.The film holds a cult classic place in cinema history and is referenced countless times in media and pop culture. One of Yurick’s other novels was also adapted into the movie The Confession in 1999, starring Ben Kinglsey and Alec Baldwin. 


Around the Press, Yurick is known for writing quite a few articles for our journal Social Text, including:

  • “Some Notes on Iraq” (#27)
  • “How the Athenians Planned to Colonize the West and Immortalize Themselves” (#23)
  • “The Destiny Algorithm” (#19/20)
  • “Faust’s Stages of Spiritual/Economic Growth and the Takeoff into Transcendence” (#17)
  • “The Other Side” (#9/10)

Have you seen our books and journals referenced in pop culture? Send us a photo on Twitter—we want to know! @DUKEpress