Claire Fletcher-Flinn, Peter J. Smith, Eleonora Belfiore, R. C. Richardson and Uwe Schütte…

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 9, 2014

Claire Fletcher-Flinn, associate professor in education and a cognitive developmental psychologist, University of Otago, New Zealand, is reading Matthew Blakeway’s The Logic of Self-Destruction: The Algorithm of Human Rationality (Meyer Leboeuf, 2014). “Via a series of thought experiments, Blakeway offers a fascinating journey through evolutionary theory, philosophy and psychology. While assuming that humans are robustly logical, he explains self-destructive actions and ideological beliefs. From an innovative analysis of the Holocaust to reflections on rising fundamentalism, his argument is convincing. Essential for anyone interested in human behaviour and our collective future.”

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Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train (Heinemann, 1932). “Greene peoples a train between Ostend and Constantinople with a peculiar diversity of characters: a virginal chorus girl, a lesbian investigative journalist, a failed Communist revolutionary, a dealer in currants and a murderous burglar. The novel documents the waning of principle and the waxing of expediency: ‘Nor is she a beautiful Russian countess, but she likes me and she has a pretty figure.’ I read it in Chipping Campden, about 200 yards from the house in which it was written.”

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Eleonora Belfiore, associate professor in cultural policy, University of Warwick, is reading Imogen Tyler’s Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (Zed, 2013). “This meticulously researched and immensely readable book on ‘social abjection’ shows how, within the neoliberal order, biased media portrayals and policies generate ‘a disgust consensus’ that contributes to the stigmatisation of groups such as asylum seekers, Gypsies and Travellers. This book will make you angry, yet there is a vivid activist energy that runs through it that brings the academic analysis to spirited life.”

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R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Peter Ackroyd’s London Under (Vintage, 2012). “A Londoner himself, Ackroyd is a knowledgeable and evocative guide to London’s different archaeological levels and to its subterranean world of lost rivers, wells, pipes, drains, sewers, passages, tunnels and wartime refuges in this brief sequel to his earlier substantial biography of the city. The Tube system, with its complex history and sociology, its ‘dead’ stations and its many literary associations, receives much attention here.”

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Uwe Schütte, reader in German, Aston University, is reading Philippa Comber’s Ariadne’s Thread: In Memory of W. G. Sebald (Propolis, 2014). “Scholarly research on Sebald, the German writer and academic, is booming at an incredible pace since his tragic death in 2001. As a former student of Sebald, I was curious to read this personal homage cum memoir written by a close friend. Comber gives us an often thrilling insight into the personality of a very private man, and simultaneously destroys and creates new myths.”

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