Honora Bartlett, Richard Joyner, George McKay, Jane O’Grady and Sharon Wheeler...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 16, 2014

Honora Bartlett, honorary lecturer in the School of English, University of St Andrews, is reading Valerie Grove’s Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger (Viking, 1999). “This humane and perceptive biography of the Cider with Rosie author conveys his vitality, instability and charm. And, in its portrayal of the London bohemia where Lee spent his working life, it also beautifully conjures a world as vanished as that of his Gloucestershire childhood.”

Serving the Reich, by Philip Ball

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Philip Ball’s Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler (Bodley Head, 2013). “Ball explores how three Nobel laureates, Max Planck, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg, accommodated to the Nazi regime and its consequences. It asks important questions, not just about 20th-century German science but about the nature of science and the response of scientists to the political world we perforce inhabit. All scientists should read and ponder its contents.”

The Cultural Politics of Austerity, by Rebecca Bramall

George McKay, Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership fellow for the connected communities programme, University of Salford, is reading Rebecca Bramall’s The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). “From the ubiquitous, endlessly parodied ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ wartime poster to ‘eco-austerity’ and the return of gardening and allotment-keeping, this book traces the political and historical meanings of today’s austerity cultures. Bramall shows how austerity not only fits anti-consumerist and sustainability politics but is also used to justify coalition cuts to public spending.”

The Making of Romantic Love, by William M. Reddy

Jane O’Grady, visiting lecturer in philosophy of psychology, City University London, and founder member, London School of Philosophy, is reading William Reddy’s The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia & Japan, 900-1200 CE (University of Chicago Press, 2012). “Reddy argues that sexual desire, usually twinned with romantic love, is in tension with it, and that both are arbitrary and culturally constructed, differently in 12th-century Europe from 12th-century Bengal or even earlier Heian Japan. Courtly love, romantic love’s precursor, was a strategy by which 12th-century French aristocrats apparently sided with the increasingly repressive Church in condemning lust – while glorifying an idealised variant.”

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism, University of Portsmouth, is reading Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half (Square Peg, 2013). “Brosh’s naive but surprisingly affecting illustrations have gained her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, a cult following. The book reproduces some of the online material alongside new stories of her chaotic life and cute but terminally dim dog. It may seem a touch random at times, but I defy anyone who has suffered from depression not to cry at her stark account of suffering from the illness.”

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