New and noteworthy – 12 January 2017

Timely lessons from the AV club; what’s on Dante’s mind; Europe’s research powerhouse; and stripteases and naked protests

January 12, 2017
Film reel
Source: iStock

The Ministry of Education Film Experiment: From Post-War Visual Education to 21st Century Literacy
Alex Southern
Palgrave Macmillan

Long before that YouTube- and Mooc-filled future arrived, sober chaps in wartime Britain’s Ministry of Education saw fit to commission an experimental programme of non-fiction films for the classroom (not least for “dull and backward” children). It is an experiment that today’s visual education advocates could learn from, says Southern, in an insightful study informed by trawls through ministry minutes and alert readings of the films. A pedagogical theory-informed national policy on film education, supported by partnerships with teacher training institutions, is, she argues, essential in helping young people to become “twenty-first century literate in the current technological, cultural and political landscape”. Recommended.

Dante’s Broken Hammer
Graham Harman

Why is there humour only in Hell? Is Dante a masochist? Is fraud, not hate, love’s opposite? The big cheese of object-oriented philosophy returns to the Divine Comedy, the subject of one of only two pieces of work of value created in his “intensely studious but not very successful” undergraduate years. Armed with close readings of “the most organizationally complete masterpiece in Western literature”, Harman takes on Kant – and joins forces with Kant’s challenger, “the rambunctious German thinker” Max Scheler – to proclaim Dante “one of the classical allies of the object-oriented claim that aesthetics is first philosophy”.

The European Research Council
Thomas König

Cash and advances: a former adviser to the ERC’s president details, with some frankness, the birth and early years of the most important instrument in European science policy. König’s keen eyes take in everything from inspirational words about discovery printed on “cheap looking woven fabric” on a wall in its Brussels headquarters to key players’ optimism, arrogance, high ideals and wounded pride. “I could not believe how dull the meetings were. Yet I soon realized that all the boredom, confusion and awkwardness may have been necessary to lead up to the decisive moment…What is our understanding of excellence?” It is a tale, he believes, of scientific reason’s “precarious and temporary triumph over politics”. Trigger warning: may prompt tears of rage on Brexitland benches.

The New Turkey and Its Discontents
Simon A. Waldman and Emre Caliskan

In a word: turbulent. Its focus running up to the bungled military coup of 2016 and taking in the tangled threads of judiciary and media, the Kurds and the Alevis, Iran and Isis, Atatürk’s legacy and fistfuls of political-faction acronyms, this valuable study by two UK-based scholars weighs the Turkey of the Erdog˘an era and sees less a “deep state” than a “weak state”, with many shades of grey between the religious, rural, poor “Black Turks” and urban, secular, educated “White Turks”. A closing reminder that the nation has only recently entered a post-military age sounds a note of hope.

Acts of Undressing: Politics, Eroticism and Discarded Clothing
Barbara Brownie

Stripping off: there’s more to it than you think. A visual communication scholar muses on a private gesture done in public, via thoughtful commentary on the relevant literature. Brownie takes in Hussein Chalayan’s “unstable coverage” and the disruption of streaking, mooning and flashing; public disrobement as protest; sculptor Jude Tallichet’s Dropped Clothes and Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece; shoes from Auschwitz-Birkenau, gang-related “shoefiti” and the come-ons, irony and awareness-raising of striptease, burlesque and “criptease”. Revealing.

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