New and noteworthy – 25 February 2016

Latin the really old-school way, unknown Indian masters and the human rights year in review: must-read scholarly titles

February 25, 2016
Latin inscription on wall

Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World
Eleanor Dickey
Cambridge University Press

Poring over declensions is as old as antiquity, as demonstrated in this fascinating look at Latin-learning materials for the Roman Empire’s Greek speakers, from glossaries to Virgil for beginners and colloquia. Much will be familiar to today’s language learners, but these ancient phrasebooks have some wonderful peculiarities: party behaviour (“I am certainly very much ashamed”), insults (“I shall make you go to prison, where you deserve to grow old”) and oddly feeble excuses (“I’m hurrying to take a bath”).

Human Rights Watch World Report 2016: Events of 2015
Policy Press

Kudos to the University of Bristol’s “publisher with a purpose” for this paperback edition of Human Rights Watch’s 26th annual report. Much news is bleak – Syria, mass surveillance, repression in China, Russia and Turkey – but bright spots include Myanmar’s elections and LGBT rights advances. The front and back cover photos – a baby handed to waiting arms on Lesbos’ shore, and the eyes of a Bangladeshi girl married off at 13 to save money for her brothers’ schooling – will remain with you.

The Politics of Everybody: Feminism, Queer Theory, and Marxism at the Intersection
Holly Lewis
Zed Books

Dedicated to a father who “fought racism and taught me never to cross a picket line”, a philosophy scholar aims to “distinguish the productive tensions from the irrelevant bluster in queer politics”, arguing for inclusivity in an era in which “the word everybody is politically unsettling” and the “infinite taxonomy” of LGBTQQIAA is exhausting. Queer politics’ focus on desire, she argues, is a neoliberal trope; queer materialism and fighting “imperialism with a queer face” is needed.

British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century
Jonathan Hogg

“We are now living in the atomic age,” pronounced J. B. Priestley in 1947. And so are we still: in 2015, when this detailed study was completed, the UK had a stockpile of 225 nuclear weapons. Hogg focuses on understudied “unofficial” narratives in sources ranging from calypso songs and “radium” hair dye adverts to Albert Schweitzer’s Declaration of Conscience and Kingsley Amis’ sour priapic dread, and on events including the Harwell reactor’s launch in 1947 and the drafting in 1983 of a speech for the Queen to read in the event of Armageddon.

The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 101 Great Works 1100-1900
B. N. Goswamy
Thames & Hudson

“We know so little about the Indian painters of the past that it is tempting to say…‘There are really no artists; there is only art,’” writes the eminent art historian in this weighty, truly “lavishly illustrated” work. Goswamy aims to reconstruct the identities of 800 years’ worth of artists, but it is his lyrical writing on theme and symbolism that truly beguiles, along with asides on everything from the risks of painting a rani a bit too realistically to the grumpy gaze of A Lady of Rank c.1875.

One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?
Sarah Conly
Oxford University Press

A philosopher’s nuanced, unapologetic proposal for a world in environmental crisis: “When should we realize that in today’s world procreation is not a private act? Now. When should we work to make contraceptives available to everyone who wants them? Now. When should we voluntarily refrain from having more than one child – for those of us for whom that is possible? Again, I would say now.”

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