What are you reading? – 21 July 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 21, 2016
Person reading book and drinking coffee
Source: iStock

Roger Brown, emeritus professor of higher education policy, Liverpool Hope University, is reading Paul Blackmore’s Prestige in Academic Life: Excellence and Exclusion (Routledge, 2015). “Blackmore shows how increasingly the pursuit of prestige – not only by vice-chancellors but also by academic staff, students and employers – is crowding out other activities. This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who cares about the future of our university system.”


Maria Delgado, professor and director of research at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells, edited by Deirdre Heddon and Dominic Johnson (Intellect/Life Art Development Agency, 2016). “The one-to-one performances of Adrian Howells (1962-2014) were unforgettable experiences: tender, affecting, intimate and funny. This beautiful book explores his process, practice and legacy with essays and photographs from those who worked with him and/or were influenced by his performances. It’s a reminder of why he mattered and what he contributed to languages of theatre with his artistry, wit and generosity.”


R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, has been reading Bill Douglas’s Comrades (Faber & Faber, 1987), the script for the acclaimed but now semi-forgotten film of that name released the previous year. “Dealing with the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1834 and their struggles both in Dorset and in the Australian penal colony to which they were transported, the book is remarkable for blending its passion for social justice with 19th-century social history and with the early history of the moving image (personified in the plot by an itinerant magic lanternist).”


Uwe Schütte, reader in German at Aston University, is reading Jörg Heiser’s Doppelleben. Kunst und Popmusik (Philo, 2015). “Andy Warhol produced the Velvet Underground; Joseph Beuys released a political pop song; Brian Eno exhibits sound installations; and Kraftwerk played the Museum of Modern Art: pop music and art have always engaged in a mutually beneficial liaison. Heiser is the first scholar, though, to provide an overview of this relationship that is both wide-ranging and in depth. Not just indispensable as a work of scholarship but also a great read.”


Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (Hogarth Shakespeare, 2016). “The third of eight Shakespeare ‘updates’ revisits The Taming of the Shrew. Dr Battista, a brilliant scientist, is seeking to prolong his foreign postdoc’s residence in the US by marrying him to his eldest daughter, the dowdy and socially isolated Kate. Her blossoming feelings towards Pyotr, her abrasive relationship with her younger and beautiful sister, Bunny, and her chaotic wedding are all set-pieces from Shakespeare’s drama. But the novel avoids the play’s darker tones, especially its challenge to matrimony’s inherent patriarchy. It’s fun but it ain’t Shakespeare.”

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