What are you reading? – 29 September 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 29, 2016
Books open on table outside

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Don Herzog’s Household Politics: Conflict in Early Modern England (Yale University Press, 2013). “This lively and often humorous book revisits the much debated question of patriarchal theory and its efficacy in early modern England. Using plays, letters, court records, popular songs and doggerel verse, he is not the first to conclude that the pious outpourings contained in sermons, treatises and conduct books described only an ideal that was commonly at variance with the competitive strivings of the real world; women and servants had minds of their own. But the subject matter and argument here are more attractive than the awkwardly colloquial and discursive style adopted by the author, so this Yale University Press title is not an easy export across the Atlantic.”

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: How a Secretive Group of Billionaires is Trying to Buy Political Control in the US (Scribe Publications, 2016). “New Yorker journalist Mayer documents how the US has, over just 25 years, moved steadily from democracy towards plutocracy. Super-rich individuals led by the Koch brothers (google ‘The Kochtopus’) have secretly and tax-deductibly spent billions of dollars to develop a significant libertarian sway over local, state and national policies, always in ways that just happen to make them even richer. They and their many paid acolytes have successfully targeted academia, broadcast media, citizens’ groups, the law and judges, and, of course, elected bodies. They are a main reason why right-wing Republicans now control Congress. Those who have suffered from their success include the poor, minorities, workers, Democrats and the environment. A chilling book, but could it happen or be happening here?”

Andrew Palmer, principal lecturer in modern literature, Canterbury Christ Church University, is reading Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road (Penguin, 1996). “I returned to this novel 16 years after a visit to La Maison Forestière – a 2011 work by the artist Simon Patterson that has transformed the fabric of the forester’s house in which Wilfred Owen spent his last night before being killed in action on 4 November 1918. The final pages of Barker’s novel include scenes in the cellar of the house, where Owen wrote his final letter, but told from the perspective of the fictional hero Billy Prior. The trip, the novel and, of course, Owen’s poetry all contribute to the final chapter of a monograph that I’m co-writing with Sally Minogue, in which we discuss the ways that Owen has been represented and commemorated in the years since his death.”

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