What are you reading? – 8 September 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 8, 2016
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Heike Bauer, senior lecturer in English and gender studies at Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Sarah Helm’s If This Is a Woman – Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women (Abacus, 2015). “In the current climate of xenophobic and racist fear-mongering and a widespread disregard for the many lives lost in flight from war, violence and persecution, Helm’s study provides a timely reminder of the ease with which people are turned into targets whose humanity is ignored or forgotten. This carefully researched history of the all-female Nazi death camp, which is partly based on interviews with surviving prisoners and guards, avoids stereotyping as it tracks the lives of women who suffered or perpetrated barely imaginable brutality. Most of all, it gives voice to the survivors whose stories were suppressed after the Second World War. We must not forget them or the deadly silence in the face of collective suffering.”

James Stevens Curl, visiting professor at the Ulster University, is reading Regina Akel’s Benjamin Disraeli and John Murray: The Politician, the Publisher and The Representative (Liverpool University Press, 2016). “Intended as a rival to The Times, The Representative, established in 1825, only lasted some six months before it failed, costing the publisher, John Samuel Murray, heavy financial loss. Drawing on material held in the Bodleian Library and the National Library of Scotland, the scholarly Chilean author presents, in mellifluous English, a sequence of events that sheds new light on matters that led to estrangement between the D’Israeli and Murray families, not least because of the duplicitous behaviour of the young Benjamin Disraeli in his dealings with John Gibson Lockhart and his cruel attack on Murray in Vivian Grey (1826). Indeed, Disraeli comes rather badly out of this fascinating story.”

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Peter M. Boenisch and Thomas Ostermeier’s The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier (Routledge, 2016). “The German director Thomas Ostermeier has created some of the most thrilling productions of recent years. This exceptional collection of interviews, essays and manifestos offers an unprecedented insight into his creative process and his influences (from John Cassavetes to Michael Haneke). It is an indispensable read for anyone interested in stage directing, communication with actors, ways of reading classical plays, and how theatre contributes to the wider social fabric. Ostermeier’s directorial approach is one where the audience is invited to reflect on the world, on existential and ethical debates and on what he terms ‘the face’ and ‘structures of feeling’ of his peer group’s new bourgeois mentality. His vision is inspiring and invigorating, musical and poetic, urgent and uncompromising.”

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