What are you reading? – 26 November 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 26, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Andrew Blake, visiting professor in cultural studies, University of Winchester, is reading Ryan Minor’s Choral Fantasies: Music, Festivity, and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2015). “Imagine that, instead of the blood and iron of the Austrian and French wars, Bismarck’s Germany had been built on wings of song. Well, it was. Minor explores works by Liszt, Brahms and Wagner that were written for a middle-class choral movement that embodied cultural nationalism well before German unification. These choral societies helped to call the Second Reich into being.”

David Doyle, lecturer in law, Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland, is reading Shane McCorristine’s William Corder and the Red Barn Murder: Journeys of the Criminal Body (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). “Corder’s murder of his mistress Maria Marten in 1827 was one of the most notorious crimes in English legal history. In this engaging microhistory, McCorristine explores Corder’s lively post-mortem journeys after his execution in Bury St Edmunds. He was denied a burial, and his body was galvanised, anatomised, skinned, and ended up as a teaching skeleton in a hospital.”

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor in history, Northumbria University, is reading Alistair Horne’s Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015). “Pride and overconfidence have led kings and generals to defy the gods, and one of our greatest military historians surveys this phenomenon in the 20th century. The obvious example is Hitler’s invasion of Russia, but Horne’s study also includes the defeat of a Russian fleet sent around the world only to be sunk by the Japanese at Tsushima, the ‘victory fever’ that led the Japanese navy to defeat at Midway, and General MacArthur’s rash decision to advance beyond the 38th parallel in Korea.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Eric Hobsbawm’s Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the 20th Century (Little, Brown, 2013). “The last, and not the best, book by this distinguished historian, it nonetheless reveals on every page his characteristic boldness of interpretation, astonishing range and versatility. Whether he was writing about art, cultural festivals, public religion, Jews or myths surrounding the American cowboy, these qualities insistently shine through. Hobsbawm loved to challenge and to be a ‘dangerous’, unsettling historian.”

Robert A. Segal, sixth-century chair in religious studies, University of Aberdeen, is reading Jerry Coyne’s Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible (Viking, 2015). “Coyne, the author of Why Evolution is True and a newly retired professor of biology at the University of Chicago, is never prone to nuance. For him, religious claims are either outright false, especially in light of evolution, or untestable scientifically. His nemeses are not believers, including creationists, but ‘accommodationists’: those who seek to reconcile religion with science.”

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