What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 20, 2009

Piotr Cieplak, a doctoral researcher in the department of French, University of Cambridge, is enjoying Marianne Hirsch's Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory (Harvard University Press, 1997). "I appreciate it for its careful and occasionally problematic balance between the theoretical and the personal. It eloquently considers the ways in which memory manifests itself as an abstract concept as well as a real, subjective and visceral experience."

Daniel Geary, Mark Pigott lecturer in US history, Trinity College Dublin, is reading George Lipsitz's Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). "A useful corrective to celebrations of post-racial America, Lipsitz's explorations of popular music uncover how working-class Americans of colour have suffered from and responded to decades of deindustrialisation and political conservatism."

Aldwyn Cooper is chief executive and principal, Regent's College. "I have been reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, 2009). Historical novels are a valuable tool for those of us who were forced to drop the humanities and focus on the science. After reading the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom, which offers a vivid insight into the reign of Henry VIII, I was delighted to find Mantel's extraordinary book, which immerses the reader in the complexities of early 16th-century society. It also shows that an individual like Thomas Cromwell, from a background of poverty, can develop outstanding business, linguistic and then political skills by practical experience rather than formal education alone."

Martin McQuillan, professor of cultural theory and analysis, University of Leeds, is reading Bernhard Schlink's Homecoming (Pantheon, 2007). "The narrator's father is another fictional version of what still passes as the Paul de Man story (as in novels by John Banville and Gilbert Adair). I have a theory that academic investment in the exposure of de Man's shortcomings is really a displaced desire for the exposure of one's own professional inadequacies."

Roger Morgan is former professor of political science, European University Institute, Florence. "I'm reading (or, in some parts, re-reading) Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain by Stefan Collini (Oxford University Press, 2007). This complex and challenging work explores not only the actual role of Britain's 20th-century intellectuals, but also the more elusive theme of what they and others thought and wrote about this role. Collini's thoughtful comparisons between Britain and 'elsewhere' are particularly illuminating."

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