What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 28, 2010

Willy Maley is professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow. "Slavoj Zizek's First As Tragedy, Then As Farce (Verso, 2009) is a typically trenchant account of the farce of capitalism and future of communism, which in Zizek's hands is a flaming red banner confronting and affronting the deadly grey of capitalist conformity, confirming him as one of our most daring and unsparing contemporary thinkers."

David Palfreyman is bursar of New College, Oxford and director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies. "Anthony Trollope's 1875 novel The Way We Live Now (Oxford University Press, 2008), and his fictional Melmotte, as equivalent to today's sadly all-too-real Madoff, exactly captures the Zeitgeist of the money-driven world that was 'the City' at the time. And where are we now, 135 years on? Rescuing the same greedy 'banksters' at the expense of funding higher education."

David Revill, senior lecturer in music, Staffordshire University, is reading Hans Keller's The Great Haydn Quartets (Oxford University Press, 1993). "It is stunning (and exemplary) in the depth of its musical - in the strict sense - insight into its subject. Keller is proof of the law that although phoneys are everywhere in the arts and philosophy, the contributions of an exceptional outsider usually outstrip those of someone inside the clubhouse."

Nigel Rodenhurst is an Arts and Humanities Research Council studentship-funded doctoral candidate at Aberystwyth University. "I am reading David Brauner's Post-War Jewish Fiction (Palgrave, 2001), which contends that the dominant drive in transatlantic Jewish fiction after the Second World War is towards 'self-explanation'. Any survey will draw comments on what the author omits, but Brauner combines encyclopaedic reading with incisive analysis, and importantly recovers a largely ignored oeuvre of British Jewish fiction."

Peter Stoneley, professor of English, University of Reading, is reading Sianne Ngai's Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2005). "Ngai does not address 'prestigious' and potentially cathartic negative feelings - anger or fear - but those smaller, ignoble ones of envy, irritation and paranoia. Taking on a range of literary, cinematic and theoretical works, she traces the way in which 'ugly feelings' are symptomatic of 'the politically charged problem of obstructed agency'. This leads her also to consider the 'restricted agency' of art itself."

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