What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 6, 2010

Alan Campbell, formerly reader in labour and social history, University of Liverpool, has spent the election campaign rereading Trade Unions in a Neoliberal World: British Trade Unions under New Labour (Routledge, 2009), edited by Gary Daniels and John McIlroy. "Its forensic analysis of the past 13 years of New Labour transcends the title and provides numerous insights not only into how the Blair/Brown project disintegrated but also the party's current electoral predicament."

James Clarke, course coordinator, BA (Hons) film and screen media design, Hereford College of Arts, is reading Henry David Thoreau's Letters to a Spiritual Seeker (W.W. Norton, 2004), edited by Bradley P. Dean. "A stirring anthology of correspondence between the great Thoreau and Harrison Blake, one of Thoreau's first fans. The letters are a fascinating supplement to Thoreau's more widely known Walden and Journals. His clarity of thought makes for a seemingly never-ending flow of smart thinking and feeling. I cannot see how I will ever tire of it."

Mary Evans is visiting Fellow at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics. "I am reading Frederic Schwartz's Blind Spots: Critical Theory and the History of Art in Twentieth Century Germany (Yale University Press, 2005). It was recommended to me just after I watched the recent TV programme about art at Goldsmiths. The book shows how we can understand what might be 'blind spots' of the present; it is an exciting and paradigmatic example of how to make connections between the visual arts and the social world, a model for that missing concluding programme."

A.W. Purdue, visiting professor in modern history, Northumbria University, is reading Christopher Harvie's Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown (Verso, 2010). "'The Broons', a long-running comic strip in the Scottish Sunday Post, are a working-class family who can be seen as symbolising the traditional values of industrial-urban Scottish society. That society has been replaced by what Harvie sees as a consumer society powered by global finance now on the brink of collapse. In this breathless but provocative book, Harvie, a Nationalist MSP, identifies the man responsible: Brown. No doubt, there is much that is rotten in the state of Scotland and the United Kingdom, but how much of the blame should be laid at Brown's door and how much should be shouldered by the ethos of tartan socialism is debatable."

Edward Quipp is a visiting research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies and an administrator at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. "Works on the relation of poets to one another can be uninspiring affairs, but Christopher Ricks' True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell under the Sign of Eliot and Pound (Yale University Press, 2010) is an exemplary study of the negotiations of three outstanding talents circling their illustrious forebears. A book of striking perspicacity."

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