What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 17, 2010

Siún Carden is completing a PhD in the School of Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast. She is reading a new edition of Rozsika Parker's The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (I.B. Tauris, 2010). "The original edition explored embroidery from the Middle Ages to the 1980s, analysing the ways women were related to art, craft, domesticity and revolution through needlework. A new introduction considers recent developments in embroidery as fine art, activism and recreation."

James Stevens Curl, honorary senior research fellow, Queen's University Belfast, is reading Nick Yablon's Untimely Ruins: An Archaeology of American Urban Modernity, 1819-1919 (University of Chicago Press, 2010). "A wonderful read; beautifully written, entertaining, brilliant and thought-provoking, with pithy comments on the American built environment. Yablon chronicles phenomena that rarely acquired the patina of pleasing decay, and repel rather than attract. The saga of Cairo, Illinois (which caused Charles Dickens to abandon any hope for America), is a fascinating tale of cupidity and foolishness."

Robert Poole, reader in history, University of Cumbria, is reading Paul Davies' The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe? (Penguin, 2010). "The big question turns out to be not whether life has originated in the galaxy more than once (we'll probably never know) but whether it has originated on Earth more than once. Maybe we're Life 3.1. But if life arises whenever the conditions are right, how come - Craig Venter's exploits notwithstanding - we still can't brew any ourselves? Fascinating."

A.W. Purdue, visiting professor of history at Northumbria University, is reading Martin Pugh's Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party (Bodley Head, 2010). "Pugh challenges many previous accounts, arguing that Labour developed pragmatically and drew from the political cultures of both Liberal-Radicalism and popular Conservatism. The influence of Liberalism and of leading Liberals who changed allegiance to Labour has featured in most histories, but Pugh points to the patriotism and nationalism of early socialists, like Henry Hyndman, and to recruits from Conservative backgrounds from Hugh Dalton to Tony Blair. The final chapters have been overtaken by events, but the book raises important questions about the party's identity."

Will Slocombe, lecturer in 20th-century literature, Aberystwyth University, is reading Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 (Continuum, 2010). "Moore's analysis of the origins of the novel, before the 18th century and in African, Asian and Mesoamerican contexts, makes some broad claims, but he writes with flair and humour. His focus on literary experimentation is very engaging."

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