What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 2, 2010

Chris Jones, senior lecturer in English at the University of St Andrews, is reading Martin K. Foys' Virtually Anglo-Saxon: Old Media, New Media, and Early Medieval Studies in the Late Age of Print (University Press of Florida, 2007). "The bright young Turk of Anglo-Saxon studies shows how print remediated objects of his discipline, and how digital media can now do the same. So: the Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm is a multimedia interactive network; the Bayeux Tapestry a closure-resistant hypertextile; the Cotton mappa mundi is not a botched attempt at 'reality', but a hyper-real virtual landscape. Incidentally, Foys himself is both 'hot' and 'a supercool medium'."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Glasgow, is reading Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions (Ayebia, 1988). "Taking her title from Frantz Fanon's analysis of native anxiety in the face of colonisation, and sharing his background in medicine and psychology, Dangarembga's lyrical coming-of-age tale set in apartheid Rhodesia backlights Zimbabwe's present postcolonial predicament. She extends Fanon's famous formulation that the victim's dream is to turn persecutor by suggesting that the persecutor's final sleight-of-hand is to assume victimhood."

Roger Morgan, formerly lecturer in history at the University of Sussex and professor of political science at the European University Institute, Florence, is reading Timothy Garton Ash's Facts are Subversive: Political Writings from a Decade Without a Name (Atlantic Books, 2010). "The ten-year period from 2000 to 2009 was packed with dramatic events, many of them captured in these topical but often also profound analyses. From dealing with the way that 'facts' were manipulated to justify the Iraq war to the facts about the European Union, the George W. Bush administration, Islam or terrorism, Garton Ash confirms his mastery as a writer of what George Kennan called the 'history of the present'."

Nigel Rodenhurst is a doctoral candidate and tutor in 20th-century British and American literature at Aberystwyth University. He is reading Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (Free Press, 1994). "It has long been argued that great artists share traits that separate them from mere mortals, and that this is a form of 'divine madness'. Redfield Jamison relates this to contemporary studies of manic-depressive disorder and creative 'types', in a superb book that provides novices in the field with a clear, readable overview."

Hester Vaizey, a postdoctoral Hanseatic Scholar courtesy of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung in Hamburg, is reading Herta Muller's The Land of Green Plums (Granta, 1999). "This haunting book came to my attention when Muller won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009. This semi-autobiographical account of everyday life under the Ceausescu regime in Romania tells the story of the unnamed narrator and her three friends, Kurt, Georg and Edgar, all of whom are dissenters in a surveillance society."

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