What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 16, 2010

Chris Belshaw, senior lecturer in philosophy, The Open University, is re-reading Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity (Wiley, 1981). "One of those rare things - an almost unputdownable exercise in analytic philosophy. Published just three decades ago, it seems in many ways from another world: light on jargon, footnotes and references, and wider-ranging than many works these days would dare. But if philosophy has taken a wrong turn, this book's efforts to make metaphysics something other than a dirty word may be behind it. As with Caravaggio, the imitations are mostly pale."

Roger Brown is professor of higher education policy, Liverpool Hope University. He is reading Caroline Alexander's The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of the Iliad (Faber, 2009). "She draws on the latest scholarship to show how the basic message of the Iliad is the misery and the pointlessness of war. This is absolutely required reading for anyone who is at all enthusiastic about any form of armed conflict."

Claire Chambers, senior lecturer in postcolonial literature, Leeds Metropolitan University, is reading Cara Cilano's National Identities in Pakistan: The 1971 War in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction (Routledge, 2010). "In an annus horribilis for Pakistan, with cricket scandals, bomb blasts and devastating floods, Cilano scrutinises another darkly pivotal moment for Pakistani self-identity, the 1971 war of Bangladeshi independence and loss of Pakistan's east wing, as refracted through Urdu- and English-language literature. This timely and nuanced survey of Pakistani writing seems likely to spearhead new directions in postcolonial studies."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Adam Sisman's biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper (Orion, 2010). "The high standing of the sometime Regius professor of history is properly recognised, as is the extraordinary range of his output. (His early work on Hitler helped make his name; his revisiting in old age of the Fuhrer blasted his reputation.) He mellowed in his declining years. But nothing can conceal this man's snobbishness, his uncharitable dealings with his academic adversaries, and his malicious love of a fight. Trevor-Roper's career certainly illustrates the worst as well as the best of the old universities."

Ulrike Zitzlsperger, senior lecturer in German studies, University of Exeter, is reading Michael Meyer's 1989: The Year that Changed the World (Simon & Schuster, 2009). "This is a topical and intriguing reassessment of the demise of the Iron Curtain. In considering the 1989 Central and Eastern European revolutions, Meyer challenges convenient narratives about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and its impact on international politics. The book combines a captivating personal approach with a thorough, at times surprising, analysis."

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