Fred Inglis, honorary professor of cultural history, University of Warwick, is reading Alexandra Harris' Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (Thames & Hudson, 2010). "A masterpiece of copious scholarship, strong and winning sympathy and startling juxtaposition. It is also a work of arresting revision, showing how native British painting, writing and cultural debate absorbed, transmuted and tamed the monsters of modernism, subduing the colossal revolution of Matisse and Eliot with the nonchalance and familiarity of John Piper and Thomas Hardy."
Woody Caan, professor of public health, Anglia Ruskin University, is reading The Big Society Challenge (Keystone Development Trust Publications, 2011), edited by Marina Stott. "This is the most controversial book I have read in a long time. Its 22 chapters represent widely divergent views of David Cameron's planned 'Big Society'. I may use a couple of its case studies to provoke any sleepy seminar groups into animated debate. As Florence Reece sang in 1931, 'They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there'."
James Stevens Curl, visiting professor of architecture, University of Ulster, is reading The Oxford Handbook of Fascism (Oxford University Press, 2010), edited by R.J.B. Bosworth. "The first part of this curate's-egg collection of essays concerns origins of Fascism from before the 1914-18 war. About a third of the book deals with Italy. Events in Spain, Hungary, Romania, the Balkans, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Japan are described, and the final section outlines legacies. Nazi comparisons are found between pages 9 and 317. There are lacunae: some flourishing Fascist organisations are ignored, and proofreading is poor."
Helen Fulton, professor of medieval literature, University of York, is reading Molly Martin's Vision and Gender in Malory's Morte Darthur (D.S. Brewer, 2010). "An intriguing new approach to constructs of masculinity in the Morte Darthur, focusing on Malory's manipulation of sight lines and a 'male gaze' directed at both men and women. The book argues that Gareth, Trystram and Launcelot succeed because of their visible participation in, and performance of, a gendered chivalry; poor old Palomydes fails because he just isn't visible enough."
Dennis Hayes, professor of education, University of Derby, is reading Christopher Rowe's new translation of Plato's dialogues in The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin, 2010). "The charges that Meletus makes against Socrates, of 'corrupting the young and not believing in the gods the city believes in', are a reminder of the true role of an academic and why students can never be 'customers'. Hemlock anyone?"