What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 21, 2011

Kerstin Hoge, lecturer in German linguistics, University of Oxford, has been reading Ferenc Karinthy's Metropole (Telegram Books, 2008). "Academics on conference travel are familiar fictional characters, but rarely are they encountered in a tale as nightmarish as this. After boarding the wrong plane, a linguist finds himself in a city whose location and language remain impenetrable, his world spiralling into destitution. Written in Hungary in 1970, it superbly explores the themes of personal and political freedom."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Glasgow, is reading Thomas Docherty's The English Question, or Academic Freedoms (Sussex Academic Press, 2008). "As universities are overrun by managers hell-bent on applying to teaching and research the same failed ideology that crashed the banks, Docherty's passionately argued account of the ways in which managerialism threatens academic freedoms is timely and telling. This is a book about intellectual courage up against a flawed business model."

Alan Ryan teaches at Princeton University. He is reading Ronald Barnett's Being a University (Routledge, 2011). "There are many ways of writing about universities, and Ronald Barnett has chosen one of the less likely: the Heideggerian. The notion of 'being' is employed as an antidote to the tendency to seek 'the idea' of a university, a Platonic essence of university-ness against which to judge our fallen, empirical institutions. Barnett wonders what the university is becoming; he dislikes the 'entrepreneurial' university, has no time for the managerial mode, and hopes, wistfully, that it might recover its aspiration to cherish the metaphysical and the spiritual. If he is not very optimistic, his heart is in the right place."

Paul Sutton, head of media, culture and language at Roehampton University, is reading W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn (Vintage, 2002). "After viewing Grant Gee's wonderful film, Patience (After Sebald), it was impossible not to want to read the book that inspired the film. It has proved to be a truly entrancing experience. As noted by so many commentators and critics, the Sebaldian journey is fascinating and rewarding."

Constantine Sandis, reader in philosophy, Oxford Brookes University, is reading E.P. Evans' The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (The Lawbook Exchange, 2009). "Evans' 1906 work chronicles court cases from the 14th to the 17th century in which bugs and beasts were trialled for offences including theft, murder and infestation. One counsel made his reputation defending rats, securing his clients' summons from the pulpits of parishes and attributing their subsequent non-appearance to a conspiracy by their mortal enemies, the cats. It couldn't be any weirder if Beatrix Potter had made it up."

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