What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 1, 2012

Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, has been reading Amos Elon's The Pity of it All: A Portrait of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933 (Penguin, 2002). "It tells the story of the Jewish community in Germany from the middle of the 18th century until the Holocaust. It shows how the Jews gradually assimilated German character and culture while retaining their ethnic identity. If there is any sadder or more avoidable tragedy in history, it would be interesting to know what it was."

Edward Chaney, Leverhulme research fellow and professor of fine and decorative arts, Southampton Solent University, is reading Jonathan Black's The Face of Courage: Eric Kennington, Portraiture and the Second World War (Philip Wilson, 2011). "This is the well-researched catalogue of an exhibition halfway through its year's run at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon. Admired by Wyndham Lewis, William Orpen and others, Kennington revived the 18th-century medium of pastel to produce technically superb if sometimes somewhat sentimental portraits of military personnel. Often a 'traveller between life and death, half-drawn, never returned'."

Robert Eaglestone is professor of contemporary literature and thought, Royal Holloway, University of London. He is reading Matthew Boswell's Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). "'Holocaust piety' is the urge to be silenced by the genocide, to mystify it. In contrast, Boswell, one of a new generation of Holocaust scholars, writes about how the Holocaust has been used (and possibly misused) in culture from avant-garde poetry to the Ramones and Joy Division to Quentin Tarantino. These insightful 'impieties' tell us about the Holocaust and ourselves."

Andreas Hess, senior lecturer in sociology, University College Dublin, is reading Ronald N. Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley's The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere (Oxford University Press, 2011). "It's not easy to follow in the footsteps of media mavericks such as Walter Lippmann or to surpass Jurgen Habermas' sociological insights about the transformation of the public sphere. But it can be done. How the presence of US media intellectuals in newspapers and magazines and on TV and the web and the formation of modern public opinion in US civil society hang together is dissected in this groundbreaking study."

George McKay, professor of cultural studies, University of Salford, is reading Leah A. Lievrouw's Alternative and Activist New Media (Polity, 2011). "Despite inevitably being instantly out of date on publication - no WikiLeaks, no social media in the Arab Spring - I find this book to be quite the best on the subject. My final-year alternative media students like it for its theoretical clarity and spot-on balance of accessibility and difficulty - and so do I. A great textbook. I wish I'd written it!"

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