What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 4, 2012

James McGrath, part-time lecturer in English at Leeds Metropolitan University, is reading Douglas Coupland's Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! (Atlas, 2010). "Through character portraits and prose that equal those of Coupland's finest novels, this biography explores the life and ideas behind McLuhan's aphorisms. He considers McLuhan's autistic traits but neither sensationalises nor trivialises them. Hailing the literary scholar turned media theorist as an artist who 'used ideas and words as others might use paint', Coupland writes with critical honesty and infectious enthusiasm."

Kate North, lecturer in creative writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University, is reading Legacies of Romanticism: Literature, Culture, Aesthetics (Routledge, 2012), edited by Carmen Casaliggi and Paul March-Russell. "This collection of essays is fascinating if you are interested in the impact of Romanticism throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It makes connections between the Romantic legacy and notable figures such as John Ruskin through to more contemporary writers such as Louis MacNeice and W.G. Sebald. I find the variety of subjects covered really refreshing."

Michael Reiss, pro-director for research and development and professor of science education, Institute of Education, University of London, is reading Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Vintage, 2012). "One of my doctoral students, Catherine Lee, is using autoethnography, and in our last supervision she recommended that I read Winterson's newly published autobiography. It is a wonderful companion to her incomparable novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. As Winterson explores her own life and the purposes of fiction, almost every page is both searingly painful and wonderfully funny."

Robert A. Segal, sixth-century chair in religious studies, University of Aberdeen, is reading Matt ffytche's The Foundation of the Unconscious: Schelling, Freud and the Birth of the Modern Psyche (Cambridge University Press, 2012). "It has long been recognised that Freud did not discover the unconscious and that the modern concept originated in philosophy not psychology. In his meticulous work, ffytche traces the concept back to the German idealist philosopher Friedrich Schelling. Most original is the argument that the concept served a political function: to confer moral autonomy on the individual. Brilliant."

Yugin Teo, visiting lecturer in film and screen studies, University of Brighton, is reading John J. Su's Ethics and Nostalgia in the Contemporary Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2005). "Nostalgia is often maligned as a sentimental and even regressive way of viewing the past. I appreciate Su's attempt, in this wide-ranging survey of contemporary fiction, to bring to our attention the more positive and ethically progressive aspects of nostalgia, particularly its potential for 'imagining more fully what has been and continues to be absent'."

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