Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green

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by Jeffrey J. Cohen F’11, F’03, ACLS Fellowship Program, now available University of Minnesota Press.

Traces the impress and agency of ecologies that cannot be reduced to the bucolic expanses of green readings

Prismatic Ecology moves beyond the accustomed green readings of ecotheory and maps a colorful world of ecological possibility. By way of color, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen guides readers through a reflection of an essentially complex and disordered universe and demonstrates the spectrum as an unfinishable totality, always in excess of what a human perceives.

Eco-Critical Literature: Regreening African Landscapes

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by Ogaga Doherty Abraham Okuyade'12, African Humanities Program Fellow, now available from African Heritage Press.

Critically examines the representations, contructions, and imaginings of the relationship between the human and non-human worlds in contemporary African literature and culture. It offers innovative, incisive, and critical perspectives on the importance of sustaining a symbiotic relationship between humans and their environment. The book thus carries African scholarship beyond the mere analysis of themes and style to ethical and activist roles of literature having an impact on readers the public. It is a scholarship geared toward rectifying ecological imbalance that is prevalent in many parts of the continent that forms the setting, context, and thematic discourse of the works or authors studied in this book. Besides sensitizing the African readership to the need for the restoration of harmony between man and the environment, this book equally aims to further familiarize scholars and students working on African literature and culture with the theoretical concerns of eco-criticism

For more information about the African Humanities Program, click here.

Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict

by John Burt, ACLS Fellow ’97, now available from Harvard University Press.

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In 1858, challenger Abraham Lincoln debated incumbent Stephen Douglas seven times in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. More was at stake than slavery in those debates. In

Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism, John Burt contends that the very legitimacy of democratic governance was on the line. In a United States stubbornly divided over ethical issues, the overarching question posed by the Lincoln-Douglas debates has not lost its urgency: Can a liberal political system be used to mediate moral disputes? And if it cannot, is violence inevitable?

As they campaigned against each other, both Lincoln and Douglas struggled with how to behave when an ethical conflict as profound as the one over slavery strained the commitment upon which democracy depends—namely, to rule by both consent and principle. This commitment is not easily met, because what conscience demands and what it is able to persuade others to consent to are not always the same. While Lincoln ultimately avoided a politics of morality detached from consent, and Douglas avoided a politics of expediency devoid of morality, neither found a way for liberalism to mediate the conflict of slavery.

That some disputes seemed to lie beyond the horizon of deal-making and persuasion and could be settled only by violence revealed democracy’s limitations. Burt argues that the unresolvable ironies at the center of liberal politics led Lincoln to discover liberalism’s tragic dimension—and ultimately led to war. Burt’s conclusions demand reevaluations of Lincoln and Douglas, the Civil War, and democracy itself.

More information about Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict from Harvard University Press. For more information about the ACLS Fellowship program, click here.

Related Links:

  • In the New York Times Review of Books, read a review of Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism by Steven B. Smith.
  • Listen to Professor Burt discuss Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism on the New York Times Book Review podcast.
Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn: Kircher’s Latium and its Legacy by Harry B. Evans G’76 now available from the University of Michigan Press. 
Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn assesses a pioneering study of ancient Latium by one of the most interesting figures in the history of learning, the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher. Although Kircher’s Latium, published in 1671, is not without errors in its reading of the ancient monuments and topography of the area around Rome, this highly influential work launched future topographical study of the Roman campagna. Harry B. Evans investigates Kircher’s Latium, its methods and accuracy, its possible use as a reference now, the scholarly quarrel between Kircher and rival scholar Raffaello Fabretti, and the Vatican’s publications committee’s involvement with Latium.
While Kircher himself is well known for his many publications on a wide variety of subjects—Egyptian hieroglyphs, linguistics, natural science, musicology, and the history of China—his work as an archaeologist and topographer has often been dismissed. But his Latium is worth a detailed assessment: not only was it an early attempt to link ancient literary and historical sources to physical evidence, with splendid illustrations and maps, but the book spurred enormous interest in the region, prompting a more sophisticated study of it by Kircher’s contemporaries and later generations. Anyone interested in the history of archaeology, the world of seventeenth-century Italian antiquarians and scholars, and the fascinating region of Latium itself will want to learn more about Kircher’s achievements and the scholarly legacy of his book.

Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn: Kircher’s Latium and its Legacy by Harry B. Evans G’76 now available from the University of Michigan Press. 

Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn assesses a pioneering study of ancient Latium by one of the most interesting figures in the history of learning, the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher. Although Kircher’s Latium, published in 1671, is not without errors in its reading of the ancient monuments and topography of the area around Rome, this highly influential work launched future topographical study of the Roman campagna. Harry B. Evans investigates Kircher’s Latium, its methods and accuracy, its possible use as a reference now, the scholarly quarrel between Kircher and rival scholar Raffaello Fabretti, and the Vatican’s publications committee’s involvement with Latium.

While Kircher himself is well known for his many publications on a wide variety of subjects—Egyptian hieroglyphs, linguistics, natural science, musicology, and the history of China—his work as an archaeologist and topographer has often been dismissed. But his Latium is worth a detailed assessment: not only was it an early attempt to link ancient literary and historical sources to physical evidence, with splendid illustrations and maps, but the book spurred enormous interest in the region, prompting a more sophisticated study of it by Kircher’s contemporaries and later generations. Anyone interested in the history of archaeology, the world of seventeenth-century Italian antiquarians and scholars, and the fascinating region of Latium itself will want to learn more about Kircher’s achievements and the scholarly legacy of his book.

Machine Art, 1934 by Jennifer Jane Marshall F’04 now available from the University of Chicago Press. 
In 1934, New York’s Museum of Modern Art staged a major exhibition of ball bearings, airplane propellers, pots and pans, cocktail tumblers, petri dishes, protractors, and other machine parts and products. The exhibition, titled Machine Art, explored these ordinary objects as works of modern art, teaching museumgoers about the nature of beauty and value in the era of mass production.
Telling the story of this extraordinarily popular but controversial show, Jennifer Jane Marshall examines its history and the relationship between the museum’s director, Alfred H. Barr Jr., and its curator, Philip Johnson, who oversaw it. She situates the show within the tumultuous climate of the interwar period and the Great Depression, considering how these unadorned objects served as a response to timely debates over photography, abstract art, the end of the American gold standard, and John Dewey’s insight that how a person experiences things depends on the context in which they are encountered. An engaging investigation of interwar American modernism, Machine Art, 1934 reveals how even simple things can serve as a defense against uncertainty.

Machine Art, 1934 by Jennifer Jane Marshall F’04 now available from the University of Chicago Press. 

In 1934, New York’s Museum of Modern Art staged a major exhibition of ball bearings, airplane propellers, pots and pans, cocktail tumblers, petri dishes, protractors, and other machine parts and products. The exhibition, titled Machine Art, explored these ordinary objects as works of modern art, teaching museumgoers about the nature of beauty and value in the era of mass production.

Telling the story of this extraordinarily popular but controversial show, Jennifer Jane Marshall examines its history and the relationship between the museum’s director, Alfred H. Barr Jr., and its curator, Philip Johnson, who oversaw it. She situates the show within the tumultuous climate of the interwar period and the Great Depression, considering how these unadorned objects served as a response to timely debates over photography, abstract art, the end of the American gold standard, and John Dewey’s insight that how a person experiences things depends on the context in which they are encountered. An engaging investigation of interwar American modernism, Machine Art, 1934 reveals how even simple things can serve as a defense against uncertainty.