Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Public Forgetting

Bradford Vivian, Public Forgetting: The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2010).

from the press:

“In his sustained meditation on forgetting, Bradford Vivian makes a singular and extremely valuable contribution to the field of memory studies. He substantially advances the theoretical discussion of memory and forgetting with his extended critiques (rhetorical analyses, really) of both ancient and recent formulations of collective public memory and forgetting. The conclusion is almost poetic in its lightness of touch. It pulls all the strands of the book into a single compelling case for forgetting as part of memory.” —James E. Young, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of The Texture of Memory and At Memory's Edge.

Forgetting is usually juxtaposed with memory as its opposite in a negative way: it is seen as the loss of the ability to remember, or, ironically, as the inevitable process of distortion or dissolution that accompanies attempts to commemorate the past. The civic emphasis on the crucial importance of preserving lessons from the past to prevent us from repeating mistakes that led to violence and injustice, invoked most poignantly in the call of “Never again” from Holocaust survivors, tends to promote a view of forgetting as verging on sin or irresponsibility. In this book, Bradford Vivian hopes to put a much more positive spin on forgetting by elucidating its constitutive role in the formation and transformation of public memory. Using examples ranging from classical rhetoric to contemporary crises like 9/11, Public Forgetting demonstrates, contrary to conventional wisdom, how communities may adopt idioms of forgetting in order to create new and beneficial standards of public judgment concerning the lessons and responsibilities of their shared past.

Facebook page for Public Forgetting

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dick Cavett on the Mosque

Dick Cavett, "Real Americans Please Stand Up" New York Times, 22 August 2010.

I remain amazed and really, sincerely, want to understand this. What can it be that is faulty in so many people’s thought processes, their ethics, their education, their experience of life, their understanding of their country, their what-have-you that blinds them to the fact that you can’t simultaneously maintain that you have nothing against members of any religion but are willing to penalize members of this one? Can you help me with this?

see also, Frank Rich, "How Fox Betrayed Petraeus," New York Times, 22 August 2010.

picnic time

Jack Delano, "Having a picnic lunch at the "World's Fair" in Tunbridge, Vermont," September 1941. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) . LC-USF33- 021181-M3.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dorothea Lange

Jan Goggans, California on the Breadlines: Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, and the Making of a New Deal Narrative (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

from the press:

California on the Breadlines is the compelling account of how Dorothea Lange, the Great Depression’s most famous photographer, and Paul Taylor, her labor economist husband, forged a relationship that was private—they both divorced spouses to be together—collaborative, and richly productive. Lange and Taylor poured their considerable energies into the decade-long project of documenting the plight of California’s dispossessed, which in 1939 culminated in the publication of their landmark book, American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. Jan Goggans blends biography, literature, and history to retrace the paths that brought Lange and Taylor together. She shows how American Exodus set forth a new way of understanding those in crisis during the economic disaster in California and ultimately informed the way we think about the Great Depression itself.

Linda Gordon, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009).

from the press:

Winner of the 2010 Bancroft Prize and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography: Dorothea Lange’s photographs define how we remember the Depression generation; now an evocative biography defines her creative struggles and enduring legacy.

We all know Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos—the “Migrant Mother” holding her child, the gaunt men forlornly waiting in breadlines—but few know the arc of her extraordinary life. In this sweeping account, renowned historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Gordon uses Lange’s life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, re-creating the bohemian world of San Francisco, the Dust Bowl, and the Japanese American internment camps. She explores Lange’s growing radicalization as she embraced the democratic power of the camera, and she examines Lange’s entire body of work, reproducing more than one hundred images, many of them previously unseen and some of them formerly suppressed. Lange reminds us that beauty can be found in unlikely places, and that to respond to injustice, we must first simply learn how to see it.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wired Says Web Is Dead. Already?

Wired magazine

Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services — think apps — are less about the searching and more about the getting. Chris Anderson explains how this new paradigm reflects the inevitable course of capitalism. And Michael Wolff explains why the new breed of media titan is forsaking the Web for more promising (and profitable) pastures.

From the September issue, 17 August 2010. The rest of the issue is here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


John L. Locke, Eavesdropping: An Intimate History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

Who among us hasn't eavesdropped on a stranger's conversation in a theater or restaurant? Indeed, scientists have found that even animals eavesdrop on the calls and cries of others. In Eavesdropping , John L. Locke provides the first serious look at this virtually universal phenomenon. Locke's entertaining and disturbing account explores everything from sixteenth-century voyeurism to Hitchcock's "Rear Window"; from chimpanzee behavior to Parisian cafe society; from private eyes to Facebook and Twitter. He uncovers the biological drive behind the behavior and highlights its consequences across history and cultures. Eavesdropping can be a good thing--an attempt to understand what goes on in the lives of others so as to know better how to live one's own. Even birds who listen in on the calls of distant animals tend to survive longer. But Locke also concedes that eavesdropping has a bad name. It can encompass cheating to get unfair advantage, espionage to uncover secrets, and secretly monitoring emails to maintain power over employees. In the age of CCTV, phone tapping, and computer hacking, this is eye-opening reading.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friendship Fictions

Michael A. Kaplan, Friendship Fictions: The Rhetoric of Citizenship in the Liberal Imaginary (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

A criticism often leveled at liberal democratic culture is its emphasis on the individual over community and private life over civic participation. However, liberal democratic culture has a more complicated relationship to notions of citizenship. As Michael Kaplan shows, citizenship comprises a major theme of popular entertainment, especially Hollywood film, and often takes the form of friendship narratives; and this is no accident. Examining the representations of citizenship-as-friendship in four Hollywood films (The Big Chill, Thelma & Louise, Lost in Translation, and Smoke), Kaplan argues that critics have misunderstood some of liberal democracy’s most significant features: its resilience, its capacity for self-revision, and the cultural resonance of its model of citizenship.

For Kaplan, friendship—with its dynamic pacts, fluid alliances, and contingent communities—is one arena in which preconceptions about individual participation in civic life are contested and complicated. Friendship serves as a metaphor for citizenship and mirrors the individual’s participation in civic life. Friendship Fictions unravels key implications of this metaphor and demonstrates how it can transform liberal culture into a more just and democratic way of life.

Byron and the Rhetoric of Italian Nationalism

Arnold A. Schmidt, Byron and the Rhetoric of Italian Nationalism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

from the publisher:

Making extensive use of untranslated texts, Byron and the Rhetoric of Italian Nationalism analyzes the incorporation of Byron’s life and works into Italian political discourse during the risorgimento, unification, and the two world wars. Italian authors appreciated his celebration of liberty and nationalism so much that between 1818 and 1948, they referred to Byron more than to any other non-Italian poet. Arnold Anthony Schmidt explores the intellectual milieu of Byron’s Italian years, his participation in Grand Tour and salon culture, his influence on Italian Classicists and Romantics, and his importance in constructing Italy’s national identity.

How to Make a Citizen

Anna McCarthy, The Citizen Machine: Governing by Television in 1950s America (New York: The New Press, 2010).

from the press:

The Citizen Machine is the untold political history of television’s formative era. Historian Anna McCarthy goes behind the scenes of early television programming, revealing that producers, sponsors, and scriptwriters had far more in mind than simply entertaining (and selling products). Long before the age of PBS, leaders from business, philanthropy, and social reform movements as well as public intellectuals were all obsessively concerned with TV’s potential to mold the right kind of citizen.

After World War II, inspired by the perceived threats of Soviet communism, class war, and racial violence, members of what was then known as “the Establishment” were drawn together by a shared conviction that television broadcasting could be a useful tool for governing. The men of Du Pont, the AFL-CIO, the Advertising Council, the Ford Foundation, the Fund for the Republic, and other organizations interested in shaping (according to American philosopher Mortimer Adler) “the ideas that should be in every citizen’s mind,” turned to TV as a tool for reaching those people they thought of as the masses.

Based on years of path-breaking archival work, The Citizen Machine sheds new light on the place of television in the postwar American political landscape. At a time when TV broadcasting is in a state of crisis, and when a new political movement for media reform has ascended the political stage, here is a vital new history of the ideas and assumptions that have profoundly shaped not only television, but our political culture itself.

Anna McCarthy is an associate professor in the department of Cinema Studies at New York University. She is the co-editor of the noted journal Social Text, as well as the author of Ambient Television.

Now we know better, of course. It's the Internet that's going to save democracy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research

Lisa Keranen, Scientific Characters: Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

from the press:

Scientific Characters chronicles the contests over character, knowledge, trust, and truth in a politically charged scientific controversy that erupted after a 1994 Chicago Tribune headline: “Fraud in Breast Cancer Research: Doctor Lied on Data for Decade.” In the aftermath of this dramatic news, Dr. Bernard Fisher, the eminent oncologist and celebrated pioneer of breast cancer research, came under intense scrutiny following allegations that one of his investigators falsified data in landmark breast cancer research. Although he was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing, the controversy called into question the treatment decisions of tens of thousands of women, because Fisher’s research had demonstrated that lumpectomy and radiation were as effective as breast removal for early stage cancers—a finding that was hailed as revolutionary in women’s health care.

Moving back and forth between news coverage, medical journals, letters to the editor, and oncology pamphlets, Lisa Keränen draws insights from rhetoric, literary studies, sociology, and science studies to analyze the roles of character in shaping the outcomes of the “Datagate” controversy. Throughout the scandal, debates about the character of Fisher and other key players endured, showing how scientific knowledge is shaped by perceptions of the personal temperament, trustworthiness, integrity, and transparency of those who produce it. As administrators, politicians, scientists, patients, journalists, and citizens attempted to make sense of what had happened, and to assess the integrity of the research, they raised questions, assigned blame, attributed responsibility, and reshaped the norms of scientific practice. Scientific Characters thusaddresses what happens when scientists, patients, and advocates are called to defend themselves in public concerning complex technical matters with direct implications for human life. In assessing the rhetoric that animated Datagate, Scientific Characters sheds light on the challenges faced by scientists and citizens as science becomes more bureaucratized, dispersed, and accountable to varied publics.