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New Books: December 2011
A selection from the most recent titles added to the SMCM Library
Vampire Nation is a nuanced analysis of the cultural and political rhetoric framing ‘the serbs’ as metaphorical vampires in the last decades of the twentieth century, as well as the cultural imaginaries and rhetorical mechanisms that inform nationalist discourses more broadly. Tomislav Z. Longinović points to the Gothic associations of violence, blood, and soil in the writings of many intellectuals and politicians during the 1990s, especially in portrayals by the U.S.-led Western media of ‘the serbs’ as a vampire nation, a bloodsucking parasite on the edge of European civilization. Interpreting oral and written narratives and visual culture, Longinović traces the early modern invention of ‘the serbs’ and the category’s twentieth-century transformations. He describes the influence of Bram Stoker’s nineteenth-century novel Dracula on perceptions of the Balkan region and reflects on representations of hybrid identities and their violent destruction in the works of the region’s most prominent twentieth-century writers.
Shaken by the legacies of Reconstruction and the turmoil of the Jim Crow era, different races and classes came together in the kitchen, often as servants and mistresses but also as people with shared tastes and traditions. Generally focused on elite whites or poor blacks, southern foodways are often portrayed as stable and unchanging—even as an untroubled source of nostalgia. A Mess of Greens offers a different perspective, taking into account industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s increased role in the work force, all of which caused massive economic and social changes. Engelhardt reveals a broad middle of southerners that included poor whites, farm families, and middle- and working-class African Americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as southern food were very high.
In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks boldly challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. While progressive political movements, including the Marxist and feminist movements, have fought for equal pay, better work conditions, and the recognition of unpaid work as a valued form of labor, even they have tended to accept work as a naturalized or inevitable activity. Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Taking up Marxist and feminist critiques, Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation. Work, she contends, is a legitimate, even crucial, subject for political theory.
Lost in Transition tells of ordinary lives upended by the collapse of communism. Through ethnographic essays and short stories based on her experiences with Eastern Europe between 1989 and 2009, Kristen Ghodsee explains why it is that so many Eastern Europeans are nostalgic for the communist past. Ghodsee uses Bulgaria, the Eastern European nation where she has spent the most time, as a lens for exploring the broader transition from communism to democracy. She locates the growing nostalgia for the communist era in the disastrous, disorienting way that the transition was handled. The privatization process was contested and chaotic... Lost in Transition portrays one of the most dramatic upheavals in modern history by describing the ways that it interrupted the rhythms of everyday lives, leaving confusion, frustration, and insecurity in its wake.
Since the end of the Cold War, transnational non-state forces have been a major source of global instability, with many ominous and disruptive flows of people, goods, and services moving readily across international boundaries. And because these activities are so multifaceted and so intertwined within the fabric of society, they remain largely invisible until the intrusion is well-advanced and difficult to reverse. Thus, the threat posed by transnational organized crime ultimately undermines the total security of countries—including the economic, cultural, and political dimensions—and now presents an international security challenge of staggering proportions.
“Mr. Spiegelman’s new book, MetaMaus, functions as a kind of artist’s scrapbook, chapbook, photo album and storage trunk. Packed with more extras than a new ‘Transformers’ DVD, it’s a look back at Maus and its complicated composition and reception…Mr. Spiegelman is a witty and testy raconteur, and Ms. Chute knows a good deal about comics and she pulls good things from him…Spiegelman is charismatic, and the photographs of him sprinkled throughout are pretty delightful.” –New York Times
“MetaMaus is an intriguing look into the guts of a massive artistic-historical project. With its visual, textual and historical components, the book untangles the tight narrative and visual knots into which the medium, the message and the process of ‘Maus’ are tied. With grist to millers of either ‘Maus,’ Spiegelman or both, it is a must-have item.” –Forward
In September 1973, the military took power in Chile, and Ariel Dorfman, allied to deposed president Salvadore Allende, was forced to flee for his life. Feeding on Dreams is the story of the transformative decades of exile that followed. Dorfman portrays, through visceral scenes and powerful intellect, the personal and political maelstroms underlying his migrations from Buenos Aires, on the run from Pinochet’s death squads, to safe houses in Paris and Amsterdam, and eventually to America, his childhood home. And then, seventeen years after he was forced to leave, there is a yearned-for return to Chile, with an unimaginable outcome. The toll on Dorfman’s wife and two sons, the earthquake of language that is bilingualism, and his eventual questioning of his allegiance to past and party all these crucibles of a life in exile are revealed with wry and startling honesty.
The first edited collection to bring ecocritical studies into a necessary dialogue with postcolonial literature, this volume offers rich and suggestive ways to explore the relationship between humans and nature around the globe, drawing from texts from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the Pacific Islands and South Asia. Turning to contemporary works by both well- and little-known postcolonial writers, the diverse contributions highlight the literary imagination as crucial to representing what Eduoard Glissant calls the "aesthetics of the earth." The essays are organized around a group of thematic concerns that engage culture and cultivation, arboriculture and deforestation, the lives of animals, and the relationship between the military and the tourist industry.
The Souls of Mixed Folk examines representations of mixed race in literature and the arts that redefine new millennial aesthetics and politics. Focusing on black-white mixes, Elam analyzes expressive works—novels, drama, graphic narrative, late-night television, art installations—as artistic rejoinders to the perception that post-Civil Rights politics are bereft and post-Black art is apolitical. Reorienting attention to the cultural invention of mixed race from the social sciences to the humanities, Elam considers the creative work of Lezley Saar, Aaron McGruder, Nate Creekmore, Danzy Senna, Colson Whitehead, Emily Raboteau, Carl Hancock Rux, and Dave Chappelle. All these writers and artists address mixed race as both an aesthetic challenge and a social concern, and together, they gesture toward a poetics of social justice for the "mulatto millennium."
A fully illustrated history of bespoke tailoring—the custom-made men’s clothing that made a small London street a globally known brand to generations of sartorial connoisseurs. Savile Row is renowned for fine custom tailoring—"bespoke" in its own parlance. The term originated when cloth for a suit was said to "be spoken for" by customers who have included generations of stylish and tasteful men, from rakes to royals. Bespoke is the epitome of male sartorial style, exquisite quality, and craftsmanship, and has been worn by a veritable who’s who of famous and important men.