Princeton University Press

Censorship is to culture what war is to demography: it creates absence where presence should be. Christopher Hilliard’s fascinating and deeply informed monograph on the politics of censorship in Britain (and by extension its colonies) from the 1850s to the 1980s is concerned with the many books, magazines, and films that fell afoul of the authorities, from translations of Zola in the wake of the Obscene Publications Act 1857 to the skin mags of the 1970s.

... (read more)

Lost in Thought by Zena Hitz & The Battle of the Classics by Eric Adler

by
June 2021, no. 432

The higher education sector currently faces a confluence of challenges that are imperilling the future of universities as they have traditionally been understood and the sort of intellectual life they have long sustained. The most immediately pressing concern is the impact of the pandemic that has eroded the financial stability of Australian universities, resulting in widespread job losses and the closure of entire departments. Overall state funding for higher education has in fact grown slightly over the past decade, but this increase has coincided with ever more complex and invasive attempts by governments to ensure that tax dollars are ‘well spent’, such as the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise that began in 2010, the Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI) implemented in 2018, and the National Interest Test (NIT) introduced in 2019 for all applications for funding to the Australian Research Council. The impact of these efforts is felt across all academic disciplines, but some are hit harder than others, often by design, such as last year’s Job-ready Graduates Package, which has made most humanities degrees vastly more expensive than other subjects thought to lead to better employment outcomes.

... (read more)

Prose Poetry: An introduction by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton

by
May 2021, no. 431

It speaks volumes that almost a century and a half after Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen announced the modern prose poem, James Longenbach influentially defined poetry as ‘the sound of language organized in lines’. An otherness, bordering on illegitimacy, pervades what Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington argue is ‘the most important new poetic form to emerge in English-language poetry since the advent of free verse’. The book vindicates this claim. No less compelling, however, is the way the prose poem, long defined in negative terms, here becomes the whetstone over which old assumptions – about the prosaic, the poetic, and the daylight between the two – are run to a fresh sharpness.

... (read more)

The first statue commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97), a swirling tower of forms coalescing into a single naked figure at its apex by British artist Maggi Hambling, was unveiled in London last year. Responding to accusations that the statue was ‘mad’ and ‘insulting’, Hambling defended it as ‘not a conventional heroic or heroinic likeness’ but ‘a sculpture about it now’. Against such dehistoricisation, Sylvana Tomaselli’s intellectual biography of the late eighteenth-century philosopher seeks to recover the historical Wollstonecraft. Tomaselli, the Sir Harry Hinsley Lecturer in History at St John’s College, Cambridge, has been writing on women in the late eighteenth century since the mid-1980s.


... (read more)

The history of art history in the West over the past five hundred years is rich and complex and yet rests on clear historiographical foundations, themselves grounded in inescapable historical realities. Authors and artists in the Renaissance looked back to the civilisation of Greco-Roman antiquity, all but lost in the catastrophe of the fall of the Roman Empire and succeeded by centuries of dramatic cultural regression. They sought to regain the greatness of antiquity, and the bolder even hoped to surpass it.

... (read more)

Australia’s nearest neighbour, the fabulous New Guinea, is one of the least developed and least known islands on earth. The largest and highest tropical island, it boasts extensive tracts of old-growth tropical forest (second only to the Amazon following massive destruction in Borneo and Sumatra), equatorial alpine environments, extensive lowland swamp forests, and huge abundances and diversities of orchids, rhododendrons, forest tree species, frogs, freshwater fish, and leeches. The fauna, exotic as well as diverse, include the richest radiations of tree kangaroos, echidnas, birds of paradise, and bowerbirds.

... (read more)

In an early episode of the cult Canadian television series Slings & Arrows (2003), the director of the ‘Burbage Festival’ finds himself addressing a corporate audience, forced to teach management strategy through Shakespeare: ‘Do any of you seriously believe that you’re going to sell more plastics products to the construction industry by studying, say, the crisis management techniques of Claudius?’ Fortunately, Scott Newstok wouldn’t be answering that question in the affirmative. His How to Think Like Shakespeare doesn’t strain analogies or instrumentalise Shakespeare’s plays and characters to make Shakespeare seem relevant to patently unrelated contexts; rather, it explores both Shakespeare’s thinking and the ‘educational assumptions that shaped Shakespeare’ (since these frequently differ from our own system of education). At the heart of this book is Newstok’s conviction that ‘education must be about thinking – not training a set of specific skills’. After all, there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

... (read more)

Spinoza’s Ethics edited by Clare Carlisle, translated by George Eliot

by
September 2020, no. 424

Becoming better acquainted with an author may give rise to a surprise, or two. For example, the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft (author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) and William Godwin (author of Political Justice) is the author of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley met her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, through his devotion to her father’s anarchist political philosophy. Gaining an awareness of the surprisingly complex threads that link one thinker to the next in dynamic webs of influence is one of the deep pleasures of scholarship.

... (read more)

What could be more timely than an argument for the humanities? They are poorly served in our schools and universities, and badly need champions. Martha Nussbaum, a distinguished philosopher at the University of Chicago, is well placed to affirm their importance. I read her book with eager anticipation and mounting disappointment.

... (read more)

In lectures delivered at Princeton University in November 2016, science historian Naomi Oreskes asked why, at a time when the epistemological and cultural relevance of science is subject to increasing doubt, we should still have confidence in science as our primary source of knowledge about the physical world. Why Trust Science? is the culmination of those lectures, and includes not only Oreskes’s appraisal of the scientific method but also four commentaries on the lectures. It is a work predicated, rightly or wrongly, on the assertion that the eminence of science ‘can no longer be maintained without argument’.

... (read more)
Page 1 of 3