Fall Forward

Scott McLemee continues to survey some of the upcoming publishing season’s offerings.

June 21, 2017
 
 
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My last dispatch, some weeks back, was a survey of various interesting books forthcoming from university presses (mostly) in the fall and winter months -- sorting them into topical or thematic clusters, with enough connective tissue to make it more than a list. Readers approved; some chimed in with titles they’d noticed. And a few long-suffering university-press staff seem to have appreciated the effort, incomplete and unsystematic as it was. I had to leave out scores of books under about a dozen headings -- and that’s without all the presses having issued their fall catalogs yet.

Many still haven’t. In any event, let’s continue with more of the next publishing season’s offerings. Quotations and publishing dates given here are taken from the presses’ descriptions of the books; the publishing dates may vary from what online book vendors indicate, but the presses’ own websites tend to be more reliable.

The conditions and prospects of the university itself are always up for discussion. Paul H. Mattingly takes a long view in American Academic Cultures: A History of Higher Education (University of Chicago Press, November) by treating “its current state [as] the product of different, varied generational cultures, each grounded in its own moment in time and driven by historically distinct values that generated specific problems and responses.” Former New York Times columnist Randall Stross uses his knowledge of Silicon Valley to make the case for A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees (Redwood Press, distributed by Stanford University Press, September). Norm Friesen examines two enduring yet mutating pedagogical instruments in The Textbook and the Lecture: Education in the Age of New Media (Johns Hopkins University Press, December). Announcing itself as a departure from the monographic norm, Interacting With Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation (Chicago, October) is the work of the Multigraph Collective, “a team of 22 scholars at 16 universities in the U.S. and Canada,” who “have assembled an alphabetically arranged tour of key concepts for the study of print culture, from anthologies and binding to publicity and taste.”

The university is the institution where disability studies and disability policy necessarily come into closest proximity -- a convergence reflected in at least three new books. Two from the University of Michigan Press are Jay Timothy Dolmage’s Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education and the collection Negotiating Disability: Disclosure and Higher Education, edited by Stephanie L. Kerschbaum, Laura T. Eisenman and James M. Jones. Both volumes are due in December. Aimi Hamraie inspects the history and presuppositions an important movement in architecture in Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (University of Minnesota Press, November).

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the biggest and most widespread wave of student protest in history, and the outpouring of memoirs and reflections will undoubtedly be both copious and international. Among the first will be A Time to Stir: Columbia ’68, edited by Paul Cronin (Columbia University Press, January). Roderick A. Ferguson’s We Demand: The University and Student Protests (University of California Press, August) maintains that cuts to humanities and interdisciplinary programs at public universities are not just “a reactionary move against the social advances since the ’60s and ’70s, but part of the larger threat of anti-intellectualism in the United States.”

Faced with reduced grants and increased tuition fees, student demonstrators in Britain made 2010 a memorable year -- without, however, changing the tide. Matt Myers collects the perspectives of a range of participants -- “activists, students, university workers and politicians” -- in Student Revolt: Voices of the Austerity Generation (Pluto Press, distributed by Chicago, October) to record “both the deep divisions of the movement and the intense energy generated by its players.” More recent (and still ongoing) disputes inform Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman’s Free Speech on Campus (Yale University Press, September). The authors are both “constitutional scholars who teach a course in free speech to undergraduates.”

Speech and action of whatever kind is now always subject to at least the possibility of recording and retrieval. Randolph Lewis’s Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America (University of Texas Press, November) charts “the ethical, aesthetic and emotional undercurrents that course through a high-tech surveillance society.” About the figures named in its subtitle, Geoffroy de Lagasnerie’s The Art of Revolt: Snowden, Assange, Manning (Stanford, September) proclaims that “they have inaugurated a new form of political action and a new identity for the political subject.” Considerably less celebratory of Snowden et al., I would imagine, are George Perkovich and Ariel E. Levite, the editors of Understanding Cyber Conflict: 14 Analogies (Georgetown University Press, November), whose intended audience includes “policy makers, scholars and students” who need the lessons of “past military-technological problems” to get a handle on the more recent variety.

Nachman Ben-Yehuda and Amalya Oliver-Lumerman apply criminological concepts to what we might call white-lab-coat crime in Fraud and Misconduct in Research: Detection, Investigation and Organizational Response (Michigan, November). Culling “insights from diverse fields, including philosophy, computer science and biology,” Geoff Mulgan’s Big Mind: How Collective Intelligence Can Change Our World (Princeton University Press, November) reflects on the emergence of big-data, multicollaborator research. Combine Fraud and Misconduct with Big Mind, and you’d get most of the raw material for a cyberpunk novel.

As happened last time, this selection of topics and books ranges from the sober to the grim. Likewise, then, I’ll round the column off with a few volumes that might break the mood.

Having spent thousands of hours listening to Patti Smith’s music over the years, I’m pretty clearly one of the people destined to read the artist’s “detailed account of her own creative process, inspirations and unexpected connections,” which is how Yale University Press describes Smith’s Devotion (September). Smith, in turn, seems a likely reader of Nicholas Frankel’s Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years (Harvard University Press, October), covering the period following its subject’s release from Reading Gaol. Wilde treated personal publicity as one of the fine arts. By contrast, Pamela Bannos’s illustrated biography Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife (Chicago, October) is the portrait of an artist “extremely conscientious about how her work was developed, printed and cropped, even though she also made a clear choice never to display it.” It took decades for scholars to challenge the posthumous myths and editorial decisions surrounding Emily Dickinson. Things move faster now. Barely 10 years since Maier’s work was discovered in an abandoned storage space in Chicago, we already have a revisionist account of “how the photographs have been misconstrued or misidentified.” It’s a book to look forward to, certainly.

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