Publish or Perish
Junot Díaz and the Decolonial Imagination, co-edited by Jennifer Harford Vargas (Spanish), is a critical examination of the author of the bestselling This Is How You Lose Her. From Vargas’s essay on ruin-reading:
Explaining that apocalypse comes from the Greek apocalypsis, which means “to uncover and unveil,” Díaz argues that an apocalypse “is a disruptive event that provokes revelation.” … An apocalypse uncovers the underlying hierarchies of power and forms of inequality and oppression that are too often veiled or disavowed. Catastrophe gives us the opportunity to be what Díaz calls “ruin-readers” or interpreters of the underlying structures and conditions that enable or bring about an apocalypse. “We must,” he charges, “stare into the ruins—bravely, resolutely—and we must see. And then we must act.”
The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, with contributions from Michelle Francl (Chemistry) on leaveners, food colorings, starch, the biochemistry of sugar, yeast, and sugar of lead:
Lead, Sugar of … gets its name not from its undeniable resemblance to rock candy but from its taste. It is sweet, roughly as sweet per teaspoon as sugar—and only slightly more lethal than strychnine. In the 19th century, when mercury was used as a remedy for maladies as serious as syphilis and as commonplace as constipation, sugar of lead (saccharum saturni) was also part of the European pharmacopeia. Ironically, given that one symptom of acute lead poisoning is an upset stomach, the chemical was occasionally prescribed in low doses for intestinal maladies.
Before They Were Titans: Essays on the Early Works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, edited by Elizabeth Allen (Russian), paints composite portraits of two artists as young men. From Allen’s introduction:
Why bother with the early works of any major author? For many reasons: how those authors started out, how they experimented with literary forms and contents, what they chose to adopt and what to reject, how they managed influences upon them, how they transmitted distinguishing characteristics of themselves, how they hinted at works to come and how they did not. But the early works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy … warrant reading and study for themselves as literature. Youthful creations as they are, they have much to say on their own.
In Gender Justice and Development, Christine Koggel (Philosophy) and Cynthia Bisman (Social Work) canvased experts for their thoughts on gender justice locally and globally. From their preface:
[T]here is no single definition of gender justice and much disagreement … about what constitutes gender injustice and how to alleviate or eliminate it. That said, changes envisioned by measures such as improving health care for women and children, recognizing care as work vital to the survival and flourishing of any society, and increasing women’s access to education, property, and work outside the home reflect agreement on the key role that women can play…. Despite positive changes on a number of fronts, women across the world, in rich as well as poor countries, continue to suffer for lack of power, agency, and voice; continue to be vulnerable to ill-health, early morbidity, the effects of climate change, and violence.
In Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art, Elly Truitt (History) tells the history of the mechanical marvels—real and imagined—that entranced Europe during the Middle Ages.
Golden birds and beasts, musical fountains, and robotic servants astound and terrify guests. Brass horsemen, gilded buglers, and papier-mâché drummers mark the passage of time. Statues of departed lovers sigh, kiss, and pledge their love. Golden archers and copper knights warn against danger and safeguard borders. Mechanical monkeys, camouflaged in badger pelts, ape human behavior in the midst of a lush estate. Corpses, perfectly preserved by human art, challenge the limits of life. Brazen heads reveal the future, and a revolving palace mimics the revolution of the spheres. Medieval robots, both actual and fictional, take many forms. And they were far more than delightful curiosities…. Indeed, automata were troubling links between art and nature.