Stanley Cavell and The Claim of Literature by David Rudrum, Johns Hopkins UPress '13, $45, 285 pages, ASIN #1421410486. Index, bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
Contemporary philosophers count Stanley Cavell among the most influential of their profession even though he may not be among the best known. According to author David Rudrum, "his writings more generally seek to reconcile the discipline of traditional academic philosophy with a range of other humanistic disciplines, including psychoanalysis, film, music, the arts, and, above all, literature.
In what appears Rudrum's debut work, he dedicates a chapter to each writer that played a major role in Cavell's thinking, including Shakespeare, Thoreau, Beckett, Wordsworth, Ibsen, and Poe. He then adds thematic chapters on tragedy, skepticism, ethics, and politics.
The author "explores Cavell's ideas on the nature of reading; the relationships between literary language, ordinary language, and performative language; the status of authors and characters; the link between tragedy and ethics; and the nature of political conversation in a democracy."
Author David Rudrum is a senior lecturer in English at the University of Huddersfield. He is the editor of Literature and Philosophy: A Guide to Contemporary Debates.
If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley, Walker '13, $27, ASIN #0802779956. Index, bibliography, no notes, grouping of color glossy images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on?," asks author Lucy Worsley in her latest book, signaling to her readers the tone of this work. "Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two 'dirty centuries'? Why did gas lightning cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did rich people fear fruit?"
While Worsley's book has a lighthearted spirit, it springs from serious and creative research. Take sex, for example: "Medieval women were considered to have a right to an orgasm," the author writes. As the author of the 13th century Romance of the Rose put it, 'one should not abandon the other, nor should either cease his voyage until they reach port together.' One 14th century Oxford doctor recommended that frustrated sisters should simply do it for themselves: a woman should get her midwife to lubricate her fingers with oil, insert them in to the vagina and 'move them vigorously about.'"
All of which is not to say that the history of sexual practices is full of unbridled lust, even though that subject gave concern to many historians. "Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century recommended wild lettuce as a medicine which 'extinguishes lust in a human. A man who has an overabundance in his loins should cook wild lettuce in water and pour that water over himself in a sauna bath. He should also place the warm, cooked lettuce round his loins.'"
Lucy Worsley is chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. She has two previous books to her credit.
Queens of Noise -- The Real Story of The Runaways by Evelyn McDonnell, DaCapo '13, $25.99, 342 pages, ASIN #0306820390. Index, bibliography, discography, notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
From the dust jacket:
"In 1975, five teenagers from far-flung corners of suburban Los Angeles banded together to make some noise. The Runaways were the first all-girl hard-rock group to sign a multiyear, major-label record deal and tour the world. They caused riots in Europe and set off a sort of Beatlemania in Japan, and their signature song 'Cherry Bomb' was an instant classic.
"But along the way they also ran into walls of institutionalized sexism in the music business and were attacked, sometimes viciously, by audience members, music journalists of both genders, and fellow musicians. At a time when doors seemed to be opening for women in sports, politics, and education, the so-called Queens of Noise fought to be heard on their own terms -- as artists expressing teenage desire and frustrations, guitars and drumsticks in hand."
Author Evelyn McDonnell, author or co-editor of five other books, has been a pop music critic for the Miami Herald and a senior editor at the Village Voice. She teaches journalism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
The Rise of Rome -- The Making of the World's Greatest Empire, by Anthony Everitt, Random House '13 paperback, $17, 512 pages, ASIN #0812978153. Index, bibliography, notes, sources, time line, grouping of color glossy images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the back cover:
"Emerging as a market town from a cluster of hill villages in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., Rome grew to an empire that, at its height, stretched from Egypt to Britain. Anthony Everitt, the bestselling author of acclaimed biographies of Cicero, Augustus, and Hadrian, fashions the story of Rome's rise to glory into an erudite page-turner filled with lasting lessons for our time.
"From the clashes between patricians and plebeians that defined the politics of the Republic to the corrosion of constitutional norms that accompanied Rome's expansion, Everitt captures the essence of a nation that was alternately refined, shrewd, and incredibly violent. The result is a vivid portrait of the great Romans, their remarkable city, and the indelible imprint they have left on our world.
"Rome's decline and fall have long fascinated historians, but the story of how it grew into the world's pre-eminent superpower is every bit as compelling. With The Rise of Rome, one of our most revered chroniclers of the ancient world tells that tale in a way that will galvanize, inform, and enlighten modern readers."
Anthony Everitt, a sometime visiting professor in the visual and performing arts at Nottingham Trent University, has written extensively on European culture and is the author of Cicero, Augustus, and Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome. He lives near Colchester, England's first recorded town, founded by the Romans.