Other Publications by Northwestern Faculty

Reviews by Martin Brady


Talking It Through: Puzzles of American Democracy
Robert W. Bennett, Nathaniel L. Nathanson Professor of Law (Cornell University Press, 2003)

Is it representationally right that each American state be allotted two U.S. senators? Why don’t children have electoral status in our country? Is judicial review, such as practiced by the U.S. Supreme Court, undemocratic? These and other essential controversies form the jumping-off points for Bennett’s case for what he calls “conversationalism,” a perspective on political discourse that he promotes “not as prescription for American democracy, but as description and explanation... for how it might be made better.” Thoughtful reading for anyone interested in government and the democratic process.

Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time and Aging in West Africa
Caroline H. Bledsoe, professor of anthropology (University of Chicago Press, 2002)

Bledsoe’s wide-ranging anthropological study is based on a series of lectures delivered at the University of Rochester in 1999. The text builds on the author’s 1992–95 field studies in Gambia, West Africa, where anthropology and demography intersected in the interpretation of data gathered on high fertility and birth intervals, the use of Western contraceptives, “the management of reproductivity in the West African context,” and native notions on time, aging and morality. Bledsoe’s daunting academic achievement brings together reams of wide-ranging physiological and sociocultural observations, supported by impressive documentation, and ultimately invites intensive scholarly feminist reflection.

True Vine: A Young Black Man’s Journey of Faith, Hope and Clarity
John W. Fountain, visiting lecturer in the Medill School of Journalism (PublicAffairs, 2003)

The road from Chicago’s West Side to life as a respected newspaperman was predictably a tough one for New York Times correspondent Fountain, but this highly readable memoir emerges as a story of hope and admirable determination. The author offers a vivid portrait of a decaying, crime-ridden African American Windy City neighborhood of the ’60s and ’70s, then segues into his struggles to overcome welfare and the too-early responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood, ultimately to earn himself a master’s degree and to harness the talents to launch a serious career in journalism. Writing with the power of a novelist, Fountain reserves special reverence for beloved family members, in particular his grandparents, who set for him an example of faith and community that inspired him to succeed.

Antigone, by Sophocles
Translation by Reginald Gibbons, professor and chair of the Department of English, and Charles Segal (Oxford University Press, 2003)

This new translation of Sophocles’ timeless tragedy functions on dual levels: as dynamic stage script and — by virtue of its extensive and rigorously referenced notes, appendixes and glossary — as academic treatise on approaches to classical Greek literature. The retelling of the story of Antigone’s primal struggle with her uncle, Kreon, benefits from the dramatic craftsmanship of oft-published poet Gibbons, while former Harvard University classics professor Segal contributed the strong scholarly underpinnings for the text. (Sadly, Segal passed away in early 2002 before the book’s publication.) Series editors Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro provide an informative foreword.

Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity
E. Patrick Johnson, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Performance Studies (Duke University Press, 2003)

In attempting to “illuminate the often contradictory, resistive, subversive and celebratory effects of blackness as they are cited both inside and outside black American culture,” performance artist Johnson analyzes a cross section of “performed blackness,” which includes the comic routines of Eddie Murphy, the writings of militants Eldridge Cleaver and Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), the expression of black gay culture, and also his own grandmother’s oral account of experiences as a domestic worker in North Carolina. Johnson’s final chapter strives to extend his text, “in order to address more fully the implications of performing a text’s ‘blackness’ and to further discuss the implications of ‘teaching’ blackness.”

Against Love: A Polemic
Laura Kipnis, professor of radio/television/film (Pantheon Books, 2003)

Kipnis has a gift for zeroing in on hot-button topics and writing about them with passion and power. Her previous Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America (Grove Press, 1996) analyzed the culture of pornography with a rarefied deconstructive zeal. This time around she tackles love itself, taking specific aim at the notion of “companionate coupledom” and all the forces of society that promote its idealization and simultaneously strive to corrupt its practical fulfillment. Kipnis slices and dices her subject with surgical precision, and — her deft use of humor not-withstanding — one comes away from her thesis believing that romance and committedness are strictly utter illusions (or maybe simply a function of the law of averages). Her survey is keenly conceived and thoroughly engrossing, taking readers through the topic’s many psychological minefields, including narcissism; marriage; adultery; divorce; cinematic images of love; the politics of cohabitation; therapeutic, moral and legislative prescriptives for the perceived “problem”; and love and sex in the public arena, with plenty of reflection on how they have been exemplified by America’s favorite dysfunctional couple, the Clintons.

Knowledge and Competitive Advantage: The Co-evolution of Firms, Technology and National Institutions
Johann Peter Murmann, assistant professor of management and organizations (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

The second volume in the “Cambridge Studies in the Emergence of Global Enterprise” offers a staunch bit of academic research into the process of competitive capitalism and the growth of new industry. The specific focus of Murmann’s study is the synthetic dye industry, which began in the mid-19th century under British leadership, then eventually became the stronghold of German entrepreneurs. Murmann discusses in depth the co-evolution of this business, including developments in the United States, and how those firms linked firmly to the scientific establishment maintained a competitive advantage.

The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South
Dylan C. Penningroth, assistant professor of history (University of North Carolina Press, 2003)

This fascinating piece of socioeconomic history examines the ways and means by which African Americans came to property ownership and land holdings both before the Civil War and after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and on through the Reconstruction period. Penningroth sheds light on the informal methods by which Southern slaves were granted land by their masters — usually for strictly agricultural purposes — and how the collision of postwar politics and an informal mode of folk testimony made the former slaves’ real-estate claims hold up in the absence of traditional legal evidence. The author’s investigation into this rather hidden side of the black experience begins with an analysis of social claims to property on West Africa’s Gold Coast, then moves into the American slave economy, drawing upon solid research into contemporary oral accounts and illustrative archival documents. Along the way to exposing the little-known historical facts, Penningroth also offers an insightful portrait of black family and community life of the era.

Popular Politics and the English Reformation
Ethan H. Shagan, assistant professor of history (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Shagan’s detailed work of scholarship strives to reevaluate the development of the English Reformation, described as a “dynamic process of engagement between government and people.” Shagan explores the key social, religious, cultural and governmental elements in England’s conversion to a Protestant nation, his coverage ranging from the debate concerning Henry VIII and the royal supremacy over the Church of England through the mid-Tudor period. The author’s comprehensive text attempts to explore how “the Reformation entered English culture through the back door, not dependent upon spectacular epiphanies but rather exploiting the mundane realities of political allegiance, financial investment and local conflict.”

Tort Law and Culture
Marshall S. Shapo, Frederic P. Vose Professor of Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2003)

Tort law has to do with cases involving injury or complaint. Shapo’s dissection of this perennially contentious area of legal justice is certainly academically rigorous, but in trying to bring perspective to the somewhat elusive notions of “right” and “wrong,” the author’s study achieves popular focus through its use of illustrative cases with everyday recognition. These include those involving product liability, hazardous work environments and personal responsibility, among others. Shapo’s documentation is comprehensive and authoritative, offering instant edification for the serious law student. Yet even general readers with legal curiosity will engage with his analyses of high-profile national causes célèbres such as the Paula Jones suit against Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader versus General Motors, and the Karen Silkwood action against Kerr-McGee. More importantly, Shapo strives to present “American personal injury law as a reflection of our society, filtered through the complex mechanism of the legal process.”

Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes
Mary Weismantel, professor of anthropology (University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Blending serious scholarship with the lessons learned during frequent travels to the Andes on the western coast of South America, Weismantel offers a rare history of the region that provides “a theoretical framework for understanding a culture, an account of its evolution, an analysis of its structure and a thick description of its activities and their meanings within the culture.” In elegant prose, the author joins an awareness of economic, racial, sexual and class realities with descriptions of folk life, with particular focus on the images of the “chola” (mixed-race female) and the “pishtaco” (a frightening representation of “white” male violence).

“Negro President”: Jefferson and the Slave Power
Garry Wills, professor of history (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

World-class historian Wills is apparently working on a forthcoming volume extolling the genius and other admirable qualities of Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and our third chief executive. In the meantime, this trenchant study exposes a darker aspect of Jefferson’s political life. Let the book’s title not mislead: this has nothing to do with Jefferson’s controversial, widely acknowledged relationship with the slave Sally Hemings. Instead, Wills serves up a redefining examination of how the presence of slaves in the Southern states swung the 1800 presidential election in Jefferson’s favor against John Adams. (Slaves could not vote, but each slave counted as three-fifths of a vote in the general election.) Wills discusses this “slave power” and its expression throughout Jefferson’s two terms as president, with special focus on the challenges made against it by heretofore little-known Massachusetts congressman Timothy Pickering. Wills renders the history in his usual sure-handed prose.



Northwestern Home | Calendar: Plan-It Purple | Sites A-Z | Search
Northwestern 1800 Sheridan Road Evanston, IL 60208-1800
Phone: 847-491-5000 Fax: 847-491-3040 E-mail: letters@northwestern.edu

Last updated  Friday, 07-Dec-2007 12:21:59 CST
World Wide Web Disclaimer and University Policy Statements  
© 2002 Northwestern University