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Acts of Conscience

World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors

Steven J. Taylor

In the mid- to late 1940s, a group of young men rattled the psychiatric establishment by beaming a public spotlight on the squalid conditions and brutality in our nation’s mental hospitals and training schools for people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities. Bringing the abuses to the attention of newspapers and magazines across the country, they led a reform effort to change public attitudes and to improve the training and status of institutional staff. Prominent Americans, including Eleanor Roosevelt, ACLU founder Roger Baldwin, author Pearl S. Buck, actress Helen Hayes, and African-American activist Mary McLeod Bethune, supported the efforts of the young men. These young men were among the 12,000 World War II conscientious objectors who chose to perform civilian public service as an alternative to fighting in what is widely regarded as America’s "good war." Three thousand of these men volunteered to work at state institutions, where they found conditions appalling. Acting on conscience a second time, they challenged America’s treatment of its citizens with severe disabilities. Acts of Conscience brings to light the extraordinary efforts of these courageous men, drawing upon extensive archival research, interviews, and personal correspondence. The World War II conscientious objectors were not the first to expose public institutions, and they would not be the last. What distinguishes them from reformers of other eras is that their activities have faded from professional and popular memory. Steven J. Taylor’s moving account is an indispensable contribution to the historical record.

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Acts of Conspicuous Compassion

Performance Culture and American Charity Practices

Sheila C. Moeschen

Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the relationship between performance culture and the cultivation of charitable sentiment in America, exploring the distinctive practices that have evolved to make the plea for charity legible and compelling. From the work of 19th-century melodramas to the televised drama of transformation and redemption in reality TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the sophisticated strategies employed by various charity movements responsible for making organized benevolence alluring, exciting, and seemingly uncomplicated. Sheila C. Moeschen brokers a new way of accounting for the legacy and involvement of disabled people within charity—specifically, the articulation of performance culture as a vital theoretical framework for discussing issues of embodiment and identity dislodges previously held notions of the disabled existing as passive, “objects” of pity. This work gives rise to a more complicated and nuanced discussion of the participation of the disabled community in the charity industry, of the opportunities afforded by performance culture for disabled people to act as critical agents of charity, and of the new ethical and political issues that arise from employing performance methodology in a culture with increased appetites for voyeurism, display, and complex spectacle.

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Actuality of Walter Benjamin

edited by Laura Marcus and Lynda Nead

Although Benjamin’s place in the canon of twentieth-century critical theorists is now established, the boundaries of his work still resist classification and demarcation. His writings, including the best known collection Illuminations, remain an uneasy but thrilling combination of the actual and the mystical, of Marxism and messianic utopianism. This collection shows how extraordinarily substantial were the theoretical footholds which Walter Benjamin supplied: Irving Wohlfarth on historical understanding versus historicism, Zygmunt Bauman on Benjamin the intellectual, Sigrid Weigel on feminism and cultural analysis, Gillian Rose on Benjamin and the sources of Judaism and Martin Jay on the use of imagery in Benjamin’s novels.

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Ada Salter

Pioneer of Ethical Socialism

by Graeme Taylor

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Adam Mickiewicz

The Life of a Romantic

Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), Poland's national poet, was one of the extraordinary personalities of the age. In chronicling the events of his life-his travels, numerous loves, a troubled marriage, years spent as a member of a heterodox religious sect, and friendships with such luminaries of the time as Aleksandr Pushkin, James Fenimore Cooper, George Sand, Giuseppe Mazzini, Margaret Fuller, and Aleksandr Herzen-Roman Koropeckyj draws a portrait of the Polish poet as a quintessential European Romantic.

Spanning five decades of one of the most turbulent periods in modern European history, Mickiewicz's life and works at once reflected and articulated the cultural and political upheavals marking post-Napoleonic Europe. After a poetic debut in his native Lithuania that transformed the face of Polish literature, he spent five years of exile in Russia for engaging in Polish "patriotic" activity. Subsequently, his grand tour of Europe was interrupted by his country's 1830 uprising against Russia; his failure to take part in it would haunt him for the rest of his life. For the next twenty years Mickiewicz shared the fate of other Polish émigrés in the West. It was here that he wrote Forefathers' Eve, part 3 (1832) and Pan Tadeusz (1834), arguably the two most influential works of modern Polish literature. His reputation as his country's most prominent poet secured him a position teaching Latin literature at the Academy of Lausanne and then the first chair of Slavic Literature at the Collége de France. In 1848 he organized a Polish legion in Italy and upon his return to Paris founded a radical French-language newspaper. His final days were devoted to forming a Polish legion in Istanbul.

This richly illustrated biography-the first scholarly biography of the poet to be published in English since 1911-draws extensively on diaries, memoirs, correspondence, and the poet's literary texts to make sense of a life as sublime as it was tragic. It concludes with a description of the solemn transfer of Mickiewicz's remains in 1890 from Paris to Cracow, where he was interred in the Royal Cathedral alongside Poland's kings and military heroes.

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Adam's Ancestors

Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins

David N. Livingstone

Although the idea that all human beings are descended from Adam is a long-standing conviction in the West, another version of this narrative exists: human beings inhabited the Earth before, or alongside, Adam, and their descendants still occupy the planet. In this engaging and provocative work, David N. Livingstone traces the history of the idea of non-adamic humanity, and the debates surrounding it, from the Middle Ages to the present day. From a multidisciplinary perspective, Livingstone examines how this alternative idea has been used for cultural, religious, and political purposes. He reveals how what began as biblical criticism became a theological apologetic to reconcile religion with science—evolution in particular—and was later used to support arguments for white supremacy and segregation. From heresy to orthodoxy, from radicalism to conservatism, from humanitarianism to racism, Adam's Ancestors tells an intriguing tale of twists and turns in the cultural politics surrounding the age-old question, "Where did we come from?"

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Adam Usk's Secret

By Steven Justice

Adam Usk, a Welsh lawyer in England and Rome during the first years of the fifteenth century, lived a peculiar life. He was, by turns, a professor, a royal advisor, a traitor, a schismatic, and a spy. He cultivated and then sabotaged figures of great influence, switching allegiances between kings, upstarts, and popes at an astonishing pace. Usk also wrote a peculiar book: a chronicle of his own times, composed in a strangely anxious and secretive voice that seems better designed to withhold vital facts than to recount them. His bold starts tumble into anticlimax; he interrupts what he starts to tell and omits what he might have told. Yet the kind of secrets a political man might find safer to keep—the schemes and violence of regime change—Usk tells openly.

Steven Justice sets out to find what it was that Adam Usk wanted to hide. His search takes surprising turns through acts of political violence, persecution, censorship—and, ultimately, literary history. Adam Usk's narrow, eccentric literary genius calls into question some of the most casual and confident assumptions of literary criticism and historiography, making stale rhetorical habits seem new. Adam Usk's Secret concludes with a sharp challenge to historians over what they think they can know about literature and to literary scholars over what they think they can know about history.

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The Adams-Jefferson Letters

The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams

Lester J. Cappon

An intellectual dialogue of the highest plane achieved in America, the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spanned half a century and embraced government, philosophy, religion, quotidiana, and family griefs and joys. First meeting as delegates to the Continental Congress in 1775, they initiated correspondence in 1777, negotiated jointly as ministers in Europe in the 1780s, and served the early Republic--each, ultimately, in its highest office. At Jefferson's defeat of Adams for the presidency in 1800, they became estranged, and the correspondence lapses from 1801 to 1812, then is renewed until the death of both in 1826, fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence.

Lester J. Cappon's edition, first published in 1959 in two volumes, provides the complete correspondence between these two men and includes the correspondence between Abigail Adams and Jefferson. Many of these letters have been published in no other modern edition, nor does any other edition devote itself exclusively to the exchange between Jefferson and the Adamses. Introduction, headnotes, and footnotes inform the reader without interrupting the speakers. This reissue of The Adams-Jefferson Letters in a one-volume unabridged edition brings to a broader audience one of the monuments of American scholarship and, to quote C. Vann Woodward, 'a major treasure of national literature.'

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Adams on Adams

edited by Paul M. Zall

After more than two hundred years in the shadows of Washington and Jefferson, John Adams enjoys fame as one of our top presidents. Of unprepossessing appearance and feisty temperament, he expressed his personal feelings in copious correspondence and public documents along with two unfinished autobiographies.

Paul M. Zall draws from Adams's own letters, diaries, notes and autobiographies to create a fresh portrait. Adams's writings, both public and private, trace his rise from country lawyer to the nation's highest office by the sheer force of his personality. Lacking the advantages of money, connections, class, or patronage, Adams used "the severest and most incessant labor" to promote American independence.

Zall's commentary illuminates Adams's words, focusing on how Adams's inner strengths -- in conflict with a sense of inferiority and an obsession with fame -- helped win government under law at home and national respect abroad. Borne along by an irresistible sense of Spartan duty and refusing to compromise high principles for cheap popularity, he sacrificed family, fortune, and even fame. In Adams on Adams we are at last able to hear Adams describe his extraordinary journey in his own words.

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Adapting to a New World

English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake

James Horn

Often compared unfavorably with colonial New England, the early Chesapeake has been portrayed as irreligious, unstable, and violent. In this important new study, James Horn challenges this conventional view and looks across the Atlantic to assess the enduring influence of English attitudes, values, and behavior on the social and cultural evolution of the early Chesapeake. Using detailed local and regional studies to compare everyday life in English provincial society and the emergent societies of the Chesapeake Bay, Horn provides a richly textured picture of the immigrants' Old World backgrounds and their adjustment to life in America. Until the end of the seventeenth century, most settlers in Virginia and Maryland were born and raised in England, a factor of enormous consequence for social development in the two colonies. By stressing the vital social and cultural connections between England and the Chesapeake during this period, Horn places the development of early America in the context of a vibrant Anglophone transatlantic world and suggests a fundamental reinterpretation of New World society.

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