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University Press of New England

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Disability and the Media

Prescriptions for Change

Charles A. Riley, II

In the past decade, the mass media discovered disability. Spurred by the box-office appeal of superstars such as the late Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox, Stephen Hawking, and others, and given momentum by the success of Oscar-winning movies, popular television shows, best-selling books, and profitable websites, major media corporations have reversed their earlier course of hiding disability, bringing it instead to center stage.

Yet depictions of disability have remained largely unchanged since the 1920s. Focusing almost exclusively on the medical aspect of injury or illness, the disability profile in fact and fiction leads inevitably to an inspiring moment of "overcoming." According to Riley, this cliche plays well with a general audience, but such narratives, driven by prejudice and pity, highlight the importance of "fixing" the disability and rendering the "sufferer" as normal as possible. These stories are deeply offensive to persons with disabilities. Equally important, misguided coverage has adverse effects on crucial aspects of public policy, such as employment, social services, and health care.

Powerful and influential, the media is complicit in this distortion of disability issues that has proven to be a factor in the economic and social repression of one in five Americans. Newspapers and magazines continue to consign disability stories to the "back of the book" health or human-interest sections, using offensive language that has long been proscribed by activists. Filmmakers compound the problem by featuring angry misfits or poignant heroes of melodramas that pair love and redemption. Publishers churn out self-help titles and memoirs that milk the disability theme for pathos. As Riley points out, all branches of the media are guilty of the same crude distillation of the story to serve their own, usually fiscal, ends.

Riley's lively inside investigation illuminates the extent of the problem while pinpointing how writers, editors, directors, producers, filmmakers, advertisers and the executives who give their marching orders go wrong, or occasionally get it right. Through a close analysis of the technical means of representation, in conjunction with the commentary of leading voices in the disability community, Riley guides future coverage to a more fair and accurate way of putting the disability story on screen or paper. He argues that with the "discovery" by Madison Avenue that the disabled community is a major consumer niche, the economic rationale for more sophisticated coverage is at hand. It is time, says Riley, to cut through the accumulated stereotypes and find an adequate vocabulary that will finally represent the disability community in all its vibrant and fascinating diversity.

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Disrupt This!

MOOCs and the Promises of Technology

Karen J. Head

In this smart and incisive work, Karen J. Head describes her experience teaching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and the attendant pressure on professors, especially those in the humanities, to embrace new technologies in the STEM era. And yet, as she argues, MOOCs are just the latest example of the near-religious faith that some universities have in the promise of technological advances. As a teacher of rhetoric, Head is well versed at sniffing out the sophistry embedded in the tech jargon increasingly rife in the academy. Disrupt This! is a broader-based critique of the promises of technological “disruption” and the impact of Silicon Valley thinking on an unsuspecting, ill-prepared, and often gullible university community grasping for relevance, while remaining in thrall to the technologists.

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Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes

Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech

Chuck McCutcheon

To the amusement of the pundits and the regret of the electorate, our modern political jargon has become even more brazenly two-faced and obfuscatory than ever. Where once we had Muckrakers, now we have Bed-Wetters. Where Blue Dogs once slept peaceably in the sun, Attack Dogs now roam the land. During election season—a near constant these days—the coded rhetoric of candidates and their spin doctors, and the deliberately meaningless but toxic semiotics of the wing nuts and backbenchers, reach near-Orwellian levels of self-satisfaction, vitriol, and deceit. The average NPR or talk radio listener, MSNBC or Fox News viewer, or blameless New York Times or Wall Street Journal reader is likely to be perplexed, nonplussed, and lulled into a state of apathetic resignation and civic somnolence by the rapid-fire incomprehensibility of political pronouncement and commentary—which is, frankly, putting us exactly where the pundits want us.

Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes is a tonic and a corrective. It is a reference and field guide to the language of politics by two veteran observers that not only defines terms and phrases but also explains their history and etymology, describes who uses them against whom, and why, and reveals the most telling, infamous, amusing, and shocking examples of their recent use. It is a handbook of lexicography for the Wonkette and This Town generation, a sleeker, more modern Safire’s Political Dictionary, and a concise, pointed, bipartisan guide to the lies, obfuscations, and helical constructions of modern American political language, as practiced by real-life versions of the characters on House of Cards.

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The Dogs of March

Ernest Hebert

“His life had come to this: save a few deer from the jaws of dogs. He was a small man sent to perform a small task.”

Howard Elman is a man whose internal landscape is as disordered as his front yard, where native New Hampshire birches and maples mingle with a bullet-riddled washer, abandoned bathroom fixtures, and several junk cars. Howard, anti-hero of this first novel in Ernest Hebert’s highly acclaimed Darby Chronicles, is a man who is tough and tender.

Howard’s battle against encroaching change symbolizes the class conflict between indigenous Granite Staters scratching out a living and citified immigrants with “college degrees and big bank accounts.” Like the winter-weakened deer threatened by the dogs of March—the normally docile house pets whose instincts arouse them to chase and kill for sport—Howard, too, is sorely beset.

The seven novels of Hebert’s Darby Chronicles cover 35 years in the life of a small New England town as seen through the eyes of three families—the Elmans, the Salmons, and the Jordans—each representing a distinct social class. It all starts with The Dogs of March, cited for excellence in 1980 by the Hemingway Foundation (now the Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction).

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Eastern Alpine Guide

Natural History and Conservation of Mountain Tundra East of the Rockies

Mike Jones

This unique book celebrates and documents the incredible and colorful biodiversity of the mountain landscapes of eastern North America, covering all of the major alpine ecosystems in New England, New York, Québec, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Twenty scientists, explorers, naturalists, and land managers from the United States and Canada have collaborated to create this definitive and beautiful account of the flora and fauna of the eastern alpine tundra.

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Edward Hopper in Vermont

Bonnie Tocher Clause

A delightful account of Edward Hopper’s sojourns in Vermont with his wife, Jo, illustrated by the watercolors and drawings that he made there Edward and Jo Hopper first discovered Vermont in 1927, making day trips from the Whitney Studio Club’s summer retreat for New York artists in Charlestown, New Hampshire. In 1935 and 1936 the Hoppers again traveled to Vermont, this time from their summer home in Cape Cod, in Edward’s continuing search for new places to paint. During these quests they identified the White River and what Edward considered to be Vermont’s “finest” river valley, and they returned there for longer visits in 1937 and 1938, boarding at Robert and Irene Slater’s Wagon Wheels farm in South Royalton. These “vacations” were a change from the usual tempo of their lives, a break from the studio-bound easels, canvas, and oils, and an opportunity to paint something different, to be in a new place and paint en plein air. Over the course of his Vermont sojourns, Edward Hopper produced some two dozen paintings, watercolors that are among the most distinctive of his regional works, strongly characterized by place. In this accessible volume, Bonnie Tocher Clause tells the story of the Hoppers’ visits to Vermont, their stays on the Slater farm, and their introduction to farm life. She locates the sites shown in Hopper’s Vermont paintings, identifies two watercolors not previously recognized as Vermont scenes, and traces the development of Hopper’s singular interpretations of the Vermont landscape. In Edward Hopper in Vermont, Clause details the provenance of the Vermont paintings through the years, tracking the history of sales leading to the works’ ultimate homes with private collectors and museums. Showcasing all the Vermont paintings in color, this volume will delight both fans of Hopper’s work and those who are fascinated by the story of the creation, collection, and business of producing great art.

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Emerald Labyrinth

A Scientist's Adventures in the Jungles of the Congo

Eli Greenbaum

Emerald Labyrinth is a scientist and adventurer’s chronicle of years exploring the rainforests of sub-Saharan Africa. The richly varied habitats of the Democratic Republic of the Congo offer a wealth of animal, plant, chemical, and medical discoveries. But the country also has a deeply troubled colonial past and a complicated political present. Author Eli Greenbaum is a leading expert in sub-Saharan herpetology—snakes, lizards, and frogs—who brings a sense of wonder to the question of how science works in the twenty-first century. Along the way he comes face to face with spitting cobras, silverback mountain gorillas, wild elephants, and the teenaged armies of AK-47-toting fighters engaged in the continent’s longest-running war.

As a bellwether of the climate and biodiversity crises now facing the planet, the Congo holds the key to our planet’s future. Writing in the tradition of books like The Lost City of Z, Greenbaum seeks out the creatures struggling to survive in a war-torn, environmentally threatened country. Emerald Labyrinth is an extraordinary book about the enormous challenges and hard-won satisfactions of doing science in one of the least known, least hospitable places on earth.

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The Enlightened Gene

Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence that Explains the World

Arri Eisen

Eight years ago, in an unprecedented intellectual endeavor, the Dalai Lama invited Emory University to integrate modern science into the education of the thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in exile in India. This project, the Emory Tibet Science Initiative, became the first major change in the monastic curriculum in six centuries. Eight years in, the results are transformative. The singular backdrop of teaching science to Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns offered provocative insights into how science and religion can work together to enrich each other, as well as to shed light on life and what it means to be a thinking, biological human. In The Enlightened Gene, Emory University Professor Dr. Arri Eisen, together with monk Geshe Yungdrung Konchok explore the striking ways in which the integration of Buddhism with cutting-edge discoveries in the biological sciences can change our understanding of life and how we live it. What this book discovers along the way will fundamentally change the way you think.

Are humans inherently good? Where does compassion come from? Is death essential for life? Is experience inherited? These questions have occupied philosophers, religious thinkers and scientists since the dawn of civilization, but in today’s political discourse, much of the dialogue surrounding them and larger issues—such as climate change, abortion, genetically modified organisms, and evolution—are often framed as a dichotomy of science versus spirituality. Strikingly, many of new biological discoveries—such as the millions of microbes that we now know live together as part of each of us, the connections between those microbes and our immune systems, the nature of our genomes and how they respond to the environment, and how this response might be passed to future generations—can actually be read as moving science closer to spiritual concepts, rather than further away. The Enlightened Gene opens up and lays a foundation for serious conversations, integrating science and spirit in tackling life’s big questions. Each chapter integrates Buddhism and biology and uses striking examples of how doing so changes our understanding of life and how we lead it.

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Escape from Dannemora

Richard Matt, David Sweat, and the Great Adirondack Manhunt

Michael Benson

It was one of the biggest crime stories of the decade—two deadly killers, desperate and on the run. After months of planning, Ricky Matt and David Sweat cut, chopped, coerced, and connived their way out of a maximum-security prison in the wilderness of upstate New York and managed to elude police for three weeks, sending the region into lockdown and keeping the entire country on edge. The media called it “a bold escape for the ages,” and veteran true-crime writer Michael Benson leads us along the story’s every wild path to dig out a tale of adventure, psychology, sex, and brutality. Escape from Dannemora examines the strange case of Joyce Mitchell, the long-time prison employee who had a sexual relationship with at least one of the killers, and who smuggled them tools and aided in the escape, while they cooked up a plan to kill her husband. In the end, Benson looks closely at conditions at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY, a crumbling Gothic pile now under investigation for charges of drug trafficking and brutality.

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Fanny & Joshua

The Enigmatic Lives of Frances Caroline Adams and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Diane Monroe Smith

Joshua Chamberlain has fascinated historians and readers ever since his service in the Civil War caused his commanding officers to sit up and take notice when the young professor was on the field. What makes a man a gifted soldier and natural leader? In this compelling book, Diane Monroe Smith argues that finding the answer requires a consideration of Chamberlain's entire life, not just his few years on the battlefield. Truly understanding Chamberlain is impossible, Smith maintains, without exploring the life of Joshua's soul mate and wife of almost fifty years, Fanny. In this dual biography, Fanny emerges as a bright, talented woman who kept Professor, General, and then Governor Chamberlain on his toes. But you don't have to take Smith's word for it. Liberally quoting from years of correspondence, the author invites you to judge for yourself.

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