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The Afterlife of "Little Women"

Beverly Lyon Clark

The hit Broadway show of 1912; the lost film of 1919; Katharine Hepburn, as Jo, sliding down a banister in George Cukor’s 1933 movie; Mark English’s shimmering 1967 illustrations; Jo—this time played by Sutton Foster—belting “I'll be / astonishing” in the 2004 Broadway musical flop: these are only some of the markers of the afterlife of Little Women. Then there’s the nineteenth-century child who wrote, “If you do not . . . make Laurie marry Beth, I will never read another of your books as long as I live.” Not to mention Miss Manners, a Little Women devotee, who announced that the book taught her an important life lesson: “Although it’s very nice to have two clean gloves, it’s even more important to have a little ink on your fingers.” In The Afterlife of “Little Women,” Beverly Lyon Clark, a leading authority on children’s literature, explores these and other after-tremors, both popular and academic, as she maps the reception of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel, first published in 1868. Clark divides her discussion into four historical periods. The first covers the novel’s publication and massive popularity in the late nineteenth century. In the second era—the first three decades of the twentieth century—the novel becomes a nostalgic icon of the domesticity of a previous century, while losing status among the literary and scholarly elite. In its mid-century afterlife (1930–1960), Little Women reaches a low in terms of its critical reputation but remains a well-known piece of Americana within popular culture. The book concludes with a long chapter on Little Women’s afterlife from the 1960s to the present—a period in which the reading of the book seems to decline, while scholarly attention expands dramatically and popular echoes continue to proliferate. Drawing on letters and library records as well as reviews, plays, operas, film and television adaptations, spinoff novels, translations, Alcott biographies, and illustrations, Clark demonstrates how the novel resonates with both conservative family values and progressive feminist ones. She grounds her story in criticism of children’s literature, book history, cultural studies, feminist criticism, and adaptation studies. Written in an accessible narrative style, The Afterlife of “Little Women” speaks to scholars, librarians, and devoted Alcott fans.

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The Age of Analogy

Science and Literature between the Darwins

Devin Griffiths

Erasmus Darwin and his grandson, Charles, were the two most important evolutionary theorists of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. Although their ideas and methods differed, both Darwins were prolific and inventive writers: Erasmus composed several epic poems and scientific treatises, while Charles is renowned both for his collected journals (now titled The Voyage of the Beagle) and for his masterpiece, The Origin of Species.

In The Age of Analogy, Devin Griffiths argues that the Darwins’ writing style was profoundly influenced by the poets, novelists, and historians of their era. The Darwins, like other scientists of the time, labored to refashion contemporary literary models into a new mode of narrative analysis that could address the contingent world disclosed by contemporary natural science. By employing vivid language and experimenting with a variety of different genres, these writers gave rise to a new relational study of antiquity, or "comparative historicism," that emerged outside of traditional histories. It flourished instead in literary forms like the realist novel and the elegy, as well as in natural histories that explored the continuity between past and present forms of life. Nurtured by imaginative cross-disciplinary descriptions of the past—from the historical fiction of Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot to the poetry of Alfred Tennyson—this novel understanding of history fashioned new theories of natural transformation, encouraged a fresh investment in social history, and explained our intuition that environment shapes daily life.

Drawing on a wide range of archival evidence and contemporary models of scientific and literary networks, The Age of Analogy explores the critical role analogies play within historical and scientific thinking. Griffiths also presents readers with a new theory of analogy that emphasizes language's power to foster insight into nature and human society. The first comparative treatment of the Darwins’ theories of history and their profound contribution to the study of both natural and human systems, this book will fascinate students and scholars of nineteenth-century British literature and the history of science.

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Age of System

Understanding the Development of Modern Social Science

Hunter Heyck

Before the Second World War, social scientists struggled to define and defend their disciplines. After the war, “high modern” social scientists harnessed new resources in a quest to create a unified understanding of human behavior—and to remake the world in the image of their new model man. In Age of System, Hunter Heyck explains why social scientists—shaped by encounters with the ongoing “organizational revolution” and its revolutionary technologies of communication and control—embraced a new and extremely influential perspective on science and nature, one that conceived of all things in terms of system, structure, function, organization, and process. He also explores how this emerging unified theory of human behavior implied a troubling similarity between humans and machines, with freighted implications for individual liberty and self-direction. These social scientists trained a generation of decision-makers in schools of business and public administration, wrote the basic textbooks from which millions learned how the economy, society, polity, culture, and even the mind worked, and drafted the position papers, books, and articles that helped set the terms of public discourse in a new era of mass media, think tanks, and issue networks. Drawing on close readings of key texts and a broad survey of more than 1,800 journal articles, Heyck follows the dollars—and the dreams—of a generation of scholars that believed in “the system.” He maps the broad landscape of changes in the social sciences, focusing especially intently on the ideas and practices associated with modernization theory, rational choice theory, and modeling. A highly accomplished historian, Heyck relays this complicated story with unusual clarity.

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Aging and the Art of Living

Jan Baars

In this deeply considered meditation on aging in Western culture, Jan Baars argues that, in today’s world, living longer does not necessarily mean living better. He contends that there has been an overall loss of respect for aging, to the point that understanding and “dealing with” aging people has become a process focused on the decline of potential and the advance of disease rather than on the accumulation of wisdom and the creation of new skills. To make his case, Baars takes the reader on a survey of contemporary theories of aging, confronting them with their philosophical foundations. He draws on the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, as well as on such contemporary philosophers as Husserl, Heidegger, Habermas, and Foucault. Aging and the Art of Living shows how people in the classical period—less able to control health hazards—had a far better sense of the provisional nature of living, which led to a philosophical and religious emphasis on cultivating the art of living and the idea of wisdom. This is not to say that modern society’s assessments of aging are insignificant, but they do need to balance an emphasis on the measuring of age with the concept of "living in time." Gerontologists, philosophers, and students will find Baars' discussion to be a powerful, perceptive conversation-starter.

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Aging Bones

A Short History of Osteoporosis

Gerald N. Grob

In the middle of the twentieth century, few physicians could have predicted that the modern diagnostic category of osteoporosis would emerge to include millions of Americans, predominantly older women. Before World War II, popular attitudes held that the declining physical and mental health of older persons was neither preventable nor reversible and that older people had little to contribute. Moreover, the physiological processes that influenced the health of bones remained mysterious. In Aging Bones, Gerald N. Grob makes a historical inquiry into how this one aspect of aging came to be considered a disease. During the 1950s and 1960s, as more and more people lived to the age of 65, older people emerged as a self-conscious group with distinct interests, and they rejected the pejorative concept of senescence. But they had pressing health needs, and preventing age-related decline became a focus for researchers and clinicians alike. In analyzing how the normal aging of bones was transformed into a medical diagnosis requiring treatment, historian of medicine Grob explores developments in medical science as well as the social, intellectual, economic, demographic, and political changes that transformed American society in the post–World War II decades. Though seemingly straightforward, osteoporosis and its treatment are shaped by illusions about the conquest of disease and aging. These illusions, in turn, are instrumental in shaping our health care system. While bone density tests and osteoporosis treatments are now routinely prescribed, aggressive pharmaceutical intervention has produced results that are inconclusive at best. The fascinating history in Aging Bones will appeal to students and scholars in the history of medicine, health policy, gerontology, endocrinology, and orthopedics, as well as anyone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

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Aging Together

Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities

Susan H. McFadden and John T. McFadden

Never in human history have there been so many people entering old age—roughly one-third of whom will experience some form of neurodegeneration as they age. This seismic demographic shift will force us all to rethink how we live and deal with our aging population. Susan H. McFadden and John T. McFadden propose a radical reconstruction of our societal understanding of old age. Rather than categorize elders based on their respective cognitive consciousness, the McFaddens contend that the only humanistic, supportive, and realistic approach is to find new ways to honor and recognize the dignity, worth, and personhood of those journeying into dementia. Doing so, they argue, counters the common view of dementia as a personal tragedy shared only by close family members and replaces it with the understanding that we are all living with dementia as the baby boomers age, particularly as early screening becomes more common and as a cure remains elusive. The McFaddens' inclusive vision calls for social institutions, especially faith communities, to search out and build supportive, ongoing friendships that offer hospitality to all persons, regardless of cognitive status. Drawing on medicine, social science, philosophy, and religion to provide a broad perspective on aging, Aging Together offers a vision of relationships filled with love, joy, and hope in the face of a condition that all too often elicits anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.

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The Aha! Moment

A Scientist's Take on Creativity

David Jones

This book is about having ideas and—a much longer haul—making them work. David Jones, best known for his Daedalus column, tells many stories about creators and their creations, including his own fantastical-seeming contributions to mainstream science—such as unrideable bicycles and chemical gardens in space. His theory of creativity endows each of us with a Random-Ideas Generator, a Censor, and an Observer-Reasoner. Jones applies the theory to a wide range of weird scientific experiments that he has conducted for serious scientific papers, for challenging printed expositions, and for presentations to a TV audience. He even suggests new ones, not yet tried! Creativity is as essential to science as curiosity, physical intuition, and shrewd deduction from well-planned experiments. But, says Jones, ingenuity is very uncertain—even for the greatest inventors, about 80 percent of ideas fail. Jokiness can help, and so can lots of random data. Jones has copious clever advice that will help you have that madly brilliant private thought in the first place—and will encourage you to take it further! Neither dense nor demanding, The Aha! Moment is engrossing, edifying, and scientifically serious; yet it is lightly written, has many jokes, and asks lots of silly questions. As Jones shows, it can often pay to take an absurd idea seriously.

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Albert Meets America

How Journalists Treated Genius during Einstein's 1921 Travels

edited by J

In 1919, newspaper headlines said that a British expedition had confirmed Einstein's general theory of relativity. The news stirred the public imagination on both sides of the Atlantic and thrust the scientist into the spotlight of fame. Two years later, Chaim Weizmann led a fund-raising mission to the United States and invited Einstein to join it. The mission traveled to New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Hartford to campaign for public awareness and support of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This brought Einstein within the grasp of the American media. His lectures delivered in New York, Princeton, and Chicago, and comments on the Jewish presence in Palestine, made Einstein, on his first trip to America, one of the first media stars. In Albert Meets America, József Illy presents a fascinating compilation of media stories of Einstein’s tour—which cover his science, his Zionism, and the anti-Semitism he encountered. As we travel with Einstein, from headline to headline, we experience his emotional connection with American Jews and his frustration at becoming world famous even though his theories were not truly understood. This exciting collection gives readers an intimate glimpse into the life of one of the world’s first modern celebrities and a unique understanding of the media's power over both its subject and its audience.

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Alcoholism in America

From Reconstruction to Prohibition

Sarah W. Tracy

Despite the lack of medical consensus regarding alcoholism as a disease, many people readily accept the concept of addiction as a clinical as well as a social disorder. An alcoholic is a victim of social circumstance and genetic destiny. Although one might imagine that this dual approach is a reflection of today's enlightened and sympathetic society, historian Sarah Tracy discovers that efforts to medicalize alcoholism are anything but new. Alcoholism in America tells the story of physicians, politicians, court officials, and families struggling to address the danger of excessive alcohol consumption at the turn of the century. Beginning with the formation of the American Association for the Cure of Inebriates in 1870 and concluding with the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, this study examines the effect of the disease concept on individual drinkers and their families and friends, as well as the ongoing battle between policymakers and the professional medical community for jurisdiction over alcohol problems. Tracy captures the complexity of the political, professional, and social negotiations that have characterized the alcoholism field both yesterday and today. Tracy weaves American medical history, social history, and the sociology of knowledge into a narrative that probes the connections among reform movements, social welfare policy, the specialization of medicine, and the social construction of disease. Her insights will engage all those interested in America's historic and current battles with addiction.

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Alexandria in Late Antiquity

Topography and Social Conflict

Christopher Haas

Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu. Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other. Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

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