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Literature After Euclid

The Geometric Imagination in the Long Scottish Enlightenment

By Matthew Wickman

What if historical fiction were understood as a disfiguring of calculus? Or poems enacting the formation and breakdown of community as expositions of irrational numbers? What if, in other words, literary texts possessed a kind of mathematical unconscious?

The persistence of the rhetoric of "two cultures," one scientific, the other humanities-based, obscures the porous border and productive relationship that has long existed between literature and mathematics. In eighteenth-century Scottish universities, geometry in particular was considered one of the humanities; anchored in philosophy, it inculcated what we call critical thinking. But challenges to classical geometry within the realm of mathematics obligated Scottish geometers to become more creative in their defense of the traditional discipline; and when literary writers and philosophers incorporated these mathematical problems into their own work, the results were not only ingenious but in some cases pioneering.

Literature After Euclid tells the story of the creative adaptation of geometry in Scotland during and after the long eighteenth century. It argues that diverse attempts in literature and philosophy to explain or even emulate the geometric achievements of Isaac Newton and others resulted in innovations that modify our understanding of descriptive and bardic poetry, the aesthetics of the picturesque, and the historical novel. Matthew Wickman's analyses of these innovations in the work of Walter Scott, Robert Burns, James Thomson, David Hume, Thomas Reid, and other literati change how we perceive the Scottish Enlightenment and the later, modernist ethos that purportedly relegated the "classical" Enlightenment to the dustbin of history. Indeed, the Scottish Enlightenment's geometric imagination changes how we see literary history itself.

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Nationalism, Language, and Muslim Exceptionalism

By Tristan James Mabry

In an era of ethnopolitical conflict and constitutional change worldwide, nationalist and Islamist movements are two of the most powerful forces in global politics. However, the respective roles played by nationalism and Islamism in Muslim separatist movements have until recently been poorly understood. The conventional view foregrounds Muslim exceptionalism, which suggests that allegiance to the nation of Islam trumps ethnic or national identity. But as Tristan James Mabry shows, language can be a far more reliable indicator of a Muslim community's commitment to nationalist or Islamist struggles.

Drawing on fieldwork in Iraq, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Nationalism, Language, and Muslim Exceptionalism examines and compares the ethnopolitical identity of six Muslim separatist movements. There are variations in secularism and ethnonationalism among the cases, but the key factor is the presence or absence of a vernacular print culture—a social cement that binds a literate population together as a national group. Mabry shows that a strong print culture correlates with a strong ethnonational identity, and a strong ethnonational identity correlates with a conspicuous absence of Islamism. Thus, Islamism functions less as an incitement, more as an opportunistic pull with greater influence when citizens do not have a strong ethnonational bond. An innovative perspective firmly grounded in empirical research, Nationalism, Language, and Muslim Exceptionalism has important implications for scholars and policymakers alike.

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No Use

Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security

By Thomas M. Nichols

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On the Importance of Being an Individual in Renaissance Italy

Men, Their Professions, and Their Beards

By Douglas Biow

In recent decades, scholars have vigorously revised Jacob Burckhardt's notion that the free, untrammeled, and essentially modern Western individual emerged in Renaissance Italy. Douglas Biow does not deny the strong cultural and historical constraints that placed limits on identity formation in the early modern period. Still, as he contends in this witty, reflective, and generously illustrated book, the category of the individual was important and highly complex for a variety of men in this particular time and place, for both those who belonged to the elite and those who aspired to be part of it.

Biow explores the individual in light of early modern Italy's new patronage systems, educational programs, and work opportunities in the context of an increased investment in professionalization, the changing status of artisans and artists, and shifting attitudes about the ideology of work, fashion, and etiquette. He turns his attention to figures familiar (Benvenuto Cellini, Baldassare Castiglione, Niccolò Machiavelli, Jacopo Tintoretto, Giorgio Vasari) and somewhat less so (the surgeon-physician Leonardo Fioravanti, the metallurgist Vannoccio Biringuccio). One could excel as an individual, he demonstrates, by possessing an indefinable nescio quid, by acquiring, theorizing, and putting into practice a distinct body of professional knowledge, or by displaying the exclusively male adornment of impressively designed facial hair. Focusing on these and other matters, he reveals how we significantly impoverish our understanding of the past if we dismiss the notion of the individual from our narratives of the Italian and the broader European Renaissance.

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Peripheral Desires

The German Discovery of Sex

By Robert Deam Tobin

In Peripheral Desires, Robert Deam Tobin charts the emergence, from the 1830s through the early twentieth century, of a new vocabulary and science of human sexuality in the writings of literary authors, politicians, and members of the medical establishment in German-speaking central Europe—and observes how consistently these writers, thinkers, and scientists associated the new nonnormative sexualities with places away from the German metropoles of Berlin and Vienna.

In the writings of Aimée Duc and Lou Andreas-Salomé, Switzerland figured as a place for women in particular to escape the sexual confines of Germany. The sexual ethnologies of Ferdinand Karsch-Haack and the popular novels of Karl May linked nonnormative sexualities with the colonies and, in particular, with German Samoa. Same-sex desire was perhaps the most centrifugal sexuality of all, as so-called Greek love migrated to numerous places and peoples: a curious connection between homosexuality and Hungarian nationalism emerged in the writings of Adalbert Stifter and Karl Maria Kerbeny; Arnold Zweig built on a long and extremely well-developed gradation of associating homosexuality with Jewishness, projecting the entire question of same-sex desire onto the physical territory of Palestine; and Thomas Mann, of course, famously associated male-male desire with the fantastically liminal city of Venice, lying between land and sea, Europe and the Orient.

As Germany—and German-speaking Europe—became a fertile ground for homosexual subcultures in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, what factors helped construct the sexuality that emerged? Peripheral Desires examines how and why the political, scientific and literary culture of the region produced the modern vocabulary of sexuality.

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Poetical Dust

Poets' Corner and the Making of Britain

By Thomas A. Prendergast

In the South Transept of Westminster Abbey in London, the bodies of more than seventy men and women, primarily writers, poets, and playwrights, are interred, with many more memorialized. From the time of the reburial of Geoffrey Chaucer in 1556, the space has become a sanctuary where some of the most revered figures of English letters are celebrated and remembered. Poets' Corner is now an attraction visited by thousands of tourists each year, but for much of its history it was also the staging ground for an ongoing debate on the nature of British cultural identity and the place of poetry in the larger political landscape.

Thomas Prendergast's Poetical Dust offers a provocative, far-reaching, and witty analysis of Poets' Corner. Covering nearly a thousand years of political and literary history, the book examines the chaotic, sometimes fitful process through which Britain has consecrated its poetry and poets. Whether exploring the several burials of Chaucer, the politicking of Alexander Pope, or the absence of William Shakespeare, Prendergast asks us to consider how these relics attest to the vexed, melancholy ties between the literary corpse and corpus. His thoughtful, sophisticated discussion reveals Poets' Corner to be not simply a centuries-old destination for pilgrims and tourists alike but a monument to literary fame and the inevitable decay of the bodies it has both rejected and celebrated.

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The Poetics of Piracy

Emulating Spain in English Literature

By Barbara Fuchs

With its dominance as a European power and the explosion of its prose and dramatic writing, Spain provided an irresistible literary source for English writers of the early modern period. But the deep and escalating political rivalry between the two nations led English writers to negotiate, disavow, or attempt to resolve their fascination with Spain and their debt to Spanish sources. Amid thorny issues of translation and appropriation, imperial competition, the rise of commercial authorship, and anxieties about authenticity, Barbara Fuchs traces how Spanish material was transmitted into English writing, entangling English literature in questions of national and religious identity, and how piracy came to be a central textual metaphor, with appropriations from Spain triumphantly reimagined as heroic looting.

From the time of the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada of the 1580s, through the rise of anti-Spanish rhetoric of the 1620s, The Poetics of Piracy charts this connection through works by Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, and Thomas Middleton. Fuchs examines how their writing, particularly for the stage, recasts a reliance on Spanish material by constructing narratives of militaristic, forcible use. She considers how Jacobean dramatists complicated the texts of their Spanish contemporaries by putting them to anti-Spanish purposes, and she traces the place of Cervantes's Don Quixote in Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Shakespeare's late, lost play Cardenio. English literature was deeply transnational, even in the period most closely associated with the birth of a national literature.

Recovering the profound influence of Spain on Renaissance English letters, The Poetics of Piracy paints a sophisticated picture of how nations can serve, at once, as rivals and resources.

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Public Capitalism

The Political Authority of Corporate Executives

By Christopher McMahon

In modern capitalist societies, the executives of large, profit-seeking corporations have the power to shape the collective life of the communities, local and global, in which they operate. Corporate executives issue directives to employees, who are normally prepared to comply with them, and impose penalties such as termination on those who fail to comply. The decisions made by corporate executives also affect people outside the corporation: investors, customers, suppliers, the general public. What can justify authority with such a broad reach? Political philosopher Christopher McMahon argues that the social authority of corporate executives is best understood as a form of political authority. Although corporations are privately owned, they must be managed in a way that promotes the public good.

Public Capitalism begins with this claim and explores its implications for issues including corporate property rights, the moral status of corporations, the permissibility of layoffs and plant closings, and the legislative role played by corporate executives. Corporate executives acquire the status of public officials of a certain kind, who can be asked to work toward social goods in addition to prosperity. Public Capitalism sketches a new framework for discussion of the moral and political issues faced by corporate executives.

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Radclyffe Hall

A Life in the Writing

By Richard Dellamora

The Well of Loneliness is probably the most famous lesbian novel ever written, and certainly the most widely read. It contains no explicit sex scenes, yet in 1928, the year in which the novel was published, it was deemed obscene in a British court of law for its defense of sexual inversion and was forbidden for sale or import into England. Its author, Radclyffe Hall, was already well-known as a writer and West End celebrity, but the fame and notoriety of that one book has all but eclipsed a literary output of some half-dozen other novels and several volumes of poetry.

In Radclyffe Hall: A Life in the Writing Richard Dellamora offers the first full look at the entire range of Hall's published and unpublished works of fiction, poetry, and autobiography and reads through them to demonstrate how she continually played with the details of her own life to help fashion her own identity as well as to bring into existence a public lesbian culture. Along the way, Dellamora revises many of the truisms about Hall that had their origins in the memoirs of her long-term partner, Una Troubridge, and that have found an afterlife in the writings of Hall's biographers.

In detailing Hall's explorations of the self, Dellamora is the first seriously to consider their contexts in Freudian psychoanalysis as understood in England in the 1920s. As important, he uncovers Hall's involvement with other modes of speculative psychology, including Spiritualism, Theosophy, and an eclectic brand of Christian and Buddhist mysticism. Dellamora's Hall is a woman of complex accommodations, able to reconcile her marriage to Troubridge with her passionate affairs with other women, and her experimental approach to gender and sexuality with her conservative politics and Catholicism. She is, above all, a thinker continually inventive about the connections between selfhood and desire, a figure who has much to contribute to our own efforts to understand transgendered and transsexual existence today.

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The Roman Inquisition

A Papal Bureaucracy and Its Laws in the Age of Galileo

By Thomas F. Mayer

While the Spanish Inquisition has laid the greatest claim to both scholarly attention and the popular imagination, the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542 and a key instrument of papal authority, was more powerful, important, and long-lived. Founded by Paul III and originally aimed to eradicate Protestant heresy, it followed medieval antecedents but went beyond them by becoming a highly articulated centralized organ directly dependent on the pope. By the late sixteenth century the Roman Inquisition had developed its own distinctive procedures, legal process, and personnel, the congregation of cardinals and a professional staff. Its legal process grew out of the technique of inquisitio formulated by Innocent III in the early thirteenth century, it became the most precocious papal bureaucracy on the road to the first "absolutist" state.

As Thomas F. Mayer demonstrates, the Inquisition underwent constant modification as it expanded. The new institution modeled its case management and other procedures on those of another medieval ancestor, the Roman supreme court, the Rota. With unparalleled attention to archival sources and detail, Mayer portrays a highly articulated corporate bureaucracy with the pope at its head. He profiles the Cardinal Inquisitors, including those who would play a major role in Galileo's trials, and details their social and geographical origins, their education, economic status, earlier careers in the Church, and networks of patronage. At the point this study ends, circa 1640, Pope Urban VIII had made the Roman Inquisition his personal instrument and dominated it to a degree none of his predecessors had approached.

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