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Death and Humor in Folkore and Popular Culture
Laughter, contemporary theory suggests, is often aggressive in some manner and may be prompted by a sudden perception of incongruity combined with memories of past emotional experience. Given this importance of the past to our recognition of the comic, it follows that some "traditions" dispose us to ludic responses. The studies in Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture examine specific interactions of text (jokes, poetry, epitaphs, iconography, film drama) and social context (wakes, festivals, disasters) that shape and generate laughter. Uniquely, however, the essays here peruse a remarkable paradox---the convergence of death and humor.
The Existential Foundations of Governance
Death is the opposite not of life, but of power. And as such, Mohammed Bamyeh argues in this original work, death has had a great and largely unexplored impact on the thinking of governance throughout history, right down to our day. In Of Death and Dominion Bamyeh pursues the idea that a deep concern with death is, in fact, the basis of the ideological foundations of all political systems.
A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War
Paula Deitz has delighted readers for more than thirty years with her vivid descriptions of both famous and hidden landscapes. Her writings allow readers to share in the experience of her extensive travels, from the waterways of Britain's Castle Howard to the Japanese gardens of Kyoto, and home again to New York City's Central Park. Collected for the first time, the essays in Of Gardens record her great adventure of continual discovery, not only of the artful beauty of individual gardens but also of the intellectual and historical threads that weave them into patterns of civilization, from the modest garden for family subsistence to major urban developments. Deitz's essays describe how people, over many centuries and in many lands, have expressed their originality by devoting themselves to cultivation and conservation.
During a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, Deitz first came to appreciate the notion that landscape architecture can be as intricately conceived as any major structure and is, indeed, the means by which we redeem the natural environment through design. Years later, as she wandered through the gardens of Versailles, she realized that because gardens give structure without confinement, they encourage a liberation of movement and thought. In Of Gardens, we follow Deitz down paths of revelation, viewing "A Bouquet of British Parks: Liverpool, Edinburgh, and London"; the parks and promenades of Jerusalem; the Moonlight Garden of the Taj Mahal; a Tuscan-style villa in southern California; and the rooftop garden at Tokyo's Mori Center, among many other sites.
Deitz covers individual landscape architects and designers, including André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Beatrix Farrand, Russell Page, and Michael Van Valkenburgh. She then features an array of parks, public places, and gardens before turning her attention to the burgeoning business of flower shows. The volume concludes with a memorable poetic epilogue entitled "A Winter Garden of Yellow."
Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism
For thousands of years, our world has been shaped by biblical monotheism. But its hallmark—a distinction between one true God and many false gods—was once a new and radical idea. Of God and Gods explores the revolutionary newness of biblical theology against a background of the polytheism that was once so commonplace.
Jan Assmann, one of the most distinguished scholars of ancient Egypt working today, traces the concept of a true religion back to its earliest beginnings in Egypt and describes how this new idea took shape in the context of the older polytheistic world that it rejected. He offers readers a deepened understanding of Egyptian polytheism and elaborates on his concept of the “Mosaic distinction,” which conceives an exclusive and emphatic Truth that sets religion apart from beliefs shunned as superstition, paganism, or heresy.
Without a theory of polytheism, Assmann contends, any adequate understanding of monotheism is impossible.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association
Islam, the West, and the Transcultural Invention of Africa
Of Irony and Empire is a dynamic, thorough examination of Muslim writers from former European colonies in Africa who have increasingly entered into critical conversations with the metropole. Focusing on the period between World War I and the present, “the age of irony,” this book explores the political and symbolic invention of Muslim Africa and its often contradictory representations. Through a critical analysis of irony and resistance in works by writers who come from nomadic areas around the Sahara—Mustapha Tlili (Tunisia), Malika Mokeddem (Algeria), Cheikh Hamidou Kane (Senegal), and Tayeb Salih (Sudan)—Laura Rice offers a fresh perspective that accounts for both the influence of the Western, instrumental imaginary, and the Islamic, holistic one.
War Widows, Fallen Soldiers, and the Remaking of the Nation after the Great War
hese eleven compelling stories reveal the interplay and varying hues of two basic elements of human experience—memory and desire, Gladys Swan’s characters are frequently forced to shed their illusions as they struggle to shape their lives. The title story, like many of the others in the collection, has as its backdrop the beautiful but sometimes harsh landscape of the American Southwest. There a reclusive farmer known as Goat Man takes in a young Mexican boy as his companion. When the greed of a tax collector and the complicity of a community destroy Goat Man, the boy vanishes into the night but returns in the form of a legend, a reminder to the residents of the valley of their changing, crueler world. In another story a traveling carnival breaks down when a sandstorm does final damage to the dreams of the company, and a tired, almost defeated woman attempts to regroup and continue what has been so hopefully called “Carnival for the Gods.” An older couple, carrying their Jewish past to a “Land of Promise.” Discovers instead an alien territory and must struggle from day to day, one leaning to the past, the other inclining toward an unattainable vision of the future. In “The Ink Feather” a small, lonely girl, witness to endless quarrels between her mother and her much older brother, draws comfort from the world of her dolls and the prospect of adventure outside the mist-covered windows of her house. In “Getting an Education” a diffident young woman, “trying to be a student and to discover what she ought to be learning,” finds insight in the details of the lives around her, especially the secretive, eccentric existence of one of her professors. A widowed grandmother, in “Black Hole,” is impregnated during a chance encounter with a nameless stranger and shocks her family when she determines to give birth to and raise her child. Like that grandmother, all of the characters in these fictions—whether from the comfortable middle class or the fringes of society—are at odds with themselves and their world. It is Gladys Swan’s special gift that she can so seamlessly depict the particular terrors and wonders of their lives. This is a mesmerizing collection.
This classic of twentieth-century nature writing, a landmark work that is still a joy to read, offers a stirring portrait of the Midwest’s endangered glacial marshland ecosystems by one of the most influential biologists of his day. A cautionary book whose advice has not been heeded, a must-read of American environmental literature, Of Men and Marshes should inspire a new generation of conservationists.