Monday, October 5, 2015

Samantha Barbas's "Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America"

Samantha Barbas is Associate Professor of Law at SUNY Buffalo Law School and the author of Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (2001) and The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons (2005).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America, and reported the following:
Laws of Image is about two intertwined developments in American history: the beginnings of our obsession with personal image, and with it, the development of an area of law that I call the “laws of public image.”

My story begins in the rapidly-expanding cities of the late 19th century. In small towns and villages, a person’s reputation was often a product of deep, ongoing contact with one’s community. In cities, by contrast, one’s social identity was more often a function of images and first impressions—what observers might infer about someone based on chance encounters and glimpses on the streets and other public venues. There developed a new “image-consciousness,” a sense of being an image in the eyes of others, and a preoccupation with mastering and perfecting one’s public image.

This image-conscious sensibility intensified in the early 20th century with the rise of the mass media, especially visual media –photography, photojournalism and film. New “image industries”– fashion, cosmetics, the advertising industry–encouraged Americans to focus on their appearances. Pop psychologists began preaching a message that should be familiar to us today: you are your image, you have a right to feel good about your image, you can transform yourself by transforming your image. Celebrities, who achieved fame and fortune for their images, became role models and icons.

This is where page 99 comes in. I describe the “industries of counterimage” emerging in the 1920s—tabloids, gossip columns, and scandal publications, devoted to dismantling celebrities’ images by exposing their private lives. These publications were “as critical to the new cult of image as the image-building industries,” in that they reminded readers of the importance of meticulously managing their images. The celebrity who let down her guard, who went to the grocery store without her makeup on, or was too candid with a reporter – she was lambasted in the tabloids, and suffered an embarrassing fall from public grace. The efforts of celebrities to manage and spin their images represented the struggle, writ large, that every person waged in her own project of creating and perfecting her public persona.

This image-consciousness led to the creation of new areas of law, including a law of “invasion of privacy,” and a civil action for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” By the 1940s, not only celebrities, but ordinary people were regularly suing the media for injuring their public images, and their feelings about their images. The law affirmed and legitimated the importance of personal image, and became an architect of our image-obsessed society –a nation where, to quote a 1990 Canon advertisement (p. 203), “image is everything.”
Learn more about Laws of Image at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dawn Lerman's "My Fat Dad"

Dawn Lerman is a board-certified nutrition expert and a contributor to the New York Times Well Blog. Her company, Magnificent Mommies, provides nutrition education to students, teachers, and corporations. She lives in New York City with her two children, Dylan and Sofia.

Lerman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love and Family, with Recipes, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Brenda, Robyn’s mom, explained how there was so much shame associated with our bodies and it was wonderful to feel liberated. She said if I was sweaty or just felt constrained by what I was wearing, I did not need to keep my clothes on. I said I felt more at ease covered, and she respected that.

She felt that was very important for girls to love their bodies no matter the size or shape. She told me she used to be extremely thin, but after becoming a mother, she put on a little weight due to the fact that she was always cooking and baking for Robyn. Also, her ex mother–in-law lived upstairs in the same apartment building and was always feeding her—probably because she was feeling guilty that her son left Brenda. But I bet the real reason she remained close to her daughter-in-law was because of Robyn. Robyn was the glue that kept them together. Robyn was very close to her Grandma Ethel—the way I was with Beauty. Ethel was always around, and the two were only separated by a quick elevator ride or a couple flights of stairs between their apartments.

During my stay at Robyn’s, her mom made me the most delicious dinners—while standing over the stove naked—grilled lamb chops with Saucy Susan, roast chicken with Saucy Susan, veal chops with Saucy Susan, and stuffed shells with ricotta, spinach, and garlic powder. Brenda was not a gourmet cook like Robyn’s dad, but she said that with a couple of tricks like garlic powder and Saucy Susan, anything could taste impressive. She even taught me how to suck the marrow out of the chicken bones.
In my house, food and affection were inextricably tied. My father was a successful advertising executive for popular food products “Leggo My Eggo,” “Coke Is it,” and “Once You Pop you Can not Stop.” He usually weighed around 350 pounds, but his weight would often fluctuate a hundred pounds on either end as he tried (and failed) almost weekly to attempt the latest fad diet. He was always the best customer for the products he was marketing--especially when he was working on Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coke and Budweiser. My mother, meanwhile, was an aspiring actress and thought food was a waste of money and time. She was happy eating one can of tuna fish over the sink a day while chatting on the phone. Every memory, both the good and the bad from my childhood is tied to food--the food that I ate, the food that I was not allowed to eat, and the food that comforted me. My childhood is a collection of smells and tastes from the people who nourished me, both mentally and physically.
Visit Dawn Lerman's New York Times blog and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Dawn Lerman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Michèle Longino's "French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire"

Michèle Longino is Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire: Marseilles to Constantinople, 1650-1700, and reported the following:
Page 99, as it happens, is from the end of Ch. 3 of French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire: Marseilles to Constantinople, 1650-1700. The book examines the writings of six French travelers in the Ottoman Empire – a jewelry merchant, an ethnographer – tourist, a diplomat, an artist, another merchant trading mainly in Persia, and an antiquarian. The six travelers wrote volumes; they edited parts of their writings themselves, but often it was up to others to make sense from remains of copious notes, and shape them into readable books. They were the most popular reading of their time. Chapter 3 focuses on a Marseillais polyglot turned diplomat, Laurent D’Arvieux, and it recounts his story – travels to Tunis, Algiers, Constantinople, Aleppo, as well as other places, most notably Paris, and provides an eloquent example of the kinds of treasures one might hope to find in these tales. However, it requires real commitment to plow through not only the travel writings, but also the included documents the travelers considered to be of important explanatory value for their stories. D’Arvieux was a frustrated diplomat who never felt he received the degree of royal recognition he deserved. He was constantly elaborating his story with testimonial documentation to shore up his account of how things were and went. To the degree that the travelers were faithful to their journals, providing entries for each day of the year, their accounts could be repetitive and monotonous. And above all copious. So for today’s reader, it can require great patience and persistence. But in the end the reading is a rewarding venture. A question to ask of this sort of book that fixes on 17th-century observations by Frenchmen of the Ottoman world is whether we do not, in so doing, simply recycle and thus perpetuate notions and attitudes about otherness, precisely the presuppositions and prejudices succeeding generations have labored so hard to shed and overcome. But there is also value in considering how deeply ingrained many of these cultural positions are; it helps us to understand why they seem so resistant to change today. The reader will be the judge of whether French Travel Writing succeeds in entering into this world, and if it conveys a faithful impression of the Ottoman world from these outsiders’ perspective without simply reciting the usual idées reçues. At the same time, the book aspires to give an idea of how different individuals approached the challenge of writing about their travels, about themselves, as they moved about the Mediterranean in early modern times.
Learn more about French Travel Writing in the Ottoman Empire at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lucien J. Frary's "Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844"

Lucien Frary received a PhD in History from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and is now Associate Professor of History at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. His main areas of interest are Mediterranean, Slavic, and Eastern Orthodox studies in the post-Byzantine era. He is the co-editor (with Mara Kozelsky) of Russian-Ottoman Borderlands: The Eastern Question Reconsidered and the author of articles and reviews in scholarly journals such as Russian History, Mediterranean Historical Review, Kritika, and Modern Greek Studies Yearbook.

Frary applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844, and reported the following:
How do the Greeks of today relate to their Classical and Byzantine past? What role does religion play in Greek social and political life? How did the outside world contribute to the making of modern Greece? These are some of the questions raised on page 99 of Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844. Based on a wide range of unpublished Russian archival documents and Greek historical sources, the book illuminates the connection between religion, politics, and the past in the formation of Greek nationhood during the first decades of the nineteenth century. It also probes the development of Russian foreign policy in the Balkans during this era, when the ideas of nationalism first began to circulate among the Balkan elite as well as among the paragons of Russian culture.

As p. 99 demonstrates, the idea about national and political independence in the Balkans was intimately linked to the question of religious independence. In other words, once the movement for separation from Ottoman rule began to take root among Greek intellectuals, the demand for a break from the Patriarch of Constantinople and the creation of an independent (or autocephalous in ecclesiastical terms) Greek Orthodox Church emerged. Throughout this process, the tensions between secular nationalism and religion helped spawn a new sense of identity among the subjects of the Greek kingdom. The book concerns itself with the hybrid nature of Greek nationhood, which became an amalgam of the past and present, of modernity and tradition. It suggests that the nature of nationalism is not purely secular, as the major theoretical works on national identity tend to argue. The example of the Greek state is important, for it set the groundwork for the fracturing of the Eastern Orthodox Church into national churches during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Lastly, p. 99 of the study, I hope, helps indicate that the volume contains interesting illustrations and may appeal to a range of readers.
Learn more about Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844 at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christopher Hemmer's "American Pendulum"

Christopher Hemmer is the Dean and a Professor of International Security Studies at the Air War College. He is the author of Which Lessons Matter? American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979–1987.

Hemmer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Pendulum: Recurring Debates in U.S. Grand Strategy, and reported the following:
When I tell people that my book is about U.S. grand strategy, a typical response is, “I did not know we had one.” American Pendulum argues that such skepticism is often based on a misunderstanding of what grand strategy is and should be. Debates about America’s role or inconsistencies in its approach to different security issues should not automatically be seen as a result of strategic confusion or the lack of a grand strategy. The book examines four recurring debates in U.S. grand strategy (unilateralism versus multilateralism, defining the proper role of U.S. values in its foreign policy, prioritizing threats, and calculating whether time is on the side of the United States) and argues that U.S. foreign policy is most likely to go astray not when these debates are at their most pointed, but when the pendulum of the title swings too far in any one direction.

Page 99 grapples with Ronald Reagan’s approach to U.S. grand strategy, which provides an excellent example of the book’s overall themes. Attempting to capture Reagan’s strategy in a way that avoids the caricature of the left (that he was an amiable cipher who got lucky) and the hagiography of the right (that he was a staunch ideologue who proved the merits of conservative dogmatism), this chapter contends that it was more conciliatory parts of Reagan’s grand strategy, which were met with suspicion by those on the right, that deserve the most praise rather than the more confrontational and ideologically pure parts of Reagan’s program.

Tracing issues of continuity and change in American foreign policy is another theme and page 99 hits this, noting that the “Reagan” buildup started under Carter and that Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union reflected, but modified, earlier debates between proponents of rollback versus containment over whether time was on the side of the United States, arguing that Reagan took an “optimistic path to rollback” where “it was the advantages of the United States that made limited rollback possible, not its weaknesses that made rollback necessary.”

Finally, the frame for page 99 is John Lewis Gaddis’s distinction between symmetrical versus asymmetrical approaches to containment, which is also an accurate reflection of the impact that his unsurpassed Strategies of Containment had on me and on the overall study of U.S. grand strategy.
Learn more about American Pendulum at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2015

Brian P. Copenhaver's "Magic in Western Culture"

Brian P. Copenhaver is Distinguished Professor and Udvar-Hazy Chair of Philosophy and History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, and reported the following:
With reverence for the irreverent Ford Madox Ford, from page 99:
Both love and magic are forces, however: they drive the motions of the heavenly bodies, cause the changes of elements, humors, and compounds and power the mutual attraction of all these organs of the living cosmos. Love in Ficino’s physics, spirit (pneuma) in Stoic physics, and force in Newton’s physics have analogous, though not identical, roles. Ficino’s love lacks both the explanatory power of Newton’s force and the systematic coherence of the Stoic pneuma, but all three are terms of scientific intention that aim to explain puzzling features of nature.

Ficino’s ideas about erotic magic are not idiosyncratic. They come from his Platonism. ‘Love is given in Nature,’ Plotinus teaches, and ‘the qualities inducing love induce mutual approach: hence there has arisen an art of magic ... that knits soul to soul.’ In his immanentist, anti-Gnostic moments, Plotinus insists on the organic unity of the world and on the erotic forces binding it together, just as Proclus does in his booklet On Sacrifice, with allusions to the Symposium. Attention to the philosophy, cosmology, and theology in Ficino’s magic reveals a theory that means to respect religious probity, scientific evidence, and philosophical reasoning. Those same norms are honored by On Sacrifice, and – though the resonance of love with magic and physics may be silent for us – it rang loud for Ficino and his contemporaries.”
These paragraphs from page 99 of Magic in Western Culture are about Marsilio Ficino, the philosopher at the focus of the book. These few lines summarize Ficino’s great debts to his ancient sources, especially Plato, Plotinus and Proclus. They also suggest that Ficino’s magic outlasted him, surviving into the age of Isaac Newton.

Ficino, who translated and interpreted Plato, was the leading philosopher of his time and place – Renaissance Italy – at a time when magic was not just respectable but required reading for respected intellectuals like himself and Pico della Mirandola. By the time Newton died in 1727, however, taking magic seriously was something that a serious intellectual like Newton could no longer risk – except in private.

The last part of Magic in Western Culture tells the story of magic’s decline, which Max Weber called ‘disenchantment.’ The first part of the book explains how Western Europe became enchanted in the first place, by thinkers of the first rank like Plato, Plotinus, Proclus and Thomas Aquinas. The middle of the book shows why Hermes Trismegistus did not make the list of Ficino’s sources – because his magic was not ‘Hermetic.’
Learn more about Brian P. Copenhaver and Magic in Western Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Louise L. Stevenson's "Lincoln in the Atlantic World"

Louise L. Stevenson is a professor of history and American studies at Franklin & Marshall College. Her books include Scholarly Means to Evangelical Ends: The New Haven Scholars and the Transformation of Higher Learning in America, 1830-1890 and The Victorian Homefront: American Cultural and Intellectual Life, 1860-1880.

Stevenson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Lincoln in the Atlantic World, and reported the following:
Why the Beard, why the Atlantic World?

Page 99 in Lincoln in the Atlantic World shows two photographs of Abraham Lincoln. They reveal his efforts to style himself after the model of fashionable young men and political luminaries of the republican Atlantic World.

A clean-shaven, rather pasty-faced Lincoln sat for the first photo by William Marsh, and English immigrant, in Springfield, IL, on May 20, 1860. [photo left; click to enlarge] Two days previously, the Republican Party had nominated the Illinoisan as its candidate in the 1860 presidential contest.

With the election decided, on November 25, 1860, Samuel G. Altschuler posed Lincoln, now the president elect, for another portrait. Experts claim that this photograph is the first to show Lincoln with the sproutings of a beard.

Conventional biographies of the sixteenth president report that he grew the beard in response to a letter that the president had received before the election from Grace Bedell, an 11 year-old from Westfield, NY. As Lincoln replied to her, that’s “partially” so.

Chapter 3 of Lincoln in the Atlantic World reveals that he had larger reasons with their origins in the political upheavals affecting Austria, France, Great Britain, Hungary, and Italy in the late 1840s and 1850s. The campaign of Lajos (Louis) Kossuth to liberate Hungary from Austrian rule especially affected Lincoln. In Springfield, he led a committee that invited the Hungarian to the Illinois capital during his fundraising tour of the United States in 1851 and 1852. Across the country, Kossuth’s hat and neatly trimmed facial hair started a trend. Men could grow a beard and groom it with a new product called “Whiskerando.” Everyone could buy Kossuth hats, liquor bottles, jewelry, handkerchiefs, and wall decorations.

In the 1850s the young, fashion-forward men committed to the Republican Party cause who surrounded Lincoln, like Elmer Ellsworth and John George Nicolay, sprouted facial hair. As Lincoln assumed the presidency of a constitutional government that he called the world’s last best hope is it any wonder that he sought to signal a global audience that he led a government dependent on the consent of the governed? His beard did just that.
Learn more about Lincoln in the Atlantic World at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2015

Steven Lubet's "The 'Colored Hero' of Harper's Ferry"

Steven Lubet is the Williams Memorial Professor of Law and Director, Bartlit Center for Trial Strategy at Northwestern University School of Law. His books include Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

Lubet applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery, and reported the following:
African-American resistance to slavery took three forms: flight from the slave states, rescue and support for fugitives, and eventually armed resistance. John Anthony Copeland was one of the few people who engaged in all three. As a child, he fled North Carolina with his parents, eventually settling in Oberlin, Ohio. As a young man, he was one of the leaders of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, in which a fugitive was wrested from the grasp of slave hunters. And of course, he joined John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, in the failed attempt to free the slaves of Virginia by force.

Page 99 of The “Colored Hero” of Harper’s Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery falls at the end of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in late 1858, when the fugitive John Price, freed only hours earlier from the clutches of slave catchers, was hidden in the home of a conservative college professor. It was impossible for the runaway to remain in Oberlin, so someone had to be recruited to escort him to freedom in Canada. The logical candidate was John Anthony Copeland, who had shown great courage in confronting the forces of slavery. Not only had he led the charge against Price’s kidnappers, but several months earlier he had beaten a deputy U.S. marshal to the ground, as a warning to all slave hunters in Oberlin.

Copeland accepted the mission with the zeal of a dedicated abolitionist, accompanying Price to the African-American community of Chatham, in what is now Ontario. John Brown had been in Chatham only a few months earlier, where he first solidified his plans to invade Virginia. Several Oberlin expatriates had been delegates to Brown’s Chatham Convention, and they would have provided Copeland with his first opportunity to learn about John Brown’s provisional army of liberation.

Brown himself had great admiration for the black men of Oberlin, whom he considered among the vanguard in resistance to slavery. By the middle of the following year, he had contacted John Anthony Copeland and his relative Lewis Sheridan Leary, who became two of only five African Americans who joined the battle of Harper’s Ferry. “Colored Hero” tells the rest of the story, including Copeland’s role in the fighting and his eventual capture and trial at the hands of Virginia’s slaveholders.
Learn more about The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stephen Lovell's "Russia in the Microphone Age"

Stephen Lovell is Professor of Modern History at King's College London. His books include The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction (2009) and The Shadow of War: Russia and the Soviet Union, 1941 to the Present (2010).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Russia in the Microphone Age: A History of Soviet Radio, 1919-1970, and reported the following:
My book can be summed up as an attempt to explain what radio can tell us about Soviet culture and politics more broadly. The Soviet regime policed its media and propaganda network very closely. It was particularly anxious about the possibility of error and political incorrectness in the largely ‘live’ medium of broadcasting. From the late 1920s radio scripts were subjected to overbearing preliminary censorship. This rather begs the question: did radio have any significance independent of the narrow agenda of the Party - wasn’t it just subservient or parasitic?

In a nutshell, my argument is that, even in an oppressive one-party state that is determined to eliminate ambiguity, the message is shaped by the medium. The arrival in power of the Bolsheviks coincided almost exactly with the invention of sound broadcasting: a ‘newspaper without paper and without distances’, as Lenin called radio in its very early days. By the early 1930s radio was starting to establish itself as an everyday presence in the lives of Soviet urbanites: the Soviet authorities had opted for diffusion networks rather than wireless radio, which meant that 80 per cent of Soviet listeners were getting their radio through wired receiver points in their workplaces or dwellings (which, in the 1930s and for some time afterwards, were often communal).

Radio was a boon to Soviet propagandists for the fact that it could reach even a weakly literate audience and could bring public discourse right into people’s homes. But it was also path-breaking because it could communicate events in a new, remarkably vivid way: in ‘real time’, and from the place where they were occurring. In the 1930s the Soviet media kept the population at a fever pitch of excitement and anxiety. One aspect of this was show trials and the never-ending quest for ‘enemies’; the murder of Sergei Kirov in December 1934, which set the USSR on a steep downward path to terror, was a Soviet ‘JFK moment’, and one that many people experienced at the radio receiver point. But another aspect was ‘socialist sensationalism’: the notion that Sovietness was compatible, even synonymous, with heroism and adventure. Page 99 is about how radio conveyed some of the ‘distance-conquering feats’ of the 1930s: the first unbroken transatlantic flight, the construction projects that extended from deep underground to the summit of the gargantuan planned Palace of Soviets.
Learn more about Russia in the Microphone Age at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Susan Niditch's "The Responsive Self"

Susan Niditch is Samuel Green Professor of Religion at Amherst College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Responsive Self: Personal Religion in Biblical Literature of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods, and reported the following:
The Responsive Self page 99 mentions subjects that are critical to the study of religion and that engage my interest in the book as a whole: our responses to death, the material and embodied qualities of religious expression, the importance of physical environment in religious experience, the role of prayer, the qualities of the traditional that characterize ritual speech, the meaning of concepts such as symbol, culture, identity, and worldview. On page 99 I am bringing to a close the study of a particular ancient burial site in Khirbet Beit Lei, dating to the late seventh or early sixth century BCE. I describe the physical contours of the cave; an object found in its vicinity; the way the dead are laid out and the personal and decorative items still found on their skeletons, a ring and earring; the writing on the walls, etched by a weary traveler seeking shelter in the cave or by a person who visits to wait upon the dead; and line drawings, rough graffiti etched into the walls of the space, abstract and concrete, e.g. crossed lines, a ship. How does this burial cave, its site and contents, reflect upon religion as lived in ancient Israel and the ways in which human beings try to cope with loss? What do people actually do, physically and materially, to express deeply held values, potent anxieties, personal and cultural identities?

Page 99 is part of a larger study of personal religion as it emerges in evidence of the late biblical period. I am interested in first person speech found in biblical texts, seemingly autobiographical nuances, questions about individual responsibility for sin and punishment, responses to seemingly undeserved suffering, the traditional forms of expression, verbal and non-verbal, that people make their own, the emotional dimensions of characterization in Ruth and Jonah, self-imposed rituals such as vows, and the portrayal of daily and ordinary things and actions that relate in profound ways to worldview and being. The end of page 99 transitions to a discussion of visions, delving further into the experiential dimension of ancient Israelite religion, but you’ll have to turn the page to learn more.
Learn more about The Responsive Self at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue