Book Notes: July-August 2006

August 1, 2006

The Apparitioners By George Witte '82

The Apparitioners
By George Witte '82.
Three Rail Press,
2005. 86 pages. $19.50.

This first book of poems from Witte, a former student of English professor James Applewhite '58, M.A. '60, Ph.D. '69, explores the boundaries between us and the world we have colonized, with characters often finding themselves unsettled by some mystery that cannot be owned. In one poem, a father tries to calm his daughter, who is troubled by nightmares after a schoolmate dies. In another, a woman nearly killed by a stroke struggles to recover her place in her family and community. Many verses are set in suburban and rural New Jersey.


Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History By Ian Baucom

Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History
By Ian Baucom.
Duke University Press, 2006.
400 pages. $23.95, paper.

In 1781, the captain of the British slave ship Zong ordered 133 slaves thrown overboard, enabling the ship's owners to file an insurance claim for their lost "cargo." Accounts of this horrific event quickly became a staple of abolitionist discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. Baucom, an associate professor of English, revisits the Zong atrocity, the ensuing court cases, reactions to the events and trials, and the business and social dealings of the Liverpool merchants who owned the ship. Drawing on the work of a wide array of literary and social theorists, Baucom argues that the tragedy is central not only to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the political and cultural archives of the black Atlantic, but also to the history of modern capital and ethics.


The Age of Melancholy: "Major Depression" and its Social Origins By Dan G. Blazer. Routledge, 2005

The Age of Melancholy: "Major Depression" and its Social Origins
By Dan G. Blazer. Routledge, 2005.
251 pages. $34.95.

Blazer, J. P. Gibbons Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke, ponders why--if our biological makeup has not fundamentally changed in the last half-century--depression has grown on such an epidemic scale. He finds answers: the pace of twenty-first century life, social pressures, and disjointed relationships. These discoveries lead him to ask why contemporary psychiatry is so dependent on biomedical treatments and to call for a revival of social psychiatry to complement the biomedical approach.


Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina By Christina Greene Ph.D. '96

Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina
By Christina Greene Ph.D. '96.
University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 366 pages. $19.95, paper.

Greene, assistant professor of history in the department of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, examines the contributions of black and white women from all economic backgrounds toward achieving black freedom in Durham, North Carolina, during the civil-rights movement. She finds that low-income African-American women were often the sustaining force for change and demonstrates that women activists were frequently more organized, more militant, and more numerous than their male counterparts. Greene offers insight into the changing nature of Southern white liberalism and interracial alliances during the ongoing struggle for racial and economic justice.


The Divided Family in Civil War America By Amy Murrell Taylor '93

The Divided Family in Civil War America
By Amy Murrell Taylor '93.
University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 336 pages. $39.95.

The Civil War has long been described as a struggle pitting brother against brother. The divided family is an enduring metaphor for the divided nation, but it also accurately reflects the reality of America's bloodiest war. Taylor, assistant professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany, has studied letters, diaries, newspapers, and government documents to understand how families coped with the unprecedented intrusion of war into their private lives. The story that emerges is one of both political and familial borders tested and challenged.


The Bicycle Man By David L. Dudley '70

The Bicycle Man
By David L. Dudley '70.
Clarion Books, 2005. 249 pages. $16.00.

This coming-of-age story, aimed at children grades five through eight, is set in 1927 in rural Georgia, where poverty and racism exist as part of the everyday lives of African Americans. Twelve-year-old Carissa meets Bailey, an elderly stranger who demonstrates kindness, wisdom, and patience, and makes her rethink her mother's admonition to trust no one. He tells her stories that raise various philosophical issues and teach lifelong lessons. Through Carissa, Dudley, professor of African-American literature at Georgia Southern University, addresses complex themes such as when it's worth fighting back and when it is better to practice self-control.


Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico By Jocelyn Olcott

Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico
By Jocelyn Olcott.
Duke University Press, 2005. 337 pages. $22.95, paper.

An assistant professor of history at Duke, Olcott examines the history of women's political organizing across Mexico and their role in state formation during the period 1928-1940, known as the "long Cardenismo." She rebuts the image of Mexican women as conservative and anti-revolutionary, piecing together material from national and regional archives, popular journalism, and oral histories to examine how women activists challenged prevailing beliefs about the masculine foundations of citizenship.


Aglow in the Dark: The Revolutionary Science of Biofluorescence By Vincent Pieribone and David F. Gruber M.E.M. '98

Aglow in the Dark: The Revolutionary Science of Biofluorescence
By Vincent Pieribone and David F. Gruber M.E.M. '98.
Harvard University Press, 2005.

More than 2,000 years ago, a fascinated Aristotle wrote, "Some things which are not fire nor forms of fire seem to produce light by nature." This kind of fascination continues today, as Pieribone, an associate professor at Yale University, and Gruber, a science journalist and doctoral candidate in oceanography at Rutgers University, tell the story of the discovery and evolution of bioluminescence in modern science. The story begins in the early 1960s, with a Japanese scientist who discovered green fluorescent protein, the substance that makes jellyfish glow, and offers a glimpse of the many ways in which this discovery has affected our lives today through research in medicine and biology.


Happiness Is: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times By Shawn Christopher Shea '76

Happiness Is: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times
By Shawn Christopher Shea '76.
Health Communications, Inc., 2004. 340 pages. $19.95.

Shea, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at the Dartmouth School of Medicine, takes on the fundamental concept of happiness. Happiness, he says, is constantly shaped by five interacting processes: our biology, our perspectives, our relationships, our environments, and our spiritual quests. We can tinker with each of these elements to forge a resilient and enduring attitude of trust and a resulting feeling of confidence and compassion. He offers distinctions between success and happiness and explains that happiness is not solely a feeling but also an attitude.


Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human By Barbara Herrnstein Smith

Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth and the Human
By Barbara Herrnstein Smith.
Duke University Press, 2006. 198 pages. $21.95, paper.

Throughout the recent culture and science wars, the radically new conceptions of knowledge and science emerging from such fields as the history and sociology of science have been denounced by various journalists, scientists, and academics as irresponsible attacks on science or absurd denials of objective reality. Smith, the Braxton Craven Professor of comparative literature and English at Duke, explores the context of these denunciations and presents an overview of twentieth-century critiques of traditional accounts of human knowledge and scientific truth and discusses alternative accounts by Ludwik Fleck, Michel Foucault, Thomas Kuhn, Bruno Latour, and others.


Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture By Maria Elena Buszek

Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture
By Maria Elena Buszek.
Duke University Press, 2006. 464 pages. $24.94, paper.

In her 150-year history of the pin-up, Maria Elena Buszek, assistant professor of art history at the Kansas City Art Institute and a regular contributor to Bust magazine, documents the print images female artists have used to represent their sexuality and chronicles the ways they have sought control over the representations of their bodies, thereby challenging the dominant culture's expectations. Buszek begins with the origins of the pin-up in the 1860s and moves to the present day, demonstrating the genre's close connection to feminist movements. Her work challenges the more traditional view that pin-ups are a cultural product generated and consumed primarily by men.


Revolution in America: Considerations & Comparisons By Don Higginbotham Ph.D. '59

Revolution in America: Considerations & Comparisons
By Don Higginbotham Ph.D. '59.
University of Virginia Press, 2005. 230 pages. $19.50, paper.

Higginbotham, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looks at the epochal achievements of the Revolutionary era through the perspectives of war, leadership, and state formation. He examines key historical figures and their role in the creation of a new government. Turning to the post-Revolutionary period, he observes the North and South as they begin to grow apart, tracing the deepening sectional crisis and ending with the approach of a second revolution--that of the Confederacy.