Editors’ Picks for February 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Bodies in transition in the health humanities: representations of corporeality, ed. by Lisa M. DeTora and Stephanie M. Hilger. Routledge, 2019. 170p bibl index ISBN 9780815356066, $155.00; ISBN 9781351128742 ebook, $57.95.

DeTora (Writing Studies, Hofstra Univ.) and Hilger (Comparative Literature and German, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) have organized a useful collection illustrating expanded possibilities for inquiry in the field of medical humanities. This revisionist collection briskly interrogates the models, influences, narratives, and ontologies of the medical humanities space. The result is a more expansive portrayal of the current state of the field, exploring relationships among social and humanistic factors that shape the definition of health and its embodied representations, not only in lived experience but also in artistic and documentary forms. The 13 contributed chapters examine various “non-normative bodies” transitioning between states in varied historical and cultural contexts, questioning common binaries such as age, gender, humanity, immunity, sexuality, and vitality, to name a few. In so doing, they illustrate a newly coined approach to the study of health through a humanistic lens. The collection conveys a keen purview of the representation of health and illness through sociological, clinical, cultural, and historical lenses of understanding and interpretation. Teachers, scholars, and clinicians, as well as anyone working in the health sciences seeking to understand how humanistic inquiry contributes to understanding health writ large, will find this volume enormously valuable. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —L. H. Taylor Jr., American College of Healthcare Sciences

Case studies in suburban sustainability, ed. by Sandra J. Garren and Robert Brinkmann. University Press of Florida, 2020. 344p bibl index ISBN 9781683401599, $95.00; ISBN 9781683401872 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Garren and Brinkmann (both, Hofstra University) have edited a superbly written, well-illustrated collection of sustainable development case studies from studies of various suburbs around the United States. The suburban zone surrounding a city is often orders of magnitude larger in area than the city itself, while having fewer financial and political resources to address the complex sustainability issues attending their lower human densities. These suburban rings are tightly connected to urban centers by transportation, labor, and the environment, but to date they have been relatively ignored by urban sustainability scholarship. In this multi-authored collection, each chapter focuses on a specific suburban area, and chapters are arranged in four parts: planning, socioeconomic issues, air pollution, and land and water management. Focal scales include neighborhood-level development plans in Colorado Springs and Tampa, expanding to metropolitan-scale planning in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and New Orleans, and to regional-scale sustainability issues (in southern California and Florida) that require multi-jurisdictional cooperation. Jargon has been kept to a minimum by the contributing authors, allowing non-technical audiences to engage with the material about familiar locales. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —A. L. Mayer, Michigan Technological University

Edgar, Amanda Nell. Culturally speaking: the rhetoric of voice and identity in a mediated culture. Ohio State, 2019. 212p bibl index ISBN 9780814214060, $99.95; ISBN 9780814255476 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780814277225 ebook, contact publisher for price.

If ever there was a time to investigate the negative impact of the media’s treatment of the spoken voice, that time is now. Edgar (Univ. of Memphis) exposes the pervasive discrimination in the mediated messages of underrepresented populations. Taking as her starting point voice as central to cultural rhetoric, Edgar demonstrates how sounds are filtered in ways that impact understanding of racial and gendered voices. In page after page, she reveals the weight of media bias—the call to action is undeniable. She also introduces a new theory and methodology to the field of mediated communication, a theory she calls critical cultural vocalities. In essence, this theory challenges the traditional notion of a voice that is “natural” and makes an argument for the “socially shaped” voice. Edgar provides many timely and useful applications of her theory, including “whitevoice,” to which she devotes a chapter. The conclusion summons the reader to listen differently and consider why some mediated representations of cries for justice are heard and others are ignored. This book is exceptionally well researched and academically rigorous, yet accessible for most readers. A must-read for anyone interested in the way media shape understanding of culture and justice. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —K. L. Majocha, California University of Pennsylvania

Foster, R. F. On Seamus Heaney. Princeton, 2020. 248p bibl index ISBN 9780691174372, $19.95; ISBN 9780691211473 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Foster’s succinct text provides a glimpse into the quotidian elements that make Seamus Heaney’s poetry resonate with all readers, from the least to the most educated. Split into eight chapters covering Heaney’s life span, Foster (Queen Mary Univ. of London, UK; emer. Univ. of Oxford, UK) uses correspondence to and from Heaney, professional criticism, and both unpublished drafts and final versions of some of his most famous pieces to illustrate the complexity of this “regular lad” who recognized both the blessings and burdens of pursuing his craft as a profession. Readers see Heaney grappling with issues of identity (Irish versus British, North versus South, personal versus political), process, and fame. The joy of this book emanates from the sense of intimacy that Foster captures in each epoch, enabling readers to get a sense of Heaney’s personality. These moments of being, such as anecdotes about Heaney’s family, friends, and zest for life, cement Heaney as a poet of the people. This book is an essential complement to any study of Heaney’s poetry, as it creates a more comprehensive understanding of how life informs art. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —V. A. Murrenus Pilmaier, UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus

Glickman, Carl D. The essential renewal of America’s schools: a leadership guide for democratizing schools from the inside out, by Carl Glickman and Ian M. Mette. Teachers College Press, 2020. 146p bibl index ISBN 9780807764039, $90.00; ISBN 9780807764022 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780807778630 ebook, $29.95.

The year 2020 marks the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is also a presidential election year in the US. Given these events, this book by Glickman (emer., Univ. of Georgia) and Mette (Univ. of Maine) could not be timelier as it demonstrates how teaching and learning are key assets to ensure that democracy will continue to thrive. Organized into three parts, the text provides a framework for schools to return their focus to the needs of students, parents, and community members at the local level. The authors urge local leaders to take action by utilizing collaborative pedagogical principles of teaching and learning.Part 1 develops the necessary decision-making process from the inside out. Part 2 deals with tough issues, such as developing district policies. Part 3 moves beyond ideas and expands on restructuring policies with external regulations. This year, schools across the US have implemented a variety of teaching methods—remote, hybrid, and face-to-face learning. To ensure the future health and well-being of students and schools, local school leaders and educators are urged to read this book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —D. Pellegrino, University of Scranton

Gunnell, John G. Conventional realism and political inquiry: channeling Wittgenstein. Chicago, 2020. 194p bibl index ISBN 9780226661278, $40.00; ISBN 9780226661308 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In his new book, Gunnell (emer., State Univ. of New York, Albany) targets two “phantoms” that have haunted political science in the US. The first is realism—the idea that there is a real world our words and ideas correspond to more or less well. The second is mentalism—the idea that words and ideas reflect states or phenomena of our mind. As Gunnell argues, the alternative to both is conventionalism, the idea that all human activity takes place within what Wittgenstein called a “form of life” made up of words, ideas, and what we do with them. The point is not to deny the existence of a world or our minds, but rather to understand that every theory about such things is what Gunnell calls a “presentation” of a (necessarily unprovable) view about reality, not a “representation” of its underlying, independent facts. Echoing his influential earlier work, Social Inquiry after Wittgenstein & Kuhn (CH, Jun’15, 52-5592), Gunnell shows how these phantoms came to dominate American political science, deftly summarizing much of 20th-century philosophy in the process, and he rebuts the widespread but false idea that conventionalism necessarily entails moral relativism. Possibly of interest to advanced undergraduates, this text will surely attract established and budding scholars of political science, political theory, and philosophy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, researchers. —M. J. Moore, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Haile, James B. The buck, the Black, and the existential hero: refiguring the Black male literary canon, 1850 to present. Northwestern University, 2020. 214p index ISBN 9780810141667, $99.95; ISBN 9780810141650 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780810141674 ebook, $34.95.

Recent work on Black masculinity tends to focus on the trauma-induced social death of Black men in slavery and prison, or on the living difficulties of racism and emasculation in American social life. Haile (philosophy, Univ. of Rhode Island) intervenes in such discussions by configuring Black masculinity around the notion of vulnerability. As a philosopher Haile is in a position to combine literary theories with philosophical insights to expose the binary thinking surrounding Black manhood as either hopelessly hegemonic or queerly divergent. In response to such models, Haile offers readings of key texts that explore moments of silence and of verbal dexterity to expose Black masculinity’s fluidity and interpretability. He specifically engages with texts by Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Colson Whitehead, and Cecil Brown, but he surrounds these central documents with many other texts and contexts, leading to a rich vision of how these writers have offered alternate ideas about Black male identity. Haile’s work is exciting because he challenges the forms of scholarly discussion, improvising a form conducive to his experimental explorations. This book will be crucial to future study of Black masculinity and African American literature. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. E. Magill, Longwood University

Jarrige, François. The contamination of the earth: a history of pollution in the industrial age, by François Jarrige and Thomas Le Roux; tr. by Janice Egan and Michael Egan. MIT, 2020. 480p index ISBN 9780262043830, $39.95; ISBN 9780262358132 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Viewed as inevitable byproducts of modernization, pollutants flourished in the early-modern and modern periods, leading to a “contamination of the earth.” Pre-industrial pollution from sources like tanneries shifted to rural settings. Although people became aware of the dangers of new chemicals, profit made regulatory processes anathema during the “Liberalization of Environments (1700–1830).” The field of chemistry tipped the balance in favor of pollutants as the French decree of 1810 brought attempts to naturalize pollution and planted the seed for public cognizance in the “Age of Progress (1830–1914).” Western Europe produced 62 percent of industrial production by 1870, and, along with the Americas, 80 percent by 1914. Pollution became a Western problem, and many intellectuals believed that industry would wipe out Malthusian limits. Chemical toxins blighted battlefields, landscapes, and other environments, as “plastification” poisoned the air and environment throughout the “Toxic Age (1914–1973).” Proponents like David Landes continued to tout industry’s limitless potential throughout the “Glorious Thirty (1945–1975),” while Rachel Carson, William Cronin, and environmentalists fostered broad knowledge of industrialization’s consequences. The authors conclude by documenting the “deleterious” effects of human activity that make pollution one of the foremost problems today. This balanced, well-documented, instructive, and broad volume is a must read for all readers. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —J. P. Davis, Hopkinsville Community College

Lupton, Danielle L. Reputation for resolve: how leaders signal determination in international politics. Cornell, 2020. 264p bibl index ISBN 9781501747717, $49.95; ISBN 9781501747724 ebook, $24.99.

Lupton (Colgate Univ.) considers reputation in international relations, especially as it contributes to firmness in articulating foreign policy. She explores how reputations materialize, morph over time, and shape international politics, challenging the traditional emphasis on reputations of countries and instead offering a novel focus on individual leaders. Arguing that political leaders craft their own reputations through words and actions, carving out a unique space separate from either their country or predecessors, Lupton shows that this dynamic proves especially important early in a leader’s tenure, strongly supporting her argument by drawing on an impressive combination of extensive archival research and rigorously implemented survey experiments. The text is organized in five chapters, framed by an introduction and conclusion. Valuable appendixes delve more deeply into methods and results, while the text itself is supported by extensive notes and a robust bibliography, making this a valuable contribution to an informed understanding of both the concept and consequences of reputation in foreign policy, especially for individual leaders who need to communicate determination amidst crises. Lupton skillfully achieves her goals and much more, making a compelling case that reputations matter a great deal for leaders navigating the domain of international relations. Students, scholars, and policy makers should greatly profit from a thoughtful reading of this work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —W. A. Taylor, Angelo State University

O’Neal, Eugenia. Obeah, race and racism: Caribbean witchcraft in the English imagination. University of the West Indies Press, 2020. 440p bibl index ISBN 9789766407599 pbk, $45.00.

This volumeskillfully traces the complex journey of Obeah (a system of belief rooted in magic) from Africa to the Americas and Europe, where it became a dominant literary trope in British plays, travelogues, poems, and novels. O’Neal, an independent researcher, deftly depicts what British poets, novelists, and dramatists understood—or thought they understood—about Obeah, convincingly demonstrating how perceptions of African people shaped and were shaped by European misconceptions concerning African witchcraft. European travel writers plagiarized one another’s stories about Obeah for over 200 years, incorporating them into the plots of books and plays that shaped the worldviews of colonial officials and everyday British citizens. As an example, O’Neal finds that Obeah figured prominently in arguments both for and against abolishing slavery. She provides well-selected excerpts from 18th- and 19th-century literature to support her arguments. Most notable is her treatment of “The Case of Three-Finger’d Jack” (chapter 7), tracing “Jack” from legendary 18th-century Jamaican “Obeahman” to a protagonist on the London stage. For many Europeans, O’Neal contends, Obeah stories strongly evidenced African inferiority and continue to influence racial politics in contemporary Britain. This book could be read alongside Diana Paton and Maarit Forde’s Obeah and Other Powers (2012), which focuses on Obeah as a legal category. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —S. D. Glazier, Yale University