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New Books in Intellectual History

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Interviews with Scholars of Intellectual History about their New Books
557 Episodes
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Did the early Christians believe their myths? Like most ancient—and modern—people, early Christians made efforts to present their myths in the most believable ways.In How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths (Yale University Press, 2019), M. David Litwa explores how and why what later became the four canonical gospels take on a historical cast that remains vitally important for many Christians today. Offering an in-depth comparison with other Greco-Roman stories that have been shaped to seem like history, Litwa shows how the evangelists responded to the pressures of Greco-Roman literary culture by using well-known historiographical tropes such as the mention of famous rulers and kings, geographical notices, the introduction of eyewitnesses, vivid presentation, alternative reports, and so on. In this way, the evangelists deliberately shaped myths about Jesus into historical discourse to maximize their believability for ancient audiences.Dr. M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. His most recent books include Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Ancient Jewish and Christian Mythmaking and Hermetica II: The Excerpts of Stobaeus, Papyrus Fragments, and Ancient Testimonies.Jonathan Wright is a PhD student in New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and can be reached at jonrichwright@gmail.com, on Twitter @jonrichwright, or jonathanrichardwright.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Emma Kuby’s new book, Political Survivors: The Resistance, the Cold War, and the Fight against Concentration Camps After 1945 (Cornell UP, 2019) traces the fascinating history of the International Commission Against the Concentration Camp Regime (CICRC) established in 1949 by the French intellectual and Nazi camp survivor David Rousset. In the wake of the Second World War, Rousset called upon fellow deportees who had been detained for their political activities to serve as expert witnesses to Nazism’s “concentrationary universe” and to oppose any repetition of its crimes in the postwar world.Following the work of the CICRC through the 1950s and up to the end of the Algerian War, Political Survivors examines the vicissitudes of an organization whose makeup and activities embodied the complexities of the post-1945 political field. Negotiating the traumatic experience and memory of the war, the CICRC’s members and activism were caught up in the politics of the Cold War. This included receiving funding support from the CIA. Attending to sites of political repression and incarceration around the globe, from the Soviet Union’s gulag system to Franco’s Spain, Greece, Tunisia, China, and French Algeria, the international group’s preoccupations also expressed the specificities of French national and imperial politics. The CICRC’s investigations and dramatic mock trials exposed and denounced some injustices, but short-circuited in the face of others. The organization’s insistence on the repeatability of the Nazi camp system was both a source of its power to judge and a weakness. When confronted with situations in which past and present could not be compared so easily, the group’s mission fell short. Plagued by a number of tensions, including a membership policy that refused “racial” victims and did not engage the issue of genocide, the organization ultimately foundered over the case of the Algerian War. Analyzing this complex history, Political Survivors is a book that feels all-too-urgent in 2019. Readers interested in learning more about political violence and resistances past and present will find its insights challenging, and deeply thought-provoking.To read Emma’s thoughts on the contemporary relevance of the history she treats in Political Survivors, particularly with respect to the detention of migrants in the United States today, see her July 2, 2019 piece in Dissent here.Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest, please send an email to: panchasi@sfu.ca.*The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of “Creatures,” a song written and performed by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (“hazy”). To hear more, please visit https://agonyklub.com/. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
May ’68 marked a watershed moment in French society, culture, and political life. The feminist movement was no exception. Women took to the streets and meeting halls around the country, challenging outdated sexual standards, fighting for reproductive freedom, and articulating women’s oppression in radically new ways. In Daughters of 1968: Redefining French Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Movement (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Dr. Lisa Greenwald offers a refreshingly new perspective on the history of French feminism, beginning with the liberation of France in 1944--when women were granted the right to vote--to 1981 and the election of a Socialist president who promised to transform women’s status in French society. Greenwald examines the endless challenges of collective organizing, along with the fractious ideological divisions and strategic differences among the various feminist groups that emerged after the events of May. In this interview, she discusses influential figures in the movement such as Gisèle Halimi and Simone Veil and the fight to legalize abortion, Simone de Beauvoir and the influence of The Second Sex on feminists after May ’68, and Antoinette Fouque and the tensions surrounding the Psych-et-Po group. She concludes the interview with an insightful analysis of current debates surrounding the #MeToo movement in France.Lisa Greenwald, Ph.D. spent almost a decade working in and researching the women’s movement in France, supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and grants from the French government. She has worked as a consultant and in-house historian for a variety of nonprofits and foundations in France, Chicago, and New York. She teaches history at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.Beth Mauldin is an Associate Professor of French at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Her research interests include French cultural studies, film, and the social and cultural history of Paris.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
There are few better guides to the “long eighteenth century” that J. C. D. Clark, emeritus professor of history at the University of Kansas, whose sequence of ground-breaking books have contested prevailing assumptions about religion, politics and early modernity even as they have worked to construct a chastened but compelling account of British and American society from the Restoration to the Great Reform Act. In his new book, Thomas Paine: Britain, America, and France in the Age of Enlightenment and Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2018), Professor Clark works to deconstruct grand narratives of the “rise of modernity” and the political hagiography that so often surrounds his subject. Paine emerges from this account as an individual whose contribution was made in terms of the traditional language of English reformism as well as the recently established arguments of deism, and whose contribution to the American and French revolutions was accidental – and perhaps even incidental. In this exciting new book, Clark emphasizes Paine’s importance – but not in the ways that we might expect.Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of John Owen and English Puritanism (Oxford University Press, 2016).Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In a new podcast of the series ‘Arguing History’, Professor Jeremy Black, the most prolific historian writing in the Anglophone world, if not on the entire planet, and renowned Ecclesiastical Historian Professor William Gibson discuss the question: ‘is the idea of the Enlightenment one which is no longer useful for historians’? Be prepared for forty-plus minutes of intense but ultra-interesting discussion.Professor Jeremy Black MBE, Is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. A graduate of Queens College, Cambridge, he is the author of well over one-hundred books. In 2008 he was awarded the Samuel Eliot Morison award for lifetime achievement.Professor William Gibson, is Professor at Oxford Brookes University. He is a specialist in 17th to 19th century English Ecclesiastical History. Among his other books are The Church of England 1688-1832: Unity and Accord, and Religion and the Enlightenment 1600-1800: Conflict and the Rise of Civic Humanism in Taunton.Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The great writer Jorge Luis Borges said, “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” Time is the topic of a new book by Lynn Kaye, Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought at Brandeis University and Visiting Library Fellow at The Van Leer Institute Jerusalem.With insights gleaned from art and literature, as well as a close reading of Talmud texts, Lynn Kaye examines how rabbis of late antiquity thought about time through their legal reasoning and storytelling, and what these insights mean for thinking about time today. In Time In The Babylonian Talmud: Natural and Imagined Times in Jewish Law and Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Kaye demonstrates that temporal flexibility in the Babylonian Talmud is a means of exploring and resolving legal uncertainties, as well as a tool to tell stories that convey ideas effectively and dramatically. Her book, the first on time in the Talmud, makes accessible complex legal texts and philosophical ideas. It also connects the literature of late antique Judaism with broader theological and philosophical debates about time.Renee Garfinkel is a Jerusalem-based psychologist, writer, and television & radio commentator. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com or tweet @embracingwisdomLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
With the Ta-Nehisi Coates–authored Black Panther comic book series (2016),  recent films Django Unchained (2012), The Birth of a Nation (2016), Nate Parker’s cinematic imagining of the Nat Turner rebellion, and screen adaptations of Marvel’s Luke Cage (2016) and Black Panther (2018), violent black redeemers have rarely been so present in mainstream Western culture. Grégory Pierrot argues, however, that the black avenger has always been with us: the trope has fired the news and imaginations of the United States and the larger Atlantic World for three centuries.The black avenger channeled fresh anxieties about slave uprisings and racial belonging occasioned by European colonization in the Americas. Even as he is portrayed as a heathen and a barbarian, his values―honor, loyalty, love―reflect his ties to the West. Yet being racially different, he cannot belong, and his qualities in turn make him an anomaly among black people. The black avenger is thus a liminal figure defining racial borders. Where his body lies, lies the color line. Regularly throughout the modern era and to this day, variations on the trope have contributed to defining race in the Atlantic World and thwarting the constitution of a black polity.Grégory Pierrot's Black Avenger in Atlantic Culture (University of Georgia Press, 2019) studies this cultural history, examining a multicultural and cross-historical network of print material including fiction, drama, poetry, news, and historical writing as well as visual culture. It tracks the black avenger trope from its inception in the seventeenth century to the U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1915. Pierrot argues that this Western archetype plays an essential role in helping exclusive, hostile understandings of racial belonging become normalized in the collective consciousness of Atlantic nations. His study follows important articulations of the figure and how it has shifted based on historical and cultural contexts.Adam McNeil is a PhD Student in History at Rutgers University-New BrunswickLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this segment of New Books in History, Jana Byars talks with Elizabeth “Libby” Otto, Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies and Executive Director of the Humanities Institute at the University of Buffalo about her forthcoming work, Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics (MIT Press, 2019). The MIT press release appropriately notes that Otto “liberates Bauhaus history” with this work, drawing the focus from the handful of male artists like Klee and Breuer outward as she considers the other 1200 odd Bauhäusler. Otto discusses spiritism, gender constructions, and the nature of queer before turning her attention to the unavoidable political landscape of the 1930s. Our conversation was wide ranging and as edifying as it was fun.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz's Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in Nepal (Oxford University, 2018) represents the very first study of a fascinating Hindu phenomenon: the Svasthanivratakatha (SVK), a sixteenth-century narrative textual tradition native to Nepal surrounding the Goddess, Svasthānī. This work explores Himalayan Hindu religious tradition in the making during the very self-conscious creation of Nepal as the 'world's only Hindu kingdom' in the early modern period.  Touching on the pan-Hindu goddess tradition, regional ideals of Hindu womanhood, linguistic culture, identity formation and placemaking, Reciting the Goddess makes for a rich read.For information on your host Raj Balkaran’s background, see rajbalkaran.com.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
After the discoveries of dinosaur fossils in the American West in the late nineteenth century, the United States became world renown for vertebrate paleontology. In his new book Assembling the Dinosaur: Fossil Hunters, Tycoons, and the Making of a Spectacle(Harvard University Press, 2019), Lukas Rieppel explains how the discoveries projected American exceptionalism and, at the height of the Gilded Age, became symbols of industrial capitalism. As Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan funded paleontology fieldwork and philanthropic museums, they bolstered their own reputations within the scientific community, and popularized creatures like the Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. These American business magnates and tycoons soon counted on the eye-catching displays of ferocious dinosaurs, not to justify the cut-throat nature of capitalism in their own times, but to symbolize man’s progress and ascent from the depths of the prehistoric past.Ryan Driskell Tate is a Ph.D. candidate in American history at Rutgers University. He teaches courses on modern United States history, environmental history, and histories of labor and capitalism. He is completing a book on energy development in the American West. @rydriskelltateLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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