Wednesday, December 22, 2010

POLL: Which University of Minnesota Press trade catalog design season do you like best?


In honor of our recently published Spring 2011 Trade Catalog (you can download a copy here), we have elected to feature our 23 most recent covers from the past 11 seasons and give you a chance to tell us which designs you liked best. Each season has a theme, and each catalog cover features a new and different way to incorporate the University of Minnesota Press logo. We definitely encourage you to vote, and also to post your comments below. Now tell us ...
















University of Minnesota Press Design Face-Off
Which cover design season is the best?
1) 2000 (umbrellas/fruit)
2) 2001 (theater/museum)
3) 2002 (candies/gum)
4) 2003 (outdoor art -- includes Spring-Fall 03 and Spring 04)
5) 2004-05 (eraser/drawing)
6) 2005-06 (earthy)
7) 2006-07 (architectural/buildings)
8) 2007-08 (animals/posthumanities)
9) 2008-09 (head/map)
10) 2009-10 (rocks/outdoors)
11) 2010-11 (neon/playful)







Monday, December 20, 2010

How the Minnesota Vikings' Metrodome situation *really might have* gone down

If you're like millions of Americans, you probably believe last week's Metrodome collapse happened on account of "heavy snowfall" and "record temperatures," "classic occurrences" in Minnesota in December.

Bad weather.
Midwest.
Winter.


How terribly original of us! Uff da. We really gotchu good.


Here's what really went down: We wanted to see the Minnesota Vikings' 50th anniversary celebration happen on the U of M's turf. (That, and we wanted to promote both The Vikings Reader and Gophers Illustrated, now 30% off--we couldn't pick just one.) So we planted an idea. A seed of an idea that had the power to change everything. The gravity of the idea was huge, but the payoff even bigger. So we harnessed a team. We needed an Extractor to steal valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious while the mind is in a dream state and at its most vulnerable; an Architect to build the idea of a flattened dome; a Forger to get the team into and on top of the building; a Mark who was really, really ridiculously good at jumping and training the team to do so; a Potion Guy to concoct a mix so strong, it would allow the team to jump for an extended period of time without being noticed; a Tourist (that was easy -- there were plenty of tourists in the area at the time), and a Point Man to tell the story later (that would be this author).

We thought this "jumping" plan would remain a secret. We executed the plan to perfection and diligently watched as events unfolded the way we had intended them to. Then we received a phone call from a certain person in Chicago. This person seemed to be on to us. It was just one simple idea that changed everything.

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This is a purely fictional account based on a combination of real events and a comment from a Press friend and colleague in Chicago. Because this colleague lives in the area of the Minnesota Vikings' opponent tonight, her motives are suspicious to us. It's possible she planted a seed of an idea in our minds to get us to compile this blog post, call our motives into question, and somehow help the Chicago Bears to have an advantage in the game tonight. Time will tell.

Are you listening, Christopher Nolan? We call this INCEPTION 2: The Demise of the Dome of the Mind.


(We dare you to read this post again to the tune of this:)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Way of Kinship, part 2 of 2: The anthology's early beginnings.

In translating and editing the works in The Way of Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature (Minnesota 2010), Claude Clayton Smith worked closely with Alexander Vaschenko, another leading scholar in Siberian literature who is based in Moscow. In this second part of our features on this first anthology of Native Siberian literature in English, translator and editor Claude Clayton Smith answers our questions.

Part One: Alexander Vaschenko, chair of comparative studies in literature and culture at Moscow State University, discusses how Native Siberian literature is similar to Native literature from North America.
Part Two (Today): Claude Clayton Smith, professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, discusses how the anthology came to be.

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How did you and Dr. Vaschenko begin working together?

I am glad to be asked this question, because the answer is a matter of serendipity and fate.

In October of 1989 an international Hemingway conference was held at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, where I was a professor in the English Department. The conference was directed by my friend and colleague, Dr. Charles “Tod” Oliver, editor of the (then) fledgling Hemingway Review. One of the topics at that conference was “Native Americans in the Works of Ernest Hemingway,” and one of the scholars in attendance was Alexander Vaschenko, the Russian authority on Native American literature and folklore. Dr. Vaschenko had come with a contingent of six professors from the A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian National Academy of Sciences.

My book Quarter-Acre of Heartache had been published by Pocahontas Press in 1985. It details the successful modern struggle of Chief Big Eagle of Connecticut’s Paugussett Indian Nation to preserve the oldest (1659) continuous Indian reservation in America. Tod Oliver thought it would be an appropriate gift for Dr. Vaschenko, and I provided a copy, signed by Chief Big Eagle with a lavish inscription about our two nations walking in peace. In Quarter-Acre of Heartache Chief Big Eagle stated that one of his goals for the future was to create a dialogue between Native Americans and Native Siberians, since Native Americans are thought to have emigrated from Siberia to the Americas.

After receiving his gift, “Sasha” stayed up all night reading, and in the morning he came to me with two proposals. First, he wanted to translate the book as the fourth and final (contemporary) text in a series that he was editing about the long struggles of Native Americans. Secondly, he wanted the Chief and me to come to Russia that summer to address an audience of scholars and other interested parties. Three weeks later the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia opened up to the world.

The Chief and I visited Moscow and Leningrad during the chaotic summers of 1990 and 1991, adventures later detailed in my book Red Men in Red Square (Pocahontas Press, 1994). I returned in 1993 for a conference at the Gorky Institute, but unfortunately the Chief was too ill to accompany me. During that visit Sasha proposed that we collaborate on some translations of Native Siberian writers.

Yeremei Aipin, born in the native village of
Varyogan in West Siberia, has spent much
of his career working on behalf of the
Khanty people, as well as on his writing.
His work is included in The Way of Kinship.
Photo by Susan Scarberry-Garcia.
Our first effort was a chapbook, I Listen to the Earth by Khanty author Yeremei Aipin, published by Ohio Northern University in 1995. Sales of that book helped to bring Dr. Vaschenko and Aipin to the university in 1996 for a program called “The Russian Connection.” Subsequently we added new Siberian authors to our translation efforts, and in 2003 the North Dakota Quarterly dedicated a special issue to The Way of Kinship. We expanded this interim anthology to the current volume by the same title.

So the new text is a long labor of love, the culmination of a personal and professional collaboration of more than two decades, inspired by the spirit of Chief Big Eagle, who, with the help of noted civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, won the right to preserve the Paugussett reservation in Connecticut in perpetuity. Chief Big Eagle passed away in August of 2008 at the age of 92. His obituary and photo appeared in the New York Times.

In the anthology's foreword, N. Scott Momaday writes of the kinships between North American and Siberian Native writers. What are some of the divergences?

This is a good question because it is the similarities between North American and Siberian Native writers that immediately stand out when one reads The Way of Kinship. But I think a definite point of divergence is
Yuri Vaella, born in the village of Varyogan in West
Siberia, has written and published folktales, poems,
essays and folksongs in both Nenets and Russian. In
addition to writing, Vaella owns and herds reindeer.
His work is included in The Way of Kinship.
Photo by Susan Scarberry-Garcia.
simply the Siberian climate, which is certainly more harsh and hostile for nine months of the year than that experienced by most North American tribes. As I recall, snow was expected during the first week in September, a few days after we departed Siberia in 2003. This difference in climate means a difference in material culture, which results from different ways of coping with the environment.

In an entirely different vein, Native Siberians didn’t suffer the devastating epidemics that North American Indians did following their initial contact with Europeans. These differences are naturally reflected, to a greater or lesser degree, in the literature of both North American and Siberian Native writers.

Dr. Vaschenko has written that one of the goals of the volume is to move beyond “first acquaintance” so that Native Siberian literature can be an invaluable comparative teaching manual. What kinds of courses might incorporate the writings in this anthology?

The Way of Kinship will provide a cogent and comprehensive university text for arts and science courses in third-world literature, world literature, comparative literature, ethnic diversity, ethnic literatures, and cultural understanding. Due to the many cultural interconnections among indigenous writers, it will be an excellent supplement to courses in Native American literature. I have used it in my own Great Works of Literature course to meet the requirement for literature from a third-world country. I also feel strongly that any general reader interested in Native American literature will be rewarded by the contents of this unique anthology, the first in English.

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Claude Clayton Smith is professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University.

To learn more about last year’s creative cultural exchange in New Mexico, listen to “Threads of Kinship: Dialogues with Native Siberian Writers at IAIA,” an interview published April 14, 2010, at Santa Fe Radio Café.

Find out more about The Way of Kinship.

This post is published in partnership with First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Way of Kinship, part 1 of 2: Anthology triggers dialogue between Native American and Native Siberian literary traditions.

This month, the University of Minnesota Press publishes The Way of Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature, the first anthology of Native Siberian literature in English. This stunning volume showcases a diverse body of work—prose fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction—that chronicles ancient Siberian cultures and traditions as well as a dynamic and current literary movement. The works of these contemporary Native writers was translated and edited by Alexander Vaschenko and Claude Clayton Smith, leading scholars in Native Siberian literature.

Part One (Today): Alexander Vaschenko, chair of comparative studies in literature and culture at Moscow State University, discusses how Native Siberian literature is similar to Native literature from North America.
Part Two: Claude Clayton Smith, professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, discusses the anthology's early beginnings.


Anthology contributors and supporters Susan Scarberry-Garcia (from left), longtime friend of Vaschenko; Alexander Vaschenko; Claude Clayton Smith and Khanty author Yeremei Aipin enjoy lunch at a fish camp on the Ob River in Siberia, 2003. Photograph by Susan Scarberry-Garcia.


Q: What were your goals for this anthology?
I had three main goals for The Way of Kinship. First, as a specialist in American Studies, I have always been dissatisfied with the one-sidedness, misinterpretation, or lack of knowledge of Russian cultural and literary phenomena in the United States. One reason for that is the gap between the primary material in the texts and what is chosen—if at all—to be translated into English. As time goes by, this gap only widens. With The Way of Kinship I wanted to acquaint American readers with one of the lesser-known but important Russian language literary traditions—that of Native Siberian literature.

Second, through my specialization in Native American Studies, I have studied, translated, or otherwise introduced Native American writings to Russia. There are so many similarities between Native Siberian work and that of the Native American/First Nations Canadian writers. It is high time to begin the process of comparative studies between the two traditions.

Finally, by publishing this anthology, I wanted to trigger a direct dialogue between Native American and Native Siberian literary and cultural traditions.

Can you give us a sense of the place that these stories are coming from?
The native seats behind the stories are scattered across the entire expanse of Siberia, from the Ural Mountains in the West to the Chukotka Peninsula (at the Bering Strait) in the east. A huge part of this is called the “Russian North,” the natural environment being taiga and tundra, with many rivers and their tributaries in between. From time immemorial this has been the ancient home of about twenty Native groups belonging to several language families, the larger of these being Nenets and Khanty, the smaller being the Yukagir and the Nivkh. Traditionally, people migrated seasonally with the deer and other game; others, like the Nivkh, fished.

You explain in the anthology's introduction that Native Siberian literature began in the 1930s, much like North America’s Native writing movements. What are other striking parallels between the two literary movements?

Indeed, there are many striking similarities between the two cross-oceanic cultures. The first one that comes to mind is the value system. This springs from the way of life caused by the environment. For example, Nature is sacred and primordial, and animals are viewed as older brothers of mankind, central to the aboriginal way of life. Certainly, oral and mythological traditions exert a strong influence upon Native literature, and there are strong external factors as well. But these traditions are poorly understood by the authorities at all levels. Bilingualism—sometimes trilingualism—is a characteristic feature of such traditions.

How is Native literature viewed today in Russia? Where is it going?
Here, I believe, are more similarities. Native literatures are poorly understood and currently not very visible in Russia. They are considered regional and are still finding their audience. In the Soviet era, Native authors were cared for financially, as well as any author in the USSR. Slowly, by sheer luck, some of the writers would gain national importance—then as well as now.

Native literatures are slowly but steadily developing. The primary obstacles currently are high levels of bureaucracy and lack of money. However, some oil barons have lately begun to support the Native writers.

Last spring, you and some of the writers included in this anthology came to the United States for a creative cultural exchange with writers Sherwin Bitsui, Evelina Zuni Lucero, and N. Scott Momaday at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Will you share some memorable moments from that exchange with us?
Maria Vagatova lives in Khanty-Mansiisk.
Her poetry, which she writes in Khanty
and Russian, is included in The Way of
Kinship
. She visited New Mexico last
spring as part of a creative cultural
exchange with North American Native writers.
Photo by Susan Scarberry-Garcia.
Although I have tried to bring together Native Americans and Native Siberians for two decades, this was the first literary cross-cultural meeting. As to impressions, I was fascinated by the IAIA as an establishment. It has recently obtained new grounds and new facilities. The students seemed eager to exchange, and I think that this meeting left a deep trace in their souls, as in ours.

I was happy to see a lot of my dearest friends, such as N. Scott Momaday, whom I have known since his visit to Russia in 1974. I have translated many of his writings into Russian. Professor Susan Scarberry-Garcia has been a long time friend, helping with cross-cultural visits and exchanges. Professor Claude Clayton Smith has been a friend of many years, and has many times shared his creative soul with Russia; and professor Andrew Wiget is my friend and alter ego in the Southwest, with whom I have a lifelong connection.

All in all, it was a fabulous time for both sides. We hope the tradition will continue, fostering a better understanding of each other’s cultures. One of the IAIA students, Nathan Romero from Cochiti, wrote a moving triptych of poems in our honor, asking “Shall we meet again?” With this anthology, we feel that the conversation is just beginning.

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To learn more about last year’s creative cultural exchange, listen to “Threads of Kinship: Dialogues with Native Siberian Writers at IAIA,” an interview published April 14, 2010, at Santa Fe Radio Café.

Find out more about The Way of Kinship.

This post is published in partnership with First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Read Minnesota holiday sale -- order soon to receive your shipment by Dec. 24th.


From incredible surviving saunas to belching bogs and from adventures in journalism to adventures in Porch Sofa-ism, our Read Minnesota holiday book sale has a variety of great books to suit pretty much everyone on your shopping list. For a limited time, we are offering 30% off a wide selection of cookbooks, memoirs, travel guides, books for history buffs, books for kids and teens, and books for Twins and Vikings fans (even the frustrated fans).

Be sure to enter discount code MN70910 to ensure your 30% discount. If you need your shipment to arrive by Dec. 24th, please order by Dec. 12th.

Happy browsing!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quadrant: Contemporary environmental ethics and former nuclear facilities

This post is published in connection with the University of Minnesota Press's launch this week of an an online research archive (www.quadrant.umn.edu) and book series that stems from Quadrant, a new initiative to foster collaborative scholarship and revolutionize interdisciplinary publishing. This is Quadrant post 3 of 3; please see below for links to other posts.


"Absurdity is a part of my approach to the topic." Shiloh Krupar appears inside a wildlife display at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.


Q&A WITH SHILOH KRUPAR
Quadrant fellow and assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University


Can you talk briefly about your work on environmental justice and military industry? What is one critical question to have emerged from your research?

I’m currently working on a book titled Hot Spotter’s Manifesto that examines the fraught relations between humans and waste, nature and waste, the body and technology, involved in the conversion of former arsenals and nuclear facilities into nature refuges. The book tracks some of the subtle shifts in memory, rhetoric, and politics needed to naturalize military-industrial territories as “wild” space, and the reframing of military practices as compatible with—even contributing to—environmental protection. Drawing connections between labor and landscape, memory and bureaucracy, contamination and green regulation, reproduction and militarism, the project raises a series of questions about contemporary environmental ethics: What kind of ethical response do radioactive natures demand? How does the spectacle of nature as separate, external, and pure obscure toxicity contribute materially and discursively to ongoing military occupation? What futures might be cultivated by an environmental ethics that takes waste as inspiration? What forms of subjectivity, ethical practices, and aesthetics might emerge? How might acts of criticism, under conditions of exposure and uncertainty, cultivate opportunities for regeneration rather than just survival?

How has your experience with the Quadrant program uniquely informed or supported your research?

Much of my work has been collaborative, and, unfortunately, such ways of working continue to be misunderstood and/or undervalued in the humanities and social sciences, particularly in merit review and tenure point systems. I’m used to collaborative work taking place on the fringes of the academy, largely on my own dime, and in contrast to conventional writing technologies and publishing. The Quadrant program has fundamentally challenged these ideas and practices for me, demonstrating another way of conducting collaboration that utilizes and builds on institutional connections between the university and scholarly press. While the solo-authored manuscript has not been my modus operandi, the Quadrant program has prompted me to reconsider the possibilities of the scholarly single-authored manuscript. Essentially, the Quadrant has provided me with an infrastructure within which to “practice” my book as a collaborative public event. While in residence at the University of Minnesota, my regular interfacings with the press and Quadrant research collaboratives have deeply enriched my project, provided institutional support for my experimentations with visual and textual representations, and enlivened my intellectual life in general. The Quadrant program has immersed me in the energy, inquiries, research, and relations of scholars on campus; the Quadrant research collaboratives in particular have enabled me to participate in experimental scholarly ‘arrangements’ that draw on different disciplinary and area studies expertise, without directing such conversations to any particular end-product. I am now committed to building on such collaborations in my future writing of the book.

How does the Quadrant program support sustainable scholarly communication?


Quadrant supports all sorts of fascinating interdisciplinary networks, workshops, and conversations that potentially generate a surplus of intellectual life—an excess of trans-institutional collaboration focused on particular kinds of projects and questions (rather than disciplines). What sustains this ‘intellectual excess’ is the gifted labor of participating faculty, the commitment of the press and faculty to organizing concrete practices of interdisciplinarity, such as research collaboratives, and the shared desire to treat the scholarly manuscript as a collaborative event.

In my case, and on a more 'everyday' level, Quadrant has provided me the opportunity to work on an ongoing project that’s always had to take a backseat to other work, namely my dissertation. It’s been exhilarating—and a great privilege—to be able to focus my attention on this one particular project, and to workshop chapters-in-progress with interdisciplinary faculty, Quadrant fellows, and other fellows in the Institute for Advanced Study. I’ve had invaluable space/time to write, and numerous opportunities to work face-to-face with my editor and the press on developing my work into an exciting publishable format.

What are some other Quadrant projects that most interest you?

Many of the questions and concerns of the “Humannonhuman” Quadrant research collaborative are of immediate interest to me, specifically the effort to re-imagine biopolitical practices. The investigations of the “Intersecting Performance and Social Justice” research collaborative are also exciting to me; I both experiment with forms of artistic performance and explore in my written work how performance might cultivate opportunities for collective regeneration under conditions of toxicity. I am fascinated by the “Choreography of the Moving Cell” Quadrant collaborative of dance and biomedical engineering and hope to learn more about it and incorporate this into the materials for a course on the body and biopolitics/bioethics/biotech arts.

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Watch Shiloh Krupar present this project October 7th, 2010.

Learn more about Quadrant.

QUADRANT Q&A SERIES:
Monday: Lisa Uddin, researcher at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia, on race and renewal in American zoos.
Tuesday: Kelly Quinn, assistant professor in the American studies program at Miami University, on architect Hilyard R. Robinson's contributions to place-making and public culture.
Today: Shiloh Krupar, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, on the politics of nature conservation and environmental memory at decommissioned military sites and nuclear facilities in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rediscovering António Botto, a major voice in modern gay poetry and twentieth-century letters

BY JOSIAH BLACKMORE
Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto


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"Even reading (António Botto's) poems a half century after they were written, one feels the flesh burn."
—Henri Cole


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One early summer afternoon in the early '90s, soon after arriving at the University of Toronto, I was perusing the astounding collection of Portuguese literature in the Robarts Library. I came across a copy of Cartas que me foram devolvidas ("Letters Returned to Me"), which was signed on the title page by António Botto, in his exuberant signature, in still-bright green ink. I recalled having come across Botto’s name in graduate school, but hadn’t read much by him. So I kept looking and reading, charging out copies of all the books Robarts had by Botto, which, thankfully, was many. I was struck time and again by the lyrical intensity and eloquence of the poetry. I couldn’t find much contemporary writing on Botto—a few newspaper articles, a reference here and there, but nothing that delved into the voice speaking from the pages of the book I had in my hands. I started a file on Botto, adding the odd item to it now and again, all the while continuing my bibliographic searches and determined to write something on him some day. I discovered that there was quite a relatively large amount of critical writing on him from the early 20th century, but not much afterward. As I read his plays, stories, and poems in the ensuing years—at one point discovering with a whoop of scholarly and readerly joy that Fernando Pessoa, the great Pessoa, had translated Botto—I became more and more convinced of the importance of this voice in Portuguese literature, of its personal intensity, and of its extraordinary status because of the candid way in which it dealt with same-sex eroticism. I also knew that I needed to take Botto outside of the circle of Portuguese and Iberian literature, as he was a discovery I longed to share with a wider audience. I began to offer a few of Botto’s poems to students in an introductory literature class from year to year, and the result was always the same: enthusiastic interest, excitement over poetry, and "Can I write a paper about him?" I personally began acquiring many of Botto’s books; I was amazed at how difficult it was to find copies in library catalogues. At some point along the way, it occurred to me that bringing out an edition of Pessoa’s translations that had been printed semi-clandestinely in 1948 might be the best way to bring Botto to a new and broader readership. What a triumph for Botto and Pessoa: The Songs of António Botto is in print, again, at last!

After reading some of the critical flurry that surrounded Botto’s second edition (1922) of Canções, I began to think of António Botto as modern Portugal’s most famous unknown poet. When Botto was writing and publishing poetry in early 20th-century Lisbon, critics hailed him as one of the best poets of the
Fernando Pessoa, 1914.
new century. At the same time many writers, including those who otherwise praised him, condemned the kind of love and erotism he unapologetically chose as the basis of so many of his writings. He kept good company: Botto was a good friend of Pessoa, and the two were literary collaborators. Pessoa clearly held a high esteem for Botto since he came to Botto’s defense publicly after the outcry of the 1922 Canções, a book he himself had published in his short-lived publishing enterprise. The intense hostility toward Botto eventually prompted the poet to emigrate to Brazil, where he continued to write and be active in literary circles and where he won the admiration of Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a luminary of modern Latin American literature.

Just after Botto’s death in 1959, his poetry fell into near oblivion despite the occasional reprinting of his Canções. This says something about the politics of literary fame, or the politics of the conservative literary canon that often suppresses writers who talk about forbidden or taboo topics. If we read the criticism on Botto immediately following the 1922 Canções, one of the things that stands out is that many writers either went to great lengths to avoid talking about Botto’s poetic eroticism, or praised him rather unabashedly while dismissing his kind of love as pathological or abnormal. In one way this is to be expected in the early 20th century, when homosexuality was classified more and more often as a clinical or psychosexual aberration. But it obviously vexed Botto’s critics in a way that other expressions of fin-de-siècle eroticism didn’t. Which is to say: when Botto writes of sensuality and eroticism, pay attention. This is one reason I find Botto’s voice to be like C. P. Cavafy’s: Botto is a noteworthy poet no matter what he writes about, but the homoerotic undercurrent of much of his poetry makes up a part of his entire poetic personality and can’t be extracted from it, can’t be ignored or dismissed. So it is that the publication of The Songs of António Botto is a signal moment in the history of Botto’s poetry, and in the history of all those writers who spoke honestly about what was important to them and who were silenced for years because they said what others deemed should remain unsaid. This new edition realizes the potential of Pessoa’s translations to prompt a true rediscovery of a voice that was critically acclaimed nearly a hundred years ago but that then languished, for decades, unheard and unread.

The Songs of António Botto celebrates many things: Botto’s poetry itself, the literary culture of Portugal, Pessoa’s regard for his friend’s work and his interest in translation, and probably most importantly, the courage of an artist to go against the mainstream grain. Botto will appeal to all kinds of readers simply as a remarkable voice in 20th-century letters. His poems speak across linguistic and national boundaries. Botto deserves a place in critical conversations on 20th-century literature and will reward the general reader who appreciates poetry as an ebb and flow of an intensely personal experience, a delving into the reaches of the self as the impulse that drives literary creation.

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Josiah Blackmore is professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. He is author of Moorings (2008) and editor of the newly published The Songs of António Botto (December 2010).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quadrant: Architect Hilyard R. Robinson's contributions to place-making and public culture.

This post is published in connection with the University of Minnesota Press's launch this week of an an online research archive (www.quadrant.umn.edu) and book series that stems from Quadrant, a new initiative to foster collaborative scholarship and revolutionize interdisciplinary publishing. This is Quadrant post 2 of 3; please see below for links to other posts.


Hilyard R. Robinson. Cartoon by Charles Alston for the Office of War Information, 1943, National Archives Records Administration Record Group 208.


BY KELLY QUINN
Quadrant fellow and assistant professor in the American Studies program at Miami University


Two major themes animate my professional pursuits: storytelling and communities. Jay Mechling, an American Studies scholar at University of California at Davis, observed that our field is defined by the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world. The Quadrant Fellowship enabled me to hear and tell new stories, inter- and multidisciplinary ones within a supportive community of lively, smart scholars and artists. As I listened to their accounts of salsa clubs and shipyards, hip replacements and street vendors, I reconsidered how to tell my tale about the life and times of Hilyard R. Robinson, an African American architect.

My manuscript, Constructing Modernism (tentative title), chronicles the career of Hilyard R. Robinson (1899-1986), who lived and practiced in Washington, D.C. I position Robinson as a man in a milieu: an architect whose practice was embodied, networked, and spatial. This framework requires a consideration of professional and social networks he developed, which included World War I veterans, Alpha Phi Alpha men, federal employees, modern architects, and Howard University faculty members. He shuttled between racially distinct professional circles. In the pages of African American newspapers, in speeches on the lecture circuit, and in other civic enterprises, Robinson promoted himself as an arbiter of style and substance. He relied on his expertise – in modernism, mores, and manners – to compose a career as a design professional. From his perch behind a drafting table, while authoring site and unit plans, Robinson advanced public culture and place-making during the Civil Rights era. He enlisted modern architecture to press African Americans’ claims for the city and democracy, especially in the nation’s capital.

Hilyard R. Robinson trained at the most prestigious institutions in the U.S. and conducted a Grand Tour of Europe at the twilight of the Weimar Republic. His legacy includes 55 buildings, roughly a dozen patents, contributions to the profession (including the integration of the Washington, D.C. chapter of American Institute for Architects and the National Capital Planning Commission), leadership in civic organizations, and a $1.2 million endowment to Howard University. Yet, he did not work in isolation. His work, this legacy, resulted from his training and skills as well as the social, professional, intellectual, and artistic communities he navigated. In mid-January, I arrived for my residency with tubs of documents and loads of inchoate ideas. I hadn’t yet fully found the way to recount Robinson’s life appropriately. Although he designed aesthetically pleasing and important buildings, I did not want to author another architectural hagiography and present him as an exceptional genius. I realize now that as a Quadrant Fellow, I considered how to embed him in his communities while I myself was embedded in a community of scholars who passionately pursued ideas, tested assumptions, and crafted arguments.

The semester’s residency permitted me to luxuriate in periods of uninterrupted thought, to pore over documents, and to hone my writing. Minnesota’s vast library holdings enabled me to follow up and pursue fugitive details and materials that may have been difficult if not impossible to track on my own campus. I presented my work at least once a month in a formal slide-illustrated lecture, a lunchtime colloquium, and two manuscript workshops. During these sessions, I shared my findings with colleagues steeped in a variety of disciplinary traditions. Leading and emerging scholars vetted my work. Together, we puzzled over primary sources and theoretical constructs. When I stumbled across surprising materials like Robinson’s partial ownership of a mechanical cow as part of an ill-fated entrepreneurial scheme, we debated its meanings and significance. Others in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study — sociologists, historians, dancers, a poet, a literary critic/novelist, anthropologists, a geographer, and an artist – nudged me to extend my arguments. They took my work seriously enough to criticize, querying big ideas (like assumptions about power) as well as word choices (like the use of certain action verbs).

My fellowship coincided with the residency of artists and scholars who love language and writing. Their example reminded me to write with precision and care. My tenure at the IAS also offered timely reminders about the importance of participating in a variety of communities. Just as a host of networks informed Robinson’s architectural practice, the Quadrant community informed my writing practice. As mothers, musicians, dancers, lovers, and cooks, other scholars and artists-in-residence impressed upon me the importance of sharing our passions and pursuits. Their stories helped me to make sense of my manuscript.

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Watch Kelly Quinn's February 2010 Quadrant presentation,
which includes discussion of three examples of Robinson's work: the Langston Terrace Dwellings; Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.; and his unbuilt program for the Liberian Centennial and Victory Exposition.

Find out more about Quadrant.


QUADRANT Q&A SERIES:
Monday: Lisa Uddin, researcher at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia, on race and renewal in American zoos.
Today: Kelly Quinn, assistant professor in the American studies program at Miami University, on architect Hilyard R. Robinson's contributions to place-making and public culture.
Thursday: Shiloh Krupar, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, on the politics of nature conservation and environmental memory at decommissioned military sites and nuclear facilities in the U.S.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Quadrant: On zoo history, shame, and racial dynamics

The University of Minnesota Press has announced the launch of an online research archive (www.quadrant.umn.edu) and book series that stems from Quadrant, a new initiative to foster collaborative scholarship and revolutionize interdisciplinary publishing.

As part of the launch, the University of Minnesota Press blog this week is publishing Q&As with three Quadrant fellows who discuss their very interesting and diverse areas of research and offer insights into personal experiences with the program.

Today: Lisa Uddin, researcher at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia, on race and renewal in American zoos.
Tomorrow: Kelly Quinn, assistant professor in the American studies program at Miami University, on architect Hilyard R. Robinson's contributions to place-making and public culture.
Thursday: Shiloh Krupar, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, on the politics of nature conservation and environmental memory at decommissioned military sites and nuclear facilities in the U.S.



Antelope House interior at the National Zoological Park, 1961. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Q&A WITH LISA UDDIN
Quadrant fellow and researcher at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia.


1) Can you talk briefly about your work on zoo history, shame and racial dynamics?

My research considers why people feel bad at and about the zoo. Amid its many delights and virtues, what is it about zoos that also provokes our sense of shame? Does it hinge on that uneasy exchange of looks between free humans and captive animals or, as art critic John Berger suggested, the impossibility of the exchange altogether? I am approaching these questions historically, recognizing that despite its continuities, the public zoo has changed much since its late-eighteenth-century beginnings, including the nature of our shame.

My focus on American zoos examines shame’s particular expressions and attempted remediations during the 1960s and 1970s. These decades of intense revitalization transformed many U.S. zooscapes from the so-called “Naked Cage” template of animal display – widely condemned – to early incarnations of the naturalistic, immersive enclosures that typify zoo design today. Zoos also began revitalizing their animal collections in this period, breeding select species whose populations in and outside of captivity were dwindling. This spatial and biological overhaul often gets discussed as an institutional turn to wildlife conservation. What is missing from these accounts is analysis of how the turn was also fully contemporary with the smoldering racial tensions that defined the urban experience in the long postwar period, and, more specifically, the shame that made cities unbearable for so many Americans. My research interprets the design, construction and promotion of endangered species exhibits and their inhabitants within this emotionally charged context. I am considering how zoo renewal variously reflected feelings about race and urban space, how it amplified those feelings, and how it offered channels for relief. The shame of American zoos, I argue, is part of the shame of American cities.

2) What is one critical question to have emerged from your research?

Because I see U.S. zoos as constitutive of the cities in which they are located (rather than as, say, Foucauldian heterotopias) my work asks about the status of animals in shaping the terms and texture of urban public life. Urban historians have done an excellent job of asking how differences of race, class, gender and sexuality come to bear on metropolitan culture and its suburban extensions. But far less is known about differences of species. What was the place of the nonhuman in twentieth-century American cities? Where did zoo animals belong in struggles over urban decay and rebirth? Did captive wildlife resonate with racial otherness in the city? What aspects of animal display under renewal made those associations alternately probable and improbable, and always tenuous? This line of inquiry insists that humans are not the only urbanites worth studying, and that reading the visual and material culture of zoos is one way of accessing the contributions of other city dwellers.

3) How has your experience with the Quadrant program uniquely informed or supported your research?
Thanks to a series of well-organized and well-timed exchanges, I came into the Quadrant program with a dissertation and left with a book project. The major elements of my fellowship – one public lecture, one lunch meeting with the Press, one workshop, and participation at the IAS – worked well as an overall schedule for my four months in residence. It provided just enough structure (and freedom) to move my project forward, and the intellectual dialogue necessary for work-in-progress.

My meeting with the Press and my workshop with UMN faculty were especially useful in helping give shape and direction to my ideas, while demystifying the book-writing and publication processes. The concrete feedback I received allowed me to embrace certain elements of the project, identify weak spots, imagine a readership, and let go of some concerns that risked stalling my work. One-on-one conversations with UMN faculty and the Press throughout my fellowship were also invaluable in this regard. Additionally, I benefited from participating in the weekly lunch meetings at the IAS. The invitation to routinely engage other fellows in their work gave me a deeper understanding of the interdisciplinarity of my own scholarship and its theoretical and methodological commitments. The generous stretches of reading and writing time were another big advantage of the program.

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Watch Uddin present her work as a Quadrant fellow in September 2009 at the University of Minnesota.

Learn more about Quadrant.

Friday, December 3, 2010

UMP book awards: MLA, International Tribal Art

This week we have been thrilled to learn of several prizes awarded to UMP authors:

Anatoly Liberman is the recipient of MLA's Prize for Distinguished Bibliography for A Bibliography of English Etymology. The prize is awarded every even-numbered year, and will be presented during the annual MLA convention on January 7th, 2011. Click here for more info.




Ramón E. Soto-Crespo's Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico has been awarded an honorable mention for MLA's Prize in U.S. Latino/a and Chicano/a Literary and Cultural Studies. Click here for more info.





Wendy Grossman's Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens (2010) is the recipient of the 2010 International Tribal Art Book Award (aka le Prix International du Livre d'Art Tribal). The award was presented Nov. 29th, 2010, at Sotheby's in Paris.

Want more? Find other recent UMP book awards here.

Congrats to all!

Photos: Minneapolis, New Orleans

We're playing a bit of catch-up after the holiday weekend, and wanted to share a few lovely photos from the recent launch event for former Minnesota legislator Allan H. Spear's memoir, Crossing the Barriers.

MN Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher was one of the evening's guest speakers.


Also in attendance, from left to right: Richard Spear, brother of Allan Spear; Lee Greenfield, former Minnesota legislator; Kathleen O'Brien, vice president of university services at the University of Minnesota; Marcia Greenfield; John Milton, former Minnesota legislator and author of the afterword to Crossing the Barriers; Margaret Anderson Kelliher; and Scott Dibble, Minnesota senator.


And here are a few photos from the American Anthropological Association meeting in mid-November (first one is of author M. Bianet Castellanos with her book, A Return to Servitude. Second one is some random fun):


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Solitude, devotion, fading masculinity -- Christopher Isherwood in the Sixties.


HarperCollins has published The Sixties, a second volume of Christopher Isherwood's diaries, which picks up where the first ended (the first volume covered 1939 - 1960 and was published in 1996). This new volume covers the same period in which Isherwood wrote the classic A Single Man (Minnesota 2001) and highlights a time of uncertainty, loneliness and deep passion:

And as these copious diaries make clear, Isherwood’s wits were very much intact. Patience with “The Sixties” is rewarded. The book becomes an intimate portrait of the life of a beautiful if neurotic mind, and it is streaked with gossip, flinty observations, great good humor and — despite Isherwood’s fundamental discretion — plenty of frank talk.

Read the full NYT article.

Find an A Single Man excerpt, reading group guide, readers' forum, and other Christopher Isherwood books available from University of Minnesota Press.