Free books available for “IPRH Reads” event

“My neighborhood was the world to me.” — Donnell Furlow, Rockwell Gardens

IPRH is giving away 50 free copies of Audrey Petty’s High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing, which documents the experiences of residents of Cabrini Green, the Robert Taylor Homes and other iconic housing projects in late 20th-century Chicago.

This book giveaway is in connection with an “IPRH Reads” book discussion on February 1. If you would like a free copy of the book, they are available for pick up at IPRH (Suite 400, Levis 919 W. Illinois, Urbana) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.  to 5 p.m. If you wish to call ahead, the number is 244-3344. Due to the limited number of books, we ask that only those intending to take part in the February 1 discussion pick up a book.

The book is based in oral histories that testify to the combination of neighborhood violence and community vitality that marked these building and the people who lived in them. We hear the pain and the laughter, the joy, the sorrow and the struggle of those who inhabited these towering monuments to an ideal of fair housing in postwar America that was never realized.

On February 1 at  7:30 p.m., we will be joined in our discussion by the book’s editor, Audrey Petty, a writer and educator whose fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared in many prestigious journals and anthologies. She is currently the Simon Blattner Visiting Assistant Professor of Fiction at Northwestern University.

This event is a “Public Square@Illinois” event as well as part of IPRH’s 2016–17 theme, “Publics,” which explores the changing nature of public spaces, ideas about the public, the future of public access, the importance of public histories and the variety of competing ideals that surround the very notion of the public as a commonplace or collective ideal.  For more about IPRH’s programs and activities, visit the IPRH website.



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Finding Good Books

Melissa Littlefield is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. Her research investigates the cultural and historical intersections of the neurosciences and the humanities. 

Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyI read for a living—that sounds kind of wonderful, right? Novels and short stories and lots of articles for research and/or the courses I teach: this semester it’s “Science Fiction,” so Frankenstein, Island of Dr. Moreau, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, and World War Z are all part of the plan. In Spring 2017, it will be a healthy dose of Techno-Cultures (Engl 597), recent non-fiction I have been longing to read myself—if you’re at all interested in Science and Technology Studies come on out for the class!

The irony is that reading for a living leaves me largely uninterested in reading during my leisure hours. Those who know me best will tell you that I’d rather be making or doing: knitting a sweater, spinning up some wool, building a house, baking, or just walking anywhere and everywhere. Reading for fun became something I did occasionally on long flights. I would pick up a random bestseller at an airport, read it while traveling, decide it was middling, and deposit it in a hotel room somewhere along the way, hoping, perhaps, to fill some other traveler’s empty hours.

John Steinbeck’s The PearlPart of the trouble, I suppose, is finding a *good* book in this sea of options. When I was younger I refused to admit that there were bad books in the world. I was a firm believer that all books were worth reading—that is, until I read John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. [As an ironic aside, I went on to read all of Steinbeck’s novels over one lazy summer and he remains one of my favorite American authors.] Tastes change. In my teens and twenties I found Falkner, Nabokov, and Joyce. And, as much as I loved the classics when I was a kid (Little Women, Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, The Princess and the Goblin); I love messy, untrustworthy first person narrators more; I like complexity and wit; I enjoy speculative fiction, if it can follow through on its premise. I sound picky. I am. As an adult with limited time, so many books disappoint me within the first few pages.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsLuckily, during those years in which I was uninterested in untested fiction, my son and my grandmother kept me in the loop. When my son was little, we would read together (everything from Jack and Annie, to the A-Z Mysteries, to Harry Potter). Once he started reading on his own, which was many, many years ago now, I wanted to stay in touch with his interests and so we often had read-a-longs and I volunteered at his school library (so I could always tell what was flying off the shelves). This is how I found out about The Hunger Games, Rick Riordan’s adventure series, Divergent, and The World as We Knew It. All excellent books that are more than just “young adult fiction.” (Sigh . . . labels.) My grandma, on the other hand, encouraged me to branch out into some other contemporary fiction—you see, we have an arrangement: she often sends me novels (such as The Secret Life of Bees) and I send her a new novel to read each year around the holidays. Usually, I vet these novels by reading them first. That’s how I happened to read The Goldfinch and Bellweather Rhapsody.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret AtwoodSometime in 2014, when my son was far outpacing me in the novel read-a-longs, I decided to have a go at picking up random books. I thought this was the secret to my son’s success (I have since learned that it is not!). Being un-selective has led to less curated reading and a strange mélange of books, including The Insect Farm and The Dynamite Room. I found the Twilight trilogy abandoned in a “free” pile in our neighborhood, and I actually thought “why not?” I wanted to know what all the fuss was about anyway. Turns out, these books are funny and “fun”—who knew? And you can read them while knitting. Being late to the party is also a theme for me: I found a short story in the New Yorker by this guy named George Saunders—you heard of him long before I did, I’m sure . . . after “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” I followed up with his collections, Tenth of December and Pastoralia. They are excellent. I will also admit to some purposeful hunting: China Miéville has long been on my list, so I picked up This Census Taker. You should too. I have also been working to catch up on Margaret Atwood’s recent novels and short stories and so finally made some time to read The Year of the Flood, the second book in her recent trilogy. I cannot recommend Miéville and Atwood enough—the books I just finished are chock full of allegory, fable, speculation, creepy mystery, apocalypse. And each follows through on its awful, awful premise.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteReading for a living can be dangerous to one’s taste in and time for fiction. I don’t think I’m any less picky, but I’m becoming more willing to take chances again, to meet new characters, to revisit new books by favorite authors, and to admit that twenty-first century fiction has some new and exciting trends. Plus, I’ll be the first to admit that I missed that feeling of full-immersion. My son, who continues to be a voracious reader, can often be found senseless to the world, pouring through his latest acquisition. When I call him to dinner (for the third time), I am reminded that my best hours were spent likewise, curled up in some window-seat reading Jane Eyre or The Sound and the Fury or Oryx and Crake for the first time.


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Six books a week

Amy Ando grew up and was educated in Massachusetts. She is a Professor of environmental and natural resource economics in the Department of ACE at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The ABC Murders by Agatha ChristieSix books a week. The Tilton Public Library in my small home town allowed me to take out no more than six books a week. At that rate, I consumed all their children’s books long before I stopped being a child (and all the books about horses had my blank-inked number stamp in them many times.) In that era before “Young Adult” novels were legion, the kind librarian struggled to find more to sate my prodigious but still juvenile drive to read.  One inspired day she showed me the wooden shelf of Agatha Christie novels, and I was hooked. The part of me that would grow up to be a researcher loved playing sleuth, and the human drama at the heart of all good mysteries gave me an exciting preview of the world of adult interactions I would soon join.

Mystery novels are still the staple of my leisure-time reading. I read via Kindle so my novel is always with me on my phone if I have a moment to see what lay inside that locked trunk or what the reluctant witness was finally willing to reveal. In fact, I am a fiction omnivore—my eclectic list of favorite recent books includes non-mystery entries like We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Martian by Andy Weir, and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. But I would drop everything if Kate Atkinson would write another of her carefully crafted mystery novels featuring the detective Jackson Brodie (the first of that excellent series was “Case Histories”).  I’ve read everything by Henning Mankel, Jo Nesbo, and Arnaldur Indridason (just a few of the many excellent Scandinavian crime writers) and am currently working through Elizabeth George’s novels just because I love DS Barbara Havers so much.


Mystery novels are considered by some to be low-brow “genre” fiction, but I devour them still. My work as an economist is serious and dry; at the end of the day I appreciate a good puzzle with interesting—and even compelling—characters to draw me for a while into a human drama that is not my own.

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Thinking Historically About Decision 2016

Ian Toller-Clark is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign studying modern conservatism in the Global Midwest. In particular, he seeks to understand the culture of conservative Midwesterners through their reactions to and influences on deindustrialization, public policy, and partisan politics. 

The presidential election of 2016 seems especially unique, tumultuous, and stressful. Many commentators have even described this election as unprecedented. Yet the candidates, the issues, and the campaign strategies emerged from the past decisions, actions, and beliefs of candidates, their staffers, and voters. During these last few weeks it is important to think historically and read deeply. As voters, we listen to campaign messages, gather our own information, and assess these campaigns through social media. Here I thought I would focus on some helpful books that provide the historical context for particular issues that have animated the last eighteen months of Decision 2016.

Conservative Bias by Bryan Hardin ThriftDonald Trump’s successful campaign for the Republican nomination has been credited to his ability to manipulate, attain, and sustain media coverage. Bryan Hardin Thrift’s Conservative Bias: How Jesse Helms Pioneered the Rise of Right-Wing Media and Realigned the Republican Party shows us how one conservative Republican used news media to spread his message, transform the Republican Party into a conservative party, and make the U.S. South electorally competitive. Thrift focuses on the political career of Jesse Helms prior to his election to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina in 1972. In particular, Thrift discusses Helms’ role as the Vice President of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina.  As Vice President Helms had his own editorial news program, Viewpoints, through which he gave a voice to, and perfected conservative ideas and principles. In particular Helms’ editorial commentaries presented an opportunity to normalize conservatism with working-class white North Carolinians. Through 1960s white working-class North Carolinians steadfastly supported Democratic candidates at the local, state, and national level out of loyalty to the New Deal agenda. Yet, Helms developed a strategy, which Thrift labels, “pious incitement,” to realign North Carolina politics. This strategy “involved expressing righteous anger to gain attention, deny legitimacy to others, and claim victimhood.” Helms, on a weekly basis, vented to his listeners about civil rights activism, radicalism at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a poor economy. Helms’s outspoken disdain for civil right activists, the New Deal, and constant championing of the “free-market” encouraged white working- and middle-class voters to support conservative Republicans in North Carolina. Donald Trump’s vehement denouncement and anger over free trade agreements, and illegal immigration as detrimental to the lived experience of white working- and middle-class Americans echoes Jesse Helms’ “pious incitement.” Trump’s outrage has become enshrined in the Republican Party platform, which suggests a monumental realignment of Republican Party politics. In other words, while Trump himself represents a unique phenomenon within mainstream U.S. politics, Conservative Bias shows us that his rhetoric and outrage reflects the latest iteration of a counter revolutionary strategy to realign the Republican Party.

While political entrepreneurs such as Jesse Helms and Donald Trump have mobilized conservative constituents to remake the Republican Party, historian Meg Jacobs shows us how conservatives remade the state through governing.  In the 1970s conservatives held significant positions during the Nixon and Ford administrations, and used the energy crisis of the 1970s to undo New Deal regulations and reorient the purpose of the federal government. From the 1930s through the 1970s liberals in both the Republican and Democratic parties argued that the purpose of the federal government was to combat unemployment and ensure prosperity through government regulation. As a consequence, when United States experienced an energy shortage in the early 1970s the Nixon administration imposed measures such as price controls, and gas rationing. Americans from long-haul truckers to middle-class suburbanites, however, bitterly opposed this government-led solution which contributed to higher gas prices and tremendous gas lines. Conservatives within Nixon’s administration including William Simon and George H.W. Bush argued for the deregulation of the oil and gas industries to lower gas prices, and ease the gas shortage. During the energy crisis Nixon resigned from office over the Watergate break-in, and Gerald Ford assumed the presidency. President Gerald Ford listened to his advisers including Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, and Alan Greenspan who encouraged a focus on inflation rather then unemployment. As a result, Ford pushed for an end to price controls and an austerity budget. Even though Ford lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Carter continued the focus on controlling inflation. In particular Carter ended price controls and backed legislation that would deregulate the oil and gas industry.

Carter’s decision had immense consequences for the Democratic Party and the future of U.S. liberalism. The administration’s response to the energy crisis clashed with Democrats in Congress. Congressional Democrats led by Senator Edward Kennedy and Congressman Toby Moffett pushed for an extension of price controls. In addition, Democrats crafted a full employment legislation (Humphrey-Hawkins) reminiscent of New Deal. The policy differences between Carter and congressional Democrats on how to control inflation, and end the energy crisis in the 1970s highlighted a schism with the Democratic Party. This schism was a catalyst for an ongoing process of realignment between pro-growth Democrats and laborite/leftist Democrats. Pro-growth Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy Carter before her, have pushed the Democratic Party towards representing suburbanites in metropolitan spaces across the United States, while laborite/leftists such as Bernie Sanders have continued to give voice to the union hall base of the Democratic Party.  The energy crisis Meg Jacobs argues transformed U.S. politics, allowing conservatives to undermine the New Deal state, causing divisions within the Democratic Party, and precipitating a decades long recession. It was this recession and its effect on Midwest that created Donald Trump’s path to the presidency.

Demolition Means Progress by Andrew HighsmithThe recession, high inflation, and energy shortages of the 1970s turned the U.S. Midwest, the industrial heartland of the United States, into the nation’s Rust Belt. In particular, the energy crisis ravaged the U.S. auto industry. Rising oil prices contributed to a precipitous drop in the production of U.S. made cars such as Ford and GM. This dramatically changed the local economies of Midwestern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, and Cleveland that had been the centers of industrial capitalism in the United States since the early 1900s. While business executives started in the 1950s to move their factories to the Southwest, and South to capitalize on on the lack of union strength and pro-business political class, the energy crisis of 1970s and 1980s reenergized the deindustrialization of the Midwest. Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis by Andrew Highsmith argues that deindustrialization in the 1970s and 1980s represented a particularly significant moment in the history of U.S. capitalism. It was this moment of deindustrialization that solidified the U.S. Midwest as the Rust Belt region that has been the centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The anger and bitterness of working-class whites in the Rust Belt that so many pundits have attributed to the success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders originated in the 1970s with the structural changes of the auto industry, and other heavy industries in the Midwest.

Demolition Means Progress simultaneously reminds us that deindustrialization was one catalyst for the current political, racial, and gender contours of the Rust Belt’s landscape. Highsmith explains how residential, workplace, and school segregation, urban renewal, suburban development, and deindustrialization created the Rust Belt. Highsmith’s analysis of Flint, Michigan complicates the historical narrative of deindustrialization and the origins of the urban crisis. Highsmith argues that the eventual collapse of Flint as an economic powerhouse in Michigan occurred not just as a consequence of white flight. Rather in the 1950s and early 1960s GM executives and Flint city leaders joined together to invest in a metropolitan vision of capitalism. This vision was a growth agenda built around the idea of a decentralized industrial landscape that was united under a single local governing structure. In other words, as businesses spread out across the suburban landscape around Flint, Michigan, the city government would annex those suburbs. This plan, however, faltered as suburban capitalists, politicians, and neighborhood activists sought to incorporate themselves and create independent local governments separate from Flint. This vision of separate communities resulted from the desire of white middle-class homeowners to create enclaves that would not be forced to desegregate their schools or housing. The success of the suburban capitalist vision rather then the metropolitan capitalist vision, Highsmith argues, contributed to the desire of business leaders to move their companies to new regions. In other words, the anger and bitterness experienced during this election cycle is not just a backlash from the Great Recession or even the last thirty years but a consequence of the our country’s spatial and cultural arrangement that voters, policymakers, business leaders, community leaders, and politicians created through their decisions and desires.

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Going for it: A Review of “Fourth and Long”

Sam LeRoy is a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Marketing and Management as a Chancellor’s Scholar. He serves on the Illini Pride Student Athletic Board as a Block I Chair where he designs the football student section’s famous card stunts for the 2016 season.

I’m an athlete to the extent that I can run a respectable 5K and can occasionally shoot a basketball accurately. I played competitive high school basketball, but lacked the ability and passion to develop into anything more than a bench player on a sub-par squad. Despite my meager athletics career, however, I became quite good at cheering on sports teams. Growing up in Champaign, it was only a matter of time until Fighting Illini fandom took hold during the magical Rose Bowl run in 2007. I may not have the skill to play on a football field, but I do know how to yell for three hours in Memorial Stadium and have some voice leftover for the volleyball match that night.

Though my fandom remains fervent as ever, as I matured I became exposed to the often nasty underbelly of collegiate athletics: player abuse, academic fudging, recruiting violations, heart-wrenching firings, and under-compensated workers (cleverly termed ‘student-athletes’). There are the political pressures from donors and administrators mixed with ideological battles within universities over whether pumping millions of dollars into an auxiliary service is the best use of limited resources. In just my previous year as a student at the University of Illinois, the athletic department faced three different player mistreatment scandals—football, women’s basketball, and women’s soccer—before cleaning house and hiring a new athletic director and football coach at record (and somewhat controversial) salaries.

Fourth and Long: A fight for the soul of college football by John Bacon

John Bacon’s book Fourth and Long: A Fight for the Soul of College Football sheds insight into the contemporary soul-searching questions of collegiate athletics from inside four Big Ten programs: Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Penn State. Embedding himself into the programs and learning from the players, coaches, and administrators, Bacon provides institutional knowledge and first-hand accounts of each program’s major storylines at a tipping point in their history.

For Michigan, he chronicles the attempted rebuild from the disastrous Rich Rodriguez regime and the experimental tenure of a corporate world, bottom-line driven athletic director at a school where tradition often demands the more expensive option. At Northwestern, he covers to Wildcats’ remarkable rise under coach Pat Fitzgerald and their efforts to maintain relevancy while adhering to the highest academic standards in the conference. In Columbus, he follows Urban Meyer’s takeover of an Ohio State program reeling from a scandal where players received improper benefits for autographs and personal tokens. The Penn State sections describe the impossible task of returning not only success but ethics and morality to the Nittany Lion program in the wake of Jerry Sandusky. Perhaps the most interesting and relevant storyline, however, is the apparent correlation between a winning football program and academic success, local economic prosperity, and quality of student life.

Financial investment in these programs is a unifying theme, as is the relationship between gridiron success and academic excellence. The benefits a university and its home community enjoy as a result of strong athletics programs is evident throughout, especially in the case of Penn State. Many football fans are unaware that Penn State sought Big Ten membership primarily because of academic ambitions. Penn State was already an established national football power even as an independent, but the Big Ten’s powerful athletic brand offered even more national exposure and revenue. Big Ten membership also included access to the league’s academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (now the Big Ten Academic Alliance), which facilitates research and teaching collaboration.

Without an elite football program Penn State would likely never have attracted a Big Ten invitation, and to their credit university leadership reinvested the financial rewards into a drastically raised academic profile. Bacon shares that over the ten-year period leading to Fourth and Long’s publication Penn State’s liberal arts faculty grew from 240 to 360, a 50% increase. Since joining the conference, they have enjoyed a tripling in federal research grants to nearly $800 million. In 2012, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Penn State forty-ninth, marking their first top-fifty appearance.

The other schools recognize the economic impact of quality athletics as well. A recurring thread in the Ohio State sections is the Buckeye’s surge in academic profile over several decades, a by-product of academic investment by university stakeholders jubilant from conference and national championships. In Ann Arbor, a single football weekend can generate up to $10 million in revenue for the local community. Even Northwestern is increasing athletic investment, citing the benefits to the student-athletes, quality of campus life and stronger school spirit for all students, and improved town-gown relations galvanized by touchdowns and bowl appearances.

Athletic prowess certainly doesn’t guarantee academic excellence—with due respect few would consider reigning champion University of Alabama an academic peer to the University of Illinois, while the University of Chicago dumped Division I athletics all together and remains one of the elite universities of the world. Nevertheless, Fourth and Long does successfully illustrate the academic and local economic benefits a winning football program can provide in a fascinating discussion on the modern issues of cut-throat Division I athletics. Bacon’s book is an honest assessment of college athletics at its best and its worst, and is a worthwhile read for sports fanatics and skeptics alike.

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Keep Reading History

Steve Beckett is ’70 B.A. History grad and a ’73 J.D. (Law) grad.

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas FlemingI am just finishing Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas J. Fleming.  It’s a fascinating book, that is not too long but basically tracks the romantic interests of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  It is certainly a different perspective of American history’s great figures, and relies heavily on original letters as source materials.  It has a solid review of the Jefferson – Hemmings controversy.

You can read other reviews of Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers on Goodreads.

Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon HallidayI went to China in May on behalf of the law school and delivered a couple of lectures on American criminal law and procedure and to promote the International Program at the College of Law.  I picked up and read Mao:  The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.  It is a comprehensive biography that is quite lengthy but also an eye-opening read about recent Chinese history that puts the current relationship between China and the USA in proper context.

You can read a review of Mao: The Unknown Story by Michael Yahuda at The Guardian.

We Illinois History graduates need to keep reading history!



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On Tim Ingold’s Lines: A Brief History

Rachel Jensen is a musician who maintains a bustling studio in Urbana, where she teaches piano, coaches singers and speakers, and churns out the occasional poem. She earned her masters and doctorate at UIUC.

Lines: A Brief History by Tim IngoldThis book caused more lights to go on in my head than anything I’ve read in a very long time. Tim Ingold is a social anthropologist who winds fluently into both philosophical and poetic realms. I found these traversals to offer a rare genus of intellectual ecstasy. He discusses the primal topic of what lines are, have been, can be in human history and development and, further, how certain suppositions about them might thwart what it means to be alive if left unconsidered.  That is to say, Mr. Ingold discusses how thinking more carefully about this construct, the line, can assist us, perhaps free us a bit, to undergo our lives rather than to exist in blind dashes, pressing from point A to point B and losing the entire In-Between. There is much more to consider as this thinker examines several specific human endeavors in turn. Within the context of each of these explorations, Mr. Ingold poses the important question of what could happen if we were to become aware of the inadvertent lines we “walk,” un-straighten certain lines of thinking and moving through our lives, and become devoted to a less limiting passage through our singular and collective scribble of existence. Others have, of course, posed similar questions in other ways. Mr. Ingold’s inquiries, however, are so penetrating and original that the reading itself proves transformative.

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Practising Interdisciplinary Conversations

Felicity Callard (an academic at Durham University in the Department of Geography and the Centre for Medical Humanities) is participating in a Bio-Humanities Interchange on September22, 2016 at 4:00 in the IPRH Lecture Hall, Levis Faculty Center, Fourth Floor (919 West Illinois Street, Urbana, IL).

ConfigurationsHow do a poet and a cognitive neuroscientist think together—in conversation—about practices of experimentation, noise and voice in their respective research practices? James Wilkes (a poet) and Sophie Scott (a cognitive neuroscientist) have just published an ‘Interdisciplinary Conversation’ in Configurations—a journal that is the official publication of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, and which is co-edited by your colleague Professor Melissa Littlefield, in the Department of English (who works across a number of disciplinary boundaries in her own research on literature and science). What, moreover, can attending to the form as well as substance of interdisciplinary conversations help open up for those of us intrigued by the shifting plate tectonics of disciplinary boundaries evident in the university today?

I admit partiality, here. I first read Wilkes’ and Scott’s conversation in draft formas I was embarking on a new interdisciplinary collaboration with James that focuses on rest and its opposites (noise, work, exertion, tumult) in neuroscience, mental health, the arts and the everyday. James and I were figuring out if and how we might be able to work and think together. How might his poetry and creative criticism, my efforts to mine the fertile seams that enjoin the humanities and the social sciences (as well as the research and practice of many others from many other disciplines) cross so as to allow new routes into rest as a clinical, aesthetic, historical and physiological problem?

What I lovedand continue to loveabout the conversation that Wilkes and Scott published in Configurations was their taking seriously conversation both as a complex genre and as a place to try things out rather than communicate to the other already established positions. They do not attempt to secure false equivalence between the tools and methods through which each engagesas poet and laboratory scientistin experiment. Nor do they pine for a future in which science and poetry might embrace one another in integrated bliss. Their conversation, rather, pries open how concepts and forms emerge in the sciences and in the arts, and how they are forgotten and abandoned. It is interested as much in the labours of un-doing and recursiveness, as in the building of new structures. Their conversation allows us to think anew about the temporal scales through which we might understand the making of scientific knowledge as well as the making, and re-making of literary canons.

On many occasions over the course of the two-year residency (“Hubbub”) that I have directed in The Hub at Wellcome Collection, I and many collaborators have thought about and talked about the seductiveness and liveliness of experimentas practice, form, and ethos. We have been attempting to shape a different topology of disciplinary practiceone in which the arts and humanities are not simply appendages to other epistemological domains (as has so often been the case in ‘Sci-Art’ projects). Attending to the long and compacted history of experiment in the arts as well as in the sciences has been one of my strongest epistemological commitments in the course of this residency. The seduction and surprise that Wilkes’ and Scott’s essay engender in me, even after multiple readings, makes me realize how much more there is to be done to diversify the genres, forms, and styles through which we make interdisciplinarity in the academy today.

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Read Mysteries, Not Facebook

Darrell Hoemann is the owner of Darrell Hoemann Photography and the Visual Editor of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. 

When I had referred the 40th person to this political season because they were spreading inaccurate information, I knew it was time to take a Facebook break.

For me this meant indulging in a mystery. Our household is serious about our mystery books, even attending mystery book conferences on a semi-regular basis.

Season of the Monsoon by Paul MannI took this opportunity to finish the George Sansi series by Paul Mann. The first of this three book series was part of my readings when my wife and I accompanied a study abroad trip to India this past January.

In order to get a sense of culture before we went, as well as plane ride fodder, we chose fiction set in colonial India, post-colonial India and this series, set in the early 1990s.

Sansi, a half caste Oxford educated lawyer, returns to his mother’s India in “Season of the Monsoon”, only to find he needs connections to practice law, so he joins the police force.

The book combined an emphasis on politics, culture and corruption, with a constant reminders of a British influenced class system. All this helped me in some small way to make sense of what we encountered on our visit.

Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey SigerIn a similar vein, I indulged in another Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery, “Devil of Delphi”.

Author Jeffrey Siger (you can read a nice story on Siger on The Huffington Post) also blends culture and politics so a reader not only follows the resolution of a mystery, but gets a sense of the people and places.

We were fortunate to hear him moderate an panel at this year’s Left Coast Crime on “Setting as Character.”  He and other authors described the importance of their intimate knowledge of location, an attribute I find as intriguing as a carefully crafted plot.

So maybe before I return to Facebook, I’ll check out another favorite, the Anne Cleeves series set in the Shetland Islands, also a BBC series. Wonder if it is available on Kindle yet?


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The summer I rediscovered books

A proud East St. Louis native and U of I graduate, Julie Wurth is one of those Champaign-Urbana short-timers who stayed – 29 years and counting. As a News-Gazette reporter, she’s covered higher education and just about everything else, and authors the “Are We There Yet?” parenting column and blog.

About a year ago, I was asked to contribute to the “Reading Matters” blog.

I panicked. I hadn’t finished an actual book in ages. Don’t get me wrong. I read constantly— The newspaper, in my hands. Our website. Other media websites. I read news releases and board packets, emails and PDFs. I comb websites for background and spreadsheets for data. I digest scientific research way over my head. I browse Twitter on and off during the day, ostensibly to post stories but inevitably to get sidetracked by the latest  election/Olympics/parenting news.

I reflexively turn on news radio in the car, when I can’t read. I check my phone for headlines during downtime. But a book? For grown-ups? Not lately.

I’m always been a reader. When I was growing up, our house had reading material within arm’s reach no matter where we sat. A pile of magazines. Books on an end table. Newspapers in the kitchen. Paperbacks on the nightstand.

I spent a month one summer recovering from a bad case of poison ivy, reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings while lying in air-conditioned comfort on our living room couch. But now I’m a parent of two. For a long stretch my reading material consisted of Corduroy and Good Night Gorilla, and later Junie B. Jones and The Magic Treehouse.

Then my kids started reading on their own, as I got busier with life: returning to work full-time, dealing with family health crises and schedule craziness. Every once in awhile I’d optimistically check out a book from the library, only to nod off every night trying to make it through.

But this summer, my daughter and I went to the library together just before a planned vacation. She picked up a half-dozen books, and I checked out three – two “light” mysteries and Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s riveting account of her solo hike on the Pacific Trail.

Wild by Cheryl StrayedThat night, my daughter called me into her room and asked me to read to her, something we hadn’t done in quite awhile. I was so tired that I literally dozed off once —
Mom!” — and completely 
made up one sentence because the words were swimming across the page. She laughed. But I was glad I did it.

I went into my room and opened one of the mysteries, and miraculously didn’t fall asleep. The books kept me company all through our summer travels, and even when we returned—to the point of interfering with things I should have been doing (like work). I got so engrossed in Wild that I’d spend an hour reading in the morning, before everybody woke up. I’d tuck it into my purse to read in waiting rooms or during lunch breaks. When I finished, I had that familiar longing for more—the sign of every good book.

Then I squeezed in a fourth book that I picked up at a friend’s wedding reception (their theme was “libraries,” where they met in law school). I finished it a few days before school started. 

And the very next day, as it happened, I got another email about that blog post. So here I am, with actual books under my belt. I’m hoping “The summer I rediscovered books” will carry over into the fall. If not, there’s always next summer.

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