Roy R. Behrens, Judie Newman, Robert A. Segal, Mark Turin and Duncan Wu...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Roy R. Behrens, distinguished professor of art, University of Northern Iowa, is reading Regina Lee Blaszczyk’s The Color Revolution (MIT Press, 2012). “A history of industrial uses of colour, this is an engaging and well-written view of the perpetual tango between colour and commerce since the 19th century. It is of particular value to those who crave information on design history, emotive responses to colour and vision science. Be prepared to also learn about the surprising contributions made by camouflage artists.”

Une saison avant la tragédie de Macbeth by Gloria Carreño

Judie Newman, professor of American studies, University of Nottingham, is reading Gloria Carreño’s Une saison avant la tragédie de Macbeth (Editions Persée, 2010). “In this prequel to the ‘Scottish play’, Carreño replaces Shakespeare’s guilty somnambulistic madwoman with her feisty historical original, Gruoch, a woman of keen political intelligence who rejects portents, omens and witchcraft in favour of a ringing declaration that ‘My hands mould my destiny’. Great on the page - and even better on the stage in the British Touring Shakespeare Company’s 2010 production.”

Natural Theology by William Paley

Robert A. Segal, sixth-century professor of religious studies, University of Aberdeen, is reading William Paley’s Natural Theology (Oxford University Press, 2006). “Paley’s work, originally published in 1802, is the classic modern version of an ancient argument: that the physical world operates in so orderly a manner that it must have been designed. The designer is God. Paley gives example after example from anatomy, biology and astronomy. Darwin, while smitten with Paley, offers natural selection as the secular rejoinder to design.”

Sita’s Ascent by Vayu Naidu

Mark Turin, research associate at the University of Cambridge and director of the World Oral Literature Project, is reading Vayu Naidu’s Sita’s Ascent (Penguin Books India, 2012). “Having never seen nor read the Ramayana - India’s great epic - I thought I would start with this version. Naidu’s narrative is a rich and complex tapestry, dancing back and forth in time and between voices. Sita’s strength shines ever bright throughout, a commanding purity on to which the failing of all other characters are projected. Timeless and powerful stuff. Recommended!”

The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht

Duncan Wu, professor of English, Georgetown University, is reading The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), edited by Jonathan F.S. Post. “A powerful collection of letters by one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, full of wisdom and humanity. It is valuable not only for Hecht’s insights into poetry but also for letters to Joseph Brodsky and James Merrill, and descriptions of encounters with (among others) W.H. Auden and the young Marlon Brando.”

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