JHU Press Blog

Interpretation and its rivals

by bjs | Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 10:00 AM

Guest post by Rita Felski Is interpretation a historically limited practice that is now in decline? Or, at a time when the humanities are under attack, should we defend interpretation as lying at the very heart of what we do? These are the questions to be addressed at a conference taking place at the University of Virginia on September 19 and 20. Sponsored by the journal New Literary History , the conference brings ten renowned scholars from different disciplines and countries to the grounds of the university Speakers at the conference will address the value of interpretation in the university and in everyday life. In literary studies, for example, there has been a recent turn away from interpretation. Echoing the arguments of Susan Sontag in her essay “Against Interpretation,” critics worry that interpretation has become stifling. We are so eager to decipher what a text means that we pay little attention to how it means—to its language, texture, form. These critics urge us to spend more time on describing art works rather than interpreting them. Perhaps, as Sontag suggests, we need to recover our senses; to see more,...Read More

Embracing the certainty of uncertainty

by bjs | Monday, September 16, 2013 - 9:42 AM

When you see medicine portrayed in the movies or on television, you pretty much know that the solution to any medical mystery will come in an hour or even less. The guy in the lab will have an amazing breakthrough, or some stray conversation will spark a thought in the mind of a doctor, who will then come up with a diagnosis no one had even considered. But that’s not how life works. Medicine and science, like every other field, are rife with uncertainty. This can cause problems for doctors who want to know how to cure a disease or a family who wants to understand why no one can figure out why their loved one is in pain. The bigger problem, however, is not embracing the reality of uncertainty, according to Andrew J.E. Seely from the University of Ottawa. Seely is the author of “ Embracing the Certainty of Uncertainty: Implications for Health Care and Research ,” an essay which appeared in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine earlier this year. In the article, he examines “the thesis that acknowledging and affirming the ‘certainty of uncertainty’ has the potential to improve...Read More

The Legacy of the Shaw Memorial Is a Steady Drumbeat of Hope

by cmt | Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 8:30 AM

Guest post by Ronald S. Coddington The Shaw Memorial, circa 1897; Collection of the Library of Congress.

One day during the summer of 1904, Alex Johnson beamed as he stood on the Boston Common before the Shaw Memorial. Four decades earlier, he and his comrades in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry passed this spot as they marched off to war with Col. Robert Gould Shaw. Now, Johnson and a group of survivors from the famed regiment marveled at the glorious sculpture erected to commemorate their achievements. Johnson and other veterans gathered in Boston to participate in a “Grand Encampment” of the Grand Army of the Republic, or G.A.R. The organization of former Union soldiers wielded enormous influence and political power in turn-of-the-century America. According to an anecdote in the official proceedings of the event, Johnson “pointed out to his friends a representation of himself in the figures on the Shaw memorial, opposite the State House. The resemblance to Johnson, even so many years after the war, was very noticeable to his friends.” The story of the life and military service of drummer Alexander Howard Johnson appears in African...Read More

The distribution of health and its explanations (and Facebook)

by cmt | Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 8:30 AM

guest post by Brian G. Southwell In August 2013, the Associated Press reported that one’s success in getting a liver transplant in the United States is partially a function of geography and social space: because of disparities in the current transplant district system, where a person lives dictates in part whether they will receive a needed transplant. In my own work , I’ve also found disparity between communities in medical service distribution. In a different story, researchers have found that the spread of obesity seems linked to social network patterns, such that one’s chance of becoming obese rises if she or he has a friend who also becomes obese. All of this suggests that spatial disparity, particularly that related to one’s social networks, impacts health and well-being. A key question, however, involves mechanism: How exactly is it that the social composition of one’s living space, broadly conceptualized, matters in explaining access to health or health outcomes? In case of the liver transplant story, social space matters because you typically need to live within reach of an available organ in order to receive a transplant and some places have more or less supply or demand...Read More

Author Talks, Special Programs, and the Baltimore Book Festival Coming in September

by cmt | Friday, August 30, 2013 - 8:30 AM

JHU Press authors, editors, and staff launch a busy fall calendar in September with events from coast to coast, along with plenty of activities in Baltimore and the Chesapeake region. Of particular note is the start this month of the Odyssey program’s “Mini-Med School” (Odyssey is JHU’s acclaimed non-credit continuing studies program), which features talks by the authors of seven of JHUP’s well-regarded health books for general readers. September ends with a bang when the Press again partners with JHU’s Peabody Library for the latest edition of the Baltimore Book Festival , which will be held from September 27 to 29. The Book Festival line-up and logistics will be the subject of a future post. For a look at fall events beyond September, visit the Press calendar . As always, we love it when you help spread the word about these JHUP activities.

7 September 2013, 7:00 p.m. Book Talk & Signing – Michael Wolfe Cut These Words into My Stone Book Passage Corte Madera, CA Cut These Words Into My Stone (a collection that Richard Wilbur calls “simply stunning”) offers...Read More

End of summer news and new books

by rr | Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 12:08 PM

News and Notes

The August 8 edition of the London Review of Books featured a magnificent Colm Tóibín appreciation of The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht . Americans are living longer than ever, aided by ever-advancing life-saving medical technologies and treatments. Dr. Dan Morhaim, author of The Better End: Surviving (and Dying) on Your Own Terms in Today's Modern Medical World , joins Midday with Dan Rodricks , to discuss end-of-life care .

Hot off the Press

Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard Charles J. Rzepka's enticing exploration of the work and life of the "Dickens of Detroit" looks at what makes the dope-dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisors, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Elmore Leonard's world "cool." [ed...Read More

“We'll figure it out.”

by cmt | Friday, August 16, 2013 - 10:00 AM

That’s become our motto at the JHU Press, where the only constant is change, as they say. And we ’ ve decided to embrace it. So when a prominent dermatologist agreed to write a book for us on the condition that we publish it as a multi-touch iBook, with patient videos and three-dimensional graphics, we replied with an enthusiastic, “We ’ ll figure it out.” That’s what we set out to do. But we knew that we needed a beta project on which to cut our teeth. We needed to learn the ins and outs of iBooks Author and figure out the best way to integrate iBooks into our traditional workflows. That’s how Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press was born: an iBook history of the JHU Press complete with text, three-dimensional graphics, interactive maps, video, audio, and even a self-grading quiz. We recently wrote a piece for AAUP’s The Digital Digest on the making of Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full article. There was a small twinge of anxiety over the fact that...Read More

Climate change, Prince George, and chatter that matters

by cmt | Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 8:30 AM

Guest post by Brian Southwell In late July 2013, Twitter posts regarding Prince George, the latest addition to the British royal family, outpaced those related to climate change by more than a 10 to 1 margin, according to the social media measurement site Topsy.com . One might argue that this signals the doom of our planet, as we seem more interested in talking about an infant prince born to a figurehead monarchy than in unprecedented change to our planet’s environment. It is not as though this was a mundane year in the annals of climate change, after all; in May, the level of carbon dioxide reached a new milestone long feared by climate researchers. That we would not spend most waking hours talking about that development might be seen either as a woeful failure or a strategy to cope with overwhelming news. In either case, our relative conversational silence about climate science seems noteworthy. Whether talk between people actually matters to public understanding and, if so, how such exchange matters are open questions, however. To argue against the significance of talk, one can point to evidence that interpersonal exchanges, at least elements of personal...Read More

Mammalogists by the thousands

by cmt | Monday, August 12, 2013 - 8:30 AM

Guest post by John L. Koprowski Just across the pond in Belfast, Northern Ireland, more than a thousand mammalogists are attending the 11th International Mammalogical Congress from August 11-16, 2013, which is hosted by Queen’s University. This large international congregation brings together one species of social mammal ( Homo sapiens ) interested in other mammals as model systems for the study of evolution, phylogenies, morphology, physiology, population ecology, genetics, and conservation. Previous congresses have been held around the globe, with the most recent occurring in Mendoza, Argentina, in 2009. IMC 11 maintains the customary 4-year interval that separates the congresses. Needless to say, much scientific progress has been made and new challenges have moved to the forefront in the interim, creating a rich and stimulating atmosphere for participants from dozens of nations.While no one will complain about spending a week of their northern hemisphere summer in the cool, green landscapes of Northern Ireland, the opportunity to interact with such a magnificent group of colleagues from diverse scientific perspectives and countries of origin is the real draw. We should put up large yellow signs warning “Scientists at Work” across the university campus! The format of the International...Read More

Chapter & Verse: The contemporary relevance of Homeric poetry

by cmt | Friday, August 2, 2013 - 9:21 AM

Chapter and Verse is a series that features JHU Press authors and editors discussing the literary landscape of poetry and prose, whether their own creative work or the literature of others. Guest post by Erwin F. Cook The following is excerpted from the Food for Thought Lecture Professor Cook originally presented at Trinity University on May 1, 2013. I initially balked at the request to talk about the contemporary relevance of Homeric poetry. I did so because I am of the camp that maintains great art does not need to be defended on these terms, which is to say its skill, beauty, and profundity give it all the relevance it needs to be of lasting relevance. But I do recognize that my justification, which also keeps me from studying ancient graffiti and medieval doorknockers, assumes that at some level of remove there are enduring qualities to these works that do indeed, and will always, give them contemporary relevance. Instead of trying to sell the Iliad in these terms, however, I found I could do something more in the spirit of the original request and show how it allows us to see certain aspects of the contemporary...Read More