Michael Lowy and Robert Sayre aren't afraid to take the widest possible (political) view of Romanticism in this expansive and insightful book. Rather...moreMichael Lowy and Robert Sayre aren't afraid to take the widest possible (political) view of Romanticism in this expansive and insightful book. Rather than construct a definition of Romanticism that seeks to eliminate the inherent contradictions of the term, which they describe as "simultaneously (or alternately) revolutionary and counterrevolutionary, realist and fantastic, retrograde and utopian, rebellious and melancholic, democratic and aristocratic, activist and contemplative, republican and monarchist, red and white, mystical and sensual," the authors define Romanticism as a fundamentally anti-capitalist worldview expressed across broad political, aesthetic and culture spectrums.
This is the first survey book on Romanticism I've read, but from what I gather, this book's insistence on the revolutionary potential of Romanticism is its most novel contribution. Certainly some fascist ideology found inspiration in (some) Romantic works, but on the whole, many 20th century literature scholars have been too quick too dismiss Romanticism as a reactionary aesthetic that led directly to fascism, something that this work vigorously disputes. Its not hard to gauge the authors' political standpoint (they are leftist as all get out), and the best parts of the book consider the variety of revolutionary Romantic thought. The chapter on Marxism and Romanticism is particularly useful, especially for its succinct summation of the long, complicated career of Gyorgy Lukacs and all the times he changed his mind about stuff, mainly whether Romanticism was irredeemably fascist and bad or not.
For all its expansiveness, there are glaring gaps. A good third of the book is devoted the to the final two chapters, "Visages of Romanticism in the Twentieth Century" and "The FIre Is Still Burning: From Surrealism to the Present Day and Beyond." (For example, the latter is a 40 page chapter, compared to the 10 page chapter that precedes it on 19th century Romanticism.) But while this book's focus on the more recent/contemporary iterations of Romanticism make it stand out from other surveys, it doesn't do much to challenge notions of Romanticism that are focused entirely on the experiences of the white Euro-American male. The chapter on 20th century Romanticism attempts to explore what a feminist Romantic critique of modernity might be, but it does so exclusively through a 20 page close reading of the oeuvre of East German novelist Christa Wolf, and if you don't know her work (I don't) its difficult to pull any kind of theoretical framework out of it.
It also seems a little strange to write an entire book about Romanticism as resistance to modernity, devoting much of the book to 20th century iterations of modernity, and then give absolutely no consideration to race, ethnicity, anti-imperialism, or anti-colonialism. As a student of Japanese history, Romanticism seems an especially fitting framework for thinking through some of the varied and seemingly contradictory responses to modernity that emerged both in Japan and in reaction to Japan's own imperial and colonial project. Lowy and Sayres are both Europeanists and I wouldn't expect them to provide a thorough overview of Romanticism and the non-West, but a hint of a consideration would've been useful.
Ultimately, this book functions are a rigorous defense of utopias and utopian thinking as a crucial component of the (radical) anti-capitalist critique. Utopias, and a nostalgic consideration for a past outside of capitalism expand our imagination of what might be possible.
Miyazaki Toten was a Meiji-era would-be revolutionary whose dreams of a Chinese restoration led him to become the right-hand man of Sun Yat-Sen, trave...moreMiyazaki Toten was a Meiji-era would-be revolutionary whose dreams of a Chinese restoration led him to become the right-hand man of Sun Yat-Sen, traveling throughout Asia to make connections and agitate for a Chinese uprising against the Qing Dynasty and Western colonial powers. This autobiography served to introduce Sun and his ideas to the Japanese reading public, though the book was written in 1902 when things didn't look so good for revolutionaries in China, and Miyazaki wrote it as if his life's work had been a failure. In fact, he gave up his pan-Asian scheming and became a performer of naniwa-bushi, a type of ballad singing, for a time. He was back with Sun by the time of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, although that's not covered in the book.
Though Japan was in the early stages of becoming an empire during this time, Miyazaki's hopes for Asia and the schemes they lead him to are distinctly in line with Sun's pan-Asianism rather than Japan's nascent colonialism. (less)
A great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national a...moreA great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national and military project through the creation of local reserve corps, youth leagues, and women's associations that worked on local projects (public works, firefighting, disaster relief) as well as a wide-array of 'patriotic' activities (patriotic lectures, patriotic military drills, patriotic sports tournaments, etc). These various groups integrated the military into the daily life of rural people, setting the state for full-mobilization in the 1930s, both for war and for sending settlers to the colonies, particularly Manchuria.
The mastermind of these rural associations was Tanaka Giichi, an Army General and known Mussolini enthusiast, who promoted further incursion into Manchuria and suppression of dissidents in Japan during his tenure as Prime Minister in the late 1920s. Tanaka was a protege of Yamagata Aritomo, the samurai from Choshu who founded the modern Japanese army. Yamagata, like many successful revolutionaries, became obsessed with fostering unity and suppressing dissent in the new nation-state he helped to create. He, and then Tanaka after him, saw rural village communities as the foundation of Japanese identity and morality. However, in the early Meiji period most rural villages resented the state's incursions into their lives, via conscription, education and increased taxes, and so began their machinations to bring village and nation together.(less)
Of all the markers of female faux-emancipation (fauxmancipation?) that Power bulldozes in this book, I was most glad to see her demolish chocolate. I...moreOf all the markers of female faux-emancipation (fauxmancipation?) that Power bulldozes in this book, I was most glad to see her demolish chocolate. I do not care for chocolate that much. It is fine. I'd prefer shortbread any day of the year, which, in contemporary feminist-lite rhetoric about 'what women want,' makes me some kind of, I don't know, boy. Reading women writing cheekily about how really all they want is to eat chocolates and not get chubby has always filled me with a vague despair. Power writes:
"I think there's a very real sense in which woman are supposed to say 'chocolate' whenever someone asks them what they want. It irresistibly symbolizes any or all of the following: ontological girlishness, a naughty virginity that gets it kicks only from a widely-available mucky cloying substitute, a kind of pecuniary decadence."
Yeah. Take that, Chocolate Industrial Complex.
In a mere 69 pages Power comes down hard on much of contemporary feminism, arguing the term has either been co-opted by people like Sarah Palin who argue they're feminists just because they're women, or come to stand for the guiltless indulgence of the liberated, 'empowered' female consumer. Jessica Valenti's book Full Frontal Feminism get a particularly thorough dressing down, as it provides numerous examples of the 'feminists buy what they wanna buy!' style of emancipation through consumption that Power reviles. Other reviews have noted that Valenti is a bit of a straw-horse here, as her website Feministing contains examples of the structural critiques that Power repeatedly asks for, but Power's argument is valid and powerfully argued nonetheless.
The flip side to the emancipated consumer is the capable professional, representative of the 'feminization of labor' and the 'laborization of women.' Power's materialist framework allows her to think through the changing vicissitudes of contemporary work in an engaging way, culminating in her really, totally awesome dissection of everything that is wrong with porn these days. If, like me, you don't have any fundamental moral objection to pornography, and yet wonder why so much of it sucks so bad (blows so hard??), might I offer this sentence as a tantalizing clue-
"The excessive taxonomical drive of contemporary pornography is merely one element of its quest to bore us all to death and remind us that everything is merely a form of work, including, or even most especially, pleasure."
Power ends with a call for rethinking the possibility of communes, collectivism, and unorthodox forms of reproduction as potential ways out of the eternal vacillation between working and shopping and shopping and work, which some of my fellow Goodreaders have found a little odd, but I think is just fine, especially since this call is intertwined with a provocative critique of 'sexoleftism.' More than just the 'sites of resistance' that every activist and their mother is talking about these days, Power ends with suggestions for alternate modes of being.
Ninomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all wri...moreNinomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all written accounts of his philosophy and works were done by disciplines, hence the hagiographic quality of these works.
This volume is short parables apparently told by the Sage in evening talks with his disciples, covering his usual topics of how to be prosperous, how the village can succeed, how to be a good leader. Ninomiya's teachings stem from syncretic philosophy, which brought together Shinto, Buddhism and Confucian principles together combined them into a worldview that espoused prosperity through hard work, benevolence, and simple living.
Ninomiya's teachings became especially popular after the Meiji Restoration, and remained popular well into the 20th century. The 1937 English language introduction by a Ninomiya follower, Count Tadamasa Sakai, is quite brief but contains several revealing statements about the "morality" of agriculture in the East, and ends with a critique of capitalism. "Today when the civilization starting from from and standing on the basis of capitalistic commerce and industry has reached its apex and a way of exit from the labyrinth it has entered is being sought everywhere, we shall feel thankful if this book will serve even to a small extent as a guiding post to the way of salvation of the distressed people of the world."
Tortuous syntax aside, Sakai's statement about "exiting the labyrinth" of capitalism points to the continued popularity of Ninomiya's teachings as a way to explain away the contradictions and unevennesses inherent in capitalism. I think its this aspect of his teaching, the way it could read as a recipe for prosperity for all without directly challenging existing power structures, that accounts for his post-Meiji popularity despite being Ninomiya being a pro-bakufu figure. (less)
Read this edition, because the Mary Karr introductory essay is great. I've spent too long in school and didn't feel comfortable just reading The Waste...moreRead this edition, because the Mary Karr introductory essay is great. I've spent too long in school and didn't feel comfortable just reading The Waste Land without any major prep work or whatever, and so I diligently read Karr's essay first (because somehow I made it to 30 years old without reading this poem, embarrassing) and she told me to just go ahead and read it and experience it and think about whatever it makes me think about. Modernism this modernist can really be alienating to people and make them feel that there's some joke or something deeply erudite going on that they're missing, which is no way to enjoy a poem or any work of art. It's a comment on society (or just grad students) that we need a professional to validate our gut reaction. Of course there's more to any poem or artwork than our gut reaction, and Karr's essay also helps the novice reader move past their initial impressions into a deeper understanding of what's going.
Also, read The Waste Land and other T.S. Eliot poems. He's canonical for a reason. I should learn to not let my contrarianism interfere with my reading of the classics.
Esther and Fanya are twins growing up in the Lower East Side around 1910. They've got a bossy mom who hasn't taught them how to read ("they don't need...moreEsther and Fanya are twins growing up in the Lower East Side around 1910. They've got a bossy mom who hasn't taught them how to read ("they don't need goyish schooling") and a gentle dad who tells them dreamy tales of his mother country. Fanya ends up working for "lady doctor" (we all know what that euphemism means) Bronya, and grows up to be political and feminist. Esther finds employment in a burlesque house that doubles as bordello, and grows up glamourous and risque. Their wildly disparate paths strain their relationship, as Fanya fights against sexist laws and relationship conventions, while Esther learns to use her beauty and sexuality for profit. Interspersed with their tale is the story of their father Isaac's last year in Russia, spent fleeing the Cossacks. The extreme anti-Semitism of both Russia and the US is a dark vein that connects all the various nodes of the story, as is the sexism that forcefully shapes both Esther and Fanya's lives.
Leela Corman's art is beautiful and lively, vibrantly depicting both the chaos of Manhattan in the early 20th century and pastoral scenes in late 19th century Russia. This novel also shines is in its dialogue, a rare thing for a graphic novel, in my experience. The LES chatter is rich with Yiddish and old-school New Yorky phrases. Isaac's buddy back in the old world, Meyer, is a master of the colorful Jewish insult. The evocativeness of the art and words help the story to transcend its rather formulaic plot.
Highly recommended! And not just because I met Leela Corman at a comics expo in 1997, when she was selling $5 paintings of foxy ladies. I bought one, of course. (less)
This is a book about the Vera Zasulich that shot the governor of St.Petersburg in 1878, not about the Vera Zasulich that sent a prescient letter to Ka...moreThis is a book about the Vera Zasulich that shot the governor of St.Petersburg in 1878, not about the Vera Zasulich that sent a prescient letter to Karl Marx in 1881, though they are the same person. Zasulich's correspondence with Marx is mainly how she's remembered these days, and what introduced me to her. However, if you want to read a book about the thought of Vera Zasulich, or how she came to her politics, or even a book that incorporates some of life's work into a biographical sketch of her early days, this isn't that book. In the first chapter, Siljak refers to Zasulich's "impenetrable writings on socialist theory" and "illegible notes on Marx and Hegel," so you know this isn't going to be any kind of theoretical book nor an intellectual history. Instead you will find out if Vera was pretty or not (she wasn't, and that's a fact that will be mentioned multiple times), what she wore (very plain clothing), and who her boyfriends were. That said, this is a well-researched and engagingly written account of 19th century Russian radicalism. For much of the text, Zasulich isn't there at all. Mostly this is useful and good, as Siljak gives ample background on the emergence of socialist politics in Russia, and fully develops the auxiliary set of characters. (Really, the emergence of radicalism in Russia IS the narrative, and Zasulich is more of a framing device than the main story.) Occasionally, it drags on, such as the endless description of rural childhood, which will tire anyone who's read at least one Russian novel in her life, although it's possible I was just cranky that day.
As deeply informative as it was, I had some problems with the tone of this book. 'Tone' is a terrible hook to hang a critique on, but it's also a bummer to read a book about 'Russia's Revolutionary World' that could be subtitled "Really, tsarist Russia wasn't that bad." If I had the time or energy, I'd comb the text looking for examples to develop my point; the most specific one I can think of off the top of my head are the strangely loving descriptions of new prison architectures (so healthy and scientific!). It's not as if there isn't plenty to critique about revolutionary Russians- they were often naive, some were prone to bizarre and shameful bursts of extreme violence against their own cohort, and many were susceptible to manipulative and charismatic men. But they were also responding to systemic violence and injustice in their societies, extending their concern for those outside of and beneath their social class
There is also the problem with Siljak's use of the word 'terrorist.' It appears in the text without a definition. Terrorism in a notoriously slippery term, but if we are to believe that Dmitrii Karakozov, who attempted to assassinate Tsar Alexander II in 1866, was "Russia's first terrorist," I want to know why. It must mean that peasant rebellions were not terrorism, no matter how many landlords were killed in those uprisings. It wasn't terrorism when a rival royal factions staged a coup, say when Catherine's supporters assassinated Tsar Peter III in 1762, or when Tsar Paul 1 was assassinated in 1801. And it certainly wasn't terrorism when an oppressive regime held people in horrific conditions, without official charges, for years at a time. So what makes a depressed noble, who thought the Tsar was responsible for suffering of the Russian people, a terrorist? He didn't target civilians to achieve his political aims. He was, however, part of radical socialist group. There is a moment after Zasulich's trial for attempted assassination that the radicals themselves begin to use the appellation of terrorism, or so Siljak led me to believe, and I also want to know what that term meant to them. Terrorism is a deeply loaded term, and although I know this book is intended for a wide reading audience and not just nit-picky academics like myself, I think it's critical to define one's terms.(less)
No, of course you can't write your dissertation in only 15 minutes a day, but there are some days where you want to pretend that your writing project...moreNo, of course you can't write your dissertation in only 15 minutes a day, but there are some days where you want to pretend that your writing project doesn't exist and that you are actually a skilled woodworker (or is that just me), and yet you must/should spend at least 15 minutes working on it, every day, without exception.
I am not at the dissertation stage yet, but it approaches, and I've found the writing process to be increasingly terrifying as I progress through graduate school. This book was very helpful in ameliorating that, especially in suggestion various types of writing practices suited to different types of people. What Bolker emphasizes more than anything is the importance of have *a* writing practice, whatever its structure, in lieu of just freaking out everyday.
A quick read, but worth the hour or so it will cost you, especially if and yes, the appendix on computers is out-of-date, but she also writes "If you should happen to be prone to wasting time, the computer is your field of dreams," which really even more applicable now than it was in 1997. (less)
How do you write a lot? You treat writing like any other part of your job, whether it be teaching, administrating, showing up to meetings, whatever. I...moreHow do you write a lot? You treat writing like any other part of your job, whether it be teaching, administrating, showing up to meetings, whatever. I don't only teach when I feel like teaching, or when I am inspired to teach; I teach when I am scheduled to teach. So, set an rigid writing schedule, and then stick to it until becomes habit. Seems like a basic concept, but I still needed to read a book about it. Silvia effectively and engagingly demolishes many of the "specious barriers" that prevent a productive writing practice, and there's a nicely done section on style too. (Good luck trying to improve academic English, dude!)(less)