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scholarly_reads' Journal
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Date:2010-05-31 17:11

Hello everyone!

I am so glad to stumble upon this community!

I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of any books or articles about existentialism and musical theater, or existentialism and science fiction and/or fantasy.

Any recommendations would be very much appreciated! Thanks in advance.

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Date:2005-03-14 21:34

I've been reading a number of books about bread for my bread baking website. This one was fascinating, and one I would recommend to bakers and non-bakers alike.

You can read my original review on my site.

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Date:2004-01-16 10:44
Subject:An article for consideration

Will American pop culture outlast the great thinkers of antiquity? Personally, I see no reason why the Monkees should not last as long as Plato. Here is a Christian Science Monitor article.


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Date:2004-01-15 12:47
Subject:History of the Present, Pt. 2, and a painful question

I finished History of the Present : Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s last night. If Central and Eastern Europe is an area of interest, this is a worthwhile read. Even if that region is not terribly interesting to you, Timothy Garton Ash's writing is thought provoking and insightful.

There were two themes in this book that I intend to read up on further. The first is extremely timely: how do nations devastated by totalitarian governments and war recover, not only physically (restoration of vital services & law and order) but also psychologically? Is it better for a nation to try to "draw a thick line" between the past and the present, as Poland did, or to go through a period of trials and purges, as South Africa and the Czech Republic did? Ash doesn't come up with any formula that he proposes will work for all nations, but he does point out some lessons learned in Eastern Europe that I think would be useful for our political leaders and military to keep in mind.

The other theme, one that I fear may become timely this decade, in its simplest form can be boiled down to the questions "Is there ever a time that ethnic cleansing is justified? Is it sometimes better to build a fence between people than to have them slaughter one another?" Truly horrible questions, but one which I fear the world may be forced to face again soon in the Middle East in regards to the Kurds and/or the Palestinians (God help us if we have to face this question in the United States...).

First a definition: ethic cleansing does not mean rape, murder, or the wholesale destruction of indigenous populations. War crimes are war crimes, regardless of the end. Ethic cleansing in Ash's mind means the seperating of peoples into relatively homogenous (80%+) nations.

Ash pretty well sums up his conclusion in the following passage:

this separating into small states or substate units with clear ethnic majorities [that he has been describing throughout the book], driven though it has been by manipulative and cynical postcommunist nationalism, nonetheless has powerful precedents and counterparts in the rest of Europe. Elsewhere in Europe, too, people generally prefer to be ruled by those they consider somehow "of their own kind." Only once thus constituted, in some version of a nation-state, are they prepared (up to a point) to come together in larger regional and all-European units. A realistic liberal internationalism for the twenty-first century needs to take on board the insights of liberal nationalists for the nineteenth.

Clearly American society also began by uprooting the indigenous population. We may feel guilty about it now, but it would be hypocritical not to note that some of our political stability may have come about because of it.

Ash's conclusions sound a lot like an interview with Israeli historian Benny Morris that I posted in my journal last week: if you have two populations, unable or unwilling to negotiate a deescalation of tension, on the brink of killing one another, isn't forced separation a lesser evil than genocide?

As an American committed to and proud of our multiethnic society, I have a hard time ever condoning segregation. But from my limited experience travelling abroad, I have to admit that ethnic tensions run considerably deeper in parts of the world where history is continually present and historical grievances get passed on to children the way recipes and baseball gloves do here. My "why can't we all just get along" attitude probably isn't realistic in such a part of the world.

Other people's thoughts? Does anyone have any recommendations for further reading on either of these topics?

And a complete aside... the word "anachronistic" came to mind for describing my attitude toward multiculturalism, but "anachronism" is obviously rooted in time. Is there such a word root in space? "Right attitude, wrong place"?

Welcome to the new folks who have joined since I posted to community_promo. I hope you will consider posting about whatever has been on your mind. My posts are neither terribly eloquent nor profound, but I hope they will get some discussion started.

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Date:2004-01-14 14:02
Subject:community charter

A first draft of the community charter is now on the userinfo page. It is quoted in full below, for ease of commenting.

Yet another community about books. What distinguishes this community from the other book communities? Well, hopefully:

* It will focus on history, non-fiction, and classic works that form the foundation of the great civilizations. Science fiction, popular non-fiction, and even the majority of what is called literature is not appropriate for this community. Do not get me wrong, literature is great, but there are many communities already dedicated to it, such as booktards, books, booksnob, and whatchareading. If you'd like to talk literature, please join one and help these communities thrive.

* It will be multidisciplinary. There are some great discipline specific communities, such as anthropologist, _humanities, anthro_students, and historystudents, but I have found few for dilettanti like myself. If your interests are broad (even though your knowledge may not be that deep) and you love to learn, please join this community and share your thoughts.

* It will be civil. The tone should be like a college or graduate level symposium, respectful of all others pursuing truth and knowledge. If need be, the content of this community will be moderated to weed out overtly hostile, sarcastic, opportunistic, or political posts. If you would not do it in a college classroom, please do not to it here: there are plenty of other places on the internet to vent your spleen.

oxhead: you'll noticed that I changed my mind on including literature (20th century or otherwise). There are so many other literary communities, both active and defunct, that it didn't seem to make sense to focus on it. I do not intend to be authoritarian, however, and if literature ends up being the focus, so be it.

Comments, corrections, and modifications are welcome.

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Date:2004-01-13 14:51
Subject:History of the Present, Pt. 1

For Christmas I received from my grandmother-in-law History of the Present : Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s by Timothy Garton Ash. I will probably finish it tonight.

I gather that Ash's name is familiar to anyone who has studied Eastern or Central Europe. I have not (formally) studied this region, although it is an area of considerable personal interest. A professor of history at Oxford, Ash's previous books The Polish Revolution: Solidarity and The Magic Lantern : The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague have become the canonical accounts of those two events in the English speaking world, I gather.

Ash primarily moves in high level diplomatic and political circles. His writing thus offers great insight into the minds of leaders like Vaclav Havel and Helmut Kohl and reads, as the title suggests, primarily like a history of recent world events. Offsetting this, it lacks some of the immediacy and street level observations that you find in traditional international journalism such the reporting of Robert Kaplan.

As Ash points out, writing a history of the recent past presents a challenge:

Not just professional historians, but most arbiters of our intellectual life feel that a certain minimum period of time needs to have passed and that certain canonical kinds of archival sources should be available before anything written about this immediate past qualifies as history.

He tackles this assumption by pointing out that:

From the time of Thucydides until well into the eighteenth century, to have been an eyewitness to the events described or, even better, to have been a participant in them was considered a major advantage for a writer of history. ... It is only since the emergence of the idea of progress, the growth of critical philology and the work of Leopold von Ranke that historians have come to believe that you understand events better if you are farther away from them. If you stop to think about it, this is actually a very odd idea: the person who wasn't there knows better than the person who was.

Historiography 101, perhaps, but something I have not thought about recently and found rather interesting to keep in mind while reading Ash's attempt at a first draft of late 20th century Central European history.

Something else to note, before I get back to work: Ash made repeated comments that he disagreed with Samuel Huntington's assertion that that "clash of civilizations" between the Islamic and Western world was looming. It appears Huntington's predictions were more accurate that Ash's, but I don't find that makes Ash's work any less compelling. A catastrophic event like 9-11 not only changes the direction of future events but also requires us to scrap our early drafts of history and start over. But those drafts are themselves valuable historical documents that offer the reader greater insight into the minds of people at that point in history than knowledge of external events alone.

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Date:2004-01-13 10:18
Subject:In the beginning...

Thanks for the new community, Corny.

I suppose discussion of perhaps the greatest book in the English Language would be appropriate. Apparently, the King James Bible is four centuries old today (or thereabouts, given Western civilization's vagarious calendrical habits.)

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