A weekly look over the shoul­ders of our scholar-re­view­ers

THE (Times Higher Education) - - BOOK OF THE WEEK -

Sir John Hol­man, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of chem­istry, Univer­sity of York, is read­ing Colm Tóibín’s House of Names (Vik­ing, 2017). “Colm Tóibín retells the leg­end of sac­ri­fice and re­venge within the far-fromhappy fam­ily of Agamem­non and Clytemnes­tra. Even with­out its Tro­jan War back­drop, it’s a pow­er­ful story, and Tóibín uses di­rect, un­or­na­mented lan­guage to show the vis­ceral urges driv­ing vi­o­lent re­venge that are so near to the sur­face of hu­man be­hav­iour. He has made the story his own and in­vented char­ac­ters to stand along­side the leg­endary ones, and it is in­ter­est­ing to com­pare his story with Aeschy­lus’ Oresteia (in my case, the Ted Hughes trans­la­tion). Where Aeschy­lus’ tril­ogy ends with the in­ter­ven­tion of Athena to in­tro­duce the rule of law, Tóibín has a flimsy-feel­ing peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process. The killing has to stop, but for how long?”

Maria Del­gado, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of re­search, Royal Cen­tral School of Speech and Drama, Univer­sity of Lon­don, is read­ing Pa­trick An­der­son’s Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of a Dis­ease (Rout­ledge, 2017). “Part auto-ethno­graphic mem­oir, part per­for­ma­tive es­say and part med­i­ta­tion on the his­tory of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, this is a com­pelling con­tem­pla­tion of what it means to ne­go­ti­ate a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness in the US med­i­cal sys­tem. An­der­son’s sud­den col­lapse into a coma in 2005 and his long re­cov­ery form the fo­cus for broader re­flec­tion on hos­pi­tals and care­giv­ing; on med­i­cal­i­sa­tion, heal­ing and mor­tal­ity; and on the com­plex work­ings of the mind as the body suf­fers the as­sault of ex­treme ill­ness. Lit­er­ary rep­re­sen­ta­tions of ill­ness and spe­cial­ist med­i­cal re­search en­ter into di­a­logue with a highly per­sonal au­tho­rial jour­ney re­alised through dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive voices. The episodic struc­ture of­fers a way of un­der­stand­ing the nar­ra­tive and af­ter­life of ill­ness, the pol­i­tics of prog­no­sis and how we make sense of the ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­ex­pected.”

Lin­coln Al­li­son, emer­i­tus reader in pol­i­tics, Univer­sity of War­wick, is read­ing Robert Macfar­lane’s Moun­tains of the Mind (Granta, 2003). “Moun­tains were: for­bid­den and for­bid­ding, an odi­ous nui­sance, god­for­saken and ugly, an ‘other’ to be avoided. Moun­tains are: sub­lime and beau­ti­ful, a chal­lenge to and a sus­te­nance for the hu­man spirit, God’s finest cre­ation and an ‘other’ to be sought out as a respite from civil­i­sa­tion. The tran­si­tion in the per­cep­tion of moun­tains has been go­ing on since the end of the medieval pe­riod, al­though it ac­cel­er­ated rapidly in the first half of the 19th cen­tury. It has been dis­cussed in many fields, but rarely so flu­ently or com­pre­hen­sively as here. Moun­tains of the Mind deals with the­ol­ogy and ge­ol­ogy as well as the more fa­mil­iar (to my mind) top­ics of moun­tains in re­la­tion to art and sport. Even bet­ter, Macfar­lane suc­cess­fully com­bines his schol­ar­ship with an in­tense per­sonal es­say be­cause he is a moun­taineer, part of a sub­cul­ture with a com­plex and con­tra­dic­tory re­la­tion to the main­stream.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.