University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

September 5th would have been the 100th birthday of John Cage, the innovative American avant-garde composer. In honor of the occasion, the Yale Press Log has an excerpt from their forthcoming title Silence, which focuses on the idea of silence in art. Naturally, this excerpt deals with what may be Cage’s most famous composition: 4’33”, or “the silent piece.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hold on the American imagination is still a strong one; for evidence, consider the strong reactions, both positive and negative, to the upcoming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Literary biographer Scott Donaldson has just written a biography of Fitzgerald, Fool for Love, and the University of Minnesota Press Blog has a fascinating Q&A post with him. A quick teaser: in his research, Donaldson uncovered a note written by Fitzgerald that “presented a diabolical plan to make sure that Zelda went ‘to Bedlam’…. It could only have been written by a man convinced that he and his wife were locked in a struggle from which only one of them would emerge alive and well.”

The internet has become a crucial battleground in political campaigns. At the MITPressLog, Steven M. Schneider and Kirsten A. Foot have a guestpost in which they explain how the internet has changed political campaigns in the last decade and a half. They identify four ways to analyze how campaigns use the web–“informing, involving, connecting, and mobilizing”–and claim, somewhat surprisingly, that these approaches “remain relatively stable over time.”

The OUPblog has provided a valuable public service over the last week with a series of posts by Jim Baggott explaining what the Higgs boson is, what its discovery means in scientific terms, and why, exactly, anybody should care about it. The series begins with an introduction to the Higgs particle, explains why the Higgs boson is called the “god particle,” discusses the recent events at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, asks how the particle relates to the creation of mass, and concludes with an explanation of what happens next in the study of the Higgs boson.

Flooding has been an inescapable part of New Orlean’s history since the city’s founding. At the UNC Press Blog, Gordon M. Sayre looks to the memoir of 18th century French officer Jean-François-Benjamin Dumont de Montigny for more information on the founding and early history of New Orleans. Before the man-made locks and dams helped to regulate the floods (with notable exceptions, of course), the Mississippi overflowed the natural levee protecting New Orleans annually. On the other hand, these smaller floods deposited silt from the Mississippi in the bayou region, helping to keep it above sea level. Sayre argues that depriving the area of these annual floods is a major cause of the city’s famous below-sea-level elevation.

This month, the Penn Press log is posting American Indian poems from their collection “Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930.” This week, they featured “What an Indian Thought When He Saw the Comet,” a poem written by Tso-le-oh-woh in 1853 after the passing of the Klinkerfues comet.

At the University of Illinois Press blog, they have an interview with Douglas Harrison on the forms and history of southern gospel music. Harrison emphasizes the eclectic stylistic aspect of music, the piety of the evangelical worldview that southern gospel music represents, and the prominence of Bill Gaither in the modern world of southern gospel music.

Looking for a post in which field ecology and Joseph Gordon-Levitt feature prominently? Look no further than Rafe Sagarin’s recent post on Island Press Field Notes, in which he brings out the film’s emphasis on observation and compares it with the importance of observation in ecology. On a particularly interesting scene of the movie in which Gordon-Levitt’s character attempts to plot his course through a crowded intersection, Sagarin claims that “in the split second before [Gordon-Levitt] enters the intersection, in that frozen moment before he can even consciously process it, our hero’s subconscious mind has been getting all Bayesian and plotting prior probabilities based on a massive observational database he’s accumulated through passing thousands of similar, but not identical, intersections.”

This week at This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press, R. Kent Newmyer continues his excellent series of posts on the trial of Aaron Burr with an examination of the third major political figure involved in the trial (the other two being Burr himself and Thomas Jefferson), John Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at the time. While the trial was ostensibly a battle between Burr and Jefferson, who took “personal charge of the prosecution,” Newmyer claims that the trial was just as much a battle between Marshall and Jefferson, who wished to “eradicate the spirit of Marshallism.”

Finally, we’ll wrap things up with a guest post on the University of Nebraska Press blog by Nancy Plain. In her post, Plain discusses why she chose to write about the prairie sodbuster photography of Solomon Butcher, whose work helped humanize the settlers of the plains. Plain found that Butcher’s work helped to show how important the state of Nebraska has been to US history as well.

As always, we really appreciate you reading! Please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions in the comments section below.

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