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New Books in Popular Culture

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Society & Culture
History
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Interviews with Scholars of Popular Culture about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Popular Culture about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

5 Ratings
Average Ratings
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1

New books in Pop culture

By Amethyst-eye - Jan 01 2019
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Excellent interviews and subjects; sadly the echo is frustrating and distracts from the top notch content.

iTunes Ratings

5 Ratings
Average Ratings
3
1
0
0
1

New books in Pop culture

By Amethyst-eye - Jan 01 2019
Read more
Excellent interviews and subjects; sadly the echo is frustrating and distracts from the top notch content.

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of New Books in Popular Culture

New Books in Popular Culture

Latest release on Jan 19, 2021

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 1 day ago

Rank #1: David M. Krueger, “Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America” (U. of Minnesota Press, 2015)

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What do our myths say about us? Why do we choose to believe stories that have been disproven by science? In Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), David M. Krueger takes an in-depth look at a legend that held tremendous power in one corner of Minnesota, helping to define a community’s identity for decades. In 1898, a Swedish immigrant farmer claimed to have discovered a large rock with writing carved into its surface in a field near Kensington, Minnesota. The writing was interpreted to tell a North American origin story, predating Christopher Columbus’ exploration, in which Viking missionaries reached what is now Minnesota in 1362 only to be massacred by Native Americans. The tales credibility and the inscription’s authenticity was quickly challenged and ultimately undermined by experts, but the myth took hold. Popular faith in the dubious artifact emerged as a local expression of American civil religion, which appealed to Scandinavian immigrants, Catholics, small town boosters and those looking to commemorate the white settlers who died in the Dakota War of 1862.


This book is a case study of how myths are created, propagated, and adapted over time and reveals something unique about America’s preoccupation with divine right and its troubled way of coming to terms with the history of the continent’s first residents. The multiple narratives around the stone would be effective in a variety of classroom settings and you can find resources for using the book in the classroom on the book’s website https://mythsoftherunestone.com. In our conversation we discussed myth, small town life and Minnesotan civic identity, martyrdom, secularization, the Cold War, Vikings, Marion devotion, Native Americans, Christian identity in Minnesota, American civil religion, and the multiple venues for using the book in the classroom.

Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kjpetersen@unomaha.edu.

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Sep 13 2016

1hr 4mins

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Rank #2: John C. Hajduk, "Music Wars: Money, Politics, and Race in the Construction of Rock and Roll Culture, 1940–1960" (Lexington Books, 2018)

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In his new book Music Wars: Money, Politics, and Race in the Construction of Rock and Roll Culture, 1940–1960(Lexington Books, 2018), John C. Hajduk examines the emergence of a “rock and roll culture” in mid 20th century America. Professor Hajduk’s focus is on “gatekeepers” such as record executives and musician’s union leaders, all of whom operated in a highly charged environment where financial, racial, and political considerations mutually impacted one another.

Drawing on archival materials, a variety of contemporary music industry publications, and a wide range of secondary literatures, Hajduk argues that mid 20th century discussions about race, class, and culture were deeply inseparable from the role that live and recorded music played in popular culture in that same period. These themes take Music Wars through chapters on disputes over radio play, jukeboxes, and communism, culminating in a discussion of the infamous  “Payola Scandal,” which resulted in corporate assertion of control over rock and roll on the radio, as a means of self-preservation against increasing state interest in popular music’s potentially “disturbing” influence on the young.

Music Wars is an affecting account of a fascinating period—one with which most of us can identify. We live in a culture imbued not just with rock and roll, but with the history of rock and roll, and John Hajduk’s new book gives us a window into that reality.

Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.

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Dec 03 2018

1hr 3mins

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Rank #3: Laurence A. Rickels, “The Psycho Records” (Wallflower Press, 2016)

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Reading Laurence RickelsThe Psycho Records (Wallflower Press, 2016) gave me the urge to ask random strangers questions like: Are you haunted by Alfred Hitchcock’s famous shower scene? How do you feel about Norman Bates and other cinematic killers pathologically attached to their mothers? Does the thought of Anthony Perkins impersonating his dead mother and stabbing Janet Leigh make you uncomfortable and scared? Induce an uncanny sensation? Or does it seem dated, campy, even comical? Rickels is interested precisely in these vicissitudes of the primal shower scene–what he calls the “Psycho Effect”–as it is taken up and therapeutically transformed by subsequent slasher and splatter films.


It is not an accident that Hitchcock chose the shower stall as the site for his most famous moment of Schauer, the German cognate meaning “horror.” Traumatized American soldiers returning from World War II, dubbed “psychos,” were transposed into filmic psycho murderers straddling psychosis and psychopathy. Norman was perhaps the first such hero of variegated diagnosis. In the 1970s and 1980s we encountered less exalted figures, like the cannibal Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Still less sophisticated mass murderers followed: the zombies revived post-9/11 and, eventually, motive-less serial killers captured with the aid of “objective” forensics. All these characters address the difficulty of separation and mourning, the pull toward fusion with Mother, the trauma of the cut, survival, and industrial killing–the intimate violence of Nazi doctors and the impersonal push-button battles of the Gulf War.


Many slasher and splatter films also tell the story of a newly emergent social category, subgenre, and audience member–the teen. Rickels devotes parts of the book to the postwar invention of adolescence, reading closely D. W. Winnicott’s papers on antisocial teenagers and juvenile delinquency. We all experience adolescence as a brush with psychopathy, Rickels tells us; for many it is the path not taken. Perhaps this explains the appeal of the psycho, our “near-miss double.” In psychoanalytic terms, “there but for the grace of the good object go I.” [5]


Other topics covered in our interview and in The Psycho Records include vampirism, the couple and the crowd, scream memories, laughter, and substitution. As those familiar with Rickels’ books might expect, we often touch on one of the great themes of his oeuvre: mourning. Listen in!


Laurence A. Rickels, PhD is a psychotherapist and scholar of literature, film, and psychoanalysis. He is Sigmund Freud Professor of Philosophy and Media at the European Graduate School (EGS) and most recently was professor of art and theory at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in Karlsruhe, Germany.


Anna Fishzon, PhD is Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, UK. She is a candidate at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) and author of Fandom, Authenticity, and Opera: Mad Acts and Letter Scenes in Fin-de-Sicle Russia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

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Mar 21 2017

54mins

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Rank #4: Emily Dufton, "Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America" (Basic Books, 2017)

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Marijuana. Weed. Cannabis. Pot. Whatever term you use, this intoxicant and medical product leads to long discussions. Emily Dufton visits the podcast to talk about the ups and downs and highs and lows of cannabis in the United States, all detailed in her book Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America (Basic Books, 2017). She sheds light on the pro-marijuana activism in the 1970s and anti-marijuana parents' movement in the 1980s. Overall, she recounts a fascinating story about the acceptance of demonization of weed and what this suggests about the present moment.

Lucas Richert is an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health.

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Aug 30 2019

36mins

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Rank #5: Andreas Bernard, "Theory of the Hashtag" (Polity, 2019)

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In his short book, Theory of the Hashtag (Polity, 2019), Andreas Bernard traces the origins and career of the hashtag. Following the history of the # sign through its origins in the Middle Ages and how it became a common symbol through its placement on American typewriters and touch tone phones. He examines the hashtag’s role in changing how we define and discuss keywords. Focusing on the use of the # on Twitter and Instagram, Bernard looks at how the sign is used in activism and marketing, addressing these different fields and how they apply the hashtag to meet their own needs. In this short volume, Bernard gives insight into the symbol that has changed how we bundle discourse and organize public discussion and debate. Although other texts have talked about the hashtag as a form of social media activism, with his analysis of the history of the symbol and it’s use by marketing and advertising corporation, Bernard forces readers to think about the hashtag’s complexities and the ways in which the use of the symbol is changing the public sphere.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. She is the author of Writing a Riot: Riot Grrrl Zines and Feminist Rhetorics (Peter Lang, 2018). You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Oct 25 2019

41mins

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Rank #6: Tanisha C. Ford, "Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion" (St. Martins Press, 2019)

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In this highly engaging book, fashionista and pop culture expert Tanisha C. Ford investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop's baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today.

The history of these garments is deeply intertwined with Ford’s story as a black girl coming of age in a Midwestern rust belt city. She experimented with the Jheri curl; discovered how wearing the wrong color tennis shoes at the roller rink during the drug and gang wars of the 1980s could get you beaten; and rocked oversized, brightly colored jeans and Timberlands at an elite boarding school where the white upper crust wore conservative wool shift dresses.

Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl's Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martins Press, 2019) is a story of desire, access, conformity, and black innovation that explains things like the importance of knockoff culture; the role of “ghetto fabulous” full-length furs and colorful leather in the 1990s; how black girls make magic out of a dollar store t-shirt, rhinestones, and airbrushed paint; and black parents' emphasis on dressing nice. Ford talks about the pain of seeing black style appropriated by the mainstream fashion industry and fashion’s power, especially in middle America. In this richly evocative narrative, she shares her lifelong fashion revolution―from figuring out her own personal style to discovering what makes Midwestern fashion a real thing too.

Adam McNeil is a PhD Student in the Department of History at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

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Jul 10 2019

1hr 9mins

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Rank #7: Sue Matheson, “The Westerns and War Films of John Ford” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)

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While John Ford made films of more general subjects, he is best known for his movies that illustrated the American West and life during wartime. In her book, The Westerns and War Films of John Ford, Sue Matheson examines what was so special about his works, as well as how his films represented Ford’s view of America.

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Jul 21 2016

58mins

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Rank #8: Anna Harwell Celenza, “Jazz Italian Style: From its Origins in New Orleans to Fascist Italy and Sinatra” (Cambridge UP, 2017)

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In her new book, Jazz Italian Style: From its Origins in New Orleans to Fascist Italy and Sinatra (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Anna Harwell Celenza examines the arrival of jazz in Italy after World War I and the role of Mussolini in promoting jazz throughout Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. With the technology of the radio and gramophone, jazz became part of the local music culture and ethnic and national identities were not viewed across the new mediums. In Jazz Italian Style Celenza explores how Italians made jazz their own, creating a genre distinguishable from American varieties and influencing Italian-American musicians. Well researched and documented, Celenza’s work presents a narrative of jazz that is seldom heard and must be remembered. In addition, Celenza uses @JazzItalianStyl to promote Italian Jazz and share some of the music she recovers in her book.


Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative–both analog and digital–in people’s lives. She is interested in how personal narratives produced in alternative spaces create sites that challenge traditionally accepted public narratives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Apr 10 2017

55mins

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Rank #9: Discussion of Massive Online Peer Review and Open Access Publishing

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In the information age, knowledge is power. Hence, facilitating the access to knowledge to wider publics empowers citizens and makes societies more democratic. How can publishers and authors contribute to this process? This podcast addresses this issue. We interview Professor Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, whose book, The Good Drone: How Social Movements Democratize Surveillance (forthcoming with MIT Press) is undergoing a Massive Online Peer-Review (MOPR) process, where everyone can make comments on his manuscript. Additionally, his book will be Open Access (OA) since the date of publication. We discuss with him how do MOPR and OA work, how he managed to combine both of them and how these initiatives can contribute to the democratization of knowledge.

You can participate in the MOPR process of The Good Drone through this link: https://thegooddrone.pubpub.org/

Felipe G. Santos is a PhD candidate at the Central European University. His research is focused on how activists care for each other and how care practices within social movements mobilize and radicalize heavily aggrieved collectives.

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Mar 19 2019

32mins

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Rank #10: Kathleen Collins, “Dr. Joyce Brothers: The Founding Mother of TV Psychology” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)

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In her book, Dr. Joyce Brothers: The Founding Mother of TV Psychology (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016), Kathleen Collins presents an extensive history of the woman who is arguably the most famous television psychologist. Starting with Brothers’ appearance as a boxing expert on the $64,000 Question in the 1950s, and bringing readers through her decades-long career in television and radio, Collins argues that Brothers created the personal approach to psychology that became the norm for television other popular media. Collins examines the different ways that Brothers created a career for herself for over 50 years, looking at her role as psychologist, as well as her roles as guest star, actor, and media celebrity. She looks at the ways Brothers used her savvy business sense to create a multilayered career that made vital contributions to psychology, television, and U.S. cultural history. Collins uses Brothers’ personal papers and her published interviews as well as her own interviews with Brothers’ daughter and colleagues to create a well-researched and informative exploration into this television icon.


Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative–both analog and digital–in people’s lives. She is interested in how personal narratives produced in alternative spaces create sites that challenge traditionally accepted public narratives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Apr 22 2017

53mins

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Rank #11: Joel R. Pruce, “The Mass Appeal of Human Rights” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

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How can human rights campaigns function in consumer and celebrity society? In The Mass Appeal of Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Joel Pruce, assistant professor in political science at the University of Dayton, explores this question through the framework of the Frankfurt School’s critical theory. Rich with examples and detailed histories of the evolution of both human rights campaigns and celebrity and consumerist practices, the book challenges us to rethink contemporary political movements. Including critical discussions of Amnesty International, Save Darfur, Paris Hilton, Pussy Riot, and Live8, the book is essential reading for anyone concerned with how to change the world for the better, rather than just for the benefit of celebrity and consumer capitalism.

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Oct 03 2018

38mins

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Rank #12: Deborah Jaramillo, “The Television Code: Regulating the Screen to Safeguard the Industry” (U Texas Press, 2018)

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If you watch old movies or study film history, you may know that early 20th-century Hollywood operated under the Motion Picture Production Code, which dictated what could and couldn’t be portrayed onscreen. But did you know that television had a code of its own? Its story has never been told at length until now.

Deborah Jaramillo, Associate Professor of Film and Television at Boston University, is the author of a new book called The Television Code: Regulating the Screen to Safeguard the Industry (University of Texas Press, 2018). Jaramillo tells the story of a young television industry’s attempt to police itself on controversial questions about content, fending off pressure from government regulators and finicky viewers. Jaramillo explores whether the federal government could have played a stronger role at this formative time in the industry, and what the code did and didn’t accomplish in its three decades of existence.

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Oct 09 2018

51mins

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Rank #13: Carol Dyhouse, "Hearthrobs: A History of Women and Desire" (Oxford UP, 2017)

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What can a cultural history of the heartthrob teach us about women, desire, and social change? From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons.

When girls were supposed to be shrinking violets, passionate females risked being seen as "unbridled," or dangerously out of control. Change came slowly, and young women remained trapped in double-binds. You may have needed a husband in order to survive, but you had to avoid looking like a gold-digger. Sexual desire could be dangerous: a rash guide to making choices. Show attraction too openly and you might be judged "fast" and undesirable.

Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino's screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about "shop-girl" taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.

In Hearthrobs: A History of Women and Desire (Oxford University Press, 2017), social and cultural historian Carol Dyhouse draws upon literature, cinema, and popular romance to show how the changing position of women has shaped their dreams about men, from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to boy-bands in the early twenty-first. Reflecting on the history of women as consumers and on the nature of fantasy, escapism, and "fandom," she takes us deep into the world of gender and the imagination. A great deal of feminist literature has shown women as objects of the "male gaze": this book looks at men through the eyes of women.

In this interview, Jana Byars, the academic director of SIT Amsterdam, talks with Dyhouse about Hearthrobes. Though clearly rooted in her earlier academic work, this divergence into popular history provides a smart and delightful read. Jana and Carol talk about the female gaze, male stereotypes, and the power of popular culture.

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Jan 24 2020

31mins

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Rank #14: Alexander Langlands, "Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts" (Norton, 2017)

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Alexander Langlands is a British archaeologist, historian, writer, and broadcaster.  His most recent book, Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, was published by Norton to great acclaim in 2017 and has just been reissued as a paperback.  Cræft is an antiquated spelling of “craft” and in the book, Langlands explores what the word meant when it first appeared in English over a thousand years ago. Our modern understanding of the term, Langlands argues, is at some remove from its original meaning.  When it first began to appear in the writings of Anglo-Saxons, the term referred to “power or skill in the context of knowledge, ability, and a kind of learning” (17). In Cræft, Langlands combines scholarly research with personal anecdotes as he discusses a range of pursuits which he himself has undertaken, including hay-making, hedgerow planting, dry wall building, and roof thatching.

Folklorist Millie Rahn describes Cræft as follows: “This beautifully-written book is basically a cautionary tale about the loss of knowledge, wisdom, power, and skill embedded in tradition, and our ignoring that knowledge at our peril. It's not a treatise; more a paean to the human condition. Not the first to lament our intellectual, spiritual, and physical disconnect with the modern world, or acknowledge the periodic arts and crafts revivals, the writer says we have the power to transform our world and ourselves if we go back to our roots as humans, as ‘makers’. That's where he distinguishes ‘craeft’ from the art and connoisseurship of ‘craft’-- the whole cycle of ‘making’ rooted (all puns intended) in our agricultural processes.”

Rachel Hopkin is a UK born, US based folklorist and radio producer and is currently a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University.

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Mar 04 2019

57mins

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Rank #15: L. Benjamin Rolsky, "The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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As someone who grew up watching All in the Family and Sanford and Son, I’ve long been familiar with Norman Lear and his work. What I didn’t know, as a young child sitting cross-legged in front of the TV set in the 1970s, was how prominent a political figure Lear was at the time. In his new book, The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left: Politics, Television, and Popular Culture in the 1970s and Beyond (Columbia University Press, 2019), Professor L. Benjamin Rolsky makes the case for understanding Lear as a key protagonist in the culture wars of the late 20th century. As a religious liberal, Lear was committed to engaging politics on explicitly moral grounds in defense of what he saw as the public interest. Other players in the culture wars—including television networks, Hollywood, the FCC, televangelists, and Ronald Reagan himself—had their own interpretations of what constituted the public interest. As a result, Rolsky’s interdisciplinary analysis concludes, prime-time television itself became a contested political space and the site of some of the definitive cultural clashes of our fractious times.

Carrie Lane is a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment. Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title, email clane@fullerton.edu.

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Feb 21 2020

1hr 2mins

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Rank #16: Ann Powers, "Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music" (Dey St. Books, 2017)

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In Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (Dey St. Books, HarperCollins, 2017), Ann Powers explores the rich and, at times, unexpected intersections of love, sex, race, gender, sexuality, and American popular music. This heavily-researched book features colorful stories about sex, eroticism, and American music, while engaging source material in the realms of African American and American history, black feminist and womanist theory, American dance, and more. Good Booty begins in the 19th century in New Orleans’ Congo Square, and it ends with a discussion of Britney Spears and Beyoncé as cyborg and avatar, respectively. In other chapters, Powers engages early 20th-century American music and dance, eroticism in gospel music, sexuality and teen-girl rock and roll fandom, rock groupie culture, popular music in the early years of the AIDS crisis, and more.

Kimberly Mack holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, and she is an Assistant Professor of African-American literature at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. Her book, Fade to Black: Blues Music and the Art of Narrative Self-Invention from Bessie Smith to Jack White, is under contract with the University of Massachusetts Press. She is also a music journalist who has contributed her work to national and international publications, including Music Connection, Relix, Village Voice, PopMatters, and Hot Press.

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Jul 17 2019

1hr 3mins

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Rank #17: Adam Kucharski, “The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling” (Basic Books, 2016)

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Adam Kucharski, who won the 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize, has delivered another winner in an area rife with both winners and losers. The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling (Basic Books, 2016) is a brilliant, fascinating, and sometimes slightly terrifying look at how math and science are not just conquering gambling, the algorithms that math has devised and the computerized means of implementing them are paradoxically simultaneously removing risk and creating a lot more of it.


Jim Stein is an emeritus professor of mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. As has been noted, the word ’emeritus’ comes from the Latin ‘ex’ — meaning ‘out’ — and ‘meritus’ — meaning ‘ought to be’. Despite that, Jim still teaches a course a semester, either at CSULB or El Camino Community College. He is the author of L.A. Math: Romance, Crime and Mathematics in the City of Angels, Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define the Universe, The Paranormal Equation, How Math Can Save Your Life, The Right Decision, and How Math Can Save the World. He responds to any and all emails addressed to jim.stein@csulb.edu

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Mar 31 2016

52mins

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Rank #18: Kendall Phillips, "A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema" (U Texas, 2018)

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On this episode of the New Books Network, Lee Pierce (she/they) interviews Dr. Kendall Phillips (he) of Syracuse University on his fabulous new book A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema (University of Texas, 2018). In it, Phillips explores the emergence of the horror film genre before it was horror and a post-Civil War national American identity. Dr. Phillips discusses the unique role of Universal Studio’s 1931 Dracula, the turning point of the Phantom’s revelation in The Phantom of the Opera, and what horror was before it was horror. Along the way, Dr. Phillips discusses how shifts in filming technologies and international politics at the turn of the century forged a distinctly American identity based upon incredulousness, narrative depth, and rationality. 

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Feb 20 2019

55mins

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Rank #19: Tessa Fontaine, “The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts” (FSG, 2018)

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Who doesn’t remember their first trip to the county fair? The greasy hotdogs and popcorn and cotton candy. The lights and sounds of the seemingly endless games and rides and shows on the midway. But maybe most of all, the sense of wonder inspired by real people who could contort their bodies into incredible shapes with ease, and show off amazing feats of agility and strength you never thought possible. Feats that made you think, “How on earth did they do that?”


The trick, it turns out, is that there is no trick. Most of what you see, you can believe. This is the first of many sideshow axioms writer Tessa Fontaine learned when she left the life she knew to join the circus in 2013. Now, in her debut book of nonfiction, The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts (FSG, 2018), Fontaine’s keen descriptive powers offer a revealing glimpse into the secret world of the United States’ last traditional traveling sideshow. On the road, Fontaine met all kinds of personalities—from carnies to showpeople—who taught her about wonder, and how to inspire it through her performances as a fire breather, a sword swallower, a snake charmer, and so much more.


Today on the New Books Network, join us as we sit down with Tessa Fontaine to hear more about The Electric Woman and her incredible journey traveling with the World of Wonders sideshow.


Zoë Bossiere is a doctoral student at Ohio University, where she studies creative nonfiction and teaches writing classes. For more NBn interviews, follow her on Twitter @zoebossiere or head to zoebossiere.com.

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Aug 27 2018

48mins

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Rank #20: Sophia Rose Arjana, “Veiled Superheroes: Islam, Feminism, and Popular Culture” (Lexington Books, 2017)

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Veiled Superheroes: Islam, Feminism, and Popular Culture (Lexington Books, 2017) by Sophia Rose Arjana (with Kim Fox), takes us on a riveting journey through the world of superheroes and villains from the streets of New York to Pakistan. The book is a creative, masterful, and fascinating analysis of female Muslim superheroes in popular comic books and animation.  Through the use of global examples, such as Ms. Marvel, Burka Avenger and Bloody Nasreen, just to name a few, Arjana engages her readers beyond reductive discussions of the veil, sexuality, and gender to highlight the ever-complex ways in which female Muslim superheroes can help us engage constructively with ideas of Islamic feminism, the Muslim female body, intersectionality, and even notions of violence. With supernatural powers, such through the mystical arts (i.e., Sufism), or human qualities of courage and bravery, the Muslimah superheroes featured in this study capture the real and complex lives of Muslim women globally, and the vast negotiations they have to contend with. In doing so, Arjana masterfully highlights that there is no singular Islamic feminist (or just Muslim) female experience. This book is a must read for anyone interested in religion, popular culture, and gender studies, while its accessibly written style, makes it an excellent resource for teaching religious, media, and gender studies for undergraduate students.


M. Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Ithaca College. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloomsbury Press, 2018) and a co-author of Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2018). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at mxavier@ithaca.edu.

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May 14 2018

44mins

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