Bookbeat: April 2006

Seeds of the Kingdom: Utopian Communities in the AmericasSeeds of the Kingdom: Utopian Communities in the Americas

by Anna L. Peterson, Religion
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
Available through Booksamillion

The repopulation movement of Catholic peasants returning to former war zones in El Salvador proved a natural choice of study for Religion Professor Anna Peterson, whose previous books addressed progressive Catholic social movements in the region and religion-based environmental ethics. Peterson also chose to include the Old Order Amish in her study, as both communities share a utopian Christian ethic expressed in agrarian community settings.

“I was looking at how people from certain religious traditions lived out their ethics,” Peterson says. “Most people don’t — there’s a huge gap between what they say and do. I wanted to find people who walked the talk.”

Seeds of the Kingdom tells of two communities that, rather than wait for the arrival of an ideal society, attempt to create societies bound by social and environmental ethics founded in religion. Both groups, Peterson says, subordinate certain values in order to live out their faith and community. “You have to give things up. It’s not a utopia in the sense that everyone’s happy and there’s no conflict, instead there is constant negotiation. It’s a process.”

Anna Peterson
Anna Peterson

While surveys show 80 percent of Americans claim environmentalism is important to them, only 20 percent do anything about it. This disconnect between people’s expressed values and what they do reflects a common dilemma, says Peterson, who is affiliated with the Center for Latin American Studies and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Communities that combine values and actions do teach us something, Peterson says. Their message: individuals can’t do it alone, but with strong community structures and supportive policy, it is possible. “These communities are saying you can. That’s the take-away message. Not that we should replicate them, but that they challenge us to close the gap a little. There will always be that gap, but does it have to be as vast as it is right now?”

There is a price. Individual interests sometimes give way to the social, Peterson says. Suffering high rates of alcohol abuse, some repopulated villages banned alcohol, even for those who drank only a single beer after work. The Amish refuse higher education. “It’s a trade off,” says Peterson. “You cannot have it all, and you have to decide what’s important to you. We have things in the US that we say are important, but we don’t act on that. We tend to fall into things, not make real choices. And the things we end up not having are often precisely the things we say we value the most.”

—Michal Meyer

Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth

by Sean Adams, History
(The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)
Available through Amazon

Sean Patrick Adams compares the political economies of coal in Virginia and Pennsylvania from the late 18th century through the Civil War, examining the divergent paths these two states took in developing their ample coal reserves during a critical period of American industrialization. In both cases Adams finds state economic policies played a major role.

Using coal as a barometer of economic change, this book addresses longstanding questions about North-South economic divergence and the role of state government in American industrial development, providing new insights for both political and economic historians of 19th-century America.


The Word and the Being in Unamuno’s PoeticsThe Word and the Being in Unamuno’s Poetics

by Luis Alvarez-Castro, Romance Languages and Literatures (Salamanca University Press, 2006)

This book unveils the work of Spanish writer and thinker Miguel de Unamuno (1864–1936) as a literary theorist. While Unamuno never wrote a monograph on poetics, his ideas on the nature, significance and purpose of literature can be traced throughout his complete oeuvre. By contrasting all those ideas, this book arranges and systematizes for the first time Unamuno’s literary theory. The main tenets of such a theory are quite conventional, yet Unamuno perceives them as existential categories more than aesthetic values. Ultimately, Unamuno’s theory combines philosophy and philology in order to inquire how literary discourses determine the formation of writing and reading subjects.

—Author Summary

Reflections of an Aspiring CurmudgeonReflections of an Aspiring Curmudgeon

by Felix Berardo, Sociology
(iUniverse Inc., 2006)
Available through Booksamillion

Why would anyone aspire to be a curmudgeon? Because, among other things, they mock and debunk pretense and hypocrisy. Curmudgeons disdain mediocrity and fraud, and use humor as their principal weapon. In the tradition of Mark Twain, Berardo relates his personal experiences and observations on human behavior to larger societal trends and changing values. Often hilarious, always profound, these essays enlighten and entertain.


Introduction to Enumerative CombinatoricsIntroduction to Enumerative Combinatorics

by Miklos Bona, Mathematics
(McGraw-Hill, 2006)
Available through Amazon

Written by one of the leading authors and researchers in the field, this comprehensive modern text is written for one- or two-semester undergraduate courses in general combinatorics or enumerative combinatorics taken by math and computer science majors. Introduction to Enumerative Combinatorics features a strongly developed focus on enumeration, a vitally important area in introductory combinatorics, crucial for further study in the field. Bona’s text is one of the very first enumerative combinatorics books written specifically for the needs of an undergraduate audience, with a lively and engaging style that is ideal for presenting the material to sophomores or juniors. This book is part of the Walter Rudin Student Series in Advanced Mathematics.


The Spanish Civil War: A Modern TragedyThe Spanish Civil War: A Modern Tragedy

by George Esenwein, History
(Routledge: London/New York, 2006)
Available through Amazon

The Spanish Civil War has rarely failed to arouse the passions of and stimulate interest in scholars and nonscholars alike. This book provides a dispassionate and illuminating analysis of this complicated event, identifying major social and political themes and breaking new ground in assessing the impact of cultural issues like race and gender.

The author uses a wide range of carefully selected primary source material to support the text, allowing participants and contemporary observers of the Civil War to speak for themselves. The reader will gain insight into the variety of perspectives held by both famous figures and minor ones previously overlooked by Civil War scholars.

—Author Summary

The Physiology of FishesThe Physiology of Fishes

by David Evans, Zoology
(CRC Press; second edition, 2006)
Available through Amazon

As with the best-selling first edition, this second edition is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art review of the major areas of research in modern fish physiology. International contributions from leading experts detail current knowledge of locomotion and energetics, gas exchange and cardiovascular physiology, homeostasis, and neurophysiology and neuroendocrine control.

This volume includes a systematic index organized by genus and species, enabling rapid access to information on topics unique to particular fish.


Metacommunities: Spatial Dynamics and Ecological CommunitiesMetacommunities: Spatial Dynamics and Ecological Communities

by Bob Holt, Zoology
(University Of Chicago Press, 2006)
Available through Amazon

This book takes the hallmarks of metapopulation theory to the next level by considering a group of communities, each of which may contain numerous populations, connected by species interactions within communities and the movement of individuals between communities. In examining communities open to dispersal, the book unites a broad range of ecological theories, presenting some of the first empirical investigations and revealing the value of the metacommunity approach. Encouraging community ecologists to rethink some of the leading theories of population and community dynamics, Metacommunities urges ecologists to expand the spatiotemporal scales of their research.


African Politics in Comparative PerspectiveAfrican Politics in Comparative Perspective

by Goran Hyden, Political Science
(Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Available through Cambridge University Press

This book reviews 50 years of research on politics in Africa by synthesizing insights from different scholarly approaches and offering an original interpretation of the knowledge accumulated throughout the years. It discusses how research on African politics relates to the study of politics in other regions and mainstream theories in comparative politics and focuses on such key issues as the legacy of a movement approach to political change, the nature of the state, the economy of affection, the policy deficit, the agrarian question, gender and politics and ethnicity and conflict.


Provocations to ReadingProvocations to Reading

by Dragan Kujundzic, Germanic and Slavic Studies
(Fordham University Press, 2006)

This book is a marker of the “state of theory” today. Its rich array of wide-ranging essays explores the dimensions and implications of the work of J. Hillis Miller, one of the most eminent literary scholars in America. For nearly half a century, Miller has been known for his close and imaginative engagement with the implications of European philosophical thought and for his passionate advocacy of close reading.
A provocation to reading for new generations of students and teachers, these essays offer important resources for grasping the question of language in historical perspective and in contemporary life—a task essential for any democratic future.


The Cross that Dante BearsThe Cross that Dante Bears

by Mary Watt, Romance Languages and Literatures
(University Press of Florida, 2006)
Available through UF Press

Watt proposes that The Divine Comedy employs a series of strategically placed textual cues to create a meta-textual structure beyond Dante’s literal narrative. As the pilgrim wends his way through the three realms of the afterlife, references to medieval maps and to medieval cruciform churches, together with images of crusading and pilgrimage, ultimately reveal the shape of this structure as the reader becomes aware that Dante’s journey traces the figure of a cross.

Watt explores the textual cues, codes and other strategies that Dante employs to discover how and why he conjures up the shape of a cross. While the image of the cross within The Divine Comedy has been frequently noted, Watt approaches the observation and the poem in holistic fashion by arguing that this image is a clue to the greater underlying structure that gives form and therefore meaning to the entire work.


photo by Jane Dominguez

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