Providing a theoretical paradigm for understanding the relationship of history and literature in Russia, this book traces how major Russian writers of the past 200 years defined the nation's past through creating fictional and non-fictional works on historical themes.
We live in an age of obsession. Not only are we hopelessly devoted to our work, strangely addicted to our favorite television shows, and desperately impassioned about our cars, we admire obsession in others: we demand that lovers be infatuated with one another in films, we respond to the passion of single-minded musicians, we cheer on driven athletes. To be obsessive is to be American; to be obsessive is to be modern. But obsession is not only a phenomenon of modern existence: it is a medical category—both a pathology and a goal. Behind this paradox lies a fascinating history, which Lennard J. Davis tells in Obsession. Beginning with the roots of the disease in demonic possession and its secular successors, Davis traces the evolution of obsessive behavior from a social and religious fact of life into a medical and psychiatric problem. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, no variety of obsession eludes Davis’s graceful analysis.
Incorporating myth, history and contemporary investigation, Bernstein tells the story of how human beings have become intoxicated, obsessed, enriched, impoverished, humbled and proud for the sake of gold. From the past to the future, Bernstein's portrayal of gold is intimately linked to the character of humankind.
Klaus Fischer charts the tortured history of German-Jewish relations over a millennium, from migration and ghettoization in the Middle Ages to enlightenment and emancipation in the eighteenth century to varieties of anti-Jewish prejudices in the Second Reich to the rise of pathological Judeophobia in the years 1918 to 1933. The aim of the book is to provide a historical explanation for this change in consciousness that began with a religious prejudice, moved to social and political discrimination, and ended up in annihilatory rage.
A spirited, engaging investigation into the concept of character, an enduring human obsession in literature, psychology, politics, and everyday life What is “character”? How can it be measured, improved, or built? Are character traits fixed or changeable? Is character innate, or can it be taught? Since at least the time of Aristotle, philosophers, theologians, moralists, artists, and scientists have engaged with the enigma of human character. In its oldest usage, “character” derives from a word for engraving or stamping, yet over time, it has come to mean a moral idea, a type, a literary persona, and a physical or physiological manifestation, observable in works of art and scientific experiments. It is an essential term in drama and the focus of self-help books. In Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession, Marjorie Garber points out that character seems more relevant than ever today—the term is omnipresent in discussions of politics, ethics, gender, morality, and the psyche. References to character flaws, character issues, character assassination, and allegations of “bad” and “good” character are inescapable in the media and in contemporary political debates. What connection does “character,” in this moral or ethical sense, have with the concept of a character in a novel or a play? Do our notions about fictional characters help to produce our ideas about moral character? Can character be formed, or taught, in schools, in scouting, in the home? From Plutarch to John Stuart Mill, from Shakespeare to Darwin, from Theophrastus to Freud, from nineteenth-century phrenology to twenty-first-century brain scans, the search for the sources and components of human character still preoccupies us. The question of character arises in virtually every area of modern life. And in each case, there is the same fundamental tension: is it innate or intrinsic to the individual, or something that can be learned or modeled? At a time when both the meaning and the value of this term are put in question, no issue is more important, and no topic more vital, surprising, and fascinating. With her distinctive verve, humor, and vast erudition, Marjorie Garber explores the stakes of these conflations, confusions, and heritages, from ancient Greece to the present day.
A few years ago, Marta Zaraska's mother decided to go vegetarian after stumbling upon an article on the health risks of eating meat. Her resolve lasted about a fortnight before the juicy hams and the creamy pâtés began creeping back into her refrigerator. Prodded to explain her lapse, she replied, “I like meat, I eat it, end of story.” Many of us have had a similar experience. What makes us crave animal protein, and what makes it so hard to give up? And if all the studies are correct, and consuming meat is truly unhealthy for us, why didn't evolution turn us all into vegetarians in the first place? In Meathooked, Zaraska explores what she calls the “meat puzzle”: our love of meat, despite its harmful effects. Scientific journals overflow with reports of red meat raising the risk of certain cancers; each hamburger contributes as much to global warming as does driving a car 320 miles; and the horrors of industrial meat production are now well-known. None of these facts have prompted us to give up our hamburgers and steaks. On the contrary, meat consumption has only increased over the past decades. Taking the reader to India's unusual steakhouses, animal sacrifices at temples in Benin, and labs in Pennsylvania where meat is being grown in petri dishes, Zaraska examines the history and future of meat and meat-eating, showing that while our increasing consumption of meat can be attributed in part to the power of the meat industry and the policies of our governments, the main “hooks” that keep us addicted to meat are much older: genes and culture. An original and thought-provoking exploration of carnivorousness, Meathooked explains one of the most enduring features of human civilization—and why meat-eating will continue to shape our bodies and our world into the foreseeable future.
Over the past twenty-five years, our quest for thinness has morphed into a relentless obsession with weight and body image. In our culture, "fat" has become a four-letter word. Or, as Lance Armstrong said to the wife of a former teammate, "I called you crazy. I called you a bitch. But I never called you fat." How did we get to this place where the worst insult you can hurl at someone is "fat"? Where women and girls (and increasingly men and boys) will diet, purge, overeat, undereat, and berate themselves and others, all in the name of being thin? As a science journalist, Harriet Brown has explored this collective longing and fixation from an objective perspective; as a mother, wife, and woman with "weight issues," she has struggled to understand it on a personal level. Now, in Body of Truth, Brown systematically unpacks what's been offered as "truth" about weight and health. Starting with the four biggest lies, Brown shows how research has been manipulated; how the medical profession is complicit in keeping us in the dark; how big pharma and big, empty promises equal big, big dollars; how much of what we know (or think we know) about health and weight is wrong. And how all of those affect all of us every day, whether we know it or not. The quest for health and wellness has never been more urgent, yet most of us continue to buy into fad diets and unattainable body ideals, unaware of the damage we're doing to ourselves. Through interviews, research, and her own experience, Brown not only gives us the real story on weight, health, and beauty, but also offers concrete suggestions for how each of us can sort through the lies and misconceptions and make peace with and for ourselves.
With the recent advent of technologies that make detecting art forgeries easier, the art world has become increasingly obsessed with verifying and ensuring artistic authenticity. In this unique history, Thierry Lenain examines the genealogy of faking and interrogates the anxious, often neurotic, reactions triggered in the modern art world by these clever frauds. Lenain begins his history in the Middle Ages, when the issue of false relics and miracles often arose. But during this time, if a relic gave rise to a cult, it would be considered as genuine even if it obviously had been forged. In the Renaissance, forgery was initially hailed as a true artistic feat. Even Michelangelo, the most revered artist of the time, copied drawings by other masters, many of which were lent to him by unsuspecting collectors. Michelangelo would keep the originals himself and return the copies in their place. As Lenain shows, authenticity, as we think of it, is a purely modern concept. And the recent innovations in scientific attribution, archaeology, graphology, medical science, and criminology have all contributed to making forgery more detectable—and thus more compelling and essential to detect. He also analyzes the work of master forgers like Eric Hebborn, Thomas Keating, and Han van Meegeren in order to describe how pieces baffled the art world. Ultimately, Lenain argues that the science of accurately deciphering an individual artist’s unique characteristics has reached a level of forensic sophistication matched only by the forger’s skill and the art world’s paranoia.
In this fascinating history of the lie detector, Ken Alder exposes some persistent truths about our culture: why we long to know the secret thoughts of our fellow citizens; why we believe in popular science; and why we embrace ?truthiness.? For centuries people searched in vain for a way to unmask liars, seeking clues in the body?s outward signs: in blushing cheeks and shifty eyes. Not until the 1920s did a cop with a PhD team up with an entrepreneurial high school student and claim to have invented a foolproof machine capable of peering directly into the human heart. Scientists repudiated the technique, and judges banned its results from criminal trials, but in a few years their polygraph had transformed police work, seized headlines, and enthralled the nation.ø In this book, Alder explains why America?and only America?has embraced this mechanical method of reading the human soul. Over the course of the twentieth century, the lie detector became integral to our justice system, employment markets, and national security apparatus, transforming each into a game of bluff and bluster. The lie detector device may not reliably read the human mind, but this lively account shows that the instrument?s history offers a unique window into the American soul.
Lawns now blanket thirty million acres of the United States, but until the late nineteenth century few Americans had any desire for a front lawn, much less access to seeds for growing one. In her comprehensive history of this uniquely American obsession, Virginia Scott Jenkins traces the origin of the front lawn aesthetic, the development of the lawn-care industry, its environmental impact, and modern as well as historic alternatives to lawn mania.