New York Times Review of Italoamericana

Bookshelf
By SAM ROBERTS

Not enough time and too much bulk might have prevented Mayor Bill de Blasio from taking his copy of “Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943” (Fordham University Press) with him on vacation to Italy. (For wimps, there is a Kindle edition.)

Even if you’re not Italian, summer would be an ideal time to repeatedly dip into this kaleidoscopic, thousand-page anthology of memoirs, poetry, political commentary and newspaper excerpts, only now translated into English after being published in Italian in 2005.

Edited by Francesco Durante, an Italian journalist (he describes New York as the most densely populated Italian city after Naples) and faithfully executed by a team of translators, the selections recall what Robert Viscusi, editor of the American edition, describes as “a century of displacement and universal loss.”

Included are an interview with Al (“Public service is my motto”) Capone and an eyewitness account of an Italian immigrant shining a black man’s shoes, “a duet that reawakened in me an entire symphony of pity and bitterness,” a repulsed Italian visitor wrote home.

The collection is not encyclopedic. Nor is it all incandescent literature. Rather, as Mr. Viscusi writes, it represents “the dawn of legible memory for the English-speaking people who now call themselves Italian-Americans” — the point at which “they abandoned the Italian language as their primary means of verbal expression.”

Recounting first-generation immigrant life in “the American colony,” the selections don’t shy away from scabrous subjects, like prejudice, exploitation of women, criminal conduct or radicalism.

And they shed light on a question posed two decades ago by Gay Talese: “Where are the Italian-American writers?”

The scribes introduced in “Italoamericana” migrated from a nation itself only a few decades old. Many were from a region, Mr. Talese wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1993, that for thousands of years had been conquered and reconquered, producing “an implicit history of caution” and “a people united in the fear of being found out.”

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Bookshelf By SAM ROBERTS Not enough time and too much bulk might have prevented Mayor Bill de Blasio from taking his copy of “Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943” (Fordham University Press) with him on vacation to Italy. … Full Story

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An Air Conditioner? No, a Lightning Rod.

Those who love celebrations, note—July 17 marks the birthday of air conditioning.  To recap the story, it was 112 years ago that young engineer Willis Carrier unveiled the plans for his “Apparatus for Treating Air,” a contraption that was designed to lower the humidity in a Brooklyn printing plant.  There was a bonus; with some tinkering, it could cool the air, too.  “Wonderful invention,” says a perpetually overheated acquaintance.  “Too bad that it’s become so controversial nowadays.”

          Nowadays?  Nah.  A/C has always been controversial.

          Even in the 1840s, when a Florida physician and amateur engineer built a machine that actually produced cold air—and for his pains, was publicly labeled a “crank” and his machine “a cock-and-bull story,” and died in frustrated misery—the mere notion of monkeying around with the indoor atmosphere was enough to drive some people frantic with rage.  Part of it is the fact that no one wants to be told what constitutes comfort.  The other part is that, as Americans, we love a good fight.  And no Americans love a fight more than politicians.  So it’s only logical that our national history is strewn with tales of public servants who have seized upon air conditioning, or anything like it, as a political tool. 

          Just before the Civil War, the U.S. Capitol underwent remodeling, including brand-new houses of Congress.  In a radical move for the time, the Senate Chamber and House of Representatives were windowless, the only ventilation coming from steam-driven fans that pushed air up through floor registers.  The result was so suffocatingly unsuccessful that one journal called it “the worst that human ingenuity could devise,” congressmen took to using the registers as spittoons, and for the rest of the century the floors were repeatedly ripped up as engineers tried for more airflow.  In the 1880s the electric fan appeared; at the time it was an exorbitant item that cost nearly $500 in modern money, was picked up enthusiastically by the era’s Early Adopters, sneered at by newspaper writers who felt it was high-falutin’, and used as a political club to beat those unfortunate officials who might purchase one (one Arkansas candidate thunderously accused another of buying a fan “at the State’s expense, to fan himself with, not being content to use a palm leaf like ordinary people”). 

          William Howard Taft loathed Washington’s heat, but with the national press looking on, the best cooling device he could get consisted of fans blowing over racks of ice in the White House attic.  It did so little that he wound up hosting one state dinner on the roof of the West Wing.  When Woodrow Wilson attempted to use the same system, an article ran describing Wilson as “enjoying himself in his cool office while members of Congress and other officials, to say nothing of common citizens, who paid the taxes, had to take pot-luck with the thermometer standing above 100 degrees”—and a humiliated Wilson had the equipment torn out.  It wasn’t till the late 1920s, when A/C hit movie theaters and swept the country, that an image-conscious Congress allowed its Houses to be air conditioned.  Nonetheless, when Herbert Hoover had a system installed in the Oval Office there were accusatory screams that he might go so far as to cool the White House.  (He didn’t.)  Later, there was LBJ’s office, which by his request was so thoroughly chilled that he could “freeze oranges on his desk”; Richard Nixon’s study, cool enough in midsummer that he could have a nightly roaring fire . . .

          By the 1970s, A/C was commonplace, so worldwide energy shortages and rising costs guaranteed that the narrative would turn from its fat-cat indulgence to its expense.  Jimmy Carter tried to set an example of conservation, ordering Federal buildings to set thermostats to 80 degrees; in response, one Federal judge set his own courtroom ten degrees lower, and made sure reporters knew it.  Carter had solar panels installed on the White House roof.  They were removed by Ronald Reagan.  Replaced by George W. Bush.  Added to by Barack Obama. 

          Nowadays, we’ve finally arrived at the point that “green” is—for most people—a compliment.  And air conditioning itself is criticized, even in Washington, as a wasteful technology that gobbles energy and depletes the atmosphere. 

          Some commentators insist the solution is to severely curtail, even end, its use.  A rash judgment, even if it makes for good copy.  Aside from the fact that most buildings don’t have working windows (the Houses of Congress among them), and would become decidedly stuffy in the summer, there is the inescapable fact that temperatures are climbing each year.  Something is needed against heat. 

          That original machinery of 1902 unquestionably needs reworking to fit today’s environment.  But even now, there are alternative systems being perfected; some of them are usable today.  One of these, or more than one, will show up in large-size commercial form, then will shrink in size and price for home use.  After that, the air conditioner as we know it will be an outmoded curio.

          Mr. Carrier, a forward-thinking man, would likely approve.

SALVATORE BASILE was educated at the Boston Conservatory and The Juilliard School and began his career as a professional musician. After penning various music-related articles, he entered the field of social commentary with his history Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Fordham). His forthcoming book, Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything (Fordham).

 

 

Those who love celebrations, note—July 17 marks the birthday of air conditioning.  To recap the story, it was 112 years ago that young engineer Willis Carrier unveiled the plans for his “Apparatus for Treating Air,” a contraption that was designed … Full Story

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#BastilleDay

Have you indulged in a morning croissant or macaroon today?

Mais oui, go ahead! It’s Bastille Day.

Commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution and symbolizes the dawn of a new age.

This month, we’ve been honoring our authors in French Thought by offering 25% off select Fordham Press titles.

Besides the luminous work of French thinkers, the mention of France inspires thoughts of the chic, stylish, and beautiful. From the city streets of Paris to the lavender fields of Provence, sometimes it is nice to take a quick sojourn.

Please join us!

Follow Fordham Press’s board Pardon Moi! on Pinterest.

Have you indulged in a morning croissant or macaroon today? Mais oui, go ahead! It’s Bastille Day. Commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution and symbolizes the dawn … Full Story

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Ratatouille & French Thought

 

As we were flipping through our catalog of books on French Thought this month, we came upon a chapter that we thought our readers might be interested in:

What’s Queer about Remy, Ratatouille, and French Cuisine
Laure Murat

This smart and fun chapter comes from What’s Queer about Europe?: Productive Encounters and Re-enchanting Paradigms, edited by Mireille Rosello, and Sudeep Dasgupta.

We hope you enjoy this chapter, as much as we did!

What’s Queer about Europe? examines how queer theory helps us initiate disorienting conjunctions and counterintuitive encounters for imagining historical and contemporary Europe. This book queers Europe and Europeanizes queer, forcing a reconsideration of both. Its contributors study Europe relationally, asking not so much what Europe is but what we do when we attempt to define it.

The topics discussed include: gay marriage in Renaissance Rome, Russian anarchism and gender politics in early-twentieth-century Switzerland, colonialism and sexuality in Italy, queer masculinities in European popular culture, queer national identities in French cinema, and gender theories and activism. What these apparently disparate topics have in common is the urgency of the political, legal, and cultural issues they tackle. Asking what is queer about Europe means probing the blind spots that continue to structure the long and discrepant process of Europeanization.

Mireille Rosello teaches at the University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis). She focuses on globalized mobility and on queer thinking. Recent publications include a coedited collection of articles on multilingualism in Europe (Multilingual Europe, Multilingual Europeans, 2012, with Laszlo Maracz), and monographs such as The Reparative in Narratives: Works of Mourning in Progress (2010), France and the Maghreb: Performative Encounters (2005), and Postcolonial Hospitality (2002).

Sudeep Dasgupta is Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. He is affiliated with the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), the Amsterdam Centre for Globalization Studies (ACGS). His publications include the edited volume Constellations of the Transnational: Modernity, Culture, Critique (2007), articles in Parallax, South Asian Studies, (In)Visible Culture, Transformations, Borderlands, and articles in anthologies on aesthetics and visual culture, critical theory, film studies, media studies, postcolonial and queer theory.

  As we were flipping through our catalog of books on French Thought this month, we came upon a chapter that we thought our readers might be interested in: What’s Queer about Remy, Ratatouille, and French Cuisine Laure Murat This … Full Story

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Pardon Moi. You could save 25% on our books in French Thought!

For the month of July, we are featuring some great titles in French Thought that are 25%  off. Use the promo code: FRPH14 at checkout at www.fordhampress.com.

Unfamiliar with some of the names? These authors have shaped philosophy, literature, gender studies, film studies, art, music–we could go on and on.

The late Jacques Derrida was the single most influential voice in European philosophy of the last quarter of the twentieth century. His Athens, Still Remains, The Animal That Therefore I Am, Sovereignties in Question, and Deconstruction in a Nutshell are staples of the Fordham University Press list. Watch this video of Jacques Derrida on the Fear of Writing.

For Strasbourg: Conversations of Friendship and Philosophy

Athens, Still Remains: The Photographs of Jean-François Bonhomme

Miracle and Machine: Jacques Derrida and the Two Sources of Religion, Science, and the Media

Jean-Luc Nancy is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Universite Marc Bloch, Strasbourg. Among the most recent of his many books to be published in English are Being Nude: The Skin of Images; Corpus II: Writings on Sexuality; Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity; Noli me tangere: On the Raising of the Body; The Truth of Democracy; Adoration: The Deconstruction of Christianity II and The Pleasure in Drawing (all Fordham).

Being Nude: The Skin of Images

 

 

Peter Szendy is Professor of Philosophy at Paris Ouest Nanterre and musicological adviser for the concert programs at the Cité de la musique. His books to have been translated into English (all from Fordham) are Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials, Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox; Prophecies of Leviathan: Reading Past Melville, and Listen: A History of Our Ears.

Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions

Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox

 

Barbara Cassin is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. She is the editor of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (Princeton UP), and Sophistical Practice: Toward a Consistent Relativism (Fordham).

Sophistical Practice: Toward a Consistent Relativism

 

 

Anne Emmanuelle Berger is currently professor of French Literature and Gender Studies at the Universite Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, where she heads the Centre d’etudes feminines et d’etudes de genre. She is also director of a new national Institute for Gender Studies (Institut du Genre), backed by the CNRS and 32 French institutions for higher education. Her most recent publications include Demenageries: Thinking (of) Animals After Derrida (Rodopi) and The Queer Turn in Feminism: Identities, Sexualities, and the Theater of Gender.

The Queer Turn in Feminism: Identities, Sexualities, and the Theater of Gender

 

Catherine Malabou, holder of Visiting Chairs in numerous North American universities, currently teaches philosophy at the CRMEP (Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy) at Kingston University (UK) . The most recent of her books are, with Judith Butler, You Will Be My Body for Me (forthcoming in English), and Changing Difference: The Feminine in Philosophy (Polity).

The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage

 

 

Jean-Luc Marion is The Andrew Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Department of Philosophy, and Committee on Social Thought; Dominique Dubarle Chair of Philosophy at L’Institut Catholique de Paris; Professor Emeritus at the University of Paris IV–Sorbonne, and a member of the Académie Française. His books for Fordham include Prolegomena to Charity; In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena; On the Ego and On God: Further Cartesian Questions; The Visible and the Revealed; The Essential Writings, and, as co-author, Phenomenology and the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate.

The Essential Writings

For the month of July, we are featuring some great titles in French Thought that are 25%  off. Use the promo code: FRPH14 at checkout at www.fordhampress.com. Unfamiliar with some of the names? These authors have shaped philosophy, literature, gender … Full Story

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