Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Making America Confederate Again

Mississippi and Alabama officially observe Confederate Memorial Day. Recently, a candidate for Virginia governor was endorsed by a prominent neo-Confederate at the 'Old South Ball'. Accounting for the rise in hate crimes and racially-motivated incidents since Trump's election, we're looking back at a piece of scholarship with alarming relevance today. 

In 2008, Euan Hague, Edward H. Sebesta, and Heidi Beirich, published a groundbreaking book, Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, that described a fringe movement of political activists who promoted an ideology of Confederate nationalism. Advocating for the secession of fifteen states to form a new Confederation of Southern States, neo-Confederates advanced a politics that was at its core anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic). Of course, almost ten years later secession has not happened, but as many scholars have long suggested about political movements, what purports to be new can
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often be found by taking a deeper look at the recent past. Indeed, as President Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.” It is this understanding that makes Neo-Confederacy a prescient guide to what was to come. As Hague, Sebesta, and Beirich noted, neo-Confederate activists at the end of the twentieth century wanted nothing less than “to change the [U.S.] social order,” arguing for a need to transform “American cultural, educational, political and religious practices.”

As Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction describes, this meant valorizing whiteness and “Anglo-Celtic” culture, praising violence and masculinity, while simultaneously rejecting “political correctness” and international governmental collaborations, vilifying ethnic and sexual minorities, vociferously opposing non-European immigrants, and questioning American democratic processes of both the electoral system and the franchise. Neo-Confederacy wrapped these positions up in an appeal to Constitutional orginialism, “orthodox” Christianity, and a demand for national self-determination for the US South. Revisiting the book almost a decade after its original publication, one cannot but think that the collection’s assessment of this political fringe describes a phenomenon that, albeit perhaps now ostensibly detached from its forthright advocacy of a new Confederate nation-state, has moved powerfully into the mainstream of American politics. As esteemed historian James Loewen noted in the foreword, in examining neo-Confederacy, “Hague, Sebesta, and Beirich have done the heavy lifting... they have created an essential tool for those who work to bring justice and healing across racial and sectional divides in America.” Given the current state of US politics, Neo-Confederacy is an urgent primer for our new reality.

Dr. Euan Hague is a Professor of Geography at DePaul University, and Edward H. Sebesta is an independent researcher. We asked them to comment on how this 2008 collection, Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, resonates with the rhetoric and policies advanced by the new Trump administration.

Dr. Michael Hill speaking at a Confederate Memorial Day Parade, Northport, Alabama, 26 April 1997. (Photograph by Gerald R. Webster)

A Nationalist Call to Arms

Euan Hague and Edward H. Sebesta

Like many American magazines in January 2017, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture had on its cover a photograph of Donald Trump: “Time to Begin” read the caption. This was not the first time that we had encountered Chronicles or its publisher, the Illinois-based Rockford Institute. In the 1990s, Chronicles had led an ideological charge that rejected much of US domestic policy as unconstitutional, lamented US foreign policy and transnational organizations, decried ‘activist judges,’ and railed against multiculturalism. Its editor, and lead contributor at the time, was Thomas Fleming. Fleming had also been a cofounder of Southern Partisan magazine in 1979, an imprint of the Foundation for American Education, which regularly published interviews with leading figures of the Republican right such as Trent Lott. At the Rockford Institute, Fleming invited colleagues from his Southern Partisan days to write for Chronicles and, in June 1994 alongside twenty-six others, he helped establish a new political party: the Southern League (which was renamed as the League of the South in 1997). Influenced by growing right-wing ethnic nationalism and nationalist leaders in Europe, such as those contributing to the collapse of Yugoslavia and Umberto Bossi in Italy, a year later Fleming and Southern League President James Michael Hill issued their nationalist call to arms in The Washington Post. On 29 October 1995, “The New Dixie Manifesto” set forth a Confederate nationalist agenda that argued for devolution of federal power to the states, local control over schools and education policy, and for the right of peoples to pursue and preserve their “authentic cultural traditions.” The Manifesto questioned the very concept of “America” as a united country of states and lamented that “national uniformity is being imposed by the political class that runs Washington, the economic class that owns Wall Street and the cultural class in charge of Hollywood and the Ivy League.” What was needed to challenge this US “multicultural, continental empire, ruled from Washington by federal agencies and under the thumb of the federal judiciary,” was an emboldened populace that would reject both the Democratic Party and craven establishment Republicans, and instead elect bold representatives that would reject federal regulations and interventions in state and local affairs. Those leading this charge would “insist upon a strict construction of the Constitution” and be “real people” from “the provinces, the sticks, the boondocks,” in particular the former states of the Confederacy. The manifesto envisioned a nationalist party, the Southern League, to advance these aims. This nascent right wing ideology gained supporters as Southern League members contributed essays and political analyses to websites, newsletters, and conservative talk radio stations. Advocates outlined their ideas in numerous books, often published in their tens of thousands by small, specialized presses that could maximize sales online to a dedicated audience of enthusiastic supporters. Some contributors were faculty members at prominent institutions in Georgia and Alabama; others, as Neo-Confederacy:A Critical Introduction documented, were white nationalists, such as Jared Taylor of American Renaissance and members of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Neo-Confederacy aligned with ideological positions, such as those proposed by Samuel Huntington, that understood the United States (and the Western world more generally) to be engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations’ with Islam and the Islamic world. Within such a conceptualization of global geopolitics, neo-Confederate organizations like the League of the South demanded that a person’s ethno-religious identity is their primary basis for belief, and echoed this perspective in the United States by valorizing a “white, Anglo-Celtic” ethnic group and its “orthodox Christianity.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Contemporary Sociology on the Impact of The Katrina Bookshelf

A number of studies on Hurricane Katrina have appeared in publications and books over the past several years. Most were brief glances at some fragment of the disaster and not rich, in-depth portraits of the people affected. Many rode the crest of Katrina's news cycle without investing in continued study. The books in our series The Katrina Bookshelf, by contrast, are the result of a national effort to bring experts together in a collaborative program of research on the human costs of the disaster. The program itself is supported by the Ford, Gates, MacArthur, Rockefeller, and Russell Sage Foundations, and sponsored by the Social Science Research Council. This is the most comprehensive social science coverage of a disaster to be found anywhere in the literature. It also presents a deeply human story. The stories told in The Katrina Bookshelf have attracted the attention of scholars and the New York Times.

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In December 2016, Neil Gross cited Ron Eyerman's Is This America? Katrina as Cultural Trauma in a New York Times Sunday Review article, titled “Are Americans Experiencing Collective Trauma?,” tying the collective trauma of our unprecedented 2016 election to the loss of identity associated with the aftermath of natural disaster: "We’re all familiar with the notion of psychological trauma—damage to an individual’s psyche caused by an extremely distressing event. But there’s also another kind of trauma: a collective disturbance that happens to a group of people when their world is suddenly upended."

Additionally, Contemporary Sociology recently published a review essay evaluating the impact of three books from The Katrina Bookshelf. In "The Elusive Recovery: Post-Hurricane Katrina Rebuilding During the First Decade, 2005–2015," Kevin Fox Gotham, professor of sociology at Tulane University, highlights the impact The Katrina Bookshelf has had on disaster discourse so far. Using these multiyear studies, he argues for the need to examine not only the discriminatory and problematic implementation of government aid but also the agency of displaced people in adapting to imperfect systems of recovery. Indeed, these studies are vital because "Katrina is still ongoing, still taking shape, still unfolding along the flow of time."

Alice Fothergill and Lori Peek, coauthors of the award-winning Children of Katrina, followed
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the lives of seven representative children and teens over several years, and offer an engrossing, long-term study of how children experience disasters and the personal and structural factors that aid or hinder their recovery. Gotham writes that Children of Katrina provides "new empirical and theoretical insights" and "vivid, engaging, and deeply moving accounts of the post-hurricane life experiences." He continues:

Fothergill and Peek’s contribution is to show us that it is not solely age, poverty, race, or hazard exposure but how these risk factors accumulate over time as “if each ‘piece’ of the vulnerability puzzle connects and then is experienced” by the person impacted by the extreme event. Eschewing a fixed and static conception of vulnerability, Fothergill and Peek show that cumulative vulnerability has both temporal and additive components. Vulnerability develops over time as risk factors accumulate. . . . A major contribution is to show that resource depth and resource mobilization act as shields or protections against the damaging effects of disasters.

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Steve Kroll-Smith, Vern Baxter, and Pam Jenkins, coauthors of Left to Chance: Hurricane Katrina and the Story of Two New Orleans Neighborhoods, offer "an inside perspective on the disaster," having conducted field interviews in their hometown of New Orleans. Left to Chance examines two African American neighborhoods—working-class Hollygrove and middle-class Pontchartrain Park—to learn how their residents experienced “Miss Katrina” and the long road back to normal life. Gotham writes, "The ethnographic detail and evocative interview quotes make for an impressively researched book that provides a welcome alternative to the many decontextualized and overly broad journalistic exposés that came out during the first few years after Katrina devastated New Orleans." Kroll-Smith, Baxter, and Jenkins have delivered "a powerfully complex and nuanced analysis of how issues of neighborhood rebuilding and exile intersect with government policy." Katrina stripped away the outer surface of our social structure and showed us what lies underneath: a grim look at race, class, and gender in these United States.

Katherine Browne's Standing in the Need investigates "how the vocabulary of race infuses people’s narrations of the disaster." She has written an eloquent, detailed account of an extended African American family’s grueling eight-year recovery from Katrina,
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demonstrating how greater cultural understanding would enable disaster recovery organizations to better serve affected communities. "Drawing on the post-storm experience of the St. Bernard family, Browne suggests that recovery agencies could reduce suffering and speed healing by learning about the history, culture, and distinctive customs and needs of disaster-impacted communities. The provision of places to gather, places to cook big meals, and places to care for children could assist in repairing frayed cultural bonds and offer a roadmap for recovery," Gotham notes.

Gotham’s Contemporary Sociology review concludes that: "Taking stock of the contributions these books offer leaves one with a sense of admiration for the nuanced and sophisticated nature of Katrina research and the hope that scholars can bring this developing scholarship to bear on public debates and current urban planning processes and practices."

How does America respond to disaster? It is crucial to be honest about our shortcomings so that we may learn from them and be ready for the next time. When seen through a social science lens, Katrina reveals the real human costs of disaster and helps us prepare for future challenges.

Publishing in Spring 2018, Steve Kroll-Smith’s Recovering Inequality draws comparisons between Katrina and another historically disastrous event in American history, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Kroll-Smith writes, "totalizing urban disasters, like those that occurred in San Francisco and New Orleans, provide an uncommon occasion to inspect the dynamics of social inequality inherent in . . . America's essential dilemma: class and race inequality cloaked in the language of human parity." This appraisal of the kind of society we once were and the kind we have become, and will perhaps inform the society we will be when the next disaster strikes.

In Fall 2018, Kai Erickson's and Lori Peek’s forthcoming The Lessons of Katrina will provide a brief overview of why we need to study disasters and then deliver a treatise on the specific lessons we can learn from a wide-reaching and ongoing trauma like Katrina.

Read also: Nine Scholars on the Lessons of Katrina

Browse all books in The Katrina Bookshelf here, including the inaugural book Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora, edited by Lynn Weber and Lori Peek. Subscribe to our email list to find out when new books in The Katrina Bookself publish.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

UT Press at the San Antonio Book Festival

On Saturday, April 8, the University of Texas Press and seven of our authors will enjoy the 5th annual San Antonio Book Festival at the Central Library and environs in downtown San Antonio. We'll have a booth in the Exhibitor Tent with tons of titles for sale at a great discount. There are a lot of fantastic authors in attendance (Ann Patchett! Lawrence Wright! Laini Taylor!), so we’ve distilled our authors' appearances into a single UT Press schedule.

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Terry Thompson-Anderson

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Signing at 11:15 AM

Wake up to “Breakfast in Texas!” Terry Thompson-Anderson demos from her new cookbook

Location: Central Market Cooking Tent
Signing Location: Augusta Street

Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

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Jarod Neece and Mando Rayo

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Signing at 12:45 PM

“The Tacos of Texas” with Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece

Location: Central Market Cooking Tent

Signing Location: Augusta Street

Jarod Neece is the co-founder and editor of the popular Austin food blog,, the Senior Film Programmer at SXSW, co-writer of the Austin bestselling book, Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day and co-author of the new book, The Tacos of Texas

Mando Rayo is an author, taco expert, blogger and CEO & Engagement Strategist at Mando Rayo + Collective, a multicultural digital agency based in Austin, TX. Mando is the co-author of the new book, The Tacos of Texas, published by The University of Texas Press and Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day. Mando’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Bon Appetit Magazine, NPR, Paste Magazine, Texas Standard, Texas Monthly, and the Food Network.

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Frederick Luis Aldama

12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Signing at 1:15 PM

One Place, Many Voices: New Fiction & Poetry About the Border with Frederick Luis Aldama, Edmundo Paz Soldán, & Emmy Perez

Location: West Terrace
Signing Location: Augusta Street

Frederick Luis Aldama is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at Ohio State University. He is founder and director of LASER, a mentoring and research hub for Latinos (ninth grade through college), selected as a 2015 Bright Spot in Hispanic Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. An expert on Latino popular culture, Aldama is the author, co-author, and editor of twenty-six books, including Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez and The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez.

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Maya Perez

1:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Signing at 3:00 PM

The Art of Screenwriting with Maya Perez & Craig Johnson

Location: LaunchSA
Signing Location: Augusta Street

Maya Perez is a writer, a producer/consultant for Austin Film Festival’s On Story, and a board member of the Austin Film Festival, for which she has also served as Conference Director. She holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow.

Bill Wittliff

3:45 PM - 4:45 PM
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Signing at 5:00 PM

The Old West Made New: Western Fiction Across the Centuries with Jeff Guinn, Bill Wittliff, & Craig Johnson

Location: Swartz Room
Signing Location: Augusta Street

Bill Wittliff is a distinguished screenwriter and producer whose credits include Lonesome Dove, The Perfect Storm, The Black Stallion, and Legends of the Fall, among others. His fine art photography has been published in the books A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove, A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove, La Vida Brinca, and Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy.

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Andrea Valdez

4:15 PM - 5:00 PM
Signing at 5:15 PM

Not Our First Rodeo: A Texan-Off with Andrea Valdez

Location: Rogers Hall
Signing Location: Augusta Street

Test your knowledge of all things Texan at this fun event featuring How to Be a Texan author Andrea Valdez, a panel of contestants, and definitely mean judges (the contest goes way beyond the use of “y’all,” y’all).

A native Houstonian who has worked for Texas Monthly since 2006, Andrea Valdez is the editor of She has written on a wide range of subjects, including more than forty columns on activities every Texan should be able to do, which provided the inspiration for this book. She also helped Texas Monthly launch The Daily Post and

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Musical Biography of Chrissie Hynde

By Adam Sobsey

The lead and title track on the new Pretenders album, Alone—sorry, let’s back up a little. Did you know the Pretenders still exist? They released their tenth studio album last fall, and they’re touring the US behind Alone right now, opening for Stevie Nicks. This is no reunion gig. It couldn’t be, anyway. Two of the original band members died of drug overdoses in the early eighties, after the band made their second album, and the Pretenders have gone through numerous lineup changes in the third of a century since. The only constant—and what a constant—has been Chrissie Hynde, that iconic, beloved rock great famous for the brass in her pocket. (She dislikes that song.)

Hynde is sixty-six. She may be a living legend, but she doesn’t live like one. The American
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expatriate (she hails from Akron, Ohio) has long resided in the west London district of Maida Vale, where she bought a house in the early eighties. It’s a quiet, residential, unostentatiously tony part of the city where she can go out and about in public and, like any longtime denizen of a comfortable neighborhood, be mostly left—to return to where we began—“Alone.” The song opens with Hynde speaking rather than singing over a pulsing rock backing track. Her voice is lazy and laconic, as though she’s yawning and stretching her way out of bed in the late Maida Vale morning:

What am I gonna do today? Walk to the newsagent, check out the war zone, check the listings, see what’s good on. Oh, there’s one I’ve been wanting to see. Anyone up for a movie? I am.”
If not, no problem: she’ll go to the theater by herself, singing, “I’m at my best, I’m where I belong, alone,” one of the few rockers in history to sing the praises of solitude. Hynde has been a long-walker since her youth, and it’s easy to imagine her continuing on from the newsagent “along by the canal,” as she described Maida Vale’s well-known waterway in an earlier Pretenders song (“You Know Who Your Friends Are,” from 2002’s Loose Screw). The southern part of the neighborhood is also known as “Little Venice.” Houseboats are moored there, near the graffiti “sprayed across the tunnel walls” and “the remnants of last night’s reverie.”

Does she ever walk to Ladbroke Grove? It’s just two miles northwest of Maida Vale along the canal, and it’s where Hynde’s fledgling career took its first major steps back in the mid-seventies. Despite Ladbroke Grove’s proximity to her current home, it’s a very different part of London. Even its years of quite evident gentrification haven’t entirely buffed the scruff off the neighborhood, which is the legendary gravitational center of the original London counterculture. Ladbroke Grove was immortalized by Performance, Nicolas Roeg’s 1970 cult film starring Mick Jagger, and much more darkly that same year by Jimi Hendrix, who died of a drug overdose while living in the area. For a decade, from the hippie mid-sixties into the punk fever of the seventies, Ladbroke Grove was where London came to drop out and turn on—and especially to tune in. Music was always central to the scene. Eric Clapton formed Cream here, and—fatefully for Chrissie Hynde—the space rock pioneers Hawkwind were born in Ladbroke Grove in 1969. That band’s early seventies leader, Lemmy Kilmister, later connected Hynde to the original members of the Pretenders.

Before its bohemian bloom, Ladbroke Grove had been an outpost for Rastafarians drawn there partly by its cheap housing. When punk recolonized the area in the mid-seventies, its adherents soon found common cause with reggae as marginalized black-and-white comrades against gray English conformity. You can, of course, hear reggae in the music of the Clash, who formed in Ladbroke Grove while Hynde was living there as a starving artist in her pre-Pretenders days. (She befriended them and tagged along on their first tour.) It was then and there that she likely wrote “The Phone Call,” “The Wait,” and “Tattooed Love Boys”—all soon to be on the Pretenders’ debut album—along with an uncharacteristic country lament called “Tequila,” which wasn’t committed to record until 1994’s Last of the Independents.

By then, fifteen years after forming her band, Hynde was making her second comeback a decade after making her first with Learning to Crawl (1983) following the deaths of Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon. In 1994, the top ten singles “I’ll Stand by You” and “Night in My Veins,” both cowritten with a pair of professional hitmakers (or schlockmeisters, if you prefer), restored Hynde’s popularity, but she and the Pretenders haven’t had a hit since. Most casual listeners consider them disbanded, and if they think of Hynde at all, perhaps it’s as a venerable retiree.

Hardly—and this objection is the springboard for the following playlist (and, partly, for my new book, 
Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography). It may be true that “domesticity is the enemy,” as Hynde wrote in her 2015 memoir, Reckless, but her struggle against it has continued to yield music. The Pretenders’ ¡Viva El Amor! (1999), Loose Screw (2002), Break Up the Concrete (2008), and her solo debut Stockholm (2014) are rich and strong albums. She also collaborated with a Welshman named JP Jones on the album Fidelity! (2010), and spent time last decade in South America playing with Moreno Veloso, son of the legendary Caetano. She has never stopped making music. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Music from A Perfectly Good Guitar

The South by Southwest music conference and festival (SXSW, as it is now known) kicks off this week here in Austin, TX. The reach of SXSW has gone global and quite a bit corporate, which means well-established music acts like the Avett Brothers, Weezer, and the Wu-Tang Clan can steal thunder from the hundreds of relative unknowns who travel from all over the world to Austin hoping for exposure and whatever one calls a "record deal" these days. It's these hardworking musicians and local artists who prop up the massive event SXSW has become. They slug it out to make a name for themselves, hauling their equipment all over town to get as much stage time as possible. That's the game.
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From Willie Nelson to the bassist in a Sixth Street house band, most guitarists have strong feelings about their primary tool, and some are downright passionate about their axes. When photographer and writer Chuck Holley set out to document guitar players talking about their most prized instruments, he thought he was fairly well-versed in professional guitarists. The playlist he has put together for this blog is all about the lesser-known artists he discovered over the eight years he photographed guitarists with their favorite instruments and listened to their stories. A Perfectly Good Guitar is a beautifully illustrated book presenting these stories in revelatory photographs, featuring Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, JD Souther, Jorma Kaukonen, Kelly Willis, and more.

Enjoy the selection on Spotify here.

Discovering Good Music

By Chuck Holley

In the Fall of 2007 I began a project interviewing and photographing guitarists. I asked each professional to single out one guitar in their arsenal and explain why it was important to them. The result of that eight-year effort is the book, A Perfectly Good Guitar.

I’m an unabashed music fan and, when I began this project, I considered myself well-versed about music from different genres. I knew about the good stuff—or at least I thought I did.

It didn’t take long to realize how many great working musicians are out there I didn’t know about. Reality set in; it became painfully obvious how much I had to learn. 

As the project picked up steam, artists who came to my attention fell into one of three categories: There were the seasoned professionals whose recordings I already owned. Players like Dave Alvin, Joanna Connor, Alejandro Escovedo and Bill Kirchen come to mind. Sure, I had a Blasters record with Alvin and his brother on it and I had one of his early solo albums. My collection of Joanna Connor music consisted of one early release on Blind Pig Records and I owned three or four Escovedo albums. In the case of Kirchen, I knew all about his days with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. As for his solo work, I didn’t have a clue. In the ensuing years, my interests turned to other artists.

Sonny Landreth
Then there were the artists with whom I was familiar; I’d heard of them, but didn’t own any of their recordings. I knew the music of Sisters Morales but I didn’t own any solo recordings by Lisa Morales. The same was true of Bill Frisell. From reading album credits I knew at one time Sonny Landreth played in John Hiatt’s band, The Goners, but even though I’d heard of Sonny, I didn’t own any of his music.

Finally, there were the artists who were new to me. They weren’t new to the scene, but I wasn’t familiar with their work. Toronzo Cannon, Johnny Nicholas and Jamie Lin Wilson are three such artists.

I enjoy turning my friends on to good music. I’ve told them about some of the terrific musicians and songwriters I’ve discovered. They listen politely until their eyes glaze over. My friends are creatures of habit, but aren’t we all?

I subscribe to the Duke Ellington school of thought: “There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind.” If I like it, I’ll listen to music regardless of labels. At the same time, it’s difficult to write about this without resorting to categorization. The artists profiled in A Perfectly Good Guitar represent a variety of genres.

I’ve never understood the guy who claims to just like only country music or classical or jazz. In my opinion, that’s like saying you only like the color blue.

This blog features ten artists from A Perfectly Good Guitar. These ten artists represent personal discovery. Their genres don’t matter. They’re just labels, but do they mean anything?

“All By Myself” – Dave Alvin
Dave Alvin spent his youth sneaking into blues bars with his older brother, Phil, to see and learn from masters like Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, and Lightning Hopkins. In 1979 he and Phil formed the seminal roots rock band, the Blasters. They released four influential albums before Dave left to join the band, X, and later embark on a solo career that produced several critically acclaimed albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Public Domain. He and Phil reunited in 2014 to record Common Ground, their tribute album to Big Bill Broonzy, and later a blues album, Lost Time.

Dave recalls how he purchased a 1934 National resonator guitar. He used that guitar on the Broonzy song “All By Myself,” the first track on Common Ground.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview with Stanley Corkin on The Wire

Stanley Corkin's new book is the first comprehensive, season-by-season analysis of the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire. His book explicates the complex narrative arc of the entire series and its sweeping vision of institutional failure in the postindustrial United States. We're running an interview the University of Cincinnati conducted with Professor Corkin to celebrate the publication of Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Post-Industrial Baltimore.

Connecting The Wire Interview

By Jac Kern

Originally posted February 13, 2017 by University of Cincinnati for UC Magazine

The Wire aired on HBO from 2002-08, but still maintains a growing audience today. Photo/HBO

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As University of Cincinnati English and History professor Stanley Corkin enters his 30th year at UC, he adds a new book to his repertoire of works on mass culture (film, television and other popular media) and history.

In this latest release, Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Postindustrial Baltimore, Corkin offers a season-by-season analysis of HBO’s 2002-08 crime drama The Wire.

Following law enforcement in Baltimore, each season explored the police in relation to a different institutional entity: initially, the illegal drug trade, then unionized work on the Baltimore waterfront, city government, the public school system and finally in its last season, the news media.

The show was hailed by critics and adored by fans, but never brought in top ratings or managed to score an Emmy Award. Today, it is universally considered one of the best American television dramas and continues to gain a growing fan base following its run on TV through streaming services like HBO Go and Amazon Prime. Corkin’s book is the first comprehensive scholarly study of The Wire.

A key figure in the emerging film program in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, Corkin’s books include Realism and the Birth of the Modern United States: Cinema, Literature, and Culture (1996), Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S. History (2004) and Starring New York: Filming the Grime and Glamour of the Long 1970s (2011).

Give us an overview of the book and why you wanted to write about The Wire.

I had always endlessly been interested in urban geography. As I was finishing my last book—I’m always trying to think of the next project—one of my kids had brought The Wire to my attention. I binge-watched it, and I loved it. I thought it was a great show—sociologically and historically interesting. I’ve written about race and urban life a lot over the course of my career so I thought this would be a natural next thing to do.

The showrunner, David Simon, tried initially to respond to genre expectations in the first season. It’s really within “noir-ish” crime drama caper stuff, but after that, in subsequent seasons, he gives you four different ways of looking at a given American city—in this case, Baltimore—within the context of a neoliberal cultural moment. I thought that was really powerful.

Author and UC professor Stanley Corkin. Photo/provided
The Wire is very specific to Baltimore, as opposed to other shows set in New York or Los Angeles or a fictional city. What is the significance of this setting?

Baltimore is below the level of the mega successful, international cities. So the fact that it’s not New York or Chicago or LA; nor is it even San Francisco, Boston, or Houston—makes it like many cities in a lot of ways. Baltimore is a perfect neoliberal specimen. It’s a city that didn’t quite boom when the economic system changed in the '90s. Cities that didn’t boom, like Cincinnati, kind of got left behind and they’re just picking up the residue of that restructuring of international economics. And just like Cincinnati now is relatively booming, so is Baltimore.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Entry Interview with the New Editors of Texas Studies in Literature and Language

The summer of 2016 saw Douglas Bruster and James Cox step in as the new editorial team of Texas Studies in Literature and Language. In the following interview, we speak with them about their scholarly backgrounds and the plans they have for TSLL, a journal of literary criticism published quarterly by the University of Texas Press. 

To learn about previous issues, submission guidelines, subscriptions, and other matters relating to TSLL, visit University of Texas Press online at

James Cox

James, you have a strong research interest in contemporary Native America novels and ethnic American literature, and you co-edited Studies in American Indian Literatures for five years. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your academic background?

James: While my first book was on late-twentieth century novels by Native writers, my research covers Native American writing from 1920 to the present. Most recently, I’ve become interested in recovering Native writers from the middle decades of the twentieth century and thinking about the formal, critical, and political reasons that they remained overlooked or neglected despite, in some cases, having strong national or even international reputations during their lives. My second book, The Red Land to the South, followed some of these writers into Mexico, where they encountered indigenous groups that inspired them to think about how to help their home communities upon their return. The trans-indigenous critical approach of this second book influenced my work as co-editor, with my long-time friend Daniel Justice of the University of British Columbia, on The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature.

Douglas Bruster
Douglas, your expertise lies in Shakespeare. You have written and edited numerous books on his plays, and earned international attention for helping prove his contribution to another playwright’s work.

Douglas: I've been lucky enough to find work doing something I love, which is to read, study, and teach some of the best writing in our language. People sometimes have a hard time believing that there are still mysteries about Shakespeare and his works after all this time, but we really know very little about this great writer. Some of my current research involves dating his plays and poems, with an emphasis on determining the earliest part of the canon—what he wrote in the late 1580s and early 1590s. With desktop computing, we're able to perform increasingly sophisticated analyses of his words. In time, we're likely to gain a clearer picture of his working life than we have now.

Why were you drawn to take on the editorship of Texas Studies in Literature and Language?

James and Douglas: The journal is a very important piece of department and university history as well as one of the only non-specialist journals that publishes across historical eras, critical and theoretical divides, and national boundaries. We wanted to take up the challenge of editing such a journal.

What do you have in store for TSLL? How do you anticipate the journal changing?
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We’ve redesigned the journal’s exterior and interior to give it a new, fresh look. Readers will see this rather dramatic change upon first picking up—or clicking on—the journal.

We intend to publish a rich and diverse selection of articles across eras and fields, and we have recruited some new editorial board members—Alexander Dick, University of British Columbia; Devoney Looser, Arizona State; Rafael Pérez-Torres, University of California, Los Angeles; Randy Schiff, University at Buffalo; Bart van Es, Oxford—to join us, our editorial assistant (currently Megan Snell), and the board members who are continuing their service.

We have also initiated a publishing internship program for undergraduate English majors. The students in that position (Hannah Blaisdell and Emily Varnell this year) will help us develop a more robust social media presence.

Will the focus of TSLL shift to any previously unexplored areas of literature? 

Here two special issues bear mention. Our Modernism and Native America special issue will bring into the pages of the journal some new material, as will a special issue on filmmaker Wes Anderson.

In recent years, TSLL published special issues on Samuel Beckett (51:1), James Joyce's Ulysses (51:4), and the author J. M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 (58:4). A 100th anniversary volume (54:1–4) devoted issues to conference papers from the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies, a posthumous work of ecocriticism by a colleague in the UT English department, and Turkish letters. Could you say more about your upcoming special issues?

We mentioned the special issue on Modernism and Native America forthcoming in 59.3. In addition to provocative essays from Eric Gary Anderson (George Mason), Kirby Brown (Oregon), Michael Tavel Clarke (Calgary), Charles Rzepka (Boston University), and Melanie Benson Taylor (Dartmouth), the issue will include an oft-cited but not closely read letter-cum-drama manifesto from Cherokee author Lynn Riggs to his friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Paul Green. We’re excited and grateful to have received permission to publish it from both the Riggs and Green estates. In the next two volumes, we’ll have special issues on Wes Anderson and Victorian Environments, edited by our department’s Donna Kornhaber and Allen MacDuffie, respectively.

For the latest information on Texas Studies in Literature and Language, follow the journal on Facebook and University of Texas Press Journals on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Eleven Images from Picturing the Proletariat

In the wake of Mexico’s revolution, artists played a fundamental role in constructing a national identity centered on working people and were hailed for their contributions 
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to modern art. John Lear's new book, Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico, 1908–1940, examines three aspects of this artistic legacy: the parallel paths of organized labor and artists’ collectives, the relations among these groups and the state, and visual narratives of the worker. We asked Professor Lear to pick a handful of images studied in the book to represent the progression and politics of the Mexican proletariat.

Eleven Images from Picturing the Proletariat

By John Lear

The late John Berger proposed a fundamental “way of seeing” art. He wrote, “The question: what went into the making of this? supersedes the collector’s question of: what is this?” As a historian of Mexico’s working people, I began my research for Picturing the Proletariat with the related assumption that art both reflects and shapes the world in which it is produced. This would hardly be a surprise to the politically engaged, Communist-inspired artists who came of age during Mexico’s 1910 revolution, or to anyone who has seen the monumental, government-sponsored murals painted on public buildings in subsequent years by “los tres grandes” (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros). At one level, my new book is about how post-revolutionary artists “discovered” the working people of Mexico after 1910, came to see and organize themselves as “intellectual workers,” and reached out to newly organized unions. On another level, my book is about the ways these artists “pictured” working people stylistically and discursively over three decades. I found hundreds of long-forgotten or largely ignored prints, photographs, and murals. Many were embedded in journals and street posters, or painted on union and market walls instead of government buildings; and many were by lesser-known artists with more intimate ties with working people.
I include here eleven of the 146 works of art in the book. The images mostly speak for themselves, but I offer some commentary on what went into the making of each piece. Together they suggest some of the ways artists and labor leaders represented working people in revolutionary Mexico.

1. The Pre-revolutionary “Worker-Citizen” 

Saturnino Herrán began Allegory of Construction/Allegory of Labor in 1910, before the revolution, as a commission for the government of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Immersed in the urban transformations of the capital and aware of recent landmark strikes at Rio Blanco and Cananea, he was one of the first fine arts painters to introduce the worker as a subject, using the visual strategies of symbolism and allegory. His strong, fair-skinned construction workers labor at essential tasks, building the monumental structures of Mexico City, while a wife feeds her resting husband and children on the margins of the worksite. They invoke the shared goals of the pre-revolutionary elite and mutualist workers’ associations, by which male workers were to reject recent labor conflicts yet assume their proper roles as “worker-citizens” who construct the nation.

2. The Pre-revolutionary “Worker-Victim”

By contrast, the artisan printmaker José Guadalupe Posada developed years earlier a primitive style of relief prints for the satirical penny press for workers that challenged elite notions of development and highlighted conflict between the working class and its exploiters. As this 1903 front page of La Guacamaya demonstrates, he distinguished between two subsets of the exploited working class: in the masthead, the virile and outraged artisan class (with whom he himself identified), and in the caricature below, the victimized worker-campesino, literally consumed by factories, his flesh converted to gold. But while Posada’s prints denounced abuses of this “worker-victim,” they never advocated strikes and suggest an ambivalence to the outbreak of the 1910 revolution. Herrán and Posada, who both died during the decade of revolutionary fighting, offered two distinct archetypes of the worker that would clash and mingle over the next thirty years.

3. The “Worker-Citizen-Consumer” of the 1920s

This is a typical cover of the post-revolutionary union periodical Revista CROM, published for around a decade starting in 1926. Artists organized and participated in the revolution’s first several years of mobilization3 and fighting, but only in the national reconstruction of the 1920s did their representations of the working class flourish, in the context of intense labor organization and cultural politics. The officialist CROM labor federation, closely allied with President Calles, published its own journal illustrated by commercial artists. Drawings blended the earlier style of Herrán with art deco and art nouveau styles and conveyed the reformist politics of the federation itself. Like this cover, illustrations depicted attractive, muscular, Europeanized and above all individual workers who, together with industrialists and government leaders, constructed the post-revolutionary nation with their tools and the national flag in hand. This worker was also bound to middle-class consumer aspirations featured in articles and advertisements aimed at their wives, a “worker–citizen–consumer” with an explicit and unprecedented political role and palpable aspirations of individual social mobility.