Untranslatable Tuesdays – Kitsch

kitsche-final2

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. This second week in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Kitsch (German):

ENGLISH      junk art, garish art, kitsch

The word Kitsch is German in origin and had previously been translated into French as art de pacotille (junk art) or art tape-á-l’oeil (garish art), but the original term has now become firmly established in all European languages. Used as an adjective, kitsch or kitschy qualifies cultural products intended for the masses and appreciated by them….As a kind of debased popularization, it offers a decadent model that is all the more alluring for being so easily accessible. This is, at least, what its detractors say.

The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014

Diarmaid MacCulloch (c) Chris Gibbons SMALLER RESWe are delighted to announce that The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014 will be given by Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch. Professor MacCulloch is at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, and has a special interest in the history of Christianity. The author of numerous books on the history of religion, Diarmaid MacCulloch has also presented BBC documentaries, such as A History of Christianity and, most recently, How God Made the English. This year’s Princeton in Europe Lecture, which will be held at the British Academy, is entitled:

“What if Arianism had won?: A reformation historian looks at medieval Europe”

This event is open to the general public and is free to attend, but please register in advance by emailing Hannah Paul: hpaul@pupress.co.uk.

Wolfson Auditorium at the British Academy  *  Tuesday 8th April 2014  * Drinks will be served from 5.30pm, and the lecture will begin at 6.30pm * We look forward to seeing you there.

* Photograph (c) Chris Gibbons

 

Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood discuss the Dictionary of Untranslatables [VIDEO]

Earlier this week, close to one hundred humanities lovers gathered for a discussion around the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon with editors Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood, due out this month from Princeton University Press.

Please enjoy this video of the entire event, the first in this season’s Great New Books in the Humanities series co-sponsored by the Humanities Initiative and by the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University:

 

New Literature Catalog!

Be among the first to browse and download our new literature catalog!

Of particular interest is the Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon edited by Barbara Cassin. This is an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy—or any—translation from one language and culture to another. Drawn from more than a dozen languages, terms such as Dasein (German), pravda (Russian), saudade (Portuguese), and stato (Italian) are thoroughly examined in all their cross-linguistic and cross-cultural complexities. Spanning the classical, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, these are terms that influence thinking across the humanities. The entries, written by more than 150 distinguished scholars, describe the origins and meanings of each term, the history and context of its usage, its translations into other languages, and its use in notable texts. The dictionary also includes essays on the special characteristics of particular languages—English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Also be sure to note The Lives of the Novel: A History by Thomas G. Pavel. This is a boldly original history of the novel from ancient Greece to the vibrant world of contemporary fiction. Thomas Pavel argues that the driving force behind the novel’s evolution has been a rivalry between stories that idealize human behavior and those that ridicule and condemn it. Impelled by this conflict, the novel moved from depicting strong souls to sensitive hearts and, finally, to enigmatic psyches. Pavel makes his case by analyzing more than a hundred novels from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and beyond. The result is a wide-ranging survey of the novel and a provocative reinterpretation of its development.

And don’t miss out on Moral Imagination: Essays by David Bromwich. Spanning many historical and literary contexts, Moral Imagination brings together a dozen recent essays by one of America’s premier cultural critics. David Bromwich explores the importance of imagination and sympathy to suggest how these faculties may illuminate the motives of human action and the reality of justice. These wide-ranging essays address thinkers and topics from Gandhi and Martin Luther King on nonviolent resistance, to the dangers of identity politics, to the psychology of the heroes of classic American literature.

Even more foremost titles in literature can be found in the catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. Your e-mail address will remain confidential!

If you’re heading to the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, IL, January 9th-12th come visit us at booth 326. We’ll be hosting a reception to celebrate the publication of the Dictionary of Untranslatables Friday, January 10th 4:00-5:00 at our booth. Also follow #MLA14 and @PrincetonUnivPress on Twitter for updates and information on our new and forthcoming titles throughout the meeting. See you there!

50 Shades of the Golden Vase?

http://press.princeton.edu/images/k10120.gifWhen someone thinks of Princeton University Press, “sexy” probably isn’t one of the first adjectives that come to mind. And yet, one of our most recently published books is the fifth and final volume of a series translated from an ancient Chinese novel that has a certain, ahem, erotic nature.

Translated by David Tod Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei focuses on the domestic life of Hsi-men Ch’ing, a corrupt, upwardly mobile merchant in a provincial town, who maintains a harem of six wives and concubines. This work, known primarily for its erotic realism, is also a landmark in the development of the narrative art form–not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context.

In a recent New York Times review, Jennifer Schuessler called it “the first long Chinese narrative to focus not on mythical heroes or military adventures, but on ordinary people and everyday life, chronicled down to the minutest details of food, clothing, household customs, medicine, games and funeral rites, with exact prices given for just about everything, including the favor of bribe-hungry officials up and down the hierarchy.”

This might not be quite the same as the raunchy love between Anastasia and Christian in 50 Shades of Grey, but I’ve heard some pretty risque things about Chapter 27, so watch out!

Upcoming Ruth Wisse Events You Don’t Want To Miss

NoJokeAuthor Ruth R. Wisse will be making several appearances in the next couple of months to discuss her new book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

The first two events will be held in October, the first being October 16th from 6:30-8:30 PM at the Mid-Manhattan Public Library. To learn more about the event, click here.

The second event will be held at the Princeton Public Library in the Community Room on October 17th from 7:00-9:00 PM. To learn more about the event, click here.

For both events, Wisse will discuss “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor,” her book about the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity.

The NYU Humanities Initiative Event

At a recent event for the Humanities Initiative at New York University, authors John T. Hamilton and Emily Apter spoke about their new books and their views on comparative literature.

John HamiltonJohn T. Hamilton is professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language and Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition. His most recent book, Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care, addresses how “security” has become one of the most overused words in culture and politics today. In this original and timely book, John Hamilton examines the discursive versatility and semantic vagueness of security both in current and historical usage.

His discussion can be found here.

Emily ApterEmily Apter is professor of comparative literature and French at New York University. Her book, The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature, argues that the field of translation studies, habitually confined to a framework of linguistic fidelity to an original, is ripe for expansion as the basis for a new comparative literature. Her newest project, Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, is an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another.

Her discussion can be found here.

David Kurnick Makes the Shortlist for the 2013 MSA Book Prize

David Kurnick – Empty Houses: Theatrical Failure and the Novel

Shortlisted for the 2013 MSA Book Prize, Modernist Studies Association

Each year, the Modernist Studies Association seeks nominations for its Book Prize, awarded to a book published in the previous year. A panel of judges determines the book that made the most significant contribution to modernist studies.

Empty HousesAccording to the dominant tradition of literary criticism, the novel is the form par excellence of the private individual. Empty Houses challenges this consensus by reexamining the genre’s development from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century and exploring what has until now seemed an anomaly–the frustrated theatrical ambitions of major novelists. Offering new interpretations of the careers of William Makepeace Thackeray, George Eliot, Henry James, James Joyce, and James Baldwin–writers known for mapping ever-narrower interior geographies–this book argues that the genre’s inward-looking tendency has been misunderstood. Delving into the critical role of the theater in the origins of the novel of interiority, David Kurnick reinterprets the novel as a record of dissatisfaction with inwardness and an injunction to rethink human identity in radically collective and social terms.

Exploring neglected texts in order to reread canonical ones, Kurnick shows that the theatrical ambitions of major novelists had crucial formal and ideological effects on their masterworks. Investigating a key stretch of each of these novelistic careers, he establishes the theatrical genealogy of some of the signal techniques of narrative interiority. In the process he illustrates how the novel is marked by a hunger for palpable collectivity, and argues that the genre’s discontents have been a shaping force in its evolution.

A groundbreaking rereading of the novel, Empty Houses provides new ways to consider the novelistic imagination.

David Kurnick is assistant professor of English at Rutgers University.

A very Kafkaesque 130th birthday anniversary!

In case you haven’t looked at today’s Google Doodle yet, July 3rd marks the 130th birthday anniversary of novelist Franz Kafka. Kafka is the subject of a major three-part biography by Reiner Stach and translated by Shelley Frisch, the first two of which are just out this month from our fair Press (KAFKA: The Years of Insight and KAFKA: The Decisive Years, for those not already in the know).

In the commercial publishing world,  Peter Mendelsund came up with some stellar cover overhauls for many of Kafka’s works for Schocken Books, a division of Random House, including “The Trial,” “Amerika,” and “The Castle.” Here’s a fun birthday video they released for the anniversary, as part of what graphic artist Neil Gower aptly calls the “Tour de Franz“:

The birthday coverage has also been picked up by Michael Cavna of Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog, Mashable, PC Magazine, the Guardian, and the Toronto Star, among others. Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Katherine Jacobsen identifies a great quote from British poet W. H. Auden on the brilliant German-language writer:

Kafka is important because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, so in that spirit, happy birthday, Dr. Kafka!

UCLA Today: How professors can get publicity for their scholarly books

Michael Chwe -- UCLA Department of Political ScienceMichael Chwe is an assistant professor in the political science department. His recent book, “Jane Austen, Game Theorist,” has received widespread attention, but it wasn’t by accident. Here he shares his recipe for getting media attention for a book about something interesting, though obscure.

Most people believe that Rosa Parks sparked the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat. But as a game theorist who studies social movements, I know this story is only partly true: after Mrs. Parks’s arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, the veteran activist Jo Ann Gibson Robinson mimeographed 52,500 leaflets announcing a boycott four days later. If any single action started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was the printing of these leaflets.

Mobilizing people to action doesn’t just happen: it takes extensive planning and effort. So when I geared up to publish my second scholarly book, “Jane Austen, Game Theorist”, I vowed to deploy ideas from social movement theory to help publicize it. I figured I could use all the help I could get; my first book, “Rational Ritual,” never cracked an Amazon ranking higher than #42,000. In the heady week after “Jane Austen, Game Theorist” came out, for a few hours it went past #200. It has received much more attention than anyone expected.

Here’s what I did and why.

When it comes to marketing your book, get ready to spend lots of time and effort, full-time for weeks. It is not unreasonable to schedule your teaching responsibilities around it. You will be spending lots of time and energy doing what all social movement organizers do: talking, writing and discussing, trying to get the message out.

Almost all social movements rely on a single tight organizing team that communicates daily. When you publish your book, your obvious team members are the publicity people at your press and your university. Get to know them early, several months before the publication date, and take their advice.

Planning is essential. A very effective Civil Rights Movement tactic was the sit-in, in which black students sat at segregated lunch counters, causing the lunch counters to shut down and creating economic havoc. In the two months after the Feb. 1, 1960 sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-ins had occurred in 69 cities. Many at the time saw this rapid spread as a spontaneous occurrence, like a dam breaking after decades of pent-up frustration, but it was actually the result of extensive planning and nonviolent protest training.

Similarly, the publicists who helped me worked well in advance to get coverage to appear immediately after my publication date. They worked with several outlets at once, and thus news of my book seemed to break spontaneously, giving the impression of a groundswell of support, which turned into a real groundswell of support.

Relationships are key: activate existing ones and make new ones. In the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign, one of the main factors determining whether a given volunteer actually showed up was that person’s personal relationships. The sociologist Doug McAdam found that people who had friends who participated were more likely to participate than people who did not.

You will be surprised at how many people will want to buy your book solely because they know you (from college, kindergarten, conferences, etc.) and want to share in your success. This will gratify you immensely. Get on platforms like Facebook and Twitter and renew these relationships. You have many circles of friends whom you might expect to be uninterested (your gym acquaintances, your PTA friends, your college alumni association) but whom would be delighted to know about your book.

As you promote your book, you initiate new relationships, with interested readers, journalists, bloggers and so on. Take these relationships seriously and make an effort to maintain them. A reporter who wrote about my first book back in 2002 kindly tweeted about my second book to her several thousand followers. Every friend or acquaintance that you have or create has a potential “multiplier effect” of hundreds or thousands. A graduate student who likes your book might not be an “opinion leader” but might tell you about relevant listservs and blogs.

The main stroke of good fortune for my book was that a New York Times reporter, Jennifer Schuessler, wrote a very thoughtful and fun story about it. During my interview with her, I felt that I got to know her a little bit, and I will definitely let her know about my next book.

After the New York Times story came out, I did my best to be active on Twitter, even directing people to bookstores that still had copies, and I “followed” every person who tweeted about the story. Not everyone follows you back, but now I have around 500 followers who have expressed interest in the book, which is great.

Let people know something exciting is happening. In my 2001 book “Rational Ritual,” I discuss how a political rebellion is what game theorists call a “coordination problem”: a situation in which a person’s motivation for participating increases when other people participate. I am much more likely to join a protest of 10,000 people than a protest of 10. Buying a book is the same: a person is more likely to buy a book if she thinks lots of others are buying it and talking about it.

Thus when you market your book, do anything you can to let potential readers know that there are lots of other potential readers. I set up my own web page for my book, which includes all news stories and blog posts about the book, so people can see how many others are talking about it. If people tweet about your book, retweet. I periodically Google my book title to see which blogs and news outlets might be discussing it, and if possible I leave a comment referring them to my web page.

Make it as easy as possible for people to get interested. In 1965, the economist Mancur Olson recommended that to solve the “free-rider problem,” organizers should offer potential participants “selective incentives.” Any protest organizer who offers free food and music to make a protest more attractive is aware of this logic.

The equivalent of free food for a reporter is anything that makes writing her story easier. Your publicity professionals will create a press release, which is essentially a story pre-written for reporters. Some will post this press release verbatim, and some will modify it slightly and put their name on the byline.

In other words, everyone is busy, so make it easier for people to help you. Try to respond as quickly as possible to inquiries; the time scale of reporters is at least ten times faster than that of academics.

One “selective incentive” that I really like is offering signed bookplates to anyone who wants one for their copy of the book. It is a fun way to get to know your readers, and its personal and analog quality is a welcome respite from the daily digital torrent.

Engage in every way possible. The Civil Rights Movement had its spirituals, and the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 had its poetry. Successful social movements involve people in as many ways as possible, with words, dance, song, poetry, food and so forth. To promote my book, I made a Youtube video because I wanted to engage people with images as well as words.

I also got involved with my book’s cover. I wanted the book to feel fun and light, even whimsical, so I emailed the comic artist Sonny Liew and asked him to do the cover. This was money very well spent — Sonny’s fantastic illustration conveys the spirit of my book perfectly. One colleague called it the best academic book cover she has ever seen.

If your book were a meal, what would it taste like? The more ways you can think about the book, the more ways readers can relate to it. I am not above releasing “Jane Austen, Game Theorist” songs, recipes, and cat pictures.

Finally, start thinking like a 20-year-old. Social movements are usually a young person’s game, with older, more established people carted in after most of the work has been done. According to Alabama State College professor B. J. Simms, 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr., having arrived in Montgomery just one year earlier, was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (the organization created to run the bus boycott) because no older leader wanted to take the blame in case it failed.

So to promote your book, do all of the crazy things 20-year-olds do, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Youtube and Imgur. Like a 20-year-old, be willing to drop everything you are doing at a moment’s notice to respond to an inquiry. Be opportunistic, follow every lead and network like hell. Tweet like a maniac — you’ll know you are getting through when people (in this case, Stephanie Hershinow at Rutgers) respond with tweets like “WE GET IT! JANE AUSTEN WAS A GAME THEORIST! FINE! WHATEVER! YOU WIN!!!!”

Jane Austen, Game Theorist
Michael Suk-Young Chwe

Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young ChweGame theory–the study of how people make choices while interacting with others–is one of the most popular technical approaches in social science today. But as Michael Chwe reveals in his insightful new book, Jane Austen explored game theory’s core ideas in her six novels roughly two hundred years ago. Jane Austen, Game Theorist shows how this beloved writer theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, argued that jointly strategizing with a partner is the surest foundation for intimacy, and analyzed why superiors are often strategically clueless about inferiors. With a diverse range of literature and folktales, this book illustrates the wide relevance of game theory and how, fundamentally, we are all strategic thinkers.

Although game theory’s mathematical development began in the Cold War 1950s, Chwe finds that game theory has earlier subversive historical roots in Austen’s novels and in “folk game theory” traditions, including African American folktales. Chwe makes the case that these literary forebears are game theory’s true scientific predecessors. He considers how Austen in particular analyzed “cluelessness”–the conspicuous absence of strategic thinking–and how her sharp observations apply to a variety of situations, including U.S. military blunders in Iraq and Vietnam.

Jane Austen, Game Theorist brings together the study of literature and social science in an original and surprising way.

Review:

Jane Austen, Game Theorist . . . is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’. . . Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn’t merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.”–Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

“This is such a fabulous book–carefully written, thoughtful and insightful . . .”–Guardian.co.uk’s Grrl Scientist blog

“”Michael Chwe shows that Jane Austen is a strategic analyst–a game theorist whose characters exercise strategic thinking. Game theorists usually study war, business, crime and punishment, diplomacy, politics, and one-upmanship. Jane Austen studies social advancement, romantic relationships, and even gamesmanship. Game theorists will enjoy this venture into unfamiliar territory, while Jane Austen fans will enjoy being illuminated about their favorite author’s strategic acumen–and learn a little game theory besides.””–Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Jane Austen’s novels provide wonderful examples of strategic thinking in the lives of ordinary people. In Jane Austen, Game Theorist, Michael Chwe brilliantly brings out these strategies, and Austen’s intuitive game-theoretic analysis of these situations and actions. This book will transform the way you read literature.”–Avinash Dixit, coauthor of The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life

“Whether you’re an intelligent strategic thinker or a clueless bureaucrat, this book will teach and delight you. The merger of game theory and Jane Austen, with extended examples from African American folklore and U.S. foreign policy, provides the best study I know of motive and cluelessness. Michael Chwe, a rare breed of political scientist, has raised the game of two disciplines. This is a genuinely interdisciplinary work that avoids the reductionism of much game theory and the provincialism of many Austen admirers.”–Regenia Gagnier, author of The Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market Society

“It would be useful for everyone to understand a little bit more about strategic thinking. Jane Austen seems not only to get this, but to explore it obsessively. Looking at Austen and other works, this persuasive book shows that the game theory in historical sources is not inherently opposed to humanistic thinking, but embedded within it.”–Laura J. Rosenthal, University of Maryland