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.

Special Excerpt from “The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It”

The Bankers' New ClothesYesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy in 2008, sending our economy into a tailspin. To note this occasion, we posted a list of some of our Top Banking Books to help people try to figure out what in the world is going on with our economy.
Along that same thread, today we have a special excerpt of The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig posted below. In this excerpt (pages 11-12 to be exact), Admati and Hellwig address the Lehman Brothers fall and the ripple affect it had on America and even other countries abroad.
As a whole, the book addresses how risks in banking can impose significant costs on the economy. Many think that a safer banking system would require sacrificing lending and economic growth, but Admati and Hellwig  argue that we can have a safer and healthier banking system without sacrificing any of the benefits of the system, and at essentially no cost to society.
Check out the excerpt below!

In the run-up to the financial crisis, the debts of many large banks financed 97 percent or more of their assets. Lehman Brothers in the United States, Hypo Real Estate in Germany, Dexia in Belgium and France, and UBS in Switzerland had many hundreds of billions of dollars, euros, or Swiss francs in debt. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. The other three avoided bankruptcy only because they were bailed out by their governments.


The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy caused severe disruption and damage to the global financial system. Stock prices imploded, investors withdrew from money market funds, money market funds refused to renew their loans to banks, and banks stopped lending to each other. Banks furiously tried to sell assets, which further depressed prices. Within two weeks, many banks faced the prospect of default.


To prevent a complete meltdown of the system, governments and central banks all over the world provided financial institutions with funding and with guarantees for the institutions’ debts. These interventions stopped the decline, but the downturn in economic activity was still the sharpest since the Great Depression. Anton Valukas, the lawyer appointed by the bankruptcy court to investigate Lehman Brothers, put it succinctly: “Everybody got hurt. The entire economy has suffered from the fall of Lehman Brothers . . . the whole world.”


In the fall of 2008, many financial institutions besides Lehman Brothers were also vulnerable. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) that “out of maybe . . . 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States, 12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” Some or all of the major banks in Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom failed or were at significant risk of failing had their governments not bailed them out.


Accounts of the crisis often focus on the various breakdowns of bank funding between August 2007 and October 2008. Much bank funding consisted of very short-term debt. Banks were therefore vulnerable to the risk that this debt would not be renewed. The deeper reason for the breakdowns, however, was that banks were highly indebted. When banks suffered losses, investors, including other financial institutions, lost confidence and cut off funding, fearing that the banks might become unable to repay their debts.


The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy itself heightened investors’ concerns by showing that even a large financial institution might not be bailed out, and therefore that default of such an institution was a real possibility.


The problem posed by some banks being regarded as too big to fail is greater today than it was in 2008. Since then, the largest U.S. banks have become much larger. On March 31, 2012, the debt of JPMorgan Chase was valued at $2.13 trillion and that of Bank of America at $1.95 trillion, more than three times the debt of Lehman Brothers. The debts of the five largest banks in the United States totaled around $8 trillion. These figures would have been even larger under the accounting rules used in Europe.


In Europe, the largest banks are of similar size. Because European economies are smaller than that of the United States, the problem is even more serious there. Relative to the overall economy, banks are significantly larger in Europe than in the United States, especially in some of the smaller countries. In Ireland and Iceland before the crisis, the banking systems had become so large that, when the banks failed, these countries’ economies collapsed.


The traumatic Lehman experience has scared most governments into believing that large global banks must not be allowed to fail. Should any of these large banks get into serious difficulties, however, we may discover that they are not only too big to fail but also too big to save. There will be no good options.


The consequences of letting a large bank fail are probably more severe today than in the case of Lehman Brothers in 2008, but saving them might cripple their countries. The experiences of Ireland and Spain provide a taste of what can happen if large banking systems have to be saved by their governments. In both countries, the governments were unable to deal with their banking problems on their own, so they had to ask for support from the International Monetary Fund and from the European Union.

The Fifth Anniversary of the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy

The Fifth Anniversary of the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy and Our Top 10 Books on Banking

Since the economic downturn in America, people have been paying much more attention to what is going on with their government, their spending, and most certainly their banks. As today is the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy (the largest bankruptcy filing in the history of the United States), we here at the Press thought we would help you all out a little by suggesting some of our best publications on bank failures, economic regulations, and financial crises. Fun topic for a lazy Sunday, right?
Click on the titles below to learn more about them, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for an exclusive excerpt from our newest banking book this year: The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig.

The Banker's New Clothes1) The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It
By: Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig
What is wrong with today’s banking system? The past few years have shown that risks in banking can impose significant costs on the economy. Many claim, however, that a safer banking system would require sacrificing lending and economic growth. The Bankers’ New Clothes examines this claim and the narratives used by bankers, politicians, and regulators to rationalize the lack of reform, exposing them as invalid.

2) DeDebt's Dominionbt’s Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America
By: David A. Skeel Jr.
David Skeel provides the first complete account of the remarkable journey American bankruptcy law has taken from its beginnings in 1800, when Congress lifted the country’s first bankruptcy code right out of English law, to the present day.

 

3) HowHow Big Banks Fail Big Banks Fail and What to Do about It
By: Darrell Duffie
How Big Banks Fail and What to Do about It examines how large dealer banks (like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs) collapse and how we can prevent the need to bail them out.

 

4) UnWhysettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800
By: Richard S. Grossman
In Unsettled Account, Richard Grossman takes the first truly comparative look at the development of commercial banking systems over the past two centuries in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia. Grossman focuses on four major elements that have contributed to banking evolution: crises, bailouts, mergers, and regulations.

 

Rochet_Why11115) Why Are There So Many Banking Crises? The Politics and Policy of Bank Regulation
By: Jean-Charles Rochet
Almost every country in the world has sophisticated systems to prevent banking crises. Yet such crises–and the massive financial and social damage they can cause–remain common throughout the world. Jean-Charles Rochet, one of the world’s leading authorities on banking regulation, makes the case that, although many banking crises are precipitated by financial deregulation and globalization, political interference often causes–and almost always exacerbates–banking crises.

6) AppAppeasing Bankerseasing Bankers: Financial Caution on the Road to War
By: Jonathan Kirshner
The financial world values economic stability above all else, and crises and war threaten that stability. Appeasing Bankers shows that, when faced with the prospect of war or international political crisis, national financial communities favor caution and demonstrate a marked aversion to war.

 

7) CodCodes of Financees of Finance: Engineering Derivatives in a Global Bank
By: Vincent Antonin Lépinay
Codes of Finance takes readers behind the scenes of the equity derivatives business at one of the world’s leading investment banks before the crisis, providing a detailed firsthand account of the creation, marketing, selling, accounting, and management of these financial instruments–and of how they ultimately created havoc inside and outside the bank.

 

Balancing the Banks8) Balancing the Banks: Global Lessons from the Financial Crisis
By: Mathias Dewatripont, Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole
Translated by: Keith Tribe
Bringing together three leading financial economists to provide an international perspective, Balancing the Banks draws critical lessons from the causes of the crisis and proposes important regulatory reforms, including sound guidelines for the ways in which distressed banks might be dealt with in the future.

 

9) BankBanking on the Futureing on the Future: The Fall and Rise of Central Banking
By: Howard Davies & David Green
Banking on the Future provides a fascinating insider’s look into how central banks have evolved and why they are critical to the functioning of market economies. The book asks whether, in light of the recent economic fallout, the central banking model needs radical reform.

 

10) Banksprincetonlogo and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War
By: Bray Hammond
Bray Hammond investigates into the role of banking in the formation of American society. Hammond, who was assistant secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1944 to 1950, presents this 771-page book with a definitive account of how banking evolved in the United States in the context of the nation’s political and social development.

Simon Gikandi is Co-winner of the 2012 Melville J. Herskovits Award

Simon Gikandi – Slavery and the Culture of Taste
Co-winner of the 2012 Melville J. Herskovits Award, African Studies Association

The Herskovits Award is presented annually by the African Studies Association to the outstanding book published in African Studies during the previous year.

More information about this and other African Studies Association awards for 2012 can be found here: http://www.africanstudies.org/images/ASA-News-Archive.pdf

Slavery and the Culture of TasteIt would be easy to assume that, in the eighteenth century, slavery and the culture of taste–the world of politeness, manners, and aesthetics–existed as separate and unequal domains, unrelated in the spheres of social life. But to the contrary, Slavery and the Culture of Taste demonstrates that these two areas of modernity were surprisingly entwined. Ranging across Britain, the antebellum South, and the West Indies, and examining vast archives, including portraits, period paintings, personal narratives, and diaries, Simon Gikandi illustrates how the violence and ugliness of enslavement actually shaped theories of taste, notions of beauty, and practices of high culture, and how slavery’s impurity informed and haunted the rarified customs of the time.

Gikandi focuses on the ways that the enslavement of Africans and the profits derived from this exploitation enabled the moment of taste in European–mainly British–life, leading to a transformation of bourgeois ideas regarding freedom and selfhood. He explores how these connections played out in the immense fortunes made in the West Indies sugar colonies, supporting the lavish lives of English barons and altering the ideals that defined middle-class subjects. Discussing how the ownership of slaves turned the American planter class into a new aristocracy, Gikandi engages with the slaves’ own response to the strange interplay of modern notions of freedom and the realities of bondage, and he emphasizes the aesthetic and cultural processes developed by slaves to create spaces of freedom outside the regimen of enforced labor and truncated leisure.

Through a close look at the eighteenth century’s many remarkable documents and artworks, Slavery and the Culture of Taste sets forth the tensions and contradictions entangling a brutal practice and the distinctions of civility.

Simon Gikandi is the Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University.

 

Stuart Mitchner on Princeton University Press: “The University Publisher”

Stuart Mitchner has a very nice piece on Princeton University Press in the most recent issue of Princeton Magazine, which includes mention of several recent books and authors. To give you a feel, here is the introductory paragraph:

Princeton University Press celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005 with the publication of A Century in Books, which showcased 100 volumes that “best typify what has been most lasting, most defining, and most distinctive about our publishing,” according to the introduction by outgoing director Walter Lippincott, who was succeeded in March of that year by the current director Peter J. Dougherty. The co- chair of the search committee at the time was University Provost Christopher Eisgruber, the University’s newly installed twentieth president and the subject of this issue’s cover story. What the provost said about the new director eight years ago could be said by the president today, that he’s looking forward to working with Dougherty “to sustain the healthy relationship between the Press and the University.”

To illustrate the depth of the rest of Mitchner’s piece, here is a slideshow of the important books featured in the article:

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To read Mitchner’s full article in Princeton Magazine, click here.

Leah Price explains how immortalizing Caroline Bingley on a bank note may make sense

Last year we published Leah Price’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain in which she described the myriad ways books, journals, and paper were put to use. We asked her to explain the kerfuffle over the Jane Austen 10 pound note, and of course, the discussion took an Austen-like turn toward marriage…


 

chapter2_figure8_wretchFeminists were relieved when the Bank of England caved in to a petition demanding a woman’s face on at least one of its many banknotes. And novel-lovers were even more elated when the face chosen was Jane Austen’s. But jeers are now greeting the Bank’s decision to caption Austen’s portrait with a quotable quote from Pride and Prejudice, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

What’s not to like? Well, for one thing that quotation emerges from the mouth of the novel’s least likeable character, Elizabeth Bennet’s dim-witted would-be rival Caroline Bingley. When Darcy picks up Volume I of an unnamed book, Caroline immediately sticks her nose in Volume II; her “attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page.” Darcy ignores her attempts to read over his shoulder (he’s not up for one set of Buddhist marriage vows, recently chronicled in the pages of the New York Times, which included a promise never to read alone and never to turn the page without waiting for the other partner to finish). Bored by her book and stymied by his absorption in his, she declares with a yawn, “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!”

John Mullan is surely right to complain that this is the kind of quotation a Bank of England governor (or some overeducated and underpaid intern) would have found if they google-searched “reading” without bothering to read the novel. They might not even have needed to do that; the line appears in countless online and offline quotation dictionaries, of the kind over which Elizabeth’s schoolmarmish sister Mary likes to pore and from which Elizabeth’s repulsive suitor Mr. Collins cribs his commonplaces. But does this really mean that the quotation is wrong for a banknote?

Maybe. But it’s also possible that the quotation tells us something important about the relation between books and money. Miss Bingley adds that “When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Talking about books functions as a way to drag marriage into the conversation (for “having a house of my own” is nothing of not a modest euphemism for “getting someone to marry me”)—as it does, too, when she professes herself astonished “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr Darcy!”

Books, in short, are what rich husbands own. More specifically, like the gallery of family portraits that Elizabeth later ogles in Darcy’s house, a private library is a sign of old money. Nouveaux riches like the Bingleys can rent a house, but they can’t buy up first editions simply by handing over Bank of England notes, any more than they could buy up nonexistent portraits of their ancestors. And a shared library means a shared life: it’s safe to interfile books when you move in with your lover, but don’t put your duplicates out on the curb unless you’re game for covenant marriage.

More fundamentally, books are a player in the marriage market. Reading different volumes of the same novel gives Miss Bingley and Darcy something in common, just as anyone reading Sense and Sensibility can guess Marianne Dashwood’s fate once she reflects that “Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But … there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon.” In a culture that placed strict limits on young women’s interactions with young men, lending books and borrowing books gave a convenient excuse to send parcels back and forth: “Gentlemen, as a rule, do not offer ladies presents,” one 1893 etiquette handbook explains. “Should the conversation, however, turn upon some new book or musical composition, which the lady has not seen, the gentleman may, with perfect propriety, say, “I wish that you could see such or such a work and, if you will permit, I should be pleased to send you a copy.”

That books can matchmake shouldn’t surprise users of dating sites like alikewise.com, who are matched with one another by favorite title rather than by body-mass index: who needs Mrs. Bennet when a book can perform the introduction? But the book can also chaperone: a different Victorian etiquette manual explains that in railway carriages, while “civilities should be politely acknowledged,” “a book is the safest resource for an ‘unprotected female’.” Or, as when Darcy buries himself in the pages of Volume I to avoid making conversation with the persistent Miss Bingley, an unprotected male.

Perhaps Darcy is afraid of ending up in a marriage like the one described by the great Victorian humorist Douglas Jerrold: “Why, what have you got there, Mr. Caudle ? A book? What! If you ar’n’t allowed to sleep you’ll read? Well, now it is come to something! If that isn’t insulting a wife to bring a book to bed, I don’t know what wedlock is. But you sha’n’t read, Caudle ; no you sha’n’t; not while I’ve strength to get up and put out a candle.” When Charles Darwin drew up a balance-sheet to help him decide whether to marry, one of the entries in the “not marry” column suggested that a man needed to choose between marrying and reading: “Loss of time—cannot read in the evenings—less money for books.” One more reason that it may make sense to immortalize Caroline Bingley on a banknote: she knew that books aren’t free, any more than the time that it takes to read them.

Leah Price is professor of English at Harvard University. She is the author of The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel and How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain.

 

 

 

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