Telling Tales Out of School: Impact, Literature and the Academy

by Duncan Wheeler

In ‘Why I Quit,’ an already infamous piece published in the London Review of Books in Autumn 2014, Marina Warner rallies against the increasingly top-heavy corporate style of modern British universities. I can perfectly understand her frustration, and I agree with many of her complaints about the higher education system – the willingness to take on under-par fee-paying graduate students, an exponential growth in administrators and philistinism – but I was somewhat less convinced by her portrait of my colleagues and me as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. In my experience, the correspondent from the Daily Telegraph was closer to the mark: ‘Most professions harbour rivalry and backbiting, but academics make politicians look like fawning puppies.' [read full essay]

Re-routing architectural practice: from the literary to the spatial, and back again

Klaske Havik, Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture

reviewed by Rosa Ainley

The motif of dotted and dashed lines on the matte blue of the cover immediately presents the idea of a series of paths and routes and penetrable borders, crossing and overlapping each other. We’re going somewhere. In modern times everything’s a journey it seems, whether or not tickets are involved. Here this is explicit, and fittingly the journey starts on a bridge, with its suggestion of linkage, separation and connection, departure and arrival. Between these points, the first and last... [read more]

The Everyday's Dark Matter

Jacques Rancière, Figures of History

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

How do we want to be remembered? Do we want to be figures of history – or, regretful of past events and their indiscriminate digital presence, simply forgotten? Of course the choice is never that straightforward: we want the best of both worlds, good publicity (better, a place in history) and some privacy (alive and dead). The background for Jacques Rancière in 1997 – when ‘The Unforgettable’, the longer of the two essays in Figures of History, was first published – was more urgent... [read more]

Recovering the Real

Tom Sparrow, The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism

reviewed by Simi Freund

If you were to enquire about current trends in continental philosophy, you'd be sure to hear a lot of talk about ‘Speculative Realism’. It's only been seven years since the now famous colloquium of the same name, which took place at Goldsmiths College in 2007 and brought together the four original speculative realists (Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ray Brassier and Iain Hamilton Grant). But in that time, Speculative Realism has blossomed into a veritable movement. The rapidity of its... [read more]

‘Do You Want To Speak To My Gun?’

Martin A. Parlett, Demonizing a President: The 'Foreignization' of Barack Obama

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

Even before reading Martin A. Parlett's well-researched and fascinating book, Demonizing a President: The ‘Foreignization’ of Barack Obama, I often wondered if it would be possible for the racial conflicts that so permeate America's collective narrative to be alleviated by simply having a non-white candidate in one of the most influential and powerful positions in the world. If Parlett's book is anything to go by, the answer to this question must be a resounding no. The events surrounding... [read more]

Saving a Fish From Drowning

Norman Thomas di Giovanni, Georgie & Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and His Wife: The Untold Story

reviewed by Alexis Forss

‘If fiction is imagined as a globe,’ wrote Martin Amis, ‘with realism at its equatorial belt, then Borges occupies a spectral citadel in the North Pole.’ If we were to add to Amis’s cosmology a twin planet of non-fiction then its lodestar would guide us to an arctic athenaeum housing Speak, Memory and The Executioner’s Song, and in some derelict shack amidst the slop of the tropics’ fuggiest swampland we would find the shabby and misbegotten Georgie & Elsa. If this is indeed... [read more]

Blue Screens

David Berry, Critical Theory and the Digital

reviewed by Dominic Fox

What Derrida wrote, at the opening of Of Grammatology (1967), about language could perhaps today be said of computation: ‘never as much as at present has it invaded, as such, the global horizon of the most diverse researches and the most heterogenous discourses … it indicates, as if in spite of itself, that a historico-metaphysical epoch must finally determine as language the totality of its problematic horizon.’ David Berry’s Critical Theory and the Digital is an informed and... [read more]

‘Every Rebel is Our Ally’

Chris Bambery, The Second World War: A Marxist History

reviewed by John Newsinger

It seems almost perverse that at a time when the British Establishment is determined to celebrate the mass slaughter of the First World War, Pluto Press should publish a Marxist history of the Second. So widespread is the popular awareness of the murderous futility of the Western Front that the Establishment has had a hard job re-branding the 1914-18 conflict for centenary purposes; by contrast, the Second World War is still seen as a heroic struggle against Nazi tyranny. It was a war in... [read more]

From the Schnoz to the Slump

Peggy Shinner, You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body

reviewed by Sarah Seltzer

At my fancy New York City high school, appearance modification was all the rage. Curly masses that looked like lion’s manes were pressed between irons and doused with chemicals, emerging glossy and flat. September ushered in evidence of sudden summer weight loss, the sharpening of features and the flattening of noses. Whispers and rumours reached our ears: girls undergoing liposuction, ‘chin jobs’ and other mysterious procedures that went beyond the more routine nose jobs and breast... [read more]


Rob Doyle, Here Are The Young Men

reviewed by Maya Osborne

Here Are The Young Men is a spew of teenage crisis that Rob Doyle gloriously shapes into a high/comedown sprawl, sweet and agonising in equal measure. Doyle introduces us to Matthew and his mates Cocker, Rez, Jen and Kearney, who, having just finished their Leaving Cert, lurch into the summer of 2003 Celtic Tiger Dublin, riding a violent post-punk wave of excessive drug consumption and crippling youthful cynicism. “Like, it's great music, but I wish we could hear real music now, instead... [read more]

Freedom to Hate

Heather McRobie, Literary Freedom: A Cultural Right to Literature

reviewed by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

As a resident of Brighton for two years, I had the misfortune to witness the infamous March for England, an ostensibly celebratory event for St. George’s Day organised by the English Defence League (EDL), which was in actuality an excuse for loud racism, left-baiting and violence. As a staunch despiser of the group I, along with most of Brighton, attended the counter-demonstration and witnessed the small collection of (mostly) bald men make their way through the main streets, shouting and... [read more]