University of Texas at Austin

Archive for December, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Books that Changed America

Like no other mass medium, books have the ability to crystallize a point in history or serve as a catalyst for public opinion.

Great books can foster nationwide discussion or provide a framework for the way people understand an issue. And every once in a while, a book comes along that changes everything.

Last winter, College of Liberal Arts professors took readers on a literary journey through U.S. history in the feature “Books that Changed America.” The story profiled seven bestselling…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Historian Unwraps Origins of Christmas Traditions

It’s Christmas in America. Time to deck the halls, trim the tree, hang the stockings and take the kids on an annual pilgrimage to see Santa Claus.

Most of us accept these traditions without a second thought, but each of these beloved, yet peculiar rituals are rooted in the past, and most have evolved over time.

From the early Pagan winter festivals to the birth of Santa Claus, Penne Restad, senior lecturer of history, chronicles the origins of America’s time-honored…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don Graham’s Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies

Since the advent of filmmaking, dozens of Hollywood heartthrobs have lined up to play cowboys in more than 600 films about or made in Texas.

Who can forget Paul Newman’s brash portrayal of a Texas cowboy in “Hud”? Or James Dean’s turn as ranch hand Jett Rink in “Giant”?

Texas looms larges in moviemakers’ imaginations writes English Professor Don Graham in the pocket-sized handbook “State Fare: An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies” (TCU Press, 2008), but they don’t always get it…

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sociologist Analyzes the Business of Toys

As millions of Americans brave shopping malls this holiday season, they will inevitably come across a migraine-inducing temper tantrum in the toy aisle, or perhaps a belligerent argument between a customer and a cashier.

Why are these scenarios ubiquitous in retail stores throughout America?

This is one of many questions about mall culture Christine Williams, professor of sociology, explores in “Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping and Social Inequality” (University of California Press, 2005), which reveals the unsavory realities of race, gender and…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Alum’s Book Parodies Pregnancy Guide

In a spoof on the pregnancy self-help book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Mary K. Moore (BJ ‘96) spotlights the absurd moments of pregnancy and shakes the sugar-coating off symptoms.

Sure to brighten the day of any woman, “preggars” or not, Moore’s book delivers tongue-in-cheek advice on everything from how to know when baby prepping reaches a level of paranoia to picking a name to the do the dos and don’ts of “postpartum partying.”

A former New York editor for…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jazz Performance of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Enjoy an original jazz version of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas performed by Alex Coke, Suzy Stern, Buddy Mohmed and Rich Harney at 7 p.m., Dec. 10 at the Harry Ransom Center.

The project began two years ago at the Ransom Center as a live reading of Thomas’ beloved short story with music, and blossomed into a studio recording project.

This holiday season the Austin-based jazz quartet will again perform the piece, mixing original jazz compositions, improvisation and…

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy 400th Birthday John Milton

John Milton (b. Dec. 9, 1608) ranks next to Shakespeare as one of the most influential poets of the English language. His literary achievement is remarkable considering Milton lost his eyesight in 1652 and was forced to dictate his work to scribes.

Milton’s best known works include the epic poem “Paradise Lost,” which tells the story of the fall of man, its sequel “Paradise Regained,” and “Areopagitica,” a treatise condemning censorship.

On the 400th anniversary of Milton’s birth, English Professor John Rumrich,…

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tales for Little Rebels

In this anthology of radical children’s literature, Julia Mickenberg, associate professor of American studies, and co-editor Philip Nel, collected 43 mostly out-of-print stories, poems, comic strips and primers, that embody the traditions of 20th-century leftists who encouraged kids to question authority.

The result, “Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature” (NYU Press, 2008) offers a portrait of many progressive concerns of the 20th century, including labor and civil rights, gender equality, and the environment, through the lens of…

Friday, December 5, 2008

What’s on Your Nightstand, Tom Staley?

Thomas F. Staley leads the renowned Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where he also is a professor of English and holds the Harry Huntt Ransom Chair in Liberal Arts.

A scholar of modern literature, Staley has authored or edited 13 books on James Joyce, Italo Svevo, and several other modern British novelists.

ShelfLife recently caught up with the avid bibliophile to pick his brain for winter reading recommendations. Staley reads fiction widely as director of the Ransom Center,…

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, professor emerita of Middle Eastern Studies and comparative literature, passed away earlier this week. She was 81. Read an obituary here.

Known as “B.J.” to her friends and family, Fernea was a noted scholar, filmmaker and author of several books on women’s issues in the Middle East.

Her memoir “Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village” (1965) which detailed her immersion into the lives of the women of Al-Nahra, was a national bestseller.

Did you know…