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Professor Tania Gentic’s The Everyday Atlantic

August 20th, 2014

It is difficult to sift through the glut of opinions on the destiny of the blogosphere. In education and politics the impact of digital knowledge is difficult to discern amidst voices of tragedy and triumph. Perhaps it is too soon to tell? Where can we look for a more well-informed perspective?

Reflection on this topic suffers from a lack of context. There must be other times and places to look toward for a better understanding of where the Internet might be taking us. Georgetown Professor Tania Gentic’s new book, The Everyday Atlantic, offers some much-needed insight through her analysis of daily newspaper chronicles in the twentieth-century Atlantic world. She, in fact, describes these chronicles as “a print precursor to the blog… a daily or weekly literary genre that straddles fiction and nonfiction… common to Spanish-, Portuguese-, and Catalan-language newspapers (2).” She takes these blog precursors and asks what they can tell us about their everyday readers; how we might best understand their subjectivity.

She describes these subjects as “palimpsestic,” deeply layered, like a medieval manuscript where the original text was erased to be written over again and again. These subjects, indeed, are “enmeshed in multiple and often ephemeral ways of knowing at the same time (3).” This way of looking at the texts unseats simple notions of knowledge being used as a univocal tool of dictatorial or colonial power. It rings true, I think, with avid Internet users who might start each day with a window full of tabs, each expressing its own narrative and identity. Users who themselves might identify with the notion that they are not static receptacles for knowledge, who experience themselves as being “in flux,” in the moment (6).

With an analysis that moves from print news to digital and from chroniclers (cronistas) to bloggers, Professor Gentic provides a grounded and thought-provoking study with great relevance for those interested in digital knowledge.

The Everyday Atlantic: Time, Knowledge, and Subjectivity in the Twentieth-Century Iberian and Latin American Newspaper Chronicle is available from the State University of New York Press on their website.

Joshua Canzona

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Wendy Belcher, whose journal article workbook is my favorite, has a new book!

April 29th, 2012

One of the backbone rules of Booklab is that I only recommend how-to-publish books by practitioners. Their publishing must also be at a level commensurate with Georgetown’s publishing expectations for its own faculty. Wendy Belcher’s workbook Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks meets both expectations beautifully. She also has other books and articles, a list of which is here. Her new book from Oxford University Press is Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson.

Here is more information about it:

As a young man, Samuel Johnson, one of the most celebrated English authors of the eighteenth century, translated A Voyage to Abyssinia by Jeronimo Lobo, a tome by a Portuguese missionary about the country now known as Ethiopia. Far from being a potboiler, this translation left an indelible imprint on Johnson. Demonstrating its importance through a range of research and attentive close readings, Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson highlights the lasting influence of an African people on Johnson’s oeuvre.

Wendy Laura Belcher uncovers traces of African discourse in Johnson’s only work conceived for the stage, Irene; several of his short stories; and, of course, his most famous fiction, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. Throughout, Belcher provides a much needed perspective on the power of the discourse of the other to infuse European texts. Most pointedly, she illuminates how the Western literary canon is globally produced, developing the powerful metaphor of spirit possession to suggest that some texts in the European canon are best understood as energumens–texts that are spoken through. Her model of discursive possession offers a new way of theorizing transcultural intertextuality, in particular how Europe’s others have co-constituted European representations. Drawing on sources in English, French, Portuguese, and Ge’ez, this study challenges the conventional wisdom on Johnson’s work, from the inspiration for the name Rasselas and the nature of Johnson’s religious beliefs to what makes Rasselas so strange.

A rich monograph that fuses eighteenth-century studies, comparative literature, and postcolonial theory, Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson adds a fresh perspective on and a wealth of insights into the great, enigmatic man of letters.

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Making a video about your book

September 21st, 2010

Charles King and publisher W. W. Norton created a wonderful video that brings us into the world of his new book.  Here is what he writes about it:


I had never heard of a “book trailer” until a few months ago, when my agent mentioned I should think about doing one for ODESSA. I went on YouTube and looked up some examples. Most of what I found were videos from the young adult fiction world– lots of unrequited vampire love. But I found a few really great videos by serious writers and historians–Dan Philbrick and Simon Montefiore, for example, not to mention a hilarious one by Gary Shteyngart–and I thought I could probably manage to do something similar.

It was pretty easy. I had all the images from the book already in hand. I put those into a PowerPoint and roughed out the sequencing and timing. (PowerPoint allows you to add a “Ken Burns” effect, so that you can pan and scan across still images–a great way of bringing photos to life.) I wrote a script and selected some music from the public domain and from a very nice klezmer band that allowed me to use one of their recordings. Finally, I got some great help from CNDLS at Georgetown (thanks to Daryl Nardick, Danny Gonzalez, and Ryan Walter) in reworking my rough-cut PowerPoint as a .mov file that could be uploaded to YouTube.

I wanted this to be informative and engaging, but I also wanted it to be about the book rather than about the author — to represent, in an accessible way, the fruits of serious archival research, which is the basis for the new book. It was also part of a “professionalization” of my web presence…I’ve now got the video on my new website at www.charles-king.net.

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GUEST BLOGGER: What Google Books Can Mean For You

February 27th, 2010

Lewis Levenberg, a graduate student in Georgetown’s Communication, Culture and Technology program, works with Booklab from time time, giving us fresh ideas for using the internet and various social media to promote authors and books.  I invited him to guest-post some of his thoughts about digital books online:

What Google Books Can Mean For You

A lot of confusion and controversy surrounds the ongoing saga of the Author’s Guild and Association of American Publishers‘  legal action against Google. Since 2005, these two book-world powers have been locked in protracted argument with the search giant’s books division over copyright and payment issues. This complex, long-term negotiation seems to be drawing to a close, with Google honing in on the rights to expand what they hope will become the largest-ever “digital library.” However, the fact that this vast database of scanned texts is well on its way to becoming the primary reading and retail source for books on the web does NOT mean that authors are left high and dry, only to watch as their work becomes available to view (at least in part) online.

Read more…

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A Big History of a Tiny Bug

February 15th, 2010

Mosquito EmpiresAnyone who has ever received a yellow fever shot (as I did in 2008 for a university trip to Kenya) can describe that weird moment when the nurse informs you that approximately 1 in 300,000 people who receive the vaccine will develop a version of the disease, probably fatal.  However, if you choose not to be vaccinated, as a nonnative traveler you are a walking target for carrier mosquitoes.  Most of us roll up our sleeves and take our chances with the vaccine.

Now, in Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 (Cambridge University Press), historian John McNeill takes us to a time when, as a soldier or a commander, you might watch tens of thousands of your comrades die of yellow fever or malaria, and when going into a particular part of the world such as the Caribbean almost guaranteed this outcome.  In the 1720s this was just the cost of doing military business abroad.  And to think that military history has been determined as much by bugs as guns.

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