Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Recent Bowdoin Faculty Books Draw Widespread Acclaim

Story posted October 13, 2009

Bowdoin faculty books continue to bring new depth and definition to their fields. Recent subjects have included Allen Wells' fascinating account of WWII Jewish refugees who fled Nazism to settle an unlikely dairy community in the Dominican Republic. Jennifer Scanlon's biography of Helen Gurley Brown has been hailed by dozens of critics, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Recent faculty books include the following titles:

bell book

DES Daughters: Embodied Knowledge and the Transformation of Women's Health Policies (Temple University Press, 2009)
From the 1940s to the 1970s, millions of women were exposed prenatally to the synthetic estrogen DES, a "wonder drug" intended to prevent miscarriages. However, DES actually had damaging consequences for the women born from DES mothers, many who were found to have a rare form of vaginal cancer or were infertile. They were also at risk for miscarriages, stillbirths, and ectopic pregnancies. In DES Daughters, Susan Bell, Bowdoin's A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences recounts the experiences of this generation of "victims." In moving, heartfelt narratives, she presents the voices of those women who developed cancer, those who were cancer-free but have concerns about becoming pregnant, and those who suffered other medical and/or reproductive difficulties. Bell examines the hierarchy of knowledge and power of scientists, doctors, and daughters, tracing the emergence of a feminist health movement. Read more.

collings book

Monstrous Society: Reciprocity, Discipline, and the Political Uncanny, c.1780-1848 (Bucknell University Press, 2009)
Professor of English David Collings examines the war between state power and the counter-power of popular collective action in England during the decades surrounding 1800. Collings argues that public protest against the reigning political body was an accepted part of everyday practice in the years leading up to the French Revolution, even though it was not a part of constitutional law. Afterwards, the populist crowds who chose to protest were perceived as outside the political body, a "monstrous society" of chaotic excess, as reflected in the influential political writings of Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, and T.R Malthus. This attempt to discipline the social body, to make state power immune from popular response, is also reflected by monstrous characterizations in Gothic tales, such as Matthew Lewis's The Monk and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Read more.

ghodsee book

Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria (Princeton University Press, 2009)
Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies Kristen R. Ghodsee examines how gender identities were reconfigured among the Pomak — the inidgenous Slav Muslims of Bulgaria — following the demise of Communism and an influx of international aid from the Islamic world. Through extensive ethnographic research, Ghodsee shows how mosques have replaced the state-subsidized lead and zinc mines as the primary site for jobless and underemployed men to express their masculinity, and how Muslim women have encouraged this as a way to combat alcoholism and domestic violence. The book chronicles how women's embrace of this new form of Islam has led them to adopt more conservative family roles, and how the Pomaks' new religion remains deeply influenced by Bulgaria's Marxist-Leninist legacy, with its calls for morality, social justice, and human solidarity. Read more.

kitch book

Political Economy and the States of Literature in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2009)
Crossing the disciplinary borders between political, religious, and economic history, Associate Professor of English Aaron W. Kitch's innovative new study demonstrates how 16th century treatises and debates about trade influenced early modern English literature by shaping key formal and aesthetic concerns of authors between 1580 and 1630. Kitch draws on an impressive combination of archival research and close reading in a range of subjects — from the herring trade to bills of exchange — to interpret the economic metaphors and assumptions of authors including Spenser, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Middleton, and Jonson. Read more.

levy book

The Basics of Practical Optimization (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, 2009)
Professor of Mathematics Adam Levy has written an undergraduate textbook on optimization that grew directly out curriculum he developed in Bowdoin classrooms. The book builds on multivariable calculus and introduces students to practical optimization and its uses for relevant and realistic problems, some of them drawn from local contexts (e.g., how to arrange a series of Maine college visits to minimize travel; how an outdoor apparel company can staff its registers efficiently). It also includes information on three fundamentally different approaches to optimizing functions under constraints, and ways to handle the special case when the variables are integers. Read more.

peary book

How Peary Reach the Pole: The Personal Story of His Assistant Donald B. MacMillan (McGill Queens University Press, 2009)
Arctic Museum Curator Genevieve LeMoine and Associate Professor of Anthropology Susan A. Kaplan introduce this expanded, reprinted account by explorer Donald B. MacMillan, who wrote about his early career as a member of Robert E. Peary's 1908-09 North Pole Expedition. Now available for the first time since its original 1934 publication, How Peary Reached the Pole features a biography of MacMillan and thirty-six images from his hand-tinted lantern slides. MacMillan used the journal he kept during the expedition to provide an intimate view of day-to-day activities and relationships with other members of the party, detailing how he learned to drive dog teams, camp in sub-zero temperatures, and travel safely across the ice-covered Polar Sea. The book provides a perspective from which to consider the northern environmental and cultural issues that continue to concern individuals and nations today, one hundred years after Peary's historic expedition. Read story.

holt book

Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture (University of Hawaii Press, 2009)
John C. Holt, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities in Religion and Asian Studies, has published an important new study of religious culture in Laos that offers an account of the country's entwined political and religious history from the 14th century to the contemporary era. He advances the argument that common Lao knowledge of Theravada Buddhist thought and practice has been heavily conditioned by an indigenous religious culture of spirit worship that has withstood synthesis, subordination, and transformation by Buddhist political and ecclesiastical powers. Holt takes a comparative approach, using his nearly thirty years' experience with Sri Lanka, another Therava Buddhist society, to elucidate what is unique about Lao Buddhism. It is the first new scholarly look at Lao religion in almost 40 years. Read more.

perkins book

The Likeness of the King: A Prehistory of Portraiture in Late Medieval France (The University of Chicago Press, 2009)
Associate Professor of Art History Stephen Perkinson offers up a boldly insightful work of scholarship on late-medieval portraiture that challenges the tendency of recent scholarship to identify likenesses of historical personages as "the first modern portraits." Focusing on the Valois court of France, he argues that changes in late medieval aesthetics — and the political needs that image-making served — prompted artists and patrons to deploy likeness in a variety of ways. Through an examination of well-known images of the fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century kings of France, as well as largely overlooked objects such as wax votive figures and royal seals, Perkinson demonstrates that the changes evident in these images do not constitute a revolutionary break with the past, but instead were continuous with late medieval representational traditions. Read more.

scanlon book

Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Professor of Gender and Women's Studies Jennifer Scanlon traces the life of the maverick diva of New York publishing, Helen Gurley Brown — longtime editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and author of Sex and the Single Girl — from her humble, working-class beginnings to her ascent to the pantheon of 20th century women. The book title is derived from an embroidered pillow that famously adorns Brown's office, declaring, "Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere." Scanlon reveals a fascinating, unapologetic woman who blew open the conservative mores of the 1960s with a unique philosophy of pragmatic feminism that celebrated independence, sexuality, the pursuit of beauty — and the overlap of sexual politics and commerce. Read more.

wells book

Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of Sosúa (Duke University Press, 2009)
Seven hundred and fifty Jewish refugees fled Nazi Germany and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosúa in the Dominican Republic, then ruled by one of Latin America’s most repressive dictators, General Rafael Trujillo. Allen Wells, Bowdoin's Roger Howell, Jr. Professor of History — and the son of a Sosúa settler — tells the compelling story of General Trujillo, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and those fortunate pioneers who founded a successful employee-owned dairy cooperative on the north shore of the island. Why did a dictator admit these desperate refugees when so few nations would accept those fleeing fascism? Ironically it was Trujillo's obsession with stemming the tide of Haitian migration across his nation’s border, that prompted him to “whiten” the Dominican populace by welcoming Jewish refugees who were themselves subject to racist scorn in Europe. Listen to interview or view a slideshow.

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