REVIEWS: Library and
Information Science Research
In this issue:
Landon E. (2000) The Arts, Popular Culture, and Social Change. Series:
Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education
Sharon P. (2000). Boundaries of Acceptability: Flaubert, Maupassant,
Cézanne, and Cassatt.
Johnson, Sharon P. (2000). Boundaries of Acceptability: Flaubert, Maupassant, Cézanne, and Cassatt. Series: Currents in Comparative Romance Languages and Literatures, Vol.63. New York: Peter Lang. 249 pp. ISBN 0-8204-3851-0 $56.95
In her book, Boundaries of Acceptability: Flaubert, Maupasant, Cézanne, and Cassatt, Sharon P. Johnson summarizes what we already know about women in 18th Century Europe. Domestic space was sacred and profane. Women were both vilified and loved. Life and art were either inherently interchangeable or else one created the other. Causal or equivalent relationships aside, art and literature have assuredly commented on the tension between genders. According to popular culture theorist Tania Modleski, advertising reinforced the metaphor of the woman as an island, in which patriarchal society attempts to obviate the island. Similarly, domestic space of 19th century France was the place in which women took care of all that was necessary to the functioning of the family, ie. that which men deemed unappealing. Johnson uses a multidisciplinary approach to analyze select works of 19th Century French art and literature and thereby contrast male roles with the predominant and alternative female social roles of the time. Johnson's examination integrates methodologies from historiography to feminist criticism to build upon works from Jürgen Habermas to Griselda Pollock. Ultimately, she redefines several noteworthy paradigms often applied to these 19th century art forms.
The book is divided into three parts. Part I: Representing the Boundaries of the Public and Private, details the space paradigm, including those spaces thought as intermediary. Not merely home or work, public or private, the locales offer detailed contexts in which to view the female roles that resulted from industrialization, modernism, and urban life. Johnson supports the notion that the Machine Age relegated women further from men, as men took the public and active roles in the workplace and women were more notably left at home. "What resulted in French bourgeois society was an economic and social system based on male privilege and a more enhanced division between the public and the private." (p.13) This impacted the young via the masculinization of secular schools. (p.25) In Chapter 2, Johnson uses the Cassatt painting "In the Loge" to illustrate how artistic forms provided alternate space for women. The woman in the subject of the painting--smart, active and respectable--views an opera independent of male companion rather than appearing submissive to the male gaze. (p.36) Part I concludes with Chapter 3: Transgression and Shock in the Fictive Spaces of Modernity in which the author uses Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" and Maupassant's "L'Ami Patience" and "Le Signe" to offer fictional portrayals of women as unorthodox and confrontational to the purveying societal norms.
In Part II: Questioning Social Roles and Feminine Spaces: Representations of the Home and Convent, Johnson elucidates the tensions found in home and convent as women move away from middle class ideals and expectations. Using a survey of over 1,000 images by artists such as Cassatt, Cézanne, Degas, Morisot and Renoir, she discusses the unique relationships found among women. Then through Madame Bovary, Johnson addresses the connections between social roles and social space. She reiterates the argument that these literary and artistic images may be seen as previously unacknowledged articulations of women's daily lives, overt challenges to the prevailing social conventions, or-in the most extreme cases, such as the dreamworld of Emma Bovary-depictions of female fantasies.
Part III: Subverting the Idealized Spaces of Nature in Maupassant's "une Partie de Campagne," discusses oppositional values in Maupassant's work: the lines between licit and illicit love, natural vs. industrialized world, rape vs. rapture. Johnson contrasts idealized representations of nature, such as Cézanne's L'Enlevement, with views of a nature that are negative or impure. Maupassant, for example, draws parallels between nature and his female protagonist Henriette. Appearing full of fear, pain, and anger, Henriette was victimized sexually by Henri. But, according to Johnson, Henriette retains conflicting feelings of sexual desire. (p.140) Overall, Johnson contextualizes Maupassant's work by providing important background to author and subjects and elucidating numerous oppositional values presented in "une Partie de Campagne."
In conclusion, Johnson succeeds in arguing that several 19th century French artists and writers put forth issues of the feminine both intentionally and unintentionally. Via unique portrayals of strong, smart, and uncouth women, artists such as Cassatt and Cézanne and writers such as Flaubert and Maupassant realistically depicted the under-represented women of the time and offered alternative, fictional roles contrary to patriarchal constructs. At times her complex methodology could seem confusing, and her readings of Cézanne and particularly Cassatt are not entirely new. (Griselda Pollock has written voluminously on 19th century art of France from the feminist perspective; see Mary Cassatt : Painter of Modern Women, et al.) However, Johnson structured a unique, cohesive study that examines disparate art forms and lends original insights to some of the most important works from 19th century Western culture. A noteworthy contribution to contemporary literary theory, modern art history, and feminist criticism, Boundaries of Acceptability is recommended for upper level undergraduates to faculty and collections strong in art and literature.
Modleski, Tania. (1986).
Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture. Theories
(1998). Mary Cassatt : Painter of Modern Women. London: Thames & Hudson.
Kniskern, Nancy V., & Toth, Dawn B., eds. (2001). Moving and Relocation Sourcebook and Directory 2001. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics. 1231 pp. ISBN: 0-7808-0431-7. $210.00
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest population report on geographical mobility, 43.4 million Americans changed their residence between March 1999 and March 2000. Although that doesn’t represent a notable increase over recent years, the trend is for more people to move out of their county and state than previously. Considering this fact, one might think that the Moving and Relocation Sourcebook and Directory would now be particularly useful for libraries. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
Kniskern and Toth have revised and expanded previous editions of this work to cover 121 American cities, adding telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for area businesses and agencies, plus Web sites for further information. Despite this effort, coverage is not comprehensive enough to be of value for people who choose not to live in major metropolitan areas: seven low-density states are not represented at all. Although directory information has been increased, its value is marginal due to the time lag inherent in print publication; by the time you read this, many of the phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and URL’s will have changed. In the age of the Internet, it doesn’t make sense to purchase large, expensive print directories when much quality material is available, and relatively easy to find, online. Examples of Web alternatives include Yahoo Real Estate (Neighborhood Information) at http://list.realestate.yahoo.com/realestate/neighborhood/main.html and the National City Government Resource Center at http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1389/. Also useful for relocation are state-oriented sites like Direct Search State Databases at http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/state.htm and stateline.org at http://www.stateline.org/dataindex.cfm.
Even compared to similar print sources, this reference work falls short. As a sometimes itinerant librarian, I’ve had frequent recourse to library materials offering practical information and background data on potential destinations, but was somewhat surprised to find that this work offered little that was meaningful to me. Useful comparative information on cost of living, employment outlook, housing, health care, recreation, crime, climate, etc. that one finds in inexpensive books like IDG’s Places Rated Almanac, Prometheus’ New Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities, and HarperPerennials’ excellent (if outdated) Livable Cities Almanac, is either absent or sketchily represented in the Sourcebook. On the other hand, their extensive directory information, while clearly presented and logically arranged, represented groups or agencies that I wouldn’t need until I arrived, for the most part, and which could then be easily located in phone books or by using Web search engines. Demographic and economic data in this work have apparently been extracted from the 1990 Census and other government products from the late 90’s; again, these could be easily obtained in more current form online.
In sum, this book is not recommended for any library that does not enjoy a generous materials budget, unless time restrictions prevent staff from utilizing other readily available sources.
Moore, Harry L. (2000). The Adjudication of Utilitarianism and Rights in the Sphere of Health Care. Series: International Health Care Ethics, Vol. 4. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-49334 152 pp. $46.95
That's quite a title. To get your mind around it, think like a librarian and extract the key concepts. You will find there are four: adjudication, utilitarianism, rights, and health care. To adjudicate means to settle judicially. Settle what? The conflict some perceive between utilitarianism and rights. Because, as the author teaches us, some people maintain that utilitarianism is not compatible with rights. Finally, lest you were to think this book constitutes a general philosophical discussion, the focus is on how adjudication, utilitarianism, and rights all figure into health care. Today's health care. As in "Our health care system." The author is dismayed at what we are spending on health care in this country and is proposing a solution, a judicial solution, a utilitarian solution.
You all know what utilitarianism is; you remember it from school. It is most closely associated with the name of John Stuart Mill (British, 1806-1873), but the author does not quote Mill even once. Even Mill, however, drew most of his ideas from Jeremy Bentham (also British, 1748-1832), who was older than Mill and was a utilitarian before he was. Utilitarianism is a philosophical school that maintains that the greatest good is the greatest happiness for the greatest number. For example, suppose a teetotaler suggests that liquor be made illegal. He or she says that if liquor is legal, there will always be 10 percent of people who won't be able to handle it, and that the other 90 percent, who can drink in moderation, should sacrifice the pleasure they take in it to protect those who will not be able to do so. What does utilitarianism say to that? It says, "Ninety percent is a greater number than 10 percent. Why should the 90 percent who can drink in moderation have to give up their liquor? Because some poor 10 percent won't be able to handle theirs? Well, the 10 percent are not the 90 percent's problem. Keep liquor legal, and let nine times as many people be happy as under the teetotaler's plan." That's utilitarianism: the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Often, as you can see, it is opposite to paternalism (trying to protect) in government, since the weak are often less numerous than the strong.
The author sets forth his utilitarian solution to the problem that health care constitutes in our country today in Chapter 6, "Rights, Utility, and Distributive Justice in Health Care" (pp. 83-97). It is an interesting discussion that glances at the concepts of beneficence; autonomy; the natural and the social lotteries; and futility (the extending of health care treatment(s) other than hospice to patients who are terminal). The author asks us to consider benefit over burden, where there is benefit to the patient, which sounds good, but where there is an accompanying burden to society. But what is he really asking? That our society turn to philosophy (specifically, utilitarianism) for guidance? When has it ever done that? And that this philosophical guidance be codified into law (adjudication)? I don't think the man in the street even trusts philosophers. Who is this guy? According to the book jacket, Harry L. Moore is an ethicist, philosopher, and professor. Somehow, I'm not surprised. And with its price tag of $46.95, I don't think anyone, not even Moore's fellow academics, is going to buy his book. Not recommended, if only because the ideas will never amount to more than a fantasy.
Noel Keith. (2000) From Piltdown Man to Point Omega: The Evolutionary
Teilhard de Chardin (1885-1955) was a mystical French Jesuit priest, paleontologist, and philosopher who tried to reconcile spiritual experience with the scientific realities of the natural world. Perhaps Teilhard’s most daring meditation was his attempt to wed theories of human evolution with Christian theology. For Teilhard the human species is converging toward an essential unity of consciousness. This so called "Omega Point" represents the final stop in the evolutionary journey of humans.
The move toward the "Omega Point" is tied to the emergence of a higher-level thinking apparatus, which Teilhard labels as the "noosphere". The "noosphere" does not represent any single intelligence but a composite representing the collective consciousness of the entire human species. Teilhard sees this new evolution as comparable to the earlier development of the cerebral cortex, the nervous organ that finally separated Homo sapiens from the larger animal world.
Clearly, Teilhard sees evolution moving towards a final concluding point. For Teilhard, the completion of the evolutionary journey ends with a spiritual awakening that unifies being with the whole universe. This higher metaphysical evolution allows for the ultimate acceptance of the eternal truths that are tied to older religious and philosophical systems. Teilhard shows that the enduring values of religion must be maintained and reconciled with modern science in order for humans to understand their final purpose in the universe.
Aspects of the thought of Teilhard de Chardin are addressed in Noel Keith Roberts Book From Piltdown Man to Point Omega: The Evolutionary Theory of Teilhard de Chardin. Roberts' book is one of the first attempts to look at Teilhard as a scientist. Teilhard’s ideas about evolution, consciousness, genetics, thermodynamics, extra-terrestrial intelligence, human improvement, and philosophical optimism, are discussed in some detail.
Roberts correctly points to inconsistencies and falsehoods in many of Teilhard’s paleontological observations. For Roberts much of the fossil evidence for Teilhard’s assertions about evolution must be challenged. He points to contemporary discussion about evolution and some of the criticisms of Teilhard’s work by such noted thinkers as Stephen J. Gould. Roberts finds that much of the empirical bedrock behind Teilhard’s ideas on evolution fail to stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
While Roberts does
a good job in mining out the details of Teilhard’s work, he completely
fails to make an overall assessment of either his scientific or philosophical
ideas. Can Teilhard be accepted as both a philosopher and a scientist?
Or is he to be
Roberts failure to take a position on these questions taints his book with a lack of focus. No central idea or spirit unifies many of Roberts’ valuable observations about important dimensions of Teilhard’s thought. The book also lacks a conclusion that might give a hint about what the authors objective might have been.
From Piltdown Man to Point Omega is clearly not the definitive book about Teilhard de Chardin as a scientist. Since most books about Teilhard focus on either his philosophical or theological thought, this book may have to due until another one comes along. This book can only be cautiously recommended for research collections in the humanities.
Joseph E. Straw
Beyer, Landon E. (2000) The Arts, Popular Culture, and Social Change. Series: Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education; Vol. 142) New York: Peter Lang. 157 pp. ISBN 0-8204-4943-1. $24.95 (paper).
"It is through art and through Art only, that we can realise our perfection; through Art, and through Art only, that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence." (Oscar Wilde, "The Critic As Artist", in Intentions – 1891)
Those who are involved in the current public (elementary or secondary) educational system will be well aware of the changes which have taken place in the past few years with regard to art and art education. Whereas art education was once taken to be an integral part of the overall curriculum in most schools it, like music and other "extracurricular" activities, has often been squeezed out of the curriculum by budget cuts, limited resources, fewer competent teachers, or lack of understanding on the part of pedagogical theorists of the significance of art in the educational process, or in society at large.
Chapter 1 of Beyer's book provides a brief yet thorough summary of prevailing traditions in aesthetic theory, particularly those which have been dominant in the Western and American cultural traditions, while Chapter 2 provides "…a critique of the ways in which the arts have been seen and thought about, and the extent to which they have been too narrowly circumscribed, as a result of the perspectives discussed in chapter 1." [p.25] The final prefatory chapter focuses "…on the ways in which the curriculum content and form, and the kinds of practices that are generated via the school curriculum, often serve larger political and ideological interests. A critical framework is provided for understanding and assessing the theoretical assumptions and practical actions that take place in schools and their relation to dominant social, economic, and cultural patterns." [p.47]
The remaining four chapters of the book explore ways of reconfiguring educational practices and policies to reflect the possibilities for an "aesthetic" education, and for a more significant role for popular culture in society and schools. Beyer is intensely critical of the tendency of many schools (and teachers) in the contemporary U.S. educational system to produce students who engage in primarily linear thinking, who do not question authority or those who wield it and who are, as he calls them, "intellectually apathetic". His analysis of the place of the arts in education (indeed, their necessity in education) is wide-ranging and carefully drawn.
It is Beyer's thesis that the arts must be fully integrated with our daily lives, and that aesthetic experiences (particularly as expressed in forms of popular culture) affect our perceptions of the world in which we function. Beyer's goal is what he calls a "democratic culture": "In working toward cultural activities in schools that are nonreproductive, in creating and critically appreciating imaginative works of art that provide insight into present social conditions, in awakening the imagination and visionary social possibilities that the arts provoke, in vivifying experiences that sometimes change who we are and what we think, and in seeing in these things that our identity may be enhanced, it seems to me that we act on the most important possibilities of articulating a democratic culture. Such a culture is clearly, in my view, in need of re-creation." [p.147]
Recommended for all
collections supporting studies in philosophy of education, culture, and
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