Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shakespeare at 450



Four hundred fifty years after his birth, William Shakespeare's position in Western civilization is secure. The Bard is widely viewed as history's greatest playwright, and his poetry is venerated as well. The Neumann Library has a variety of Shakespeare's films on DVD and VHS. The centerpiece of its collection is the series produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Time-Life from 1978 to 1985. This series comprises all 37 of Shakespeare's plays and was broadcast on British and American television. The plays were received enthusiastically on both sides of the Atlantic, and some, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth, received nominations and awards. The series is an excellent starting point for those interested in Shakespeare's plays.


Among the individual plays, the library possesses many landmark performances. Henry V is an excellent example of this. The play, which exalts patriotism, courage, and camaraderie, features the Crispin Day speech, one of the great inspirational speeches in the English language, which British officers read to their men during the Normandy landings in 1944. Laurence Olivier’s version, which was produced as a contribution to Britain’s war effort, was dedicated to “the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture.” In other words, it was pure agitprop, and successful agitprop at that. Olivier’s film received an honorary Academy Award in 1947 (in addition to four Oscar nominations) and Best Film and Best Actor awards from the National Board of Review in 1947.


Henry V

The Neumann Library has Olivier’s version, and it also has Kenneth Branagh’s version, which was released in 1989. The latter featured Kenneth Branagh as lead actor and director, and he received Academy Award nominations for both. The film won a Best Costume Design Oscar. Branagh’s film differs from Olivier’s in that pageantry does not abound. Instead, one wallows in dirt and blood, particularly during the Battle of Agincourt. Branagh’s Henry V presents realism, and while courage is present, the film does not attempt to exalt that or any other virtue.

Henry V was the beginning of the building of Olivier’s legend as an interpreter of Shakespeare in film. He burnished his reputation further with Hamlet (1948). The film made Olivier the first person to direct himself to an Academy Award-winning performance. In addition, the production took Oscars for Best Picture, Best Black and White Art and Set Direction, and Best Black and White Costume Design. The film showcased Olivier’s intensity and atmosphere that had never before been seen in a Shakespeare film.

Another Hamlet of note is from the Soviet Union. Grigori Kozintsev released Hamlet in 1964, and this film and King Lear are his two most famous films. The film’s cinematography is foreboding, and Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the great composers of the 20th century, wrote the music. None other than Laurence Olivier extolled Innokenti Smoktunovsky’s performance in the title role. Those who feel that only Anglophones can give good Shakespeare interpretations would be well-advised to watch Kozintsev’s Hamlet.



MACBETH (1971)

Roman Polanski is not a native Anglophone, but he directed an outstanding Macbeth. Jon Finch plays the title role, the Thane of Cawdor whom three “weird sisters” and his wife, played by Francesca Annis, bewitch. This naturally melancholy play has never gotten a more melancholy realization than this film, which was shot in various rugged locations in the British Isles. When Macbeth was released (1971), some critics protested that the film was too violent and bloody, and at least one linked the violence and gore to the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate. In addition, Macbeth’s nudity alienated some reviewers. The picture was controversial at the time but has come to be respected as a technical tour de force and an original interpretation. The National Board of Review named the film 1971’s best.
Romeo and Juliet is one of Western civilization's great love tragedies. It is the second most frequently performed of Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet is the most performed), in part because it can be adapted to many settings. It has been set on the West Bank and in apartheid South Africa. Franco Zeffirelli’s production is a mainstream production set in Renaissance Verona. The film, which won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, has much of the verse taken out but still captures the flow of the play. Young thespians such as Michael York, Olivia Hussey, and Leonard Whiting got moments in the sun that they parlayed into careers on screen and stage. The film has become one of the most popular adaptations of the play.


RICHARD III (1955)

Laurence Olivier’s Richard III is one of the premier interpretations of Shakespeare’s play about the eponymous murderous monarch. Olivier earned him an Academy Award nomination, but other cast members shone as well. Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, and Claire Bloom  turned in sterling performances. Although Richard III earned mixed reviews when it was released, it received a number of international awards, including the British Academy Film Awards for Best British Actor and Best Film, the Golden Globe for the Best English-Language Foreign Film, and the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Today, the film is widely recognized as one of the great film adaptations of the play.

Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.   

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

UHCL welcomes community for Veterans Day Celebration

Join University of Houston-Clear Lake as they celebrate the service and sacrifice that veterans and their families have made for our country at the

Veterans Day Celebration
Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
in the university’s Liberty Park,
2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston TX 77058.

More than 500 veteran students are currently enrolled at UH-Clear Lake and the Capt. Wendell M. Wilson Veteran Services Office and the Office of University Advancement are committed to making their UHCL experience a memorable one through events like the Veterans Day Celebration.

“It is such an honor for us to celebrate our veteran students who have given so much for this great nation,” says Trisha Ruiz, coordinator for the Capt. Wendell M. Wilson Veteran Services Office and US Army Veteran. “We are truly privileged to have them attend UHCL, when they could have chosen any university in the nation. We do not take that lightly and remain committed to making their experience at UHCL a memorable one.”

Admission is free. For more information, call 281-283-2021 or visit http://www.uhcl.edu/veteransday.


Pictured is Certifying Official of the Capt. Wendell M. Wilson Veteran Services Office Jay Hernandez at last year’s Veterans Day Celebration.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World War I Commemoration at the Neumann Library


Two thousand fourteen is the centennial of the beginning of World War I. In the words of diplomat-historian George Kennan, the war was the “seminal catastrophe of the 20th century.” It destroyed the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires and redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East. The conflict opened the door to the introduction of Communism and Fascism to Europe and put the United States at center stage in international affairs for the first time. Morever, the war sowed the seeds for an even greater cataclysm. The Neumann Library has a large collection of books on the First World War.


Max Hastings’s Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War explores the run-up to the war and the first months of battle. The book traverses the July crisis, the declarations of war, the German invasion of Belgium and France, the Race to the Sea, the beginning of trench warfare, the Christmas Day truce, and the combat on the Eastern Front. Hastings makes the case that Germany was expansionist and needed to be stopped. Therefore, the view that many have that the war was a waste is wrong. Hastings does not shirk controversy, and his writing style is excellent. The book is a provocative read and a good introduction to the background and first months of World War I.

Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 is the story of Europe during the 15 years preceding the outbreak of World War I. The story is one in which Europe was becoming more prosperous but also one in which war came because of Great Power tensions, rivalries, and hostilities. MacMillan tells this story in part by looking at the personalities of the great figures of the day, military men such as Germany’s Helmuth von Moltke and Britain’s John Fisher, heads of state such as Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm I, Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, and Austria-Hungary’s Emperor Franz Josef I; politicians such as Britain’s Herbert Asquith and Winston Churchill, and would-be peacemakers such as Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner. The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 takes a panoramic view of the world that the war ended.  

In terms of combat, World War I was pathbreaking. The scale of death and destruction was unlike anything seen before, and the killing was industrialized because the war was a product of the Industrial Revolution. The conflict marked the first large-scale use of airplanes, tanks, submarines, and poison gas, while machine guns and field artillery were used on an unprecedented scale. Peter Hart’s The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War gives a broad-brush view of the conflict. It covers the Western Front, the Eastern Front, the sea war, the war against the Ottoman Empire; the Italian Front, and the Salonika Front. Hart, an oral historian at London’s Imperial War Museum, puts forth an Anglocentric view of the conflict, although he chronicles the campaigns on other fronts and notes the American contribution to the Allied and Associated Powers’ war effort. The book is a good survey of the military aspects of the First World War.

Most accounts of World War I are given from the Allied perspectives. The value of Holger H. Herwig’s The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1918 lies in its presentation of events from the Central Powers’ point of view. The book notes that much of Germany’s war effort was dedicated to keeping Austria-Hungary afloat. It points out that the two powers had inadequate resources and failed to manage them optimally. The book also reassesses German military effectiveness, pointing out the Germans were sometimes prone to fail strategically and tactically.

Another book by Herwig is The Marne, 1914. It is a reinterpretation of the First Battle of the Marne, the battle that is remembered by the famous if exaggerated story of the rushing of French reinforcements to the front by taxicab. Herwig analyzes the battle in the context of the Schlieffen Plan, Germany’s plan for winning a quick victory over France before turning to fight Russia. He sees the Schlieffen Plan as Germany’s attempt to avoid a long war against a larger coalition. In addition, Herwig points out France’s determination to defeat the Germans and the German forces’ failure to coordinate. The Marne, 1914 has become a standard on the First Battle of the Marne.

World War I did much to create the modern Middle East. The roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict can be partially found in the war as well as the disputes over oil, water, and other natural resources. In addition, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq were formed under British and French mandates, but with boundaries drawn without the consultation of the citizens of those states, which laid the foundations of further tumult. One book that chronicles the actions of the belligerents in the Middle East and their effects on the region is Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia: War,Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Anderson chronicles World War I in the Middle East largely through the eyes of Thomas Edward Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, a liaison officer with the Arab forces in the Hejaz. However, other characters are introduced, and these characters demonstrate the variety of interests that competed in the Middle East. Curt Prufer was a German diplomat who worked with the Ottoman Empire to undermine British influence in the Middle East, while Aaron Aaronsohn was a Romania-born agronomist who relocated to Palestine and supported Zionism. William Yale was an employee of Standard Oil who worked for the American State Department. By looking at each of these men, Anderson shines a light on the motives and actions that created today’s Middle East.

The role that Germany played in the outbreak of World War I has always been controversial. In 1919, the Allies wrote Article 231, which foisted full responsibility for the war on Germany and its allies, into the Treaty of Versailles as a means of establishing a case for reparations. Historians have debated Germany’s responsibility for the war ever since that time. One of the most controversial books on the subject in Fritz Fischer’s Germany’s Aims in the First World War. The book argues that Germany used the July crisis to start a war in pursuit of a German empire in central and eastern Europe and in Africa. Fischer contends that Germany did not seek a war with Great Britain but ran the risk of such a conflict to build the empire that it sought. Germany’s Aims in the First World War was so controversial that the Hamburg office of the book’s publisher was firebombed. The work has not ceased to arouse controversy, and it deserves attention for its interpretation of the causes of World War I.


No work can fully encompass the First World War, but Matthias Strohn’s World War I Companion gives a good thumbnail sketch of the military aspects of the conflict. The book, which Strohn edits, consists of 13 chapters, each of which is authored by a specialist on World War I. The book includes chapters on World War I aviation, the sea war, the evolution of the French army, the experience of Austria-Hungary, and the war on the Eastern Front. World War I Companion gives a good overview of the war and is a good place for the beginning researcher to start.

One of the most iconic World War I campaigns is the Gallipoli campaign. From April 1915 to January 1916, the Allies attempted to force a passage through the Dardanelles to Russia to enable supplies to be sent to Russia. In addition, the Allies hoped to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war and force Germany and Austria-Hungary to send troops from other fronts to aid the Turks. The campaign led to a rise in national consciousness in Turkey, which fended off the assault, and in Australia and New Zealand. From the time of the campaign, controversy about the assault has raged, with some military men and historians feeling that the attack was a good idea badly implemented and some believing that the operation was a bad idea.




Many recent books hold that the Gallipoli campaign was a bad idea badly implemented that would not have shortened the war by one day if it had been a good idea well implemented. Robin Prior’s Gallipoli: The End of the Myth is one such book, and Peter Hart’s Gallipoli is another such work. Both works argue that  poor planning, poor leadership, and insufficient resources hamstrung the operation and that it would not have shortened the war had it succeeded because the Western Front was the war’s decisive front, and that the resources used at Gallipoli would have been better used in France and Belgium. Prior’s book is analytical in tone, while Hart’s is a powerful, moving narrative. Both works, however, argue strongly that the Gallipoli operation should not have been attempted.

Check these books and others out of the Neumann Library.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spooky Times at Neumann Library


Visit Neumann Library on Friday, October 31, if you dare! Halloween spirits will be visiting us. Come see  who (or what!) has taken over the library staff. Spooky and silly sightings are likely from 8:00am until 5:00pm.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Constitution Day at the Neumann

 
America's Constitution : A Biography
September 17 is Constitution Day, a day that honors the signing of the United States Constitution by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787. The Neumann Library owns many books that discuss the Constitution, its origins, and its impact on American life. Akhil Reed Amar has written three of these. Amar, who is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Constitution. His book America’s Constitution: A Biography points out the Constitution’s origins, its flaws, and the role that the document plays in American life. It points out why the electoral college exists, why only native-born Americans can become president, and why the president must be 35 years old. Amar explodes myths by pointing out, for example, that the Constitution was more democratic when written than previously thought. He also points out that the “three fifths” compromise gave the South increased political clout and made the region, in a sense, a slavocracy. America’s Constitution is packed with information and insight and is well-written.

America's Unwritten Constitution : The Precedents and Principles We Live By
Amar begins America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By with the words, “The eight thousand words of America’s written Constitution only begin to map out the basic ground rules that actually govern our land.” He goes on to use as examples failure of the Constitution to state that racial segregation is inherently unequal or of the First Amendment to prohibit the president or state governments from abridging various freedoms. Amar points out that Constitution says nothing about notions such as the separation of powers and the rule of law. He contends that the document cannot be viewed in textual isolation. Rather, it must be examined in the light of other documents, precedents set by early presidents and congresses, modern American practices, and notable judicial decisions. America’s Unwritten Constitution is a provocative look at constitutional interpretation.
The Bill of Rights is the Constitution’s centerpiece. Amar refers to it as “the high temple of our constitutional order.” In The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction, Amar discusses the history of the Bill and analyzes the document. He holds that the Bill of Rights was intended to empower popular majorities and not to protect minorities from majorities. He contends that only with Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment did individual rights take center stage. Amar argues that before Reconstruction the Bill of Rights was viewed as dealing with government’s structure, not individual rights. He reviews the thinking of the Founding Fathers and the changes that the 14th Amendment brought about in legal thought. Amar’s book is a provocative look at what many believe is the most important part of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights : Creation and Reconstruction
Lawrence Tribe’s The Invisible Constitution takes a stance similar to Amar’s America’s Unwritten Constitution. Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University, argues that the written document has provided only a small fraction of what Americans have come to understand about it. He states that the written document holds hints that lead us to the unwritten document’s meaning, giving us a fuller understanding of the Constitution. Tribe points out  key court cases and historical events that have made the Constitution’s meaning clearer. The Invisible Constitution, like America’s Unwritten Constitution, is a provocative way of looking at the United States Constitution and how to interpret it.

Constitution 3. 0 : Freedom and Technological Change
Constitution 3.0 deals with technology’s effects on our civil liberties. Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at  George Washington University Law School, and Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, edited the book, which addresses how Americans can protect their constitutional rights, which were mapped out more than 200 years ago, in an era of cell phones, laptops, surveillance cameras, and GPS, among other technologies. Scholars in law, technology, and ethics have written the essays, which question whether technology has obliterated our privacy, our right against self-incrimination, and other rights.

How Democratic Is the American Constitution?
Robert Dahl’s How Democratic is the American Constitution? questions whether the United States Constitution furthers democracy. Dahl, who was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University (he died on February 7, 2014), notes that the Constitution is "a document produced more than two centuries ago by a group of fifty-five mortal men, actually signed by only thirty-nine, and adopted in only thirteen states." He continues by saying that the Founding Fathers distrusted democracy, left slavery in place, and limited the vote to white male property owners. He feels that two undemocratic elements remain in place, the electoral college and the United States Senate. How Democratic is the American Constitution? is valuable for giving readers a different perspective on the Constitution.
Active Liberty : Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution
 
United States Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer believes that the Constitution exists to help citizens participate in shaping government and the laws. He calls this process “active liberty,” and his book is entitled Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution. Breyer feels that active liberty requires deference to Congress as well as recognizing changing popular needs. He points out that the Constitution’s flexibility is what has made it a success. He takes John Marshall’s view of the Constitution as a living document. Breyer uses examples from contemporary issues such as speech, federalism, and privacy to make his points.

Religious Freedom and the Constitution
Freedom of religion is one of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. However, what freedom of religion is and how it is to be protected have been hotly debated. Religious Freedom and the Constitution by Christopher L. Eisgruber and Lawrence G. Sager explore ways in which the rights of the religious and those of the secular can be respected. The authors call the process “equal liberty,” and it consists of respecting all faith communities. They apply their theories in a variety of situations that take in issues such as prayer in public schools, teaching the theory of evolution, and the Ten Commandments in classrooms. Religious Freedom and the Constitution at balancing the rights of the religious and the secular.

A History of the American Constitution 2005
“Original intent” is a term that is in vogue in constitutional law. Lawyers and judges pore through the Constitution and other documents to determine what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Constitution. A History of the American Constitution by Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry maps out the history of the concept of original intent by providing condensed documents on the Constitution and its major amendments. In addition, the authors provide background on the documents so that readers can do their own interpreting of original intent.
The Federalist Papers
Perhaps the most important of all of the documents that determine original intent are The Federalist Papers. These documents began life as articles in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet as well as in a collection of essays that were published in two volumes. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay attempted to influence ratification of the Constitution as well as discuss the broader political debate. Generations of political science and constitutional law students have read all or many of The Federalist Papers, which are almost certainly the most frequently read documents on original intent.

Check these works and others out of the Neumann Library.       

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Faculty Publications

The Neumann Library has acquired several books that can be seen in the library’s faculty author display. Assistant professor of sociology Stephen Cherry has written or co-edited two of them. The first is Faith, Family, and Filipino-American Community Life. Dr. Cherry spent six years exploring interviewing and surveying first-generation Filipino-Americans in Houston. He explored the roles between religion, specifically Roman Catholicism, family, and community play in the lives of new immigrants. In addition to exploring the effects of various forces on immigrants, Faith, Family, and Filipino-American Community Life examines how first-generation Filipino-Americans could reshape American Catholicism and are already affecting American public life.

Cherry’s second book is Global Religious Movements Across Borders: Sacred Service, which he co-edited with sociology professor Helen Rose Ebaugh of the University of Houston. This work discusses various topics regarding religion and society, among them proselytizing, migrations, diasporas, and social services. Global Religious Movements looks at a number of faiths worldwide and explores the crossroads of faith, society, and politics.
 
Associate professor of mathematics Jingjing Ma has published Lecture Notes on Algebraic Structure of Lattice-Ordered Rings. This work is designed for graduate and advanced undergraduate students who have never completed a general algebra course and for students who have some background in abstract algebra and are interested in lattice-ordered rings. It is primarily self-contained and contains 200 exercises to help students understand the concepts discussed in the book.
 

National Football League wide receiver DeSean Jackson and associate professor of political science William T. Hoston have co-written No Bullies in the Huddle, a children’s book about bullying. It deals with Cameron Mitchell, who moves from Philadelphia to Los Angeles with his family. Cameron is a football fan, and his favorite player is Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. (Jackson now plays for the Washington Redskins.)  An older student who is jealous of Cameron’s athletic ability threatens to take his position on the football field. A friend of Cameron’s encourages him to confide in an adult.

Check ‘em out of the Neumann Library.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LGBT National Pride Month 2014


President Obama has declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, saying his administration “stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights.” See the text of the LGBT Pride Month proclamation.

Come to the Neumann Library display area next to the Reference Consultation Desk to see a display of information and library materials related to LGBT National Pride Month. Learn about Frank Kameny, the 1969 Stonewall riots, and more. A selection of related books for checkout is available in a kiosk near the display, as well as a QR code to scan for a list of journal articles.