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Alumni Authors  Fall 2011

Well, Mr. Mudrick Said ... A Memoir
By Bob Blaisdell '81, M.A. '84, Ph.D. '88

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"Well, Mr. Mudrick Said … A Memoir" tells the story of an impressionable young man learning about books, literature and life in the classrooms and courses of one of America’s greatest literary critics, Marvin Mudrick (1921-1986). Mudrick was a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1949 until his death. He was the provost of that university’s College of Creative Studies from the time he created it in 1966 until 1984.

Under his direction, it was the single most successful program or school in the U.C. system. Mudrick was born in Philadelphia, the last child of immigrant parents who had escaped the pogroms in Kishinev. He graduated from Temple University, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and then earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. His book on Jane Austen was for many years the most important critical study of her novels. He published several books of his literary criticism, a hundred review-essays for The Hudson Review and dozens more for, among others, Harper’s and the New York Review of Books.

Hitler and America
Klaus P. Fischer, Ph.D. '72
University of Pennsylvania Press

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In Hitler and America, historian Klaus P. Fischer seeks to understand more deeply how Hitler viewed America, the nation that was central to Germany's defeat. He reveals Hitler's split-minded image of America: America and Amerika.

Hitler would loudly call the United States a feeble country while at the same time referring to it as an industrial colossus worthy of imitation. Or he would belittle America in the vilest terms while at the same time looking at the latest photos from the United States, watching American films, and amusing himself with Mickey Mouse cartoons.

America was a place that Hitler admired -- for the can-do spirit of the American people, which he attributed to their Nordic blood -- and envied -- for its enormous territorial size, abundant resources, and political power. Amerika, however, was to Hitler a mongrel nation, grown too rich too soon and governed by a capitalist elite with strong ties to the Jews.

Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment
Jason M. Kelly, Ph.D. '04
Yale University Press and Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Series

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The buildings of ancient Greece, such as the Parthenon and the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, are icons of civilization and artistic taste. But, until the eighteenth century, they were virtually ignored. It was only when a British club, the Society of Dilettanti, sent archaeological expeditions to Greece in the 1750s that the monuments became widely known and modern classical archaeology was born. The Society of Dilettanti became one of the most prominent and influential organizations of the British Enlightenment during the eighteenth century, supporting the creation of the British Museum and the Royal Academy.

Kelly’s approach examines the social and cultural personae of the Dilettanti's membership while exploring the development of archaeology. He places the group at the center of the Enlightenment, and sheds new light on eighteenth-century Grand Tourism, elite masculinity, sociability, aesthetics, architecture, and archaeology.

Life of Earth: Portrait of a Beautiful, Middle-Aged, Stressed-Out World
Stanley Rice '79
Prometheus Books

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In this “biography of planet Earth,” biologist Rice combines a dizzying array of science history with pop culture references and occasional doses of snark to craft a most unusual title. One does not usually find mentions of “space cowboy” Bruce Willis, cats as catalysts, or God and angels all in the same discussion, but Rice is fearless and well read (James Thurber on sex, Kissinger on power, Darwin on everything).

His insistence on writing about the planet rather than life on the planet frames the typical climate discussion in a new light, while also allowing the author to riff on everything from photosynthesis to altruism. The latter, framed as an obvious evolutionary step, brings his argument full circle from how the planet is to what it can be. This is science nonscientists can embrace.

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