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New faculty, alumni books range from China to Code Talkers

August 23, 2012

Writing is a theme of several new books by ASU faculty and alumni: How does one “make” poetry? “Measure” writing?

The new books also look at China’s economy, Code Talkers and the author Sapphire.

"How China Became Capitalist,” by Ronald Coase, Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Chicago Law School and Nobel Laureate in economics (1991), and Ning Wang, assistant professor, School of Global Studies.

Synopsis: "How China Became Capitalist” details the extraordinary, and often accidental, journey that China has taken over the past 30 years in transforming itself from a closed agrarian socialist economy to an indomitable force in the international arena. The authors argue that the reforms implemented by the Chinese leaders did not represent a concerted attempt to create a capitalist economy, but that the ideas from the West eventually culminated in a fundamental change to their socialist model, forming an accidental path to capitalism.

“How China Became Capitalist” argues that while China has enormous potential for growth, this could be hampered by the leaders' propensity for control, both in terms of economics and their monopoly of ideas and power.

“The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane,” by Alain René Le Sage, translated by Tobias Smollett and edited by O M Brack Jr., professor emeritus of English, and Leslie Chilton, faculty associate in English.

Synopsis: Tobias Smollett, in the preface to his first novel, “The Adventures of Roderick Random” (1748), acknowledges the influence of Alain René Le Sage’s “L’Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane” (1715–35 in four volumes) on his work. By far the most successful of “useful and entertaining” romances, Smollett writes, Gil Blas describes “the knavery and foibles of life, with infinite humour and sagacity.” “The following sheets,” he adds significantly, “I have modeled on his plan.”

Smollett’s translation of Gil Blas appeared nine months after the publication of “Roderick Random.” This chronicle of a merry, philosophical young man whose adventures lead him into all levels of society from the highest to the lowest, presents special problems for a translator. Smollett, without always adhering to the literal expression of the novel’s language, is true to its style, spirit, and ideas. After two and a half centuries, his remains the finest translation of this humorous, satiric, and classic French novel.

“Available Surfaces: Essays on Poesis,” by T.R. Hummer, professor of English.

Synopsis: In “Available Surfaces,” T. R. Hummer explores the art of making both poetry and music, and of the concept of "making" itself. He draws on childhood experiences and experiences as an adult, as a poet, and as an explorer of unworldly spaces to examine that "something ineffable about the process of making of which the poem is the exemplary artifact."

Hummer grew up in the Deep South, and spent many of his high school years playing saxophone in various rock and roll bands before he met poetry. This musical influence is visible in his work: he often discusses poetry together with music, or music with poetry, and his career has included both writing and performance.

“Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough: Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives,” by Elizabeth McNeil, instructor, School of Letters and Sciences; Neal A. Lester, professor of English; Lynette D. Myles, instructor, Department of English; DoVeanna S. Fulton.

Synopsis: This thoughtful collection explores the writing of provocative poet, author, and performance artist Sapphire. Like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and other important writers, Sapphire challenges narratives that limit human imagination and possibility. “Push,” and its award-winning film adaptation “Precious,” have sparked national debate about the intentions and responsibilities of black literature and cinema. “Sapphire's Literary Breakthrough” enlists new and established scholarly voices to elucidate Sapphire's social justice concerns and to locate her contributions within larger African American literary traditions and cultural landscapes.

“International Advances in Writing Research: Cultures, Places, Measures,” edited by Jessica Early, assistant professor of English, with Charles Bazerman, Chris Dean, Karen Lunsford, Suzie Null, Paul Rogers, and Amanda Stansell.

Synopsis: The 30 chapters in this collection were selected from the more than 500 presentations at the Writing Research Across Borders II Conference in 2011. With representatives from more than 40 countries, this conference gave rise to the International Society for the Advancement of Writing Research. The chapters selected for this collection represent cutting edge research on writing from all regions, organized around three themes—cultures, places, and measures. The chapters examine various ways of measuring writing and how these measures interact with practices of teaching and learning.

“Code Talker Stories,” by Laura Tohe, professor of English.

Synopsis: The Navajo language helped win World War II, and it lives on in this book, as the Code Talkers remember the war and reflect on the aftermath and the legacy they will leave behind. The veterans, able to speak to a daughter of one of their own in English and Navajo, truly shared from their hearts. They not only provided more battlefield details, but they also reveal how their war experiences affected themselves and the Navajo generations that followed. Tohe is the daughter of Code Talker Benson Tohe.