College of Arts and Sciences
News

News

  • History Department Celebrates Faculty Authors

    December 29, 2009

    The History Department recently celebrated the launching of books by three of its faculty members, Environmental Studies Director Gordon Miller, and Associate Professors Hazel Hahn and Theresa Earenfight.

    Gordon Miller, Director, Environmental Studies

    Photographs and Introduction to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Metamorphosis of Plants (The MIT Press)

    The Metamorphosis of Plants, originally published in 1790, was Goethe's first major attempt to describe what he called in a letter to a friend "the truth about the how of the organism." Inspired by the diversity of flora he found on a journey to Italy, Goethe sought a unity of form in diverse structures. He came to see in the leaf the germ of a plant's metamorphosis—"the true Proteus who can hide or reveal himself in all vegetal forms"—from the root and stem leaves to the calyx and corolla, to pistil and stamens. With this short book—123 numbered paragraphs, in the manner of the great botanist Linnaeus—Goethe aimed to tell the story of botanical forms in process, to present, in effect, a motion picture of the metamorphosis of plants.

    This MIT Press edition of The Metamorphosis of Plants illustrates Goethe's text (in an English translation by Douglas Miller) with a series of stunning and starkly beautiful color photographs as well as numerous line drawings. It is the most completely and colorfully illustrated edition of Goethe's book ever published. It demonstrates vividly Goethe's ideas of transformation and interdependence, as well as the systematic use of imagination in scientific research—which influenced thinkers ranging from Darwin to Thoreau and has much to teach us today about our relationship with nature.

    Theresa Earenfight, Associate Professor, History

    The King's Other Body: Maria of Castile and the Crown of Aragon (University of Pennsylvania Press)

    Queen María of Castile, wife of Alfonso V, "the Magnanimous," king of the Crown of Aragon, governed Catalunya in the mid-fifteenth century while her husband conquered and governed the kingdom of Naples. For twenty-six years, she maintained a royal court and council separate from and roughly equivalent to those of Alfonso in Naples. Such legitimately sanctioned political authority is remarkable given that she ruled not as queen in her own right but rather as Lieutenant-General of Catalunya with powers equivalent to the king's. María does not fit conventional images of a queen as wife and mother; indeed, she had no children and so never served as queen-regent for any royal heirs in their minorities or exercised a queen-mother's privilege to act as diplomat when arranging the marriages of her children and grandchildren. But she was clearly more than just a wife offering advice: she embodied the king's personal authority and was second only to the king himself. She was his alter ego, the other royal body fully empowered to govern. For a medieval queen, this official form of corulership, combining exalted royal status with official political appointment, was rare and striking.

    The King's Other Body is both a biography of María and an analysis of her political partnership with Alfonso. María's long, busy tenure as lieutenant prompts a reconsideration of long-held notions of power, statecraft, personalities, and institutions. It is also a study of the institution of monarchy and a theoretical reconsideration of the operations of gender within it. If the practice of monarchy is conventionally understood as strictly a man's job, María's reign presents a compelling argument for a more complex model, one attentive to the dynamic relationship of queenship and kingship and the circumstances and theories that shaped the institution she inhabited.

    Hazel Hahn, Associate Professor, History

    Scenes of Parisian Modernity: Culture and Consumption in the Nineteenth Century (Palgrave McMillan)

    Integrating the history of Paris with the history of consumption, the press, publicity, advertising and spectacle, this book traces the evolution of the urban core districts of consumption and explores elements of consumer culture such as the print media, publishing, retail techniques, tourism, city marketing, fashion, illustrated posters and Montmartre culture in the nineteenth century. Hahn emphasizes the tension between art and industry and between culture and commerce, a dynamic that significantly marked urban commercial modernity that spread new imaginary about consumption. She argues that Parisian consumer culture arose earlier than generally thought, and explores the intense commercialization Paris underwent.

    Comments

    All comments are moderated for appropriateness and may take a few minutes to appear.

    No one has commented.