Recently Published Books

Aristotle, Metaphysics Λ: A Translation and Commentary (Clarendon Aristotle Series: Oxford University Press, 2019)Aristotle, Metaphysics Λ: A Translation and Commentary (Clarendon Aristotle Series: Oxford University Press, 2019) - Lindsay Judson

This is the first ever book-length commentary on Metaphysics Λ (Book XII) in English.  Book Λ is an outline for a much more extended work in what Aristotle calls 'first philosophy', the inquiry into 'the principles and causes of all things'.  In it Aristotle first discusses the principles of natural and changeable substances, which include form, matter, privation and efficient cause; these play a pervasive role in both his metaphysics and his natural philosophy.  In the second half of the book he turns to unchanging, immaterial substances, first arguing that there must be at least one such substance, which he calls 'God', to act as the 'prime unmoved mover', the source of all change in the natural world.  He then explores the nature of God and its activity of thinking (it is the fullest exposition there is of Aristotle's extraordinary and very difficult conception of his supreme god, its goodness, and its activity), and in the course of arguing for a plurality of immaterial unmoved movers he provides important evidence for the leading astronomical theory of his day and for his own highly impressive cosmology.  Book Λ is a key text for Aristotelian metaphysics and theology, and also for ancient Greek science.

 

Malcom Bull On Mercy, coverOn Mercy (Princeton University Press, 2019) - Malcolm Bull

Is mercy more important than justice?
Since antiquity, mercy has been regarded as a virtue. The power of monarchs was legitimated by their acts of clemency, their mercy demonstrating their divine nature. Yet by the end of the eighteenth century, mercy had become “an injustice committed against society . . . a manifest vice.” Mercy was exiled from political life. How did this happen?

In this book, Malcolm Bull analyses and challenges the Enlightenment’s rejection of mercy. A society operating on principles of rational self-interest had no place for something so arbitrary and contingent, and having been excluded from Hobbes’s theory of the state and Hume’s theory of justice, mercy disappeared from the lexicon of political theory. But, Bull argues, these idealised conceptions have proved too limiting. Political realism demands recognition of the foundational role of mercy in society. If we are vulnerable to harm from others, we are in need of their mercy. By restoring the primacy of mercy over justice, we may constrain the powerful and release the agency of the powerless. And if arguments for capitalism are arguments against mercy, might the case for mercy challenge the very basis of our thinking about society and the state? An important contribution to contemporary political philosophy from an inventive thinker, On Mercy makes a persuasive case for returning this neglected virtue to the heart of political thought.

 

Richard Rutherford's Iliad - coverHomer's Iliad Book XVIII (Cambridge University Press, 2019) - Richard Rutherford

Book 18 of the Iliad is an outstanding example of the range and power of the Homeric epic. It describes the reaction of the hero Achilles to the death of his closest friend, and his decision to re-enter the conflict even though it means he will lose his own life. The book also includes the forging of the marvellous shield for the hero by the smith-god Hephaestus: the images on the shield are described by the poet in detail, and this description forms the archetypal ecphrasis, influential on many later writers. In an extensive introduction, Richard Rutherford discusses the themes, style and legacy of the book. The commentary provides line-by-line guidance for readers at all levels, addressing linguistic detail and larger questions of interpretation. A substantial appendix considers the relation between Iliad 18 and the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, which has been prominent in much recent discussion.

 

 

 

Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten - How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? - coverHow Old Is the Hebrew Bible? (Yale University Press, 2018) - Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten

The age of the Hebrew Bible is a topic that has sparked controversy and debate in recent years. The scarcity of clear evidence allows for the possibility of many views, though these are often clouded by theological and political biases. This impressive, broad-ranging book synthesizes recent linguistic, textual, and historical research to clarify the history of biblical literature, from its oldest texts and literary layers to its youngest. In clear, concise language, the authors provide a comprehensive overview that cuts across scholarly specialties to create a new standard for the historical study of the Bible. This much-needed work paves the path forward to dating the Hebrew Bible and understanding crucial aspects of its historical and contemporary significance.

 

 

 

G. O. Hutchinson - Plutarch's Rythmic Prose - coverPlutarch's Rhythmic Prose (Oxford University Press, 2018) - G. O. Hutchinson

Greek literature is divided, like many literatures, into poetry and prose, but in Greek the difference between them is not that all prose is devoid of firm rhythmic patterning. In the earlier Roman Empire, from 31 BC to about AD 300, much Greek (and Latin) prose was actually written to follow one organized rhythmic system. How much Greek prose adopted this patterning has hitherto been quite unclear; the present volume for the first time establishes an answer on an adequate basis: substantial data drawn from numerous authors. It constitutes the first extensive study of prose-rhythm in later Greek literature.

The book focuses particularly on one of the greatest Imperial works: Plutarch's Lives. It rests on a scansion of the whole work, almost 100,000 phrases. Rhythm is seen to make a vital contribution to the literary analysis of Plutarch's writing. Prose-rhythm is revealed as a means of expression; it draws attention to words and word-groups, and densely packed rhythm marks passages as momentous. The book demonstrates how rhythm can be integrated with other aspects of criticism, and how it has the ability to open up new vistas on three prolific centuries of literary history.

 

Cover - Unimaginable - Graham WardUnimaginable (I.B.Tauris, 2018) - Graham Ward

In his new book, a sequel to the earlier Unbelievable, one of Britain's most exciting writers on religion here presents a nuanced and many-dimensional portrait of the mystery and creativity of the human imagination. Discussing the likes of William Wordsworth, William Turner, Samuel Palmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams, so as to assess the true meanings of originality and memory, and drawing on his own rich encounters with belief, Graham Ward asks why it is that the imagination is so fundamental to who and what we are. Using metaphor and story to unpeel the hidden motivations and architecture of the mind, the author grapples with profound questions of ultimacy and transcendence. He reveals that, in understanding what it really means to be human, what cannot be imagined invariably means as much as what can.

 

 

 

Cover 0 The Autonomous City: A history of urban squattingThe Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting ( Verso, 2017) - Alexander Vasudevan

The Autonomous City is the first popular history of squatting in Europe and North America. Drawing on extensive archival research, it retraces the struggle for housing in cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, and Vancouver. It looks at the organization of alternative forms of housing-from Copenhagen's Christiana 'Free Town' to the Lower East Side of Manhattan-as well as the official response, including the recent criminalization of squatting, the brutal eviction of squatters and their widespread vilification. As a result, Alexander Vasudevan argues how, through a shared history of political action, community organization and collective living, squatting has become a way to reimagine and reclaim the city. It documents the actions adopted by squatters as an alternative to housing precarity, rampant property speculation and the negative effects of urban redevelopment and regeneration. In so doing, the book challenges the dominant cartography of the 'neo-liberal city' and concludes that we must, more than ever, reanimate and remake the city as a site of radical social transformation.

 

Cover - The Colonial Comedy: Imperialism in the French Realist Novel - Jennifer YeeThe Colonial Comedy: Imperialism in the French Realist Novel (Oxford University Press, 2016. 250p.) - Jennifer Yee

France’s colonies play a role even in the most canonical texts of nineteenth-century realism, through what Edward Said called ‘geographical notations’ of race and imperialism such as imported objects, colonial merchandise, and individuals whose colonial experience is transformative (not usually for the better). The Colonial Comedy reveals how realist novels register the presence of the emerging global world-system through networks of importation, financial speculation, and immigration as well as direct colonial violence and power structures. The literature of the century responds to the last decades of French slavery, and direct colonialism (notably in Algeria), but also economic imperialism. Far from imperialist triumphalism, in realist and naturalist novels economic imperialism is often associated with fraud and manipulation, while colonial narratives, and paradigms of racial difference, are framed ironically. The realist mode thus lends itself to a Critical Orientalism characterized by the questioning of its own discursive foundations.

 

 

Cover - Igor Stravinsky by Jonathan CrossIgor Stravinsky (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives, 2015) - Jonathan Cross

Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was perhaps the twentieth century’s most celebrated composer, a leading light of modernism and a restlessly creative artist. This biography in the Critical Lives series tells the story of Stravinsky’s life and work, setting him in the context of the turbulent times in which he lived. Born in Russia, Stravinsky spent most of his life in exile—and while his work was deliberately cosmopolitan, the pain of estrangement nonetheless left its mark on the man and his work, distinguishable in an ever-present sense of loss. Jonathan Cross shows how that work emerged over the course of decades spent in St Petersburg, Paris, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, in a wide artistic circle that included Balanchine and Auden, Cocteau and Gide, and that culminated in Stravinsky being celebrated by both the White House and the Kremlin as one of the great artistic forces of the Cold War era. This biography attempts to represent Stravinsky’s life and artistic achievement in a new light, understanding how his work both reflected and shaped his times.