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Highlights

The Spider's Thread

An examination of metaphor in poetry as a microcosm of the human imagination-a way to understand the mechanisms of creativity.In The Spider's Thread, Keith Holyoak looks at metaphor as a microcosm of the creative imagination. Holyoak, a psychologist and poet, draws on the perspectives of thinkers from the humanities-poets, philosophers, and critics-and from the sciences-psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists. He begins each chapter with a poem-by poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda-and then widens the discussion to broader notions of metaphor and mind. Holyoak uses Whitman's poem "A Noiseless Patient Spider" to illustrate the process of interpreting a poem, and explains the relevance of two psychological mechanisms, analogy and conceptual combination, to metaphor. He outlines ideas first sketched by Coleridge-who called poetry "the best words in their best order"-and links them to modern research on the interplay between cognition and emotion, controlled and associative thinking, memory and creativity. Building on Emily Dickinson's declaration "the brain is wider than the sky," Holyoak suggests that the control and default networks in the brain may combine to support creativity. He also considers, among other things, the interplay of sound and meaning in poetry; symbolism in the work of Yeats, Jung, and others; indirect communication in poems; the mixture of active and passive processes in creativity; and whether artificial intelligence could ever achieve poetic authenticity. Guided by Holyoak, we can begin to trace the outlines of creativity through the mechanisms of metaphor.

Uneven Moments

Few scholars have done more than Harry Harootunian to shape the study of modern Japan. Incorporating Marxist critical perspectives on history and theoretically informed insights, his scholarship has been vitally important for the world of Asian studies. Uneven Moments presents a selection of Harootunian's essays on Japan's intellectual and cultural history from the late Tokugawa period to the present that span the many phases of his distinguished career and point to new directions for Japanese studies. Uneven Moments begins with reflections on area studies as an academic field and how we go about studying a region. It then moves into discussions of key topics in modern Japanese history. Harootunian considers Japan's fateful encounter with capitalist modernity and the implications of uneven development, examining the combinations of older practices with new demands that characterized the twentieth century. The book examines the making of modern Japan, the transformations of everyday life, and the collision between the production of forms of cultural expression and new political possibilities. Finally, Harootunian analyzes Japanese political identity and its forms of reckoning with the past. Exploring the shifting relationship among culture, the making of meaning, and politics in rich reflections on Marxism and critical theory, Uneven Moments presents Harootunian's intellectual trajectory and in so doing offers a unique assessment of Japanese history.

Idleness

The first book to challenge modern philosophy's case against idleness, revealing why the idle state is one of true freedom For millennia, idleness and laziness have been regarded as vices. We're all expected to work to survive and get ahead, and devoting energy to anything but labor and self-improvement can seem like a luxury or a moral failure. Far from questioning this conventional wisdom, modern philosophers have worked hard to develop new reasons to denigrate idleness. In Idleness, the first book to challenge modern philosophy's portrayal of inactivity, Brian O'Connor argues that the case against an indifference to work and effort is flawed--and that idle aimlessness may instead allow for the highest form of freedom. Idleness explores how some of the most influential modern philosophers drew a direct connection between making the most of our humanity and avoiding laziness. Idleness was dismissed as contrary to the need people have to become autonomous and make whole, integrated beings of themselves (Kant); to be useful (Kant and Hegel); to accept communal norms (Hegel); to contribute to the social good by working (Marx); and to avoid boredom (Schopenhauer and de Beauvoir). O'Connor throws doubt on all these arguments, presenting a sympathetic vision of the inactive and unserious that draws on more productive ideas about idleness, from ancient Greece through Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Schiller and Marcuse's thoughts about the importance of play, and recent critiques of the cult of work. A thought-provoking reconsideration of productivity for the twenty-first century, Idleness shows that, from now on, no theory of what it means to have a free mind can exclude idleness from the conversation.

Who We Are and How We Got Here

A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history.   Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and written records as a means to understand our ancestry.    In Who We Are and How We Got Here, Reich allows readers to discover how the human genome provides not only all the information a human embryo needs to develop but also the hidden story of our species. Reich delves into how the genomic revolution is transforming our understanding of modern humans and how DNA studies reveal deep inequalities among different populations, between the sexes, and among individuals. Provocatively, Reich's book suggests that there might very well be biological differences among human populations but that these differences are unlikely to conform to common stereotypes.   Drawing upon revolutionary findings and unparalleled scientific studies, Who We Are and How We Got Here is a captivating glimpse into humankind--where we came from and what that says about our lives today.

The Dark Fantastic

Winner, 2020 World Fantasy Awards Finalist, Creative Nonfiction IGNYTE Award, given by FIYACON for BIPOC+ in Speculative Fiction Reveals the diversity crisis in children's and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children's publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter. The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW's The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC's Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world. In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, "we dark girls deserve more, because we are more."