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History

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On a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Georges Didi-Huberman tears three pieces of bark from birch trees on the edge of the site. Looking at these pieces after his return home, he sees them as letters, a flood, a path, time, memory, flesh. The bark serves as a springboard to Didi-Huberman’s meditations on his visit, recorded in this spare, poetic, and powerful book. Bark is a personal account, drawing not on the theoretical apparatus of scholarship but on Didi-Huberman’s own history, memory, and knowledge.

The Year of the Animal in France

Peter Sahlins’s brilliant new book reveals the remarkable and understudied “animal moment” in and around 1668 in which authors (including La Fontaine, whose Fables appeared in that year), anatomists, painters, sculptors, and especially the young Louis XIV turned their attention to nonhuman beings. At the center of the Year of the Animal was the Royal Menagerie in the gardens of Versailles, dominated by exotic and graceful birds.

The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

Between 1959 and 1989, Soviet scientists and officials made numerous attempts to network their nation—to construct a nationwide computer network. None of these attempts succeeded, and the enterprise had been abandoned by the time the Soviet Union fell apart. Meanwhile, ARPANET, the American precursor to the Internet, went online in 1969. Why did the Soviet network, with top-level scientists and patriotic incentives, fail while the American network succeeded?

Communiqués from the Guild of Transcultural Studies, 1976-1991

One night in 1976, a group of squatters entered the Cambodian Embassy in London, an opulent building that had remained empty for two years following the bloody revolution of the Khmer Rouge. For the next fifteen years, this peculiar residence would play host to the Guild of Transcultural Studies, an open platform for creative monomaniacs, radical metaphysicians, poets, prophets and exiles.

The Shaping of Modern Knowledge

A system can describe what we see (the solar system), operate a computer (Windows 10), or be made on a page (the fourteen engineered lines of a sonnet). In this book, Clifford Siskin shows that system is best understood as a genre—a form that works physically in the world to mediate our efforts to understand it. Indeed, many Enlightenment authors published works they called “system” to compete with the essay and the treatise.

A Repressed History of the Analytic Couch from Plato to Freud

The peculiar arrangement of the psychoanalyst’s office for an analytic session seems inexplicable. The analyst sits in a chair out of sight while the patient lies on a couch facing away. It has been this way since Freud, although, as Nathan Kravis points out in On the Couch, this practice is grounded more in the cultural history of reclining posture than in empirical research.

Haiti, Horror and The Zombie Complex

There are zombies among us! From the rotting hordes of TV's The Walking Dead to the blockbuster nightmares of World War Z and 28 Days Later, our popular culture is overrun with the ravenous undead.

But where do these strange creatures come from, and what peculiar tales of mesmerism, freemasonry, pig sacrifice and revolution would they tell if they could talk?

Grand Strategy and the Fate of Imperial Germany, 1871–1914

A series of solemn anniversary events have marked the centenary of World War I. Could history repeat itself in today’s geopolitics? Now, as then, a land power with a growing economy and a maritime power with global commitments are the two leading states in the international system. Most ominously, the outbreak of war in 1914 is a stark reminder that nations cannot rely on economic interdependence and ongoing diplomacy to keep the peace.

A History

Chinese writing is character based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Through the years, the Chinese written language encountered presumed alphabetic universalism in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, and other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. This book is about those encounters—in particular thousands of Chinese characters versus the typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard.

A Secret History of The Esoteric Underground

Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with members of the seminal music groups Coil, Current 93, and Nurse With Wound, England’s Hidden Reverse illuminates a shadowy but deeply influential underground scene.

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