New Books Network

John E. Joseph, “Saussure” (Oxford UP, 2012)
Pretty much everyone who’s done a linguistics course has come across the name of Ferdinand de Saussure – a name that’s attached to such fundamentals as the distinction between synchrony and diachrony, and the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign. Yet when it comes to the man behind the ideas, most... Read More
Lisa Chaney, “Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life”
As a reader, biography offers not simply an opportunity to read about the life of another, but also an invitation to ponder the choices that are available in life, the choices that comprise a life. Towards the end of Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life(Penguin, 2011) biographer Lisa Chaney allows her... Read More
E. C. Spary, “Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris, 1670-1760” (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
By focusing on food and eating from the dinner table to the laboratory, E. C. Spary‘s new book shows how an increasingly public culture of knowledge shaped the daily lives of literate Parisians in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Spary’s work is at the same time a rich and... Read More
Laurent Dubois, “Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France” (University of California Press, 2011)
There are few moments in recent sports history as riveting, perplexing, and widely debated as Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt to Marco Materazzi in the final match of the 2006 World Cup. Think of your own reaction when the referee stopped play to attend to Materazzi, and you then saw the reply... Read More
Paul Friedland, “Seeing Justice Done: The Age of Spectacular Capital Punishment In France” (Oxford University Press, 2012)
It seems safe to say that the guillotine occupies a macabre place in the popular imagination among the icons of France’s transition to modernity–perhaps stashed somewhere in between idealized barricades or lurking on one chronological flank of the Eiffel Tower. The guillotine’s mechanization of official killing was instrumental in carrying... Read More
Nancy Hargrove, “T.S. Eliot’s Parisian Year” (University of Florida Press, 2010)
When it comes to writers and artists, biography plays a provocative role–yielding insight into both artistic influences and origins. This is especially true with the modernists, in particular T.S. Eliot. After graduating from Harvard University in 1910, the young Eliot spent a year in Paris, a year that had a... Read More
Carolina Armenteros, “The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and his Heirs, 1794-1854” (Cornell UP, 2011)
When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called “The Enlightenment” in which we read all the thinkers of, well, “The Enlightenment.” I came to understand that they were the “good guys” of Western history, at least for most folks. We also read, as a kind of coda, a... Read More