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Pope Francis Among the Wolves
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Pope Francis Among the Wolves: The Inside Story of a Revolution, by Marco Politi (Columbia University Press, 2015).

Marco Politi takes us deep inside the power struggle roiling the Roman Curia and the Catholic Church worldwide, beginning with Benedict XVI, the pope who famously resigned in 2013, and intensifying with the contested and unexpected election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis. Politi’s account balances the perspectives of Pope Francis’s supporters, Benedict’s sympathizers, and those disappointed members of the Catholic laity who feel alienated by the institution’s secrecy, financial corruption, and refusal to modernize.

Politi dramatically recounts the sexual scandals that have rocked the church and the accusations of money laundering and other financial misdeeds swirling around the Vatican and the Italian Catholic establishment. Pope Francis has tried to shine a light on these crimes, but his work has been met with resistance from entrenched factions. Politi writes of the decline in church attendance and vocations to the priesthood throughout the world as the church continues to prohibit divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving the communion wafer. He visits European parishes where women now perform the functions of missing male priests–and where the remaining parishioners would welcome the admission of women to the priesthood, if the church would allow it.

Pope Francis’s emphasis on pastoral compassion for all who struggle with the burden of family life has also provoked the ire of traditionalists in the Roman Curia and elsewhere. He knows from personal experience what life is like for the poor in Buenos Aires and other metropolises of the globalized world, and highlights the contrast between the vital, vibrant faith of these parishioners and the disillusionment of European Catholics. Pope Francis and his supporters are locked in a battle with the defenders of the traditional hard line and with ecclesiastical corruption. In this conflict, the future of Catholicism is at stake–and it is far from certain Francis will succeed in saving the institution from decline.

Divided Subjects, Invisible Borders
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Divided Subjects, Invisible Borders: Re-Unified Germany After 1989, by Ben Gook (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2015).

What do Germany’s memorials, films, artworks, memory debates and national commemorations tell us about the lives of Germans today? How did the Wall in the Head come to replace the Wall that fell in 1989? The old identities of East and West, which all but dissolved in joyous embraces as the Berlin Wall fell, emerged once more after formal re-unification a year later in 1990. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of that German re-unification. Yet Germany remains divided; a mutual distrust lingers, and national history remains contentious.The material, social, cultural and psychic effects of re-unification on the lives of eastern and western Germans since 1989 all demand again asking fundamental questions about history, social change and ideology. Divided Subjects, Invisible Borders puts affective life at the centre of these questions, both in the role affect played in mobilizing East Germans to overthrow their regime and as a sign of disappointment after formal reunification. Using contemporary Germany as a lens the book explores broader debates about borders, memory and subjectivity.

The Collaboration
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The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, by Ben Urwand (Harvard University Press, 2015).

To continue doing business in Germany after Hitler’s ascent to power, Hollywood studios agreed not to make films that attacked the Nazis or condemned Germany’s persecution of Jews. Ben Urwand reveals this bargain for the first time—a “collaboration” (Zusammenarbeit) that drew in a cast of characters ranging from notorious German political leaders such as Goebbels to Hollywood icons such as Louis B. Mayer.

At the center of Urwand’s story is Hitler himself, who was obsessed with movies and recognized their power to shape public opinion. In December 1930, his Party rioted against the Berlin screening of All Quiet on the Western Front, which led to a chain of unfortunate events and decisions. Fearful of losing access to the German market, all of the Hollywood studios started making concessions to the German government, and when Hitler came to power in January 1933, the studios—many of which were headed by Jews—began dealing with his representatives directly.

Urwand shows that the arrangement remained in place through the 1930s, as Hollywood studios met regularly with the German consul in Los Angeles and changed or canceled movies according to his wishes. Paramount and Fox invested profits made from the German market in German newsreels, while MGM financed the production of German armaments. Painstakingly marshaling previously unexamined archival evidence, The Collaboration raises the curtain on a hidden episode in Hollywood—and American—history.

Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature
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Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature, edited by Elisabeth Herrmann, Carrie Smith-Prei, and Stuart Taberner

“Transnationalism” has become a key term in debates in the social sciences and humanities, reflecting concern with today’s unprecedented flows of commodities, fashions, ideas, and people across national borders. Forced and unforced mobility, intensified cross-border economic activity due to globalization, and the rise of trans- and supranational organizations are just some of the ways in which we now live both within, across, and beyond national borders.

Literature has always been a means of border crossing and transgression-whether by tracing physical movement, reflecting processes of cultural transfer, traveling through space and time, or mapping imaginary realms. It is also becoming more and more a “moving medium” that creates a transnational space by circulating around the world, both reflecting on the reality of transnationalism and participating in it. This volume refines our understanding of transnationalism both as a contemporary reality and as a concept and an analytical tool. Engaging with the work of such writers as Christian Kracht, Ilija Trojanow, Julya Rabinowich, Charlotte Roche, Helene Hegemann, Antje Rávic Strubel, Juli Zeh, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Wolfgang Herrndorf, it builds on the excellent work that has been done in rs on “minority” writers; German-language literature, globalization, and “world literature”; and gender and sexuality in relation to the “nation.”

Kings and Bishops in Medieval England, 1066-1216
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Kings and Bishops in Medieval England, 1066-1216, by Roger Wickson (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

The relationship between kings and bishops in Medieval England could be tricky. Thomas Becket summed it up succinctly when he said to Henry II, ‘You are my lord, you are my king, you are my spiritual son.’ Bishops were the king’s greatest subjects, and yet no man could be secure as King without being crowned and anointed by a bishop. For much of the period, kings and bishops worked harmoniously to shape England into a country with one of the most sophisticated governments in Western Europe. Yet sometimes, as in the case of Henry II and Becket, there was conflict between them.

This introductory text explores the central relationship between the kings of England and their bishops, from the Norman Conquest to Magna Carta. Wickson provides an approachable overview of the key scholarship on this subject, from historical to contemporary viewpoints. He also draws readers to the major primary sources, such as monastic chroniclers, making this an ideal starting-point for anyone studying high medieval England.

British Art and the First World War, 1914–1924
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British Art and the First World War, 1914–1924, by James Fox (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

The First World War is usually believed to have had a catastrophic effect on British art, killing artists and movements, and creating a mood of belligerent philistinism around the nation. In this book, however, James Fox paints a very different picture of artistic life in wartime Britain. Drawing on a wide range of sources, he examines the cultural activities of largely forgotten individuals and institutions, as well as the press and the government, in order to shed new light on art’s unusual role in a nation at war. He argues that the conflict’s artistic consequences, though initially disruptive, were ultimately and enduringly productive. He reveals how the war effort helped forge a much closer relationship between the British public and their art – a relationship that informed the country’s cultural agenda well into the 1920s.

Poetry and the Thought of Song in Nineteenth-Century Britain
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Poetry and the Thought of Song in Nineteenth-Century Britain, by Elizabeth K. Helsinger (University of Virginia Press, 2015).

In arguing for the crucial importance of song for poets in the long nineteenth century, Elizabeth Helsinger focuses on both the effects of song on lyric forms and the mythopoetics through which poets explored the affinities of poetry with song. Looking in particular at individual poets and poems, Helsinger puts extensive close readings into productive conversation with nineteenth-century German philosophic and British scientific aesthetics. While she considers poets long described as “musical”—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Emily Brontë, and Algernon Charles Swinburne—Helsinger also examines the more surprising importance of song for those poets who rethought poetry through the medium of visual art: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Christina Rossetti. In imitating song’s forms and sound textures through lyric’s rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, these poets were pursuing song’s “thought” in a double sense. They not only asked readers to think of particular kinds of song as musical sound in social performance (ballads, national airs, political songs, plainchant) but also invited readers to think like song: to listen to the sounds of a poem as it moves minds in a different way from philosophy or science. By attending to the formal practices of these poets, the music to which the poets were listening, and the stories and myths out of which each forged a poetics that aspired to the condition of music, Helsinger suggests new ways to think about the nature and form of the lyric in the nineteenth century.

Leipzig!
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Leipzig! One Thousand Years  of German History. Bach, Luther, Faust: The City of Books and Music, by Sebastian Ringel (Berlinica, 2015).

Leipzig is the city of books and music. Johann Sebastian Bach composed his cantatas in the St. Thomas Church; Martin Luther disputed the future of Christianity at Germany’s second oldest university; and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust and his frenemy Mephisto got into a brawl at Auerbach’s Keller, one of many historical trade-fair buildings in downtown Leipzig. In Leipzig, Richard Wagner was born, Clara met Franz Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy rediscovered Bach, Karl May invented his famous, albeit fictional Apache chief Winnetou, Erich Kästner wrote his children’s books at the coffee house, and Kurt Masur directed the Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Leipzig is also the site of one of the world’s oldest and largest trade fairs, including the traditional Leipzig book fair. The city is located at the crossroad of the historic routes from Paris and Moscow, and from Rome to the Baltic Sea. Leipzig is also the city whose rallies at the St. Nicholas Church led to the downfall of Communism in 1989. Since then, Leipzig has been splendidly rebuilt. In December 2015, the city will be one thousand years old. This book brings to life the stories of ordinary and famous Leipzigers.

A Loss of Innocence?
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A Loss of Innocence? Television and Irish Society, 1960–72, by Robert J. Savage (Manchester University Press, 2015).

This book explores the evolution of Ireland’s national television service during its first tumultuous decade, addressing how the medium helped undermine the conservative political, cultural and social consensus that dominated Ireland into the 1960s. It also traces the development of the BBC and ITA in Northern Ireland, considering how television helped undermine a state that had long governed without consensus.

Using a wide array of new archival sources and extensive interviews Savage illustrates how an increasingly confident television service upset political, religious and cultural elites who were profoundly uncomfortable with the changes taking place around them. Savage argues that during this period television was not a passive actor, but an active agent often times aggressively testing the limits of the medium and the patience of governments. Television helped facilitate a process of modernisation that slowly transformed Irish society during the 1960s.

This book will be essential for those interested in contemporary Irish political and cultural history and readers interested in media history, and cultural studies.

Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany
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Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany: The Literature of Inner Emigration, by John Klapper (Camden House, 2015).

Studies of literary responses to National Socialism between 1933 and 1945 have largely focused on exiled writers; opposition within Germany and Austria is less well understood. Yet in both countries there were writers who continued to publish imaginative literature that did not conform to Nazi precepts: the authors of the so-called Inner Emigration. They withdrew from the regime and sought to express their nonconformity through camouflaged texts designed to offer sensitized readers encouragement, reassurance, and consolation.

This book provides a critical, historically informed reassessment of these writers. It is innovative in scope, in its use of little-known sources, in placing authors and texts in a detailed social and political context, and in analyzing seminal topoi and tropes of oppositional discourse. One of the most extensive studies of the topic in German or English, it provides a state-of-the-art text for literary historians, scholars, and students of German literature, but also, thanks to its accessibility and translation of all material, serves as an introduction for English-speaking readers to this poorly understood group of writers. Two contextualizing chapters are followed by chapters devoted to Werner Bergengruen, Stefan Andres, Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, Gertrud von le Fort, Reinhold Schneider, Ernst Jünger, Ernst Wiechert, and Erika Mitterer.

Les femmes dans la France moderne
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Les femmes dans la France moderne, XVIe-XVIIIe siècle, par Dominique Godineau (Armand Colin, 2015).

Loin d’imposer une vision figée et réductrice de la condition féminine, cet ouvrage offre une étude précise et vivante du sujet, dégage de belles figures, célèbres ou anonymes, et dessine une image toujours plus nette des Françaises des temps modernes.

S’inscrivant dans la problématique des recherches récentes sur l’histoire des femmes et du genre, il examine la place et le rôle des femmes ainsi que leurs relations avec les hommes, dans les sphères familiale, sociale, économique, politique, religieuse, culturelle. Si les Françaises semblent être réduites à l’état d’épouse et mère, surgit une réalité plus complexe, faite de résistances, d’arrangements, d’échappées individuelles et collectives.

En s’intéressant aux événements et mutations qui, de la Réforme protestante à la Révolution française, ont marqué la France des XVIe-XVIIIe siècles, l’auteur rappelle que les femmes y ont participé, que l’Histoire est mixte, que les représentations et les rapports hommes-femmes ne sont pas immobiles et que, lentement et non sans mal, l’idée d’égalité chemine au cours de ces trois siècles.

On Stalin’s Team
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On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, by Sheila Fitzpatrick (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Stalin was the unchallenged dictator of the Soviet Union for so long that most historians have dismissed the officials surrounding him as mere yes-men and political window dressing. On Stalin’s Team overturns this view, revealing that behind Stalin was a group of loyal men who formed a remarkably effective team with him from the late 1920s until his death in 1953.

Drawing on extensive original research, Sheila Fitzpatrick provides the first in-depth account of this inner circle and their families, vividly describing how these dedicated comrades-in-arms not only worked closely with Stalin, whom they both feared and admired, but also constituted his social circle. Readers meet the wily security chief Beria, whom the rest of the team quickly had executed following Stalin’s death; Stalin’s number-two man, Molotov, who continued on the team even after his wife was arrested and exiled; the charismatic Ordzhonikidze, who ran the country’s industry with entrepreneurial flair; Andreev, who traveled to provincial purges while listening to Beethoven on a portable gramophone; and Khrushchev, who finally disbanded the team four years after Stalin’s death. Among the book’s surprising findings are that Stalin almost always worked with the team on important issues and that after his death the team managed a brilliant transition to a reforming collective leadership.

Taking readers from the cataclysms of the Great Purges and World War II to the paranoia of Stalin’s final years, On Stalin’s Team paints an entirely new picture of Stalin within his milieu—one that transforms our understanding of how the Soviet Union was ruled during much of its existence.

Bachelors of a Different Sort
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Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain, by John Potvin (Manchester University Press, 2015).

The bachelor has long held an ambivalent, uncomfortable and even at times unfriendly position in society. This book carefully considers the complicated relationships between the modern queer bachelor and interior design, material culture and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957. The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor (queerness, idolatry, askesis, decadence, the decorative, glamour and artifice) comprise a contested site and reveal in their respective ways the distinctly queer twinning of shame and resistance. It pays close attention to the interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton. Richly illustrated and written in a lively and accessible manner, Bachelors of a Different Sort is at once theoretically ambitious and rich in its use of archival and various historical sources.

Abortion in the Early Middle Ages, c.500-900
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Abortion in the Early Middle Ages, c.500-900, by Zubin Mistry (York Medieval Press, 2015).

When a Spanish monk struggled to find the right words to convey his unjust expulsion from a monastery in a desperate petition to a sixth-century king, he likened himself to an aborted fetus. Centuries later, a ninth-century queen found herself accused of abortion in an altogether more fleshly sense. Abortion haunts the written record across the early middle ages. Yet, the centuries after the fall of Rome remain very much the “dark ages” in the broader history of abortion.

This book, the first to treat the subject in this period, tells the story of how individuals and communities, ecclesiastical and secular authorities, construed abortion as a social and moral problem across a number of post-Roman societies, including Visigothic Spain, Merovingian Gaul, early Ireland, Anglo-Saxon England and the Carolingian empire. It argues early medieval authors and readers actively deliberated on abortion and a cluster of related questions, and that church tradition on abortion was an evolving practice. It sheds light on the neglected variety of responses to abortion generated by different social and intellectual practices, including church discipline, dispute settlement and strategies of political legitimation, and brings the history of abortion into conversation with key questions about gender, sexuality, Christianization, penance and law. Ranging across abortion miracles in hagiography, polemical letters in which churchmen likened rivals to fetuses flung from the womb of the church and uncomfortable imaginings of resurrected fetuses in theological speculation, this volume also illuminates the complex cultural significance of abortion in early medieval societies.

Colonial Caring
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Colonial Caring: A History of Colonial and Post-colonial Nursing, edited by Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins (Manchester University Press, 2015).

From the height of colonialism in the mid-nineteenth century, through to the aftermath of the Second World War, nurses have been at the heart of colonial projects. They were ideally placed to insinuate the ‘improving’ culture of their employers into the local communities they served, and travelled in droves to far-flung parts of the globe to serve their country. Issues of gender, class and race permeate this book, as the complex relationships between nurses, their medical colleagues, governments and the populations they nursed are examined in detail, using case studies which draw on exciting new sources. Many of the chapters are based on first-hand accounts of nurses and reveal that not all were motivated by patriotic vigour or altruism, but went out in search of adventure. The book will be an essential read for colonial historians, as well as historians of gender and ethnicity.