If you have ever taken a college course, you know that professors have a love for learning, especially about the things they teach. Moreover, they usually have a love for reading about their specializations and interests. Have you ever wondered what professors read in their free time? Look no further — five professors from five different departments and backgrounds told Pipe Dream about their latest reads.
Gerardo Pignatiello, a visiting assistant professor of romance languages and literatures, is reading “Las aventuras de la China Iron” by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara.
Pignatiello has been spending this semester engrossed in “Las aventuras de la China Iron,” written by up-and-coming Argentinian author Cabezón Cámara. The novel centers around Liz, an English woman, and her journey through the Pampas as she discovers new sights, sounds and experiences. Pignatiello noted that his interest in Cabezón Cámara’s published works led him to read “Las aventuras de la China Iron.”
“I was analyzing another novel by the same author and I wanted to read more from her,” he said. “[I have read] ‘La Virgen Cabeza,’ and ‘Le viste la cara a Dios,’ both by [Cabezón Cámara].”
Pignatiello said “Las aventuras de la China Iron” leaves its mark on both the reader and Argentinian literature as a whole, challenging the previously established order and narrative in which national work has been created.
“[My favorite part was] the fascinating way [that it] rewrites the national literature [from Argentina] and the national birth of a nation from a queer perspective,” he said. “The most powerful image is of these two women (one Argentinian, the other one [British]) in a stagecoach through the Pampas going to the indigenous territory.”
Pignatiello absolutely recommends that students give “Las aventuras de la China Iron” a read, especially those who like to be whisked away into a world of thrill and excitement.
“I think people who like adventure fiction [will like this book],” he said.
Collin Lam, a graduate teaching assistant of English, is reading “Romantic Moods” by Thomas Pfau and “Simulacra and Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard.
For Lam, whose interests include British romanticism and deconstruction, “Romantic Moods” was the perfect, no-brainer piece to read this fall. He noted that the book, which encapsulates the progression of romanticism in Britain and Germany, as well as a new perspective on the romantic writer’s voice, was a good way to gain background knowledge in his field.
“I began reading Pfau’s book because of its chapter on the use of melancholy in John Keats’ early poetry,” he said. “I am currently working on my dissertation, and the beginning chapter deals a lot with how the romantics employed melancholy as their literary mood par excellence, so his book is incredibly useful. The whole book is a brilliant analysis of how moods function within romantic writing. I would suggest it to anyone seriously interested in the romantics.”
Lam’s second literary choice, “Simulacra and Simulation,” touches on the concept of “simulacra,” known as the representation or imitation of a person or thing, similar to the abstract and imaginary nature of romanticism where both question the reality of the human experience as it exists in a society. Lam revisited this treatise, which he had read in his college days, with his students as part of a technoromanticism course he teaches.
“I first read [‘Simulacra and Simulation’] while I was an undergrad and became enamored with it,” he said. “Even though it was published roughly a decade earlier, it articulated what I think a lot of us in the late 2000s were intuiting about the anxiety that comes from our loss of anything ‘really real,’ not to mention our almost expected initiation into the forever wars following the 9/11 attacks.”
For Lam, the experience of reading “Simulacra and Simulation” has been more enriching with each read.
“To me, it’s a fascinating book because with each new reading it becomes more scandalous — if that’s even the right word — not because of its irreverence, but because of its dismissal of that kind of dialectical faithfulness to truth and untruth,” he said. “We often refer to ourselves now as living in a ‘post-truth era. Yet, in the dying of that light, we still anxiously cling to those same faithful structures of order, balance, justice, truth, in-text citation and the ‘really real’ that marked our before. It’s incredibly difficult to imagine a world that does not found its systems on some form of truth because it would require us to think without valuing. Therefore, the world is always in crisis — some system of value is always under threat. The romantics felt this deeply in their writing, just as much as we do now.”
David Wynen, an assistant professor of theatre, is reading “Mao’s Last Dancer” by Li Cunxin.
“Mao’s Last Dancer” by Cunxin is a memoir detailing the life of a small boy from a peasant family who lives in Maoist China. After being chosen by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates at 11 years old, Cunxin uproots his entire life to study ballet in Beijing, and later the United States, becoming one of the greatest dancers of his time. Wynen, who studies musical theatre and both jazz and tap dance, has the knowledge to appreciate the work from a dancer’s perspective.
“The subject matter fascinated me — [Li is] an extraordinary artist [who] overcame obstacles,” he said.
Wynen emphasized Li’s perseverance through his struggles as an important part of the memoir.
“My favorite part of the book deals with the lengths Li went to in the audition process,” he said. “[He knew] that he must push through the pain for an opportunity to escape his poverty.”
“Mao’s Last Dancer” is a piece that is recognizable to many in the dance field, with the author Cunxin being a major artist within the dance field. Wynen recommends the memoir to anyone who is interested in a story about overcoming challenges, noting that it could be an interesting read for international students studying at Binghamton University as a way to gain perspective on a similar experience.
William G. Martin, a Bartle professor of sociology, is reading “Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision” by Brendan McQuade.
Martin, who studies sociology with a specific focus on justice systems and social movements, has been reading up on work within his own community; “Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision” was written by Brendan McQuade, a Ph.D. recipient at BU. The book, which is an account of the influence recent developments in surveillance, supervision and policing have had on criminal justice reform, was published this year. Martin saw the impacts that McQuade’s research could have on our day-to-day.
“Criminal justice reform has been matched by the development of extensive new forms of surveillance, supervision and policing,” he said. “It has local implications. Imagine that everywhere you drive your car in this area is tracked, reported, stored and made available to every local and federal police force — and managed by regional intelligence centers.”
Martin commented that this is already taking place within local communities, such as Broome County, with its installation of license plate readers and facial recognition devices. He argues readers will be able to see McQuade’s strong desires to find innovative takes on criminal justice reform.
“What animates the text is a drive to find ‘non-reformist; reforms — reforms that will increase community power and dismantle the emerging police state,” he said. “We need more works like this.”
In preparation for his scholars course, “Understanding Your World in a Post-Truth Era,” Mark Reisinger, an associate professor of geography and collegiate professor of Newing College, read “Post-Truth” by Lee McIntyre over the summer. Although Reisinger does not have much time during the semester to read, his love for current events fueled his interest in the concept of post-truth.
“Like many other[s], I want to try to understand the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ [or] ‘alternative facts,’” he said. “I want to understand why people are swayed by an appeal to their emotions rather than making decisions based on scientific evidence and facts. Why are we so gullible?”
Reisinger is also a fan of journalism and news consumption, which is heavily impacted by the concept of post-truth. Reading “Post-Truth” has helped him connect the ideas he has taken from works on similar topics, such as “Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era” by Daniel Levitin, “War Is a Lie” by David Swanson and “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” by Nancy MacLean.
“I spend several hours a day reading the news from all perspectives … The concepts in ‘Post-Truth’ have enabled me to sort through the lies that you get from all sides of an issue,” Reisinger said. “Post-truth, fake news [and] alternative facts are not new concepts. They have been used throughout history to fool people into supporting particular issues.”
Reisinger recommended “Post-Truth” to those who want to understand the importance of critically thinking about current events. He was particularly impacted by the difficult questions the book poses to its readers. This is evident in his favorite quote from “Post-Truth”: “Why search for scientific disagreement when it can be manufactured? Why bother with peer review when one’s opinions can be spread by intimidating the media or through public relations? And why wait for government officials to come to the ‘right’ conclusion when you can influence them with industry money?”