Category Archives: Books

A Russian Revolution Reading List

In this centennial year of the Bolshevik Revolution, here is intriguing reading on political and cultural facets of the revolutionary era (1914-21).

AN AMERICAN DIPLOMAT IN BOLSHEVIK RUSSIA
DeWitt Clinton Poole
Edited by Lorraine M. Lees and William S. Rodner

“A fascinating edition of US diplomat DeWitt Clinton Poole’s oral account of his experience in revolutionary Russia from 1917 to 1919. . . . His views of the early Bolshevik government, like those of other Americans who were there, are critical as the centennial of the Russian Revolution approaches. Highly recommended, all levels/libraries.“Choice

“A historical treasure trove for an era that will never be short on paradoxes, colorful characters, brutal conflict, and harrowing circumstances. Poole, one of the last American diplomats in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution and before recognition in 1933, was a cool, detached observer of events, and rather prescient in his predictions.”Russian Life

 

THE BODY SOVIET
Tricia Starks

The Body Soviet is the first sustained investigation of the Bolshevik government’s early policies on hygiene and health care in general.”—Louise McReynolds, author of Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era

“A masterpiece that will thoroughly fascinate and delight readers. Starks’s understanding of propaganda and hygiene in the early Soviet state is second to none. She tells the stories of Soviet efforts in this field with tremendous insight and ingenuity, providing a rich picture of Soviet life as it was actually lived.”—Elizabeth Wood, author of From Baba to Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia

 

FAST FORWARD
The Aesthetics and Ideology of Speed in Russian Avant-Garde Culture, 1910–1930
Tim Harte

“The book is well-written and richly illustrated. It is a pleasure to read both in the old-fashioned slow way and to browse in the accelerated fast-forward mode. This highly stimulating study responds to a long-standing need to address speed as an aesthetic category in modern Russian art and constitutes a very welcome and important contribution to the field.”—Nikolai Firtich, Slavic Review

Fast Forward reveals how the Russian avant-garde’s race to establish a new artistic and social reality over a twenty-year span reflected an ambitious metaphysical vision that corresponded closely to the nation’s rapidly changing social parameters.

 

WHEN PIGS COULD FLY AND BEARS COULD DANCE
A History of the Soviet Circus
Miriam Neirick

“A beautifully written, compact history of the Soviet circus.”—Janet M. Davis, author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top

For more than seven decades the circuses enjoyed tremendous popularity in the Soviet Union. How did the circus—an institution that dethroned figures of authority and refused any orderly narrative structure—become such a cultural mainstay in a state known for blunt and didactic messages? Miriam Neirick argues that the variety, flexibility, and indeterminacy of the modern circus accounted for its appeal not only to diverse viewers but also to the Soviet state. In a society where government-legitimating myths underwent periodic revision, the circus proved a supple medium of communication.

EPIC REVISIONISM
Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda
Edited by Kevin M. F. Platt and David Brandenberger

“Platt and Brandenberger have collected first-rate contributors and produced a coherent and powerful volume that amplifies what we know about the uses and abuses of history in the Soviet 1930s.”—Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Chicago

“A boon to graduate students and a delight to aficionados of Soviet culture.”—Jeffrey Brooks, John Hopkins University

 

 

RUSSIA’S ROME
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
Judith E. Kalb

A wide-ranging study of empire, religious prophecy, and nationalism in literature, Russia’s Rome provides the first examination of Russia’s self-identification with Rome during a period that encompassed the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the rise of the Soviet state.

“Gives a new and significant context to the work of some of Russia’s major poets and prose writers of the early twentieth century. Kalb’s main contribution is to show that the interest in the Roman Empire was not an incidental part of Russian literature in this period, but a genuine obsession.” —Michael Wachtel, Princeton University

 

Prison Laugh Riot

The University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to release IF YOU DON’T LAUGH YOU’LL CRY: The Occupational Humor of White Wisconsin Prison Workers. Author Claire Schmidt writes about the unexplored world of prison staff humor. In their high-stakes, high-stress environment, these workers let off steam by cracking jokes that are not always nice. In this post, Schmidt emphasizes the difference between movie portrayals of cruel  guards and real corrections workers and discusses why the evolving state of U.S. prisons is no laughing matter.

 

 

“There’s nothing funny about prison.”  That’s what my uncle told me when I started researching the humor of prison workers.
There's nothing funny about prison, said my uncle as I started writing about what was funny about prison. Click To Tweet
And yet, when prison workers get together, they surround themselves with laughter. Many of the people I interviewed for this book—my collaborators—are gifted verbal artists, making each other laugh. Practical jokes, gag gifts, smart remarks, memes, and mimicry evolve into stories that travel beyond the walls of the institution.

One collaborator told me, “I am constantly trying to make my coworkers laugh. I consider it imperative to do this every day in this profession. Humor cuts tension. Cutting tension in the correctional setting, rather than adding to it, elevates my self-worth.”
We love to hate the prison guards in films and television; their violence, racism, and inhumanity is legendary, from Cool Hand Luke to The Shawshank Redemption. But we almost never see the faces or hear the voices of actual, living prison workers. Prison work happens behind closed doors—there is no “take your daughter to work day.”

The men and women who work in Wisconsin’s correctional facilities work hard for low pay and eroding benefits. They don’t get much respect or appreciation. The job brings elevated risk of heart attack, suicide, substance abuse, and divorce. So why is humor so important to prison work?

The men and women I interviewed insisted that humor is an essential job skill. “It’s really true—if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry,” one collaborator told me. Enduring stress, boredom, stigma, violence, and human suffering is part of prison work. As one collaborator observed, “We need to rely a lot on gallows humor to cope with the things that we see.”

When we joke, we are able to talk about such scary or taboo topics as sex, death, and race. The communicative power of humor is especially important in prison. Workers can express anger, sadness, or frustration with their jobs under the protection of “only” joking.

Prisons are all about people and all about communication. My collaborators made it clear that they use humor to build functional relationships with inmates as well as to communicate solidarity and affection to their coworkers. Wit and comic timing can deescalate a crisis and good storytelling turns that crisis into an educational story.
One collaborator told me, “If we like you, we’ll mess with you!” Humor helps to educate, test, and initiate rookies, just as gag gifts and roasts are an essential parts of corrections retirement parties. Laughter turns outsiders into insiders, but humor also defines the boundaries between groups like officers vs inmates or black vs white.

Humor isn't safe or nice. Professionalism is at war with the desire to push the limits. Click To Tweet
Humor isn’t safe or nice. Professionalism is at war with the desire to push the limits and to talk about uncomfortable things. Prison worker humor (just like doctor or teacher humor) can be tasteless and offensive. “We joke about a lot of gay stuff,” one collaborator told me.

Corrections officer Harriet Fox writes, “We sure laugh a lot at work. Watching inmates act disorderly and shocking can be sadly entertaining.” And since most Wisconsin prison workers are white, anxiety about unfamiliar cultures manifests in racial humor. Just because humor is offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Although violent crime has declined in the US, we lock up a huge number of our citizens (and in Wisconsin, a really disproportionate number of black, Hispanic, and Native people). It’s getting harder and harder to recruit and retain correctional officers in Wisconsin after the workers’ union was stripped of collective bargaining rights. If we want safer prisons, we can start by trying to understand what makes these workers laugh.

Audioclips from interviews conducted by Schmdit wherein prison guards tell stories of the humor involved on the job. 

“Don’t send me any of them down here!”

“What’chu know bout CeeLo Green?”

“Best part of the job.”

And a final word of advice: If you meet a correctional officer, avoid “don’t-drop-the-soap” jokes. They’ve heard them.
If you meet a correctional officer, avoid “don’t-drop-the-soap” jokes. They’ve heard them. Click To Tweet

Claire Schmidt is a folklorist and assistant professor of English at Missouri Valley College.

Burying the United Nations Genocide Treaty

This week, University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to release THE SOVIET UNION AND THE GUTTING OF THE UN GENOCIDE CONVENTION. After the staggering horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, the United Nations resolved to prevent and punish the crime of genocide throughout the world. The resulting UN Genocide Convention treaty, however, was drafted, contested, and weakened in the midst of Cold War tensions and ideological struggles between the Soviet Union and the West. Author Anton Weiss-Wendt presents a unique historical account of the failure of the genocide convention. 

Joseph Stalin is the most outstanding figure in Russia’s history, followed by Vladimir Putin and Alexander Pushkin, according to a poll of Russians released in June 2017 by the independent Levada center in Moscow. The 38% of Russians who gave their vote to Stalin clearly dismiss and/or trivialize the mass crimes committed by his regime.

Mine is a story of international criminal law through the prism of Cold War, a legal history of the Cold War. Click To Tweet

When I learned the word genocide, it was in Russian. My paternal grandparents spent nearly twenty years of their lives in Stalin’s Gulag, though they rarely spoke of it. For me, genocide is a personal story. But I am also a professionally trained historian. Hence, the objective of my book is not to condemn but to explain. Neither is it exclusively a story of the communist dictatorship and its crimes.

Unearthing a mass grave on the site of a Gulag camp at Chelyabinsk, east of the Urals, in 1990 (Scanpix)

The Soviets were certainly the biggest offenders in trying to hollow out the Genocide Convention during the UN debates in 1947–48, but they were not the only ones with a vested interest. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States wanted political groups to be protected by the Genocide Convention. The two countries also reached an unlikely consensus that postponed indefinitely the establishment of an international criminal court. The British, for their part, never tried to conceal their dislike for the kind of international treaty they regarded as futile.

As I worked through documents in over a dozen archives in the United States and Europe, I have oscillated in my view of whether or not Stalin and his top diplomats/ accomplices Andrei Vyshinsky and Vyacheslav Molotov (the men on the front cover of the book) should have stood trial on charges of genocide. I conclude that, “under ideal circumstances, Stalin and the Soviet Union could no doubt be indicted for genocide,” yet I caution that this statement not be taken out of context.

Negotiators for the former Allies in World War II—the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom—were each conscious of cases of mass violence that they did not want to be covered by the convention. For the Soviets it was forced labor, ethnic deportations, and the destruction of political opposition in Eastern Europe. The Americans had on their minds racial discrimination at home and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. The British had yet the longest list of hot-button subjects: the treatment of colonial populations, American use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the treatment of Jews in Mandate Palestine, again the faith fate of German expellees, and so on.

A car owner in Moscow displays his admiration of Stalin, October 2015 (Photo: Ilya Varlamov)

The big question for me—and for all those who have examined or tried to apply the Genocide Convention in a court of law—is whether or not it is a useful legal tool. I am not optimistic. Cold War politics bankrupted the word genocide and ran aground the international treaty that was meant to stamp genocide out of existence. Stalin, and bloody dictators like him, care little for human rights law and are seldom brought to justice.

Stalin, and bloody dictators like him, care little for human rights law and are seldom brought to justice. Click To Tweet

Anton Weiss-Wendt directs research at the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Oslo, Norway. He is the author of Murder without Hatred: Estonians and the Holocaust and Small-Town Russia: Childhood Memories of the Final Soviet Decade; editor of The Nazi Genocide of the Roma; and coeditor of Racial Science in Hitler’s New Europe, 1938–1945.

Badger Baseball’s Last Decade Launched Many Major League Careers

This week, past players on University of Wisconsin varsity baseball teams are gathering for an alumni reunion. Some, including Rick Reichardt, Craig Zirbel, and Dean Rennicke, will appear at the July 23 Madison Mallards game for a book signing of A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, along with author Steven D. Schmitt. Click here for details of the book signing event.  Or, read on below about some of the great stars of Badger baseball.

When you pick up your copy of A History of Badger Baseball: The Rise and Fall of America’s Pastime at the University of Wisconsin, be sure to read carefully the chapters on the final years of a storied 120-year sport—the University of Wisconsin’s first intercollegiate sport.

The Steve Land coaching tenure (1984–1991) consisted of overall winning records in the first five years, including a 1986 Big Ten tournament appearance that featured a victory over Purdue. The Badgers won thirty-five games that season and qualified for post-season play for the first time since 1952. Scott Cepicky’s home run power, Jim Rosplock’s bullpen work (eight saves, five in Big Ten play), and the speed of leadoff hitter Joe Armentrout made the Badgers a solid squad.

Lance Painter prepares a masterpiece pitch

But the pitching staff deserves equal attention. Lance Painter won eight games in his first season, came back from elbow surgery, and went on to a twelve-year major league career. He has remained in major league baseball, now serving as the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners’ top farm club.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Quantrill is locked in

Paul Quantrill joined UW in 1986, choosing Wisconsin over Michigan and a contract offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He proceeded to become the most durable pitcher in Badger history and set a single-season complete game mark of eleven in 1989. He signed with the Boston Red Sox organization and toiled in the minors but eventually logged fourteen major league seasons in both the American and National Leagues, leading the majors in games pitched for five consecutive years (2000–2004). Quantrill is a senior adviser for the Toronto Blue Jays, providing coaching and guidance to the team’s minor league prospects.

 

 

Tom Fischer angles for a strike

Tom Fischer was the first choice of the Red Sox in the 1988 free agent draft, after completing a stellar career at Wisconsin that included six victories in his first season , the career record in strikeouts, and a nineteen-strikeout performance in May 1988 during which the Iowa Hawkeyes hit one baseball out of the infield. The only hit Fischer allowed was on a change-up. The coaches told him to go back to his fastball.
These three pitchers made a great contribution to Badger baseball from 1985 to 1990 and may have been the best ever to pitch on one UW team. Hats off to these hurlers who made Wisconsin winners in the history of Badger baseball.

Hats off to these hurlers who made Wisconsin winners in the history of Badger baseball. Click To Tweet

Steven D. Schmitt is a former news and sports reporter for several Wisconsin newspapers and radio stations. He writes the blog Home Run Historical Research and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, the Old-Time Ballplayers Association of Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

New books and new paperbacks, July 2017

We’re pleased to announce these new books, and titles new in paperback, debuting this month.

July 18, 2017
WISCONSIN AND THE SHAPING OF AMERICAN LAW
Joseph A. Ranney

“Not simply about Wisconsin’s legal history, for Ranney covers the sweep of state laws in American history from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to recent legal questions of the twenty-first century. Impressively researched and invitingly written, this is a unique introduction to our states as laboratories of democracy.”—Lloyd C. Gardner,Rutgers University

State laws affect nearly every aspect of our daily lives—our safety, personal relationships, and business dealings—but receive less scholarly attention than federal laws and courts. Joseph A. Ranney looks at how state laws have evolved and shaped American history, through the lens of the historically influential state of Wisconsin.

 

July 18, 2017  NEW IN PAPERBACK
AMENDING THE PAST
Europe’s Holocaust Commissions and the Right to History
Alexander Karn

“Historical commissions, Karn argues, have brought expert historical practice to bear on complex questions, adding new meaning to facts that have either been debated or glossed over. These commissions matter because they serve to amend history in cases in which social memory has impeded understanding of historical injustices and begin the amelioration of past human rights violations.”Choice

“A very important contribution to the interdisciplinary scholarship on the broad theme of reckoning with histories of atrocity.”—Bronwyn Leebaw, University of California, Riverside

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors

 

July 18, 2017 NEW IN PAPERBACK
SHAPING THE NEW MAN

Youth Training Regimes in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
Alessio Ponzio

“Ponzio tells a nuanced story of the delicate and volatile relationship between interwar Europe’s two fascist regimes. . . . He highlights power struggles between leaders, curricula designed not to educate youth but to transform them into ideal representatives of their regimes, and strict gender policing within each of the organizations. Recommended.”Choice

“Ponzio provides, above all, valuable new perspectives on the tremendous influence of Italian Fascism on fledgling Nazi youth organizations, and the cooperative and reciprocal relationships that flourished between the two regimes.”—Michael Ebner, author of Ordinary Violence in Mussolini’s Italy

George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History
Steven E. Aschheim, Stanley G. Payne, Mary Louise Roberts, and David J. Sorkin, Series Editors

 

July 27, 2017
BEYOND THE MONASTERY WALLS

The Ascetic Revolution in Russian Orthodox Thought, 1814–1914
Patrick Lally Michelson

“Impressive in its analytical breadth and astute in its interpretive depth, this is an engaging, lucid, and original contribution to the history of modern Russian thought and modern Orthodoxy.”—Vera Shevzov, Smith College

“Reading this extraordinary book is like having missing pieces of a puzzle click together at last. Actors normally examined separately—radical socialists, theological academies, hermits, great writers, bureaucrats, lay intellectuals—emerge as part of the same religious culture that placed asceticism at the center of discourse and practice in imperial Russia’s defining century.” —Nadieszda Kizenko, University at Albany, SUNY

 

July 27, 2017
IF YOU DON’T LAUGH YOU’LL CRY 
The Occupational Humor of White Wisconsin Prison Workers
Claire Schmidt

“A lucid, compelling study of some very funny, compassionate corrections officers. Their intelligence and comic delight shine through on every page.”—Jackie McGrath, College of DuPage

America is fascinated by prisons and prison culture, but few Americans understand what it is like to work in corrections. Claire Schmidt, whose extended family includes three generations of Wisconsin prison workers, introduces readers to penitentiary officers and staff as they share stories, debate the role of corrections in American racial politics and social justice, and talk about the important function of humor in their jobs.

Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World

 

 

DEAD MEN (& WOMEN) DO TELL TALES: BRINGING WISCONSIN LEGAL HISTORY TO LIFE

In July, University of Wisconsin Press will release WISCONSIN AND THE SHAPING OF AMERICAN LAW. Author Joseph A. Ranney takes a unique look at legal history through several key individuals who worked to better Wisconsin, especially with regard to equal rights.

When I sat down to write Wisconsin and the Shaping of American Law, I faced an ambitious challenge: describe one state’s law as it evolved over more than 200 years and how it became part of the larger fabric of American history. But, a bigger challenge soon emerged. Many general readers view legal matters as intimidating, boring, or both—how to engage them?

Here enters the power of storytelling. Many of the book’s chapters begin with portraits of people whose lives and views collided in ways that changed the direction of Wisconsin and American law. As the book progressed, other diverse characters appeared on the legal stage who astonished and humbled me. Here are a few of my favorites.

James Doty

Some history buffs know James Doty as an early Wisconsin pioneer and politician, but few are aware that he was one of the nation’s great territorial judges who built the first system of courts and law in the wilderness west of Lake Michigan. Doty was also an early advocate of Native American rights, a stance that eventually cost him his judgeship. Edward Ryan’s life unfolded like a Greek drama. He rose and fell as an apostle of the Jacksonian legal vision in the 1840s, fought judicial corruption and state-rights sentiment in the 1850s, and then descended into obscurity, bitterness and old age until, in the 1870s, he was picked to be Wisconsin’s chief justice and spent the last years of his life forging a new law for the age of industry. Ryan changed American law in tandem with other great judges including Michigan’s Thomas Cooley, Illinois’ Sidney Breese, Iowa’s John Dillon, and Ryan’s Wisconsin colleague and sometime rival Luther Dixon.

John Winslow

John Winslow, Wisconsin’s chief justice during the Progressive era, is my particular favorite, and I hope the book will help him gain the recognition he deserves. “Fighting Bob” La Follette was the leading face of Wisconsin progressivism, but a good case can be made that Winslow was the individual most responsible for the movement’s long-term success. Temperamentally conservative but sensitive to underdogs, Winslow undertook a national campaign to explain Progressives and conservatives to each other. In the process, he won both sides’ respect and turned the judicial tide in Wisconsin in favor of reform.
'Fighting Bob' La Follette was the face of Wisconsin progressivism, but a new book contends that John Winslow was… Click To Tweet
Even those lacking a legal voice fought to shape Wisconsin law. The book profiles several Wisconsin heroines of women’s rights: Lavinia Goodell, who overcame Ryan’s opposition to become Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer; suffragist Mabel Raef Putnam and author Zona Gale, who together induced the legislature to enact a pioneering women’s rights law in 1921; and their spiritual successor Mary Lou Munts, a state legislator who was the principal architect of Wisconsin’s modern divorce law (1977) and a pioneering marital property law (1986). Lavinia Goodell overcame Chief Justice Edward Ryan’s opposition to become Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer. Click To Tweet The book also discusses African-American lawyers who led Wisconsin’s civil rights

Lloyd Barbee

movement: William Green persuaded the legislature to enact Wisconsin’s first anti-segregation law (1895), and Lloyd Barbee won a long legal battle to end school segregation in Milwaukee eighty years later.

I am grateful to these legal actors for helping me from beyond the grave. They drive home the oft-forgotten truth that although law is based on reason it is also shaped by our collective hopes, fears, and the courage of those who stand by their beliefs. I hope that readers of the book will enjoy the actors’ stories and will absorb the lessons they teach us about legal history.

 

 

 

Joseph A. Ranney is the Adrian P. Schoone Fellow in Wisconsin Law and Legal Institutions at Marquette University Law School and a partner with the firm DeWitt Ross & Stevens in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of several books, including Trusting Nothing to Providence: A History of Wisconsin’s Legal System, honored by the American Library Association as a notable book on state and local government.

Oh yah, that’s Yooper talk

Today the University of Wisconsin Press publishes Yooper Talk: Dialect as Identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Author Kathryn Remlinger explores features of this unique North American dialect while examining why dialects persist even in a globalized age.

The remote and isolated location of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, combined with contact among English and other languages, have shaped Yooper talk over the past 150 years and have helped it remain distinct from other varieties of American English. It is shaped by tourism, economics, the sociolinguistic history of the Upper Peninsula, research on regional varieties, awareness about language variation, and how speakers claim identity with language.

Figure 1: Bjorklund-Ollila Strawberry Harvest at Heinola Finnish Immigrant Agricultural Community near Oskar Bay in Houghton County ca1920. Used by permission from Finlandia University’s Finnish American Historical Archives Collections

If there is a definitive Yooper dialect, why don’t all Yoopers sound the same?

Figure 2: Map of Michigan and Research Area, University of Wisconsin Press

Although there is a recognizable way of speaking American English in the Upper Peninsula, there is not just one standard UP dialect. There are many ways of speaking in the UP due to diverse factors including socioeconomic class, social relationships and activities, gender, age, first language, education, and occupation. Furthermore, many of the stereotypical features of “Yooper” are found throughout the Upper Midwest, including northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and even in other parts of the United States and Canada, including Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, and southern Ontario. Residents, natives, tourists, and linguists have created the perception that there is one specific way of speaking in the Upper Peninsula. Typically this idea is based on a few limited linguistic features, but, if we listen to our neighbors, friends, and relatives who live in the UP, we’ll hear a cacophony of voices, each one claiming its place on the dialect map.

Figure 3: Welcome to Yooperland sign at Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, Ishpeming, photo by Kathryn Remlinger

But what about TV, radio, and other media? Aren’t they wiping out regional dialects?

Although we may learn new words and expressions from various media, media typically does not affect the ways we use language beyond temporarily adding to our vocabulary. Language variation and change can only happen through face-to-face interaction, while TV, radio, the Web, and other media lack that connection. However, regional dialects are far from static.

 

Figure 4: Say ya to da up, eh! bumper sticker, created by Jack Bowers, photo by Kathryn Remlinger

But why do these distinct varieties still exist with all the moving around that people do?

In part, distinctions exist because of the isolation and remoteness of certain areas. The Upper Peninsula is a good example of this, as its location limits the amount of contact speakers have with others. Thus we can hear certain features of the local dialect persisting, such as ya, da, eh, and the pronunciation of sauna as “sow-na.”

It’s not just geographic boundaries that influence local speech; cultural differences affect language variation, too. Our worldview is reflected in the language we use and how we use it. However, this claim comes with a cautionary note: language, particularly vocabulary, can reflect the beliefs and worldview of a group of people, and learning other languages is one way in which people develop different perspectives on the world. Yet, language does not determine our worldview, nor does culture determine the structure and use of our language. They are merely reflections of each other. For example, it’s commonly believed that people living in snowy regions have more words for snow than do speakers in tropical climates. While this might be true given the individual cultures and a community’s everyday practices, the number of words depends on how those words are put together and what counts as a “word.” Also, just because a language has no word for snow, this does not mean that its speakers can’t understand what snow is or create a word in their language for it.

Just because a language has no word for snow, this does not mean that its speakers can’t understand what snow is. Click To Tweet

Figure 5: Sauna insurance sign, photo by Kathryn Remlinger

Another factor that affects the longevity of dialects are the meanings and values we attach to them. For example, we often tend to think of someone who speaks with a regional accent as more honest, loyal, and kind. This positive perception is linked to the idea that the “best” speakers of a dialect are typically seen as the most “authentic” locals. Tied to this sense of authenticity is the most compelling reason for the maintenance of dialect differences: identity. Our language is one of the most obvious ways in which we mark who we are, where we’re from, and where we’ve been. This includes not only our region but also our social class, gender, age, ethnicity, education, and other ways in which we categorize ourselves culturally and socially. As the linguistic landscape shrinks through our online and geographic interconnectedness, language remains our badge of identity.

The most compelling reason for the maintenance of dialect differences is identity. Click To Tweet

Kathryn A. Remlinger is a professor of English: Linguistics at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.

The History of Terrorism is Written in Blood

Today the University of Wisconsin Press releases Written in Blood: Revolutionary Terrorism and Russian Literary Culture, 1861–1881. Author Lynn Patyk reveals the spark hidden in Russian literature that ignited terrorism across history.

Another day, another attack. Somewhere in the world, a suicide bomber kills himself and countless others at a teeming market, in a subway car, at a pop concert. Terrorism seems so fundamentally a part of our reality and so numbingly endless that it is hard to imagine that it has a history, or that this history may even be told in the heroic mode. But, in fact, historians have traditionally credited Russian revolutionaries of the mid-nineteenth century—or “Nihilists” as they were called—with the invention of terrorism, which they deployed in their struggle with Russian autocracy. While the means (systematic political assassination) were morally odious, a significant segment of progressive public opinion in Russia and abroad could endorse the terrorists’ ends: the overthrow of tyranny and the introduction of Western-style freedoms.
In the case of nineteenth-century Russia, terrorism had a very particular and powerful impetus: the literary imagination. Writers in Russia served as social critics, moral authorities, visionaries, and prophets. As Russia underwent a wrenching transformation from a feudal society founded on serf labor to a modern industrializing society, literature undertook to portray new kinds of characters befitting the new reality: “men of action” in both literature and life. The necessary result in a largely untransformed and repressive political system was that this active hero would look remarkably like the modern terrorist.
19th century Russian literature's active hero, stifled by a repressive regime, anticipates the modern terrorist. Click To Tweet
Of Russia’s great realist novelists, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881) was uniquely positioned to observe and contribute to this phenomenon. Dostoevsky had himself been involved in political conspiracy, sentenced to death, and reprieved at the last moment, only to spend ten years in exile and hard labor in Siberia. These experiences gave him acute insight into tensions between the individual personality and any entity or system that tried to limit the expression of its free will, and thus into individual political violence as an emergent phenomenon.
If Dostoevsky’s novels, and in particular his terrorism trilogy of the 1860s–1880s (Crime and Punishment, Demons, and Brothers Karamazov), remain today so vitally relevant, it is because he recognized that these tensions were not peculiar to Russia and that the modern self was intrinsically terroristic. The modern self, bent on autonomy and self-realization, strains against all limitations—moral, political, religious, and aesthetic—and recognizes only itself as the highest, sovereign authority.
In the epilogue of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky’s hero Rodion Raskolnikov has a terrifying nightmare: individuals and entire societies are infected with “trichinae,” causing them to fall prey to an unshakable self-righteousness and inevitably leading to mutual incomprehension, hatred, and a war of all against all. Dostoevsky clearly conceived this as a pathology of Western modernity, the irony being that it could just as easily manifest in the form of anti-modern ideologies (as in Dostoevsky’s case).
The modern self, bent on autonomy and self-realization, strains against all limitations. Click To Tweet
Despite his misgivings about the trajectory of modernity and the extreme individualism that it fostered, Dostoevsky rejected any external systematic constraints on freedom as a slippery slope to despotism and hegemonic state terror. When we lament the ineradicable evil that terrorism seems to be, Dostoevsky would have us recall that it is not a meaningless evil, but a profoundly meaningful one. It derives from the unprecedented freedom of modern societies, which empower individuals for maximum good or maximum harm. But this freedom has not yet given rise to a consciousness of our own individual and collective responsibility for pain and suffering in the world, which Dostoevsky saw as the key to staunching the bleeding wound that is terrorism. Instead of children at a concert, they (“the terrorists”) see “enemies.” Instead of our own culpability for violence and suffering, we see them as evil personified.

Lynn Ellen Patyk is an assistant professor of Russian at Dartmouth College.

Researching Facts While Writing Fiction

The University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to release a paperback edition of Death at Gills Rock, the second Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery. Three local World War II veterans about to be honored for their military heroics die from carbon monoxide poisoning during a weekly card game. A faulty heater is blamed, but Cubiak puzzles over details. In this post, author Patricia Skalka does some puzzling of her own over how best to undertake research for a mystery.

One of the most unexpected aspects of writing a mystery is the amount of varied research needed to fill out a story. When I worked as a freelancer and Reader’s Digest staff writer, research was an essential element in nearly every assignment. Once I started writing mysteries, I thought that part of the job was behind me. But I was wrong.

Death at Gills Rock, the second volume in the Dave Cubiak Door County mysteries, is a good example. I knew that I wanted to write a story involving childhood friends who had served together in World War II, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. When a Door County neighbor told me that recruits to the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Contingent were posted in the Aleutian Islands, I had my first lead.

However, at that point, I knew little about the Coast Guard, less about the Aleutian Islands, and virtually nothing about how either factored into the war. To create a credible story, I had to ferret out specific historical details and background material that spanned decades. To start, I interviewed the head of the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station, hunted through library catalogs, and searched the internet. Much of the information I needed was buried in out-of-print history books, old military newsletters, and obscure magazine articles. The material was fascinating. The more I read, the more I wanted to learn. Finally, I had to stop researching and start writing!

I knew from experience that only a portion of what I learned would make its way into the novel. After all, I was writing a mystery story, not a history book. Difficult decisions had to be made. I could use only what added to the story itself, but even what I couldn’t include in the book stays with me and is worth sharing.

Even what I couldn’t include in the book stays with me and is worth sharing. Click To Tweet

Let’s start with the U.S. Coast Guard. This division of the U.S. military was established in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service and remains the nation’s longest extant military branch. From 1794 to 1865, the Coast Guard’s primary function was to stop slave ships and prevent them from reaching American shores. Under the Timber Act of 1822, it was also charged with the task of protecting government forests from poachers!

Fast forward to World War II and the Aleutian Islands, an archipelago that extends a thousand miles west from the coast of Alaska. It’s location made the island critical after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By 1942, the Japanese had captured two small islands in the long chain—the first time since the War of 1812 that a foreign army occupied US territory. The Japanese wanted control of the Aleutians to prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific; while the Americans feared that the Japanese could use them to launch an assault on the West Coast. The Aleutian campaign also had a secret mission to train American naval forces for a possible invasion of Japan; this was not revealed until after the war.

In Death at Gills Rock, I refer to the battle of Attu, an eighteen-day siege in which U.S. forces recaptured the island as part of the U.S. campaign to oust the Japanese. What’s not mentioned is that the battle was one of the most costly assaults in the Pacific: for every one hundred enemy combatants found on the island, about seventy-one Americans were killed or wounded.

In gathering material for Death at Gills Rock, I also expanded my knowledge about societal norms and learned the specifics of raising puppies and outfitting a wooden sailboat—subjects I knew little or nothing of before I started the project.

Research may not be easy, but it is rewarding. I hope that by weaving facts into my mysteries, I provide readers with a more satisfying and substantial experience. Certainly, taking the time to get things correct makes me a better writer.
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Photo by B. E. Pinkham

Patricia Skalka is a former freelance staff writer for Reader’s Digest specializing in medical and human interest stories. She has worked as a magazine editor, ghost writer, and writing instructor. A native of Chicago, she divides her time between the city and her cottage in Door County, Wisconsin.

The Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery Series so far

Next book coming 2018!

New books in June 2017

We are pleased to announce six new books to be published in late June.

June 20, 2017
WRITTEN IN BLOOD

Revolutionary Terrorism and Russian Literary Culture, 1861–1881
Lynn Ellen Patyk

In March 1881, Russia stunned the world when a small band of revolutionaries calling themselves “terrorists” assassinated Alexander II. Horrified Russians blamed the influence of European ideas, while shocked Europeans perceived something new and distinctly Russian in a strategy of political violence that became known as “the Russian method” or “terrorism”.

“A superb model of interdisciplinary scholarship: highly original, subtle, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read. Analyzing both word and deed, Patyk rewrites the history of modern terrorism showing why the Russian case was pivotal. A gripping story.”—Susan Morrissey, author of Suicide and the Body Politic in Imperial Russia

 

June 27, 2017
THE POX LOVER
An Activist’s Decade in New York and Paris
Anne-christine d’Adesky

Memories of the turbulent 1990s in New York City and Paris told by a pioneering American AIDS journalist, lesbian activist, and daughter of French-Haitian elites.

“In a voice both powerful and cool, The Pox Lover takes on a sprawling personal history, deeply aware throughout that it is the politics of anyone’s day—and how we respond to it—that shapes a life. Never far from the mad joy of writing, loving, and being alive, even as it investigates our horribly mundane capacity for horror, this book is a masterpiece.”—Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave

 

June 27, 2017
YOOPER TALK

Dialect as Identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Kathryn A. Remlinger

Yooper Talk explains linguistic concepts with entertaining examples for general readers and also contributes to interdisciplinary discussions of dialect and identity in sociolinguistics, anthropology, dialectology, and folklore.

“Although humorous songs poke fun at Yoopers’ words and customs, Remlinger takes this place and its people very seriously. She explains how history, ethnicity, environment, economic changes, tourism, and especially language have created a colorful and distinctive regional dialect and identity.”—Larry Lankton, Hollowed Ground: Copper Mining and Community Building on Lake Superior

Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest
Series Editor(s) Joseph Salmons and James P. Leary

 

June 27, 2017
THE LIMA INQUISITION

The Plight of Crypto-Jews in Seventeenth-Century Peru
Ana E. Schaposchnik

The Lima Inquisition reveals the details of the Americas’ most alarming Inquisitorial crackdown: the ‘Great Complicity’ and subsequent Auto de Fe of Lima in 1639. Schaposchnik convincingly shows that it was not an aberration or just another Baroque-era spectacle—it was the essence of what the Inquisition was and had been all about, from inception to abolition.”—Kris Lane, Tulane University

“An in-depth look at the trials of the Great Complicity in the 1630s, during which almost 100 people, overwhelmingly men and women of Portuguese origin, were accused of being crypto-Jews and detained and tried by the Inquisition. Recommended.”Choice

 

June 27, 2017
9XM TALKING 
WHA Radio and the Wisconsin Idea

Randall Davidson

This is the fascinating history of the innovative work of Wisconsin’s educational radio stations, from the first broadcast by experimental station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin to the network of stations known today as Wisconsin Public Radio. Randall Davidson provides the first comprehensive history of the University of Wisconsin radio station.

“An engaging, even engrossing, narrative about the station’s pioneering work in broadcasting. … A reader witnesses … the struggles that small and educational broadcasters faced in the early years in what was nearly a constant battle to maintain a foothold in the frequency spectrum.” Journalism History

 

 

June 27
FROM WAR TO GENOCIDE
Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990–1994
André Guichaoua, Translated by Don E. Webster, Foreword by Scott Straus

“A landmark in the historiography of the Rwandan genocide. No serious scholar writing about the genocide can afford to ignore this trailblazing contribution.”—René Lemarchand, author of The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa

Critical Human Rights   Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors