Author Archives: ashgatepublishing

Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California – ‘an essential monograph’

Manufacturing the modern patron in Victorian CaliforniaPosted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

One year since the publication of John Ott’s Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California: Cultural Philanthropy, Industrial Capital, and Social Authority, a review written by Bruce Robertson, well-known curator and art historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been published in caa.reviews.

He writes:

‘This tight focus produces excitingly close and complex readings of works and events, offering new insights into well-known objects and actions … it is patronage, not just the collecting of art, that most concerns Ott. And this is what brings the book to life: the cut and thrust of patronage, of clients’ demands and artists’ resistance … and patronage resoundingly resisted by those whom it is supposed to benefit. Abiding within the circumscribed boundaries of his project, Ott succeeds in making major contributions not just as a patronage study, but also in regard to how works of art are produced and disseminated and understood in this period, how visual systems are created and the work they do, how museums grow, and so on. The book becomes an essential monograph for understanding how American visual culture is created and performs in this period.’

John Ott, who is Associate Professor of Art History at James Madison University, received a publication grant for his book from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. His book uses the example of Central Pacific Railroad executives to rewrite narratives of American art from the perspective of patrons and collectors, rather than the usual art historical protagonists – the artists themselves. The new modern elite classes are shown to use art – regional landscapes, panoramic and stop-motion photography, history paintings of the California Gold Rush, the architecture of Stanford University, and the design of domestic galleries – to legitimise trends in industrial capitalism. Art consumers are thus taken seriously as active contributors to the cultural meanings of artwork.

Robertson ends his review: ‘one thing is for certain, Ott’s book is a worthy successor to [Sarah] Burn’s study [Inventing the Modern Artist: Art and Culture in Gilded Age America (New Haven, 1996)], and it should have a similarly galvanizing effect on the field.’ We look forward to seeing the book’s effect on art historical scholarship in the years to come.

Ann C. Colley on Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain

 

Ann C ColleyPosted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

Ann C. Colley (pictured) talks to Ann Donahue about her new book, Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain: Zoos, Collections, Portraits, and Maps

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

I had just finished my Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, which had not only appealed to my love of landscape and admiration for climbers, but had also taken me to libraries and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. It was when I entered the Wellcome Institute on Euston Road that something clicked. The Institute had launched a special exhibit on “Skin” that I found absolutely fascinating. I recall seeing pieces of tattooed skin taken from sailors in the nineteenth century and wondering about the role of skin and identity. Knowing that the role of skin in human portraiture during the Victorian era has been well rehearsed, I turned my thinking to animal skins and portraiture. Before I knew it, I was launched.

Wild animal skins in Victorian BritainYour book connects to so many areas of current interest in the humanities, including animal studies, museums, collecting, sensory studies, and the history of science. Were you surprised at the multiple directions in which your research led you?

No. Indeed I was drawn to the subject because it would do just that. Cultural studies are appealing because they engage so many intersecting disciplines and take one into unusual archives and libraries not open to the general public. Once I began accumulating materials, I immediately saw that the project would fit into the current interest in animal studies, museum studies, theories of portraiture, British colonialism, collecting, theories of touch and skin, as well as in history of science.

You came upon some fascinating characters in the course of your research, including the Earl of Derby. Can you say a few words about him as a collector and his association with Edward Lear?

For several years I have been buying Lear’s watercolor sketches as well as lithographs of his natural history paintings. Through this interest, of course, I knew that between 1831 and 1837, he was employed by the 12th Earl of Derby and later by the Earl’s son to sketch and paint portraits of the wild animals and exotic birds kept on the estate, which was the site of England’s largest private menagerie. To amass their amazing collection, the 12th and the 13th Earls commissioned collectors and agents from all over the world. The resulting correspondence between the 13th Earl of Derby and these agents makes for incredible reading. Lear was privy to this world and to those who worked for and were related to the Earl of Derby.

I was fascinated to learn that collecting animal skins was not just the prerogative of the privileged classes as I would have thought that collecting these specimens would be extremely costly. How common was this form of collecting among working- and middle-class individuals?

There are several studies of the working class and their interest in science, particularly those that discuss the fact that mill owners and manufacturers often encouraged their employees to learn as much as they could about the sciences so as to create a more knowledgeable workforce. Jane Camerini, John M. MaKenzie, E.P. Thompson, and Katie Whitaker, among others, have all written on the topic. For me, the most convincing and vivid evidence came from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton in which she makes a point of mentioning that the working-class men of Manchester were “warm and devoted followers” of the “more popularly interesting branches of natural history.” They “knew the name and habitat of every plant within a day’s walk from their dwelling.” Her character Job Legh, a self-educated spinner, who has access to the Liverpool docks where sailors would return with exotic specimens, is one of these “warm and devoted followers.”

In some ways, the interest in animal skins strikes me as analogous to the Victorians’ passion for travel writing. What was it about these specimens that was so appealing?

I, myself, travel to exotic places and write accounts of my sometimes disastrous adventures and have found that the wild life of a place is what defines the experience for me. When I was working on Wild Animal Skins, I discovered a similar impulse was at work among the Victorian public, who were fascinated by exotic birds and animals in faraway lands and would go to great lengths to see exhibits of these, to collect them (though I hasten to add I do not own any taxidermy specimens!), and to learn as much as it could about them. As I say in the introduction to my book “skin was not only a basic ingredient of portraiture but also the site of encounter with the exotic world.”

Many people would find a home adorned with animal skins from so-called exotic locales shocking and collecting such specimens is often illegal. Was the collecting of wild animal skins controversial during the Victorian era?

No. Unlike many, perhaps most, people today, the Victorians experienced little sense of guilt in looking at, owning, arranging, and admiring stuffed birds and animals. They rarely, if at all, thought about extinction. Even Darwin shot the last fox on the Galapagos Island. For them the distant world was full of plenty. That is not to say the Victorians were insensitive to the pain inflicted on animals. One has to remember that it is in the Victorian period that the antivivisectionists were active. I am not sure why, but taxidermy is coming back in style. One can go to a booth at a market in London to learn how to remove the skin of a bird or a mouse and stuff it. At a wedding recently I met a person from Brooklyn who practices taxidermy in her apartment. Skin will always elicit pleasure, disgust, and curiosity.

About the Author: Ann C. Colley is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University College of New York at Buffalo. She has published numerous articles and books, including Victorians in the Mountains, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial Imagination, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, The Search for Synthesis in Literature and Art: The Paradox of Space, Edward Lear and the Critics, and Tennyson and Madness.

In memory of Sacvan Bercovitch

Posted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

In memory of the eminent scholar Sacvan Bercovitch, his friend and colleague Professor Nan Goodman at the University of Colorado offers this memoriam:

On December 9, 2014, the great Sacvan Bercovitch passed away.  Professor Bercovitch or Saki, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was a brilliant scholar of early American literature and culture. His work on Puritan rhetoric, most significantly, the jeremiad—a long complaint that simultaneously castigates and inspires its audience—has become the symbol of a strain of American literature that continues into our own day.  In addition to his work on the Puritans, Professor Bercovitch produced many works of lasting significance on nineteenth-century American authors, including Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  His intellectual generosity knew no bounds, and essays demonstrating his influence on American literary scholarship by his many grateful readers, students, and colleagues can be found in Ashgate’s 2011 volume, The Turn Around Religion: Literature, Culture, and the Work of Sacvan Bercovitch. Saki’s unusual view of American literature was born in part of his having grown up as a Canadian Jew.  As an outsider—a status he always cherished–he could see more clearly than most what the “myth of America,” as he called it, was all about.  Friends and colleagues mourn the loss not only of a critical genius, but of a kind and compassionate man.

Sara Khan on the battle for British Islam

Following the attacks in Paris last week, one of the contributors to our book Sensible Religion, Sara Khan, spoke on the BBC Panorama programme ‘The Battle for British Islam’. The programme is available to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer.

Sara Khan is Director and Co-Founder of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation (NGO) working to counter extremism and gender inequality. Her chapter in Sensible Religion is entitled “Retrieving the equilibrium and Restoring Justice: Using islam’s egalitarian teachings to Reclaim women’s Rights”.

The chapter examines Islam’s teachings on women’s rights and the purpose of shariah as a dynamic and sophisticated process for establishing equilibrium, securing justice and serving the public interest. It also explores the dominance of a literal decontextualized and patriarchal interpretation of Islam’s religious texts which has influenced sections of Muslim thought. It outlines the historical and contemporary reality of some Muslims, in manipulating and misusing Islam for their own authority whether political, economic or social to those Muslims who through the combined use of modern day Islamic law and international human rights law have secured the rights of Muslim women.

Read the full text of the chapter in Sensible Religion here.

Claire Tomalin on Beryl Gray: ‘Dickensians will love her book’ (The Guardian, 2014)

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

‘[Beryl] Gray is an intelligent and sensitive reader of Dickens’s work and her arguments are worth following. Dickensians will love her book’, writes award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin, whose book The Invisible Woman (1990) was recently adapted into a biographical drama directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes.

The dog in the Dickensian imaginationTomalin’s review of Gray’s The Dog in the Dickensian Imagination, which appeared in the Guardian in December, is testament to Dickens’ enduring popularity, as well as to the growing fascination with animals and their representation in fiction and art. Gray’s book shows how Dickens’ works frequently engaged with dogs, both real and imagined, during an era where canine company was a common characteristic of urban and domestic life. The dogs that Dickens kept and encountered became intrinsic to the author’s literary vision and to his representations of nineteenth-century London.

Beryl Gray’s book is the latest to be published in The Nineteenth Century Series, edited by Joanne Shattock and Vincent Newey. It was launched on the 20th November at a private function in Lumen United Reform Church, a hop, skip and a jump away from Tavistock Square, which served as Dickens’ residence for several years. Shattock, who spoke at the launch, declared herself ‘delighted to see the book in print – with its arresting dust jacket and its sumptuous illustrations.’ She added, ‘we are very pleased to have this book in the Nineteenth Century series, where, unsurprisingly Dickens has featured prominently. Quoting Claire Tomalin’s point that Dickens saw the world more vividly than other people, Beryl Gray suggests he saw dogs more vividly than other people … Gray offers insightful readings of familiar texts, and many astute readings of the illustrations, showing the way novelist and illustrator worked together, and instances of where they did not.’

Greetings from the new Acquisitions & Marketing Executive for Aviation

Posted by Leigh Norwich, Acquisitions & Marketing Executive

Leigh NorwichI’m very pleased to introduce myself in my new role, as Acquisitions & Marketing Executive for Ashgate’s Aviation list! I’ve worked with Ashgate in both commissioning and marketing roles since 2008; I’ll now be acquiring Aviation titles and expanding the list into new areas. My dual role means that I’ll be collaborating with authors from the earliest stages of proposing a book, through to marketing and promotion—establishing a unique long-term publishing partnership.

For those of you who know Guy Loft: he’s not going anywhere! Guy will focus on developing our human factors and ergonomics list, though he’ll remain involved with the aviation list through the end of 2015.

I work from our US office in Burlington, Vermont, but I welcome new projects from around the world. Please send any book ideas or proposals to me at lnorwich@ashgate.com.  You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter (@theleighside).

I’ll be attending the 2015 A3IR conference in Phoenix, AZ, USA, 15-17 January, and invite anyone attending to stop by the Ashgate table and say hello. Whether in person or by email, I look forward to many interesting future conversations—and to exciting new Aviation books!

Tourism Books from Ashgate and Gower

Posted by Katy Crossan, Commissioning Editor

Our high quality Tourism list has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, with a strong focus on heritage tourism, tourism and culture and sustainable tourism. The study of tourism is inherently interdisciplinary and with this in mind we have brought together our key books on tourism research from across our social science, humanities and business publishing programmes in this new Tourism webpage to make it easier to navigate the titles and series we offer in this area.

Some recent book highlights include:

Tourism destination developmentTourism Destination Development (edited by Arvid Viken and Brynhild Granås, UiT – the Arctic University of Norway)

’If tourism’s formative power in the making of societies is acknowledged, few contributions take this point as comprehensively into social science as this impressive volume edited by Viken and Granås. Through critical thinking and theoretically informative case studies, readers are taken aboard reflexive and situated investigations of the plural and multiple ways in which tourist destinations develop.’   Jørgen Ole Bærenholdt, Roskilde University, Denmark

Volunteer tourismVolunteer Tourism (Mary Mostafanezhad, University of Hawai’i, Mānoa)

‘While excoriating volunteer tourism’s neoliberal underpinnings, this marvellous study also documents its transformative cosmopolitan hope for tourists, humanitarian organizations, and host communities that engage. A must read for anyone wanting to understand tourism’s potential for social justice, and why this is so difficult to achieve.’   Margaret Byrne Swain, University of California, Davis, USA

Travel tourism and artTravel, Tourism and Art (Edited by Tijana Rakić, Edinburgh Napier University and Jo-Anne Lester, University of Brighton)

‘Rakic and Lester have brought together a timely compendium of resources. In fifteen disciplinarily-diverse essays, the reader will learn about the historical, theoretical, and aesthetic dimensions of travel and culture. The anthology demonstrates that tourism and the arts are inextricably linked. A must-have for anyone interested in understanding how leisure is both meaningful and meaning making.’    Laurie Beth Clark, University of Wisconsin, USA