Category Archives: Authors

The history of intelligence and ‘intellectual disability’ – a guest post from C.F. Goodey

Posted by David Cota, Senior Marketing Coordinator

Enjoy this guest post from C.F. Goodey, author of A History of Intelligence and ‘Intellectual Disability’. Goodey’s book was chosen by our editors as having played a significant part in the building and reputation of our History publishing programme.

The conceptual history of learning disability (in North America it tends to be called “intellectual” or “developmental” disability) was not long ago a greenfield site. No one had thought there was anything to examine. There were books about the large Victorian institutions where people were incarcerated, but by its very existence this kind of historical research simply reinforced the concept as if it were just a matter of scientific fact what their psychological make-up was. Why should we take that for granted? Would a current list of its characteristics match those of several centuries ago? Go back far enough, and were there even any such people?

A History of Intelligence and Intellectual DisabilityI also wanted to see how this conceptual instability reflected back on our ideas about a specifically human intelligence. After all, intelligence is the main currency in which academic life trades. But history shows it to be as dodgy as money itself. Governments liberally fund “cognitive” geneticists to do pretend science with woolly concepts that have no place in a laboratory. And although a lot of fancy sociologists might agree up with me to a point, I wonder how far they think of their own intelligence as merely relative, and whether they aren’t trying to have their cake and eat it. In the history of ideas, deconstruction has to lead to reconstruction (of the past), which can therefore provide a much firmer basis for scepticism about present-day concepts in the human sciences.

My researches led me to the conclusion – a provisional one as ever, and a radical one I suppose – that these are status concepts and nothing else. The story about a subjective human intelligence and its opposite is usually thought of as starting with psychology as a formal discipline, in the mid-nineteenth century. Earlier, it has been traced at a remote philosophical level. But what was actually running around in people’s heads when they needed to massage their self-respect? I wanted to know how the idea of intelligence and the way in which it casts its own particular out-group emerged from the previous and different ways people had represented their status to themselves and to each other.

From around 1200 to 1700 you represented your social status in terms of honour, and your religious status in terms of God-given grace. Modern concepts of intelligence in the human and psychological sciences (and therefore the concept of intellectual disability) emerged more or less directly from these. The word “idiot” once meant any landless or lay person; and the church catechism, designed to exclude “reprobates”, turned into the IQ test, with a seamlessness easily traceable in the history of literacy of education. My research also led me to reconceive and rewrite the appropriate aspects of medical history.

I had two eureka moments. I had always been fascinated by the role of honour and grace in the Spanish Golden Age drama of Lope and Calderon. Why would people kill or die for the sake of what appear to us to be chimeras? It is easy enough to point out that these were examples of what the historian R.G.Collingwood called “absolute presuppositions”. But historians often choose to forget that he saw these as also involving an interaction with the present. Get to the bottom of past presuppositions, he said, and it may expose a current one. It was easy for me to think, in lazy constructionist fashion, that the concept of human intelligence is chimerical like that of honour or grace. But what I then realised was that in my mass of seemingly unconnected research notes from primary sources lay a clearly traceable, concrete historical development from those two presuppositions to our own. Was I just finding a pattern that I wanted to find? Time will tell.

The second eureka moment of reconstruction involved the classics. Another knee-jerk of mine had been to start with Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. It soon became clear that, read in context, these thinkers display no concept of a specifically human intelligence or indeed of intellectual disability as we would understand it. That was the easy part. What kept me awake at night was why in that case Aristotle would have said “Man is a rational animal”. Everyone in the middle ages claimed he did, and it was a principle that would eventually feed into the idea of a specifically human intelligence. Everything else about the primary sources was shouting at me that he couldn’t have said it. Yet commentators ancient and modern, including the Lexicon, even give a precise reference. My discovery that in this bit of text he was talking about something else entirely – about logical systems, not about psychology – and of several contemporary sources to back this up, was a major milestone in mapping out for me the foreignness of the past.

A couple of researchers have taken up my overall theme, though I suspect or perhaps merely hope that that it will take thirty or forty years for the ideas to penetrate. In the meantime, I keep putting out accessible materials for the general public and practitioners, and with some colleagues I run a WordPress site I keep applying for funds to do workshops with the public and to produce graphic and web-based materials – so far unsuccessfully, so if there is anyone reading this out there who might want to help ….

At the other end of the spectrum there were some humdrum aspects to my work that I also enjoyed – for example, my obsessive approach to self-help marketing. I wrote a standard blurb so that it wouldn’t look like spam, and sent posts to a couple of thousand relevant faculty members in universities across the world. Spending three summer weeks doing that was a relief for my brain – like frenziedly cleaning the house from top to bottom. The book, despite being a monster hardback, sold out its first print run in two years.

Anyone else out there who is thinking of putting a substantial amount of their research life into one large volume may encounter a few oddities. Some things you may not anticipate, including your own reactions to reviewers. Reviews, it turns out, do not divide into good and bad, they divide into (a) reviewers who have read your book and (b) those who haven’t, and/or (a) those who have understood it and (b) those who haven’t. After all your efforts, you will have no problem appreciating (a) over (b). This holds irrespective of the value they attach to your work. All my reviews were positive except one, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with several of the “good” ones as they were of type (b). The one mainly bad review ended up with intentional sarcasm: “Goodey has bitten off more than he can chew.” The moment I read that, I punched the air and went “Yesssss”. Of course I had bitten off more than I could chew. That is what real research is – any pathbreaking piece of work will be a very, very large bleeding chunk that drips all over the shop. I felt more justified by that one comment than by any review which praised it.

The other unexpected effect comes when you get quoted. It is quite normal for people just to stick your name in an article or book of their own at random, especially with Harvard referencing which is the most cock-eyed way of trying to contribute to human knowledge ever devised. What you may not be prepared for is how often people who cite you and who have read your book will interpret it as saying diametrically the opposite of what you actually said. Is it your own fault, for not having expressed yourself clearly enough? Perhaps, but don’t worry about it, because your prose style can be as clear as a pane of glass and they will still quote you as saying what they wanted you to say (received wisdom) rather than what you actually did say (which turns the world upside down). Put it down to human nature – there’s nothing else you could have done. Perhaps our geneticist friends can discover the reason.

If I were writing the book now, I would start by time-travelling to the future post-publication point where I realised what its logical consequences were and which I had failed to mention. Then I would go back and incorporate these in my writing plan. Absurd, of course. The lesson is: go for it. My screensaver during this period was a quotation from Napoleon. Asked if he attributed his victories to superior strategy, he claimed never to make any plans: “On s’engage, et puis, on voit.” Roughly speaking (military historians can correct me if necessary) he meant: What you have to do first is get stuck in – then take a look around.


Go to our History Editors’ Choices page for a full list of History titles that were selected by our editors.

A tour of Spanish Rome

Originally posted on Life at the BSR:

DSC_0605xxx Flagellation of Christ by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1516–24

Earlier this month, the staff and award-holders of the BSR were extremely fortunate to have been given a guided tour of the sites of sixteenth-century Spanish Rome in the company of BSR former award-holder, and expert on High Renaissance art and architecture in Rome, Dr Piers Baker-Bates (Rome Scholar 2002-3).

DSC_0593 xx Saint James by Jacopo Sansovino in Santa Maria di Monserrato, 1520

As we set off for Piazza Navona early in the morning, the heavy rain dampened no one’s enthusiasm and appetite to learn about the sites and commissions of Spanish power in Rome. Our first site of interest for the morning was San Giacomo degli Spagnoli. Behind an unassuming façade — which we learnt was really the back of the church — San Giacomo from the late-fifteenth century became the centre of the Spanish presence in Rome, functioning both as a place…

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Achsah Guibbory’s return to John Donne

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

It is, Achsah Guibbory says, an exciting time in Donne Studies. In the last decade, a great number of publications focusing on the English poet have materialised, with much critical attention paid to the production of new scholarly editions of Donne for the twenty-first century.

Ashgate has contributed significantly to this influx of contemporary Donne scholarship, notably with the publication of Frances Cruickshank’s Verse and Poetics in George Herbert and John Donne (2010), and Bodies, Politics and Transformations: John Donne’s Metempsychosis by Siobhán Collins (2013).

Returning to John DonneThe newest addition to this list is Returning to John Donne (2015), by Achsah Guibbory.  The book includes an original, substantive introduction and new essays on the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, the Songs and Sonnets, and the subject of Donne and toleration. It also showcases Guibbory’s most influential previously published work on Donne, with corrections, updates and scholarly reflections.

Guibbory’s work is and always has been historicist; she aims to locate Donne’s writings within various historical and cultural contexts. Nevertheless, the essays selected for this volume (those that she considers to be her most important) are united by an overarching concern to define what is distinctive and original about Donne. She writes:

‘Donne also feels very present, because his writing is so energetic, so alive, and he writes about what continues to matter: our yearning for love and intimacy, our desire to believe in – and feel connected with – something great and better than ourselves … his writing is intimate and direct, addressing the listening reader in a way that makes you feel he is speaking directly to you.’

Though his death was a full 384 years ago on the 31st March, Donne clearly continues to speak to and resonate with readers today.

Achsah Guibbory is a plenary speaker at the Reconsidering Donne conference in Oxford, 23-24th March 2015, with a paper entitled Not all Donne: The Significance of Donne’s Libertine Poetry. More information about her book Returning to John Donne, including contents and ordering information, is available on the Ashgate website.

Moshe Morad talks about Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba

Posted by Laura Macy, Senior Commissioning Editor

Fiesta de diez pesosMoshe Morad first visited Cuba in 1994. There he discovered a rich and thriving underground gay music scene. Multiple research trips over the next 12 years resulted in Fiesta de diez pesos: Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba, published in the SOAS Musicology series in December 2014.

In an announcement about the book on the SOAS website, Series Editor Professor Keith Howard said: ‘We’re delighted to announce Moshe’s fantastic work as the 53rd title in our Series. It’s a very strong piece and its inclusion demonstrates how the Series is going from strength to strength, showcasing cutting-edge research, including titles from many of the School’s music academics and alumni.’

Watch Dr Morad discuss his book on the Israeli news channel i24 News

About the Author: Moshe Morad is an ethnomusicologist, journalist and radio broadcaster, who has also presented ‘on location’ world music programmes on BBC Radio. His vast experience in the music industry includes managing the ‘Hemisphere’ world music label at EMI. He completed his PhD at SOAS, London, in 2013, following longitudinal fieldwork in Cuba.

Tara Brabazon on Digital Dieting

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Digital dietingIn 2013, Tara Brabazon authored Digital Dieting – From Information Obesity to Intellectual Fitness. Since its publication, this title has proven to be a significant contribution to the field of information and cultural management, and has cemented Tara as one of the foremost authors in the field.

Recognizing the success of this title, we asked the author a series of questions regarding her experience researching and writing Digital Dieting. She has kindly created an insightful podcast which allows listeners to learn more about her experience with Ashgate, the development of the book’s central themes, her intended contributions to the field, and her advice for anyone wanting to publish their own work.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Tara Brabazon has authored several Ashgate titles including most recently Thinking Popular Culture (2008), The University of Google (2007), and From Revolution to Revelation (2005).

Tara Brabazon is Professor of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt University, Australia.

New series: North American Literature and the Environment, 1600-1900 – call for proposals

We are seeking proposals for a new book series, North American Literature and the Environment, 1600-1900, edited by Matthew Wynn Sivils

Building on the growing interest in the environmental humanities, this series focuses on pre-1900 American literary culture – the themes, figures, and issues that emerged during this vital period.

Proposals are welcome for monographs and edited collections on nature writing, animal studies, environmental fiction, natural history, print culture, natural theology, ecocritical theory, gender studies, Native American culture, life writing, captivity narratives, slave narratives, maritime accounts, and other topics and approaches associated with the range of cultural production that stretched from Native American oral traditions to the dawn of the twentieth century. We especially encourage interdisciplinary projects, as well as those that take transnational and hemispheric approaches.

For more information on how to submit a book proposal to the series, please contact Ann Donahue, Publisher, Literary Studies.

About the series editorMatthew Wynn Sivils is Associate Professor of English at Iowa State University. A founding editor of the journal Literature in the Early American Republic, he is the author or editor of six books, including American Environmental Fiction, 1782–1847 and an edition of Alexander Posey’s life writing, Lost Creeks: Collected Journals.

In Praise of a Virtuous Woman – Louise Talma

This is a guest post from Kendra Leonard, author of Louise Talma: A Life in Composition

Louise TalmaAmerican composer Louise Talma (c.1906–1996), herself a strong-willed and independent woman, often celebrated those qualities in others, dedicating many of her pieces to the women who had made a difference in her life and in the lives of other artists. Recipients of such dedications included music pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, MacDowell Colony co-founder Marian MacDowell, and singer Geraldine Marwick. One of Talma’s last works was a setting for female voices and piano of Proverbs 31:10–30, “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman,” which was composed in the autumn of 1990 at the MacDowell Colony. While the piece is dedicated to Virginia Davidson and  the Treble Singers, it celebrates all women.

“Who can find a virtuous woman?” asks the text. “Her price is above rubies.” Beginning with simple melodic lines  in the two vocal parts—a soprano and alto—and a spare and elegant counterpoint in the piano, Talma’s music becomes increasingly more complex and densely textured as the four-minute piece progresses. The two voices sometimes declaim together, in unison, and sometimes engage in dialogue, mirroring one another’s lines, or offering supporting harmonies to each other. As the soprano sings of the word women do—“She layeth her hands to the spindle…she layeth her hands to the needy…she worketh willingly with her hands,”—the alto recites the names of hard-working and strong women from the Bible: Martha, Ann, Mary, and Elizabeth.

At the end of the piece, Talma sets the text “she shall rejoice in time to come” at the very top of the soprano’s singing range, an exultation bolstered by the altos, who for the first time split from singing together as a single voice as if to show that two melodic lines aren’t enough for all of the praise a virtuous woman is due, and sing in parallel fourths, creating the sound of an organ. As the singers call for the praise of the virtuous woman, Talma gives the piano a fast and chromatic passage that suggests that while women should and will be praised, their work and lives are more difficult and complicated than the words would have the listener believe. Talma’s setting of “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman” is itself a challenging work, apt praise for the women of Talma’s life who met and exceeded the boundaries and roadblocks presented to them because of their sex.

Kendra Preston LeonardAbout the Author: Kendra Preston Leonard is a musicologist whose work focuses on women and music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; music and screen history; and music and disability. She is the author of The Conservatoire Américain: a History and received the inaugural Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music for her work on Louise Talma