Off the Shelf: Book reviews from the editors of Research/Penn State

Michael Bezilla, Melissa Beattie-Moss and Sara Brennen
August 24, 2010
book cover of “the global grapevine”

Freedom's Facets

Lincoln's Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered (University of North Carolina Press)

Abolition is often understood through the lens of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. However, according to eminent historian Richard Hofstadter, the Proclamation itself "has all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading." What were Lincoln's true motives for issuing it? What place did he see for black men and women in the future American society?

Lincoln's Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered, a collection of essays by eight distinguished historians, deftly portrays the people and political forces that shaped the emancipation struggle. As a whole, the essays challenge conventional notions and highlight how slaves and freed black people contributed to their own freedom.

How freedoms are granted and taken away is still a hot-button topic, remind the book's editors, William A. Blair and Karen Younger, both of Penn State's Richards Civil War Era Center. "Emancipation remains a fertile subject for exploration," they write, "because Lincoln's is not the only story worth telling."

—Sara Brennen

book cover of “making poems”

Rooted in Fear

The Global Grapevine: Why Rumors of Terrorism, Immigration and Trade Matter (Oxford University Press)

The tangled web of fact and fiction swirling in the wake of Arizona's new immigration law should strike a familiar chord in Pennsylvania, say the authors of a new book about the role of rumors in American culture.

In The Global Grapevine, Bill Ellis, professor emeritus of English and American studies at Penn State Hazleton, and Gary Alan Fine, a sociologist at Northwestern, contend that Americans historically have perceived threats to their economy and culture from abroad. Cable television and the Internet have added a new dimension to how rumors are spawned and spread.

A hundred and fifty years ago in Pennsylvania's anthracite region, the authors write, it was the newly arrived Irish who were subject to rumors. In 2006 in the same region, Latino immigrants became the target. Rumors may contain fact and provide comfort in uncertain times, Ellis and Fine note, but they're also political dynamite and can lead to violence.

—Michael Bezilla

The Poets Speak

Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (University of North Carolina Press)

Todd Davis and Erin Murphy—both poets and English professors at Penn State's Altoona campus—invite forty poets to present one finished poem each and deconstruct the creative process behind it.

Penn State poets Robin Becker, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, and Julia Spicher Kasdorf are among those represented along with the editors themselves, and each brings fresh perspectives to such issues as the use autobiographical material as catalysts for poems, the importance of strategic line breaks, and the quest to write meaningfully about one's children's inner lives.

Making Poems is a welcome new work for all those interested in "not only poetry's gestation and birth, but also the parenting that follows, the revisions that help move poetry toward independence and finally into the world of publication."

—Melissa Beattie-Moss

Last Updated August 24, 2010