Columbia Ink: Summer 2015

July 20, 2015

Mathematics Without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation
By Michael Harris
Princeton University Press

What do pure mathematicians do and why do they do it? Harris, a professor of mathematics, draws on scholarly, journalistic and pop culture sources to answer that question and create an eclectic portrait of the lives, values, hopes and fears of mathematicians in the 21st century. Drawing on his personal experiences and obsessions as well as the thoughts and opinions of mathematicians dating back to Archimedes, Harris takes readers on a guided tour of the mathematical life, from its reflections in film and popular music to the mathematical and mystical traditions of Russia, India, medieval Islam, the Bronx and beyond.


On Elizabeth Bishop
By Colm Tóibín
Princeton University Press

Tóibín, the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities, offers a deeply personal introduction to the American poet Elizabeth Bishop, creating a compelling double portrait that will interest readers of both writers. Ranging across her poetry, prose and letters, Tóibín creates a vivid picture of Bishop while also revealing how her work—including her experiences of loss and exile—has helped shape his sensibility as a novelist. Blending biography, literary appreciation and descriptions of Tóibín’s travels to places where Bishop lived, On Elizabeth Bishop provides a memorable look at a beloved poet and gives readers a window into the mind of one of today’s most acclaimed novelists.


Miniature Metropolis: Literature in an Age of Photography and Film
By Andreas Huyssen
Harvard University Press

Huyssen, the Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature, explores the history and theory of metropolitan miniatures: short prose pieces about the experiences of urban life written for European newspapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which he considers a significant achievement of literary modernism. Huyssen shows how writers from Baudelaire and Kafka to Benjamin, Musil and Adorno created the miniature to record their reflections of Paris, Brussels, Prague and other cities and capture the visceral feelings of acceleration and compression that defined urban existence. These works, he argues, challenged the easy understanding and entertainment expected of mass circulation newspapers.


The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire
By Susan Pedersen
Oxford University Press

In this work of global history, Pedersen illuminates the role the League of Nations played in creating the modern world when, at the end of World War I, the Allies agreed to create 14 territories across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Tracing the system from its 1920 creation until its 1939 demise, the James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum examines its workings from the perspective of international diplomacy; League officials; and local struggles within the territories. The narrative sweeps across the globe, but always returns to Switzerland and the sometimes-vicious battles over independence and sovereignty.


Mediators: Aesthetics, Politics, and the City
By Reinhold Martin
University of Minnesota Press

Martin’s new book is a series of linked meditations on the globalized city. Focusing on infrastructure as well as technical and social systems, Martin, a professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, explores how the aesthetics and political economy of cities overlap and interact. He discusses a range of subjects, including aspects of urban policy and the city/country divide. For Martin, these topics and others help to explain the disparate fragments of global urbanity. Mediators is part of the Forerunners: Ideas First series, which draws on scholarly work in notable blogs, social media, conferences, journal articles and academic exchange.


Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League
By Dan-El Padilla Peralta
Penguin Press

Throughout his youth, Padilla navigated two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and mother, and the elite halls of Collegiate, a Manhattan private school where he immersed himself in books. In this memoir, the Mellon Research Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and lecturer in Classics joins the debate over immigration reform by writing of his journey from homeless undocumented immigrant to the top of his class at Princeton. It was there that he revealed his status as undocumented in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before giving the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at commencement.