June 2008

Faculty Books Hit the Shelves in Time for Summer


In a host of recently released books, GW faculty authors are tackling new territory—whether its drawing parallels between disability and gay and lesbian studies, exploring one’s own personal past through poetry, probing the mind of a terrorist, or examining privacy concerns unleashed by the Internet.

Associate Professor of English Robert McRuer was researching and writing about lesbian and gay studies—or “queer theory”—and AIDS cultural theory when he was asked by a member of his local reading group to explore the connections between queer theory and disability studies. The result, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (NYU Press) was a nominee for a Lamba Literary Foundation Award and winner of the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award, given annually by the Modern Language Association’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus.

The connections McRuer found between homosexuality and disabilities include a history of being labeled deviant, a desire to challenge what is considered socially “normal,” and a “shared tension” of advocating for both social acceptance and change of societal norms.

McRuer says he hopes readers of his book are left with an understanding of how homosexuality and disability are connected and how the emphasis on “heterosexuality and able-bodiedness” is being challenged. McRuer often discusses these ideas with students in his five classes, an opportunity he deems “dynamic.”

Professor of English Jane Shore’s newest book of poetry, A Yes-or-No-Answer (Houghton Mifflin), explores how her memories of growing up above her parent’s dress shop in New Jersey resonate with her current life as a parent and member of the baby-boomer generation. The book takes its name from the poem title, in which Shore asks a series of rhyming questions with the refrain. “Please answer the question yes or no.” The other poems chronicle the emotional collision of Shore’s past and future as she watches her daughter examine her old clothes and childhood diary.

Although she had always had a pen in hand, it wasn’t until Shore was in her 30s that she began publishing poetry about her past. “Things I never thought I could write about presented themselves as possible for poetry,” says Shore, who came to GW in 1989 as a Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington. Shore received the 1977 Juniper Prize for her first book of poems, Eye Level; the 1986 Lamont Poetry Prize for her second book, The Minute Hand; and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her third book, Music Minus One. A Yes-or-No-Answer was reviewed in April by National Public Radio’s Alan Cheuse.

Shore currently teaches poetry and advanced writing classes at the University and says she finds a great balance between teaching and writing. “When I’m not writing, I get to read poetry daily and share something with my students that is my first love and at the core of my nature and interests,” she says. “What could be more wonderful then waking up, going to work, and getting to talk about what you love the most with people who really want to talk about it?”

Professor of Political Psychology and International Affairs Jerrold Post explores the psyche and motives that drive terrorism in his book The Mind of the Terrorist: The Psychology of Terrorism from the IRA to Al-Qaeda (Palgrave Macmillan).

“My book attempts to lead the reader into ‘the mind of the terrorist’ through the terrorists’ own words,” says Post, a 21-year veteran of the CIA and founding director of the agency’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. “Contrary to popular belief, terrorists are not deranged fanatics but, in their cultural context, are ‘normal.’” Post uses in-depth interviews, research, and memoirs of terrorists to analyze their mentality and motivation and takes an historical look at three types of terrorist: national separatist, social revolutionary, and religious extremist.

Post says the book stems from his desire to understand the basis for man’s inhumanity to man. “Helping decipher what leads ordinary people to commit extraordinary evil, to righteously kill innocents in the name of their cause, is a question of burning significance, one I hope to some degree my book helps illuminate,” he says. “And it is only by understanding the psychology of terrorism and genocide that we can hope to devise rational policies to counter them.”

In The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press), GW Law School Professor Daniel J. Solove, explores how popular online sites and search engines, such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube, can make private information public to millions of strangers.

“I was inspired to write The Future of Reputation when I began blogging several years ago,” says Solove, who recently published another book on privacy, Understanding Privacy (Harvard University Press). “I was amazed at the power of the Internet to allow anybody to spread information so quickly and so widely around the world. But in addition to information about ideas, politics, and other topics, people are also using this technology to spread personal information about themselves and others.”

An internationally recognized expert in privacy law, Solove balances real examples of video, e-mails, and blogs with historical references and his own opinion on the role of law. Solove says it is important for readers to educate themselves about the widespread reach and effects of the Internet and to understand the tension between free speech and privacy.

“It will increasingly be possible to find out intimate details about people’s lives by doing a Google search on their name,” he says. “In the book, I aim to spark a discussion about how the Internet is transforming gossip, rumor, and shaming in ways that will have profound effects on the future of society.”

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