September 2011


Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Diane Paravazian, an assistant professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures and president of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French, writes:

When reflecting on an action, a decision, a challenge or a subject of relevance to a particular moment of my life, I often turn to Michel de Montaigne for he placed great importance on one’s judgment and felt that “our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately.” Considered by many as the inventor of the modern essay, Montaigne lived in a period not unlike our own age of information. There was in his time, the Renaissance, a sudden explosion of information and knowledge, especially from Greek and Roman antiquity, which was made accessible by the invention of the printing press. There were wars, religious divisions, and diseases such as the plague which killed nearly half of the inhabitants of the city of Bordeaux, where Montaigne served as magistrate in the Parliament. At age 38, Montaigne retired from public life and devoted himself to reading, contemplation and writing. He compiled the thoughts of major writers and with each edition of The Essays, gradually added more of his own reflections and experiences, developing them organically into a self-portrait. As Montaigne saw himself as an average specimen of a human being, his self-portrait, he thought, could serve as a study of mankind, the human condition. Indeed, the subjects of his essays cover so many aspects of being human: solitude, sleep, glory, fear, liars, virtue, cruelty, death, sadness, custom, books, repentance, cultural diversity and many others. His famous essays, “Of Friendship,” “Of Cannibals,” “Of the Education of Children,” “Of Coaches,” have a great deal to teach us today. As one of his biographer and translators, Donald Frame, has put it so well, Montaigne’s “greatest attraction for most readers is that the book reveals a man and that the man becomes a friend and often another self.”

The Queens campus library is kicking-off “Banned Books Week” with a challenged book exhibit on the 4th floor of St. Augustine Library; the display cases feature the top 10 titles from the most-challenged books of 2010 and a sampling of the 20-most-challenged novels of the 20th century.

Copies of  some of the books that made these lists are also available for check-out as well; see the bookshelves behind the 4th floor information desk (where you will also find our “leisure reading” books, part of the McNaughton Collection.)

Tote and T-shirt, Challenge map and QR code for contest

The Libraries are also hosting a virtual  “Challenged Book Challenge” where we ask you to indicate the reasons why books made it onto these most-challenged lists.  Participants in the challenge can be entered in a drawing for either a “Free your mind, read a banned book” t-shirt or a “I read banned books” tote bag, just provide some contact information on the last question of the challenge (click picture at left for enlarged photo).

We will be posting answers to the challenge questions next week, on our Banned Book/Intellectual Freedom LibGuide,  and hosting discussions on banned books, intellectual freedom and the social justice issues surrounding information access over the following two weeks, so save the dates now: Thursday October 6, from 2-3 pm and Wednesday October 12, from 5-6 pm.   Discussions to be held in St. Augustine Library, Room 305; All readers and discussants welcome!

Caution: The 10 most-challenged books for 2010

Caution: top-most-challenged novels of the 20th century

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Roderick Bush, an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, writes:

Black Reconstruction in America was written when W. E. B. Du Bois was  developing a new analysis of the world and the place of Black people in it inspired by Marxism and the world socialist movement, but transcending those movements in a manner that few could fathom at the time.  He was advocating a new strategy for social change on the basis of reconceptualizing the lessons of the past strategy of the NAACP.  Second it should be noted that the original title of the work was “Black Reconstruction of Democracy in America” (Lewis 2000:361).  Du Bois argues here not only against the intellectual apologists for slavery for the humanity of Black people, but undertakes a much more radical transformation of the intellectual landscape by a dramatic reshaping of our intellectual understanding of the shape of the social world, and the place of Black people in it.

Black Reconstruction in America reflects the most sophisticated analysis of the world capitalist system as a historical social system till that time and for the next 40 years when intellectuals associated with the national liberation movements in the periphery and with the New Left in the core states themselves began to assimilate the lessons that Du Bois had articulated in Black Reconstruction.   Like no other work of that time the book captures that particular moment as the  beginning of the quest of the United States for hegemonic status in the world-system and the implications of  that strategy for democracy within the U.S. and world racial order.  Thirdly Black Reconstruction addresses is the issue of revolutionary agency of the Southern rural strata which contradicts the Marxist dogma about the industrial proletariat against a so-called rural peasantry, and the Leninist dogma about the revolutionary party as the necessary transmitter of revolutionary ideas and methods of organization to the working class.

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.   

Dr. Laura Snyder –  an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department  and past president of the  International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science — writes:

One book I find myself returning to is George Eliot’s masterful Middlemarch.  Written in 1871-2, this epic novel charts the years leading up to the passage of the First Reform Bill in 1832, which initiated sweeping changes in the political and social structure of Britain.  Like all great literature, Middlemarch is a book to return to again and again.  In different periods of my life I have been struck by different facets of this book.  As a high school student, hoping to become a writer, I was amazed by the quality of the writing, the way that Eliot drew the reader into the age she depicted so vividly.  In graduate school, while beginning to work on Victorian era philosophy of science, I took note of the way in which science, and the new knowledge burgeoning in the time, is both revered and feared by the characters.  And most recently, when I reread the book after suffering the loss of a close family member, I was most drawn to another theme of the book: human relationships, and the way that passion can lead either to perdition or salvation. 

We have had a recent advisory from JSTOR, but it shouldn’t be too much of a disruption for our JSTOR regulars.  But do note, that if you normally export/email  a number of  articles at a time from JSTOR using  the “save my citations” feature, you will need to adjust during this time-period … you can still export/email articles individually or in bulk by using the “export Citation” link  or “email citation link”

“On Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10, JSTOR will be performing site maintenance that requires a “read-only” period for these two days. During this scheduled maintenance, users will be able to search, browse, and access and download PDF files for content in JSTOR. They will not be able to save citations, reset passwords, create or update MyJSTOR accounts, or purchase articles.”

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.   

Dr Frank Cantelmo —  an Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Department and an environmental expert for  the Vatican’s Observer at the United Nations  — writes:

One book that continues to influence and inspire me every single day is Listening to Nature: How to Deepen Your Awareness of Nature, by Joseph Cornell, with photographs by John Hendrickson.  This book is truly inspirational.  I often use it to set the stage and get the students in a more relaxed place so they can more easily assimilate the lecture material.  I have often taken my students on field trips, and it amazes me that so few actually “listen to nature.”  Like most of our society, they are so caught up with their own conversations that they do not take the time to sit quietly and absorb nature. 

Cornell’s book is arranged as a series of inspirational quotes by various poets, Native Americans, religious leaders and naturalists.  The quotes are generally followed by either an explanation or an activity so the quotation can be more readily understood and incorporated into one’s daily activities. 

The class seems to really appreciate the more relaxed, less stressful way that the ecological and environmental studies material can be initially introduced.  Students are so often caught up in “what do I have to do for a grade” that they miss the beauty and elegance of a more holistic approach to the ecological subject material.  Part of it is a challenge that falls directly in the students’ and professors’ academic laps.  They have to work together as a team in order to continue to make the educational experience rich and rewarding.