Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting publishing.

Today: Is it possible to be taken seriously as a scholar if you use exclamation points?

Less snooty than the semicolon, less trendy than the hashmark, the exclamation point labors in the disreputable quarters of the written word: romance novels, tabloid headlines, and marketing and advertising. A journalism school would throw you out the day you turned in an assignment with an exclamation point, even if your avowed career goal was to write for Us magazine or the many sub-Us, frontal lobe damaged-only readerships represented in the supermarket checkout line.

An exclamation point should … have a very special point to make,” says William Germano. A good general rule. Alas, inviting the average writer to identify his/her own special points is asking for trouble, and a lot of exclamation points. Look at how some academics abuse italics.

Editors, sensing the potential for exclaimophilia, defend an unwritten cultural rule that keep the point out of virtually all the manuscripts that pass their desks. Based on my own unscientific study, an exemption to the rule is allowed only if:

• A scholar discusses the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert;

• Or writes in the voice of an excited Spaniard, to wit: “¡Mi aerodeslizador esta lleno de anguilas!”;

• Or analyzes the 1970s sitcom What’s Happening!! (note, the two exclamation points are intentional);

• Or holds a university’s Distinguished Chair of Infomercials, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms;

• Or writes about the accordion, as with Marion Jacobson’s recent UIP book Squeeze This!. Because there is no subdued way to discuss accordions.

Even scholars who employ dialogue to present their material have to pass on the e-point. The tyranny of convention forces him/her to present dialogue in respectable, Spock-like tones, regardless of the enthusiasm or rage being expressed. Their subjects may be said to exclaim, yell, howl, even ejaculate—as long as they do it with a period or question mark at the end of the sentence.

Is it time to loosen up the restriction? Should the exclamation mark have a place in our high- to middlebrow writing, if used sparingly?

We live in an age of running a democracy 140 keystrokes at a time. Thus, I argue the exclamation point offers a fantastically economical method of getting across a wide range of emotions with one tap of the left pinky finger in combination with however you hold down the SHIFT key. Furthermore, it barely takes up space on the line.

Hard-pressed publishers know every extra page they have to print and bind (and proof and design) costs money. To illustrate the profitability of the e-point, let’s use an example from a make-believe academic title called The Educated Cat, an in-depth exploration of cutting-edge research into feline intelligence, here illustrated with a cover from the web site Awful Library Books.

educated cat

Such a book might include this sentence:

We will elaborate the phenomenon Object Normal Posture Displacement with Resulting Collaborative Reparative Behaviors Commencing in a Loud Momentarily Panic-Inducing Episode, or LMPIE.

An exclamation point, along with slight copy editing, turns the paragraph into more affordable-to-print text, such as:

Here’s why cats always make half-full water glasses go CRASH!

Now that’s some accessible scholarship.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should declare my prejudices, in order to allow others to better make their own judgments.

I favor the return of the exclamation point because I became a habitual reader via comic books. Whereas respectable children progressed from Dr. Seuss to Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys to Watership Down, I started at Richie Rich/Casper and worked my way through Archie and into Marvel Comics. Only then did I become interested in books without ads for X-ray glasses. Now that I think about it, I don’t think Marvel Comics used anything but exclamation points and question marks. It makes sense, I guess. The average superbeing lives a high action life. Though even when a beverage break enters a story there isn’t a period to be found:

hulk coffee











Granted, you can’t expect the Hulk to speak in a normal voice. He has super-lungs and he’s bound to get over-excited, as any being that regressed takes primal urges like eating and drinking very seriously. But, realistically, who gets jacked about serving coffee? No one at the places I go to, I’ll tell you that.

As a publishing professional, I have to accept the exclamation point’s marginalized position in the industry. Even in the far-sighted UIP marketing shop, we endeavor to keep up a level of decorum befitting an institution dedicated to the pursuit/accumulation of knowledge. But let’s face facts. The world keeps speeding up. Soon no one will have time for: “Enough talk,” the Hulk declared. “Time to drink.” On that day, we’ll welcome back the exclamation point as the perfect punctuation for an ever-more-breathless age.

EllerF14Many a high school English student has turned to a video of the 1950s film adaptation of Moby-Dick when faced with writing a report on lengthy sea tale. The plot details may remain mostly the same, but the movie version has as much to do with a more contemporary American novelist as it does with Herman Melville.

In 1953, up and coming writer Ray Bradbury was approached by director John Huston to pen the screenplay for legendary filmmaker’s adaptation of Melville’s great american novel.

Why did Huston tap the author of The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 to be a rookie screenwriter for what would be a tricky adaptation?

In the video below, Ray Bradbury Unbound author Jonathan R. Eller tells the story of how Bradbury came to write the screenplay for Huston’s Moby Dick, which is detailed in the book.

Eller is a Chancellor’s Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, the senior textual editor of the Institute for American Thought, and director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI. His previous book, Becoming Ray Bradbury, was a runner-up for the 2011 Locus Award for best nonfiction book in the science fiction and fantasy field.

ChavezF13How are queerness and immigration linked?

Karma R. Chávez, author of Queer Migration Politics:  Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities, sees many commonalities and barriers for activists in both these communities.

“One of the things you really see over the last twenty years is a focus on issues that don’t really challenge the structures of the U.S. nation state, for example, but that sort of just ask to belong into it,” Chávez says. “You have to fashion yourself in such a way so that the system will find you acceptable.”

On the Fembot Collective’s Books Aren’t Dead podcast Chávez says that living in the Southwest 2003 to 2008 prompted her interest in linking her scholarship and activism.

“You can’t live in Arizona and not be be really compelled by the need to be an immigration advocate or activist,” Chávez tells Magie Ramírez.

Name one other banjo player who wears Prada. And I don’t mean Prada overalls.
—Natalie Maines

The lead singer of the breakout bluegrass trio the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, was born on October 14, 1974.

The singer joined the Dixie Chicks in 1995, replacing original lead vocalist Laura Lynch.  Murphy Hicks Henry writes about the evolution of the group, and their impact on the music industry in her book Pretty Good for a Girl.

The first book devoted entirely to women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl documents the lives of more than seventy women and seven decades of music history.

Read an excerpt about The Dixie Chicks from Pretty Good for a Girl on




BerenbaumUniversity of Illinois press author and professor of entomology May Berenbaum has been awarded the National Medal of Science.

The Medal is the nation’s highest honor for “achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology.”

May Berenbaum’s publication history with University of Illinois Press goes back to 1989 with the award-winning Ninety-nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers. She followed up in 1993 with Ninety-nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers and, more recently the edited the more appetizingly titled Honey, I’m Homemade.

Professor Berenbaum and other honorees will receive their medals at a White House ceremony later this year.

Cover for HENRY: Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass. Click for larger imageTo coincide with this month’s International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, North Carolina, we are offering eBook versions of four University of Illinois Press music titles on sale for $2.99. The sale will run through October 31.

Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass by Murphy Hicks Henry
The first book devoted entirely to women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl documents the lives of more than seventy women whose vibrant contributions to the development of bluegrass have been, for the most part, overlooked. Drawing from extensive interviews, well-known banjoist Murphy Hicks Henry gives voice to women performers and innovators throughout bluegrass’s history. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Thompson: Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery. Click for larger imageRing Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery by Katrina Dyonne Thompson
In this ambitious project, historian Katrina Thompson examines the conceptualization and staging of race through the performance, sometimes coerced, of black dance from the slave ship to the minstrel stage. She shows how these performances informed white European and American understandings of race, influenced interactions between whites and blacks, and often held conflicting meanings in enslaved people’s lives. Drawing on travel journals, slave narratives, popular literature, and historical sources, Thompson explicates how black dance was used by whites to justify enslavement, perpetuate the existing racial hierarchy, and mask the brutality of the domestic slave trade. Whether on slave ships, at the auction block, or on plantations, whites often used coerced performances to oppress and demean the enslaved. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Adler: Bean Blossom: The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals. Click for larger imageBean Blossom: The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals by Thomas A. Adler
Widely recognized as the oldest continuously running bluegrass music festival in the world, this June festival’s roots run back to late 1951, when Monroe purchased the Brown County Jamboree, a live weekly country music show presented between April and November each year. Over the years, Monroe’s festival featured the top performers in bluegrass music, including Jimmy Martin, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, the Goins Brothers, the Stanley Brothers, and many more. Thomas A. Adler’s history of Bean Blossom traces the long and colorful life of the Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festival. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Dickens: Working Girl Blues: The Life and Music of Hazel Dickens. Click for larger imageWorking Girl Blues: The Life and Music of Hazel Dickens by Hazel Dickens and Bill C. Malone
Hazel Dickens was an Appalachian singer and songwriter known for her superb musicianship, feminist country songs, union anthems, and blue-collar laments. Working Girl Blues presents forty original songs that Hazel Dickens wrote about coal mining, labor issues, personal relationships, and her life and family in Appalachia. Conveying sensitivity, determination, and feistiness, Dickens comments on each of her songs, explaining how she came to write them and what they meant and continue to mean to her. Bill C. Malone’s introduction traces Dickens’s life, musical career, and development as a songwriter. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.


Davis_NegroS14The UIP book Beyond the White Negro: Empathy and Anti-Racist Reading by Kimberly Chabot Davis has won the 2014 Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize, sponsored by the New England American Studies Association (NEASA).

The book focuses on how white engagement with African American cultural texts can lead to empathy between races.

The award will be presented to the author at the association’s annual conference on October 18, 2014

Read an interview with Kimberly Chabot Davis about Beyond the White Negro here.

LucanderF14David Lucander is a professor of history at SUNY Rockland Community College. He recently answered some questions about his UIP book Winning the War for Democracy: The March on Washington Movement, 1941-1946.

Q: What was the March on Washington Movement (MOWM)?

David Lucander: The March on Washington Movement was an organization founded by A. Philip Randolph in 1941 for the purpose of staging an assembly in D.C. to pressure President Franklin Roosevelt into taking a stronger against segregation and racism. The Roosevelt Administration saw this as a potential national embarrassment, and White House officials worked to thwart the march. In exchange for Executive Order 8802, which mandated defense contractors in the “arsenal of democracy” to practice non-discrimination in personnel decisions, Randolph called off the demonstration. Although securing the anti-discrimination clause was an important gain, many of MOWM’s demands remained unfulfilled. Seeking to capitalize on its early momentum, the organization remained intact for the duration of the war and became a leading voice in the struggle for civil rights. Continue reading

HendricksF13Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race by Wanda A. Hendricks has been selected as one of this year’s winners of the Letitia Woods Brown Book Award for best work by a senior scholar.

The award is presented by the Association of Black Women Historians to award “the best book in the field of African American history published this year.”

Hendricks’s biography tells the story of activist and reformer Fannie Barrier Williams (1855–1944), who became one of the most prominent educated African American women of her generation.

Award Committee Chair Lopez Matthews says of Fannie Barrier Williams, “The book illuminates the life of a race woman whose education placed her within the pantheon of black intellectual culture. Principally a lone woman among men her notable achievements are well known but until now have not been fully explored. This book makes an immeasurable contribution to the African American women’s history.”


rosenberg photoTonight, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) will induct folklorist, musician, bluegrass historian, and University of Illinois Press author Neil V. Rosenberg into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame at its awards show in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rosenberg currently serves as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. With the IBMA honor, Rosenberg adds to a meritorious career that includes a 1997 Grammy Award and the Marius Barbeau Medal for lifetime achievement given by the Folklore Studies Association of Canada. As the IBMA notes:

Neil Rosenberg specializes in the study of contemporary folk music traditions, investigating the ways in which popular music interacts with local and regional folk music traditions, and examining processes of cultural revival. Rosenberg conducts research in Canada and the United States, focusing upon the lives and music of professional, semi-professional and amateur old-time, bluegrass, country and folk musicians. A performing musician since childhood, Rosenberg utilizes his skills and experiences in bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, classical and experimental music to gain a closer understanding of the processes he studied. His books include Bluegrass: A History, the definitive work on the genre, which was reprinted with a new preface for its 20th Anniversary Edition in 2005. Other books include Transforming Tradition, a collection of studies on North American folk music revivals; and Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words, co-authored with photographer Carl Fleischhauer of the Library of Congress. In 1996 he began working with the late Charles Wolfe on The Music of Bill Monroe, a bio-discography published in 2007 that updates and expands his long out-of-print Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys: An Illustrated Discography. He has published over sixty articles and review essays. In 1981 he originated the column “Thirty Years Ago This Month” in Bluegrass Unlimited, and wrote it until 1993.

For those eager to listen in, the IBMA Awards Show will be broadcast live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio (Bluegrass Junction), streamed live at, and syndicated to more than 300 U.S. markets and 14 foreign networks.