During the American version of the 1997 Labor Day weekend, shocking news interrupted the barbeques. Princess Diana had died in a Paris car crash. One of the world’s most visible women, Diana replaced everything in the news for days, and her death remains for many one of the “I-remember-what-I-was-doing-when-I-heard” moments that dot our lives. Indeed, Princess Diana’s death unleashed an international outpouring of grief, love, and press attention virtually unprecedented in history.

What narrative of white femininity transformed Diana into a signifier of both national and global popularity? What ideologies transform her into an idealized woman of the millennium? Why would a similar idealization not have appeared around a non-white, non-Western, or immigrant woman?

Raka Shome investigates. In Diana and Beyond, Shome explores how images of white femininity in popular culture intersect with issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, and transnationality in the performance of Anglo national modernities.

Digging into the media and cultural artifacts that circulated in the wake of Diana’s death, Shome investigates  issues surrounding motherhood and the production of national masculinities, global humanitarianism, the intersection of fashion and white femininity, and spiritual and national modernity. The result is a fearless and fascinating explanation of the late princess’s never-ending renaissance and ongoing cultural relevance.

haddixOn August 29, 1920 Charles Parker, Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kansas.

As Chuck Haddix writes in Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, the jazz icon’s launching pad was a home of two faces; an environment that tempted flight.

Charlie “Bird” Parker grew up in Kansas City, a community divided against itself by the Kansas-Missouri state line. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Charlie came of age musically while hanging around the alleyways behind the nightclubs that lined Twelfth Street in Kansas City, Missouri. The two Kansas Cities were, culturally and politically, worlds apart. Kansas City, Kansas, established by the Wyandotte Indians, faced its larger counterpart Kansas City, Missouri, across the Kaw Valley at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. Bassist Gene Ramey summed up the difference between the two Kansas Cities during the 1920s and 1930s. “Kansas was a dry state in the days I’m talking of, but Missouri was wide open,” Ramey explained. “People who lived in Kansas went over to Missouri and raised hell. It was like some people say of New York–a place to go and have fun in, and then you get on out.”

Parker did “get out,” and not just across the border. After departing for New York City at a young age Bird became a leading light in the urban jazz scene that pioneered bebop­. But Charlie Parker was not a wholesome Midwesterner that got caught up in the Big City. He had developed a heroin addiction by the time he was sixteen. It’s a side of the jazz pioneer’s life that many in his hometown did not want to celebrate.

Parker’s failings aside, the impact the saxophonist had on American music is unmistakable. As a result, Bird’s birthplace is now embracing their native son and Haddix is helping to lead the charge.

Kansas City for the second year held their Charlie Parker Celebration, with panel discussions, music student “boot camps” and plenty of live jazz.

At the 2014 Celebration and again this year, Haddix conducted bus tours of Kansas City sites associated with Parker. The author also headed up some panels to trace the threads of Parker’s musical genius.

“Bird” may have flown away from Kansas City but his nest has never been more welcoming.



parry-giles fullWe are pleased to announce that Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics by Shawn J. Parry-Giles has won the 2015 Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award, given by the National Communication Association’s Public Address Division.

The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to scholarship in public address.

The award committee stated they were impressed by “the clarity and consistency of argument sustained throughout the book. With so much scholarship published about Hillary Clinton, it’s difficult to say something new. Not only does [the] book manage to do that, but the argument is salient to current media coverage of Clinton. The committee believes that this book deserves and will quickly earn a spot on the short list of key academic studies of Hillary Clinton.”

The award will be given during the NCA’s 101st annual convention in Las Vegas, November 20.

Read a Q&A with author Shawn Parry-Giles about Hillary Clinton in The News here.

MHAlogoThe University of Illinois Press is welcoming the Journal of Mormon History as the newest addition to the journals program.

The Mormon History Association (MHA) is currently in its 50th year and the Journal of Mormon History is celebrating 41 years of publication.

UIP Acquisitions Editor Dawn Durante attended the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association held in Provo, Utah this spring.  It was a a fitting return, as former editor Liz Dulany, whose influence is strongly felt among the MHA community, began building ties with MHA and the Illinois Press in the 1980′s.

In June, Dawn wrote on this very blog, “UIP was a participant in the MHA meetings for decades. After circumstances led to missing the meeting for the last few years, UIP was delighted to return to the flagship meeting for one of its publishing strengths.”

Mormon Studies continues to be a strong list for the Press.  Recently published titles such as The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography by Michael Hicks, the MHA Award-winning Kirtland Temple by David J. Howlett, and the forthcoming The Mormon Church and Blacks, edited by Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst have been strong additions to the Press catalog.

Director Laurie Matheson says, “Illinois has been publishing in Mormon history since the mid-1980s, and we are thrilled to build on our commitment to the field by taking on publication of the Journal of Mormon History. This partnership between the Press and the MHA will secure a lasting foundation for the broader dissemination of excellent scholarship in Mormon history.”

The first Journal of Mormon History issue published in partnership with the University of Illinois Press will released in April 2016.

You can follow MHA on Facebook and on Twitter @MormonHistAssoc.

BynumF10This day in 1925, activist A. Philip Randolph led the organization of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a campaign Randolph declared nothing less than “a significant landmark in the history and struggle of the Negro workers in America.” For Randolph personally, it offered the chance for him to test his ideas on the relationship between his socialist beliefs and the race problems he had dedicated his life to solving.

As Cornelius L. Bynum shows in his book Philip A. Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights, the African American workers mostly eschewed big picture concerns. They wanted relief from exploitation and indignity:

[N]ot only were porters poorly compensated for the services they provided, but they were also required to work long hours. In addition to the duties they performed during the day attending to passengers’ needs, on long trips porters were expected to be equally available to passengers at night. In many instances, this meant that they got little or no sleep. For the four hundred hours of road service it required porters to put in each month, Pullman paid an average wage of only $78.11. A significant portion of porters’ time went to preparing Pullman cars before passengers arrived for boarding and cleaning up the cabins after each trip. Yet, they were not paid for this time.

Likewise, they were not paid for layovers on long trips or for return trips to their home stations when no passengers were riding in their cars, a procedure called “deadheading.” Porters were also expected to provide their own meals and sleeping quarters on overnight runs. While services like shoe shining were part of a porter’s job, each man was responsible for supplying his own polish, brushes, and clothes.

Working conditions and compensation were even worse for the two hundred or so maids that Pullman employed during this period. According to a pamphlet titled “The Pullman Porter” . . . Pullman maids received a minimum wage of only $70 a month. While the average porter earned on average about $58 a month in tips to supplement his paycheck, opportunities to earn tips for Pullman maids were “necessarily limited.” Even though they like porters were frequently required to make overnight runs, Pullman made no sleeping provisions for its maids, and maids were given even “shorter rest periods than porters on the same run.”

GradelS15Some might say it is just a drop in a very deep and very full bucket but lawmakers in Illinois state government have taken at least one measure to amend a cycle of political malpractice among elected officials.

On Friday, August 21, 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 4025 into law. The bill was passed on May 30, 2015 by both houses of the state Legislature.

Effective January 1, 2016, the bill requires at least one semester of civics for students to graduate from high school in Illinois. It is the first of many prescriptive measures suggested by Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson in their book Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality.

In Corrupt Illinois the authors explain the connection between education and the ethical lapses of the state’s officials:

Ethics, the cost of corruption, and its cure should also be taught explicitly in our schools. The Illinois Task Force on Civic Education in May 2014 recommended that civics should again be a required course in Illinois schools; that social-studies standards be revised to provide civic skills, including news literacy; that students should be required to do service-learning projects in eighth and twelfth grades; that teachers of civics should be licensed and be provided continuing professional development programs; and that efforts should be made in schools to encourage voter registration and voting.

After a generation, as these school children who benefit from these new civic-education programs become adults, they will form a new electorate that, hopefully, will be motivated to take the necessary steps to transform the culture of corruption.

Continue reading

WilliamsF14Tami Williams has received the 2015 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Research in the Humanities Award for her book Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations.

The UWM Office of Research & Graduate School, in announcing the award noted of Williams:

The 2014 publication of Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations established Tami Williams as the world’s leading authority on the first feminist filmmaker.

The first full-length historical study and critical biography of Dulac is the product of an ambitious research undertaking critics have called “astounding.” Williams draws upon a massive amount of primary source material, including Dulac’s personal papers, production files, and archival film prints.

Published in the Women and Film History International series, Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations explores the artistic and sociopolitical currents that shaped Dulac’s approach to cinema and also examines the groundbreaking techniques and strategies she used to critique conservative notions of gender and sexuality.


In the 1800s, crowds flocked to watch balloon ascensions for many of the same reasons they go to stock car races. You got to see an odd vehicle do amazing things, and there was always a fair chance of witnessing a crash. Recent days have seen the anniversary of the first balloon mail flights while today we observe the first ascension to reach 100,000 feet (1957) and the birth of zillionaire balloon enthusiast Malcolm Forbes (1919).

Octave Chanute, aeronautics pioneer and subject of Simine Short’s acclaimed biography Locomotive to Aeromotive, took inspiration from the balloonists he saw as a young man. As the saying goes, people came from miles around to oggle a man defying gravity to take his place among the birds, the clouds, and—if he was unlucky—the obituary pages. Chanute paid at least two bits for a ticket, too, though unlike the other gawkers, he later made history:

In the mid-1850s, Silas M. Brooks popularized ballooning in Illinois and Iowa. On July 25, 1856, the Peoria Weekly Republican carried the following advertisement: “The citizens of Peoria and surrounding country are respectfully informed that Mr. S. M. Brooks, the great American Aeronaut, who has made more successful voyages throughout the heavens than any other man living, will have the honor of ascending in his Mammoth Balloon, the Hercules, from this city on Thursday, 31 July 1856. Admission 25 cents. Raised seats 50 cents.”

The Illinois Gazette from Lacon, Illinois, reported that Brooks set up a large circus tent, filled with about four thousand paying spectators, and began with a lecture on aeronautics, followed by the balloon being inflated. After releasing the ropes, “away heavenward the great Hercules went. As he rose from the ground, the Professor bade his audience ‘good night’ and majestically ascended.” The balloon landed about four miles to the east, and Brooks brought it back to Peoria. Brilliant fireworks finished the entertainment, with Chanute and other rowing club members most likely part of the enthralled crowd. With balloons the only craft capable of flight in those days, any ballooning event could have triggered Chanute’s interest in aeronautics.

LevineThough the cupcake craze of recent years has abated somewhat, random organizations still want to give us excuses to eat these delicious items. We thank them. Yet the true date of National Cupcake Day remains in flux, with different declarations noting different days for us to get thee to a bakery and inhale a frosted delight or two. One such day is today.

Note that the UIP takes no stand on which cupcake day to celebrate. That is to say, we advocate celebrating all of them, or even making every day National Cupcake Day. Our recent release, Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn, in the meantime, offers your mind the frosting and sprinkles it needs to make sense of today’s feminized pop cultural production, including, yes, cupcakes.

Analyzing everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Pinterest to pregnancy apps, the contributors examine the economic, technological, representational, and experiential dimensions of products and phenomena that speak to, and about, the feminine. As these essays show, the imperative of productivity currently permeating feminized pop culture has created a generation of texts that speak as much to women’s roles as public and private workers as to an impulse for fantasy or escape.

This week marks the anniversary of the death (?) of Elvis Presley, a transformative cultural figure of the twentieth or any other century. If you have memories of that afternoon in 1977, you perhaps recall what you were doing when news of the King’s demise shook our primitive, pre-digital media. I, for instance, was on the way to football practice. When one of the other kids in the car made a joke about Elvis, his dad reached back and thwacked him one but good.

Greil Marcus called Elvis’s life The Presleyiad. The arc of it remains a part of our collective history: the rise from Tupelo poverty; the supernova of Sun Records music that changed it all; years in the army; celluloid slavery in a hundred awful movies; the brief, transcendent 1968 comeback that provided a too-short-lived taste of an alternate reality where the mature Elvis was scared enough to put forth the effort necessary to create art; the crash and burn of that dream in Vegas; tabloid notoriety; death; life everlasting.

Not surprisingly, a figure as epic and American as Elvis has long inspired analysis, reflection, and scholarship. University presses have participated in the ongoing project to make sense of the King and his effect on his world. Today the Large Blog turns its attention to Elvis books, a genre that even in at its depths—and they are murky depths—provides more entertainment than any Elvis film.

williamsonElvis Presley: A Southern Life, by Joel Williamson
Oxford University Press

Historian Joel Williamson follows the King’s life against the backdrop of Southern culture. Williamson illuminates the zenith of Presley’s career, his period of deepest creativity, which captured a legion of fans and kept them fervently loyal for decades. Williamson shows how Elvis himself changed—and didn’t. He also delves into the “revolution of the Elvis girls,” the long-loyal female fan base that Presley captured in his early years and held onto for decades. Explosively, white girls went wild for a white man inspired by and singing black music while “wiggling” erotically. Elvis did nothing less than give his female fans an opportunity to break free from straitlaced Southern society and express themselves sexually, if only for a few hours at a time.

bertrandRace, Rock, and Elvis, by Michael T. Bertrand
University of Illinois Press

Depending on where you stand, Elvis ripped off African American music or brought it to a new (white) audience. You could even say he did both and find takers. In a narrative peppered with the colorful observations of ordinary southerners, Michael T. Bertrand argues that appreciating black music, even as sung by a white man, made possible a new recognition of African Americans as fellow human beings. Bertrand documents black enthusiasm for Elvis and cites the racially mixed audiences that flocked to the new music at a time when adults expected separate performances for black and white audiences. He describes the critical role of radio and recordings in blurring the color line and notes that these media made black culture available to appreciative whites on an unprecedented scale and helped working-class whites orient themselves in new, unfamiliar urban settings by enlisting black music and culture in their own self-identification.

dundyElvis and Gladys, by Elaine Dundy
University of Mississippi Press

The strange aspects of Elvis’s life are legion. Elaine Dundy looks at what was no doubt at the core of many of these oddities: the King’s devotion/obsession to/with his mother, Gladys. Hailed as “nothing less than the best Elvis book yet” on its 1985 publication, Dundy’s book reconstructs the extraordinary and not always healthy role Gladys played in her son’s formative years. Combining a biographer’s detective work with a novelist’s gift for storytelling, Dundy’s compelling narrative is a poignant portrait of a unique boy and the maternal tie that bound him, an intimate psychological portrait of a tragic relationship and a mesmerizing tale of the early years of an international idol.

zolov largerRefried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture, by Eric Zolov
University of California Press

As anyone who has seen the film Mystery Train can attest, Elvis affected people far beyond the U.S. borders. Rock and roll, for example, became a major influence in Mexican politics, society, and culture. From the arrival of Elvis in Mexico during the 1950s to the emergence of a full-blown counterculture movement in the late 1960s, Eric Zolov uses rock and roll to illuminate Mexican history through these charged decades and into the 1970s. This fascinating narrative traces the rechanneling of youth energies away from political protest in the wake of the 1968 student movement and into counterculture rebellion, known as La Onda (The Wave).

clemensAll Shook Up!: Collected Poems about Elvis, edited by Will Clemens, photographs by Jon Hughes
University of Arkansas Press

A lot of the poetry about Elvis springs from the cottage industry in tasteless pop culture that appeared after his death. But not all. Elvis inspired even heavy lit hitters like Joyce Carol Oates to pen verse to his Kingliness. This Elvis-themed poetry collection—get your brain around that phrase for a moment—invites readers to experience the connection between the historical and mythical status of The King, on the one hand, and the poetic imagery of him on the other. All Shook Up! combines history and myth and art in the words of some of our most well–known poets and in the elegant and revealing photographs of Jon Hughes.