Four Notes on our Love of Books and our Need for Libraries
by Henrike Christiane Lange, Associate Professor of History of Art and Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
UC Berkeley, Spring Term 2023
A Note on Historical Books
The historical books in our collection are honeycombs of the centuries. They provide us not just with their specific knowledge from other times, but also with new insights about our own historical situation that we can only fully appreciate when seeing it compared to other eras. The material presence of historical books offers a shared experience with earlier readers – the readers of their time. Finally, the very awareness of the books’ own different time and place of origin generates a friction which allows us to progress with better consciousness and determination in our own timelines – not to be free-floating and lost in space, without time and context. The library thusly can both anchor us and liberate us at the same time in this process of discovery. Finally, a library of such historical objects for teaching and training is more than the sum total of the books. It is the select and familiar presence of those books together in an organized space, carved out of the chaos of the rest of the world as a refuge for the calm immersion into the records of others’ long-gone thoughts that spark the magic of understanding.
A Note on Scholarly Monographs
Monographs are little time machines: In a matter of hours, one can walk with the author through a specific and manageable field of knowledge, acquired over years, condensed yet decompressed, presented in a reader-friendly way, and focused on a valuable question. A monograph is not as short and shallow as a blog post, and it is not as limitless and infinite (therefore ungraspable) as the whole wide virtual cosmos of the world wide web. In a scholarly monograph, an author explores at the speed of the reader’s reading time what they have learned from having done years and decades of work of researching, reading, sorting, evaluating, weighing, expressing, writing, re-writing, and editing under the harsh conditions of double-blind peer review. This model can help enable readers and researchers to produce, eventually, their own unique contribution to a field in the form of a book – sent into the world to find its readers, way beyond the personal sphere of its author. The department library is the space to encounter and compare these kinds of books (at the height of their training, graduate students are expected to read up to a dozen of monographs per week in order to grasp their different styles, approaches, rhetoric, and strategies of presentation of the material).
A Note on Art History Libraries
Art history libraries have a double importance for the discipline, as they contain both secondary and primary sources: Books in art history research are not only containers of written, textual knowledge, or simple records of visual material, but also often serve as primary materials when they contain large or unique plates, a corpus of drawings, of maps, or of prints. They provide core materials such as large folio-sized works that outdo our screens, or plates that we use for comparisons in teaching around the table. Art History Libraries such as ours in Doe Library hold original documents that are themselves primary sources also when it comes to photo books and artist books, and the library’s rooms filled with books are our equivalent of a “lab” space. Large prints, maps, and photos need to be spread out on folio-size accommodating tables and compared, arranged, discussed with small groups in our training of emerging experts in our fields. The access to these physical materials together with small groups of students in a dedicated library space is an irreplaceable feature of the training of future architects and art historians. As is true for all our campus libraries, such specialized department libraries are not only collections somewhere without roots in time and space, but carefully grown, cultivated, specific places that have been assembled only here for a likewise growing and developing student population according to their specific needs.
A Note on Berkeley’s Libraries in the Now-Moment
Entering someone’s personal research library, fascinatingly, can feel like entering someone else’s brain – and to move about as if in a silent conversation with them, following their lead or jumping between sections and fields of knowledge, seeing the surprising and original connections that someone else made a long time ago, and getting inspired. The same applies to the experience of wonder and discovery in the large departmental, field-specific library: when we enter our library, we truly enter the good will, deep knowledge, and great care that generations of librarians, faculty, staff, and students have left there in invisible traces – in the objects as much as in the coherence, distribution, arrangement, and context of the objects. This is why off-campus storage removes the most important component from research, teaching, and learning; the eureka moments that can only happen on the quiet days alone in the library. We sometimes forget that not only the books and their authors speak to us, but all the caretakers and champions of the books that helped them find their way into our collection. As disciplines in the arts and humanities in a worldwide context that is hostile to the slow, deep, focused, and truly generative conditions of our work, we need those moments more than ever – not just the researchers, but especially our brilliant, insightful students.
Here is a selection of books of the works of women photographers recently donated by Richard Sun. Additional books from the donation are now on display in the Art History/Classics library. Click the links to see their records in UC Library Search.
Check out these online resources available through UC Library Search. Click on the titles to view them in the catalog, or visit the Art History/ Classics Library to view new publications of women artists on display.
Francisco de Goya and the Art of Critique probes the relationship between the enormous, extraordinary, and sometimes baffling body of Goya’s work and the interconnected issues of modernity, Enlightenment, and critique. Taking exception to conventional views that rely mainly on Goya’s darkest images to establish his relevance for modernity, Cascardi argues that the entirety of Goya’s work is engaged in a thoroughgoing critique of the modern social and historical worlds, of which it nonetheless remains an integral part. The book reckons with the apparent gulf assumed to divide the Disasters of War and the so-called Black Paintings from Goya’s scenes of bourgeois life or from the well-mannered portraits of aristocrats, military men, and intellectuals. It shows how these apparent contradictions offer us a gateway into Goya’s critical practice vis-à-vis a European modernity typically associated with the Enlightenment values dominant in France, England, and Germany. In demonstrating Goya’s commitment to the project of critique, Cascardi provides an alternative to established readings of Goya’s work, which generally acknowledge the explicit social criticism evident in works such as the Caprichos but which have little to say about those works that do not openly take up social or political themes. In Francisco de Goya and the Art of Critique, Cascardi shows how Goya was consistently engaged in a critical response to—and not just a representation of—the many different factors that are often invoked to explain his work, including history, politics, popular culture, religion, and the history of art itself.
[from publisher’s site]
Anthony J. Cascardi is the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including The Consequences of Enlightenment; Cervantes, Literature, and the Discourse of Politics; The Subject of Modernity; and The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Philosophy.
Francisco de Goya and the Art of Critique. Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2023.
by Associate Professor Aglaya Glebova for European Modern Art.
From Yale University Press:
“Through the lens of Aleksandr Rodchenko’s photography, a new and provocative understanding emerges of the troubled relationship between technology, modernism, and state power in Stalin’s Soviet Union
Tracing the shifting meanings of photography in the early Soviet Union, Aglaya K. Glebova reconsiders the relationship between art and politics during what is usually considered the end of the critical avant-garde. Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891–1956), a versatile Russian artist and one of Constructivism’s founders, embraced photography as a medium of revolutionary modernity. Yet his photographic work between the late 1920s and the end of the 1930s exhibits an expansive search for a different pictorial language.
In the context of the extreme transformations carried out under the first Five-Year Plans, Rodchenko’s photography questioned his own modernist commitments. At the heart of this book is Rodchenko’s infamous 1933 photo-essay on the White Sea–Baltic Canal, site of one of the first gulags. Glebova’s careful reading of Rodchenko’s photography reveals a surprisingly heterodox practice and brings to light experiments in adjacent media, including the collaborative design work he undertook with Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko’s partner in art and life.”
UC Berkeley mourns the passing of Professor Andrew Stewart. You can read the Art Department’s full obituary here.
Professor Andy Stewart was hired as an Assistant Professor in 1979, rising to Full Professor in 1986, to a joint appointment with the Classics Department in 1997, and then to the distinguished Nicholas Petris Chair of Greek Studies in 2007, which he held until his retirement in 2019. He was recently awarded the 2023 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement – the highest award the Archaeological Institute of America bestows.
Check out these materials, all available on-line. Click on the titles to access them through UC Library Search.
Letters | الحروف How Artists Reimagined Language in the Age of Decolonization
Left to right: art by Mohammed Khadda, Ibrahim El-Salahi, and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (details)
Letters | الحروف How Artists Reimagined Language in the Age of Decolonization is on exhibit in Doe Library’s Bernice Layne Brown Gallery from March 13 until Aug. 31, 2023. How have modern artists in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia made use of their inheritance of a visual cache of Arabic signs and letter-forms, and with what meanings? This exhibition, curated by students in the seminar History of Art 192Cu, “Exhibiting Calligraphic Modernism,” in collaboration with the Library, explores work by dozens of artists in multiple media, from poster design to painting, mosaic, poetry, and animation. A shared backdrop to the artwork on display are the decolonization processes and liberation struggles taking place across Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, which sparked desires to create cultural futures in resistance to dominant imperial values and official language policies.
Exhibit Curators: Drew Atkins, Riana Azevedo, Lynn Cunningham, Sharan Dulai, Eva Elfishawy, Mohamed Hamed, Teddi Haynes, Murtaza Hiraj, Viv Kammerer, Shanti Knutzen, Marissa Lee, Anneka Lenssen, Val Machado, Jasmine Nadal-Chung, Reyansh Sathishkumar, A. Wara, Alice Xie, Jinyu Xu, Suri Zheng, and Hayley Zupancic
Exhibit dates: March 13 to Aug. 31, 2023
Location: Bernice Layne Brown Gallery, Doe Library
Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 5-6:30 p.m.
The reception will feature brief remarks by members of the curatorial team. Tours of the exhibition will be led by student-curators beginning at 5:45 p.m. Food and drinks will be served.
A pre-reception event will take place from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in 308A Doe Library, and will include a presentation and Arabic calligraphy workshop by the Bay Area-based calligrapher Zubair Simab. Participants will have an opportunity to try writing Arabic letters with a prepared pen and ink. There are 40 slots available for the workshop. Please register here: http://ucblib.link/calligraphyRSVP.
Both of these events are open to the public.
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Pre-reception calligraphy workshop
308A Doe Library
Exhibit reception and tours
Morrison Library (101 Doe Library)
If you require an accommodation to fully participate in this event, please contact Amber Lawrence at email@example.com or 510-459-9108 at least 7-10 days in advance of the program.
Sponsors/contributors: Center for Middle East Studies, Department of History of Art, and UC Berkeley Library
This book addresses the unique and profound indeterminacy of “Creole,” a label applied to white, black, and mixed-race persons born in French colonies during the nineteenth century.
“Creole” implies that the geography of one’s birth determines identity in ways that supersede race, language, nation, and social status. Paradoxically, the very capaciousness of the term engendered a perpetual search for visual signs of racial difference as well as a pretense to blindness about the intermingling of races in Creole society. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby reconstructs the search for visual signs of racial difference among people whose genealogies were often repressed. She explores French representations of Creole subjects and representations by Creole artists in France, the Caribbean, and the Americas. To do justice to the complexity of Creole identity, Grigsby interrogates the myriad ways in which people defined themselves in relation to others. With close attention to the differences between Afro-Creole and Euro-Creole cultures and persons, Grigsby examines figures such as Théodore Chassériau, Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, Alexandre Dumas père, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, the models Joseph and Laure, Josephine Bonaparte, Jeanne Duval, and Adah Isaacs Menken.
Based on extensive archival research, Creole is an original and important examination of colonial identity. This essential study will be welcomed by specialists in nineteenth-century art history, French cultural history, the history of race, and transatlantic history more generally.
[from publisher’s site]
Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance; Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Panama Canal; and Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France.
Creole : Portraits of France’s Foreign Relations During the Long Nineteenth Century.
University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022.
UC Berkeley has been loving its data for a long time, and has been part of the international movement which is Love Data Week (LDW) since at least 2016, even during the pandemic! This year is no exception—the UC Berkeley Libraries and our campus partners are offering some fantastic workshops (four of which are led by our very own librarians) as part of the University of California-wide observance.
Love Data Week 2023 is happening next month, February 13-17 (it’s always during the week of Valentine’s Day)!
UC Berkeley Love Data Week offerings for 2023 include:
Wikipedia Edit-a-thon (you can also dip into Wikidata at other LDW events)
All members of the UC community are welcome—we hope you will join us! Registration links for our offerings are above, and the full UC-wide calendar is here. If you are interested in learning more about what the library is doing with data, check out our new Data + Digital Scholarship Services page. And, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to data bonding next month!