Nonfiction on Hans Christian Andersen & Roman Historians | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 27, 2014

Binding, Paul. Hans Christian Andersen: European Witness. Yale Univ. 2014. 496p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300169232. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780300206159. LIT
Most readers know Hans Christian Andersen (1805–75) from his exquisite fairy tales, but he was a prolific author who wrote everything from travel pieces to romances. Novelist and literary critic Binding (Imagined Corners) here provides not so much a biography of Andersen as a detailed summary and critique of his work, illuminated by reference to the events and people in his life. Andersen was by all accounts a needy, vain, and difficult man. Binding attempts to tie these traits into Andersen’s work but at times finds autobiography too easily in the man’s prose; the result doesn’t convince. Binding is on stronger ground in tracing the writer’s literary influences, Walter Scott and E.T.A. Hoffmann foremost among them; the literary consequences of his ardent nationalism; and his association with other artists of the day. Although Andersen was an international celebrity, Binding’s trumpeting of the Dane’s superiority as a writer is too strident. However, his summary of Andersen’s output is valuable and his command of sources commendable. The styling is at times clunky, and the book ends abruptly with a discussion of Andersen’s last published work, “Auntie Toothache.”
Verdict This curiously old-fashioned literary study will appeal mainly to Andersen scholars.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Chicago, Judy. Institutional Time: A Critique of Studio Art Education. Monacelli. 2014. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781580933667. $46. FINE ARTS
This feminist artist-author’s tangential, personal storytelling often buries important timely, provocative topics that she is clearly passionate about: her pedagogical use of circle discussion, teaching content over technique, and hot topics such as student debt and whether art grads will find art jobs (highly unlikely). Her colloquial tone, with anecdotal and at times distracting segues, prevent the book’s cohesion. While organized into eight thematic chapters, the book feels more like a casual memoir than a focused academic piece. It serves to document the author’s many higher-ed feminist projects, then (1970s) and now (e.g., partnering with Kutztown University art educators), and this is the strong point. The appendixes will be useful in feminism study as well. The color images are of surprisingly poor quality yet provide supportive documentation and context.
Verdict Collectors and fans of Chicago’s artworks (Dinner Party) and writings (Beyond the Flower) will welcome this strongly charged, feminist-oriented, eclectic narrative; many will need to keep in mind a more balanced, less affected academic discussion on the current state of the arts in higher education curricula.—Marianne Laino Sade, Maryland Inst. Coll. of Art Lib., Baltimore

Kellogg, Michael K. The Roman Search for Wisdom. Prometheus. 2014. 335p. notes. ISBN 9781616149253. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616149260. HIST
romansearch062714A common misconception is that Roman literature is at best an imitation of that of the Greeks; Kellogg (Three Questions We Never Stop Asking; The Greek Search for Wisdom) effectively dispels that theory. He discusses ten Roman authors: Plautus, Lucretius, Cicero, Horace, Ovid, Virgil, Seneca, Plutarch, Tacitus, and Marcus Aurelius, placing each within the context of his time and analyzing his work. The ideas that are drawn from Greek thought are clearly identified, but deviations are also apparent. Further, the detailed analyses of Roman works prove how influential these authors have been throughout human history.
Verdict Kellogg’s readable evaluation of each author will be intriguing to students as well as to a general audience, particularly readers interested in literature, history, or philosophy.—Keri Youngstrand, Dickinson State Univ. Lib., ND