For two weeks last summer, Colin Dickey sailed around the coast of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. On one occasion, his voyage was stalled by heavy fog, and his group was obligated to anchor near Amsterdamøya. As one does, he used the occasion to ruminate about scurvy – or “polar night disease” – which claimed the lives of many sailors buried in the area’s graves.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
Dutch researchers are using moistened electrode caps to measure the brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response and facial expressions on an author and fifty of his readers. They hope to find patterns “that may help illuminate links between the way art is created and enjoyed, and possibly the nature of creativity itself.”
Kundiman, an organization dedicated to “the creation and cultivation of Asian American poetry,” is now accepting submissions for its annual Kundiman Poetry Prize. One winner will receive $1,000, book publication with Alice James Books, and a featured reading in New York City. The deadline is March 1, 2013.
In The Atlantic Adrienne Green reviews the growing number of Young Adult novels tackling racial injustice and how this increase on the topic is no coincidence. “Coming out of the crucible of the past few years—during which young people have been integral to pushing conversations about the unjustified killings of black men to the forefront—the novels capture the many ways that teens of color cope with prejudice, whether through activism or personal accountability or protest.”
Two hotly anticipated collections of stories are out this week: Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and Dan Chaon’s Stay Awake. Also new this week are Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Ramona Ausubel’s No One is Here Except All of Us, which she wrote about here recently, Dalkey’s new edition of The Recognitions by William Gaddis, and a new volume of William S. Burroughs’ letters.