Find out more about the books we are currently reading, and explore some of our older favourites.
Gary Watt, Shakespeare's Acts of Will: Law, Testament and Properties of Performance, (Bloomsbury, 2016).
As we see in plays like The Merchant of Venice – and more generally in today’s incessant popularisation of legal TV drama – the performance of law is inevitably theatrical. This book homes in on the relationship between Shakespearean drama and the performance of will. Gary Watt is ‘concerned with the cultural practices – and specifically the creative practices – that connect theatre to law and connect both theatre and law to the wider world of the witnessing public’ (p. 2). The book takes into account a bigger, ‘imaginative dimension’ of law, which ‘expresses substantial matters of justice and order in practical forms and in creative performances that are open to communal participation’ (p. 181). Shakespeare’s Acts of Will is quite an ambitious monograph as it seeks to encompass not only a focus on the performativity of law, but its manifestation in twenty-first century performance, as well as what the author refers to as the ‘materiality’ of performance, in addition to a focus on the tension between tradition and trade, and passing reflections on Shakespeare himself. Because of this, at times the chapters can seem to digress between these several points, and require the reader’s close attention. The interspersing of the analysis with analysis of modern performances at times felt slightly jarring, however the author’s legal expertise provides for some fascinating insights into early modern law and theatre. Read the full review here.
James Shapiro, The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 (Simon and Schuster, 2015).
Gert Biesta, The Beautiful Risk of Education (Paradigm, 2014).
For those interested in the philosophy of education in a modern context this new book from Gert Biesta is a must read. The bite-size chapters explore a series of evocative themes – creativity, communication, teaching, learning, emancipation, democracy, and virtuosity – in a style that is lucid and yet theoretically subtle. The book contributes strongly to current discussions of subjectivity, risk and weakness in education. Once you’ve read Beautiful Risk, you might want to take a look at Tyson E. Lewis’ thought-provoking review in Educational Theory 64.3 (2014). Lewis responds to Biesta by setting in play some important issues relating to the ‘weakness’ of education, aesthetics and educational philosophizing.
Matt Copeland, Socratic Circles: Fostering Critical and Creative Thinking in Middle and High School (Stenhouse Publishers, 2005).
This book was published in 2005 but remains a blissfully clear introduction and practical guide to ‘socratic circles’ in the classroom. It includes illuminating examples of student discussions and templates for assessment and reflection. A virtue of the book is its readability and comprehensiveness arising from an author who is speaking from years of experience in running ‘socratic circles.’
Scott Camazine, Jean-Louis Deneubourg, Nigel R. Franks, James Sneyd, Guy Theraulaz, Eric Bonabeau, Self-Organisation in Biological Systems (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001).
This book forms part of the Princeton Studies in Complexity series, and is a refreshingly clear and engaging treatment of the phenomenon of self-organisation (which they define as: "a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower-level components of the system" - p.8). The book is divided into two useful sections: Part I explores the theoretical underpinnings of this complexivist approach to biological systems, while Part II looks at the systems themselves, from fireflies to termites. This is a superb exploration of the potential of complexity theory, and will prove fascinating for anyone interested in understanding how our natural world works.
Fiona Ritchie, Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2014).