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March 2002

 

NEW BOOKS

Doctor’s Orders: Goethe and Enlightenment Thought

In his new book, associate professor of German Robert Tobin takes as his subject Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796), considered the prototype of the German bildungsroman, or novel of character development. Tobin shows how the work is affected by Goethe’s considerable knowledge of medicine, and he analyzes Wilhelm Meister in light of the rapidly changing 18th-century medical world. In so doing he addresses “larger issues concerning 18th-century culture and the relationship between medicine and literature,” according to the book’s publisher.

Doctor’s Orders traces the development of Wilhelm Meister, who suffers from theater mania and narcissism, his treatment according to homeopathic principles of the day, and his eventual “cure.” Along the way, the book analyzes the traces of homosexual desire in Wilhelm’s development — his “disturbed ability to love” that is manifested in his cross-dressing and same-sex desire.

Finally, Doctor’s Orders highlights the “complicity of medicine in establishing modern structures of gender and sexuality.”

Tobin also is the author of Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

Doctor’s Orders is published by Bucknell University Press/Associated University Presses, London.

 

From Noose to Needle: Capital Punishment and the Late Liberal State

From Noose to Needle, by professor of politics Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, contributes a new, scholarly perspective on the controversial topic of capital punishment. The book explores the subject of state executions as a reflection of broader contradictions in the United States and other contemporary liberal states.

Kaufman-Osborn seeks to explain the changes that led to the replacement of hanging with lethal injection as the primary method of capital punishment in the United States. He considers such questions as why hangings and electrocutions, not to mention the practice of public executions, are now thought to be barbaric; why the state seeks to hide the suffering inflicted by capital punishment by adopting a “bio-medical” concept; and how the practice of lethal injection poses problems for the liberal state by confusing its punitive and welfare responsibilities.

While basing his work on a wide range of theoretical sources, including John Locke, Max Weber, Nicos Poulantzas, and others, Kaufman-Osborn analyzes specific recent executions — that of Wesley Allan Dodd and Charles Rodman Campbell in Washington, Karla Faye Tucker in Texas, and Allen Lee Davis in Florida. The result is a book of interest to students of law, political theory, and sociology as well as the general reader.

Kaufman-Osborn, who holds the Baker Ferguson Chair of Politics and Leadership, is the author of two other books, Creatures of Prometheus: Gender and the Politics of Technology (Rowman & Little-field, 1997) and Politics/Sense/Experience: A Pragmatic Inquiry into the Promise of Democracy (Cornell University Press, 1991).

From Noose to Needle, due out in August 2002, is published by the University of Michigan Press.

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