What We Are Reading Today: Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians by Kenneth Levy

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Updated 31 December 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians by Kenneth Levy

A world-renowned scholar of plainchant, Kenneth Levy has spent a portion of his career investigating the nature and ramifications of this repertory’s shift from an oral tradition to the written versions dating to the 10th century. In Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians, which represents the culmination of his research, Levy seeks to change long-held perceptions about certain crucial stages of the evolution and dissemination of the old corpus of plainchant — most notably the assumption that such a large and complex repertory could have become and remained fixed for over a century while still an oral tradition. Levy portrays the promulgation of an authoritative body of plainchant during the reign of Charlemagne by clearly differentiating between actual evidence, hypotheses, and received ideas.

How many traditions of oral chant existed before the 10th century? Among the variations noted in written chant, can one point to a single version as being older or more authentic than the others?

What precursors might there have been to the notational system used in all the surviving manuscripts, where the notational system seems fully formed and mature? In answering questions that have long vexed many scholars of Gregorian chant’s early history, Levy offers fresh explanations of such topics as the origin of Latin neumes, the shifting relationships between memory and early notations, and the puzzling differences among the first surviving neume-species from the10th century, which have until now impeded a critical restoration of the Carolingian musical forms.


What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Updated 30 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Edited by Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey

“What Happened to You?” provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns which many of us struggle to understand. This book is going to change the way you see your life.

When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. The book tells us that it’s time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves.


What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Updated 28 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Edited by Paula Marantz Cohen

“Talking Cure” is a timely and enticing excursion into the art of good conversation. Paula Marantz Cohen reveals how conversation connects us in ways that social media never can and explains why simply talking to each other freely and without guile may be the cure to what ails our troubled society. 

Drawing on her lifelong immersion in literature and culture and her decades of experience as a teacher and critic, Cohen argues that we learn to converse in our families and then carry that knowledge into a broader world where we encounter diverse opinions and sensibilities.

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What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

Updated 24 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

From the moment explorers set foot on the ice of Antarctica in the early nineteenth century, they desired to learn what lay beneath.

David J. Drewry provides an insider’s account of the ambitious and often hazardous radar mapping expeditions that he and fellow glaciologists undertook during the height of the Cold War, when concerns about global climate change were first emerging and scientists were finally able to peer into the Antarctic ice and take its measure.

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What We Are Reading Today: The Jeffersonians by Kevin R.C. Gutzman

Updated 19 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Jeffersonians by Kevin R.C. Gutzman

Kevin R.C. Gutzman’s “The Jeffersonians” chronicles the consecutive trio of two-term presidencies of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

The men, known as The Virginia Dynasty, served as president from 1801 to 1825 and implemented the foreign policy, domestic, and constitutional agenda of the radical wing of the American Revolution, setting guideposts for later American liberals to follow.

Their achievements were many, from the founding of the opposition Republican Party in the 1790s; the Louisiana Purchase; and the call upon Congress in 1806 to use its constitutional power to ban slave imports beginning on Jan. 1, 1808.


What We Are Reading Today: Aftermath; Violence and the Remaking of a Self

Updated 14 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Aftermath; Violence and the Remaking of a Self

Author: Susan J. Brison

On July 4, 1990, while on a morning walk in southern France, Susan Brison was attacked from behind, severely beaten, sexually assaulted, strangled to unconsciousness, and left for dead. 

She survived, but her world was destroyed. Her training as a philosopher could not help her make sense of things, and many of her fundamental assumptions about the nature of the self and the world it inhabits were shattered. 

At once a personal narrative of recovery and a philosophical exploration of trauma, this bravely and beautifully written book examines the undoing and remaking of a self in the aftermath of violence.