Shell (Comparative Literature and English/Harvard) explores the relationship of kinship to nationhood by challenging the basic assumption that we can always know the identity of our true parents. In so doing, he speaks urgently but ploddingly—and unconvincingly—about fundamental human problems. By insisting that parental ties are always in doubt—that we all could have been switched at birth, for example—Shell reassesses the concept of family as a means of analyzing Western political and social thought from antiquity to the 20th century. He contrasts the seemingly attractive motto that ``all men are brothers''—a recurrent theme in Western thought—with what he perceives to be its inevitable corollary: that those who are not my literal or figurative brothers are ``others'' or animals, not human at all, and undeserving of the rights granted to brothers. This dialectic, he contends, is the source of nationalism and other inter-group antagonisms that are the eternal scourge of Western society. A parallel argument running through the book (made with particular force in discussions of Elizabethan England and pre-Revolutionary France) holds that the metaphor of universal brotherhood has led to a idea that may lie at the source of Western anxieties about sexuality: If everyone is my sibling, then any act of sexual intercourse is incestuous. Shell spans hundreds of years, looking at, among other scenarios, the Spanish Inquisition, America's Civil War, and contemporary, bilingual Quebec. He analyzes literature from Racine to Twain and draws upon a wide body of work by sociologists, anthropologists, theologians, historians, and others to support his theories. Hugely ambitious and erudite, but repetitive and full of academic jargon. Moreover, Shell's premise about the absolute uncertainty of parenthood, while technically accurate, denies common sense—and his theory falls to take into account fully the widely accepted scientific theory of the 'selfish' gene, which dictates that genes themselves, not ideas about kinship, determine human alliances and antagonisms.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-506864-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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