Book trailer: Mott Greene on his new biography of Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener is the greatest scientist you’ve never heard of. The author of the theory of continental drift—one of the key scientific concepts of the past century and the direct ancestor of the modern theory of plate tectonics—Wegener also made major contributions to geology, geophysics, astronomy, geodesy, atmospheric physics, meteorology, and glaciology. So why isn’t he better known?

This month, JHU Press publishes a new biography—the only complete account of the scientist’s fascinating life and work—that restores Wegener to the pantheon of modern science and caps the career of award-winning historian Mott Greene. A rave early review in the journal Nature calls the book “a magnificent, definitive, and indefatigable tribute to an indefatigable man” and notes that “Greene beautifully puts the record straight with a portrait of Wegener as a respected ‘cosmic physicist.’ ” Read the full review here. And view the book trailer below to hear Mott Greene discuss Alfred Wegener: Science, Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift, a landmark work that has clearly been a labor of love.

greeneMott T. Greene is an affiliate professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington and John Magee Professor of Science and Values emeritus at the University of Puget Sound. He is the author of Alfred Wegener: Science, Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift, Geology in the Nineteenth Century: Changing View of a Changing World, and Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Alfred Wegener.

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Filed under Biography, General Science, History, History of science

Meet Us in Toronto: American Studies Association

If you are in Toronto for the ASA annual meeting, be sure to stop by Booth #208, to meet our staff, browse our latest publications, and and take advantage of special meeting discounts. Throughout the meeting and after, JHUP books will be available at a 30% discount when your use the discount code HEAI. Check out what’s new and recent from JHUP in American Studies and related fields!

The Best War Ever
by Michael C. C. Adams

Was World War II really such a “good war”? Popular memory insists that it was, in fact, “the best war ever.” After all, we knew who the enemy was, and we understood what we were fighting for. The war was good for the economy. It was liberating for women. A battle of tanks and airplanes, it was a “cleaner” war than World War I. Although we did not seek the conflict—or so we believed—Americans nevertheless rallied in support of the war effort, and the nation’s soldiers, all twelve million of them, were proud to fight. But according to historian Michael C. C. Adams, our memory of the war era as a golden age is distorted. It has left us with a misleading—even dangerous—legacy, one enhanced by the nostalgia-tinged retrospectives of Stephen E. Ambrose and Tom Brokaw. Disputing many of our common assumptions about the period, Adams argues in The Best War Ever that our celebratory experience of World War II is marred by darker and more sordid realities.

In the book, originally published in 1994, Adams challenges stereotypes to present a view of World War II that avoids the simplistic extremes of both glorification and vilification. The Best War Ever charts the complex diplomatic problems of the 1930s and reveals the realities of ground combat: no moral triumph, it was in truth a brutal slog across a blasted landscape. Adams also exposes the myth that the home front was fully united behind the war effort, demonstrating how class, race, gender, and age divisions split Americans. Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia, shell-shocked soldiers grappled with emotional and physical trauma, rigorously enforced segregation, and rampant venereal disease.

In preparing this must-read new edition, Adams has consulted some seventy additional sources on topics as varied as the origins of Social Security and a national health system, the Allied strategic bombing campaign, and the relationship of traumatic brain injuries to the adjustment problems of veterans. The revised book also incorporates substantial developments that have occurred in our understanding of the course and character of the war, particularly in terms of the human consequences of fighting. In a new chapter, “The Life Cycle of a Myth,” Adams charts image-making about the war from its inception to the present. He contrasts it with modern-day rhetoric surrounding the War on Terror, while analyzing the real-world consequences that result from distorting the past, including the dangerous idea that only through (perpetual) military conflict can we achieve lasting peace.

Plutocracy in America
By Ronald P. Formisano

The growing gap between the most affluent Americans and the rest of society is changing the country into one defined—more than almost any other developed nation—by exceptional inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity. This book reveals that an infrastructure of inequality, both open and hidden, obstructs the great majority in pursuing happiness, living healthy lives, and exercising basic rights. A government dominated by finance, corporate interests, and the wealthy has undermined democracy, stunted social mobility, and changed the character of the nation. In this tough-minded dissection of the gulf between the super-rich and the working and middle classes, Ronald P. Formisano explores how the dramatic rise of income inequality over the past four decades has transformed America from a land of democratic promise into one of diminished opportunity. Since the 1970s, government policies have contributed to the flow of wealth to the top income strata. The United States now is more a plutocracy than a democracy.

Formisano surveys the widening circle of inequality’s effects, the exploitation of the poor and the middle class, and the new ways that predators take money out of Americans’ pockets while passive federal and state governments stand by. This data-driven book offers insight into the fallacy of widespread opportunity, the fate of the middle class, and the mechanisms that perpetuate income disparity.

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Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism
edited by John N. Duvall and Robert P. Marzec

Winner, 2014 Dale Brown Book Award, Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies

Narrating 9/11 challenges the notion that Americans have overcome the national trauma of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The volume responds to issues of war, surveillance, and the expanding security state, including the Bush Administration’s policies on preemptive war, extraordinary rendition, torture abroad, and the suspension of privacy rights and civil liberties at home.

Building on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Žižek, and Donald Pease, the contributors focus on the ways in which post-9/11 narratives help make visible the fantasies that attempt to justify the ongoing state of exception and American exceptionalism. Narrating 9/11 examines a variety of contemporary narratives as they relate to the cultural construction of the neoliberal nation-state, a role that mediates the possibilities of ethnic and religious identity as well as the ability to imagine terrorism.

Touching on some of the mainstays of 9/11 fiction, including Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and John Updike’s Terrorist, the book expands this particular canon by considering the work of such writers as Jess Walter, William Gibson, Lauren Groff, Ken Kalfus, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, John le Carré, Laila Halaby, Michael Chabon, and Jarett Kobek. Narrating 9/11 pushes beyond a critical focus on domestic realism, offering chapters that examine speculative and genre fiction, postmodernism, climate change, and the evolving security state, as well as the television series Lost and the film Paradise Now.

The Higher Learning in America: The Annotated Edition
by Thorstein Veblen, edited with an introduction and notes by Richard F. Teichgraeber III

Since its publication in 1918, Thorstein Veblen’s The Higher Learning in America has remained a text that every serious student of the American university must confront. Intellectual historian Richard Teichgraeber brings us the first scholarly edition of Veblen’s classic, thoroughly edited, annotated, and indexed. An extensive introduction discusses the book’s composition and publishing history, Veblen’s debts to earlier critics of the American university, and the place of The Higher Learning in America in current debates about the American university.

Veblen’s insights into the American university system at the outset of the twentieth century are as provocative today as they were when first published. Insisting that institutions of higher learning should be dedicated solely to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, he urged American universities to abandon commitments to extraneous pursuits such as athletics, community service, and vocational education. He also believed that the corporate model of governance—with university boards of trustees dominated by well-to-do businessmen and university presidents who functioned essentially as businessmen in academic dress—mandated unsavory techniques of salesmanship and self-promotion that threatened to reduce institutions of higher learning to the status of competitive business enterprises.

With a detailed chronology, suggested readings, and comprehensive notes identifying events, individuals, and institutions to which Veblen alludes, this volume is sure to become the standard teaching text for Veblen’s classic work and an invaluable resource for students of both the history and the current workings of the American university.

Light It Up: The Marine Eye for Battle in the War for Iraq
by John Pettegrew

American military power in the War on Terror has increasingly depended on the capacity to see the enemy. The act of seeing—enhanced by electronic and digital technologies—has separated shooter from target, eliminating risk of bodily harm to the remote warrior, while YouTube videos eroticize pulling the trigger and video games blur the line between simulated play and fighting.

Light It Up examines the visual culture of the early twenty-first century. Focusing on the Marine Corps, which played a critical part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, John Pettegrew argues that U.S. military force in the Iraq War was projected through an “optics of combat.” Powerful military technology developed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has placed war in a new posthuman era.

Pettegrew’s interviews with Marines, as well as his analysis of first-person shooter videogames and combat footage, lead to startling insights into the militarization of popular digital culture. An essential study for readers interested in modern warfare, policy makers, and historians of technology, war, and visual and military culture.

JHU Press Journals:

American Quarterly
Technology and Culture
Philosophy and Literature

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Fifty Folger gigs in 18 months

Guest post by Stephen H. Grant

Authors are blessed when their books are published on important anniversaries. Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger hit the stands in the spring of 2014, coinciding with the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564. After the Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated in 1932, four decades passed before the first biography of its founders appeared. This lapse is quite surprising when one considers that the private research library, only two blocks from the US Capitol, houses the largest Shakespeare collection in the world. The biography unlocks the key to how, during the Gilded Age, a quiet Victorian couple, together and alone, pulled off the feat from their Brooklyn brownstone.

Grant sept 2

The (Masonic) Naval Lodge on Capitol Hill.

During the last 18 months, I have been active in arranging speaking venues, book signings, and media events in Washington, DC, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Connecticut. In addition to four events organized by the publisher, hosts have included 13 private clubs, 12 libraries, 6 public halls, 3 bookshops, 3 private homes, 3 radio stations, 2 TV stations, 2 colleges, 1 museum, and 1 theatre.

Grant sept Union LC Steve Forbes 1

The author’s “Collecting Shakespeare” table with Steve Forbes seated nearby, at the Union League Club in New York.

High points were TV performances on CBS This Morning and C-SPAN2, and peddling books at a table near Ralph Nader, Cokie Roberts, Ted Olson, and Steve Forbes (photo 2). Chagrined to find a long taxi line at New York’s Penn Station, I folded my six-foot-four frame into a pedicab and bounced along the Manhattan roadway to the sedate Union League Club. As I emerged from between two plastic flaps, the doorman eyed me warily.

Grant sept Franklin Tomb, Boston 3

Franklin obelisk gravestone in center of Old Granary Burial Ground; behind is the Boston Athenaeum.

A cool DC venue was the Naval Lodge (photo 1), chartered in 1805, only paces from the Folger Shakespeare Library. In Boston, it doesn’t get any better than the Athenaeum, founded in 1807. Adjacent to this private bibliophiles’ club one block from the Massachusetts State House lies the Old Granary Burial Ground, established in 1660. The stone obelisk gravestone in the center (photo 3) contains the remains of Abiah Folger and her husband, Josiah Franklin, the parents of Benjamin Franklin. Henry Folger traced his line back to Abiah’s father, Peter. Henry once wrote, “Had I not collected Shakespeariana, I would have collected Frankliniana.”

Attending the Athenaeum lecture (photo 4) was a grandniece of Henry Folger who remembers nervously reciting a poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses at a Thanksgiving dinner at Emily Folger’s residence in Glen Cove, Long Island after “Uncle Henry” died.

Grant sept Boston Athenaeum hi-res 4

On screen, budding bibliophile Henry Folger grasping the first of 92,000 books he will acquire.

The Theatre Library Association named Collecting Shakespeare a finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award in 2014 in the field of live theatre or performance.  Next year, 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death in 1616. Gigs are already scheduled in Santa Fe, San Diego, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Lucky author!

Stephen H. Grant is the author of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folgerpublished by Johns Hopkins University Press. He is a senior fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and the author of Peter Strickland: New London Shipmaster, Boston Merchant, First Consul to Senegal.






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The writer’s life: Wyatt Prunty

Interview by Yasmine Kaminsky

prunty photoYou mentioned in an interview with the Tennessee Literary Project that although your parents raised you in a cultured household, you initially did not believe you would become a writer. How, then, did your path to poetry form?

I was the son and grandson of professors, so growing up I had plenty of books around and knew how many poets there were in the tradition. Imagining someday being a part of that body struck me as a long shot. I would have said, age 16 to 18 or so, that it was unrealistic from the standpoint of ever making a living let alone making a difference in the lineup of some library’s bookshelves. At the same time I had been making up melodies and songs for years. When I turned twelve I was given a guitar. It wasn’t a very good guitar, but that was all it took for me. This was the 1960s and the coffee house/folk music boom was underway. I sang in a group. The other two members of the group were in college, and they were good. In the summers they had gigs at the Brickskeller and Cellar Door in Washington, and one year they were offered a stint at the Bitter End in NYC, but their parents made them return to the University in Athens, Georgia to finish their degrees. I was still in high school, but we performed some of the songs I wrote. Writing a song and performing it with others was a great way to learn a number of things that were applicable to poems.

I learned that a song can stand on the ground of immediate conviction. When the words and the melody fit really well something beyond one’s individual will takes over. Writing songs is a time-worn path to lyric poetry. Along that way one discovers how deeply a poem can burrow. A song’s music keeps moving so the words must be readily understandable, whereas a poem enjoys more license. When I came to college I brought along a stack of poems and naively walked into the office of the editor of The Sewanee Review. Andrew Lytle read them and gave them to Allen Tate who pronounced a few “publishable.” Then they published one, then some others. There were no superlatives uttered, just something about I could do this if I was willing to work hard enough long enough. With that I was convicted.


In another interview with Chapter 16 a few years ago, you stated your “long-held belief that the first concern for poetry at any time is figurative thought that leads to a dramatic core of meaning.” Could you elaborate on your position and how it relates to your new poetry collection?

I have stated that figurative thought is the “first concern for poetry.” That is because a poem is a mode of thought before it is a form of expression. Poetry uncovers parts of reality we would miss without it. The reason, years ago, I used the term “dramatic core of meaning” had to do with mediating between formalist and free verse arguments. I thought then and still think a poem’s argument and its rhythm are its dominant elements. Listen to a young couple having an intense conversation in an airport, and you will hear argument and the alternation between stressed and unstressed syllables. That experience ought to be enough for anyone to unravel the rest as far as form is concerned. Poetic figure houses a poem’s argument, and the rhythms of the English language reinforce the emotional import of that argument.


pruntyI was fortunate to stumble upon a video of your poetry reading last fall at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in which you read some poems from Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise. One aspect of the reading that strikes me is the humor and tragedy apparent in many of your works (e.g., “Bad Dog” and “Another Christmas Tie”). How do you balance these two elements in your writing?

Humor jars expectation and causes rebalancing. It qualifies and redeems. If you damp emotion, as humor can do, a poem’s durability can increase. My purpose with humor is to disarm the reader and to objectify the subject so the poem has a greater half-life. I do not intend something that is just performative; a poem has a kind of ontology to it. It is a consciousness for as long as it lasts. Finding ways to keep such a mind from exhausting itself with its own obsessions is art. It is a way to dwell in a subject. Art is experience without the cost of experience, and it is understanding fused with value. Along with these there is the ideal of seeing something from many sides and judging along multiple lines. Tragedy teaches this. Most lives are lived among tragedies small and frequent. But Shakespeare to Irish wake, there is a place for humor too. We think both ways at once.


Could you explain to us how self-revision as well as peer-review with others (such as your editor John Irwin) have helped shape the collection?  

Of your question about self-revision the main thing to say is that I was more conscious of that process when I was younger. At that time I created an ideal audience for myself consisting of poets whose work I admired. I wrote with the hope my poem would be meaningful in the context of such an audience. I tried to test that poem with the perspectives of whatever my current short list of greats happened to be. I judged poems in light of what I imagined the aesthetic thinking of these poets would be if they were living in the present. That ideal audience changed as my interests changed, and I suppose now I have absorbed certain principles to the point that I feel as though I work alone, though no one does entirely.

In the case of “Nod,” the long poem in Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise, everything derives from the characters in the poem. Revision occurred within the terms of character. And to return briefly to the subjects of humor and tragedy, it is important to add that the characters in “Nod” are not allegorical; they are represented by the poem as physically present. Their humor and their tragedies are real. Were they not real, some of what they say and do would have a different meaning. Humor is a test for what is real. A recent review of “Nod” found it to be an allegory. However the speaker, the main character who narrates the poem, while never named is in fact a living being. He is not Fulton, as one reader supposed. There is no reality to Fulton other than the name used for expression. Fulton, we are told, is like Jimmy Durante’s Mrs. Calabash, an ideal defined by absence. The date of the poem’s events really is July 3, and the location really is a mall outside Atlanta, Georgia where the summer heat rising from the asphalt is hellish.

Floyd Byrom Thatch is a wounded vanity. He is a Georgia cracker on the order of a poor man’s Mephistopheles. And as someone obsessed with security he also has something of Lord Byron’s self-imposed exile. But Floyd is a real person, as all the others are. In the poem’s first part Floyd says to the speaker, “Who’s to remember . . . Who’s to remember a nickel or a dime / Or ever the time you saw your little dog get hit?” The poem’s narrator asks, “And how you think you know my dog was hit.” Floyd answers, “I’m saying, you were six; the dog was four, / Maybe five. Just saying that, nothing more.” That is, these things really did happen, and Floyd’s suppositions trouble the narrator because he has intuited something painful from the narrator’s past. The evil of Floyd’s wounded pride may be metaphysical (and universal on the order of allegory), but Floyd’s body and his history are matters of this world. The events of his life are no more allegorical than those of other lives that participate in the repeated patterns of our nature. In fact the events described are more disturbing than allegory would be. The narrator is hostile to Floyd’s speculation about the dog’s death because that event was real and the pain felt was real as well.

In revising “Nod” I had to come to terms with the fact that Floyd’s suffering is particular even as his judgment is general. Floyd’s thinking tends to generate the very things about which he is so apprehensive. He believes in negative terms. He is in security as a result of his doubt. And June and the two children are fractional presences due to Floyd’s drawn vision. We get another take on the limits of Floyd’s circular darkness when June starts putting him in his place. There he is comic enough that the humor and the tragedy of the poem constitute two sides of the same object, human finitude. I have gone into all this as it relates to “Nod,” but the humor, tragedy, and revision you ask about in my poetry generally stem from situations that are either overtly dramatic or implicitly so. Short poems assume what longer poems unpack from their dramatic situations, but the basis for each is similar to all others. Character and motive, elaborated or not, are the first governing principles in the poems I write. They determine humor, tragedy, and all manner of revision.


Like book manuscripts, book titles are often subject to change before publication. Was naming Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise easy or difficult? How did the naming come about?

My editor, mostly John Irwin of the Johns Hopkins University Press, has frequently been funny and helpful during the process of choosing the title for a new book. When The Run of the House was in press John kept asking me for different titles. Our son, Ian, was still very small but had a booming voice on the order of John Irving’s Owen Meany. There was this big voice and very little guy who made John Irwin laugh. At one point John asked what I thought Ian would say the title for the book ought to be. I said I don’t know, Ian’s not here to ask. John said, “Well what do you imagine Ian would call the book?” I said, “Run of the House, since that’s what he has.” John said, “I like that.” The next time I called, with another title, John said, “Marketing likes it, too.” The answer to your question is that a title should be both telling and cryptic. By a title the reader is introduced to a bit of a mystery. And that is as it should be since the book lives ultimately in the imagination of the reader. The second part of the answer is that we write for others, so title-to-last-line is considered finally in terms of what will work for the reader. The title is the first step in this.

Wyatt Prunty is a professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South and the founding director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is the author of nine collections of poems, including The Lover’s Guide to Trapping, and two critical works. His latest collection of poems from JHU Press, Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise, was published in 2015.

Yasmine Kaminsky, a student at Johns Hopkins University, studies English and interns in JHU Press’s marketing department.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise.

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“Most could never forget what they had seen and experienced . . . ” But will we remember?

Guest post by John C. McManus

mcmanusRecently the Anti-Defamation League conducted a worldwide survey designed to measure the extent of anti-Semitic attitudes and knowledge of the Holocaust. Over 53,000 adults in 102 countries were queried by professional pollsters using a data-based research survey method. The results were not encouraging. According to the poll, some 26 percent of respondents admitted to deeply held anti-Semitic attitudes. Perhaps even more disturbing, from an historical viewpoint, is that 54 percent of those surveyed worldwide had never heard of the Holocaust. Overall, almost two-thirds of those surveyed had either never heard of this most monumental of all history’s many great crimes or, worse, they believed it never actually happened.

Not surprisingly, Anti-Defamation League representatives expressed deep disappointment and alarm at such stark evidence of modern day hatred and ignorance. Abraham Foxman, the League’s national director in the United States, said, “The results confirm a troubling gap between older adults who know their history and younger men and women who, more than seventy years after the events of World War II, are more likely to have never heard of or learned about what happened to the six millions Jews who perished.”

Though no less troubled than Mr. Foxman, I was not especially surprised by the results. For several years now, I have witnessed ignorance of the Holocaust in some of my students and especially in popular culture as a whole. On occasion in that same popular culture, I have seen ignorance mutate into outright denial, sometimes out of rebellion against a perceived popular narrative of historical events, sometimes out of misplaced sympathy for anti-Semitic, anti-western, middle Eastern Arabs, and sometimes simply out of sheer hatred for Jews.

As a professional historian, it is not really my intent to become enmeshed in today’s geopolitical controversies. Instead my purpose is to document, chronicle, and analyze the events of the past, while perhaps offering some lessons for our future. My particular focus is on military history, with a specialization in World War II and the history of American soldiers in battle. In eleven books published over the course of more than a decade, I have explored the combat experience for those Americans who do the real fighting in time of war. If there is one theme that has stood out to me, it is the grim, visceral nature of combat for soldiers, especially amid the meat grinder of World War II, by far history’s deadliest war. Many of these same soldiers who fought for their lives on the front lines also liberated or witnessed concentration camps in Germany at the end of the war. Very few had any previous knowledge of the existence of these camps. Over the years, I have been struck by how many of these men told me or other historians or wrote in memoirs or letters that this experience was their most traumatic and unforgettable during the war. Indeed many were never the same after seeing a camp (or multiple camps in some cases). And yet, even though the Holocaust is one of the most heavily documented events in human history, the literature includes very little material about the liberation experiences of American soldiers.

So, in hopes of filling this void, as well as finding out what could have been worse for soldiers than battle, and combating what I perceived as persistent ignorance and denial of the Holocaust, I wrote Hell Before Their Very Eyes: American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945. The book focuses on the liberation of three camps—Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau—during that momentous month in 1945. These three places, I felt, represented the larger whole of the Nazi concentration camp system in Germany, and the story of their liberation conveys a narrative of discovery as American soldiers experienced it that spring. Indeed, it is sobering to realize that the Holocaust was not just a crime of genocide; in a larger sense it was a huge slave labor operation targeting a multitude of ethnic groups, not just Jews. The camps liberated by Americans in Germany were designed for enslavement, not industrial killing of human beings in massive numbers like the death camps in Poland (where the majority of Jewish Holocaust victims lost their lives). As such, the majority of the survivors encountered by American soldiers were non-Jewish eastern Europeans.

Thus, Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau were not even among the worst camps in the Nazi empire. But they were horrible enough. In these three terrible, pestilential places, young American soldiers came face to face with a dark and upsetting world of human degradation, along with its sickening manifestations of terrible sights and smells—emaciated bodies stacked in heaps, ovens full of incinerated human remains, warehouses filled with stolen shoes, clothing, luggage, and even eyeglasses, prison yards littered with implements of torture as well as dead bodies and, perhaps most disturbing of all, the half-dead survivors of these camps. The troops became familiar with the unforgettable stench of these places, a nauseating mixture of dead bodies, feces, dirty clothing, body odor and, at times, burnt flesh. “There’s nothing else I can remember in my lifetime that remains as vivid and horrible as that,” Bob Cleary, a young lieutenant who led a reconnaissance unit into Ohrdruf, later said. William Charboneau, who was a nineteen-year-old infantryman in 1945, opined more than fifty years after the war, “Until you’ve smelled burnt flesh or decayed flesh, you have no idea what the odor is. I can still smell it today.” Not surprisingly, most could never forget what they had seen and experienced. “The scenes were so deeply etched in my memory that it is impossible to cast them aside–or to forget–or to permit time to dull the sharpness of those horrifying images of hell on earth,” Jerry Hontas, a Buchenwald liberator, said. “The only thing that vanished was our innocence.” Some could never talk about these horrors; others felt a sense of mission to tell the world, especially as they grew old and the world’s memory faded. This is their story . . .

John C. McManus is a Curators’ Professor of History at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the author of Hell Before Their Very Eyes: American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945 which will be published this month by JHU Press. His previous books include The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II and Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq.

Read the results of the Anti-Defamation League survey here.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you place your pre-publication order for Hell Before Their Very Eyes.



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Filed under American Studies, History, Jewish Studies, Popular Culture, War and Conflict

Meet us in Washington, D.C.: German Studies Association

If you are heading to Washington, D.C. for the GSA annual meeting, be sure to stop by our booth, located right by the registration desk, to meet our staff, browse our latest publications, and and take advantage of special meeting discounts. Throughout the meeting and after, JHUP books will be available at a 30% discount when your use the discount code HEZA. Check out what’s new and recent from JHUP in German Studies and other related fields!

mcmanusHell Before Their Very Eyes: American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945
by John C. McManus

On April 4, 1945, United States Army units from the 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division seized Ohrdruf, the first of many Nazi concentration camps to be liberated in Germany. In the weeks that followed, as more camps were discovered, thousands of soldiers came face to face with the monstrous reality of Hitler’s Germany.

These men discovered the very depths of human-imposed cruelty and depravity: railroad cars stacked with emaciated, lifeless bodies; ovens full of incinerated human remains; warehouses filled with stolen shoes, clothes, luggage, and even eyeglasses; prison yards littered with implements of torture and dead bodies; and—perhaps most disturbing of all—the half-dead survivors of the camps. For the American soldiers of all ranks who witnessed such powerful evidence of Nazi crimes, the experience was life altering. Almost all were haunted for the rest of their lives by what they had seen, horrified that humans from ostensibly civilized societies were capable of such crimes.

Military historian John C. McManus sheds new light on this often-overlooked aspect of the Holocaust. Drawing on a rich blend of archival sources and thousands of firsthand accounts—including unit journals, interviews, oral histories, memoirs, diaries, letters, and published recollections—Hell Before Their Very Eyes focuses on the experiences of the soldiers who liberated Ohrdruf, Buchenwald, and Dachau and their determination to bear witness to this horrific history.

loudenPennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language

By Mark L. Louden

While most world languages spoken by minority populations are in serious danger of becoming extinct, Pennsylvania Dutch is thriving. In fact, the number of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers is growing exponentially, although it is spoken by less than one-tenth of one percent of the United States population and has remained for the most part an oral vernacular without official recognition or support. A true sociolinguistic wonder, Pennsylvania Dutch has been spoken continuously since the late eighteenth century, even though it has never been “refreshed” by later waves of immigration from abroad.

In this probing study, Mark L. Louden, himself a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch, provides readers with a close look at the place of the language in the life and culture of two major subgroups of speakers: the “Fancy Dutch,” whose ancestors were affiliated mainly with Lutheran and German Reformed churches, and conservative Anabaptist sectarians known as the “Plain people”—the Old Order Amish and Mennonites.

Drawing on scholarly literature, three decades of fieldwork, and ample historical documents—most of which have never before been made accessible to English-speaking readers—this is the first book to offer a comprehensive look at this unlikely linguistic success story.

shantz comp rev.inddAn Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe
by Douglas H. Shantz; foreword by Peter C. Erb

Winner, 2014 Dale Brown Book Award, Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies

An Introduction to German Pietism provides a scholarly investigation of a movement that changed the history of Protestantism. The Pietists can be credited with inspiring both Evangelicalism and modern individualism.

Taking into account new discoveries in the field, Douglas H. Shantz focuses on features of Pietism that made it religiously and culturally significant. He discusses the social and religious roots of Pietism in earlier German Radicalism and situates Pietist beginnings in three cities: Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Halle. Shantz also examines the cultural worlds of the Pietists, including Pietism and gender, Pietists as readers and translators of the Bible, and Pietists as missionaries to the far reaches of the world. He not only considers Pietism’s role in shaping modern western religion and culture but also reflects on the relevance of the Pietist religious paradigm of today.

The first survey of German Pietism in English in forty years, An Introduction to German Pietism provides a narrative interpretation of the movement as a whole. The book’s accessible tone and concise portrayal of an extensive and complex subject make it ideal for courses on early modern Christianity and German history. The book includes appendices with translations of German primary sources and discussion questions.

JHU Press Journals:

German Studies Review
Journal of Democracy
American Imago

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Filed under Conferences, GSA 2015, History

Preparing surgeons to work overseas

JHUP author Dr. Adam L. Kushner will be signing copies of Operation Health in Chicago next week at the American College of Surgeons’ Clinical Congress 2015. Meet Adam and get your signed copy of  at the Exhibit Hall Resource Center Book Signing Booth on Monday, October 5, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, October 6, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The book signing is hosted by Operation Giving Back, a resource designed to help surgeons find volunteer opportunities best suited to their expertise and interests.

Guest post by Adam L. Kushner, MD, MPH, FACS

kushnerIn low-resource countries 288.2 million people need surgical care. Reducing this burden requires improving local health systems and building capacity, but volunteer surgeons can also help. As interest by surgeons in volunteering overseas increases, proper preparation is important. Below is a modified outline based on a guide for surgical residents and students.


  1. Determine why, where, and for how long you can go.
  2. Choose an organization or a country and site, establish goals and connections, and plan a budget and adequate financing for the trip.
  3. Prepare items to bring along: these include personal items, personal medical equipment, and any items to donate after consulting the host facility.
  4. Be a smart traveler: arrange visas, vaccinations, flights, food, water, living, and travel arrangements.

The visitor’s role at the hosting facility:

  1. Ensure that adequate clinical supervision is available.
  2. Remember that local training programs take priority.
  3. Work within the local system(s) and protocols.
  4. Take care of your own health.
  5. Maintain a surgical case log (end of each day).
  6. Consider opportunities for using/establishing blogs or mass e-mails.

Activities after returning:

  1. Continue communication with hosts after your experience.
  2. Provide a written summary to your sponsor(s).
  3. Share your experiences through a variety of channels (acknowledge and, when possible, include international colleagues in your reports).
  4. Volunteer as an advisor to others who wish to follow you.

Another good source of volunteer information for surgeons is available from the American College of Surgeons at Operation Giving Back.

Adam L. Kushner, MD, MPH, FACS is an associate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a lecturer in the Department of Surgery at Columbia University, and the founder and director of Surgeons OverSeas. He is the editor of Operation Health: Surgical Care in the Developing World.

Read a review of Operation Health in The Lancet.


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Filed under Health and Medicine, Medical Education, Public Health