I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister and My Brother

Edited by Michel Foucault

On a fine summer’s day, 20-year-old Pierre Rivière took in hand a sharp farm implement known as a pruning hook and hacked to death his mother, 18-year-old sister and 7-year-old brother. Observed by a neighbor as he still clutched the bloody tool, Rivière told him, “I have just delivered my father from all his tribulations. I know that they will put me to death, but no matter,” before he calmly walked off. Rivière might sound like yet another nihilist psychotic born of 20th-century malaise, but the year was 1835. Described by witnesses as “an idiot in his village,” Rivière nevertheless produced a 40-page written “confession.” This confession forms the centerpiece of I, Pierre Rivière… along with other documents gathered together by editor Foucault, including medical and legal reports, transcripts of interrogations and statements by witnesses. In addition to these primary source materials, Foucault and several other historians comment on the murder and its aftermath in the final section of the book. These essays situate Rivière’s crime in a time when the medical and legal professions were first contending for status and power, thus creating the basis for beliefs about crime and insanity that continue with us in our own time. LP

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 289 pages

The Revival of Israel: Rome and Jerusalem, the Last Nationalist Question

Moses Hess

Hess was a German citizen by birth, as well as the forerunner of the modern Zionist movement. He fervently believed that modern anti-Semitism was spawned by the Pope and the Church of Rome, a theme currently adopted by such Jewish authors as Daniel Goldhagen. Hess viewed the assimilation of Jews into German society as a great danger to the existence of the Jewish people. Unnoticed at first, Hess’ book was later discovered and adopted by the Zionists. Viewed in retrospect, his comments about Germany, the country of his birth, and the Germans themselves appear to be remarkably accurate: “It seems that German education is not compatible with our Jewish national aspirations… The German hates the Jewish religion less than the race; he objects less to the Jew’s peculiar beliefs than to their peculiar noses.” As a lone voice crying in the wilderness, Hess’ calls for the construction of a Jewish national state went unheeded by his own contemporaries, only to reach fulfillment after two world wars and the Holocaust. JB

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 265 pages

The King of the World in the Land of the Pygmies

Joan Mark

Patrick Tracy Lowell sailed to Africa in 1927 as part of a three-person anthropological expedition from Harvard University. The nature of anthropology was changing but Mr. Lowell wasn’t. He remained a New England gentleman for the entire duration of his 25-year stay in Africa. Although he was considered a failure as an anthropologist when he died in 1953, he was certainly a success in the “life is art” category. This book gives one of the great eccentrics of the 20th century his proper due. He created a home away from home in northwest Zaire, and his hospitality enabled a number of anthropologists a chance to study the region and its people and publish their findings, in the process providing a glimpse of a world where there were still outposts of purity, untrammeled by civilization. SA

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Hardback: 272 pages

Mass Rape

Edited by Alexander Stiglmayer

Pornography goes to war. “Accounts of torture, murder, mutilation, abduction, sexual enslavement and systematic attempts to impregnate—all in the name of ‘ethnic cleansing.”’ It’s the old Nazi Holocaust gambit brought into the ‘90s with a sicko porn twist. With this war, states the author, pornography emerges as a tool of genocide. One witness writes: “Some massacres in villages as well as rapes and/or executions in camps are being videotaped as they’re happening… In front of the camera, one beats you and the other—excuse me—fucks you, he puts his truncheon in you, and he films all that… We even had to sing Serbian songs… in front of the camera.” Told in political and social essays and interviews with some 20 women, primarily of Muslim origin, and three Serbian perpetrators. GR

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 232 pages

Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Johnson and Shakespeare

John S. Mebane

“You, like a judge appointed for being honorable, are the molder and maker of yourself; you may sculpt yourself into whatever shape you prefer.”—Pico della Mirandola
Positing that philosophical occultism may be read as the logical extension of Renaissance humanists’ “affirmation of the power of human beings to control both their own personalities and the world around them,” Mebane provides in-depth analyses of philosopher-magicians Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Cornelius Agrippa, each an example of how “magic became the most powerful manifestation of the growing conviction that humankind should act out its potential in the free exercise of its powers on the social and natural environment.” Because Johnson, Marlowe and Shakespeare were “thoroughly familiar with the philosophical, social and political implications of Hermetic/Kabbalistic magic, as well as with the claims of particular occult philosophers,” the later chapters examine how Dr. Faustus, The Alchemist, and The Tempest reflect each playwright’s response to the centrality of magic in both humanist thought and everyday life. Throughout, Mebane weaves a rigorous symbiosis of history, philosophy and literary criticism, offering readers an intelligent re-evaluation of the importance of the occult tradition to the thought and literature of the Renaissance. HS

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 317 pages

Essays in Radical Empiricism

William James

If one idea characterizes America, it is the “the spirituality of matter” (as Edgar Alan Poe called it in his philosophical dialogues). This theme can be traced through creations considered most American: rock’n’roll, process-oriented jazz and the primacy of the individual's encounter with things (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). Even the much-maligned “Protestant work ethic” becomes less ridiculous when seen in the context of being an attempt to find enlightenment (“salvation”) through an active engagement with the material world (“work”). This idea is also central to the philosophy of William James, the definitive American philospher. James systematically articulates the spirituality of matter by dissolving traditional philosophic distinctions between mind and matter, things and their relations, and facts and values. RP

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 304 pages

Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy

Samuel Walker

Examines America’s unique First Amendment protection of “even the most offensive forms of expression: racial slurs, hateful religious propaganda, and cross burning… from the conflicts over the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and American Nazi groups in the 1930s, to the famous Skokie episode in 1977-78, and the campus culture wars of the 1990s. The author argues that the civil rights movement played a central role in developing this country’s strong free speech tradition.” In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) rose out of the first political and legal clash over free speech/hate speech rights in the ‘20s. GR

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 256 pages

Such Men as Billy the Kid: The Lincoln County War Reconsidered

Joel Jacobsen

Joel Jacobsen, an assistant attorney general for the state of New Mexico specializing in criminal appeals, has turned a probing, appellate eye on the much-retold Old West saga of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War. A superbly researched and reasoned account of the violent events that enveloped southern New Mexico in the 1880s, Such Men as Billy the Kid poses the intriguing question: Was Billy the Kid the psychotic, mercenary gun for hire commonly portrayed in popular mythology? Or was the Kid actually a conscientious soldier in a brave but doomed attempt to wrest control of a defenseless town from the corrupt and vicious oligarchy that controlled it? Author Jacobsen admirably demonstrates that as in life itself, the truth lies somewhere in the shades of gray that lie between. AD

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Hardback: 470 pages

A Time To Die: The Attica Prison Revolt

Tom Wicker

Wicker was at Attica, invited by the prisoners, along with Bobby Seales, William Kunstler and others, to be an observer to the hostage negotiations. He experienced first-hand the initial elation of the prisoners who felt they had beaten the system, the churning fear of notorious D yard, and the terror and anger of the townspeople and guards. A novelist and respected journalist, Wicker writes of the background to the siege, including a potted history of the American penal system and the conditions which existed in the prisons prior to the 1971 revolt. Finally, A Time To Die describes the bloody ending to the revolt, and its aftermath which included vicious reprisals against the inmates by the prison’s guards. NN

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 342 pages

Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under Nazi Occupation

Isaiah Trunk

Judenrat is a massive undertaking which purports to raise and answer a number of uncomfortable questions concerning the role of Jews who “collaborated” with the Nazis during World War II, although the author is careful to assign ultimate guilt to the Nazis. The description of the Ghetto Police, who were comprised of Jews, is particularly harrowing: “Horrible stories are told about the Jewish Policemen at the Umschlagplatz. For them the victims were not human beings but heads for which money could be extorted. Ransom could be paid in cash, diamonds, gold, etc. The price of a head ranged from 1,000 to 2,000 zlotys at the beginning, until it grew to 10,000 zlotys per head… The policemen knew no mercy, even in regard to the most respected man. If he could not pay, or if there were no relatives ready to pay, he was shipped off. There were known cases when policemen demanded payment in kind—the flesh of women in addition to cash. The people apprehended… particularly women, put up resistance. All these factors created an unbearable situation for the policemen. They went berserk, committing unspeakable acts.” JB

Publisher: University of Nebraska
Paperback: 700 pages