For National Authors Day on Nov. 1, the University of Mary Washington is sharing a few of the latest books from faculty authors.
From fields as diverse as English, physics and political science, these professors have penned a new collection of poetry, an exposé about the most brilliant of minds and a text that traces the evolution of late-night political humor.
By Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Laura Bylenok
Published by University of Nebraska Press, Oct. 1, 2022
Bylenok’s most recent book, Living Room, won the Backwaters Prize in Poetry. The text explores life at a cellular level, coaxing readers to slow down and use their senses. The network of poems explores such themes as grief, motherhood, mortality and self by weaving scientific ideas together with ethereal language.
Poems in the collection describe the lived reality of various types of life, including animals, plants and bacteria – conjuring lessons in biology, genetics and neurochemistry – and also such things as buildings and rocks in a poignantly poetic way.
“Language becomes solid, palpable as fruit,” reads the book’s description. “Long lines propel breath and push past the lung’s capacity.”
“I wrote Living Room as an act of empathy, an attempt to understand being human by trying to put myself into nonhuman experience,” Bylenok said.
“Language is a tool for understanding our world, and I experiment with perspective and metaphor to get to some sense of self – human, non, genetic, generational, fractioned, fragmented – that allows being multiple and simultaneously always incomplete. It’s a book full of grief and family trauma and a book of forgiveness and self-forgiveness. I wrote it to get at that, to practice listening to the parts of my brain and the world that don’t make narrative sense but constitute us nonetheless.”
Bylenok also is the author of Warp and a/0. Her poetry has appeared in the likes of Crazyhorse, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Arts & Letters and DIAGRAM. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, an MFA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah.
Beyond Genius: A Journey Through the Characteristics and Legacies of Transformative Minds
By Professor Emeritus of Physics Bulent Atalay
Published by Pegasus Books, Nov. 7, 2023
In his most recent book, Beyond Genius, Atalay explores the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Ludwig von Beethoven and Albert Einstein, all considered transformative geniuses who redefined their fields or introduced new realms of thought.
The book examines the elusive concept of “genius” and how these five masterminds seemed to leap effortlessly from one monumental achievement to another. In dissecting their habits and traits, however, Atalay maps their paths to immortality, revealing patterns in their lives and legacies, and finding that the men fit more of a mold than one might imagine.
“Where did these masters draw inspiration to produce some of the most stunning achievements in human history?” the book’s description on Amazon asks. “Were their brains wired differently than ours?”
Atalay is also the author of Math and the Mona Lisa and Leonardo’s Universe. He was a professor of physics at UMW and, concurrently, an adjunct professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia and a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.
Late-Night in Washington: Political Humor and the American Presidency
By Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth
Published by Routledge, Sept. 1, 2023
With co-authors S. Robert Lichter and Farah Latif of George Mason University, Farnsworth continues his quest to explore late-night political humor in his most recent book, Late-Night in Washington.
On the heels of his 2019 publication, Late Night With Trump: Political Humor and the American Presidency, Farnsworth’s new book continues to investigate this celebrated comedic genre and its relation to the United States’ commander in chief.
Late-Night in Washington cites everything from Richard Nixon’s appearance on Laugh-In to Donald Trump’s avatar on Saturday Night Live, considering also how late-night comedy treats Joe Biden, who arguably offers less comedy fodder than his predecessor.
Using content analysis, public opinion surveys, and other quantitative and qualitative research, this book is for students and scholars of politics and media, as well as political pundits and the general public.
Farnsworth also has authored or co-authored The Nightly News Nightmare: Media Coverage of U.S. Presidential Elections, 1988-2008; Presidential Communication and Character: White House News Management from Clinton and Cable to Twitter and Trump; Spinner in Chief: How Presidents Sell Their Policies and Themselves; The Mediated Presidency: Television News and Presidential Governance and The Global President: International Media and the US Government. He is director of UMW’s Center for Media and Leadership Studies.