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Tarek El-Aris, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies ProfessorIn this week's edition, we hear from Tarek El-Ariss, associate professor and chair of Middle Eastern Studies.  Author of Leaks, Hacks, and Scandals: Arab Culture in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2019) and editor of The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda (The Modern Language Association of America, 2018), El-Ariss's varied research interests include contemporary Arabic culture, literature, and art; new media and cyber culture; digital humanities; Nahda literature, language, press, and literary theory; travel writing - among many other things.

What are your books about?

While "The Arab Renaissance" is about the project of Arab modernity in the 19th century, "Leaks, Hacks, and Scandals" is about the challenges to Arab modernity in the digital age.

Where did you get your ideas for this?

I'm a scholar of modernity and the enlightenment in Europe and the Middle East, and I'm particularly interested in examining how modernity and its fundamental constituents (nation state, subject, ethics, novel, public sphere) are evolving in different contexts and at different times. Transformations in digital communication combined with the political upheavals that gripped the Middle East since 2011 especially led me to examine the relation between politics and writing, public protests and cyber attacks, and the rational subject of the liberal nation state and the leaking and hacking subject online.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

I spend a lot of time in my office surrounded by my books; this makes me feel safe. My books are my companions as they inspire me and serve as references. When I do my research, I take a lot of notes, hundreds of pages, which I then distill into articles and chapters. I'm a compulsive editor; I go up to 10 or 15 drafts for every piece of writing. Good writing is editing.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

An interactive environment with touch screens that reveal books and point to where they are. The virtual and the material are not mutually exclusive. With new technology there is expediency and speed but also forms of intimacy that will give new meaning to our need to touch and hold.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Take intellectual risks, cross disciplinary boundaries, and edit edit edit!

And finally, what do you read for fun?

Graphic novels (from Maus to Persepolis), the Presocratics (Parmenides, Thales, Zeno), Alexandre Dumas, Diane de Selliers books, The Arabian Nights.

Next time you’re in line at the KAF, take a look at the Spring 2019 exhibit of new books by Dartmouth authors, on topics ranging from early colonial (US) history, to heterocyclic chemistry, to teaching leadership.  But wait, there's more! Check out “Holding Court,” a series of short interviews with the authors, published throughout the term.  And you won't want to miss the spring’s blockbuster book talk featuring Colin G. Calloway, author of The Indian World of George Washington (Oxford, 2018) in conversation with none other than our very own J. Wendel Cox, librarian for History, English, and historian of the North American West.

The Dartmouth Library has a copy of each one of Spring 2019 display books for check-out, or, look for them in a library or bookstore near you:

Colin G. Calloway, The Indian World of George Washington (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Julio Ariza, El abandono: abismo amoroso y crisis social (Beatriz Viterbo, 2018)

Levi S. Gibbs, Song King: Connecting People, Places, and Past in Contemporary China (University of Hawaii Press, 2018)

Annabelle Cone, Empty Nesting (Waffle House Publishing, 2018)

Tarek El-Ariss, Leaks, Hacks, and Scandals: Arab Culture in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2019; The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda2018 (Modern Language Association of America)

Peter Jacobi, Introduction to Heterocyclic Chemistry(John Wiley and Sons, 2019)

Cecilia Gaposchkin, Invisible Weapons: Liturgy and the Making of Crusade Ideology (Cornell University Press, 2017); Liturgy and Devotion in the Crusader States (Routledge, 2019)

Michelle T. Clarke, Machiavelli's Florentine Republic (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Sadhana Warty Hall, Teaching Leadership: Bridging Theory and Practice (Edward Elgar Press, 2018)

Nicola Camerlenghi, St. Paul's outside the Walls : a Roman basilica, from antiquity to the modern era (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Laurence Hooper, assistant professor of ItalianIn this week's edition of Holding Court, we remember and honor Laurence Hooper, Assistant Professor of Italian, who passed away on January 25, 2019.  Laurence was a scholar of Dante and Petrarch, and co-editor of the important Realisms and idealisms in Italian culture, 1300–2017 with Brendan Hennessey and Charles L. Leavitt IV.  This volume offers a critical look at the so-called "real" versus the "ideal" Italy, and exemplifies Laurence's wide-ranging interests in exploring the complexity of Italian culture.  Laurence's life was far too short, but he left behind a legacy of joyful commitment to intellectual work that resonates not only here on campus, but among scholars around the world.  A voracious reader and library user, Laurence partnered with me from his first days at Dartmouth to build up the library's holdings, and it's a credit to him that our collections are as strong as they are in the study of Dante.  I miss him, and am grateful that he took the time, during the last few months of his life, to share his reflections in this interview.

What is this volume about?

It’s about Italian culture’s grittier, darker side — realism — and how it defines the national identity. This often escapes casual observers because they associate Italy with high art and beauty — idealism.

Where did you get your ideas for this?

Ever since I started visiting Italy and studying Italian culture, and my co-editors both report similar experiences, I’ve been intrigued by the discrepancy between the “real” Italy, where everyday life goes on but there is human misery and strife, and the ideal “Italy,” which is this blissful land of fine arts, great cuisine, and architectural splendor. What’s really interesting is that both the Italians themselves, and foreign observers truly believe in that idealized Italy of art and beauty. But, within Italy, there’s another pole: a failed, broken, degraded version of the ideal, characterized by political corruption, institutional dysfunction, and violence that’s largely ignored outside of the country. That’s an extreme too, of course, but I think it begins to explain Italians’ long history of fascination with realism, which dates back to Dante and Boccaccio, as an antidote to the notion that their country is effectively a museum of beautiful artifacts. By focusing on Italian realism, which is so often neglected, we hope to steer a middle road between idealized good and idealized bad, in order to build up a new and more accurate picture of Italian culture. My co-editors and I decided to pull together a team of people who could really give a sense of this Italian realism across time and in a variety of settings.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Research for me is mostly about reading. I read and read until ideas start to coalesce, then I read some more. And, as I’m going, I’m taking copious notes, both about the text I’m reading and, more importantly on what I think of it and how it fits with everything else I’m considering for this project. It’s these notes to self that form the basis for whatever I then come to write.  My iPad Pro 10.5” has become my indispensable reading companion. I’m especially enamored of the (1st generation) Apple Pencil. I take much better notes by hand and now that I can scribble on PDFs and input text from handwriting, I’m much happier than I was with a laptop.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope it will have a lot of its activities and holdings online and so be accessible worldwide. At the same time, the library building should always be at the heart of a university campus. Ideally, the library will be the logical place onsite for intellectual work, both collaborative and individual. So, as well as rendezvous points and coffee, it should have multiple quiet, comfortable zones where a student or faculty member can settle down and work on a problem or question for a number of hours.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Read everything but only within strict limits guided by your research.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I love history: Reformed Protestantism, the history of colonies and empires, and any kind of US history are my favorite topics right now. A couple of titles I’d recommend would be Steven Hahn, A Nation without Borders  and Richard Rothstein, the Color of Law.

Photo of Robert St. Clair, assistant professor of FrenchIn this week's edition, we speak with Robert St. Clair, assistant professor in the Department of French and Italian.  Rob is a scholar of 19th century French literature, who finds the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud an inexhaustible source of inspiration and inquiry.  The author of Poetry, Politics, and the Body in Rimbaud: Lyrical Material (Oxford University Press, 2018), Rob is also co-editor in chief of the Rimbaud-focused journal Parade Sauvage. How does Rob manage to get work done?  With post-it notes.  Lots of them.

What is your book about?

Poetry, Politics, and the Body in Rimbaud is about the social materiality of poetry in Second Empire France (1851-1870)—that is to say, the intersections of the aesthetic and the historical, of art with its social situation. It takes as an emblematic case of this materiality the role played by representations of the body in the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891): the enfant terrible of French letters whose work transformed the literary landscape of French modernity before he ostensibly gave up on poetry altogether at the age of 20.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

From years of reading Rimbaud's poetry and being productively puzzled.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

If I were to settle on one allegorical image of what research looks like for me, it would be this: post-it notes. An absolute maelstrom of post-it notes littered across piles of books. I have always found that reading is the sneakiest, most productive form of writing there is. So, in a word, the research element I couldn't live without is: books. Library books. None of my research could have been done without library books!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

My sincere and real hope is that the library of the future persists and thrives in its material form: that is, as a real place, with real librarians, with real books among real stacks that one can wander around in - perhaps for the sheer pleasure of picking up a book out of curiosity, perhaps in only apparent aimlessness. If I did not regularly lose entire mornings leafing through the stacks in Baker-Berry - coming on occasion across invaluable texts and studies that I hadn't been looking for - I shudder to think of the state some of my work would be in.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Don't stop reading.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

It's not always easy to find time for this, but I find it's crucial. In the past week I've been reading a book by the art historian T.J. Clark called Heaven on Earth. It's a study of the idea and political problem of the utopian in Western art from the late middle ages to the contemporary period. There's a chapter in there on Bruegel's Land of Cockaigne (Shlaraffenland, Le Pays de cocagne, or something like the more recent "Big Rock Candy Mountain") for which every page was breathtaking, poignant, humorous, a little on the despondent side. Similarly in the vein of picking things up for no reason, I got through a very short novel by Georges Perec the other day, Quel petit vélo à guidon chromé au fond de la cour? It's a deeply funny, playfully complex little story about a group of friends trying to come up with a way of getting one of their pals - whose name the narrator can never quite recall or get consistently right - out of the draft during the Algerian War of Independence (like any good "joke," in other words, its implicit cultural and historical backdrop is anything but a laughing matter).

 

 

A portrait of Julie Hruby, a professor of classics.
A portrait of Julie Hruby, a professor of classics.

In this week's edition, we speak with Julie Hruby, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies.  Hruby is an archaeologist, specializing in cooking and cooking implements, and her latest research involves incorporating advanced forensic techniques and computational methods in the study of fingerprints on clay vessels and other artifacts.

What is your book about?

This volume explores what their cooking pots say about prehistoric Greeks, including how their cuisine interacted with others' and how food constructed socioeconomic class.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I had been writing about prehistoric cuisine for more than a decade when a colleague suggested that we put together a panel on the topic of Late Bronze Age Aegean cooking pots for an annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. We both knew that this field had huge gaps in it. One of the session attendees was a reporter for LiveScience who wrote an article about my paper; a student and I had made replicas of Mycenaean cooking pots and tested a few hypotheses about how they had been used. The topic was picked up by a wide range of international media, including NPR's "The Splendid Table." That, in combination with the fact that the papers in the session formed a varied but coherent set of truly novel approaches, suggested that publication would be useful.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Most of my research takes place in Greece, because I work exclusively on excavated archaeological material. I have worked on excavations, field surveys, in the work rooms in museums, and in labs. Measuring things seems to be a constant, although which tools I use are dictated by the questions I ask; they range from very simple (rulers, calipers, diameter charts) to fairly elaborate (a high-resolution 3D scanner). The other tool I use constantly is a camera.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope that the library of the future will include both analog and digital resources, with materials in whatever format makes the most sense for the type of publication. For example, excavation publications are rarely read from start to finish; they are more often searched for material relevant to topic-oriented studies, and the searchable nature of digital publications makes digital formats preferable. However, topically oriented studies within archaeology and many other fields are more often read, and there is excellent evidence that things read in hard copy are remembered better than things read digitally. As a result, while article length studies can be digitized and printed when needed, anything that is book-length should probably be maintained in hard copy.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

The only way to think and write well is to know how to identify an interesting question to think and write about. The challenge is that what "interesting" means varies from year to year, from person to person, and from culture to culture. Ideally, you want to do one of two things: find a question that many other people have asked but have not managed to answer, then find a newer approach to answering it, or find a question that other people have not yet asked but that has some bearing on larger questions that they have asked. Also, read, constantly, and leave yourself a little time every day to mull new ideas or new approaches to old ones (in the shower and before falling asleep work well for me).

And finally, what do you read for fun?

Science fiction has been my favorite genre since I was a reading-obsessed child who tripped over her father's extensive collection of books by Isaac Asimov. More recently, I have enjoyed Lois McMaster Bujold's work, especially the Vorkosigan saga, and Ann Leckie's novels.

Melinda O'Neal photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Melinda O'Neal, Professor Emerita of Music and Artistic Director and Conductor Emerita of the Handel Choir of Baltimore.  With O'Neal's book, Experiencing Berlioz: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) readers are introduced not only to the sonic landscape of Berlioz' work, but to the ways that history, biography and literature can deepen and enrich one's appreciation of his music.

What is your book about?

Experiencing Berlioz is about finding touchstones for understanding the music of Berlioz—discovering what works to listen to, what to listen for, and how listening can bring deeper enjoyment.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

When I first rehearsed a choral work by Berlioz in graduate school, its beauty and originality took my breath away. Then while preparing Berlioz works for performances with the Dartmouth Chamber Singers, Handel Society, Seattle Symphony Chorale, and other ensembles, I looked more broadly at his repertoire. I discovered that the majority of his works are for singers and instruments, not for instruments alone as is commonly supposed. Why this misconception? The central questions then became, what is it about his music—songs, choruses, extended choral-orchestral works, operas, and symphonies—that makes performing and listening to them so gratifying, so compelling? How can I connect others to this treasure-trove? I am grateful for all the Dartmouth performers and students in my courses who contributed to this effort.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

To write this book I needed access to all of Berlioz’s scores, the poetry, novels and plays he set or based his music on, his books and reviews, and the perspectives of every other Berlioz scholar. Live concerts, attended or conducted, were essential so I could hear the music as it interacted with the acoustics of the hall, see the sources of individual sounds, and experience different interpretations. High quality recordings, texts, and excellent translations were invaluable, of course.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

Walking into a music library brimming with bustle and interaction is always a pleasure. I hope those who enter in the future will also find…

  • easy access to as many world-wide styles and genres of music as possible, newest to old and in a variety of formats.
  • multiple recordings of the same repertoire (including rare recordings off the beaten path), so listeners can perceive how different interpretations and performance practices vastly affect the impact of a composition.
  • a silent, calm space. Much of the musical experience takes place from inside out. For example, a performer imagining the sound with only the score in hand, or a composer or improvisor simply imagining, or a listener remembering/imagining. These all require deep concentration.
  • an experimental digital laboratory designed to hear selections as they might sound and feel in spaces altered to different sizes and shapes or played by different instruments and other media.

 What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Aspiring music scholars should perform, listen, attend live concerts, read thoroughly and widely, be well-grounded in music history and theory. Take those graduate courses in bibliography, learn foreign languages, explore music’s intersection with other disciplines, travel. When writing, seek feedback often and be prepared to write many drafts. Most importantly, write about what you know and love.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I read the daily news, The New Yorker magazine, and mysteries by Donna Leon, Deborah Crombie, and others. As I enter into retirement, I look forward to reading more American history and biographies.

photo of paul musselwhiteHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Paul Musselwhite, a historian of early America with a particular focus on the political economy of early plantation societies in North America and the Caribbean.  Paul is the co-editor of  Empire of the Senses: Sensory Practices of Colonialism in Early America (Brill, 2017), which explores the role that the senses played in the production of empire.

What is your book about?

In order for Europeans to colonize the Americas and tap its resources they had to first be able to sense it - to figure out what it smelt like, tasted like, etc. That process made it comprehensible as a set of commodities, people, and places that could be acquired and integrated into their world.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I'd been working on the history of English cities in America and I'd been thinking about the way colonists tried to recreate urban sensory experiences (music, food, physical interactions) there. In the process of doing that work I made contact with Prof. Daniella Hacke from Berlin and we came up with the idea of bringing together a lot of scholars who were working on similar topics as part of a new volume.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

I'm not a neat researcher. I'm a very synthetic thinker so I need lots of books and files open at once, often strewn across my desk, so I can keep jumping back and forth. That's my excuse anyway!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I don't think we'll ever move away from the value of some printed material, but the key is going to be finding way to make different kinds of media work together. I'd love to see workspaces that can combine digital media with printed sources and manuscripts.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

You can never rewrite your introduction too many times - keep going back to it.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I love to read good travel writing.

photo of faith beasleyHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Faith E. Beasley, Professor of French and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  Author of Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal (University of Toronto Press, 2018) Beasley is an expert in seventeenth-century French literature by women.  Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012, Beasley used the prize to complete research and writing on this book, an exploration into the conversations about India during the early modern period in France.

What is your book about?

I identify and explore the traces that the encounter with India left on the cultural artifacts and mindset of early modern Europe. I focus on France's "Grand Siècle" and the female-dominated salon culture that was unique to France and resurrect the traces of conversations about India in the literary works, correspondences, philosophical texts, novels, fables, and memoirs produced by members of a particular salon.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

I have always been interested in the shadows of history, in finding and telling the stories that have been lost or sometimes intentionally cast aside and rejected from the dominant narrative of the past. My first two books, Revising Memory and Salons, History, and the Creation of 17th-century France, focused on the women writers of France's canonical 17th century and their influence on culture, and then explored why their story and the institution associated with them, the salon, was either erased from history or revised so it no longer posed a threat to the traditional view of the image of Louis XIV's France. This book also places into question our idea of what the west thought of India and the influence India exerted on the western imaginary. For the past 20 years I have lived between France, the US, and India, and been immersed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I started to notice references to India in some of France's most well-known works of literature and philosophy and was struck by how these references reflected a very different relationship between West and East than the one portrayed by orientalism. This interdisciplinary and cultural analysis of the encounter between two great civilizations at peak moments of their history challenges our preconceptions of the relationship between west and east, as it complicates our understanding of the past by including voices, especially those of women, who have been silenced.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Research for me is above all reading: reading versions of history, literary works, letters, philosophy...works from many different disciplines. In the early modern period, the boundaries between disciplines were much more fluid and sometimes didn't even exist. I also love to visit museums to see what people who were writing the texts I'm reading were looking at as they constructed images of the world around them. My goal is to learn how people thought, and how they came up with new ideas, not just what those ideas were. We read literary works differently when we have a deep understanding of their historical context. I find texts and images online, but I derive much more pleasure from time spent in libraries in Paris, in the archives, looking at the marginalia in early editions of works. I can't work without touching physical books, nor read a book without having a pencil in hand for notes! I always have to have a writing utensil and paper around me to jot down ideas, even on my bedside table!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

My ardent hope is that it will still contain actual books. Reading a text online is simply not the same experience.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Write about questions and issues that engage your mind but also your heart, your very being. Don't just go with the latest fad or write to please others. Your work must come from deep within you to keep your interest as well as attract readers. And don't be afraid to revise!

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I have always loved to read biographies. My next project will be a biography in fact! I'm fascinated by how a writer constructs someone's life, and by different biographies of the same subject. My other great passion is historical novels. I love to enter the past, become engrossed in another world. I appreciate texts that get me into people's mindsets and that offer different ways of viewing and interpreting the world.

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A portrait of Laura Edmondson, associate professor of theater, and program administrator for African and African American studies and women's and gender studies.Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we speak with Laura Edmondson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Theater.  The research and writing of Laura's book, Performing Trauma in Central Africa: Shadows of Empire (Indiana University Press, 2018), developed over the span of more than a decade, proving that quality scholarship takes time and persistence to produce.

What is your book about?

My book explores theater and other forms of cultural production that respond to conflict and post-conflict in Rwanda, northern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Basically, it’s a journey through the performance of war in Central Africa.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

From fieldwork. In 2004, I traveled to northern Uganda to research how theater artists were responding to the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. Based on my previous work in neighboring Tanzania, I anticipated that theater in northern Uganda would serve as a vital forum of community (re)building and cultural resilience; instead, I found that it had been thoroughly appropriated as a humanitarian tool of “marketing trauma.” This launched an exploration into what I call, after Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, an “empire of trauma.”

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

To understand the complexities of an empire of trauma, I draw upon both fieldwork and textual analysis. And the element that I need is time, time, and more time. The research and writing of my book took over a decade. I was pregnant with my second child when I started doing research in Uganda in 2004—she had just celebrated her 13th birthday when my book came out last April (!).

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I’m hopeful that the library of the future will always include material books. Wandering the stacks of Baker-Berry leads to unexpected paths of inquiry, far more so than the soullessness of a Google search.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Find your prime writing time (first thing in the morning, late at night, whenever). Then, protect it as much as possible and utilize it as much as possible, even if you can only manage half an hour.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I love novels. Right now, I'm reading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  In the Summer 2018, I directed the theater Foreign Study Program in London, and I took the students on an excursion to Bath. It was a fun excuse to get reacquainted with Austen.

 

Wheelan photoHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

To kick off the fall term, we hear from economist Charles "Charlie" Wheelan, Class of 1988, Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.  Wheelan, former correspondent for The Economistis the author of the "Naked" series: Naked Economics (W.W. Norton, 2002), Naked Statistics (W.W. Norton, 2013), and the latest, Naked Money (W.W. Norton, 2016).  What advice does the prolific writer offer those who get stuck?  To power through the early drafts.

What is your book about?

It describes what "money" is and why it matters. In the process, I try to explain the broader global financial system.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?

Money is such a strange phenomenon. (That $100 bill in your wallet is just a piece of paper.) Yet finance has a huge impact on all of our lives, as we learned during the 2007/2008 financial crisis. I wanted to explore and demystify all this.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Most of my work is applied. I take other people's ideas and make them more accessible. I'm also the founder of Unite America, which is an effort to re-empower the political middle by electing independents.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I'm hoping that libraries will always be physical spaces, as well as repositories of information. They should be a place where we share important community resources, whether that is computer terminals or just good air-conditioning when it's really hot outside.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

The first draft is always awful. Just power through.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I've always made time to read for fun, ever since I was a Dartmouth undergrad. I once read War and Peace while hitchhiking in New Zealand. I currently alternate between fiction and nonfiction.