Monday, February 09, 2009

Difdafti ha-yom

In the column on the right, I put books I have read. By "read" I mean more or less read through the whole thing although my wife says I read so fast sometimes I'm really skimming.

I do a lot of skimming as well and I also read a lot of journal articles or parts of monographs in the course of doing research. I generally refrain from putting that reading in the right column on the blog.

But there is another kind of handling of books and journals that I do a lot. Israelis call it "le-dafdef"-- "to page through"-- it means something like skimming but more like scanning the chapter headings, the first paragraphs of sections, the table of contents, etc.--something like what your teacher in a high school "study skills" class might have told you about "previewing" a textbook chapter before reading it.

(I think the lack of capital letters makes Hebrew very hard to skim. I either le-dafdef a Hebrew text or I have to really read it.)

Not only do I sometimes go in search of material to le-dafdef on purpose ("keeping up with the literature") sometimes such material comes to me in the mail (journals) and sometimes by e-mail. And I can't walk by the new book shelf in my university library without stopping. Since I walk by it several times a week, I tend to le-dafdef a lot of new books, some in my field, some in related fields, and some in other people's fields. I couldn't possibly list all the works that I difdef, but I'm launching a new feature here to list some of the more interesting finds.

I tend to assume I have no readers so I'm mainly doing this for myself. Giving myself a Google-able way to remember where I've come across something.

So in Hillman Library today, difdafti:

Ronald Ehrenburg and Charlotte Kuh, eds. Doctoral Education and the Faculty of the Future (Oxford UP, 2009) which reports on the Mellon Graduate Education Initiative that was in place at a number of institutions including the Penn History department in the 1990s.... this was a nice piece of serendipity since the other day on the same shelf I came across the latest book on the philosophy of history by Murray Murphy, who taught for many years in that department. I've been reading his Truth and History (SUNY Press, 2009) on the bus.

Howard Schwartz's most recent collection of Jewish folktales is Leaves from the Garden of Eden (Oxford UP, 2009). He includes all the useful scholarly information, like notes on sources, commentary, and indexes at the back. Well, indexes are always at the back but would it be terrible to have the note on sources and the commentary included with each story?

Karen O'Reilly's Key Concepts in Ethnography only occupied me for only a few minutes because I'm not planning to do any ethnography any time soon (I would need a time machine). But a number of the grad students I work with do some ethnography.

Finally, I teach a little about ancient empires in my survey courses as part of the background of Jewish life in antiquity. So Ian Morris and Walter Scheidel, eds. The Dynamics of Early Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium (Oxford UP, 2009) caught my eye.

Looking back on it, I guess a big order from Oxford UP was recently cataloged.

(And yes, I realize that saying "to le-dafdef" makes little sense grammatically but bear with me...)

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