A Companion to Los Angeles

The new cross-disciplinary essay collection, A Companion to Los Angeles, edited by Professor William Deverell of USC, includes an entry by Leo Braudy on “Culture and Communities.”

According to the publisher:

A Companion to Los Angeles is a unique study of America’s second largest city and the first Companion devoted to a single metropolis. The volume consists of 25 essays, each an original contribution by a writer or scholar, which collectively assess the best and most important work to date on the complex history of Los Angeles. The structure of the Companion allows readers to view the emergence of long-term patterns within the history of Los Angeles. Instead of organizing the essays around discrete, time-specific events, the editors focus on critical themes and broad topics including demography, social unrest, politics, popular culture, architecture, and urban studies which span generations and disciplines. Three photographic portfolios, along with the “contemporary voice” essays that conclude each section, complement the historiographic chapters and provide a truly multidimensional view of the city. Together, the contributions constitute a lively and informed introduction to a history as fascinating as it is complex. The Companion will be an invaluable resource for scholars, students, and a general readership eager to situate the history of greater Los Angeles within a larger body of metropolitan studies and the history of the United States itself.

The book is available through Wiley and Amazon.

Suburban Knights: A Return the the Middle Ages

Suburban Knights: A Return to the Middle Ages, with an introduction by Leo Braudy, collects photographs and interviews with members of the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) conducted between 2003 and 2005 by fine art photographer E.F. Kitchen.

According to Kitchen:

The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is a group devoted to recreating the arts and activities of the Middle Ages in the present. One of their activities is to create large-scale mock wars, in which they wear period armor and engage in physically rigorous combat. Not content to stage polite mock battles, they meet by the thousands on vast fields, wearing full body armor and forcefully striking one another with rattan swords.

From 2003 to 2005, I photographed and interviewed heavy weapons fighters from the SCA on location at the sites where they reenact various battle scenarios. I present them to you here under their SCA names and personas.

To create these images, I used a large-format 8 x 10 camera and then made custom platinum prints from the original negatives. I chose antique photographic equipment and an archival printing method to achieve a look that would be impossible to create using a modern, point-and-shoot camera: the antique lenses have defects that make the images unique, and the platinum prints evoke a certain timelessness with their exceptional detail and rich, expanded tonal scale.

View sample images from the book at Kitchen’s website.

You can purchase a copy through Amazon and Powerhouse Books.

The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon

hollywoodsign Yale University Press will publish The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon in February 2011.

This video, produced for the University of Southern California, features a reading from the section on Peg Entwhistle’s suicide accompanied by some beautiful archival images, as well as a discussion of the book and of Leo Braudy’s teaching at USC.

Constructing Charisma Now Available

Constructing Charisma: Celebrity, Fame, and Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe, a collection of essays edited by Edward Berenson and Eva Giloi, is now available from Berghahn Books.

Leo Braudy’s essay “Secular Anointings: Fame, Celebrity, and Charisma in the First Century of Mass Culture” provides the book’s conclusion.

Berghahn describes the anthology this way:

Railroads, telegraphs, lithographs, photographs, and mass periodicals—the major technological advances of the 19th century seemed to diminish the space separating people from one another, creating new and apparently closer, albeit highly mediated, social relationships. Nowhere was this phenomenon more evident than in the relationship between celebrity and fan, leader and follower, the famous and the unknown. By mid-century, heroes and celebrities constituted a new and powerful social force, as innovations in print and visual media made it possible for ordinary people to identify with the famous; to feel they knew the hero, leader, or “star”; to imagine that public figures belonged to their private lives. This volume examines the origins and nature of modern mass media and the culture of celebrity and fame they helped to create. Crossing disciplines and national boundaries, the book focuses on arts celebrities (Sarah Bernhardt, Byron and Liszt); charismatic political figures (Napoleon and Wilhelm II); famous explorers (Stanley and Brazza); and celebrated fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac).

The book is available directly from the publisher at a 15% discount, or through Amazon.

You can also preview the book through Google:

Leo Braudy Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Leo Braudy and Scott Soames have just been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. USC’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences covered the story:

Top Fellowships for Braudy and Soames

University Professor Leo Braudy and philosophy professor Scott Soames have been named fellows of the 230-year-old American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies.
The USC College scholars are among 211 fellows and 18 foreign honorary members newly elected to the academy. Members are prominent figures in scholarship, business, the arts and public affairs.

In all, 4,000 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members comprise the academy, including more than 200 Nobel Prize laureates; Shaw Prize recipients; Grammy, Tony and Oscar award winners; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows; and 50 Pulitzer Prize awardees.

University Professor Leo Braudy of English and Scott Soames, professor of philosophy, are now fellows of the esteemed American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Photos credit Phil Channing.

Braudy, holder of the Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature, and Soames, director of the School of Philosophy, round off the College’s academy fellows to 15.

“Leo Braudy and Scott Soames are true giants in their fields,” USC College Dean Howard Gillman said. “To be invited to join a group that boasts among its past members the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson shows that they are among the finest scholars of our generation. All of us in USC College are extremely proud and honored to call them colleagues and friends.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Hollywood Sign Book Preview

Susan Andrews of the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences interviewed Leo about his forthcoming book on the Hollywood sign. The video can be found below, as well as a link to the full text of the article.

Commanding, evocative and unmistakable. With nine white steel and concrete letters standing 30 feet wide and 45 feet tall, the Hollywood Sign is one of the most recognized symbols in the world.
The sign is also the subject of Leo Braudy’s twelfth book, The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon, which will appear in 2011 as one in a series of books about American icons to be published by Yale University Press. In the book, Braudy discusses the complex history of the Hollywood Sign and its interaction with the history of Hollywood, as a real and fantasized place.
A teacher, cultural theorist, film critic, and expert on 17th-century literature, Braudy is fascinated most by the interaction of things that seem disparate or far apart from each other. “In my mind, the seemingly disconnected fields nurture and feed upon one another, and it’s less about the individual parts.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Two Interviews from April

Recent Interviews:

“The Geography of Buzz: Art, Culture and the Social Milieu in Los Angeles and New York,” April 15, 2009– Commentator and chair of a discussion of the correlation between geography and media buzz. You can read about the event at the University of Southern California’s news website.

“War and Masculinity: Forever Entwined?”
April 14, 2009– Interview on The Pendulum Effect podcast, hosted by Justin Trottier.