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Ziad Fahmy’s Book, ‘Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation Through Popular Culture,’ Will be Published in June

Newswise — Ziad Fahmy, Cornell assistant professor of Near Eastern studies, has authored a book about how today’s Egyptians – by examining their nation’s history – can construct a modern national identity. The book, “Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation through Popular Culture,” will be published in June 2011 by the Stanford University Press.

He is currently working on another book tentatively titled, “Listening to the Nation: Mass Culture and Identities in Interwar Egypt.”
"Ordinary Egyptians" shifts the typical focus of study away from the intellectual elite to understand the rapid politicization of the growing literate middle classes and brings the semi-literate and illiterate urban masses more fully into the historical narrative. It introduces the concept of “media-capitalism,” which expands the analysis of nationalism beyond print alone to incorporate audiovisual and performance media. It was through these various media that a collective camaraderie crossing class lines was formed and, as this book uncovers, an Egyptian national identity emerged.

Fahmy earned his doctorate in history from the University of Arizona. His interests include nationalism in the modern Middle East, colloquial Arabic mass-culture, and media and identity in Egypt and the Arab World. His dissertation “Popularizing Egyptian Nationalism,” was awarded the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award (2008).

Released: 2/8/2011 7:10 AM EST Source: Cornell University

Newswise — February 10, 2011

Our Struggle to Understand George Washington

Edward G. Lengel, editor-in-chief of the Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia, is available for commentary about the Father of Our Country, whose 279th birthday will be observed Feb. 22.

Lengel is the author of "Inventing George Washington: America's Founder in Myth and Memory," published Jan. 18 by Harper. A reviewer in American History magazine writes:

"With grace, wit and detail, Edward G. Lengel … traces the fascinating trail full of unexpected switchbacks marking who and what we've thought Washington was."

Lengel says, "Since George Washington's death on Dec. 14, 1799, Americans have struggled to establish his place in the national consciousness. On one level, Washington has remained a bold and enduring but ultimately colorless national symbol – a statue, or a portrait on the dollar bill. On another level, the personal Washington has remained just out of our reach."

The search for Washington has generated scores of myths and legends that help people believe Washington belongs to them, whoever they are: Christian or secular, conservative or liberal, romantic or down-to-earth. "Washington legends often tell more about those who made them up than about Washington himself; but they make up a compelling part of the American tapestry," Lengel says.

To arrange an interview with Lengl, contact Marian Anderfuren, U.Va. Public Affairs, at 434-243-2293 or Satellite studio facilities are available.Released: 2/10/2011 12:25 PM EST Source: University of Virginia Expert Available Marian Anderfuren 434-243-2293

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The Rise and Fall of the Bible Illuminates the Text's Unexpected History

Newswise — Christians have a buying penchant for Bibles, but Case Western Reserve University religious studies professor Timothy Beal finds “the Word” gets lost between popular culture appeals and value add-ons that tell people how to think and interpret what’s in the Bible.

The Bible has been an all-time bestseller since Gutenberg’s presses rolled out the first mass copies, but it remains highly misunderstood, Beal says. As the author of The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), Beal dispels Biblical myths and reveals the book’s evolutionary history.

One long-held myth, he says, is that the Bible has always been the same and goes back to one ultimate source or original. The notion is perpetuated with images of Jesus reading from an open book in the synagogue, but Beal points out that the Bible evolved from early scrolls of stories, handwritten three centuries before selected writings were bound in a rectangular bound manuscript, called a codex. One of the first Bibles in book form was the Vulgate Bible, which appeared in the early 5th century under the guidance of Saint Jerome.

Bibles now come in all shapes and sizes, but Beal demonstrates that the writings that appear between those dimpled leather covers and gilded edges—or packaged between dating tips for teens in Biblezines—show one constant: They all reflect the times in which they were published by echoing political and cultural norms.

Current times reflect that change, too, as the digital age heralds a new day for the Bible.

“It is the twilight of print culture and of the book as the dominant medium for literature,” he says. “This means that there will also be an end of a certain way of thinking about and reading the Bible.”

Along with the rise of digital media, Christian consumerism has a role in pushing the Bible further from its original form with graphic versions and magazine forms that are popular among younger readers.

“Christians often talk about the Bible as a rock, but it’s really more like a river; there is change all the way back to its beginnings,” Beal said.

Even the word “bible” has a fluid etymological history. In Greek, ta biblia referred to “the books,” and Jerome used the Latin term bibliotheca, or “library.“

“I like to think of the Bible in this way as a collection of writings – not a book of answers but a library of questions,” Beal said.

One point that is clear regardless of translation or version, Beal says, is that the Bible is a fascinating place to begin questions about life and to find inspiration on the moral and philosophical issues most humans face every day.

The Rise and Fall of the Bible follows other Beal books: Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know (HarperOne, 2009); Religion in America: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008); Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith (Beacon, 2005); Religion and Its Monsters (Routledge, 2002); and six other books.

Click on the link below to view a brief sound bite from Timothy Beal:

Released: 2/9/2011 1:00 PM EST Source: Case Western Reserve University Susan Griffith 216.368.1004