About

Welcome to a Commentpress site maintained by Todd Presner, author of the book, Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (London/New York: Routledge Press, 2007). This site is a social network for generating collaborative knowledge by engaging with the ideas in the book. The material on this site authored by Todd Presner represents earlier and previously published versions of arguments developed in the book, for which the author maintains the copyright.

Scholarship in the 21st Century:

The material form of scholarship in the humanities has begun to change radically over the past decade: Books--as printed and bound artifacts--are no longer the sole means of producing and disseminating knowledge. More and more, the production of knowledge has become collaborative, as new forms of scholarly participation have emerged. One need only think of blogs or wikis to see the ease in which information can be now be disseminated; one need only think of Youtube or Wikipedia to understand the possibilities of new collaborative platforms for producing, sharing, exchanging, and remixing cultural material. But book publishers have barely begun to imagine the possibilities, often refusing to publish scholarship because of the "limited market" or locking away the knowledge to a few privileged institutions that can afford exorbitantly expensive books. What would happen, I wondered, if I created a social network for commenting on and critiquing the ideas in the book? But more than that: What if anyone could interact with both the ideas and the author in an on-going dialogue and debate? What if the ideas in the book represented a starting point (not a final product) that would evolve over time as countless many people added to, enriched, and even resisted the arguments that I set forth? What if the book gave rise to an organic, collaborative site for knowledge production? What would it be like for students to comment on the text -- very much in line with the Jewish tradition of commentary -- and interact with one another and the author in unforeseeable ways?

Indeed, these are the kind of vital questions being asked by scholars affiliated with the Institute for the Future of the Book. Academic institutions and publishers now exist in a world in which the book is no longer the exclusive medium for producing, disseminating, and evaluating knowledge. "Commentpress" -- the blogging engine that runs this site -- was developed by the folks at the Institute for the Future of the Book. In case you ever wondered why "e-books" just don't cut it, here's their cogent explanation: "Publishers expect us to purchase, own and consume e-books (or articles, papers, journals) in basically the same way we do paper books, failing to reckon with the fact that texts take on different values and assume different properties when placed in the digital environment—especially when that environment is part of a network." To read more, click here. This site represents a social network for knowledge production, not an electronic edition or publication of my book. I hope you will join this network and help revolutionize the way in which knowledge is generated, remixed, and shared.

To learn more about scholarly publishing in the age of new media, please visit the report on "University Publishing in a Digital Age."

About "Muscular Judaism":

For centuries, the stereotype of Jews as physically weak and racially inferior persisted across Europe. Zionist thinkers sought to turn this stereotype on its head at the end of the nineteenth century by creating a popular counter image: the muscular Jew. By emulating their ancestral war heroes (such as Bar Kochba and the Maccabees) and participating in all aspects of the contemporaneous European body reform movement, Jews could cultivate discipline, agility, and strength—the very ideals that would help turn them into a healthy, physically fit, nationally minded, and militarily strong people. Presner probes the complex cultural and intellectual origins of the “muscle Jew" and argues that the Jewish body was radically reconfigured at the end of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century in light of modern European discourses of regeneration. Traversing sports history, medical literature, popular culture, aesthetics, gender studies, colonialism, and military history, he weaves together the story of the regeneration of the Jewish body.

To buy the book:

A hard-cover, printed version of this book can be purchased directly from the publisher or from Amazon.com.  I would be grateful if you would recommend the book to your local library.

About the author:

Todd Presner is Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His areas of research include German-Jewish intellectual and cultural history, digital humanities, and new media studies. In addition to Muscular Judaism, he is also the author of Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). He is the director of "Hypermedia Berlin," a digital mapping project that was recently awarded a "Digital Innovation" fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. He can be reached at presner@ucla.edu