Try Broadview’s New Custom Text Builder

This fall, Broadview Press is launching a new website designed to make it fast and easy to create custom texts for use in your classes. This website features an ever-growing digital library of many of Broadview’s most popular titles, including every volume of the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, The Broadview Introduction to Literature, many of our new writing and composition titles, a selection of critical thinking texts, and much more. Using this site, you can mix-and-match the readings you want into a single, attractively produced, customized volume with perfect binding and a cardstock cover. Each Custom Text will be treated as a book that can be sold at your university bookstore under a unique ISBN.

Why use a Custom Text?

Broadview Custom Texts offer added flexibility when selecting course readings and are often more cost-effective than traditional anthologies.

Whether you’re looking for readings by a single author, or readings from a specific period, the selection process is clear and straight-forward. Browse by volume, or use our handy search feature to find the exact reading you’re looking for. As you add readings to your Custom Course Text you will see a running total of both the price and the page count. Throughout the process, your selections will be displayed in a table of contents on the right hand side of your screen.

Can’t find the book or reading that you’re looking for? Do you want only part of a given reading? Don’t worry–Broadview’s staff will do their best to accommodate customization requests. With the exception of readings that are in-copyright to a rights holder other than Broadview Press, the majority of material published by Broadview is available for inclusion in a custom text.

For those of you who prefer the traditional method of building custom texts (submitting a list of readings to a Broadview staff member), don’t worry; we will continue to offer this possibility.

The best way to experience our new custom text builder is to give it a try! Follow the link below to see the site in action.

Try Broadview’s new Custom Text Builder

custom text screenshot

Our popular edition of Frankenstein just got better! Welcome to Broadview’s Online Critical Editions

Can you get 10/10 on our Business Ethics quiz?

Business Ethics

Andrew Kernohan’s forthcoming book, Business Ethics: An Interactive Introduction, not only explains various business-relevant applications of ethical theory, it also invites readers to practice those applications through interactive digital exercises. The text includes over 400 such exercises, along with videos, flash cards, and other digital materials (all included with no registration or additional cost beyond the book’s modest student price of $29.95).

Here’s a sample of one of the book’s case studies and its accompanying interactive questions. Can you score 10/10?

What Should Carol Do about Workplace Safety?

Carol Walters is a production manager for World Auto Parts, a large manufacturer of transmission components for cars and trucks. Transmission parts production is a very competitive sector. If WAP’s production cost were to rise, then WAP’s two main competitors would rapidly take over WAP’s markets.

WAP has the advantage of a loyal and experienced workforce who have nearly all been with WAP for over ten years. WAP is not unionized, but it does pay well. One reason that the employees stay with WAP is that there are no other jobs available in the local area.

Technology, however, has not stood still. Most of the machinery that was up-to-date ten years ago has gone obsolete, and WAP has replaced many of the machines on which employees originally worked. One such machine is the Sterling Gear Press Mark IV, with which WAP recently replaced the slower Mark III model. This new machine is the mainstay of gear production in the factory, and many employees now run it. WAP has installed the new Mark IV on the factory floor beside the older Mark III machines. Both of WAP’s competitors have also upgraded to the new Mark IV machine in the same way.

Carol and another production manager, Phil Thomas, have recently noticed that the injury rate on the new machines is higher than the injury rate on the old machines. There appears to be a defect in the design of the safety cover of the Mark IV. The new design causes workers who use the machine to strain their backs and left arms. Because the new machine is so much faster than the old version, production has gone up. The savings to WAP have outweighed the cost of downtime and time off for injured workers taking sick leave. WAP gives sick pay at 60% of regular wages, and only for 10 days per year.

The situation does not violate local Occupational Safety and Health regulations. Still, it is in Carol’s interest to fix the problem because, as a production manager, she will likely end up being blamed by senior management. Carol and Phil discuss how WAP could do something about the situation. They believe that if they both independently talk to their boss, Joan Ross who is the VP of production at WAP, then Joan will believe them that there is a workplace-safety problem. Joan could order them to inform the operators of the new machines about the problem. Joan could also order the machine operators to slow down and be more careful. Alternatively, Joan could order the operators to resume using the Mark III machines, which still sit beside the new models. Any of Joan’s possible responses will put WAP at a competitive disadvantage, unless Joan can convince both of WAP’s competitors to do the same. Even if WAP’s competitors verbally agree to follow one of these workplace-safety strategies, Joan would not be certain that she could trust them actually to implement the strategy.

Complicating the situation is the issue that Carol and Phil are competing for a promotion to Senior Supervisor. In the past, Carol has not always kept her word to Phil, or done her share of work on group projects. She does not think Phil trusts her. If Phil and she independently tell Joan about the safety problem, then Joan may do something, and Carol will still be in competition for the promotion. However, if one of them does not follow through and tell Joan, then Joan will likely do nothing about the safety issue, and Joan will likely not promote the seeming naysayer and troublemaker who did bring up the safety issue. If neither tells Joan, then nothing will happen and the competition for promotion will continue.

Analyze the ethical issues in the situation facing Carol, paying particular attention to any cooperation dilemmas. Should Carol tell Joan about the workplace-safety issue?

Try the case study analysis questions!

Happy Lives, Good Lives: Author Q&A

What does it mean to be happy?

Jennifer Wilson Mulnix and MJ Mulnix address this question and others with philosophical rigour in Happy Lives, Good Lives: A Philosophical Examination and its companion anthology, Theories of Happiness. Broadview’s Philosophy Editor, Stephen Latta, asked Mulnix and Mulnix a few questions about happiness and their new books:

SL: At any major bookstore, one can find an abundance of books on happiness, typically in a section labeled “Self-Help” (or something similar). The commercial success of such books is presumably indicative of a widespread desire to know how to live a happier life. Do you believe that academic work on happiness can satisfy that desire? Can it do so better than books written for “self-help” purposes?

M&M: Happiness is one of our most cherished values, and yet many of us rest content with vague and hazy notions of what it might be, spending little time or energy making sure we are right. With a subject matter so important to our lives as happiness, it is essential that we are careful in how we understand it, and in what advice we follow when living our lives. The last thing we would want to do is to devote significant time and energy to lifestyle changes that are based only on mere hunches or that are not grounded in sound reasoning and good empirical evidence. While many books in the “self-help” section fall seriously short in this regard, work on happiness and well-being in both philosophy and the social sciences can provide us with a careful examination of theories, arguments, and evidence with respect to the nature, value, and causes of happiness. At the same time, however, there is no “silver bullet” for leading happier lives. What works for one may not work for others. Often, this means that in order to successfully pursue happiness, you might have to try on several different approaches to see how each fits with your life and temperament. Still, the three main theories of happiness (hedonism, satisfactionism, and eudaimonism) share a great deal of overlap in terms of the suggested strategies for achieving a lasting happiness in our lives. The key is to reflect on what you take the nature of happiness to be and then to research what social science has discovered to be the causes and correlates of that account of happiness.

SL: It seems to me that we sometimes think of ‘happiness’ as simply ‘pleasure,’ using those terms interchangeably. Is this view overly simplistic?

M&M: On at least one view of happiness called hedonism, this is precisely what ‘happiness’ means: to be happy is to experience pleasure and to avoid experiencing pain. Even so, this does little to settle the question, as we must also answer the question of what pleasure is itself. In other words, although it might appear simple to claim that happiness is pleasure, this simplicity quickly vanishes once we undertake the serious work of understanding what exactly is being claimed when we make this assertion. For example, is pleasure a singular type of sensation that is “pleasure itself,” which we experience whenever we enjoy a pleasant event? Or are there a variety of different types of pleasures, each with its own distinct feel, where there is no feeling common to all of them? Perhaps pleasure isn’t even a feeling at all, but more of an attitude. Further, if there are a variety of types of pleasures, are they all equally important to happiness, or do some matter more, and if so, which ones? So even if we identify happiness with pleasure, there are still many other questions we would need to carefully explore. Nevertheless, even recognizing that how one defines pleasure can be a complicated matter, many argue the further claim that hedonism renders happiness overly simplistic on any account of pleasure, insofar as it fails to account for other features of life that are central to our understanding of happiness, such as the ability to reason, to be creative, to be morally virtuous, to exercise autonomy, to engage in meaningful relationships, to live authentically, to possess good health, to be respected by others, and so forth.

SL: Is the concept of happiness universal? Clearly, individuals can get satisfaction and pleasure from very different things; but is the search for a single definition of happiness, applicable to all people in all contexts, wise?

M&M: We think it is important to distinguish different ways of approaching the question of whether happiness is universal. First, one might think that this question is asking whether the definition of happiness—the nature of happiness itself—can vary from person to person: a pluralist or relativist, for instance, might argue that happiness can mean different things for different people, while others might hold that there is one single definition of happiness that applies to all people (we ourselves are inclined to think that there is a single definition of the concept ‘happiness’ that applies universally). Even so, on the view that the nature of happiness is the same for all people, certain definitions of happiness do allow for a great deal of subjectivity. For example, on the view that happiness is taking satisfaction in one’s life as a whole, people take satisfaction in different things, so the elements I consider as central to my life will be different from those you include, as the desires we have and the importance we place on each will likely vary between us. In this way, although happiness means the same thing to everyone, one’s pursuit of the happy life will take on a particular form relative to one’s subjective desires.

This then points to a second way of answering the question about whether happiness is universal: will the very definition of happiness make it the case that happiness requires the same elements for all human persons? This is a hallmark feature of certain eudaimonist theories. According to many eudaimonists, living a happy life will require that you achieve certain objective things, such as being virtuous, achieving honor, developing your distinctly human capacities for things like reason, creativity, and morality, among others. These ingredients are the same for all of us in virtue of being human (of course, there still may be some flexibility in how these ingredients are met). This is a more robust way of thinking of happiness as universal, as it requires that we all follow the same path. There is no real room for individuality in happiness, according to such views: what makes one person happy will make all persons happy.

SL: Your books are philosophical in focus but integrate empirical research from psychology and the social sciences. In what ways can the sciences inform the study of happiness?

M&M: Our books are primarily on the philosophy of happiness, about the very nature of that thing we refer to as ‘happiness’ or ‘being happy,’ as well as the attainment of it. Our principal aims are to clarify the concept of happiness and to consider its value. Yet we are not interested in answering this question only as an academic exercise, but also so that we can gain practical insight into how to more successfully pursue a happy life. The whole point of gaining such knowledge is to put it to use in living better lives. This underscores the need for each of us to lay down a plan for achieving happiness, which will involve a consideration of what sorts of things cause and correlate with happiness. In this vein, we need to consider evidence from empirical science. As Tiberius points out, philosophers can benefit from information gathered in psychology and the social sciences, as we want our account of happiness to meet the demands not only of normative adequacy, but also of empirical adequacy. That is, we want an account of happiness and well-being to be action-guiding and reason-giving for people who want to improve their lives; yet we also want the account to be empirically grounded, such that it allows us to study and measure people’s well-being; and if it cannot, then there is reason to look for another view. On the other hand, we also need to realize that even if empirical research can help us find out the causes and correlates of happiness, it alone cannot tell us what happiness is and whether we ought to aim for it.

As an added note, social science may be able to lend some support to, or raise some concerns about, philosophical views. For example, some psychological research conducted by Kahneman, Gilbert, and Wilson suggests that we do not always accurately remember or reliably predict our pleasure. One might conclude from this information that pleasure cannot be all that important to our happiness, so thinking of happiness as pleasure is misguided. Then again, one could counter that this evidence on its own does not refute hedonism as a theory of the nature of happiness, but at best merely underscores worries regarding our ability to effectively pursue happiness. Even so, it can also point to some effective strategies for overcoming common barriers.

SL: I think many of us would assume that a good life must be a happy one. Do you believe that this is true? Could one lead a good life and yet be unhappy, perhaps by having a particularly eventful or morally praiseworthy life?

M&M: This is a question over which there is much disagreement. A good life is a life that is worthwhile and of value for the person who lives it. Theories of the good life, or well-being, specify what is valuable in life; it is an open question how large a role, if any at all, happiness plays in living a good life. Perhaps there are other things of value to a good life that are separate from our own happiness. These might include agency, love of others, and moral commitments, for example. Now some philosophers, such as the ancient Greek eudaimonists, would argue that the happy life and the good life are the same, such that one cannot be living a good life without simultaneously also living a happy life, and vice versa. On the other hand, it is also quite plausible to think of happiness and well-being as referring to different aspects of life. In these cases, happiness might be just one element in our overall well-being. Additionally, it seems quite clear that these other valuable elements can sometimes come into conflict with our private happiness. For example, there seem to be situations in which it is morally problematic to pursue our own happiness, such as when our happiness depends on harming others. This highlights the trade-offs that might be involved in the pursuit of a good life. In cases of conflict, we will need to make a decision between our private happiness and something else we might value. Indeed, there are many real-life situations in which people knowingly sacrifice their own private happiness for some other thing they value. If this is correct, then it might be possible to live a good life without being happy. For instance, some of the Romantic poets seemed to sing the praises of a melancholic life. John Keats comes to mind here as a particularly illustrative example. But if happiness can be in conflict with these other valued things, then perhaps happiness might have very little value at all. And if the pursuit of happiness precludes living a good life, would we still choose happiness? We think we all want happiness, but do we really want a good life? Of course, one who thinks that the happy life and the good life are the same might counter that, insofar as one achieves one’s most cherished values, one would also be living a happy life regardless of how much pleasure or satisfaction it contained.

SL: In Happy Lives, Good Lives, you discuss the kingdom of Bhutan, a small Asian country that uses “Gross National Happiness” as a measure of prosperity, in place of “Gross Domestic Product.” Do you believe it is possible (or desirable) for Western countries to embrace similar happiness-based metrics?

M&M: It is certainly possible for other nations to use “Gross National Happiness” as a measure of prosperity in place of “Gross Domestic Product.” More realistically, however, happiness measures would be used to supplement existing economic measures, since while GDP is important, so too are social trust, quality of work, environmental sustainability, and political participation. In fact, many nations—such as Great Britain, Germany, France, Australia, and Mexico, among others—are already using measures of their citizens’ happiness to help influence public policy. Even in the United States, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont have each developed a “genuine progress indicator” that assesses the impacts of how we live on our quality of life. Nevertheless, countries that adopt similar happiness metrics as Bhutan’s should make sure that these metrics are developed with great care and caution. The worry is that when we use happiness measures to design and evaluate public policy, we are assuming a particular theory of what matters in life. In so doing, we might well choose values that some among us reject. If we then allocate resources according to one theory of happiness, we risk alienating some of our fellow citizens, or worse yet, violating their rights. These are age-old problems that attend many attempts to increase the general happiness. For instance, utilitarian political theory has been rigorously challenged due to worries that it overlooks the ways in which the pursuit of the general happiness might well lead to what John Stuart Mill calls the “tyranny of the majority.” We also risk an unjust form of paternalism if we build into our system of legislation a comprehensive account of what is good and valuable in life. On the other hand, settling for the economic status quo also seems seriously problematic. It is a well-documented fact that the pursuit of wealth has not led to its expected payouts in terms of citizens’ well-being; in fact, empirical data show that materialistic pursuits are positively bad for our happiness. The question is how to carve out a middle way: how do we use measures of happiness that are strong enough to capture something that really matters to us without at the same time ignoring the value of individuality? These are tough questions, but we think they can be answered. For example, Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have developed a ‘capabilities index’ of national well-being that attempts to address these very concerns.

The Helpful Suggestions of Academic Writing Now

9781554812493Broadview’s latest book on English compositionAcademic Writing Now: A Brief Guide for Busy Students by David Starkey, invites the student reader to write throughout—and all over—its pages.

Many students write in their books as a method of memorization: textbooks are a haven for highlighters; grammar guides have lines for filling out exercises; a favorite novel is dog-eared and marked up in pencil. The printed page and the writing hand have a relationship as old as reading itself. To reinforce this connection, the conclusion of each chapter of Academic Writing Now includes two sections, one entitled “Questions and Suggestions FOR You,” and the other “Questions and Suggestions FROM You.” The former provide an opportunity to reflect on the chapter just completed, and the latter give space for questions that remain after completing this reflection.

The refrain throughout Academic Writing Now is that effective writing requires practice and repetition; the invitation to write helps the student worry less about being perfect the first time, and it encourages them instead to focus on writing as a process that happens daily. To balance this emphasis on daily writing, Starkey offers up some “Timesaving Tips” to help save students’ time. After all, a good grade is not earned purely on the basis of the number of hours a student works; it also results from how effectively his or her time is spent.

For example, Starkey writes:

Timesaver Tip: Don’t go down with a sinking ship. Most drafts can be salvaged, but not all of them. If you realize your essay has gone very wrong, make major revisions or start over entirely. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a much smarter use of your time to begin work on something new that you can actually turn in rather than laboring for hours on a piece of writing that — for whatever reason — seems destined to fail.

Academic Writing Now also offers a series of “Avoid This Common Error” sections where Starkey tries to steer his student reader away from essay-ruining missteps:

Don'tAvoid This Common Error: “In today’s society….” Unable to think of any other way to begin their essays, students often use the first thing that pops into their heads. One of the most common fallback openings is “In today’s society.” Not only is this a cliché of academic writing — one that is guaranteed to make your instructor cringe — it is entirely unnecessary. Unless you indicate differently, your reader will always automatically assume you are talking about “today’s society.”

The conversational style of Academic Writing Now is especially well-suited for undergraduate students approaching writing at the post-secondary level for the first time. “David Starkey delivers clear, ordered advice in a voice so familiar and colloquial that anyone’s anxiety about this often rigid, academic subject will start to calm,” Richard Guzman of North Central College says in his review of the text. “[W]hat I like best is that underneath it all he encourages students to keep creativity and poetic insight alive even as they tackle the challenge of writing rigorous, scholarly papers.”

We encourage students interested in improving their writing to check out Academic Writing Now. Use the discount code broadview20% at checkout for 20% off the bound book. Professors who are interested in reviewing the text for course adoption can request a complimentary examination copy.

Don’t forget about our other latest and greatest composition titles:

Broadview Guide to Writing, 6/e
Academic Writing Now, Real World Topics
Essays and Arguments

Enjoy the summer! The fall will return soon, and with it the restart of the new academic session.

Biggest Book of the Year – The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: One-Volume Compact Edition

BABL Compact One-VolumeHello everyone,

In the publishing world it’s common for people to speak of the “big books” for the season. They don’t usually mean 2,178 pages in length, 1.85 inches in thickness, and 4.38 lbs. in weight. That’s what the new one-volume Compact edition of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature comes in at—and we’re not joking when we call it “compact.”

The competition here is The Norton Anthology of English Literature one-volume Major Authors edition, which runs to 3,072 pages, 2.48 inches think, and 4.44 lbs.—longer, thicker, and heavier than the Broadview.* Even within English Studies, neither Broadview nor Norton can claim the dubious distinction of heavyweight champion. That title appears to be currently held by the 4th edition of Duncan Wu’s Romanticism: An Anthology, for which the publishers (Wiley-Blackwell) chose a heavy, glossy paper stock, the result being that a book of 1,640 pages weighs in at 4.96 lbs. In the sciences and the social sciences, of course, textbooks even heavier than that are routine.

Why do publishers do it? In Broadview’s case, I can attest that we conducted extensive editorial research before deciding to go ahead; it was clear that there was indeed a desire on the part of many instructors for a new one-volume anthology designed to suit the needs of courses covering the full sweep of British literature, from the medieval period to the twenty-first century.

It’s not hard to see why many academics prefer to have their students use one, large course text. If one sometimes likes to discuss, for example, some of the links between Tennyson and Malory, or between Yeats or Heaney and the early Irish lyric, it’s much less convenient to do so if one half of each pairing is to be found in a volume that no student is likely to have brought to class.

The most important thing about any book will always be its contents, of course—and in this new incarnation we’re confident that the Broadview will continue to be regarded as “the new standard” among anthologies of British literature. These days more than ever, though, it’s vitally important for publishers to think not only of words and illustrations, but also of the heavy load that students carry. When we do publish large texts, we should strive for the best possible balance between paper opacity and paper lightness. We should pay close attention to the experience of reading a thick book. We should make e-book alternatives available for those students who wish to take advantage of them. And we should price each book as reasonably as we possibly can.

In each of these respects, I’m very proud of what we’ve done with the one-volume Compact Edition of The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. Thanks largely to the work done by Managing Editor Tara Lowes in choosing paper stocks, there’s remarkably little see-through, even on pages where an illustration appears on the reverse. The wide format we use means that the bound book lies flat on the desk much more easily than does the one-volume Norton. The book is priced at just $69.95—considerably less than the one-volume Norton.** And for those who would prefer something even less expensive (and even lighter!), we have also made the anthology available as an e-book, priced at only $48.95 when purchased through our website.

Broadview’s biggest book ever, indeed. And compact—no joke!

All the best,


PS  Of course, for those of you who prefer to teach a survey course from a handful of slim paperbacks, we have hundreds of great choices!

* Other points of comparison include the complete 6-volume versions of the Norton and the Broadview (each totaling over 6,000 pages), the two-volume version of the full Norton anthology (each volume of which runs to over 3,000 pages), Broadview’s own two-volume Concise Edition (each a relatively slender 1,700 pages), and various versions of the third entrant in the field, The Longman Anthology of British Literature.

** In fairness, I should say that the Norton also seems to me to offer excellent value; it’s a competitor that we at Broadview have the greatest respect for—as do we for its general editors, and its publisher.


The “Umbrella-Philosopher” According to R.L. Stevenson

GentlemanFrom Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Philosophy of Umbrellas”
Appendix L “The Victorian Gentleman: Body and Clothing” of the Broadview Edition. 

More information on our new edition of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Third Edition can be found here.

Any one acquainted with the growth of Society, and knowing out of what small seeds of cause are produced great revolutions, and wholly new conditions of intercourse, sees from this simple thought how the carriage of an umbrella came to indicate frugality, judicious regard for bodily welfare, and scorn for mere outward adornment, and, in one word, all those homely and solid virtues implied in the term RESPECTABILITY. Not that the umbrella’s costliness has nothing to do with its great influence. Its possession, besides symbolising (as we have already indicated) the change from wild Esau to plain Jacob dwelling in tents,[1] implies a certain comfortable provision of fortune. It is not every one that can expose twenty-six shillings’ worth of property to so many chances of loss and theft. So strongly do we feel on this point, indeed, that we are almost inclined to consider all who possess really well-conditioned umbrellas as worthy of the Franchise. They have a qualification standing in their lobbies; they carry a sufficient stake in the common-weal below their arm. One who bears with him an umbrella—such a complicated structure of whalebone, of silk, and of cane, that it becomes a very microcosm of modern industry—is necessarily a man of peace. A half-crown cane may be applied to an offender’s head on a very moderate provocation; but a six-and-twenty shilling silk is a possession too precious to be adventured in the shock of war.

These are but a few glances at how umbrellas (in the general) came to their present high estate. But the true Umbrella-Philosopher meets with far stranger applications as he goes about the streets.

Umbrellas, like faces, acquire a certain sympathy with the individual who carries them: indeed, they are far more capable of betraying his trust; for whereas a face is given to us so far ready made, and all our power over it is in frowning, and laughing, and grimacing, during the first three or four decades of life, each umbrella is selected from a whole shopful, as being most consonant to the purchaser’s disposition. An undoubted power of diagnosis rests with the practised Umbrella-Philosopher. O you who lisp, and amble, and change the fashion of your countenances—you who conceal all these, how little do you think that you left a proof of your weakness in our umbrella-stand—that even now, as you shake out the folds to meet the thickening snow, we read in its ivory handle the outward and visible sign of your snobbery, or from the exposed gingham of its cover detect, through coat and waistcoat, the hidden hypocrisy of the ‘DICKEY’![2] But alas! even the umbrella is no certain criterion. The falsity and the folly of the human race have degraded that graceful symbol to the ends of dishonesty; and while some umbrellas, from carelessness in selection, are not strikingly characteristic (for it is only in what a man loves that he displays his real nature), others, from certain prudential motives, are chosen directly opposite to the person’s disposition. A mendacious umbrella is a sign of great moral degradation. Hypocrisy naturally shelters itself below a silk; while the fast youth goes to visit his religious friends armed with the decent and reputable gingham. May it not be said of the bearers of these inappropriate umbrellas that they go about the streets ‘with a lie in their right hand’?[3] […]

[1] In the Book of Genesis Jacob is forced to live in the wild when his brother Esau takes over his tents and livestock.

[2] A false, short shirt-front that looks like a full shirt but is made of cardboard or celluloid.

[3] Isaiah 44:20: “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’”

Philosophizing About Sex: Teenage Sexting

Philosophizing about Sex

In Broadview’s acclaimed new publication, Philosophizing about Sex, Laurie J. Shrage & Robert Scott Stewart discuss general issues (freedom, privacy, objectification, etc.) and show how ongoing public discussions of sexuality can be illuminated by careful philosophical investigation. In the following excerpt, they look at the complex topic of teenage “sexting.”

Some recent studies suggest that teens sext for a wide variety of reasons, including peer pressure and to engage in a form of “safe sex.” Some teen sexters, like many teens before them, wonder why adults are making such a fuss. In a recent Australian study, a number of teenagers interviewed thought that the word itself, ‘sexting,’ was nothing but a media label deployed to raise unnecessary alarm about teen behavior. Some of these teenagers indicated that they never use the term because it now has the connotation of something sinister or offensive, and so they opt instead for the more neutral term “pictures.” These Australian teens have a point: most media commentary about teen sexting includes a lot of hyperbole and, at times, reflects or promotes mass hysteria. Yet can teens exchange sexy “pictures” in responsible ways that avoid violating another’s privacy and that avoid damaging their own or another minor’s mental health and reputation?

Teenagers in the Australian study recognized that sext messages often get shared, and that this could cause problems for the person who originally sent the message, and especially for any females whose bodies and sexual behavior are exposed. These teenagers were also adamant that charging them with child pornography was completely unwarranted, at least in most cases. Child pornography charges were only appropriate, they thought, when there was a significant age difference between the people exchanging sexts and when one of them was well beyond his (or sometimes her) adolescence. There was some ambivalence regarding how educators should deal with sexting, though they noted that simply telling teenagers not to sext was both ineffective and inappropriate.

Many within the legal profession recognize the need to find ways to address sexting among teenagers who are close in age, without resorting to the criminal justice system. The lawyer for the 16-year-old girl in British Columbia, mentioned in an earlier paragraph, points out that sexting is lawful for adults, and then raises the following question about using criminal statutes against child pornography: “The provisions were created to protect children. So is it now appropriate to use those provisions to prosecute children? … On a common sense level, does it make sense to charge youth with child pornography if they are not engaged in pedophiliac behaviour?” It does not seem to make sense when the sexting is consensual and the acts recorded are not themselves criminal acts, unlike in the Rehtaeh Parsons case. Marsha Levick, legal director of the non- profit Juvenile Law Centre, makes a similar point when she asks, “Why should we criminalize a kid for taking and possessing a photo of herself…. There is no problem that needs to be solved.” Shaheen Shariff, from McGill University’s education faculty, agrees: “I don’t think putting kids through the criminal justice system is the answer, especially under child pornography laws.” Shariff continues, “Schools have always been reactive to bullying and cyberbullying, and occasional anti-bullying programs haven’t worked. We need to address the root societal issues of rape culture, misogyny, homophobia and objectification of women—and get kids to realize the long-term impact of their postings.” One issue is why sexting is so much more damaging to girls or women than to boys or men? How does sexting get used to stigmatize women for their sexual behavior (“slut” labeling), and also gay men and lesbians?

As a form of speech between adults, most sexting is protected by free-speech guarantees. So when adults consensually exchange sext messages, even misogynist or homophobic ones, or ones that trivialize rape, this is mostly legal. But when the sexting involves sexual images of children, it is no longer protected speech, even when children are producing and disseminating images of themselves. We need to find ways to limit the speech of minors without criminalizing their sexually explicit messages about themselves, especially when they share these consensually with others of similar age. In her recent article “Why Kids Sext,” Hanna Rosin mentions that approximately 20 states in the U.S. have approved “sexting” laws that treat initial offenses as misdemeanors and repeat violations as felonies, with lighter penalties for the former. She writes,

Where they’ve been passed, the new laws have helpfully taken ordinary teen sexting out of the realm of child pornography and provided prosecutors with a gentler alternative. But they have also created deeper cultural confusion, by codifying into law the idea that any kind of sexting between minors is a crime. For the most part, the laws do not concern themselves with whether a sext was voluntarily shared between two people who had been dating for a year or was sent under pressure: a sext is a sext. So as it stands now, in most states it is perfectly legal for two 16-year-olds to have sex. But if they take pictures, it’s a matter for the police.[1]

Rosin proposes that laws regulating sexting should target those who forward a sext to a third party without the consent of its author, and also anyone who gains access to nude “selfies” and circulates or publishes them without the permission of the author and those depicted in the photograph. Rosin’s research shows that approximately 1/3 of teens in the U.S. sext, and thus laws that criminalize an increasingly common behavior among teenagers represents an overreaction to the harm typically done, and compounds the damage to the minors whom the laws are meant to protect. Parents and law enforcers have other ways to minimize the harms of sexting, such as by making teens more aware of the rights and wrongs, and benefits and costs of sexting, and how to protect themselves and others against such violations of their privacy.

[1] Hanna Rosin, “Why Kids Sext,” The Atlantic, October 14, 2014:

Costume Design for Salome: Everyone in Yellow

Bernhardt as Salome

Excerpt from Graham Robertson’s Time Was (125-6) (from the Appendices of the new Broadview Edition)

[Graham Robertson designed the costumes for the original production of Salome at the request of Sarah Bernhardt. Both Robertson and Wilde expressed a desire that the wardrobe represent varying shades of yellow. According to Sheldon Weintraub, “yellow was not only the decor of the notorious and dandified pre-Victorian Regency, but also of the allegedly wicked and decadent French novel” (99). Thus, we might speculate that the choice of yellow reflects Wilde’s investment in the French cultural context from which the play itself emerged.]

“I should like,” he [Wilde] said, throwing off the notion, I believe, at random, “I should like everyone on the stage to be in yellow.”

It was a good idea and I saw its possibilities at once—every costume of some shade of yellow—from clearest lemon to deep orange, with here and there just a hint of black . . . and all upon a pale ivory terrace against a great empty sky of deepest violet.

“A violet sky,’ repeated Oscar Wilde slowly. “Yes—I never thought of that. Certainly a violet sky and then, in place of an orchestra, braziers of perfume. Think—the scented clouds rising and partly veiling the stage from time to time – a new perfume for each emotion!”

“Ye-es,” said I doubtfully, “but you couldn’t air the theatre between each emotion, and the perfumes would get mixed and smell perfectly beastly and—no, I don’t think I care for the perfume idea, but the yellow scheme is splendid.”

More information on Broadview’s new edition of Salome can be found here.

Victims and Victimhood: Trudy Govier in Conversation

Victims and Victimhood

Broadview Press is proud to have recently published Victims and Victimhood by Trudy Govier, a careful examination of the concept of victimhood. Issues are explored with reference to a range of complex examples, including child victims of institutional abuse and the famed Rigoberta Menchú controversy. Further topics include the authority of personal experience, restorative justice, restitution, forgiveness, and closure.

In the following interview, Broadview Philosophy Editor Stephen Latta engages Govier in conversation about some of the key questions posed by her work.

SL: In the introduction to Victims and Victimhood you suggest that, while issues related to victims have been much discussed in other academic fields, they have been comparatively neglected in philosophy. What is unique about a philosophical approach to the discussion of victims, and why is it valuable?

TG: A philosophical approach is unique in the ways in which it explores definitions, assumptions, and value judgments. It has much to offer in thoroughly considering differing perspectives and the reasons for and against these. Furthermore, such an approach can relate the issues to broader theories in ethics, epistemology, and political philosophy. Two central issues in these areas are those of credibility (epistemology) and punishment (political philosophy).

SL: How do you see the philosophical discussion of victims connecting to the work of victim advocacy groups? Should they mutually inform one another?

TG: I think it would be helpful to connect these approaches, and I hope that people will do that to good effect, though in some respects advocacy work and philosophical analysis will obviously differ in their goals.

SL: There have been a number of high-profile news stories recently involving allegations of victimization; in such cases, the testimony of victims is sometimes contradicted by the testimony of alleged perpetrators, with no physical evidence available to corroborate either party’s claims. How should we balance the rights and interests of victims (or purported victims) against the rights and interests of those who are accused?

TG: It is a difficult problem, to be sure.  There are surely temptations in this context.  Given tendencies to dismiss or discredit victims, one might wish to give them full credit in a sort of compensation for benighted attitudes in the past.  Or, given the strong association between innocence and victimhood, one might presume greater credibility for persons claiming to be victims.  While these temptations are understandable, I think they should be resisted. They can be very distorting. Most importantly, they fail to take seriously the rights of accused perpetrators.  The rights of victims and those of accused perpetrators need somehow to be balanced in contexts where credibility is at issue.

SL: One of the more compelling examples you discuss in the book is child soldiers, who may seem to blur the line between victims and perpetrators. Are there cases in which one’s being a victim can excuse one from also being a perpetrator?

Estimates are that there are over 300,000 child soldiers in the world today.  Problems posed are those of  moral and legal responsibility, rehabilitation, and reintegration; these are huge. A child soldier who commits seriously brutal acts is a perpetrator as well as a victim, and this is one of the ethically and politically challenging aspects of the case. Child soldiers are perpetrators in the sense that they are agents who have committed brutal and inhumane acts. They are (typically) victims in the sense that they have become soldiers in coercive circumstances and are not fully responsible for their acts. The perpetrator/victim dichotomy does not serve us well in reflecting on these problems.

SL: In Canada, the recent Victims Bill of Rights has been promoted by the federal government as an effort to “stand up for victims of crime and give them a more effective voice in the criminal justice and corrections system.” Do you believe that victims should have a central role in the criminal justice system?

TG: Victims deserve respect; they deserve to be heard; they deserve prompt and relevant information about their case; they deserve reparation and compensation. There are aspects of suffering that are unique to victims. Only the victim of a heinous act knows what it is like to experience it.  Having a central role in policy and sentencing is another matter, however.  There are important reasons not to give victims this role.  One is that their experiential knowledge of suffering does not amount to knowledge about sentencing and policy and does not provide it.  Another is that giving a central role to victims through impact statements unintentionally privileges ‘respectable’ and articulate victims, producing imbalances in the administration of justice.

SL: You’ve published on many other topics in social philosophy, including reconciliation, forgiveness, and terrorism. How do you see Victims and Victimhood connecting to those topics?

TG: I have long been interested in issues of peace and reconciliation. To some theorists and practitioners, victims have been of interest primarily for their potential forgiveness, resulting in lack of attention to their serious needs. Victims’ efforts for reparation or compensation may be resisted or ignored, to their lasting detriment. These tendencies were apparent even in the well-regarded Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. There, victims deserved better.  However, it is important also to recognize that victim advocacy groups can pose challenges to peace settlements. Individuals or groups may seize, righteously and even competitively, on the victim role.  Exploiting presumptions about innocence and victimhood, they may insist on their victimhood with no recognition of their actual or possible status as perpetrators.  Exaggerated deference to victims may result in simplistic judgments concerning the blameworthiness of those identified as perpetrators.