Arts and Entertainment

Penn State University Press, Libraries host author Bret Rothstein Aug. 11

“The Shape of Difficulty: A Fan Letter to Unruly Objects” and author Bret L. Rothstein are the featured subjects during Penn State University Press and Penn State University Libraries’ Aug. 11 online author event Credit: composite image provided by Penn State University PressAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Press and Penn State University Libraries are partnering for their second author series event of 2021. A special engagement event and discussion with Bret L. Rothstein, author of "The Shape of Difficulty: A Fan Letter to Unruly Objects," will be held at noon Eastern time Wednesday, Aug. 11, and moderated by Penn State University Press Executive Editor Eleanor H. Goodman. 

Guests are invited to register online for the Zoom webinar-style event. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A with the author and members of the Press. 

The book’s online description poses the question: “What is it about puzzles that drives us to figure them out?” From Rubik’s cubes to string disentanglements and other “unruly objects” of play, from the Renaissance to the present, that have been built to be misunderstood and grappled with, “Rothstein explores how mechanical problems delight and frustrate us, distracting our attention from recognizably ‘useful’ activities and directing it toward something that may be even more important.” 

Rothstein is the Ruth N. Halls Professor, Art History, at Indiana University, where his courses address the cultural work of images and objects. He has published extensively on early Netherlandish devotional culture, 16th-century humanist wit and the sociocultural ramifications of ludic objects. His research interests include the history and theories of play; visual jokes and games, especially in northern European art of the 15th to 17th centuries; and enigmatology.

Registrants may read the book in advance, but it is not required to enjoy and engage in the conversation. Rothstein’s book is available from Penn State University Press in a hardcover edition with a discount of 30% if using the code NR21 in an online order.

The Press and Libraries’ first event this year, held online on April 14, featured Judith Giesberg, author and editor of “Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865,” and moderated by Kathryn Yahner, Penn State University Press editor.

Last Updated August 20, 2021