Linda Gordon on Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Linda Gordon was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition about her new book, Dorothea Lange:  A Life Beyond Limits.  Many of you are probably familiar with Gordon’s career–NYU historian and a winner of muliple prestigious historical prizesfor her books going back nearly 35 years–all the more impressive because her work is unabashedly feminist.  Her new work on Lange sounds fascinating–the linked interview gives an overview of Lange, a San Francisco portrait photographer whose work for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression gave her photos a national audience.  Gordon’s work may also be of interest to historians of disability–Lange had a withered foot that was the result of a bout with polio at age 7, and Gordon mentions it more than once during the interview.  (Lange even made her foot the subject of a striking “self-portrait.”)

Although I don’t write modern U.S. history, that’s the field I end up reading in for fun more than any other, especially biographies of women.  It’s seems like it would be so easy and relaxing to write histories and biographies of women who were literate and wrote stuff down!  Continue reading

What is the sound of one hand slapping my forhead?

Here’s your Koan for the day:  What if Kevin Carman, Dean of the College of Basic Sciences at Louisiana State University, were made Provost of Brown University, where the current Provost is troubled by the fact that 70% of all tenure candidates win tenure and promotion at Brown and wants to lower it?  (You’ll recall that Dean Carman is the guy who yanked a proffie out of her own course because of a high rate of student failure in her intro class.)  Would he be concerned that 30% of Brown Assistant Professors are “failing?”  Would this create a wormhole of dubious conflicting administrative initiatives?

I like this comment from Dore Levy, a professor of East Asian studies who opposes the Brown initiative to deny tenure to more Assistant Professors.  She explains why many faculty are with her:

They say that Brown is trying to provide them with the sort of research resources that are on the high end of what one could find at a liberal arts college, but then judge them by the standards of a research university. “You want us to be like Harvard? Then give us the Widener Library,” she said.

Levy, whose scholarship is on classical Chinese, said that she has spent her Brown career doing research at the libraries at Yale and Princeton Universities, which are far superior in relevant holdings than Brown’s collections. Brown can’t have it both ways, with resources not matching expectations, she said.

Sing it, sister!  Anyone who has ever visited Brown knows that it prides itself on being the Ivy with the research chops and also the character of a tony SLAC.  Continue reading

Is motherhood authorizing?

How’s this for a brilliant “feminist” argument:  Peter Beinart urges President Obama to “Put a Mom on the Court!” 

And that’s why it’s important not just to have lots of women in positions of political power, but to have lots of women with kids. It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

What–you didn’t realize that having all but one non-parent on the U.S. Supreme Court now was disadvantaging women?  Yeah:  that’s why we get teh suckity-suck from the SCOTUS these days:  The Ledbetter (2007) and Gonzales (2007) decisions were all due to the fact that there aren’t enough moms on the Supreme Court. Continue reading

I got nuthin'.

This is an artist’s rendition of my skull right now.  I’m sorry, but I really have nothing of interest to say.  Truly.  I am beyond even wishes and desires now.

Except maybe this:  our semesters are about two weeks too long.  At this point, everyone is faking it, and they’re not even doing an especially good job of it.  How on Earth did I manage to earn a B.A. with only eight meager 12- or 13-week semesters?  Like that old commercial for Tootsie Pops used to say:  The world may never know.

Susan Gubar and the FUBAR American uni: or, the mad bitch in the attic tells all

Good morning, friends.  I got nuthin’ today but a burning desire for a morning run and then a stack of essays and rough drafts of research papers to plow through, so you’re on your own.  May I suggest that you go read Roxie’s World today, where co-blogger Moose has a wonderful valentine called “To Her With Love” to Indiana University English Professor and feminist hero Susan Gubar, and a brilliant meditation on the FUBAR American public university?  (Roxie is of course the author of the “Excellence without Money” series inaugurated in 2008–don’t miss this latest installment!)

Here’s a little flava:

This is partly a story about luck and good timing, but it is also a story about the structural conditions of American public higher education, conditions that have changed significantly since my undergraduate days. I stumbled into Gubar’s class because I needed to pick up a senior seminar after deciding to add English as a second major at the end of my junior year. A friend recommended the course because she’d heard the co-author of a recently published book called The Madwoman in the Attic was a pretty good teacher. The seminar, with the rather dry-sounding title of “Feminist Expository Prose,” didn’t necessarily lead one to expect life-altering encounters with radical texts and ideas. I had never even heard of Mary Wollstonecraft, and Three Guineas, the Virginia Woolf text on the syllabus, was the first Woolf I would ever read. I had never heard of Charlotte Perkins Gilman either, but her Women and Economics rocked my young world, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s autobiography Eighty Years and More so fascinated me that I hopped in my car over Thanksgiving break to go read the author’s letters in a library 700 miles away. It was the excitement of that first research trip that propelled me into Susan’s office to announce that I had found my vocation. Continue reading

Professional presentations: can you recycle?

Hot off the presses!

Dr. Crazy is freaking the frack out because she needs to write a paper for a conference in June, and somehow finish the semester, pack up her apartment (and kitty cats), and move into her new house all by herself.  All of this must happen in the next month or so.  It’s times like this that it must be oh-so-tempting to reach into the drawer and present something that one has presented before at another conference or meeting, right?  (Dr. Crazy isn’t going to do this, of course, because on the panel is a Dr. Bigshot whom she wants to impress with her intellectual rigor, which is why she’s freaking out now.)

Her post got me thinking:  is it acceptable to present the same paper or give the same lecture twice at conferences, seminars, or invited lectures?  Is it ever cool to lecture on material you’ve already published?  I remember going to a conference as a graduate student and seeing someone who was then regarded as an up-and-comer who gave what seemed to me to be a lazy talk based on notes sketched on a cocktail napkin, and then at the end he gestured to a stack of copies of an article he had just published and announced “well, anyway, I’ve just published this all in this article in the Journal of the History of Blibbityblab, so feel free to take a copy on your way out.”

That seemed to me to be profoundly uncool.  Continue reading