The Japanese Garden
Having a residential fellowship is a lot like going to college, in that you’re surrounded by all of these very interesting and accomplished people and you’re wondering why they admitted a scrub like you. (At least, that was my experience of college. Maybe you were the impressive person who wondered “who let all the scrubs in?”)
Maybe it’s because of its Anglophilic roots, but at the Huntington, there are several class divisions among the fellows. (How do we know the are class distinctions? Because nobody talks about them! I guess to that extent the Huntington is also very American.) The major distinction is between the long-term fellows, who are invited to spend the entire academic year, and the short-term fellows who have funding from one to six months usually. (And then there are the people who have no fellowships but who show up to work here anyway! They are some of the most interesting and accomplished of us all.) Continue reading
Baby, it’s cold outside!
It’s hard work being on sabbatical, believe it or not. Having the privilege of a Huntington Library long-term fellowship comes with strings attached–it’s not all strolling in the gardens, gazing at marvelous paintings, and thinking deep thoughts all day long. I’ve spent a lot of this week imagining the winter of 1759-60 in Québec and trying to write about it. (Those poor Highlanders, in their kilts–or “philibegs” as once source calls them! Just imagine.) Those of you who are suffering from the Polar Vortex in most of North America this week can probably do a lot better than I can at this point. (Although it’s been cool and overcast here too–highs only in the 60s!)
Back to the hard work of sabbatical: the number of seminars, lectures, conferences, and happy hours (both formal and informal) could be nearly a full-time job if I let them. In the past week alone, I’ve learned what a “philibeg” is, and about medieval zombies and other life-after-death beliefs, heard a lecture on the Sand Creek Massacre (whose 150th anniversary is on November 29 this year), read a paper on seeing early nineteenth-century mathemeticians as cyborgs, and just today learned that “mercantilism” is pronounced merCANtilism, not MERcantilism, as I had always thought. (Who knew? I avoid talking about merCANtilism as much as I possibly can.) Continue reading
Friends, it’s a never-ending round of seminars, walks through the garden, curator-led tours of both the Huntington and the Getty Museums, and lunch and dinner invitations that I have barely a moment to myself on this “sabbatical!” My apologies for the light posting these days, but sometimes a scholar just has to sit down once in a while and write something for peer-reviewed publications.
Here are a few interesting things I’ve found while haunting the interwebs over the past week:
- Should we bring back formal mourning clothes? This review of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” by Hillary Kelly is nostalgic for the value of public mourning. Maybe this is on my mind, because I’m of the age now that my peers are coping with the deaths of their parents. I had a colleague whose father died a few years ago, and when I invited him out for dinner following a seminar several months later, I was a little surprised that he said, “no thanks, I’m just not up to socializing yet.” Of course it made perfect sense–but it struck me at the time that we make grief so invisible and so unknowable to others in modern U.S. culture. Recent widows and widowers complain that after a month or two, even close friends sometimes express exasperation with their grief! We expect people to “get over it” so we aren’t threatened by the memory of our own losses, or by fears of our impending losses.
- There’s a new book coming out with Yale University Press next year which I’m dying to read: Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. (Isn’t that a great title? Who wouldn’t want to read that book?) She was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Fellow in French Art at the Huntington from 2003 to 2007, and is an independent scholar.
- Speaking of mourning, what about graves, and specifically, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act? There’s an open position in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts for a Repatriation Coordinator. Public historians or anyone else with NAGPRA knowledge and experience should apply. This position does not require a Ph.D., but rather just an M.A. in Anthropology, Native/Indigenous Studies/Museum Studies or related fields. This is a three-year lectureship.
- The bane of my existence is now the elaborate software systems through which we must all submit journal articles and letters of recommendation. Do I really need a unique I.D. and secure password for every. Freakin’. system? (If someone wants to write an article, revise it, and get it published under my name, I’d be happy to take credit for it!) Also: it seems unfair to ask an author to revise and resubmit an article, but still hold her to the first-round 10,000 word limit. Just sayin’. Now I’m off to eliminate 388 words from my polished, jewel-like, prose.
- Well, not yet. I forgot to say that tomorrow night is Halloween. Tips for candy thieves: only eat the candy out of your kids’ buckets until they can reliably count, or you’ll get busted.
Thanks to everyone who has returned once more to the barricades to respond to the #Historiannchallenge, both on your own blogs, on Twitter, and in the comments to the previous post. To recap: the weekend before last, the New York Times published an interview with eminent Civil War historian James McPherson about his lists of “bests” and “favorites,” which struck me and many other historians as rather limited in its vision of current scholarship by American historians. I picked up the other end of the rope and published my own interview of myself listing my own “bests” and “favorites,” which was deliberately aimed to broaden our understanding of what history is, what it does, and who writes it, and issued the #Historiannchallenge on Twitter to invite other bloggers to make their own contributions.
I had a whirlwind of a trip to Boston and back for family matters last weekend, and am finally back at my desk this morning (Pacific Daylight morning, anyway!) I thought I’d commemorate all of the contributions on blogs and Twitter to the #Historiannchallenge by pulling together all of your Tweets and links–I’ve tried to acknowledge each one as they were posted, and I also tried to leave comments on your own self-interviews on your blogs, but please let me know if I’ve inadvertently missed anyone’s contributions by dropping a link in the comments below, and I will update this post to make it the official historical record. Continue reading
“As Clinton ponders her second run for the White House, many variables are in play, from her age to her health to her economic platform to her status as a soon-to-be grandmother.”
I get it that Hillary Clinton is unlike every other presidential candidate in American history, not just as the only serious woman contender, but also as the wife of a former president, but: srsly? Todd Purdham implies here that grandmotherhood is going to so delight and derange Clinton that she’ll toss her last chance to run for president out the window.
We’ve had other presidents who were near relatives of previous presidents in American history three times before–the Adamses, the Roosevelts, and the Bushes*, not to mention the many brothers Kennedy who ran for president between 1960 and 1980–and clearly, in these cases the whole family is implicated in campaigns in a way that’s different from other presidential campaigns. But I don’t remember the media running stories in 1998 about how George W. Bush might not run for president because he might have to miss his daughters’ high school prom night, do you? (Oh, yeah: The media were all about the presidential blow jobs back then.) Mitt Romney’s dozens of grandchildren were never presented as a reason for him to kick back and let 2012 go by without him, although I recall several stories emphasizing the comfort his large family could give him after his loss. Continue reading
Writing a book by day at an august institution like The Huntington, and re-reading Lucky Jim (1954) by night, it’s hard to be seduced by self-importance. Here, our lucky Jim Dixon considers the article he’s desperately trying to get published in the hopes of being renewed as a lecturer at a red-brick university:
It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool. “Let’s see,'” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.“
There’s another great line in which his fellow-boarder at his rooming house asks him what got him interested in medieval history in the first place, and Dixon responds to the effect of, “I’m not interested in this. I hate it! Don’t we all do what we hate?” But I don’t have my copy of the book with me now, and I couldn’t find the quotation on the internets. Continue reading
Are any of you following the Scottish independence referendum? It’s a surprisingly big deal around the Huntington, which being a kind of monument to the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain in terms of its art, manuscript, and bibliographic collections, is loaded with British people and British scholars, always. Opinions here vary as to how it will go, and how it should go. I expect that the results will be some time in coming–it’s early evening in Britain now, but the polls don’t close until 10 p.m. there, so even with an immediate overnight count we may not know until late tonight or early tomorrow morning Pacific Daylight Time.
I was agnostic on the question, being neither Scots nor British nor a British studies scholar, until I saw that Niall Ferguson has been urging a “nae” vote. Today, he claims that “Alone, Scotland Will Be a Failed State.” Right. Just like Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia! Failed states, all of them, even the U.S. with its tragic adoption of Euro-style socialised medicine and Afro-style Kenyan anticolonial presidents. Wait–did you see that? Even the spelling around here is getting socialised–I mean, socialized! Good God. But knowing where Ferguson stands is really clarifying: as a reflexively Tory doomsayer he’s so spectacularly wrong about everything all of the time, it made it easy to root for an “aye!” Continue reading