Does it seem to you that in the past few years, we’ve reached a kind of rapprochement among historians and literary scholars?
The last time I had a long-term fellowship–which I’m embarrassed to admit was I was fifteen years ago already!–it seemed to me that there was a great deal of hostility between historians and literature scholars. This was at the Newberry Library in the winter and spring of 1999, and I recall a number of not-very-helpful comments from literature people to historians along the lines of “you can’t say this!!!” Similarly, there were rude interjections from historians, who would inform a literature scholar that “you can’t do that!!!”
I remember being lectured by an only-slightly-senior colleague in an English department about my reading of captivity narratives, and when I complained about what I heard as pretty unhelpful advice to another literary scholar, I was informed that I was “just being defensive.” (And maybe I was. But why was that? Was it because I was being talked to like I wasn’t an expert in my own field and I hadn’t won a long-term fellowship on my merits? Ya think???) I remember the frustration of a literary scholar who was writing a book about representations and historical experiences of a particular subject in both colonial America and the modern (20th century) U.S., and was skipping the entire nineteenth century who was informed by historians at the Newberry Library a few years later that “you can’t do that.”
Clearly, the historians were disturbed by the implications of her argument for their sacred cow, Change Over Time, but as a literary scholar she doesn’t need to worry about that, just as I as a historian didn’t have to write my book like a literature scholar would. Continue reading
It looks like I completely failed to blog a single word last week. Once this blog starts to feel like another job, I’ll pull the plug, so in the meantime I’ll enjoy my off-line life when I will! I hope you’re all having lovely winter breaks/holiday seasons/time away from the classroom/unstressful time with family and friends.
Two weeks ago, I sent my book off to begin its long and winding journey to eventual publication. So now what do I do with the rest of my sabbatical? I’ve got some fun ideas that I want to explore that have to do with women’s bodies, material culture, fashion, and citizenship in the Early U.S. Republic, and there are more sources at the Huntington Library than I can probably process in the next five and a half months. But I can dream, can’t I?
While it may seem perverse, I hope that I don’t see any readers’ reports for at least a few months, because then I won’t feel obligated to respond to them and make a plan with an editor. I want some time to dream and play, and to think about the second half of my scholarly career. Tempus Fugit, my friends. I’ve now written two books that several people told me I couldn’t write, shouldn’t write, and/or was stupid to write because everybody already knows that, nobody cares, and I should just stop talking about my ideas. Continue reading
Christmas trees on the beach are A Thing here.
Because it’s 65 degrees and sunny I refuse to admit that Christmas is one week away. The stress of the holidays just does not exist for me this year. (This is also probably due to the fact that I’m not working my usual day job, and the fact that my book is off to the editor now, so this is a Very Special Christmas for me!) For the past six weeks, I’ve been walking around Pasadena and San Marino thinking, “isn’t that cute? They think it’s Christmas!” Continue reading
Crowds of peasants amble through Sleeping Beauty’s castle
A reader writes:
For a Christmas gift exchange, I’m buying a present for someone I don’t know very well . When I asked someone who knew her much better what would work, I was told, books, and history – “not too academic, but not dumbed down”. She’s read a lot about the (American) Civil War, and history generally. So I would like to crowdsource my Christmas shopping to your readers. What recent books would you put in the category of not dumbed down, but not too academic, interesting to a curious informed reader?
Well, friends: what do you think? I assigned Drew Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (2008) to a senior seminar a few years ago, and it went over really well. I found the book fascinating and *I* could see the interventions she made in the historiography, but I don’t think they would distract a non-academic reader.
(Whether or not one would want to give a book about death for Christmas–well, that’s another question, isn’t it? Maybe I should brace myself for a follow-up Dear Historiann letter, in which a reader wonders why a Secret
Satan Santa gave her a book about death and what it might mean about their relationship.) Continue reading
(That should be Santa’s Elves.) How can I ever return to my day job? Maybe I’ll try to pull a Runaway Bunny, and turn myself into a rare book to hide on the shelves of the Huntington Library, and hope that my Department Chair and colleagues don’t disguise themselves as librarians and pull me off the shelf! Continue reading
Historiann, Carla Mazzio, Mark Harmon, Kathleen Wilson, and Susan Juster
by Mary Darly, ca. early 1770s
Was Jeremiah “Jerry” Duggan The world’s only stylist and leader of a military insurgency? From “Journal of the Siege and Blockade of Quebec by the American Rebels, in Autumn 1775 and Winter 1776,” in Manuscripts Relating to the Early History of Canada, Fourth Series (Quebec: Dawson & co., 1875), and attributed to Captain (at the time, Lieutenant) Francis Daly:
Dec. 4th. Jerry Duggan, late Hair-dresser in Quebec, is stiled Major amongst them, and it is said commands 500 Canadians.
5th. Duggan (Jeremiah) disarmed the inhabitants of the suburbs of St. Roc without opposition. Some cannon shot fired from the Garrison.
Pretty badass for a hairdresser, no? I love the eighteenth century!
Duggan was a leader of the “rebels,” that is, of the American insurgents trying to rally Canadians to rise up against their British masters in Québec during Benedict Arnold’s ultimately unsuccessful siege of the city in 1775-76. (I had no idea that they ever rallied any Canadians to their side, as Daly reports here. For more on “The Martial Macaroni,” and other mid-eighteenth-century satires, see this informative blog post on Mary Darly’s The Book of Caricaturas, 1762, and her career as a London artist, engraver, and printer who satirized the Macaroni style). Continue reading