Hamilton: An American Musical in teaching and public outreach

Got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter. . . Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, 1792

Got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter. . . Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, 1792

Please forgive the relative silence on this blog lately, friends.  I’ve been busier–in the words of my late, profane grandmother–“than a cat covered in $hit!”  Much to my surprise, I’ve found it psychologically more comfortable these days to immerse myself in the eighteenth century rather than so-called “reality” these days.  Not that the eighteenth century was a time when things were “great”–far from it!  But, the eighteenth century has the virtue of being over and done with for more than two centuries, so I don’t have any responsibility for making it better.  That’s its primary virtue for me now.

But look what happens when you listen to the Hamilton:  An American Musical soundtrack on your drive and walk to work every day:  you (I) wake up with #Hamiltunes on your mind, and you (I) walk around humming “Thomas Jefferson’s coming home. . . “ or “The Room Where It Happens,” and saying out loud to colleagues “sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder.”  (Oops!)  You (I) make irritating allusions to Hamilton, like adding “Sir,” to the ends of sentences, and sign your emails “I have the honor to be your obedient servant, H.Ann.”

hamiltonmusicalOther historians are doing much better than I am in the creative and fun ways they’re using the Hamilton pop culture phenomenon in their classrooms and in public outreach.  Here are some recent examples–and since I plan to play at least one song a day next semester in HIST 341:  Eighteenth-century America, the course in which I teach the American Revolution, I am eager to learn of other examples like these, so please add your links and ideas in the comments below: Continue reading

Teaser Tuesday: the return of Nabby Adams, nuns’ clothing ceremonies, and a new doll!

Yale University Press. 2016

Yale University Press. 2016

Today’s Teaser Tuesday excerpt from The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright features one of the more dramatic passages in the book–Esther’s clothing ceremony (or Vêture) in January 1713 at age of 16 that represented her formal admission as an Ursuline novice.  The novitiate, characterized by the great scholar of French religious women in the early modern period, Diane Rapley, as a “military boot camp,” was designed to test the suitability of girls and young women for religious life.  The Ursulines of Québec had a remarkably effective novitiate–16% of novices left before final profession, and there is no record whatsoever of a professed nun leaving the order after final vows.

Of course, with my enduring interest in clothing and material culture in history, the fact that this ceremony is called literally a “clothing ceremony,” I found it irresistible to write about it at some length.  Even better, Abigail (Nabby) Adams Jr., our fugitive Latin scholar from last week, recorded in her travel diary a clothing ceremony she had witnessed in Paris in 1784 among the order that ran the school where Thomas Jefferson had enrolled his young daughters, Martha (Patsy) and Mary (Polly), when he was serving as the ambassador to France in the 1780s.  In this ceremony, novices take the white veil, which distinguishes them from the professed nuns who in the Ursuline order wear the black veil as shown in Esther’s portrait on the cover of my book: Continue reading

Teaser Tuesday: Gender, race, and intellectual authority in the Ursuline Convent

Yale University Press. 2016

Yale University Press. 2016

Teaser Tuesday is back, my friends.  Today’s excerpt from my new book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, focuses on the education of girls and the racial and cultural politics in the Ursuline convent and school.  When she’s enrolled in the school, her name is first written into the boarding school records as “a little English girl named Esther.”  After having called her Mali while she lived among the Wabanaki, I resume calling her by her given name, and I hint here as to why it’s important that she was identified as “English” rather than “Wabanaki” or “Sauvagesse.”

In this excerpt, I pull back a little from the particular experiences of Esther to analyze the problem of education for girls at the turn of the eighteenth century, which was seen by elites as both potentially dangerous but necessary.  How much education was too much?  How did European and North American cultures ensure that girls’ and boys’ educations remained separate and unequal?  You’ll also see me indulge in one of my favorite tricks when I don’t have specific information about Esther.  Can you spot it? Continue reading

Busy, tired, sad, and fearful. And you?

sadbigeye

Why were these ever popular?

UPDATED AGAIN, 1/15/16, 5:05 P.M. MST

AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, see below.

How are you?  To be honest, I’m not good.  2016 look like it’s ending as it began for me.  It’s grief and fear, full stop.  (At least last winter when I was grieving the deaths of friends, I wasn’t fearful of the future, just really sad they’d no longer be with us to enjoy it.)  I keep bursting into tears randomly through the day.  What a schmuck I am!

My undergraduate students last week wrote me sweet emails wishing that I felt better after I bawled in class right in front of them.  I asked them to look out for members of our community who may be feeling vulnerable.  I was lecturing about women and the American revolution, and ended on a slide quoting the Declaration of Sentiments (“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal. . . “), which ordinarily I would read out loud to let the class hear clearly that ringing Jeffersonian language, but instead last Wednesday I just dissolved into tears.  My students told me they liked my honesty–as though it were a strategy!  As though I had any self-control.

I’m busy and tired too, so here’s an interesting roundup of opinions from (mostly) smart people.  Caveat:  too many white ppl. in these commentaries.  I’ll revise and expand as I find commentaries like this that expand the pool.  Also, please note that in this roundup it’s only women (except for David Frum!  Go figure!) who talk about gender or misogyny and their influence on the results last week:

  • How Historians of Tomorrow Will Interpret the Human Stain’s Election (watch out for Lynn Hunt’s stemwinder.  She is pi$$ed!)
  • We Are Witnessing the Politics of Humiliation–American women reflect on the election.  (Spoiler alert:  in this round-up, Maya Jasanoff says what I said last February in my post on women and political leadership in the longue durée.)
  • David Frum, “Let’s have a fresh start. . . “
  • UPDATE:  Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary.  Now women know retreat is not an option,” from the Toronto Globe & Mail.  Sent to me by a friend over the border–
  • ANOTHER UPDATE, 11/14/16 12:43 P.M. MST:  Kurt Eichenwald:  “A certain kind of liberal makes me sick. These people traffic in false equivalencies, always pretending that both nominees are the same, justifying their apathy and not voting or preening about their narcissistic purity as they cast their ballot for a person they know cannot win. I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency. I have an enormous problem with anyone who voted for Trump or Stein or Johnson—or who didn’t vote at all—and who now expresses horror about the outcome of this election.  If you don’t like the consequences of your own actions, shut the hell up.”
  • MORE:  Jamelle Bouie, one of my favorite political reporters, at Slate:  “There is No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter.”  Especially this part, white people:  “To face [the fact of the Human Stain’s nakedly racist rhetoric and policy positions] and then demand empathy for the people who made them a reality—who backed racist demagoguery, whatever their reasons—is to declare Trump’s victims less worthy of attention than his enablers. To insist Trump’s backers are good people is to treat their inner lives with more weight than the actual lives on the line under a Trump administration. At best, it’s myopic and solipsistic. At worst, it’s morally grotesque.
  • I’m going to paraphrase Margaret Atwood here and say this:  Trump voters are afraid Clinton voters might criticize their language or their Halloween costumes; Clinton voters are afraid that Trump voters will hurt or kill them.

Continue reading

Sad.

David Remnick, “An American Tragedy:”

Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled. Some of this was the result of her ingrown instinct for suspicion, developed over the years after one bogus “scandal” after another. And yet, somehow, no matter how long and committed her earnest public service, she was less trusted than Trump, a flim-flam man who cheated his customers, investors, and contractors; a hollow man whose countless statements and behavior reflect a human being of dismal qualities—greedy, mendacious, and bigoted. His level of egotism is rarely exhibited outside of a clinical environment.

For eight years, the country has lived with Barack Obama as its President. Too often, we tried to diminish the racism and resentment that bubbled under the cyber-surface. But the information loop had been shattered. On Facebook, articles in the traditional, fact-based press look the same as articles from the conspiratorial alt-right media. Spokesmen for the unspeakable now have access to huge audiences. This was the cauldron, with so much misogynistic language, that helped to demean and destroy Clinton. The alt-right press was the purveyor of constant lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories that Trump used as the oxygen of his campaign. Steve Bannon, a pivotal figure at Breitbart, was his propagandist and campaign manager.

It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

Please look out for one another.  As wise people who counsel children in the wake of trauma say, “look for the helpers.”  Be a helper.

Sunday door-knocking in Greeley: a report from the ground on election 2016

Just do it!

Just do it!

This Tuesday, I’m taking a break from my Teaser Tuesday feature to urge you first to GET OUT AND VOTE if you haven’t already!  VAMOS A VOTAR, mi amigas y amigos.

OK then:  now for my report from the ground in my no-longer-so-swingy swing state.  I spent all day Sunday knocking on at least 80 doors in a few different neighborhoods in Greeley and Evans, Colorado.  It took me pretty much all day, from about 9:45 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon.  My pedometer estimated that I covered 9.3 miles.  I observed a number of things that might be of interest to you, my dear readers. Continue reading