Thursday round-up: the death becomes us edition


Scary stuff!

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.

I know I peed in many people’s gluten-free breakfast cereal of choice in my previous post, but I just can’t resist:  is anyone else fed up with the adultification of Halloween?  It all just seems like more evidence of the voluntary infantilization of adulthood–along with the rejection of grown-up clothing, food, and entertainment.  I went to one of those pop-up Halloween stores yesterday, and was really creeped out by the fact that I had to hunt for the kids’ gear, and that the children’s costumes and accessories were probably only 25% of the total inventory.

From this kind of evidence, it seems like adulthood itself is scary enough for most of you!

12 thoughts on “Thursday round-up: the death becomes us edition

  1. +1 to the submission systems sucking away time. From the perspective of someone on the job market, having to create fifty separate accounts and fill out the same EEO information fifty times is death by a thousand paper cuts in terms of productivity. AcademicJobsOnline or Interfolio should be good solutions to this, but the former is so bad as to be nearly unusable, and almost no one runs job searches through the latter. Alas.


  2. Ditto for student recommendations! A law school website wanted all the password stuff PLUS it was having “compatibility issues” with both Firefox and Int Explorer, so I gave up and sent the letters snail mail.


  3. Excellent Halloween Elvgren. I kind of got the notion from it that he was mocking the ridiculousness of the over-the-top come-hither expression on the woman’s face by making the pumpkin face exactly the same. But maybe I’m reading too much into it?


  4. A bunch of paper cuts is what they deserve if they’re going to make submitting electronic letters of recommendation such a pain in the ass! Or we could just all phone up the admissions committees and search chairs and do it the REALLY old-fashioned way.

    I’m also seeing a lot of insistence that they need “signed letters on letterhead,” also sent electronically. I had thought that my institutional email address functioned as my signature, but I guess the tech monkeys have to make more work for us in order to justify their existence.


  5. Oh, Amen on the reviewer/submission/LOR stuff. A few systems are quite simple (when I saw my system’s job LOR interface from the outside, I was impressed) but others are a nightmare. As to the signed letter, the best thing I ever did was scan my signature into a TIFF file, so I can paste it as the signature to a letter.

    When I was widowed, I only slowly came out of my shell; the first month I did the minimum, and slowly expanded my world. But I was shocked when – about 6 weeks after my husband had died — I went to a meeting of a society my husband had also been involved with, and there were people who said nothing to me. (There were also friends who took me out for a lovely dinner, natch.) But I’ve also learned that not only do different people respond differently to death, but we mourn different deaths differently.


  6. My gripe with the online manuscript submissions is not only the fact I literally have send myself a password reminder each time I log-in to every one of them, but that they depersonalise the interaction to the point of being counter-productive. When I was a younger scholar, I submitted to a big journal, got an R&R, did significant revisions and resubmitted, this was then sent to the peer reviewer again, they said ‘not enough’, and I was rejected by automatic email with no further advice on how to proceed. I knew one of the editors, so emailed and said I accepted that decision but informally could they could read my work and tell me what to do for sending it elsewhere. The editor told me she thought it was fine and just to send it somewhere else. So I sent it to another TOP journal and got published without revisions. So happy ending, except it took 4 years to publish one article.

    But, it really annoyed me that this system allowed the editors to step back from responsibility on these decisions. The reviewer said ‘no’, the computer said ‘no’, that was the end. I’m not saying that as an editor I’ve never had to reject after revision, but I’ve always had the courtesy to explain to the author why it was happening – so it’s really frustrating when the editors aren’t even engaged in that process. Or, if that’s not what happened, that it creates a system where editors can hide behind their decisions.


  7. I object only to the recommendation systems that require me to upload my pdf while standing on my head reciting “Carmelita, Marmelita.” But they do seem to be becoming more numerous.


  8. Wow, FA–I didn’t realize that that’s what some editors do! I have not seen that myself, but I agree that an editor really needs to make the final call herself or himself & to write a letter whether it’s a rejection or acceptance.

    In the case of the journal I’m working with, the editors seem to have a very personal touch. So we’ll see what happens, but I would be shocked if their rejection were as impersonal and as opaque as the one you received. My beef truly was with the niggling fussiness of the software: Do I really need to enter my phone number just so? If my letter of recommendation is 2 pages plus four lines, are you kidding me that I have to edit it to get it all onto two pages? Etc.


  9. I haven’t had an experience as difficult as Tony’s, but there are some journal systems that appear deliberately labyrinthine. I wish that everyone involved in the journal had to navigate through the different portals from submission through proofs, either once a year or once each change. Maybe that would ensure we hit fewer roadblocks (such as instructions to click on a particular option that was NO LONGER THERE). But that’s obviously just pie-in-the-sky talk.

    Re: Hallowe’en? After about 15-20 cm of snow walloped my fair city today, we had only about 20 trick-or-treaters. Guess whose students are going to benefit next week? I’d prefer to give these to the cute kids who populate the neighbourhood but, clearly, the icy streets made treacherous by rills of freezing slush were too much for the little tykes and their cautious parents.


  10. Pingback: The scariest of them all? Little boys who want to dress up as girls for Halloween | Historiann

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