I’m not a traditional historian. I don’t give a fig about chronology except (maybe) in my “first half” (1492-1877) of the U.S. History survey class, and I never care about “coverage.” Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I go for books and ideas that intrigue me rather than the idea that I need to “cover” certain decades or themes in my classes. The only kind of coverage I ever worry about is ensuring that my students are reading, hearing, and talking about as many different Americans as possible. I try to ensure that we are reading and talking about women and men alike, and Americans of all classes and ethnic backgrounds.
More proof that I’m probably a bad professor: I write syllabi for the courses I wish I could have taken. Selfish? Guilty as charged. But then I figure if I’m bored, how can my students not be bored too? I’m just not that good of an actor. Also, I’ve found that if it excites me (environmental history! material culture!), it’s probably going to interest the students more than a lecture or book I feel merely obligated to share with them.
Joseph Adelman has an interesting blog post over at The Junto about teaching a history course organized around four American autobiographies rather than rigid notions of “coverage” and chronology. In a seminar for first-year students, I can see how it might be disorienting for them to jump from the 1670s (Mary Rowlandson) to the eighteenth century (Benjamin Franklin), and then to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with two African American autobiographies, Frederick Douglass and Melba Pattillo Beals. (He very generously provides a link to his syllabus, too.) Continue reading
My colleague and co-conspiritor in teaching History of Sexuality in America over the past several years, Ruth Alexander, has suggested that we develop and co-teach another course on the 1960s. She has correctly deduced my excitement over the multi-media primary sources that modern historians can use–primarily video and audio clips that are available widely on the internet, as well as material culture and clothing that we find at Goodwill and garage sales! Wow!
When we had Carrie Pitzulo, author of Batchelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy as a special guest in our class last term to talk about her article on Hugh Hefner’s and Playboy‘s engagement with feminism, I couldn’t believe that there was an entire episode of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line on YouTube, starring Hefner and engaging his ideas about the sexual revolution and feminism! Amazing. It’s also fascinating as a style of TV production that never happens now, even on PBS. Buckley draws Hefner out on “the Playboy philosophy” and where it fits in American intellectual history.
The sad truth about teaching the early modern period is that the video is totally inferior. Continue reading
This blog has mocked the notion of “Excellence without Money” as the guiding meme of universities these days, because excellence has a price, and a price that can’t be paid without actual money. (It’s like all of those people who tell you that “breastfeeding is free!” These people must never have breastfed a child and/or think that women’s time and labor is worth nothing, because no one who thinks about this for 15 seconds could say anything that stupid.)
But in our new media landscape, we have the option of scooping up a lot of excellent podcasts and public radio shows without paying for them. I seriously hope you’ll reconsider this, especially if you earn a paycheck yourself, because it’s all too frequently women’s work we undervalue and take for granted. If more self-avowed feminists looked around and started paying other women what they’re worth, it would benefit all of us–women and men, feminist and non-feminist alike.
Liz Covart of the podcast Ben Franklin’s World is asking the thousands of people who read her blog and listen to her podcasts to support her work financially. I donated some coin a few days ago, and want to urge you all to think about supporting her or another independent feminist and/or or history blogger, podcaster, or someone whose volunteer labor entertains and educates you. Continue reading
Thomas Jefferson statue at the College of William and Mary, November 2015
This is so 2015: According to Inside Higher Ed, “At both the University of Missouri at Columbia and the College of William & Mary, critics have been placing yellow sticky notes on [Thomas] Jefferson statues, labeling him — among other things — ‘rapist’ and ‘racist.'”
Polite, inoffensive, non-vandalizing sticky notes with words on them, and still the internet right wing is in a predictable lather. A William and Mary spokesperson comments, “‘A university setting is the very place where civil conversations about difficult and important issues should occur. Nondestructive sticky notes are a form of expression compatible with our tradition of free expression.'”
Tell me again who’s against liberty of speech and expression, friends? The IHE article offers some interesting perspectives from different historians and Jefferson biographers–check them out. Continue reading
Chaps my a$$!
Kathleen L. Sheppard, a historian of archaeology who blogs at Adventures in History in Archaeology, reported on an interesting article she read at the online publication Broadly, a channel at Vice.com on “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist Who Invented Wicca,” Margaret Murray, by writer Sarah Waldron. Sheppard was first excited that the subject of her book–the only book-length biography of Murray published in any language–was also the subject of a mainstream publication!
Sheppard’s heart sank as she realized that “the article is quite good. But, to be honest, it is good because most of the work was done by me,” and uncredited in any fashion by the writer:
I saw the article, posted by a fellow Egyptologist on facebook. I read it, excited to learn more about Murray’s work. Maybe there was something in there that I could learn about her witchcraft studies. As I read, I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new. In fact, I was reading my own words, spit back at me, in an online article that was and is being enjoyed by thousands of people. Some of my own phrases, and most definitely my unique analysis of Murray’s life and career, were there for thousands to see. Usually, this makes me very happy. Murray is still little-known outside of a small group of historians and Egyptologists even though she is central to the discipline. I got to the end of the article and realized there were NO citations. Not one. I did a ctrl+F to search for my name, thinking I must have missed where I was mentioned in the article as Murray’s biographer and owner of many of the ideas therein. Nothing.
Sheppard wasn’t interested in money–she just wanted due acknowledgement for her book and her unique intellectual contribution. As she explained in the first blog post: Continue reading
Satire worthy of Jonathan Swift on the future of higher education op-ed generating machines over at The Tattooed Prof (Kevin Gannon) Go read:
Cutting-edge overgeneralizations culled from evolutionary science tells us that we’re hardwired to meet these existential threats via a combination of fight-or-flight response and provocative thinkpieces. American Higher Education stands at such a moment now, a disruptive juncture to end all disruptive junctures. At the end of the day, it will be the Innovators who preside over the College of the Future. And they will be joined by the Humanities professors who are brave enough to ignore the nattering nabobs of pedagogy and cling tenaciously to What Made Us Great. Both groups will win, or neither will. That’s the nature of Disruption.
“Could there be block parties about which I don’t know? Maybe they’re in neighborhoods where I don’t go.”
We’ve got another beautiful, warm weekend ahead of us on the High Plains. (All of this warm, temperate weather is making me feel like I’m still in California, only no mudslides, so it’s a win for us here!) Maybe I just need a visit from the Ice Cream Man: Continue reading