Noted Stuff ...
The Tee: The Happy Booker has the story on the shirt. When The Weblog's Robb Shuneman (scroll down) designed a tee-shirt featuring Inside Higher Ed's Scott McLemee, there was some debate about the accompanying motto, but fans as diverse as Michael Berube, Rick Perlstein, and I were enthusiastic. (For all you skeptics, it's evidence that something good really can come out of the University of Central Oklahoma. Really.) I thought it might be a good alternate choice for the Cliopatriarchs' official regalia. But Perlstein beat us to it by literally unveiling himself at the National Book Critics Circle Awards. His chosen motto:"Ingenium Vincit Cognationes" (that's"Talent trumps connections" for those of you who didn't take Latin with Barbara Maurer). Don't you think that's better than"Fuck All Other Reviewers"? Here's the photo of Perlstein in the infamous"t". (No, Perlstein isn't a double for Molly Goldberg; scroll down, but now that you mention it, ...)
Update: NPR reviewer Alan Cheuse is guest-blogging for The Happy Booker this morning. His opening line is a good one:"Hello, my name's Alan ... and I haven't read fiction since eight thirty this morning."
A Meme Worth Doing: At Rebunk, Derek Catsam has a meme worth doing: What Three Books Are You Most Ashamed To Admit That You Haven't Read? Lisa Vox Roy is undoubtedly correct, I think, that most bloggers' memes are worthless time-consumers. But life is short and most of the books that I get asked to review would not be on my short list, so Derek's question helps to set priorities. His list, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Education of Henry Adams, and Moby Dick, is a really good one, especially if you're an American historian. Should. Have. Been. Read. Yesterday. Some of the others that get mentioned in discussion over there – Zinn's A People's History and Brown's Da Vinci Code – probably ought not be on anybody's short list. High in the tall stack of yet unread books beside my bed: Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present, David Hollinger's In the American Province, and Peter Watson's The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century. See also: Miriam Burstein at Little Professor and Nathanael Robinson at Rhine River.
Finally, a few short links:
1) the University of Florida's Alligator OnLine has an excellent report on Horowitz's"Academic Bill of Rights" in the Florida state legislature. Fortunately, its sponsors are making enough gaffs in the process that, even if it passes, it is almost certain to be found unconstitutional. See also: Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber, Little Professor, and Sherman Dorn.
2) Scott Jaschik's"Giving Due Process Its Due" at Inside Higher Ed looks at a crucial issue, especially for HBUCs. The attrition rate among historically black colleges and universities has been disturbing.
3) Ahistoricality is keeping a"Hypocrisy Watch" on the Republicans and the Terry Schiavo case. Even if her life were to end tomorrow, this could be a lengthy vigil.
4) At his own blog, Liberty & Power's Chris Matthew Sciabarra is making a point that I've made before about commonalities between Ward Churchill's"little Eichmanns" remark and Ayn Rand's argument. Why is Churchill's point unthinkable, when the mistress of unbridled capitalism had already made it? and
5) There is a crisis in Cliopatrimania. Farangi, the evil one, holds Sepoy for ransom and threatens him with the most vicious torture. We are in secret negotiations at the very highest levels for his release.
Jonathan Dresner - 3/25/2005
Look through Danny Loss's archives: he did some very nice work on Brown, and has great links to other people who did similarly thorough work. And, if you want the Christian perspective instead of the historian's, there's a whole bunch of books out there.
Carl Patrick Burkart - 3/25/2005
I've just finished reading the Divinci Code, which I would describe as a good airport book. I don't really think that Brown is a good writer, but the story is a page turner. It almost reads like the first draft of a screenplay, one that will have to be cut a bit to get in under the 3 hour mark. Now, however, I'll have to do some quick reading on art history and early Christianity. My fear is that in a couple of years, I'll have assimilated the history presented in the Divinci Code and forgotten the source. Does anyone have any quick suggestions for a scholarly antidote?
Oscar Chamberlain - 3/24/2005
One of these days I'm going to pick up the Da Vinci Code. Two reasons why. One, several intelligent friends (none who are historians) have recommended it. I want to see what they see. Second, sometimes you need to know what inspires people to look at a subject more closely. That way one can better implement a bit of a course correction.
However, I'm not very good at practicing what I just preached. I did not see "Pocahantas," "Pearl Harbor", or Demi Moore's version of "The Scarlet Letter."
Oops, the "The Scarlet Letter" is not history. It's a novel, and a great novel, well worth reading. (And yes, I have read it).
Yet it is a good example here, precisely because of its quality. Over the past 150 years, how many people have taken its vision of the Puritans as "gospel?" If the image of the "puritanical" Puritan did not begin with Hawthorne, he certainly gave it a strong push with his evocation of a guilt that could clog body and soul.
Those of us who look at the actual Puritans with some admiration still have to fight through the Scarlet A to teach students something closer to the truth. It's a fight because Hawthorne's genius lives, even in students who have never read him. At the end of the novel, the Scarlet A becomes the Coat of Arms not simply of Hesther Prynne, but of all Massachusett's Puritanism. It is hard in a class to cast that coat of arms aside.
PS I got the idea about the "Scarlet Letter" from Richard Godbeer's article, "Courtship and Sexual Freecom in Eighteenth-Century America" in the July 2004 OAH Magazine of History. At http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/courtship/index.html if you have an OAH membership.
chris l pettit - 3/24/2005
Ralph I was going to direct this to you...but just wanted to let you all know that my new blog is up and going...Elephant in the Room...at http://eitr.blogspot.com. It will be moving to another site that I am at sometime soon...but the address just given will still work as well. I was hoping that maybe you would be kind enough to note it on your main board...but leave it to your discretion. Thank you very much if you do. The three of us hosting it are myself, the other fellow at the UF Institute for Human Rights and Peace Development and another prof at UF currently a visiting prof at Oxford. We hope you Cliopats, L&Pers, Rebunkers...and everyone else will visit from time to time and find it interesting.
By the way...you beat us to the Alligator article...seeing as it comes from Gainesville where we did our JDs...congrats on beating a couple local boys to the punch. In terms of it being unconstitutional...absolutely correct. Although I also see that they are trying the Schiavo thing again as well...sigh...do those extremists ever give up?
Jonathan Dresner - 3/24/2005
I would point out to my non-union colleagues that one of the benefits of NEA membership is a cool million bucks worth of malpractice insurance. If the Florida bill passes and really does empower students to initiate civil proceedings, the cost of that's going to go up. But it'll be worth it.
Jonathan Dresner - 3/24/2005
Well, I could list Memoirs of a Geisha, Louise Young's book on Japan's Manchurian Empire (I've read the article on migration, though!) and about a half dozen Japanese novelists (like the one they just put on the thousand-yen bill). I've read widely enough on enough subjects, though, that I'm well past being ashamed of what I haven't read, since I figure that I'm better read than almost anyone in some other category....
Really, though, I'm mostly ashamed of the fact that I haven't picked books for next semester yet; in fact, I haven't even looked over the stack of candidates for one of them (historiography).