The new Common-Place is up, with more than usual offerings of interest. Among other things, Mark Peterson writes about"Civil Unions in the City on a Hill"; Jeff Wasserstrom revisits Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad in the age of simulations; Karen Sherry manages to make tedious her findings of fascinating erotica at the Winterthur Museum*; and John Howard Smith reviews Brooks Holifield's Theology in America. Enough to remind us that American historians, at least, ought to make Common-Place a regular stop on the net.
*Update: Speaking of erotics, the Cliopatriarch of Los Angeles and Anne Zook are, ah, having a consultation.
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Derek Charles Catsam - 5/14/2004
Good point. Depressing. But good.
Derek Charles Catsam - 5/14/2004
In sports history there are many, many examples. My favorite is Charles Alexander (disclosure -- he was one of my professors in grad school and I was able to TA in his baseball class).
I like Brian Ward's work on music and the Civil Rights Movement and look forward to his forthcoming book on radio.
However, many of the people who do the best work on these sorts of things (certainly Charlie Alexander) self-consciously reject much or all of the culture studies mumbo-jumbo and prefer to see themselves simply as historians of aspects of culture who can write lucidly, vibrantly, intelligently, and insightfully without dragging us all into the ugly and barbarous world of signifiers and linguistic turns and semiotics and all of the other "look how smart I am" drivel that is so pervasive among folks who prefer to talk to themselves in self-congratulatory tones and in their own little jargon.
I agree with the implication of your question -- the numbers who do good work are depressingly small, the numbers who do bad work depressingly pervasive.
Jonathan Dresner - 5/13/2004
Come on, people. The Sherry article wasn't about erotica, it was about researching erotica. Frankly, I found it more interesting than the inevitably mind-numbing monograph on body images and gaze that she's going to produce out of this research.
Van L. Hayhow - 5/13/2004
How about listing some exceptions?
Van L. Hayhow
Derek Charles Catsam - 5/12/2004
Am I the only person who has noticed that cultural history is something best not left to cultural historians? Most cultural history that I have read manages to make humor witless, sex burdensome, sports unexciting, music uninteresting, television un-fun . . . I think part of it is the self-imposed yoke of writing about a topic that you are afraid will bring on accusations of not being serious. And so they pile on the theory, the barbarous neologisms, the heavy handed look-how-smart-I-am invasive analytical folderol, all while apparently trtying to prove an utter lack of irony or even a sense of humor -- all as if to scream, "See, I am serious, I am serious." Yes, you are. The exceptions manage to do this sort of thing delightfully. But exceptions they are.
Ralph E. Luker - 5/12/2004
You noticed that, too! (oops) The editors at Common-Place must has been so taken with her findings that they largely ignored the quality of her writing.
David Lion Salmanson - 5/12/2004
Karen Sherry should offer classes in how to take something inherently interesting and beat it into something completely boring. I don't let 9th graders use exclamation points do the job that their language should be doing: and neither should she.