Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
All of the reviewers make clear that Reynolds wants to resuscitate Brown's reputation and to show that his violence was not maniacal or insane, but intelligible, radically egalitarian, and perhaps even necessary. Following the Transcendentalists' own celebration of Brown, Reynolds apparently portrays Brown as a hero. (In the best review I've read, David Blight reports that Reynolds casts Brown anachronistically as a"good terrorist.") But every hero needs a foil. And for the reviewers, as perhaps for Reynolds too, that part is furnished by Northern white abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, who are portrayed as though they were lily-livered sissies and passive pacifists until Brown came along to steel their nerves.
Gopnik, for instance, calls William Lloyd Garrison"the white Martin Luther King, Jr.," but he adds a"but.""But Garrison, like Dr. King, was a pacifist, and, right up to the moment when the war broke out, he had no really practical plan for ending slavery, aside from 'separation' (i.e., the decoupling of the North from the South) and moral suasion." While Gopnik tars"moral suasion" with the usual brush--it was not"really practical"--Hitchens goes farther. After noting that Reynolds goes to great lengths to rationalize Brown's violent methods, Hitchens glibly says that the"superfluity" of such apologies is"easily demonstrated. Not only had the slaveholders perpetrated the preponderance of atrocities, and with impunity at that, but they had begun to boast that northerners and New Englanders were congenitally soft."
Hitchens seems to agree that non-Brown abolitionists were"soft"; he relishes Reynolds' comparison between Oliver Cromwell and Brown, and he refers to moderate antislavery Northerners as"invertebrate Lincolnians." Ehrenreich echoes the spineless pacifists theme, writing that"antislavery activists ... were often pacifists and usually the victims of their political opponents -- a relationship symbolized by a South Carolina congressman's crippling beating of the abolitionist Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate. With his guns and pikes, Brown reversed the equation -- stiffening the backbones of Northern abolitionists, terrifying the white South." Even Gopnik, who goes relatively easy on the Garrisonians, cannot resist saying,"Where Garrison, though utterly passionate and courageous in his denunciations, was a thorough man of the North, with lawyerly-journalistic gifts of argument and irony, Brown was a man of romantic feeling." And, referring to an 1835 incident in which a violent crowd of rioters attempted to lynch the radical editor, Gopnik avers that"even Garrison, a man of unexampled courage, could not face down a mob in Boston but had to be saved by the police."
Umm ... he was facing a lynch mob that had managed to tie a noose around him. Is Gopnik really prepared to say that Garrison was less courageous than Brown because the police rescued him from his attackers? (Actually, that's not even entirely accurate: Garrison was lifted to safety by a couple of burly rioters who took pity on him. And he was driven away to safety by an unidentified black hackney-driver, who used his whip to keep the crowd at bay. The police assisted in Garrison's rescue only grudgingly, if at all, and when Garrison was brought for protection to City Hall, he was told that he could not stay there because his presence made the building unsafe.)
There was probably never a day in Garrison's adult life when there was not a bounty on his head somewhere in the South. But was he somehow less courageous than Brown because, unlike the Old Man, he was unwilling to lop off the heads of Southerners?
When historians compare radical reformers, it is certainly appropriate to ask about the practicability of their different methods and even to judge the consistency of their convictions, not because historians are the best judges of character, but because making those judgments can help reveal what their bedrock convictions were. But there seems to be something more going on in these comparisons between Brown and Garrison. What seems to be driving the resuscitation of Brown's reputation is not just an historical judgment but an ethical judgment about his superior courage and radicalism. Read between the lines and you'll find the essentially ahistorical insinuation that principled pacifists are really cowards; that those who choose liberty or death to its enemies are more radical than those who would rather die than kill; that meekness is weakness; that the vision of lions lying down with lambs is a pleasing fantasy invented by lambs; that, by a process of elimination, people turn to pacifism when they don't have"practical" plans for making society more just. Pacifists, to paraphrase Ehrenreich, are seen as"victims." Only the violent are thought of as valient.
Clearly these statements are moving outside the realm of purely historical analysis and into the realm of ethics. I'm not necessarily uncomfortable with that movement; I don't believe people who tell me they can study history without allowing their thoughts to at least drift in the direction of ethical reflection. But so long as we are headed in that direction, allow me to point out the irony of book reviewers consigning"moral suasion" to the dustbin of history and dead pacifists to the ship of fools. What are historians and writers, after all, if they are not persons who believe that the word is more powerful than the sword? And if they do not believe this, then why are they in a byline instead of on a frontline?
I realize that question might not be entirely fair. Not everyone who believes that violence is more radical than moral suasion is thereby obligated to take up arms and rid the world of its wrongs. But such reviewers are essentially castigating people like Garrison for failing to live up to their convictions, to stiffen their spines, to get their hands dirty or bloody. So forgive me if I can't avoid poking a bit at the inconsistency of"inverterbrate Hitchensians." (One could point out the same thing about the Transcendentalist scriveners who were most responsible for Brown's apotheosis. Was Emerson really more courageous than Garrison simply because his words celebrated antislavery violence?)
But that's not the main point I want to make here. Skeptical as I am of the ethical claim that violence is always more radical than nonviolence, I am even more concerned that this view is historically suspect, for at least two reasons.
First, nonviolence was not merely an instrumental strategy for many radical abolitionists; for many of them, it was integral to their most radical ideologies. If we view their pacifism as nothing more than a strategy or personal trait, then it is easier to portray that pacifism as a sign of whimsy or weakness. But in fact, for many Garrisonians, a commitment to"nonresistance" was much more than a mere strategy, and certainly more than a simple sign of courage or its lack. It was at the core of their critique of slavery, government, and much else. According to nonresistants, any exercise of violence was an unjust usurpation of God's authority, an immoral abuse of power. From their perspective, that was a large reason why slavery was wrong--it assigned to the master violent power that did not belong to him or her. For many Garrisonians, then, their renunciation of violence was of a piece with their renunciation of slavery. To call their pacifism a mere lack of spine ignores how it shaped their posture towards slavery and other violent abuses of power--like the treatment of Native Americans, the hawkish expansionism that sparked the Mexican War, and unequal marriages.
I could generalize this point to other theorists of nonviolence like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. For both men, nonviolence was not simply a strategy or a practical plan. Both argued that direct nonviolent action was more expedient than violence, but this was not their only defense of pacifism. Rather, the commitments that informed their pacifism also informed their views of the state, of the human person, of justice; to remove the pacifism would not just be to make a change of"plan," it would force thinkers like Gandhi and King to rethink their entire philosophies. It's also simply false in their cases, as in the case of the Garrisonians, to suggest that nonviolence put a brake on their radicalism. Some of their contemporaries certainly did suggest that--think John Brown or Malcolm X--but they were not necessarily right. Progressives today usually praise King in his later years for moving in more radical directions in his thinking about poverty and the war in Vietnam, but they often forget that this trajectory was an outgrowth of his philosophy of nonviolence. His radicalism, like Garrison's, did not view pacifism as a mere tool in the reformer's hand, but as part of the hand itself.
Second: not only is nonviolence often integral to radical programs; violence is often integral to conservative or reactionary worldviews. It may seem as though John Brown's belief that slaves and abolitionists needed to rise up in holy war against the South could only have radical and egalitarian overtones. But that very belief was also integral to the arguments of those who opposed racial equality and emancipation. In an article in the Journal of American History that recently won the ABC-CLIO Award from the OAH, my friend Francois Furstenberg has argued persuasively that the definition of"freedom" as"resistance" to oppression might actually have served to legitimate personal slavery, since it allowed defenders of the system to claim that slaves who did not resist their enslavement were somehow" choosing" their plight autonomously. Implicitly, I think, calling Garrisonians or Lincolnians"spineless" can potentially point in a similar direction, since it suggests that those who do not, like Brown, put their swords where their words are must not"want" freedom as much.
There are also gendered overtones to the idea that Brown was more genuinely radical than Garrison, since violent resistance was defined throughout the antebellum period (as it probably still is for many people today) as a"masculine" virtue, an act in which men prove that they are manly men. The word"sissy" itself carries that overtone, and to imply, even indirectly, that Garrison was a sissy also comes across as a derogative accusation of effeminacy. The connected implication is that women are incapable of proving their mettle the way that John Brown could. Hitchens' review opens with a paragraph that suggests I'm not making this up. He relates the story of Lincoln's telling Harriet Beecher Stowe that she was the woman who started the Civil War. Says Hitchens,"That fondly related anecdote [about Stowe] illustrates the persistent tendency to Parson Weemsishness in our culture. It was not all the tear-jerking sentiment of Uncle Tom's Cabin that catalyzed the War Between the States. It was, rather, the blood-spilling intransigence of John Brown, field-tested on the pitiless Kansas prairies and later deployed at Harpers Ferry." Women novelists become"tear-jerkers" and sentimentalists, on this view, and thus incapable of catalyzing social change. Rather, it's the"field-tested" violence of John Brown and his manly men that get the credit for emancipation.
In sum, while it certainly is appropriate for historians to compare and contrast Brown and Garrison, and to weigh the relative radicalism of their approaches to emancipation, it is historically misleading to suggest that their positions on violence are failproof indicators of their radical commitments. I'm looking forward to reading Reynolds because I think that Brown's reputation is in need of some resuscitating and subtle revising. But why is it that reputation-revivals in history must so often be zero-sum games, so that someone else's stock has to fall for someone else's stock to rise? In this case, I've suggested, it's unfair to praise Brown's radicalism at the expense of Garrison--at least if one is doing so by suggesting that Garrison's pacifism was nothing more than a lack of courage or clear thinking. It certainly is true that nonviolence sometimes is a sign of cowardice, but so is violence. It's always startling to me that despite the fact that most people accept detailed taxonomies of different kinds of violence, which range along a spectrum from justified and heroic violence to illicit abuse, very few of us have similarly well developed taxonomies of different kinds of pacifism, which can also range from the heroic to the thoughtless. I have suggested that a simple dichotomization of radicalism that places"fight" on the one hand and"flight" on the other does violence to history. I also think it does violence to our moral intuitions, but I don't need to make that argument to prove that, historically, (a) nonviolence is often integral to radicalism and that (b) violence is often integral to conservatism.
(Cross-posted at Mode for Caleb.)
Jews in America: Our Story is an excellent site, created in celebration of 350 years of the Jewish experience in the United States.
Gish Jen,"A Short History of the Chinese Restaurant," Slate, 28 April, is a good, short social history. Eastern European Jewish immigrants meet Chinese food and -- lo mein -- they are both Americanized.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft's"How Good Was the Good War?" Boston Globe, 8 May, identifies some of the national legends that were borne out of VE Day.
Theodore Dalrymple,"The Roads to Serfdom," City Journal, Spring, is a libertarian's look at how Great Britain has changed since World War II.In"‘The Presidential Recordings': L.B.J.'s Chat Room," New York Times, 8 May, Eric Foner reviews KC Johnson's edition of the other Johnson's presidential tapes: THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDINGS: LYNDON B. JOHNSON The Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power, November 1963-January 1964. Edited by Max Holland, Robert David Johnson, David Shreve and Kent B. Germany. General editors: Philip Zelikow, Ernest May and Timothy Naftali. Three volumes. 2,505 pp. W. W. Norton & Company.
Casting rumors abound! Will Ron Jeremy risk his professional reputation to star as David Horowitz when Hollywood films Radical Son? Will David Horowitz take time away from the cream pie circuits to star as Krusty the Clown? Thanks to Scott McLemee, who is enjoying this too much.
Dale B. Light at Light Seeking Light calls attention to the University of Michigan's exhibit of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the Clements Library. The archive includes"thousands of items from the 16th to 20th centuries - books, ephemera, menus, magazines, graphics, maps, manuscripts, diaries, letters, catalogues, advertisements, and reference works. It is a work in progress, and material is being added and catalogued daily." A symposium on American culinary history will be held on 13-15 May to open the exhibit and dedicate the archive. As usual, R. W. Apple told the story very well in the NY Times.
The University of Utrecht has lifted its 363-year-old condemnation of the teachings of Rene Descartes. Thanks to Brandon at Siris for the tip.
William Hammack,"‘The Greatest Discovery Since Fire'," Invention & Technology, Spring 2005, surveys the history of the microwave oven.
Red State Rabble and Thoughts from Kansas are blogging the hearings of the Kansas State Board of Education on evolution and intelligent design in Topeka. They are being called"Scopes II."
At Clioweb, Jeremy Boggs offers some interesting links:"The Women's Petition Against Coffee" (London, 1674);"They Still Draw Pictures," an exhibit of over 600 children's drawings during the Spanish Civil War; and Ottley R. Coulter, How to Perform Strong Man Stunts (NY: Padell Book Co., 1952).
It is difficult to decide which is more startling, Bush's historical ignorance or the effrontery of his comments. Historians of the Second World War have long debunked the theory that the Yalta conference was responsible for the division of Europe. In fact, the Yalta accords contained very few provisions of substance, since President Roosevelt was primarily concentrated in assuring victory in the war rather than in planning actions for the postwar period (a phenomenon Mr. Bush should be able, more than most, to appreciate, given developments in Iraq). In order to assure that the Soviet Union would keep its promise to enter the war against Japan once the conflict in Europe was finished, he and Winston Churchill made certain concessions, most notably in arranging for a coalition government in Poland, with vague guarantees of free elections. According to Admiral Leahy (who is not an entirely trustworthy source) Roosevelt said that this was the best he could get for the time being. Whatever this is true or not, it is safe to say that the Yalta accords did not contemplate the long-term division of Europe, and were certainly no blank check for Soviet Occupation.
It is equally farfetched to call America's policy one driven by the search for stability over freedom. The Cold War was hardly a climate of stability and concord. In any case, with the Red Army in place, the only way that Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe could potentially have been halted after World War II, was by preventive World War, and nuclear holocaust. Even John Foster Dulles, for all his talk of "rollback" and taking the initiative against communism, was not prepared to risk such a conflict by supporting the Hungarian uprising in 1956.
Given Mr. Bush's virtuoso display of historical ignorance, he is probably not aware of the massive irony in his words. Frivolous accusations of a "sellout" or secret treaties at Yalta were widely aired by right-wing Republicans during the McCarthy era. The fact that there were no such protocols did not deter the more wild accusations. While this was intended in the first instance to discredit Franklin Roosevelt and thrust responsibility for the Cold War on the Democrats, the predominant role of this canard was in fueling support for the Bricker Amendment, an isolationist Constitutional Amendment meant to prevent any treaty from becoming internal law without separate legislation being passed. The idea was to prevent Executive Agreements or other arrangements from binding the country. It was only through the dedicated efforts of Preident Dwight Eisenhower, accompanied by internationalist Democrats, that the Bricker Amendment was narrowly defeated. If that Amendment had been passed, the White House's current assumption of power would have been difficult, if not unthinkable.
[Hanson's op-ed] is a conservative's apologia for what we do. On first reading, it seems moving; but on second reading it seems to have come from some op-ed generator. As a conservative, Hanson is clearly drawn to some of the"hooks," viz., 3, 5, 7, 9, that Tim Burke identified and suspicious of others, viz., 1, 4, 6, 8. There are the obligatory contemporary references. Here's one example:But I'm not the only one. Reflecting on Hanson's theme of Americans' ignorance or indifference to their history, eb at No Great Matter suggests that those who are ignorant of the history of Americans' ignorance of their history seem bound to point it out repeatedly, each time as if it were some recent phenomenon or discovery. Over at Liberty & Power, David Beito finds Hanson's essay full of lofty prose, but lacking in substance. As evidence, he cites the same paragraph on Ward Churchill that I criticized. But Beito also challenges Hanson's reverence for state action as" critical" and his denigration of the social history of ordinary lives as"trivial.""The history of the pencil, girdle or cartoon offers us less wisdom about events, past and present," said Hanson,We argue endlessly over the academic freedom of a Ward Churchill -- plagiarist and faker -- as he becomes famous for calling the 3,000 murdered on September 11, 2001,"little Eichmanns." Few in the debate pause, if just for a moment, to think of the thousands of now anonymous Americans blown apart over Berlin or on Okinawa to ensure we can freely embarrass ourselves over this charlatan.I'm not one to argue that Churchill is no plagiarist or faker. But I look back at Hanson's opening line:"Our society suffers from the tyranny of the present." Hmm."... the tyranny of the present" is Ralph Waldo Emerson's phrase, but Hanson gives him no credit for it.** We are, indeed, the beneficiaries of a legacy we barely acknowledge. Isn't that right, Victor?
*He gave it as a lecture at Williams College on 19 April. It is circulated by Tribune Media Services and appears in the Jewish World Review and the San Jose Mercury-News.
**It also appears in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's diary, 31 December 1822. Goethe had a similar thought when he wrote that"The present moment is a powerful goddess." Emerson and Shelley's version of it is commonly traced back to Cicero.
than does knowledge of U.S. Grant, the causes of the Great Depression or the miracle of Normandy Beach. A society that cannot distinguish between the critical and the trivial of history predictably will also believe a Scott Peterson merits as much attention as the simultaneous siege of Fallujah, or that a presidential press conference should be pre-empted for Paris Hilton or Donald Trump."Statecraft" often leads us into monumental blunders, Beito points out. Citing Leonard E. Read's essay,"I, Pencil," he points to the contrasting simple genius of what Hanson calls"trivial."
I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that's too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculous ness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.Altogether, I'd say Victor Davis Hanson has some answering to do.
Tim Burke stopped by during busy season at Swarthmore to give us a list of"The Hooks of History," ten reasons commonly given for doing history. He asks if you can add to the list. It's not too late to join the conversation.
At Rhine River, Nathanael Robinson hosts Carnivalesque. It's the Carnival for Early Modern History. Nathanael did a terrific job, so there's a whole weekend of reading for you over there.
You can tell it's grading time when groaning starts on the academic net. A philosopher offers this report on an honors thesis:"There's actually a big difference between a preposition and a proposition. Other hilarious typos in our field include an interest in the thin gin itself, Kant's emphasis on nationality and nationalism, Locke's core puzzles...". Spelling and typos continue to be a problem. A historian reports:"‘In class we disused women in school' is one of the stranger statements I've read thus far in this batch of student exams. From the repetition of the misspelling, I gather the student meant to write discussed but, um, er, forgot to check the spelling." But general disorientation leads to chaos in history. Another historian, who made the mistake of asking students to write an essay on President Truman's response to the Soviet Union after World War II, got this concluding paragraph:
One more thing I must add was the Sputnik. This Sputnik was a spy set up in outer space to spy on Nassar and the Soviets. This helped the U.S. so that we could see Nassar building the Berlin wall. This wall was to keep us from invading them, but we went in to Cambodia where we were not supposed to be.Now that that's settled, Michael Berube and Scott McLemee have cast the movie of the life of David Horowitz. Canadian Cynic suggests that we call David's bluff. Somewhere beneath his relentless attack on American higher education is resentment that he's never had an academic position. Despite his lying denials, of course he'd have to take a huge pay cut. I started to say that he'd also have to go back to graduate school to finish the doctoral program he dropped out of, but we don't require doctorates of all tenured faculty members in higher education. We didn't require it of Ward Churchill and that came back to b*** u* i* t** a**. Which gets to a point that's been ignored too long. Churchill is left academe's equivalent of Horowitz. As McLemee suggested, there's the same"glint-eyed zealotry," the same rhetorical excess, the same inflated compensation, the same credentials, and the same recklessness with the truth. You want to vindicate Churchill? Hire Horowitz. You want to believe Horowitz? Defend Churchill. They're a matched pair
Congratulations to Williams College's Marc ("Abu Aardvark") Lynch and his wife, who've just added a new little aardvark to the world's population. Marc cut short his guest blogging at Political Animal for the big event.
I know, you don't need to be reminded how relevant history is, but it's always interesting to see it in action. Definitions matter, because words can obscure as much as they reveal:
"Look, it's a tricky world out there," said Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, when asked if his boss risked offending both the Kremlin and Baltic leaders on a trip starting today that must balance attending a celebration in Red Square of the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat without endorsing the subsequent Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, the New York Times reports.Just because you've filed the proper paperwork doesn't mean that you're not an imperialistic oppressor... Regular readers know that I'm not a big fan of our President, but in this case he has my full support: this is history worthy of not just memorialization but of clear, precise and complete remembrance. If your pride or legitimacy rests on a denial the realities of history, it's time to find new sources of pride and legitimacy.
"One cannot use the term 'occupation' to describe those historical events. … At that time, the troop deployment took place on an agreed basis and with the clearly expressed agreement of the existing authorities in the Baltic republics," Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, told a Moscow news conference in which he denied the Soviet Union forcibly occupied Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the Washington Post reports.
[forwarded by Mom, from the Wall Street Journal; both links are registration required; here's a free one]
For more on the end of WWII, there's no finer blog roundup than the collected works and links of Orac, perhaps supplemented by contrasting Orac's recent meditation on the devolution of Holocaust denier David Irving with these never before published pictures [warning: graphic and disturbing] of the Dachau camp at liberation.
Speaking of" clear and precise remembrance," (which is hard, when reporters are involved) Eric Muller, in addition to the pictures, has been rooting through the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and has found some fascinating primary sources on the WWII internment of enemy aliens (and lots and lots of Japanese Americans) including open discussions of West Coast greed and racism, a memo from FDR on how the East coast Germans and Italians were to be handled differently, and a pair of polls which strongly suggest that the government roundup of Japanese descended Americans did more than Pearl Harbor to create a general fear of Japanese Americans. David Neiwert has a roundup of recent fear-mongering (and obfustication) which makes it very clear how relevant that history is to the present.
However, this is also a good time to remind you all of the next HISTORY CARNIVAL.
This will be on 15 May 2005 at Saint Nate's Blog.
You can nominate your own best writing or the work of others, on any historical subject, as well as issues related to the study and teaching of history. And please pass on the word about the Carnival to others!
Please email your contributions to: saint_nate AT hotmail DOT com
... the brochure by the century-old LTTC Red White Berlin tennis club said the flight of Jewish tennis players from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s only led to a brief drop in membership, and that it finally ushered in a"golden age" at the organization.
"The number of members was reduced by half but in this way the former so-called Jews' club opened itself to new members," the anonymous author wrote on page 71 of the magazine."This change did not lead to a break for the club or German top tennis. Instead, it led to a golden age."
The page included a photograph of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering in the club's VIP section at an earlier tournament.
Beyond the obvious faux pas, the statement is contradictory. It begs the questions: why were so many Jews members and why would their expulsion improve the athleticism of the club?
Since the founding of Zionism Jews struggled against the image of the Shtetl Jew, the diminutive body riddled with disease because of unhealthy ghetto air and hours spent hunched over textual commentaries. Almost every issue of Juedische Turnzeitung (later renamed Der Makkabi) had an article from Mandelstamm or some other physician who dissected the influence of the city on the body. The image was self-criticism that bordered on self-hatred. Because of the image of the Shtetl Jew, men and women strove for physical improvement, becoming over-represented in German athletics. German Jews turned German athletics into a tool for their regeneration.
The statement suggests that Jewish members were dead weight, which is unlikely. They were, perhaps, more eager to prove themselves than their German counterparts. Unfortunately, struggling against the image of their own weakness, Jews validated, to the satisfaction of nationalists, notions of their inferiority.
Ah, the Irony of It: Scott McLemee's"Isn't It Ironic?" Inside Higher Ed, 5 May, asks whether irony is dead or we must redefine the word in ways that have nothing to do with irony.
Alas, the Master's degree: Philip M. Katz,"Retrieving the Master's Degree from the Dustbin of History: A Report to the Members of the American Historical Association," (pdf) 31 October 2004. Scott Jaschik,"Avoiding the ‘Dustbin of History'," Inside Higher Ed, 5 May, looks at the AHA's working draft of its report on the weaknesses in current M. A. programs in history and what our minimal expectations of them should be.
But We Know How Not Do It: Mary Grey and Barbara R. Bergmann,"Student Teaching Evaluations: Inaccurate, Demeaning, Misused," Academe. The message is in the sub-title. Thanks to Margaret Soltan at University Diaries for the tip.
Historically Speaking: Here are excerpts from The Historical Society's Historically Speaking for April/May. Notably, it features symposia on War Myths, featuring John Mosier, Victor Davis Hanson, Dennis Showalter, and John Corum; and on Early American History, featuring Pauline Maier, Edward Gray, Don Higginbotham, Peter Onuf, Paul Rahe, and Jack Rakov.
Here's my ten:
1. Something that you didn’t think has a history does have one (example: Foucault)
2. The history that you think you know is wrong (revisionism)
3. Your life in some important way is determined by the history I am writing about
4. Your life in some important way is NOT determined by the history I am writing about, contrary to your assumption: the past is a foreign country
5. Past is prologue; history as a guide to future action; history as a data set for predictive social science
6. Past is NOT prologue: history as clarifying how a present crisis is unique to the present; history as confounding social science
7. Illumination of the self: we can identify with individuals or whole cultures in the past and in that identification discover what is universal or expansive in ourselves
8. Illumination of the other: we can find in the past radically different or alien individuals, modes of life, etc., that help understand the plasticity and diversity of human experience
9. History as heritage: some particular past provides you a sense of identity and meaning either by serving as exemplar or as the primal source of important ritual and tradition; history is memory-work
10. History as narrative: history is just about telling good, compelling stories that are entertaining or provocative; stories for their own sake.
If you read Orlando Patterson and Jason Kaufman,"Bowling for Democracy," NY Times, 1 May, you can follow the discussion with Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber, Evan Roberts at coffee grounds, Sepoy at Chapati Mystery, and Rob MacDougall at Roblog. I wonder how or if Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu,"For Love of the Game: Baseball in Early U.S.-Japan Encounters and the Rise of a Transnational Sporting Fraternity," Diplomatic History (Fall 2004) would complicate the story. I see that Guthrie-Shimizu is presenting on the subject at the Newberry Library on Friday the 13th. If you stop by, Sepoy, remember that vow to restrain the ol' Chicago snark.
Apparently, Henry Adams's big, new biography of the Philadelphia artist, Thomas Eakins, Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist"accuses the painter of incest, bestiality, flagrant exhibitionism, sadism, molestation and sexual opportunism, contributing to the suicide of his disturbed niece." Whew! I thought my deans were pretty bad characters! The biographer, a descendent of John, John Quincy, and Henry Adams, claims to be sympathetic to Eakins. He was"a complicated,""a severely troubled" man, says Adams, who had to overcome"a catalog of psychoses, including a castration complex, sexual inadequacy and trauma, and a propensity to drink more milk than perhaps is healthy." Milk?!!! Thanks to Moby Lives for the tip, I think.
As the academic year draws toward a close, David Noon at Axis of Evel Knievel is inspired by his student,"Sheila Agonistes."
Finally, congratulations to two of Cliopatria's best friends: Andrew Ackerman of Outside Report and Charles Tryon of The Chutry Experiment. They'll both be moving to Washington, D. C., to begin new jobs. Andrew will become a reporter for a financial journal; and Chuck will become a visiting assistant professor of media studies at Catholic University.
If you have blogged something interesting about the 'early modern' period (c.1500-1800) or have read something good in someone else's blog, since about the beginning of March, please do send your suggestions to Nathanael Robinson (Rhine River) today at: rhineriver AT earthlink DOT net
Entries do not have to be long or particularly scholarly, although they should consist of more than just links or quotes; we're looking for good interesting writing, whether your interests are in history, literature, art, or another field.
So, you are denied tenure. If you're a male, you strip naked, climb the vines of ivy on the walls of your building, and get the decision reversed. If you're a female, don't even try it. Margaret Soltan and Scott Jaschik have an interesting exchange about this piece in comments at University Diaries.
KC Johnson's reflections on"The Academy and the Solomon Amendment" looks back to the efforts to exclude the military presence on American campuses. Scott Glabe,"The Occupation of Parkhurst Hall," Dartmouth Review, 22 April, recalls the takeover of Dartmouth's administration building by Students for a Democratic Society on 6 May 1969. They were protesting the refusal of the College faculty to end ROTC on the campus immediately. Thanks to John at In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood.
Jon Dresner asks if the occupation of campus buildings ever produced real results. I never joined the occupation of an administration building as a student in the 1960s. I didn't do that until I was a faculty member at Antioch College thirty years later. We were protesting the administration's failure to go to the aid of a female student who was raped by an adjunct faculty member in a study-abroad program in Egypt. Actually, the Dean of Students office wanted someone to go into the building to be sure that the students didn't cut off all telephone service to the campus and I was the only faculty member they were willing to admit.
Antioch students had a reputation for getting real serious about occupying buildings. When they occupied another building twenty-five years earlier, they had poured bags of cement into the building's water supply lines and, for another twenty-five years, that beautiful old building that Horace Mann had built in the 1850s was effectively closed down. When I arrived at Antioch in 1991, plastic sheeting flapped from its windows and pigeons flew in and out. By the time I got into the administration building in 1994, the students had already poured glue into the locks on the doors to the President's office. Besides keeping the telephone lines open, I persuaded the students not to go after my colleague, Hassan Nejad, who directed the study abroad program. He never thanked me for that. Did we accomplish anything? Not much. We got their attention.
Update: I appreciate Leo Edward Casey's corrections in comments about the student occupation of the administration building at Antioch College in 1973. He was there then. I was not.
all that goes into making sure that a newborn baby will mature into an adult with the abilities of mind, moral sensibilities, self-discipline, habits, sense of cultural history and tradition, and intellectual skills that a member of a society should possess.William Raspberry’s column the same day was another in a series of meditations on our society’s illnesses and the education of children. In this column, Raspberry used a 5-year old girl’s rampage caught on video tape to ask this question: “Can't we let this 5-year-old be our miner's canary -- a warning to us about the growing toxicity of our society?”
W. J. Rorabaugh in The Craft Apprentice lamented one consequence of the decline of apprenticeships in the antebellum United States. It was the role the system had played in both educating and socializing many young urban males. There was nothing to replace it, really, until the rise of high schools. So many were left to the education and initiation of the streets.
I can’t remember if Rorabaugh used this term, but the apprentice process served as a kind of initiation. Joseph Campbell in his many tomes thought long and hard about initiation rituals. In one of his books, Creative Mythology I think, he stated something that has long troubled me. He argued that the absence of clear social ritualized initiation does not mean there are no initiations. Instead, initiations come to individuals individually, randomly, kaleidoscopically.
A fistfight won or lost in fifth grade; a compliment from a teacher at precisely the right moment, a Victoria Secret’s commercial for a 13 year old male; a teenage girl teased about her body when she is most in need of grace. A date rape and the scar of secrecy. The withering criticism that breaks self-confidence. A winning touchdown and being carried off on the shoulders of one’s friends. The first kiss that really means something.
Bit by bit, blessing by blessing, blow by blow we are initiated. Some of that is inevitable, I suppose. No rite of passage excludes all other defining moment. But rites that cap a central learning process do provide a center and a direction in life.
Are there no official rites of passage into adulthood today? For some, either confirmation into a religion or graduation from high school can be a positive rite of passage into adult choices. For some, various youth groups, Scouting for example, help. But I suspect that for most adolescents, a drivers’ license and the drinking age matter as much and maybe more than the other official rites.
I conclude with the five-year old again. Obviously she’s nowhere near adolescence, but she is in trouble. I hope she turns out magnificently. It is possible, but what would it take to provide her now with the “education” that Palaima describes.
Rutger's David Greenberg,"The Republicans' Filibuster Lie," LA Times, 3 May, focuses on the filibuster in the Senate against Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Justice Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Pejman Yousefzedeh says that opposition to Fortas was not simply ideological.
The military’s policy toward gays is morally dubious and pragmatically absurd—as we’ve most clearly seen in the discharges of gay linguists. Yet the position of the anti-military faculty critics is far from pristine. Both the anti-recruitment strategy and the anti-ROTC policy from which it intellectually derives have allowed faculty to express their views through initiatives that seem highly unlikely to change the military’s approach but at the same time directly harm some of their institution’s students.
Over the past decade, the Court has taken a three-pronged approach on gay rights. Most prominently in the Boy Scouts decision, it held that the 1st amendment gives private organizations the right to deny membership to gays. On the other hand, in the powerfully written Romer and Lawrence decisions, the Court struck down state laws that discriminated against gays. Finally, the justices have proven reluctant to intervene on matters relating to the military.
By focusing on the intersection of these three patterns, the Solomon amendment case threatens to disrupt the constitutional balance the Court has structured—and it’s hard to see an outcome that will favor gay rights. On the one hand, the Court could uphold the Solomon amendment, probably by a 6-3 margin with Justices O’Connor, Souter, and Kennedy joining the conservatives, thereby blunting the legal momentum gained from the Lawrence and Massachusetts Supreme Court’s gay marriage decisions. Less likely, a 5-4 Court (with Souter and Kennedy joining the liberals) could strike down the Solomon amendment, thereby all but certainly triggering an anti-gay backlash. Achieving gay marriage or decriminalizing sodomy might be worth facing the resulting backlash; inconveniencing military recruiters on college campuses is not.
So, in the end, there are likely only to be two groups of winners from this case. The first, as profiled in this morning’s New Republic by Nathaniel Frank, will be old-guard homophobes in the military. The second will be the professors who can rejoice that they didn’t compromise their principles as they move onto their next cause célèbre and express amazement as to why policymakers pay so little attention to people in the academy.