July 28th 2014
Monday morning comix: keeping Austen weird over at Manfeels Park

Posted under: American history, art, bad language, class, European history, fluff, Gender, GLBTQ, happy endings, wankers, women's history

Wentworth

Oh, say it ain’t so, Captain Wentworth!

This cartoon is among the many brilliant creations at my new favorite fun blog, Manfeels Park.  (You Austenites will get that pun immediately, of course.)  All of the highlighted dialogue comes from actual online mansplanations. Continue Reading »

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July 25th 2014
Valley of the creepy dolls!

Posted under: childhood, class, Dolls, weirdness

For realz!  Anonymous gifts to little girls of  “creepy dolls” that look like the gift recipients.

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Yes, my mother bought me this book.

Personally, I think the creepy part is the fact that people in San Clemente, California live in a gated community.  (Isn’t all of Orange County effectively a gated community?)  I can’t even imagine living in a neighborhood with an HOA (Homeowner’s Association, which tells you what color you can paint your house, and what color your window treatments must be, and so on), let alone a gated community. Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

July 22nd 2014
Dietary advice from the eighteenth century: hold the cream after dinner & the rum at breakfast; have a tea latte!

Posted under: American history, Bodily modification, the body

No, no, NO!

No, no, NO!

The Anglo-American tendency to see food as medicine (rather than a vehicule for pleasure) runs deep.  Reading eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookbooks and dietary advice manuals, all of a summer’s day (like you do), I came across this advice that made me laugh out loud (funniest part in bold):

CREAM,

By being too rich, is improper for weak stomachs, liable to turn rancid, and difficult of digestion.  Upon strong stomachs, which can digest it, it is very nourishing.

It is an unwholesome custom to eat cream or milk with apple-pies, strawberries, &c. &c. directly after dinner, if you mean to drink wine; for the wine ferments, coagulates the cream, and makes the whole mass hard of digestion:  and upon weak stomachs, such a mixture will promote sickness, vomiting, &c.  This I myself have experienced more than once.

–from Thomas J. Hayes, Concise Observations on the Nature of our Common Food, So Far as it Tends to Promote or Injure Health (New York, Swordses for Barry & Rogers, 1790), 22.

Continue Reading »

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July 21st 2014
Polyamory looks just like heterosexuality, only moreso

Posted under: American history, Gender, women's history

Via Twitter, I clicked on a link to an article about polyamory at The Atlantic by Olga Khazan, and was struck by just how un-rebellious it seemed.  Actually, it seemed pretty damned polygamous, as in Fundamentalist LDS-style polygamous, with a much older man sharing two much younger women.  Here’s the lede:

When I met Jonica Hunter, Sarah Taub, and Michael Rios on a typical weekday afternoon in their tidy duplex in Northern Virginia, a very small part of me worried they might try to convert me.

All three live there together, but they aren’t roommates—they’re lovers.

Or rather, Jonica and Michael are. And Sarah and Michael are. And so are Sarah and whomever she happens to bring home some weekends. And Michael and whomever he might be courting. They’re polyamorous.

Michael is 65, and he has a chinstrap beard that makes him look like he just walked off an Amish homestead. Jonica is 27, with close-cropped hair, a pointed chin, and a quiet air. Sarah is 46 and has an Earth Motherly demeanor that put me at relative ease.

My first thought?  Eeeew, not because of the polyamory, but because of the serious age differences between gramps and his girlfriends.  My second thought:  it’s not like FLDS communities in that the women are permitted to date other men and bring them home even.  But why is there still some old silverback in charge of the pack? Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

July 17th 2014
Thursday round-up: because the internet edition

Posted under: American history, jobs, students

cowgirlchapsDistractions, distractions, distractions!  How am I ever going to finish this damn book without moving to a remote Scottish village, a mountaintop cabin in New Mexico, or a Colorado ghost town without the internets?  Ironically enough, the internets have a lot to say these days about how the internets are scrambling our brains and changing our understanding of our own humanity.

  • First, we see via a link from Karin Wulf (@kawulf) Maria Konnikova’s “How to Be a Better Online Reader,” which argues that readers haven’t learned to cope with the distractions of reading online.  According to  Maryanne Wolf, “‘Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time,’ she says. ‘And the digital milieu speeds everything up. So we need to do things much more slowly and gradually than we are.’ Not only should digital reading be introduced more slowly into the curriculum; it also should be integrated with the more immersive reading skills that deeper comprehension requires.”  In other words, reading comprehension is shaped by factors other than the words on a page or a screen–the materiality of the text is fundamentally important.  But instead of chucking out our screens, we have to learn to adapt and teach online reading skills to our students.

Continue Reading »

9 Comments »

July 15th 2014
The war on expertise: there are limits to the democratization of knowledge

Posted under: American history, Gender, jobs, unhappy endings, wankers, weirdness

einsteinrelativityThis American Life featured a fascinating–as in, car-crashtastic–example of the war on expertise that I thought many of you academic readers might be interested in, if you haven’t heard it already.  In a story called “Sucker Mc-squared” (Mc-squared as in Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, not Mc- as in McDonald’s), Robert Andrew Powell tells the story of Bob the Electrician, and of Bob’s conviction that he alone had discovered a fatal flaw in Einstein’s theory.  You can hear the entire story here–it’s well worth 20 minutes of your time.

To summarize:  Bob takes a year-long self-funded sabbatical to study physics and prove that Einstein had it all wrong.  Powell tries to get real physicists to read the paper that Bob produces over the course of the year, which turns out to be quite a chore because it turns out that Bob is kind of like the old joke about asylums being full of Napoleons:  there are thousands of cranks around the world who believe Einstein’s theory–and by extension all of modern physics–is wrong, and they are a plague upon real, working, university- and U.S. government-affiliated physicists in much the same way that Holocaust Deniers, Constitutional Originalists, and Lost Causers are to historians; climate change denialists are to real climate scientists; and anti-vaxxers are to real physicians.  In sum, these cranks have no confidence whatsoever in expertise or in the value of the credentials that real historians, scientists, or doctors have.  But yet, they crave their respect and demand to be acknowledged by the experts.

 Why does Bob believe that all of physics has it all wrong?  Why is he argumentative and defensive when finally Powell convinces a real physicist (Brant Watson of the University of Miami School of Medicine) to explain to him why he’s all wet?  Why does he admit that he doesn’t understand the advanced training in mathematics that physicists receive, and still believe he’s right?  SPOILER ALERT!
Continue Reading »

23 Comments »

July 14th 2014
Like Bowe Bergdahl, many 18th century captives didn’t go home again

Posted under: American history, captivity, childhood

librarywithcaptivesPer my comparison of recently freed Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl to Anglo-American captives of the eighteenth century, the Wall Street Journal reports that so far, “Sgt. Bergdahl has refused to see his parents or speak to them on the phone, the official said. The decision by Sgt. Bergdahl, who returned to regular duty on Monday, suggests a deeper estrangement between the soldier and his parents than the military understood when he was released. Still, officials said, they don’t know the precise cause of the tension or when it began.”

Slate comments that “the news that Bergdahl has refused to speak to his parents is an unexpected plot twist in a story already full of hairpin turns.”  Actually, no.  The eighteenth-century evidence suggests that Anglo-Americans who were adolescents or young adults and who were adopted by new Native or French families frequently chose to remain with their new families rather than return home again.  (I wrote about these captives, especially the girls and women who didn’t return, in chapter four of Abraham in Arms.)

Many captives became very attached to their new families and caregivers.  In the case I cited last month in my analysis, Sylvanus Johnson–a child captive from age six to eleven–forgot how to speak English, forgot his own parents, and for the rest of his life allegedly “so much preferred the modes of Indian life to the prevalent customs of civilization, that he often expressed regret at having been ransomed.  He always maintained, and no arguments could convince him to the contrary, that the Indians were a far more moral race than the whites.” Continue Reading »

7 Comments »

July 8th 2014
We’re gonna need some bigger laws: Jaws and changing notions of acceptable risk and child safety

Posted under: American history, art, bad language, childhood, happy endings

JawsDid you see this hilarious chat between journalists Emily Dreyfuss and Ben Dreyfuss, the children of Richard Dreyfuss, about their recent viewing of Jaws, the movie that made their father a famous actor?  It’s really funny–they agree that the movie “makes no sense.”  My fave part (SPOILER ALERT!):
Continue Reading »

23 Comments »

July 7th 2014
Dead priest blogging! Next stop, Twitter?

Posted under: American history, O Canada

La blogue?  C'est moi

La blogue? C’est moi!

Remarkable providences!  An eighteenth-century Jesuit is blogging now at Charlevoix (“a blog about New France”). Those of you in the know will recognize the blogger as the late Pierre F.-X. Charlevoix (1682-1761), who is considered one of the first historians of New France.  (I say one of the first historians of New France, because I consider the unsung annalists of women’s religious orders to be historians of New France as well–and most of them in the eighteenth century were Canadian-born historians, not imports like Charlevoix.)

Here’s a little flava, a brief comparison of New England and New France in his Journal of a Voyage to North-America (London, 1761; Readex Microprint, 1966, in two volumes), an English translation of his 1744 French travel narrative: Continue Reading »

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July 1st 2014
RED ALERT! Representing women’s & gender history at the Omohundro Institute’s annual conference

Posted under: American history, bad language, Berkshire Conference, captivity, conferences, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, O Canada, students, unhappy endings, weirdness, women's history

cowgirlhayoopsFrom the mailbag today, a note from Sheila Skemp at the University of Mississippi:

A number of us returned from the (excellent!) Omohundro Institute Conference in Halifax this spring with a sense of uneasiness.  While the program was truly impressive, it did not include a single panel devoted to women/gender issues.  Given the strength of the field, this is truly troubling.  And we want to make sure that this does not happen again.

It’s true.  I reviewed the program, paper-by-paper, and while there were two paper titles that specifically mentioned women as historical subjects, they weren’t about women’s or gender history:  Megan Hatfield of the University of Miami gave a paper subtitled “War, Family, and the Transformation of Identity in the life of Eliza Pinckney,” and Rachel Hermann of Southampton University spoke on “‘Their Filthy Trash:’  Food, War, and Anglo-Indian Conflict in Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative,” (a subject I’ve written about before, in Abraham in Arms.CORRECTION, 7:45 P.M. MDT:  I missed Craig Bruce Smith’s paper on “Women of Honor:  Feminine Evolution through Dedication to the American Revolution.  That said, there were twice as many men named Craig on the program as there were papers focusing on women with a gendered lense.  Skemp continues: Continue Reading »

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