April 18th 2015
No desk? No problem!

Posted under: American history, art, European history, fluff, happy endings, jobs, publication, the body

ackermannslibrarysofa

All the best history is written from a reclining position.

Apparently, there are no desks in the standard rooms at the conference hotel used by the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, and many at the OAH see this as a pretty big deal.

I was first alerted to the curious absence of desks from the hotel rooms in a mysterious Tweet from Victoria Wolcott from the University of Buffalo, and then found that this is the major conference issue highlighted in a blog post by Rick Shenkman over at History News Network, which posted a photo of a room:

 [T]here has been a problem.

Notice anything missing from this room?

It’s one of the rooms at the newly renovated Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis where OAH members are staying during the convention.  It’s lovely but it’s missing a desk and chair!  As someone on Twitter posted, that’s rough on historians who are used to working during a convention:  typing up notes for a talk, emailing friends, reading the New York Times online. The hotel reportedly says that Millennials don’t want desks in their rooms.  Welcome to the future!

I’m a typically disaffected Gen-Xer and no Millennial, but I have to ask:  who uses a desk anymore, anyway?   At the next major conference I attend, I think I’ll host a salon in my hotel room and invite historians up to loll around on the beds in my room (fully clothed and perfectly chaste, of course.)  It could be the best unofficial session of the conference! Continue Reading »

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April 13th 2015
Universities choose their students, not the other way around.

Posted under: American history, bad language, happy endings, jobs, race, students

You don't get to go here or stay here unless we say so.  Full stop.

You don’t get to go here or stay here unless we say so. Full stop.

Why are people so confused about the right of both public and private universities to select their student body and establish a code of student conduct?

Public universities, as universities that are funded by and answerable to the taxpayers of the U.S. states in which they reside, have to play by somewhat different rules than private universities.  For example, they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to student admission or faculty employment, but private sectarian colleges and universities may discriminate.  Also, I’m pretty sure that the god-bags and the crazies that scream at passing students and faculty on the main plaza at Baa Ram U. are there because our campus is a public square, whereas a private university is probably permitted to escort protesters to the borders of campus.

In short, there is as yet no constitutional right to a university education at a particular institution, so public unis–like private schools–are perfectly within their rights to establish codes of conduct for students and faculty alike.  Indeed many would argue that they’re under an obligation to establish and uphold rules for conduct so as to better ensure safe and equitable access to and experience of classroom and campus life.  (Does anyone else remember Gina Grant, the Harvard admit whose offer was rescinded 20 years ago because it discovered that she killed her mother?  Now, maybe her mother needed killing, but that doesn’t mean that Harvard or any other university, public or private, doesn’t have discretion over the students they admit, or over their on- and off-campus conduct.)

Jonathan Zimmerman apparently disagrees, as he argues today at Inside Higher Ed, citing the recent expulsions from the University of Oklahoma and the University of South Carolina for the use of a highly offensive ethnic slur.  Zimmerman, a historian and education proffie at New York University, thinks that universities can’t expel students for speech acts:   Continue Reading »

26 Comments »

April 6th 2015
Brief review of Mad Men‘s final season premiere episode

Posted under: American history, art, bad language, weirdness

Courtesy of Herschel Krustovski, a.k.a. Krusty the Clown–this was my only thought at 11 p.m. last night:

Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

April 2nd 2015
Thursday diversion: Two medieval monks invent bestiaries

Posted under: art, European history, fluff, happy endings

Via a retweet from Rachel Herrmann (@Raherrmann) from Rachel Moss (@menysnoweballes), we find the perfect diversion for this sunny Thursday morning in North America:  The Toast’s Mallory Ortberg on “Two Medieval Monks Invent Bestiaries.”  The explanation: Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

April 1st 2015
Middle School vs. Junior High

Posted under: childhood, students, unhappy endings

schoolhouse

School daze!

Whatever happened to Junior High Schools (grades 7 and 8)? Why is the educrat-tional establishment all in for Middle School instead (defined these days as grades 6-8?)  The main result of this would seem to be turning the worst two years of kids’ lives into the worst three years of their lives. Continue Reading »

24 Comments »

March 31st 2015
American Revolution scholarship and the spirit of 1976

Posted under: American history, art, childhood

bicentennial1

Not my family, but behold the Spirit of ’76!

Michael D. Hattem has a thoughtful review on the stagnation of scholarship on the American Revolution over at the Junto. He writes about the ways in which intellectual histories of the coming of the Revolution were preeminent in the 1960s, and then dominance of social histories of the effects of the Revolution in the 1970s and 1980s.  He also writes about the call for transnational or global histories, which work against interests in writing about quintessentially nationalist events like the Revolution, and finally concludes:

I would argue that the last thirty years (and the explicit raison d’être of the conferences, i.e., the stagnation of Revolution studies) show us unlikelihood of “new directions” organically emerging from working within these paradigms. That is not the fault of the paradigms or the historians working within them since it was not something they appear to have intended to achieve. But I also do not think those paradigms lend themselves to producing the kind of consensus required to actually forge new directions in a field that has been so mired in such a deep rut for so long a period of time. To break out of this rut––to reconstruct the Revolution, as it were––will require more than that. It will require historians who care about the American Revolution as its own topic to confront our historiographical predicament head-on.

Go read the whole thing–it’s worth it, even if I don’t think he provides a lantern out of the darkness and disinterest in the Revolution.  Many of the distinguished scholars he mentions have tried–and failed–effectively to re-ignite our interest. Hattem must be at least a little younger than me, because he left out an organizing event in that 1960s and 1970s frenzy of scholarship on the Revolution, namely, the 1976 Bicentennial. Continue Reading »

27 Comments »

March 30th 2015
How is this OK? On dismissing historical subfields and the evolution of our intellectual lives.

Posted under: American history, Gender, Intersectionality, jobs, O Canada, race, weirdness, women's history

I’ve had some conversations with senior male historians over the past few years that have troubled me.

When talking about my work, or about the work of another women’s historian, some scholars apparently feel it’s OK to say “Oh, that’s why I don’t know her work.  I just don’t do women’s history.”  Or, “Women’s history is just something I never think about,” or comments to that effect.

I get it that we historians can’t all do everything, but how is it acceptable to announce that you never think about half of humanity in your own work or even read the scholarship on this half of humanity?  Would these white men (and they have all been white) announce blithely that “I don’t do race,” even if it were true?  (Odds are they’re not as ignorant of the scholarship on race as they are on the scholarship on women, gender, and sexuality, but this is just a guess.  This post is mostly about the liberty some feel to confess their total ignorance of what has become a major subfield of history, and why that’s a bad idea not just for the audience but for the speaker.) Continue Reading »

27 Comments »

March 27th 2015
Move over freshman fifteen: make (lots of) room for the sabbatical ten.

Posted under: Bodily modification, class, Gender, happy endings, local news, the body, weirdness, women's history

rodriguezdress

A Narcisco Rodriguez dress that looks surprisingly comfortable.

I’ve been talking with a number of the other long-term fellows about the amazing fact that many of us have managed to gain weight while on sabbatical. Here we are, in Southern California, with its lovely weather and year-round fresh produce at local farmer’s markets several times each week, and we’re getting fatter! We’re getting fatter as we walk and bike to the library, and as we do yoga in the Chinese garden twice a week together (with classes taught by me and another fellow), and we’re all of us–or most of us, anyway–getting heavier!

Most of us live in places with winter cold and summer humidity in our real lives, and most of us drive a lot longer and further on a daily basis in our work commutes. Then there’s all of that day job tedium of teaching, meeting with students, and committee work that gets in the way of our running, walking, hiking, biking, and yoga, or what have you.  Women and men alike have remarked on this unhappy side-effect of our residency here.

What is up with this?  Continue Reading »

19 Comments »

March 26th 2015
Yosemite in spring: Liberty Caps, waterfalls, and our own “Paddle to the Sea”

Posted under: American history, art, childhood, Dolls, fluff, local news, unhappy endings

Liberty Cap from Nevada Falls

Liberty Cap from the top of Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, March 28, 2015

Yes, there’s a reason that Yosemite National Park has named one of its impressive sights the “Liberty Cap.”  Here’s an eighteenth century illustration of a liberty cap and its uses.  (HINT:  it’s on the pole, not on Columbia’s head): Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

March 13th 2015
Spring break!

Posted under: fluff, happy endings, local news

elvgrenpalmtree

Look out below!  You never know who’s crawling around in those palm trees way up high.  You’ll never guess who I ran into at the Huntington today:  my Lord Cleveland!  We had a great conversation over afternoon coffee.  He wrote something really useful about National Adjunct Walkout Day that might interest some of you.

Continue Reading »

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