Archive for June, 2010

June 23rd 2010
Notes from the class of 1960, Dartmouth College

Posted under American history & students

‘Tis the season of college reunions!  Today’s post is a short essay on the occasion of a fiftieth college reunion the author attended a few weeks ago.  (Some of you may remember that I posted a few thoughts on my twentieth reunion last month.)  I thought his observations about college then and now, and his concluding thoughts on the importance of the college years and college mentors might be of interest to many of you.

In 1960 my college in the pines in northern New Hampshire was all-male and isolated. Interstate highways were just a dream. Road trips to women’s colleges were a way of life. This common bond fostered very close alumni and frat brothers – who for years after graduation would often hold mini-reunions and vacation together. This back-to-the future time warp sometimes seemed odd. Alcohol abuse was a problem; weed and street drugs were non-existant. Every few years, prior to major reunions, a professional scrapbook MUSINGS would contain the thoughts of most of our class of 800. The reading was fascinating, funny, and often weird.

One outstanding event at the college in the late 1950s was the Freshman “Great Issues” (a.k.a. “Grey Tissues”) course  – every Monday night a prominent person was invited to speak. In 1956 the list included Adelaide Stephenson, Clement Attlee, and Robert Frost. Our silent generation was unaware of the explosive change that civil unrest, war, coeducation, and sexual liberation would bring only a decade later. But two events come to mind:  our college chapter, along with some California and Wisconsin chapters, were unable to delete a discriminatory clause from the bylaws of our national fraternity. Blocked by a southern vote, we were forced to go local. On another occasion I watched as members of a Jewish fraternity, sitting in the balcony of the college auditorium, tomatoed a neo-Nazi visiting professor off the stage and into his car. Wow. In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy stopped by during his Presidential campaign to talk and answer questions.  Continue Reading »


June 22nd 2010
Of fraudsters and scholars, Part II: two kinds of historians

Posted under book reviews & jobs & publication

In a recent e-mail exchange with Squadratomagico, we discussed something that relates very closely to the subject we’re exploring here in this space, namely, feeling like an untrained fraud when you move on to another book project and/or contemplate retraining yourself in another sub-field (or even an entirely different discipline).  In a recent conversation with a senior person in her field, she said that his advice about moving into a new project (with whatever reading and/or retraining that might require) was not to be too intimidated by the existing literature in a given sub-field.  His advice was to learn from that literature, but not to get stalled there or let it talk you out of pursuing your own ideas. 

This is very much related to a conversation I had over a decade ago with a senior scholar in my field.  When I expressed wonderment at keeping up with all of the new books and articles published in our field (because 3 years out of grad school, I was already far behind.  Three years!).  He said in response, “there are two kinds of historians:  Continue Reading »


June 21st 2010
Of fraudsters and scholars, Part I

Posted under jobs & publication & students

Notorious Ph.D. writes in a post called “No, really:  I AM a fraud” that she’s struggling with seeing herself as an expert in her field because of deficits in her graduate training in the historiography of medieval “Blargistan,” her pseudonym for her region of specialization:

I went to grad school specifically to study the history of Blargistan. I was fascinated by it for various reasons that I won’t get into here. And sure enough, I did my M.A. with a professor whose research was in the history of Blargistan. But most of his reading on the subject was a couple of decades out of date, and since I wasn’t yet savvy enough to find the best current scholarship on my own, I ended up reading a lot of the same books he had read in grad school many years ago, and little else.

For the Ph.D., I switched to work with a professor whose advising style I worked better with. It was a good choice, and I don’t regret it one bit. But this professor’s work had nothing at all to do with Blargistan. He read and wrote fluently — even elegantly — in Blarg, but his area of specialty was thematic — let’s say, for the sake of argument, scholastic theology. So, I ended up writing a dissertation (and later a book) on scholastic theology and kittens in Blargistan.

And as I’m now moving on to another project, I’m realizing that I now know a great deal more about both scholastic theology and kittens (separately and together) in the Blargistanian context than probably most medieval Blargistan historians working in this country. What I don’t have, I’m coming to realize, is a good grasp on the general literature of medieval Blargistan — all that stuff that my friends read as a matter of course in grad school completely passed me by.

Welcome to the world of writing a second book, Notorious!  I think this feeling is pretty common to most of us who are intellectually honest and have a decent grasp of the magnitude of what we don’t know.  But, were our graduate programs designed to make us experts in one tiny sub-subfield for the next forty years, or did they aim more broadly to teach us how to teach ourselves for the rest of our lives?  Continue Reading »


June 20th 2010
Summer is ready when you are

Posted under American history & art & fluff & jobs & women's history

Some more 90s nostalgia pour les femmes d’un certain age:

I hope you’re all enjoying some “crank air” wherever you are on this first day of summer.  Here’s my view with a room in the little mountain hamlet I’m visiting this weekend:  Continue Reading »


June 19th 2010
And now a post written by my Sitemeter

Posted under art & fluff & local news & weirdness

historiann 35
belle 14
athletic women 4
burning man sex 3
muscular female athletes 3
7 up baby 3
knitting the barbie’s clothes 3
tenure 3
captain scarlet angels 2
professor of sexual histories 2


Check it out–this is how sickos on the ‘net find me.  (This is actually a snapshot of an unusual day, because there’s always at least one request for “hot 40 year old women,” “cougars” or “hot athletic women” in the top ten of search engine terms.)  Continue Reading »


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