Archive for July, 2010

July 31st 2010
A peek at chez Historiann

Posted under childhood & European history & fluff & jobs & women's history

Forgive this solipsistic post–those of you who aren’t interested in la vie Historiann can just click away.  But, yesterday Tenured Radical said that I don’t “reveal the nature of [my] sexuality, [my] relationship or [my] parenting status on the blog, and is a pretty radical feminist,” which is a little inaccurate.  Longtime readers know that I “came out” on my blog as a married heterosexualist last year, although I grant you that there’s nothing more specific about my sex life here.  I thought about it a while, and decided that these were pretty good representations of “how pleasant is the life [we] lead” here at number 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

First, here’s Historiann:  “We’re fighting for our rights militantly–never you fear!”

Next we have Fratguy:  “It’s grand to be an American, in 2010.  King Obama’s on the throne–it’s the age of men!” Continue Reading »


July 30th 2010
Friday Roundup: Selfish! Selfish! Selfish! edition

Posted under art & bad language & class & Gender & Intersectionality & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Hot & fresh, but ya might get burned!

Howdy!  Here’s a roundup of some interesting conversations happening on the interwebs this week.  There’s real stemwinder of a rant at the end, friends, so click “continue reading” only if you think you’ve got the guts.

  • Echidne has a great roundup of her own about periodic marriage panics.  She notes, “[t]he panic is always about women. Men never panic about marriage, never, but women do. And so does the society in general.”  Which is your favorite fake marriage panic statistic?  Mine is the one from the late 80s about how unmarried women at age 40 have as much chance of being married as being blown up in a terrorist attack.  (That one was funnier before 9/11/2001, I guess.)  The media and culture at large always worry about heterosexual women who don’t marry, but instead of asking what it is about marriage that some women don’t like, they assign the blame to the women.  Cherchez la femme, mes amis!  Toujours, cherchez la femme!
  • Could someone please explain to me how anyone could have possibly thought the author of Oleanna to be a “liberal?”  Apparently, David Mamet believes his plays are popular because they refuse to “coddle our preconceptions” and instead “shock us into seeing the world as it really is.”  Mamet’s “reality” is apparently a world in which sexual harassment is something imagined by neurotic, malign young women and a tool by which they oppress men.  I’ve said it before, and I’m darned sure I’ll say it again:  I’ve got yer tool right here, pal.
  • Knitting Clio has a brief summary and comment on the fake outrage of the internets this week, women who achieve pregnancy through IVF and then have abortions.  Continue Reading »


July 29th 2010
On the record, 13 months later?

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & weirdness

Garry Wills dishes about an off-the-record dinner President Barack Obama had with Wills and eight other “presidential historians” about how history might guide him in his presidency.  He notes that he is now breaking “a silence I have observed for over a year, against my better judgment. . . . I have argued elsewhere that the imposition of secrecy to insure that the president gets “candid advice” is a cover for something else—making sure that what is said about the people’s business does not reach the people. But I went along this time, since the president said that he wanted this dinner to be a continuing thing, and I thought that revealing its first contents would jeopardize the continuation of a project that might be a source of information for him.”  Wills continues, rather cattishly

But there has been no follow up on the first dinner, and certainly no sign that he learned anything from it. The only thing achieved has been the silencing of the main point the dinner guests tried to make—that pursuit of war in Afghanistan would be for him what Vietnam was to Lyndon Johnson. At least four or five of the nine stressed this. Nothing else rose to this level of seriousness or repeated concern.  Continue Reading »


July 28th 2010
Is women’s history necessarily feminist history?

Posted under American history & class & European history & Gender & jobs & race & women's history

I know this sounds like a dumb question.  Most of us have been answering this for at least a decade, with the rejoinder “of course not!”  For the past twenty years, we’ve seen a complex de-coupling going on between women’s history and feminism.  (This was of course one of the laments in Judith Bennett’s wide-ranging evaluation of the relationship between history and femnism in History Matters.)  Women’s history is a large and rich enough field that there are histories of women that aren’t particularly feminist, just as the history of women has expanded far beyond the history of just feminist women to include the histories of women who lived before the invention of feminism as a political movement as well as women who weren’t feminists or even worked actively against feminism.  (As an outsider to modern U.S. women’s history, it seems to me that histories of right wing women’s activism have been particularly hot in the past decade.  Those of you who work in the field should feel free to correct my impressions if necessary, and add your own thoughts about recent work in your field.)

But, I was wondering today about women’s history.  What would happen if we just stopped writing it?  Who in the larger historical profession would notice, or care, or complain?  As a colleague in my field remarked to me last year, there are a number of women’s historians in my generation who wrote their first books in women’s or gender history, but then have written (or are writing) something definitely not women’s or gender history for their second books.

Continue Reading »


July 27th 2010
Why has The One fallen short?

Posted under American history & book reviews & unhappy endings

Frank Rich (of all people) has an interesting review of Jonathan Alter’s The Promise:  President Obama, Year One (of all books!) in the New York Review of Books called “Why Has He Fallen Short?”  Rich has penned some astonishingly stupid op-eds over the past few years and has been a cheerleader for Barack Obama from the start.  Although he’s still clearly rooting for Obama, Rich’s read of Alter’s book offers some interesting insights into why Obama’s approval ratings tanked as of last summer, and why they’re now below his disapproval ratings.

Short answer:  it’s Wall Street, babies!  (But you can’t say I didn’t warn you!)  Continue Reading »


July 25th 2010
Sex, race, and authority: Shirley not!

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & race & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Writing about L’Affaire Shirley Sherrod and the $h!tstorms over ideological purity in the American Left and how it’s infected the Right, Tenured Radical then brings it all back to the world we know and love:

I would also observe that this is not just a political problem, it’s a cultural problem. It is the kind of $hit that occurs daily on blogs: blogger writes a six or seven paragraph essay, and some a$$hat latches onto a sentence out of context, gives it a hateful spin, and writes a “comment” that is actually just a personal attack intended to discredit the blogger wholesale. The idea? Who cares about ideas? You would have to read the whole post to grasp the ideas!!!! How much easier just to move on to the next blog, knowing that the writer is exactly the putrid idiot you knew s/he was before you started reading.

Ah, yes:  memoriesClick on over there for the Airplane joke, if not for the intellectual stimulation.

Another connection in all of this, as Knitting Clio pointed out in the comments over at Tenured Radical,  is how easy it is to demonize women, especially women of color (like those who speak just once hypothetically about wise Latinas, f’rinstance), and discredit them as authority figures, whether they’re merely self-published writers or members of the current Presidential administration.  Somehow it’s all too easy to believe that a woman needs to be disciplined or even humiliated for shooting her mouth off again, and it’s all too difficult to believe that she’s deserving of due process, a fair hearing, or even of a complete reading of her professional opinions and accomplishments.  Continue Reading »


July 25th 2010
Summer bounty in Quebec, 1749

Posted under O Canada & the body

August 21, 1749

The meals here are in many respects different from those in the English provinces.  This depends upon the difference of custom, taste, and religion, between the two nations.  French Canadians eat three meals a day, viz. breakfast, dinner, and supper.  They breakfast commonly between seven and eight, for the French here rise very early, and the governor-general can be seen at seven o’clock, the time when he has his levee.  Some of the men dip a piece of bread in brandy and eat it; others take a dram of brandy and eat a piece of bread after it.  Chocolate is likewise very common for breakfast, and many of the ladies drink coffee.  Some eat no breakfast at all.  I have never seen tea used here, perhaps because they can get coffee and chocolate from the French provinces in America, in the southern part, but must get tea from China.  They consider it is not worth their while to send the money out of the country for it.  I never saw them have bread and butter for breakfast.

Dinner is exactly at noon.  People of quality have a great many dishes and the rest follow their example, when they invite strangers.  The loaves are oval and baked of wheat flour.  For each person they put a plate, napkin, spoon, and fork.  (In the English colonies, a napkin is seldom or never used.)  Sometimes they also provide knives, but they are generally omitted, all the ladies and gentlemen being provided with their own knives.  The spoons and forks are of silver, and the plates of Delft ware.  The meal begins with a soup with a good deal of bread in it.  Then follow fresh meats of various kinds, boiled and roasted, poultry, or game, fricasees ragouts, etc. of several sorts, together with different kinds of salads.  They commonly drink red claret at dinner, either mixed with water or clear; and spruce beer is likewise much in use.  The ladies drink water and sometimes wine.  Each one has his own glass and can drink as much as he wishes, for the bottles are put on the table. Continue Reading »


July 23rd 2010
Pass the popcorn, and mix up a pitcher of Pisco Sours!

Posted under American history & happy endings & local news & wankers & weirdness

Triple suicide at fifteen paces!

Here’s your free laugh of the day, friends.  I bring you the return of Colorado’s crazziest Republican politician yet, Tom Tancredo!

Former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo issued an ultimatum Thursday to both Republican gubernatorial candidates: Drop out of the race or I will jump in as a third-party candidate.

Tancredo’s entry as an American Constitution Party candidate likely would create a GOP implosion, splitting the vote in the general election and handing a win to Democrats.

Campaigns for Dan Maes and Scott McInnis said the Republican candidates intended to remain in the race.  Continue Reading »


July 22nd 2010
Meanwhile, back at El Rancho Radical: Part III of our discussion of Terry Castle’s The Professor

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & class & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & jobs & students & women's history

I hope you’ve been following our discussion of Terry Castle’s The Professor and Other Writings. Today, we’re back at Tenured Radical for Part III, the final installment of our conversations, “She’ll Always Be A Player On the Ballfield of My Heart:  Tenured Radical and Historiann Wrap Up Their Conversation about The Professor.” If you recall, we were talking about the function of villains in autobiography, and the need for female heroes, when I asked Tenured Radical, “Do you really think “Terry Castle” wouldn’t have turned out to be Terry Castle without her having endured this abusive relationship [with The Professor]?  Do you really think she wouldn’t have become such a “profoundly imaginative and original scholar,” or is that just what “Terry Castle” tells herself to justify the affair, to redeem it in some fashion, or at least to justify telling us the story?”  Continue Reading »


July 21st 2010
Humiliation and Longing: Part II of my discussion with Tenured Radical of Terry Castle’s The Professor

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & childhood & class & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & jobs & students & unhappy endings & women's history

If you recall, when Tenured Radical and I broke off yesterday in Part I of our discussion of Terry Castle’s The Professor and Other Writings, we were talking about the odd attraction and revulsion that characterizes relationships between academics and public intellectuals.  At least, it’s why I’ve always forgiven Gore Vidal for his nasty swipes at the “Assistant Professors” of his imagination, who according to Vidal were always scurrying off to write something narrow and pointless.  Vidal never went to college.  (The Deuce had a lot to do with that, since he was Philips Exeter Class of 1943.)

So here we are again–gossiping about Susan Sontag!  Today, we’re moving along to some of the even knottier issues that The Professor raised in our minds, those of desire, longing, and the price one pays to join the academic club.  And as some of you have reported here, sex is one way young scholars can gain admission, or at least imagine that that’s what they’ve done.

Tenured Radical:  I think it’s important that Sontag isn’t a feminist, even though she has always been honored by feminists. In contrast, I’ve begun to develop a relationship with a highly successful feminist writer from the 1970s, and she seems to be very clear why our work is differently important, and she is making a point of being generous about the kind of collaboration that can be possible between two very different kinds of writers.  It’s just one example, but it is a strikingly different experience than I have had in the past with “famous” people who rely on me for all kinds of support, but wouldn’t dream of offering to introduce me to an agent.  I think the Sontag essay also illustrates two paradoxes that you allude to in your comments, paradoxes that actually structure the whole book.  The first is that the cost of being smart and accomplished as Castle is – particularly because she is a woman and of working-class and immigrant origins– is the ever-present fear of humiliation, that humiliation that comes from not belonging. In “Courage Mon Amie,” Castle’s essay about her love affair with World War I, she emphasizes the inescapable humiliation of being female in a world where female heroism is impossible, and particularly impossible for those who suffer from the dread and fear of not belonging.  “I was female,” she writes dolefully about her inability to face the post- 9/11 world with stoicism; “and a wretched poltroon.” (21).


The second paradox you raise is that we academics seek out larger than life “female/heroes” like Sontag and The Professor, but inevitably, the heroism of such people is not unconnected to their narcissistic need to humiliate us.  The question is, are we drawn to them because somehow we actually know that they will do that thing which we fear the most?  In this sense, all the essays strike me as exercises in coming to terms with humiliation and the longing to be part of the most exclusive club.  It’s no accident, I think, that Castle’s obsession with Art Pepper, maniac cockmeister and a sublime, brilliant drug-addicted jazz musician covered with tattoos, takes hold at the exact time she is driving around in her persona as a respectable professor with a trunk full of research intended for an article she knows, in her heart, she will never write.  Continue Reading »


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