Archive for September, 2010

September 4th 2010
The re-creationist view of history

Posted under American history & art & class & Intersectionality & jobs & O Canada & race

Yeah, right!

What happens at the intersection of history, art, and commerce, when historical sites and/or historical re-creations are turned into tourist attractions?  Some folks on my blogroll have been writing thoughtfully on these questions. 

First, Flavia at Ferule and Fescue went to North America’s “Shakespeareapalooza” this summer (a.k.a. the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) and writes about the curious flava of the festival:

[T]he best parts of the festival were the most amateurish, in the best sense of that word: though the actors were all professionals, there was a palpable sense that they and the audience (even the annoying lady with the dyed-red hair in the row behind us, who was loudly showing off her Shakespearian expertise before the show and during intermission) were there out of love for the plays, for Shakespeare, and for live theatre. And if you have to be a tourist in a tourist town, it’s pleasant for it to be one with three bookstores on the main drag, where you can saunter to a tasty post-show dinner at midnight, and where all the other tourists also have rolled-up programs popped beneath their arms.

But the less amateurish stuff was less agreeable. The mainstage production–the one in the fancy theatre, with the big-name star, and with lots of special effects–was dreadful.

And speaking of dreadful–some inept “social media” hack from the Stratford Festival “argued” in the comments with points she didn’t make, in a commentary on the festival that was overwhelmingly positive.  Whatever, d00dz!  Keep on practicing using those interwebs, will you?

Next, Chauncy DeVega at We Are Respectable Negroes wonders about the practice of sleeping in slave cabins:  is it “Honoring the African Holocaust and our Ancestors, or Trivializing their Memory?”  He writes, Continue Reading »


September 2nd 2010
Freedom is mine! Or, “Melodramas of Beset Manhood,” redux.

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & Gender & wankers & women's history

I got my copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom from the mail carrier just minutes ago.  I’ll let you know what I think about it once I’ve read it, since I know some of you are also FranzenFans.

Meanwhile, upon Mamie’s recommendation a few days ago in our discussion of Jennifer Weiner’s and Jodi Picoult’s critique of the American literary establishment , I’ve been reading Nina Baym’s classic essay, “Melodramas of Beset Manhood:  How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors,” American Quarterly 33: 2 (1981), 123-139Dandelion made the same point that Baym elaborates on in her essay about American literature:  “In my reading, it seems the bulk of American literature deals with main characters individuating and separating. Since it’s ‘selfish’ for women to individuate and separate, the bulk of American literature doesn’t involve women. If women writers are writing stories about women’s lives, then, they are, by definition, not going to be writing literature.”

Baym writes about the rewriting of the literary history of the early Republic that will sound familiar to those of you who have followed my comments on American literary fiction and criticism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  (Which is to say that I’ve been influenced by Baym for decades, not the other way around, surely!)  In short, twentieth-century literary critics pushed aside the authors of the first wildly popular American novels like Susannah Rowson (Charlotte Temple, among others) and Hannah Foster (The Coquette) in order to crown Charles Brockden Brown the first real author of the American novel.  (Now, late eighteenth century novels aren’t the most readable relicts in all of literary history, but Charles Brockden Brown is widely known as the most unreadable of all early American novelists.)  Baym explains:

[I]n his lively and influential book of 1960, Love and Death in the American Novel, Leslie Fielder describes women authors as creators of the “flagrantly bad best-seller” against which “our best fictionists”–all male–have had to struggle for “their integrity and their livelihoods.”  And, in a 1978 reader’s introduction to an edition of Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, Sydney J. Krause and S.W. Reid write as follows:

What it meant for Brown personally, and belles letters in America historically, that he should have decided to write professionally is a story unto itself.  Americans simply had no great appetite for serious literature in the early decades of the Republic—certainly nothing of the sort with which they devoured. . . the ubiquitous melodramas of beset womanhood, “tales of truth,” like [Rowson’s and Foster’s books.]

There you see what has happened to the woman writer.  She has entered literary history as the enemy.  The phrase “tales of truth” is put in quotes by the critics, as though to cast doubt on the very notion that a “melodrama of beset womanhood” could be either true or important.  Continue Reading »


September 2nd 2010
Choquez le singe ce soir

Posted under art & fluff & weirdness

What the hell were we thinking in the1980s?

I was discussing this song with a young friend who missed the 1980s entirely, and this video left hir very confused.  I couldn’t explain it.  Did we think this was a daring or profound statement about–something?  Anything?  (Monkeys?)  WTF???


September 1st 2010
Glenn Beck and “liberation theology”

Posted under American history & wankers & weirdness

Weepy demagogue Glenn Beck

Paying attention to weepy demagogue Glenn Beck is akin to giving oxygen to a house fire–no good will come of it, and you’ll probably make it worse.  I was cross enough about his appropriation of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28 (and only in part because it was my birthday)–but his comments on President Barack Obama’s supposed “liberation theology” bear a little commentary.  I’m surprised that more people haven’t commented on this already–so here goes:

My theory is that this is Beck’s stealth strategy for calling Obama a Marxist or socialist.  Not that I think most of his followers get that–he’s dressing up his ideas in inteleckshual-sounding phrases that are designed more to deflect deep thought than inspire curiosity and further research.  Finally today, Tim Rutten in the L.A. Times tells us what liberation theology actually is, and why it’s so stupid to accuse Obama of being one of its acolytes: 

Liberation theology is a movement that took shape in the late 1950s and ’60s among Latin American Catholic thinkers, foremost among them the Peruvian Dominican priest Gustavo Gutierrez, who coined the term. The other “founders” were the Uruguayan Jesuit Juan Luis Segundo; the Spanish Jesuit Jon Sobrino, who has spent most of his career in El Salvador; and the Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff. (These are hardly shadowy figures; Gutierrez, for example, is the O’Hara Professor of Theology at Notre Dame.)

Their common position was that social injustice is a form of violence arising from sin. They urged the poor — and those acting in solidarity with them — to reflect on Scripture from the perspective of the poor. To that end, some argued that certain facets of Marxist analysis, particularly those having to do with social class, could be helpful. None of this is particularly mysterious, nor does it have anything to do with Obama. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone touched by liberation theology proposing anything like his Wall Street bailout. 

Word.  But for the full-on Beck-a-palooza roundup, head on over to our friends at Religion in American HistoryContinue Reading »


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