Archive for July, 2013

July 31st 2013
Phantom plagiarists, academic boogeymen, and open access fears that go bump in the night

Posted under jobs & publication & students

Some of you may have read about the recent call from the American Historical Association to Ph.D.-granting universities to permit their recently credentialed historians to leave their dissertations off-line for six years in order to give the junior scholar time to revise the dissertation for publication.  The AHA’s reasoning?

History has been and remains a book-based discipline, and the requirement that dissertations be published online poses a tangible threat to the interests and careers of junior scholars in particular.  Many universities award tenure only to those junior faculty who have published a monograph within six years of receiving the PhD.  With the online publication of dissertations, historians will find it increasingly difficult to persuade publishers to make the considerable capital investments necessary to the production of scholarly monographs.

I read through the AHA statement, the New York Times article on the subject, and a blog post by Berkeley biologist and open access advocate Michael Eisen (courtesy of Comradde PhysioProffe).  I agree entirely with Eisen.  The AHA position is wrongheaded, although I’ve got some different reasons to disagree with the call to embargo disseratations than Eisen has.  Let me explain: Continue Reading »

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July 30th 2013
Word limits, book contracts, and the demand to cut cut cut: any advice?

Posted under jobs & publication

I’ve got a friend who is struggling this summer with her university press publisher’s demand that she cut 20,000 words from her 142,000 word book.  She’s doing interesting work pulling together the relevant strands of scholarship from many different fields, and as most of you humanists can probably guess, this means that her footnotes are pretty crunchy and dense.  She added a great deal more to her first draft of the manuscript to respond to the suggestions and concerns of the press reviewers, and now the press itself is demanding that she cut-cut-cut, and she’s understandably frustrated.

As a first-time author, she feels obligated to demonstrate quite clearly her scholarly debt to others, so her footnotes and bibliography comprise 36,000 of the total.  At this point, she has already cut 12,000 words from the manuscript and doesn’t think she can go further without undermining her contribution to the existing literature. Continue Reading »

33 Comments »

July 29th 2013
Identity politics + aggressive ignorance = teh stupid

Posted under bad language & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Reza Aslan defends himself against charges of “bias” in his new book on Fox News by pointing out that he is a prominent scholar who writes about many religions.  Slate says that “this may just be the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News:”

Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”*

But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan. Continue Reading »

33 Comments »

July 28th 2013
Historiann stumbles out of the wilderness to find the Lords of MOOC creation have successfully placed an advertorial in the Washington Post

Posted under American history & class & jobs & students & wankers

Does this read like a Coursera or Udacity press realease to you, too?

Whether for good or ill, MOOCs augur a disruption of the relationships among students, colleges and trade schools, and the credentials those schools offer — a relationship that has stabilized higher education for at least a century. Yet if done right — a big if, as recent events at San Jose State and Colorado State universities have shown — they may help address the quality and cost of higher education.

What’s the nature of the disruption?

For the moment, providers of MOOCs make their courses available to anyone. There is no admissions process. As in a video game, anyone can start, but you have to master levels that can include very difficult work. For the 10 percent who get to the end, the learning is real.

What about that experiment to offer dramatically reduced tuition for MOOCwork courses at Baa Ram U.?  It’s even more hilarious than you can guess: Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

July 20th 2013
Off to Glacier

Posted under American history & art & fluff & happy endings

Friends, it’s time for me to retreat into one of my nation’s fantastic national parks.  In 2011 and 2012, we did Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone–some of them more than once.  In March, we went to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and this summer seemed like a good time to visit Glacier National Park, tagging Grand Teton and Yellowstone again along the way. Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

July 19th 2013
A bunch of stuff you know already if you don’t have your head up your a$$

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & wankers

Call this the sky is blue/grass is green/water is wet edition of the news:

On the Mitch Daniels/Howard Zinn issue:  a commenter on the linked Inside Higher Ed story wrote that “Zinn basically saw American democracy and capitalistic economy as a sham while . . . he made a good living tucked in the loving bosom [of] its higher education institutions.”  I  happen to know exactly how much money Zinn made back in the late 1980s, and it was far from “a good living.”  Here’s the comment I wrote in response to this classic right-wing diversionary tactic.  (It’s a shorter version of the story I shared about Zinn when he died three and a half years ago.): Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

July 17th 2013
Why Joe Nocera isn’t on Twitter

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

It’s the all of the convenience and annoyance of the world-wide non peer-reviewed interwebs, x1000:

But to me, at least — and, yes, I acknowledge I’m at the age where I’m losing the battle to keep up with technology — the negatives outweigh the positives. So much on Twitter is frivolous or self-promotional. It can bury you in information. Because people often use Twitter to react to events instantly, they can say some awfully stupid things, as Roddy White, the Atlanta Falcons receiver, did after the George Zimmerman verdict, suggesting in a tweet that the jurors “should go home and kill themselves.”

With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder: Nothing can be allowed to take more than a few seconds to write or read. [Paul] Kedrosky may prefer Twitter, but I really miss his thoughtful blog. I recently heard Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, bragging that the pope now has a Twitter account. Once, popes wrote encyclicals; now they tweet.

What I object to most of all is that, like other forms of social media, Twitter can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life. Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

July 16th 2013
Ditch the “women’s stories” and give us real women’s lives, please.

Posted under American history & class & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & wankers & women's history

Anna North nails it in this admirably brief but accurate analysis of the “women’s stories” peddled by the mainstream media:

These stories, in mainstream American media, tend to fall into certain categories. There are the ones about when women should get married. There are the ones about how women balance work and their children, told with no discussion of these women’s race or class, and with a strange disregard for the possibility that said children might also have fathers. And then there are the ones about hookup culture.

Hookup culture stories are extremely popular. The latest, Kate Taylor’s “Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too” sits as of this writing at the top of the New York Times’ most-emailed list. It is about women at Penn, but it is essentially the same story as this one about women at UNC, and though less overtly polemical, it is also essentially the same story as this and this and this. It’s not hard to see why these stories succeed: They are about very young women having lots of sex with multiple partners. They’re a lot like porn, except that instead of an orgasm you get a vague sense of free-floating anxiety. Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

July 13th 2013
Sexuality and power in recent novels and recent history

Posted under American history & art & Gender & GLBTQ & students & the body & women's history

Oh, professor!

In a review of two recent novels that feature professor-student affairs, reviewer Michelle Dean asks where is the frank discussion of power?  She writes,

The professor-student romance debate similarly breaks down, for the most part, to two opposing views. In one corner you have your Roiphes and your Paglias, who style themselves as revolutionaries for celebrating the power dynamics of the status quo. In the other you have feminists more aligned with Andrea Dworkin who seem to believe one can remove power from relationships entirely.

(Presumably, she meant to write instead “feminists more aligned with Andrea Dworkin who seem to believe one can’t remove power from relationships entirely.  At least, I’ve never read a word of Dworkin to mean that there was any such thing as sexuality without power.  This is a woman who was closely aligned with Catherine Mackinnon, the woman who wrote “man f^(ks woman, subject verb object.”)

So what do these new novelistic treatments of professor-student sexual relationships have to say about them?  Continue Reading »

20 Comments »

July 11th 2013
Bleg update: Introduction to Historical Practice

Posted under American history & European history & happy endings & Intersectionality & jobs & local news & students

Onward!

UPDATED BELOW

Thanks to your many fantastic suggestions way back at the beginning of the summer, I’ve finally made some decisions (and perhaps more importantly, submitted my book orders) for my fall 2013 Introduction to Historical Practice, which all of our incoming M.A. students must take.  Here’s the book list I’ve settled on for my focus on “history scandals:”

  1. Michael Bellesiles, Arming America:  The Origins of a National Gun Culture (2000), either the Knopf original hardcover or paper editions or the 2003 Soft Skull Press edition.
  2. Contesting Archives:  Finding Women in the Sources, eds. Nupur Chaudhuri, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry (2010)
  3. Shelley Ruth Butler, Contested Representations: Revisiting Into the Heart of Africa (1999; 2007)
  4. Anthony Grafton, The Footnote:  A Curious History (1997)
  5. Saidiya Hartman. Lose Your Mother:  A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2008)
  6. Peter Hoffer, Past Imperfect:  Facts, Fiction, Fraud—American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin (2004)
  7. NEW–Ari Kelman, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013)
  8. Bonnie G. Smith, The Gender of History:  Men, Women, & Historical Practice, 2nd edition (2000)
  9. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past:  Power and the Production of History (1997)
  10. Deborah Gray White, Telling Histories:  Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (2008) Continue Reading »

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