Archive for the 'publication' Category

January 24th 2011
Rebecca Traister on Stephanie Coontz’s A Strange Stirring

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

"Pink right down to her underwear!"

A colleague of mine sent me a link to Rebecca Traister’s review yesterday in the New York Times of Stephanie Coontz’s A Strange Stirring:  “The Feminine Mystique” and American women at the Dawn of the 1960s (New York:  Basic Books, 2010).  It–like the book it reviews–is a refreshing review of Betty Friedan’s signal achievement and its importance in the intellectual and political history of American feminism.  In this respect, it’s quite a departure for Coontz, whom most of us know as a prominent American historian of marriage and the family.

After decades of distancing themselves from Friedan, whose activism after the publication of The Feminine Mystique was frequently controversial, it seems like feminist historians of all ages are now drawn to reconsider her work.  Her work (like any historical document or artifact) was a prisoner of its time, and since it was based on a survey of Smith College graduates, it was primarily an examination of la querelle des femmes from a white, middle-class perspective.  Perhaps 50 years is now a comfortable distance from which to read all of the uncomfortable questions Friedan’s book asked and raised about itself?

But as Traister points out, so many of these conversations throughout the twentieth century about women’s roles and how to combine family life with a working life have a Groundhog Day-like quality.  “Reading Coontz’s account of postsuffrage backlash — ‘Three decades of relentless attacks on feminism as antimale and anti­family had taken their toll’ — it’s hard to remember that she is writing about the 1950s. When she quotes Dorothy Thompson, who proclaimed in 1939 that the fantasy of women’s being able to meld career and family was ‘an illusion,’ we might as well be reading a modern antifeminist screed about the impossibility of ‘having it all.’”

I have to put in a word for Daniel Horowitz’s terrific biography Betty Friedan and the Making of “The Feminine Mystique”:  The American Left, the Cold War, and Feminism (Amherst:  University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), which may have started the whole Friedan revival.  Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

January 13th 2011
History Under Attack, part II: Can splitters be polemicists?

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & publication & race & students

Get to work, friends!

 Last week, we had a conversation here inspired by incoming American Historical Association President Tony Grafton’s call to arms in this month’s Perspectives, the AHA’s monthly magazine.  I’ll republish here what I saw as the nut of his argument: 

For history has its own special place in these indictments. Critics rebuke historians for drawing politicized conclusions from their research—and even, in some notorious cases, for deliberately distorting or inventing the evidence to support their own left-wing views.They criticize authors of textbooks and public historians for subverting patriotism, claiming that they emphasize violence, inequality, and oppression in European and American life at the expense of more positive qualities. . . 

.       .       .       .      .       .      

[T]he indictment is hydra-headed. . . . It’s here that the real difficulty arises.  The real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical: it’s that our research and teaching are nothing more than sterile pursuits of mind-numbing factoids, tedious and predictable exercises in group think, or politicized exercises in deploying the evidence to prove predetermined conclusions. If we can’t answer those criticisms convincingly, we will lose on all fronts: history positions will disappear, and so will neighboring departments in foreign languages and other fields, without which we can’t function. 

The discussion in the comments here included some great points and contributed many important nuances to the conversation:  many of you noted that our perception of these issues varies by the kinds of institutions academic historians were educated in and now work in; others commented on problems of anti-intellectualism within the profession and within our own universities; there were several comments about the double-bind most of us are in with respect to the adjunctification of the profession:  in spite of popular representations of our work in the media and in political discourse, most of us in fact spend much more time teaching than we do in research, but 4-4 and 5-5 teaching loads don’t lead to better teaching, they just lead to more teaching.  And the pious critics of higher ed who insist that we spend more, not less, time in the classroom don’t in fact want to spend the money it would take to pay for more higher-quality instruction, which would mean reducing, not expanding, the teaching loads of most of us–they just want to beat us rhetorically with the unfounded assumption that those large classes and scantron exams are due to faculty research agendas rather than the casualization of academic labor. 

I think Grafton is correct that “[t]he real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical,” but I have real doubts about our profession’s ability to answer his call with a polemic or ideological defense of our work.  Historians are, by nature, splitters rather than lumpers.  We aren’t united by a methodology or single set of disciplinary practices, and our writing and teaching more often than not seeks not to impose order on a given topic but rather to provide nuance and complexity. Continue Reading »

19 Comments »

November 13th 2010
Royalties!

Posted under American history & happy endings & jobs & local news & publication

Yeah, babies–I got my first royalty check from my publisher for Abraham in Arms.  (For a while there, I was just getting statements because of the advance on royalties I got years ago when I signed the contract.)   When Fratguy opened the mail and said I got a royalty check, I thought he was joking, because the last statement I remember suggested that I would get royalties in the year 20-notinmylifetime. 

This royalty check won’t change my life–it won’t make up for two years of no raises and no merit pay–but it’s a non-trivial amount of money.  it could buy me a very nice pair of shoes (that is, much more expensive than I ordinarily buy), or it could cover dinner for two, including wine and the works.  (It won’t cover the a$$-kicking cowgirl boots I bought last week, however. . . )

So now I have just one question: 

Continue Reading »

38 Comments »

September 8th 2010
Historiann-thologized!

Posted under American history & book reviews & captivity & Gender & happy endings & O Canada & publication & women's history

To paraphrase Sally Field when she won her Academy Award:  “They like me!  They really like me!”

I’ve been dying to tell you about this for more than 18 months now, but I’ve been waiting for the publication of Women’s America:  Refocusing the Past (7th edition) to announce that editors Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton have included a substantial excerpt from chapter 4 of Abraham in Arms in this latest edition of their American women’s history reader. 

I’m especially pleased about this, not just because Women’s America is one of the top two women’s history readers*, and not just because I’m in the company of leaders in my field like Sara Evans, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Mary Beth Norton, Jennifer Morgan, Carol Karlsen, Carol Berkin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sharon Block, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, and Jeanne Boydston, not to mention Dayton and Kerber themselves.  I’m also especially thrilled because they picked a chapter about women that I was particularly proud of, and which has gone largely unremarked upon by my reviewers, most of whom have been military historians who are much more interested in my chapters on guys and guns.  (Go figure!  They have all reviewed the book favorably, for which I am truly grateful.)  I wrote what I thought was some pretty interesting women’s history too–and I’m so gratified to know that top scholars in my field like Kerber and Dayton find value in my work.

From the editors’ introduction to “Captivity and Conversion:  Daughters of New England in French Canada,” p. 103:

Ann Little’s essay introduces us to the geopolitics of the second half of the colonial period.  Protestant England and Catholic France, along with their independent-minded Indian allies, engaged in a succession of imperial wars involving North American territory from the late seventeenth century through the Seven Years’ War of 1756-63.  In 1700, English settlers far outnumbered the 15,000 French soldiers, missionaries, fur traders, and habitants(farmers) clustered chiefly in settlements along the St. Lawrence River.  However, the English occupied only a narrow sliver along the eastern seaboard, while the French claimed authority (and established mutually adventageous relations with native groups) from Louisiana to Canada along the Mississippi River and around the Great Lakes.  It was not at all clear if one European power (France, Spain, orEngland) could gain ascendancy over the continent as a whole.

The author takes us on a detective’s journey to recover the voices of and find out what happened to the children, teenagers, and grown women who were captured from New England towns and farms in wartime raids by Abenaki allies of the French.  Continue Reading »

28 Comments »

August 4th 2010
Anti-volunteerism, and other career saving strategies

Posted under book reviews & happy endings & Intersectionality & jobs & publication & students

Don't be a do-bee.

Tenured Radical has a nice, long, seasonal post full of advice for newly hired term or tenure-track faculty, and some pointed reminders for those of us returning to the same old positions in the fall semester.  Go read and cogitate, and let her know what you think.  I especially wanted to highlight these two paragraphs:

Do not volunteer, stupid. You know who you are — whatever your biological gender, you are a girl. You are the one who finds the silence insufferable when the chair has asked for someone to step up, and you think it is your job to make everyone feel good again. Why you? And why now? At least go away and consult your job description before you go all Do-Bee on everyone. It isn’t your job to see to it that everything gets done — it is the chair’s job, and believe me, s/he will figure out how to do it.

Underrepresented faculty in underrepresented fields have no obligation to extend themselves without end to under-served students. Sometimes I look around me and it is so frackin’ obviouswhy the scholars who are perpetually sicker, angrier, more exhausted, and frantic about meeting deadlines for their scholarship share certain characteristics. We are queer, we are of color, we are international scholars, we are women, we are feminist men. We are the ones who, in order to make space for what we care about in institutions, do it ourselves. We invent the programs, then we chair them. This is what Jean O’Brien and Lisa Disch write about in an article I strongly recommend (and that partly inspired this post) “Innovation is Overtime: An Ethical Analysis of ‘Politically Committed Labor,’”(Aiku, Erickson and Pierce, Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Stories from the Academy Minnesota, 2007.) We are the ones that advertise our universities’ “diversity” when we labor outside the classroom. We are the ones who students seek out to teach the things they never had a chance to learn in high school. We are the ones who students “like us” and the ones who hold similar political commitments flock to in droves. Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

July 9th 2010
Female SciProf told: “Thank you for not reminding us you’re a woman.”

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

Go read this account of reading the reviews from a recent grant application, in which Female Science Professor was thanked for not including the fact of her sex in her BI (Broader Impact) statement:

In one review of one of my recent proposals, I was thanked by one reviewer for not mentioning myself or other women involved in the project as a broader impact. The reviewer was very happy to see that my proposal was therefore not obviously biased against men.

OK… you’re welcome.. but you know what? Even if I wrote in the BI section that the proposed research involved female investigators and therefore in some way helped broaden the participation of an underrepresented group, this does not demonstrate bias against men. It would be stating something that is part fact (I am the female PI whether I mention it in the proposal text or not) and part opinion (my involvement in research broadens the participation etc.); no men were excluded or oppressed to produce this proposal.

So the message is, “don’t tell us how we should think about your sex.  We saw your first name, we have our own ideas, and we can use that information however we like.  We don’t like having our privilege checked, don’t’cha know!”

This reminds me of reading the reviews of my NEH grant application (unsuccessful!) for my first book project, Continue Reading »

4 Comments »

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 »

24 Comments »

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 »

34 Comments »

May 22nd 2010
Book readings, your audience, and successful self-promotion

Posted under jobs & publication & weirdness

Reader John S. has a reading of his just-published book at his campus bookstore next week.  I gave a few lectures when Abraham in Arms first came out on the subject of my book–they weren’t book readings, but one was for a more general audience, in which I bombed, and two to university audiences, which were more successful. 

My lecture to the more general audience was for wealthy donors to my college, so the audience was middle-aged or older, and very unafraid to share their opinions with me.  I made a strategic mistake in my efforts to connect my ideas about warfare and gender in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North America to today, and cited some of the gendered and sexualized language deployed by Americans with respect to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They treated me like I was just another jerk with an opinion, rather than someone who had spent a decade researching and thinking about these issues across time.   Continue Reading »

12 Comments »

May 20th 2010
Life’s been good. . . so far

Posted under art & fluff & happy endings & jobs & publication

Here’s a little something for Clio Bluestocking. She’s got a book contract–life’s been good to her so far:

Tell me your good news. Continue Reading »

33 Comments »

« Prev - Next »