Author: jhiblog

Gold tried 500 times in the fire

by guest contributor Timothy Alborn, this post is a companion piece to his article, “The Greatest Metaphor Ever Mixed,” now out in the the most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas.

Historians inevitably face the challenge of selecting a subset of primary sources to stand for a much larger body of research. This challenge is magnified in the case of the history of ideas, where the need to provide closer readings tends to diminish that already small sample size. My article, “The Greatest Metaphor Ever Mixed,” distilled hundreds of sources from numerous genres down to a few dozen to explore the connection between Biblical metaphors that employed gold, British economic ideas, and what Linda Colley has termed “the forging of a nation” between 1750 and 1850. A section on the various uses of the metaphor of gold tried in the fire, for instance, quotes twenty-eight sources that employ that metaphor, or roughly five percent of the sources I consulted.

 
To find all these sources, I pursued two parallel tracks.  The first was part of a larger project on the cultural and economic history of gold in Britain from 1780 to 1850, which will soon be published by Oxford University Press. For this project, I spent the last eight years looking for references to gold wherever they showed up: in treatises, novels, sermons, speeches, and newspaper articles, among many other sources.  The bulk of my research utilized such online databases as Eighteenth Century Collections Online (210 hits for gold tried in the fire), British Periodicals (48), British Library Newspapers (72), and Google Books. After realizing, a few years into this research, that gold appeared frequently and with interesting variations in numerous religious contexts, I did more targeted searches in these databases (see my full list of search terms below for “gold tried in the fire”).

 
In a blog post accompanying a different article I published two years ago in the Journal of Victorian Culture, I made a first foray into providing access to the larger cultural world that historians must curtail in order to “see the forest for the trees.” Here, I follow the model I used in that post, through the creation of a web page that breaks down my research notes for the “crucible” section of my article into several different topics (including references to affliction, illness or death, persecution, temptation, and secular uses). In the majority of cases where Google Books enabled this, I have linked these entries to the passages in the books and periodicals where I found them, to enable readers to explore their “natural habitat” (I tried to find the same version where there were multiple editions, but didn’t always succeed); and I’ve identified each author by religious denomination where I was able to discover that information.  I’ve also included a link to two Excel files I used: one tabulates my notes in order to locate patterns across these denominations (this includes some sources I didn’t transcribe in my notes), and the other (which I constructed by going through the Bible chapter by chapter using the service BibleGateway.com) identifies all 440 Biblical passages that refer to gold.

Readers should feel free to use this collection however they see fit: as a resource for their own research; as an introduction to my own idiosyncratic research methodology (and in my experience every historian’s research methodology errs on the side of idiosyncrasy); or as an entertaining anthology, with plenty of amazing book titles such as Hymns, Cries, and Groans, lately extracted from a Mourner’s Memorandums.

Search terms:

forth as gold

come forth purified

forth like gold

gold in the fire

gold from the fire

out of the furnace

furnace of affliction

out of the fire

tried in the fire

purified in the fire

purified by fire

as refined gold
like pure gold

seven times purified

purified seven times

seven times in the fire

gold shines brightest

purer and brighter

passed through the fire

fiery trial

With a few exceptions, these sources were all published in the United Kingdom (or, rarely, one of its colonies) between 1750 and 1850–including sources that originally appeared in print prior to 1750 but were published at least once between 1750 and 1850.  I have reproduced the notes I took from each source, which are organized by topic and, within each topic, chronologically by original year of publication; where available, religious denomination is noted at the end of each entry.  In most cases you can click the title to get to the book or article via Google Books; the link should land you at the section quoted, and you can fan out from there to discover its context.

Timothy Alborn is Professor of History at Lehman College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914 (Toronto, 2009), and Conceiving Companies: Joint- Stock Politics in Victorian England (Routledge, 1998). He has published widely on the cultural history of business in Victorian Britain in such journals as Victorian Studies, Business History Review, Journal of Victorian Culture, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, and Journal of Modern History. His Journal of the History of Ideas article, “The Greatest Metaphor Ever Mixed,” draws from research that will appear in a book on the cultural and economic history of gold in Britain that is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

What We’re Reading: Week of 17th July

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Sarah:

Kate Evans, “Day in the Working Life of a Historian: Kate Evans,” (Vida)

John Rapley, “How Economics Became a Religion,” (Guardian Long Reads)

James Robertson, “The Life and Death of Yugoslav Socialism,” (Jacobin)

Andy Seal, “The Controversy Over Democracy in Chains,” (USIH Blog)

Robyn Spencer, “Writing an Organizational History of the Black Panthers: An Author’s Response,” (Black Perspectives)

 

Spencer

Rebecca Rideal, “Forget the big historical names, it’s historic fear of disease that Game of Thrones nails” (New Statesman)

John Toohey, “The Long, Forgotten Walk of David Ingram” (Public Domain Review)

Rhodri Lewis, “Pre-Modern Post-Truth” (LARB)

 

Disha:

Hua Hsu, “Stuart Hall and the Rise of Cultural Studies” (The New Yorker)

Christina Heatherton, “Not Just Being Right, But Getting Free: Reflections on Class, Race, and Marxism” (Verso Blog)

Brenna M. Munro, “Atlantic Got Your Tongue: On The Poetry of Safia Elhillo” (Public Books)

 

Cynthia:

If you can, get yourself over to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum to see “Raphael: The Drawings.” If you can’t, well, here are some reviews that you can read:

>Andrew Butterfield, “Raphael Up Close” (NYRB)

>Charles Hope, “At the Ashmolean” (LRB)

>Catherine Whistler, the curator of the Ashmolean exhibition, on her approach to curating an exhibition of Raphael’s drawings, “A New Way to Look at Raphael” (Apollo)

 

On time and its monuments:

Anthony Grafton, “Invented Antiquities” (LRB)

Heidi Julavits, “The Art at the End of the World” (NY Times)
Yitzchak:

Yo-Yo Ma, “Save Louis Kahn’s Concert Boat” (NYRB)

Julian Bell, “The Perennial Student: The Art of Camille Pissaro” (NYRB)

Hua Hsu, “Jay-Z, Dr. Dre and the Music of Success” (New Yorker)

Hua Hsu, “Stuart Hall and the Rise of Cultural Studies” (New Yorker)
Derek:

Christine Philips, “Why these professors are warning against promoting the work of straight, white men” (Washington Post)

Ottoman History Podcast, “Genetics and Nation-Building in the Middle East

Lydia Kiesling, “Letter of Recommendation: The Life of Marshall Hodgson”(New York Times)

What We’re Reading: Week of 10th July

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

 

Spencer:

Caroline Alexander, “The Dread Gorgon” (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Anosh Chakelian, “One man and his whale” (New Statesman)

Bryan Stevenson, “A Presumption of Guilt” (NYRB)

James Fenton, “God, A Poem” (TLS)
Derek:

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, “Realism’s Illiberal Roots” (Foreign Affairs)

John Waldman, “Thoreau’s Distressing Canoe Trip” (New York Times)

(Podcast) Brittney C. Cooper, “Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women” (New Books Network)

 

Eric:

Andrew Mitchell Davenport, “The Weather of the Place” (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Annette Joseph-Gabriel, “The Legacy of Martinican Women in French Politics” (Black Perspectives).

Jedediah Purdy, “A Billionaires’ Republic” (The Nation)

Federico Tarragoni, “Populaire ou populiste? À propos de: Éric Fassin, Populisme” (Vie des idées)

 

Cynthia:

In memory of Liu Xiaobo:

Ian Johnson, “The Songs of Birds” (NYRB)

Liu Xiaobo, translated by Jeffrey Yang “Fifteen Years of Darkness” (Poetry.org)

 

Companions to Megan Baumhammer’s review of the Drawing Center’s exhibition, “Exploratory Works”:

Eugenia Zuroski, “Nautilus Cups and Unstill Life” (Journal18)

Paul Binskin, “Medieval Invention and its Potencies” (British Art Studies)
Disha:

Perry Link, “The Passion of Liu Xiaobo” (NYRB)

Katherina Grace Thomas, “Nina Simone in Liberia” (Guernica)

Andrew Kay, “Writing After Academe” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Jaquira Díaz, “Who Is The Real Kali Uchis?” (The Fader)

 

Sarah:

Lyn Abrams, “Oral history and liberating women’s voices,” (Vida)

Keisha Blain, “Ida B. Wells offered the solution to police violence more than 100 years ago,” (Washington Post)

Joanna di Mattia, “In The Handmaid’s Tale, the future is now,” (overland)

Nikil Saval, “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world,” (Guardian Long Reads)

Graham Vyse, “Liberals Can’t Ignore the Right’s Hatred for Academia,” (New Republic)

 

The New Bibliographical Presses at Rare Book School

by editor Erin Schreiner, and guest contributor Roger Gaskell

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The Rare Book School Replica Copperplate Press, in the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of  Virginia

In the inaugural issue of the Journal of the Printing Historical Society (1965), Philip Gaskell defined the bibliographical press as “a workshop or laboratory which is carried on chiefly for the purpose of demonstrating and investigating the printing techniques of the past by means of setting type by hand, and of printing from it on a simple press.” Just a few weeks ago, we had the honor and pleasure of inaugurating the bibliographical pressroom and exhibition space at the University of Virginia, in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Thanks to a collaboration between the University Library, Rare Book School, and the bookseller Roger Gaskell, UVa is now home to two bibliographical presses for use in public demonstrations, bibliographical instruction, and scholarly research. One is a common letterpress, used for printing text and images from type and relief blocks; the other is a rolling press, used for printing from intaglio plates. This is the first and only bibliographical rolling press, and it is a significant step for scholars not only of the history of printing, but also of the history of art, science, cartography, and other disciplines which rely on historical texts printed from intaglio plates, either exclusively or in combination with letterpress text.

Roger Gaskell, a scholar and bookseller, designed the new bibliographical rolling press, a replica based on the designs published in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie in 1769. As an antiquarian bookseller specializing in natural history and science books, Roger has always been interested in the production history and bothered by the lack of rigorous bibliographical language for the description of illustrated books. In 1999, a fellowship at the Clark Library in Los Angeles allowed him to study intaglio plates inserted into letterpress printed books, and he formed the idea then that building a replica wooden rolling press was essential for a better understanding of the mechanics and workshop practices of intaglio printing. Six years ago, Michael Suarez invited him to teach at Rare Book School and over dinner, Roger pitched to Michael the idea that Rare Book School should commission the building of a wooden rolling press based on a historical model. Some years later they discussed this again. But what to build? A press based on the design published by Bosse in 1645? That has been done: there is a fine replica in the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam that is frequently used for public demonstrations. A copy of an existing press? Gary Gregory was doing this for his Printing Office of Edes and Gill in Boston. It was the inspired suggestion of Barbara Heritage to build a press based on the Encyclopédie engravings. By good fortune Roger had seen a surviving press of very similar design on display in the print shop of the Louvre in Paris some years earlier. This made the Encyclopédie the perfect source as its accuracy, as well as a number of constructional details, which could be verified by examination of a contemporary press. The Chalcographie du Louvre press is now in storage at the Atelier des Arts, Chalcographie et Moulage at St Denis to the North of Paris where Roger spent a day photographing and measuring, in preparation for his new press.

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Robert Bernard (b. 1734) after Jacques Goussier (1722–1799). Imprimerie en taille-douce, Développement de la Presse, in Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 7 (plates). Paris, 1769.

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The Chalcographie du Louvre press at the Atelier des Arts, Chalcographie et Moulage at St Denis. Photograph by Roger Gaskell.

The use of working replicas gives students and researchers access to the technologies of book production that shaped the transmission of texts and images. Traditionally, the production of literary texts has driven the development of bibliography, bibliographical teaching, and the bibliographical press movement. But it has also long been understood that the ability to print images in multiples was as revolutionary for the development of other disciplines, including medicine, science, technology and travel literature, as the printing of texts has been to religious movements and imaginative literature. At UVa and Rare Book School, students and researchers can now work with the two – and only two – printing technologies responsible for all book production before the nineteenth century: relief and intaglio printing. There we can develop the habits of mind necessary to understand the implications of the extraordinary synergy of mind, body and machine which shaped the modern world in the west. Presses like these were used to print engravings and etchings for collectors, popular broadsides and ballads, indeed all kinds of ephemera as well as printed books.

 

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Erin Schreiner, the rolling press, and prints in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, UVa

As a discipline, bibliography has been shaped by its leading scholars’ interests in English drama, poetry, and fiction, and in incunabula. Scholars working in the history of art and science, and anyone working with books on travel and exploration, are at a bibliographical loss – it’s hard to understand why an illustrated book came to be the way it is because bibliographical literature (with a very few exceptions) does not address the problems raised by printing in non-letterpress media. What’s more, this problem extends beyond rolling press printed matter and the handpress period and into twentieth century non-letterpress materials made on mimeograph, ditto, and Xerox machines. Much of the work by media historians is rightly viewed with skepticism by the bibliographical community, yet this community has not yet figured out how to think about printed matter that isn’t made from folded sheets of letterpress.

Printing is the work of the body as much as it is the work of the mind; it’s time to roll up our sleeves. Particularly in the absence of substantial archival records of rolling press printers and intaglio plate artists, we must get our bodies behind the press to confront the constraints of printing for books from intaglio plates. We need to print images and put them in books, we need to confront the reality of doing this in multiples (and probably also in debt), and in coordination with the production of letterpress text. Doing this work will make way for the kind of grounded thinking about print that makes for good scholarship.

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Megan McNamee, RBS Mellon Fellow & A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery, pulls a print on the Rare Book School Copperplate Replica Press. 

Roger Gaskell is a scholar and bookseller, now living and working in Wales. He teaches The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800 course bi-annually at Rare Book School, and teaches a regular seminar, Science in Print in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

Melville’s Scrivener: Elizabeth Shaw Melville, Bibliography, and Literary History

by guest contributor Adam Fales

Who, in short, authored Congreve? Whose concept of reader do these forms of the text imply: the author’s, the actor’s, the printer’s, or the publisher’s? And what of the reader?

D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (1986)

When Herman Melville died in 1891, he was hardly the literary giant we read today. He spent the end of his life working as a customs inspector and writing poetry that few read. His unacknowledged death made his posthumous recovery more dramatic, when literary critics like Raymond Weaver, Carl Van Doren, and Lewis Mumford brought him back to scholarly attention thirty years later, in what we now call the “Melville Revival.” However, recent scholars like Kathleen Kier, Elizabeth Renker, and Jordan Stein have shown how the dominant narrative of Melville’s singular “Revival” erases the contributions of homosexuals and women to Melville’s legacy. These debates reconsider what and whose labor scholars acknowledge in the historical narratives they tell.

Bibliography—the study of books as material and cultural objects—is the approach most attuned to this labor. Philip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972) shows how scholarly interpretation of a text relies on an understanding of the conditions in which it was produced. Through bibliography, Gaskell and his student D. F. McKenzie show the need to understand texts as a series of material changes, which are subsequently reabsorbed and reinterpreted by readers whose relationship to the printed word changes over time. McKenzie’s approach to bibliography also attends to the multiplicity of actors that intersect in the production and circulation of any given text. Whereas these analyses often focus on the printing-house, bibliography also complicates the way scholars understand the creation, copying, and correction of a manuscript. Following McKenzie, I use the case of Herman Melville to reconsider how we segregate the labor of “authors, actors, printers, and publishers.” Bibliography’s perspective shows that these various agents are actually collaborators, whose contributions make up the printed text, as we know it. If we ask, “who, in short, authored” Herman Melville, we must look beyond Melville himself for the answer.

Divisions of bibliographic labor imprinted themselves on the life of Herman’s wife, Elizabeth Shaw Melville. She describes his literary production in a May 5, 1848 letter to her stepmother:

I should write you a longer letter but I am very busy today copying and cannot spare the time so you must excuse it and all mistakes. I tore my sheet in two by mistake thinking it was my copying (for we only write on one side of the page) and if there is no punctuation marks you must make them yourself for when I copy I do not punctuate at all but leave it for a final revision for Herman. I have got so used to write without I cannot always think of it. (quoted in Renker, 139-40)

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Elizabeth Shaw Melville: copyist, editor, and wife of Herman Melville. Wikimedia Commons.

Written while she copied her husband’s manuscript for his third novel Mardi, this letter documents not just Elizabeth’s unacknowledged labor but also how that labor impacted her life. Herman’s practice of having Elizabeth copy without punctuation affects her writing style, as she proceeds through long, winding, unpunctuated sentences. For many Melville scholars, this letter illuminates Herman’s writing process, but it also illustrates Elizabeth’s own intimate involvement in the production of these texts. She was Melville’s closest reader, deciphering his messy script, clarifying his corrections, and making the other changes necessary for his work to be consumed, first by a printer, and then by a reading public. Her letter notes that the text underwent a “final revision” by Herman, but Elizabeth’s labor frames scholarly understanding not just of Melville’s textual history but of much of his life’s work as well.

Elizabeth was the first Melvillean. Beyond copying Herman’s work in his life, she maintained his literary reputation after his death. Her labor exhibited itself in the subtlest ways. On the back flyleaf of the Melville family’s copy of The Piazza Tales, someone (likely Elizabeth) wrote the original publication dates of all the stories collected in the book. This book by Herman, annotated by Elizabeth, illustrates the intertwined nature of their shared bibliographic production, and the importance of this shared labor in the reception and study of Herman Melville. This book shows how Elizabeth’s labor exists in a tradition of note-taking and information management that bibliographic scholars like Ann Blair and Richard Yeo recognize as intellectual work in its own right. Considered within these histories, Elizabeth’s labor is a cumulative practice, in which textual copying establishes an expertise that she draws from to edit later editions of those texts. While Elizabeth had no monographs, scholarly editions, or novels of her own, her labor made those that would come after her possible.

Kathleen Kier shows how Elizabeth made deals, prepared texts, and supplied biographical information for the posthumous editions of Herman’s early novels Typee and Omoo that Arthur Stedman would publish. Even though scholars like Merton Sealts give Stedman the majority of the credit for this initial revival, Kier calls attention to correspondence that illustrates the financial and editorial support that Elizabeth put into this project, which ultimately failed due to a lack of reciprocal support from Stedman. Drawing from her invaluable knowledge as Herman’s copyist, Elizabeth edited the text of Typee, “so that the United States Book Company’s edition might better be called Stedman’s and hers” (Kier 76). Kier notes that this edition was Melville’s most widely read work prior to his scholarly revival, but Elizabeth’s role in its creation went largely underappreciated until much later.

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Part of a manuscript page for Typee. Credit: Digital Humanities Quarterly.

Scholars have largely misconstrued Elizabeth’s role in Herman’s life and work. Following the work of Merton Sealts’s Melville’s Reading (1948-50), Wilson Walker Cowen sought to transcribe every known instance of marginal notes in books owned and borrowed by Melville for his Harvard dissertation Melville’s Marginalia (1965). Contributing to the ongoing recreation of an archive of Herman’s life and work, Cowen’s scholarship resembled Elizabeth’s information management. Rather than recognize their shared project, Cowen came into conflict with Elizabeth, when he encountered some erased marginal notes. Concluding that “[p]ersonal feelings and reactions to women make up the balance of the erased material,” he leverages this “balance” to conclude that one of Herman’s female relatives was the culprit (xix). He blames Elizabeth. In this way, Cowen notes Elizabeth’s destructive force in the Melvillean archive, but he hardly acknowledges her productive contributions. For example, Elizabeth Renker considers how Elizabeth protected Herman’s posthumous reputation through erasing this same marginalia. Considered this way, erasure was an act of preservation.

Herman’s reputation was rebuilt after his death, whether through Elizabeth’s “revival that failed” or the later, scholarly revival that receives credit. This posthumous scholarship frames how authors like Herman Melville are approached, studied, and discussed. Renker and Kier not only recover Elizabeth’s forgotten role but also reclaim that role’s positive contribution, as they reconsider the role of labor in literary history. Their approach aligns with the insights of bibliography, in a similar manner to Barbara Heritage’s recent work. Heritage shows how bibliography enhances literary analysis “with a focus on the actual, historical copies of books being read,” but bibliography also reveals the invisible labor that produces those “actual, historical” books. Elizabeth’s labor not only preserved her husband’s legacy in print but also provides the material basis for Melville studies. The scholars we consider responsible for the “Melville Revival” depended upon Elizabeth’s lifelong efforts to organize, edit, and transcribe her husband’s life and writing. As the unacknowledged precursor to mid-century Melville scholars, she not only did the same work of copying and information management that made the careers of Sealts and Cowen (the first experts on Herman’s handwriting, after Elizabeth), but she also made the editions from which Weaver, Van Doren, and Mumford would draw in their initial revival of Herman Melville.

It’s hardly a coincidence that the figures erased from literary history resemble those that have also been excluded from the academy (this account elides the people of color traditionally excluded as well). Bibliography shows the contribution of everyone involved in the production, circulation, and reception of texts, recovering those erased from traditional scholarly narratives. Elizabeth’s fate resonates with the recent #ThanksForTyping, which notes the unnamed women “thanked” in acknowledgements sections for typing their husbands’ manuscripts (but whose work, like Elizabeth’s, often went beyond mere copying). Cowen thanks his unnamed wife, who “helped with everything” (iv). But when his dissertation was revived and revised as the ongoing Melville’s Marginalia Online, the staff page lists sixty-seven names. Elizabeth is just one figure we can recover, in the ongoing transformation of academic practices fomented by the Digital Humanities. An approach from bibliography hardly provides clear-cut divisions between author and scrivener; it messes up neat narratives of singular American authors recovered by mid-century scholars. However, bibliography calls attention to the labor that produces these texts. If the answers from that perspective are not straightforward, they might instead be more just.

Elizabeth left Herman’s manuscript without punctuation. Perhaps, then, our labor begins where we fill in the question marks.

Adam Fales grew up in Kansas and graduated from Fordham University. He is currently a digital scholarship intern as well as a manager at Book Culture in New York City. You can find him on Twitter @SupplyanddeMan. He typed this article himself, but couldn’t have done so without the support of friends, instructors, and his editor Erin Schreiner at JHIBlog

What We’re Reading: Week of 3rd July

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

Derek:

David Greenberg, “America’s 100 other Declarations of Independence”  (Politico)

Fred Dews, “A Primer on Gerrymandering and Political Polarization” (Brookings)

Matt Dellinger, “Michael Crawford’s Mixed-Up USA” (New Yorker)

WNYC (Podcast) “America’s Fourth: Beyond Pie and BBQs” (The United States of Anxiety)

Eric:

Zoë Beery, “A Weekend of Nazi Dress-Up Fun” (Fusion)

L.D. Burnett, “Fugitive Materials” (USIH)

Moira Donegan, “Some Sort of Grace” (Paris Review)

Daniel Trilling, “Should we build a wall around North Wales?” (LRB)

Spencer:

Lavanya Ramanathan, “In a divided America, James Baldwin’s fiery critiques reverberate anew” (Washington Post)

David Mimics, “What Makes a Jew a Jew” (LARB)

Yo Zushi, “The Tale of a Stuffed Echidna” (New Statesman)

Cynthia:

Jose Arnaud-Bello, “Think of the Lemur” (Triple Canopy)

Kate Wagner, “The Rise of the McMansion” (Curbed)

Kibum Kim, Natasha Degen, “The Kitsch Gazes Back: Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst Return” (LARB)

Hilton Als, “Irving Penn” (4 Columns)

Darren Campion, “The Morals of Vision: Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ Revisited, Part 1” and “Part 2”

Disha:

Amy Goodman and Arundhati Roy, Interview with Arundhati Roy (Democracy Now!)

Nadine El-Enany, “The Colonial Logic of Grenfell” (Verso Blog)

Wai Chee Dimock, “5000 Years of Climate Fiction” (Public Books)

Emily Wilson, “Found in translation: how women are making the classics their own” (The Guardian)

Sarah:

Adam Branch, “The ICC, Dominic Ongwen, and the Politics of Truth,” (Humanity)

Annette Joseph-Gabriel, “The Legacy of Martinican Women in French Politics,” (Black Perspectives)

Olivier Jutel, “The alt-right and the death of counterculture,” (overland)

Daniel Knorr, “A Conference on Chinese Cities in World History,” (Global Urban History)

Richard Marshall interviews William Lewis, “The Fall and Rise of Louis Althusser,” (3amMagazine)

What We’re Reading: Week of 26th July

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

Yitzchak

Malise Ruthven, “The Islamic Road to the Modern World” (NYRB)

Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, “Putting Profits Ahead of Patients” (NYRB)

Espen Hammer, “A Utopia for a Dystopian Age” (New Yorker)

Charles Bethea, “A Doctor’s View of Obamacare and Trumpcare from Rural Georgia” (New Yorker)

 

Derek

Jessica Bennett, “On Campus, Failure Is on the Syllabus” (New York Times)

Joseph O’Neille, “The Mustache in 2010” (Harpers)

Rebecca Entel, “A tourist in my own book” (LitHub)

Grant Shreve, “The Book of Mormon Gets the Literary Treatment” (Religion and Politics, Washington University)

 

Sarah

David Sessions, “The Rise of the Thought Leaders,” (New Republic)

Natasha Lennard, “Know Your Rights,” (The New Inquiry)

Marian Lorrison, “From puritanical wowser to passionate reformer: The re-making of Australia’s first-wave feminists,” (Vida)

Malini Ranganathan, “The Environment as Freedom: A Decolonial Imagining,” (Black Perspectives)

Tim Robertson, ‘Can the Centre Hold?” (overland)

Musan Younis. “Against independence,” (LRB)

 

Cynthia

Christina Pugh, “‘Velvety Velour’ and other Sonnet Textures” (Poetry)

Hilary Mantel, “Why I Became a Historical Novelist” (Guardian)

Alissa Valles, “One Poem” (Bomb)

Amit Chaudhuri, “First Sentence” (Granta)

Paul McCann, Palladian Facade Generator

 

Spencer

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold, “It’s okay that Anne Shirley never became a writer” (LARB)

James Wood, “Cramming for Success” (LRB)

Ana Prieto, “Carlo Ginzburg and the trails of microhistory” (Verso Books)

 

What We’re Reading: Summer Books Edition

 

Here are some of the books that the Blog’s editors have lined up for summer. From art history to critical theory, from fiction to poetry, we’ve got you covered if you’re looking for something to pick up during the academic off season.

Erin

I have a confession to make: I have never read D.F. McKenzie’s Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts from cover to cover. As a working bibliographer I encounter a huge variety of “texts,” from incunabula to 20th century manuscripts printed on Xerox machines, to 45 rpm sound recordings, even recordings on magnetic tape. As Jerome McGann wrote in a 1988 review for the London Review of Books, “In a series of trenchant illustrations, [McKenzie] unfolds a profound truth about ‘the book’ itself – and thence about every kind of possible text: that it is meaning-constitutive not simply in its ‘contained’ or delivered message, but in every dimension of its material existence.” So, Marshall McLuhan meets Phillip Gaskell and Fredson Bowers?  I’m about to find out.

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Eve Babitz, age 14, reading a biography of novelist and screenwriter Elinor Glyn.

I’m also going for it with Hollywood fiction to support my work with a private collection of film scripts and cinematic ephemera this summer. As a New Yorker, Los Angeles seems the land of good vibes, great hair, and Fridays off to me – I loved Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and P.T. Anderson’s film adaptation. So, I’m looking for a sense of the place on the ground, without completely bursting my Beach Boys bubble.  I just started Eve Babitz’s Eve’s Hollywood, up next is Darcy O’Brien’s A Way of Life Like Any Other, and then comes Don Carpenter’s Hollywood Trilogy. Babitz is a sophisticated, well read, well connected, and totally liberated mid-century California woman, and best of all she is a tremendous writer.  O’Brien and Carpenter’s books both come highly recommended as novels of the note-so-glamorous side of Hollywood life on both ends of the 20th century.

Spencer

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, ed. Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts (2003): I’m a hopeless science fiction/fantasy addict, as well as a history of science buff. Rarely do those passions come together, but some of the genre’s cleverest writers—Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore—have compiled this darkly comic “anthology” of imaginary maladies. Being something of a hypochondriac, I am a little nervous (in a good way).

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 9.11.45 AMKate Tempest, Hold Your Own (2014). Kate Tempest is a brilliant, prize-winning poet from the UK, whose debut collection, Hold Your Own, explores gender, sexuality, and the life cycle through a reimagining of the story of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Greek mythology. A brief sample: “Snakes. Two snakes! / Coiling, uncoiling / Boiling and cooling / Oil in a cauldron / Foil in a river / Soil on a mood ring.”

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719). The beach read extraordinaire. One of those books that has sat on my shelf unread for far too long. Arguably the first English novel. It created its own genre—the Robinsonade—of castaway or “desert island” stories.

Cynthia

One summer, I carried W.G. Sebald’s After Nature all over Europe, like a talisman. I read it quietly in hotel rooms, and over coffees in little squares. The historian’s work can be alienating, so much solitude, so many hours and days spent unmoored from your own time. Here was someone else who did that deep dive, and came back with a work of lapidary beauty. It’s a work that always sets me thinking about the writer’s craft.

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Summer, for me, is also a time for re-reading those books that first opened certainintellectual doors. I often go back to T.J. Clark’s work – whether the more conventional art historical works, like The Painting of Modern Life – or stranger ones like Farewell to an Idea, The Sight of Death. Clark both knows how to look and how to leap from ekphrasis to argumentation. I plan to read and and look at the art work under discussion again, and somewhere between reading and looking, come to a new understanding of work and text.

But it’s also a season of sun, and salt, and blue. This summer, I’ll have Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse in my beach bag, for something that feels deceptively diaphanous, along with Joan Didion’s South and West for a glimpse at another writer’s working process. I’m also carrying Solmaz Sharif’s first book of poetry, Look, because something about the heat and pain in these poems demands slow, careful reading. Read a stanza. Look at the sea. Repeat. If I should find myself stuck at an airport, I’ll reach for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. I second Eric on this recommendation. They are gripping. They pull you into another world and nothing makes a four-hour travel delay go by faster.

Eric

Elena Ferrante. The Neapolitan Quartet surely need me least of all to sing their praises at this point. They are very good and (at least for me) gripping enough that the summer is the right time to sit down with them. Pay more attention to the backdrop of postwar Italy than to the sexist shenanigans around authorship that have recently overshadowed the novels themselves.

Moishe Postone, Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory (Cambridge, 1993). This classic in recent critical theory has since provided an important base for significant work in intellectual history. I should have read it a long time ago.

Benjamin Straumann, Crisis and Constitutionalism: Roman Political Thought from the Fall of the Republic to the Age of Revolution (Oxford, 2016). This is well outside my area of expertise, but I just finished teaching a semester of Roman history and David Armitage’s Civil Wars whetted my appetite for this sort of thing.

Derek

A film series and book pairing: the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents a summer-long series on the centennial of Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973). His oeuvre extends well beyond films about the Occupation of France, but I’ll look at those films through the lens of this book, by Professor Leah Hewitt, Remembering the Occupation in French Film: National Identity in Postwar Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

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Jean-Pierre Melville

Mary Sarah Bilder’s Madison’s Hand Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard UP, 2015), through a range of fascinating research tools, invites us into James Madison’s writing of his Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, showing the complex biography of a text often treated as an unimpeachable primary source.

Another pairing—and in this vein of the biography of a text: William Carlos Williams’s epic American poem Paterson (1946-1958) and the multiply eponymous film Paterson (2016), a film about writing poems, which has stirred interest in Williams’s work.

Disha

I have read the historical novel Hild by Nicola Griffith every summer since 2014. Griffith is best known for her fantasy writing, and has produced a stirring and lush story with fantastical elements that is rooted in the fragmentary records left by Bede of the life of St. Hilda of Whitby. Griffith also kept a blog in which she recorded the progress of her historical writing: https://gemaecce.com/. Set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England, this novel details the childhood and early adulthood of a young woman of a royal house, and moves languidly through loss, sexuality, the rhythms of political and everyday life, and the tumult of living in changing and unprecedented times. I find it equally comforting and unsettling. A sequel is forthcoming. The author’s interview in The Paris Review is also a helpful look at what writing about the fantastical/real is like.

Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital by Vivek Chibber is a book I have read about, but have not read. I hope to correct that this summer. It is a work with immense political stakes as well as implications for work done in the space between the fields of intellectual history, critical theory, postcolonial studies, political thought, and global history (a zone with which I find myself increasingly preoccupied). I will no doubt have to read it alongside the many critiques and responses to it (some of which has been helpfully collected here).

Daniel Brückenhaus’s 2017 book, Policing Transnational Protest: Liberal Imperialism and the Surveillance of Anticolonialists in Europe: 1905-1945 is an exploration of the effect of state pressure, surveillance, and policing on anti-imperial activity. Brückenhaus has detailed here the development of a transnational anti-colonial government in the first half of the twentieth century, in northwestern Europe in particular. This book is also framed in terms of a pre-history of current debates about such a transnational surveillance operation, and the trajectory of such an entity over the last century told through archival research in Britain, France, and Germany.

Basma

Richard Swedberg Tocqueville’s Political Economy (2009). Tocqueville: political thinker, proto-sociologist, or political economist? Although the text primarily interests me for its perspective on Tocqueville in America, it is sure to prove useful to intellectual historians more generally as well. By examining the intersection between Tocqueville’s thought as a proto-sociologist and political thinker, Swedberg unearths an easily missed yet crucial aspect of Tocqueville’s outlook and method: political economy.

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Photograph of Claude McKay, taken for ‘Home to Harlem’ promotion, c. 1928.

David Motadel Islam and Nazi Germany’s War (2014). In good graduate student fashion, this is one of the books I preordered, received a few months later, read the first chapter meticulously, and promptly placed on my bookshelf. Summer is finally here and with it more time for pleasure reading. This text is fascinating for its depiction of colonial societies’ interaction with Nazi Germany and the latter’s views on Islam. 

Claude Mckay Amiable with Big Teeth (2017). I first encountered Claude McKay after reading Brent Edwards’ “Taste of The Archive.” Written in 1941, a Columbia graduate student discovered the unpublished manuscript in 2012 (an amusing story in its own right). The novel touches on the mood and climate in Harlem on the cusp of World War II.

 

 

What We’re Reading: Week of June 12th

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.

Mike

Markus M. Haefliger, 500 Jahre Reformation. Der englische Sonderweg (NZZ)

Kay Ehling, Biografische Notizen zu Karl Löwith (Merkur)

Henning Ritter, Verehrte Denker. Porträts nach Begegnungen (portraits of Carl Schmitt, Jacob Taubes, Klaus Heinrich, Isaiah Berlin, Hans Blumenberg)

Sibylle Lewitscharoff, Blumenberg (novel)

Franco Moretti, Distant reading (collection of essays)

Cynthia

The following group of pieces, all from The Brooklyn Rail, circle around the question of history painting’s place in our time:

Donald Kuspit introduces the subject with “The New Figurative and History Painting” (Brooklyn Rail)

Brian Winkenweder, “The Day’s Outrage: Fearless Girl and Open Casket” (Brooklyn Rail)

Mark van Proyen, “Response to James Cooper” (Brooklyn Rail)

Robert R. Shane, “Temporal Nomads: The Scandal of Postmodern History Painting” (Brooklyn Rail)

Jacob Collins, “The Issue of History Painting” (Brooklyn Rail)

Adam Miller, “Contemporary History Painting” (Brooklyn Rail)

Robert Zeller, “History Painting and the Problem with Art Education” (Brooklyn Rail)

Matthew Lippmann, “Romeo and Juliet of Hell’s Kitchen: On Tina Cane’s Once More With Feeling” (BLARB)

(The heat is ON in New York, and Tina Cane’s poetry seems like the thing to read on a muggy summer night.)

Disha:

Vinod Kumar Shukla, “Old Veranda” (n+1)

Tracy K. Smith, “My God, It’s Full Of Stars” (The Poetry Foundation)

From Life on Mars (Graywolf Press, 2011)

Rebecca Christopher, “The 1830s Are Back Like a Statement Sleeve” (The Hairpin)

Stefan Collini, “E.P.Thompson’s Search for a New Popular Front” (The Nation)

Derek:

Sheryll Cashin, “One Fifty Years of Loving, That Most Radical of Act” (Literary Hub) and Loving (2016, written and directed by Jeff Nichols)

Joshua Zeitz, “The Greatest Hearings in American History “ (Politico)

Elizabeth Economy, “History with Chinese Characteristics” (Foreign Affairs)

Spence:

Bridget Read, “The Powerful Reticence of Elizabeth Bishop” (The New Republic)

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, “Harriet Beecher Stowe and George Eliot’s long-distance relationship” (TLS)

Joseph Fronczak, “Hobsbawm’s Long Century” (Jacobin)

Stefan Collini, “Politics by Candlelight” (The Nation)

Erin:

From the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, a conversation with the curators of “A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece 700 BC – 200 AD,” now on view at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York. (entrance is free!)

James Wood, “Cramming for Success” (LRB)

Joshua Clover, “Who Can Save the University?” (Public Books)

Susan Chira, “The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women” (NYT)

Eric:

Lynn Clement, “The Commune’s Marianne: An Art History of la pétroleusse” (Age of Revolutions)

Patrick Iber, “The Spy Who Funded Me” (LARB).

Laura Sangha, “What should prospective history students read over the summer?” (many-headed monster).

Is America descending into political violence again?” (Vox)

Yitzchak:

David Shulman, “Israel’s Irrational irrationality” (NYRB)

Martin Fuller, “Louis Kahn’s Mystic Monumentality” (NYRB)

Mariana Alessandri, “In Praise of Lost Causes” (New York Times)

Jelani Cobb, “Bill Maher, Mitch Landrieu, and Echoes of the Civil War” (The New Yorker)

Sarah:

Rowan Cahill, “A forgotten address,” (overland)

Hattie Foreman, “My Work With The Sheffield Feminist Archive: The Importance Of Recording Feminist Oral Histories,” (History Matters)

Gerald Horne, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Toward a New Interpretive Framework,” (AAIHS)

Dominic Vitiello and Thomas Sugrue, “Immigration and Metropolitan Revitalization in the United States,” (Global Urban History)

Sadiah Qureshi, “We prefer their company,” (LRB)

Humanist Pedagogy and New Media

by contributing editor Robby Koehler

Writing in the late 1560s, humanist scholar Roger Ascham found little to praise in the schoolmasters of early modern England.  In his educational treatise The Scholemaster, Asham portrays teachers as vicious, lazy, and arrogant.  But even worse than the inept and cruel masters were the textbooks, which, as Ascham described them, were created specifically to teach students improper Latin: “Two schoolmasters have set forth in print, either of them a book [of vulgaria] . . ., Horman and Whittington.  A child shall learn of the better of them, that, which another day, if he be wise, and come to judgement, he must be fain to unlearn again.”  What were these books exactly? And if they were so unfit for use in the classroom, then why did English schoolmasters still use them to teach students?  Did they enjoy watching students fail and leaving them educationally impoverished?

Actually, no. Then, as now, school teachers did not always make use of the most effective methods of instruction, but their choice to use the books compiled by Horman and Whittington was not based in a perverse reluctance to educate their students.  Ascham sets up a straw man here about the dismal state of Latin teaching in England to strengthen the appeal of his own pedagogical ideas.  As we will see, the books by Horman and Whittington, colloquially known as “vulgaria” or “vulgars” in schools of the early modern period, were a key part of an earlier Latin curriculum that was in the process of being displaced by the steady adoption of Humanist methods of Latin study and instruction and the spread of printed books across England.  Looking at these books, Ascham could see only the failed wreckage of a previous pedagogical logic, not the vital function such books had once served.  His lack of historical cognizance and wilful mischaracterization of previous pedagogical texts and practices are an early example of an argumentative strategy that has again become prevalent as the Internet and ubiquitous access to computers has led pundits to argue for the death of the book in schools and elsewhere.  Yet, as we will see, the problem is often not so much with books as much as with what students and teachers are meant to do with them.

“Vulgaria” were initially a simple solution to a complicated problem: how to help students learn to read and write Latin and English with the limited amount of paper or parchment available in most English schools.  According to literary scholar Chris Cannon, by the fifteenth century, many surviving notebooks throughout England record pages of paired English and Latin sentence translations.  It seems likely that students would receive a sentence in Latin, record it, and then work out how to translate it into English.  Once recorded, students held onto these notebooks as both evidence of their learning and as a kind of impromptu reference for future translations.  In the pre-print culture of learning, then, vulgaria were evidence of a learning process, the material embodiment of a student’s slow work of absorbing and understanding the mechanics of both writing and translation.

The advent of printing fundamentally transformed this pedagogical process.  Vulgaria were among the first books printed in England, and short 90-100 page vulgaria remained a staple of printed collections of Latin grammatical texts up to the 1530s.  Once in print, vulgaria ceased to be a material artifact of an educational process and now became an educational product for the use of students who were literate in either English or Latin to use while working on translations.  The culture of early modern English schools comes through vividly in these printed collections, often closing the distance between Tudor school rooms and our own.  For example, in the earliest printed vulgaria compiled by John Anwykyll, one can learn how to confess to a fellow student’s lackadaisical pursuit of study: “He studied never one of those things more than another.” Or a student might ask after a shouting match “Who made all of this trouble among you?”  Thus, in the early era of print, these books remained tools for learning Latin as a language of everyday life. It was Latin for school survival, not for scholarly prestige.

As Humanism took hold in England, vulgaria changed too, transforming from crib-books for beginning students to reference books for the use of students and masters, stuffed full of Humanist erudition and scholarship.  Humanist schoolmasters found the vulgaria a useful instrument for demonstrating their extensive reading and, occasionally, advancing their career prospects.  William Horman, an older schoolmaster and Fellow at Eton, published a 656 page vulgaria (about 5 times as long as the small texts for students) in 1519, offering it as a product of idle time that, in typical Humanist fashion, he published only at the insistence of his friends.  Yet, Horman’s book was still true to its roots in the school room, containing a melange of classical quotations alongside the traditional statements and longer dialogues between schoolmasters and students.

By the 1530s, most of the first wave of printed vulgaria went out of print, likely because they did not fit with the new Humanist insistence that the speaking and writing of Latin be more strictly based on classical models.  Vulgaria would have looked increasingly old-fashioned, and their function in helping students adapt to the day-to-day rigors of the Latinate schoolroom were likely lost in the effort to separate, elevate, and purify the Latin spoken and written by students and teachers alike.  Nothing more embodied this transformation that Nicholas Udall’s vulgaria Flowers for Latin Speaking (1533), which was made up exclusively of quotations from the playwright Terence, with each sentence annotated with the play, act, and scene from which the sentence was excerpted.

Loeb Facing Page Translation

Terence. Phormio, The Mother-In-Law, The Brothers. Ed. John Sargeaunt. Loeb Classical Library.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920.  https://archive.org/details/L023NTerenceIIPhormioTheMotherInLawTheBrothers   

The vulgaria as printed crib-book passed out of use in the schoolroom after about 1540, so why was Ascham still so upset about their use in 1568 when he was writing The Schoolmaster?  By that time, Ascham could assume that many students had access to approved Humanist grammatical texts and a much wider variety of printed matter in Latin.  In a world that had much less difficulty gaining obtaining both print and paper, the vulgaria would seem a strange pedagogical choice indeed.  Ascham’s own proposed pedagogical practices assumed that students would have a printed copy of one or more classical authors and at least two  blank books for their English and Latin writing, respectively.  Whereas the vulgaria arose from a world of manuscript practice and a straitened economy of textual scarcity, Ascham’s own moment had been fundamentally transformed by the technology of print and the Humanist effort to recover, edit, and widely disseminate the works of classical authors.  Ascham could take for granted that students worked directly with printed classical texts and that they would make use of Humanist methods of commonplacing and grammatical analysis that themselves relied upon an ever-expanding array of print and manuscript materials and practices.  In this brave new world, the vulgaria and its role in manuscript and early print culture were alien holdovers of a bygone era.

Of course, Ascham’s criticism of the vulgaria is also typical of Humanist scholars, who often distanced themselves from their  predecessors and to assert importance and correctness of their own methods.  Ironically, this was exactly what William Horman was doing when he published his massive volume of vulgaria – exemplifying and monumentalizing his own erudition and study while also demonstrating the inadequacy of previous, much shorter efforts. Ascham’s rejection of vulgaria must be seen as part of the larger intergenerational Humanist pattern of disavowing and dismissing the work of predecessors who could safely be deemed inadequate to make way for one’s own contribution.  Ascham is peculiarly modern in this respect, arguing that introducing new methods of learning Latin can reform the institution of the school in toto.  One is put in mind of modern teachers who argue that the advent of the Internet or of some set of methods that the Internet enables will fundamentally transform the way education works.

In the end, the use of vulgaria was not any more related to the difficulties of life in the classroom or the culture of violence in early modern schools than any other specific pedagogical practice or object.  But, as I’ve suggested, Ascham’s claim that the problems of education can be attributed not to human agents but to the materials they employ is an argument that has persisted into the present.  In this sense, Ascham’s present-mindedness suggests the need to take care in evaluating seemingly irrelevant or superfluous pedagogical processes or materials.  Educational practices are neither ahistorical nor acontextual, they exist in institutional and individual time, and they bear the marks of both past and present exigencies in their deployment.  When we fail to recognize this, we, like Ascham, mischaracterize their past and present value and will likely misjudge how best to transform our educational institutions and practices to meet our own future needs.