Author: jhiblog

What we’re Reading: Week of October 23rd

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.

 

Eric

Patrick Cabanel (interview par Bernadette Sauvaget), “A partir du XVIe siècle…” (Libé)

Luca Provenzano, “Street Fighting Men” (LARB)

 

Derek:

Regina Hansen, “Tricking and treating has a history” (The Conversation)

Rebecca Bengal, “Alec Soth’s Mississippi Dreamers in a Nightmare America” (The Paris Review)

Zachary Jonathan Jacobson, “Trump Is the New ________” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

Spencer

Susan Dunn, “An Icy Conquest” (NYRB)

Seamus Perry, “The Rhymes are Sometimes Poor” (TLS)

Jack Miles, “A Roadmap to Qur’ans in English” (LARB)”

Aisha Harris, “How Movie Theaters, TV Networks, and Classrooms Are Changing the Way They Show Gone With the Wind” (Slate)

 

Feral Frames: On occupy-able frames and expanded thresholds as mediators between the real realm and the pictorial realm

By guest contributor Zahra Safaverdi

I see the status of architecture as a “domain of cultural representation” and also knowledge production. Buildings embody the notion of architecture by making physical the manifestation of space via different materials, tectonic characteristics, and orientational attributions; however, they cannot exhaust the architecture fully. The built form is a mere vessel, a proxy for architecture to showcase one dimension of its multifaceted existence.

Let’s take a close look at figure number one briefly. Figure 1 represents Plafond de Peinture; Plafond du même cabinet (1740). The painting is done by French goldsmith, sculptor, painter, architect, and furniture designer Juste-Aurèle Meissonier and is engraved by Pierre-Alexander Aveline. The original engraving is currently located in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. As their record states, the engraving is done for the ceiling of Count Bielinski’s cabinet. “Large central roundel shows a sunburst as background for a mythological scene. A chariot, drawn by two horses and driven by a man is surrounded by female figures, putti, garlands and fruits. Cartouches at the four corners are decorated with putti.”

feralframes_-f1.jpg

The engraving depicts a frame which contains another frame inside. The frame inside holds an entire world within itself, depicting a scene from a divine territory. What is striking in this engraving is the role of the intermediate frame: The frame morphs from its traditional definition and assumes a new character: It acquires depth, hence hinting at the frame becoming a three-dimensional space rather than a mere boundary maker. The frame, then, becomes a stage for characters to reside on and not only observe the pictorial world but interact with it, dive into it or emerge from it. Characters could sit on the frame, walk in and out of the frame or morph into the frame itself, shifting shapes and turning into another entity (Figure 2,3,4).

In these engravings, the frame doesn’t divide the world of the image from the real: It connects the two to each other and it blurs the boundaries between them. By providing a gradual tonal transition, the frame becomes an occupy-able threshold allowing free meander between the world of the image and the world of the real.

This seemingly peculiar function of the frame is not specific to Meissonier’s engraving or late Baroque ornamentation. This way of being for the frame is in fact not even peculiar. Ever since modernity, interpreted here as post 1800, the distinction between the product of imagination (the physical manifestation of the image, the world of imagery) and that which belongs to the reality and the normality of the quotidian life has been clear. This clarity, this separation, this profound emphasis on keeping the realm of the real discernible from the realm of the imaginary is the product of modernity.

Looking back at historical references of late Baroque, one could see that this boundary has been rather subtle and there wasn’t a rigid distinction between the two. The framing and ornamentation would turn the pictorial realm of the image into a latent reality, a condition of possibility which needs a small trigger to burst into our world. In late Baroque and Rococo ornamentation, the frame could shift character and attribution and morph into the pictorial realm in a seamless manner. Such characteristics would let different worlds (different depictions) exist adjacent and related to each other without colliding or collapsing. The meandering frame becomes the adhesive holding everything together, weaving in and out of different spaces and preventing the entire construct from unraveling on itself. (For most precise examples take a look at late Baroque churches in southern Germany, as analyzed here. For the purpose of this essay, the following churches have been analyzed in depth: Steinhausen Pilgrimage Church, Weltenburg Abbey Church, St. Johann Nepomuk Church in Munich, Pilgrimage Church of Vierzehnheiligen, Birnau Pilgrimage Church, Zwiefalten Abbey Church.)

With the progression of digital technology, the boundaries between real and imagery are once again blurred in the world at large. As one could observe in many contemporary works in the movie/gaming industry and the art domain, access to virtual reality is not limited to goggles and gadgets anymore and the pictorial realm has already leaked into reality, turning the space of the immersive installation into a liminal zone and a state of in-between-ness. (Take a look at installations done by team lab, the “Void” series of immersive experiments, “Box” by Bot and Dolly, and experiment done in Harvard’s seminar “Mechatronic Optics”.) Given such change, the modernist definition of space- defined based on a didactic grid and forms driven from platonic geometry-needs a revision.

FeralFrames_ F5

Figure 5

Let us investigate two contemporary installations as examples of environments where the said boundary is blurred. Figure 5 represents the installation “Between you and I”. Here, Anthony McCall defies traditional definitions of space-making by extending the realm of the imagery into the reality. He materializes the virtual world by creating a new interpretation of an atmosphere that is defined by materials that have been traditionally perceived immaterial before. By portraying the light beams as solid, he highlights dust particles and creates an illusive weightless fog. These liminal zones, then, become mediums mediating the two realms and connecting them together in a seamless manner. Sarah Oppenheimer does the reverse action with her spacial installations: By modifying the existing space, she extends the reality into the pictorial realm, hinting at spaces that are present but do not exist in our immediate tangible world. These deceptive liminal zones are distorted reflections of reality, stretching dimensions of the room without occupying extra space (figure 6).

FeralFrames_ F6

Figure 6

By relying on the historical evidences of late Baroque framing and also evidences in the contemporary art domain, all of which eliminate the need for separation between image and the material world called reality, the possibility of an alternate mode for space and architecture existence would emerge: objects that could act as an occupy-able world with spatial qualities and orientational attributions. These objects provide the moment where the boundary between the imaginary and the real is blurred and the physical rigid threshold is broken. This alternative domain would, then, not only becomes a quasi-physical manifestation of imagery and imagination but a way in which these two realms could be welded to each other with a less pronounced seam: a tight fit that is not just a binary relation between two worlds of the real and the imagery, the normal and not normal. Frames with their latent ability to exist in two paradoxical mode of existence simultaneously, that of separation and that of connection, have the capacity to expand and become a place of in-between-ness and a state of limbo. Introducing occupy-able frames as design elements and re-purposing thresholds, which are seen as program-less spaces now, could be steps toward an alternative mode of space-making. In the architecture discipline, each space inside a building is assigned a specific function and is placed under a specific category called “program” (for example in a house, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, living rooms are all different program spaces). If the program was the major dictating element of architecture in the modernist approach, here the flow between spaces and the circulation becomes the new driving factor for shaping spaces. Lacan expressed where this is leading us: no one knows anymore whether the door opens to the imaginary or to the real. We are all unhinged.

Why shouldn’t our space be?

Zahra Safaverdi is the Irving Innovation Fellow in Architecture from Harvard University, where she examines new modes of representation of space in the post-digital era. She is one of the current directors of the MASKS event series and the editor of MASKS: journal of dissimulation in art / architecture / design.

 

Work Referenced, and further reading

Conner, Steven. “Reading Michel Serre.” 20 April 2017, http://stevenconnor.com/ milieux/.

Hayes, Micheal. Architecture’s Desire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2010. 1-50; 89-134.

Hejduck, John. Mask of Medusa. 1st ed. N.p.: Rizzoli International Publications, 1989. 40-65.

Hendrix, John Shannon. Architecture and Psychoanalysis: Peter Eisenman and Jacques Lacan. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany. London: Phaidon Press, 1968.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. “Space, Place, and Atmosphere: Peripheral Perception in Existential Experience.” Architectural Atmospheres (2014): 19-45.

Pallasmaa, Juhani, and Peter Zumthor. Sfeer Bouwen = Building Atmosphere. Rotterdam: Nai010 Uitg., 2013.

Picon, Antoine. Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

Serres, Michel. The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies. London: Continuum, 2009. 100-240; 275-300.

Serres, Michel. The Parasite. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Siegert, Bernhard. Cultural techniques: Grids, filters, doors, and other articulations of the real. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.

Young, Michael. The Estranged Object. N.p.: Graham Foundation, 2015.

Betting and Belonging at the Candlewick Ward Club

By contributing writer Brendan Mackie

Clubs were everywhere in 18th-century Britain: there were clubs for church bell ringers, clubs for masturbators, clubs for aristocratic rakes, clubs for collecting art and antiquities, Welsh cultural clubs, clubs for people named Gregory, natural philosophy clubs, literary clubs, radical political clubs, and quotidian dining clubs. London clubs have received a great deal of antiquarian and academic interest. In 2002, historian Peter Clark revitalized club history by showing them to be essential features to an urbanizing Atlantic World. Since them, research on clubs has focused at the role of particular kinds of clubs as cultural institutions. Much attention has been paid to the larger clubs of the 19th century—gentlemen’s clubs, professional clubs—which have more fulsome, better preserved documentation. My research seeks to extend the discussion of clubs by trying to understand why so many men spent so much time and effort to organize their fun in the 18th century. Why did so many people impose rules over their trips to the tavern? What work did this do? To begin to answer these questions, this winter I am trawling through the generous archives of club paperwork in London. There are centuries of attendance lists; centuries of elections, withdrawals and expulsions; centuries of minor administrative resolutions, and centuries of tavern bills.

The problem is that very little of this paperwork illuminates the everyday social experience of clubs. Take the records of the Candlewick Ward Club (established 1739), a dining club for the residents of a neighborhood in the ancient city of London. Three minute books from the club have been preserved in the London Metropolitan archives (CLC/004/MS02841/001-003): big, thick, and promising to this young researcher. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of these records are tedious administrative minutiae: attendance lists, accounts, memoranda, votes resolving to move the club from one tavern to another. They can be quite boring.

Mackie 1

Candlewick Ward (left) and Langborn Ward in 1765 (http://www.storeysltd.co.uk/Item/1276).

Records of wagers frequently interrupt the regular business of the Candlewick Ward Club, however, and these can reveal the slightly muffled echo of the voices in the club room. Bets could only be made for wine (to be drunk by the club), and each bet had to be entered into the club book alongside that day’s minutes. The bets all come from the daily conversation of the club room, so we can read them as fragments of chatter. The members talk much about their city, and how it was changing. The men bet about how long Mr. Munday had been at the King’s Head tavern. Whether there was stained glass in St Leonard’s Shoreditch Church. How long Mr. Abingdon the brewer had been dead for. If the cross atop St. Paul’s Cathedral could be seen from the corner of Gracechurch street. They bet about the big building projects that were radically changing the face of their city, whether the builders repairing the 600 year old London Bridge in 1765 were fully paid (they weren’t), whether the Southwark Bridge would be finished by 1817 (it wasn’t), whether the new replacement for the London Bridge would be opened by 1831 (it was).

They argued about themselves most of all. In 1782, Mr. Stainer and Mr. Hotham bet that they would each be married in the next two months, or else they’d buy the club a rump of beef and a dozen bottles of wine. They remained bachelors and the Club dined on their disappointment. Starting in 1810, early arrivals to the Club Room laid wagers on how many members would turn up that night: a dozen, thirty? Each bet meant more wine for the table no matter who won or lost. In 1813 Mr. Butler bet Mr. Clark about how often he had attended the Club: “He has been 7 times at the Ward club held at the White Hart Tavern, Alchurch Lane within the last two years, the present night included.” The Club Book was brought out, the attendance checked, and Butler was proven right. Joseph Eaton lost a bottle of wine for wrongly insisting that he was five feet five inches tall. That same day Mr. Eaton and Mr. Butler challenged each other to a contest in which they tried to guess the total of all the ages of men in the room—and Eaton lost again. They would bet about who was the tallest, the shortest, the fattest, the oldest, the fifth oldest, or the youngest. They bet about how big their club room was, how long the club’s table was, what material the club’s snuff box was, the circumference of a farthing coin. In 1803 Mr. Walter bet Mr. Bower that Mr. Horne would not make another bet that night. Why?

Mackie 2

For a time the Candlewick Ward Club met at the White Hart in Abchurch Lane (https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/StMaryAbchurch/WhiteHart.shtml)

The club wager is an argument, dulled; a personal disagreement written in the club book in careful hand for all to see; disagreement that can be easily resolved, and once resolved, rectified through wine. Unlike much else in life, the wager was a clear division, with a clear solution. You can imagine them scoffing at one another: “You must weigh ten stone.” “No I don’t.” The club book could be brought out, a wager written in it, bottles of wine laid on either side of the issue, and proof found—a scale, perhaps?—and determination made. It was fun. Fun that the men could challenge one another. Fun that proof could be found to solve these challenges. Fun that this tumble of contradictions, bets and resolutions turned the friction of men into more wine for the table.

Wagers allowed the men of the Candlewick Ward Club some control over uncertainty. They were of minor importance to London life, hesitantly making their way up the ladder of public position. Some were elected to seats on the Common Council. Many served as Alderman and Sheriff. Some had Parliamentary ambitions, rarely, if ever, achieved. One member, Peter Perchard, was actually elected Lord Mayor in 1803, although his election stopped his appearance at club meetings. Within the space of a wager, the impersonal forces clipping the wings of these men’s hopes could be measured, written down, and controlled. They bet on how long a government would survive; who would win the election for the next seat on Parliament or Common Council; whether the Queen would give birth to a child, an heir; whether a crucial law would be passed; whether the men, disgusted with the King, would stand up as they drank his health.

Revealed in other ways, disagreements might offend, but through the wager, the offense could be blunted. In 1763 Mr. Oliver had told Mr. Cole that he would build him a marble chimney; it was obviously taking some time, and Oliver bet a bottle that he would be done that very month. (Whether he did or not remains unrecorded.) Wagers could also be safe vehicles for criticism. In 1804 Mr. Atkinson was confident enough of his chances for being elected to Common Council to bet Mr. Poynter a bottle of wine that he would win; he lost. Six years later Poynter bet that another member, Mr. Gimble, would fail in his bid for the same position. Gimble lost. The club drank his defeat.

The seemingly boring control of club protocol worked to dim the passions so they could be less dangerously expressed. In October 1831, for example, the Candlewick Ward Club memorialized the death of its long-serving secretary Joseph Eaton (who was not five feet five inches tall) in the club’s minute book:

The members of this Ward Club are deeply sensible of the loss they have sustained by the death of their late worthy Secretary Mr. Joseph Eaton whose long service of years in that capacity, as well as in various important duties for the benefit of his fellow inhabitants, accompanied as they were by a strict integrity of conduct and conciliatory manners, justly intitled him to the strongest mark of their respect and which they are desirous of thus recording as a humble tribute of regard to his memory.

This memorial is polite, but it is cold, dry, even somewhat callous. The message of condolence is drafted like any other minute into the Club Book; proposed, then seconded, then voted on by the members present (unanimously); the same form the club would use if it were deciding where to go for its annual country dinner, or whether to admit the new member, or whether to change the meeting place from one tavern to another. But a man was dead. A man who was for a long time a friend and colleague, the father to another member, a man who had been giving compliments of wine to the club on his marriages and on the births of his children for the past three decades. The grief the men felt for Joseph Eaton, that man of “strict integrity of conduct and conciliatory manners” may have been monstrous and inexpressible, as grief so often is; but it would be entered into the club book, in well-turned, polite, respectable, cold, dry, safe language. The grief too could be controlled and contained, like the wager could control and contain disagreement and uncertainty. In this way, the administration of the club rubbed the rough edges off the problems of living with other people, and turned them into the easy good fellowship of yet another bottle of wine placed on a full dinner table.

The Candlewick Ward Club exists to this day, though its members no longer make wagers.

Brendan Mackie is a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley. His podcast is available at historian.live. He is not yet the member of any clubs.

WHAT WE’RE READING: WEEK OF OCTOBER 16th

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

Robert O. Paxton, “The Cultural Axis” (NYRB)

Sanford Schwartz, “The Master of Eglfing-Haar” (NYRB)

W.H. Auden, “The Chimeras” (TLS)

Ross Bullen, “Race and the White Elephant War of 1884” (Public Domain Review)

 

Derek

Annabelle Timsit, “When the World Outlawed War” (The Atlantic)

Dossier 1917: La révolution russe en questions” (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Timothy Brennan, “The Digital-Humanities Bust” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

Sarah:

Hop Dac, “Another Normal,” (overland)

Mike Davis, “El Diablo in Wine Country” (LRB Blog)

Julie Hawks with Alex S. Vitale, “The End of Policing: A New Book on the History of Policing” (Black Perspectives)

Laura McPherson, “We Can’t Stem the Tide of Language Death” (LARB)

 

Cynthia

About this week: The SF Chronicle’s Oct. 11th front page summed up the past week for me. “Disaster is relentless.” I grew up in the Bay Area and I’ve spent a fair share of my waking hours over these last two weeks tracking these fires, mourning the loss of places and landscapes that I knew as a young(er) person, and thinking about the distance between the glossy, noir images of apocalypse that populate representations of California (Gold Fame Citrus being a more recent example, for more of them, one might turn to Mike Davis’s Ecology of Fear). I re-read this Marie Howe poem often.

And what to say about the Weinstein story, and #metoo? Maybe this: Yoko Ono, “Cut Piece” (1965). And this: Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale, Part 1” and “Part 2.”

My survival strategy: thinking about art and art making in relation to feminism. A good place to start might be Linda Nochlin’s controversial 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (Artnews, and this past May Hyperallergic published this illustrated guide to Nochlin’s essay.) A decade later, Lucy Lippard published “Sweeping Exchanges: The Contribution of Feminism to Art in the 1970s” (Art Journal).

Why just think about art when you can get out and see it? Ruth Asawa finally gets to climb out of the “domestic” box now that David Zwirner is representing her estate. MoMA is showing Louise Bourgeois. Mieke Bal and Anne Wagner have both written interesting pieces on Bourgeois. Katy Deepwell on “Why Louise Bourgeois is a feminist icon.” In this interview with Kang Kang, Lin Tianmaio discusses her career as a female artist in China, her relationship to feminism–and why she does not claim to be a feminist artist (though that might be the least interesting part of the interview). Kara Walker’s show closed on October 14, but you can read one more review here. Carolee Schneeman has a show opening at MoMA P.S. 1. on Oct. 22nd. Read this Bomb magazine interview with her and then go see it.

Eric

Céline Cachaud, “La miniature, essai de définition” (Hillyarde)

Greg Downs, “Introduction to Roundtable on We Were Eight Years in Power”  (Journal of the Civil War Era)

Claude Pennetier, “L’histoire collective de Jean Maitron” (Viedesidées)

Carolyn Steedman, “Middle-Class Hair” (LRB)

WHAT WE’RE READING: WEEK OF OCTOBER 9TH

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.

Eric:

Europe Slams Its Gates” (Foreign Policy).

Carmen Maria Machado, “Inventory” (LitHub)

Corey Robin, “Triumph of the Shill” (n+1)

 

Spencer:

Max O’Connell, “Man on the Outside” (rogerebert.com)

Nell Irvin Painter, “Long Divisions” (TNR)

Hilary Davies, “Things Hidden” (TLS)

 

Cynthia:

A while back, I posted a selection of links that revolved around the question of creative practice, and the binary of “amateur” vs. “professional.” Now that we’re officially in the heart of award season, it seems an opportune moment to continue thinking about the institutions and structures that scaffold these practices.

First, a pair of essays by Alexis Clements (in the LARB), truthful and brutal: “What are the Chances? Success in the Arts in the 21st Century” (2016) and “The Secret Recipe for Success in the Arts” (2017).

Next, Viet Thanh Nguyen on the writer’s workshop (NY Times). Nguyen’s piece reminds me of the collection edited by Chad Harbach (of n+1), MFA vs. NYC. The collection generated a lot of commentary. Loren Glass’s review, “The Creative Precariat,” is another critical perspective on the role of the MFA in adjudicating between those who get to be writers, and those who remain outside of this charmed circle. In his 2016 Artnews essay, Daniel S. Palmer looked at the economic forces and structures driving “the hyper-professionalization of the emerging artist.”

There is push-back against this world, against this particular vision of what it means to be a professional artist/writer/”cultural producer.” Some champion the concept of the amateur (e.g. Miya Tokumitsu, in Frieze, “Completely Unprofessional”; Andrew Berardini, in Momus, “How to be an Unprofessional Artist”) for why should only certified professionals claim access to art making or creativity? Others, weary from waiting at the gate, have chosen to make their own opportunities. In this 2010 interview with Bomb, Danielle Dutton discusses why she founded Dorothy, A Publishing Project. Nick Kokonas presents a different perspective on publishing in his post for Medium, “Why We are Self-Publishing the Aviary Cookbook–Lessons from the Alinea book.”

And there is also the world of the Instagram poet. Here is a NYT profile of Rupi Kaur, and a New Yorker profile of Reuben Holmes.

I leave you with a quote from one who knew all about the perils and pleasures of trying to make it in the “art world”–Carol Rama: “If I really am so good, then I don’t get why I had to starve for so long.”

 

Sarah:

Rebecca Brenner, “How American Racism Shaped Nazism,” (Black Perspectives)

Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Fate of the Earth,” (New Yorker)

Keenan Norris, “To Be Continued, or Who Lost the Civil War?” (LARB)

Sophie Robinson, “Not The Marrying Type,” (Vida)

Jenny Turner, “Literary Friction,” (LRB)

Basma Radwan:

James C. Scott “Take your pick” (LRB)

Lisa Appignanesi “Freud’s Clay Feet” (NYRB)

Sarah Sentilles “Colonial Postcards and Women as Props for War-Making” (New Yorker)

 

Derek:

Timothy Aubry, “The Paradoxical Politics of Literary Criticism” (New Republic)

Andrew Bacevich, “Schlesinger and the Decline of Liberalism” (Boston Review)

Jonathan Zimmerman, “What’s so bad about Ken Burns?” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Eric C. Miller, “India in the American Imagination: An Interview with Michael J. Altman” (Religion and Politics)

 

The Suffrage Postcard Project: A Replica Archive

by guest contributor Ana Stevenson

At the 2017 Australian Historical Association Conference, in a panel about digital history, Professor Victoria Haskins discussed what she described as a “replica archive.”  Haskins’ research is concerned with Indigenous domestic servants in Australia and the United States – women whose lives, she rightly notes, are often difficult to uncover in the archives.  Technology, however, has fundamentally changed the relationship historians have with archives.  Following the hours and hours of archival research undertaken across her long and distinguished career, Haskins has amassed copious photographs and photocopies which feature the voices of these women.  Bringing together these photographic fragments from many archives, Haskins suggests, creates a new archive – a replica archive.

 

The Suffrage Postcard Project can likewise be seen as a replica archive.  Women’s suffrage postcards, though considered ephemeral at their time of production, were numerous.  Postcard scholar Kenneth Florey suggests that more than 1000 suffrage-related postcards were printed in the United States during the 1910s and approximately 2000 in Britain.[1]  Suffrage memorabilia more generally was received enthusiastically by the American and British public, especially in the years prior to World War I.[2]

The majority of the women’s suffrage postcards were printed during the 1910s, a decade which would see the acquisition of qualified suffrage for British women in 1918 and the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment in the United States by 1920.  This era is broadly described by scholars as the “golden age” of picture postcards.[3]

 

1

 Image courtesy of the Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA. 

Women’s suffrage postcards were so numerous, in fact, that even today such ephemera is not inscrutably hidden in the archives.  Many archival collections, especially those which focus upon women’s history, hold large collections of suffrage postcards – for example, at Harvard University’s Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics.  Such collections feature both pro-suffrage and anti-suffrage postcards, which were predominantly produced during the first two decades of the twentieth century.  Suffrage organizations and commercial publishers alike produced women’s suffrage postcards.

But the partial nature of such collections, together with the geographical dispersion of the archives themselves, means scholars can only ever gain a fragmentary perspective.  Though archives such as these are partially digitized, they are often largely inaccessible to the public.  Aware of such limitations, Florey published his seminal work, American Woman Suffrage Postcards: A Study and Catalog (2015).  Bringing together digitally as many women’s suffrage postcards as possible, The Suffrage Postcard Project goes a step further.

The Suffrage Postcard Project is therefore an attempt to bring together as many women’s suffrage postcards as possible, and thus create a replica archive.  It features postcards from the personal collections of Catherine H. Palczewski, Joan Iverson, Ann Lewis, and Kenneth Florey, as well as postcards from various special collections in the United States.  This replica archive centers upon women’s suffrage postcards in a way that fragmented collections cannot and is also easily accessible to the public.

 

2

 Image courtesy of the Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA.

The postcards are now available as an ever-expanding digital corpus.  The field of digital humanities has presented other pertinent questions for conceptualizing such a digital corpus, specifically in relation to the nature and meaning of “the archive.”  Historians, literary and feminist scholars, and library and archive professionals have very different understandings of what constitutes an archive.  “In a digital environment,” Kenneth M. Price concludes, “archive has gradually come to mean a purposeful collection of surrogates.”[4]  Kate Theimer further argues that it is important for digital humanists to understand the differing ways in which archivists understand what constitutes “archive” and how collections are created.[5]  Haskins’s concept of the replica archive might help reconcile these disciplinary, methodological, and conceptual differences, as it forces practitioners’ cognizance of the created and curated nature of the digital archive.

This format enables scholars to apply new research methods.  Tagging the themes which appear in women’s suffrage postcards necessitates finding language to describe visual themes.  Jacqueline Wernimont and Julia Flanders discuss the process whereby they encode literary texts for the Women Writers Project.  This process, they argue, entails “many of the same difficulties encountered when reading it.”  Indeed, issues relating to “categorisation, explication, and description [are] central to digital text markup, forcing the digital scholar to grapple consciously with formal issues that might otherwise remain latent.”[6]

So how do we identify the visual themes in the postcards?  The process is called “tagging,” wherein specific words are used to identify repetitive themes.  Our preliminary response was to consider how to apply thematic tags such as “public” versus “private,” “domestic space,” “wife” or “woman” versus “mother,” “husband” or “man” versus “father,” and the subtle but nonetheless significant semantic differences associated with each individual choice.  Even the application of seemingly clear-cut concepts such as “pro-suffrage” and “anti-suffrage” could sometimes be nebulous.  As my co-founder Kristin Allukian and I worked together and alongside our research assistants, our discussions led us to expand upon how we initially conceptualized our approach to tagging the visual themes.

Such digital methods, then, enable scholars to ask unprecedented research questions about the early-twentieth-century women’s suffrage movement and its many detractors.  This also provokes new questions, as well as the reconsideration of old assumptions.

For example, observable trends become incontrovertible when analyzed using digital methods.  A scholar might discern that upper-middle-class adult white women are the primary subjects of suffrage cartoons.  However, when this impression is considered across hundreds of postcards, other trends emerge: children and animals are ubiquitous; men often appear as the subject of debate; white working-class people are depicted somewhat regularly; racial stereotypes about Irish and Chinese immigrants are evident, although rare; and African Americans are conspicuous due to their absence.  Scholars were not formerly unaware of such trends, but a digital humanities approach provides stronger evidence for such thematic claims.

 

3

 Image courtesy of the Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA.

Such research will contribute to the fields of women’s history and feminist visual culture, but also has significance for the interpretation of images in intellectual history.  My fellows and I are using digital humanities methods to gain new insights into questions of print pigmentation, gender, race, class, and parenthood as represented in women’s suffrage postcards.

The Suffrage Postcard Project also presents undergraduates with opportunities for intellectual development.  Since 2015, undergraduate and masters research assistants from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of South Florida have supported the digitization of the postcards.  In addition to acquiring valuable digital humanities and public history skills, these students have based research projects around the women’s suffrage postcards.

At the University of South Florida’s 2017 Undergraduate Research and Arts Colloquium, the 2016-2017 research assistants undertook an interview with The Intersection podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/ashely-tisdale/thats-how-we-dh

The Suffrage Postcard Project is always looking out for new additions to our digital corpus, contributions which can enrich our replica archive.  Should any interested reader have women’s suffrage postcards from a personal or institutional collection they might like to share, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our twitter handle is @Suff_Postcards .

Ana Stevenson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State, South Africa.  Her research centers upon the development of feminist in transnational social movements in the United States, Australia, and South Africa.  Follow her on Twitter @DrAnaStevenson.

[1] Kenneth Florey, American Woman Suffrage Postcards: A Study and Catalog (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2015).

[2] Kenneth Florey, Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2013).

[3] Catherine H. Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 91, no. 4 (2005): 365; Florey, American Woman Suffrage Postcards, 4.

[4] Kenneth M. Price, “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3, no. 3 (2009).

[5] Kate Theimer, “Archives in Context and as Context,” Journal of Digital Humanities 1, no. 2 (2012).

[6] Jacqueline Wernimont and Julia Flanders, “Feminism in the Age of Digital Archives: The Women Writers Project,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 29, no. 2 (2010): 432 and 427-428.

What We’re Reading: Week of October 2nd

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

Bruce Gordon (ed.), “The Protestant Reformation: A Forum” (Marginalia)

Sarah Ifft Decker, “The Trial of the Talmud” (Marginalia)

Carl Abbott, “Master of Disaster, Ignatius Donnelly” (Public Domain Review)

Jackie Kay, “Feminist, lesbian, warrior, poet: Rediscovering the work of Audre Lorde” (New Statesman)

Imogen Woodberry, “After Strange Gods” (LARB)

 

Derek

Frederick McKindra, “Becoming Integrated” (Oxford American)

Anne Applebaum, “A New European Narrative?” (NYRB)

William Sturkey, “Race, Racism, and Southern Myths” (Black Perspectives)

Interview with Michael Wintroub on his The Voyage of Thought: Navigating Knowledge across the Sixteenth-Century World (New Books Network)

 

Eric

Sam Moyn, “Barbarian Virtues” (The Nation).

Helen Rosner, “Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks” (Eater).

Charlotte Shane, “Hard Stuff” (TLS)

Donna Zuckerberg, “Learn Some F*cking History” (Eidolon).

 

Sarah:

Matthew Clarke, “‘I Am Your Loving Boy-Wife: A Short History of Queer Letter Writing,” (overland)

Ta-nehisi Coates, “Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular,” (Atlantic Monthly)

Rivka Galchen, “Pickering Called,” (LRB)

Jordan Michael-Smith, “The Education of Ta-Nehisi Coates,” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

Cynthia

Selin Thomas, “Kara Walker’s Nightmares are Our Own” (The Paris Review)

Aruna D’Souza, “Kara Walker” (4Columns)

Glenn Ligon, “Kind of Blue And Black” (NYRB)

Carly Lovejoy, “How Do We See War?” (Aperture)

 

What We’re Reading: Week of 25th September

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.

 

Cynthia

Moths have been on my mind, mostly thanks to Emmett Gowin, whose survey of Central and South American moths, Mariposas Nocturnas, was just released. Gowin began photographing moths in the early 2000s, tagging along with scientists on their travels to field sites in Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and other places. At each site, Gowin would set up lamps to attract moths, and then photograph them. Gowin’s work reminds me of Gene Stratton-Porter’s Moths of the Limberlost (1912). In the early 20th century, Indiana’s Limberlost swamp was threatened, as Stratton-Porter put it, “by commerce,” and like Gowin, she hoped that her work would help cultivate a sense of wonder and appreciation for these threatened places and their beautiful creatures. Stratton-Porter describes the use of “vapour lamps” for moth collection in her novel, A Girl of the Limberlost.

When I think of moths, my mind eventually turns to Nabokov, whose interest in lepidopterology was legendary. The subject of Nabokov the lepidopterologist has generated its own body of literature. In terms of range and thoroughness, Dieter E. Zimmer’s Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths matches its subject. Nabokov was also an accomplished illustrator of butterflies and moths — Elif Batuman discusses this facet his practice in this brief New Yorker essay.

And finally, a purely aesthetic consideration of moths: Stan Brahkage’s Mothlight (1963, but mute the sound, because the soundtrack on this version is not original). “Mothlight” was a camera-less film, made by pressing moth wings and bits of plant matter between sheets of Mylar. Brakhage describes the making of his short film (~3 min in length) in a letter to his friend Robert Kelly:  “Metaphors on Vision” (Bomb Magazine)

Very briefly: María del Pilar Blanco, “This Bankrupt Island” (LRB Blog)]

 

Eric

Matt Bell, “My Grading Scale…Composed Entirely of Samuel Beckett Quotes” (McSweeney’s).

Dany Laferrière interviewed by Adam Leith Gollner “The Art of Fiction” (Paris Review).

Emmanuel Laurentin, “Histoire de l’Europe” four part podcast (La Fabrique de l’Histoire – France Culture).

Mark Mazower, “The rise and fall of moral globalisation” (FT).

Lu Xun, “What is Revolutionary Literature?” (LitHub).

 

Disha

Walter Johnson, “No Rights Which the White Man Is Bound to Respect” (The Boston Review)

Mark Mazower, “The rise and fall of moral globalisation” (The Financial Times)

Wen Stephenson, “Learning to Live in the Dark: Reading Arendt in the Time of Climate Change” (LARB)

 

Spencer

Hayden Pelliccia, “The Art of Wrath” (NYRB)

Kevin Power, “Thomas M. Ditsch Versus the Catholic Church” (LARB)

Sam Weller and Ray Bradbury, “The Intuitive Thing” (LARB)

Laura Freeman, “How to Dress like Beckett” (TLS)

 

Sarah:

Emily Clark, “Rethinking Religion and Race in the Great Migration,” (Black Perspectives)

Jelani Cobb, “From Louis Armstrong to the N.F.L.: Ungrateful as the New Uppity,” (New Yorker)

Steve Hahn, “The Rage of White Folk,” (The Nation)

Vimal Patel, “A Revolt At the Journal Puts Peer Review Under the Microscope,” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Wen Stephenson, “Learning to Live in the Dark: Reading Arendt in the Time of Climate Change,” (LARB)

Giles Tremlett, “Short Cuts,” (LRB)

You Should Learn Descriptive Bibliography

By editor Erin Schreiner

This summer, I spent a week at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia doing something new and I loved it. I was a newcomer to a group of Lab Instructors guiding students through a weeklong intensive course, the Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography, otherwise known as Des Bib boot camp.  Through the course of the week, students spend a solid six-to-eight hours each day in lectures, curated museums of printing, typography, and paper, and in something of a trial by fire: homework and “lab” sessions. In the last two students go to battle with books, writing collational formulas and statements of signing and pagination that describe, in a language codified by Fredson Bowers, the book’s structure. In the lab periods, students sit down with an instructor to see if the descriptions they wrote actually represent the book at hand.

It’s this last bit that’s the trickiest part of learning to write coherent, accurate, and concise bibliographical descriptions, because in order to describe a book you’ve got to understand why it looks the way it does now, how and when it got to be that way, and the questions to ask and the sources to consult to figure all that stuff out. Determining book format – folio? quarto? octavo? duodecimo? 32mo or 24mo? – requires not just an understanding of what those words mean, but also a substantial knowledge of historical printing, papermaking, and binding techniques. In other words, competent bibliographical description depends upon competent bibliographical analysis, and students learn to do both in this course at Rare Book School. It’s a lot to teach, but students catch on fast and many have a lot of fun with it.

Most students in this course fall into three categories: rare book curators, library catalogers, and booksellers. Academics, typically historians of English literature, have also been a fixture in the course and in years past their numbers have grown, particularly thanks to Rare Book School’s Mellon Fellowship Program. Curators and booksellers must know how to read and write descriptions because their reputations, their livelihood, and the collections they help to build depend on it. The value of a book depends upon whether or not it is complete, and the place it holds within that text’s publication history. The edition, issue, or state of a specific copy of a text impacts its monetary and scholarly value, and parties on both ends of the transaction must carefully examine the book at hand in order to know precisely what is on offer. Catalogers, too, must learn to read and write descriptions so that they can accurately represent the book in their institution’s collection to the reading public consulting its catalog.

51ru7s8cail-_sx334_bo1204203200_For curators, catalogers, and booksellers, the need to read and write detailed, Bowers-style bibliographical descriptions brings them to Charlottesville for the week. And this, in part, explains why fewer academics (even academics who work in bibliographically oriented areas of study like the history of books and reading) typically take the course: reading and writing Bowers-style formulas is not an essential skill for their scholarship. But after a week of living and breathing the Rare Book School curriculum – which relies heavily on Bowers’ Principles of Bibliographical Description and Philip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography – I want to urge academics to consider how learning the basics of descriptive bibliography can benefit your work as scholars and teachers.

At Rare Book School, students learn to write collations for what’s known as the ideal copy of the text, which Bowers defines as “a book which is complete in all its leaves as it ultimately left the printer’s shop in perfect condition and in the complete state that he considered to represent the final and most perfect state of it.” (Principles, 13) Perhaps the stickiest wicket in all of bibliography, ideal copy addresses what G. Thomas Tanselle describes as “a central truth that affects everything a bibliographer does… the fact that books are not meant to be unique items and are normally printed in runs of what purport [my emphasis] to be duplicates.”

schedule2014

Studying a forme of type on the bed of a Vandercook Press at Rare Book School.

But bookmakers and book buyers have many marvellous ways of interfering with the consistent reproduction and distribution of a text. In the print shop proofreaders stop the press to correct errors they’ve discovered during production, pieces of type break or fall out of place, and pressworkers lose focus and sheets are mislaid on the press. In the bindery, gatherings might be bound out of order, sheets from one book can be bound into another, or all together left out by accident. Readers, of course, do all kinds of things to their books – they tear leaves out and add leaves in, bind one book with a text to which it is completely unrelated as far as publication is concerned, and leave inked notes about the text or anything else in the margins and on blank pages. Analytical bibliography is the practice of discovering and diagnosing these kinds of issues; descriptive bibliography is the practice of synthesizing analytical observations and recording them accurately from copy to copy and across an edition.

 

When thinking like a descriptive bibliographer, one must consider such changes with respect to their impact on ideal copy, and with every book in hand one asks, “what do other copies look like and how many can I get my hands on?” This develops an essential scholarly habit of mind, specifically one in which the concept of ideal copy as it relates to a specific edition drives the very close examination and analysis of that text in multiple copies. By comparing a book in multiple copies and making sense of what one finds, the scholar bibliographer establishes a well researched and materially based context for their research. Understood in these terms, intellectual historians and historians of books and reading in particular can turn to analytical and descriptive bibliography to uncover the material context that defines a historical reader’s experience of a text on the micro- and macro- levels. This is particularly true when one’s use of descriptive bibliography incorporates the theoretical and practical approaches of scholars like Don McKenzie. His “Printers of the Mind” and Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts cleared a new path for the discipline by articulating some of the pitfalls of the method when used exclusively, without the kinds of archival and secondary sources that book historians rely upon to establish historical context for their reading of a text. A printer’s relationship with an author or bookseller, for example, might impact the printed text, and that relationship might be revealed in the author’s letters or booksellers ledgers. A careful analysis of bibliographical clues will aim to uncover such details, and an accurate bibliographical description will record those facts alongside a description of the printed traces of those contextual details with precision.

Close readers will have noticed that I’ve often used the word accurate in reference to description. An accurate description might seem like obvious necessity for the scholar bibliographer, but it is not often easily achieved. As a teacher of descriptive bibliography, I aim to provide students with the tools they need to make well reasoned decisions about what they know they can say about a book at hand, and how to communicate conjecture. At the copy specific level, this type of description is a useful tool for scholars as they study a text in multiple copies because it is helpful to have a tool handy for consistent notetaking about the books you see in far-flung libraries. But more broadly, it’s also a useful tool for teaching students how to build a strong argument (or recognize a weak one) using material and textual evidence, which in part depends upon one’s ability to recognize what one does not or cannot know.

When I talk to my students about writing collational formulas, I tell them that they are writing a condensed argument about the way this book is, and they can explain how that happened in longer form areas of their descriptions. In our lab sessions, we bounce from book to collation and back to book to see how the two match-up, studying the evidence and understanding what it can lead us to conclude – or not – about that object. And while we look to Bowers for guidance on how to write all this stuff out clearly and concisely, learning descriptive bibliography is not an exercise in slavish adherence to the rules of a system of notation devised by a scholar of Elizabethan drama, nor is it an applicable only to books of the handpress period. Learning descriptive bibliography is about learning to look at as many instantiations of a text as possible, and knowing how to identify, synthesize, and interpret the material evidence presented in each copy.

Those of you who have followed my writing for JHI Blog will know that I’m not particularly interested in handpress era books. I started collecting Whole Earth Catalogs some years ago because I found The Last Updated Whole Earth Catalog in a bookshop and read the “How to Make a Whole Earth Catalog” section as a guide to the bibliographical analysis of 20th century counter-culture books. I applied what I learned there to all kinds of twentieth-century printed matter I encounter in my personal and professional life. Without a background in descriptive bibliography, I wouldn’t have read it that way, or started seeing so much in a set of books that I was naturally curious about. Studying bibliography taught me to see more and more clearly, and I’m not the only one. There might be a whole new set of questions under your nose, just waiting for your to learn how to see them. As we tell our students in Des Bib, start reading Gaskell and see what you’ve been missing.

What We’re Reading: Week of 18th September

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.

Eric

Emile Chabal, “Les anglo-saxons” (Aeon).

Colin Dayan, “That Old Feeling” (Avidly)

Jared Sexton, interview by Daniel Colucciello Barber, “On Black Negativity” (Society + Space)

David Sessions, “The Radical Hopes of the Russian Revolution” (New Republic)

 

Basma

Vijay Prashad, “Third World Quarterly row: Why some western intellectuals are trying to debrutalise colonialism” (Scroll.in)

 

Derek

Brigit Katz, “Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries” (Smithsonian)

Nathan J. Robinson, “A Quick Reminder of Why Colonialism Was Bad” (Current Affairs)

Emma Green, “When Mormons Aspired to be a ‘White and Delightsome’ People” (The Atlantic)

 

Erin

A couple of podcasts: “‘Free Speech Week’ Puts Berkeley Back in the Cross-Hairs” (On the Media)

Cynthia

Because Game of Thrones is over, for the time being, and you need to get your medieval fix some other way, or because you read all about plant-based healthcare in the last issue of Goop and you’re keen to try your own remedies, or because you just need to know how to use badgers (yes, badgers) to make medicine:

Alison Hudson, “An Illustrated Old English Herbal” (British Library Medieval Manuscripts Blog)

Claire Voon, “Peruse 1,000-Year-Old Medical Remedies” (Hyperallergic)

And then follow this link to see the herbal itself: Cotton MS Vitellius C III

Now that you’ve looked at the oldest (and only) surviving illustrated Old English herbal (according to Alison Hudson, a curator at the BL), maybe you’d like to look at a bestselling cookbook from the nineteenth century. Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery was first published in 1845 and remained in print through 1914. It is, in many ways, a descendent of the BL’s Old English herbal.

Barry Estabrook, “The Other Side of the Valley” (Gastronomica)

Erica Goode, “In Mexico, Weavers Embrace Natural Alternatives to Toxic Dyes” (NY Times)

 

Sarah

Duncan Bell, “On Uses of Intellectual History: Past and Present in the critique of liberalism,” (The Disorder of Things)

Pankaj Mishra, “What Is Great About Ourselves,” (LRB)

James Padilioni, “Bringing Archives of Life and Death into the Classroom,” (Black Perspectives)

And on the Third World Quarterly debate:

Vijay Prashad, “Third World Quarterly row: Why some western intellectuals are trying to debrutalise colonialism,” (Scroll.in)

Nathan J. Robinson, “A Quick Reminder Of Why Colonialism Was Bad,” (Current Affairs)

 

Spencer

​Daniel Witkin, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes and their Mexican-Jewish Western” (Forward)​

Dimitra Fimi, “Fantasy Worlds,” (TLS)

​Will Collins, “The Secret History of Dune” (LARB)​

​Liu Xiabo, “Lou Xiaobo’s Last Text” (NYRB)​

Tom Holland, “Paleoart” (New Statesman)​