Author Archives: Claire Potter

February 8, 2014, 6:13 pm

Tackling Hunger On Campus

food stampsI was glad to see this article by Peg Tyre about Franklin and Marshall College’s efforts to recruit and retain low income students. “Poor students who are accepted into selective four-year universities often find themselves adrift,” Tyre writes, ”overwhelmed by the financial, academic and cultural challenges created by an environment shaped to serve the habits and needs of the wealthy” (The New York Times, February 5, 2014).

Full disclosure: I happen to like this little liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA, a 45-minute Amtrak ride from Philadelphia. Years ago, I was part of a visiting committee at F&M, and I returned to consult on a second project. Each time, I found it a thoughtful place. I was impressed by the care that faculty took with their students (want to work at F&M? Guess what? When I visited, faculty were expected to be at the office five days a week, like other people…

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February 2, 2014, 1:59 pm

Why Won’t Obama Talk About The Poor?

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New Yorkers are doin’ it for themselves. Cover design by Robert Best

Say what you will about The Nation, it is one of the few publications that does consistent and evidence-based investigative reporting on poverty, both in the United States and abroad. Most American institutions — in particular, the two major political parties, but also many major news outlets — cannot bear to use the words “poor” or “poverty,” much less write anything that focuses on policy rather than human interest stories about people who overcome hardship by playing football or winning a scholarship to Harvard.

It’s policy we need, not cheerleading. John Nichols’ blog post “How Sargent Shriver Helped John Kennedy Become a Liberal” (The Nation, January 20 2014) makes a particularly important point: while the President has to be willing …

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January 31, 2014, 1:00 am

Random Pieces of Writing Fun

Flying_PigsHere’s a redirect to my book blog where, to celebrate completing another draft chapter, I describe my weird writing process.

You’ve heard the expression “when pigs fly?” Well, the little porkers are fluttering around the Mountain West: Historiann joined Twitter. We expect great things of you, cowgirl, as you are hands down the wittiest woman in the Rockies.

John Fea, who is awesome in so many ways, rented a hotel room and wrote over 30,000 words in a weekend. Over at the #GraftonLine, we are all, like, dude.

It is well known within the four walls of my home that I am Ann Patchett’s biggest fan. Her recent book, This is the Story of A Happy Marriage (Harpers, 2013), a collection of nonfiction essays, is particularly good reading if you are trying to focus on, and think about, your writing. Anyone wishing to make a speech in defense of the humanities will also love Patchett’s…

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January 28, 2014, 10:31 am

There Are More Than Two Sides To Everything

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I welcome the broader observations about the current state of American Studies that Christopher Shea has made at the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Boycott Debate is Symptom of Broader Debate in American Studies,” 1/27/2014). However, I do regret the characterization of the ASA as split between, as he implies, progressive proponents of the boycott and “cultural conservatives.”

Why? In my view, this choice reinforces the views of the most vigorous participants in this conversation (including those who have become activist in their views that an academic organization has no business becoming activist) that there are only two “sides.” You can call them radical and conservative;  or perhaps you will want to characterize them as those whose faces are turned to an intellectual future and the angry traditionalists. In the dichotomies proposed, there is no middle ground, no place of in…

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January 26, 2014, 11:09 am

Weekend Link-A-Palooza: Writing in Public and Cleaning My Desk

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What if the writing were on the wall? Photo credit

School is starting most places, except at chez Radical, where we are actors in a movie sequel called “Sabbatical Part II: Producing the Manuscript.” Yep, it’s true. What LD Burnett began at the #GraftonLine, now a thriving enterprise with 142 members (10 newbies have joined in recent weeks), I would like to push to the next level with this new book blog, How Feminism Survived the Age of Reagan. It is hosted on my own web page, and I will provide links here on a regular basis. I have been toying with this idea for a while, since many writers develop a platform specifically for a work in progress. Based on the wide re-tweeting of this post, I thought: what would it look like to write a book more or less in public, and demonstrate the work that goes into producing …

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January 23, 2014, 7:08 pm

Re-thinking the Place of Writing in Our Lives

Those of you who have followed Tenured Radical since the beginning of time (or since October, 2007, whichever you want to pick) know that one of the reasons I began to blog was that I wanted to write more.  Not talk about writing more but actually do it.

It worked. Recent assertions about my low productivity as a scholar to the contrary, I would have to say that prior to 2007, I published at about the rate you might expect for a mid-career scholar at a teaching-intensive liberal arts college. Not Yale, of course, or any other RI, but I didn’t work at any of those places. Comparatively few people do, and if the people who worked at RIs had worked anywhere else, they would not write so much either. But there are things you can do to change. Since I started blogging, I…

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January 19, 2014, 1:03 pm

Department of Manuscripts and Archives: The Obama Library

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Should the location of a presidential library be a political decision or a travel decision? Photo credit.

It seems that national policy making may be more or less over until 2017 or beyond, so let’s turn to legacy: where should the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum be established?

Since it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who began the tradition, by turning over his own home to preserving his legacy, this is a relatively modern problem: most presidents don’t actually have their own libraries. George Washington just got one last fall at Mount Vernon, his former estate in Virginia. Calvin Coolidge donated his collection to the Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, beginning in 1920, making it the only public library in the United States to be charged with preserving a presidential collection.

The…

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January 10, 2014, 9:25 am

Things That Might Hinder Your Career, Part Eleventy

One of the standard questions for candidates at the end of a conference interview is: “Do you have any questions for us?” Which of the following do you think job candidates ask most rarely?

  • Will you tie me up?
  • Do you spank in your department before tenure?
  • Is that the PMLA in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
  • All of the above.

From today’s Vitae, we see that some a$$hat put an ad on Craig’s List for power exchange interview sex at the Modern Language Association meeting in Chicago this (more…)

January 9, 2014, 2:03 pm

Downton Abbey — With Job Candidates

Mr. Carson

Mr. Carson; photo credit

John Hodgman’s spoof, “Downton Abbey — With Cats,” (The New Yorker, January 13 2014), has it exactly right. The season premiere of this popular, snooze-inducing update of Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975) has finally been reduced to its essence: clothing, manners, food and estate management. There is no longer a plot, nor is there really much of a script. It is not possible, for example, to issue spoiler alerts, as nothing happened in the premiere to season 4 that aired on Sunday. Nothing. You can watch it and go to bed with nothing on your mind.

This does not mean that we learn nothing from Downton, however, even though you would become a great deal more educated about the cultural history of post-war England from Bertie and Jeeves. For example, unless you have taken Modern British…

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January 4, 2014, 7:37 pm

AHA Day 3: Remember the Women

marriedPartly because I was blogging yesterday’s panel and doing a lot of important business, I missed the morning digital history panels I had planned to attend. I then blew off the afternoon DH panel to go to Generations of Women’s History, which was pretty full. Of women. The one I was sitting next to whispered “I have counted about ten men here.” (Um -HMMM. And three of them were gay.)

As you can see from my Storified account below, I did have a few problems with the panel (see tweets below about the dominance of a heteronormative trajectory in some of the reflections.) I actually was called on, and did ask the question, about how the panel might have looked different had it included a lesbian, but it didn’t gain much traction.

That said, the panel had many high points. Darlene Clark Hine and Crystal Feimster were fantastic on the project of contemporary African-American women’s…

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