Category Archives: cultural studies

July 4, 2012, 9:58 am

I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy: A Radical Fourth of July

What a marvelous notion it was, in 1776, that one did not have to rely on God, King or a news anchor to know in one’s heart that the existing political system was wrong.  That said, for a reading of the Declaration of Independence by some of my favorite reporters and news anchors, go here. (Hat tip to MOTheR: longtime readers of this blog will recognize that I am referring to Mother of the Radical.)

The Republican Party Platform Committee might want to pause over the section read by Nina Totenberg. In enumerating the colonists’ grievances against George III, the Founders (otherwise known as the earliest Band of Bloggers) note that:

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

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July 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

We Are Everywhere – But So What? A Response to Anderson Cooper Coming Out

Photo liberated from Tina Brown

One good reason to maintain a Yahoo email account is that the opening screen is chock full of useless information that you wouldn’t acquire just by sticking your nose in a book or reading Tenured Radical. Today’s news is that Michael Jordan’s son was arrested for some kind of misbehavior at the Olympic basketball trials; and Rupert Murdoch tweeted something nasty about the Scientologists (a struggle between a behemoth conservative corporate media empire and a behemoth conservative corporate church should be fun to watch.) Last but not least (drum roll): Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor, has come out as gay.

Awesome.  I always like it when someone comes out, particularly older people like Anderson Cooper, who is 43.

I always thought Anderson Cooper seemed a little…

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June 19, 2012, 8:59 pm

It’s Summer: Let’s Tee Up Some History Shorts

Obama may have made history by being the first president to golf in cargo shorts.

Word has it that all of us will be wearing shorts on Thursday, as the temperature rises into the high 90s. So let’s start the chilling with a…

Cold War Cultural Revival. You thought that the membership of the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association and the Organization of American Historians had collectively driven a stake through the heart of American Exceptionalism. But someone from the Republican National Committee fished your old copies of Frederick Jackson Turner and Lionel Trilling out of the book donation box at the local library.

In April 2011, your favorite Radical twigged you to a Sarah Palin speech in which she explained that her appearance at the Iowa State Fair was intended, not…

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May 23, 2012, 4:38 pm

BDSM and Feminism: Notes on an Impasse

Today’s guest blogger is Margot D. Weiss, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT. She is the author of 2012 Lambda Award finalist Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke, 2011.)

Last month, Newsweek published a cover story by Katie Roiphe with the headline “The Fantasy Life of Working Women: Why Surrender is a Feminist Dream.” The story purports to account for the run-away success of domination/submission narratives, taking E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey as a case in point. James’s book – the first in a trilogy of erotic novels – is Twilight fan fiction turned New York Times bestseller with movie rights. Banned in several public libraries, it’s a tale of the “dark desires” sparked by the romance between college student Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey. The book is a…

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April 26, 2012, 2:42 pm

Histories of Kennedy Love: A Book Review

JFK and JFK, Jr. in the Oval Office (AP Photo/Look Magazine, Stanley Tretick)

Christina Haag, Come to the Edge: A Memoir (New York:  Spiegel & Grau, 2011).

Mimi Alford, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath (New York: Random House, 2012).

It will be no surprise to even the uneducated reader that the Kennedy family occupies an entire cultural market niche all by itself.  The Library of Congress lists over 400 John F. Kennedy items in its holdings. You can add to this number: books by and about Bobby, Ted and the other siblings; about the generations that preceded the three political brothers; about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her children (there are over 300 LOC items about John Jr. and 93 by and about the far more productive and well-educated…

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April 13, 2012, 4:26 pm

What Kind of Times are These?

Anonymous, Adrienne Rich (c. 1975), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-103575

Today’s guest blogger, Jennifer Finney Boylan, is professor of English at Colby College. She is the author of 13 books, including Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenthood in Three Genders, which will be published by Random House/Crown in 2013, along with the revised 10th-year anniversary edition of her memoir, She’s Not There. Boylan’s blog, There from Here is at, and she may be reached at


Last week, as prelude to an evening of poetry, my colleague Peter Harris– a writer and a professor here at Colby College–gave a short reading from Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These.” “She burned through the fog that I lived in like an acetylene torch,” he…

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March 14, 2012, 1:38 pm

Ernest Hemingway and the Promise of Popular History

Ernest Hemingway, perhaps in Key West with cotsies at feet

If there is anything better than spring break, it’s spring break in a warm place.  And if there is anything better than shaking off the gloom of our Northeastern non-winter with a little southern sunshine, it is visiting places that you have imagined through the study of literature and history.

Wait — being an adult means not being dragged around to museums, national landmark homes and other edifying places whenever you go on vacation?  Aw, c’mon.

This year’s break is in the Florida Keys, where I have never been but have always wanted to go as I am a fan of Everything Ernest Hemingway.  For those of you who have only gone to resort-y places in Florida, or whose visits are confined to relatives living in planned communities, it is a truly…

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February 18, 2012, 6:39 pm

The Sunday Book Review: Elizabeth Taylor As Feminist Icon

M.G. Lord, The Accidental Feminist:  How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness (and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice). New York:  Walker Publishing Company, 2012. 211 pp. Index. 23.00, hardbound.

It is inevitable that Elizabeth Taylor’s death, almost a year ago this March, will bring us a number of books reconsidering her legacy.  I’m glad to say that one of the first out of the gate is M.G. Lord’s The Accidental Feminist, a brief interpretive account of Taylor’s cultural and political significance. As the title promises, it gives us not new facts about Taylor — it has got to be too soon for that — but a different way to think about an actress who was celebrated for her beauty and for her numerous trips to the altar (eight husbands, if you count Richard Burton twice.)

Marrying seven different men is not a quality you associate with a feminist?  Well, think a…

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January 25, 2012, 4:52 pm

Slouching Toward Joan Didion

I know that, as a feminist, I am not supposed to like Caitlin Flanagan because she has made gender essentialism fashionable again.  But honestly?  I don’t think this makes her a bad person.  She is an intellectual who has a keen eye for the role the gender binary plays in our culture, and then — her flaw is that sometimes she stops there when she should push a little harder.    When she does go for the take down, she is ruthless in ways I appreciate and admire.

I first encountered Flanagan (before I knew I wasn’t supposed to like her) when she published “The Price of Paradise” in The New Yorker (January 3 2005).  This is a priceless piece about the horrors of resort-style family vacations designed for couples who have little children. It’s an article that (more…)

January 15, 2012, 2:29 pm

The End of Miss America: Feminism Didn’t Kill the Pageant, But Boredom Might

Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, being crowned Miss America 2012

Last week I was writing a chapter of my new book about radical feminism and decided to begin with the 1968 Miss America Protest organized and executed by New York Radical Women.  I may ditch this opening: the more I dig back into the secondary material on women’s liberation, the more I see it turning up as a hook.  However, as a result of pursuing this narrative strategy I did something last night that I haven’t done in decades.

I watched the Miss America Pageant.

I didn’t intend to watch it — in fact, it took me by surprise, since for many years the pageant was a summer event. However, the show I really wanted to watch (a complex legal drama called The Firm that seems to have several plots running at once and involves the witness…

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