Category Archives: The Humanities

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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January 12, 2012, 11:15 am

Teaching, Creativity and Interpretation; Or, What I Learned from D.W. Winnicott and Nell Irvin Painter

Donald Winnicott, 1896-1971

One of the many reasons I was happy not to go to the American Historical Association annual meeting is that I am starting a new job at a very different institution than the one at which I have worked for two decades.  More than I usually do, I needed the time between terms to put together courses for students I have never met and who may also be very different from those I have known. I have had help in making my transition:  new colleagues have sent me their syllabi, and they have been generous in critiquing drafts of mine, as well as answering the specific questions that help locate us as teachers. How much will the students read?  Is the syllabus understood as a contract?  Where is the writing workshop? What kinds of writing assignments work best? What type of guidance a…

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December 19, 2011, 1:05 pm

History and the Politics of Scholarly Collaboration, Part I: Or, Why Anthony Grafton Is a Rock Star

Meet Anthony Grafton, the AHA's Jonathan Swift

Have you followed American Historical Association president Anthony Grafton’s serial meditation on how graduate schools might respond to a bad academic job market? A market that has, since the the 1970s, been either stagnant or getting worse? A market with whose effects the blogosphere is obsessed?

If you haven’t, you need to catch up.  For “No More Plan B” (October 2011) and “Plan C” (November 2011), both co-written with Jim Grossman for the AHA newsletter Perspectives, go here and here. For an article about “Plan B” by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed (October 3 2011) go here; and for a response by graduate student Dan Alloso (UMass-Amherst) go here. (more…)

January 9, 2011, 3:01 pm

American Historical Association Meeting 2011: End Of Conference Notes

I’m so glad we had this time together…..

This morning I woke up to a dusting of snow.  I was in a friend’s house in Cambridge, and I toodled out for my regular breakfast at Darwin’s.  At 7:15, it was just me and the old geezers (you know who I mean:  the men whose friendships have been organized for decades around meeting each other for breakfast and the New York Times on Sunday morning.)

I passed the time prior to leaving for South Station reading an article in The New Yorker about a boomlet in the debt collection industry in Buffalo.  Debt collection may, in fact, be the city’s remaining major industry.  It reminded me that while things in higher education are not good right now, they are a whole lot better than they are, say, in construction or heavy industry.

However, this does not make the cutting of funds to the arts and humanities tolerable or right, and we must start to fight back…

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August 24, 2010, 1:17 pm

Journal-isms: What Would It Take To Reform Scholarly Publishing?

Well bust my britches, if the paper of record didn’t put we scholars on the front page this morning! Reporting on the decision of the Shakespeare Quarterly decision to experiment with posting articles on line for open review, the New York Times reports that:

a core group of experts — what [Katherine] Rowe called “our crowd sourcing” — were invited to post their signed comments on the Web site MediaCommons, a scholarly digital network. Others could add their thoughts as well, after registering with their own names. In the end 41 people made more than 350 comments, many of which elicited responses from the authors. The revised essays were then reviewed by the quarterly’s editors, who made the final decision to include them in the printed journal, due out Sept. 17.


This process of online review, the Times argues,

goes to the very nature of the scholarly enterprise. Traditional peer …

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February 22, 2009, 5:28 pm

In (Policy) Defense of the Humanities

by Jarrod Hayes

A month ago, Stanley Fish wrote in his New York Times blog about the rise of the corporate university and the dark future for the Humanities. Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the legislators in the State of Georgia object to funding faculty research ‘deemed unnecessary.’ This trend is disturbing and damaging, not only to the finest university system in the world, but also to the ability of universities to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

The Humanities and the varieties of research areas that arise out of these traditions are valuable in their own right, utilitarian concerns aside. Would we be better off today without the work of philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant or Bertrand Russell? This point is not my central concern here however. What Fish laments, and the comments of the Georgia legislators imply, is that there …

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