Wednesday, February 20, 2013
February 20, 2013: AmericanStudiers to Watch, Part Three
[One of my ongoing resolutions is to attend more conferences—for lots of reasons, but especially to connect with my fellow scholars. This week, I’ll be briefly highlighting some impressive AmericanStudiers I’ve recently had the chance to meet and see in action, both at November’s American Studies Association conference and at January’s Modern Language Association one. Would love to hear your suggestions for other AmericanStudiers to watch, and will compile the ongoing list for the weekend post!]
On three scholars who have found unique historical approaches to the role that images of childhood and identity play in our national narratives.
The third and final ASA panel I’ll be highlighting here was organized by one of my Twitter-colleagues, Adam Golub, and featured three very complex takes on historical images and uses of childhood in American culture:
1) Allison Curseen, a graduate student in English and African and African American Studies at Duke, presented a focus literary analysis of the opening chapter of Stephen Crane’s novella The Monster (1898), and specifically its portrayal of play, parenting, and the contrast between the pastoral and progress. She convincingly linked that chapter and text to many other turn of the 20th century contexts, including images of “boyville” and the progressive moment’s emphasis on reconstructing the nation through “play.”
2) Nicholas Syrett, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado, used the prominent and controversial 1937 case of a 9 year old Tennesse “child bride” (and her 22 year old husband) to think about American narratives of childhood and adulthood, sexuality, gender, and contrasts to foreign, less “civilized” cultures through contemporary works such as Katherine Mayo’s Mother India (1927). While we can all understand the distaste with a 9 year old’s nuptials, it’s important to understand all of the contexts that inform any single controversy, and he did a great job framing many for this one.
3) Rebecca Onion, another Twitter colleague and a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Texas, read 1970s stories and pieces in the environmental children’s magazine Ranger Rick, including some by science fiction author George Zebrowski, to discuss the relationships between animality and childhood, apocalyptic environmental messaging, and the Endangered Species Act (1973), among many other compelling connections to this fun but complex pop culture text.
Each of these projects should produce rich and important AmericanStudies scholarship, and I’m excited to see where they go from here!
Next scholars tomorrow,
BenPS. Responses to these projects and scholars? Other AmericanStudiers you’d highlight?