MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14-15, 2017: Spring 2017 Previews: Book Plans



[Next week, a new semester begins; so this week, I’ve previewed five classes and other aspects of that semester, this time through the lens of teaching and working in the age of Trump. Leading up to this special weekend post on book talks and projects!]
Three projects on which I’ll be working as the spring and 2017 unfold:
1)      Finding Book Talks: So far, I’ve had the chance to give two book talks for History and Hope in American Literature: Models of Critical Patriotism, and they were just as inspiring and generative as were all the book talks I gave for my prior project, The Chinese Exclusion Act. Because of that prior project’s more specific historical and cultural focus, it was somewhat easier to identify possible sites and spaces for book talks—but if anything, I believe that the broader themes to which this new book connects (not only of history, hope, and critical patriotism, but also of exclusion and inclusion) are even more salient and worth adding to our collective conversations. I’ve got one spring talk in the works at a public library and one at a historical society, and I’m open to lots more of those kinds of spaces, as well as any and all others (bookstores, reading groups, classes and educational institutions, historic sites, you name it!). So if you have any ideas, or want to pass this on to anyone who might be interested, I’ll be very grateful!
2)      A Possible New Pivot Project: The Chinese Exclusion Act was published as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Pivot series, which features shorter books aimed at digital distribution and reading (and with a very quick turnaround from inception to publication). I loved the experience, and am excited at the possibility of publishing a book in another Pivot series—Pivotal Studies in the Global American Literary Imagination, edited by Dan O’Hara and Donald Pease. My proposed book would offer a slightly different spin on “global,” considering three case studies in American figures and texts that present transcultural alternatives to white supremacist images of American history, identity, and community: William Apess’ “Eulogy on King Philip”; Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don; and Sui Sin Far’s “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian” and Yung Wing’s My Life in China and America (both 1909). This project has come about very suddenly and remains just a possibility, but I hope to have the chance to write about these vital figures and texts and in so doing be part of a wonderful series.
3)      The Germ of an Idea: I’m still determined to write at some point Black History is American History, the project focused on Ida B. Wells, Charles Chesnutt, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Carter G. Woodson about which I’ve been thinking for a couple years. But in the aftermath of the election and much else from the last year, I’ve been thinking more and more about a project on the originating and ongoing duality of exclusionary and inclusive visions of America. To name one originating example, Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas were on the same voyages, yet articulated and acted upon diametrically opposed visions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in relation to the post-contact world. Or there’s this example, of the Japanese internment camps and the amazing American story and community that emerged from them. Or Quock Walker using the Declaration of Independence to argue successfully for his freedom from slavery, at the same moment that slavery was being written into the Constitution. In many ways, America has always been and remains a battle between these exclusionary and inclusive visions, and I’m starting to formulate a project that would explore this enduring and defining duality. I’d love your thoughts, on that idea as on any of this!
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Projects or plans you’d highlight or share?

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