Saturday, November 30, 2019
[A Recap of the month that was in AmericanStudying.]
November 4: 9 Years of AmericanStudier: Origin Points: An anniversary meta-series kicks off with the more overt and more subtle reasons why I began AmericanStudier.
November 5: 9 Years of AmericanStudier: Personal Benefits: The series continues with three of the many ways I’ve benefitted from blogging.
November 6: 9 Years of AmericanStudier: Sharing Your Voices: Three stages in my evolving and increasingly central goal of featuring other voices on the blog, as the series rolls on.
November 7: 9 Years of AmericanStudier: Other Online Gigs: Tracing a parallel online writing personal history, across my three most extended such gigs.
November 8: 9 Years of AmericanStudier: What’s Next: The series concludes with plans for the blog’s future, and a plea for your input!
November 9-10: Must-Read Scholarly Blogs: A special weekend post on some of the individual and group scholarly blogs that have inspired and continued to inspire my own!
November 11: Veterans’ Week: A Veteran Performance: A Veterans’ Day series kicks off with the film and performance that help us consider the full spectrum of veterans’ experiences.
November 12: Veterans’ Week: Band of Brothers: The series continues with commemoration and remembrance in the WWII miniseries.
November 13: Veterans’ Week: “The Red Convertible”: The powerful short story that helps us consider both PTSD and Native American veterans, as the series rolls on.
November 14: Veterans’ Week: African Americans in World War I: Two opposed yet interconnected ways to better remember a community of veterans.
November 15: Veterans’ Week: Veterans Against the War(s): The series concludes with a longstanding veterans’ community we hardly ever recognize, and my personal connection to it.
November 16-17: Kent Rose’s Guest Post: How I Got to Nelson Algren: My latest Guest Post, featuring the great singer/songwriter Kent Rose on his experiences with a largely forgotten novelist.
November 18: Local Color Stories: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”: On the anniversary of its publication, Twain’s story and its use of a frame narrator/structure kicks off a series on American local color fiction.
November 19: Local Color Stories: “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”: The series continues with the far more serious story that both relies upon and challenges stereotypes.
November 20: Local Color Stories: “The Revolt of Mother”: A writer and story that are anything but slight or narrow, as the series rolls on.
November 21: Local Color Stories: “Under the Lion’s Paw”: How a 130-year old short story can speak as profoundly to our own moment as it did its own.
November 22: Local Color Stories: “The Goophered Grapevine”: The series concludes with my favorite author and the dangers and possibilities of working with a hugely popular genre.
November 23-24: Teaching Local Color: A special weekend post, on how three classes of mine illustrate three distinct pedagogical roles for local color stories.
November 25-29: Sabbatical Thanks: For Thanksgiving, three of the reasons I’m so thankful for my Fall 2019 sabbatical, from a book tour to a new book to afternoons with my sons.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Topics you’d like to see covered in this space? Guest Posts you’d like to contribute? Lemme know!
Monday, November 25, 2019
[My sabbatical this Fall has been hugely beneficial and just plain awesome in a number of ways. So for this year’s installment of my annual Thanksgiving series, I wanted to highlight a few of the things for which I’ve been especially Thanks-full. Share your own Thanks in comments if you want!]
On three vital things this sabbatical has given me.
1) Book Promotion: I’ll highlight some specific takeaways from a handful of the Fall’s many awesome book talks in a series in a few weeks, so here I just wanted to note the simple and crucial fact that I would never have been able to travel to many (probably most) of these talks without the time and flexibility provided by my sabbatical. Given how important I find such talks to promoting and sharing a book, to helping it find audiences and readers as any of us who write hope that our projects will, I would say that this is both one more way in which I am very lucky to have a tenured faculty position and something that we should be advocating for for all our colleagues and peers. Publication is one scholarly and professional goal and deserves its own support of course; but promotion beyond publication is another and an equally important goal, a fact of which I’ve become more and more aware over the years and which this fortunate Fall has very much driven home.
2) Future Plans: For one of those talks in particular, for the Southgate Women’s Circle Breakfast, I shared not We the People but the first public talk on my proposed next project: Of Thee I Sing: The History of American Patriotisms. That proposal remains in progress (you’ll be among the first to know if and when it moves forward, of course!), but I’m very excited to have had the chance this Fall to start thinking about that next project, one that I hope can land with the same wonderful Rowman and Littlefield American Ways series in which We the People appeared. I think it’s fair to say that when we’re teaching a 4-4 load (or more), much of our ability to think and plan is dedicated to that present pedagogical work, and rightly so. So I’m very thankful to have had some time this Fall to think about what comes next, not only in terms of this scholarly project, but for other ongoing aspects of my work as well, including for NeMLA, the Scholars Strategy Network’s Boston Chapter, and more.
3) Vital Perspective: To be honest, though, my central focus this Fall has been on none of those professional efforts. For whatever reason—perhaps the fact that my sons are both at the same middle school now, in 8th and 7th grade; perhaps my summer move back to the town where I lived when they were babies—I spent much of the Fall thinking about the dwindling number of autumns we have together before they’re on to all that’s next. Fortunately, my sabbatical also gave me the perfect response to such thoughts: I’ve been able to get the boys from school just about every afternoon (when I’m not traveling, anyway), and to have so many of these precious afternoons with them during the weeks when they’re at their Mom’s as well as during our scheduled weeks together. I don’t want to speak for them, but I hope and believe that they’ll remember this time as they grow older—and I know I will remember and treasure it, and am beyond thankful to have had these afternoons.
November recap this weekend,
PS. What are you all thankful for? I’m also very thankful for you as readers, conversation partners, and colleagues in AmericanStudying!
Saturday, November 23, 2019
[On November 18, 1865, Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was first published in The New York Saturday Press (under its original title, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog”). So this week I’ve AmericanStudied “Frog” and four other local color short stories, leading up to this special weekend post on teaching such American texts.]
On three classes that illustrate three different pedagogical uses for local color stories.
1) The Survey: The text from this week’s series that I’ve taught most frequently is “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”—in my American Lit II survey class I complement our longer readings with interspersed, shorter supplemental works; since my initial (Spring 2006!) syllabus Harte’s story has served as the first such supplemental text in our opening (late 19th century) unit, complementing Huck Finn. In that role, Harte’s story serves as a stand-in for local color overall, helping us discuss that movement as a key part of American literature and society in that late 19th century time period. While we certainly also discuss more specific and distinct aspects of the story, it’s fair to say that the overall discussion is nonetheless framed by that literary historical question, by conversation about what Harte’s story can help us understand about the concept of “local color writing” as a genre and a movement.
2) America in the Gilded Age: I’ve had the chance to teach a class with this title (based loosely around my first book) four times, first as an English Studies Junior/Senior Seminar and then three times as our Honors Literature Seminar. The latter syllabus in particular features the Harte, Freeman, and Garland stories from this week’s series (along with other texts by Twain and Chesnutt), as well as a few other works that likewise could be classified as local color fiction. That quantity allows us to think (as the semester develops) about local color with more nuance and depth, really considering both similarities and differences across this group of contemporary authors and texts. But at the same time, the ubiquity of local color writing both in the Gilded Age and on the syllabus means that we can in each individual discussion move beyond that frame to think more specifically about the text in front of us—what local worlds it depicts to be sure, but also many other literary and historical elements and threads.
3) Special Author: I believe the only time I’ve taught “Jumping Frog” was in my Fall 2017 Special Author: Mark Twain course. My syllabus for that class moved both chronologically and generically, and for both reasons we started with a unit on Twain’s early journalistic and local color stories. Reading a story like “Jumping Frog” early in the semester made it possible to trace those journalistic and local color elements across much of the rest of Twain’s career and our syllabus, even those texts (like his more socially realistic and/or satirical later works) that might seem quite different from those early genres. But that setting also allowed for distinct readings of “Jumping Frog” than might otherwise have been the case—for example, one of our most central through-lines across the semester was humor, and so in that class we focused on how “Jumping Frog” and all of Twain’s local color stories (and perhaps the genre as a whole, or at least one key thread within it) work as humor far more than I imagine we would in a survey course.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Other local color stories, or teaching experiences, you’d highlight?