August 27 was the 51st anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest intellectuals the United States has ever produced. Reflecting on the life, death, and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois allows us a chance to consider the enormous corpus of scholarship he left behind. However, more than that I’d like to consider a question of immense importance to historians and other scholars of American intellectual history: just what else is there to say about W.E.B. Du Bois? After several generations spent writing, debating, and researching Du Bois’ life and career, what stone or stones are left unturned in regards to scholarship on the man?
In the chapter I’m working on now, I’m situating the history of Stanford’s undergraduate curriculum from the 1890s to the 1980s alongside (or within) the history of American liberalism. Alas, no one has (yet) published The Big Book of American Liberalism, so there is no conveniently periodized master-narrative upon which I can draw to trace out the career(s) of liberal thought in American life throughout the 20th century. Rather, I need to put together a relay team of historians to help me carry the baton of my argument.
For my take on the history of liberalism, here’s the team I have assembled so far: (more…)
The following guest post is from Anthony Santoro. Santoro teaches at Heidelberg University and the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. His research focuses on religion, religion and politics, religion and the law, American Studies, culture and sports. His first book is Exile and Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty (Northeastern University Press 2013). He joins John Bessler and Robert Blecker in contributing to a relatively recent scholarly discussion of the death penalty in the United States.
Executions have been in the news a great deal in 2014, and much of the time, they have been so because they have been “botched,” to take the word most commonly applied to executions that do not go “by the book.”
“Botched” is a peculiar word for this, in a way—it seems more apt to a Three Stooges scheme than a literal matter of life and death. In another way, it’s perfectly appropriate—this ‘soft’ register fits in with the way the American death penalty is designed to hide its violence as best it can.
This week’s reading comprised Chapters Six and Seven, which in fact (this was not premeditated on my part) have a certain unity, swirling around Harald Petersen, the husband of Kay and, as we’ve found out, the lover of Norine, a Vassar graduate who was not a member of “the group,” but a sort of bitter admirer of their wealth, beauty, and self-assurance.
What is surprising, however, is that this focus on Harald allows McCarthy to move into the consciousnesses—in what is generally referred to as a close-third person point of view or free indirect discourse—of persons beyond the women of “the group.” Rather than a section from Pokey Prothero’s point of view, we have one from her family’s butler, Hatton; rather than another section from Dottie Renfrew’s point of view, we have one from her mother’s. Helena Davison has the whole of Chapter Six narrated from her viewpoint, however.
Why McCarthy would decide to leave the actual members of “the group” for their families and servants is more than a little obscure; perhaps the fuller meaning of these characters will be revealed by subsequent events, but I do have a guess. (more…)asks “Does It Help To Know History?”
I love it when these kinds of big philosophical questions are posed in highly public fora. Let’s analyze Gopnik’s answer—paragraph by paragraph (don’t worry, it’s only eight paragraphs long).
Gopnik’s opening (bolds mine): (more…)
I thought I’d just take a moment on here to re-post the reading schedule for our group read of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, and to make another proposal for anyone who’s going to the S-USIH conference in Indianapolis this October.
Since we’ll be finished with The Group by that date, if anyone would like to read another novel and get together some time during the off-hours of the conference, I thought we could have a face-to-face discussion over drinks or dinner. My suggestion, although I am certainly open to suggestions (please comment below), is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent novel Americanah. From what I’ve read about it, it should provide ample material for a lively tête-à-tête.
Now, the schedule for the remaining weeks of our group read of The Group: (more…)