This Friday, April 25, Walter Benn Michaels will be giving a talk at Southern Methodist University (3-5 p.m.). Michaels will be speaking on the subject of aesthetics and politics. The event has been organized by the Thinking With Affect Research Cluster, an interdisciplinary group of scholars in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who are interested in exploring the implications of the “affective turn” for thinking about “the social, the political, the cultural, and the scientific.”
Michaels’s talk, “Formal Feelings: An Aesthetics and a Politics of Indifference,” will address the relations between the aesthetic and the political, positing “two different views of what makes good art and two different views of what makes good politics.” I suspect that there will be a very lively Q&A following the lecture.
I plan to write about the talk for the blog on Saturday. In the meantime, if you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I encourage you to attend.
More details about the event can be found here:
Inspired by Ben’s writing about whether blogging is scholarship, I am sharing some work in progress. This is a bit unusual for me–typically I write about things not directly related to my dissertation research. But I think this writing overlaps with the interests of many of the blog’s members and readers, and I am interested, in an experimental way, in looking at whether it might be productive or useful to share this kind of work at this stage of writing–not germinal, not finished, somewhere in between. Any sort of constructive response, positive or negative, is welcome. (more…)
The following is a guest post from Mike O’Connor (the fourth of a series–see the first post here, the second here, and the third here). Mike is one of the original USIH bloggers and a founder of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History. He is the author of A Commercial Republic: America’s Enduring Debate over Democratic Capitalism, which will be published in May by the University Press of Kansas. The book’s Facebook page can be found here, and information from the publisher is available here.
In the 1886 decision Santa Clara Country v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court declared that corporations were entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protections hitherto reserved only for individual human beings. (I posted on that case some years ago.) In its decision, the court provided literally no justification for this radical new understanding. In the nineteenth century, however, Supreme Court justices also rode circuit in the federal appeals courts. Thus it was that Justice Stephen Field, a member of the court and well-known advocate of laissez faire, had written the appellate decision in the “corporate personhood” case. It is reasonable to assume that the justices intended to affirm Field’s reasoning when they issued their decision upholding the lower court’s finding. (more…)
One of the running jokes in W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman’s classic parody of English schoolbook history 1066 and All That (1930), is that each British monarch is presented as a Good King, a Bad King, or a Weak King, a judgment occasionally modified by an assessment of whether he was a Good Man or a Bad Man. For example, Sellar and Yeatman inform their readers that “[a]lthough a Good Man, James II was a Bad King and behaved in such an irritating and arbitrary way that by the end of his reign the people had all gone mad.”
Although, the particular schoolbooks that it parodies were written almost a century ago, 1066 and All That remains hilarious, in part because we’ve all experienced the reductive kind of historical judgment captured by the book’s obsession with Good Kings and Bad Kings. In the absence of monarchs, Americans tend to apply these kinds of judgments to presidents.
Even excellent historians sometimes talk about presidents in this way. I was reminded of this twice recently.
At the OAH meeting, I attended a generally terrific panel on “The Age of Carter,” which, as the title suggested, concerned evaluating the Carter presidency in the larger context of the 1970s. But for all the care and subtlety of their analyses, many participants in the panel tended to frame their assessment of the presidency in absolute terms. Stanly Godbold argued that Carter was a Good President. Scott Kaufman of Francis Marion University argued that Carter was a Bad President. And Leo Ribuffo argued that Carter was a Weak President…or rather that Carter’s performance as president made little difference given the international crises of the late 1970s.
Earlier this month, Michael Kazin and David Greenberg argued about LBJ in similarly dichotomous terms in The New Republic. In a piece entitled, “Stop the Revisionism: LBJ Was No Liberal Hero,” Kazin made the case that LBJ was a Bad President. Greenberg argued that LBJ was a Good President (“I’m OK with Calling LBJ a ‘Liberal Hero’ (and, No, I’m Not Ignoring Vietnam”). (more…)
The OAH has uploaded the video of the “Is Blogging Scholarship?” roundtable that I wrote about last week:
I find myself considering numerous potential research questions for my dissertation. Right now, I still have a little bit of time to sketch out what I want to do, but for the moment it’s clear that I’ll be dealing with race and intellectuals in the 1970s and 1980s. However, I also find myself drawn back to the American South as a place that still needs a great deal of scrutiny in recent American history. In other words, I’m intrigued by the latest iteration of the “New South” that, I would argue, we’ve lived with since at least the landmark Acts of 1964 and 1965 that brought an end to Jim Crow segregation.