In its commitment to promoting research, teaching and intellectual exchange on the historical study of American thought, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History offers a book review section that identifies new and significant historical monographs in the field of U.S. intellectual history. Book reviews facilitate informed dialogue on the current state of the field and raise interest in the political, cultural and intellectual project of writing history. Historical scholarship is the foundation of our profession and teaching its heartbeat; book reviews introduce our diverse readership to the creative and original questions and methodologies of scholars dedicated to the dissemination of historical knowledge and understanding. Thus, book reviews play an integral part in the collective intellectual project that is the writing and teaching of U.S. intellectual history.
Una Cadegan. All Good Books Are Catholic Books: Print Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013) 230 pages.
Una Cadegan’s latest book is the eighth volume of the Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America series. She seeks to define the “distinctive literary vision” of Catholic authors between the end of World War I and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), a period in which modernism dominated literature (2, 6). Cadegan’s analysis revolves around the struggle for contemporary Catholic authors to reconcile their faith with the American literary establishment. These authors were caught between two seemingly immovable entities: the American literary establishment, which according to leading lights like John Dewey and Walter Lippman could not admit Catholicism per se; and institutional Catholicism (60-61). Roman Catholicism, critics claimed, inherently disavowed “a robust defense of democracy and the formation of democratic citizens and a culture of democracy,” while the Holy See conflated literary modernism with a theological trend of the same name that was roundly denounced by Church authorities.
Jo Guldi and David Armitage. The History Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 165 pages.
The full text of the book is freely available here, as an Open Access publication.
Review by Scott Richard St. Louis
“A spectre is haunting our time: the spectre of the short term.”
This proclamation stands tall as the first sentence of The History Manifesto, a new and thought-provoking title published late last year as the first open-access monograph ever offered by Cambridge University Press. Guldi and Armitage provide their readers with a vivid portrait of a world plagued both by deeply historical problems and by short-term thinking in political, corporate, and even academic circles (1-8), represented well in their statement of concern: “Who is trained to wait steadily upon these vibrations of deeper time and then translate them for others?” (5). After posing this vital question, Guldi and Armitage answer it with their thesis statement: “Our argument is that History – the discipline and its subject-matter – can be just the arbiter we need at this critical time” (7).
Natalie Ring, The Problem South: Region, Empire, and the New Liberal State, 1880-1930 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012) 288 pages.
Review by Sarah Bowman
Natalie Ring’s The Problem South adds to a rich vein of scholarship analyzing Northern views of the South.[i] Yet The Problem South does not so much exist within this tradition as it helps to expand its boundaries. Where previous work has focused on the “North-South binary” (10), Ring situates the discourse of region and nation squarely within an imperial framework. According to Ring, commentators on the region around the turn of the twentieth century saw the U.S. South as a backward region; they framed the project of reforming it as part of a global problem of uplifting colonial peoples. These imperially-informed notions of internal difference helped establish a definition of the nation itself as prosperous, progressive, and white. Thus, “patterns of domestic imperialism” (93) were essential to “the development of early twentieth-century liberalism and part of the process of nation-state formation” (3). (more…)
American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War. By Eran Shalev. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. 256 pages. $28.00 paper.
Review by Jordan T. Watkins
Eran Shalev has distinguished himself as a historian of early America’s intellectual and political culture. His most recent publication is a kind of companion piece to his work on the classical world in the early republic, Rome Reborn on Western Shores (2009). In American Zion, Shalev highlights the place of the biblical past in the American republic. His examination of sermons, religious tracts, and political pamphlets demonstrates that the Old Testament played a prominent role in American political culture between the Revolution and the Civil War. While Shalev’s first work highlighted the political usefulness of the classical past in the early republic, American Zion shows the political appeal of the Old Testament in and after the same period.
(The previous entries for the roundtable can be found using the following links: Lilian Calles Barger’s introduction here, Philip Lorenz’s critique here, Tamar Herzog’s analysis here, Ralph Bauer’s contribution is here, and Prof. Beatriz Gonzalez-Stephan’s contribution is here.)
There is no field of study known as nineteenth-century Latina/o studies. It’s anachronistic, for one. Latinas/os are a contemporary social group, everyone knows. They emerged as distinct communities in the twentieth century, primarily in the Southwest by Mexicans and the Northeast by Puerto Ricans and, since the 1960s, have increased in complexity especially with the arrival of Cubans, Dominicans, and Central Americans.
Or so the standard story goes. And yet we know that Latinas/os did not emerge out of a vacuum. We know that there were nineteenth-century Mexican communities in what is today the Southwest just as much as there were communities of expatriate Latin Americans on the East coast.
Raúl Coronado, A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture (Harvard University Press, 2013) 555 pages.
(The previous entries for the roundtable can be found using the following links: Lilian Calles Barger’s introduction here, Philip Lorenz’s critique here, Tamar Herzog’s analysis here, and finally Ralph Bauer’s contribution here.)
Review by Beatriz Gonzalez-Stephan, Rice University
At various levels, A World Not to Come constitutes an extraordinary contribution to distinct and interconnected lines of scholarly debates engaged with Latin American and trans-hemispheric history. One of those lines of research, and perhaps the most notorious, has to do with filling a void in the historiography of the Spanish empire since 1808 and the events specific to the region of Texas (which made up part of the Eastern Interior Provinces with Nuevo Santander, Coahuila, and Nuevo León), faced with the theretofore unimagined possibility of constructing a modern state with all its possible contradictions. In other words, although the bibliography covering the process and wars of independence of Hispanic-America is abundant, the mediating space between the Mexico and the U.S., Texas, has been completely obliterated. Because Texas found itself in an interstitial space, in two peripheries (that of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and the frontiers of North America), at the mercy of neglect of Mexican governments, the victim of the avarice of Anglo settlers, at the same time the hegemonic narratives have obstructed the rich heritage of Hispanic Texas. To engage with the Spanish speaking Mexican-Tejano community of the region, and describe a key period for the trajectory of U.S. Latino culture, is to add to the historiography of the Hispanic culture on the continent.