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.
Drew Maciag, Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 280 pages.
Review by Bradley Baranowski
Hegel in his brief remarks on America called it the “land of the future.”Fittingly, the political tradition often associated with this land is one with little regard for the past: liberalism. In his new book, Edmund Burke in America the historian Drew Maciag takes aim at liberalism’s grip on America’s historical imagination.
Daniel Matlin. On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 350 pages.
Review by Aaron Pride
The African American experience in the United States has been full of pitfalls and perilous challenges. These obstacles have been particularly daunting for African American intellectuals and scholars that have aimed to represent the race to the American public. In On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis, Daniel Matlin, professor at King’s College, examines African American intellectual life through the experiences of Romare Bearden, Kenneth Clark, and Everett Leroy Jones. He describes these men as, “down on the streets of black America and so uniquely positioned to convey to white audiences the physical, social, and emotional realities of life in black urban communities.” Intellectuals have been responsible for interpreting and articulating the meanings of American civilization to the masses and the public. Matlin asserts that this holds true for African American intellectuals and their relationship to black people. He argues that the emergence of the black public intellectual in the 1960s, “inaugurated a new phase in the history of black intellectual life, one in which long-standing notions of racial representation and responsibility were reformulated around the task of interpreting and transforming-black urban communities.” The intersection between racial obligation and intellectual proclivity proved to be a difficult balancing act for African American intellectuals.
Jill Lepore: The Secret History of Wonder Woman (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 448 pages.
By Bryn Upton
The first female superhero arrived at the beginning of US involvement in World War II and stood astride the intersection of first wave feminism, Greek mythology, popular psychology, and kink. An Amazon who left paradise to save one man, Wonder Woman instead saved America from the bonds of patriarchy in a red bustier, blue shorts, a gold tiara, metal bracelets, and knee-high red boots. She had extraordinary powers, with telling limitations: her bracelets stopped bullets, her lasso forced people to tell the truth, but if a man bound her at her bracelets, she lost her powers. For more than seventy years she has captured imaginations—appearing in 4,756 comic book issues, an eponymous television show, and a slate of novels, animated cartoons, and video games—but what do we really know about Wonder Woman? In The Secret history of Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University, contends that we cannot understand Wonder Woman without understanding the man—and women—behind her. Lepore states that the key to Wonder Woman lies in understanding the unique set of feminist influences upon her creation. “Feminism made Wonder Woman,” she writes. “And then Wonder Woman remade feminism…”*
Donna J.Drucker is a guest professor at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. She is the author of The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge (Pittsburgh, 2014) and The Machines of Sex Research: Technology and the Politics of Identity, 1945–1985 (Springer, 2014).
Nick Sacco is a public historian and Park Guide with the National Park Service at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. In May 2014, he received his Master’s degree in history from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and recently published a journal article on the Grand Army of the Republic and Civil War Memory.
Inspired by a post over at the Religion in American History blog highlighting a number of forthcoming titles in that field, I thought I would offer readers here a quick run-down of some US intellectual history-related books that are on our radar, and ask readers if they will add some more in the comments. It looks like a very promising crop of new titles, and I’m sure we’ll be discussing many of them here in the coming months. Follow me over the jump for a list: (more…)