It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. My semester starts at LaGuardia this week, and with it comes my personal pedagogical ritual: taking a decent, pre-existing syllabus I conjured forth (that has been already tweaked and refined); putting it aside; and completely overhauling the content, usually within a mere week before classes begin. To be clear: I am constantly reflecting/tweaking prior assignments and in-class exercises — and many of these are fairly portable and can be recycled with ease into another section of composition. But I want to teach content that I find fresh and exciting, and that I hope will engage students.… Read more
There might not be a more (terrifyingly) apt moment to talk about Dixon’s 1905 play, which provided the basis for D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation. There’s a legend surrounding a presidential endorsement of the film: after the viewing of the movie, President Wilson supposedly declared that it was “like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” And, of course, the Ku Klux Klan endorsed the person being sworn into the office of the presidency today. There has been a lot of talk about how we cannot – must not – normalize white supremacy: but the KKK has been normalized – even romanticized – in popular culture since its founding in the Reconstruction period – and Dixon’s play is certainly an instance of this.… Read more
This semester I’ll be facilitating my first learning community at LaGuardia: the cluster for first-year students is typically an interdisciplinary grouping of courses, including both composition and a research paper class (ENG 101 & 103) and two other content courses, with one shared co-taught hour (I’m responsible for the ENG classes, clearly). I proposed a learning community entitled “Reacting to the Past: Race, Violence, and US History,” with antebellum US history and public speaking courses. These classes seemed like a natural grouping for the Reacting to the Past game Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845 by Mark Higbee and James Brewer Stewart. … Read more
On December 19th I attended a panel called Teaching #BlackLivesMatter: Countering the Pedagogies of Anti-Black Racism at the Graduate Center, co-sponsored by Revolutionizing American Studies and the Advanced Research Collaborative. Several faculty members at the Graduate Center and from the area spoke (Kandice Chuh, Eric Lott, Nicole R. Fleetwood, Anthony Alessandrini) and a few GC doctoral students shared their thoughts as well (Laurel Mei Turbin, Kristina Huang, and Sean Kennedy). The GoogleDoc Collaborative Syllabus that started in anticipation of the event provides many ideas/links, including “The Ferguson Theatre Syllabus” from the American Theatre site. Attendees added to both the syllabus and the Live Notes from the session.… Read more
When I arrived at the reenactment at the Redding farm this morning, I was determined to spend more time with the living historians, who had seemed – overall – quite a bit more chatty and willing to engage with the spectators than the reenactors in the camps. This is part and parcel of the division between reenacting and living history though as I understand it: reenactors may engage with the performance for a variety of reasons, but living historians have a pedagogical interest. Yesterday, tintype photographer Rob Gibson suggested the main reason people began re-enacting was “99% fun” from what he’s gathered in his many encounters.… Read more
It was the second day of the official reenactment at the privately-owned farm, but I did not sally forth to witness another battle today. Instead I went downtown to get a sense of the local market: some of the museums, the businesses, the institutions and individuals that profit from and cater to the visitors to Gettysburg. While I did get a sampling of the wares, I also finally found a way into the big issue that had been looming – largely unspoken – over the past couple of days. Slavery, finally, was front and center in the narratives and places that I encountered today.… Read more
During my research, I stumbled across an 1894 article from the Atlanta Constitution that crystallizes many of the tensions in US Civil War memories at the end of the nineteenth century – and how these memories participated in the construction of race. While it turns out I will not be incorporating this archival bit into the chapter I’m drafting, it did seem a shame to relegate it to an untapped digital dissertation-research cloud somewhere.
To begin, one must understand the power of plantation nostalgia, running rampant through the increasingly industrialized landscape of the late nineteenth-century US. Northern cultural products produced by and for predominantly white audiences bemoaned and romanticized the supposed loss of the Southern planter elite of the antebellum system and slavery alike towards the century’s close.… Read more