Scholarship can come at such a fast clip nowadays that it can be tough to keep up. Actually, scratch that; it is impossible to keep up with the massive amounts of articles that come out at an unrelenting rate. With the number of journals out there publishing quality work in early American history—journals that are both dedicated to our field or just sometimes carry work in our field amongst other periods—there is often an avalanche of new work that one can feel overwhelmed. Whether you receive hard copies of the many journals, use those from your institution’s library, or just get all of the content online (guilty), your reading list is always at such a ridiculous height that it is difficult to just keep track of all the recent articles, let alone read them. Such are the #firstworldproblems of the modern-day academic.
Well, that’s where the Junto comes in. Periodically, we hope to highlight recent articles that we found especially noteworthy. I’ll list a handful in the post (that are, of course, reflective of my own interests), and then we will rely on you, our dear reader, to share other recent articles you found important. Together, perhaps we can slay the beast that is the growing mound of unread articles.
Of course, the second week of February is rather early, and many journals haven’t even put out a new issue yet. But perhaps if we do this monthly, the task will be more manageable.
Cornelia H. Dayton and Lisa Levenstein, eds., “Women’s and Gender History: A Roundtable,” Journal of American History 99, no. 3 (December 2012): 793-838.
- Ok, so I’m dipping into 2012 for the first inclusion, but I’m justifying since the issue came out in December. A balance of “state of the field,” “a few revisions are needed,” and “burn the building down” pieces, these contributors look at where the field should go from here. Perhaps what stuck out to me the most was the variegation of approaches currently under way that, on the one hand, seem to limit a cohesive field but, on the other, embrace much more diversity than what could be accomplished otherwise. The roundtable deserves wide readership and discussion. (And if you want another great roundtable from December, check out the American Historical Review’s discussion of “The Historical Study of Emotions,” including insights from Nicole Eustace, author of 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism.)
Philippe R. Girard and Jean-Louis Donnadieu, “Toussaint before Louverture: New Archival Findings on the Early Life of Toussaint Louverture,” William and Mary Quarterly 70, no. 1 (January 2013): 41-78.
- Toussaint is one of the most fascinating historical figures of the 18th century, and I’m flummoxed that there hasn’t been a motion picture made of his life yet. But even with all the academic attention he has received, his early life remains much of a mystery. In this article, Girard and Donnadieu utilize newly found documents to reconstruct Toussaint’s youth, kinship, marriage, and plantation life. As the authors write, “Overall, the formative years of Toussaint’s youth underline the complexity of his relationship with the plantation system and help us better understand his political choices when he later ran Saint Domingue as a governor for life.” Even for someone who is not that familiar with the subfield, I found the article interesting and insightful.
Andrew Cayton, “The Authority of the Imagination in an Age of Wonder,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 1-27.
- In his SHEAR presidential address, Cayton argues that historians need to pay more attention to novels in our reconstruction of past mental worlds. It is in these tests, he reasons, that Americans were able to organize experience and cultivate the environment around them. More importantly, this article pushes the thesis that the early nineteenth-century world was filled with competing identities and models, and contestation was the name of the game. It also hits on the tensions behind the Jacksonian autonomous myth and the persisting importance of overlapping social networks—a tension that has dominated the American experience, which Cayton demarcates as “the interdependence of human beings.” I thought it a great merging of contextual development, literary theory, and intellectual history, an example of the interdisciplinary approach of the new cultural history.
Nancy Shoemaker, “Mr. Tashtego: Native American Whalemen in Antebellum New England,” Journal of the Early Republic 33, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 109-132.
- Because what use is a historian if not to destroy stereotypes established in classic novels? Shoemaker throws a harpoon at Herman Melville by demonstrating the vibrant culture and remarkable possibilities New England whaling provided for Native Americans in the 1830s. More than just serving as harpooners, natives used the expanding industry to achieve income and status otherwise inaccessible to men of color. This article demonstrates the porous boundaries between work merit and social hierarchies, as well as the dynamic nature of power, prestige, and privilege within the small setting of New England whaling ships.
Jerusha Westbury and Anelise Hanson Shrout, eds., “Special Issue: Forming Nations, Reforming Empires: Atlantic Polities in the Long Eighteenth Century,” Early American Studies 11, no. 1 (Winter 2013).
- Sorry, I won’t help you cheat by highlighting a single article here. This issue of EAS contains a plethora of fascinating articles on the tangled world of loyalties, allegiances, and affiliations from the early 1700s and well into the 19th century. Topics include Merchants navigating America’s growing capitalist society and their duties as church benefactors, a close analysis of belonging in Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, American Catholics’ balance of national patriotism and Roman allegiance, and Elihu Burrit’s imagined peace through an expanding Anglo-American empire in the face of the 1840s Age of Revolutions. Perhaps my favorite article was Jonathan Den Hartog’s which looks at the interweaving of religion and politics in the Atlantic world’s reaction to the French Revolution.
Marissa Carrere, “‘Let Them Sink Into Oblivation': Genealogical Form and Familial Forgetting in Susanna Rowson’s Reuben and Rachel,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 46, no. 2 (Winter 2013): 183-195.
- Familial relations has been an increasingly popular topic for historians of the long eighteenth century. In this article, Carrere looks at Rowson’s 1798 novel to examine what this book tells us about “hybrid ancestry” during America’s post-revolutionary period. Andrew Cayton would be proud.
And in an epic motion of self-centeredness, I’ll also link to my recent article, “‘I Object to the Names Deism and Infidelity': Theodore Parker and the Boundaries of Christianity in Nineteenth-Century America,” in Journal of Religion and Society (pdf here.)
So what articles in the last few months have caught your attention?