The 400-Year-Old Rivalry

Liz Covart is the Digital Projects Editor at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the Creator and Host of Ben Franklin’s World, an award-winning podcast about early American history.

On June 29 and 30, the oldest rivalry in American sports will play out in London Stadium as the New York Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox. The rivalry between these historic Major League Baseball teams dates to the early twentieth century, when Boston team owner Harry Frazee sold his star player Babe Ruth to the Yankees, but the rivalry between Boston and New York goes back centuries. The great baseball rivalry, in fact, is the latest manifestation of an intense regional competition that developed from the fierce commercial rivalry between England and the Netherlands during the 1650s.

Continue reading

Ben Wright: Thomas Paine and the Conflicting Ideologies of the Digital Revolution

This post is part of a joint series entitled “Digital Research, Digital Age: Blogging New Approaches to Early American Studies,” hosted at the Panorama and the Junto. This joint series stems from  stemming from a conference entitled “Revolutionary Texts in a Digital Age: Thomas Paine’s Publishing Networks, Past and Present,” organized by Nora Slonimsky at Iona College in October 2018. This series will feature one post every day this week, hosted by both the Panorama and the Junto, and Dr. Slonimsky’s introductory post is found here. You can read previous posts by Lindsay Chervinsky, Joseph Adelman, and the Johnson/Pellissier/Schmidt trio.

Writing in 1995, media critic Jon Katz christened Thomas Paine “the moral father of the internet,” musing that “nearly two centuries after his death, in a form Paine couldn’t have imagined but would have plunged into with joyous passion, the internet is, in many ways, the embodiment of everything he believed.”[i] Katz is correct in more ways than he intended. That very same year, media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron framed the animating spirit of the digital revolution as a collision of the New Left and libertarianism. “The Californian Ideology,” as they called it, offers an “optimistic vision of the future [that] has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA.”[ii] More than two centuries earlier, Thomas Paine presaged this curious ideological blending,  articulating the tensions between libertarianism and the left with the same soaring revolutionary rhetoric that suffuses the digital humanities. Continue reading

Call for Papers: Early American Music and the Construction of Race

Co-organized by Glenda Goodman (University of Pennsylvania) and Rhae Lynn Barnes (Princeton University)
Oct. 11-12, 2019 at the University of Pennsylvania

Racial ideology is baked into the cultural and music history of early America. Native peoples and colonists heard each other’s music as indicators of difference, friendliness, or danger. The regulation of song and dance was integral to the subjugation of enslaved people. And, in the United States, a vested interest in forming a nation of white citizens was underpinned by pious and genteel repertoire. This workshop seeks to provide a space for the cultivation of new areas of inquiry into the intersection of race, music, and American cultural history. While the interrelated relationship between race, modernity, and American music is of enduring interest to scholars–especially those focused on the twentieth century to today–this workshop is dedicated to tracing these long-term themes in the earlier period from colonial encounter to the Civil War.

We encourage papers from scholars at all career stages. We especially welcome those using a wide variety of sources, including archival and/or ethnographic work, material artifacts like historical instruments, sheet music, theatrical ephemera, photography, journals, and all forms of print media. Participants will be asked to pre-circulate their 20-page paper and respond to another presenter’s work in this intensive two-day workshop. Bonnie Gordon (University of Virginia) is scheduled to give a lecture for participants on Friday.

Submit a 300-word abstract of a proposed paper by April 15: EarlyAmericanMusicAndRace@Gmail.com.

Questions may be directed to organizers Glenda Goodman and Rhae Lynn Barnes: EarlyAmericanMusicAndRace@Gmail.com

Support for travel and lodging will be provided for accepted participants.

Sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; the University of Pennsylvania Department of Music; the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts; the University of Pennsylvania Office of the Vice Provost; and School of Arts and Sciences.

CFP: The Fifteenth Annual Yale University American Art Graduate Student Symposium

 

Encounters, Entanglements, and Exchanges
Fifteenth Annual Yale American Art History Graduate Student Symposium
Yale University, New Haven, 6 April 2019
Proposals due by 1 February 2019

Points of encounter can occur across time and space. In colonial Mexico, blue and white earthenware vessels made in the city of Puebla responded to East Asian hard-paste porcelain. At the same time, ceramic manufacturers in China adapted designs that catered to pan-American tastes, and both John Bartlam’s South Carolina pottery and the American China Manufactory in Philadelphia produced their own soft-paste porcelain wares on the eve of the American Revolution. More recently, Carrie Mae Weems’s The Hampton Project reexamined a nineteenth-century vocational school that served as a cultural crossroads for formerly enslaved African Americans, American Indians, and white Americans to raise pressing questions of race, imperialism, and nationalism in the twenty-first century. These points of convergence between individuals, groups, places, and objects often instigate shifts in creative production with lasting and global resonances. The interaction of disparate cultures offers a rich nexus for artistic creation. Yet such encounters are also inseparable from the shifting dynamics of power that operate along gendered, racial, economic, and political lines. What can exchanges and entanglements reveal about the nature of encounter? How do encounters shape exchanges? In what ways do exchanges propagate new encounters?

The Fifteenth Annual Yale University American Art Graduate Student Symposium invites papers that interrogate the dialectical relationship between encounter and exchange and explore the legacies of cultural intersection. We invite submissions that address art across North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean, that engage a range of critical perspectives, and that speak to a variety of time periods and artistic practices.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
• Micro-histories that address a specific instance of encounter
• Global encounters with the notion of ‘Americanness’
• Collaborations that problematize narratives of ‘influence’ across social, cultural, or political hierarchies
• Impact of religious proselytization and conversion in the arts
• Gift exchange, diplomacy, and trade
• Appropriation, fetishism, hybridity, and mimicry
• Contact zones, borderlands, intersectionality, and peripheries
• Power dynamics within systems of colonialism, racism, homophobia, or sexism
• Immigration, migrants, and refugees
• Authorship and ownership
• Tourism and travel narratives
• Activism, coalition building, and the arts
• Networks created via technology, globalization, and media

Interested participants are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 350 words along with a CV to americanist.symposium@gmail.com by 1 February 2019. Accepted participants will be notified in mid-February. Accommodations will be provided for all graduate student speakers in New Haven, Connecticut.

Guest Post: Julia de Recour, the Digital Archive, and the Histories of Atlantic Children of Color

Baltimore

Vue du Port de Baltimore, ca. 1834 by Louis Garneray (photo courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library)

Today’s Guest Post comes from Nathan H. Dize, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in Haitian literature and history. His dissertation, currently entitled “Mortuary Poetics: Power and the Performance of Mourning in the Haitian Literary Imaginary,” explores how Haitian writers and artists revivify the dead through creative acts of mourning to challenge official memories and mythologies of the Haitian past. He is a content curator, translator, and editor of A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789.  He is also the co-editor of the H-Haiti series “Haiti in Translation,” which interviews translators of Haitian writing. Nathan has published articles, reviews, and translations in journals such as sx archipelagos, the Journal of Haitian StudiesFrancosphèresSX SalonContemporary French Civilization, and the Haitian History Journal of which he is also an advisory board member. Follow him on Twitter @NathanHDize.

In September 1782, Julia de Recour boarded the St. Patrick in Cap Français with her mother, a woman of about 40, to join some relations in Baltimore. When she arrived, Charles Biddle writes that she had the “good fortune” of attracting the French First Consul, Charles François Adrien Le Paulmier le Chevalier d’Annemours, who immediately took her as his wife.[1] Biddle describes Julia as a lively French lady and a “spritely brown girl of 16.”[2] Biddle’s account of Julia’s travel on the St. Patrick is shrouded in innuendo, particularly when Julia took to the ship’s deck in the cold to dance and “perform some other monkey tricks.”[3] Without providing more information Biddle writes in his autobiography that we do not know when or where Julia died, but that it is reasonable to believe that she was not living in 1792. As Saidiya Hartman once wrote of the enslaved girl immortalized in William Wilberforce’s speech before the House of Commons in April of 1792, “a few musty lines […] are the entire story of a girl’s life.”[4]

Continue reading

Review of What the Constitution Means to Me

Today’s guest review is by Hannah Farber, an assistant professor at Columbia University. Her scholarship has appeared in the New England Quarterly, Early American Studies and the Journal of the Early Republic; she is at work on a monograph on marine insurance, tentatively titled Underwriters of the United States.

What the Constitution Means to Me, a play currently running at the New York Theater Workshop offers a hopeful, accessible, and sophisticated vision of a renewal of American Constitutional life.

Continue reading

Review: Sari Altschuler, The Medical Imagination

Sari Altschuler, The Medical Imagination: Literature and Health in the Early United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

Today Laurel Daen reviews Sari Altschuler’s The Medical Imagination. Laurel Daen is the 2018-2020 NEH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Her current book project is about disability, authority, and the formation of the American nation state. Laurel received her PhD from William & Mary in 2016 and was an NEH Long-term Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society from 2017-2018.

In the early American republic, physicians wrote poetry to try out their medical theories, writers formulated concepts that made their way into medical texts, and everyday people viewed the disciplines of medicine and literature as fundamentally intertwined. Medicine and literature were mutually constitutive and reinforcing, Sari Altschuler explains in The Medical Imagination, and their relationship was seen as crucial to the production of medical knowledge. For example, medical educators urged their students to read and write fiction with the insistence that these practices would cultivate their “microscopic eye” or ability to detect and decipher disease (4). In addition, many doctors, writers, and doctor-writers used literary forms to conduct medical research, especially about topics that were difficult to test empirically. How, for instance, was one to evaluate the workings of sympathy, the universal force commonly understood to link body part to body part in a functioning human body and person to person in a functioning society? It was through literature that early national physicians and writers engaged with these types of questions, cultivating their skills in “imaginative experimentation”—or use of the imagination to craft and assess models of health (8). Continue reading