Roundtable: A Proud Taste for Alex & Eliza

Hilary Mantel recently gave the annual BBC Reith Lecture in which she described why she became a historical novelist. Printed in The Guardian, Mantel argued that culture and genes, history and science, put “our small lives in context.” Mantel’s work is of course separated from the theme of this roundtable by two degrees, as she is neither a writer of YA nor of Early America, but the broader question I think she was trying to answer—why we write about what we do—resonate in a conversation on #FoundingFiction. Continue reading

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An Early Americanist in Austenland

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.28.06 AMOf course I cannot speak (or type) for everyone, but in the past six years, one specific word has never been far from the forefront of my mind: copyright. While I think that copyright is an incredibly fascinating and complex historical subject —and thus why wouldn’t everyone be talking about it all the time—it is probably because intellectual property was the subject of my dissertation that I spent so much time thinking, reading, and writing about it. I’m now in an exciting, strange, and surreal moment where I’ve defended my dissertation and am conceiving of what the manuscript will look like. And in this window two other words have come up: Austen and de Staël. Continue reading

Steamboats and Teaching Tech

steamboat-imageSteamboats are ready for a comeback. A pedagogical one, that is. While in all likelihood the steamboat’s time as a common form of transportation in the United States is finished, over the past several weeks I’ve noticed subtle mentions in a seminar paper, a museum display, comments during last month’s PEAES conference, and only once, I should add, did I bring them up! This may be in part due to my increasing interest in them as a pivotal subject in the history of Anglo-American intellectual property. Yet I don’t think this is entirely an instance of frequency illusion but rather indicates that while steamboats are no longer an effective mode of movement, they are very effective as an illustrative one, particularly when trying to flesh out broader themes in the political economy of the Early Republic. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Bounties: The Christian Brothers, Mutinies, and Potential Piracies

BrandoA few years ago, I was delivering my first lecture to a hall full of well over one hundred students. Thinking I would impress them with my popular culture knowledge, I included a reference to Captain Jack Sparrow as an example of the type of piracy I did not research, and one of the many forms of piracy in which they should not participate. Crickets ensued. Thankfully, my follow-up joke about the crickets landed better, but this left me all the more surprised when a student exiting the lecture swung by the front desk and made a quick reference to Marlon Brandon being a better sailor than Johnny Depp. Embarrassed though I am to admit, it was a reference I did not understand until about a month ago. Continue reading

Guest Post: Authors, Athletes and Law’s Privilege

Today’s guest post is from Nora Slonimsky, a doctoral candidate in history at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her dissertation is on the relationship between literary property and politics in the Early Republic. She has previously blogged for the New York Public Library. For the 2013-2014 academic year Nora was co-chair of the CUNY Early American Republic Seminar.

Base-Ball, image from A Little Pretty Pocket-Book 1744)As most graduate students experience first-hand, the relationship between universities and unions can be complex. Our position as students, employees or a combination of the two varies largely by institution, particularly by whether or not our universities are public or private. However, if you’re a Division One football player with a potential NFL career in your future, the construct of a student-athlete underscores a specific question about the nature of labor in higher education. For those who participate in collegiate sports, are academic scholarships a privilege or a right, a special acknowledgement of their abilities on the field or a form of compensation for service to their institutions? Yet the tension between privileges and rights is as much about intellectual activity as it is about physical skills, dating all the way back to Andrew Law’s Privilege of 1781.

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