Roundtable Conclusion: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

Today, Rachel Herrmann concludes our food roundtable. You can read Carla Cevasco’s introduction here, Zachary Bennett’s post here, Bertie Mandelblatt’s here, and Rachel Winchcombe’s here. We hope we gave you some things to think about.

This week I spent three days reading three books, and I watched these posts go out into the world while thinking about my comps. I remember my comps year as the year of graduate school when I was more stressed than I can ever recall feeling, for such a protracted period of time, in my life.[1] But I think that it was the state of food history in 2009-10, when I was reading for my comps, that contributed to this feeling of panic.

I don’t mean the state of food studies; that discipline was already healthily expanding. I mean food history. I found comprehensive exams stressful because I knew that I wanted most to speak to early Americanists and early Atlanticists (and I think the distinction was more pronounced back then), but I was not convinced that there were very many early American food histories. There were food histories on other periods and other geographies; there were food studies books on single commodities like sugar and chicken and interdisciplinary food studies collections with foundational essays on method; there was some relevant work on alcohol, and on animals; and it felt like there was no roadmap for my dissertation.[2] Continue reading

Q&A with Christopher Parsons

Today Rachel Herrmann interviews Christopher Parsons about his book, A Not-So-New World, which Carla Cevasco reviewed yesterday. Parsons is an interdisciplinary historian of science and the environment in the French Atlantic World. He has a longstanding interest in highlighting the contribution of indigenous peoples to the evolution of European and Euro-American environmental sciences. He has published articles in the William & Mary Quarterly, Environmental History, Early American Studies, and several edited collections. He tweets as @cm_parsons. 

 JUNTO: A Not-So-New World includes a discussion about fraught vocabulary, including the word sauvage and your decision to leave it untranslated. Early Americanists have been thinking for a while now about the language we use when we write about the past, but many of us are just starting to think about the French sources that inform your book. Could you say a little bit more about other word choices you made, and some of the words in translation that non-French Atlanticists might want to use with more care?

Christopher Parsons: Word choice is so important when you are working between subdisciplines such as the history of science and environmental history and across national historiographies such as, here, early Canada and early America. These are such powerful markers of investments in particular fields or the influence of particular works. I was conscious for example, of the Canadian preference for indigenous over native and the familiarity of early Americanists with terms such as the pays d’en haut.

Yet there were real intellectual reasons for leaving key terms untranslated as well. Continue reading

Call for Blog Posts: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

In February 2017, our colleagues at Nursing Clio issued a call for a series on nutrition, resulting in a variety of posts on nutrition, food, and hunger over the several months that followed. This call aims to build on that work by focusing specifically on Vast Early America. The co-editors (Carla Cevasco and Rachel Herrmann) welcome posts spanning the fifteenth thru mid-nineteenth centuries that cover a broadly defined Atlantic World. Topics might include (but are not limited to) agriculture, cookbooks, diplomacy, foodways, hunting, livestock, medicinal recipes, markets, pharmacopeias, dietetics, single-commodity foodstuffs, and warfare. Posts should be between 750 and 1,500 words; footnotes are strongly encouraged. We also recommend reading our contribution guidelines. Please send posts to both email addresses (Carla.Cevasco@rutgers.edu and HerrmannR@cardiff.ac.uk) by March 15, 2019. We will aim to respond by early April with an eye toward running this series in late April and early May.

Interview with Michael McGandy

Michael McGandy is Senior Editor and Editorial Director of the Three Hills imprint at Cornell University Press. He tweets as @michaelmcgandy.

JUNTO: Can you outline the review and production schedule for a first book?

Michael McGandy: If I am talking to a scholar who has just wrapped up his or her dissertation and is prepared to move on to developing the book, I state as a reliable truism that the bound book is four years off. And that presumes all goes well and smoothly! The work of revising the dissertation to make it into a book manuscript is indeterminate and the further work that will need to be done in response to reader reports and then the acquiring editor’s direction is also indeterminate. Those are, as I tend to say, the x-factors. What is pretty well fixed is that external review, in-house processing through Editorial and Faculty Boards, and contracting requires four months. What is also fixed is that producing the book and getting it out into the world on its publication date (the date when it goes live for sale, which is typically four weeks after the bound book is in the warehouse) is 11 months. So, even before a person considers the time needed for new research, revising existing chapters, and adding new material, 15 months are tied up with process. (Now “tied up” is an unkind phrase for key elements of making a book both excellent and saleable! But I know that that is how people scheduling out their early professional calendars tend to think.) When one considers that fact and then all the work that needs to go into developing a manuscript—even as one pays the bills and occasionally takes a break to have some non-scholarly fun—four years go very quickly and often turn out to be barely enough time.

Reflecting on that and taking the opportunity to editorialize, I do think that the well-reviewed first book as the non-negotiable standard for professional success in a tenure-track framework (on the standard six-year schedule) needs to be rethought. Four to six years do fly by, especially when we consider all the other important and engrossing things that usually come with these first years after the PhD (first jobs, new homes in new places, family, etc.). I am not going to name names or institutions, but in this context I think of the positive examples of some recent authors of mine who were tenured without first books and who were given the extra time to work on their book projects. Their research and writing were augmented because the tenure pressure was off and the projects were transformed (for the better) because the authors had six or seven years to make the book excellent. On the whole, I do not think that the schedule for tenure matches very well with the time needed for great scholarship. Filling out the CV sometimes becomes the driving concern and to the detriment of the work itself. Continue reading

Why I’m Glad I Worked on an Edited Collection

When I was a graduate student, I wrote a master’s on cannibalism during the Starving Time of 1609-10, which became my first article. That article resulted in an invitation to edit a collection on cannibalism, which I agreed to do during a time when most early career academics were being advised to prioritize books and articles over work in edited collections (and often to avoid them entirely).

My perspective today is that I’m extremely thankful to have edited this collection, but that in the field of early American history (and I know this assessment varies from subfield to subfield), articles and monographs still seem to do better work than the edited collection in building a junior scholar’s portfolio. The other caveat I’d add is that editors need to approach their collections strategically. From the perspective of an early career academic in the UK, that strategy meant tying the collection to an attempt to win funding, using the edited collection as a way to bridge my first and second book projects, and making sure the work helped me get to know scholars whose work I respected and wanted to learn more about. Here’s how I tried to do that. Continue reading

Call for Papers: Zones and Lines, Water and Land: New Conversations on Borders

Dates: 22-24 May, 2019
Location: Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom

In the early modern world, no less than today, borders were contested spaces that fostered opportunity on one hand and anxiety on the other. New technologies expanded the reach and scale of maritime enterprises and empires even as control of coastlines and blue-water spaces remained elusive. European interest in a path to the “western sea” focused North and South American colonists’ attention westward to what turned out to be the landlocked interior of massive continents governed and defended by Native peoples already there. Marshes and mountains, estuaries and arid zones, lakes, rivers, fisheries, and forests shaped the movement, experiences, and encounters of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans who lived in or entered particular spaces. Two distinct and usually separate lines of scholarship examine these spaces of border contest: inland “frontier” studies and maritime/Atlantic history. This conference invites participants to continue a conversation about the landed and aquatic frontiers of borderlands and maritime history to investigate in a broadly comparative framework how early modern actors defined, defied, and took advantage of borders, be they on land or on water. The organisers hope attendees will simultaneously consider how a variety of actors imagined, pictured, and mapped these spaces. This event provides a forum to explore topics including, but not limited to, port cities, divided, middle, and Native grounds, saltwater frontiers, migration, diaspora, epistemology, and settler colonialism. The co-organisers are historians of the Atlantic World, but welcome proposals from other geographies and fields. They are delighted that Dr Lissa Wadewitz, author of The Nature of Borders: Salmon, Boundaries, and Bandits on the Salish Sea, will deliver the keynote address. Continue reading

Q&A with Sari Altschuler, Author of The Medical Imagination

Sari Altschuler is an assistant professor of English, associate director of the Humanities Center, and founding director of the minor in Health, Humanities, and Society at Northeastern University. Her book The Medical Imagination: Literature and Health in the Early United States was recently published with the University of Pennsylvania Press (2018), and her work has appeared in leading literary journals, including American LiteratureAmerican Literary History, and PMLA, as well as the Journal of the Early Republic and the medical journal the Lancet. She serves on the advisory board of American Quarterly and the editorial board of Early American Literature and recently coedited a special of Early American Literature (2017) on early American disability studies with Cristobal Silva.

JUNTO: As you know, The Junto is always interested in the experiences of junior scholars who have turned their dissertations into first books. How did your project and theorization of imaginative experimentation change over time?

SARI ALTSCHULER: Great question! This book is very different from my dissertation—but I had to write the dissertation in order to even begin to understand what was going on. The dissertation was about the collaborations of specific doctors and writers in Philadelphia. It was, in some ways, a very narrow and defined topic, which was good for a dissertation. But, when I started to think about what The Medical Imagination might be as a book, I wanted to do something more ambitious. In the dissertation I figured out that these doctors and writers were working together—in conversation—but for the book I wanted to understand the broader intellectual practice in which they were engaging. That’s how imaginative experimentation came to be at the center of the project. It’s an idea I only really began to think about as I finished the dissertation. Continue reading