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

Guest Post: Elizabeth Seton and Me: Or, How I Almost Wrote a Book about a Saint Without Mentioning God

Today’s guest post is authored by Catherine O’Donnell. Her book, Elizabeth Seton: American Saint was published this month by Cornell University Press. She is also the author of Men of Letters in the Early Republic (UNC Press, 2008) and is an associate professor of history at Arizona State University.

When I arrived at the archive in Emmitsburg, Maryland, my heart sank. My subject was Elizabeth Seton, woman of the early American republic and saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and the archives to which I’d traveled are held on the grounds of her shrine. In order to be at the archives first thing Monday, I’d arrived on a Sunday and decided to see what was happening nearby. The building adjacent to the archives is a minor basilica, so what was happening was Mass. When a guide asked whether I’d visited the Altar of Relics, I winced. I felt oddly guilty about bring my historian’s purposes and questions into this reverent world. I also knew that biographers pride themselves on not writing hagiographies, and that many academic historians pride themselves on not being biographers at all. I felt I was blaspheming both a faith and a profession. Continue reading

Of Course Death Discriminates

The following post contains a discussion of a student death and trans lives. It may be upsetting to readers, so please practice self-care in deciding when and how to read it.

Puck

I’ve wept three times in front of my students this semester, and I am not a public weeper. Continue reading

Geographies of Power on Land and Water: Space, People, and Borders

I recently spoke at an event for Early Career Researchers hosted jointly by the British Group in Early American History, the British American Nineteenth Century Historians, and the Institute of Historical Research about funding initiatives for Americanists based in the UK.[1] I was there to talk about applying for and winning a networking grant (in the UK, it’s called a “networking scheme grant,” which I LOVE because it makes me feel extra sneaky) with my co-investigator, Jessica Roney. On the assumption that some of the advice I offered there might be helpful to our readers, I wanted to rehash some of those ideas in a blog post here today.

But first, I must rant a little bit about the state of immigration in the United Kingdom—a problem not unique here, by any means, but one of relevance to non-British Americanists working in the UK. Continue reading

Survey on American History in the UK

Online_Survey_Icon.svgBGEAH (British Group of Early American Historians), BrANCH (British American Nineteenth Century Historians) and HOTCUS (Historians of the Twentieth Century United States) are pleased to invite participation in a new survey exploring the conditions of study, recruitment and employment within the field of American history as practiced in the UK. Continue reading