So You Want to Write a Job Letter

“How do you like them apples?” is probably not a good closing line for your letter.

With summer winding down and the fall semester upon us (or nearly so), that means it’s also time for those headed onto the job market to make sure their materials are in order as the first application deadlines approach. There’s lots of advice out there about how to do that (enough that I can’t begin to link to the many essays). But as I advanced from years on the job market into a position myself—including work on a department search—I’ve thought about what advice I would offer based on my perspective of the process. Rather than offer a bullet-point list of do’s and don’ts (though you can see those at the end), I’d like to provide some perspective on the audiences of the job letter. It’s a weird genre of writing, so it bears consideration as you put together your materials.

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What’s Livetweeting For, Anyway?

No longer live tweetingLast week, an anonymous Ph.D. student published a Guardian op-ed under the headline “I’m a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer.” Among other complaints, the author (a laboratory scientist) condemned the practice of livetweeting academic conferences. Livetweeters care less about disseminating new knowledge, Anonymous wrote, than about making self-promotional displays: Look at me taking part in this event.

I hate to admit it, but the author may have a point. When I shared the article, one of my friends, an anthropologist, observed that she finds livetweeting “baffling” because she would rather listen—and be listened to—than be distracted during a conference talk. Katrina Gulliver, an influential advocate of Twitter use by historians, told me (via, yes, Twitter) that she no longer approves of conference livetweeting either. “Staring at screens is uncollegial,” she argued; it interferes with face-to-face discussions, and the value of the information passed along is dubious too, because “tweets present (or misrepresent) work in [a] disconnected, out of context way.” Bradley Proctor told me he has had one of his talks misrepresented by a livetweeter—a particularly sensitive issue for someone who researches Reconstruction-era racial violence.

Surely these are important concerns. It seems to me that conference livetweeters—yours truly included—need to get better at articulating explicit objectives and boundaries if we’re going to take these risks. So what do people say about the way they use Twitter at conferences?

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What Do Early Americanists Offer the Liberal Arts?—Part II

Yale College, 1807Last week, in the first part of this post, I argued that we tend to justify the liberal arts in two potentially contradictory ways. First, we assert that the liberal arts offer tools for citizenship. Second, we claim they point our way to human values that transcend any community. I argued that both of these justifications or approaches are necessary. I also suggested that early Americanists have not found it easy to explain what we contribute to the second approach.

Today, therefore, I am taking up the question I posed last week. Does early American scholarship offer anything distinctive to the liberal arts as a way of understanding humanity at large? Continue reading

What Do Early Americanists Offer the Liberal Arts?

Course of Study, Amherst College, 1824

Perhaps because the traditional academic year has ended, and probably in part because of the tides and undertows of the current election, we seem to be awash just now in excellent essays about the purposes and state of the humanities.

To do my part to put a stop to that, I am here to ask what the liberal arts have to do with early American studies.

I suspect we tend to take the relationship too much for granted.

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Regional Remembering and Joseph Warren—America’s First President?

84d0ce12a90e35ce54a3240f904a426a-micdrop09Since moving to Massachusetts, in September 2015, I’ve taken great pleasure in visiting some of Boston’s historic sites. I’ve walked (part of) the Freedom Trail and visited the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the Granary Burying Ground, the Old South Church, and the Adams crypt in Quincy. A few weeks ago, I took it a step further: I went on a duck boat tour. While on the tour, the on-board historian told passengers that Joseph Warren would have been America’s first president if he was not killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. *MIC DROP* Continue reading

Non-Americans Researching Early America in North America

UNBThis week, several Juntoists have offered useful guides for archival work in Spain, France, and England. Today, we are offering something slightly different—a guide to researching in North America! After all, not all early Americanists are American, and planning transatlantic trips can be daunting. Continue reading

Guest Post: Native American History within #VastEarlyAmerica

Today’s guest post comes from Steven J. Peach, who will graduate in May 2016 with a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. (Congrats, Steven!) His research examines Creek Indian politics, diplomacy, and power in early America. This is his first guest post for The Junto.

Image 1In 2015, Gordon Wood charged the William and Mary Quarterly with no longer publishing scholarship fixed “exclusively” on the “origins” of the United States. Restricting early America’s geography to the modern limits of the U.S., he argued that articles like that on sixteenth-century Castile make the “boundaries” of early America “mushy.” Not so fast, responded Joshua Piker, the Quarterly’s editor. A few months ago, he refuted Wood by saying that the Quarterly never focused solely on U.S. origins.  (Piker’s refutation is dazzling; if you have not read it, you should!) Piker went on to say that early Americanists must abandon any “misleading coherence or … artificial simplicity” to define the field. Instead, they ought to “get lost” in the “vastness” of early America—or Karin Wulf’s #VastEarlyAmerica.[1] What spaces did early America encompass, then, and how can the field begin to sketch them? Native American history offers a path forward. Continue reading