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.

Q&A with Nick Bunker, author of Young Benjamin Franklin

[Today we are happy to share a Q&A with Nick Bunker, author of the new Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity (Knopf, 2018). Tomorrow our own Sara G. will post her review of the book.]

  1. BunkerStarting with his own autobiography, there have been many treatments of Benjamin Franklin’s life. How did you approach the project when you were aware of this vast literature, and how did you attempt to carve out your own space?

Yes, library shelves are crammed with books about Franklin, but the literature is biased towards the second half of  his life, and his achievements as politician, diplomat, and man of letters. The period up to age 40 has come to be neglected, and the same is true of his scientific career. This is because – for the most part – in chronicling Franklin’s early life biographers have preferred to rely entirely on his autobiography. But written though they are with panache, Franklin’s memoirs are really a sketch or an essay, not a rounded narrative. He mentions his scientific work only in passing and he skips through his youth in an episodic, impressionistic way. So I began by working my way through the autobiography, and Franklin’s early writings, compiling lists of  questions left unanswered, references unexplained, and incidents where other sources might be available. Then I went in search of  material to fill in the gaps.  The central question I was asking was this: just why was Benjamin Franklin so ambitious, and so energetic? In the 1740s an opponent called Franklin “an uneasy spirit” – which he was! – and I wanted to find out why this was so. Continue reading

Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Juandrea Bates

juandrea-bates-photo.jpgIf you missed previous posts in our new roundtable series on the history of childhood and youth, click here. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks, stop by to read about challenges and realities of researching and teaching childhood and youth across vast early America.

Juandrea M. Bates, Assistant Professor of History and Legal Studies at Winona State University, joins us to discuss her research on Latin American social and legal history with an emphasis on youth, gender, and social movements. Dr. Bates received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas at Austin. She is particularly interested in the intersections of inequality, the law, family and childhood in modern Argentina. Both her scholarship and her classes reflect her deep fascination regarding how regular people mobilize and shape the world around them and how marginalized groups struggle to cope with and overcome adversity. Her work has been funded by the University of Texas at Austin, the Mellon Foundation, The Council for Library Information Research and The Department of Education. Right now she is hard at work revising her manuscript, Raising Argentina: Family, Childhood and Popular Participation in Civil Justice in Buenos Aires 1871-1930. Continue reading

Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Bianca Premo

Photo - 1 (4)The history of childhood and youth in vast early America is a nascent but burgeoning field of inquiry that brings together historians of politics, society, slavery, race, and gender. Over the next three weeks, The Junto will feature a roundtable series with some of the most prominent historians of childhood and youth around the Atlantic as well as emerging scholars in the field. We’ll discuss the challenges and realities of researching and teaching childhood and youth across vast early America.

Today, we are kicking off this roundtable series with an interview of Bianca Premo, a pioneer in the study of children as actors in historical processes. Professor of History at Florida International University in Miami, Dr. Premo is the author of the Enlightenment on Trial: Ordinary Litigants and Colonialism in the Spanish Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017), Children of the Father King, Youth, Adult Authority and Legal Minority in Colonial Lima (University of North Carolina Press, 2005), and co-editor of Raising an Empire: Children in Early Modern Iberia and Colonial Latin America (University of New Mexico, 2007).  She has also written various articles and chapters on children in Latin American history. In addition to a longstanding fascination with childhood and the law, she is increasingly interested in twentieth-century notions of medical subjectivity and age. Continue reading

Puerto Rico and the Regional Caribbean

For early Americanists, the past two decades have seen an increase in scholarship connecting the early modern Caribbean to colonial North America. The Caribbean adds significant depth and dimension to discussions of race, slavery, diplomacy, capitalism, gender, and imperial competition by expanding the historiographies and archival resources common to early American scholarship. Yet, when a colleague stopped by my office asking for readings on seventeenth-century Puerto Rico to assign for a class, I drew a blank. Despite the excellent scholarship on colonial Puerto Rico written in Spanish, English-language scholarship focuses primarily on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[1]

What made this worse was that last Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico. And, while the devastation and continued struggles on the island garner on-going media attention, the anniversary set me thinking about the place of the Caribbean in our scholarship and our teaching. It seems that, despite increased attention to the Caribbean within the field of vast early America, not all Caribbeans are created equal. And that unevenness demands our attention. Continue reading

Fragmented Stories: Cloth from the Colonies in a 19th-Century Dress Diary

 

KS DiaryDear Junto readers, Thank you for joining us for two weeks of all-new scholarship tracing the historical patterns of #ColonialCouture! Read the whole roundtable here.

Today’s #ColonialCouture finale post is by Kate Strasdin, senior lecturer in cultural studies at the Fashion & Textiles Institute, Falmouth University, whose research focus is on 19th- and 20th-century female dress and haute couture. Follow her @kateStrasdin.

A small industrial town in the North West of England in the middle of the 19th century might seem an unlikely place to start with a narrative concerning dress and the colonies. On September 20 1838, Anne Burton married Adam Sykes in Tyldesley, Lancashire. A small piece of their wedding day is captured on the very first page of a volume that Anne was to keep for almost forty years – a fragment of her wedding dress and the figured silk waistcoat worn by her groom carefully pasted into what was to become her dress diary. Continue reading