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Things I Want To Say in My Dissertation But Can’t
February 26, 2010, 6:09 pm
Filed under: Corrupting the Youth, The Past is a Foreign...Something | Tags:

Or, But Damned If I don’t put it in a presentation

“When antebellum Southerners talked about China, it was their way of thinking back and lying about England.”

That is all.


Jschneid, “Reclining Nude,” Flickr, CC License

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Enthusiasm, Not Acrimony

Or, Thoughts?

Tony Grafton’s recent review of Louis Menand’s book The Marketplace of Ideas has caused a bit of a stir among the lumpen intelligensia, or at least it has within my very small circle of it.

While I can’t count myself among Prof. Grafton’s detractors — I found his takedown of Menand’s narrow and vapid pendantry useful, and if it was a bit florid in it’s defense of humanistic knowledge, well, then I’m more than ready to excuse a bit of overwrought prose and unfortunately romantic metaphor by a historian who has done so much to put the profession’s decline (as a job) in the limelight — I do certainly feel the frustration that accompanies incredibly limited job prospects.

Wasting years of one’s life in the pursuit of something no one values has a way of leaving a bitter taste, I suppose.

The several discussions I’ve had about Prof. Grafton’s piece, both on- and off-line — notable only in the lack of good-will, candor, and valid information coming from all sides — seem to bear that bitterness out. My hope is that with this post we might begin a new conversation, something more productive than the foaming wrath that Grafton’s and Menand’s overperformed erudition seem to have elicited.

That is, I want to talk about concrete resources for figuring out how to do something else beyond these damn three-letter degrees in futility, maybe even in a line of work with less pathological tendencies.

So, three sites to start us off:

  • Alexandra Lord and Julie Taddeo appear to have abandoned Beyond Academe, but it’s still offers some good primers.
  • Mark Johnson’s Sellout is of similar vintage, but with much more (and better organized) content; focuses on what humanities PhDs in general can do beyond the seminar room.
  • Finally, Nicholas Evan Sarantakes’s In the Service of Clio, updated regularly, offers non-depressing first-person profiles of historians working outside of universities.
  • I would also link to the Chronicle’s pieces on this topic, but as we all know, that newspaper is frakking depression itself.

That’s just a start. It’s a big internet, and all suggestions are welcome.

However, further commentary on Grafton, Menand, the horribleness of grad programs and/or humanities fields in general, etc will be immediately deleted.


Tyleringram, “Cute anyone?” Flickr, CC License

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Declaring A Power Ballad
February 16, 2010, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Or, One Republic Indeed

feat. Timbaland

This stuff really never gets old. Love it. h/t

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One Out of Three Ain’t Bad (News)
February 12, 2010, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Or, Friday Fun Times

One scientist drowned and another was eaten by hyenas
Serena Golden, “‘The Warcraft Civilization,’IHE, 12 Feb 2010

An interview with sociologist William Sims Bainbridge, about his new book on, yes, WoW. Very smart stuff:

Q: You also argue that virtual worlds merit attention as an area of study in themselves – and of course The Warcraft Civilization represents a step in that very direction. Why should we study virtual worlds, and what might we hope to learn?

A: Many reasons, but here are mine. Each well-designed virtual world is based on a coherent theory of human society, history, and our options for the future. Thus, this is like an entirely new field of literature or a laboratory that develops and tests social theories with actual human beings, somewhere between philosophy and social science but also with utopian qualities. For example: Pirates of the Burning Sea is set in the Caribbean in 1720 and reflects a general view of society often called political economy. A Tale in the Desert, set in a kind of utopian ancient Egypt, illustrates principles of industrial supply chains, and fits theories of technology as ritual originally proposed by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. Star Trek Online (which opened only two days ago) is based on the cultural relativist principle “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” Tabula Rasa expressed a well-developed ideology of space exploration, and our avatars were actually taken up to the International Space Station. Of course The Matrix Online was built on European theories of false consciousness. In the 1960s I started studying utopian communes and relgious movements, because I saw them as valid if risky experiments on new directions for humanity. That’s what virtual worlds are today.

An iPad is a glorified web kiosk.
David Parry, “The iPad and Higher Education,” ProfHacker, 8 Feb 2010

Aka, Good reasons to loathe the iPad, Apple, etc. Relevant excerpts:

For me, this is the real crux of the matter with the iPad: it is designed as a beautiful, wonderful, easy to use media consumption device. But I don’t want my students to be only media consumers. To be successful engaged citizens with control over their own life path, they need to be critical consumers and creators of media, not passive consumers. This device is designed for passive consumption.

But let’s be clear: these are locked devices… educational appliances, not educational computers. …what makes them revolutionary is that they are in fact a step backwards from the way that the web has operated.

And finally, for all those new profs, old profs, and wanna-profs
Thomas H. Benton, “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind’,” CofHE, 8 Feb 2010

A humanist from the Chron of Higher Ed keeps it real. This one goes out to all my colleagues who believe what their teachers tell them:

If you are in one of the lucky categories that benefit from the Big Lie, you will probably continue to offer the attractions of that life to vulnerable students who are trained from birth to trust you, their teacher.

Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon “the life of the mind.” That’s why most graduate programs resist reducing the numbers of admitted students or providing them with skills and networks that could enable them to do anything but join the ever-growing ranks of impoverished, demoralized, and damaged graduate students and adjuncts for whom most of academe denies any responsibility.


Image cite: slayerphoto, “Venus flytrap,” Flickr, CC License

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Apparently, Not Too Large for an Insane Asylum
February 8, 2010, 7:25 pm
Filed under: Our Glorious National Heritage, Power At Play | Tags:

Or, The South May Rise Again, But Irony Is Dead, Dead, Dead

Mark Frauenfelder, “South Carolina Now Requires ‘Subversives’ to Register”, BoingBoing, 8 February 2010.

The cost is five dollars.

I do believe that the good people of South Carolina owe themselves something to the tune of $3.5 million, at least if they’re going to be honest about this.

Here’s the relevant section of the legal code.

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A Historic Moment for Me
February 6, 2010, 10:56 am
Filed under: Our Glorious National Heritage | Tags:

Appropriate for a 100th post, eh?

I got some exciting news today in my department mailbox (click pic for larger size):

But that’s not all!

I won’t keep you in suspense — I won all three!

It also came with all this:

(an Iwo Jima decal, eagle pin, “Old Glory Mix” wildflower seeds, a liberty bell coin (with ‘made in China’ plastic carrying case), Presidents of the USA / Constitution bookmark, U.S. flag decal, membership card and declaration of membership)

I’ve been a grad student for almost 5 years, and a blogger for almost one, and look at all the cool stuff I get in the mail.

Just look at it.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these postings. Many more to come.

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On Ways to Teach Writing Very, Very Well
February 6, 2010, 10:28 am
Filed under: Corrupting the Youth | Tags: ,

Or, Learning to Imitate FTW

SEK’s got a fantastic new post up at Acephalous about a particular technique he uses to teach his student’s how to imitate an academic style of writing. Or, as he puts it “a very long post about teaching non-humanities majors how to fake like they know what they’re talking about.” 

Anyone interested in writing, teaching writing, or teaching non-humanities majors would do well to read the piece.

Though he’s framed it as a retention technique — for those science majors who after 2 years of problem sets and Scantrons get to their senior year research papers with no clue how to write in an academic voice — but I think it’s worth reading for the description of his pedagogy within which this technique is embedded, too. I especially like the way he gets the students on the side of good writing and argument by showing them how to take down terrible stuff.

Go read!

Scott Eric Kaufman, “How to Bootstrap Student Diction,” Acephalous, 5 February 2010


Image cite: the trial, write,” Flickr, CC License

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Frayed Friday Fastenings
February 5, 2010, 9:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Or, Some Stuff I Found

Some links to take you through the weekend:

Kate T., “NARA calls for public comments on how it can be more ‘open’,” ArchivesNext
The U.S. government’s main record keeping body wants input on their “Open Government Plan,” a transparency initiative. Due by March 19th. Official press release.

Priyah Chhaya, “Historian 2.0: Find the Past Through Social Media,” PreservationNation
Social media habitus of an historian. Gratifying to know that others are online as much as me.

Steven Vider, “The Divided States #1: Pennsylvania Mania!The Lazy Scholar
In the spirit of the WPA guidebooks and Sufjan Stevens, the Lazy Scholar is going state by state to identify digital archives that express the character of that state. He’s up to two states so far.

Jonathan Stray,”Jürgen Habermas not on Twitter,” Information, Culture, and Belief
Self-explanatory.  Stray also has smart things to say about the internet and journalism:

I think a news organization has to do original reporting in some form to be worthy of the name. To develop authority and convince its audience to listen, it probably has to let its reporters expertise shine through. What newsrooms don’t seem to understand yet (and Google does) is that filtering is just as useful, if not more so. Running or rewriting wire copy does serve to inform the reader, but linking is far more efficient for the newsroom and far more useful to the reader. Any organization that wants readers to come to its site first can ill afford to pretend that the reader doesn’t want the rest of the web too.

Massimo Pigliucci, “Podcast Teaser: Can History Be a Science?, RationallySpeaking.org
Aaaaargh. argh argh argh. Note that it doesn’t occur to them to actually talk to an historian, instead of a Hari Seldon wannabe. That would only be, like, rational. I mean, it’s not like we’ve thought about this problem or anything. Maybe they will in the podcast itself, we’ll see. So far, I’m not impressed.

And a couple of smart ProfHacker posts:

Erin E. Templeton, Silence is Golden,” ProfHacker
Great advice on how to get students to talk in seminars (or how to deal with their silence constructively).

Billie Hara, “Reflexive Pedagogy,”ProfHacker
A smart, short piece on how to lead students to make meaning out of what they have learned, to own their educations. I especially liked the suggestions for how to improve end-of-semester evals so that they help students, too.

And to finish things off, some NPR Fanfic (no, seriously):
Nestra, “Wait Wait Don’t Eat Me,” Archive of Our Own


Image cite: Flickrohit,Rivets,” Flickr, CC License

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Large-scale Borgesian folk-art FTW
February 3, 2010, 1:33 pm
Filed under: The Past is a Foreign...Something | Tags: ,

Or, Take That, Future Archeologists!

I can think of no better use of resources than to mess with the people of the future.

From the Believer:

DISCOVER KYMAERICA: THE GRANDSON OF THE DESIGNERS OF THE MOST FAMOUS PIECE OF MODERN FURNITURE MEMORIALIZES THE SLOW DEATH OF MAIN STREET BY BUILDING AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE.

This explains menhirs and moai better than anything else, I think; though I may be the only historian who attributes major monuments to whimsy and irony. h/t


Image Cite: flow14, “Carhenge @ Sunset,” Flickr, CC License

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