Selected 19th-Century US Anthologies of Poetry (A List)

Below is a list of 19th-C U.S. anthologies of poetry that are often said to be influential. Most pre-1860 entries were drawn from this essay:

Belasco, Susan. “Leaves of Grass and the Poetry Marketplace of Antebellum America.” Leaves of Grass: The Sesquiscentennial Essays, edited by Susan Belasco, et al., University of Nebraska Press, 2007, pp. 179–98. See pages 187- especially. That essay is available on the Whitman Archive, in this list of criticism, under Belasco… https://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/index.html (Download PDF).

The list begins with Kettell and Cheever, in 1830-1831, and continues with two selections in post-war, Griswold’s revised/enlarged (1874) and Longfellow’s Poems of Places (1879) The Hale entry is a gift book, as is the Griswold Gift Leaves, and both could as well be in my alternate list, which is of flower dictionaries. Anthologies as a collection genre were not firmly divided from collections of poetic flowers in the 19th century. Nor does this and other list exhaust the way poetry was read in the 19th-C. The list is sorted chronologically. For female-predominant lists of poets, see Hale (1839), Griswold (1842), May (1848), Read (1849), and Griswold (1849). The purpose of this list is for convenience, that you can go straight to a Hathi Trust record with an in-color facsimile reproduction. I try not to link to copies with only microfilm. And remember, you can go to Penn Online Books Page, for a better-cataloged lists with multiple editions by prolific author-editors. See, for example, the entries for Evert A. Duyckinck and Rufus W. Griswold. Also, when you’re at Hathi Trust, you can also browse “Similar Items.”

Kettell, Samuel. Specimens of American Poetry. S.G. Goodrich and Co., 1829. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100861876.

Cheever, George Barrell. The American Common-Place Book of Poetry: With Occasional Notes. Carter, Hendee and Babcock ; C. Carter, 1831. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001397818.

Bryant, William Cullen. Selections from the American Poets. Harper, 1840. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005406611.

Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell and Cairns Collection of American Women Writers. The Ladies’ Wreath: A Selection from the Female Poetic Writers of England and America: With Original Notices and Notes: Prepared Especially for Young Ladies: A Gift Book for All Seasons. Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb, 1839. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005777209.

Keese, John, et al. The Poets of America. S. Colman; [etc., etc.], 1840. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001372021.

Morris, George Pope. American Melodies: Containing a Single Selection from the Productions of Two Hundred Writers. H.F. Anners, 1840. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/012289821.

Gallagher, William D. Selections from the Poetical Literature of the West … U. P. James, 1841. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000158283.

Griswold, Rufus W. Gems from American Female Poets: With Brief Biographical Notices. H. Hooker, 1842. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008689403.

Griswold, Rufus W. The Poets and Poetry of America: With an Historical Introduction. Carey and Hart, 1842. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009730836. (Also see Griswold, 1874, below).

Cheever, George Barrell. The Poets of America, with Occasional Notes. S. Andrus and son, 1847. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011210470.

May, Caroline. The American Female Poets. Lindsay & Blakiston, 1848. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009604097.

Griswold, Rufus W. The Female Poets of America. Carey and Hart, 1849. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001026811.

Griswold, Rufus W. Gift-Leaves of American Poetry. J. C. Riker, 1849. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011205190.

Read, Thomas Buchanan. The Female Poets of America. With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of Their Writings. E. H. Butler & co., 1849. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007669699.

Duyckinck, Evert Augustus, et al. Cyclopaedia of American Literature: Embracing Personal and Critical Notices of Authors, and Selections from Their Writings. From the Earliest Period to the Present Day; with Portraits, Autographs, and Other Illustrations. Scribner, 1855. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100143219.

Duyckinck, Evert A., et al. Cyclopædia of American Literature. C. Scribner, 1856. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007471066.

Duyckinck, Evert A., and George L. Duyckinck. Cyclopædia of American Literature Supplement to the Cyclopædia of American Literature. C. Scribner, 1866. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/102109614.

Griswold, Rufus W., and Richard Henry Stoddard. The Poets and Poetry of America…Carefully Revised, Much Enlarged, and Continued to the Present Time. J. Miller, 1874. HathiTrust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100136396. (Also see Griswold, 1842, above).

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Poems of Places. Houghton, Mifflin, 1879. Hathi Trust, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100325153. See below for US-related entries.

Vol. 25: America: New England, Vol. I
Vol. 26: America: New England, Vol. II
Vol. 27: America: Middle States
Vol. 28: America: Southern States
Vol. 29: America: Western States
Vol. 30: British America

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Contacting Local Public Officials (Republican) about Whether United States has Fair Elections

I got so upset this morning (Jan 9th) that I decided to call the local sheriff, a recently elected Republican. He was not in, but I spoke to the dispatcher, whom I notified that Congress was attacked while in session, and I though it was an emergency and would like to speak to sheriff. I would like to urge everyone else, especially Democrats wherever they live, to personally contact one of their own local elected public officials, Republican, because the party is saying it doubts we had a fair election, and ask them the following questions, politely but sincerely, and insisting that you as a concerned citizen want a basic follow-up:

1) Do you (addressed to elected official) believe that you personally were legitimately elected, in a fair election?

2) Tell them that you believe that elections were fundamentally fair, that following the laws and procedures is necessary for representative governance to be legitimate, and you ask them to affirm the same, even when someone of the opposing party was elected in other districts, other states, nationally.

3) Also ask them to publicly, in some forum, affirm that they were elected in a legitimate election, a forum widely available to community which elected them (local paper, etc.). I guess social media on which they have a significant number of followers, etc., is okay. But say is important to you that they notify you that they have done the follow-up.

4) Finally, ask them, if possible, if they would include in their statement some recognition, an acknowledgment that the attack on the Capitol building, Jan. 6 is fundamentally antithetical to representative governance. They can struggle with what exactly they need to say, but you as a concerned citizen in their district, need their reassurance. And you again want to know what they say and where it is publicized.

5) I think this will work better if you don’t push them for more, that “if possible” be as firm as you can on the necessity of their doing it, for sake of increasing faith in representative democracy. Manage your anger as best you can, if you are as angry as I am, and speak to them as a reasonable human being, concerned about our society and representative governance, which you are and I am and they are.

6) No one is asking local officials to be an expert on the topic, nor to investigate irregularities, except if that is the task associated with their elected position, in their particular region or state. Given the partisan nature of this topic, I am urging you to ask them to publicly express faith in elected representative governance.

Recommendation: I urge contacting your local official via telephone or video call, instead of social media. But if social media, less impersonal forms are preferred. Don’t just write a screed on Twitter. I’ve tried that. It does not work.

Other things to Do:

Contact like I did local media, and also ask them to follow up on local matters concerned with the January 6 insurrection.

Contact your Republican Senator or Representative, like I did mine, Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

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My Letter to News 5 and Reporter Tracy Carloss

Ms. Carloss and NewsDesk,

You and your colleagues on Jan. 6, evening news, reported the story on Ohioans who headed to Washington, D.C. to protest. I watched a version of the story on the evening news. This is the link on the web site, but I do not see exactly the same segment.

Thousands of Ohioans headed to Washington D.C. to protest Biden’s election win
https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/democracy-2020/local-politics/thousands-of-ohioans-headed-to-washington-d-c-to-protest-bidens-election-win

A name that I recall, from the segment, is Tom Zawistowski, Executive Director of the Portage County Tea Party and President of the We The People Convention. In the reported story on your web site, although I do not recall his being in the segment. In the print story is the name Kirsten Hill of Free Ohio Now, and a “Hach” with Free Ohio Now.

As the persons in the story were headed to join a mob that attempted to overthrow United States Senate, House of Representatives, during the process of Electoral Vote Certification, and likely (given persons with zip ties on floor of House or Senate) to decapitate government by assassinating Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Vice President Pence, will you be following up on the story about the local persons who are aligned with this act of open rebellion against the United States?

If you have not yet fully processed what is going on at this moment, it may seem that I address you like a crank. My emotional state has been fluctuating strongly. I described some of those struggles yesterday, in a blog post, which was addressed also to you, and which draws on my scholarship in 19th century American literature culture.

To My Neighbors in North-East Ohio, Supporters of Yesterday’s Coup Attempt, and Cleveland’s News 5, which Profiled Them, Some Thoughts about 19th-Century History Colliding with the Present Election https://wraabe.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/ohio-anti-slavery-reconstruction-and-the-present-coup-attempt/

I am not alone. I am fairly certain that Sean Wilenz (by-lined as a reporter) at Rolling Stone, is very same as George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton. He was uncompromising and clear in an editorial posted to Rolling Stone, Lock Him Up: What Donald Trump did on January 6th was sedition — and he must be prosecuted for it

You can compare the author blurb and topics at Rolling Stone with that at Harvard University Press.  https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674972223&content=bios. I have more letters to write, and you obviously have the proper training to follow up whether the Rolling Stone editorial author is same as Princeton professor. I did not follow up on whether the two names are the same.

But since I’m in a hurry, and I’m asking you to be in a hurry, I want to say that it’s time to stop mincing words and being both-sidesism. I know you are a local news channel and have a lot of viewers who will object to placing the matter as strongly as I do. But you have a civic duty to follow up with the story, just as I have a duty to call you to account, for re-running the video of the story on the evening after the coup attempt, while the view remained blurry.  I am following up with my local elected officials. I am throwing my weight into this action. If you want to get a read on me, you can follow up with my contact information. I am not in the “office” now, so phone number below is not good. But email will work.

Wesley Raabe | Email: wraabe@kent.edu | Office Ph.: 330-672-1723
Associate Professor, Textual Editing and American Literature
Department of English, Kent State University, Web: kent.edu/english

LinkedIn: wesley-raabe-6b3537176 | Pronouns: he/him/his

Textual Editor, The Collected Works of Harriet Beecher Stowe

Web: stowecollectedworks.org

Update: The writer of the story has responded (Jan. 9, evening) and is forwarding my letter to “her bosses,” who decide on what News5 covers.

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My Letter to Rob Portman, Senator from Ohio, on Trump’s Insurrection against the United States

I sent letter below via Ohio Senator Portman’s web form, at https://www.portman.senate.gov/form/email-rob. Since he did not respond or acknowledge my previous memo to him, this morning I saved it on my hard drive before sending, to repost here as an open letter. If he responds, I will post his response.

Subject Head: Contacted You Earlier, about Recognizing Biden as President Elect, but You did Not Acknowledge or Respond

Senator Portman,

Some days after the initial vote counts in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona made it clear that Joe Biden was the President-Elect, I contacted your office, via this same form, and urged you to courage, to join with the two or three members in your party (Romney, as well then Sasse, Murkowski, to best of my recall) to acknowledge the election results. I warned you then that your inaction was dangerous. You never acknowledged or responded.

By calling for and then sending the mob on Jan. 6 against the Capitol building, some of them clearly intending to assassinate Vice President Pence, Minority Leader Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi, the president has sacrificed any pretense he may have had about loyalty to the United States. You can discern the motives of these rioters by their social media posts, by their zip ties, nooses, molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, etc. They follow the words and the lead of the current President, who is engaged in open insurrection against the United States, its Legislature, the branch in which you serve.

I again urge you to gather up the courage to condemn the President who is identified with your party. If he continues as the titular leader of that party, in your lifetime, if you live another decade or two, you will likely have to confront the fact that yours is no longer a Party worth preserving in a nation that values democracy, the right to vote, the right of citizens to elect their own leader. Sean Wilenz, a historian from Princeton, makes the case in stark terms, in an editorial in Rolling Stone, posted yesterday (Jan 7), an editorial rich with the knowledge of a 19th-Century scholar.

The outgoing president, who is no longer worthy of the title, will come to his end as a living person, as we all must, but his name will live on in history, among rabid partisans and White Supremacists likely as a hero, among well-qualified historians as a blight on and threat to democracy, as anathema. There is another possible future. The rabid partisans and White Supremacists may eventually, within this decade or several from now, succeed at overtaking fully your party or some reassembled rump of it, building it again into a governing coalition. And if so, it could very well be that the opinions of well-qualified historians, within a few decade after that consolidation, won’t matter so much. They’ll be rounded up, marched out, as in Turkey in recent decades.

If Democratic governance survives in the United States, if academic historians continue to do their work–I think in long sweeps of time, a century or more–you have the opportunity to be footnoted as one who swelled the progress toward recognizing Trump as a threat to his country, a progress led in this moment by Pelosi, Romney, Murkowski, Sasse. That is, your task is to join them and recognize and speak out unequivocally that the outgoing president engaged in open rebellion against the United States. Not next week, NOW. I urge you to take that more direct path. I again hope that you can muster up the courage, despite the fact that immediately after the election you failed to do so.

Last time when you eventually spoke to acknowledge Biden’s election, a local wag in a Cleveland publication, said that your statement was like trying to fart through the eye of the needle. I will remember that phrase, for the rest of my days, as it applies to your previous statement. Do better this time. This is a historical crisis. Take the opportunity to be on the side of, and an uncompromising advocate for, democratic governance. My children, your children, our grandchildren, will be better for it.

Wesley Raabe
Department of English
Associate Professor, Kent State

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To My Neighbors in North-East Ohio, Supporters of Yesterday’s Coup Attempt, and Cleveland’s News 5, which Profiled Them, Some Thoughts about 19th-Century History Colliding with the Present Election

On the evening Jan. 6, on News 5 Cleveland, I watched an interview with Tom Zawistowski, Executive Director of the Portage County Tea Party and President of the We The People Convention, the gist of which is reported in this story, although the video I watched in evening is not posted there. Myself also a resident of Portage County, it struck me as remarkably tone-deaf that News 5 would air his words with no context, as Mr. Zawistoski voiced his concerns about “whether we are a nation that can conduct a fair election or not,” and as Tom Hach, of neighboring Cuyahoga County, voiced his concerns that a ” large population believes they are being misrepresented.” I did not see Hach speak on the broadcast, but I noted Zawistowski’s name.

Why have these North East Ohio Tea Party Republicans gotten so concerned about vote counting far away, in other states? And why do they believe, apparently, that the local results were valid? During the election, Donald Trump performed well in this region, Ohio’s Electoral College votes went to him, and Republicans were elected on virtually the entire slate on my local ballot (save one or two), including the sheriff who ran as a Republican, his slogan “Make Portage Great Again.” The Ohio State Senate candidate Betsy Radar, whom I supported, was pummeled by online ads portraying her as a wild-eyed radical. But the streaming in of local election results were a disconcerting moment for me in my university-adjoined neighborhood, for about a third of homes in the 7-10 neighboring blocks around me had signs for Biden-Harris, outnumbering Trump-Pence signs around 10 to 1. It felt to me that I was the one “being misrepresented” by the election results in Portage County.

But the results were the results. Facing facts, but with no good local polling on which to rely, I suggest a few possible explanations. On the local state race, Radar candidacy, the difference of perception is that in surrounding neighborhood blocks most people likely are Democrats and a few miles away people are often Republicans. Maybe it’s because I’m next to a university, where I work, and they live in other parts of county, more rural, where people with similar political beliefs cluster. Also, Radar was endorsed by the Sierra Club, which likely did not go down well with business interests associated with the FirstEnergy scandal, the scandal that got Larry Householder, Ohio Speaker, removed from his position, the one who in exchange for bailing out FirstEnergy is charged with accepting massive bribes. Despite charges that have already led to guilty pleas, Householder was re-elected. I did not scour the campaign finance reports, but it would not surprise me if FirstEnergy-associated bribes political contributions helped Radar’s opponent drown her on the air waves. Jerry Cirino’s ads were all over my web pages. And perhaps she was pummeled even more heavily on Facebook, which I don’t follow much. Even if I don’t have all the campaign details correct by probing deeply into finance reports–not the main point of this post–I think it’s fair to believe that part of Betsy Radar’s defeat was because she was a down-ballot Democratic candidate, in a region enthusiastic for Trump. Same may explain why Householder, though charged with serious crimes connected to his time in office, was re-elected, in another Trump district. I accept the facts of the vote counts, even if it did not look to me that it would turn out that way beforehand, when I walked in my neighborhood, even if I assumed (in my own head) that someone as tainted as Householder by a bribery scandal surely had no shot at re-election.

In any case, when Portage County and Ohio voted overwhelmingly for Trump–Ohio is now more Republican than Texas, the state in which I was born and raised–it was disorienting for me, perhaps similarly disorienting for my neighbors also with Biden signs, disoriented because they discover that overwhelming majorities (of people around them) voted for Trump, for whom Fox News, AM talk radio, Trump email, and like-minded Facebook friend were major sources of information, if not InfoWars, and QAnon. And perhaps the good early performances by Ohio governor DeWine, Republican, in the pandemic, boosted the brand in this state. At some level I need to accept, intellectually, based on vote counts, that large numbers of persons in the wider Portage county (tends rural as you move eastward), did in fact vote for Trump, including at least a few who joined that 7-bus caravan to the coup attempt.

I received my first visceral reminder about Trump supporters in my wider region somewhat earlier, when my two political signs, “Biden 2020” (got mine early, before Harris announced) and “Black Lives Matter,” were stolen from my yard about a week before Halloween. As I walked in my neighborhood again, shortly after the signs theft, it seems that something about the combination of “Biden 2020” and “Black Lives Matter” (adjacent to one another) rankled the thief, who was apparently unbothered by many “Biden-Harris 2020” signs. The loss of my signs was not a mass purge of signs in my neighborhood, apparently just one particularly provocative pairing, the one in my yard. But then again, nor was mine the only such pairing in the neighborhood. Many Black Lives Matter signs were visible in October. Maybe the loss of my signs was random. I still suspect nonetheless that my free speech, in my own damn yard, was apparently intolerable to passing Trump-supporting and Black Lives Matter-opposing vandals. Also, I cannot help, by the coincidence of the News 5 report, wondering whether my yard sign thief had similar political views as my neighbors who boarded the parade of buses with the intent to go try to overthrow an election. Their individualized consumption of public discourse likely informs them, one which does not cross over with mine, a diet heavy on The Atlantic, NPR, CNN, New York Times, Vox. I was misled about the political leanings of my neighbors because of what my local and digital media environments (yard signs, radio, web sites) told me, probably because I wanted to be; and my neighbors were guided by their media environment (yard signs, radio, airwaves, web sites), again probably because they wanted to be. Now in my eyes, after yesterday, at least some of my neighbors are supporters of sedition, an insurrectionary coup attempt, even if in their own minds they will never accept that definition for their actions. Already today Fox News is gradually backing away, ever more emphasizing what-the-media-is-reporting stories, which is a key tell on Fox News that true believers know that the truth is opposite of what Fox is reporting other media is saying. They did same in 19th-century party papers. If my neighbors would like to try to explain themselves to me–whether they see this careful dance as manipulative also, they can. I set out above why I believe what I believe.

Sometimes we fall into lazy habits, not being vigilant about attending to our surroundings, not thinking that a yard sign could get stolen, for example, or not thinking that a mob, called by and egged on by the president, might assault the Capital Building to threaten its members in session, while others of their associates plant bombs. My excuse for my degree of inattention to the everyday in general life is because I’m a professor at Kent State, one who is easily distracted by nineteenth century books, mostly Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I am in the process of editing. Also, I vividly recall my reading of American Slavery As It Is, the source for several of her novel’s episodes and among the most chilling books that I have ever read. I’d add that I’m reasonably familiar with the 19th century, my Zoom bookshelf populated by at least 40 scholarly books on history and literary or cultural criticism. Though Stowe wrote her famous book in Maine, she partly developed her activism out West in Cincinnati, partly in the aftermath of the city’s anti-Black riots. Because of my interests, I am reminded that North East Ohio was once known for anti-slavery activism, the John Brown House nearby. You can read several anti-slavery papers from this region in pre-Civil War Ohio, on Chronicling America. In Civil War mythology, Ohio is a free state, aligned with the North, but free is relative. For example, Black people could not vote or testify in juries before 1850. So then as now, Ohio’s minds were of their own times, various and divided, like the present minds with whose range I try to grapple in this post.

And now to history in the present day. Because I spend most of my scholarly effort on pre-Civil War period and despite having read Eric Foner’s Reconstruction two summers ago, I did not remember the details of the Compromise of 1877, nor did I remember that Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate, was from Ohio. The details were recalled to my attention by the certification proceedings last night, when Congress returned to its two session. The first Hayes paragraph on Wikipedia notes that he was an antislavery activist before the war. The second paragraph explains how he to gain presidency benefitted from an Electoral College bargain, permitting electors, votes, rights, and lives of Black citizens in the south to be sacrificed for White Supremacy.

The Republican Party nominated Hayes for president in 1876, and he won through the Compromise of 1877 that officially ended Reconstruction by allowing the restoration of Jim Crow laws in the South. In office he withdrew military troops from the South, ending Army support for Democrat state governments and Freedmen’s rights as citizens in the South.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherford_B._Hayes (Jan 7, 2020)

The reminder about Hayes’s election in social media today is because it was the example cited in a plan to object to certifying 2020 electors, by Senators Cruz and Hawley, who argued that we need as they did a generation earlier to be vigilant to determine whether citizens in majority-black areas (as then: South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana; like now: urban districts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania) had their votes counted accurately and legally. By contrast we simply assume without even mentioning the matter that the votes of my neighbors in Northeastern Ohio, an area predominantly white, were counted properly. Alexander Pope named this habitual mode of thinking well, the “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.” If you are free of guilt, have little historical knowledge, and do not try to reconcile present to past, you can easily imagine both that votes in majority-Black districts are immediately suspect and that votes in majority-white districts can be trusted without question. And you can acquire the spotless mind regardless of what you know intellectually, if you don’t feel the conflict, which announces both things are unlikely to be true at once, in your gut or heart, the seat of your conscience.

On the floor of the Senate, Lindsey Graham, who can walk through a slinky untouched, noted during the late-night certification session that two slates of electors were sent to the Electoral College in 1877, and he suggested that if Cruz and Hawley “are looking for historical guidance…this is not the one to pick,” implying that a bargain in which the votes of black people were invalidated is a bad historical example on which to base a precedent.

I’ll put it another way:

If you in certification process want to throw out the votes of Black people in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania today, turning the state votes over to president who did not win those electoral college votes, you should not pick the example of the 1877–if you think the votes of Black people should be counted as readily as votes of white people.

To leave the last part unstated–and it’s important to leave it unstated when you are Cruz and Hawley–is to ensure that your message can be taken whichever way best soothes the conscience. The precedent is very exact, it’s the one that Cruz and Hawley chose on purpose, because it was the one that they meant: they chose the historical precedent to make their present meaning unmistakably clear, without having to spell it out. To assume that Cruz and Hawley (or whoever was doing their symbolic and historical thinking for them) picked it inadvertently is being naive, for it’s Stephen Miller-level thinking. Cruz and Hawley may not want the present and future to be exactly like the late 19th century, but they endorse a part of it: to not recognize a slate of electors chosen with the support of Black citizen and thereby to disenfranchise those citizens, and to elect a White Supremacist president. Or, another way of thinking about it: Cruz and Hawley still imagined that by stringing the process along a little more, their more subtle and drawn-out coup, they could stay on the right side of the tiger. But Trump and and his less subtle White Supremacist supporters, presumably among them my Portage county neighbors–though I know nothing about any one of them’s particular role at the protest–interrupted the smoothly worded effort just as Cruz was speaking. A person of courage and moral conviction who holds public office, not “my colleague from Texas,” as so many delicately put it, when so exposed before the world, by a slinky like Graham, should have the resignation letter drafted within a day. Resigning in disgrace is the act of moral courage by a person who has lost all claim to virtue, to public respect, but by the act reclaims one hint of decency, and a generous pension.

But when it comes to admitting anti-Black racism, no one in public office ever gets to that point. And in fact I think I know why, because Harriet Beecher Stowe taught me. If you want to try to understand how white people convince themselves that the lives of Black people can be discarded or destroyed with no greater consequence than a furrowed brow, the novel that I have studied, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, explains how the process of self-deception about dehumanizing other people is managed psychologically, in detail and repeatedly. I don’t think my Portage county neighbors will take the time to read a long novel, nor do I think they will get the same message out of it that I do, for the United States in the 19th and 20th century remade the novel into popular culture theater, which evacuated from it its moral complexity, its evangelical fervor, and Stowe’s fear of God’s vengeance on a nation of persons so easily self-deceived into doing evil. And be it noted, I add, that she lacked the ability to imagine Black people on equal footing with white people in a single nation, even were they not enslaved. But for those who do identify as Christians, there’s a song by Johnny Cash, one which perhaps many of you, including my neighbors, who are of my age or older, probably know well. It has essentially the same message as Stowe’s novel, and I embed the video below.

PS: My local neighbors who took the bus, what I’m telling you that you endorsed, participated in or–how to put this most nicely–got caught up in an insurrection. That is far too nice. This post is addressed to you. Get off the fucking bus. The reason you can reconcile your “patriotism” with your Trump support is because you are racist, because you can scarcely imagine the police rising up to enforce the law against you. And you are right about that, because the police are typically the front-line defenders of White Supremacy, who enforce society’s contract that Black lives do not matter.

I call on News 5, broadcasting from the city that Tamir Rice once lived in, to pay some god-damned attention to what you are doing. You were still trying to portray the local coup supporters sympathetically, on the evening after they and their cohort assaulted the Capitol Building. What the hell is wrong with you?

I apologize to Black people for my effort to explain white people to themselves, as if the world does not have enough of that. And for anyone who just has to ask, Why do you capitalize Black but not white–It’s because whether you are Black in America is a decision often that society makes first, and it thereby makes the life of the person so designated worse than uneasy, raises the risk of death. To be white, without claiming it but merely to notice the choice that society has made for you, is almost unavoidable, but is seldom anything except the easiest choice to live with. To capitalize White is to join White Supremacists, which I have capitalized accordingly when I think it is most apt. Perhaps I have not made every part of my meaning clear. My thinking is crabbed now, clotted with anger, burdened by history colliding with the present, and this a first draft, which I post now because as a scholar I feel compelled to speak to this historical moment, as it concerns a topic that about which I know a bit about its history, at least more than is usually taught in school.

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Methods in Study of Literature: Doing Assignments for PhD Intro Course

I have several times (4?) taught Kent State’s introductory PhD-level “Methods in the Study of Literature” course, which we in the university catalog describe as follows:

Analytical reading and interpretation of published research and criticism, its assumptions, trends, controversies; course will identify and contextualize present opportunities for research in field.

Students blog on assigned readings (critical theory from Norton anthology, their choices, Gregory M. Semenza’s Graduate Study for the 21st Century book, some type of history of discipline book), and early in the semester I pressure students to immerse themselves in the to-them unfamiliar library databases with another assignment, encouraging them to consult the guidance of Harner’s Literary Research Guide (a now-defunct volume: somebody please resuscitate that), but those are participation work, both preparatory to and alongside the project work, which is the major work of the class. The class in truth has five major assignments, all part of the “project,” framing a paper recognizable in the literary studies discipline and writing a draft of it:

  • Two Draft Reading Lists, i.e., area lists for qualifying or comprehensive exams
  • Bibliography and Analysis of Critical Trends
  • Enough Theory
  • Databases and Archives
  • Conference Presentation
  • Seminar Paper/Article Draft

You will notice that my count of “five” major assignments is in fact “six,” and one of the reasons is that students routinely balk at having to both do “enough theory” and “databases and archives,” two dizzyingly difficult assignments that are due 2 or 3 weeks apart. Then, being the nice person that I try to be, I explain that yes, “theory-only papers” can get published and that yes, “archive discovery papers” can merit publication too, but lacking either is not a good recipe for publishable work. In interest of being nice, as I said, I will encourage them choose to the one in which they feel least confident (databases or theory), and 80 percent of students promptly choose the theory option, where they are in fact more confident: I suppose because many of my colleagues are theory-emphasizing professors. In my view, where most ought to be genuinely insecure is in their ability to successfully navigate research databases. But students need to live their own best lives, so I approve a syllabus revision, letting them choose one option rather than requiring both. Now that I’ve said it in public, I suppose I can’t spring the generosity on them this semester.

On the other hand, I fully sympathize. The last time I taught the class I decided that if I would assign the work I must think it is valuable. Therefore, I decided to also “do” the assignments alongside the students and hold myself to the same deadlines. And, for it to be valuable to me, I decided that I needed to push into a different area of study somewhat out of my wheel-house. Frankly, I was thrilled with the option to drop one of the two assignments (theory or database)–and thanked them profusely when they explained they were overwhelmed. After hemming and hawing, I endorsed enthusiastically the option to drop one of them. Maybe they saw the sweat beading off my forehead as they started their back-and-forth on the value of doing both assignments–and took pity on me.

Rather than drag out the preface any longer, the purpose of this post is to share the assignment series and my own efforts to do my own assignments. That way, in future, I can have a model product toward which the students can aim. Sometimes I struggled against my own rules, and I hope students feel empowered to adjust the result–within reason. If there’s genuine rigor and effort, I don’t oppose adjustments. If there’s avoiding the assignment or trying to re-package previous work without significant efforts at enriching, then I do push back and insist on more rigor. Below is the assignment and my efforts to do the assignments alongside my students from Fall 2018 semester, at least most of them.

Unfortunately, now in Summer 2020 I can’t reconstruct the final two parts, conference presentation and seminar paper. The final seminar draft was split into two parts in December after the semester ended, and the next “version” that I can restore from my files is now in two independent streams. One December draft now looks like a discontinued book chapter draft. I always think of myself as having everything preserved, but apparently not. Rather than claim as class draft something that I spent another month on–and not wanting to share later drafts, which have ballooned–I’ll not attach links to last two. But that’s typical of class work. Not everything can be expected to move smoothly into other later work, such as a dissertation, which like a book project is conceived over a longer period.

These tasks were overwhelming, but I don’t quite apologize as I think still they introduce an aspect of our profession, what we expect scholars to do. Nonetheless, I do sympathize more with my students. Having previously done similar work, I knew what the assignment should look like, even though I could not say that I particularly enjoyed forcing myself to do it in the way that I had assigned. The mere fact of its being assigned–even though I was the assigner–made it more psychologically difficult to do it that way. On the other hand, the deadlines did what deadlines do best, make you do stuff, which is psychologically beneficial. My three semi-complete drafts from June 2019 and February 2020 remain on a backburner while I turned to two other projects.

In the project assignment I credit Prof. Tammy Clewell (Kent State) and Prof. Natalia Cecire (Edinburgh University), Prof. Clewell for the overall conception of the semester-long assignment series and Prof. Cecire for her “Enough Theory” crash course. I thank them again now. And if anybody teaching a Methods-style course has recommendations or finds the materials useful, I’d appreciate your letting me know. And no, next time I teach the course, I won’t be forcing myself to do all the assignments. I in grad school was forced into three Methods-style courses–and I’ve now almost taken again the course of my own design—so I think that’s enough for me. If someday I claim to undertake an intellectual “turn” in my career–I won’t call it that: the phrase has always sounded kind of pompous to me–this is what I design Methods for, to illustrate how to do it.

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Epidemics in Uncle Tom’s Cabin: cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis

I have been drafting annotation for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for an edition, and last November and December I was working on the St. Clare chapters, in which two epidemic diseases are mentioned by name, cholera and yellow fever, and one disease is referred to but never named, tuberculosis. As I’ve already drafted the annotations—and as pandemic is much on the minds of everyone today–I’m going to share my annotation notes, with some suggestions for additional research and connections to the present COVID-19 moment, and with some hints about how they may inform about the United State’s long history–and present–of systemic racism. If you are teaching or reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin this academic year (I won’t be, at least not until spring), perhaps could be of interest to you as well.

When St. Clare refers to the death of Scipio during the “first cholera season,” that dates his death, to the year 1832, the first year in which the United States suffered a cholera epidemic, which would have been in the living memory of much of the audience for Stowe’s novel. And the memory might have been quite fresh, because in 1849 the U.S. suffered its second major cholera epidemic. In any case, here’s the note:

An often lethal infection, cholera targets the gastrointestinal system and causes copious and watery diarrhea, which leads to dehydration and can cause death within hours of its initial onset. A new scourge for the Occident in the 19th C., global trade networks permitted epidemics that had formerly been limited mostly to regions—cholera in Asia, for example—to spread into worldwide pandemics. At midcentury, its germ origins were not understood, and public health consensus blamed seasonal outbreaks of cholera on intemperance and on impoverished immigrants.

The global reach of the British and other less expansive European empires contributed to the spread of epidemics, but they also, as I will show below, led to the formulary of treatments. The 1849 cholera epidemic was a harrowing summer in HB Stowe’s family. Her son Samuel Charles “Charley” died, then aged about 18 months, the disease also striking her daughters Eliza and Georgina, aged 13 and 6, and her household servant Anna Smith–the other three recovering. Charley was one among the tenth of the Cincinnati’s population who perished, which was comparable to other major cities like Sandusky and St. Louis. See Joan D. Hedrick’s biography (buy it), which has a deathbed daguerreotype of Charley and describes that summer in her household. The letter that Stowe wrote to her sister-in-law, after Charley’s death, is at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and they have published it here: https://nationalera.wordpress.com/harriet-beecher-stowe-to-sarah-beecher-7291849/. When she was writing her novel in 1851, that event was not long in her past.

But back from author biography to the novel: in chapter 34, the death of St. Clare’s father is dated as among the “first cholera cases” in New Orleans. That statement dates his death to around November 18, 1832, a date you could arrive at by using the chart on page 62 of G. F. Pyle’s “The Diffusion of Cholera in the United States in the Nineteenth Century.” Geographical Analysis (1969) 1: 59–75. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1538-4632.1969.tb00605.x. I had never considered that an identifiable date–and discovered it by checking on a whim–but it occurs to me that 25 years from now for someone to say “one of the first coronavirus deaths in New Orleans” would be something that many of us will be able to identify to within weeks. To learn more about cholera in U.S. history, with additional resources, see Howard Markel, “Cholera.” In The Oxford Companion to United States History. (2004) Oxford University Press. [Oxford Reference DOI]. From that encyclopedia entry, a standard scholarly study appears to be Charles E. Rosenberg (1987), The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866. University of Chicago Press. [Kent Library Link]. Also, if you want to know how cholera was discussed and treated in 19th-century medical literature, in Stowe’s day, see Charles Delucena Meigs, 1849. Remarks on Spasmodic Cholera. Printed, Not Published. T. K.&P. G. Collins, printers [Google Books]. Also of interest, but older, is Daniel H. Whitney (1835), The Family Physician, Or Every Man His Own Doctor: In Three Parts. N & J White. Part 3 is on the “History, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Asiatic Cholera,” the last a historical (and as I shall show below, present) disease naming convention whose ideological significance should not be lost to ourselves in the U.S. during the COVID-19 era. Using the chart in Pyle, the article above, I think it would be interesting—dissertation chapter or scholarly article interesting–to trace the spread of cholera geographically, which then could be compared to newspapers in the regions as it took hold, in Chronicling America and subscription newspaper databases.

And to the second, yellow fever. When Ophelia is urging St. Clare to complete the legal transfer of Topsy to her, he asks her whether he “exhibits symptoms of yellow fever or cholera,” and that brings us to the second fatal illness that haunts the novel, which is related to its setting in the city of New Orleans. I’ll begin with my brief explanatory note on yellow fever, and then dilate on it:

An infectious disease, transmitted by a mosquito-born virus, with symptoms that range from headache, chills, and nausea to internal hemorrhage and death. New Orleans’s close trade connections to the Caribbean, ecological transformation including deforestation wrought by sugar plantations, poor sanitation, and frequent immigration of Europeans not previously exposed to the virus led to recurring pandemic outbreaks in the city.

Again according to The Oxford Companion to United States History, the article by Margaret Humphreys, America’s first outbreak occurred in 1790s Philadelphia. (By the way, if you are thinking of a pandemic-themed class, see discussion and text of Charles Brockden Brown’s A Man at Home, which responds to that first Philadelphia yellow fever pandemic, newly released at at Just Teach One). As with cholera, origins were disputed: some blamed poor hygiene and others blamed an imported foreign virus, so public health responses included sanitation and quarantine. Some public health officials noticed that newly arrived persons, not previously exposed, were more susceptible to death. The last major outbreak in the south occurred in the 1890s, at a cost of some 10,000 lives. A recent work, which I have not yet read, associates yellow fever with ecological transformations wrought by the sugar industry and discussions of its causes with slavery, race, and ecology, Urmi Engineer Willoughby’s Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans. (2017). In the words of the press release: “She then traces the origin and spread of medical and popular beliefs about yellow fever immunity, from the early nineteenth-century contention that natives of New Orleans were protected, to the gradual emphasis on race as a determinant of immunity, reflecting social tensions over the abolition of slavery around the world.” I’ve requested my library’s copy of Willoughby’s book, (as of today, because my university library books were in quarantine until last week), so I can update my note, and you should check with your library to request or order a copy.

Finally, we turn to the most frightening disease of the nineteenth century, tuberculosis, which though technically not an epidemic was nonetheless so frightening that Stowe refers only to it as a series of symptoms, that Eva is “tired and languid,” and that her father overhears the New England nurse Miss Ophelia discussing “a cough, that all her medicaments could not cure; and even now that fervent cheek and little hand were burning with hectic fever.” That is, upon witnessing the cluster of symptoms, death is nearly assured. As today, when in fear of contagion, Ophelia watches and notes the “slight, dry cough” and the “airy buoyancy born of fever.” In choosing to annotate what cannot be named, I decided to link it (as another editor had) to the phrase “could not cure.” And this is the draft:

The unnamed disease associated with an uncurable cough is pulmonary tuberculosis, the wasting illness known as consumption, which led to a quarter of American deaths in the 19th century. An infectious but not epidemic disease, its high prevalence and fatality rates meant that great anxiety accompanied detection of its diverse symptoms: fatigue and poor appetite and weight loss; fever, chills, and night sweats; and coughing for several weeks, painful breathing, and coughing up blood. Its bacterial origin unknown, its infection rate comparatively low and onset delayed, blame was placed on various causes: overstimulation of nerves, overcrowded housing, factory working conditions, alcoholism, poor diet, race, poverty, etc.

Consumption or phthisis is the emblematic death ailment for heroes and heroines of Gothic novels or Romantic poetry, in the religious sensitivity of the sinless child, and in an admired companion in domestic fiction, who guides a young girl’s transition into womanhood (see Warner’s Wide, Wide World). But again also consult medical guides like Mayo Clinic for symptoms and The Oxford Companion to United States History, which has the article by Georgina Feldberg on “Tuberculosis.” If we understand the disease model of that day, then we can understand why Eva’s father insists on a “receipt or strengthening mixtures.” Based on medical dictionaries, this is the pharmacological brew that St. Clare is bringing home to his daughter:

receipt: a medicinal preparation or prescription, one following a formula or recipe;   strengthening mixture: a tonic, typically for tuberculosis symptoms a sweet syrup flavored with citrus peel, cinnamon, or peppermint oil, buchu leaves, cinchona or willow bark, and dilute sulphuric acid, or quinine sulfate, the preparation varying to match symptoms and taken orally in tablespoonfuls two or more times per day.

So that does not sound pleasant, albeit in ingredients and dosage it seems like a recognizable fore-runner to our own sugar syrup cough medicine with bitter aftertastes. For the source of that recipe, see A Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts and Collateral Information in the Arts, Manufacturers, and Trades, Including Medicine, Pharmacy, and Domestic Economy, By Arnold James Cooley. Second Edition. 1845. John Churchill. https://books.google.com/books?id=jG4DAAAAYAAJ. But it’s interesting to note how essential the fruits of empire are for deriving treatments, which also spur medicinal chemistry, to mimic otherwise rare, expensive, and difficult-to-locate ingredients. I lack the time to sort out everything at the moment, I’ll just share my raw notes, so that you if like I are first stepping into this topic, you can learn from them to read a medical dictionary of the mid-19th-century. I learned to read them (to extent I can) mostly with the assistance of the Oxford English Dictionary.

[cinchona?] bark, for fever: ``growing in the tropical valleys of the Andes"; ``The medicinal bark of species of Cinchona, Peruvian bark; also the drug prepared from it" {OED}, (1740-1880).
buchu (or bucku), source for diosmin, [also in citrus], treatment for blood diseases
``Tonic, stimulant, and diuretic": Any of several aromatic plants native to the Cape of Good Hope, used in the past for cosmetic purposes by the Khoekhoe, and now medicinally. Formerly termed Diosma crenata {OED}, (1730-1880).

calumba root, dyspepsia [indigestion], restraining vomiting and diarrhea
The root of Jateorhiza palmata (or Coccolus palmatus) family Menospermaceæ, a plant indigenous to the forests of Mozambique, used in medicine as a mild tonic and stomachic. {OED} (1789-1883).

cascarilla, ``in debility of digestive organs, to check severe vomiting [i.e., anti-emetic]"
``The bitter aromatic bark of the plant Croton eleuteria, used as a tonic. Also called cascarilla bark. {OED} (1686--1875) Also ``Croton eluteria," native to the Caribbean.

rhatany, for blennorrhea, mucus discharge from urethra or vagina, seen in gonorrhea
``inferior quality, imported from Brazil &c," for port wine. More fully, rhatany root. The astringent root of any of several South American shrubs of the genus Krameria (family Krameriaceae), used medicinally or as an additive in making port. {OED}, from Peru and New Granada (mostly 1808-1895 for medicinal).

ammonia carbonate, ``stimulant, antacid, diaphoretic [inducing perspiration], and antispasmodic" {OED}, (1789-1855), e.g., chemical process for hartshorn.
dilute sulphuric acid, [also: spirit of vitriol], to check perspiration, to relieve itching, for dyspepsia, and to achieve relaxation No OED usage, but in medical dictionaries, early one is Abraham Rees, The Cyclopædia, Or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences (1819).
quinine sulfate, from yellow cinchona bark, as a febrifuge [reduce fever] and a stomachic [appetite or digestion]

Like John Locke and his crazy infatuation with the pineapple–the all-but indescribable pleasures of the senses help make it possible for Locke to suspect that one can know empirically, on the basis of sense experience–it is access to the fruits, literal and figurative, of European empire—Peruvian-sourced bark, South African cosmetic plants, roots from indigenous forests of Mozambique, Caribbean Croton eleuteria bark, South American rhatany (or dilute sulphuric as chemical imitations of hartshorn, quinine sulfate to imitate cinchona bark extract)—that helped to create a full 19th-century tuberculosis formulary.

Please consider: The germ origin of the tuberculosis was not understood, but that does not mean that 19th-century physicians lacked a disease model. For one, match symptom to ingredient that treats the symptom. But more importantly, the key term, which I had missed until I did the research, is “nervous affection.” When Eva has night sweats (among tuberculosis symptom), her mother Marie pooh-poohs it: “Law! I’ve had that, years and years; it’s only a nervous affection.” We the reader, I suppose, are to wonder and laugh to ourselves if we think that Marie is confusing Eva’s illness with the climacteric, but there is an entire disease model behind her term “nervous affection”:

A catch-all medical diagnosis for any affliction or disease that targets mucous membranes and internal organs, those involved in breathing, circulation, digestion, and reproduction: nerve pain in the face and head (neuralgia), indigestion (dyspepsia), vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and spasms, urinary tract infections, chills and fever or night sweats, weight loss, pains during menstruation, impotence or sterility, and lung and heart ailments. The explanatory model was that bodies have a limited store of vital energy (i.e., nervous affection), which differs by gender, class, and individual constitution. All types of activity–study, entertainment or excitements, physically taxing work, drunkenness or gluttony, sexuality, etc.–expend nervous energy, which might be restored with rest and curtailment of activities. Before the germ model identified certain disease origins, both acute diseases like tuberculosis and various chronic conditions were suspected to originate in depletion of nervous energy, which rendered the body unable to heal or restore itself.

You can learn more about this battery-like model of nervous energy–and it is related to the galvanic battery, the late-18th century discovery of the voltaic cell–by consulting the British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review (1850), by Samuel Highley at, https://books.google.com/books?id=rzIBAAAAYAAJ, or Charles Delucena Meigs (1849) Remarks on Spasmodic Cholera, Printed, Not Published. T. K. & P. G. Collins, printers. [Google Books].

I am not a medical historian but rather a scholar of literature and culture, who is trying to annotate disease references in a mid-19th-century novel. And I of course welcome corrections to my amateur effort in another discipline. But upon thinking about how we in the present look back upon pandemic disease, it is interesting to me that Library of Congress topic Epidemics has a sub-heading for both the Black Death and for the Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919, and my general sense is that these are the historical models invoked most frequently for discussions of Covid-19. By contrast, 19th-century epidemics like cholera or yellow fever are not similarly invoked. Cholera (alternate name, Asiatic cholera: and hey, LOC subject heading librarians, you might think about that label some more) is a subject heading, but it not a subheading under pandemic. And nor is yellow fever beneath pandemic. Cholera seems like it definitely ought to qualify, although it was eventually held at bay by improved sanitation–and perhaps has not received the attention from historians and scholars that it deserves. The cholera article by Pyle, above, is as old as I am. Yellow fever is epidemic but regional–and in a warming world with ecological devastations may spread more broadly. Tuberculosis is not identified as epidemic, though infectious, because people could be symptomless carriers, or an infection could remain latent for years. Still, tuberculosis is estimated to have “accounted for almost a quarter of all North American deaths” and a leading cause of death “for as long as records have been kept” (Feldberg). I am not really trying to make a larger point about how we discuss COVID-19, except to note how the language of blame (“Asiatick cholera,” like Trump’s obscene term “China flu”) invokes the foreign threat. Blame for pandemic spread seems not often to fall where it also should, on global trade, on the elite who travel almost effortlessly its well-established routes ship-board or in airplanes–and upon environmental degradation. Instead, racists imply that the deserving are dying at higher rates, as a biological accident rather than as the result of systemic oppression.

More directly pertinent, though, I had never really thought of Stowe’s novel as possessing an epidemic or pandemic sensibility, and had sensed (but only dimly) the presence of acute fear of contracting a horrific, nameless illness. Doubtless Covid-19 is to be blamed for that aspect rising into my awareness. I had not previously been arrested by the mentions of yellow fever or cholera in the Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but the systematic work at annotating (and our COVID-19 moment) has changed me as a reader. And also, now knowing the historical disease model better, it makes sense to me–as it had not previously–why tuberculosis haunts haunts everyone who feels too intensely. Stowe’s novel ends with the following line:

Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved,—but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!

I think the accident of history and our present historical understanding will cause most readers of my generation to associate the invocation of “wrath” with the Civil War, but I am now capable of imagining a newer generation of readers sensitized to the horror of pandemic, for whom Covid-19 and the Spanish Influenza Epidemic reverberate with links to the prior generations’ cholera and yellow fever epidemics, which I now sense alongside pulmonary tuberculosis as palpable strands of fear and dread coursing through the middle chapters of the novel.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Pastiche Writing Assignment: William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with John Milton’s Comus and Lycidas

In Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, during her visit to Stratford on Avon, Harriet Beecher Stowe has an extended discussion of affinities and distinctions between John Milton and William Shakespeare. In brief, she designates Milton as classical or Grecian, Shakespeare as Gothic. The later writer possesses “calm, severe majesty” that enlists only the “the very highest range of our faculties.” By contrast, the earlier is capable of “wreathed involution of smiles and tears, of solemn earnestness and quaint conceits,” or “complications of dizzy magnificence with fairy lightness.”

Nor do I think it’s too much to suggest she in same section has in mind the aims and methods of her own novelistic art, when she notes that Shakespeare exhibits “sudden uprushings of grand and magnificent sentiment, like the flame-pointed arches of cathedrals; those ranges of fancy, half goblin, half human.”

But prior to her summing of the differences, she notes the affinities that both poets, Gothic and Grecian share, by first citing an extended passage from scene-setting by Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream through the conclusion of Oberon’s opening speech (see 5.2.1-26). But rather than herself supplying the pastiche that would blend those lines (and others like them) to Milton’s Comus and Lycidas, she assigns the reader the prospective task:

I have often noticed how much the first writings of Milton resemble in their imagery and tone of coloring those of Shakspeare, particularly in the phraseology and manner of describing flowers. I think, were a certain number of passages from Lycidas and Comus interspersed with a certain number from Midsummer Night’s Dream, the imagery, tone of thought, and style of coloring, would be found so nearly identical, that it would be difficult for one not perfectly familiar to distinguish them. You may try it.

I think we have a hint toward a pastiche assignment and experiment that could involve creative writing and analysis of reading tests. Fourth-year English majors, who have studied both Shakespeare and Milton and are interested in creative writing, would blend passages from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with Milton’s Lycidas and Comus, and do the blend so seamlessly that the aim would be that an inexpert reader would be unable to distinguish the Shakespeare from the Milton. Test the creations against two types of readers, first-year college students and American literature professors, to see if either group can identify the switches between voices.

But the actual test should be more sneaky, one subject of the study will be whether American literature professors, who think they are being asked to serve as judges, will instead be faced with the dilemma of whether to do their homework before agreeing to serve as test pool in evaluating the quality of the first-year undergraduates’s detection of the creative writing students’ switches between voices. No key should be provided, or it would ruin the experiment.

Likely no Internet access available either, such as that which I shamelessly relied when looking up line numbers for Puck’s and Oberon’s speeches. But is this not modern reading too? In any case, so no, I as an American literature professor won’t participate in your reading study, since maybe this is just a speculative example of cruelty to people, subject of an earlier post.

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“they ate, they drank, they planted”; “eating, drinking, dressing, walking”

I had kind of noticed these passages in Uncle Tom’s Cabin as memorable.

“Well,” said Augustine, “there goes an old saying to this effect ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be;—they ate, they drank, they planted, they builded, and knew not till the flood came and took them.‘”

And this one, in her narrator’s voice, after Eva dies:

But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone through; and this yet remained to Augustine.

Though I have not seen it noted in annotation, and perhaps not needed in first, they are allusions, the activities that consume our time, similar ones that in times of Noah and Lot consumed them, just prior to destruction. In 19C Authorized KJV, the passages in Luke 17:26-28 and Matthew 24:38–39 are quite similar.

And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

And:

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

But I realized recently that Stowe omits one activity in her allusions–the marriage phrases–and that would be because with Eva dead St. Clare now that his daughter has died shall have no daughter to give, no son-in-law to receive in marriage.
In Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, the allusion recurs once more, and it shows her 19th-Century sensibility merging scripture with the present. It follows a very affecting passage on Walter Scott’s epitaph for his dog Maida, which is well worth reading but not much read anymore because mid-century travel narratives are not very popular.

null

The again biblically allusive lines read as follows:

And this is what all our homes are coming to; our buying our planting our building our marrying and giving in marriage, our genial firesides and dancing children, are all like so many figures passing through the magic lantern, to be put out at last in death.

The magic lantern is the 19th-century fore-runner of the picture show, but the “put out at last in death” hits me like the train in Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case,” for I know that the memory of 18-month-old son Charley, who died in a Cincinnati cholera epidemic, lies in the silent background of that line.

This is just to let you know that when Stowe alludes to scripture, and omits or recasts, often there’s something going on, something significant. Yea, I know it’s domestic fiction. But your (our) not knowing what she’s doing doesn’t make her any less talented. That is, she don’t cite carelessly, despite her reputation. When reading Sunny Memories I am awed at her prodigious verbal memory. The Walter Scott alone exhibits a staggering range, and there’s a real sadness that upon landing in and touring Scotland, to her the entire landscape rendered picturesque and enchanted (her terms) by her memories of reading Scott, she discovers that the people with whom she expected to enthuse in shared admiration have mostly set him aside.

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Explaining the Department LISTSERV to Millennial Graduate Students

I am old, older than the Internet, and our department uses a LISTSERV to communicate with our graduate students. Each year I rediscover that LISTSERV behavior for some graduate students is a very odd thing. And recently, Microsoft Outlook, our campus email, has been taking a dim view of LISTSERV messages, sending them all to Clutter. So one thing that I try to do is make official LISTSERV messages slightly more engaging, in hope that some students will read them. So below is a sample what serves as official communication to graduate students in my department.

Date: Monday, August 5, 2019 at 9:30 AM
To: GRADENGLISH LISTSERV (address_with_held)
Subject: Communicating with LISTSERV, long view

Students,

If you send to or reply to LISTSERV (address_with_held), it means that you wish to send your message to everyone on the LISTSERV. Typically, that is the default behavior of email clients (like MS Outlook), that replies go “To” the sending address. To reply to me individually as the sender of a message to LISTSERV, forward the message to (address_with_held), my email address, the Graduate Coordinator.

LISTSERV protocols, which still are widely used by academics for discussion lists, are older than the Internet but younger than Morse code and carrier pigeons. And when older technologies continue zombie-like into new forms, the intersections between them get complicated, among which the following.

  • Microsoft’s Outlook client, the Kent State default for faculty, staff and students, is trying to act like a social media interface because of millennials or something, with two levels of “OK to ignore,” which are designated “Clutter” and “Junk Email.”
  • LISTSERV is mass email, like marketing, so Outlook sorting algorithms tend to class large number of messages from LISTSERVs into Clutter, in same way that social media software downplays important stuff like putting direct messages in some kind of separate area and instead highlights important stuff like ads and branding among regular communications.
  • If you REPLY to LISTSERV message, the LISTSERV software is notifying the list moderator, also me. But since LISTSERV behavior is to send message to moderator as an attachment, your message to me is far more likely in turn to be interpreted as SPAM by Outlook, and thus goes to my Clutter folder.

Therefore, two things are likely to demand personal attention when dealing with LISTSERV messages:

  • If you are not seeing my messages, that is because they are in your Clutter folder. That’s likely where this one is going also, so you’re not reading it, and this is depressing.
  • I have to check my Clutter folder periodically. And I usually do, about once weekly, but because Microsoft and Apple don’t play well together, my message search is effed up, so I don’t see it. Yes I have reported to name_ withheld, it’s probably Microsoft’s fault, and Microsoft don’t give a damn because it thinks I’m a millennial and want my email to behave like social media.

If both of us are not going to some effort to work around these MS mail service defaults when dealing with LISTSERV messages, things may easily slip through the cracks. You reply to LISTSERV, goes to my Clutter, and I do my weekly check but don’t notice your message. Therefore, we each must do more:

  • I have to check Clutter more regularly to see if any of you replied to LISTSERV instead of where you should have, to me. I am genuinely trying.
    If I do not reply to you in a reasonable amount of time—and it was an important message that deserved a reply, not “Thanks,” etc. (PS: don’t bother with that)—you should assume that A) I have not checked Clutter yet, B) I may have checked Clutter but not noticed your message because MS Search is broken.
  • Because you assume both of above, re-send your message, but this time addressed to [address_withheld]. That way, I’m far more likely to see it—and far more likely to respond.

We cannot switch to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for department communication, for LISTSERV has a singular advantage of central management of address book, and email is relatively secure as compared to the other systems. Nor can we get away from MS Outlook because it is university-wide email system. These are our textual condition.

I regret that technology is not making things easy, but look on bright side. In Middle Ages one had to pee in the ash and rendered fats to make one’s own ink and then sharpen the nib of quill from the left wing of a goose (if right-handed) lest feather tickle your eye-ball when trying to write. And send copies to Scriptorium to have 100 copies made on vellum. So back then not as much time to indulge in this much thinking about writing as a medium, for there were geese to be caught and lambs to be slaughtered for the manufacture of vellum. And that will keep you busy enough that no one has time to imagine a need for an English department.

Wesley Raabe
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator
Department of English
Kent State University

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