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Although Benjamin’s place in the canon of twentieth-century critical theorists is now established, the boundaries of his work still resist classification and demarcation. His writings, including the best known collection Illuminations, remain an uneasy but thrilling combination of the actual and the mystical, of Marxism and messianic utopianism. This collection shows how extraordinarily substantial were the theoretical footholds which Walter Benjamin supplied: Irving Wohlfarth on historical understanding versus historicism, Zygmunt Bauman on Benjamin the intellectual, Sigrid Weigel on feminism and cultural analysis, Gillian Rose on Benjamin and the sources of Judaism and Martin Jay on the use of imagery in Benjamin’s novels.
The inaugural volume in a new historiography series
Historians possess the power to shape the view of history for those who come after them. Their efforts to illuminate significant events of the past often result in new interpretations, which frequently conflict with ideas proposed by earlier historians. Invariably, this divergence of thoughts creates a dissonance between historians about the causes and meanings of prior events. The Kent State University Press’s new Interpreting American History Series aims to help readers learn how truth emerges from the clash of interpretations present in the study of history.
In the series’s first volume, Interpreting American History: The Age of Andrew Jackson, experts on Jacksonian America address the changing views of historians over the past century on a watershed era in U.S. history. A two-term president of the United States, Jackson was a powerful leader who widened constitutional boundaries on the presidency, shaping policy himself instead of deferring to the wishes of Congress.
The essayists in this volume review the most important issues of the period—including the Corrupt Bargain, Nullification Crisis, Indian Removal Act, and Jacksonian democracy, economics, and reform—and discuss their interpretation over the last hundred years by such historians as Frederick Jackson Turner, Richard Hofstadter, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Sean Wilentz, Robert V. Remini, Daniel Feller, and David Walker Howe.
An insightful compilation of essays, Interpreting American History: The Age of Andrew Jackson will acquaint readers with the nineteenth-century world of Andrew Jackson and the ways in which historians have interpreted his life and times.
Essays from the Sawyer Seminar
As sites of documentary preservation rooted in various national and social contexts, artifacts of culture, and places of uncovering, archives provide tangible evidence of memory for individuals, communities, and states, as well as defining memory institutionally within prevailing political systems and cultural norms. By assigning the prerogatives of record keeper to the archivist, whose acquisition policies, finding aids, and various institutionalized predilections mediate between scholarship and information, archives produce knowledge, legitimize political systems, and construct identities. Far from being mere repositories of data, archives actually embody the fragments of culture that endure as signifiers of who we are, and why. The essays in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory conceive of archives not simply as historical repositories but as a complex of structures, processes, and epistemologies situated at a critical point of the intersection between scholarship, cultural practices, politics, and technologies. Francis X. Blouin Jr. is Professor of History and Director of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. William G. Rosenberg is Professor of History, University of Michigan.
The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust
In Aversion and Erasure, Carolyn J. Dean offers a bold account of how the Holocaust's status as humanity's most terrible example of evil has shaped contemporary discourses about victims in the West. Popular and scholarly attention to the Holocaust has led some observers to conclude that a "surfeit of Jewish memory" is obscuring the suffering of other peoples. Dean explores the pervasive idea that suffering and trauma in the United States and Western Europe have become central to identity, with victims competing for recognition by displaying their collective wounds.
She argues that this notion has never been examined systematically even though it now possesses the force of self-evidence. It developed in nascent form after World War II, when the near-annihilation of European Jewry began to transform patriotic mourning into a slogan of "Never Again": as the Holocaust demonstrated, all people might become victims because of their ethnicity, race, gender, or sexuality-because of who they are.The recent concept that suffering is central to identity and that Jewish suffering under Nazism is iconic of modern evil has dominated public discourse since the 1980s.
Dean argues that we believe that the rational contestation of grievances in democratic societies is being replaced by the proclamation of injury and the desire to be a victim. Such dramatic and yet culturally powerful assertions, however, cast suspicion on victims and define their credibility in new ways that require analysis. Dean's latest book summons anyone concerned with human rights to recognize the impact of cultural ideals of "deserving" and "undeserving" victims on those who have suffered.
"This is an important book that uses the long and distinguished historical career of Benjamin Shambaugh to place public or 'applied' history into a much-needed historical context. . . . Conard's narrative and analysis provide new insights into continuing debates about the proper role of federal and state governments in collecting and writing history. . . . an important contribution to American historiography in the twentieth century."--Barbara Franco, executive director, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. "In Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History, Rebecca Conard has written a useful and intriguing book. . . . The historical profession and the people of Iowa are indebted to Rebecca Conard for this book, which explores the impressive career of Benjamin Shambaugh and sheds new light on the fundamentals of the public history movement."--Annals of Iowa ". . . an unexpectedly engaging and useful examination and analysis of the ideologies, arguments, and politics surrounding the rise of history as a professional and academic discipline from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, especially as they were often rancorously expressed in disputes between the East and Midwest, state and national perspectives, and academic and professional practice."--The Journal of American History "Conard has provided the history profession with a layered narrative of its development and fragmentation or redevelopment over time, and has explored the meanings of its own histories."--Janelle Warren-Findley, The American Historical Review "Conard's biography is well written and interesting, and her strategies for engaging in dialog with a variety of texts produce a fresh method for defining and assessing public history."--The Journal of Heritage Stewardship Although his name is little known today outside Iowa, during the early part of the twentieth century Benjamin Shambaugh (1871 - 1940) was a key figure in the historical profession. Using his distinguished career as a lens, Conard's seminal work is the first book to consider public history as an integral part of the intellectual development of the historical profession as a whole in the United States. Conard draws upon an unpublished, mid-1940s biography by research historian Jacob Swisher to trace the forces that shaped Shambaugh's early years, his administration of the State Historical Society of Iowa, his development of applied history and commonwealth history in the 1910s and 1920s, and the transformations in his thinking and career during the 1930s. Framing this intriguingly interwoven narrative are chapters that contextualize Shambaugh's professional development within the development of the historical profession as a whole in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and assess his career within the post-World War II emergence of the modern public history movement. Shambaugh's career speaks to those who believe in the power of history to engage and inspire local audiences as well as those who believe that historians should apply their knowledge and methods outside the academy in pursuit of the greater public good. Rebecca Conard, associate professor of history and codirector of the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University, is also the author of Places of Quiet Beauty: Parks, Preserves, and Environmentalism (Iowa, 1997), which won the Benjamin Shambaugh Award. "Rebecca Conard provides an elegant discussion of a complex topic: the emergence of public history in the twentieth century. . . . a sophisticated addition to public history historiography."--The Public Historian
Breaking Away from Past Interpretations
The studies in this book consider the topical and thematic understandings of Texas historiography embraced by a new generation of Texas historians as they reflect analytically on the work of the past two decades. Beyond Texas Through Time offers both a vantage point and a benchmark, serving as an important reference for scholars and advanced students of history and historiography, even beyond the borders of Texas.
How did people learn to distinguish between past and present? How did they come to see the past as existing in its own distinctive context? Zachary Sayre Schiffman explores these questions in The Birth of the Past, his sweeping survey of historical thinking in the Western world. Today we automatically distinguish between past and present, labeling things taken out of context as "anachronisms." Schiffman shows how this tendency did not always exist, and how the past as such was born of the perceived difference between past and present. Schiffman takes readers on a grand tour of historical thinking from antiquity to modernity. He shows how ancient historians could not distinguish between past and present because they conceived of multiple pasts. Christian theologians coalesced these multiple pasts into a single temporal space where past merged with present and future. Renaissance humanists began to disentangle these temporal states in their desire to resurrect classical culture, creating a "living past." French enlighteners killed off this living past when they engendered a form of social scientific thinking that measured the relations between historical entities, thus sustaining the distance between past and present and relegating each culture to its own distinctive context. Including a foreword by the eminent historian Anthony Grafton, this fascinating book draws upon a diverse range of sources—ancient histories, medieval theology, Renaissance art, literature, legal thought, and early modern mathematics and social science—to uncover the very meaning of the past and its relationship to the present.
Cobb begins by looking at how our historical understanding of segregation has evolved since the Brown decision. In particular, he targets the tenacious misconception that racial discrimination was at odds with economic modernization--and so would have faded out, on its own, under market pressures. He then looks at the argument that Brown energized white resistance more than it fomented civil rights progress. This position overstates the pace and extent of racial change in the South prior to Brown, Cobb says, while it understates Brown’s role in catalyzing and legitimizing subsequent black protest.
Finally, Cobb suggests that the Brown decree and the civil rights movement accomplished not only more than certain critics have acknowledged but also more than the hard statistics of black progress can reveal. The destruction of Jim Crow, with its denial of belonging,” allowed African Americans to embrace their identity as southerners in ways that freed them to explore links between their southernness and their blackness. This is an important and timely reminder of what the Brown court and the activists who took the spirit of its ruling into the streets were up against, both historically and contemporaneously.”
The American Novel of Slavery since Gone with the Wind
In this comprehensive, groundbreaking study, Tim A. Ryan explores how American novelists since World War I have imagined the institution of slavery and the experience of those involved in it. Complicating the common assumption that authentic black-authored fiction about slavery is starkly opposed to the traditional, racist fiction (and history) created by whites, Ryan suggests that discourses about American slavery are—and have always been—defined by connections rather than disjunctions. Ryan contends that African American writers didn't merely reject and move beyond traditional portrayals of the black past but rather actively engaged in a dynamic dialogue with white-authored versions of slavery and existing historiographical debates. The result is an ongoing cultural conversation that transcends both racial and disciplinary boundaries and is akin to the call-and-response style of African American gospel music. Ryan addresses in detail more than a dozen major American novels of slavery, from the first significant modern fiction about the institution—Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind and Arna Bontemps's Black Thunder (both published in 1936)—to recent noteworthy novels on the topic—Edward P. Jones's The Known World and Valerie Martin's Property (both published in 2003). His insistence upon the necessity of interpreting novels about the past directly in relation to specific historical scholarship makes Calls and Responses especially compelling. He reads Toni Morrison's Beloved not in opposition to a monolithic orthodoxy about slavery but in relation to specific arguments of controversial historian Stanley Elkins. Similarly, he analyzes William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner in terms of its rhetorical echoes of Frederick Douglass's famous autobiographical narrative. Ryan shows throughout Calls and Responses how a variety of novelists—including Alex Haley, Octavia Butler, Ishmael Reed, Margaret Walker, and Frances Gaither—engage in a dynamic debate with each other and with such historians as Herbert Aptheker, Charles Joyner, Eugene and Elizabeth Genovese, and many others. A substantially new account of the development of American slavery fiction in the last century, Calls and Responses goes beyond merely exalting the expression of black voices and experiences and actually reconfigures the existing view of the American novel of slavery.
Historiography in Practice
To write history is to consider how to explicate the past, to weigh the myriad possible approaches to the past, and to come to terms with how the past can be and has been used. In this book, prize-winning historian Jeremy Black considers both popular and academic approaches to the past. His focus is on the interaction between the presentation of the past and current circumstances, on how history is used to validate one view of the present or to discredit another, and on readings of the past that unite and those that divide. Black opens with an account that underscores the differences and developments in traditions of writing history from the ancient world to the present. Subsequent chapters take up more recent decades, notably the post-Cold War period, discussing how different perspectives can fuel discussions of the past by individuals interested in shaping public opinion or public perceptions of the past. Black then turns to the possible future uses of the then past as a way to gain perspective on how we use the past today. Clio’s Battles is an ambitious account of the engagement with the past across world history and of the clash over the content and interpretation of history and its implications for the present and future.