Sunday, April 20, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 5: Gender, Sex and Family: Changes in the 1970s

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

—Thurgood Marshall, Stanley v. Georgia (1969)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 4, Struggles Over Race & Gender in the 1970s

In the short run, it may seem to be the easier course to allow our great metropolitan areas to be divided up each into two cities—one white and one black—but it is a course, I predict, our people will ultimately regret.

— Thurgood Marshall, dissent in Milliken (1974)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Friday, April 18, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 3, The Economic Crisis of the 1970s (Con't)

We are aware, as never before, of distinct limits on our material resources. Abundance no longer seems to be our special defining characteristic as a nation.

— Lawrence Veysey (1979)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 3, The Economic Crisis of the 1970s

The continuous readjustment of expectations—downward: that was a key experience of the 1970s.

— Rick Perlstein
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 2, 1973 - 1974: "America's Nervous Breakdown" (Con't)

“This has been a good year.” Or, “This has been a bad year, right?” What sorts of statements are these? What consensus could there be on a year’s goodness? I think of early medieval annals. “721 AD–drought; 722 AD–(blank); 723 AD–(blank); 724 AD–(blank); 725 AD–bad harvest, frightening comet in the west.” Poor helpless humanity.... All years are terrible years; the predicament of being human tends towards the negative. We read the news and are left feeling nothing more noble than “only I have escaped to tell thee.” A given year can be pronounced good only in a solipsistic sense.

— Teju Cole, "Envoi" (2013)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 2, 1973 - 1974: "America's Nervous Breakdown"

There is already some talk about what "the historians will say" — the historians, those unknown people who in the future will have the franchise to interpret what is going on now. We tend to assume that out of their years of accumulation of fact they will sift the truth—a truer truth than any we can hope to grasp. They will have many more facts. And they will have what is called "perspective" (which means they will not be trapped in the biases of our day and can freely write in the biases of their day—can find what they are looking for). But I wonder if they will really understand what it was like. Will they know how it felt to go through what we have gone through? Will they know how it felt to be stunned—again and again—as we learned what had been done by people in power? Will they know how it felt to be shocked, ashamed, amused by the revelations—will they understand the difficulty of sorting out the madcap from the macabre? (What, for example, was one really to think about someone in the pay of the White House putting on a red wig and traveling across the country to visit a sick, disgraced lobbyist?) Can they conceivably understand how it felt as we watched on our television screen, our President say, "I am not a crook"? Will they be able to understand why, almost two years ago, some very sensible people wondered whether it was the last election? Will they understand how it felt—as it did last fall at the time the President fired Special Prosecutor Cox, and on several later occasions—when it seemed that there were no checks on power? Will they understand how degrading it was to watch a President being run to ground? Will they know how it was to feel in the thrall of this strange man, who seemed to answer only to himself? Knowing the conclusion, as they will, will they understand how difficult, frightening, and fumbling the struggle really was?

— Elizabeth Drew, "A Reporter in Washington D.C. III-Summer Notes"
The New Yorker, October 28, 1974 (in an entry dated August 8, 1974)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 1, Introduction (Con't)

There are few statements that can be made about America whose contradictions are not almost equally true.

—Godfrey Hodgson
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 1, Introduction

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

— L. P. Hartley

The past is never dead. It's not even past.

— William Faulkner
 Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Introduction

This semester I've been teaching an upper-level history course (called "Contemporary History") which covers the history of this country from 1973 through the present.  (If I decide to get all meta, I'll make the last fact I mention the fact that they are listening to the last fact I mention.)  The course is primarily a lecture course: I'm assigning eight books, and for each book we're having a class discussion, but otherwise I'm narrating a story.

To help them follow, I've been giving out outlines of my lectures, including key names, dates, etc: the idea is that way they aren't scrambling to get down those facts, but can listen to the ideas and narrative around them.  Who knows how much it helps.

At any rate, on the very first sheet (for the introductory lecture, laying out course themes, the problematics of contemporary history, and stuff like that) I put down a few quotes at the end of the outline and labeled them "commonplace book".  (This is the reference; see also here and here)  I didn't discuss them, but just threw them in.

Well, the practice quickly expanded. I started throwing in quotes I actually wanted to discuss, so they had them in front of them (for the same reasons that I was giving them the outline).  I also continued to throw in some quotes I didn't discuss (either ones that I didn't intend to discuss, or simply ones I didn't have time to discuss).  Most quotes were directly from or about the period or topic of the lecture, but some were thematic or associatal.

Anyway, I've decided, both because I think they're interesting and because this blog has been far too quiescent lately, to start posting them.  For the most part, I intend to post one per day, which mean that some lectures' quotes will go on for more than a week.  (The only case in which I intend to deviate from this is when I deliberately paired two quotes to work against each other, as I did sometimes; then I'll put up both in the same post.)

In the interest of both honesty and not going completely bugfuck insane, I'm going to strictly post only those I handed out to my students on the day of the lecture: I won't add or subtract to them.  No new finds or second thoughts.  The one exception to this: in some cases I would repeat quotes on the next handout, either if I hadn't gotten to it in the first lecture on whose handout it appeared,* or, more rarely, if I wanted to remind students of it.  In these cases, I won't repeat the quote, but will include it with the lecture where (to the best of my recollection) I actually discussed it — usually the second set, but occasionally the first.**

Finally, since these quotes will reflect the course's lectures, which are a key part, but only a part, of the class, I want to list the eight books I assigned here.  They include books on key topics I didn't lecture on (or didn't lecture sufficiently on).  I wouldn't choose the exact same books if I taught the course again, but I do think that most of them worked well, and that they, collectively, provided a very good introduction to the history of the period.  Anyway, enough apologetics: here they are:

  1. Jefferson Cowie, Stayin' Alive: the 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class
  2. Sara M. Evans, Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century's End
  3. Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture
  4. Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise
  5. Thomas Streeter, The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet
  6. Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
  7. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
  8. Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
The first quote will go up tomorrow morning — or, actually, the first quotes, since the first are a pair meant to work against each other.

I hope you enjoy them.

Update: to see all quote thus far posted, read this tag.

__________________________
 * Sadly common: I always hoped to cover more than I actually could.

** Except that, even here, in a few cases I considered the beginning of the next lecture to be "really" part of the next one... I guess all I can say is: if I repeated a quote, I'll only post it once, in the lecture that makes the most sense to me.  There won't be any revisionism about what quotes I included, but there might be a tiny bit regarding when they got talked about.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Forty-Three (How I'm Living Now)

Today, for no particular reason, I was moved to reread Harvey Pekar's classic short comics story, "I'll Be Forty-Three on Friday (How I'm Living Now)".

Since my copy is buried deep in a box, I'm fortunate that someone posted it online. As of now (no guarantee to these things, of course), you can read the entire thing here, albeit in an awkward format.