Check out the excellent video that Caitlin, from Vast Public Indifference, put together in response to one of my recent posts on Civil War art. Caitlin’s commentary begins around 2:10. The video is here, but I encourage you to read her full post, which includes another video. Does anyone really believe that the images in this video reflect how white Virginians lived? More to the point, do people who fall into the demographic of those who are attracted to this “maudlin crapfest” actually believe that this reflects how they would have lived in antebellum Virginia? Even a cursory understanding of Virginia’s antebellum history demonstrates that many believed the commonwealth was headed in the wrong direction [click here and here]. Can we do no better than yearn for a return to a time when slavery was accepted? Such nostalgic silliness is nothing less than a yearning to return to slavery.
Update: Check out the obligatory response from Richard Williams who can’t think of anything more interesting to say other than to accuse us of South bashing [blah, blah, blah]. Do you really find the history of the Confederacy and the antebellum South in these images? Scary and just a little disturbing – no offense.
This semester I am working with a senior on an independent study, which focuses on the admittance of female students to the University of Virginia in the early 1970s. The student in question has already been accepted by UVA on a full scholarship to play golf. After reading a number of secondary sources and meeting with a member of UVA’s history department, who focuses on women’s history, I decided it was time to head on over to Special Collections to check out some primary sources. My goal was to get her acclimated to the system so she can go in alone and on her own time. We looked at a number of collections, but one in particular stood out. It was called the “Woody Report” and it was commissioned by the university in 1968 to gather information from various campus community’s on where they stood on the issue of the integration of women into the university.
We thumbed through the pages, but at one point my student looked at me and said, “Mr. Levin, do you realize that this is the originial copy of the report?” I knew at that moment exactly what was going on in her mind, and I also knew that this student would never look at history the same way. In that moment she made the leap from textbook to an actual document. It’s impossible to communicate the experience of holding history in your hands; in those moments time collapses and you are confronted with a piece of a story that you’ve only read about through the interpretation of another. As we drove back to campus I casually remarked that she would have to find time in her schedule over the next few weeks to go back and check out some additional collections. Well, she looked at me and said that she had already decided to go back first thing tomorrow morning.
If you are in the area today stop by room 4C for Lincoln cupcakes, Lincoln Logs, and a viewing of D.W. Griffith’s “Abraham Lincoln” starring Walter Huston. One of my students is bringing in Lincoln punch, but I’m not sure what that means. I should probably sample it beforehand.
If the answer is yes, than listen carefully. My department is currently looking to fill a couple of positions and we are getting swamped with applications. Compared to years past we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of applications from people who have recently earned a Ph.D in history. I assume the increase has something to do with a contracting job market in the academy as well as the state of the economy.
While I’ve strongly encouraged young Ph.Ds to consider a teaching career in private schools I think it is important to understand your competition as well as the expectations of most search committees. First and foremost, do not send the same resume that you would send to a college or university search committee to a private school. It should be obvious, but we are looking for very different things. You need to emphasize your teaching experience beyond any publishing you may have done or grant writing. In fact, if your publications are extensive you may want to consider widdling it down a bit. Your resume needs to reflect a history and continued interest in teaching and interaction with students rather than any scholarly accomplishments. That’s not to say that your publications are not relevant; in fact, most history departments in the private school sector are looking specifically for candidates who have a mastery of the content rather than a long list of workshops on the latest pedagogical fads. Don’t just mention in passign that you were a teaching assistant or grader for a specific class; briefly describe your responsibilities and the extent to which you worked directly with students. You may also want to limit the number of academic presentations and professional memberships in your application. There is nothing worse than having to read through a long list of esoteric paper titles. It only works to make you look like an asshole. Again, message is everything. Applications that fail to take these recommendations seriously send the message that the candidate is going to leave at the first opportunity. In short, you will not be given serious consideration.
Other recommendations: Most private schools are looking for coaches. Indicate those sports that you could coach and those that you feel comfortable assisting. To the extent possible do some background reseach on the school that you are applying to. Check out the history curriculum as well as the electives offered. Indicate in your application those subjects that you can teach and consider suggesting electives that will compliment those already being offered. Finally, check out the clubs that are offered and indicate which ones you would like to be involved with. The more student oriented your application looks the better chance you will get that phone call.
It looks like the Davis-Limber statue may wind up in a place where very few people will get to see it. The statue was origininally offered to the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar before the SCV pulled out of the deal. They are now looking to see if the state of Mississippi is interested in it; this is likely to go down in a ball of flames. A few people associated with Beauvoir have expresed interest in the statue. This would be an ideal place for the statue since it served as Jefferson Davis’s residence after the war and is currently managed by the Mississipi Division, SCV. It’s a beautiful place and by all appearances the SCV has done an excellent job of restoring the property following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Still, if the deal goes through it is hard not to consider the entire project to be a failure. After all, the goal was to counter or balance the Lincoln-Tad statue on the grounds at Tredegar, which many in the SCV find offensive. Don’t ask me why. A sitting Lincoln with his arm around Tad doesn’t seem to me to be very shocking. Finally, if the deal does go through the SCV would have offered the statue to themselves. I wonder if they will accept it.