AmericanStudies

One Interesting American Thing per Day

Ben Railton

Ben Railton
Location
Needham, Massachusetts, US
Birthday
August 15
Title
Associate Professor
Company
Fitchburg State University
Bio
One interesting American thing per day, from a professor of American literature, culture, history, and Studies. Check out http://www.americanstudier.org for more!

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JANUARY 14, 2012 7:52AM

January 14-15, 2012: The Year Ahead

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Four developing American Studier stories on which I’m looking forward to keeping you updated as this year unfolds.

As usual (at least for my University’s spring schedule), MLK Day marks the final day of winter break, and so this coming week an American Studier’s thoughts (and, as you’ll see blog posts) will turn to the spring semester ahead. But while the semester’s five courses and an upcoming thesis defense (for a grad student on whom you’ll hear more this week too) will most definitely occupy a lot of my pedagogical and scholarly energy and focus, as they should, there are other American Studies projects on which I’ll continue to work throughout the spring and beyond. Here are four at the top of that list.

1) American Writers Museum Traveling Exhibition: As I noted in Friday’s post, the NEH proposal has gone out, and we won’t hear until August whether our year of planning for the exhibition has been funded; so I’m partly being my eternally optimistic self by noting that I’ll be working more on this project in the year to come. But as that post also illustrated, I’ve made amazing scholarly connections through the project no matter what, and I’d like for that trend to continue! So, per this post’s request, howsabout you help make that happen and talk to me about some contemporary 1st or 2nd generation immigrant American authors you’d highlight?

2) New England American Studies Association: Despite my tyrannical reign as NEASA President having ended, they haven’t found a way to get rid of me yet (cue maniacal laughter), and I’m looking forward to working on both of the year’s big, in-development NEASA events. In May, we’ll hold the second Spring Colloquium; this one, preliminarily scheduled for Saturday May 12th, will be at Salem’s House of the Seven Gables, and will feature both a morning conversation about historical and cultural institutions and an afternoon walk and talk along the historic waterfront area. And October will feature the next Fall Conference—look for a first Call for Papers and a lot more details soon, but I can report that the conference will focus on the Digital Humanities, will likely be held at the URI Providence campus, and should be another great American Studies time!

3) Book Three: This summer and my fall sabbatical (my first!) will, I pledge here publicly in the hopes that I will thus feel even more forced to hold myself to it, allow me to complete a first manuscript of my third book, about which I wrote a good bit in this post. I’ve felt more and more strongly over the last year or two that the book’s three most central and interconnected ideas—that we as Americans need to do a better job engaging with our darkest histories and stories; that some of our best novels can help us to do that; and that it’s only through such engagement that we, like those novels’ characters, can move into a genuinely hopeful future—are vitally important to our national community and future. So it’s time for me to say what I have to say about them!

4) American Studier: Obviously I’m excited about this website, about all the great work that Graham Beckwith has done to make it so impressive, and about my own ideas for where it can go next—but I’m most excited at the thought of all the content and ideas and contributions that other American Studiers can, and I hope will, bring to the site in the year ahead. That means you—so start a Forum conversation, send along an Analytical Piece of your own, email me (brailton@fitchburgstate.edu) a suggestion, and otherwise get involved and help make this site as communal and American Studies as possible!

More next week, teaching posts as the new semester begins,

Ben

PS. What are you working on, looking forward to, excited about in the year to come?

1/14 Memory Day nominees: I can’t decide between Tillie Olsen, the hugely unique author and activist who helped change the way Americans think about class, gender, motherhood, and identity (among other themes); and Julian Bond, the Civil Rights leader, legislator, and scholar who helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and whose influences on 20th and 21st century America are immeasurable. So let’s call it Olsen-Bond Day!

1/15 Memory Day nominee: Martin Luther King, Jr., who of course already has a holiday in his honor but who deserves it as much as anyone I will or could nominate all year.

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