Reading the Anthropocene: Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”

In this, the inaugural entry in my series "Reading the Anthropocene," I've decided to focus on Margaret Atwood's biting dystopian novel Oryx and Crake, the first volume in the "Madaddam Trilogy."  The novel, by turns funny, disturbing, terrifying, and even oddly sentimental, is a testament to Atwood's continuing ability to paint a portrait of a future world … Continue reading Reading the Anthropocene: Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”

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Screening History: “The Robe”

The focus of this installment of "Screening History" is one of the lesser-known but still quite enjoyable historico-biblical films, Henry Koster's The Robe.  While not as famous as such midcentury epics as Ben-Hur or Spartacus, the film was one of the top box office successes of the decade, and has gone down in history as the first film released in … Continue reading Screening History: “The Robe”

The Dust-Heap of the Database and the Specters of the Spectator

Metathesis

In 2014, networks launched some 1,715 new television series, a staggering number that prompted manyarticles to declare variations on the theme “there are too many shows to watch.” Same story, different medium, I say. Franco Moretti, a contemporary literary scholar, writes that while twenty-first century Victorianists may (may) read around two-hundred Victorian titles, that barely counts as a drop in the bucket of the 40,000 titles published in the nineteenth century. And the other 39,800 novels? The short version: gone. The longer version: maybe not.

Most scholars probably recognize that the internet has changed the way we do historical research. For the next month, I’m going to bring my mix of book history, reception theory, and the specific approach to the internet that comes with being a scholar of my age (I don’t really remember life before the internet, but I remember America Online) to think about how historical…

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“Avengers: Age of Ultron”: A Melodramatic Myth for the Anthropocene

Warning:  Full spoilers for the film follow. I'll be the first to admit a fair amount of skepticism going into Avengers:  Age of Ultron.  While I am, as a rule, a fan of superhero films, and while I believe that Marvel films in particular are often far more complex and nuanced in their address than might … Continue reading “Avengers: Age of Ultron”: A Melodramatic Myth for the Anthropocene

“While the dearest of friends lays in the cold ground”: Epidemic Disease, Incarceration and Patriarchal Control; The Continuing Story of Josiah Spaulding

Metathesis

After Josiah Spaulding, Jr. was chained to the floor in his room in about 1812 by his minister father, he would never again live a life unfettered by his father’s religious and patriarchal control—a control which extended over the Spaulding family long after the Reverend’s death in 1823.

Oral history of Buckland tells the tale of Josiah’s early escape attempt: he rubbed his chains against the wooden floor in his bedroom for about a year, finally breaking them. This story is recorded in Neil Perry’s 1966 article for the Springfield Morning Union. While there is much sensationalism in any newspaper article written about Josiah, my trip to the Spaulding house in Buckland in 2012 led me to believe this had actually happened.

After some research, I managed to locate the owner of the former parsonage, built in the late 1700s, the home of Reverend Spaulding, Mary Williams and their…

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