American Studies Road Trip

Tags: Teaching the anti-survey, not that Oz, why Ken Kesey is like Increase Mather.

It’s that time of year, as excellent posts by Caleb McDaniel and Kevin Levin remind us, and I too have been (re)designing the courses I’ll be teaching next fall. I have one new course to prep (20th Century U.S. History) and one course I’ll be repeating (American Studies).

Some people asked me to describe my American Studies course after I mentioned it in a post-Katrina post nearly a year ago, but I got so busy teaching it that only now have I had much of a chance to reflect on the class and how it went. It was a learning experience, as any first-year professor’s courses are going to be, but it really was a joy to teach. Our undergraduate program in American Studies is brand new, and the faculty very generously gave me a free hand to do almost anything I wanted with this seminar. In a lot of ways I got to teach my dream course. Read more


The War Against Mothers Day

Tags: The Greeting Card Octopus, Net Neutrality Moms, the difference an apostrophe makes.

In North America, at least, a lot of the spring holidays seem like also-rans: Heritage Day, Family Day, Administrative Professionals Day… They’re like the movies that come out in Spring, neither summer blockbusters like the 1st or 4th of July, nor the prestige offerings of Winter and Fall. They’re the Hallmark holidays. We celebrate them, if at all, with the dim sense we’ve been had by the Greeting Card Octopus or the Florists’ Trust.

Mother’s Day is different, of course. I’ve never really heard anyone complain about Mother’s Day. And I’d never heard anything about its melodramatic history or its progressive roots until I read Stephanie Coontz’ 1992 book The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. (It’s possible I’m just out of the loop, though: I see the story is all over the internets today.) Read more