Of all the contributions that historians can make to contemporary public discourse, I think that reflective skepticism about declension narratives is one of the most important. Historians define “declension narratives” as any story of change over time that trace a secular decline, decrease, or deterioration in a historical phenomenon. In other words, a declension narrative is any story we tell about something getting progressively worse (not just different) over time, in a non-cyclical way. Once you become aware of the existence of declension narrative, you’ll begin to notice that they’re everywhere in our culture. Two places I notice them all the time are in the discourse of generational change (check out ANY article about the so-called “millennials”) and in any discussion of the liberal arts in modern society.
Tag Archive for Kevin
This week’s assignment for the Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative is to explore online scholarly communities. I spent some time racking my brain trying to think up Early Americanist communities online, until I realized that I have been an active user of just such a community for years, H-Net. I belong to several of their groups, and I get much of my information about fellowships, conferences, and new work from interacting with their email listservs and their newly renovated web portal. The size and breadth of its user community makes it an invaluable resource for me. Read more
I have often argued that the square, blocky buildings of the 1940s-1970s that dominate American cityscapes don’t deserve all the hate that they get. A lot of them have very nice proportions, and I find their minimal adornment preferable to plastic historical pastiche that has dominated architecture since the 1980s. See for example my favorite plain midcentury building in out neighborhood of College Terrace in Fredericksburg, the Washington Building pictured at left. And now there’s a blogger who shares my feelings. Actually, he feels them much more strongly than I do, strongly enough to have developed an extremely impressive (and impressively productive) blog on the subject, Midcentury Mundane. I cannot express how much I love this blog, both its concept and its execution. Plus, lots of bonus Upstate New York love, and he even covered Fredericksburg’s “Big Ugly” Although he called it “not a very interesting and engaging building,” obviously I secretly love it. It provides your eye such a nice break from the cloying cuteness of Caroline St.
If you’re like me, you’ve been hearing about Digital Humanities for a long time, without totally understanding what the term means. Or, more precisely, without totally understanding what of real value the “digital” can add to the “humanities.” The Digital Humanities can do lots of things, I am assured, but my problem has always been imagining exactly what those things are, and more importantly, what their payoff is. This blog post (h/t Kevin) does the best job I’ve seen so far of collecting and explaining high-quality examples of what the Digital Humanities can do. As a historian of tourism, I’m particularly enamored of the project mapping the Green Book. Highly recommended.