Onions Anyone? There’s Red, White, Yellow, and MY Personal Favorite, Vidalia…

When I first decided to pursue my MA in History, I was under the impression that I would just focus and learn more about my interests in history, U.S. military history to be exact.. I thought that I would delve into more specific studies of military history and become a “go to guy” when it came to that area. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the scope of what we were going to have to do in my first semester. WOW!, Just WOW! I could not understand at first just what all of this reading was meant to do.  It was like an onion, one that was strong and overpowering, and made me want to cry as I started into it.

Then, as I started to peel back the layers, it was like a sweet Vidalia onion. Each layer didn’t make me want to cry. I began to see why each reading, not only in this class, but my others as well, were meant to make me think about how to study, research, write, and better understand history as a whole. History encompasses everything, not just U.S. military history. It is a much bigger world than what I was looking at before, when I was wearing “blinders.” Obviously, I knew that, but gender studies was not a subject of great interest to me. However, these readings in class have really been an eye opening experience for me. PREVIOUSLY, I had always had a nagging thought process, one that I could not understand nor explain, even though I empathized, and understood women’s positions and their points of view. I had been so used to feeling (and women, I wish apologize in advance, this is not a slam directed at anyone specifically, by any means,) like, …Gender studies…again? I get it, equal rights, women’s rights, I get it, but don’t take it out on me…, I was not part of what happened in the past, so stop blaming me for what other people did. Stop trying to punish me.  NOW, after really being exposed to just the tip of the iceberg of gender studies, I realize and have a much deeper understanding and respect for the field, because like that iceberg, there is so much that is under the surface, so much more.

As we discussed last week, gender studies is an important part of history, but it has many layers, and I thought about how an onion is an important part of certain recipes, so too is gender studies. As I read Joan Scott this week, I was decidedly unsure of what to think, I had an idea of what was coming but, I was not sure about how she would write about the topic. Our conversation last week in class helped to set up my understanding of the subject of gender studies and I felt that that was a great segway into this week’s readings. After having read Foucault, I was glad to read someone with a different style of writing. Scott, was still, in my opinion, a little dense to read, but again, nothing like Foucault. One part in particular stood out to me and I think that she summed up the field of gender studies quite well.

Joan Scott writes, “Gender, then, provides a way to decode meaning and to understand the complex connections among various forms of human interaction. When historians look for the ways in which the concept of gender legitimizes and constructs social relationships, they develop insight into the reciprocal nature of gender and society…” (pg. 1070).

The field of gender studies encompasses women and men and as such, again is very complex. I feel that as the field grows and that as we, new historians, move forward into the digital age, we are becoming more and more aware of how this field is becoming more and more inclusive. This is no longer a subject that can be overlooked, swept under the rug, or ignored. It is an integral part of our history, and such, needs to be included in any study of history. Gender studies definitely  has many layers and facets, some of which, like an onion, can make you cry.

Edgy and Pushing the Envelop – What Influenced Eley?

Iggers, Foucault, now Eley, what? I mean, I am really getting bogged down with all of the dense readings. I find myself agreeing with Kate in wondering “why” are we reading this, then I begin to realize that this is part of learning to be an historian. We need to read about the thought process and how others are studying and writing about history. This is all part of the methodology and the way we need to be flexible in our own writing styles; not getting “stuck in a rut” or a routine way of researching and writing ourselves. I do feel that sometimes these writers can have a much more powerful  meaning by writing LESS or writing in a more “down to earth” style. Why does it seem that to be considered scholarly and academic, that one has to be so aloof,ostentatious, or pretentious in their writing style. (You see I can use the Thesaurus button on my computer too. Kind of reminds me of Riley in National Treasure , “Snorkel, Albuquerque…”I feel that it may have more meaning if they would just write it so that more people could connect with the writing. I found Eley to be like Iggers and Foucault in a way, and therefore it was hard for me to sink my teeth into.

Wow, as for Steedman, what a story! I was really shocked to read about how her mother felt at times, or at least how appeared to feel at different points in her life. I had a myriad of feelings come flooding back to me in regards to the readings, as some of the situations seemed very familiar.

Steedman wrote a very engrossing story, one which could draw the reader in, however, I found myself shaking my head asking why was I reading about her childhood?  Then I realized that this was an example of using a personal narrative, her autobiography and the story of her mother to tell of the experiences in a working class society from one person’s perspective. I find this to be a little dangerous, as even though it was probably a true to life accounting with the possibility of some embellishment, it was still one person’s point of view. This brought to mind the case of the “cat massacre” and it may cause people to want to find more sources to back a personal story, which could possibly be problematic.

However, for the purpose for which it is written (as a glimpse into social history, gender, work, ethics, places, and a specific time in history), it does provide a great window into the past, which people can look through to see a picture of this bygone era.

I also found it very interesting that Eley talked about how he found Steedman to be “edgy” yet he seemed to like the fact that she pushed the envelop. That showed respect and the fact the he said that he was influenced by her caused me to want to read Steedman with a different eye.

I still found it hard to pinpoint her argument as opposed to a good bit of personal narrative which led to an overall good story about her childhood and her relationship to her family…Again, I look forward to our discussions in class on Tuesday.

On Foucault – This Week’s “Glob”, Uhh…I mean Blog

In this week’s glob, and yes I did say glob, not blog, I was very befuddled by Foucault’s writing. Therefore this week’s blog will be my understanding (or lack thereof) of the enormous glob of information that was strewn across the articles this week. Needless to say, there are probably many fans of Foucault and I am sure that with a more thorough investigation, i.e. reading his works over again, and taking time to try to digest his ideas set forth, I may become more comfortable with it. However, for this week, I, like several of my fellow cohort members, found him to be very difficult to follow and I am looking forward to our class discussions to help shed some light on the subject.

I did find Patricia O’Brien’s analysis of Foucault’s work somewhat easier to follow and hope that I took away a better understanding of Foucault from it, however, my comfort level does not exude a warm and fuzzy feeling… O’Brien did point out on page 25 that Foucault has not “been recognized for what it is: an alternative model for writing the history of culture…” I am starting to see from our various readings that we are gathering a new set of tools from which we can draw to aid us in our own research and writing about history. This is of great importance, as we as up and coming historians, need to understand that the way that history has been written for the last century or two, is starting to be scrutinized in a whole different light and we need to change with the times to make history more accessible to those that want to learn about our past.

O’Brien also went on to say that “Foucault’s reception by historians has been troubled and contentious.” (pg. 27) This was eye opening for me because it sort of validated the way that I was feeling towards the readings myself. However, as I read on, I found that historians begrudgingly started to see the merits of his work, and as such, other disciplines also started to see how his concepts could be used to open new ways of interpreting the past or find a different path to investigate topics. His flagrant, fly in the face of the “norm” was akin to a “barbarous knight, galloping across the historical terrain”…with reckless abandon and disregard for “careful and meticulous research”, according to Jacques Leonard. (pg. 29) of O’Brien’s analysis.

I was just very confused by the way that Foucault, he himself a philosopher and not so much an historian , seemed very haughty and somewhat dense (not as in the “dunderhead” sort of dense) in the way that he wrote. I am glad to have read O’Brien’s analysis, because it help to paint a little clearer picture, for which I am very grateful. Like I said before, I am certainly looking forward to our class discussion next week, so that I can hopefully get a more clear understanding of Foucault’s ideas.