Appointed to Direct Center for History and Culture, August 23, 2021
With the start of the Fall 2021 semester, I am assuming the role of director of the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast. In 2016, my colleague Dr. Mary Scheer founded the Center as one of the "Visionary Initiatives" launched by former LU president Kenneth Evans. Charged with the mission to promote the study of the Gulf Coast region, the Center has sponsored numerous programs highlighting the work of scholars and creatives from varied disciplines and backgrounds. In addition, the Center funds original research through its fellowship program and awards two annual book prizes. Judy Linsley became director in 2019 and ably guided the Center through the adversities of university bureaucracies, hurricanes, and pandemics. I look forward to contributing to the Center's efforts to deepen our understandings of the rich and varied cultures of Southeast Texas and the Gulf Coast.
University Press of Kansas to Publish This Empire Grim, August 9, 2021
I am returning to my friends at the University Press of Kansas for my next book project This Empire Grim [click here for more information]. I received confirmation of my advance contract with the press today. I enjoyed the collaboration with my editors and production team at UPK during our work on The American Elsewhere (2017) and Inventing Destiny (2019). Some of you may have heard that UPK has initiated some changes, and I look forward to being a productive part the press's future. "This Empire Grim" is a working title, of course, and may change before we finalize the project. Check back for updates.
Completed Research at UVA, July 26, 2021
Book cradles and string weights. I must be back in the archives. I enjoyed four days last week at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in support of my book project This Empire Grim. I focused my time in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, sifting through the correspondence of early nineteenth-century fiction writers and poets as well as rare novels that have not yet appeared in digital form--at least any that I could find. In this example, Pittsburgh author Samuel Young submits Tom Hanson, the Avenger (1847) to the "Indian-Hater" genre with all the expected captivities, rescues, and bloodshed. At first reading, Young's use of graphic--if not gothic--depictions of severed limbs and brain splatter seems more relish than subversion. It illustrates well the ambiguities within expansionist commentary and the blurry distinctions between gothic subgenres. A big "thank you" to the helpful and friendly staff at the Small Special Collections for making the accommodations to re-open the reading room for in-person research.
Awarded the Freiberg Fellowship by the MHS, July 10, 2021
The Massachusetts Historical Society generously awarded me the Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellowship to support research in their collections. I will use the opportunity to dive into the Society's rich holdings on the literary culture of the early nineteenth century United States as part of my current book project This Empire Grim. I hope that I will be able to uncover conversations between authors, poets, artists, and other creatives about the consequences of their nation's territorial conquest and about their use of the gothic to question and subvert that imperial project. COVID has obviously hindered our usual forms of archival research. I may divide my time between in-person and remote access, but I am confident that my work with the MHS will be productive and meaningful. Click here for the announcement and other fellowships awarded.
My Copy of Southern Scoundrels Arrived, Apr 15, 2021
Jeff made me do it. I forget precisely how the conversation started, but some time ago (maybe 2017 or earlier), my Lamar History Department colleague Jeff Forret mentioned an idea for an anthology on the scoundrels of Southern capitalism. I immediately thought of my third-great grandfather William G. Cheeney, and I related his history of burglary, credit-dodging, and dubious claims of developing a Civil War submarine. The story may have been interesting, but when Jeff suggested that I might contribute to the collection, I balked. I did not think I had enough data on Cheeney to make a meaningful contribution to scholarship that lies outside my field of study. Jeff apparently recognized something within Cheeney's story and insisted, and so I relented. Jeff hand-delivered the results today, and I am pleased to be a part of it. Special thanks to my cousins and family historians Paige Walk and Gloria Clark who discovered that "Cheeney" was an alias. For more information see "William G. Cheeney" page.
"East Peters Out" Article Revisions Submitted, Mar 17, 2021
I have submitted revisions to my article, "'Where the East Peters Out: Dallas, Fort Worth, and Regional Branding in the Great Southwest," to Anne Hyde and Alexander Finkelstein who are putting together an anthology on regionalism for the University of Nebraska Press. Although I worked on it most of last year, I had been reluctant to mention it because I was not confident that it would come together. It covers territory that I had little experience researching, and I was not sure I had anything to add to the discussion about region, especially considering my aversion to the concept. With the guidance of Anne and Alex, however, I think the article will have something interesting to contribute, and I am looking forward to input from peer readers. For more information see "East Peters Out" page.