Mason Author Series: Jennifer Ritterhouse

Join the University Libraries for the book launch of Discovering the South: One Man’s Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s on Wednesday, April 26 at 3 p.m. in the Fenwick Library Main Reading Room.

During the Great Depression, the American South was not merely “the nation’s number one economic problem,” as President Franklin Roosevelt declared. It was also a battlefield on which forces for and against social change were starting to form. For a white southern liberal like Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, it was a fascinating moment to explore. Attuned to culture as well as politics, Daniels knew the true South lay somewhere between Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. On May 5, 1937, he set out to find it, driving thousands of miles in his trusty Plymouth and ultimately interviewing even Mitchell herself.

In Discovering the South, historian Jennifer Ritterhouse pieces together Daniels’s unpublished notes from his tour along with his published writings and a wealth of archival evidence to put this one man’s journey through a South in transition into a larger context. Daniels’s well chosen itinerary brought him face to face with the full range of political and cultural possibilities in the South of the 1930s, from New Deal liberalism and social planning in the Tennessee Valley Authority, to Communist agitation in the Scottsboro case, to planters’ and industrialists’ reactionary worldview and repressive violence. The result is a lively narrative of black and white southerners fighting for and against democratic social change at the start of the nation’s long civil rights era.

Visit the author’s website for more about the project.

Jennifer Ritterhouse is associate professor of history at George Mason University. She is the author of Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race and several articles; editor of a reprint edition of Sarah Patton Boyle’s autobiography, The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian’s Stand in Time of Transition; and co-editor of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. She teaches classes on the 20th-century US, the South, cultural history, and research methods.

The University Libraries’ Mason Author Series features Mason faculty and alumni authors throughout the year, and is generously sponsored by the University Bookstore. Upcoming readings include Distinguished Visiting Professor Michael Hayden on May 4.

For more information about the Mason Author Series, please contact John Warren, Head, Mason Publishing, publishing.gmu.edu

 

Exploratory Analysis of Historic Document Collections

Dr. Dieter Pfoser of George Mason’s Geography and GeoInformation department will present on his latest project with the National Archives’ Founders Online database and describe his process for creating interactive maps and visualizations from correspondence collections. The lecture will be held on Monday, April 24, 3:30 p.m, Main Reading Room, Fenwick Library.

The presentation is sponsored by University Libraries’ Digital Humanities Working Group. For more information, please contact George Oberle, History Librarian, goberle at gmu.edu

 

Fenwick Fellow Lecture: Skirting the Issue

Join the University Libraries on Thursday, April 13 at 2 p.m. in the Fenwick Library Main Reading Room, for Dr. Kristina Olson‘s lecture, “Skirting the Issue: Clothing and Politics in 14th Century Italy,” where she will discuss her research findings from her 2015-2016 Fenwick fellowship.

Lecture Abstract: From the mid-13th to the end of the 14th century, an increase in mercantile activity in Florence and other cities in Italy witnessed the proliferation of new wealth among families that did not belong to the aristocracy. This economic development, together with other demographic shifts (such as those caused by the Black Death, ca.1350), caused many non-aristocratic families to climb in social and political power. One way in which they displayed their change in status was by means of their clothing and jewelry, thereby wearing their newfound gains on their persons. This drastic shift in social markers of status bred envy and confusion: families with long-standing claims to nobility appeared impoverished in comparison with these rising upstarts. Bitter feuding and acts of vengeance between the leading aristocratic and mercantile families ensued. In order to maintain social order, civic sumptuary legislation targeted various displays of luxury: excessive spending on clothing, jewelry, and rituals, such as funereal practices and exorbitant wedding dowries.

As clothing comprises a visual language signifying status, then, for many authors of the Italian Middle Ages clothing and luxury became an essential part of their poetic language, bound up with politics and civic identity. Dr. Olson’s book project, Sumptuous Literature: Clothing and Governance in Fourteenth-Century Italy, explores how authors interpret the relationship of wealth, politics and the body in terms that alternately target women (misogyny) or men (misandry) during this exceptional moment in economic and social history.

About the Fenwick Fellows: The Fenwick Fellowship is awarded annually to a Mason faculty member to pursue a research project that uses and enhances the University Libraries’ resources while advancing knowledge in the faculty member’s field. Applications for the 2017-2018 fellowship are currently being accepted; the deadline is May 5, 2017.

Mason Author Series: Helon Habila

Join the University Libraries, in conjunction with the Creative Writing Program’s New Leaves Festival, for a reading and signing by Helon Habila on Wednesday, April 5 at 7:30pm in the Fenwick Library Main Reading Room.

Helon Habila, an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Mason, will discuss The Chibok Girls, his compassionate and powerful account of one of the most horrific recent tragedies to occur in Nigeria: the kidnapping of 276 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in April 2014 by Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist group whose name translated into English means “western education is abhorrent.” Habila, a native of Nigeria, traveled to the country twice to track down some of the escaped girls and their families and reconstruct what happened on that fateful day and how the town is coping. He situates the kidnappings within the political and historical context of the rise of Islamist extremism in Nigeria, which is deeply rooted in its tragic history of colonialism.

The University Libraries’ Mason Author Series features Mason faculty and alumni authors throughout the year, and is generously sponsored by the University Bookstore. Upcoming readings include Associate Professor Jennifer Ritterhouse on April 26 and Visiting Professor Michael Hayden on May 4.