NYMASA Salon Talks Fall 2019

The New York Metro American Studies Association is delighted to announce its series of Salon Talks for Fall 2019. Once again, we have a terrific array of scholars talking about their recently-published books. Salon Talks are an opportunity for local American Studies scholars to share their published work with an intimate audience. They tend to be small, lively, and informative; light refreshments are served.

 

This semester all Salon Talks will be held at 6:30 pm in the Faculty and Staff Lounge, on the 8th floor of the West Building, Hunter College (Lexington Avenue and 68th Street). For directions, more information, or to rsvp, contact Sarah Chinn at sarah.chinn@hunter.cuny.edu

 

Wednesday, September 18th

Jean O’Malley Halley (College of Staten Island), Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of Horses (University of Georgia Press)

Horse Crazy explores the meaning behind the love between girls and horses. Jean O'Malley Halley, a self-professed "horse girl," contends that this relationship and its cultural signifiers influence the manner in which young girls define their identity when it comes to gender. Halley examines how popular culture, including the "pony book" genre, uses horses to encourage conformity to gender norms but also insists that the loving relationship between a girl and a horse fundamentally challenges sexist and mainstream ideas of girlhood.

Horse Crazy looks at the relationships between girls and horses through the frameworks of Michel Foucault's concepts of normalization and biopower, drawing conclusions about the way girls' agency is both normalized and resistant to normalization. Segments of Halley's own experiences with horses as a young girl, as well as experiences from the perspective of other girls, are sources for examination. "Horsey girls," as she calls them, are girls who find a way to defy the expectations given to them by society-thinness, obsession with makeup and beauty, frailty-and gain the possibility of freedom in the process.

 

Tuesday, October 22nd

Vincent DiGirolamo (Baruch College), Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys (Oxford University Press)

Crying the News: A History of America's Newsboys offers an epic retelling of the American experience from the perspective of its most unshushable creation. It is the first book to place newsboys at the center of American history, analyzing their inseparable role as economic actors and cultural symbols in the creation of print capitalism, popular democracy, and national character. DiGirolamo's sweeping narrative traces the shifting fortunes of these "little merchants" over a century of war and peace, prosperity and depression, exploitation and reform, chronicling their exploits in every region of the country, as well as on the railroads that linked them. While the book focuses mainly on boys in the trade, it also examines the experience of girls and grown-ups, the elderly and disabled, blacks and whites, immigrants and natives.

Based on a wealth of primary sources, Crying the News uncovers the existence of scores of newsboy strikes and protests. The book reveals the central role of newsboys in the development of corporate welfare schemes, scientific management practices, and employee liability laws. It argues that the newspaper industry exerted a formative yet overlooked influence on working-class youth that is essential to our understanding of American childhood, labor, journalism, and capitalism.

 

Thursday, November 24th

Cynthia Wachtell (Yeshiva University), The Backwash of War: An Extraordinary American Nurse in World War I (Johns Hopkins University Press)

 

In September 1916, as World War I advanced into a third deadly year, an American woman named Ellen N. La Motte published a collection of stories about her experience as a war nurse. Deemed damaging to morale, The Backwash of War was immediately banned in both England and France and later censored in wartime America. At once deeply unsettling and darkly humorous, this compelling book presents a unique view of the destruction wrought by war to the human body and spirit. Long neglected, it is an astounding book by an extraordinary woman and merits a place among major works of WWI literature.

This volume, edited and with a detailed introduction by Cynthia Wachtell, gathers, for the first time, La Motte's published writing about the First World War. In addition to Backwash, it includes three long-forgotten essays. Annotated for a modern audience, the book features both a comprehensive introduction to La Motte's war-time writing in its historical and literary contexts and the first extended biography of the "lost" author of this "lost classic." Not only did La Motte boldly breach decorum in writing The Backwash of War, but she also forcefully challenged societal norms in other equally remarkable ways, as a debutante turned Johns Hopkins–trained nurse, pathbreaking public health advocate and administrator, suffragette, journalist, writer, lesbian, and self-proclaimed anarchist.

 

Monday, December 10th

Leigh Claire LaBerge (LaGuardia Community College), Wages Against Artwork

Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art (Duke University Press)

The last twenty years have seen a rise in the production, circulation, and criticism of new forms of socially engaged art aimed at achieving social justice and economic equality. In Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor—the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase in the demands of work. Outlining the ways in which socially engaged artists relate to work, labor, and wages, La Berge examines how artists and organizers create institutions to address their own and others' financial precarity; why the increasing role of animals and children in contemporary art points to the turn away from paid labor; and how the expansion of MFA programs and student debt helps create the conditions for decommodified labor. In showing how socially engaged art operates within and against the need to be paid for work, La Berge offers a new theorization of the relationship between art and contemporary capitalism.