Thursday, November 01, 2007

What is Rebecca Onion reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Rebecca Onion, a freelance writer and Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

One book she tagged in her entry:
Gail Bederman's Manliness and Civilization is a cultural history of the concept of "civilization" in America at the turn of the twentieth century. She looks at Ida B. Wells (journalist and anti-lynching activist), G. Stanley Hall (proto-educational psychologist), Charlotte Perkins Gilman (feminist author), and Teddy Roosevelt (president, obviously), and how each of them used discourses of masculinity, civilization and progress to advocate for their particular causes. G. Stanley Hall, for example, believed that boy children in "civilized" societies (aka, white societies) went through each stage of race evolution -- that they start out as savages, move their way through the various stages of cave-person, up through the medieval era, through the Enlightenment (that's adolescence, when the fiery stress of rapid knowledge accumulation causes outbreaks of unmanageability), and finally arrive at the pinnacle of the evolved human. (That would be the white American, circa 1900.) This is fascinating stuff, all the more fascinating because respectable intellectuals believed in it.
There is more of interest -- including a question for those who have read The Road -- so please read on.

Visit Rebecca Onion's website for clips of her writing and check out her MySpace page.

Writers Read: Rebecca Onion.

--Marshal Zeringue