Considering a Ph.D. in American Studies?

February 13th, 2012

Yale University reports its doctoral program in American Studies saw a 13% increase in applications last year:

Yale’s Ph.D. program in American studies ranked best in the country in a 2010 National Research Council (NRC) survey, and the department’s chair is the president-elect of the American Studies Association — both of which give the program an “extremely high profile” nationally, Dudley said. Students also find faculty research topics such as economic inequality and social movements particularly relevant now, she said, adding that the program also offers a master’s certificate in public humanities that allows students to get jobs outside academia after graduation.

Hoover cross-dressing story looks shabby

February 13th, 2012

Out of theaters and out on DVD now, the biopic “J. Edgar” was roundly panned by critics, including American Studies professor Tom Doherty, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article “Hoover cross-dressing story looks shabby“:

With the opening of the film “J. Edgar,” however, the transvestite legend is likely to get fresh legs. While the movie sidesteps any reference to cross-dressing parties the G-man is alleged to have attended, it does include a poignant scene of a deeply grieving Hoover caressing, then donning, his just-deceased mother’s necklace and dress.

Why the obsession with Hoover in a dress?

It’s “the sheer snicker-inducing incongruity of the visual … the delicious irony in the spectacle of the man who kept everyone else’s secrets having such a transgressive one of his own,” said Thomas Doherty, a Brandeis University professor and author of “Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture.”

Leave a comment if you’ve seen the movie. What did you think?


“The Jewish Retail Giant and the Black Community”

February 13th, 2012

Brandeis American Studies Professor Stephen Whitfield’s February 6, 2012 article in Jewish tackles the issue of “The Jewish Retail Giant and the Black Community,” focusing on the anonimity (and philanthropy) of Sears, Roebuck president Julius Rosenwald and the impact of Jewishness on this obscurity. 

Whitfield notes that Rosenweld expressed concern that antisemitism might hurt rural business, and yet:

Whatever the validity of his concerns, his company did as much as any retail business in the nation to help farmers and their families conquer the burden of solitude.  More than any other business (except for the Ford Motor Company), Sears, Roebuck enabled a predominantly rural nation to connect with the rising influence of industrial and urban ways of life and ultimately with a cosmopolitan modernity.  No wonder then that, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was asked during the Second World War which American book he would like to see distributed in the Soviet Union, he did not nominate the Federalist Papers or Moby-Dick or even his own public papers.  Instead the leader who listed “freedom from want”—as one of the Four Freedoms that the Allies were fighting for—proposed the Sears, Roebuck catalog.

Whitfield holds the Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University.

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