Associate Professor of English Paul Graham has a new book published, In Memory of Bread a Memoir. He made a very successful presentation of the book at a Faculty Cafe in late September, and in July he spoke with North Country Public Radio’s reporter David Sommerstein about the book, which he wrote to:
I also wanted to explore the culinary traditions that a person leaves behind when they forsake grains. What do you fall out of, what do you join. I find it difficult to tell what you would call a straight-shot memoir, I’m always clustering things around it. So I wanted to write a little bit about history, I wanted to also parse and synthesize some of the science that’s out there on what might be causing this and what it all means, and I was able to do that through the book.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of Paul’s book:
…the author stays focused on his experience, whether he’s mourning the loss of the luxury of turning a chef loose to make a meal for him, bemoaning the tastelessness of most of the gluten-free offerings at the supermarket, indulging in “gluten-voyeurism” by watching the Food Channel’s Guy Fieri pig out on diner fare, or realizing how much he hates millet (“dry, gritty, and less flavorful than any other grain I had ever tasted”). Graham’s awareness that, since his health improved radically once he changed his diet, he was left suffering what should probably be considered a “first-world problem” goes a long way toward increasing reader sympathy, and his mouthwatering evocations of homemade tortillas and buckwheat crepes make it clear that he still finds plenty to enjoy in and out of the kitchen. An enjoyable memoir for wheat-free foodies and others limited in their gastronomical choices.
Congratulations Paul on your new memoir!
We have from time to time run profiles of student research, to highlight just how research, including the use of library resources, is living and breath at SLU. With this post we’d like to profile work by Daniel Banta, who is involved with our Digital Humanities initiative.
Banta Daniel 2018 ’18
Daniel Banta’s Digital Humanities Fellowship has been invested in research, and in learning how to make research public through the web. Daniel has been developing a web site for Elun Gabriel’s Spring 2017 History course on genocide, and he specifically has been researching the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Using the mapping software CARTO, Daniel has been mapping massacre sites in Rwanda and uploading research he has found relevant to what happened at the locale. This documentation includes materials such as newspaper articles, narrative accounts, and United Nations reports. The idea is that students in Dr. Gabriel’s class will have this material to begin their work, and then can add to it as they begin their own research. “It’s very much in the spirit of a Wiki.” In discussing the project Daniel also added, “I once saw a map-based visualization of World War Two and that was an inspiration. It also started a conversation with Elun, who offered me this research assistantship. I really didn’t have a great deal of background with either the Rwandan genocide or technology, so it’s been a lot of learning by doing. Hard, I’ll admit, at times…”
Matthew Carotenuto is an Associate Professor of History and the Coordinator for our African Studies program, and he has co-authored a book with Katherine Luongo, an Associate Professor of History at Northeastern University, titled: Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging. Matt summarizes the book this way:
“The origins for this book are actually linked to St. Lawrence. In the spring of 1998, as a student on the Kenya Semester Program, I got my first taste in oral historical research. Tasked with a month long oral history project with fellow student Samantha Schroeder, we spent our days stumbling around the shores of Lake Victoria interviewing members of the Luo community, not more than a few miles from where Barack Obama’s father grew up. Ever since my initial experiences in western Kenya, my work has focused on notions of identity and belonging within the Luo community.
I would have never thought though, that six years after my study abroad experience I would begin fielding questions from Kenyans about “that boy from Chicago” in the midst of dissertation field work on colonial history. However, specializing in region of Obama’s Kenyan paternal heritage, my work since 2004 (and especially 2008) has had to contend with the rise of “Obamamania” in Kenya and the ways the Obama and Kenya story provides insight into the historic politics of belonging.
In the book we argue that, Barack Obama’s political ascendancy has focused considerable global attention on the history of Kenya generally and the history of the Luo community particularly. From politicos populating the blogosphere and bookshelves in the U.S and Kenya, to tourists traipsing through Obama’s ancestral home, a variety of groups have mobilized new readings of Kenya’s past in service of their own ends. We argue that efforts to cast Obama as a “son of the soil” of the Lake Victoria basin provide sharp insights into both the global politicized uses of Kenya’s contested past and the local politics of belonging. Speaking to a broad audience interested in world affairs and ideally suited for classroom use, Obama and Kenya provides an important counterpoint to the proliferation of popular, inaccurate texts about Kenya’s history as well as focused, thematic analyses of contemporary debates about ethnic politics, “tribal” identities, postcolonial governance and U.S. African relations.”
Award last spring at Joe Kling’s FODYLL Commencement Lecture, the 2016 FODYLL North Country Research Award was given to the sister-scholars team of Samantha and Kimberly Habb, for their paper The Environmental Impacts of Microplastics: An Investigation of Microplastic Pollution in North Country Waterbodies. The paper was prepared under the direction of Dr. Erika Barthelmess. Samantha and Kimberly describe their purpose this way:
We sought to investigate the issue of microplastic pollution in North Country waterbodies framing our investigation as a conservation issue. Microplastic pollution has been found in North Country waterbodies including the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Champlain. Our research reveals the sources of microplastic pollution, the threat that microplastic pollution poses to biodiversity, the extent of microplastic pollution in the North Country, the various stakeholders who have an interest in the issue of microplastic pollution, the governmental issues that relate to the topic, and potential solutions to this widespread and prevalent pollution problem. Based on our findings we conclude that in order to adequately address and remedy the issue of microplastic pollution in North Country waterbodies, immediate action is needed in the form of consumer education and legislation to target and eliminate the sources of microplastic pollution in a timely manner. In order to be effective, an adequate solution needs to be inexpensive, require minimal changes to lifestyle, be ubiquitous and global in its application, and offer an effective strategy both for preventing continued pollution of waterways and for removing the microplastics that are already present.
The paper is available here. It is very professional research, it is an important topic for those of us who live in the North Country. Congratulations Samantha and Kimberly!
Ah, summer has come to an end, it’s mailed. Thinking about how to conclude this string of posts about letters and letter writing, it turns out, quite by chance, we have two new books about the Post Office arriving for our Browsing Collection. Browsing at the post office! Well, here they are:
I am searching my brain for a profundity to blog, but what it seems like I have is this chance encounter with two very new (2016) titles about the Post Office as institution, so will leave this luck as punctuation. More FODYLL blogging, if not about letters, straight ahead…
Writing a lovingly crafted review of a new edition of the selected letters for Joseph Conrad in the newest issue of the Hudson Review, David Mason writes:
I miss letters, postcards, aerogrammes–typed or handwritten, arriving with kaleidoscopic stamps, inked with dates and places of origin. They took time and gave weight to words. Often they went out like shared pages from private notebooks, collaborations with the friends and strangers to whom they were sent. Now when real letters arrive I can hardly believe in their existence. Caught from the neck up in the Internet, I have slowly learned that a civil voice still has to be fashioned with patience and calm I do not always possess.
We don’t actually have the edition of Conrad’s letters to which Mason alludes, but it made me think of collections of letters like Letters from a Lost Generation: the First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and four friends, Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain, Victor Richardson, Geoffrey Thurlow edited by Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge. A collaboration of people reflecting their times and their struggle with the war of their generation. Weight in the words…exactly why to read letters, so succinctly put by Mr. Mason.
Old friends…over the past couple of weeks I read Byron’s Letters and Journals: a New Selection from Leslie A. Marchand’s twelve-volume edition, edited by Richard Lansdown. Having read Byron’s letters edited by Marchand in twelve volumes when I was in graduate school, this was visiting with an old friend. Of course, none of the letters are to me, but like most people who suffer some degree of Byron-mania the voice that resonates in the letters is enough of the man to make him feel familiar when you read. One of the pleasures of reading letters is the exploration of friendship, the way letters can convey and confirm intimacy between two people. The way letters convey how someone loved, looking around simply for letters about friendship and love and come upon titles like A Chance for Love: the World War II letters of Marian Elizabeth Smith and Lt. Eugene T. Petersen, USMCR edited by Eugene T. Petersen, or Hemingway in Love and War: the Lost Diary of Agnes von Kurowsky, Her Letters, and Correspondence of Ernest Hemingway edited by Henry Serrano Villard and James Nagel, or The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy edited and with an introduction by Katherine Bucknell. The lost generation in war and in love, read about it in letters. Another one I found on this short search was Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958 Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson with an introduction and commentary by Joyce Johnson, another generation and for me another familiar voice in the form of Kerouac. Writing about what it means to be a friend, as far as he was capable, human frailty is certainly a quality that comes through in letters…
I am out of the office for two weeks, so will suspend blogging about letters for that time. However, what a perfect mid summer block of time to read Clarissa by Samuel Richardson which is A) perhaps the first novel in English, and B) is an epistolary novel! If in fact begins the tradition of the epistolary novel which continues to this day. We have a lovely four volume 1932 version of Clarissa published in four volumes. Imagined letters will certainly do when there is no real mail awaiting one…
And given the weather is supposed to be sultry in extremes, we have Richardson’s correspondence in six volumes if you really want to read…back with more on letters later in the summer…
One of the great reading experience with letters is reading a correspondence. What was the back and forth? How did the two personas that emerge in the letters interact? There are famous correspondences such as The Adams-Jefferson Letters; the Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams, a two volume work, or better still, a two volume conversation with history. One on display in our Browsing Collection is Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. Letters long and short (they exchanged post cards as well as epistles), and they include a lot of writing about reading, a lot of writing about work. Berry and Snyder are of course important literary figures in the modern American scene, but their orientation to the life of the mind and simultaneously to life working with one’s hands makes this a very immediate and available book. A perfect book for summer–for a summer divided between the garden and the library.
The late Frank Kermode was perhaps the most influential literary critic of his generation, and in 1995 he edited with Anita Kermode The Oxford Book of Letters. It is one in the voluminous series of anthologies published by Oxford UP. There’s an anthology for whatever time period or genre you’re interested in, including letters. Only someone with Kermode’s taste and confidence could have even thought of compiling an anthology like this, although, because the letters were chosen for reasons of their individual quality–“[we] have tried to leave room for the less illustrious, whose performances as writers may well be confined to epistolary correspondence undertaken for reasons of business, friendship, or love–the reasons, after all, for which the vast majority of us exchange letters–and written quite without regard for qualities that might win the admiration of an uninvited posterity”–there is something of a feeling of jumble here. There is a lot of fine writing, but there is also the feeling of being in an antique shop where the inventory was acquired without any overriding purpose. No sense of place, no sense of commonality. Which is not meant to discourage potential readers, but rather, to wonder a’loud about the role of a correspondence in the composition of letters…