Sunday, December 6, 2009


Did someone mess with my computer??? A lot of words on my computer get the red squiggly underline with the American spelling but one I Britishize (or Britishise) them they are un-underlined. I swear I'm not being a pretentious Brit wannabe. I think someone is playing a joke on me =( Bloody computer.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams was born to a Puritan family in Weymouth, MA, just outside of Boston, on 11 November 1744. Abigail's father was a minister and the family was arguably well respected in the community. As a child Abigail was educated, but never attended school as it was customary for women to receive their education at home. The Adamses introduced their children to literature, history and foreign language. Edith B. Gelles, author of A Writing Life, writes that Abigail was a fan of Shakespeare but a critic of Moliere. Gelles also suggests that Abigail had an exceptional education for her time, but Abigail's letters are evidence of her informal education as they lack consistent grammar, spelling and punctuation. Letters to her husband are Abigail's legacy (women were not typically published in her time). While her husband, John Adams, was away in Philadelphia and abroad, they exchanged letters of love and politics. Abigail's letters show her "feminist" bent, as well as her concerns about slavery and religion. It is said that Abigail greatly influenced her husband's political career and was even regarded as "Mrs. President" while her husband was commander-in-chief. One of Abigail's sons was also president. Abigail Adams died 28 October, 1818 from typhoid fever.

Probably the most well-known letter that Abigail wrote to John is the one which reads "remember the ladies." In the letter, Abigail asks her husband to "remember the ladies" while he is in Philadelphia drafting the constitution. She writes of the differences in male and female education, efforts in the war, womens' subordination, and male titles of "master." Thomas Jefferson and Abigail Adams also conversed about the power differentials between men and women, and Jefferson responded that women actually hold more power over men than men do over women... Anyway... this is the last time any surviving correspondence between John and Abigail Adams contains the issue of women receiving governmental representation. The letter is related to issues of the time because it directly and indirectly addresses the issue of slavery and subjection to a master. It also addresses the issue of equality of individuals.

Gelles also makes an interesting point about the mode of communication that is letter writing. She describes the 18th century as "the golden age of letter writing." According to Gelles, letters are meant to create a certain intimacy between its writer and reader. One very important thing to note about letter writing is that it allowed the author to fully develop an idea or feeling that would be inhibited by conversation. Gelles says, "There are no discursive interruptions to writing, so a letter serves a mediative function in which ideas may grow and flourish creatively."

*The letters are not exclusive to her husband. Adams writes to friends and politicians as well (ones that would have been friends of the family, like Jefferson, for example).

Friday, December 4, 2009

If I applied to graduate school tomorrow...

Would you rather... apply to graduate school tomorrow or apply for a job tomorrow?

Both are equally terrifying.

Right now, I'm going to try to find a job. Edit that- I AM GOING TO FIND A JOB. A job that I love and I kick butt in at the same time.

To be a good sport, though, I'll play both cards of the game. If I had to apply to graduate school tomorrow I would either do public health or something in history or literature to further my Protestantism and the Scientific Revolution topic. Our research project for Colloquium has really piqued my interest. I think there is SO MUCH MORE to be done with the Protestant and scientific revolution thing. The intersection of religion and science (or religion and learning or religion and the world) is truly fascinating. I think that every religion and its position toward science and learning would be a very interesting relationship to study.

The research I have done on my chosen topic (Francis Bacon included), has been very enlightening. I have learned so much more about about history and literature. It's like eating the soup that Milo eats in The Phantom Tollbooth, when you eat the soup it makes you hungrier (some kind of fraction soup or maybe exponents or something). I think two of the most interesting things I have learned about are the boom in botany (English gardens in particular) and the religious fervour that drove science. I have also learned much more about theology than I ever desired. The whole research process has been exciting also. I honestly skipped down the aisles the in the Hesburgh library when I found some legitimate and helpful resources. It was not just exciting because I like my topic(s), but I was excited to find a few other people that had thought about the same thing I did. When I found books that encompassed the relationship between Protestantism and the Scientific Revolution I felt like I was validated, like I am onto something. It made me feel a little bit smart too. When I was with my family for Thanksgiving I stayed back at the house to read and write my annotations. My brother was studying too (gearing up for his clinicals and even giving me my Enbrel injection!) and I would pop into his room every half hour or so with another early modern english Baconian physico-teleological factoid that he really didn't care about but excited me. At least he shared in my humour when I laughed about the noble quality of gardening because plants were seen as "asexual" creatures that don't submit to their passions... (Harrison's "Adam in the Garden"). That was comical.

I wish I would have started this assignment last year. I went frequented a lot of Royal Botanic Gardens this summer and strutted past the Royal Society on the mall. Ah! I just breezed right by my "mecca" for this assignment without even batting an eye! I could spit on the roof of the British Library from my flat (which says a lot about the luxury quotient of my residence). At least I went to the Wellcome Center and saw their medical history exhibit. It would have been so exciting to discover the world of Bacon when I was in London. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that someone at S&S gets pregnant or fired so that a position opens up for me! Muahaha Okay I'm kidding about the pregnancy and firing (maybe just a little bit).

Anyway I have truly enjoyed working on my research project and think that it has been valuable. I wish I could really see my project come to fruition via a much more developed paper. That is why I say that if I had to go to apply to graduate school tomorrow I would apply to some history or literature program to really cultivate my project. I really believe that this topic has so much more potential to be realised.

PS If you are noticing that some of my words have an odd spelling it's because there must be some UK English setting on this thing. It underlined "realized" but leaves "realised" untouched. It also underlines "fervor" but thinks "fervour" is kosher. I don't remember checking any box for UK English but whatevs.

Monday, November 30, 2009

John Adams

My oldest brother graduated with a degree in History. I asked him what is his favorite time period to study, and he said that it was either WWII or the French Revolution. We got to talking about the French Revolution and then of course stumbled onto American soil. I told him about my biography project and he knew exactly who Abigail Adams is/was! I was so impressed. I am reading a biography of Mrs. Adams right now and it contains a large portion of her letters. Jeff continued to talk about the Adamses, he even owns the whole HBO series which I intend to steal sometime soon, and I got to thinking about what kinds of letters did not survive. Abigail concludes many letters with a 'burn after reading' type of comment. So what kinds of things did she think about and write about to her husband that we have no knowledge of now? There could have been something quite fascinating that disappeared. Isn't it interesting to think about all the documents that could piece together history of which we now have no trace? For example, if divers drafts of the constitution did not survive, we would not know that the abolition of slavery was initially considered. How would the discovery of a new letter or draft of the constitution or a diary or a treatise or a novel or a business transaction or whatever change the way we view history?


Has anyone ever heard of the board game 'Othello?' While we visiting family over Thanksgiving break we had a game night at a relative's house and I saw a board game that had to be purchased 2o years ago. It was called 'Othello' and was a game about black and white tiles, and I can't remember exactly what the tag-line was on the box but it said something like "black one minute... white the next..." and it takes a second to learn but "a lifetime to master."I can't find that old box online, but Amazon says "Othello is a game where not all is Black and White. The lead can change hands from play to play and strategy is everything. Play is simple. Players are represented by either Black or White discs on the board..."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


At some point in the reading last night, it dawned on me that Equiano spent most of his life as a lone drifter, a pseudo free-agent, without family. Reading his accounts of purchasing freedom, having it denied, being flogged unjustifiably, transferring jobs/masters, losing friends/masters, and finding his faith made me think about how dire situations make a person turn to their family for support. I thought about his separation from his sister... What would I possibly do if I was ripped from my family and never saw them again? Where would I turn if my money was stolen and I had nowhere to live? It is remarkable to me that Equiano and other slaves in his position were able to survive. I think his lack of a family unit was the catalyst for his faith journey. Equiano turned to religion when he had no one else. There were some people that he was close to and formed an attachment, but nothing that resembled a constant, unconditional familial bond.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The insane and the wicked

We have talked about the dangers of le theatre before, and and Francoise de Graffigny seems to find danger on the stage as well. In letter sixteen, she writes (or Zilia);
"They took me to a place where they enact, rather like in your palace, the actions of men who are no more, but with this difference: we evoke the memory of only the wisest and most virtuous, I think that here they celebrate only the insane and the wicked. Those who represent these figures rage and storm about like madmen; I have seen one take his fury so far that he killed himself."
My first reaction to this letter is - Did the actor really kill himself or was he such a good actor that he fooled Zilia. Then, I think about what kind of plays she might have seen, maybe some Moliere. If I had never seen a play or movie before, what kind of people and actions do I think should be represented and displayed for the public? Probably wise and virtuous ones to help spread wisdom and virtue. But, are comedies done so that the representations of vice lead men to their virtue (enlightenment reader?)? It makes me wonder what is worth celebrating via performance, and how does it vary from culture to culture?