One Interesting American Thing per Day

Ben Railton

Ben Railton
Needham, Massachusetts, US
August 15
Associate Professor
Fitchburg State University
One interesting American thing per day, from a professor of American literature, culture, history, and Studies. Check out for more!

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MAY 15, 2012 1:09PM

May 15, 2012: NEASA Colloquium Highlights, Part Two

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[On Saturday, May 12th, I had the honor to run the second annual New England ASA Spring Colloquium. We met in Salem, first at The House of the Seven Gables and then out and about in the historic district, and talked about historic sites, public history and memory, place and identity, and much more. In this week’s series I’ll be briefly highlighting each of our six featured speakers and a bit on his or her interesting and inspiring talk and ideas. Your feedback and ideas are welcome too!]

Our second speaker, Liz Duclos-Orsello, wove theoretical, practical, political, and personal reflections on place, space, and history into a rich introduction to Salem’s many exemplary questions and themes.

I promise that I didn’t in any way request or otherwise engineer this, but I don’t know that it would have been possible for Liz’s talk to complement Nat Sheidley’s any more fully than it did. Both introduced a significant number of crucial questions and themes for our day’s and ongoing conversations, but they did it in very distinct and again entirely complementary ways: Nat’s use of his specific situation and example complemented by Liz’s wide-ranging and theoretical (in the best sense) questions and focal points; Nat’s identification of particular goals and plans complemented by Liz’s overarching sense of both the challenges and opportunities available to 21st century public sites and scholars; and so on.

One of our later speakers noted the unfortunate fact that public and academic historians or scholars don’t always talk to each other, much less work together. But in this room, at this event, on this day—and in NEASA more broadly, I’d very happily say—nothing could be further from the truth. We’re all American Studiers, and as these first two talks proved, putting all of our voices and ideas in conversation can only benefit not only us, but also and most importantly our communities and audiences.

Next talk tomorrow,


PS. What do you think?

5/15 Memory Day nominees: A tie between two influential turn of the 20th century authors, L. Frank Baum, who wrote many successful children’s books but none that impacted American culture more than the fourteen set in in the marvelous land of Oz (thanks of course in part to the film adaptation); and Katherine Anne Porter, perhaps the only modernist American author whose use of stream of consciousness could rival Faulkner’s, and for more than three decades one of the premier chroniclers of Southwestern and American communities and lives.

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