Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Flu seasons past, bad investments, and an eclipse in the humanities.

By Jaime Fuller

Friday, October 27, 2017

A total eclipse of the sun, as seen in the Wyoming Territory, 1878. Photograph by E.L. Trouvelot.

A total eclipse of the sun, as seen in the Wyoming Territory, 1878. Photograph by E.L. Trouvelot. The New York Public Library, Rare Books Division.

• Marilynne Robinson writes about the state of the humanities, or thinking about thinking: “If the rise of humanism was a sunrise, then in this present time we are seeing an eclipse. I take it to be a merely transient gloom, because the work of those old scholars and translators and printers, the poets and philosophers they recovered and the poets and philosophers who came after them, the habit of literacy and the profound interest in the actual world and the present time, have all taken hold, more profoundly than we know. We have not lost them. We have only forgotten what they mean.” (The New York Review of Books)

• The dinners that may have led art history, civil rights, and politics in a whole new direction. (The New York Times Magazine

• President Donald Trump's treatment of Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, should not be seen as an isolated incident but as the latest entry in a centuries-long history of America treating its black soldiers without respect, writes Jamelle Bouie: “From its inception, this country has had an ambivalent relationship with the idea of black military service, to say nothing of individual black soldiers and their families.” (Slate)

• A lesson in why you should maybe rethink investing in that random inventor, courtesy of Mark Twain. (The New Yorker Page-Turner)

• For those eager to spend their weekend browsing through never-seen files from the Kennedy assassination investigation, here’s a reminder that you might want to learn rudimentary bureaucratese before diving in: “For most people who are not longtime students of the assassination, there will be almost instant frustration with the files because it will be impossible to make sense of most of the documents—at least not quickly. Many will be jam-packed with CIA and FBI code names, pseudonyms and other jargon, while other documents will be in foreign languages or refer to people and places never previously connected to the assassination—probably because those people and places had nothing to do with JFK’s murder but got swept up in earlier investigations.” (Politico Magazine)

• Thinking about historical analogies in an age of never-ending internet analysis: “Quizzed by anchors, boxed into panels, these academics have become cable contestants in a game of History-wood Squares.”  (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

• A flu pandemic in 1918 led to a horrifying number of deaths, and we might have Kansas to blame for it. (Smithsonian Magazine)

• How should academia respond when white supremacists try to invade a field? “Should historians take responsibility for the abuse and exploitation of the past by amateurs, or even by those within their own ranks?” (The New Republic)