Talking to myself

I like Raphael’s idea to post 3 “anythings” in his day. I may try that. Short. Sweet. To the point. Readable. And best of all…easy. This post is not that! Ha!

Of late my days have been very busy. Not just busy as in what used to mean normal and full, but honest-to-goodness busy. Today I came home from work and my brain was tired. I’m glad it is Thursday and I don’t have to go to work tomorrow. The agenda is looooooooong for this weekend and it includes a lot of reading, writing a brief essay, and household chores. Sigh.

Last night’s class went well but I was discouraged as I drove home. We discussed two articles we had to read for homework. The purpose of reading them was to examine how the author’s interpreted and analyzed history.

One was about the practice of people who dress up in period costumes and re-enact different battles in World War I or II, or even the Civil War. The question was, is this historical research? By doing the re-enactments, is that history? Some re-enactors are called “hard core” because they go so far as to lose weight in order to have the lean and lanky frame that was the norm during the Civil War, for example. They pee on their buttons to attain that “just right patina.” Things like that. One of the women in the class participates in a WWI re-enactment group and she shared her experiences. It was interesting to listen to but I couldn’t relate. That’s okay. I’m sure there is a good deal about me she couldn’t relate to. That is what makes the world go ‘round.

The other article we had to read was a small part of Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party. I tried to read the article two or three times, but no matter how many times I tried, it just wouldn’t sink in. It was almost like I couldn’t understand the words! I know I’ve studied the bourgeoisie and proletariats in other history classes, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember a thing about them. Marx’s stuff about history being about nothing but class struggle just blurred in front of my eyes.

As discussion went on in class, I couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of why people would want to re-enact wars for fun, as my classmate said. We have people protesting in front of the White House, and radio commentators screeching about getting our troops out of Iraq, etc. yet there are people who go out on weekends and pretend to be shot on a Civil War battlefield for fun. It just didn’t jive for me. And as other students talked about the Manifesto, it just went over my head. I felt very lost. And discouraged.

As I drove home I told myself not to feel badly. This is just historical information that is not in my frame of reference or “wheel-house” as the hubster put it. Just like many of the students might not know things about the Church or theology or stitching or artwork like me. I said to the hubster (and to myself), I just need to be patient and ride it out. All will be well. And isn’t the purpose of the class to teach me something? If I went in there already knowing stuff, then what’s the point? Right!

This week’s reading includes a brief piece from a book by David Lowenthal entitled The Past is a Foreign Country. His premise it seems is “no historical account ever corresponds precisely with any actual past.” The second one is a piece by Christopher Haigh entitled The Recent Historiography of the English Reformation. His premise seems to be that the “English Reformation was not a specific event which may be given a precise date: it was a long and complex process.” I’ve only read a couple pages, so I don’t know where this is going. I’ll let you know. But the Reformation is an interest of mine so I think I’ll like reading and will enjoy this one. The last piece is from History Wars. John Dower wrote about Hiroshima as Vicimization. Dr. Tighe (the prof) said this one usually causes a firestorm in discussion. I’ll let you know why after I read it.

I also discovered last night that my professor has many of the same hand motions and expressions as one of my former (and favorite) history professors. No surprise there, as they are very good friends. That’s a post for another day I think!

Peace to you dear reader!

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6 thoughts on “Talking to myself

  1. Good historians have all the same mannerism because their minds have been molded by the same vision of the present that they need the past to explain. Thus you too one day will be waving your hands yelling about arcane nonsense, et cetera…Oh wait, your Italian, and Phil told me you do that anyway.

    Cyril

  2. I can see the fun in Renaissance Festivals, but I find war re-enactments a bit scary.

    Although, like Ian, I was interested to learn about the pee 😉

    I’m with Meg, I’ve read the Communist Manifesto multiple times for classes and it is BO-RING.

  3. Yes Raphael, the re-enactors have to do a ton of research to get things just right. What was also pointed out in class was that you can gain only a certain level of understanding by re-enacting. You can’t put yourself completely there because you’ll be going home at the end of the battle with fake blood on you. The “real” guys didn’t have that safety net.

    But of course, that is true for any history that is studied. One can only gain so much knowledge and understanding because there is so much more that occurred in any historical event than we would be able to grasp.

  4. As for re-enactors…
    I can totally understand the draw. If I didn’t already have too many time consuming hobbies I could certainly get into it or SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms). There are some who really identify with a period and find that pretending to be in that period is personally rewarding.

    As to it being history? I have two thoughts: 1)Reenactors typically do quite a bit of research about the period and people they are imitating, accuracy is the golden ring; 2)Often by attempting to approximate how those of the period live, they gain insight that informs what those people did and wrote. So, yes, to a certain degree reenactors are doing history. And not all reenactors, portray battlefield engagements. Think Colonial Williamsburg!

    Not only is history written by the “victors,” it is written by the wealthy and powerful among the victors.

  5. Doesn’t reading The Communist Manifesto make you wonder how on *earth* people were actually moved by such boring drivel?! It’s a little like reading Mein Kampf. Snooooooooooooze.

    I can understand people getting into period re-enactments, though. You get more of a feel for that time in history that way, and if, for example, you had an ancestor who died in that war, you might be interested in finding out what it was that was important enough to die for; and eventually, your interest takes you into actually “becoming” that person for a little while.

    And no, history is *never* completely accurate. I had a prof once who would say that “History is written by the victors, and people with an axe to grind.” I had read the former premise already, but not the latter; and as he was a retired Marine who had also been the D.A. for Philadelphia for some 13 years, I felt he knew a little what he was talking about.

  6. “They pee on their buttons to attain that “just right patina.””

    LOL! How wonderful. I never knew pee could be so useful. 😉

    I’m interesting in the Reformation also, and I’ve just started reading The Stripping of the Altars at the moment. It is very good and it describes it from a “catholic” view.

    It sounds like a very interesting class: looking forward to hearing more.

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