Something Completely Different

Something quite separate from the whole retrenchment drama happened today, which caught my attention. I began reading a book manuscript for the West Virginia University Press. It's a book about Mount Holyoke that was originally a dissertation at UMass. In the acknowledgements, I noticed that my dissertation chair, David Glassberg, was one of the author's advisors. As I began reading the introduction, I was struck by the ways I can already recognize his influence in the approach the author seems to be taking to depicting the mountain as a cultural and a historical artifact as well as a physical object.

I have driven up the mountain to the Summit House several times over the years, although I’ve never hiked up. It will be fun reading about a place I'm really fond of. It will also be a bit challenging, I think, considering it from a perspective and using a historical toolkit that isn't typical for me. I'm just beginning this book, so I may be mistaken, but I think this author is pursuing a much more cultural-historical dimension of environmental history, which I was aware was an important element of David's approach when I was at UMass, but which I didn't pursue myself.

Reading this book, I think, will challenge some of my current thinking and historical focus; which especially right now tends to be oriented toward things that particular people did at particular moments. Not so much about something like a mountain, which stands still through ages as people come and go. Not about landscapes and places as social constructs. Certainly not about the agency of mountains.

This is going to be an interesting read. I'm glad I said yes to the invitation to review the manuscript despite the craziness of the moment.