Category Archives: American Studies

Spring books preview: religion

Seasonal catalog cover spring 2016We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this spring—and we’re pleased to start off the new year with a series of posts that highlight our forthcoming titles. Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Spring 2016 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on all pre-publication orders. Today we feature spring books on religion; click on the title to read more about the book or to place an order:


noltThe Amish
A Concise Introduction
Steven M. Nolt


trollingerRighting America at the Creation Museum
Susan L. Trollinger and William Vance Trollinger, Jr.


weaver-zercher16Martyrs Mirror
A Social History
David L. Weaver-Zercher


Use discount code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount on pre-publication orders for JHUP’s spring 2016 titles.
To order, click on the book titles above or call 800-537-5487.

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Filed under American Studies, Amish, Anabaptist & Pietist Studies, Cultural Studies, History, Publishing News, Religion

Check out our new Literature catalog!

Literature 2016 catalog cover


Our 2016 Literature catalog is hot off the press
and we cordially invite you to browse the online edition here.

Use code “HZOA” to receive a 30% discount when you order!

Visit the JHUP exhibit at the Modern Language Association
annual convention in Austin from January 7–10, 2016.

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Filed under American Studies, Conferences, Journals, Language, Literature

Browse our new History catalog!

History catalog cover 2016


Our 2016 History catalog is in the mail
and we cordially invite you to browse the online edition here.

Use code “HZNA” to receive a 30% discount when you order!

Visit the JHUP exhibit at the American Historical Association
annual meeting in Atlanta from January 7–10, 2016.

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Filed under American History, American Studies, Conferences, Higher Education, History, History of Medicine, History of science, History of technology

Is it “propaganda” if it advocates for something you want?

Guest post by Jonathan Auerbach

auerbachBecause I recently coedited a collection of essays on the subject of propaganda, I sometimes get approached by journalists asking me to weigh in on current events. How effective is Putin’s “propaganda” against the West in promoting the separatist movement in Ukraine? How best to counteract gruesome ISIS videos, aimed to entice recruits to jihad, but often described in shorthand as “propaganda”? And lately my inbox has been bombarded with emails urging me to “keep the pressure on” by fighting against the vile “propaganda” of warmongers in Congress who would reject the international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

In all of these cases, “propaganda” is assumed to be a self-evident concept, inherently false and sinister, against which urgent countermeasures and messages (but certainly nothing we would want to call propaganda!) need to be taken. If we step back a minute and try to put this matter in historical perspective, certain insights come into focus.

A century ago, right at the start of World War I, the term was frequently use to refer to any sort of mass advocacy, such as “propaganda” for suffrage or “propaganda” for conservation. In these instances, propaganda in both meaning and practice simply referred to efforts designed to sway public opinions and feelings on a large scale. During and immediately following the war, the meaning and practice of such mass persuasion took on an increasingly negative cast, leading Progressive political commentator Walter Lippmann in 1919 to ominously announce a crisis in democracy triggered by this unregulated “manufacture of consent.”

But what’s the difference between coercion and persuasion, especially in a democracy that relies on a vibrant public sphere and the free flow of information to debate and contest policies and ideas? Who is in charge of such information dissemination? What’s the difference between educating citizens, directing them, and indoctrinating them? How to distinguish among teaching, preaching, and selling, especially when your nation is at war and seeks to boost patriotic morale? Left to their own devices, how can citizens be trusted to sort through such an overwhelming avalanche of factoids and truthiness (as Stephen Colbert put it) to arrive at some rational conclusions about the world we live in? These are the key questions Progressive intellectuals, reformers, and politicians such as Lippmann, John Dewey, Julia Lathrop, and Woodrow Wilson grappled with a century ago, not to mention public relations gurus like Edward Bernays who were intent on engineering and managing the tastes and spending habits of citizen-consumers.

Clearly, these troubling questions remain very much with us today. My new Johns Hopkins University book, Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism, and American Public Opinion, seeks to shed light on our current state of affairs by tracing the changing face and fate of American public opinion in the early decades of the twentieth century as they unfolded before, during, and soon after World War I. By closely looking at Progressive era propaganda in thought and practice, including the inevitable entanglements between social reform and social control that emerged during this period, we put ourselves in a better position to understand how the United States continues to deploy its current weapons of democracy at home and around the globe.

Jonathan Auerbach is a professor of English at the University of Maryland–College Park. He is the author of Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism, and American Public Opinion and the coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies.

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Filed under American History, American Studies, Politics, Popular Culture, Washington

Meet Us in Toronto: American Studies Association

If you are in Toronto for the ASA annual meeting, be sure to stop by Booth #208, to meet our staff, browse our latest publications, and and take advantage of special meeting discounts. Throughout the meeting and after, JHUP books will be available at a 30% discount when your use the discount code HEAI. Check out what’s new and recent from JHUP in American Studies and related fields!


The Best War Ever
by Michael C. C. Adams

Was World War II really such a “good war”? Popular memory insists that it was, in fact, “the best war ever.” After all, we knew who the enemy was, and we understood what we were fighting for. The war was good for the economy. It was liberating for women. A battle of tanks and airplanes, it was a “cleaner” war than World War I. Although we did not seek the conflict—or so we believed—Americans nevertheless rallied in support of the war effort, and the nation’s soldiers, all twelve million of them, were proud to fight. But according to historian Michael C. C. Adams, our memory of the war era as a golden age is distorted. It has left us with a misleading—even dangerous—legacy, one enhanced by the nostalgia-tinged retrospectives of Stephen E. Ambrose and Tom Brokaw. Disputing many of our common assumptions about the period, Adams argues in The Best War Ever that our celebratory experience of World War II is marred by darker and more sordid realities.

In the book, originally published in 1994, Adams challenges stereotypes to present a view of World War II that avoids the simplistic extremes of both glorification and vilification. The Best War Ever charts the complex diplomatic problems of the 1930s and reveals the realities of ground combat: no moral triumph, it was in truth a brutal slog across a blasted landscape. Adams also exposes the myth that the home front was fully united behind the war effort, demonstrating how class, race, gender, and age divisions split Americans. Meanwhile, in Europe and Asia, shell-shocked soldiers grappled with emotional and physical trauma, rigorously enforced segregation, and rampant venereal disease.

In preparing this must-read new edition, Adams has consulted some seventy additional sources on topics as varied as the origins of Social Security and a national health system, the Allied strategic bombing campaign, and the relationship of traumatic brain injuries to the adjustment problems of veterans. The revised book also incorporates substantial developments that have occurred in our understanding of the course and character of the war, particularly in terms of the human consequences of fighting. In a new chapter, “The Life Cycle of a Myth,” Adams charts image-making about the war from its inception to the present. He contrasts it with modern-day rhetoric surrounding the War on Terror, while analyzing the real-world consequences that result from distorting the past, including the dangerous idea that only through (perpetual) military conflict can we achieve lasting peace.


Plutocracy in America
By Ronald P. Formisano

The growing gap between the most affluent Americans and the rest of society is changing the country into one defined—more than almost any other developed nation—by exceptional inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity. This book reveals that an infrastructure of inequality, both open and hidden, obstructs the great majority in pursuing happiness, living healthy lives, and exercising basic rights. A government dominated by finance, corporate interests, and the wealthy has undermined democracy, stunted social mobility, and changed the character of the nation. In this tough-minded dissection of the gulf between the super-rich and the working and middle classes, Ronald P. Formisano explores how the dramatic rise of income inequality over the past four decades has transformed America from a land of democratic promise into one of diminished opportunity. Since the 1970s, government policies have contributed to the flow of wealth to the top income strata. The United States now is more a plutocracy than a democracy.

Formisano surveys the widening circle of inequality’s effects, the exploitation of the poor and the middle class, and the new ways that predators take money out of Americans’ pockets while passive federal and state governments stand by. This data-driven book offers insight into the fallacy of widespread opportunity, the fate of the middle class, and the mechanisms that perpetuate income disparity.

View the book trailer



Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism
edited by John N. Duvall and Robert P. Marzec

Winner, 2014 Dale Brown Book Award, Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies

Narrating 9/11 challenges the notion that Americans have overcome the national trauma of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The volume responds to issues of war, surveillance, and the expanding security state, including the Bush Administration’s policies on preemptive war, extraordinary rendition, torture abroad, and the suspension of privacy rights and civil liberties at home.

Building on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Žižek, and Donald Pease, the contributors focus on the ways in which post-9/11 narratives help make visible the fantasies that attempt to justify the ongoing state of exception and American exceptionalism. Narrating 9/11 examines a variety of contemporary narratives as they relate to the cultural construction of the neoliberal nation-state, a role that mediates the possibilities of ethnic and religious identity as well as the ability to imagine terrorism.

Touching on some of the mainstays of 9/11 fiction, including Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and John Updike’s Terrorist, the book expands this particular canon by considering the work of such writers as Jess Walter, William Gibson, Lauren Groff, Ken Kalfus, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, John le Carré, Laila Halaby, Michael Chabon, and Jarett Kobek. Narrating 9/11 pushes beyond a critical focus on domestic realism, offering chapters that examine speculative and genre fiction, postmodernism, climate change, and the evolving security state, as well as the television series Lost and the film Paradise Now.


The Higher Learning in America: The Annotated Edition
by Thorstein Veblen, edited with an introduction and notes by Richard F. Teichgraeber III

Since its publication in 1918, Thorstein Veblen’s The Higher Learning in America has remained a text that every serious student of the American university must confront. Intellectual historian Richard Teichgraeber brings us the first scholarly edition of Veblen’s classic, thoroughly edited, annotated, and indexed. An extensive introduction discusses the book’s composition and publishing history, Veblen’s debts to earlier critics of the American university, and the place of The Higher Learning in America in current debates about the American university.

Veblen’s insights into the American university system at the outset of the twentieth century are as provocative today as they were when first published. Insisting that institutions of higher learning should be dedicated solely to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, he urged American universities to abandon commitments to extraneous pursuits such as athletics, community service, and vocational education. He also believed that the corporate model of governance—with university boards of trustees dominated by well-to-do businessmen and university presidents who functioned essentially as businessmen in academic dress—mandated unsavory techniques of salesmanship and self-promotion that threatened to reduce institutions of higher learning to the status of competitive business enterprises.

With a detailed chronology, suggested readings, and comprehensive notes identifying events, individuals, and institutions to which Veblen alludes, this volume is sure to become the standard teaching text for Veblen’s classic work and an invaluable resource for students of both the history and the current workings of the American university.


Light It Up: The Marine Eye for Battle in the War for Iraq
by John Pettegrew

American military power in the War on Terror has increasingly depended on the capacity to see the enemy. The act of seeing—enhanced by electronic and digital technologies—has separated shooter from target, eliminating risk of bodily harm to the remote warrior, while YouTube videos eroticize pulling the trigger and video games blur the line between simulated play and fighting.

Light It Up examines the visual culture of the early twenty-first century. Focusing on the Marine Corps, which played a critical part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, John Pettegrew argues that U.S. military force in the Iraq War was projected through an “optics of combat.” Powerful military technology developed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has placed war in a new posthuman era.

Pettegrew’s interviews with Marines, as well as his analysis of first-person shooter videogames and combat footage, lead to startling insights into the militarization of popular digital culture. An essential study for readers interested in modern warfare, policy makers, and historians of technology, war, and visual and military culture.


JHU Press Journals:

American Quarterly
Technology and Culture
Philosophy and Literature

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“Most could never forget what they had seen and experienced . . . ” But will we remember?

Guest post by John C. McManus

mcmanusRecently the Anti-Defamation League conducted a worldwide survey designed to measure the extent of anti-Semitic attitudes and knowledge of the Holocaust. Over 53,000 adults in 102 countries were queried by professional pollsters using a data-based research survey method. The results were not encouraging. According to the poll, some 26 percent of respondents admitted to deeply held anti-Semitic attitudes. Perhaps even more disturbing, from an historical viewpoint, is that 54 percent of those surveyed worldwide had never heard of the Holocaust. Overall, almost two-thirds of those surveyed had either never heard of this most monumental of all history’s many great crimes or, worse, they believed it never actually happened.

Not surprisingly, Anti-Defamation League representatives expressed deep disappointment and alarm at such stark evidence of modern day hatred and ignorance. Abraham Foxman, the League’s national director in the United States, said, “The results confirm a troubling gap between older adults who know their history and younger men and women who, more than seventy years after the events of World War II, are more likely to have never heard of or learned about what happened to the six millions Jews who perished.”

Though no less troubled than Mr. Foxman, I was not especially surprised by the results. For several years now, I have witnessed ignorance of the Holocaust in some of my students and especially in popular culture as a whole. On occasion in that same popular culture, I have seen ignorance mutate into outright denial, sometimes out of rebellion against a perceived popular narrative of historical events, sometimes out of misplaced sympathy for anti-Semitic, anti-western, middle Eastern Arabs, and sometimes simply out of sheer hatred for Jews.

As a professional historian, it is not really my intent to become enmeshed in today’s geopolitical controversies. Instead my purpose is to document, chronicle, and analyze the events of the past, while perhaps offering some lessons for our future. My particular focus is on military history, with a specialization in World War II and the history of American soldiers in battle. In eleven books published over the course of more than a decade, I have explored the combat experience for those Americans who do the real fighting in time of war. If there is one theme that has stood out to me, it is the grim, visceral nature of combat for soldiers, especially amid the meat grinder of World War II, by far history’s deadliest war. Many of these same soldiers who fought for their lives on the front lines also liberated or witnessed concentration camps in Germany at the end of the war. Very few had any previous knowledge of the existence of these camps. Over the years, I have been struck by how many of these men told me or other historians or wrote in memoirs or letters that this experience was their most traumatic and unforgettable during the war. Indeed many were never the same after seeing a camp (or multiple camps in some cases). And yet, even though the Holocaust is one of the most heavily documented events in human history, the literature includes very little material about the liberation experiences of American soldiers.

So, in hopes of filling this void, as well as finding out what could have been worse for soldiers than battle, and combating what I perceived as persistent ignorance and denial of the Holocaust, I wrote Hell Before Their Very Eyes: American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945. The book focuses on the liberation of three camps—Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau—during that momentous month in 1945. These three places, I felt, represented the larger whole of the Nazi concentration camp system in Germany, and the story of their liberation conveys a narrative of discovery as American soldiers experienced it that spring. Indeed, it is sobering to realize that the Holocaust was not just a crime of genocide; in a larger sense it was a huge slave labor operation targeting a multitude of ethnic groups, not just Jews. The camps liberated by Americans in Germany were designed for enslavement, not industrial killing of human beings in massive numbers like the death camps in Poland (where the majority of Jewish Holocaust victims lost their lives). As such, the majority of the survivors encountered by American soldiers were non-Jewish eastern Europeans.

Thus, Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau were not even among the worst camps in the Nazi empire. But they were horrible enough. In these three terrible, pestilential places, young American soldiers came face to face with a dark and upsetting world of human degradation, along with its sickening manifestations of terrible sights and smells—emaciated bodies stacked in heaps, ovens full of incinerated human remains, warehouses filled with stolen shoes, clothing, luggage, and even eyeglasses, prison yards littered with implements of torture as well as dead bodies and, perhaps most disturbing of all, the half-dead survivors of these camps. The troops became familiar with the unforgettable stench of these places, a nauseating mixture of dead bodies, feces, dirty clothing, body odor and, at times, burnt flesh. “There’s nothing else I can remember in my lifetime that remains as vivid and horrible as that,” Bob Cleary, a young lieutenant who led a reconnaissance unit into Ohrdruf, later said. William Charboneau, who was a nineteen-year-old infantryman in 1945, opined more than fifty years after the war, “Until you’ve smelled burnt flesh or decayed flesh, you have no idea what the odor is. I can still smell it today.” Not surprisingly, most could never forget what they had seen and experienced. “The scenes were so deeply etched in my memory that it is impossible to cast them aside–or to forget–or to permit time to dull the sharpness of those horrifying images of hell on earth,” Jerry Hontas, a Buchenwald liberator, said. “The only thing that vanished was our innocence.” Some could never talk about these horrors; others felt a sense of mission to tell the world, especially as they grew old and the world’s memory faded. This is their story . . .

John C. McManus is a Curators’ Professor of History at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the author of Hell Before Their Very Eyes: American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945 which will be published this month by JHU Press. His previous books include The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II and Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq.

Read the results of the Anti-Defamation League survey here.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you place your pre-publication order for Hell Before Their Very Eyes.

 

 

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Casualties of war on September 19 (1756)

Guest post by Len Travers

traversIf Robert Wilson had done what he did today instead of in 1756, they would have given him a medal. That year, September 19 was a Sunday. On that sweltering late-summer afternoon Wilson and nearly fifty other New England soldiers were scouting the rocky, wooded shore of Lake George in New York Colony when they walked into an ambush. Their assailants, Indian and French Canadian raiders three times their numbers, quickly overwhelmed the trapped colonials. Early in the fighting a bullet found Wilson, punching clean through his shoulder. Unable to fight, he somehow broke through the melee and ran for all he was worth eleven miles through the rugged forest back to Fort William Henry, where his doomed patrol had begun. Exhausted from blood loss and dehydration, he gasped out the news, less than three hours old, of what had befallen his companions. Unless help came to them soon, he feared that his company “could not escape” and that “the whole Scout would be Cut of[f].” For all he knew, he was the only one to escape alive.

He wasn’t, but Wilson’s harrowing story was one of many I found in the course of researching Hodges’ Scout, in which I attempted to recover a long-forgotten incident of the French and Indian War. Part of that story follows the fates of survivors, such as the twenty-two-year-old Wilson. Those who made it home, some after years of captivity, found nothing like the welcome, support, and admiration veterans receive today. Wilson spent the ensuing months slowly recovering from the “Grate pain” of his wound. And there was the expense: he had been forced to pay his own way home to Lexington, Massachusetts, and despite (or because of) medical care he “Remained Lowe with his wound all the winter.” After five months he was finally able to do some work, but “he [had] not the use of his showlder so well as he had nor [feared] he Ever shall.” As did so many other injured veterans of the French and Indian War, Wilson was forced to ask for public assistance from his colony government. It took more than two years from the time he was shot, but Wilson was awarded £6—less than half a year’s wages—“in full for his Service and Sufferings,” but the once-hardy young man, now a disabled veteran, would never be the same again.

Such token awards from cash-strapped colonial governments were typical, and if wounded veterans felt short-changed, the families of the hurt, killed, and missing fared little better. Widows often received little from their husbands’ estates (most soldiers died too young to have accumulated much), and remarriage was not always in the cards. Children went without, or were put to servitude for their support, breaking up what was left of families. Harder though not impossible to evaluate is the emotional toll on families rent by war. John Lewis had marched that day with Wilson, but was feared dead. His family moved quickly to administer his pitiful estate, but Lewis’ aged mother Hannah refused to give up on him, writing her “Beloved Son John Lewis if he be living,” into the will she made out the year following.

Hannah Titus was also a grieving mother. Her husband had died early in 1756; she then permitted her seventeen-year old son Benjamin to go for a soldier that year, probably counting on his soldier’s wages to help the family. He enlisted in the same company as his older brother Noah, and together they set off for Lake George. But Benjamin was killed in the same firefight that crippled Robert Wilson, and Noah died from disease soon after. By the end of December Hannah Titus was pleading with a judge to appoint an administrator for the estates of Benjamin, Noah, and their spinster sister Hepzibah, who also had died that year. Robbed of husband and children after a year of cruel loss, guilt-stricken over letting her last son go to war, Hannah understandably felt “not able to do such business myself.”

Recent events remind us that the “social safety net” constructed for modern veterans and their families has often provided too little, and too late, for too many. But in exploring the American past we confront societies for which such things were, comparatively, nonexistent—as the survivors of Hodges’ Scout so tragically learned.

Len Travers is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is the author of Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic and Hodges’ Scout: A Lost Patrol of the French and Indian War, which will be published by JHU Press later this year.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you place your pre-publication order for Hodges’s Scout.

 

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Filed under American History, American Studies, Military, War and Conflict