Well, I’m on the road today. Or I guess on the road, and then up in the air, and then on a train and then on a few more roads.
Stuffed into my backpack are a DVD of Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes, a book about audience behavior in late 18th-early19th-century France, and a book about Reconstruction. (For those who have not had the pleasure of slogging through, either as teacher or student, the history of the United States in the 19th century: we had a civil war about slavery in the 1860s. Reconstruction is the part after the war, between 1865 and 1877, where there is a brief period of trying to fix things and right the wrongs of slavery, but it proves difficult. A majority of white Americans ultimately decide, hey, who cares about all those newly freed black people – attempting to rectify all these wrongs and change the economy and the society of the South to prevent further abuses is difficult and frustrating and depressing: and won’t it be better, in terms of healing the wounds of the nation, if we all agree that both North and South suffered awfully during the war and that that narrative of shared suffering and sacrifice is more important than addressing the just grievances of those pesky black citizens who want to participate in the political life of the nation and maybe not be lynched when they try to vote? Reconstruction, in other words, is one of the most depressing periods in our nation’s history. We could have made our country better, but we decided not to.)
So anyway, I’m leaning towards the Parisians and/or Rameau. Although I will read the book about Reconstruction, because in general, I do not know as much about the 19th century as I think I ought to. (This is the downside of being trained mainly as a historian of early modern Britain, writing a dissertation about transatlantic politics in the 1600s, and then getting a job as an early Americanist, which puts me in the “history of the United States” category: there are some gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill.)
I have checked my enrollment figures for the spring term. For the eternal “US to 1877” survey, capped at 70, I have 70 plus 7 on the waitlist. For my “Death in early modern Europe” seminar, capped at 15, I have . . . .four. Fortunately three of them are history majors and only one is from the school of education. I have heard dire things about the Ed school.
But do you know what else I have? I have Anne Sofie von Otter’s Sogno Barocco CD, which is a pleasure from beginning to end. Way back many years ago – becoming an opera freak for me was roughly coincident with that brain-maturing process in terms of taste and interests that many of us experience in our early 20s – she was one of the opera singers (along with Berganza, Kozena, Gens and one or two others) that made me sit up and think “wow, this opera stuff is pretty cool!”