The Angel of Darkness
by Caleb Carr '77
W ith the publication of The Angel of Darkness, Caleb Carr has emerged as one of New York City's most promising and popular novelists. Carr's protagonist is a modern version of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Unlike the priggish Doyle, however, Carr unblinkingly addresses the sordid underside of Gilded Age New York.
Carr's concern is psychopathology. Solving the crime is but a vehicle to probe and explore the psychic roots of human violence. For Carr, these roots invariably lie in an individual's early childhood, more pointedly, the relationship between parent and child. The protagonist of The Angel of Darkness, as well as in Carr's earlier novel The Alienist, is Dr. Lazlo Kreisler, who with his team of faithful sleuths, uses the latest psychological research and forensic science to identity and trap criminals. Committed to bringing murderers to justice and execution in the electric chair, Kriesler also perceives criminals as victims. He sees that humans are not born evil; they become evil.
The effectiveness of The Angel of Darkness lies in Carr's ability to recreate an historical moment without allowing historical details to interfere with his storytelling. He treats readers to a discussion of the Spanish American War, a visit with railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, a meal at Delmonico's Restaurant, an argument with doctrinaire feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a glimpse at New York painters Cecilia Beaux and Albert Pinkham Ryder, an encounter with attorney Clarence Darrow, and an adventure with Carr's larger than life hero, Theodore Roosevelt. The story winds through New York's dark and dangerous streets on foot and by horse carriage, sneaks into the Dusters' notorious Five Points opium den, steams up the Hudson River on a chartered boat, and lurches into Saratoga Springs on a careening trolley line for an evening of gambling and dining with the gargantuan "Diamond Jim" Brady. Stevie Taggart, a reformed street urchin who speaks in a Damon Runyon-like lingo, narrates. The Angel of Darkness is a fascinating tale of Gilded Age New York--a place and time both distant and eerily familiar. Despite a century of relentless change, the city's crime, brutality, corruption, and sexuality, its drug addictions, filth, and disease, its shameless wealth, staggering poverty, and unmatched excitement remain.
Suspenseful and spellbinding, The Angel of Darkness is also a moral tale. Skillfully, Carr draws on historical detail to address his moral concerns that children require personalized attention and that irrational social conventions thwart individual fulfillment. At every hand, Carr sees ignorant people reducing human complexities to simplistic formula and rigid stereotypers. Individual possibilities are ignored and denied in favor of easy, self-serving beliefs. Stupidity, bolstered by social convention, destroys and distorts the variety and vitality of life.
A disciple of philosopher William James, Kreisler asserts, "There's nothing truly natural or unnatural under the sun." Carr's reading of human behavior, though, lacks James's subtlety and skepticism towards science. Like his hero Roosevelt, Carr treats even the most intractable human problems as if they were solvable. Knowledge and moral commitment can overcome evil. In The Angel of Darkness, there is little room for tragedy, just preventable calamities.
In the end, Carr's moralism weighs down his art. Still, his art is formidable. And if you have not read The Alienist or do not have time to do so, it will soon be showing at your local theater. Carr is a genuine treat.
--William B. Scott, National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor of History
W ith Menachem's Seed, Carl Djerassi presents us with the third book in his proposed science-in-fiction tetralogy, which already includes Cantor's Dilemma and The Bourbaki Gambit.
Menachem's Seed is marked by Djerassi's customary sly wit, finely drawn characters, and nuanced arguments regarding the ethics and principles that guide the scientific community. In this case, that means ethics and principles in both the nuclear and reproductive arenas.
Although there are a number of intriguing secondary characters--among them a French physicist known as le gourou--Menachem's Seed focuses on Menachem Dvir, an Israeli nuclear engineer, and Melanie Laidlaw, an American who directs a foundation that supports research in reproductive biology, who meet at a conference on science and world affairs. (Djerassi's "Kirchberg Conferences" are modeled on the real-world Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.) The author does an exquisite job of conveying the electricity in the complex relationship that quickly develops between the married, sterile Dvir and the widowed, childless Laidlaw, who is determined to have a child.
In order to allow Laidlaw to proceed with her plan, Djerassi posits a revolutionary technique, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is injected into an egg. (While the technique actually exists, the author predates it by more than a decade for purposes of his plot.) The ways and means of Laidlaw's circumspect venture in ICSI (Dvir is unaware of his participation) are humorous but believable--and surprisingly suspenseful. The results won't be revealed here, though; the reader shouldn't be deprived of the enjoyment of learning the denouement.
In the passages dealing with ICSI and elsewhere as he deals with science, the author most often presents the essential scientific information embedded in conversation, a technique that is not only effective but also entertaining. Any lectures are of brief duration; there is no doubt that Djerassi is a master in the art of holding an audience's attention, whether it be in the classroom or on the page.
Set in 1977 and the years shortly thereafter, Menachem's Seed is also about issues related to nuclear arms and their proliferation, especially in the Middle East. Dvir is an outspoken advocate--and more--for the defense of Israel. Whether the reader agrees with his positions or not, and they are controversial, the arguing of them is difficult t fault. The reader quickly realizes that Dvir is a man of passions intellectual and patriotic as well as physical.
As in his other books, Djerassi does not shy away from the erotic here. The attraction between Dvir and Laidlaw is as strongly sexual as it is intellectual, something the author makes clear in scenes that are graphic, but never prurient, and often humorous. A scene set in a sauna, where world-class minds of both genders have gathered to relax after a hard day of conferring, is especially finely drawn.
Djerassi uses a number of literary devices--among them, various versions of the ancient story of Solomon and the queen of Sheba-to great advantage in Menachem's Seed. Interior monologues, flowing into and out of conversations, reveal much of the necessary background information about Dvir and Laidlaw. The reader learns other essential facts from the lovers' letters.
There is much more presented for consideration here, from marital concerns to musical and religious ones, but the book's density of ideas is never dreary. With its rigorous considerations of issues both international and intimate, and with its characters that exhibit true emotional and intellectual depth, Menachem's Seed does honor to the science-in-fiction genre. Fans of Carl Djerassi, and all who cherish fiction that encompasses the global and the personal while rewarding thoughtful reading, will greet this entry in his tetralogy with gratitude and look forward with even more eagerness to the fourth and final volume.
T hose searching for spiritual healing and wholeness in the moral helter-skelter of the United States today have, in the disembodied channels of public and commercial television, options that range from the latest self-help guru to the fundamentalist religious right, who will "love you to death." Curiously, those two extremes each offer an atomistic brand of individual salvation, not too different from the "me-first" values of the modern, consumer society they both decry and feed upon. The little book under review here asks, instead, the probing question: "Why has the word values come to mean reactionary politics or personal intolerance?" Or, one could add, the flight from civic responsibility.
Building Wisdom's House, a sort of San Francisco "habitat project" for rebuilding basic "Western Judeo-Christian values," records a year-long discussion by a writer/sociologist, the senior rabbi of the largest Reform synagogue in Northern California, a Jesuit priest and president of the University of San Francisco, and the Episcopal bishop of California. Like books recording earlier interfaith dialogues, such as Faith for Today (1941) and The Religion of Democracy (1945), the authors are guided by the central idea that the moral individual lives in a social world and shares common, legitimate concerns and obligations with the wider community, the various faith traditions, and even the federal government. Although not one of the religious traditions they represent, the authors acknowledge the increasing presence and importance of Buddhist thought and practice in articulating their city's ethical mix. They do not agree on everything, but they do acknowledge a need for a more "humane agenda" that has as its goal "a more compassionate, egalitarian, inclusive, peaceful, better-educated society." And they emphasize the foundations of these truly traditional "family values" in their shared belief in an all-powerful deity, the goodness of life, the perfectibility of human history, and the role of human stewardship over the earth ("our elder brother or sister").
The method the authors use to explore--in colloquial, conversational style--the values of decency, equality, the innate goodness of others, acceptance of diversity, the support of community, and the theological triad of faith, hope, and love is the Bible tradition of story-telling, not scholarly exegesis. They begin each chapter with the story of a spiritual crisis in a significant individual--St. Julian, Abba Tahnah the Pious, Bishop Samuel Seabury, Lily Kaufman, and Elizabeth of Portugal--and show how each brought his or her strengths and weaknesses to tackle life's dilemmas, replacing callousness with caring, isolation with community, fear with faith, violence with peace. Following such lively models, the authors conclude that it is only when each person embraces his or her true identity, engages in the risk of open dialogue, and accepts the importance of others that he or she can experience the positive fruits of how religion has served humankind: freedom, joy, truth, love, and beauty.
Using the key metaphor of the journey, they are not afraid to visit some thorny social questions: abortion, affirmative action, AIDS-research funding, breast cancer, gun control, immigration policy, and school prayer. And they are not afraid to make judgments: e.g., "Any person who, out of anger and frustration, votes to end programs to feed the poor has lost his or her sense of common decency."
Along the way, however, even Wisdom nods, as when the authors assert that Christian tradition holds that the Virgin Mary was "conceived without human intercourse" or that the Puritans were "driven from England by the Anglicans." But in the face of the "sclerotic meanness" of current religio-political groups, they hold a civic ideal that one can still "tell a story of America so powerful we will be transformed in the telling." For that task of toleration, cooperation, and compromise they offer a last bit of practical advice to embody our common, but not conformist, quest for Wisdom: "Find a teacher."
--Royal W. Rhodes, professor of religion
F or several years now, "civil society" and "social capital" have been the buzz words of social scientists and theorists ranging across the ideological spectrum, and the concepts have been applied to everything from the future of Eastern Europe to the dynamics of the American family. What seems to unify these various accounts is the growing perception that if these phenomena are pervasive, they are also elusive, resisting adequate description and "measurement." Flagg Taylor '92 and his coauthor, Robert B. Hawkins Jr., accomplish no mean feat in their new book, Owning the Dream: Triumph and Hope in the Projects, by giving their readers a concrete sense of what civil society and social capital--their loss and re-establishment--actually mean for people's lives.
As they describe the poverty, squalor, and sense of hopelessness that permeate most public housing projects in Chicago, Illinois, San Francisco, California, Washington, D.C., and other cities, the picture the authors paint is grim. Ultimately, however, theirs is a message of some optimism. They believe there are, in fact, solutions at hand for stemming the tide of crime, unemployment, and social alienation that has plagued much of public housing for the past twenty-five years.
The central theme of this book is that community interdependence and social cohesion (what the authors call "social capital") are essential for the health of any community and the individuals within it and that the misguided policies of distant bureaucracies have destroyed any such social fabric in "the projects." With little opportunity to participate in the decisions affecting their lives, tenants of public housing often fall victim to a sense of isolation and fatalism. In a perverse way, then, some residents of public housing may share the sense of its harshest critics: that the projects have reached a point of no return and that little can be done to restore a decent standard of living there. Taylor and Hawkins, however, offer evidence that suggests that poverty and crime in the projects can be significantly reduced by instituting resident-management programs. Such programs restore the decision-making process to those who must actually live with the policies they institute, a fact that obviously offers an incentive for workable policies.
Taylor and Hawkins offer heartening anecdotal evidence regarding the successes of various resident-management corporations: crime is down, more educational programs are available, resident employment is up, and units are better maintained. Residents come to appreciate the value of cooperation, of working together to achieve common goals and being to a large degree independent of an often uninterested or corrupt housing authority. Thus "civil society"--an association of individuals with shared goals and norms, existing with some autonomy in relation to the government--can be restored and social capital increased. Residents feel they have a stake in the system. They have come to trust one another and to appreciate the variety of abilities that different individuals have to offer the community. Although Alexis de Tocqueville doesn't make an explicit appearance until page 161 of the book, his influence is felt throughout it, and he would undoubtedly be pleased to see the level of local self-government, association, and "interest rightly understood" that seems to reign in the communities described by Hawkins and Taylor.
As an inspiring account of how community can arise out of apparent chaos, this book is a complete success. In providing a balanced account of how the projects reached the point at which most of them now stand, I found it less convincing. Obviously, this is a complicated story, and one of my favorite passages in the book comes when the authors deflate the arguments of both those who seek to blame "lazy" individuals for their own plight and those who want to blame the panopticon of an unjust "system" of social forces. However, the authors soon find their own, fairly familiar, whipping horses. It's hard not to agree that many of the federal government's housing policies over the past twenty-five years have been misguided, but the authors inflate their critique into a general mantra against the welfare state and bureaucracy. I wasn't always convinced that their evidence warranted such claims, a perception reinforced by the authors' heavy reliance on arguments and data provided by conservative organizations and political figures.
I left the book with some questions about the future. Taylor and Hawkins themselves raise questions about changes the Clinton Administration has instituted in housing regulations, which they think are problematic. However, there are other disturbing mountains on the public-housing horizon that go unmentioned. As federal and state governments attempt to balance their books, housing budgets face deep cuts. Taylor and Hawkins argue that the problems of the projects cannot be solved by money alone, and their accounts eloquently speak to that. However, that still leaves open the question of whether funding will fall to such a level that there simply won't be the resources available to fund the educational, employment, and maintenance programs that seem to drive much of the restoration of these communities.
The empowerment of individuals involved in resident management and the hope of these communities as they rebuild themselves are palpable in Owning the Dream, and the authors pose a stiff challenge to policy makers. Moreover, the issue of poverty, public housing, and urban areas poses other questions as well, including how we will define "community" and our mutual obligations.
--Ann Davies '87. A former Kenyon faculty member, Davies is an assistant professor of political science at Beloit College.
I n 1989, Sheppard Kominars '53 published Accepting Ourselves: The Twelve-Step Journey of Recovery from Addiction for Gay Men and Lesbians. Now, Kominars and his daughter Kathryn, a psychotherapist, have revised that volume in an expanded edition that includes most of the 1989 text as Part II, "Exercising the Twelve Steps in Your Life." A fundamental change in emphasis is that this book is really about addiction and therapy. Part III is called "For Therapists," and Part I instructs the reader in choosing a therapist. It's also more like a workbook, offering many exercises drawing on both analytical and imaginative faculties.
The revision is more inclusive of a variety of sexual minorities, rather than being aimed primarily at gay men. It's also more inclusive of a variety of addictions and compulsions, rather than dealing principally with alcoholism, although some sections, particularly those involving therapy, still focus on alcohol. By presenting an internal critique of Twelve-Step programs and describing alternative models of recovery, it decenters the Twelve Steps. In that connection, the Kominarses address more explicitly the problems many sexual minorities have with speaking of God or a Higher Power and offer clearer alternatives. They also discuss moderation rather than complete abstinence.
The Kominars include an extensive bibliography on issues related to addiction, therapy, and sexual minorities, stressing the value, for example, of Suzanne Pharr's Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism (1988), an important analytical text not connected to alcoholism. There is some attention as well to the isolation of many sexual minorities. Both as a result of closeted self-censure and by virtue of geography, those of us in small towns have fewer therapeutic choices and need to travel impossibly impractical distances to find gay and lesbian Twelve-Step meetings. The book is designed as a do-it-yourself alternative. It's a valiant effort that often succeeds. It even reminds us that it's possible to be addicted to Twelve-Step meetings and, therefore, that balance between recovery and the rest of life is important.
Part I of Accepting Ourselves and Others, "Understanding and Navigating the Issues," is an eclectic presentation of a variety of topics related to recovery. The first chapter presents and criticizes four models for recovery: the moral, medical, spiritual, and social-learning models. A second chapter, "Stages in Addiction: Stages in Recovery," gives several models for diagnosis of the stages of reliance on alcohol, according to the severity of the problem.
Chapter three is an encouraging reference for the novice at Twelve-Step meetings, giving ammunition to use in confronting the inevitable Twelve-Step fundamentalist who asserts that "all the answers are in the program" (and that, therefore, other forms of assistance are of no use), or that the addict needs to break all connection with friends who are still using, or that one must attend ninety meetings in ninety days in order to recover. The Kominarses remind the reader that we are individually in charge of our own recovery process and need to recognize what works for us.
Chapters six and seven offer good advice for anyone, of any sexual orientation, confronted with a personal problem, whether or not addiction is involved. Advice is provided on how to choose the right therapist for your situation and how to assess how the therapy is progressing.
Part II, "Exercising the Twelve Steps in Your Life," is the edited text of the 1989 edition with a number of helpful additions. Every chapter has a series of exercises on assessing one's progress with the step, for both personal and therapeutic use. The Kominarses have added summaries of the groups of steps as well.
One chapter deals with the first three "basic" steps, sometimes summarized, "I can't do this: A Higher Power can; I'll let the Higher Power take this over and follow along." The fourth through seventh steps, which involve writing a life history and sharing it with someone else, are summarized as "Accepting Ourselves"; the eighth and ninth, which involve making amends to those harmed by our addictive behaviors, are summarized as "Putting Others into Perspective." A final chapter in this section summarizes steps ten through twelve, the ones that structure the addict's continuing recovery over a lifetime.
The 1989 edition of Accepting Ourselves was reviewed in the Winter 1989-90 issue of the Bulletin. That review emphasized the difficulty of recovery, particularly Twelve Step-based recovery, for sexual minorities, and Sheppard Kominars's effective grappling with that issue. Recovery is supposed to be about openness; one recovers by sharing one's private demons with others and recognizing how common, if not universal, one's inner life is. Sexual minorities are trained from early childhood not to share our private demons, for fear of ridicule, negligence, or physical harm, so changing strategies to include trust and openness is very difficult. Kominars's strategy is an invitation to Twelve-Step work for sexual minorities, through gay and lesbian meetings, individual work, therapeutic work, and making use of what features of Alcoholics Anonymous and other programs one can.
Part III, "For Therapists," gives me the same feeling I had in first grade sneaking a look at the teacher's workbook section of More Fun with Dick and Jane: Since I'm not a therapist, I'm committing a revolutionary act by reading this. The section is a guide to therapists on working with sexual minorities, including incidentally those for whom addiction is an issue. The first chapter in this section (twenty-six) returns to the four models of addiction raised in chapter one and analyzes them for the therapist's use. The Kominarses then include sections on whether the gay or lesbian therapist should self-disclose, issues to consider in the male and female client populations, and concerns to be taken into account in working with couples and at-risk adolescents.
It's wonderful to read a book written collaboratively by a gay father and lesbian daughter. "We are everywhere," as the gay slogan and song go, and it's good to be reminded that we are parents and children and that real family values emphasize us as sexual minorities as well as the rest of the human race. That said, the book is an example of the difficulty of collaboration. One is very aware that the authors have very different styles and interests and that the topics covered are so broad that the work becomes a highly useful reference book rather than a continuous narrative.
Some of the transitions leave the reader wondering how the topics hang together. This is particularly apparent when one moves from a theoretical chapter (two) on stages of recovery to one that questions traditional advice offered in Twelve-Step meetings (three); when the text moves from internalized homophobia (five) to choosing a therapist (six); and particularly between Part II and Part III, from a work-book on the Twelve Steps to a chapter that helps therapists analyze the four models of alcohol dependency and another that helps them deal with their internalized homophobia.
The World Wide Web site for this text is sibyllineofbooks.com/acceptingourselves.html (readers may add comments). I noted in 1989 that this text fills a great void in addressing the issues of gay and lesbian alcoholics. Since then, it has been joined by other volumes, and therefore the Kominarses have expanded its focus in useful ways. Because the web offers us the opportunity to write collaboratively in large groups, and because Sheppard and Kathryn Kominars have responded energetically to readers of the first edition, I look forward to their dialogue as it continues.
--Robert E. Bennett, associate provost and professor of classics
K enyon Professor of Sociology George "Mac" McCarthy's Romancing Antiquity: German Critique of the Enlightenment from Weber to Habermas is a timely book, and in the best sense of that term, for it addresses the Zeitgeist. This is not to say that it simply invokes the questions of the day, but the best questions of the day, the questions bubbling up at the limits of human understanding (e.g., what does it mean to be rational once we realize, following Hegel, that reason is part and parcel of history?). But it is also an untimely book, and again in the best sense of that term. Whereas much of the debate between modernism and postmodernism proceeds without a wit of historical self-understanding (an odd fact given the deep historical sensibility of its primary players), McCarthy's book keeps alive, even as it explores contemporary themes and figures, that historical spirit sorely lacking in so much of what currently masquerades as intellectual inquiry.
The book works at several levels. On the one hand, it is an engaging introduction to several figures in recent German intellectual history, many of whom, for better or worse, have marked the vanguard of European intellectual life since the death of Hegel. Thus the reader finds, within its three hundred and seventy-eight pages, chapters on Marx and Nietzsche, Weber and Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud and Marcuse, Arendt, Gadamer, and Habermas. Throughout, the breadth of McCarthy's reading is staggering, even for those who have come to expect this from him. And while the reader might want to refine an interpretation here and there, every chapter engages issues at the heart of each thinker. On a second hand, the book is a work of authentic intellectual history, claiming that the reader can find within this range of authors a continual return to Greece, and Aristotle in particular (although this is less true of Habermas, as McCarthy notes). Much of the book involves reading the principal figures through their own responses to the Greeks. Thus we learn that Marx wrote his dissertation on the philosophy of nature in Democritus and Epicurus and drew sustenance for his materialist yet humanistic critique of capitalism and liberal society from Aristotle. Likewise, Weber, through his encounter with Nietzsche (whose obsession with the Greeks is treated as well), drew upon classical ideals while critiquing an overly rationalized society that had forsaken human meaning in order to dominate nature. McCarthy also documents Heidegger's lifelong devotion to Greek philosophy, from his early paper on Aristotle to the later essays on the pre-Socratics. And so on down the line, that is, in each case, McCarthy shows a strong debt to Geek thought, e.g., in Marcuse's work on eros and logos, Arendt's concern with praxis and the polis, and Gadamer's explorations of phronesis.
On the whole, McCarthy's thesis seems sound. A recovery of the Greeks did seem to inspire these thinkers even as it had Hegel and his contemporaries. Two issues require more attention, however. First, McCarthy says little about Hegel's role as a bridge between the Kantian and Greek themes that appear in all of the thinkers treated here. And yet, it is Hegel who unites those themes in his own thought, and within a powerful critique of enlightenment reason and liberal society. The reader wants to know, therefore, how Hegel fits into McCarthy's overall understanding of German social theory and its reception of the Greeks. Second, the reader wishes he had said a bit more about how and why the Greeks meant different things to these sometimes very different thinkers. How, for example, could Nietzsche and Marx have been such dedicated readers of Greek philosophy and produced such radically different views? Also, what separates Heidegger's reading of the Greeks from those whose readings he undoubtedly influenced, i.e., Marcuse, Arendt, and Gadamer, all of whom were, at one time or another, his students? These differences seem important given the plurality of critiques that define Germany's intellectual reception of the enlightenment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Whose critique, and whose Aristotle for that matter, should we adopt?
In closing, I should stress that, throughout this work, the reader also finds a third hand. At every turn, if only implicitly, McCarthy is situating himself within a larger debate concerning the fate of enlightenment reason. In apparent rejection of Habermas's Kantian turn away from the power and fragility of phronesis, he claims: "Without the ancient vision and hope of the Greek polis articulated in aesthetic and political ideals, modern democracy becomes another aspect of the continuous rationalization of modernity. Hope and reason are lost in the formal abstractions of ideals without content. To find the inspiration to guide us into the twenty-first century, we must return to the history of nineteenth-and twentieth-century German social thought and rediscover the classical world that has been lost."
The reader shouldn't think, however, that McCarthy's appeal to the ancients is driven by dreams of a paradise lost. In the book's final line, he writes: "Moving beyond the present to the future requires a recovery of the emancipatory potential of the human species through phenomenological and critical self-reflection on its own self-formative history from the ancients to the moderns and back--it requires a recovery and integration of antiquity and critique." Note the lack of nostalgia in this line. Greece is neither a promised land nor a graveyard in McCarthy's mind. Rather, it is a source of critical and reconstructive insight. As he says: "The ancients aid us, not by offering abstract hopes and unreachable goals, but by inspiring us to look more deeply into ourselves and our society--into contemporary economic and institutions and crises, psychological repression and linguistic distortions, and political legitimation and capital accumulation." And he is right.
--John T. Lysaker '88. A doctoral graduate of Vanderbilt University, Lysaker is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon.
A ssigned to abstract letters written by members of the Twenty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry--particularly the correspondence of Arnold McMahan, who assumed command of the regiment at the Battle of Chickamauga when the commanding officer was killed--James Kaser, rare books curator at George Washington University, was intrigued. Not just nostalgic reminiscences, the letters were concerned with gathering evidence of what had happened at the battle.
At the time the letters were written, plans were underway for turning the battlefield into a national military park. The positions of each regiment that participated in the battle were to be marked, and McMahan was trying to establish where the Twenty-first Ohio had fought. The location of his regiment in relation to others was a subject of controversy.
Not really a scholar of military history, Kaser is motivated primarily by his interest in the workings of memory, especially of community and cultural memory. He wants his research to contribute to the ongoing historiographical debate over the nature of historical evidence, particularly the debate over the relationship between an historical event as it is lived and as it is captured in a written historical account. At the Bivouac of Memory: History, Politics, and the Battle of Chickamauga analyzes the material in McMahan's letters as a series of negotiations over memories of the battle of Chickamauga.
Kaser observes that, during the 1880s and 1890s, a "dynamic constructing of cultural reality" was occurring in the United States. The Civil War was being reinterpreted so that the country would not have to continue to confront the troubling spectacle of countrymen destroying each other on the battlefield. Two themes were repeated most often. First, both sides had fought heroically, exemplifying the valor that makes the American soldier superior to all others. Second, both sides demonstrated the nobility of the American spirit. The Battle of Chickamauga was a focus of those myth-makers interested in reunification because soldiers from both North and South could point to it as a victory.
Kaser reviews the objective facts of the battle as rendered by authors who were concerned with presenting an impartial view. He then considers the battle as a "remembered event" constructed from the writings and reminiscences of veterans whose accounts all assumed the perspective of some particular group. A discussion of the conversion of the battlefield into a national military park, and of the significance of it as a framework on which many different memories could find their place, brings these together.
I n her introduction to The Smart Girl's Guide to College, Cristina Page writes, "When you select a college it's up to you to decide whether you like what you hear. But to do this you must first understand what is being said." Page believes girls need to know the questions to ask and the range of possible answers in order to make informed decisions about the college they select. Gathering essays written by women in college on topics that affect their experiences there, she aims to provide a look beyond the glossy brochures at the issues that women in college believe most directly affect them today.
Page, a 1993 graduate of Goucher College, states, "Once I got to college and became used to my surroundings, I realized that there are so many things that affect your happiness, so many questions I should have asked but didn't. I didn't know to." Her format lays out questions girls should be asking and then provides answers given by women at a wide range of colleges. The women's responses deal with big issues such as location, reputation, size, and social aspects of their institutions. More specifically, the essays point out that whether or not colleges have a women's studies department, women's athletic programs, and institutionally supported gay and lesbian organizations indicate how colleges differ from one another. The witty tell-it-like-it-is accounts provide honest feedback on life at community colleges, large universities, military schools, and small liberal-arts colleges.
The section on work-study is written by one of Kenyon's own, Jo Ellen Perry '96. Her essay, entitled "Work-It, Girl," discusses work-study at the College and the various on-campus jobs offered to students. Perry draws on her experience and that of friends when talking about working in the dining hall, as a house manager, and in the library's audiovisual room--jobs that will have a familiar ring to recent graduates. Her humorous accounts of driving a shuttle bus and shelving books in the library at 7:30 a.m. are combined with musings on the importance of work-study. Like other essays in the book that reach beyond their locales, Perry's is specifically about her experience at Kenyon but generally about her thoughts on the role of work-study in the overall college experience.
In addition to narrative accounts, Page provides helpful facts about women's education. She has sections on Title IX Rights, the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, the Student's Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, and other resources to help girls with their college searches. Also included is an historical time line entitled "Big Steps in Women's Education," which chronicles important dates for the history of women's education. She points out that while National Merit awards and financial-aid packages are determined by SAT scores, "women score on average 39 points lower than men on the SAT" although "they consistently receive higher grades in college than do their male counterparts." Page provides this and other interesting and important information for girls to factor into their college decisions.
Page calls her compilation of essays "a serious book written by women in college to help you make the perfect college choice." And, in light of the staggering figures that "presently one out of four students drops out of college, or transfers to another, before sophomore year," it is important that prospective students do their homework. For girls who want the skinny on what women say about college today, The Smart Girl's Guide to College is a great place to start.
--Darnell K. Preaus '94, assistant director of admissions
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