Nov 18, 2012 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Past Presentations

When I was in 7th grade I had to present some kind of science-box. I don’t remember what it was, but I know the presentation was horrible and I froze up. It’s not the people I have to talk to that make me nervous, it’s that I’m always afraid to forget what I have to say. And I don’t improvise well. That said, I think my best presentation was my senior year of high school when I had to talk about a stats project on disposable water bottles. It interested me, but there were 40 other people in the room who all thought their projects were more interesting, so they were pretty much asleep. Even acting at Ghostwalk makes me nervous, but I think it has helped because it means that I’ve actually spoken in front of a fairly large number of people.

 

Nov 4, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Going back over stuff…

Going back over stuff…

At some point in the past week, knee deep in articles about psychological muck I remembered that Brook Farmers are… happy. Brook Farmers don’t write about how great it is to be a Fourierist very often. However, they do write about what they do for fun. They throw parties with an hour’s notice! They walk in the woods! They think card games are acceptable! I started going back over all the sources I already have to find out about thethings Brook Farmers did for fun. I’m still doing that. Currently I’m looking through letters from a particularly annoying young man to his father. Mostly he’s asking for money, but he also mentions that he likes farming. Lots of my primaries reveal something similar about how much the author enjoys work.  It’s written in the Brook Farm constitution that the members should be allowed to chose work that they enjoy. From what I’m able to tell, that’s one of the most important aspects of the community because it keeps the members enthusiastic. Letters and memoirs from members often mention how much the young people in the community like washing dishes and waiting tables. I’m continuing to look for reasons work in Brook Farm was a type of amusement.

Oct 23, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Re-introducing primary sources

Re-introducing primary sources

The primary sources I originally blogged about as the most important for my project were a series of articles in the New York Daily-Tribune. However, after researching more, I have found that letters and diaries are more useful for my research. Letters present the thoughts and opinions of Brook Farmers more honestly than newspaper articles intended to publicize the community.

The collection of letters that I have been working with most recently are written by Marianne Dwight Orvis to both her friend Amma T. Q. Parsons and her brother Frank, who did not follow the Dwight family to Brook Farm. Mrs. Orvis reveals in her letters much about the community and her time there. I was interested to learn about the dynamics of the community through her letters. My preconception of Brook Farm before working with Mrs. Orvis’ letters was that the people there generally agreed and were friendly toward each other. Her letters have proven me wrong because she writes about individual cliques that formed within the community and mentions people she likes or dislikes. She also occasionally mentions that a certain member is doubting the philosophy behind Brook Farm and is considering leaving. However, I don’t think the letters have changed my research questions noticeably.

The letters are fairly entertaining to read because Mrs. Orvis (then Ms. Dwight) was approximately my age when she wrote them. However, she selected the things that were most important to her to write about, so the letters reflect her own bias. Another challenge of working with the letters of Brook Farmers in general is that many letters survive, but only from particular individuals.

Oct 18, 2012 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Primary Sources

The secondary sources I have been using address the philosophy that led to the creation of Brook Farm. While this is useful to understand the perceptions of some members of Brook Farm, it excludes some of the less prominent members of the community. In my research, I’ve turned to primary sources to understand the lives of ordinary members. Fortunately for me as a reader, Brook Farmers tend to be optimistic. Letters and memoirs that I’ve searched through for information are interesting and quick to read. In addition, specific thoughts about the community are easy to locate. Their notes on their lives at Brook Farm are a useful addition to the secondary source material I’ve used because they make the personal aspect of Brook Farm, which my project aims to understand, more easily interpreted.

 

Sep 26, 2012 - Uncategorized    4 Comments

Secondary Sources

No recent secondary source that I can find addresses what people at Brook Farm actually thought. The title of  The Harbinger and New England Transcendentalism by Sterling Delano led me to think it would be an excellent source, but the reviews for it were horrible and stated that the book made no argument. I will scan it later to make sure it is still useful to my project, but I set it aside for the time being and looked through some of my other sources.

The most useful article I have found is “This Unnatural Union of Phalansteries and Transcendentalists” by Charles Crowe. It is a concise account of George Ripley’s ideology and how it played into Brook Farm. This article makes Brook Farm a manageable and understandable topic through simple explanation. It is not the broad description of life at Brook Farm that is all too common, but instead examines the intricacies of Ripley’s philosophy that are critical to grasping the reasoning behind the other aspects of the community.

My other most useful source is The Idyll of Brook Farm by Zoltán Haraszti. Although Haraszti’s interpretation of the letters in the collection provides context for the letters, it is the large excerpts of the letters themselves that are useful to my research. I am focusing on the writings of people that lived at Brook Farm, and this book is indispensable because it is the only way I have been able to locate any portion of the letters.

Sep 18, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Note Taking

Note Taking

The way in which I take notes for research is drastically different than the way I take notes for classes. In class, I prefer a computer because typing is more comfortable than writing by hand. However, I am more comfortable taking notes for research on notebook paper because it feels like I’m more involved with the material. Having a computer around distracts me from my reading. It’s also more space-consuming, which I don’t think is practical.

I use notebook paper to keep track of my notes. I write the bibliographic citation, or at least enough information that I can find the source again at the top of the page and jot notes down as I read. Most of what I write down is quotes from the text or other small notes. I also highlight the text or use sticky notes to easily refer back to what I found important.

Sep 11, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Good and bad websites

Good and bad websites

http://transcendentalism.tamu.edu/ideas/brhistory.html

This is a good resource for some basic information about  Brook Farm. It is run by the American Transcendental Web and cites primary sources. I was also impressed that it includes a picture and some hyperlinks to excerpts from letters.

http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-experimental-towns-and-communes.php

My bad website is a list of the top ten communes of all time, as rated by an anonymous author. It includes no sources and does not seem to have any certain criteria used to rate them.

Sep 7, 2012 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Choosing a Topic

Somewhere at the intersection of  attending Quaker schools in Pennsylvania, visiting New Harmony in Indiana, and my love for Nathaniel Hawthorne, I became interested in utopias. What immediately drew me in was not the philosophy behind the communities, but the physical environment that expressed a life different from my own. I had such a hard time imagining a childhood apart from my parents, living in a large dormitory with other children, that I have wanted to know more about the lives of people there.

My preliminary research led me to the communism section of the library (which is amusingly located on the top floor in the far corner) where I picked out several encyclopedias to find out more basic information. I decided that education and childhood could possibly be a good focus, but I quickly became bored with the subject and abandoned it. I floated without any real direction for several days until my meeting with Professor Mackintosh. He advised me that the most interesting utopias to research would probably be Brook Farm, New Harmony, and Oneida. He also cautioned that any discussion in Oneida would be highly concerned with the sexual lives of the members. I am also interested in Transcendentalism and Hawthorne, so I decided to avoid Oneida and conduct more research into Brook Farm.

Brook Farm began as a transcendentalist experiment in 1841, but modified itself after several years to follow Fourierism and construct a Phalanx. Fourierism was a much larger movement that resulted in several other American utopias including the North American and Wisconsin Phalanxes. I think it could be interesting to research these others along with Brook Farm and compare them.

The most useable primary sources I have found are articles within archived editions of the New-York Daily Tribune in which various people, including Horace Greeley,  have written to describe their life at or visit to Brook Farm. The articles are biased to some degree because the authors feel strongly about the advantages of the community. This is a potential concern because they tend to focus on promoting the ideals rather than accurately depicting life there. I do not know specifically what research questions these articles will help me answer because I have not chosen a specific aspect of Brook Farm or Fourierism that I want to research. However, they address the concerns of the Fourierist movement and the Brook Farm community. The authors also give a quick summary of life at Brook Farm in introduction to their main idea. I anticipate that in the future, these articles will help me understand daily life in Brook Farm or other American phalanxes.

Aug 30, 2012 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Why am I a History Major?

I decided to be a history major because of my experiences in high school. From the time I was three years old until tenth grade, I had wanted to be a veterinarian. However, several enthusiastic history teachers and mediocre chemistry grades made me realize that I was better at understanding events than equations, and that I would rather listen to a story than peer through a microscope.

My whole life, I have always had an interest in museums. I believe that they are essential to helping people understand whatever subject they are interested in because they present the subject in a way that people can relate to. After realizing my interest in history, I started visiting history museums and house museums. I understood that for future people to relate to history as I did in my visits, the places I was visiting and the artifacts I saw would have to be preserved.

My primary major is historic preservation because I want to be active in keeping significant artifacts and places for the future. However, I felt I also needed to major in history because I do not understand history without preservation, or preservation without history. Studying the history behind an event, person, or place without being concerned with the preservation of related places or things seems backwards to me, and working towards the preservation without understanding the history seems superficial. Also, I really just like history classes.

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