Archive from September, 2012
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

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.

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.