Food Memories: Utopian Visions?

I missed June’s blog. I’m making up for it by referring here to a short blog that appeared elsewhere last month. I wrote “Koulourakia Cravings” for a website called  Historians Cooking the Past.  I, like most other contributors, wrote of a strong food memory. It simmers up at certain seasons. When the light, the weather,…

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Cancelled!

As Italy crawls back to life, many of us mourn the loss of trips planned and cancelled. This week-after-semester’s-end at the university often finds me in flight across the Atlantic. For most of the last decade, returning to the peninsula I fell in love with during a study abroad semester has been an end-of-term ritual.…

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A Privileged Perspective: On Escaping A Stricken Field

In January, reading Anne Boyd Rioux’s review essay of Martha Gellhorn’s A Stricken Field,  I was intrigued enough to order a copy. Rioux had written for LitHub that Gellhorn’s 1940 novel delivers “a gut-punch” as it “powerfully illustrates how Western societies fail in their duty to protect the most vulnerable among us: stateless and homeless…

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A Valentine’s and Presidents’ Day Book: Precious and Adored

Here’s a book suited for both Valentine’s and Presidents’ Day. No, it’s not about Abigail and John Adams. Nor is it yet another account of Honest Abe and Mary Todd. But it is about a First Lady.  Melania? Michelle?  Hillary? Their love and marriage stories are certainly intriguing. But no, the story is not one…

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American Literature, Science and STEM Spots

Mel Ulm’s recent review of Stephen Fried’s biography of Benjamin Rush prompted me to revisit my writing and research on #BenjaminRush from year’s ago. So when Springfield’s David Cornelison contacted me a couple of weeks later about an interview regarding my interdisciplinary work in early American literature and science for #KSMU‘s #STEMSpots, I said “sure!” Then,…

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Timothy Miller on Communes in America, 1975-2000

For anyone interested in alternative communities in the US, Tim Miller’s book on the last quarter of the 20th century is a thorough and accessible read. Miller started studying and writing about communal life as a young scholar of American religious history. No one can delve into that topic without encountering such groups. (I am…

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Traveling to Monasteries: One Part of a Larger Journey

Last month, I interviewed Paul Green, who left his job and took off on a journey to seventeen Trappist monasteries in the US. The journey resulted in a photo book, Silence is Spoken Here, but more importantly, a change in how he sees himself and his sense of place. Paul’s wife, Tina Moore, inspired the…

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Silence is Spoken Here: Spiritual Journeys & Later Vocations

Last week I talked with friends Paul Green and Tina Moore about their experiences traveling to 17 Trappist Monasteries scattered across the US. Through this journey that zigzagged from Massachusetts to California, they not only witnessed some life habits different from their own—they also participated in contemplative techniques that enhanced their spiritual practices. I had…

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Anne Hampton Brewster: Nineteenth-Century News from Rome

Think of Anne Hampton Brewster as a precursor to NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli. American, female, news correspondent in Rome,  writing stories followed by many in the US.  The similarities stop there. Brewster, a Philadelphian, left for Italy 150 years ago. She began her news correspondence later in life,  in 1868, when she was  well-beyond age 40.  Looking…

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