Category Archives: For Everyone

Toast the New Year (with advice from John Shields)

shieldsChesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields is bursting with a region’s worth of great recipes and charming stories—earning most recently a spot on the list of the year’s top five cookbooks from National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate. Wanting to raise a glass to John and his terrific book, and knowing that year-end toasting is drawing nigh, we can’t resist offering these celebratory suggestions from the book’s essential “Libations” chapter. Cheers for the New Year! 

Dirty Gertie
serves 1

This nasty-sounding drink will “put hair on your chest,” a phrase my uncle Rob used as a selling point when persuading you to try something you wouldn’t normally do. It is actually a “fishy” version of a Bloody Mary. For the ultimate in drink garnish, hang a peeled, deveined, and steamed jumbo shrimp on the glass.

1½ ounces vodka
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
3 dashes of Tabasco sauce
2 parts tomato juice
1 part clam juice, fresh or bottled
Celery stick, for garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour in the vodka, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Chesapeake
seasoning, black pepper, horseradish, and Tabasco. Stir. Fill the glass
with a mixture of tomato and clam juice. Stir well. Garnish with the celery

Note: To regulate chest hair growth, increase or decrease the amounts of
horseradish and Tabasco accordingly.

Ginger Beer Fruit Punch
serves 8 to 10

This is an effervescent fruity punch with a zesty ginger bite. Ginger beer, as well as homemade root beer, is quite popular around the Chesapeake region. I have fond memories of our neighbor, Mrs. Tovey, brewing bottles of ginger beer and root beer in her basement. The punch is a welcome addition at kids’ parties and ladies’ luncheons.

2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups grapefruit juice
Sugar, if desired
Ice cubes
3 bottles (12 ounces each) ginger beer

Mix the juices together in a large pitcher. Check to see if the mixture is too tart for your taste. If so, sweeten with a bit of sugar. Pour into a punch
bowl over ice. Add the ginger beer just as the company is coming in the door.

Blackberry Bounce (for drinking later in the month)
yields 2 cups

This is a variation on a “bounce” recipe from the late nineteenth century in Calvert County, Maryland. The original makes a gigantic batch using gallons of brandy to four times the amount of fruit and an aging process of 3 months to several years. The smaller amount shown here gives you a chance to see how you like the taste of the sweet/tart/alcohol ratio in the drink. Then the next time you whip up a batch, the recipe can be multiplied by however much bounce you would like on hand. It keeps almost forever.

6 cups blackberries, washed
1 generous cup sugar
2 cups brandy or whiskey
Small (1 inch) piece of whole cinnamon stick
Zest of ½ lemon

Place the berries in a bowl and lightly mash. Add the sugar and mash again. Place this mixture into a glass quart jar. Add the liquor, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. Screw a tight-fitting lid on the jar and shake (“bounce”) it well. Place in a cool spot. “Bounce” it again the next day and then let sit overnight. Repeat this process, “bouncing” daily for about a month. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl. Then strain again through some moistened cheesecloth. Pour the finished bounce into bottles and close the top securely. It’s ready to serve, either neat or on ice.

Start the New Year in fine fashion by using promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields.



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Filed under Food / Cooking, For Everyone, Holidays, Regional-Chesapeake Bay

Don’t miss JHUP’s holiday book sale!


 All JHU Press books are now on sale at a 40% discount
and shipping is FREE when your order totals $50 or more!
Use discount code HHOL and start browsing here.
This offer is valid until December 31, 2015.
So get shopping!
And reading!

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Filed under For Everyone, Holidays, Press Events, Sale

Religion, politics, and Charlie Sheen

By Kathryn Marguy

Of all the celebratory hullabaloo surrounding the release of Adele’s latest album, my favorite has to be Saturday Night Live’s “A Thanksgiving Miracle” sketch. The scene opens with a family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving. As they pass around the sweet potato casserole, various members of the family start bleating close-minded, occasionally racist commentary about current events. As tensions rise, a young girl, the smallest guest at the table, slowly rises and walks to the nearby stereo to blast Adele’s single, “Hello.” The adults immediately abandon their griping and sing along in synchrony. In typical SNL fashion, the scene unravels into absurdity, and it is glorious and I love it.

But (also in typical SNL fashion) the sketch raises an issue that is all too real: how is one to cope with the strong, often incorrect commentary of those you’re spending Thanksgiving with? Without Adele’s sultry siren’s call, how can you successfully traverse a conversation with your family’s Archie Bunker?

The answer? Cold, hard facts.

That’s where America’s Oldest University Press comes in. We’ve compiled a list of six books that will help you drop some knowledge on those Thanksgiving guests who might need an extra nudge toward reality. Within the pages of these books are many quotable quips to use in discussion. They’d also make great presents for those seeking more answers (bonus: they’re easy to wrap). We can’t guarantee these books will smooth a kerfuffle, but it’s always a good idea to go into a situation prepared with evidence-based reasoning. Plus, you can use the code “HDPD” for 30% off these enlightening texts!

Already on the road? You’ll be happy to know all of these books are available in an electronic format for on-the-go reading.

The holiday season is upon us, curious readers. Spread good cheer and a little bit of knowledge this year.

callahanThe Science of Mom, by Alice Callahan, PhD

It seems everyone has an opinion about proper parenting (this includes those with and without children). Whether you face discussions of co-sleeping, baby’s nutrition, or the absurdly volatile matter of immunizations, Dr. Alice Callahan has you covered.

formisano15Plutocracy in America, by Ronald P. Formisano

This is a big one. Dr. Formisano’s data-driven book gets to the root of inequality in America. After reading its easy-to-digest chapters, you’ll be able to share relevant statistics and information about legislation without batting an eye as you ladle gravy over your potatoes.

paulImmunity, by William Paul

Let’s face it, the topic of Charlie Sheen is ripe for conversation, no matter how dignified your dinner guests. It’s easy to caricature his situation to make assumptions about HIV. Shut down erroneous chatter with a comprehensive look at immunology from the man who led innovation in the field for the past three decades.

smithDiversity’s Promise for Higher Education, second edition,
by Daryl G. Smith

Beyond flashy headlines and dramatic images, the lack of diversity in higher education identifies a problem not with football players or student protesters, but with institutional leadership. Dr. Daryl Smith provides tangible solutions to the growing issues with diversity on college campuses.

prasadEnding Medical Reversal,
by Vinayak K. Prasad, MD, MPH, and Adam S. Cifu, MD

We’d like to think new treatment and tests represent advances in the field of medicine. But what happens when doctors start using a medication, procedure, or diagnostic tool without a robust evidence base? Medical reversal, that’s what. Drs. Prasad and Cifu help readers discern best medical practices based on facts, not Cousin Brittney’s assurances.

dowdGroundless, by Gregory Dowd

The elephant at every Thanksgiving table is the genocide of Native Americans that shortly followed the first Thanksgiving. Groundless looks at rumors and tall tales that pervaded early-American culture, many of which cast aspersions on Native Americans. In this fascinating book, historian Gregory Dowd refutes numerous folk stories, including the legend that the English gave smallpox blankets to Powhatan’s people.

Kathryn Marguy (@pubkat) is a publicist at Johns Hopkins University Press.


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Filed under Cultural Studies, Current Affairs, Education, For Everyone, History, Holidays, Politics, Public Health, Publishing News, University Presses

Pope Francis inspired a “trust community”

Guest post by Irene S. Wu

The visit of Pope Francis to the United States reminded us what is good about the Church: the pull of an ancient creed, the call to a purpose bigger than ourselves, and the comfort of belonging to a caring community. There are many leaders of important institutions, indeed heads of state, who wish their visits would generate the same excitement.

Wu pope-francisThat Catholics welcomed the Pope’s visit is to be expected. That so many others shared their sentiments—Protestants, who in the olden days rebelled against the Catholic Church for one reason or another; others of competing faiths; and possibly a considerable contingent with no faith at all—is the surprise. This large crowd, this contending mix of people, is a trust community.

Trust communities are one in a continuum of social organizations. At one end are networks, which are largely nonhierarchical groups of loosely connected individuals. At the other end are institutions—like the Catholic Church—with hierarchies, formal rules and procedures, membership lists, budgets, and mission statements. In between are trust communities: groups with a shared cause or identity, held together by communication and exchange rather than common locale.

Trust communities can be small. Our towns, counties, sports associations, civic societies, and cultural appreciation clubs are trust communities that are a powerful draw on our time, attention, and loyalty. Also, there are the global trust communities—now more easily accessible to all of us than before—like the Olympics, the World Cup, the environmental movement, or the fight for human rights.

Trust communities are expansive and diverse. A nation’s trust community includes ministries and departments, the media who observe and report, the citizens who engage, the critics who complain, the rivals who compete, and the enemies who war against. Who is outside the trust community? Those who do not care, who pay no heed, and who are unaware. The challenge for many heads of state is to get attention and be relevant—in other words, to expand their trust community.

Trust communities are built on sharing stories and helping each other. Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein talked about the power of the personal narrative in building shared attitudes, values, and identities. Trading stories gives people a chance to discover commonality and build understanding. This can involve a visit in person, a timeline on Facebook, or even a Twitter feed. Talking and helping each other is also key. James Walker and Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom used empirical experiments that showed communication substantially increased cooperation in many types of social dilemmas. Reciprocity builds trust.

In the places the Pope visited, preparation required a lot of coordination. Volunteers and community chiefs, religious leaders, and school children all pitched in to help. The process of preparation, the reciprocity and storytelling involved, strengthened the trust community. As the Pope continues to deliver his message, we will see how much social capital this trust community can build to propel forward the Church’s work.

The Pope’s visit was a reminder that money and guns are not the only source of power in the world. Ideas, sharing, cooperation, and trust are forces to contend with as well.

wuIrene S. Wu is the author of Forging Trust Communities: How Technology Changes Politics, published earlier this year by JHU Press. She teaches at Georgetown University and is an analyst at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The views she expresses are her own, and not of the FCC.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount
when you order your copy of
Forging Trust Communities.

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Filed under Cultural Studies, Current Affairs, For Everyone, History of technology, Politics, Popular Culture, Social media

The nature of our neighborhood: house sparrows

Guest post by Leslie Day

The house sparrow’s Latin name, Passer domesticus, means small, active bird (Passer) belonging to a house (domesticus). House sparrows are tough little New York City birds that fill our parks, streets, sidewalks, and back yards with their daily comings and goings.

Illustration by Trudy Smoke, used by permission.

Illustration by Trudy Smoke, used by permission.

One hundred house sparrows were introduced from Europe into Brooklyn and Manhattan in the early 1850s. From there, the species expanded throughout North America. It is the most commonly seen bird throughout the five boroughs.

The male has a gray crown with chestnut patches bordering the crown and extending down to the pale gray cheek and neck. The black stripe in front of the eye extends to the beak and meets the black bib. The thick bill is grayish-black, and the legs are pale brown. The rump and tail is gray, the shoulders are chestnut brown, and the wings are brownish with a white wing bar. The female has gray checks, neck, and breast without the black bib. She has a buffy stripe between a brown eye stripe and brown crown.

House sparrows have the unusual behavior of taking baths in patches of dusty soil, usually in large groups. Each little bird creates a depression and throws dust all over its feathers to destroy parasites. Originally from Africa, they have evolved this adaptation of bathing without water.

These are small birds about six inches long, with a wingspan up to nine inches. However, they have big personalities. Unafraid of humans or dogs, they stay together in large family flocks and feed out in the open.

House sparrows mate for life. They live and nest inside every street corner lamppost pipe, over air conditioners, and inside any cavity they can find on building exteriors, dock pilings, and window grates. Within these cavities, they construct their nests with dried grasses, feathers, and string. I have seen them emerge from places that are surprising, like the nostrils of Teddy Roosevelt’s bronze horse on Central Park West in front of the American Museum of Natural History. They are devoted mates and devoted parents. When we lived on our houseboat, our cat Woody caught a baby house sparrow and carried it back to the boat alive. I gently removed it from his jaws and kept it warm. The bird’s mother and father stayed outside the houseboat window on a piling looking inside and chirping nonstop. Once the little fella could stand and seemed out of shock, I opened the window and out he flew, accompanied by his parents who chirped wildly to him as they flew back to the park.

Their voices are a series of seemingly identical chirps, although a bird researcher I know told me that they have different sounding chirps.

House sparrows play an important ecological role. They are omnivores, feeding on fruit in summer and dried berries and grass seeds in winter. In summer, they also consume invertebrates: beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets, aphids, spiders, flies, and moths.

When I walk out of our building in Washington Heights, I love seeing them inside the yew trees and holly bushes. Nearby there is a tree that is a roosting site for hundreds of house sparrows each evening. Opposite this is a tree that is a roosting site for hundreds of European starlings. The noise these two species make is almost deafening as they settle down each evening after a long day of hunting for food, keeping warm, and preening their feathers. And the chatter each morning is just as loud as they prepare themselves and us for the day ahead.

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day15Leslie Day is a New York City naturalist and the author of  Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City, Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, and Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City, published by Johns Hopkins. Dr. Day taught environmental science and biology for more than twenty years. Today, she leads nature tours in New York City Parks for the New York Historical Society, the High Line Park, Fort Tryon Park Trust, Riverside Park Conservancy, and New York City Audubon. Trudy Smoke is a professor of linguistics and rhetoric at Hunter College, City University of New York and a nature illustrator. She is the illustrator of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City. Beth Bergman is a photographer for the Metropolitan Opera who moonlights as a nature photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Opera News, and Paris Match.




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Filed under Birds, Conservation, For Everyone, Nature, ornithology, Uncategorized

Beer, birds, behavioral health (and books) fill the May calendar

Beer in Seattle, birds in New York, behavioral health and outdoor sculpture in Baltimore—check out our author events, exhibits, and other activities in the merry (and busy) month of May! As always, we love it when you help spread the word about JHUP events.

8 May 2015, 12:00 p.m.
Johns Hopkins Retirees Program Tea & Book Talk 
– Charles Mitchell
“Remembering Lincoln”
With comments drawn from his books Travels through American History in the Mid-Atlantic and Maryland Voices of the Civil War
The Octagon, Johns Hopkins Mt. Washington Conference Center
Baltimore, MD
Admission: Program sponsored by JHU. Contact Jack Holmes at 410-516-6928 for more information.

Denny9 May 2105, 10:45 a.m.
Book Talk & Signing
– Mark Denny
Froth! The Science of Beer
JHU Alumni Program
Hale’s Ales Brewery & Pub
4301 Leary Way NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Join fellow alumni and friends for an afternoon of science and beer! We will welcome JHU Press author Mark Denny, as he shares insight from his book Froth! The Science of Beer as we enjoy some craft brews from Hale’s Ales Brewery. The group will also be led on a tour by one of Hale’s own brewers. Registration will be limited to 21+ only and will include a buffet pizza lunch during the talk.
Admission: Information on the JHU Alumni Association calendar, or call 800-JHU-JHU1 (548-5481) .

Kelly12 May 2015, 12:30 p.m.
Johns Hopkins Club Lunch & Lecture
– Cindy Kelly
Outdoor Sculpture of Baltimore
Johns Hopkins Club, Homewood campus
Baltimore, MD
Former director of JHU’s historic houses Cindy Kelly returns to Homewood campus to discuss the state of Baltimore’s treasure trove of public art, the subject of her acclaimed JHU Press book Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore. Cindy will highlight some of her favorite sculptures and their fascinating histories, and she’ll update us on recent efforts to promote preservation and appreciation of these works.
Admission: $20; Club members contact the Club to register; non-members contact Jack Holmes at 410-516-6928 to attend as guests of the Press.

13 May 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
– Cindy Kelly
Outdoor Sculpture of Baltimore
With a selection of other JHUP titles for sale.
Village Learning Place
2521 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21218
Admission: Free; books sales support VLP’s programs. For more information, call 410-235-2210.

Neighborhood Birds22 May 2015, 9:00 a.m.–noon
Walking Tour & Book Talk
– Leslie Day
Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City
92nd Street Y
New York, NY
Day is the author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City and Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City.
Information: 92nd St Y Website

27–30 May 2015
JHU Press Exhibit
– Latin American Studies Association
Information: LASA XXXIII International Congress Website
San Juan, PR

Kushner28 May 2015, 6:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
– Adam Kushner, MD
Operation Health: Surgical Care in the Developing World
Hosted by JHU’s Jhpiego
Baltimore, MD
Admission: Contact Jack Holmes at 410-516-6928 for more information.


Kahan2 June 2015, 12:30 p.m.
Johns Hopkins Club Lunch & Lecture

Scott Kahan, MD, MPH
Health Behavior Change in Populations
Johns Hopkins Club, Homewood campus
Baltimore, MD
What is “behavioral health” and how is it transforming how we think about medical education and patient care? The JHU Bloomberg School’s Scott Kahan joins us to discuss his new JHU Press textbook on the topic and to consider the potential of “health behavior change” to address risks associated with substance abuse, eating behaviors, violence, workplace injury, and other common health threats.
Admission: $20; Club members contact the Club to register; non-members contact Jack Holmes at 410-516-6928 to attend as guests of the Press.


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Filed under Book talks, For Everyone, Press Events, Sale

In honor of Johnny Appleseed

Guest post by William Kerrigan

March 11th is National Johnny Appleseed Day, the 170th anniversary of the death of John Chapman, the real life Johnny Appleseed.  By the time of Chapman’s death in March 1845,  he had already earned a reputation as an eccentric in the central Ohio and Northeastern Indiana communities where he spent most of his adult life. But even those who knew him best knew little about his origins, and some of the basic facts of his life—and even the precise day and location of his death and burial—remained in dispute for a full century.  It was only in the years after his death that locally preserved oral traditions began to coalesce into the Johnny Appleseed legend.  His debut before a national audience came only in November, 1871, when an essay in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine spread his story to the nation. In subsequent years more stories emerged, some from people who knew him, others invented from whole cloth.  The piece below is an excerpt from Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard, recounting the first newspaper report of his death:

Oldest depiction of John Chapman, drawn from a description probably provided by Rosella Rice.

In March 1845, John Chapman passed away. The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that “his death was quite sudden. He was seen on our streets a day or two previous.” But other accounts tell of him falling ill and finding shelter at the home of William Worth, who cared for him in his last days. According to a witness, he was wearing at the time of his death “a coarse coffee-sack, with a hole cut through the centre through which he passed his head. He had on the waists of four pairs of pants. These were cut off at the forks, ripped up at the sides and fronts thrown away, saving the waistband attached to the hinder part. These hinder parts were buttoned around him, lapping like shingles so as to cover the whole lower part of his body, and over all these were drawn a pair of what was once pantaloons.” This erratic collection of scraps was not enough to protect him from the cold winds that whip across the plains of northeast Indiana. His death was attributed to “the winter plague.”

Chapman’s death warranted more ink in the local Fort Wayne newspaper than that of an immigrant laborer who died the same day. “Dies— In this city on Tuesday last, Mr. Thomas McJanet, a stone-cutter, age 34 years, a native of Ayrshire, Scotland” was the full obituary for Mr. McJanet. Chapman’s notoriety made him worthy of several paragraphs. The Fort Wayne Sentinel reported that John Chapman “was well known through this region by his eccentricity and the strange garb he usually wore. He followed the occupation of a nurseryman and has been a regular visitor here upwards of twenty years.” The obituary also indicated that he was a follower of Swedenborg and “he is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself the most common necessities of life.” The paper credited his religious beliefs for this contradiction.

As to other details of his life, the Sentinel could only repeat local speculation and rumor.  To read more, click here.

kerriganWilliam Kerrigan is the author of Johnny Appleseed and The American Orchard: A Cultural History. Kerrigan is Arthur G. and Eloise Barnes Cole Distinguished Professor of American History at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.

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Filed under American History, Botany, Conservation, For Everyone, Nature

Examining ‘Callaloo Art’

For nearly 40 years, the journal Callaloo has showcased original work by and about writers and visual artists of African descent worldwide. The quarterly offers an engaging mixture of fiction, poetry, critical articles, interviews, drama, and visual art.

In late 2014, however, a long-time dream of journal founder and editor Charles Henry Rowell came to life –  Callaloo Art. Subscribers will now receive five issues each year with this annual issue devoted to African Diaspora visual art and culture. The first issue focuses on American artists born after 1959 and highlights the work of 32 visual artists. The issue also includes essays, interviews and poetry.

Rowell joined our podcast series recently to talk about the issue and future plans for Callaloo Art.

New and forthcoming in
The Callaloo African Diaspora Series
Charles Henry Rowell, Series Editor

Black Soundscapes White Stages: The Meaning of Francophone Sound in the Black Atlantic, by Edwin C. Hill Jr.

Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing, by Anthony Reed

The Calendar of Loss: Race, Sexuality, and Mourning in the Early Era of AIDS, by Dagmawi Woubshet

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Filed under African American Studies, Cultural Studies, For Everyone, Journals

Should we bring historians to the movies?

Guest post by Thomas Leitch

Why do otherwise intelligent and discriminating people routinely come away from movies like Selma, American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything under the impression that their fictionalizations of history are true? Can’t they tell the difference between real life and the movies?

In a word, no, they can’t, says Jeffrey M. Zacks. Zacks, a professor of psychology and radiology at Washington University in St. Louis and author of Flicker: Your Brain on Movies, argues in a column in the 15 February issue of the New York Times that “our minds are well equipped to remember things that we see or hear—but not to remember the source of those memories”—because “our brain’s systems for source memory are not robust and are prone to failure.” Whether we read something in the newspaper, see footage of it on television or online, or watch it in a movie theater, we come away with much more vivid and precise memories of the content than the source. So we store memories from these very different sources in much the same way, and draw on them as equally authoritative when we search our memories for information.

So far, so illuminating. My only quarrel with Professor Zacks’s perceptive analysis of why people so routinely confuse movies with real life even if they know the movies are fictional concerns its last two sentences: “Having the misinformation explicitly pointed out and corrected at the time it was encountered substantially reduced its influence. But actually implementing this strategy—creating fact-checking commentary tracks that play during movies? always bringing a historian to the theater with you?—could be a challenge.”

The suggestion that bringing a historian along would protect me from indiscriminately remembering misinformation in movies implies that historians are uniquely qualified to pass judgment on factual accuracy. But in fact Professor Zacks’s whole column makes this assumption because it conflates history with what Professor Zacks calls “facts” and “the real world.” As police officers across the country agree, however, there’s a large and troublesome gap between even eyewitness testimony and the facts concerning real-world events. Sergeant Joe Friday was wrong: since the best testimony in the world is still testimony, not even the most reliable witness can give the police just the facts.

Historians are obviously more reliable than eyewitnesses in some ways. They’re more reflective, more disinterested, more likely to check their hypotheses against multiple sources. But since their testimony is always based on other people’s testimony, they’re less reliable than eyewitnesses in other ways. In addition, there are too many examples of biased histories (e.g., North Korean history textbooks, along with any number of textbooks produced around the world during wartime), racist histories (Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People), and factually inaccurate histories (Michael Bellesisles’s Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture) to justify any such assumption. Since the main reason for writing history, in fact, is to correct earlier histories, it’s doubtful that even historians trust other historians quite as completely as Professor Zacks thinks the rest of us ought to do. If they did, there would be no need for any further histories, only periodic updates, and historians would vanish.

I’d certainly agree that historians and filmmakers adopt very different attitudes toward history, facts, and the real world. But I’d still want to make distinctions among those three different subjects. And although I’m happy to acknowledge that filmmakers often play fast and loose with the facts, even when they advertise their products as “inspired by true events,” I’m a lot less confident than Professor Zacks that historians are so disinterested, reliable, and authoritative that they have a monopoly on the truth. So the next time I take a historian to the movies, I’ll be sure to follow it with dinner—not so that the historian can set me straight, but so that we can talk over the movie as more or less equally intelligent adults. I’m all for watching movies with a critical eye, but I’m not ready to farm out that job to the historians unless they understand that I plan to keep an equally critical eye on them. Meanwhile, I wonder exactly who’s going to be producing those fact-checking commentary tracks Professor Zacks mentions, and what makes them so sure that they have a corner on the truth, too.

leitchThomas Leitch is a professor of English and the director of the film studies program at the University of Delaware. He is the author of  Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age and Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From “Gone with the Wind” to “The Passion of the Christ” and is the coeditor of A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock.



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Filed under Current Affairs, Film / Documentary, For Everyone, Popular Culture

Valentine’s Day crush: heartthrobs and pinup picks for Jane Austen’s characters

Guest post by Janine Barchas

If Lydia Bennet hung celebrity pinups above her bed, whom might she have singled out among the rich and famous from the Georgian era?

The following speculations are rooted in historical truth.  Celebrity culture was in full swing when Jane Austen was born in 1775.  Although hers was the age before the photograph, painted portraits of the rich and famous were routinely reproduced by engravers and sold as inexpensive prints.  These black and white reproductions circulated images of famous actors, politicians, naval heroes, and members of the so-called bon ton as pinups for the middling consumer.  In this manner, the elegant paintings of even Sir Joshua Reynolds—England’s greatest portraitist—functioned as the modern photographs of Annie Leibovitz do today, making it hard to say whether he recorded or created celebrity with his art.  London teemed with well-stocked print shops from which to select this poster-art equivalent of the Georgian era.

In my book Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity I trace Austen’s allusions to celebrities through her sly borrowings of names such as Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Fitzwilliam, D’Arcy, and Tilney—powerful real-world surnames with tremendous political and historical cachet for Austen’s generation.  Valentine’s Day seems like the right occasion to imagine the next logical question (slightly less scholarly perhaps, but not less important): what people might Jane Austen’s characters have admired or hung up in their rooms?

Austen herself connects her fictional characters with celebrity portraits in a letter dated 24 May 1813, written to her sister Cassandra.  On that day Jane attended the first-ever retrospective of Reynolds’s work.  She writes that during her visits to London’s art galleries she looks for “Mrs Bingley” and “Mrs Darcy” on the walls—indicating that her fictional characters may have been inspired by actual celebrities.  She writes being “ very well pleased … with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her” in the Exhibition in Spring Gardens, but that she has not yet found “one of her Sister … Mrs Darcy.”  Although she declares that there is “no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which is now shewing in Pall Mall, & which we are also to visit,” she jokingly predicts “I dare say Mrs D. will be in Yellow.”

Since neither Austen nor her sensible heroines were mere groupies, it is predominantly her minor characters that I suspect of having celebrity pinups in their rooms.

 Over Lydia Bennet’s bed: “Portrait of Mrs. Abingdon as Miss Prue”

Current title: “Mrs. Abingdon (c. 1737-1815).”  Location: Yale Center of British Art. For more info see No. 103 at

Current title: “Mrs. Abingdon (c. 1737-1815).” Location: Yale Center of British Art. For more info see No. 103 at

At sixteen, Lydia shows herself “the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous.” This portrait of Frances Barton, the well-known actress who grew up in the slums of Drury Lane, became an icon of flirtation—the Georgian equivalent of Marilyn Monroe on a subway grate. After marrying her Irish music master, Mrs. Abington took to the stage and became known for her uninhibited comic roles. Reynolds paints Fanny in the character of Miss Prue from Congreve’s Love for Love, a famous comic part. The somewhat vulgar pose, which shows her leaning on the back of a chair with her thumb at her mouth, is meant to reflect the coy flirtations of the play’s country ingénue. In this context, even the lapdog adds to the sexual innuendo.

 In Kitty Bennet’s room: “Portrait of Kitty Fischer as Cleopatra”

Current title: “Catherine Fisher (Kitty) (d. 1767)” or “Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl.” 
Location: Kenwood House, London.  For more info see No. 132 at

Current title: “Catherine Fisher (Kitty) (d. 1767)” or “Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl.” Location: Kenwood House, London. For more info see No. 132 at

Although Kitty “will follow wherever Lydia leads,” she might have relished her unique connection to the celebrated Kitty Fischer—the most prominent London courtesan of the eighteenth-century, whose best-known portrait (also by Reynolds) likened her to a modern Cleopatra. Legend has it that Cleopatra made a bet with her lover Mark Antony to see who could spend the greater fortune on a meal. She won by dissolving a large and valuable pearl in vinegar (some say wine), defiantly drinking down the concoction to show her disdain for wealth. Kitty Fisher’s extravagance was similarly the stuff of legend: she ate a £100 bank note (the equivalent of a year’s salary for the middling class) on buttered bread, savoring the shock value this produced in her companions. By comparing Fischer to Cleopatra, the portrait counterbalances the courtesan’s legendary recklessness with the gravity of history. Due to Fischer’s dubious celebrity, the diminutive “Kitty” for Catherine was, Austen surely knew, associated in popular culture with loose morals.

In Mrs Bennet’s sitting room:  “Portrait of Mrs Baldwyn”

Current title: “Mrs. Baldwin (1763-1839).” 
Location: Bowood House, Wiltshire.  For more info see No. 25 at

Current title: “Mrs. Baldwin (1763-1839).” 
Location: Bowood House, Wiltshire. For more info see No. 25 at

Although expressions of fandom are usually confined to the bedrooms of young people, Mrs Bennet—who insists upon her equal fondness for sea bathing and redcoats—is not a woman likely to be outdone by her youngest daughters. Imagine therefore this portrait of the standout Jane Baldwyn somewhere near the Bennet stash of smelling salts. Although as the daughter of a Greek merchant Jane was not a woman of title, she married the British Consul to Alexandria. Back in England, Jane’s exotic features received much notice from society. Mrs Baldwyn’s costume has been interpreted by some as the national costume of a Greek lady and others as a fancy dress worn at a costume ball given by the King. Mrs Baldwyn, like Mrs Bennet, was not a woman afraid of attracting notice.

 Above the desk of Marianne Dashwood:
“Portraits of Elizabeth and Francis Russell”

Current title: “Lady Elizabeth Keppel (1739-68).” 
Location: Woburn Abbey.  For more info see No. 22 at

Current title: “Lady Elizabeth Keppel (1739-68).” 
Location: Woburn Abbey. For more info see No. 22 at

Current title: “Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock (1739-67).” 
Location: Blenheim Palace.  For more info see No. 128 at

Current title: “Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock (1739-67).” 
Location: Blenheim Palace. For more info see No. 128 at

The dashing Marquis of Tavistock and his young wife, Elizabeth, were the type of doomed celebrity couple that Marianne Dashwood, with her Romantic “passion for dead leaves”, cherishes. At 25, the beautiful Lady Elizabeth Keppel wedded the well-traveled and handsome Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock. After the arrival of a son, the Russells were England’s poster couple for wedded bliss—additionally blessed with court connections, shared intellectual interests, and wealth. Three years into this happy marriage, Francis was tragically killed by a fall from his horse. Within months Elizabeth, who is said to have pined away from grief, joined her young husband in death. Imagine Reynolds’s portrait of Elizabeth, dressed in the bridesmaid gown that she wore to the wedding of George III and Queen Charlotte, as an omen of tragic romance above the writing desk where Marianne composes her tear-stained letters to Willoughby.

In Mary Crawford’s boudoir: “Portrait of Mary Beauclerk, Lady Charles Spencer”

Current title: “Lady Charles Spencer (1743-1812).” 
Location: Private Collection.  For more info see No. 97 at

Current title: “Lady Charles Spencer (1743-1812).” 
Location: Private Collection. For more info see No. 97 at

In 1762, Mary Beauclerk, daughter of Lord Vere, married Lord Charles Spencer, second son of the third Duke of Marlborough, a famous politician. Unusual for a woman, Mary had her portrait painted with her horse. She wears a striking red riding habit cut in the manner of a man’s frock coat—with a waistcoat fastened in the masculine way from left to right. While the costume, which includes a long skirt, stops well short of androgyny, the portrait’s unconventional masculine flair conveys a woman with a daring sense of style and forceful personality. Given the emphasis in Mansfield Park on the appropriation by Mary Crawford of poor Fanny Price’s horse as a symbol of upstart ambitions to unseat Fanny in Edmund’s affections, Mary’s admiration of this society hostess (and namesake) seems almost certain.

Over the sickbed of Louisa Musgrove: “Portrait of Captain John Hamilton”

Current title: “Captain John Hamilton (d. 1755).” 
Location: Abercorn Heirlooms Trust.  For more info see No. 42 at

Current title: “Captain John Hamilton (d. 1755).” 
Location: Abercorn Heirlooms Trust. For more info see No. 42 at

After her fall along the Cobb, Louisa Musgrove likely stares long and hard at portraits of celebrity naval officers such as John Hamilton, a legendary eighteenth-century sailor. As testimony to his travels and, possibly, to his famed good humor, Hamilton is flamboyantly dressed in the costume of a Hungarian hussar, complete with mustache, fur busby, small dagger, and a dramatic fur coat that might be bear, fox, or even wolf. John Hamilton accompanied George II from Hanover in 1736 on a ship called Louisa, a fact that the impressionable Miss Musgrove is free to interpret as significant. He was eventually appointed captain of a ship that tragically struck what became known as Hamilton shoal in commemoration of how it caused him and most of his crew to drown.

If, like Jane Austen herself, you enjoy a little celebrity spotting, you might visit the digital recreation of the 1813 art exhibition that she attended: All of the above portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and over a hundred more, hang in the What Jane Saw e-gallery in precisely the same arrangement on the walls as witnessed by Jane Austen on 24 May 1813.  This Valentine’s Day, go ahead and get a crush on someone Austen knew!


jbarchasJanine Barchas, is  Professor of English at University of Texas where she teaches Austen in Austin.  She is author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location and Celebrity and the creator of What Jane Saw , a digital reconstruction of an 1813 art gallery.  As co-curator of the “Will & Jane” exhibition at The Folger Shakespeare Library in 2016, she’ll next explore the parallel afterlives of Shakespeare and Austen and their rise to literary superstar status.





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