Oswald, before Mickey

An archival footage of Oswald, precursor of Mickey Mouse, was found in Japan recently. It is not unusual that a film is discovered outside the country of its origin. For example, a wartime Japanese dramatic film was once discovered in the Russian film archive.

The discovered footage of Oswald was preserved in the form of toy film (omocha eiga). Cinephiles purchased a small projector and toy films which they enjoyed at home with their friends and families. Many films were cut into pieces and sold as toy films after they were screened in theater. Each toy film’s running time is approximately 20 seconds to 3 minutes and the content varies from popular Japanese dramatic films, to European films, to news reels and to American cartoons, as one can see the samples at the website of the Toy Film Museum. Continue reading “Oswald, before Mickey”

Advertisements
Oswald, before Mickey

Reflections on America Fifty Years After Guns at Cornell

I was part of the 1960s generation that fought for civil rights, and we attacked rigid social mores regarding personal choices such as hair length and sexual abstinence before marriage. “Do your own thing” was the mantra of the 1960s. But while we rightly wanted freedom for personal lifestyle choices, did the “Me Generation” really intend to abdicate responsibility for defining and teaching basic moral standards of right and wrong essential for both the individual and society? Did we really intend to abdicate our responsibility to teach the eternal, enduring significance of values that celebrate personal responsibility, personal discipline, personal accountability, hard work, moderation, courage, and cooperativeness? Continue reading “Reflections on America Fifty Years After Guns at Cornell”

Reflections on America Fifty Years After Guns at Cornell

Can the Subaltern Bark?

Last year, the critically acclaimed filmmaker Wes Anderson released “Isle of Dogs.” The stop-motion animated movie tells the story of a young boy Atari who goes in search for his dog after the evil mayoral administration banishes the entire species to a trash island following an outbreak of the canine flu. Critics praised the film humans and canines flocked to see it.

dogs
Watch the trailer

Around the time “Isle of Dogs” opened, several people asked me if it was based on my book, Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World, which was published by Cornell UP in 2011 (and will be issued in paperback in a few months).

Continue reading “Can the Subaltern Bark?”

Can the Subaltern Bark?

150 Years of CUP: Daniel Willard Fiske, the First Director

As part of our celebrations of our 150th anniversary, we’ve compiled a series of short biographies of our esteemed directors. Here is the first entry, about the first director, in this series.

RMC2003.0026Daniel Willard Fiske, 1869–1871
Photo courtesy of the Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collection

 

When Cornell University Press was established in 1869, the board of trustees appointed Daniel Willard Fiske (usually known as Willard Fiske) as its first director. Fiske’s background was well suited to running the press, he was already the university librarian and held a chair in North European languages at Cornell. Earlier in his career he was an assistant librarian at the Astor Library in New York City, founder of the Chess Monthly journal, editor of the Syracuse Journal, partner in a bookstore, and a former editor of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut.

University founder A. D. White and Fiske were boyhood friends and Fiske was an important adviser to White in the early stages of planning the university, which included plans for a university press from the beginning. Once the press was up and running, with student labor recruited and Benjamin Hermon Smith appointed as manager, White was not as closely involved. He was officially replaced as director by Smith in 1871 but kept a close watch over its affairs until his retirement in 1883.

 

150 Years of CUP: Daniel Willard Fiske, the First Director

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr., recently, my mind went back to where I was fifty years ago. An angry young man in my senior year at Cornell University. There was no King holiday then, as King had been assassinated just the previous year. Mentally and emotionally I was prepared to be one of those African Americans who would meet my destiny in a struggle against oppression and injustice that was much bigger than any one of us, and even much bigger than all of us. I thought we were the generation fingered by history to draw the line on America’s ill treatment of African Americans. It had to stop with us, in our time.

Fifty years ago, America was still in the midst of a battle to secure equal treatment for African Americans in public accommodations, employment, housing, voting, and other civil rights. I remember as a child traveling with my family through southern states like Virginia and North Carolina, and my father stopping at gas stations where, before purchasing gas, he asked if we would be allowed to use the restrooms. Many Americans today forget that this country practiced that kind of segregation. Similarly, at that time African Americans were routinely denied employment opportunities simply because of race. Qualifications did not matter. Many Americans today forget that this country practiced that kind of discrimination. De jure segregation was enshrined in the law, and de facto institutional discrimination was the social norm in America.

The petty discrimination of being denied access to public facilities was intended to dehumanize African Americans, and to proclaim every day that we were different and inferior. And the systemic institutional denial of economic opportunities was intended to ensure that African Americans remained poor and powerless. And each previous decade as you step back through American history was typically more brutal towards African Americans.

But the purpose of reciting this history is not just to remind us of where we have been, but also to focus on how far we have come. It is important to know history, and to understand how the world we live in has been shaped by the past, but it is equally important not to be a prisoner of history. By that I mean there is no point in suffocating our potential for today and tomorrow with ongoing animosity over the grievances of the past. The burden is too heavy. Many racial, ethnic or religious groups have some plausible basis for resentment and animosity about some historical injustice. The historical injustices are not all morally equivalent, but it’s unlikely that we will ever achieve societal consensus on their relative hierarchy. So just as a family cannot heal unless it lets go of yesterday’s anger, so all Americans of every race and creed and ethnicity must be open to reconciliation and healing. If we don’t let go of our racial and social resentments, America will not achieve its potential as a multiracial, multiethnic, and religiously diverse democracy wherein all citizens live in freedom and civic equality.

It seems to me undeniable that African Americans, other minorities, women, and the LGBT community have educational, economic, and social opportunities available today which are unprecedented in American history. Does this mean that our country has overcome all its problems? Of course not! The legacy of hundreds of years of slavery, and physical as well as psychological abuse and neglect, created a scale of human misery and dysfunctionality which cannot be reversed in just fifty years. But is America moving in the direction of becoming the country envisioned in its noble founding documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – unequivocally yes!

When I left Cornell in 1972 after completing a graduate degree, I committed to living in accordance with Dr. King’s creed – I would choose my friends and associates based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. That’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Thomas W. Jones is author of the forthcoming, From Willard Straight to Wall Street: A Memoir. He is the founder and senior partner of venture capital investment firm TWJ Capital. He previously served as Chief Executive Officer of Global Investment Management at Citigroup; Vice Chairman, President, and COO at TIAA-CREF; ad Senior Vice-President and Treasurer at John Hancock Insurance Company.

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Workers’ President Unmasked

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump ran and posed as a populist, inveighing against Wall Street, Washington swamp creatures, and the corruption of the elites. He championed and rode the wave of angst experienced by ordinary working Americans, while also feeding their darkest recesses of fear. As a majority of Americans continue to bemoan and mourn the Trump presidency on its third anniversary, it is a good time to take stock of how American workers have fared under its strain. Continue reading “The Workers’ President Unmasked”

The Workers’ President Unmasked

Left vs. Liberal: How Intellectual History Can Help Make Sense of the Divide

2020

Most Democrats want their party to emerge from the impending primaries united in its effort to defeat President Trump in the 2020 presidential election. This is certainly understandable, especially since many of them assume that Trump’s unexpected Electoral College victory in 2016 partly owes to the divisions sowed by the race for the Democratic nomination, when Hillary Clinton’s path to nomination was slowed by the surprising socialist sensation Bernie Sanders. Another bruising primary season, so the wisdom goes, will doom Democratic solidarity, making it easier for Trump to win reelection.

Dreams of unity notwithstanding, it seems likely that the Democratic primaries will be yet another bitter slog.

Dreams of unity notwithstanding, it seems likely that the Democratic primaries will be yet another bitter slog. This is especially true if Sanders chooses to run again, since many of those who opposed his bid for the nomination remain angry about the role he played in 2016. But it’s likely the forthcoming primaries will be nasty even if Sanders decides not to run, and instead hands the socialist mantle off to another candidate. Continue reading “Left vs. Liberal: How Intellectual History Can Help Make Sense of the Divide”

Left vs. Liberal: How Intellectual History Can Help Make Sense of the Divide

Surviving R. Kelly and The Rape of Joan Bellinger

Like many Americans, I watched Lifetime’s six-hour Surviving R. Kelly docuseries earlier this month. The series painstakingly narrates how Kelly leveraged his multiple advantages—of gender, wealth, fame, and age—to victimize teenage black women, whose intersecting inequalities have long been exploited by perpetrators of all races. My recent book, Obscene Pedagogies: Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain, argues that this racialized sexual disadvantage has its cultural roots in medieval attitudes toward young low-income women. The popular stereotype of the sexually available servant girl responsible for her own exploitation was later racialized so the medieval “wanton wench” became the stereotyped “likely [attractive] Negro wench, about seventeen years of age” advertised for sale in 1781 and the “fast little girl” cited several times in Surviving R. Kelly by those who chose to deny Kelly’s abuse.

We can see the traumatic real-life effects of sexualizing socially disadvantaged young women not only in Surviving R. Kelly but also in premodern legal cases. In Canterbury in 1574, a fifteen-year-old servant named Joan Bellinger appeared before two town officials. She testified that her master, the tailor Stephen Jeffrey, had ordered her to come to him one evening when his wife was out enjoying supper with a neighbor. He grabbed her by the arm and threw her down on a bed before exposing himself to her, pulling up her dress, and raping her. Joan reported that “she did tell him that he did hurte her, and he said, ‘No, Joane, I do not hurte the, for this dothe me good and thee no harme.’” He forced her to swear that she would not tell her parents or anyone else what he had done. Similarly, Jerhonda Pace broke a nondisclosure agreement to say of Kelly’s sexual predation when she was sixteen, “I told him it was a bit uncomfortable…It was painful.”

harris-pedagogies

John Petrean, one of the jurors in Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, explained why he had voted to acquit Kelly. “I just didn’t believe them, the women,” he said regarding the young black women who had testified about Kelly’s abuse. “The way they dressed, the way they acted…I didn’t like them…I disregarded all what they say [sic].” In other words, his deep-seated misogynoir prevented him from believing their experiences. Similarly, one of Kelly’s former employees said, “I thought, These bitches are crazy.” In contrast, the sixteenth-century witnesses in Joan’s case believed her: three women appointed by the town alderman examined Joan and affirmed “that she…is very sore hurt in her prevy partes, by suche meanes as she hathe confessed.”

Both R. Kelly and Stephen Jeffrey used various forms of power at their disposal—including gender, age, and socio-economic status—to victimize young women disadvantaged by intersecting inequalities. Just as young black women are disproportionately victims of sexual violence, with between forty and sixty percent reporting coercive sexual contact before the age of eighteen, young servant women in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England were similarly vulnerable. Living in urban areas far from their families, sharing close quarters with their employers, and subject to stereotypes that portrayed them as perpetually sexually available, servant girls appear repeatedly in premodern legal records as victims of abuse and exploitation. Katherine Bronyng’s master and mistress forced her to sleep in their son’s bed, resulting in her pregnancy and legal punishment in 1505. Margaret Haburgh’s master impregnated her and killed her baby by throwing it into the sea in 1519.

Both Surviving R. Kelly and these premodern cases remind us how social inequalities have intersected for centuries to produce violence that falls more heavily than some bodies than others. And they remind us, echoing #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, that movements to end sexual violence cannot ignore poor women and women of color, who have borne the disproportionate burdens of victimization and survival for far too long.

Carissa M. Harris is Assistant Professor of English at Temple University and author of the recently published Obscene Pedagogies: Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain.

Surviving R. Kelly and The Rape of Joan Bellinger

150 Notable Books: The First Books of Cornell University Press

Every press has to start somewhere and produce its very first book. Tracking this book down for Cornell University Press, however, is an impossible task. In late 1869, America’s first university press was mainly a printing house. We produced lecture notes for professors, university documents, and student newspapers on a large steam-driven Hoe printing press. Most of these items were short, ephemeral, and any records vanished long ago. We do not know the name of the first item to roll off the press.

The publication chosen to represent the first book by Cornell University Press, and to be the first entry on our list of 150 notable books, is the 1869-70 University Register. This annual publication contained much of the information you would find on a modern university website. It was a directory of staff and students, a listing of fields of study and graduation requirements, and a description of the university’s founding, mission, and many fine amenities.

CUP first

The director of the press, Willard Fiske, wrote a letter to President A. D. White in August 1869 about his work on the register. He described the contents, gave an estimate for completion of proof pages, and explained his plans for raising money to pay for the publication by including a page of advertising—just as most of the British university presses were doing. Despite all the trappings of modern technology that surround publishing today, these basic elements have remained the same: develop the best possible book, produce it on deadline, and figure out how to pay for it!

In contrast to the unknown first publication from CUP, Comstock Publishing was formed in 1892 for the specific purpose of publishing a particular book. As the twenty-fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the university approached, two professors, John Henry Comstock and Simon Henry Gage, felt this would be a good opportunity to honor their former professor and mentor, Burt Green Wilder. Wilder, a Harvard medical school graduate and former Civil War surgeon, had been a professor of neurology and vertebrate zoology at Cornell since its earliest days.

Comstock and Gage contacted several of Wilder’s former students and asked them to contribute to a Festschrift, a contributed volume of essays meant to honor a respected academic—and the first such book published in the United States. The result was the Wilder Quarter-Century Book, a book of nearly 500 pages, with many plates and engravings. Contributors, in addition to Comstock and Gage, included Anna Botsford Comstock (naturalist and first woman professor at Cornell), David Starr Jordan (first president of Stanford University), Leland Ossian Howard (USDA entomologist), Theobald Smith (pioneering bacteriologist), John Caspar Branner (geologist and discoverer of bauxite), and William Russell Dudley (head of the botany department at Stanford).

These two first publications bookend (if I may) the educational journey at Cornell. The first CUP book introduced prospective students to the university and its many opportunities. And the first Comstock book showcased the many achievements of former Cornell students, out in the world, discovering and disseminating knowledge.

page from Comstock first

Karen Laun is the self-proclaimed press historian and an enthusiast of all things old and dusty. In her spare time she is a Senior Production Editor and also works in the ultramodern world of e-books as Digital Publishing Editor.

150 Notable Books: The First Books of Cornell University Press

The Trouble with Terroir: Wine, Place, and the Meaning of Origins in Modern France

French wine is invariably associated with France’s diverse terroirs, or “sense of place.” Such wines evoke images of medieval castles or bucolic landscapes, time-honored traditions of happy peasants crushing grapes, and artisanship and quality. The French fascination with place is said to be centuries-old, unaffected by upheaval and change. My new book, The Sober Revolution: Appellation Wine and the Transformation of France, tells a different story, showing that the link between wine and place was not an inherent part of French wine traditions but instead gained widespread appeal as a result of some of the most turbulent moments in twentieth-century France: the Great Depression, the racist Vichy regime, the decolonization of Algeria, and France’s entry into the Europe Economic Community.

Except for the small amount of luxury wine that was sold to international elites and upon which the French built their reputation for excellence, for much of the twentieth century, the bulk of French wine came from vineyards of mass production in the Languedoc region of southern France and in French Algeria. Between 1830 and 1962, French imperialists had governed over Algeria, seizing land from the indigenous population and turning the colony into the world’s largest wine exporter. These wines were shipped nearly entirely to France where they competed with a glutted market of French wine. Impoverished peasants and Algerians churned out wine for companies like Gévéor and Margnat. These cheap, standardized wines—not unlike Coca-Cola today—were deemed unfit for foreign markets and sold largely within France to thirsty workers. At a time when piped water was not assured in the countryside and when exhausted workers needed extra calories, Frenchmen reportedly drank over a liter of the stuff a day. The wine industry contributed to a system of land expropriation, economic inequality, racism, hunger, and alcoholism.

Trouble in wine country led to periodic outbursts of discontent and stirred the growing independence movements in Algeria, creating a serious public relations problem for the wine industry. To defend their reputation, industry leaders collaborated with state officials to develop an institution called the National Institute of Appellations of Origin (INAO). The INAO set about classifying France’s regional terroirs, regulating the methods of production of each region’s wines, making these production methods transparent to consumers, and preserving a French tradition of quality that they were creating more than preserving. Through its most prestigious label—the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)—the INAO championed “quality” and “authenticity,” by which it meant wines from mainland France.

The loss of Algeria, rising disposable incomes, and a public health campaign that blamed alcoholism on cheap wine gradually led consumers to turn toward wines with an appellation of origin. In doing so, they unwittingly became complicit in a state project to reconstruct France’s image as historically European instead of imperial. The appellation system excluded peasant and Algerian wine from its elite club and drove up prices, which limited who could participate in the community of appellation consumers—i.e. good-bye to much of the working class and the postcolonial migrants who might have taken an interest in belonging to that community, hello to the pastoral images of the French countryside lapped up by mostly affluent white men.

As markets globalized in the late twentieth century, this sense of place mattered more and more, expanding into other agricultural products and reaching around the world.[1] Instead of threatening the notion of place, globalization created opportunities for producers to give it greater definition. Locavores and food activists have adopted the French appellation model without realizing just how contentious its rise was in France. Stilton cheese, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Mexican Tequila, and Darjeeling Tea are just a few examples of foods and beverages that carry place-based labels. Plans are afoot even to expand the appellation system into the emerging legal cannabis industry in the United States. Big food conglomerates have followed the appellation fad by appropriating these labels. Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy corporation, invests in appellation cheeses. Samuel Adams, owned by Boston Beer Company, the ninth largest beer manufacturer in the United States, now markets a “terroir lager.” To be sure, not all cases of locally-sourced foods conceal some big story of oppression, but we should be wary of the triumphalist narrative of good-versus-evil that prevails in discussions of locavorism and instead pose ethical questions that dig deeper than a given food’s place of production. Who wins and who loses in local food systems?

bohling

Joseph Bohling is assistant professor of history at Portland State University

You might also enjoy this Sam Adams ad for “Terroir Lager,” and this Forbes article on appellations of luxury cannabis.

 

[1] It should be noted that that already in 1925, the Roquefort cheese appellation had been established. Nor were appellations of origin entirely a “French” creation. Early versions of appellations of origin were also found in other European countries. But it was the zeal of France’s centralized state that turned appellations of origin into a system of production that was enshrined in a complex set of laws.
The Trouble with Terroir: Wine, Place, and the Meaning of Origins in Modern France