At a time when ordinary people are struggling to cope with forces, structures, and systems beyond their control, contemplating speculative scenarios allows us to fantasize about transcending our sense of powerlessness and using individual agency to effect positive change. As historians, we should recognize the emotional resonance of counterfactuals and understand that the process of imagining how the past could have been can be part of the effort to shape the future. We should all heed the advice of Timeless’s Delta Force sergeant, Denise Christopher (played by Sakina Jaffrey) who in trying to enlist the services of the reluctant professor, Lucy Preston (played by Abigail Spencer), pointedly asks her: “I’d think that someone who loves history would want to save it.”
So concludes historian Gavriel D. Rosenfeld in a thoughtful post at the Organization of American Historians blog. Read the rest of his article here: The New Wave of “What Ifs?” – Process
Mike Mashon at the Library of Congress (LOC) provides something of a brief historical reflection on the late Robin Williams. You can find his piece, and archival links, here: Robin Williams | Now See Hear!.
At the Library of Congress, Erin Allen has an interesting post arguably linking what Russell Shorto characterized as a Dutch-American place “at the center of the world” in the 17th century with today’s global entertainment:
Nearly two centuries after its publication, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is as popular as ever.
Fox TV has a hit on its hands this season with its retelling of the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by American author Washington Irving 1783-1859. The new drama series—one of many with supernatural themes—premiered Sept. 16, 2013, to 10 million viewers with 3.5 rating/9 share, making it the network’s highest rated fall drama premiere in the past eight seasons. Several weeks after the first episode aired, Fox renewed “Sleepy Hollow” for a second season.
Washington Irving. 1861. Photo by Matthew Brady. Prints and Photographs Division.
Written while the itinerant Irving was living abroad in England, the popular tale was one of 34 essays and short stories—including “Rip Van Winkle”—comprising “The Sketch Book,” which Irving wrote under the pseudonym of “Geoffrey Crayon.”
One might argue that the post-Revolutionary- War tale of Connecticut schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and the dreaded Headless Horseman in the Dutch enclave in New York State known as Sleepy Hollow has never been far from the American imagination.
Note the phrase “Dutch enclave” in that last sentence …
See Allen’s entire post here: Trending: A Hallowed Legend | Library of Congress Blog.
At the Religion in the West blog, David McConeghy makes a case for “New Westerns” like Hell on Wheels and the remake of True Grit. (I’ve seen the latter; I have not seen the former.) In principle, I find McConeghy persuasive. In practice, I haven’t seen enough of the New Westerns to really feel that informed. I know I had very mixed feelings about Disney’s Lone Ranger … Here is McConeghy’s piece:
Religion in the American West: Protected: The New Westerns and AMC’s Hell on Wheels.
For more on such things, see Chad Beharriell’s Westerns Reboots blog.