For my first post as a USIH blogger, I thought I should formally introduce myself to our readers.
My name is Lora Burnett, and I am an American intellectual and cultural historian (in training). I earned my undergraduate degree in English from Stanford University and my M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. I am now a PhD student in the Humanities/History of Ideas at UTD — I still have another two semesters of coursework ahead of me, then reading for exams, then the proposal, then the dissertation (on which I have already begun to do some work). Then — joy of joys — the
abysmal academic job market.
My exam fields are American intellectual and cultural history (soup to nuts), American literature (Early Republic to the 1940s), and Transatlantic history in the long 19th century (as long as I can possibly stretch it — so, 1789 to 1918). As you can see, I am partial to chronological range. In fact, one of my goals as a blogger here is to broaden the chronological scope of our posts. As I have noted in the past, the USIH blog skews very heavily towards examining the last four decades of the twentieth century. So I will do what I can to contribute to the diachronic diversity of the blog.
My predilection for wanting to take the long view (“long” to us Americanists anyhow, since we tend to periodize the history we do into something like fifteen-year chunks) has shaped my research interests and my dissertation topic. My dissertation will examine the long career of the song “Home, Sweet Home” — once the most popular song among (white) Americans of all classes, now all but forgotten except for the oft-invoked phrase “there’s no place like home” — in order to frame and periodize changing conceptions of the idea of “home” from the Early Republic to the mid-20th century.
I am interested in exploring how this changing sense of what “home” meant/means connects to broader and more basic epistemic shifts in American thought. And, as I have said before in comments on this blog, thought and ideas are evident everywhere, in all sorts of texts, in all kinds of historical documents — not just in those texts and documents produced by, for and among “intellectuals.” So, regarding the sources upon which I draw for my work, I am just as interested in understanding the thought behind what people were singing in the saloons as I am in understanding the thought behind what they were saying in the salons. Both types of utterances alike instantiate ideas. And ideas are what I’m after, because — in history and life alike — ideas matter.
Aside from my dissertation research, I have a few other irons in the fire. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about epistemology, mortality, ideas of personhood and conceptions of the self, the philosophy of history, history and memory, academic life as both vocation and profession, class issues in academe, the academy annexed to the marketplace, the idea of the university (see, for example, the CFP for a panel I am proposing for the 2013 OAH meeting), and other meta-questions related to life, and especially to life in and around the ivory tower. Oh, yeah, and — lately — gender.
So, that’s me: “Lora Burnett” to my colleagues and profs, “L.D. Burnett” in print, and plain old “LD” on the USIH blog.
UPDATED JULY 31, 2012
Just wanted to leave a note here, for posterity and Google, to let readers know that my dissertation topic has changed. I’ll be posting about it on the blog after our conference in November 2012.