An Academic Year in Review: Reflections on Teaching and Writing

With another academic year officially behind me, I can finally turn my attention back to full-time writing and reflecting on my efforts with this blog! When I began this WordPress site last semester, I imagined the blog as a place where I would post updates a few times a month on developments in my research and visits to monument sites in my day-to-day life. That proved a little too difficult to sustain during an academic year that became at times unexpectedly intense. Now that I’m looking at three months of writing and research time all to myself, I’m looking forward to beginning this project again! But first, here’s an update of my activities over the last nine months.

caa talk title slideIn fall 2015, I taught the course “Women in American Art” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The course examined the contributions of American women artists to the history of art from the late 18th century to the present. For their semester-long project, I asked teams of students to write or improve Wikipedia articles on American women artists in order to increase the visibility of women on that platform. (Read more about our efforts here.) In all, the students worked on pages for eleven women artists, and the project gave them the opportunity to make a difference in a real-world context. In February 2016, I presented this project at the annual meeting of the College Art Association in a talk titled “Expanding Instructional Resources: Toward an Inclusive American Art Survey.” I have also been asked to write an article based on this talk for the fall issue of Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. I’ll post a notification when that article appears!

DSC_9173In addition to my teaching responsibilities for the fall, I presented papers at two conferences. In early October, I traveled up to Toronto, ON for the American Studies Association, where I presented “Resorting to Reproduction: The Elbert County Confederate Monument and the Failure of Originality.” This was the first time I ever attended the ASA, and I was impressed with the range of panels of interest to scholars of visual and material culture. Later that month, I headed out to Pittsburgh to attend the Southeastern College Art Conference, one of my favorite events every year and a must for researchers in American art. My paper, “Toward a Manly Ideal: Kitson’s Hiker and the Spanish-American War,” marked the first time I have ever spoken in public about my work on Spanish-American War monuments. One of my goals this summer will be to submit some of that material for publication. At the end of October, I relocated from Delaware to New Jersey – a non-academic activity that took up a tremendous amount of my time!

sarah gettysburg tour

Touring Gettysburg with graduate students from Temple University (Photo: Peter Han-Chih Wang)

This spring, I took on a great deal of teaching: four classes at three different schools, all of which were some distance from my new home (#adjunctlife!). Two of the courses were repeats from last spring: “American Art to 1945” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and “Civil War Stuff: Writing History through Objects” at the University of Delaware. But I was also offered the chance to take on two new courses at Temple University: “World Photography Since 1839,” and “The Civil War in American Art,” a graduate seminar. Needless to say, my spring semester was quite hectic – but full of rewarding moments! Highlights included introducing my traveling photography collection to all four classes, facilitating student-led discussion in PAFA’s galleries, learning about living history and reenacting from guest speaker Audrey Scanlan-Teller, and comparing nineteenth-century printing technologies in UD’s museum collection. Oh, and also there was one bucket-list experience: in April, I took my Temple graduate students out to Gettysburg for a one-day tour of the battlefield! This spring in the Mid-Atlantic has had more than its share of rainy days, but our trip to Gettysburg was warm, sunny, and productive.


Richard S. Greenough, Huntington Frothingham Wolcott, marble, 1867 (PAFA)

With that teaching load, I spent less time on other pursuits than I would have liked, but in March I gave a talk at PAFA to the Art at Lunch crowd. In “‘Dear Mamma you must let me go’: Memory and Loss in Post-Civil War American Art,” I placed the story of Huntington Frothingham Wolcott (previously mentioned here and here) in the context of post-Civil War mourning culture. This is another project that I hope to develop further in the future, and public talks are useful in pushing me toward that goal.

I think this brings us up to date on all of my activities over the last several months. This summer, I plan to work daily on various writing and research projects, and I have a pretty ambitious slate of plans to complete by the end of August. I have a few publications in the pipeline that will be appearing over the summer, including a pair of pedagogical essays and an article on Confederate monuments and #BlackLivesMatter, and I’ll post links to them as they appear. I’ll also be giving a few public talks, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for interesting monuments and other works of art as I go about my business. Here’s to a productive summer!

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