NY Times: Coming Soon, a Century Late: A Black Film Gem


For decades, the seven reels from 1913 lay unexamined in the film archives of the Museum of Modern Art. Now, after years of research, a historic find has emerged: what MoMA curators say is the earliest surviving footage for a feature film with a black cast. It is a rare visual depiction of middle-class black characters from an era when lynchings and stereotyped black images were commonplace. What’s more, the material features Bert Williams, the first black superstar on Broadway. Williams appears in blackface in the untitled silent film along with a roster of actors from the sparsely documented community of black performers in Harlem on the cusp of the Harlem Renaissance. Remarkably, the reels also capture behind-the-scenes interactions between these performers and the directors.


Comment: This is good news indeed.

Archive or trash?–and who owns it?

At The Atlantic, “The Man Who Made Off with Updike’s Trash” asks, more or less, when is an archive not an archive? When it’s trash?  In this case, a man who on a whim took some of John Updike’s trash years ago continued the practice and now has an archive of discarded pieces. 

Moran has kept thousands of pieces of Updike’s garbage—a trove that he says includes photographs, discarded drafts of stories, canceled checks, White House invitations, Christmas cards, love letters, floppy disks, a Mickey Mouse flip book, and a pair of brown tasseled loafers. It is a collection he calls “the other John Updike archive,” an alternative to the official collection of Updike’s papers maintained by Harvard’s Houghton Library. The phrase doubles as the name of the disjointed blog he writes, and it raises fundamental questions about celebrity, privacy, and who ultimately determines the value and scope of an artist’s legacy.

The blog is at http://johnupdikearchive.com/, and it reproduces all kinds of print materials, including full letters from Updike (with no copyright restrictions? That seems unlikely). 

As the Atlantic article and his biographer Adam Begley points out, Updike was a pretty fair curator of his own legacy, sorting materials and dropping them off at Harvard.

What, then, should scholars make of the alternative archive or trash archive or whatever it should be called?  Should it figure into scholarship on Updike? Does thoroughness demand that scholars working on Updike work from both?


Jack London in the News: Lost Jack London letter from 1905 found in local library

Originally posted on Jack London Society:

jack-londonFrom the New York Post: http://pagesix.com/2014/09/01/lost-jack-london-letter-from-1905-found-in-local-library/:

Volunteers at Pequot Library in Southport, Conn., were sifting through “all but forgotten” rare books in a storage closet for the library’s 125th anniversary recently, when they found the old copy of “White Fang.” “When we opened the book, we found London’s letter [dated 1905] taped to the inside flyleaf,” said Lynne Laukhuf, one of two volunteers who found the treasure.

The 1906 volume had belonged to London’s legendary New York publisher George Brett, and the letter informed him of the destined-to-be-classic’s progress, along with words of advice.

“‘White Fang’ is moving along and longer than I originally intended,” London typed. “It is now past 50,000 [words] and still growing. I don’t know what to think of it. I’m too close to it; but it ought to be pretty good stuff.”

The writer also warned Brett — who took over Macmillan Publishing in…

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CFP: Edith Wharton Review (deadline: on-going).

CFP: Edith Wharton Review (deadline: on-going).

The Edith Wharton Review, a peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed journal is currently seeking submissions. The journal is committed to rigorous study not only of Edith Wharton, but on Wharton in the context of other authors, and on Wharton in relation to late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century culture more generally. It publishes traditional criticism, pedagogical scholarship, essays on archival materials, review essays, and book reviews. The Review aims to foster emerging scholars and new approaches to Wharton studies as well as established scholarly approaches.

On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the journal now boasts a new design and vastly expanded content. Recent special issues include “_The Custom of the Country at 100″ and “Teaching Edith Wharton’s Late Fiction.” Opportunities exist to publish on Wharton’s lesser-known works, as well as her more canonical writings.

If you are interested in submitting, please contact Meredith Goldsmith, Editor (mgoldsmith@ursinus.edu). Submissions should be 20-25 pages, and prepared according to the _MLA Style Manual_.


Web pages stolen and uploaded to Scribd: what to do

In checking out the new Amazon book service, I recently looked at its competitors, including Scribd. I had looked at Scribd years ago when it seemed to be mostly bad term papers uploaded in impossible formats.  Now it has real books.

When I looked up “naturalism in american literature” to see what criticism might be available, what should pop up but my page at the American Literature/Literary Movements site–but without my name attached.

If you’ve used my site, you know that the Naturalism page is one of the earliest things on the site (1998, give or take), although I’ve updated it. I wrote it and put it on the web for people to use. That’s why it’s there.

Real page:


But stealing the content of the page without attribution and charging people to look at something I intended to be free on the web is really irritating–and also just plain wrong.

Stolen page: http://www.scribd.com/doc/201675150/Naturalism-in-American-Literature

Fortunately, you can report the DMCA violation to Scribd using this form:


It took me a little while to find the reporting link, so I’m posting it here in case it will help someone else with the same problem. We’ll see if anything happens once the false page is reported.

Posting academic papers to your own site or academia.edu

I’ve recently posted some older articles to academia.edu and to my own site. This is something for which the copyright issues can still be a little murky.

Elsevier made news last year when it sent takedown notices to scholars who had posted materials on academia.edu. I noticed that several senior scholars in the humanities had posted very recent journal articles to academia.edu, however.

  • Some journals will not permit you to have the articles on your site without the payment of an open access fee, which, when I’ve checked it out, is often $3,000+ for a single article.  That may be fine for the sciences, where grants can be had, but it’s an impossible fee for the humanities.
  • Other journals will permit you to have an older article at your own site but not at academia.edu.
  • Some allow you a “pre-refereed” version but not a version after it has been refereed and set in type. This seems to mean that you can post your manuscript, but since it will not have citable page numbers, your readers will still have to go to the journal site to read and cite your work.
  • Others allow a “pre-print” version set in type.
  • If a journal is published by a press that participates in Digital Commons, as the University of Nebraska Press does, then articles older than the most recent issue are freely available but have to reside at that site.

A useful site in this regard is Sherpa/Romeo at http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/search.php, which will tell you the policies of the journal. You can also contact the journal editors directly and get permission, of course, which is what I did with the Legacy articles.

It seems to me that anything that gets the word out on a book of essays or an article in a journal, especially if the article was published more than 2 years ago, would be beneficial for the journal or book as well as those who want to cite the work.