Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Tales From Summer School

The first session of summer school ends tomorrow. These four-week classes are quite the experience. And this one has been no exception. I took Women in the North American West this first session and it has been a truly remarkable learning experience.

Studying the history of women, especially western women, is a challenge in that as individuals we are not only attempting to study often undocumented lives, we are attempting to study ourselves and our own reactions to gender roles, relationships, and societal change. Studying women, whether that includes our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, or friends, is intensely personal in a way that studying other realms of history is not. As historians, individuals, and women, it is far more difficult to distance or disconnect ourselves from the women we study in women’s history versus the distance and detachment we can create when studying other eras and figures in history. Women’s history is as much about the women analyzing and studying it as it is about the women being analyzed. Studying the history of women in the West proves especially difficult because we have preconceived notions of which women define western.

Surprisingly enough, I fell in love with a book...the least likely of books. I have read How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto three times over the last four weeks. I love this book in ways I have not loved a book in a very long time. I know, this sounds incredibly nerdy, but the way I read this book is similar to the way I read The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time. I read each word with careful consideration. The second time around I took notes. I watched the movie. I read the book again. It is a truly beautiful novel that I never in a million years would have read had it not been assigned reading for this class.

That's all I've got for today. Summer school isn't that bad. Everyone should try it.

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