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From the News column of the May 2004 Perspectives

Gutenberg-e Winners Meet at Workshop

Elizabeth Fairhead, May 2004

On a rainy, cold morning this March, the newest Gutenberg-e prize winners gathered at the Butler Library Building in Columbia University for what has now become a routine part of the year—the semiannual Gutenberg-e Workshop. “The experiment is over, you are participating in a project that is spearheading a new trend in scholarly publishing,” said Princeton University's Robert Darnton (who was instrumental in launching the program when he was president of the AHA), as he congratulated and welcomed the nine authors who had been selected as the winners of the 2003 Gutenberg-e competition (for manuscripts in the field of women's history and history of gender). Darnton opened the workshop by stressing the American Historical Association's commitment to electronic publishing. This workshop, the 9th in the series, but the first for the newest winners of the Gutenberg-e prize, provided them with the opportunity to meet and start working with the editors, designers, and programmers of EPIC [Electronic Publications Initiative at Columbia] who will assist them as they convert their dissertations into electronic books.

The winners of the 2003 competition introduced their works and spoke briefly about their plans to revise their recent dissertations. Joshua Greenberg's “Advocating ‘The Man': Masculinity, Organized Labor and the Market Revolution in New York, 1800–1840” (American University, 2003) focuses on the relationship between household and workplace in early 19th-century America. Because Timothy Hodgdon's “Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965–83”(Arizona State University, 2002) examines communities, many of whose members are still living, he hopes to conduct interviews of some of the members and incorporate those oral histories into his research and include recordings in the electronic publication. “Undermining Obedience in Absolutist France: The Case of the Port Royal Nuns, 1609–1709,” (Duke University, 2000) by Daniella Kostroun is a tale told to answer a puzzling question: Why did Louis XIV send 200 soldiers (in 1709) to destroy a convent that was home to only 22 elderly nuns? In revising the manuscript for publication, Kostroun hopes, she said, to broaden the analytical framework to include modern conceptions of feminism. Erika Lindgren hopes to hire musicians and incorporate recordings of several pieces of music into the online version of “Environment and Spirituality of German Dominican Women, 1230–1370” (University of Iowa, 2001). Lindgren's research focuses on the intersection of materiality and spirituality in female monasteries. Allowing readers to actually hear the spiritual music will enable them to understand the environment of the monastery in a way that far surpasses what can be achieved by a printed text. In “Sovereign Princesses: Mary and Elizabeth Tudor as Heads of Princely Households and the Accomplishment of the Female Succession, 1516–1553,” (Johns Hopkins University, 2003) Jeri McIntosh explores the culture of the separate households and argues that the accession of Mary and Elizabeth to the English throne was not simply because there were no male heirs. McIntosh plans to incorporate a body of online resources for the reader interested in exploring the 16th-century English succession further. Ann Pfau's dissertation, “Miss Yourlovin: Women in the Culture of American World War II Soldiers” (Rutgers University, 2001) examines the shared culture of World War II servicemen during the war and the consequences of an “ambivalent cult of American womanhood.” The focus of the dissertation is men's conceptions of women during the course of the war, Pfau stressed; for the revision of her research, Pfau would like to give greater voice to the women and to expand the study to include an examination of the servicemen's lives after the war. In her dissertation, “Arms and the Woman: Just Warriors and Greek Feminist Identity” (University of Sydney, 2003) Margaret Poulos examines the role of women and the incorporation of the image of the female warrior in Greece's major 19th- and 20th-century armed conflicts. She plans to strengthen her background discussion on “just war” theory and its application for female warriors. In “'Trivial Complaints:' The Role of Privacy in Domestic Violence Law and Activism in the U.S.” (Emory University, 2003), Kirsten Rambo focuses on the role of cultural and legal notions of privacy in litigation and activism in the late 19th and 20th centuries. She plans to update her research to include recent legal decisions. Maria Rentetzi's “Gender, Politics, and Radioactivity Research in Vienna, 1910–1938” (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2003) examines women in Vienna working as independent researchers. Written for a technology studies program, Rentetzi's planned revisions will reorient her work for historians as she incorporates maps and floor plans to expand and clarify her discussion of the relationships between built environment and professional development.

The workshop participants then heard reports from the previous year's winners. The 2002 winners, in the field of history of North America before 1900, John Haddad, author of “‘The American Marco Polo': Excursions to a Virtual China in U.S. Popular Culture, 1784–1912,” and Willeen Keough, author of “The Slender Thread: Irish Women on the Southern Avalon, 1750–1860,” advised the new winners about effective strategies and techniques for turning a dissertation into an electronic publication. The staff of Columbia University Press provided the new authors with specific technical information about such issues as database management and working with digital images, as well as the press's plans to market and publicize the project in general and their books in particular. A number of the authors who are close to publication stressed for the new winners that they will “have the best editing and publishing support in the business” while working on this project.

This workshop is a regular part of the Gutenberg-e program. Gutenberg-e is a prize competition aimed at encouraging the electronic publication of the best history dissertations. Originally launched in 1999, the program is made possible with a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each prize consists of a $20,000 fellowship to be used by the author for converting the dissertation into an electronic monograph of the highest quality to be published by Columbia University Press.

—Elizabeth Fairhead is a research associate at the AHA. She helps coordinate the Gutenberg-e Prizes program.