Clicking with Irving: Future Digital Archives Keep Me Moving

pink mouse by pixel

–Photo by pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN
President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

During these past few months of quarantine, resources readily available to us online have become increasingly important. One of the reasons why I study Washington Irving–one reason I stay motivated–is the lack of high quality digital resources.

Author society work is important because we need better digital resources for Washington Irving in the future.

Oh, how I wish I’d put together some excellent electronic scholarly editions of Irving’s work! During this pandemic, I realize how valuable quality texts, readily available online, are to us all.

Washington Irving Society members have talked about a good Irving anthology, and we’ve even had panels, and I’ve given papers, on “Irving and the Archives,” yet here we are years later without much accomplished in this area.

Several years ago, I had undergraduate English majors working on electronic scholarly editions for the texts they were studying. I stopped doing the assignment because one too many students said they preferred a basic academic literary analysis. They thought it would be more useful to their future success.

The thoughts of recent grads, some who now teach, may have changed over the past few months, if their perspective hadn’t already shifted when they entered the work force. What my students this semester would have given for thoughtful critical editions produced by Baylor Bears who came before them!

It has been suggested to me several times that the Washington Irving website be a digital hub for Washington Irving research. We should provide digitized texts of his writing and scholarly electronic publications about his writing.

Agreed!

Any volunteers?

I’m teasing you. Well, sort of. I’ll start small today. I’m creating a link on this website called Digital Irving. May this link flourish into something meaningful as we realize the importance of an online presence for Washington Irving.

– – – – –

CB picture 2019

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also try to update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays. When the semester gets crazy, my responses might be pushed into the future, but I’ll probably respond on some Wednesday nevertheless.

Published in: on May 6, 2020 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Corona Babies, Emerging Irving Scholars: Potential Outcomes from 2020

photo of girl sitting on sofa while using tablet

–Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN
President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

We joke about a baby boom after couples “shelter in place,” but I’m wondering who else might emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Might we have a scholarly boom?

Is it possible that ten or twenty years from now, Washington Irving scholars extraordinaire will credit this time period for changing the trajectory of their lives?

This thought may seem a little out there, but it’s not that far-fetched. Turning points in my life can’t be attributed to pandemic, but they were often times of “quarantine.”

I’m stir crazy about right now, and I’ll readily admit that. But I usually view being alone to write and study and research as a treat rather than a punishment. So how did I get this way?

Though the answer is more complicated than I’m about to present, let me throw out two incidences which formed my bookish ways.

First off, in sixth grade, my parents moved me out of private school and into public school. I was so far ahead that my teacher often sent me to the library. She gave me projects to complete after I finished my normal daily work. I spent many hours in the library and learned to appreciate my quiet time there. I can still recall unrolling a gigantic, yellow scroll, jam-packed with my drawings and fun facts found in the library, during our unit about ancient civilizations.

Secondly, after graduating from college, while on the job market, I had so much time on my hands that I started reading “great books” because I finally had time to read them. I can still remember crying through David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Having that extra time to read and enjoy the reading—well, it did something to me.

In the past few weeks, I’m noticing a shift in my students. English majors and non-English majors alike are valuing the literature in ways I never expected. Having the extra time to actually do the reading and enjoy it, rather than skimming through, is unprecedented. They’re typically juggling very busy spring schedules with reading for my class.

I’m not saying that all business majors will switch to English Literature, nor am I saying all pre-med students will now minor in creative writing. But I do think students, of all ages, will emerge from 2020 with a new sense of who they are and what they value. And some may learn, for the first time, the joy of contemplation, thinking, researching, reading, and writing.

We could easily have more academics on our hands in the future, and let’s hope some of them find purpose in Washington Irving studies.

– – – – –

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also do my best to update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

Published in: on April 22, 2020 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mona Lisa in a Selfie World: Rebooting Our Appreciation for Washington Irving, Leonardo DaVinci, the Arts

mona lisa with face mask

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN
President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

This morning, I’m thinking about places I traveled in 2019 and into 2020 before we were grounded: Paris, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Houston. I even made my annual Texas trips to Galveston and Palo Duro Canyon. And I’m thankful for getting away when I did.

One thing that struck me at the Louvre was how visiting the Mona Lisa has changed. I’ve visited previously, even rushed groups of students through the exhibits, but the last time I went, we took digital cameras. The iphone had not yet arrived.

What saddened me in May 2019 was the whole Mona Lisa experience. The museum was packed, but the Louvre is always packed during high season. I kept telling people in my tour group that Mona Lisa would be worth the wait:

“She’s worth all the fuss,” I told them. “Her eyes still follow you behind the bullet-proof glass.”

But after seeing the Mona Lisa spectacle, I had to apologize to my friends for leading them astray. They were disappointed, and so was I.

People were not mesmerized by Mona Lisa’s eyes. Instead, they were fixated on getting the perfect selfie. Their backs were to her. I was shocked. Shocked, I say!

Mona Lisa was different. The lighting was bad, and I couldn’t get near her. I couldn’t stand and stare and see if her eyes would follow me. A sea of selfie crazies blocked my entire view of the painting.

I didn’t take a Mona Lisa selfie. In fact, I didn’t take any pictures of the scene. I didn’t want to remember it, but this experience has stayed with me. All I can see in my mind’s eye are the hundreds of self-absorbed people in front of me.

Months after the Paris trip, when I visited Washington Irving’s Sunnyside home in October, I was happy that we were told “no pictures” inside the house. Visitors focused on what we saw, rather than on getting perfect selfies. And maybe, since the Louvre is under construction and times are different, some adjustments might be made as to how the art is viewed.

I want a line for the Mona Lisa–like lines we now have at grocery stores. I want everybody spaced at least six feet apart. I want only a certain amount of people allowed to enter her space. I want early morning hours, perhaps for those who don’t need selfies. Maybe I’m asking too much.

Yes, I’m guilty of taking selfies, too. We all are. (Well, everybody except my parents and a handful of others who still have flip phones.) I’ve even taken selfies in front of other art work, even though I didn’t throw in the towel at the Mona Lisa. The world has changed. We can’t go back to “the good ‘ole days” before iphones.

But I do hope we figure out a few things while we’re home alone. As people talk about how we’ll never take classrooms and restaurants and gyms and churches and birthday parties and shopping malls and friends and family and more for granted, I hope we also reconsider our ways with the arts.

May we reboot our appreciation for what’s important, including our favorite paintings such as the Mona Lisa and our favorite writers such as Washington Irving. The cliché can still happen: we can have clearer vision in 2020 if we’ll refocus our attention.

– – – – –

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

07-24-18 Cell Phone 521

Here I am at The Modern art museum in Fort Worth, Texas, getting my selfie with some Takashi Murakami art work. –Photo by Tracy Hoffman

Published in: on April 8, 2020 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Birthday, Washington Irving!

Cake from Spring 2019

Washington Irving birthday cake served in Dr. Hoffman’s 2019 classes. –Photo by Tracy Hoffman

(more…)

Published in: on April 3, 2020 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Toast and Post” Celebration Scheduled for Washington Irving’s Birthday

If you’re interested in celebrating Washington Irving’s birthday tomorrow (Friday, April 3, 2020), several people will be posting pictures of their toasts to him. The event is sponsored by the Irving’s Heritage Society, the historical society in Irving, Texas.

The Heritage Society is asking folks to “Toast the 237th Birthday of Washington Irving” at 5 p.m. and post a picture on your Facebook page or on the Irving Heritage Society’s Facebook page. Here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/170447793061890/photos/a.170463193060350/2540037796102866/?type=3&theater

Tracy Hoffman, the president of the Washington Irving Society, was scheduled to make a big toast to Washington Irving in New York this Saturday night. After the Saturday symposium and the closing dinner, they were to have birthday cake and a toast. The event was canceled because of COVID-19.

Published in: on April 2, 2020 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

No Joke: You’re One Class Short of an English Degree

IMG_3412

A view of the Hudson during an October 2019 visit to Sunnyside. Photo by Tracy Hoffman

 

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Today, April 1, 2020, I was scheduled to be on a plane for New York. I was to speak at a symposium honoring the 200th anniversary of The Sketch Book.

Instead, I’m “sheltering at home,” keeping office hours. Rather than briefly escaping Texas for an East Coast adventure, I’m posting assignments, grading electronic papers, and messaging with my students. Chances are I’d be grading papers and messaging with students on a plane, too, but I’d be adding some new excitement to my regular routine.

Students keep telling me on their reading responses, “the party’s over.” I feel that way, too. In addition to the New York trip, I was scheduled to visit San Diego and Cabo this spring. All three trips–canceled.

Washington Irving’s birthday is Friday, April 3. My classes had planned to have a giant sheet cake with Irving’s pretty picture on it–an event I always plan with my classes. We can’t do that. We will do something to celebrate, but we won’t have our cake.

4-13-18 by Sarah Ford Pic One

Washington Irving birthday cake for 2018 spring classes  Photo by Tracy Hoffman

Rather than continuing with my pity party, I want to share a nugget with you. And I’m hoping to bring this new idea full circle with my original thoughts.

I’ve been working on a list of reasons why I research Washington Irving, since so many people ask me this question, and I want to share one with you today.

One of the reasons I study Washington Irving is because I was one class shy of an English degree.

After already graduating several years prior, I received a letter from my undergraduate institution informing me that I was one class away from an English degree. That was too tempting of a carrot to ignore, so I spent one summer session taking the one class. A few years later, I completed a master’s in English, and then quickly moved into a Ph.D. program at Baylor, where I earned a Ph.D. in English.

But until I received that letter, I had no intention of pursuing English studies. Washington Irving was not on my radar screen. My focus had always been journalism, but my perspective changed after taking the one remaining English class. The bottom line: I would not be researching Washington Irving today, nor would I be writing this blog, had it not been for that one letter–from out of the blue.

Here’s my spin. I think we humans make the best plans we can, knowing what we know. But sometimes those plans get interrupted. When it’s crucial to our destiny, I think God moves things in a different direction.

You might call such situations luck or serendipity; opportunity meets preparation. Regardless of our various vantage points, we all recognize these life-changing episodes which change the trajectory of our lives. We’re in such a pivotal moment.

I’ve lived long enough, experienced enough life-altering shifts, to know we’ll get on the other side of this. When I think about what previous generations experienced–including Washington Irving who survived pandemic, the loss of a fiancé, and bankruptcy—and how their lives were completely interrupted by events out of their control, it reminds me to settle down, buckle up, and remember that this moment in history will pass. Sunnier days, along dramatically new paths, await us.

– – – – –

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

CB picture 2019

Published in: on April 1, 2020 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Washington Irving: Mary Shelley’s Last Man?

last man

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last Washington Irving Wednesday, instead of blogging, I drove from Fort Worth to Waco and back, about 200 miles, to gather my things quickly from the office.

In addition to pandemic, we were also dealing with an impending spring storm last Wednesday in Texas, so I was trying to get back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area before strong winds, hail, and more were scheduled to hit.

I could only grab the essentials at my Baylor office to tote back to Fort Worth, where I have been “sheltering.” I cleared out hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, bottled water, and coffee stashes. I packed up student papers, notes for two research projects, and books—as many books as I could fit into my suitcases.

Ironically, the first book I thought of was not a textbook, nor was it a Washington Irving read. I did grab those, but I knew I’d remember to take them. Instead, I kept telling myself, “Do not forget Mary Shelley’s Last Man.”

I’m guessing few Washington Irving scholars have read the novel, although I would imagine most, if not all, Mary Shelley scholars know it.

I’ve given talks about this book and its connections to Washington Irving, though I haven’t published an article on it. Maybe I will, now.

The Last Man was the first book that came to mind when I started thinking about literature and pandemic. The story is about the last man to survive on earth, after a plague takes out everyone else.

In discussing Washington Irving’s relationship with Mary Shelley, I’ve argued that she influenced his Tales of a Traveller, and he influenced her Last Man. I’ve also presented the idea that Irving could have easily been the last man Shelley pursued before settling into a single life. Both Irving and Shelley remained single until their deaths, Shelley passing before Irving.

I’m not sure how important it might be to find traces of Irving in Shelley’s book, but for Irving studies, it’s important to know she influenced him–because Tales of a Traveller was a failure!

It was dark, depressing, offensive, the third in his trilogy of sketch books. This one book changed the trajectory of his writing, and if Shelley influenced his writing for ill, then perhaps he blamed her for his floundering career. That could be one reason he rejected her advances.

I’ve scoured The Last Man, looking for traces of Washington Irving, and I plan to pick up the task again, in light of all that’s happening.

– – – – –

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

Published in: on March 25, 2020 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Self-Quarantined Washington Irving

grayscale photo of person standing on seashore

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

March 11, 2020

Today, my university announced we would be extending Spring Break an extra week and we would then move to online classes for two weeks as we monitor the situation.

As universities deal with the coronavirus scare and academic conferences are being canceled, including the Washington Irving Seminar this April I had planned to attend, I can’t help but think about Washington Irving’s run-ins with pandemic and quarantine.

First on my mind is Elizabeth Bradley’s 2014 article published in the Smithsonian, “What ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Tells Us about Contagion, Fear and Epidemics.” Retracing Irving biographer Brian Jay Jones’s findings, Bradley suggests young Irving spent time in Tarrytown to avoid the yellow fever raging in New York City. She says the 1798 escape may have inspired “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Her article is a must-read. Check it out, if you haven’t already done so:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-legend-sleepy-hollow-tells-us-about-contagion-fear-and-epidemics-180953192/

Secondly, I think about Irving’s ship being quarantined and also being taken over by pirates. Irving managed to survive the ordeals unscathed. According to Dudley Warner, the ship Irving was traveling on to Sicily was overtaken by pirates: “Off the island of Planoca it was overpowered and captured by a little picaroon, with lateen sails and a couple of guns, and a most-villainous crew, in poverty-stricken garments” (33).

In his biography of Washington Irving, Brian Jay Jones also discusses the pirate event and Irving’s quarantine aboard the Matilda.

Thirdly, Irving’s use of the word quarantine is unique. According to wordnik.com, Irving was the first to use the word quarantined: “While quarantine as a noun has been around since the 16th century, Irving seems to be the first to use it as a verb. The original meaning of the noun was ‘a period of 40 days in which a widow has the right to remain in her dead husband’s house,’ and comes from the Latin quadraginta, ‘forty.’ ”

Webster’s online says quarantine was first used as a verb in 1801, but it doesn’t give Irving as an example.

The OED gives Irving the following credit: “1804   W. Irving in Life & Lett. (1864) I. v. 89   Where I should be detained, quarantined, smoked, and vinegared.”

Finally, when I hear about people self-quarantining, it reminds me of how little most people spend time alone; alone as in days of never talking or seeing anyone. Single folks, like Washington Irving, usually have no problem with alone time. And writers crave this kind of time. What some would consider self-quarantine, others call writing retreats. Self-isolating isn’t traumatic or unusual for a small portion of the population, but for folks who have large families and work in group settings, isolating for a few weeks to avoid spreading germs must be an extraordinary experience.

In many ways, Washington Irving chose to self-quarantine himself on occasion: to avoid sickness, to write, to research, to think. He was certainly social and enjoyed family and friends, but he also knew the sacrifice required to be a fruitful writer. And I’m sure I’m stretching the definition of quarantine, but so did Irving.

Until next week, stay healthy! And please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. Also feel free to message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

Published in: on March 11, 2020 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Casper the Friendly Hessian: Contemplating a Name for the Headless Horseman

person wearing jack o lantern face disguise

Photo by Corey Sitkowski on Pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

March 4, 2020

Not too long ago, a few students in one of my classes started brainstorming, googling, and laughing about naming the Headless Horseman. We thought it ironic for him to be nameless and headless, so they took it upon themselves to help the guy out, by at least giving him a name.

First off, these two students wanted a name for the real headless horseman, a Hessian whose head was shot off by a canon during the Revolutionary War and buried, evidently without a name.

Secondly, students realized that the headless horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” would most likely be Brom Bones, maybe even Katrina herself, so a name for the prankster isn’t necessary, only the name of the ghost haunting the Hudson Valley.

Thirdly, my students are humorously entertaining a name for a Washington Irving Society mascot. A headless horseman seems appropriate, but doesn’t Washington Irving High School in Tarrytown, New York, already use the headless horseman as a mascot? And what might his name be?

In fact, does anybody anywhere have a name for the famous headless one?

According to mountvernon.org, “The term ‘Hessians’ refers to the approximately 30,000 German troops hired by the English to help fight during the American Revolution.”

The National Park Service, at www.nps.gov, identifies the names of some Hessians who died in St. Paul’s Church: Heinrich Euler, Conrad Roth, Johann Heinrich Grein, Daniel Schaef, and Ludwig Juppert.

One website claims to be “The largest offering of Hessian Information on the Internet.” AMREV-Hessians on www.freepages.rootsweb.com provides some interesting data.

The site lists numerous names. Some first names listed include:

  • Johann
  • Franz
  • Wilhelm
  • Bartolomew
  • Adolf
  • Georg
  • Nicholas
  • Conrad
  • Peter
  • Casper
  • Barnard
  • Frederick
  • Adam
  • Anton

So far, my students think the Washington Irving Society Hessian should be named “Hoffman,” in honor of me, since it’s German. But I think we can come up with something catchier. Casper caught my eye, since we already associate ghosts with it. How about Casper Hoffman?

Let me know what you think, especially if you have insight into Hessian history. I didn’t dig too deep, but probably should probe some more before officially settling into a name. I see Washington Irving Society swag in the works.

– – – – –

Until next week, please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. Also feel free to message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

Published in: on March 4, 2020 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Your Washington Irving Panel Ghosts on You, Who Ya Gonna Call?

marketing office working business

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

BY TRACY HOFFMAN
President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Washington Irving Society had grand plans for the American Literature Association Conference this May in San Diego. We had two awesome panels planned: “Washington Irving and the Theater,” along with “Washington Irving and Film.” We thought this was a great idea since we would be in California, much closer to Hollywood than our Boston venue for ALA.

Unfortunately, Tim Burton and his besties did not respond to our call for papers. Maybe next time, but not this year.

So who do you call when your planned panel doesn’t work out according to plan?

Well, to be brutally honest, author societies sometimes merge their efforts to present a concerted panel. If I had been a smarter Washington Irving Society president, then I would have taken this path. But by the time I realized our “theatrics” wouldn’t fly, it was too late to involve another group.

So I called on my Baylor colleagues. That’s who! Sic ‘Em, Bears!

I’ve attempted this kind of feat previously, but to no avail. Fortunately, this year, a few Baylor colleagues were already presenting papers on regular panels, and I twisted a few more arms to fill our roundtable. I knew that I could form a roundtable, sponsored by the Washington Irving Society, even if others were presenting on regular panels. So that’s what we did.

I’m excited to say, for the first time ever, I have a group of Baylor colleagues joining me on a Washington Irving Society sponsored roundtable. We’re calling it:

Hauntings in American Literature Roundtable: Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of “America’s First Ghost Story”

One of the main questions I often get from journalists/podcasters is something like: “Is the Headless Horseman America’s first ghost story?” and “Is Washington Irving America’s first ghost story writer?” My gut reaction has always been, “No,” simply because I can think of earlier American texts with ghosts.

But if you consider Washington Irving the Father of American Literature, and if he included ghosts in his writing, then the conclusion makes sense. Is he the Father of the American Ghost Story?

Between now and the end of May, I’ll be digging up research to introduce this most fascinating discussion. Colleagues joining me are experts on the Haunted South, Detective Fiction, and Toni Morrison, so putting our heads together on “hauntings” should be fruitful.

If you happen to dabble in Irving or other ghostly American Literature and would like to join us on the roundtable, to mix up the Baylor vibe, please let me know. I think we can have a few more on a roundtable, but I need to know in the next week. Any changes to panels are due by March 1, since they like to finish a rough draft of the program in March.

Between now and the next Washington Irving Wednesday, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll try not to ghost for more than a week or two before my next blog. Until then….

– – – – –

I love receiving feedback from readers! Please feel free to drop comments wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. If you need a reply, please message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays.

Published in: on February 26, 2020 at 12:32 pm  Comments (1)  
%d bloggers like this: