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Historiography Writing Group Analysis

On Wednesday my committee and I discussed that my writing needs improvement, especially my historiography section.  Both Dale and Dr. Jones said that my historiography is too descriptive and linear, almost like a list of books that are not related.  Together we decided that I need to focus more on creating a web of scholarly ideas instead of a list of individual ideas.  In discussing historiography with my writing group we wondered if it might serve me better to attack my historiography thematically instead of chronologically.  My writing group things that I would have more success with a thematic approach because many of the books focus on the same issues, but approach them differently, and I would be able to discuss all of the book at the same time instead of separately.  The thematic approach would allow me to more through the literature in groups and give a coherency to my work that I currently lack because I too focused on the chronology of the literature and who is answering whom in each book.  If I discuss Kimmel, Bederman, Putney, and Carnes at the same time, I can draw stronger correlations between them, and show where there is a gap that my work will fulfill.

We also think it will be easier to create bridges between the themes than it is to create a coherent chronological review of the literature.  I can create better bridges between themes by using a book that covers both themes.  Basically, if I start by discussing the ideals of masculinity as described in Kimmel, Putney, and Bederman, I should use Gorn to bridge the gap between masculinity and sports, where I can then discuss Gorn, Watterson, and Gruneau.  After that I should maybe use Ingrassia, who discusses sports and higher education, to connect the literature of sports to the literature of college culture like Horowitz, and Thelin, then finish with the work more specific to Virginia Tech like Wallenstein, Kinnear and Lazenby.  This format will help me draw strong correlations between the literature within each theme as well as connect the themes together into a coherent historiography.

We also discussed a standard format, a writing formula, that I can use until I get the grasp of writing good historiography.  I mentioned it in our meeting last week, but Heather told me that she used Kim Staub’s proposal as a guide that taught her to write one sentence to introduce the historian and the book, followed by one sentence about the argument of the book.  Then comes 1-2 sentences of analysis of what the book does right or wrong, well or poorly, or what he leaves out, and ending with how I would use the work to support my own research or fill a gap that the historian left in his work and the previous literature.  I need to focus less on trying to make sure the reader knows every detail about each book, and really focus on the arguments that historians make that are pertinent to my research.  I focus too much on proving that I read the book, when I should really prove that I understand the book and can use it to support my own research.

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In the past week I have been working on the literature review for my thesis proposal and it should be done in another week.  I have ordered about 20 books through ILL and most of them have come in and I have gone through them for useful information, but I’m still waiting on some of the more relevant books about VMI, but I have read some about Duke, UNC, West Virginia, and UVa.

In Ted Mann’s book, A Story of Glory: Duke University Football, I have found that Duke’s president, John Franklin Crowell, brought football to Duke from his days at Yale because he was convinced that a winning football team was important to student body morale and the growth of the men of his university.  Although Duke abandoned the game and dismantled the team from 1895-1920 due to the physical violence of the sport, the student body and alumni fought for the return of football for the next 2 decades until they got it back.



The Week Ahead:


Weekend—writing literature review

Monday—HGSA Meeting, writing literature review

Tuesday—Writing literature review, Special Collections

Wednesday—Finish Literature review draft, Special Collections

Thursday—Special Collections, and First day of Public History w/ Dr. Cline

Friday—review literature review draft

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WordPress redesign practice

In the last week I have practiced redesigning and customizing a wordpress blog site.  I have taken the basic site with the regular design template and changed it to a darker site, with a gray background that matched turn of the 20th century VPI cadet uniforms, with text in the traditional maroon school color.  I also have added a picture into the header.  I can also create a list of pictures that would scroll through to display different aspects of VAMC and VPI football and student culture.



I have also removed the sidebars and WordPress symbols to make the site look more different than it is and to streamline the site better.
I’ve spent some time in the page source and style editor of the site and I think I am beginning to understand the backend of the site.  WordPress streamlines their code with easy CSS that are basically just copy and paste items.  The brackets can be easily copied and placed on any other page, or taken out if you would like the pages to be different.

Aside from the visual changes that I have made, I have also worked on creating static pages that would have different parts of the written product on it.  WordPress’ normal homepage is the blog site, but I think that a static page with a broad overview of the site is more important and practical as the homepage.  I have reset the homepage to be one of these static pages.  I thought the blog would be better on a different page, especially since I’m not really sure how I’m going to use the blog function.  I’m still working on getting a page to redirect to the Omeka page automatically instead of having to click a link to get to the Omeka page.  I’m not sure how I’ll handle that, but I feel much more comfortable with the wordpress design changes and my ability to make necessary changes.

With that said, three of my four parts progressed this week, even though they all didn’t move as much as I had hoped.  I read Dr. Wallenstein’s book this week and wrote a short review about my findings and how I could use the book.  I read Watterson’s College Football and am working on the analysis and book review synthesis that should be ready in the next day or so.  I also spent a few hours in VTSC, although not as much as I wanted and without much success.  I began to compile the parts of my lit review and will be ready to write as soon as I finish Watterson’s analysis and stuff.  That should begin this weekend.  The only thing that didn’t progress much at all is the digital archive bit.

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Proposal deadlines

Here is an email I got a few minutes ago from Dr. Jones, director of History Graduate Students at Virginia Tech, to remind me that my thesis proposal will be due very soon!  EEEEEKKKK!!!!!!


Dear Thesis Writers,

I hope your summer has been filled with much research and many insights about your thesis topic!!

And, I know, I know…you don’t want to be reminded that summer is coming to an end and your thesis advisor will soon be expecting to see a draft of your thesis proposal.

This is just a gentle reminder that the schedule is: draft to advisor no later than Sept. 1; revised draft to committee by Sept. 15; final draft to me by Sept. 30. Defenses are scheduled for mid to late October.

If you haven’t done so already, you will probably want to touch base with your advisor to remind her/him about this schedule.

Enjoy the last few days of break,




Kathleen W. Jones, PhD

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of History (0117)

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA 24061


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Virginia Tech Land-Grant University by Peter Wallenstein

Peter Wallenstein’s Virginia Tech Land-Grant University, 1872-1997:  History of a School, a State, a Nation provides a good introduction to the establishment of land-grant institutions through the Morrill Act of 1862 and their continued presence and growth through the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Morrill Act of 1890.  Wallenstein emphasizes federal legislation as the category of activity that most clearly frames the development of higher education, especially for Agricultural and Mechanical colleges and universities just starting in the middle or late 19th century.(Wallenstein 4)  He states that “the history of Virginia Tech serves as a lens through which to examine the workings of society and politics, of education and opportunity, of democracy itself.”(Wallenstein 6)  Because his work focuses on federal policymaking, he is only able to provide an overview of the history of Virginia Tech as a university.  Clearly Wallenstein’s book is important because it shows the effects of the Morrill Act of 1862, after which nearly every president of the United States attended college and attained a degree, but it put the history of Tech on the back burner for a significant portion of this book.  Wallenstein calls his work “a case study of social and political history of higher education in the United States in general and in Virginia in particular,” therefore, his work provides little substance to my work yet gives me a broad picture of the history of Virginia Tech and how it came into being.(Wallenstein 3)  I read the first half of the book, through the 1920s, but again, he offered few details of the inner-workings of the university, the relationship between faculty and administration, or the relationship between students and staff, because he focused on the relationship of Washington DC and the states, and the states and their land-grant institutions.

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The Week Ahead: 08/09/12–08/16/12

I plan to spend a minimum of 15 hours in VT Special Collections finishing the President papers for Eggleston and Barringer and a last look through McBryde.  If I have time left, I will use it going through Board of Visitors papers or Athletic Association papers.

Thursday:  I will start this week by backing up my system and research, checking my WordPress site for functionality and practice altering the WP design.

Friday:  Special Collections work as well as Learning Technologies WordPress practice

Saturday:  Virginia Tech Land-Grant Univeristy 1872-1997 by Peter Wallenstein completed with review and analysis

Sunday:  HGSA officer meeting with Heather Lennon followed web design practice

Monday:  Bertoti Meeting with Heather Lennon, Alison Vick, Dr. Kathy Jones, and Linda Fountaine followed by Special Collections work

Tuesday:  Special Collections work and proposal work.  Focus on literature review

Wednesday:  College Football by John Watterson completed with review and analysis and book review synthesis.  Followed by literature review work and Special Collections

Thursday:  Meeting with Dale once more followed by literature review work




Note to self:  Don’t forget to live life and love wife

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Papers of John McLaren McBryde, RG 2/5, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Known as the “father of VPI,” McBryde was the first president to have a relatively free hand in developing the academic program, selecting associates, formulating policies, and planning the physical plant of the College. Major accomplishments of his administration included: establishing position of Dean in 1903-04 to aid in administration duties; reorganizing the curriculum and creating seven new 4- year courses leading to Bachelor of Science degrees; introducing a program of graduate study in 1891 and establishing a Graduate Department, with its own Dean, in 1907; starting the summer school program in 1904. Also during his tenure, McBryde improved and expanded the physical plant, with six buildings being renovated and sixty-seven new buildings constructed. The faculty increased from nine in 1891 to forty-eight in 1907 and enrollment rose from one hundred and thirty-five in 1891 to a peak of seven hundred and twenty-eight in 1904/05. McBryde was also the first president to encourage student activities, as witnessed by the beginning of an athletic program and resumption of publication of the Gray Jacket, as well as the adoption of school colors. Hazing controversies plagued McBryde’s administration, but his handling of the early cases tended to enhance his prestige as well as strengthen the College’s image.

McBryde did wonderful things for the university, but few of his papers support the idea that he promoted the idea of creating masculine men through sports, but the very fact that 2 of 3 major men’s sports teams as well as many of the lesser known sports teams were established during his tenure speaks to the fact that he found athletics to be an important part of college life and contribute to making men.  Although his papers do not deal with any one sport directly, the letters he wrote and received show that the boys lacked discipline when he became President and he sought to change this through providing an outlet for rowdiness and a means to further instill discipline and self control.

The letters that I found most intriguing were written by men who either were students or wanted to become students, but lacked the financial ability to attend school without a job to help pay the bills while they were in school.  Many wrote to President McBryde to ask for work to support themselves through school, and I felt like this epitomized the Self-Made man that was breed after the Victorian Era.  Two other letters that caught my eye were both looking for men to fill leadership roles.  Sweetwater Military College asked McBryde to recommend an old footballer to fill the position of commandant of cadets.  He said he wanted a footballer because he wanted to shape these boys into men, and that a footballer would command the respect of the boys because they all want to be like he was in college and in life.  Washington Public schools was looking for a school teacher with the same qualities for many of the same reasons.  Although there were more letters of interest, they were all along the same lines of these few that I have recounted.  If the next two president’s papers yield these results, and I have good luck with Athletic Association Papers and Board of Visitors Papers, my research will be in good shape heading into the school year.