Making History Matter

Robert Dawidoff
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-749-0
Publication: Apr 00

HC: $91.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-748-3
Publication: Apr 00

304 pages
6 x 9

A historian with a broad view of American culture's movers and shapers

Read an excerpt from Part I (pdf).


This collection of Robert Dawidoff's essays and journalism is peopled by the likes of the Founding Fathers, Fred Astaire, Henry and William James, Sophie Tucker, Trent Lott, and Cole Porter. Drawing together this unlikely cast of characters, Dawidoff probes into the role of outsider groups as well as intellectual and political elites in the formation of American culture.

As a scholar of intellectual and cultural history, Dawidoff takes the stance that historians ought to take an active role in our democratic culture, informing and participating in public discourse. He argues for a broad reach when it comes to cultural expression, resisting the polarization of formal intellectual history and folk or commercial popular culture. In his view and in his book, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Katharine Hepburn are equally worthy topics for a historian's consideration, providing that they are treated with equal seriousness of purpose and analytic rigor. In "The Gay Nineties" section that closes the book, he traces key events in the continual struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights and takes on such unresolved issues as safer sex, needle exchange programs to control HIV transmission, and the public controversy around the portrayal of gay and lesbian television characters.

Divided into sections that deal with the patriarchs of American political and intellectual culture, expressive culture, and a historian's public voice, this book is a model of engaged and engaging writing. Accessible and witty, Making History Matter will appeal to general and academic readers interested in American history as well as gay and lesbian political and cultural issues.

Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments History...but

Part I: The Night of the Living Dead White Men The Jeffersonian Option Franklin and Jefferson: Before "the Democratic Fact" "Tails in the Air": Henry Adams and the American History of the European Middle Ages Willie's and Harry's Excellent Adventure Fish Out of Water: George Santayana In My Father's House Are Many Closets

Part II: Listening to Sophie Tucker Criticism and American Cultural Repair The Kind of Person You Have to Sound Like to Sing "Alexander's Ragtime Band" Some of Those Days Fred Astaire Katharine Hepburn: "The Heiress of All the Ages" From Ohio to the Big Rock Candy Mountain: Los Angeles as the Terminus of American Democratic Culture

Part III: Doing Something about It Stalking the Blushing Zebra The Gay Nineties: Opinion Pieces Gay Rights One Percent or Ten Percent—The Law Isn't Counting Clinton Speaks the Haters' Code Word First, We Demand Recognition Gays and Lesbians Need a Real Movement The Feds, Civil Rights, and Camp Sister Spirit Gays Won't Take Clinton's Betrayal Lightly Clio in the Morning Papers Clio in Office? Seeing the Messiness of America's True History Lott's Wife Politics of AIDS, Safer Sex, and Needle Exchange How About a Policy on AIDS? Needle Exchange Can Save Lives Clean Needles and Bloody Hands Did the President Use a Condom? The Intolerance Wars In Real Life, the Funnies Aren't Holiday Lavender Blue Gays Saw Between the Lines of Ellen TV-H: Hazardous to your Hypocrisy Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness—Gay or Straight


About the Author(s)

Robert Dawidoff is John D. and Lillian Maguire Distinguished Chair and Professor of History at Claremont Graduate University. He is most recently the author (with Michael Nava) of Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America and The Genteel Tradition and the Sacred Rage: High Culture V. Democracy in Adams, James and Santayana.