Sherry Linkon** of Youngstown State's Center for Working-Class Studies has a thoughtful post about why studying working-class culture and literature matters. Linkon rightly suggests that "the working class is getting larger and more frustrated" and issues a call for renewed commitment to scholarship, especially in light of the economic conditions in our nation.
Blogs like the YSU Center's also serve as a place to *sustain* such scholarship and move academic discussions beyond realms like academic journals. The aforementioned piece links to my blog and a post I wrote while working on an article about my great-grandfather's poetry as an expression of working-class ambivalence and identification. I'm proud of that article, which is one of the better things I've written and likely helped me get tenure. But I'm frustrated that I had some good conversations with colleagues and received some nice emails upon its publication...and then moved on to the next project.
Academic communities need more resources and sites like the Center for Working-Class Studies' blog, where (academic) discussions can become broader and involve more individuals and last longer. Funny timing for Linkon's post. I'm giving an invited talk in Ann Arbor next month where I'll be talking about the research I did on my great-grandfather. And having recently looked at a series of lettrers and poems that my grandfather on the other side of the family wrote during WWII, I'm thinking about the possibility of more familial writing.
Coincidences like this remind me of the need to return to ideas that matter and find new and better ways of talking about those ideas. And ideas that matter start with things that mean something to us personally.
**Professor Linkon--speaking of the convergence of the personal and the academic--co-wrote a great book called Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown that models smart and engaging analysis of place. The church where I grew up (St. Anthony's, on the north side of Youngstown, which is likely closing this year) figures prominently in the book. Last week during Spring Break I was happy to see copies of Steeltown USA for sale at Jimmy's Bakery, a great Italian cafe and specialty store run by a family I grew up with at St. Anthony's.