Two things occurred to me this weekend regarding Strong Thomasson and the dissertation. First… I’ve read him about five times now and I’ve only just noticed his class…uhhh…consciousness. And by that I mean his dainty opinion of how people should behave in public: with sobriety, cleanliness, and rectitude. Not very surprising, any of those, but he is a real fine illustration of how religious expectations shaped public morals. As we already know, he advocated temperance. Drunkenness disgusted him and he did his best to avoid places he knew liquor would be present. Even better, he considered (public) education to be a moral obligation of parents and he continually expressed bewilderment that many people would leave their children’s souls—and society—in danger by not sending them to class. And he had a couple of outbursts about the filthyness of poor people. Filth, to him, represented disorder, ignorance, and sin. This coming from someone who regularly de-hided premature calves, chased pigs through creeks, and grubbed stumps in swamps. Taken together, that middle class sensibility is becoming an unexpected part of this section.
The second thing is that while reading Strong, I suddenly recalled that the letters and diaries of three siblings from Yadkin County were published about fifteen years ago by a small local history press. The two sisters of this clan interest me, so I quickly ordered them up on Amazon, and being unable to await their arrival, I ran down to the library and checked them out. I need to spend some time with them before I commit them to the dissertation. On the surface, this family is an odd lot: relatively wealthy (in 1860) non-slaveholders (tanners, in 1850), heavily involved in educational institutions, and deeply divided by the Civil War. One sister went north to college and the both of them were enamored with transcendentalism and apparently sat around being melancholy about death and God. (I get this all from the introduction.) One taught in Greensboro and had Charles F. Deems as a mentor. Deems has a supporting role in Chapter 3. Anyhow, I’m being vague because I don’t yet know these people and don’t know how they will be used, if at all. (Speer family. If you know, you know.) They would help my present gender imbalance, but would not help my Methodist imbalance at all.
So, this week I’ll be consolidating my thoughts and writing on Thomasson, and reading these two sisters.
That, and grading. First round of papers due Tuesday night. I expect I’ll be sending them all back for revision.