A Shamokin Thanksgiving

Seal of Agreement for smithy

As we gather today in the Susquehanna Valley to share our food with friends and family, we might be curious how this time of year was celebrated back in 1747, in the time of Chief Shikellamy and the beginnings of the Moravian mission at what was then called Shamokin, today Sunbury.

1747 had been a very busy and important year in the history of Shamokin. The project of establishing a forge at the Confluence of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River, first requested by the Six Nations in 1745 and not approved by the Colonial government in Philadelphia until 1747, had finally been achieved. Moravians and Indians had met in conference in the spring of that year to discuss exactly how the forge would be built and the conditions under which the Six Nations and their emissary, Shikellamy, would permit the European missionaries to live at the confluence. Shikellamy and his sons had helped to construct the mission house and smithy during the summer months and the Moravians had already cleared land around their house to plant corn, beans, and squash. By the end of July the smithy was ready for business, with the preferred customers being the Indians of the Six Nations (for whom account books were kept); and traders being just tolerated. The wives of the Moravian missionaries, Anna Mack and Catharine Schmidt were already participating fully in the economy of the smithy and mission as they took in sewing from the Indians, mending Shikellamy’s shirts on a regular basis.

But the hard work of setting up the smithy and mission house had already taken its toll on one of the Moravians. After a long trip down river to collect supplies, Brother Hagen succumbed to the prevailing fever and, in September of 1747, was buried in a plot just beyond the turnip field, accompanied by a beautiful service of song.

That November was cold. The charcoal fire in the forge had been started, and many Indians passing through Shamokin stopped at the smithy to have work done to their weapons and to keep warm. The last full week of November was marked by the sadness that prevailed at the death of Shikellamy’s two year old grandchild. Anna Mack and Catharina Schmidt sewed, as requested, a death shroud for her out of a piece of linen brought to them by the Indian women, and then visited the dead child before burial.

But amid the sadness there was kindness and hope. The sharing of dried cherries and bread between a Mohican woman (Shikellamy’s daughter in law, the wife of his eldest son) and the Moravians; the sharing of Moravian bread with a cold tired and hungry Delaware man from the Wyoming Valley. The last Thursday in November 1747 brought a woman trader to the mission with much rum, much to the dismay of the Moravians. They neither wanted alcohol in Shamokin nor traders, whether male or female.  The Moravian Sisters spent “Black Friday” chopping and fetching wood, while their husbands were working in the smithy or repairing shoes.

That Saturday, the rum the woman trader had brought to town had clearly been exchanged for skins and the population of Shamokin was drunk. Order returned with Shikellamy though, who had been absent on Colonial business and arrived that evening from Tulpehocken and Conrad Weiser’s house with letters and news for the Moravians. He had also brought a piece of beef for Catharine Smith and the others from her mother who lived close by Conrad Weiser’s.

The relations between Shikellamy, his family and the Moravians were clearly warm and loving. His daughter in law, the Mohican, was worried about the fate of the dead child, for example. Would the child be with God even though it wasn’t baptized? Yes, said Anna Mack, she will be, because we are all loved by God, regardless of whether we are baptized or not. And as a sign of fellowship the Moravians bring Shikellamy his favorite, turnips.

Looking back at these records from nearly 270 years ago the picture we can see of relations between the Native peoples and the Moravian missionaries is clearly not the one that is popularly depicted with turkeys and pies and pumpkins. However, what we can see is a time of mutual aid, kindness, and significant intercultural understanding. True, the Moravians are not like all “white people”, a comment often made by the Indians who witness their quiet love. The outside forces of the traders and Colonial policies have their effect on the population around Shamokin, in that rum is all that Indians can trade their goods for. But the last Thursday of November in 1747 is marked by shared food and warmth. A true Thanksgiving.

The Importance of Understanding Visual Rhetoric: thoughts on Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis

I am re-posting on my personal site my blog entry for my class site for The Humanities Now!  These are questions that I have been thinking about a lot, and my reading of Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis has really helped to crystallize my ideas.  I am so happy that she will be coming to Bucknell in April of 2015 as part of our Humanities Institute on the Digital Humanities.

Over the last week or so, we have revisited visualization as a technique for interpretation. In our production of networks using Gephi, the process of creating data, preparing it for input into the software, manipulating it once in the software and then interpreting it once entered has been foremost. As we move on to mapping, we will find parallel processes at work: preparing data, entering it, manipulating it, interpreting it. And as we do so, it behooves us to think critically about what we are doing, and what we are not doing.

Johanna Drucker’s intelligent, broad view of visualization as a form of knowledge production offers us many pointers for taking each step on our path to visualization and interpretation with deliberation. The long chapter “Interpreting Visualization–Visualization Interpretation” from her book, Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Harvard, 2014) presents us with an overview of forms of visualization primarily since the Renaissance, and it also issues a plea for the development of a greater understanding of the force of visual rhetoric; a plea that is directed especially at humanists, as they enter into a realm of spatialized representation that might appear to belong to the realm of the quantitative over the qualitative.

Visualizations can be either representations or knowledge generators in which the spatialization or arrangement of elements is meaningful. When reading a visualization, Drucker encourages us to use language carefully, employing terms such as “juxtapose”, “hierarchy”, “proximity”. Drucker claims that visualization exploded onto the intellectual scene at the edge of the late Renaissance and beginning of the early Enlightenment, when engraving technologies were able to produce epistemologically stunning diagrams that both described and also produced knowledge. Now with the advent of digital means to manipulate and produce data we can all produce timelines (!) without giving a thought to the revolution in the conceptualization of time and history that (our near neighbor) Joseph Priestley occasioned. So, as we play with Timemapper or Timeglider, Drucker cautions us to become aware of the visual force of such digital generations. “The challenge is to break the literalism of representational strategies and engage with innovations in interpretive and inferential modes that augment human cognition.” (p. 71)

How do we do this? Drucker argues for us to recognize three basic principles of visualization, both as producers and as interpreters: a) the rationalization of a surface; b) the distinction of figure and ground; c) the delimitation of the domain of visual elements so that they function as a relational system.

In her sections on the most prevalent forms of visualization, I find most pertinent to the coming module on mapping her insight that a graphical scheme through which we relate to the phenomenal world structures our experience of it (p. 74). In other words, the mapping of the earth, sky, sea or the measurement of time, that are in themselves complex reifications of schematic knowledge, actually become the way in which we experience that thing. The week is seven days long and the month is 28-31 days long (because of lunar cycles) and thus astronomical tables become the way we structure time. But time isn’t like that; it isn’t linear, especially in the humanities! It contains flashbacks, memories, foreshadowings, relativities (it speeds up when we are nervous, and slows down when we are scared). So we are imposing structures from social and natural sciences onto human experience. Drucker argues that the shape of temporality is a reflection of beliefs and not standard metrics, and therefore asks how do we find a graphical means to inscribe the subjective experience of temporality or the spatial?

For example, digital mapping may give us the ability to georectify a manuscript map onto a coordinate system, but what does this give us? It might show us how accurate a mapmaker was, or was not; it might help us to locate an archaeological site with more probability, but it is ignoring the fact that the manuscript map, drawn perhaps on buckskin, or stone, or vellum is a representation (and a thin one at that) of a traveler’s or observer’s experience that we are then translating into a system of coordinates. What is absent is the story; way-finding depends upon narratives, travel accounts, diaries. We must be aware that maps produce the illusion of isomorphism, but this illusion is based on an elaborate system of abstract schema and concrete reality.

I am most captivated by the section of her chapter that focuses on visualizing uncertainty and interpretive cartography, as this is an area I have thought a lot about in the last five years during which I have been working with GIS. As a software, GIS gives us enormous power to produce knowledge as a generator; through the combinatory power of layers, and base maps, and points, and embedded data tables, GIS has often seduced me with its “deceptive naturalism of maps and bar charts” generated from spreadsheets that I and my students have spent months creating. It strengthens the fiction of observer-independence; the objectivity of the “bird’s eye view”, and, as Drucker so aptly states, “we rush to suspend critical judgment in visualization.” For me, however, and for the students I have worked with, the question of how to represent ambiguity has consumed us; as has also how to make ambiguity the ground of representation. I think here of the brilliant visualizations of Steffany Meredyk, ’14 as she created her interpretive map of the main stem of the Susquehanna River.

Steffany Meredyk's map of the Susquehanna River
Steffany Meredyk’s map of the Susquehanna River

Using the work of Margaret Pearce, Steffany and I talked for long hours about the importance of reinserting the positionality of the observer into the visualizations of the river. Taking her “data” from accounts of massacres in the 1760-80s that occurred on the Susquehanna River, and using graphical means of Adobe Illustrator to represent ambiguity, uncertainty and emotion, I consider Steffany’s work to act as a model for the way in which we can use digital media and methods as humanists. We can, as Drucker observes, “model phenomenological experience; model discourse fields; model narratives and model interpretation.”

Re-indigenizing the River: Hickory Edward’s Epic Quest down the Susquehanna River

Katherine Faull, Bucknell University

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View of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River

Kayaking is not just a sport to Hickory Edwards of the Onondaga Nation. It is his way of reviving his nation’s knowledge about its own history and the environment, and also raising public awareness about the ties of the Haudenosaunee to the land. This summer, the coordinator of the Onondaga Kayak and Canoe club decided to retrace the steps and paddle strokes of his forebears by kayaking first from Buffalo, New York along the Tioughioga to the Chenango river to Onondaga on a trip that became known as “The Journey to the Central Fire” to recognize Onondaga’s central position in the “Long House” of the Six Nations. While attending the annual four-day reading of the Haudenosaunee’s “Great Law of Peace” Edwards listened to the words that had been recited so many times about the planting of the Tree of Peace that had brought unity and concord to the then five warring nations of the Iroquois. Seeing that tree in his mind’s eye, Edwards realized that its spreading white roots were actually routes of peace, traditional waterways that spread out from the center of the Haudenosaunee world, waterways that would take him to the sea in whatever direction of the compass he chose to go.

He decided to go south, down the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay and from there on to Washington DC. “We wanted to take our message from the capitol of the Haudenosaunee to the capitol of the US,” he said in a recent interview from his home near Syracuse, NY. And what is that message? “We are still here. The Native people and their trade routes and waterways are not forgotten. We need to remember our language and our lands. We need to re-indigenize the river.” The goal of this epic human-powered journey was the National Museum of the American Indian on the capitol’s Mall where an exhibition opened on September 21, 2014, “Nation to Nation,” that celebrates the historic treaties drawn up between the Native nations and the colonial governments. “The treaties are still valid,” said Edwards “so we decided to go see them.”

capitol and hickory
Edwards carrying the Haudenosaunee flag to the National Museum of the American Indian

Although prepared to paddle over 500 miles alone, Hickory Edwards could not help but attract support from wherever he went. Joined five days into the journey by fellow kayaker, Noah Onheda and supported the whole way down by his parents acting as ground crew, Edwards described the highlights of the trip down the Susquehanna. For example, standing at Indian Rocks just north of Wyalusing, where Handsome Lake, religious leader of the Six Nations in the late 1700s contemplated the spiritual future of his people. Or the petroglyphs at Safe Harbor that represent powerful, ancient things, carved into what looks like a little Turtle Island in the river. “This is what we must do,” said Edwards “relearn the waterways of our peoples to know where these places are.” Following what he called the “white route of peace” south, Edwards claimed they never had one bad night. “The water was good to us all the way down.” Well, except the very last day, when the winds on the Chesapeake Bay picked up and the waves rose so high around the kayaks that Edwards lost sight of his paddling companion Noah for the height of the water. “Maybe the waves didn’t want us on the water that last day,” Edwards mused. Despite the wind and tide and waves, they made it to Sandy Point State Park, just outside Annapolis, Maryland where they were greeted by representatives of the National Park Service, Deanna Beacham and Suzanne Copping, and treated to a meal, big enough to sate any epic paddler’s appetite!

Having not really used their legs for nearly three weeks, walking over 30 miles from Annapolis to Washington DC was no easy feat. But, they did it. Arriving at the nation’s Mall and the NMAI was a historic moment, with the Haudenosaunee flag flying high. “We did it,” he said, “we came from our capital to yours to see the historic treaties.” And they had even brought water from the spring on the Onondaga Nation land to water the tobacco plants in front of the museum.

treaties2
Edwards and his father and co-paddler, Noah Onheda examine the treaties made from Nation to Nation at the NMAI exhibit that opened September 21, 2014

Now back home for almost the first time this summer, Hickory Edwards is already planning his next big trip. From kayak races on the Onondaga creek, to a Peacemakers’ journey, to joining the Two Row on the Grand River in Canada next summer, Edwards paddles to revitalize our awareness that clean water is important. “The circle of life starts out with the next generation looking up at us from the earth,” he explained. “They grow and live and return to the earth. But there is one constant throughout, and that is water. Waterways are the veins of our Mother Earth.”

And it is along those life-giving waterways that Hickory Edwards will continue his personal quest.

hickory sunset

What’s Your Susquehanna Story?

The Principal Investigators of the Stories of the Susquehanna initiative are pleased to announce the launch of the “crowd sourcing” platform for the river.  As a public humanities project, the Stories of the Susquehanna initiative invites members of the public to submit their Stories of the Susquehanna for possible inclusion. If you have a story about the cultural, historical, or environmental significance of the place where you live in along the Susquehanna River, we’d love to hear from you! What’s your story?

Discussing the Untranslatable and World Literature

In case anyone wonders what academics do during the summer, read on!  This week, the Program in Comparative Humanities is hosting a faculty reading seminar on the topics of Untranslatability and World Literature.  We are nearing the halfway mark.  If you want to take a look at the course outline, readings, discussions, and my thoughts, look here.  This is definitely a work in progress, but the discussions we are having are lively!

Thanks to the Provost’s office at Bucknell University for providing the funding for this event.  We have been holding summer reading seminars in Comparative Humanities since the inception of the program in 2001.  Topics have included Film and Adaptation, Translation, Integrating Islam into Core Courses, the Philosophy of Place, Close Reading, Digital Humanities, and this year, Untranslatability.

Digital Learning in an Undergraduate Context:

… promoting long term student-faculty (and community) collaboration in the Susquehanna Valley

This is the transcript of the paper that Diane Jakacki and I presented on July 9, 2014 at DH2014 in Lausanne, Switzerland. We are currently expanding this paper into an article for publication. The PowerPoint slides that accompanied our presentation are included at the end of this post.

INTRODUCTION
At several sessions and discussions at the 2014 Digital Humanities Summer Institute we noticed a marked increase in discussions focusing on teaching Digital Humanities; namely, how do we effectively port the tools and methodologies with which we work as researchers into the undergraduate classroom. Simultaneously, the question gradually shifted from “DO we teach Digital Humanities to undergraduates?” to “HOW do we teach Digital Humanities to undergraduates?”

Continue reading “Digital Learning in an Undergraduate Context:”

Discussing the Digital at DHSI 2014

At the first “Birds of a Feather” session at DHSI on Tuesday afternoon, chaired by our very own Diane Jakacki, the question posed was “Who are we and where are we going?” A pertinent question indeed, as the auditorium designed for the opening session could not hold the over 600 people who had come this year to University of Victoria for a week-long intensive foray into classes, flash talks, discussions, and meetings on the Digital Humanities.

I am at DHSI to attend a seminar designated for Deans and Chairs (in a room in which there might be the only people with grey hair) to try to learn about the problems of creating, sustaining, evaluating and growing DH at an institute of higher learning. My classmates are from large public and private R1s, and smaller Liberal Arts colleges, from the US, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, and we are all tasked with the question of reading about and discussing the problems of defining DH, evaluating it, developing it, and facing the challenges and rewards of collaborative DH work with faculty and students (and of course graduate students) in our various educational environments. Then, we are sent off to audit as many classes as possible, ranging from the Fundamentals of TEI (text markup language) to Drupal for DH, to GIS (know where I’ll be heading…), basic programming, database development, and physical computing (getting the internet to talk to physical objects) inter alia. On Friday, the group reconvenes to discuss how such digital knowledge might be embedded within the teaching and scholarship of our various institutions.

Continue reading “Discussing the Digital at DHSI 2014”

On using ArcMap Collector as a mobile app for SSV

Since its inception, Stories of the Susquehanna has been a collaborative, interdisciplinary Screenshot 2014-05-08 21.41.18digital project that has at its core a geospatial interface. What started out as historical/cultural mapping of the Native American landscapes of the Susquehanna in ArcMap Desktop with maps published in static image format (as discussed in the interviews of me and Emily Bitely) has evolved through the iterations of ESRI’s software development.

About a week ago, one of our Digital Scholarship Coordinators and SSV  project manager, Diane Jakacki pointed to to the fact that ESRI was now publishing apps. photoAt first skeptical, I proceeded to delve further into the Collector app and battled my way through tutorials designed for insurance adjusters gathering data in the field (no, I don’t need fields labeled “Habitable” or “Partially Destroyed”) to create a feature layer that could be added to any map in ArcMap online. This feature layer was supposed to be able to both locate you in the field and allow you to input field data in real time at the same time as giving you access to the rich data associated with points and lines in pop-ups. The new feature layer could also permit the attachment of photos and video.

My co-PI, Alf Siewers and I had been discussing over the last few months how we could best create this kind of mobile interface and had been in long discussions with both Diane and Andy Famiglietti as to how this might happen. This app seemed to me to offer us a ready made way to send our students out into the field to collect data, upload it, and also see it within the context of the historical information that had already been collected.

photo-2
Add Feature window showing the fields and photo upload option

After some tussling with an outdated version of ArcMap (10.0 vs. 10.2) and successfully navigating our excellent ArcMap Online resources, I was able to author and upload a prototype of a multi-layered interactive map of the Susquehanna watershed that had the mobile features I wanted (well, almost). However, one field caused the app to crash repeatedly and I knew I had to re-author it in Desktop.

Enter my Presidential Fellow, Steffany Meredyk. Today, as almost a final collaborative act after four years of working together, Steffany and I worked out the problem;  now we can test out an interactive crowdsourcing feature layer for online maps of the Susquehanna this weekend on the North Branch Kayaking Sojourn. Whoops of joy were detectable…. but not uploaded…

photo-1The Collector app has a rich potential for data gathering in the field. Whether to record information on bird populations, the state of repair of the rail-trail, tracking  plant coverage, or encouraging crowdsourcing of local history, this is an exciting and versatile digital step forward in our work of bringing the Stories of the Susquehanna alive.

(un)Mapping Networks

How do you represent visually relationships between people and places that are, I have discovered, unmappable. Only in this last week, under the gun of a deadline thrice removed, did I finally realize that this is what I have been trying to do. Still working on a chapter for a book on Pennsylvania’s Babel of the 18th century, I needed to find a way to describe the dynamic and complex way in which not only Native peoples but Moravians, men and women, communicated and travelled in mid-18th century Pennsylvania. This is an important realization as, within the traditional historiography of this period, both Native and Euro women were just elided.  More recently, the focus has turned to Native women in in terms of their agency and mobility. However, what I have been wanting to discuss is how a group of women who were active as missionaries in the Moravian mission field of the 18th century brought with them their expertise from either Europe or the early settlements in New York State and Pennsylvania to effect a translation of culture and knowledge here on the Susquehanna River.

The source materials I have been working with for this chapter are predominantly unpublished, or, if published, reside in 18th century Fraktur imprints. Seemingly straightforward questions, such as birth dates and places, require lengthy investigations of manuscript sources or typed up lists of information taken from the Geburts- und Tauf Register of the Bethlehem communty (also unpublished) or other missions. Spreadsheets of names, dates, places that I have put together over the years have helped in these investigations. And in this quest I was to find out that this accounting of data over the last 25 years would help more than I could have imagined.

I have wanted to map the way in which these women lived and worked (in German I would use the verb “agieren”) in the mid-Atlantic. I wanted to show how their lived lives became an integral part of the warp and weft of the environment of the Pennsylvania backcountry. But to do that I had to also delve into why they were here, what brought them to this place at this time? How did they translate the skills, experiences, concepts of self that had been learned in the Pfalz, Germany, or a village near Oxford, England, or a farm close by the Mohican villages in upstate New York to the banks of the Susquehanna or the Lehigh rivers?

I started to make maps. Firing up my GIS layers, I mapped the missions, I mapped the women, I inserted date ranges. But it still was static. It didn’t show the movements of the women between the missions over time in an effective way (maybe because I am not as skillful at this as my students…) Then, staring at the DH Humanities list from my alma mater King’s College, London, I saw the announcement of palladio in beta out of Stanford. Assuming that this was a happy by-product of the well-known and ground-breaking project “Mapping the Republic of Letters” I decided to “dive in.”

When I first started working on the Moravian women’s memoirs 25 years ago I was surprisingly data driven. I wanted to know who these fascinating and diverse people were. One of the places in Bethlehem that inspired me to work on the Pietist group was the “Gottesacker” with its flat gravestones that are ordered in terms of marital status, age and gender and not by social ranking or racial group. I found the register of the Gottesacker and built a database of all the women who were buried there, found information about their birthplace, dates, brief biographies. When I looked at how data was supposed to be entered into Palladio, I thought this would be a good first project. With the help of my research assistant, Hein Thun, we entered all the exact locations of birth and death in longitude and latitude and then I entered this into the online program. What came out was good. A mapping of places from which the Bethlehem women came in the 18th century, both in terms of a geo-location and also a very basic visualization.

first visualization of Moravian women's birth places
First visualization in Palladio of Moravian women’s birth places
initial mapping of Moravian women's birth places
Initial Palladio mapping of Moravian women’s birth places

Having had some success with this visualization I wanted to try it with the missions and missionary women. But I couldn’t get it to show what I wanted. I was still too hung up on mappy maps.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t until I talked to Andy Famiglietti, one of the Digital Scholarship co-ordinators at Bucknell, that I realized that I had to think of maps that weren’t maps. I had to remove the “geo” from my spatial thinking to visualize these relationships. This was not easy for me; really, really not easy. I had tried working with Gephi before, but it was only once Andy explained to me the fundamental rule of thinking about networks as relationships between two entities (not three, not four) that I understood why my attempts to date had failed. So, modifying the data, stripping it down to the “edges” of people and places, we were able to visualize what I had been looking for and trying to express in my chapter.

Screenshot 2014-04-02 15.15.16
Gephi produced network analysis of relations between Moravian women missionaries in the mid-Atlantic

It was truly a “eureka” moment. Yes, it is not the most elegant, or beautifully rendered visualization. But it showed what I wanted it to show, the strength of relationships between these women and their places of agency.

 

 

Curious to see how Palladio might represent this same data I fiddled around that night and came up with another, different, visualization of these people and places.

 

palladio visualization article
Using Palladio to visualize relations between Moravian women and mission place

Again, it is not beautiful and I have not fully explored the capacities of Palladio, but it is a beginning. A beginning of mapping without maps, of being able to render visible what has been invisible to date, namely, the strong network of women’s lives in the history of this place.

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(M)other tongues

Two emails in the last week reminded me of my multilingual roots; one from the editor of a volume of essays on colonial Pennsylvania, asking that my quotations from primary sources in my contribution be in the original language (in this case German), and the other from a doctoral candidate in Germany, requesting my help with manuscript materials from the 18th century, also in German.  The editor’s request was unusual for me.  After years of publishing in scholarly venues where the original non-English language was either elided or banished to the footnotes, after decades of translating materials for those who at conferences smile and say, “Oh, I don’t want to do all that work with the German, I leave it to people like you,” the request to foreground the original was refreshing and surprising.

The problem with both requests was that neither source had been published in German  Both reside on my hard drive, carefully transcribed from the German, along with editorial marks to indicate the scribe or author’s deletions and insertions, an editor’s marginalia, re-workings and rewordings.  The hundreds of pages of German (all  supported by healthy grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities) have constituted an interim stage between original manuscript and printed translation.  Occasionally, I have been urged by German researchers to not forget them, but with the pressure to publish in North American scholarly presses (who for the most part abhor the non-English) these requests were answered piecemeal. Until now.

The request for the original German of Margarethe Jungmann’s memoir that I had published in translation nearly 15 years ago in the volume Moravian Women’s Memoirs (Syracuse UP, 1997) spurred me to go back to my transcriptions and decide to make them available on this site.  After a few hasty consultations with our Digital Scholarship Coordinator, Dr. Diane Jakacki, and an equally hasty email to the Archivist of the Northern Province, Dr. Paul Peucker to ask permission to publish original materials housed at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, I entered into a frenzy of WordPress posting; adding a submenu for Moravian Materials, a page for the memoirs, entitled Umgang mit dem Heiland with a linked table of contents, and then making a page for each memoir.  Over the space of 24 hours, I read through each memoir, line by line, checking the formatting and occasionally modifying the old html from the MS Word files.  And posted them.

As I read, the beauty of the authors’ German once again came alive.  For most of these women, their mother tongue was German, but a non-standardized German. Many wrote as they spoke, with dialect spellings, so that when read aloud you can almost hear their accented voice, recognize their origin from the Pfalz (Palatinate) or Sachsen (Saxony).  And some are more filtered through a “Moravian vernacular,” carefully deploying the tropes and styles of the pietistic community in response to the request to write an account of their lives.  How does a woman from LIttle Papaa on the Guinea coast write her life in German?  How does a woman born in York, Pennsylvania or Paris, France, or London, England write about her life in what is not her mother tongue?  Does the language become flattened into what Gayatri Spivak has termed “translatese” (see her classic essay, “The Politics of Translation”)? Does the imposition of an other tongue violate the subjectivity and identity of the author?

My mother was German.  A refugee from the Russian front in 1945, she ended up in Bristol, England as the bride of a British soldier.  Britain in the 1950s and 60s was not a very friendly place to Germans or the German language, and so the sound of her mother(‘s) tongue was mostly silenced, spoken only at home, and emerging in brief moments of linguistic naivety when I, unaware that I was not speaking the common vernacular in Herefordshire, England, would utter a word that marked me as “other.”  And this linguistic otherness intrigued me.  Having multiple words and worlds in which to express myself became a fantastic prism through which to distort and enrich the world around me.  Having only one language world was something I could not imagine, and so I acquired more of them.  The polyphony of the polyglot is sometimes deafening, a Babel of voices, but it is multidimensional, complex, and exhilarating.

Precisely this polyglot place was here in Pennsylvania in the colonial period.  There was English, German, French, Dutch, Swedish, all imported from Europe.  But there was also the polyphony of the Native American languages; Iroquoian and Algonquin language groups, fundamentally different and defining the nations of the “New” world.  These linguistic worlds intermixed in Pennsylvania along the branches of the Susquehanna, up and down the Delaware and the Schuylkill.  As Patrick Erben has examined in his wonderful work, “A Harmony of the Spirits:  Translation and the Language of Community in Early Pennsylvania” (UNC Press, 2012) this multiplicity of languages was not a threat to the harmony of Penn’s “Holy Experiment” but rather its constitutive moment.  And new work emerging from conferences like “Envisioning the Old World: Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg and Imperial Projects in Pennsylvania” organized by Dr. Bethany Wiggin of the German Department of the University of Pennsylvania, in 2012 show how the field of German studies in North America is changing.  More and more, it encompasses the comparative and the interdisciplinary in its examination of the history and languages of the German Atlantic world.  What was once termed “German-American Studies” and looked on with the slight suspicion that it resided only in the “Wurst and Bier” of a Philadelphia or Texas “Deutsches Brauhaus” has developed into an intellectually sophisticated and legitimated mode of inquiry.  No longer eliding the (m)other tongue, but rather celebrating Babel, I want to thank the visionary scholars and presses that are making this happen!  Prosit!