Joseph Adelman, a history professor, and David Blair, a visiting lecturer for the English department, read short excerpts from their publications during the Linda Vaden-Goad Authors and Artists series in the Heineman Ecumenical Center Oct. 15.
Angela Salas, current provost and vice president for academic affairs, hosted the event, which is named for her predecessor.
Adelman presented his work “Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789.” His interest in the subject of the book came from thinking about how news traveled across different states and countries during the 1700s.
Research began during graduate school for Adelman, which eventually turned into his dissertation. After 15 years of revising and editing, it became his published book.
During the series, he said the politics of the Revolutionary era are more difficult to understand than one generally thinks.
However, the “production process for the news of the colonial times changes this,” said Adelman.
The geniuses behind politics of the 1700s are the “master artisans who oversee printing presses and interns.”
Adelman described them as people who “existed in two worlds,” one of people who didn’t matter in society, and the other of high-up elites.
The reason we have any knowledge about the revolutionary war period is due to artisans and printers that “built connections between people,” said Adelman.
Unlike today, news was not heard instantly via the internet. Newspapers needed to collect information from manuscripts, oral reports, letters, and other papers in order to write an accurate depiction of certain events.
During a question-and-answer session, an audience member brought up the idea of “fake news” during the 1700s.
News “traveled on the same horse, the same ship” said Adelman, so there was less room for false information.
And, if there was something incorrect, they’d update the information in later articles.
However, one example of someone who attempted to stir fake news was Benjamin Franklin. Adelman said Franklin, while he was in Paris, had printed several fake Boston papers that reported British soldiers committing atrocities against Americans so as to elicit sympathy for the American independence movement.
During the second half of the series, Blair showcased his book “Walk Around: Essays on Poetry and Place.” His work talked about the relationship between walking and writing, particularly around the Cambridge and Somerville areas.
Blair’s greatest inspiration comes from walking the streets and coming upon the sights and sounds of nature and people. He sees things such as “sailboats on the river” and feeling “that sun dutch oven” while passing “south American candy bars.”
The way he writes is one image after another, or as he described it – a “wash of images – bodies moving through space.”
An interesting element of his writing is that his primary mode of transportation was walking – up until his mid-30s, he had never driven a car. He enjoyed walking because not only did it provide a lot of variety, but it also contained a beginning and an end destination.
To Blair, walking was “an act of consciousness.” The outer world and your head space can be harmonious, almost. A walk blends together “the way we conceive a metaphor, or a simile.”
Besides walking, the best time for Blair to write is in the morning, when everything is fresh in his mind. However, if the morning doesn’t do the trick, a nice stroll around the block will do.
Blair and Adelman captivated the audience with their short readings from their publications.