History Symposium!

I went to the 9 a.m. presentations and will be going to the 11 a.m.  Overall, they did a fantastic job and explained their research very well.  Something that I wanted to note that makes a good presentation is not reading your notes.  Only one presenter did not read her notes, but she read her slides.  That was very distracting as an audience member.  Also, most of the presenters did not move around!  They stayed behind the podium the whole time!  There should have been some movement!  I did enjoy the visuals – I thought that really added to their presentations.  Visuals help the audience have a better understanding about what the presenter is speaking about.  Overall, the presenters did a great job and their topics were amazing!

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4 minute Presentation

Thoughts, vibes, feelings about oral presentations?

I enjoy oral presentations!  I am in the education program, so it is honestly second-nature to me.  The only thing is I am a little nervous for this one since it is lit review-based.  The wording is slightly different, so I hope I say everything correctly and not make it sound like a research presentation!

How do you prepare for oral presentations?

I ALWAYS record myself.  That puts pressure on me, I get to watch what I do well and what I do not do well, and I get to hear how I talk!n  Also, I present in front of my parents and go to the speaking center!

Lessons learned from good presentations you’ve seen? Tips?

The best presentations are entertaining, engaging, and energetic.  I hate when people go up to present and talk in the monotone voice and do not move at all; that does not make people want to listen to you!  You need to get the class engaged and give out positive vibes.  You want to make your topic sound amazing to the individuals who are listening.

Well, I am going today, so wish me luck!!!  I feel confident like Queen B!

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Academic Databases

What academic databases do you find most helpful in your research Challenging? Why? Strengths and weaknesses? Which ones do you think you should explore further?

In my opinion, I LOVE JSTOR.  Since Dr. Fernsebner showed my class JSTOR, I have used it for everything!  It is so simple to use and it is very manageable.  It pretty much accepts anything you type and will pull some sort of source up for you.  On the other hand, I have a very difficult time with WorldCat and the UMW Library Database.  I do not understand how to use them at all.  They are very difficult and overwhelming.  No matter what I type in, those sites cannot find it for me!  There are just way too many options on WorldCat and just looking at it gives me anxiety, and in regards to the UMW Database, no one understands how to use it, so that’s obviously a problem.  I think I should explore the UMW Database further since it is attached to my school.  I feel like if I understand that better, research and accessing the materials will be way easier.

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Cohen Review

How do Cohen’s last chapters of the book, in Part 3 “The Boxers as Myth,” answer different kinds of historical questions than those Part 1 (“Boxers as Event”) and Part 2 (“Boxers as Experience”)?

In the first part of his book, he mostly focuses of the many issues of how history is written and discusses what historians do wrong/right, and how they could do better.  The second part of the book, Cohen writes, “I frequently operate as an ‘ethnographic historian,’ attempting empathetically to get at how ordinary people . . . ‘made sense of the world’ (xiv).  He is focusing on the voices of various people during the time period he is writing about.  Lastly, in part 3, Cohen definitely focuses mainly on mythologization and explains what it is to his intended audience.  Instead of focusing solely on the history perspective, he takes a different perspective of the mindset of mythologizers.

What do these chapters reveal about how history itself is constructed? What questions might they raise for our own process of writing history?

To discuss how these chapters discuss how history itself is constructed, we need to take a look at one of Cohen’s quotes – “Foreknowledge of outcomes, to summarize, empowers historians to engage in a process of explanation that is different, in important ways, from the processes of explanation engaged in by direct participants” (8).  Cohen discusses how historians tend to create their own explanation of what occurred in history because we, as historians, know the outcome, whereas the people in that time period, did not.  That being said, people during that time period think and conduct specific activities based on their beliefs and the knowledge they knew at that time where we, as historians, know exactly what will being happening to them and/or their country.  This makes us wonder how much we may be missing by writing history knowing what the outcome is.  How many different perspectives have we missed?  How many key points can we not target because our pre-knowledge of the era?


Cohen, Paul A. History in three keys: The Boxers as event, experience, and myth. Columbia University Press, 1997.

Cohen’s Main Points

  • Perspective
    • Cohen does not make you pick side – just gives you all perspectives
      • Columbus – Europeans/Native Americans
        • “the kind of truth they convey is fundamentally ahistorical – subjective, one-sided, egregiously incomplete” (214)
      • Europeans = Columbus is great! Found Americas!
      • Native Americans = Columbus stole and destroyed our land and people
    • Positive mythologization
      • “local boosterism” (219)
        • Typically used for monuments, buildings, statues, memorials to enhance the fortunes of the surrounding area (219).
          • Half truths, manipulation of truths
          • Monuments may not actually be important, but take half the truth, and persuade audience
        • “The mythological past need not be historically accurate. But if it is to be effective in persuading or mobilizing people in the present, it must be bound by at least a loose conception of ‘truthfulness.’” (214).
          • “exercise of public remembering” (219)

Themes of Interest

Today, I am blogging about the themes of interests I have in the current book I am reading, “History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth,” by Paul A. Cohen.  First of all, the book is amazing and I love every aspect of it!  In my future History classroom (I want to be a high school History Teacher), I will definitely have this!

One of the main themes I would love to focus on is the gender discrimination.  As discussed in the book, “Dirty water, as a destroyer of magic, was unquestionably related in Boxer minds to the most powerful inhibitor of all: women, and more particularly uncleanness in women, a category that, for the Boxers, included everything from menstrual or fetal blood to nakedness to pubic hair” (129-130).  Women are so separated from the public at the point unless you were a young women because you were still a virgin and pre-menstrual, so clean (141).  This is fascinating how the whole society seemed to fall into the belief of these “dirty” women corrupting their environment.  They were polluting the environment with their dirtiness.

Another theme I really enjoy is the whole idea of these spirit boxers.  Their rituals are absolutely fascinating!  The spirit boxers (and their followers) believed that when one became possessed, it is God descending and entering “the body of a Boxer” (98).  The spirit possessions incorporates religion into the practices, so more people begin to follow this idea (102).  The spirit boxers can help individuals on a individual and collective level (103).  Some people use this as a social distraction which enhances their social power, some people use it to heal the sick, etc. (104-105).  As stated in the book, the spirit possession world is a “helping profession” (103).

Intro and cool pics!

Hello!  My name is Jessie Whitmer.  I am a History and Secondary Education major at the University of Mary Washington and I love every bit of it!  I am a complete history nerd and will geek out over ANYTHING history related.  I am very fascinated with the Middle Ages of Europe, the Renaissance, medieval torture devices and medical practices, the post-mortem photography, and I also love discussing the Holocaust.  I know, very dark topics, but I find them absolutely fascinating.

Here are some really neat pictures I thought would portray my interests in History.


Medieval Torture Devices, Image from “The living monument, in parts, with some compositions in rhymes of liberal thoughts of past and future events, to lovers of light and liberty” p. 113.  1919.  From the Library of Congress Minneapolis, Minnesota.    Available from Flickr Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14580328287/ (accessed September 6, 2017).








The Holocaust, Image from “San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives.” 1941-1945.  From San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. Available from Flickr Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/8092098365/ (accessed September 6, 2017).

Post-mortem, unidentified girl, Image from Southworth & Hawes, 1850.  From George Eastman Museum.  Available from Flickr Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/george_eastman_house/2677487993/ (accessed September 6, 2017).


Hope you enjoy!