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Shannon Bontrager PhD

Department of History, Greenhill University, CA

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If America is an empire, then Americans should exhibit imperial memories.  Death at the Edges of Empire examines American commemorations of the war dead from the Gettysburg Address to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to uncover the modern cultural memories that citizens developed to help them justify an age of empire.


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Thinking about the role of history, memory, and the American past.



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Death at the Edges of Empire

Death at the Edges of Empire

A brief description of my book Death at the Edges of Empire. Available @ the University of Nebraska Press: Praise: "Shannon Bontrager has written an intricate, impressive book about mourning, memory, and national identity. Some facets of his story are familiar, but he extends the sweep of his analysis in fresh and provocative directions, enlarging it, as the title suggests, to the edges of the American empire."—W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Civil War Book Review "Though a work of history, Death at the Edges of Empire ultimately raises questions about the present: Are we too divided to do war memorials anymore? And if so, are honest forms of commemoration even possible?"—Randall Fuller, Wall Street Journal "This is would be an excellent book for a graduate level seminar in American historical geography or American cultural memory. . . . Geographers who study cultural memory will be especially interested in the skillful analysis of how memory moves and takes shape across places at different scales to justify the American imperial project."—Jordan P. Brasher, Journal of Historical Geography "This innovative work—part intellectual history and part memory study—reveals the shifting cultural landscape of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century America and the crucial of role of military cemeteries within this national, transatlantic, and transpacific narrative."—Tracy L. Barnett, North Carolina Historical Review “Shannon Bontrager’s Death at the Edges of Empire joins a list of other seminal works on war and memory, such as Kristin Hass’s Carried to the Wall. He shows the importance of culture on shaping American narratives regarding war. It is a very important addition to the literature. Highly recommended!”—Kyle Longley, author of Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam “Dense and absorbing. I’m particularly impressed by Bontrager’s deft rhetorical analysis of various speeches—many of them by presidents—delivered at remembrance functions between 1863 and 1921. . . . This is an effective way of tracking the ideological twists and turns in American war commemoration. In addition, the author knows how to tell a story. Some of my favorite sections of this book are simply compelling narratives.”—Steven Trout, professor of English at the University of South Alabama Table of Contents: List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction: Lincoln’s Promise Part 1. Storage 1. Where the Grapes of Wrath Are Stored 2. The Nation, a Monument of Empire 3. Remembering Domestic Foreign Spaces Part 2. Retrieval 4. Retrieve the Maine! 5. Memories of a Foreign Land Part 3. Communication 6. Exiles of American Cultural Memory 7. Cultural Memory in the Information Age 8. That Cause Shall Not Be Betrayed 9. Listening to Empire Epilogue: Reclaiming Lincoln’s Promise? Appendix A: Stops in D. H. Rhodes’s Tour of the Philippines Appendix B: Stops in F. S. Croggon’s Tour of the Philippines Notes Bibliography Index
Transforming the US History Survey

Transforming the US History Survey

The introductory US History course is the lynchpin of general education programs and history majors across the country. But extenuated content-coverage models and high student failure rates in many settings undercut what should be the best opportunity for us as historians to teach our discipline. How can we turn the intro course from an obstacle into a true gateway to higher learning? This session, held at the 2016 AHA annual meeting in Atlanta, featured specific examples of courses that faculty from two- and four-year institutions have transformed. Faculty showed how (and why) they changed what they do in the classroom and what it has meant for students so far. Presenters shared their expectations for the introductory course, how they address differences in student populations, how they incorporate learning research and what is new in history scholarship, and how conversations among faculty at different institutions can help revitalize history curricula from the bottom up. This session was part of the AHA's "Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges" program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities: The American Historical Association is the largest professional organization serving historians in all fields and all professions. The AHA is a trusted voice advocating for history education, the professional work of historians, and the critical role of historical thinking in public life. The AHA annual meeting is the largest gathering of professional historians in the United State. Reflecting the full diversity of the discipline, the meeting offers historians in all professions and fields the opportunity to build relationships, present their work, identify new historiography, gain teaching insights, and join critical discussion on issues facing all historians. The 2017 meeting was held January 4-7, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.
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