Enfilade

Laura Macaluso on Benedict Arnold’s House

Posted in Calls for Papers, journal articles by Editor on December 22, 2021

We’re used to thinking about how the persistence of artifacts and architecture—especially elite forms of material culture—attest to the social and cultural status of individuals long after their deaths. With a growing scholarly appreciation for how the lack of an enduring material record also speaks to historical priorities, many readers will find this essay by Laura Macaluso interesting. And I would draw your attention more generally to Commonplace, edited by Joshua Greenberg; see the ongoing Call for Submissions below. –CH

From Commonplace:

Laura A. Macaluso, “Benedict Arnold’s House: The Making and Unmaking of an American,” Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life (October 2021).

Arnold’s unceasing efforts to elevate himself in society through marriage and professional work can be viewed through the lens of the houses he bought or built throughout his life.

Benedict Arnold’s Shop Sign (New Haven Museum). ‘Sibi Totique’ (‘For himself and for everyone’).

Historians have examined the many aspects, both positive and negative, of Arnold’s impact on the course of events leading to the establishment of the United States. Yet the largely unanalyzed material culture of his existence—the objects he acquired and the buildings in which he and his family resided—can offer us much more about the contours of his life as he fashioned it, and how others crafted his historical memory. Arnold’s unceasing efforts to elevate himself in society through marriage and professional work can be viewed through the lens of the houses he bought or built throughout his life. This essay looks at the cultural landscape of one of his homes, the New Haven, Connecticut, house he built and resided in from 1769 until wartime. Through an analysis of the choices Arnold made in location, size, and architectural style, I identify how Arnold began to construct his identity not only as a member of the urban merchant class, but also as a gentleman. The building of the home reads as material evidence of his desire to establish his identity and place in society, but equally the abuse and destruction of Arnold’s house is a parallel to the untimely end of a life and career he worked hard to obtain.

The full essay is available here»

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Commonplace: Call for Submissions

Commonplace is now accepting submissions of approximately 2000 words that analyze vast early America before 1900. We seek a diverse range of articles on material and visual culture, critical reviews of books, films, and digital humanities projects, poetic research and fiction, pedagogy, and the historian’s craft. We are especially interested in deep reads of individual objects, images, or documents (including in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society). Submissions should be written in an accessible style and crafted for a wide audience. Inquiries and submissions can be made to commonplacejournal@gmail.com.

About Commonplace:

A bit less formal than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Commonplace speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. It is for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life—from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. It’s a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed in scholarly literature, as it manifests on the evening news, as it is curated in museums, big and small; as it is performed in documentary and dramatic films and as it shows up in everyday life. . . .

Commonplace originally launched in 2000 as Common-Place: The Journal of Early American Life and has now been reimagined with a cleaner, more accessible interface. Our articles appear on a rolling basis and are arranged by category instead of being organized by issue and volume. . . .

Sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society, founded by editors Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore, and designed by John McCoy, Common-Place: The Journal of Early American Life is the product of an amazing team of editors and institutions. Over nearly two decades, the journal has been published in partnerships with Florida State University, the University of Oklahoma, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the University of Connecticut. Past editors have included Ed Gray; Catherine Kelly; Anna Mae Duane and Walt Woodward. Past contributors and guest editors have included: Joanna Brooks, Robert A. Gross, Gary B. Nash, Megan Kate Nelson, Mary Beth Norton, and Alan Taylor.

In 2019, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture joined the AAS in a new partnership to redesign and reinvigorate the site.

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