Project 2 Option (1): Review of Pumpkin

October 25, 2018 |  Tagged , | Comments Off on Project 2 Option (1): Review of Pumpkin

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Thomas Fangmann

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Project 2

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Option (1): Review a recent work of popular history or biography with particular attention to the questions raised by our course

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5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Ott, Cindy. Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Pumpkin by Cindy Ott is both a book with popular appeal and a scholarly work. Ott tracks the history of the pumpkin in American history from its use by the Native Americans to its adoption by Europeans and incorporation into American culture. According to Ott’s analysis, the pumpkin has represented different and sometimes contradictory concepts throughout its history including rural backwardness, rural virtues, a premodern way of life, and natural impulses. Its history takes it from being just another squash, to a reliable food source with little commercial value, to a cultural icon and commercial success on a massive scale.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Ott analyzes a plethora of sources including art works, herbalist texts, colonial journals, and cookbooks. Ott provides a chronological narrative of the pumpkin’s history and in the process challenges myths such as the association of pumpkins with the Pilgrims and with the first Thanksgiving. Ott also provides a central argument about how the pumpkin relates to American identity. Ott argues that the pumpkin became a cultural icon in American society that represents an agrarian past since it was differentiated from other squash and was associated with early colonial hardship and the rural environment. Readers not only learn interesting facts about the pumpkin, but also unveil the cultural roots of why it has become such a popular cultural symbol.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Ott’s work also provides interesting information about the development of agriculture in America in general. She draws attention to how climatic differences resulted in the South adopting the plantation system to sell cash crops, while the North maintained smaller scale farms and pursued other profit incentives. She also includes interesting information about a colonial push to encourage communal farming (in similar fashion to the European landschaft system) which was abandoned in the North and South.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Overall, Ott provides an interesting book that appeals to the public, is well supported by evidence, and that contains a central argument that has implications for the development of American culture and identity. The popularity of the pumpkin did not emerge suddenly, but developed over time based on how Americans saw themselves in relation to their past. American identity though is more complex than the history of the pumpkin. Other historians provide concepts to describe the creation of American identity. In her book The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origin of American Identity, historian Jill Lepore describes a “triangulated” concept of identity where English colonists defined themselves against the English in England, the Spanish colonizers, and the Native Americans[1]. Looking at the pumpkin as a symbol for Americans defining themselves in relation to an agrarian past has merit based on Ott’s analysis, but it does not describe more controversial aspects of American identity including race and gender. While Pumpkin, is an interesting book which explains where the popularity and symbolism of the pumpkin comes from, it is not a book that significantly challenges how people think about American history.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 [1] Morelli, Mark. “A Conversation with Jill Lepore”. The Public Historian. September/October 2009, Vol. 30, No. 5.

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