The conference room was packed on October 4th when Ph.D. Candidate Tyler Putman presented the first chapter of his dissertation, entitled “‘The Great Scarecrow’: Making Sense of Revolutionary War Combat.” Tyler is currently completing his dissertation, which explores how Americans came to define combat as an “incommunicable experience” of combat between the Revolutionary War and World War One. His abstract is below:
Joseph Plumb Martin went to war in 1776 and battle was the least of his worries. When he wrote his memoirs in 1830, he believed that his civilian readers could imagine what war was like. Combat made sense to Revolutionary War soldiers who compared it to other life experiences and used a variety of metaphors to describe it. Two centuries later, after serving in Iraq, veteran Kevin Powers wrote in The Yellow Birds (2012) that “war is only like itself.” The pre-circulated paper for this workshop, about the Revolutionary War, is the first chapter in a dissertation that investigates, using documentary and material evidence, how and why Americans came to see war as an “incommunicable experience” over the course of the long nineteenth century.
Professors from the Department of History, Hagley and Winterthur joined first and second year students and Tyler’s own cohort of fellow doctoral students. The talk was presided over by Dr. Christine Heyrman, a professor of Early American History and one of Tyler’s advisors. Dr. Heyrman commented on the manuscript, adding nuance to Tyler’s arguments and contributing her own perspective to the project.
Tyler’s talk was arranged through the History Department Workshop series. Every Tuesday a speaker presents on projects completed, in-progress or at the beginning stages. The workshops are a wonderful opportunity for introducing scholars from different fields and methodologies, from environmental history to material culture. This semester, the Tuesday Workshops opened the floor to museum professionals and historians outside of academia, including John Rumm, Executive Director of Nemours and David Caruso, the Director of the Oral History Project at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. University faculty and advanced graduate students frequently share their work, and guests occasionally get a sneak-peak on manuscripts in their early stages.
As people embark and progress on their own dissertations, Tyler’s workshop presentation reminded many of the History Department’s community of positive, constructive critique and reinforcement not always found in academia. We look forward to Tyler Putman’s forthcoming dissertation, “The Incommunicable Experience of War, 1775-1918.” You can also access Tyler’s recently-published article in Winterthur Portfolio, Joseph Long’s Slops: Ready-Made Clothing in Early America.”