ISSUE 14: Museums and Memoirs

This inaugural on-line issue of The Mickle Street Review represents some of the best and most exciting work currently being done in the fields of Whitman Studies and American Studies. It is hoped that the pieces here speak to one another and to a diverse audience of creative writers, students, teachers, and scholars interested in exploring together disciplinary interchanges in American culture in Whitman's day and beyond.

The pivot of this summer 2001 issue—museums and memoirs—points to the importance of these two cultural forms in the framing of American history and in discussions of Whitman in and as history. Issues of identity, memory, and performance, which are integrally related to these forms, are taken up, teased out, and figured in a range of essays, poems, feature articles, archival documents, and reviews. Paul Outka's piece on Whitman and the Internet, an appropriate portal to this first on-line issue of the journal, suggests that Whitman's conception of subjectivity offers a way for us to understand the complex entanglement of identity, textuality, and public space, and charts a future for our relationship to this new technology. Stephen Cushman's musings on the genre of the Civil War memoir and his poem on General Sherman, one of the great memoirists of the War, together stake out issues of identity and memory as they bear on our constructions of history. William Major reflects upon and applies Cushman's findings in his introduction to the Civil War memoir of Washington Augustus Roebling, the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, a memoir that is published here for the first time. Shirley Samuels's article on Lincoln's funeral, which attends to Whitman's Civil War writings, also examines the imbricated concerns of memory and display, as does, in its own way, the review of historian Roy Morris's book, The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War.

The dynamics of American memory also lie at the heart of Helen McKenna-Uff's interviews with curators and teachers at the Walt Whitman House (Camden, New Jersey) and Edgar Allen Poe House (Philadelphia), which shape her essay about the pedagogical possibilities and issues raised by house museums. Joshua Kotzin's Jamesian reflections on his own life experiences creatively point up the vital intersection of the poetics of autobiography and artifact. And, although not writing about museums or memoirs per se, Vicki Howard and Brady Earnhart further investigate the performance of self as culturally defined and defining within American commercial culture in the late nineteenth century. Finally, Paul Schopp's sketch of the rise and fall (and rise again?) of Camden, and with it Mickle Street, lights up the title of this journal as well as important aspects of American history and civic development that will be central to it.

Special thanks go to Geoff Sill for his continuing support of The Mickle Street Review and his guidance of the Camden On-Line Poetry Project (COPP) of which The Review is part; the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for grant support to promote the teaching of American history to secondary-school students through the Review; the staff at the Walt Whitman House; Tom Hartman and Paul Altobelli for their web design expertise; Robert Emmons and Bob Porch at the Rutgers University-Camden Teaching Excellence Center; and Kathy Volk-Miller and Rutgers University-Camden student interns for their assistance along the way.

Tyler Hoffman