The Things They Carried: Charlie Goldberg

Greetings all! I am glad to have the opportunity to introduce my digital self to the readers of AC 2nd. I am Charlie Goldberg, and the calendar informs me that we are somehow two months into my first semester as a professor of History here at Bethel. My first weeks have been exciting, often hectic, but incredibly rewarding. As I’m sure you can all relate from intense stretches of newness in your own lives, the life of a first-year professor can sometimes feel like racing from one crisis to the next. Even on the busiest of days, though, it’s easy to bring to mind the many enriching conversations I’ve had with students, faculty, and others here at Bethel, each one a reminder of just how lucky I am to pursue my passion for cultivating a deeper understanding of the past in young people.

Today, I’d like to contribute to “The Things They Carried” Series, introduced by my colleague Sam Mulberry, where we history professors document the material “stuff” that makes our job possible. Below, I’ve chosen a few items that are representative of my first several weeks here. Some pertain to my research, and some to my teaching, but in whatever way, they create a mosaic of the odyssey of a first year professor of History.

The Things They Carried - Goldberg (Numbers).jpg

1. Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe. This was a recent gift to me from my wife, Rachel. I was having “one of those weeks” where, for whatever reason, nothing seemed to be going right. This was her way of helping me remember that one of my gifts, and indeed the core of my job, is in “explaining things.” After reading the first few pages, I became fascinated by Munroe’s project, which is to illuminate complicated scientific processes by using only the thousand most common words in the English language. So, for example, instead of a “nuclear missile,” Munroe describes a “machine for burning cities.” Instead of a “cockpit,” we read about “stuff you touch to fly a sky boat.” As part of my duties here at Bethel, I am in the midst of proposing a new major in the Digital Humanities, which (among other aims) hopes to deliver some marketable, high-tech skills to Humanities students. As anyone learning how to use new technology can attest, though, it’s very easy to get bogged down in complicated jargon, which only impedes learning. Munroe’s book is therefore a good exercise in the importance of simplicity and economy of words.

2. Digital Humanities Proposal 4.2. When I was hired to propose our new DH major, I was lucky enough to count on the tireless work that others in our department and around campus had put into this new venture, perhaps most notably Professor Chris Gehrz. In the past weeks, various committees around campus have discussed the new major, and this proposal has become my handbook to explaining our vision for the major, and what we hope it will provide for our students.

3. CWC Reading Packet. Most semesters, I will teach Christianity and Western Culture, which probably needs no introduction for our readers. When I was writing my dissertation at Syracuse University, I was laser-focused on all things ancient Rome. It has been such a breath of fresh air to teach CWC because of its goal of connecting the entire swath of western history through the centuries. It is reminder of the power of the past to speak to us across the abyss of time.

4. Roman Power. A common refrain I heard as I finished up my doctorate, moved across the country, and began to teach here at Bethel, was how difficult it is for a new professor to find time for research during their first year. Lesson plans need to be written, syllabi designed, and university procedures learned. I count myself lucky on the rare occasion to have even an hour or two in the week to read an article in my field of ancient history. But as a professor, remaining connected to our individual areas of expertise is important. Because writing a book review is a relatively small burden that even I can hope to complete, I’ve committed to reviewing William Harris’ Roman Power in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. I may not be able to finish up the article I’ve hoped to complete this year, but reviewing Harris’ book will allow me to remain connected to important conversations in Roman history.

5. American Quarter. I had high hopes of this being a photo of a Roman denarius, but unfortunately it has not arrived in the mail yet. But this is my way of announcing an exciting project I am designing for HIS311 Roman Civilization for next Spring. I have procured a few dozen Roman coins, fresh from an archaeological dig in Europe. Next semester, my students and I will clean, catalog, and identify each coin, and then bring them to interested readers via the Bethel Coin Project, which will present our findings online. It will serve as my first attempt at incorporating DH tools in my own classroom here at Bethel.

6. Field Notes. Despite my need to live and work “in the digital world,” I’m still rather “analog” at heart. Perhaps it’s the classicist in me. For example, I typically carry this trusty notebook wherever I go, be it to class, a meeting, or back to my office to lesson plan. As our world becomes increasingly digitized, It’s important to remember that we remain, to put it crudely, meat bags, with earthly instincts and sentiments. Sometimes nothing helps me gather my thoughts quite like writing them out by hand.

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Author: Charlie Goldberg

Assistant Professor of History at Bethel University

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