Altschuler, Glenn C. 1950-
ALTSCHULER, Glenn C. 1950-
Born 1950. Education: Cornell University, Ph.D. (American history), 1976.
Administrator, educator, and author. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1981—, currently Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies, School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, dean, 1991—.
Regular panelist on national and international affairs for "The Ivory Tower Half-Hour," WCNY Television; formerly columnist for "Education Life" section of the New York Times.
Clark Teaching Award, Donna and Robert Paul Award for excellence in faculty advising, and Kendall S. Carpenter Award for outstanding advising, all from Cornell University.
Andrew D. White: Educator, Historian, Diplomat, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1979.
Race, Ethnicity, and Class in American Social Thought, 1865-1919, Harlan Davidson (Arlington Heights, IL), 1982.
(With Jan M. Saltzgaber) Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District: The Trial of Rohad Bement, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1983.
Better Than Second Best: Love and Work in the Life of Helen Magill, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1990.
(With David I. Grossvogel) Changing Channels: America in TV Guide, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1992.
(With Stuart M. Blumin) Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.
(With Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore) The 100 Most Notable Cornellians, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2004.
A longtime faculty member at Cornell University and dean of its School of Continuing Education, Glenn C. Altschuler is a professor and one of the driving forces in the growing American Studies department. His course in American popular culture remains one of Cornell's most well-liked classes. His books, covering revivalism, television, and rock-and-roll, among other subjects, reflect his interest in popular culture and mass movements.
Altschuler's first book, however, deals with the career of a man from the upper reaches of society whose sense of noblesse oblige led him to pioneering reforms in a number of areas. Andrew D. White: Educator, Historian, Diplomat tells the story of Cornell's first president, whose efforts to create a coeducational, nonsectarian institution that would provide a progressive, practical education to its students made him a controversial figure in his day, and a hero in the annals of educational reform. Altschuler's portrayal of White is not entirely flattering, as Geoffrey Blodgett explained in the American Historical Review: "The portrait emerges of a self-serving, disingenuous administrator who shunned authentic female equality, championed didactic Christianity, was guilty of occasional intellectual dishonesty, and tolerated crimes against freedom." As for White's other careers, Altschuler finds him overly opinionated and moralistic as a historian, and naive and inept in his posts as ambassador to Germany. Some reviewers found the biography a bit unfair. "Altschuler's research is thorough, but his book goes far in demonstrating that the New Left may possess inappropriate tools for understanding such men as White," maintained Anne Hummel Sherrill in Historian. While acknowledging that "Altschuler does tend to underestimate the power of forces arrayed against White," Journal of American History contributor Benjamin G. Rader found it "a superb biography that adds significantly to our knowledge of nineteenth-century reformers."
In Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District: The Trial of Rhoda Bement Altschuler and Jan M. Saltzgaber tell the tale of another would-be reformer from the nineteenth century, but one operating in the very different social setting of Seneca Falls, New York. When Presbyterian parishioner Rhoda Bement began to press the church leadership on abolition and temperance, she found herself brought up before an ecclesiastical tribunal. The book, which includes essays by each author and a transcript of the trial, "demonstrates once more how well a case study in local history can explore and illuminate regional and national issues," according to Church History contributor John Opie. The authors "argue persuasively that Bement's trial on the charges of 'unchristian' and 'unladylike behavior' sheds light on the inner dynamics of church and community life in the pre-Civil War period," observed Clifford E. Clark in History: Reviews of New Books. The result, according to a Choice reviewer, is a "superb example of the method of document case study."
Altschuler creates something of a hybrid of both these books in Better Than Second Best: Love and Work in the Life of Helen Magill, a biography of America's first female Ph.D. recipient, the assertive, unconventional woman who went on to marry Andrew D. White. "In writing about McGill, Altschuler not only helps us appreciate the achievements of a driven life but also makes us wonder about the society that consistently managed to put a woman who was 'better than second best' in second place," explained Eugenia Kaledin in American Historical Review. Born in 1853, Helen Magill was the first female to attend Boston Latin School, where her father taught, but unlike the rest of her class, she was denied admittance to Harvard. Instead, she earned a place in Boston University's Ph.D. program and later studied at Cambridge, but she still could not gain a decent position when she graduated. Seeking intellectual companionship, she married Andrew White but soon realized that she was "second best" in his eyes, compared to his devoted first wife, Angel. "It is not an altogether pleasant experience to feel a part of Helen Magill White's life through all its vicissitudes, but it is a very engrossing one," commented Jane Lewis in the Journal of American History.
Altschuler and coauthor Stuart M. Blumin provide a broader view of the antebellum period in Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century. Focusing on small towns, the authors "examine the sustained participation of a few and the apparent indifference of the many," reported Booklistreviewer Vernon Ford. Through diaries, letters, novels, and newspapers, the authors trace the growing importance of politics in the lives of ordinary citizen as the nation approached the Civil War and its aftermath. The result, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, is a "rich and entertaining study."
Much of Glenn C. Altschuler's work has focused on nineteenth-century history, but he has also become known for studies of two ubiquitous, modern influences that would have amazed, and probably appalled, the generation of Andrew D. White and Helen Magill. In Changing Channels: America in TV Guide, Altschuler and coauthor David I. Grossvogel "look beyond the local listings of the magazine and serve up a comprehensive analysis of the articles themselves," explained Robert Thompson in the Journal of Popular Culture. Often dismissed as fluff, TV Guide did at one time include serious analysis of news, entertainment, and the impact of this hugely popular medium, with articles from the likes of Margaret Mead, John F. Kennedy, John Updike, and Betty Friedan. Through such articles, the authors are able to trace the magazine's, and the medium's, changing attitudes toward African Americans and women, and the way those attitudes mirror the wider society.
All Shook Up: How Rock 'n Roll Changed America looks at the only cultural phenomenon more omnipresent, and possibly even more influential, than television. Altschuler concentrates on the 1950s and early 1960s, when rock music sent parents into a panic and psychologists were called upon to analyze the music's dark tribal undertones, but there is also a chapter on rock's continuing influence. Throughout, Altschuler notes the ways that the music reflected the racial, sexual, and political conflicts that surrounded it. While there have been serious biographies of rock's legendary performers and cultural critiques of its style and musical importance, Altschuler "is one of the first to do rock-and-roll the significant service of locating it within the cultural and political maelstrom it helped to create," noted Eric Alterman in a review for the Atlantic Monthly.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1980, Geoffrey Blodgett, review of Andrew D. White: Educator, Historian, Diplomat, p. 226; February, 1984, Edwin S. Gaustad, review of Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District: The Trial of Rohad Bement, p. 204; October, 1991, Eugenia Kaledin, review of Better Than Second Best: Love and Work in the Life of Helen Magill, p. 1294; October, 2001, Tyler Anbinder, review of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century, p. 1355.
Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2003, Eric Alterman, "Rock On," pp. 143-144.
Booklist, April 1, 2000, Vernon Ford, review of Rude Republic, p. 1416.
Choice, July-August, 1983, review of Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District, p. 1613; October, 1992, W. E. Colman, review of Changing Channels: America in TV Guide, p. 290; November, 2000, review of Rude Republic, p. 591.
Christian Century, May 11, 1983, review of Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District, p. 466.
Church History, September, 1984, John Opie, review of Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District, pp. 409-410.
Civil War History, June, 2001, Michael F. Holt, review of Rude Republic, p. 164.
Historian, November, 1980, Anne Hummel Sherrill, review of Andrew D. White, pp. 152-153.
History: Reviews of New Books, October, 1982, Clarke A. Chambers, review of Race, Ethnicity, and Class in American Social Thought, 1865-1919, pp. 6-7; October, 1983, Clifford E. Clark, review of Revivalism, Social Conscience, and Community in the Burned-over District, p. 7; spring, 1991, Sylvia D. Hoffert, review of Better Than Second Best, p. 136.
Journal of American History, March, 1980, Benjamin G. Rader, review of Andrew D. White, p. 958; March, 1991, Jane Lewis, review of Better Than Second Best, p. 1380; September, 1993, James Baughman, review of Changing Channels, p. 749; September, 2001, Philip J. Ethington, review of Rude Republic, p. 644.
Journal of Higher Education, January, 1981, Mark Beach, review of Andrew D. White, pp. 109-110.
Journal of Popular Culture, spring, 1994, Robert Thompson, review of Changing Channels, p. 220.
Journal of the West, fall, 2001, William M. Gray, review of Rude Republic, p. 111.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1992, review of Changing Channels, p. 223.
Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Edward G. McCormack, review of Rude Republic, p. 114; July, 2003, James E. Perone, review of All Shook Up: How Rock 'n Roll Changed America, p. 84.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2000, review of Rude Republic, p. 62; June 9, 2003, review of All Shook Up, p. 46.
Reviews in American History, December, 2000, Sven Beckert, review of Rude Republic, p. 560.
Cornell University Web site,http://www.cornell.edu/ (July 12, 2004), "Glenn C. Altschuler."*