Sunday, February 18, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another Dis-History Review on Amazon!

I am very pleased to announce that Dis-History has received yet another stellar review over on Amazon:

"I loved this book by Dr. Lantzer! This book was a fresh approach on Walt's impact in the world. The book offers so much context to the world of Walt, helping us understand how and perhaps why he crafted everything he invented. We are reminded how Walt was inspired by the world around him. The book is very well cited/referenced for researchers who want to dig even deeper than what Lantzer's insights offer."

What makes this review particularly noteworthy for me is that its author is Christopher Tremblay, the author of Walt's Pilgrimage, a wonderful book on all the places Walt lived, visited, and worked, and all the places that were named after him!  It is an honor to have a fellow Disney historian write such complementary things.  Plus, he also teaches a class on Disney as well!  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Founders Week Talk

In 1850, Ovid Butler wrote and submitted a charter for a new institution of higher education to be created in Indianapolis. A lawyer by training, and the son of a minister, Butler and the men who signed the charter sought to create launch a new school to be called North Western Christian University. An upstart school, in a city that was hardly thirty years old, NWCU was defined by geography ("North Western" was an homage to the Northwest Territorial Ordinance), faith (Butler was a devoted member, as were many of those who signed, of the evangelical Protestant denomination the Disciples of Christ), and educational aspiration (named a "university" before a single student was enrolled or curriculum/majors/degrees drawn up).  But it was also shaped by political (Butler's charter was being written in the midst of debate over slavery and the Compromise of 1850), social (the charter made the new university open to both men and women), and denominational (the Disciples had a school in Virginia, Butler wanted a school in the north--away from slavery's influence.  But it was also to be a school that was open to those outside of the denomination as well).  Five years after the charter was written, in 1855, NWCU opened its doors to its first class.

It was members of its second entering class, however, that are the basis for my fifth book, Rebel Bulldog.  And 168 years after the charter was signed, and for the second time since I came to Butler, I got to be an official part of Founders Week and talk about the Davidsons, how their story was rediscovered, and how it all came about because of my decision to offer an honors class about Butler and the Civil War.  With an audience of over 50 people on Tuesday afternoon--most of whom were honors students, I took part in a conversation with the senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press, Ray Boomhower about the book, and the opportunity to autograph a few copies as well.  It was a great time (even if the Dawgs couldn't quite pull out the victory over in Hinkle later that day).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Prime Life and the Collegian

Today saw a nice article in the Butler Collegian, complete with interviews with one of my colleagues and a former student.  The focus was mainly about Rebel Bulldog, but also included mention of Dis-History.  It was nice to get to talk about how both of these books came about and were nurtured by the Honors courses that helped create them.

And then I got to speak about Rebel Bulldog at Prime Life Enrichment in Carmel.  As it has been in the past, it was a wonderful place to talk about history with an engaged audience.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Butler Newsroom and Rebel Bulldog

Today the Butler University newsroom ran the following article on Rebel Bulldog......

I'm very honored to have been able to tell this part of Butler's history!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Edutainment vs Education: History, Hollywood, the Greatest Showman, and Walt Disney

Image result for pt barnum greatest showman

My family went to see The Greatest Showman this afternoon.  It is an absolutely wonderful film, great songs, acting, and visuals.  The team that put it together (both on and off camera, on set and back in the studio) did an amazing job.  And Hugh Jackman is just awesome!

What the film is not, however, is history.  Yes, it is about a real historical person (P.T. Barnum) who put on performances, had a museum of "oddities," created a circus, was indeed, "the greatest showman."  But the film is not historically accurate on any number of levels, much to the dismay of critics--whom I won't link to because this post really isn't about the criticisms of this particular film (but I will say, to paraphrase Jackman's Barnum, that some of them seem to be film critics that hate film). 

No, you see, the real Barnum, the Barnum of history was and did much more than the movie version we watched showed.  He was a politician in Connecticut (serving as mayor and in the state legislature).  He was a Democrat who became a Republican in the years before the Civil War.  He was a temperance speaker.  He was, in fact, the father of four daughters (only two are shown in the film)---one of whom died as a 2 year old.  He was an author, "debunker," a is almost impossible to list all he did.  Oh, and he looked nothing like Hugh Jackman!

What I did not expect the film to be, was historically accurate. As I wrote on Twitter:

"As an historian, I consider any “history” based movie I see as primarily entertainment, not educational. If I end up looking things up after I get home, and maybe learning something from that, so much the better. Just some insight for non-historians (and film critics) as well."

What I was getting at in this Twitter post was the concept of edutainment, an idea pioneered by Walt Disney (and something I talk about in Dis-History quite a bit).  The idea was that film (or theme parks) could be both entertaining and educational.  It does not promise to be 100 percent historically accurate, or engage every aspect of a particular story, only to use history to tell a story.  The idea as Walt conceived of it was that it would spark further discussion, research, and engagement with the past.  It was not a substitute for history, but a tool to further historical (or literary, or folk lore) inquiry.

I think many critics (including historians, who should know better) sometimes forget that Hollywood is about making money, not "doing history."  Even the best history based films take artistic license.  The goal for studios is to tell a story that gets audiences into theaters (or purchased at some point via some medium).  It is not to do the job of historians.  It is incumbent upon historians to make sure there is material to inform the public after they have seen a film.  As a profession, we should not be dependent to do our job for us--nor should we want them to be!  Rather than complain that a film doesn't capture every possible facet, we should be ready to use the film to engage and educate.  It's what Walt would have wanted, and what Barnum would have endorsed!