Friday, February 3, 2012

Naval Academy's John Beckman to Explore the Social and Cultural Role of American Fun

CHESTERTOWN, MD— American history gives us one good brawl after another: Native Americans fighting Pilgrims; pirates bullying merchants; Patriots bloodying Redcoats’ noses; and scruffy young hotheads – from Kentucky backwoodsmen to Occupy Wall Street protesters – declaring war on elites that wanted them to fall into line.
In a February 13 presentation at Washington College, United States Naval Academy professor John Beckman will share a very different perspective on U.S. history by chronicling the ways that Americans have had fun – sometimes outrageous, even life-threatening fun. Sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and co-sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, Beckman’s talk, “American Fun,” is free and open to the public, and will begin at 5:00 pm in the college’s Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall.
According to Beckman, shared fun has often brought adversaries into harmony and made even the scariest social differences exciting. To adapt Jefferson’s famous phrase, perhaps sharing “the pursuit of happiness” does more to hold society together than we know.
“While it’s often said that a joke explained cannot be funny, John Beckman’s take on history proves otherwise,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “In any case, this is sure to be a rollickingly fun event.”
John Beckman is an associate professor of English at the United States Naval Academy, and has taught novel-writing workshops at The Writer’s Center. His first novel, The Winter Zoo (Henry Holt), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2002. Kirkus Reviews praised the book as “potent and deeply disturbing…the work of a most ambitious and unquestionably gifted writer.” Beckman’s stories and essays have appeared in Book Magazine, McSweeney’s Quarterly, the Wallace Stevens Journal, and the Washington Post.