Dr. Marvin Stern
Office hours by appointment.
CAREER AND CREATIVE SYNOPSIS
Associate Professor of History (full-time faculty member since 1994) Tenured: 1999
Princeton (admitted twice)
Rockefeller Fellow, Department of History;
Department of East Asian Studies
University of Chicago (admitted twice)
Committee on Social Thought
Brandeis, AB (Winner: Endowed History Prize); AM, Ph.D.
Oxford and Cambridge 2001-1002 Visiting Fellow
(Magdalen College, Oxford; Hughes Hall and Pembroke, Cambridge)
2001--"A British Military Family" CONTEMPORARY REVIEW, Oxford, England, Vol. 278, Issue # 1621 (Founded 1866; World-wide Circulation).
2002--"Fundamental Reference Works" EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY STUDIES, Volume 35, #4 (Review Essay requested by the Editor).
2002--"Gibbon at Magdalen" (MAGDALEN COLLEGE RECORD [Oxford] 2002).
2002--Review of Esther Schor's Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria (Princeton University Press, 1994), requested by the Editor of THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY: A CURRENT BIBLIOGRAPHY.
2002-03--"When Government Fails," requested by the Editor CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE, England, #51, in response to the topic "Reflections on September 11."
2003--"Loyalty Knows No Shame," IDEAS, AESTHETICS, AND INQUIRIES IN THE EARLY MODERN ERA (Winter 2002-2003, Volume 8).
2004--Lady Maria Josepha Holroyd Stanley--the great-grandmother of Bertrand Russell--commissioned by Oxford University for THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, published, September 2004.
2005--Dr. Stern’s articles appeared in the two most popular journals at Cambridge University and Oxford University. "What to do with a moment" appeared in CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE #56. The article is a short excursion into Dr. Stern’s efforts in teaching and creativity.
2005--"The Nina, the Pinta, and the...." OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #243, Michaelmas Term. In this article, Dr. Stern discusses the American habit of fable-making--in childhood and adulthood--and the problems of historical ignorance and corruption.
2006--"When No One Returns to the Cave" OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #252, Trinity Term, is a companion to "When Government Fails" CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE, 2002. The puzzling configurations of war in American education, culture, and politics are highlighted. And there are reminders and warnings on these pages from ancient as well as contemporary civilization.
2006--"When Heaven is For Sale," OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #256, Michaelmas Term. The problems of wealth and integrity in contemporary higher education in America are discussed--along with memories from Dr. Stern’s personal experiences.
2007--"SILOOJII," OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #262, Hilary Term. The context is urban barbarism in New York City after WWII. In Summer 2007, "SILOOJII" was republished in the acclaimed American publication, EVERGREEN REVIEW, #113, 2007 [http://www.evergreenreview.com/113/contents.htm]. And, now also, a chapter in THE MEDITATION ROOM.
2007--"Generations and Education" CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE, England, #60. In this essay Dr. Stern briefly highlights significant features of "Generations and Education" in Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, 18th century Japan, 18th century America, and contemporary America.
2008--"Give Me Your Undivided Attention," OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #277, Trinity Term. The setting, theme, and characters belong to life in a New York City elementary school in the decade after World War II.
2008--"Toynbee and Gibbon," OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #280, Michaelmas Term. The seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of the early volumes of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History is the occasion for a comparative portrait of Toynbee’s work with Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. These two historians--perhaps the most illustrious and prolific in the English language--have many thoughts that can benefit the contemporary world.
2009--"A Hole in the Wall," OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #286, Hilary Term--a portrait of the last days of segregation in the American south and in the US Army as observed and recalled by Dr. Stern.
2009--"Man or Quail?," online in THE CENTRIFUGAL EYE (Canada), August--a discussion of the crisis of thought, teaching, and governmental responsibility, currently in America.
2009--"Edward Gibbon and the Courtenay Family" OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #292, Michaelmas Term. This essay presents ideas and approaches to the writing and meaning of history--in a universal and personal sense--to Gibbon.
2012--”Housewares to build a better dude” OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #323, Hilary Term.
Why should nameless individuals, or names known to us merely in fragments of what they said--collected two-hundred years later by Aristotle--have a concern for not merely the “things,” the materials around them, but for and in THE WORLD.
Of equal importance, and yet with surprising continuity of mystery and perplexity, how can it be that in contemporary America--mechanically, technologically, and instantly tuned-in to every inch of THE WORLD--there is a turning away from an answer or even a question about the great crises facing the entire world now.
2012—“Where is the dreaming?” OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #328, Michaelmas Term.
We are approaching a moment shared by thousands of incoming students each year at American universities.
It is ten o’clock.... Time for your first class. You approach the door. Strange noises.... And why do they remind you of the soundtrack when Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe were struggling against the rapids on that raft in NIAGARA?
Swing it open. No water inside. Just eight hundred chattering students.
2013—“Murder comes to CAMELOT, again” OXFORD MAGAZINE, England, #331, Hilary Term. I wrote this essay the night following the recent murders in Connecticut, and I discuss those horrible events and the murder of President Kennedy.
2013--"The new Lady Sheffield Looks Back on Her Marriage." MONTREAL REVIEW.
The riots of June 1780 were over. By December, Gibbon=s best friend, John Baker Holroyd, was Lord Sheffield, and his was wife, Abigail Way Holroyd, was the new Lady Sheffield.
Stepping forward from the corner of a portrait, thirty-four-year-old Abigail had taken center stage, at last. In the Way family (1746-1767), Abigail had been pushed to the sidelines. Four mothers came and were soon gone. Finding replacements was easy for her father. A family portrait glows with his roaring smile--while he holds in his arms or stands near the children from the recent parade of marriages. Off to the side, in a darkened corner, stands the older Abigail. Then, early in her twenties, visits began from a thirty-year-old tough-talking reserve officer.
2013--”A Ghost Story: Gibbon’s Niece” GRANTA, Cambridge, England.
A glimpse into Gibbon’s memory and the collective memory evident today in his hometown, Putney. All citations and insights are drawn from previously unpublished and unknown materials in addition to on-the-scene observations made by Dr. Stern when he was a Visiting Fellow in Magdalen College, Oxford in 2002.
2013--”Forty-six Miles from Bryn Mawr” THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, London. West of Philadelphia, ardent believers have been cultivating since the eighteenth century a land of enchantment that each day is renewed, enriched, and made more succulent. Perhaps nowhere on the planet have small families built a pastoral Eden--as wide as the eye can see--merely from growing vegetables and grazing cows.
Descendants of seventeenth century religious conflict, the Amish have been here since before the War for Independence. Within the splendid peace of green hills though, they continue to be stirred by collisions of past with present. To look at them is to wonder about not only their survival, but human survival down the centuries.
2013–“Edward Gibbon–GAMBLER” BROOKLYN REVUE.
Eleven days after Edward Gibbon was expelled from Oxford in June 1753 because, allegedly, of his conversion to Catholicism, the early teenager was forced by his financially strapped father to leave England. Escorted and observed at every step from England, he was bought to Switzerland by a transporter of bears for circuses. On Christmas Day 1754, in Switzerland, Gibbon became a Protestant again. Then once again eleven days passed. The justification for his exile had now vanished--it was all “a dream.” And Edward Gibbon tried to escape.
2013--”Helen MacLeod at The Harvard Club--1906” GRANTA.
At the Harvard Club in New York City, squash racquets, no longer in play, are mounted on walls: darkened shadows recall precise fingering or palm prints of champions--as if violins of Heifetz. And on every oar. On every face. On every wall. In every room. Singly or in groups: the powerful grasp of confidence. But then in Room 431, the Class of 1909's room, a curious sight. On the wall, at first, the usual spread of memorabilia along with aging grey photos of large gatherings. Then in the center of the other frames, a 26" high by 22" wide frame--surrounding the drawing of a young lady. And there is joy from a rare sight in any photo on these walls: color--a red ribbon on her hat and her H pennant is red. But there is remarkable absence of strength from conviction or muscles: the H pennant on a stick hangs loosely in her right hand and her arm points not to the sky but limply to the ground. There is no female student nor faculty family named MacLeod during those years at Harvard, Radcliffe, Wellesley, or Smith. After a hundred years, the question stands: WHO was Helen MacLeod?
2013--“Maria Holroyd on Edward Gibbon and Hemberry Fort in the English family” GENERATIONS LITERARY JOURNAL.
Dr. Stern was commissioned by Oxford to write the life of Maria Holroyd (1771-1863) for the OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY. Maria Holroyd (1st Lady Stanley of Alderley) was the great-grandmother of Bertrand Russell. She was an image of youthful brilliance and beauty for Edward Gibbon—the best friend of John Baker Holroyd (Lord Sheffield), Maria’s father. Until her very last hours in her 92nd year, Maria’s worldly knowledge, vitality, and fearlessness overwhelmed everyone around her. Thousands of details remain. At age twenty-six she was beating a General in chess. Over a half-century later, she still could say “chess always comes to my relief.” At eighty-seven she was riding around Europe on horseback, only stopping for opportunities to brag. In Aix-la-Chapelle, she made certain to blow the hunting horn of Charlemagne —“none made so much sound as I did.” And the enthusiasm aroused Bertrand Russell’s mother. Maria “was wearing them out... It is dreadful not to be willing to die at 91.” In 1859, Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White appeared. It was a sensation, rivaling works of today: from its pages came inspirations for perfumes, clothing, and dances. But this was a story of perils and fog. One by one the characters themselves, some with multiple identities, reveal their views. Now age 89, Maria murmured to her daughter-in-law—“it made my heart beat very much.” A new and fertile world of insight is presented to and by Maria in Dr. Stern’s essay: “Maria Holroyd on Edward Gibbon and Hemberry Fort in the English family.”
2013—“Arthur Miller on American Violence” CONTEMPORARY REVIEW, Oxford.
Arthur Miller was more than the greatest American playwright of the twentieth century. He was also an historian. In the largest sense is his on-the-scene research that made THE CRUCIBLE and his re-reading and re-thinking of his entire creative world:“Salesman at Fifty” “The Crucible in History” “The Price--The Power of the Past”.
In a personal way I am grateful for Miller’s encouraging words to me on my research and writings on Edward Gibbon and the families of his friends, Lord and Lady Sheffield and General Sir Henry Clinton. Indeed I can never forget how his letter of August 2, 1997 arrived. I recall my wife’s voice announcing, at some distance, a letter of Arthur Miller--with his unique way, today at least, of showing a return address: embossed on the closing flap with a coin press. It was from the same house in a beautiful rural setting in Connecticut that was home to Miller and Marilyn Monroe.
What troubled Miller most of all in America were the origins, validations, and practices of FULFILLMENT. Much of it, too much of it in America, was made of the substance of meanness. Here is a vastly different world from Ancient Athens which was meaningfully glorified in the famous oration of Pericles when he declares that within the greatness of life in Athens was a proud confidence that the leadership and the traditions of the city’s history were committed to “driving away cares.” In America, in Miller’s lifetime, that precious outlook had vanished.
2013–“Egg Pot” FORTNIGHTLY MAGAZINE, Belfast.
Splonk. Suds were flooding over the rim. Quickly they were rushing down the sides of the tall pickle jar. Meanwhile, chunks from a ground-up beast were piling up alongside the greasy, pitted, high-shouldered, black frying pan. The rounded slabs were red and thick--imitators of the enormous red bricks in the centuries-old fortress-walls surrounding Chester, England. One slab after another was then dunked into a mammoth bowl:
“PILLSBURY SNO-SHEEN FLOUR PRESENTS GRAND CENTRAL STATION.”
Each slab now became snowy white with a see-through to red--a reminder of Paddy, the next-door neighbors’ dog after his super-close summer shearing.
Next it was time for browning in the noisy grease.
2013–“The Irish Giant” EVENING STREET REVIEW.
Although you probably know already, a fascination with diminutive people was going on at the same time in London that the Irish Giant was touching fame. The subject was of interest, as the following letters show, to none other than Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall....). The author of the first letter, written when she was twelve, was Maria Josepha Holroyd, 1st Lady Stanley of Alderley.
2013–“The Engine of Inertness” SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REVIEW.
Nothing surpasses "Fall of Rome" as measurement or standard. Indeed, in his portrait of the human dilemma throughout history, the "City" that inspired and perplexed Jefferson’s contemporary, Edward Gibbon, held the definitive characterization of man and his past. Above it all was the continuity of tyranny. No matter where, no matter the idealism at the start, no matter the discipline of culture or its chaos, humankind had not solved an abiding problem: why do all civilizations become, inevitably, systems of oppression?
And Jefferson also saw what Gibbon viewed as the great poisonous elixir: the mixture of religion and barbarism. Both men, too, in repetitive words in their great works, were appalled by the power of one man to unite both channels of the brew. But what makes this brew so potent? Why does it choke and hold for so long?
2013–“Pigeons” BOSTON REVIEW [Short Essay Contest].
Every evening, high over the coops, they snapped long poles with rags tied at the top: RAPP, RAPP, RAPP. The prisoners began flapping madly, and with a loud woosh they all took off.
Tall and short bodies now were swinging the poles in wide circles. And peering down from the winged carousel overhead, each flock was following their pole in unison as if Toscannini were waving his baton. On the ground though, greedy eyes were following the captives: waiting to trap stragglers from other coops.
It was mid-June, when polly-wogs were falling from greening Maples and everyone was eager for summer vacation coming on. A fire was going good one evening. And hollering in all directions for more wood or just junk was Rex.
2013–“The Clinton Code” HARPER’S.
I am the discoverer at Yale, of the Diary/Copybook of the teenage mistress-wife, her daughter, and granddaughter from the family of General Sir Henry Clinton, the Commander of the British Army during its conflict with, among others. George Washington. Among the items that you may use are the signature page, with all three women signing their names, and a page written in CODE by the teenage mistress-mother. No one in Oxford or Cambridge was able to crack it. I also attach several pages where the angry daughter responds to her mother’s words written above on the same page.
2013–“Love Letters of Gibbon’s Mother and Father” CAROLINA REVIEW.
Inside “The Star and Garter,” a Putney resident wanted me to realize that his aunt merely drank tea here eighty years ago. And, he said, Edward Gibbon’s boyhood home, “Lime Grove,” had been pulled down decades earlier. Outside again, facing the Thames at the front door, the carriage of Gibbon’s father might have been rumbling along to the bridge, on the way to Cambridge’s Emmanuel College in the 1720s and 1730s. The young blade also could be seen pulling hard on the horses of his speedy chaiseCdriving around the Putney of another era. And, on some of his high-stepping jaunts, Edward Gibbon II was considering his next moves in the courting of the girl who became Edward Gibbon’s mother.
Early in the day, on 18 January 1734, Judith Porten was sent a letter from an admirer. Somewhere in Putney, not long before, she may have encountered him. It began on a whim. Riding around town, waiting at the bridge, casting an eye towards who was walking up the hill--Gibbon’s father, son of the town’s leading “oracle,” [also named Edward] was surveying possibilities. The effort was dangerous and exciting. From a distance, the clothes of the era and the horse-drawn carriage were an effective shroud--until positively the last moment.
2013–“Giant Steps” WISCONSIN REVIEW.
WHAT DO the “big boys” do? What is really inside THEIR ideas versus the stuff from the brain of my elementary-school teacher--Mrs. Westinghouse? Well, in the world of ideas, the big boys do what John Coltrane does in jazz or Peter Sellers in acting: they construct their own scales. And scales are stepping stones that lead to, and form, a complete experience--even momentary--in music, art, and drama.
Now, from thinkers too, sounds of ideas often remain within us--while creating, as well, echoes of decency, enlightenment, and hope. Let’s look at two of the biggest of the big boys: Plato’s REPUBLIC and John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. What do we see and hear?
2013–“Armies in distant lands” AMERICAN ATHENAEUM.
Any man who has ever held a weapon in a foxhole or trench cannot help becoming ever more closely drawn into Michael Kamber’s remarkable photos of our troops in Afghanistan. Anxiety--it is felt in every detail: from the curve of lips to the different angles of each weapon in the air--with every man groping and hoping that his position will be the winning, and safe, position. Also noticeable, even from a photo on a battlefield thousands of miles away, is the extraordinary--and new--attentiveness to externals by our Army leadership: in the new designs for helmets and in the hues and colors for uniforms that seemingly blend in perfectly with the surroundings. All of it reflects a concern for safety and protective gear on different parts of the soldiers’ bodies. What a change this is from Vietnam and from so many years of sacrificed bodies and lives in Iraq.
Yet, the Kamber photos also show why are we are still not succeeding in Afghanistan. And is there a lesson from Vietnam and Iraq that we are failing to see? In short, is it time to consider that success on a battlefield in a strange and distant land is more than a matter of numbers, or "surges," or uniform design?
The real experiences that we can learn from today in America are found in the challenges faced by a foreign army that is situated, almost stranded even, in a distant land. There are a few that we need to learn about.
2013–“ONAWAY” THE NEW YORKER
It was Bobby McTibble from Quincy, Massachusetts [locals pronounce the “c” in Quincy as if it were a “z”] who finally solved one of the great mysteries. Every month came a magazine with a strange title on the cover in large blue letters: ONAWAY. It was for my uncle Sammy who was living with his brother somewhere in our house in New York City after World War II. They were big-time gamblers during the war, and years later they were running “concessions” in Florida. But right after the war though, they were just “hanging around.” In their spare time they became fishermen; and they left their marks in stick-ons of big fish in the bathtub.
1. HEMBERRY FORT. (Manuscript)
2. THE MEDITATION ROOM. (Manuscript)
3. EDWARD GIBBON--FATHER AND SON. (Manuscript)
4. LETTERS TO WORTHY STUDENTS. (Manuscript)
Dr. Stern’s second book, THORNS AND BRIARS—BONDING, LOVE, AND DEATH 1764-1870, presents the Diary of the wife, daughter, and granddaughter of one of the commanders of the British Army in the American Revolution. THORNS AND BRIARS was given an enthusiastic review by Roy Porter: "I got a huge amount of pleasure out of reading it. It is written by Marvin Stern with a sure touch." Etc.
FILM SCRIPT AND HISTORICAL NOVEL--
Dr. Stern was admitted, June 2009, to the Poets and Writers group at the Harvard Club in New York City and he attended meetings during summer 2009 and plans to continue this participation in the years ahead.
Japan: History and Culture; Advanced Readings in the Great Historians; British History in the Seventeenth Century; Modern Britain; World War I & II; Sociology of Conflict and War; Men and Women of Ideas; The Minds of Dictators; The Minds of Generals; Foundations of the American Experience; Development of the American Experience.
QUEST AND OTHER GUIDED STUDENT PROJECTS
1. Transcription and analysis of the Love Letters of Edward Gibbon’s mother and father [materials from Oxford University].
2. Mathematics and Adam Smith.
MEMBERSHIPS AND HONORS--
Dr. Stern joined the US Army when he was seventeen and earned the Expert Rifleman's Medal and an HONORABLE DISCHARGE. Memberships: Oxford and Cambridge Club of London, Harvard Club of New York City, The Cambridge Society, The Oxford Union, Harvardwood, Yale Club of Los Angeles, The Princeton Club of Southern California. In 2008, Dr. Stern was recommended to appear in WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA.