Johns Hopkins Magazine -- June 2000
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JUNE 2000

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The "good conduct" of sex
A gifted composer with no allegiance
Words that changed the Roman world
Art al fresco
Remembering Pocomoke
An over the rainbow extravaganza

The "good conduct" of sex

The genesis for Ron Walters's book on 19th-century sexual advice was a flippant remark. In the late 1960s the Hopkins history professor was a graduate student at work on his dissertation about the American anti-slavery movement. One of his fellow classmates disparaged abolitionists as humorless zealots. Walters's reply was, "They talked about sex a lot."

Later, he realized that while his remark may have been offhand, it was also true. He became curious about what Americans had to say about sex in the 1800s. The result was the book Primers for Prudery: Sexual Advice for Victorian America, first published in 1974 and about to be reissued by the Johns Hopkins University Press with a new preface and an additional chapter on women writing for women.

Once he began looking for it, Walters found a large amount of published advice on sexuality. Many books were euphemistically offered as "good-conduct manuals," but some were more explicitly about sex ("mostly against it," he says), written both for young men and women. Unlike the sex books of the late 20th century, which convey much information on sexual technique, the earlier guides were about behavior and thought and "healthy habits." Says Walters, "The 19th-century books are touchy on mechanics. You could read all [they include about sex] and not have much idea of how to do it."

In these books, sexual indulgence was widely regarded as a source of ill health, Walters says: "If you had tuberculosis, it was your fault for having too much sex." Authors urged restraint, and purity of thought. They offered advice on how other aspects of your life could be modified to encourage healthy sexual practices. For example, Sylvester Graham, inventor of the Graham cracker, believed that eating too much red meat and certain vegetables (asparagus made the list) encouraged unhealthy desires. Masturbation, sometimes referred to only as "the secret vice," was universally condemned. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of Kellogg Cereals, published "39 signs of masturbation," presumably so parents could be on the lookout. Among the 39 were epilepsy, tuberculosis, acne, and round shoulders.

Walters has added a new chapter dealing with sexual-advice manuals written by women for women, something he now regards as an omission from the original edition. He concentrates on Eliza B. Duffey, who wrote a book in 1873 titled What Every Woman Should Know: Practical Advice for Wives and Mothers. Duffey made pointed note of the double standard applied to the sexes. For example, "Disinclination, weariness, ill health, none of these things will excuse a woman from participation in the marital act, when her husband's inclinations lead him to require it of her. Strange that, while the law recognizes rape as a crime punishable by severe penalties, there is no recognition whatever of a married woman's right to control her own person."

Though it's easy to poke fun at the beliefs and attitudes inherent in much of Victorian-era advice, some of it made sense in the social milieu of the time. Much of what troubled these authors, Walters says, including prostitution, illicit sex, rape, abortion, and a bawdy popular culture, were not just fantasies conjured by repressed Victorian minds but genuine social problems and temptations. Walters also notes that there was a steep decline in fertility in the United States during the 19th century, a decline not explainable by demographics such as age of the population, contraceptive technology, or anything else save for the self- control advocated by the advice manuals. He notes, "In an urbanized society, having fewer kids really was a good thing, especially for women."
--Dale Keiger

A gifted composer with no allegiance

Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez (Peabody MM '89) was recently named a Charles Ives Fellow by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The academy bestows the fellowship each year on a composer of "exceptional gifts." Sanchez-Gutierrez had previously received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard award.

The composer, currently an assistant professor at San Francisco State University, writes for film, theater, and video but says, "I am biased toward the immense instrumental palette and nearly unlimited virtuosity of the modern chamber orchestra." His strongly rhythmic pieces (which have been described by composer Ronald Caltabiano as "neither eclectic nor postmodern nor owing allegiance to any passing fashion") have received recent performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York and at the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood Music Festival.

A recording of his piano duo Calacas y Palomas was released last month on the C.R.I. label. Forthcoming recordings include a collection of his chamber compositions on Opción Sónica, and the Mexican Percussion Quartet performing his Danza/Contradanza II. Sanchez-Gutierrez is also completing a commission for the noted a cappella choir Chanticleer.

Words that changed the Roman world

The Julio-Claudian period in ancient Roman history (31 B.C. to A.D. 68) was a time of significant social flux. That's what makes it interesting to assistant professor of classics Matthew Roller. He's been studying how Roman aristocrats responded as Rome's oligarchic republic, in which they held power, was replaced by an autocratic, hereditary monarchy.

One way the aristocracy adapted, says Roller, was in how they wrote about their society and their place in it. "In the literature that Roman aristocrats produced during this period," he says, "we can see them struggling to comprehend the changed world in which they were living, but also trying to shape that world and the way it worked to their own advantage." He examines all of this in a forthcoming book, Constructing Autocracy: Aristocrats and Emperors in Julio-Claudian Rome (Princeton, 2001).

One important change involved honor, which Roman men traditionally had earned by valor in combat, for which the Roman term was virtus--in essence, "the distinctive or characteristic quality of a man." Battlefield heroes were rewarded with statues, parades, and honorary names. But such glory required youth, good health, and opportunity. What if you lacked these? Furthermore, the new autocratic emperors of Rome--Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, et al.--monopolized military honors for themselves and their families. So how could an aristocrat achieve honor, which was still prized?

One answer, Roller says, can be found in the writing of Seneca, the great Roman statesman, Stoic philosopher, and tragedian. A central tenet of Stoicism was that anyone--rich or poor, highborn or lowborn--could achieve wisdom and happiness if he trained his mind to accept whatever came his way with serenity. To achieve this serenity, one had to acquire certain "excellences" of mind, what the Greeks called arete. Seneca translated this term in Latin as virtus, significantly broadening its definition beyond its meaning of "valor in combat." The effect was to allow aristocrats to claim honor without battle, and without dependence on the emperor.

Seneca wrote about Scipio, for instance, who had opposed Julius Caesar in the Roman civil wars, and fell on his sword when defeat by Caesar's army was imminent. Two of Scipio's direct ancestors had been heroes of the Punic Wars against Carthage. Both had scored great victories, and been rewarded with triumphal honors and the addition to their names of "Africanus." The youngest Scipio, wrote Seneca, was just as worthy of the honorific "Africanus." He had accepted his fate with stoic equanimity, and that made him virtuous.

You didn't have to fight to manifest virtus, nor depend on the emperor to confer honors upon you. You could get them for yourself through philosophy.

Art al fresco

Stroll the 26-acre grounds of Hopkins's Evergreen House this summer and you'll find more than beautiful gardens and idyllic glens. Ten contemporary works of sculpture, including those by artists Jann Rosen-Queralt (left) and John Ruppert (right), will be on display through October. Showcasing contemporary art at Evergreen--the home of patron of the arts Alice Garrett in the first part of the 1900s--"fits the history of the house perfectly," says Cindy Kelly, newly appointed director of Historic Houses and University Collections. For information, call 410/516-0341.


Remembering Pocomoke

Pocomoke City, Maryland. To many Baltimoreans and Washingtonians, it's just another place to grab a cup of coffee or fill the gas tank before heading to Ocean City or other Eastern Shore beaches. Travelers might not notice that Pocomoke is a place in itself, or stop to think that it has had its own history.

Pocomoke native Adele Holden (MA '65) left that town decades ago, went to college, taught English and literature in Baltimore public schools for 20 years, earned her master's in writing at Hopkins, and published a book of poems (Figurine and Other Poems). Finally, she came full circle to write a memoir about growing up in "Bedlam," the "colored" section of Pocomoke City, after World War I and through the Depression: Down on The Shore: The Family and Place that Forged a Poet's Voice (Woodholme House Publishers, 2000).

"It's a memoir that's been brewing for 20 years," says Holden, who resides in an attractive Guilford apartment overlooking a park. She is a lively and engaging conversationalist who still retains a faint echo of the Shore dialect.

Segregation and poverty serve as the memoir's backdrop, for what is, in effect, a paean to Holden's parents, Jane and Snow. Snow relentlessly lobbied town officials to add a 10th grade to the town's black school. When officials did not budge, he threatened to integrate the schools. In waging these battles, Snow Holden faced the wrath and mockery of the town's white folk as well as very real threats to his life. African Americans on the Eastern Shore were constantly reminded of "their place," Holden says. In her memoir, she recalls lynchings of black men in the Eastern Shore's Princess Anne County and Salisbury, and the lack of law enforcement attempts to track down the perpetrators. "We listened and lived in fear, knowing that the same element of society could come in the night and drag away our fathers, brothers, older relatives, or friends," she writes.

Holden, however, also weaves joyful memories--Christmas celebrations, intimate chats with her grandmother, schoolyard crushes--in with the painful ones.

The author recently returned to Pocomoke to discuss her book at the public library. "Main Street still has one traffic light," she notes with a chuckle. But a lot else has changed. For one thing, the schools have been desegregated. She returned not quite knowing what to expect, but found an audience that was gracious and interested. "One of the best compliments I've received," she says, "was that I wrote about the good and the bad."
--Melissa Hendricks

An over the rainbow extravaganza

A twister spins across Kansas, and Dorothy lands in Munchkinland. But in this story of the Wizard of Oz, there's also a kid named Nemo and his bear, a lady lunatic named Cynthia Cynch, a song about Pocahontas, a few Teddy Roosevelt jokes, and a waitress from Topeka named Tryxie. Toto is even replaced by a cow called Imogene.

At the turn of the 20th century, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the third in L. Frank Baum's Oz children's book series, became a hit musical on Broadway and in theaters nationwide. Known as The Wizard of Oz: A Musical Extravaganza in Three Acts, it was the Cats of its generation. The 1903 show played for 300 performances at a time when 100 was a hit.

Although the popular song-and-dance exhibition predated the Judy Garland film by nearly 40 years, by the early 1970s the musical-- which bears a passing resemblance to the film--was more than forgotten. Most of the 100-plus songs written for the ever-changing score seemed to have been lost. Oz fan and musician James Doyle, of Houston, Texas, wanted to put it all back together.

His quest would take another quarter century and the invention of the Wonderful World Wide Web. In the mid-1990s, Doyle started searching online library catalogs. Then, he stumbled across nearly 30 songs from the show in the (Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music maintained by Hopkins's Milton S. Eisenhower Library Special Collections; the Levy collection is a repository of 29,000 pieces of popular American music dating from 1780 to 1960.

"University archives are a national treasure," says Doyle, 43, from Houston. "Particularly for someone like me who is working without any real institutional backing."What Doyle found included songs Baum wrote for the show's premiere in a Chicago opera house in 1902. The songs, many set to music by Paul Tietjens, include titles like "The Traveller and the Pie" sung by the Scarecrow and chorus; "Just a Simple Girl from the Prairie" sung by Dorothy and the Wizard; and even a piece titled "Different Ways of Making Love," which was apparently cut early on.

Today, Doyle's journey down the yellow brick electronic highway has led to the recent release of an instrumental CD of Oz-related music called Before the Rainbow, another CD of contemporary Oz recordings, and an annotated Wizard of Oz musical score and libretto to be published later this year--all by Hungry Tiger Press in San Diego. The score, which includes the script, dialogue, snippets from newspaper reviews, and composers' notes, features 28 Oz songs, many from the Levy collection. "A lot of the songs we haven't found anywhere but Levy," says David Maxine, co-founder of Hungry Tiger Press.

In July, Doyle and Maxine will discuss their work at the Centennial Celebration of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a four-day conference at Indiana University. "When you talk about historically significant developments with The Wizard of Oz, without question the 1903 stage musical has to be included," says conference chair Jane Albright.

Doyle, now an expert on the musicals and stars of Tin Pan Alley, notes that the plot of Oz was often tweaked or disregarded entirely. "A particular performer would have a specialty, and it would be hilarious to read how they worked it into the script. Someone would say, 'Gee that reminds me of a song,' and they would launch into 'Pocahontas.'" Songs ascended into medleys, including "The Ball of All Nations"--in which the Scarecrow does a Spanish bolero.

In tackling the reconstruction of Oz, Doyle cleaned up racially tinged ethnic humor and topical political humor. "I think it was illegal at the time to do any play without a Teddy Roosevelt joke," he says. "Theoretically, if the show had kept running and were playing somewhere today, there would doubtless be Al Gore jokes. Seeing the Tin Man would be: 'Oh look--it's Al Gore.'"
--Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson