About

Matt Gunterman ( January 2015, Berlin)

Matt Gunterman (January 2015)

I am a writer and educator living in Kentucky. I completed my graduate studies in history at Yale University, where my research concerned the cultural reception of contagionism and germ theories of disease in the United States. My scholarly interests generally span the scope of medical history since 1700, but events of the nineteenth century remain a principal focus of my work.

In addition to my scholarship, for the past decade I have been active in the reform of rural life. The culmination of my activism has been the Ruralution program, which advises rural communities on innovative ways to engage their expatriate populations and which also offers mentoring services to rural young people who are transitioning to work or study in urban centers around the globe. A chief aim of the Ruralution program is to organize rural expatriates into a force for social and economic betterment within the isolated communities of their origin. In short, it seeks to fight the conventional trope of the internal “brain drain” with an external brain gain, one made feasible by application of digital strategies.

J. G. Thomas Communion Patents (1894, 1901, 1913)

J. G. Thomas Communion Patents (1894, 1901, 1913)

As a writer, I have a forthcoming book entitled, An Uncommon Cup: A History of God, Germs, and Individualism in America. It is a historical monograph examining the sense of “hygienic individualism” that emerged among Americans in the late nineteenth century as they responded to a growing awareness of pathogenic microorganisms. Specifically, the book explores the origins of hygienic individualism through the behavioral and material transformation of drinking cups and drinking customs in this period. The narrative begins in the 1880s with germ-conscious reforms of the Holy Communion chalice and ends with the technological and commercial emergence of the disposable paper drinking cup in the era before the influenza pandemic of 1918. Another significant topic that the book investigates is the installation of racially segregated drinking fountains in the South beginning around 1910.

Frederick the Great by Anton Graff (1781)

Frederick the Great by Anton Graff (1781)

I am also in the early stages of writing a work of alternate history called Wisdoms of a New World, which considers a past where, in 1730, Prince Frederick of Prussia, at the age of eighteen, escapes his abusive father, King Frederick Wilhelm, to seek refuge in the court of his uncle, King George II of Great Britain. In our own timeline, Frederick and his traveling companion (and close friend), Hans Hermann von Katte, were captured in this attempt, and as punishment Frederick’s father forced him to watch Katte’s beheading. Yet, in the reality of Wisdoms of a New World, the two succeed in their escape, and Prussia never experiences the reign of the man who would become Frederick the Great. While exiled in England, Frederick’s interests turn to questions of the spirit and religion, and his thoughts come to be deeply swayed by the likes of George Whitfield and the Wesley brothers, English evangelists who would become leading figures of the Great Awakening. Like them, Frederick eventually travels to the New World, where he begins articulating a theology that sees Creation as the ultimate testament of God’s will. Thus, in Frederick’s eyes, nature itself is a text to be interpreted, and from this idea emerges a Christian sect whose principal pursuit resembles scientific knowledge and whose priestly class is a profession akin to scientists. Frederick’s peculiar views on sexuality, however, result in his banishment from the British colonies, and he and his followers settle in the American Midwest, where they build a powerful theocratic state known as the Teutonic Reich. The events of Wisdoms of a New World transpire a century after this event, during the late nineteenth century, in the aftermath of a war between the Reich and Fredish Republic, the nation that eventually formed from those British colonies. This book follows the life of a young Teutonic priest named Konrad Adler, the scion of an ambitious industrialist family who unexpectedly ascends into the Reich’s ruling class.

"The Gunterman Dogwood" by Soe Soe

“The Gunterman Dogwood” by Soe Soe

Wisdoms of a New World is the culmination of my long interest in Germanic history and culture, an interest born from my own ancestry and time spent living and traveling through the German-speaking world. I am a ninth-generation American of Westphalian extraction, my family having arrived at the port of Philadelphia on the ship Anderson on August 21, 1750. By the 1790s, my ancestors were living in Kentucky, near Louisville, and have maintained a presence in the Ohio River Valley ever since. The homestead of my immediate family sits just south of the village of Wyman in McLean County, Kentucky on a hillside populated by dogwood trees. As such, the dogwood tree serves as an important motif of the family. In 2010, it commissioned the Myanmar artist Soe Soe (Laputta) to paint the image of the homestead’s most prominent dogwood tree, which experienced significant damage in the ice storm that paralyzed the Upper South in January 2009. The tree has since fully recovered. As my own emblem, I use a stylized dogwood bloom, which appears in the header of this site.

Motie, Matt's Desk (March 2013, New Haven, Conn.)

Motie, the Desk (March 2013, New Haven, Conn.)

Among my hobbies, I include calligraphy, which I formally studied while living in New Haven, Connecticut. I avoid contact with social media and instead maintain a rigid schedule of letter-writing to friends and persons of intellectual and cultural interest to me. I welcome all personal correspondence by letter, and my postal address can be found on the footer and contact page of this site. I spend considerable time each week in the writing process, which I undertake behind my tiger-oak desk named Motie, who has supported my creative endeavors for nearly a decade now. I generally read a book each week and procure most of my reading materials from Poor Richard’s Bookstore in Frankfort, Kentucky. A key part of my social life is the time I dedicate to my fellow McXers (the name taken on by the McLean County expatriate community). I am a fan of ice hockey, especially the Yale Bulldogs, and support the Louisville City FC soccer team.