Do you care more about readers on the train than peer reviewers?
Do you tend to focus on the storyline, and come back to the footnotes?
Do you care an awful lot about the weather on a certain historical day?
Has it never occurred to you that “creative nonfiction” sounds like an oxymoron?
Do you find yourself “dog whistling” in your writing, as you address two different audiences at once?
Do you wonder what your historical figures were thinking, and try to probe the corners of their minds?
Do you announce your research findings on your research blog or on the op-ed page before they make it into your manuscript?
Is the New Yorker more relevant to your writing than scholarly journals?
Do your chapter titles work as a false front?
Have you not said yes to any of these questions, but wish you had?
Then this seminar is for you.
Writing History is a seminar for faculty, graduate students, and exceptional undergraduate students, focused on the pleasures and challenges of writing history for a wider public. We put aside a history essay’s content, context, or historiography, to hone our approach to the writing process, from style, pacing, and word choices, to questions of audience, publishers, and the changes wrought by digital media.
Writing History sessions on writing-in-process, favorite slices of published writing (fiction or nonfiction, by you or by someone else), an intriguing primary source, photograph, or historical artifact—all of these approaches have worked in the past. (To get some ideas, check out past events and podcasts at http://past-tense.org/ and http://www.makinghistorypodcast.com/category/past-tense/ )
I have led the Writing History seminar at Yale, 2004-2008, and the Past Tense seminar at the Huntington Library, 2010-2015. As I start a new job in New York, I am pleased to inaugurate a Writing History seminar in New York City, with the support of Claire Potter and The New School.