The Historical Society blog posted selections from a roundtable in the January edition of Historically Speaking on “Teaching the Writing of History.” In the lead article, Stephen J. Pyne questions why we are variously trained in a multitude of methodologies we consider legitimate–“statistics, geographic information systems, languages, oral history techniques, paleography,” to name but a few–yet not in how to write a book. The forum includes responses from Michael Kammen, Jill Lepore, and John Demos.
The following passage from Demos relates to our discussion below on Louis Menand and popular history:
“Time was when writers of history held a solid stake within the larger domain of serious literature: Gibbon, Macaulay, Parkman, Prescott are the first, most obvious, names to come to mind. No doubt the change, the downgrading, has had much to do with professionalization; as the discipline became, in fact, a discipline, priorities shifted. Perhaps there was something of a seesaw effect: when concern with research and interpretive technique went up, prose composition went correspondingly down.”
How would a graduate program that took the teaching of writing seriously look different? What are solid pedagogies for teaching the writing of history?