Jill Lepore’s “How to Write a Paper for this Class” handout.

18 01 2010

Ever since I saw the preview for the “Teaching the Writing of History” roundtable in “Historically Speaking” at the Historical Society blog, I’ve been waiting to read the whole thing. It did not disappoint. I’m still not entirely sure why I get “Historically Speaking” without subscribing to it, but this one is definitely worth whatever they’re charging per issue to see because of Jill Lepore.

Not being a colonialist, I’ve never read Lepore’s scholarship, but I always read whatever she writes for The New Yorker. Knowing her style there, I can see that she brings the same literary sense and wit to her handouts. Here’s the beginning:

“The art of writing history is making arguments by telling stories about the dead. You’ll be dead one day, too, so please play fair, and remember: never condescend. It’s probably bad enough being dead without some smart aleck using your life and times to make some specious claim.”

If you get a copy of the magazine, you’ll see that her handout goes on in this vein. Mine, on the other hand, is just a series of bullet points. Talk about a failure of imagination!

Guess what I’ll be rewriting this semester.


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