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Writing Revival

The GWB’s inaugural Writing Revival was an intensive one day workshop with Paul Anderson of Clemson University and Stephen Berry of the University of Georgia. It was held on March 20, from 8 to 5, in the T.R.R. Cobb House, Athens, Georgia.

In preparation, participants completed two assignments:

  1. Read Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose
  2. A writing assignment.

Option A: A 750-2000 word section of your thesis/dissertation/paper that experiments with form, voice, perspective — an attempt to mesh form with content. Some possibilities:

  • First-person narrative like Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Bill Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, Aaron Sachs’ The Humboldt Current, or Claudio Saunt’s Black, White, and Indian.
  • History as murder mystery as in Suzanne Lebsock’s A Murder in Virginia.
  • Experimentation with perspective as in James Goodman’s Stories of Scottsboro or Blackout.
  • Imaginative reconstructions John Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive or Daniel Richter’s Facing East from Indian Country.
  • For inspiration read James Goodman’s call for contributions in the journal Rethinking History, and for other ideas peruse the table of contents for the last few years of this journal.

Option B: A 2000-word New Yorker-style article, as detailed below.

So you fancy yourself a historian of agronomy, Confederate widowhood, turn-of-the-century sexuality, or disintermediation in American banking from 1968-1971: who cares?  Probably the six people who’ll ever read your work, all ensconced on some lesser floor of the crumbling ivory tower.  Perhaps, though, you have grander aspirations, maybe you want to write for a wider audience – you see parallels between your reconstruction relicts and Iraq War widows, you’d care to comment on gay marriage from a perspective informed by Gay New York, you think the average citizen should know what disintermediation is (and they should!) – you firmly believe historians must have an active voice in a nation informed by journalists and bloggers who have stolen our stories and made them their own.  Well, buckaroo, here’s your shot:

To be completed before you arrive at the revival, a 2,000 word article (or beginning of an article) about history, whether linking the present to the past or offering a glimpse of some antecedent humanity for its own sake. When you are composing this document, imagine that you are writing for the New Yorker (or some like publication), and make sure it’s the kind of article that would make you stop and take the time to read – this could be a popularization of your thesis/dissertation research, or simply an application of your learning to a present day issue.

Don’t be daunted by the word count, we’d be just as happy to see 750-1250 words and a rough outline of the article’s “moves,” just so long as we have something substantive you’ve written (and agonized over) to talk about.  Finally, this will be due one week before the writing revival so that your peers can review your work in advance.

For inspiration, check out some of Jill Lepore’s columns in the above mentioned mag here:

Or, something from a scholar some of you may have heard of.

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