My Writing of History class is now reading exemplary histories. In historiography-driven courses, so often the new trumps all. But when a course focuses on history writing, there is a fruitful dialogue between new books and old, often with a different ordering of who is at the top of their craft. I’ll be back in a few weeks with reflections on the experience of pairing these books, and on what tools of the telling can do to shape the content of history.
In the meantime, I am thrilled to announce the publication of the latest issue of Rethinking History, with a forum built around Aaron Sachs‘s essay “Letters to a tenured historian: imagining history as creative nonfiction – or maybe even poetry.”
My Writing of History course had the privilege of reading Sachs’s letters in an advance copy–quite advanced, given that the cover note suggests that the letters are recovered in 2049, “after the most recent round of earthquakes, mudslides, and fires, when Southern California was finally abandoned.” The curators of the future wonder, “Who would write such fake epistles, and footnote them, to boot?” Readers of the present will be richly rewarded if they find out.
Rethinking History has gathered more letters in response: a note of introduction from James Goodman, and reactions and reflections from Jenny Price, Scott Reynolds Nelson, Martha Hodes, Robert Rosenstone, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Kate Brown, and Gregory Downs. My print copy is in the mail (one might find a great deal right now for AHA members, if you would like one) and I don’t have complete access online, but the abstracts suggest this is a roundtable on the state of writing history creatively (and writing about history creatively) not to be missed.