Writing a book by day at an august institution like The Huntington, and re-reading Lucky Jim (1954) by night, it’s hard to be seduced by self-importance. Here, our lucky Jim Dixon considers the article he’s desperately trying to get published in the hopes of being renewed as a lecturer at a red-brick university:
It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool. “Let’s see,'” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.“
There’s another great line in which his fellow-boarder at his rooming house asks him what got him interested in medieval history in the first place, and Dixon responds to the effect of, “I’m not interested in this. I hate it! Don’t we all do what we hate?” But I don’t have my copy of the book with me now, and I couldn’t find the quotation on the internets. Continue reading
John Judis has published an interesting intellectual biography of recently deceased historian Martin J. Sklar (1935-2014), whom I had never heard of until I saw this article. (It turns out that there are some very good reasons for this–read on.) Judis’s essay focuses on Sklar’s conversion from committed socialism to being a huge fan of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. It’s weird–you can read the whole thing if you want, but it was the details of Sklar’s professional credentials and ambitions that interested me. He started as a precocious sixteen-year old college freshman in 1951 at the University of Wisconsin, and took his B.A. and M.A. there. However, he got stalled. Really stalled.
If Sklar’s career had proceeded along the same path as some of his fellow graduate students, he probably would have ended up like [Walter] LaFeber as a renowned professor at an Ivy League university. But Sklar had difficulty finishing what he was writing, and he was also pulled to and fro by the impassioned politics of the times. After he got his MA at Wisconsin, he moved to New York to work on Studies on the Left. Then he became a Ph.D. student at the University of Rochester. He could have easily converted his research on Wilson into a Ph.D. thesis, but he got involved in student politics and embarked on a reconceptualization of the history of American capitalism, based on a study of the 1920s. Some of this research ended up in an incredibly difficult but original essay in Radical America, but much of it resided in a larger manuscript that sat unpublished in a file cabinet, as did other writings. Sklar would sometimes extract these writings and read from them in order to make a point, but would then stash them back away. Sklar left Rochester and graduate school in 1969 to get a job at Northern Illinois University’s left-leaning history department, which included his friend Parrini. In spite of the enthusiastic support of his colleagues and students, he was denied tenure by the administration in 1976 because he had not finished his dissertation.
He went to work for In These Times until 1979. Then, sometime in the 1980s (?)–Judis doesn’t say exactly when– Continue reading
It turns out that Chris Hedges is a plagiarist. Christopher Ketcham assembles a very damning dossier demonstrating that it’s serial, not incidental, plagiarism that he has committed.
It doesn’t exactly surprise me, given his logorhheac output, which is a typical tell in the case of other plagiarists (Stephen Ambrose, for example.) It’s disappointing, however, because for the past several years, I have assigned chapters from his 2003 book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning in my survey class, which I’ve organized around a consideration of warfare in early America. It’s also embarrassing for me as a professor, doubly embarrassing because not only have I assigned portions of this book for a decade to students who flunked my classes when they plagiarized, but also because the news of his plagiarism in this book is more than a decade old!
The horror, the horror~! (See Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness–I’m not plagiarizing Conrad, I’m evoking him here): Continue reading
Commenter Susan alerted me to a new English language journal which will likely be of interest to readers of this blog:
History of Women in the Americas (ISSN 2042-6348) is an open-access journal publishing cutting-edge scholarship on women’s and gender history in all parts of the Americas and between the Americas and other nations across all centuries. The journal provides a unique forum for interrogating women’s history from a hemispheric perspective that stretches from Canada and the United States to Latin America, Central America and Mexico to the Caribbean. History of Women in the Americas is a showcase for historians of North American, South American and Caribbean women from postgraduates and early career scholars to well-established academics. The journal places a spotlight on the significant contributions to the history of women in the Americas that researchers are continuing to make. At the same time, History of Women in the Americas aims to assist scholars by publishing book reviews on related areas and publicizing conferences and other similar items of interest.
And guess how I learned this? Through the Twitter machine, when I saw Jonathan Rees tweet a link to his contribution, “The Taylorization of the Historians’ Workplace.” (Regular readers will recall that Jonathan put together a panel on “How Should Historians Respond to MOOCs” at 2014 annual conference of the American Historical Association in Washington, D.C., last month.)
Our panel comments–slightly tweaked and edited–are now available at Perspectives. Many thanks to editor Allen Mikaelian for his patient editing and great title suggestions for my contribution, “Can Teaching Be Taken ‘to Scale’?” (Check it out–I quote William F. Buckley approvingly!) I also quote one of you I saw at AHA who said to me something like Continue reading
It’s true: our friend Flavia from Ferule and Fescue has a real, live, codex book in her delicate hands as of yesterday! Some of you may remember that she was in crisis mode just 19 months ago, when after two years and two rounds of reviews solicited not together but seriatum, her would-be publisher dropped her project like a hot rock. Oh noes!!! Penn Press must have snapped her project up in a Philadelphia minute, and here it is: Confessions of Faith in Early Modern England. Order it for yourself or or university’s library now! Continue reading
I would have made a poor nun!
Last autumn I wrote a blog post in which I described my plan to finish a draft of my book by the end of 2013. My scheme involved waking up at 4 a.m. several days a week to write for a few hours while the house was dark and quiet. Well friends, I have failed to do that, but in many respects I consider the experiment a success. Furthermore, I learned some things that may be of use to the rest of you. To wit:
- I did not complete a draft of the entire six-chapter book, but I produced a pretty polished draft of chapter 4 and I have something called chapter 5, which is probably better than I would have done without even trying this early morning experiment. So, I would say that I have about 5/6 of the book drafted, and would therefore give myself a B for effort and a B-/C+ for achievement.
- The main reason I didn’t finish all six chapters is that I pooped out after about five weeks of very steady writing and engagement. I caught a cold in early October, went to a conference, and then midterm papers and exams came in. In early November I had a trip out of town, and then it was Thanksgiving and I caught another cold, and that’s where October and November went. And then December, with final exams and papers and grading, not to mention the rest of the holidays and family visiting? You can imagine.
- Biggest lesson learned? The 4 to 6 a.m. writing experiment is a great thing to do for two weeks or a month at a time, but expecting to keep up that schedule amidst the demands of my day job was unrealistic. Continue reading