Filed under: Corrupting the Youth, History and Historians | Tags: bullshit, historiography, History, Scocca, smarm, snark, SOE
Or, <eye roll> Primary Documents </eye roll>
Tom Scocca’s recent snarking on smarm has got me thinking about the connections between history, as it is written and pursued, and one of the defining literary styles of our time. But before I bloviate over a blog post, here’s the essay: go have a look.
Filed under: History and Historians, Our Glorious National Heritage | Tags: Atlantic, Civil War, History, Slavery, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Writing
Or, Atlantic Linkages
Listen everybody: if you aren’t reading Ta-Nehisi Coates over at the Atlantic, you are missing out.
He’s a very good writer, and a very deep thinker. I mention him here — rather than just by grabbing you by the collar and preaching the cant of the converted to you individually — because recently he’s been reading through the historical literature on slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and blogging his reactions. The result is some of the most thoughtful and powerful writing on the topic, and its present relevance, that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.
What I like best of about Coates’s writing (and thought) is his how open he is to new ideas. Not uncritical; but willing to engage. That is as true of his reading of history as it is in his conversations with ideological opponents. There is, in his postings, a constant autobiographical refrain where he tracks the development of this willingness in himself, which gives it an anchor and a sincerity which even the most plaintively open-minded writers lack.
Filed under: History and Historians | Tags: Commonplace, Craft, History, Writing
Or, An Apprentice Scholar’s (narcissistic) Lament
Ran across this the other day, and thought it worth “commonplacing”:
Ultimately, I hoped to show that we should not think of “agency” and “structure” as rivals, or even as being mutually exclusive. As I state in the last paragraph of the book, “The constraints and structures of any particular period are, however, often the creation of a previous generation’s political agents. In the short term, politics is, in fact, a world of constraints, but to agents willing to wait for effects that may not emerge for decades, the world is full of opportunity.” Agents have to operate in a world of structures. But if they have a long time horizon, they can create new structures, which will then act to constrain the next generation of agents. And so on.
~Steven Teles, “Response,” Crooked Timber, 1 May 2009, describing one of the themes of his book The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (PUP, 2008).