Christopher McKnight Nichols is the AHA member in the “spotlight” this week at the AHA blog. You can read a great short interview with Chris at the site. As many of you know, Chris was on the 2013 S-USIH annual […]
The fifth annual S-USIH conference is this week in Irvine, California at the University of California campus. The highlights of the conference include a keynote address from UC-Berkeley intellectual historian David Hollinger entitled: “Christianity and Its American Fate: Where History […]
On October 11, 2013, the New York Historical Society will celebrate the centennial of the original Armory Show with an exhibition of more than ninety masterworks from the 1913 exhibition, including the European avant-garde, icons of American art, and earlier […]
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With the book published I have been thinking, still, about all the things left out—necessary, conscious, and otherwise. Books are necessarily the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of things authors know and explore. What’s more, those explorations don’t end with publication. For instance, I have read more theory related to my book this year than I had read in the past five. Publication signals some degree of finality, but I have been restless. It’s as if I had to publish the book and declare closure on a stage, or an act, in order to grow out of certain strains of thought.
Old and New Reading
To go big and gain perspective on their archival work, history professionals—at least those with a social science bent—often turn to theory. Until recently, however, I had always turned to philosophy. Theory felt cold and technocratic, but older, non-analytic philosophy felt vibrant and human. Indeed, the older the better. Those philosophical works had always helped me break out of my presentism and myopia. I went that direction because I’ve long been on humanities side of the proverbial question about whether history is more humanities or social science. Reading older books in philosophy had also helped me understand why people look to great books for wisdom, and why Mortimer Adler resonated with that kind of historical mind. Turning to older philosophical works also helped me better think through the virtues of historical thinking. At the very least those readings tilled my intellectual soil such that I welcomed, with open arms, the work on historical thinking that has appeared over the past ten years.
But that somewhat eclectic approach to outside reading, while still useful, began to feel less relevant to me around 2008. (more…)