Writing History , Part 2: Genre-Busting History

AHA Session 56
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 3B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Edda L. Fields-Black, Carnegie Mellon University
Trevor Getz, San Francisco State University
Ari Kelman, Penn State University
Stephen Mihm, University of Georgia

Session Abstract

Despite great changes in the conception and theorization of the historical discipline, history writing itself has largely remained unchanged since the 19th century. Historians generally teach students to write in the third-person omniscient narrative, and this is the narrative mode they most often deploy themselves. This narrative mode often follows a format of history as scientific proof, a format that centers on the performance of question, evidence and thesis. Why has a 19th century narrative style prevailed in the historical discipline into the 21st century? In a series of sessions the AHA program committee has invited to discuss their work writers who have pioneered the use of narrative modes beyond the third person omniscient voice. One panel will feature non-historian writers who have taken up historical topics. A second panel will highlight professional historians who have drawn on other genres, such as theater, graphic novels, memoirs and imaginative non-fiction prose, to illuminate their histories.
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