So you thought the end of the semester meant the end of my blog posts…

Hi all,

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season, and has sufficiently recovered from finals! I came across something really interesting the other day that related both to our class and to my research as a doctoral student.  Kevin Levin, who runs the award winning website (and my favorite blog) Civil War Memory had an interesting aside in one of his posts on the Museum of the Confederacy.  Levin notes that “a study of the [Museum of the Confederacy] as it relates to public history and historical memory would make for a fascinating dissertation and/or book.” This is a question that has intrigued me ever since I went to visit the MOC (I went wearing a Yankees shirt), and I agree that it would make a fascinating dissertation topic.  With that in mind, would Levin’s (a historian with an M.A. in history from the The University of Richmond and a forthcoming book on the memory of the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg) identification of a gap in the historiography provide a solid enough justification to warrant a dissertation proposal?  I have multiple other historians/museum professionals who have written on the MOC and its relevance to historical interpretation, so Levin would definitely not be the only place (obviously) where I could find reason for this topic, but in light of what we discussed in class, it is interesting to consider how heavily we would weigh Levin’s post.  I would be most interested to hear any of your thoughts!

Scott

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “So you thought the end of the semester meant the end of my blog posts…

  1. Thanks for the kind words re: the blog. Just one question to help to get the discussion moving: Why are my credentials relevant at all in pointing out a gap in the literature? It seems to me that a survey of the relevant secondary sources would determine whether a book-length study is warranted rather than whether I have a certain degree or have published a book of my own. Thanks again and Happy New Year.

    • Hi Kevin:

      My post was more directed at the issue of where your blog post would fit in regarding the survey of secondary literature, and whether or not there is a difference between identifying a gap in a blog post vs. a monograph (with a rigorous blog such as your own, I don’t see a problem, but I can’t help but wonder if I would run into any with a dissertation committee or defense). The mention of your academic credentials was actually just giving my classmates some background about your blog. In other words, a quick mention of your background was necessary because you ARE part of the secondary literature, and rather than have people who are unfamiliar with your work have to search for some background, I thought I would just put it in the post. I hope that clarifies matters/continues the discussion!

      • It’s definitely a question that is worth considering, but it seems to me that the credentials really does constitute the sticking point. After all, if an academic who happened to be a blogger were to make the same point I assume the dissertation committee would not take issue with such claim.

      • Your point about credentials being a “sticking point” is well taken, but I’m not sure I entirely accept your premise that a dissertation committee would “not take issue” with an academic who happened to be a blogger and made the same point as your own. Even if an academic who “happened to be a blogger” made the same point in a post, I would make sure to put the authors academic affiliation in the footnote of a proposal. This may be an overly cautious position, but one that is warranted given the problems the historical discipline has in defining what constitutes “scholarship.” Furthermore, the problem is magnified within the specific context of a dissertation proposal where the goal is to convince an academic audience of the overall worthiness of your targeted research. Obviously, the wider historiography included in the proposal will demonstrate the need for the project, but given the uncertainty the discipline has in defining its own scholarship, when we get to questions such as how to incorporate provocative ideas posed in a blog post (or any other non book/article/presentation format), I will lay out (at least some of) the authors credentials in a footnote regardless of the existence of academic affiliation.

        As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

        P.S. I meant to write this in the previous post, but Happy New Year to you as well!

  2. That makes perfect sense and thanks for the clarification. You probably get the sense that I am completely out of my element here since I’ve never gone through the process. :-)

  3. Not at all—if fact I am thrilled that you took the time to respond!

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