Historians Rock the End of the Week

December 2, 2011, 6:14 pm

Erik Loomis over at Lawyers, Guns and  Guns and Money tweaks Sean Wilentz’s nose for showing Newt Gingrich a little collegial loving.  Wilentz admitted last week to New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel (November 28 2011) that he has a “weakness for any public figure that talks about history in any way that is at all serious,” and that he finds Gingrich “serious” but “not profound in any way.”  You will have to click the link to get the substance of Loomis’s rebuke, not to mention a sense of its flair, but as far as he is concerned, Gingrich is a corrupt “gasbag.”  As he concludes, “I don’t think that you want public figures talking about history if they are talking about it wrongly. Gingrich is utterly unserious in everything he does, except for hawking his wares. That includes his history. There’s nothing noble about it.”

Agreed, dude, and I admire the fury with which you addressed this issue.  My question for Professor Wilentz is: what the heck does it mean for a historian to be “serious” but not “profound”?  Discuss.

Kudos to our pal Historiann! She is occupying a right hand page in Outlook the newsletter of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), delivered through my mail slot today by a real person.  There’s a firewall so you can’t read it if you are a non- member, but in “It’s My Misfortune and None of Your Own: Thoughts on Being a Cussedly Independent Academic Blogger,” she sums up the state of the ‘sphere.  Chronicle commenters who are appalled and confused at the tone of Tenured Radical might want to note her excellent distinction between blogging and academic writing.  Blogging isn’t just something that you would like to put on paper but is on the interwebz instead:

Blogs are not peer-reviewed and are instead subject to the editorial whim of the proprietary blogger or bloggers….In fact, peer review would work against the strengths of the medium:freshness, timeliness, and a quick insight into how one writer sees an issue.  But accordingly, blogs can’t have the authority or the gravitas of peer-reviewed journals, books, or other publications with an institutional imprimatur.  As I like to remind my readers — on my blog, you get what you pay for, friends!

Atta girl.  Have a good weekend, folks, and don’t talk to any reporters from the New York Times.

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