Let’s get right into it and not mention that I’ve been absent for two months, shall we?
Okay, let’s do mention it because it’s the subject of this blog post: academic writing. Recently, I finished up my Bachelor’s degree, which included two oral exams and one written thesis, mine having been in History. The subject of the paper was “Influences of the Jewish Settlement on the Ottoman Economy of the Late 19th Century”. Now the thesis turned out rather well I thought, as did everyone who corrected it and looked it over before I handed it in. The right mix of information and actually reading well. Turns out the actual evaluators didn’t think so. Oh well, that’s not what I’m here to bitch about since I do actually agree with what they wrote in their assessment. I still managed to graduate with a good grade average and the thesis is a minor blotch on the transcript so no real harm done. But that does bring me to what went through my head when I read the assessment and whenever I write a paper:
Screw this. Academic writing is boring, nobody would actually want to read this. THIS, this right here is why people think history is boring, why studying is boring. FUCK THIS.
Or something similar to this. Academic writing follows a certain method of writing. Self-contained paragraph with hypothesis that gets explained, after that a footnote. Rinse and repeat. Usually it’s very boring and dry because academia frowns upon certain styles of phrases. Just writing “it’s” instead of “it is” is considered unacademic and can get you bad marks. Basically, if you’re writing as if you were writing a free style essay you have already lost. I understand why this is, this is so that people using your work to study can use their preferred method of “page skimming” where you speed read for certain words and then have to only read a couple of paragraphs, basically the only way someone actually reads history books. Love my history books, don’t think I’ve ever read one from beginning to end, always skipping and skimming to what is important right now. And that’s a perfectly reasonable way to look at history and to learn about history and to research history. If you have been initiated into the Sacred Brotherhood of Historians TM by trial by book signature. Regular mortals, i.e. plebish non-Historians or academics, consider this incredibly frustrating and it immediately builds an imaginary brick wall in their heads when it comes to the subject. If we want more people to become interested in history we need to cater a bit more to the MTV generation (side note: wouldn’t it be the Youtube generation now with TV on the decline?) and by that I don’t mean expressions like:
“And then that Serb ninja bust a cap in the ass of the Franz Ferdinand dude and his homeboy Willy went full Inigo Montoya.”
That would be silly… unless you wanna see that and give me mad Patreon money to do a channel like that on Youtube. I can make that happen. But until then we need to find a way to make history more palatable. That means shorter essays condensing the necessities, that means Powerpoint presentations that don’t bore people to tears because you need to go by the University mandated check list, that means a bit more creativity and fun. We need the formal education part as Historians, but we shouldn’t forget that we don’t do this just for ourselves to sit around in our stuffy armchairs circle-jerking each other. We are doing this for everyone. We are doing this because History is one of the most important subjects out there that people don’t realize is important until they have repeated a mistake or started another land war in Asia… Look, if Youtube, TV and Movies can teach History the fun way, why not books? You get the idea.