Writing History—A Lab Session

Solicited by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH)

Saturday, April 4, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Workshop

Tags: Theory and Methodology


No pre-registration required 

This workshop discusses both the challenges and opportunities of writing history creatively. Attendees will be invited to consider an artifact, image, or short text, and then participate in a flash writing challenge: 10 minutes to write about one or more of these historical sources. We will then post the results on the walls, to serve as the basis for the remainder of the discussion. Drawing inspiration from the Writing History Seminar, which meets in New York City, we will discuss what subfields of history have been most welcoming of creative approaches, and what publishing venues care the most about the craft of writing, and which times and places in the profession are most forbidding for creative approaches to history.

Session Participants

Presenter: Adam Arenson, Manhattan College and Writing History Seminar
Adam Arenson is an Associate Professor of History and the Director of Urban Studies at Manhattan College. 

He has coordinated Writing History seminars at Yale (2004-2009), the Huntington Library (2010-2015), and now in New York City (2015-present).
He is the author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2011) and Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and California’s Midcentury Commercial Architecture (University of Texas Press, 2018). He is also co-editor (with Andrew Graybill) of Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States (University of California Press, 2015) and coeditor (with Jay Gitlin and Barbara Berglund) of Frontier Cities: Encounters at the Crossroads of Empire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). 
 Arenson’s current research, Crossing the Border after the Underground Railroad: The Emancipation Generation of African North Americans in the United States and Canada, 1860s-1930s, was the subject of his research during his 2013-2014 NEH year-long Fellowship and his summer 2017 New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Labs grant, and it was offered an 2014-5 ACLS Digital Innovation fellowship.
He has published a half-dozen scholarly articles, as well engaged the wider public through museum exhibits at the Autry National Center, the Grand Central Art Center, and articles written for The New York Times Disunion series, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and History News Network, among others. He holds degrees an A.B. in History and Literature from Harvard and a Ph.D. in History from Yale. More about his research can be found at http://adamarenson.com and http://manhattan.edu/faculty/adamarenson

Presenter: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, The New School
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is Associate Professor of History at The New School, where she researches and teaches about the politics and culture of the United States, with a focus on issues of gender, race, identity, and class in the postwar era. Her first book, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture (Oxford, 2015), explores the roots of the culture wars in American public schools, specifically amid heated battles over sexuality and bilingual education. Her current book project, FIT NATION: How America Embraced Exercise as the Government Abandoned It, explains how physical fitness became a national obsession even as it has become a consumer product. FIT NATION is under contract with University of Chicago Press. Her work has been supported by the Spencer, Whiting, Mellon, and Rockefeller Foundations and has been published in scholarly journals, edited volumes, and academic online publications such as the Society for U.S. Intellectual History Blog, Nursing Clio, Notches, Public Books, BOOM, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is also a co-host of the Past Present podcast and a senior editor at the online magazine Public Seminar. Natalia frequently comments as an expert historian in diverse media venues such as Brian Lehrer TV, The History Channel, The Atlantic and the New York Times and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Slate, The Washington Post, Refinery29,The Huffington Post and Well+Good, the national online magazine where she often writes about “fitness history.” She is co-founder of HealthClass2.0, an experiential health education program that bridged a wellness gap in public school education and connected university mentors with K-12 students. She holds a B.A. from Columbia College and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, all in History. You can learn more about her work at www.nataliapetrzela.com.

Presenter: Kariann Akemi Yokota, University of Colorado Denver
Dr. Yokota received her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles and served as Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University before coming to the University of Colorado Denver. Yokota is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Unbecoming British, among other publications on topics of immigration and ethnicity. Dr. Yokota also teaches courses on immigration, ethnicity, and identity in the United States. She served as Chair for the CU Denver History Department from July 2016 to May 2018.