Styles of Academic and Professional Prose: Writing about History

A seminar and workshop in the conventions of good writing in a specific field. Each section focuses on one academic or professional kind of writing and explores its distinctive features through a variety of written and oral assignments, in which students both analyze and practice writing in the field. Section topics include legal, humor, travel, or nature writing; writing about medicine and public health, religion, the visual arts, or food; writing in the social sciences; writing reviews of the performing arts; and writing for radio. May be repeated for course credit in a section that treats a different genre or style of writing; may not be repeated for credit toward the major.


If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If history happens and no one writes about it, what have we missed? If a historian writes about history and no one wants to read it, how could that historian have done a better job?

In writing about history, you place yourself between the history and your audience. Without you, the connection is not made. But history, historian, and audience are always changing: we uncover new sources and ask new questions of old sources; the grand old men of historical scholarship are now history themselves; diverse readerships look to history for information, for inspiration, for entertainment, for identity.

In this class we will talk, read, and write about who we are when we write history and about how we can write a history – from biography to obituary, from museum guide to encyclopedia entry – that is both engaging and honest.

Prerequisites: ENGL 114, 115, 120, or another writing-intensive course at Yale.

Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

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TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm