Saturday, January 5, 2013

Welcome to an experiment.

Welcome to an experiment.

Inspired by the kinds of conversations that go on in the places graduate students frequent, we have decided to attempt a broader online version of those spaces and those discussions.  

We envision a collaborative blog with many contributors, all of whom seek to make graduate school and the historical profession a better place.  To that end, we want this blog to be a constructive place where we can help each other navigate graduate school and the scholarly world we all hope to live in.

We hope to have conversations that include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

• Book reviews and historiographical discussions.  It takes a very long time for book reviews to come out, and quite often, we read books and immediately want to talk about them, but have no one with whom to do that.  We envision that this could be a place to share our reactions to historical literature, old or new, alone or in combination with other material.

• Teaching conundrums or ideas.  As graduate students, many of us spend a lot of our time teaching or leading discussion sections.  We envision that this could be a place where we share ideas about lesson plans or discussion tactics, drawing on the knowledge of our colleagues to make ourselves more conscientious teachers.

• Research.  We think that, by nature, research is an activity that is solitary.  However, we think it is always better to be in conversation with others who can help us.  We envision this as a place where we can talk about our research in collaboration, asking for help or suggestions, or simply sharing "that really cool thing that we just found!"

• Conversations about being a historian.  What do we do?  How do we do it?  Why do we do it?  What draws us to it?  What frustrates us about it?  How can we do it better?  We envision this as a place where we can constructively and collectively share our thoughts about the field to which we devote ourselves to.

This blog is growing out of the conversations between two young historians at the 2013 meeting of the American Historical Association.  Erin Bartram is a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut, where she studies religion and gender in 19th-century United States history.  Mary Sanders is a PhD student at Oklahoma State University, where she studies the religious responses to terrorism.  We think that we are not the only two people who are having these conversations.  The Digital Grad Lounge is our attempt to reach out to those of you who might be out there, like us, having long, passionate conversations about the life that we've chosen to live.

We are inspired by William Cronon's 2013 AHA Presidential Address, which focused on the importance of storytelling.  We think that graduate students have important stories, and that we should share them.

One of Cronon's inspirations was the 1931 Presidential Address by Carl Becker, "Everyman His Own Historian."  We thought we would inaugurate this blog by reading Becker's address, which can be found at this link.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it?  Read Becker's address and give us your thoughts on how it relates to our contemporary mission as historians.  Please limit your responses to 200-400 words, and email them to by January 20, 2013.  Please include a one-sentence bio about you and your work.  Anonymous submissions will not be posted; this rule will stand in general on the blog.  We hope to cultivate a professional place for conversation, and do not feel that anonymous submissions have a place here.

On January 21, we will publish whatever you have sent us in the hopes of beginning a conversation about the discipline and our place in it.  Thank you...and good luck!

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