Midnight Musings: Historical Narrative

In a review of a new book, Carthage Must Die,Christopher Hart was generally hostile. I have not read this book, but the sense of the review was that this is a new history of the Roman-Punic conflicts from the Carthaginian angle. In the strictest sense, the criticism is that this is (I can only assume) an academic book and that historiography gets in the way of history.

Frankly I have multiple issues with this review, but the biggest one is this: especially for ancient history the historiography is an essential component to scholarship and history. So much of what we have to work with must be interpreted as something other than history that using the sources is as much dismissing them as accepting them. Historical narratives make for nice reading, but generally speaking they have already been done. Further, this book addresses a topic from the point of view of a civilization that was wiped off the map–literally. To say that being source critical and historiographically novel takes away from the book suggests that he just missed the point. Of course it would be a harder read.

Let me be clear: I have not read the book in question, and for all I know there may be serious issues with it, but my gut instinct is that it was an academic book read by a pop reviewer. As it is I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to this author for the approach, if for nothing else. Unless you are just telling stories, how the historian handles the texts is what sets people apart and that can only be judged if it is included in the text.

Midnight Musings: Writing Issues

When I started writing this, it was 00:13.

I am generally tired. I am generally sore. I generally have other emotional issues that weigh on my mind. But these are not new issues for me. This semester has been harder, though. Each one seems to be.

Most of this semester has been translation, which I have more or less kept on top of. I certainly have issues when it comes to translating that can only be solved through practice, and practice is what I am doing. Some days are better than others, but I do at least a little bit each one.

No, the larger issue at hand is writing. I have a two-page response paper due each week, plus a fifteen page historiographical paper, and a ten page Latin paper, and a rewrite of my term paper from last semester as a conference paper. These make up a decent, but not an exceptional writing load this term. Once I add in my person obsession towards starting my thesis and a few other things, the load becomes heavier, but still very doable. The problem is that I have not been able to write.

The only thing I have been able to write with any consistency has been my personal journal, and even then it seems that half my entries begin with ‘and now I don’t know what to say…’ Basically I have had semester-long writer’s block. It may seem ironic, but I really do not know what else to say about this. And it is kind of a problem.