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Should historians read their own book?

Historians in the News
tags: Jill Lepore, audiobooks



Andy Seal is a historian teaching at University of New Hampshire. 

Last week I listened to the audiobook of Jill Lepore’s This America: The Case for the Nation, which was read by the author. I tweeted about this less than enjoyable experience, writing “Am listening to the audiobook version of Jill Lepore’s This America: The Case for the Nation. It should be a lesson to historians: don’t read your own books. She both mispronounces many names and uses a glib voice for a lot of her quotations. She and the book are undermined.”

The tweet received quite a bit of pushback, notably from two distinguished historians who have read their own audiobooks—Keri Leigh Merritt and Joanne Freeman. A number of other responses pointed to the pervasive bias among listeners against women’s voices, a bias that technology design contributes to, unfortunately. I certainly should have been cognizant of how my comment fit into that pattern of bias, and how my words could be read as a gesture of annoyance at having to listen to a woman reading her own book (the gall!).

I bring this up not to try to let myself off the hook for that lapse of judgment, but because I think the question of whether historians should read their own book raises some interesting questions about how we think about authorship, and about how we see ourselves as authors.

Read entire article at U.S. Intellectual History Blog

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