University of Bristol, Friday 5th July 2019
What can very short histories do?
As a genre of writing, history does not obviously lend itself to brevity. The evidence to be addressed is extensive, stories require space to unfold, and the past is difficult. For many forms of history, the greatest sin is omission.
But historians and heritage professionals have always written in short genres, such as abstracts, catalogue notes, labels, popular journalism, biographical summaries, and funding applications. Academic journals such as History Workshop Journalinclude shorter pieces as ‘Critique’, ‘Archives and Sources’, and ‘Work in Progress’. More recently, history of many different kinds thrives on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and blogging. Online historical projects such as the Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History (BRANCH) website have embraced the possibilities of short-form writing.
These new spaces for presenting history bring new opportunities as well as challenges, but discussions of short historical writing online have tended to emphasize the pitfalls of bite-size histories, rather than asking what short writing offers that longer formats do not. As part of a wider ‘creative turn’ among historians, what would it mean to engage with short-form creative writing techniques, such as poetry and micronarratives – or ‘flash fiction’? What purpose could ‘flash histories’ serve?
This one-day workshop brings together historians, poets, short-form writers, and heritage professionals to explore the techniques, practice, and potential of short histories. Questions for discussion include:
What kinds of history work well in short forms?
What are the differences between ‘flash histories’ and microhistory?
How short is short?
What functions can short histories serve?
What techniques can historians learn from poets, flash fiction writers, and journalists?
Where do short histories fit into the ecologies of history publishing?
Presentations of up to seven minutes are invited from historians, creative writers, poets, archivists, and heritage professionals. Preference will be given to presentations that practice short historical writing (broadly defined) and include reflections on brevity, its functions, and purposes.
This event is part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Creative Histories of Witchcraft: France 1790-1940’, which brings together dramatists, poets, and historians to explore the potential of creative collaborations for academic and public histories. Presentations do not have to address the topic of modern witchcraft.
Please send 100 word abstracts accompanied by a biographical note of up to 50 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30th January 2019.