You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
January 16, 2003
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· Footnotes: From Low Art to High Science ·
Although I haven't fully represented my own use of Gibbon's text, you can link to it to infer my larger intent. But my point is still larger, namely, to raise anyone's use of the academic footnote by such a dialectical move from a "low art" to a "high science," instructively invoking, to that end, a passage from Marc Bloch's The Historian's Craft.
Marc Bloch you may recognize as a member of the Annales school of historiography (including Lucien Febvre, Fernand Braudel, and Le Roy Ladurie). Although Bloch wrote as a practical French Medievalist, in The Historian's Craft he advocated scientific-theoretical standards for a still larger historical purpose. He believed that beyond objectivity, verifiable truth was the historian's ultimate aim. Bloch warranted this view on the assumption that history is a truth-seeking, scientific enterprise done by a group — even if conducted by individuals. So it's toward the development of the group's historical consciousness that Bloch aimed; indeed, he aimed ultimately at humanity's scientific consciousness.
Though I cannot pretend to outline Bloch's thought, I can present a small but subtle part of it as it bears on footnotes. These are the humble forms binding Bloch's theory to his practice. For Bloch the footnote helpfully binds word to deed, language to reality, consciousness to act, and, indeed, historian to craft. Initially, he starts by noting the low footnote's too-common abuse:
In noting the humble footnote's higher use, however, Bloch rises to a stylish eloquence linking factual notation to scientific verification to suggest, I think, even truth itself.
Published posthumously in 1953, Bloch's own text is ironically without footnotes. Considering his circumstances — tortured and executed by the Nazis in 1944 as a part of the Free French Resistance — we should maybe see Bloch as an abused footnote himself. The artful words of D. W. Brogan can suggest why:
Consider — "in proper citation style" — about whom you could say that.Permalink
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