Story 3:

“I still remember the day I learned that history is not progress. It was a history class about the Middle East, covering the decline of the Ottoman Empire. We read a social history book about that era that went into a lot of detail about the human suffering at the time. At one point in the discussion, I said very earnestly, “Well, at least in the long run, things always get better.” I must have been, maybe, 20 years old? And luckily the professor took mercy on my ignorance, and took me through a series of questions that made me realize, well, no, things are not inevitably and always getting better, that progress is not linear. And this basic insight, which is so fundamental to the type of history that I do, is something that I always try to help my students realize too.”

Story 4:

“During grad school, I took my first film course. I was so excited about this class, that one day after we were talking about French poststructuralism, I got home and just started writing a short essay about it. So it send it to the prof, and I go to his office to talk about it. And I was expecting to come in and talk about my ideas. But he only wanted to talk about punctuation–the stylistic choices I had made with commas, semicolons, and so on. His belief was that commas animate your thought, that these choices are vital. And as he was talking so passionately about punctuation, I realized, he’s such a good writer because he paid attention to that, those little things that no one else cared about, but were just so important. And after that discussion we did get into my ideas about poststructuralism, but the fact that we spent so much time on punctuation first, that profoundly shifted how I thought about writing.”


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