Light Evening Reading

I’ve been reading Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin in the evenings when I’m done dissertating for the day. I like to read non-dissertation material late in the evening, usually while sitting in my easy chair or up to my neck in hot bubbly water. So far, I’m enjoying it. Many of the themes in the book are expositions of Wood’s earlier arguments in The Creation of the American Republic (1969)and The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991). He does especially well explaining the two-tiered nature of eighteenth-century society (gentlemen, and others) in the opening chapter of Americanization, which made me remember how he had first advanced that theme to great effect in Radicalism. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin is the ideal case study for understanding the radical transformations brought on by the Revolution.

But, I have to ask, as I begin chapter two, why oh why are the footnote numbers so tiny? Not only are the numbers indicating a citation tiny, but they are several shades lighter than the rest of the type. I have vision problems anyway, but I can’t imagine how even unbespectacled readers with no eyesight issues can easily spot a footnote. I have to take my glasses off and hold the page to my face in order to determine that, yes, there is a footnote there, and then I have to squint to make out the number. Now, I realize that scholarly works intended for a more popular audience don’t focus as much on the citations, but I’m interested! I wish the publishers of this book made it easier for me to check the footnotes.

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5 thoughts on “

  1. Rebecca, I just stumbled across your blog via LibraryThing (I’m jbd1 there, we share many books), and wanted to say, great job! I’m also a grad student in history (in the dual-degree History/Archives Management course at Simmons). It’s great to have someone blogging about the whole history-grad-school experience (though the dissertation thing is still a fair way off for me).I also couldn’t agree more on your footnotes point in this post … what the publishers are doing with them lately drives me up the wall. The scheme in Americanization is just one of the many obnoxious methods they use to hide the evidence that the author’s actually done any work – in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book, there aren’t any footnote notations at all, you have to go to the back and look for the specific line or quote to see if she’s cited anything. Apparently the publishers feel like they have to hide them so that people won’t be scared off – but c’mon, how could you be scare of a footnote? They’re harmless!*Anyway, thanks for blogging, and keep up the good work – I’ll be back often.*(If you ever want to read an amusing history of the footnote, Chuck Zerby’s The Devil’s Details is fascinating and funny.)

  2. jbd–thanks for reading the blog! FWIW, I hate books that do the quote thing. Completely annoying. Damon Z–maybe that’s why Doris Kearns Goodwin did her “footnotes” that way!

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