Some weeks back, I think I mentioned that I’m back in school, trying to earn my history degree at UC-Berkeley. I’ll talk more about it soon, I promise. About the dull class that has turned out to be much more engaging than I imagined it could be during that first week. About the very challenging class on linguistics that has me thinking about the merits of going for a pass/not pass grade. About the oddly off-putting experience of a sociology-type class looking at the phenomenon of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, and how I’ve dropped that one.

But for now, this: The week before last, I had to turn in my first paper since the Carter administration. The class is Irish history–I half feel like the native Parisian taking Elementary French, but that’s another story. The paper was to be a reflection on the record that Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century political sociologist, left of a trip he took through Ireland in 1835. (Do I hear pulses speeding up out there in blogland?)

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To be honest, it was a hard paper to write. I felt self-conscious, and realized late in the process that I was a little hung up on how the professor and the graduate student instructor would be reading this thing. Lucky for me, the deadline for the paper was soft, because I stalled writing the introduction, and it wasn’t until I was on the second half of it that I felt like I knew what I wanted to say and how to say it.

It was eventually turned in, and I got it back yesterday. And hey, I got an A on it. So now on to the next thing. But I’ll admit that I got a little surge of pleasure out of having written the thing and about the good reception it got. And if you’re interested, here’s the paper as I turned it in (all 2,500-plus words, complete with a couple of unedited errors that I’ve left in to trip up future student plagiarizers, if any).


2 Replies to “Paper”

  1. Well done, Dan. I’m not surprised at all that your academic writing is expertly organized and crafted to be informative and enjoyable to read. I wonder if any of my A papers read as smoothly.

    When I was in college in the ’80s some professors would allow people to write papers by hand, because even electric typewriters were not a standard in every study. I had access to one, but I often paid a friend in pizza and beer to type my papers for me because typing footnotes was a crazy-making endeavor.

    I remember tossing aside balled up sheets of onionskin after having miscalculated where to start footnotes; feeling frustrated upon seeing no other way than to leave a block of blank space between text and footnotes; feeling relief when endnotes became de rigueur. And now, MS Word does it all.

    PLUS, you can do in class on a laptop and print it out at the end so you don’t have to (as I often did) skip class the day a paper was due to finish typing it so I could deliver it by 5.

    I get a coffee/candy/no-sleep/stress-induced stomach ache just thinking about it…

    Bravo, Dan, for venturing back into that world; modern improvements or no, it’s a grind.

  2. Thanks for the kind words re: the opus. On footnoting: Yeah, I almost felt guilty about how easy it is to do them in Word. In fact, the ease of footnoting might be a little bit of a mixed blessing in that you can footnote when it’s not absolutely necessary. I’m going to start scanning the journals to see if any academic has written about a surge in superfluous notes.

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