Fixing genius
The Romantic man of letters in the university era
in How to be a historian
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This chapter compares the contemporaneous efforts by champions of distinct historical enterprises to demonstrate that they could create and sustain professional scholars worthy of the mantle of the Romantic man of letters. It compares the idealized personae created by Professor J. Franklin Jameson to those created by competing factions within the for-profit research company that produced what became the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. It demonstrates that Jameson and representatives from Bancroft’s History Company all claimed that their enterprises could synthesize and sustain genius, calling to mind the heroic man of letters who could believably promise to meet the onerous expectations of the archival turn. Just as importantly, this chapter examines what we stand to gain and to lose in different permutations of the ‘scholarly persona’ by experimenting with the results produced by aligning different traits with scholarly personae while reducing others to supporting structures like templates or repertoires.

Editor: Herman Paul


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