Joan Scott, Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis

Scott asserts that in order to a full comprehensive view of the history of gender, gender must be examined from all sides. Different gender concepts within different levels of class must be taken into account. Class has more clarity than gender or race. It has clearer rule, boundaries, and components; and with these more easily defined elements, race and gender can better be understood, as long as class is accounted for and examined clearly. Scott also states that one problem most theorist, scholars, historian, etc. have when they discuss theory, is that there is no “unifying theory” . Mostly there is just discussion; no argument. And with the discussion of gender there area couple of classic view points that are always used when discussing gender. Usually the stance is either the Marxist view point or the social one, according to Scott. She feels that the problem with the Marxist view is that it’s a too material way of looking at gender; and the problem with the social view is that those who study gender in a social construct, usually only focus on one gender  (usually women) separate from the other. This problem shows the tendency of gender studies to be women studies. Even though realistically, gender studies should not be a pseudonym for female studies, and for a fully encompassing understanding of gender history, all aspects of gender needs to be discussed and incorporated into all fields of history.

Davis vs Finlay on Guerre

Robert Finlay writes his article as a review of Natalie Davis’s book, The Return of Martin Guerre. Finlay likes Davis’s writing, but has a few problems with it. His main problem is that he disagrees with the fact that Davis fills in a lot of the story with her own opinions and interpretations because of lack of evidence. Finlay feels that Davis just assumes the point of the wife, that she was in on the her husband’s identity theft, but that Davis has no way to prove that this was the case and that this is quite assumption to make with no basis. He feels this is wrong to do as a historian, and that this makes the credibility of the entire book falls apart. He finds the book inventive, imaginative, beautifully argued, and unique in how different it is from other works on Guerre. Despite this praise, he still feels that this inventiveness is a problem for a work of nonfiction.

Davis responds in an article to Finlay’s article. Her defense against Finlay’s criticisms is that she informs the reader in the beginning of the book, as well as any time within the book that she is forced to assume certain points due to lack of sources. She also states that her assumptions are educational guesses; ones that she feels were probably the most likely cases. Davis has a point when she says this. Its hard to critique a book for doing the very thing that the author warns you is going to be done. When the author warns the reader before the book even starts that there are some elements to the story that are not based on actual evidence, as there are missing records. To take that warning and then still complain about it is unwarranted and a bit unnecessary.

Graften: Proof and Persuasion in History

Graften’s Proof and Persuasion in History is an intellectual history work. In it Graften discusses the history and phenomenon of footnotes. He mentions that footnotes at first were used by the elite, as it became a fashionable practice among them. It wasn’t until Gibbon and de Thou’s use of footnotes that they really became popular among all types of people. Graften also discusses the different ways footnotes are used, including but not limited to; contributing to the narrative, contradicting or making counter points for an argument, and sourcing the information stated above. They are also often used to just attract attention. The Italians even used them to have hidden political meaning by including sources written by political allies, and excluding sources written by enemies. By showing these different examples of uses, Graften helps illustrate the fluidity of footnotes and their uses and the complexity that they can have. Also by doing this and discussing their history and evolution, Graften helps teach readers how footnotes can be used and applied in their own work and analysis.