Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

"Only connect," E. M. Forster wrote. But if you are a humanist looking to transmit a message from the far corners of research to a truly public authence, doing so can seem impossible.

Yet Harvard professor and 2003 NEH research fellow Jill Lepore makes it look easy as she commutes from the archive to the public square. The author of numerous well-received books and a New Yorker staff writer, she is a historian who has gained for herself a large readership.

In this issue's Conversation, Lepore explains it was not a short or easy journey to become the person she is today. She also talks about what it means to be a keeper of the nation's memory. Lepore seems to have developed a specialty in long-forgotten episodes of early American history, including King Philip's War in 1675 and the slave trials of New York City in 1741.

From the dim recesses of recent history comes senior writer Meredith Hindley's essay on the transformation of "advice and consent," the Constitution's grant of Senatorial oversight for appointments to the Supreme Court. Inspired by David Kyvig's NEH-supported study, The Age of Impeachment, Hindley takes a look at how hearings for Supreme Court nominees first became so contentious.

Our cover story, in honor of Samuel Johnson's three hundredth birthday, scrubs away the patina of legend that has covered over his dictionary. Michael Adams, editor of American Speech and consultant to the American Heritage Dictionary, shows that Johnson's lexicography not only raised the literary quality of dictionaries but turned the dictionary into its own subgenre of literature. …

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