Historiography

Forthcoming
These Truths: A History of the United States
Lepore, Jill. Forthcoming. These Truths: A History of the United States. New York: Norton.Abstract

In the most ambitious, one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation.

 

The American experiment rests on three ideas—“these truths,” Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, writes Jill Lepore in a groundbreaking investigation into the American past that places truth itself at the center of the nation’s history. In riveting prose, These Truths tells the story of America, beginning in 1492, to ask whether the course of events has proven the nation’s founding truths, or belied them. “A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, will fight forever over the meaning of its history,” Lepore writes, finding meaning in those very contradictions as she weaves American history into a majestic tapestry of faith and hope, of peril and prosperity, of technological progress and moral anguish. Part spellbinding chronicle, part old-fashioned civics book, These Truths, filled with arresting sketches of Americans from John Winthrop and Frederick Douglass to Pauli Murray and Phyllis Schlafly, offers an authoritative new history of a great, and greatly troubled, nation.

2017
Lepore, Jill. 2017. “Dead Weight: The burden of the corpse.” The New Yorker, October 16, 2017. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2017. “The History Test: How Should the Courts Use History?.” The New Yorker, March 27, 2017. Article
Cohen, B.R. 2017. “Jill Lepore on the Challenge of Explaining Things.” Public Books April 24, 2017. Article
2016
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “American Exposure.” newyorker.com, July 12, 2016. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Sovereignty of Women.” The New Yorker. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “After the Fact: In the history of truth, a new chapter begins.” The New Yorker. Article
Gross, Terri. 2016. “Polling Is Ubiquitous: But Is it Bad for Democracy?.” Fresh Air. Audio
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Party Crashers: Is the new populism about the message or the medium?.” The New Yorker, February 22, 2016. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Rebirth of a Nation.” newyorker.com, January 31, 2016. Article
Joe Gould's Teeth
Lepore, Jill. 2016. Joe Gould's Teeth. New York: Knopf. Audio EditionAbstract

From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”

Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly anything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that “The Oral History of Our Time” had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, set about to find out.

Joe Gould’s Teeth is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling, and ferocious.

“A madman’s grossly engrossing tale.” —The New York Times

“Revelatory..” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“We owe Lepore a debt of gratitude for re-introducing us to one of the strangest strangers to have ever walked among us.” —Chicago Tribune

“Lepore specializes in excavating old flashpoints—forgotten or badly misremembered collisions between politics and cultural debates in America’s past. She lays out for our modern sensibility how some event or social problem was fought over by interest groups, reformers, opportunists and ‘thought leaders’ of the day. The result can look both familiar and disturbing, like our era’s arguments flipped in a funhouse mirror….Her discipline is worthy of a first-class detective.” —The New York Review of Books

“At a time when few are disposed to see history as a branch of literature, Lepore occupies a prominent place in American letters.” —The Daily Beast

“Again and again, she distills the figures she writes about into clean, simple, muscular prose, making unequivocal assertions that carry a faint electric charge…[and] attain a transgressive, downright badass swagger.” —Slate

“Lepore’s superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century.” —The Wall Street Journal

2015
Joe Gould's Teeth: The long-lost story of the longest book ever written
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “Joe Gould's Teeth: The long-lost story of the longest book ever written.” The New Yorker. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “Richer and Poorer: Accounting for inequality.” The New Yorker, March 16, 2015. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “"Mourning Lincoln" and "Lincoln's Body".” The New York Times. Article
2014
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “The Great Paper Caper: Someone swiped Justice Frankfurter's papers. What else has gone missing?.” The New Yorker, December 2, 2014. Article Bibliography
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “The Disruption Machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.” The New Yorker, June 23, 2014. Article Bibliography
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “Away from My Desk: The office from beginning to end.” The New Yorker, May 12, 2014. Article
2013
Lepore, Jill. 2013. “Long Division: Measuring the polarization of American politics.” The New Yorker, December 2, 2013 . Article Bibliography
The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, history, mourning
Lepore, Jill. 2013. “The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, history, mourning.” The New Yorker, July 8, 2013. Article
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
Lepore, Jill. 2013. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. New York: Knopf.Abstract

A Finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction

From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve. Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little- studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown.

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