It has become commonplace these days to speak of “unpacking” texts. Voice and Vision is a book about packing that prose in the first place. While history is scholarship, it is also art—that is, literature. And while it has no need to emulate fiction, slump into memoir, or become self-referential text, its composition does need to be conscious and informed.
Voice and Vision is for those who wish to understand the ways in which literary considerations can enhance nonfiction writing. At issue is not whether writing is scholarly or popular, narrative or analytical, but whether it is good. Fiction has guidebooks galore; journalism has shelves stocked with manuals; certain hybrids such as creative nonfiction and the new journalism have evolved standards, esthetics, and justifications for how to transfer the dominant modes of fiction to topics in nonfiction. But history and other serious or scholarly nonfiction have nothing comparable.
Now this curious omission is addressed by Stephen Pyne as he analyzes and teaches the craft that undergirds whole realms of nonfiction and book-based academic disciplines. With eminent good sense concerning the unique problems posed by research-based writing and with a wealth of examples from accomplished writers, Pyne, an experienced and skilled writer himself, explores the many ways to understand what makes good nonfiction, and explains how to achieve it. His counsel and guidance will be invaluable to experts as well as novices in the art of writing serious and scholarly nonfiction.
Voice and Vision is as much a tour de force of critical reading as it is an incomparable guide to the writing of history, a brilliant elaboration of the subtle dialect between 'art' and 'craft' in nonfiction prose.
Pyne offers a powerful and persuasive case for works that combine the techniques of great literature—including a novelist's eye for narrative, language, character development, and scene setting—with a historian's passion for factual accuracy and respect for the rules of evidence. This is a remarkable book.
This engaging discussion of historical narrative is part meditation and part manual. It distills the experience, gained from wide and generous reading as well as prolific writing, of a master of the genre.
Philanthropists seeking ways to add meaning and consequence to the academic pursuit known as 'research and scholarship' could have a tremendous—and measurable—impact with one simple investment: purchase hundreds of copies of this book and distribute them to social science and humanities faculty and graduate students across the nation.
[Pyne's] book is a tour de force of critical commentary and explanation. Voice and Vision is an engaging literary performance in its own right.
The book is everything the author says a work of nonfiction ought to be: well written, clearly thought out, and full of specific examples (of what to do and what not to do). An essential tool for anyone who is attempting to write nonfiction, or even just thinking about it.
- 336 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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