Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peter Novick, 1934 - 2012

I missed the fact that the great historian Peter Novick died a week ago. His NYT obituary focuses on his (excellent, IMO) book on the changing place of the memory of the Holocaust in the U.S., but to my mind his magnum opus is his extraordinary book That Noble Dream: the "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession. I have some serious disagreements with Novick's work, but it's extraordinary, and anyone interested in objectivity, in intellectual history, or, really, in history as a subject and discipline ought to read it.

Novick's obituary at the University of Chicago (where he taught) is here. Eric Rauchway, himself a marvelous historian, notes that he rereads Novick's masterpiece once a year (!).

It's an extraordinary loss to the profession. And personally there's something half-finished on my hard drive that I'd hope to send him. But mostly I'm sad that such a sharp (in both senses) voice is gone.

Rest in peace.

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