Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ted White Q&A: On Writing a Synthetic Work

Q: Unlike a lot of your earlier work, this volume is partially synthetic: you reference reading and profiting from the works of a great many other scholars. Given the highly individualistic character of much of your other work, how did you like the shift? 

A: One of the reasons I put off this project after signing a contract (I wrote three monograph-style books between the 1990s and when I turned to it in earnest) is that I worried about how comfortable I'd be with the technique of narrative synthesis, something I hadn't done in a book written from scratch since the first edition of The American Judicial Tradition (1976). I found out, however, that synthetic work isn't necessarily incompatible with a revisionist analysis of the relationship between law and historical themes. Unlike the first edition of the American Judicial Tradition, where in many chapters I was seeking to distill existing specialized work on judges for more generalist audiences, in this instance I assumed a greater audience familiarity with the scholarly "conventional wisdom" on the topics I chose to cover, and sought to revise conventional understandings where current work suggested they were in need of revision.