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Humanist Archives: Nov. 14, 2018, 5:59 a.m. Humanist 32.184 - The art of the overview?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 184.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2018-11-14 05:49:26+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: The art of overview

In a discussion with colleagues about the merits of a particular essay, 
the one or two specialists among us had difficulty with this essay’s 
sacrifice of detail in the interests of achieving its broad view of the subject. 
As an interdisciplinary explorer of many subjects, I particularly value such 
overviews, perhaps too much — because I often am in desperate need of them. 
Another genre I value is one in which the author is intent on exploring where 
it might be possible reasonably to draw limits to a polysemous or radically 
inclusive concept (e.g. model, paraphrase). This means allowing that such 
expansiveness has a point, not disallowing the validity of the concept altogether.

In both cases there’s an art to writing such things, or better, several 
ways of doing it well so that the specialist can reasonably be expected to 
allow their value. One scholar whose work I admire, the historian of Greek religion 
Walter Burkert, wrote such things in a kind of rhythm of close and far, zooming in 
for inspection of minute detail, then zooming out for the overall pattern. Somewhere 
Ian Hacking advises that it’s always good to have many examples to hand. Sometimes 
one simply knows an author has done his or her homework; the authority is implicit.

So, my question. Who has written about this art or arts (with examples, please)?

Thanks for any pointers.


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