Outdated Works Discussion

Outdated Works Discussion July 1996


Original remarks from Joan Gundersen jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu 03 July 1996

One of the great things about subject area lists is that we can get feedback about sources we find. A poster recently asked for RECENT works on women and temperance and cited the works she had already found. This is a great way to use the list because people don't clutter the list with responses that duplicate work already done, if they read carefully the request and respond to it. In our efforts to be helpful we sometimes respond with a partial citation(I know I have done it, especially when I can't get to my reference materials). In such cases it might be wise to wait a day before responding so that you can see if someone else replies with the whole citation. Another thing we can do is make sure we are really answering the question asked. By recognizing that we are NOT really in a face-to-face conversation where delaying response might seem rude, we can all learn to make the best use of this wonderful electronic list. What prompted this "sermon"? -The temperance response from a listmember trying to be helpful with a partial citation to Alice Felt Tyler's Freedom's Ferment. This book was written in the later 1940s and is over a half-century old. While a pioneering study in all sorts of social history areas for Jacksonian America(including women's rights), it has long been replaced by more specialized studies in each are. I assume the poster did not have a copy of the book at hand and thus couldn't check its publication date before replying. Hence I wanted to save people time by alerting them to the age of the book BEFORE they went looking for it. We can all help each other with evaluation of sources when we are familiar with them. It can keep us from wasting time looking for outdated or unreliable sources.

>From Karen Offen kmoffen@leland.stanford.edu 05 July 1996

Re: Joan Gundersen's comment on "outdated" works. Certainly, there are some scholarly works that have become outdated. But just because the publication date is some years ago doesn't necessarily mean that the work is "outdated". There is a lot to be said for re-reading older historiography, which in some cases still offers a great deal to the contemporary reader. Just a general observation-but one which participants in the list might wish to debate...

>From Joan Gundersen jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu 08 July 1996

Actually, I agree with Karen Offen that older books have their place in historiography, but not as an answer to a list request for studies done within the last 3-5 years. In fact, the reason I was confident about the age of the book in question is because it sits on my bookshelf as part of my collection on the historiography of Jacksonian reform, and because it is a handy compendium of names and dates, which I check several times a year. I am sure that we all have some of these classics in our fields. Sometimes older studies remain useful since there is no replacement. Such is the case in my own are of specialty for Julia Cherry Spruill's Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies. Numerous piece of her book have been replaced, but there still is no comparable book covering the white women's experience in the Southern British American Colonies for two centuries. However, if I were someone on the list getting referred to Spruill, I would certainly want to know which parts of her work had been replaced. That's what we should be able to count on the H-Women to help us with.

>From Maria Elena Raymond 73113.1362@compuserve.com 08 July 1996

I'm wondering if there is anything really "outdated" when it comes to any kind of publication. Generally speaking I'm able to find something to learn in everything that's written(perhaps that's due to having a less "formal" education than others on this list). I took Joan's comment to mean that it would be helpful to know the date of particular works more from a standpoint of accessibility than a comment on the worth of any partially cited item.

However, I look at the value of "old" or "antiquarian" works from a collector's standpoint, as well as an historian. So books generally are valuable to me on either(or both) front(s).

...I've yet to find a book or "scholarly work" completely outdated and worthless...for my learning purposes, even if it just jogs my memory on some issue or fact I may have known light years ago but lost in the process of living my life. FWIW.