UC Davis Professor elected to Society of American Historians

UC Davis Professor elected to Society of American Historians

Photo Credits: Karin Haggins / UC Davis.

Professor Ari Kelman honored for literary achievements 

UC Davis History Professor and Interim Dean for the College of Letters and Science Ari Kelman was recently elected to the Society of American Historians for his published historical novels. 

The society’s executive secretary, Andie Tucker, explained that the Society of American Historians honors eloquent literary works in historian academia. 

“Unlike most other societies devoted to history, our society’s members include not just scholars but also independent writers, journalists, filmmakers, novelists, poets and others.” Tucker said. “We are the only society I know of that considers literary grace and narrative art as important components of historical writing that should be taken seriously.”

Kelman was elected as a fellow to the society in honor of his historical nonfiction novels: A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (2003), A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (2013) and Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War (2015).

Kelman reported that each book took nearly a decade to write, edit and publish.

His latest novel, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War (2015), is a co-authored graphic comic novel. Kelman worked with graphic artist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm.

“It’s a graphic novel but it’s nonfiction, so a graphic history of the U.S. Civil War.” Kelman said. “It was a really fun project.” 

“It is an ambitious text, as in many ways a comic can only paint a broad picture of a complex theater,” said literary critic Cassandra Koslen. “To widen this scope, Battle Lines relies on a human narrative of America’s bloodiest divide.”

To be elected to the Society of American Historians, writers must be nominated and voted in by current members of the society. The election process and limited number of new fellows elected makes Kelman’s inclusion a prestigious title.

“Professor Kelman’s election means that a substantial number of our current members — among whom number some of the most celebrated historians working today — recognized his work as showing both historical rigor and stylistic grace,” Tucker said.

Tucker explained that an annual fellowship awards night and dinner is usually planned for May but has been postponed due to the pandemic.

Kelman joins three UC Davis professors in the Society of American Historians.

Written by: Hannah Blome — campus@theaggie.org