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Boehm and Corey to Publish Book on Urban History

March 9, 2009
By: WSU News

Routledge, a publisher of academic books, lists on its website a compelling title, “The American Urban Reader: History and Theory.”

Just below the site’s little “Add to Cart” button is the publication date: August 1, 2010, which is about a year and a half from now.

If you’re Steven Corey or Lisa Krissoff Boehm of the Urban Studies Department, that date seems as close as tomorrow.

They’re the editors of this volume, and since they got the Routledge contract for it, they’ve been plowing ahead on the 594-page collection.

“Lisa and I always wanted to write a US-based text together,” Corey said. “We’re both urban historians and between us, we have more than 35 years of teaching experience. We have a good feeling for what’s needed in the field.”

The road from idea to contract was relatively swift, as these things go.

Publishers had been seeking ideas for texts from both professors. Last January, the pair appeared on a panel at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting. Their topic was “teaching urban history.”

“It’s rare to have people from the same institution on a panel together,” Corey said. “Afterward, the editor of the Journal of Urban History asked us to turn the panel presentations into an entire journal issue.”

The November 2009 edition of the Journal of Urban History will be the first-ever issue devoted to teaching. Krissoff Boehm is that volume’s editor. Both professors contributed articles.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this,” she said.

Meanwhile, they decided to pitch a joint book project to the publishers seeking manuscript ideas from them separately. “This was a much stronger book proposal because we’re drawing on our collective teaching experience,” Krissoff Boehm said.

“Each of us regularly teaches about a dozen different Urban Studies courses, so we’ve read widely in the field,” she added. “We’re in a great position to select material for the book.”

A 2008-09 mini-grant allowed the two to do preliminary research for the book proposal. It paid for their travel to the Urban History Association conference in Houston in November. There, they talked about their book idea and asked professors their needs for the courses they teach.

Many professors of urban history, Corey and Krissoff Boehm included, use “The City Reader,” a collection of readings that spans the globe temporally and topically. “It’s a classic,” Corey said.

The Corey-Krissoff Boehm collection will focus American urban scholarship from colonial times to the present.

“There’s enough interdisciplinary that we don’t have to stray hard from the field of history,” Corey said. “We’re identifying dynamically written essays that are accessible to our projected audience, which ranges from advanced high school students to academic scholars.”

The project is moving along.

“We have a pretty complete table of contents now,” Krissoff Boehm said. The volume will contain 35 essays, primary documents and a bibliography. “The American Urban Reader” will also have a companion website, which is unusual for such a book.

The two have split up the work, dividing the projected 10 chapters of the book between them. Each will edit five chapters then they’ll swap chapters and do the editing again. Together they’ll write an introduction to the book and to each chapter.

“Right now we’re in this tedious process of getting approvals to use previously published work,” Corey said.

They’ll work throughout this summer on the project and will use the remaining funds in their mini-grant to travel to conferences in Chicago and New York in search of additional material. Corey has a sabbatical in the fall 2009 semester, so he’ll devote that period to polishing the manuscript.

Worcester State colleagues have been helpful. “Don Vescio set up a sharepoint site for our use,” Corey said. “My jump drive is chock full, so this is extremely helpful as a place to store data.”

They also may include the work of Corey Dolgon of the Sociology Department. “We hope to have him in it,” Corey said. “His work on the Hamptons is awesome.” Dolgon’s book is “The End of the Hamptons: Scenes from the Class Struggle in America’s Paradise.”

The chair of the Urban Studies department, Corey came to the college in 1995. Krissoff Boehm joined the department five years later. “We see this book as an important contribution to the field of urban history,” she said. “We’re delighted to finally have a chance to do it.”

The mini-grant was essential.

“There’s no other way to fund this preliminary work,” Corey said. “We’re grateful for the assistance. It’s been critical to our project.”

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