Friday, April 27, 2012

Footnotes

There are scholars who footnote compulsively, six to the page, writing what amounts to two books at once. There are scholars whose frigid texts need some of the warmth and jollity they reserve for their footnotes and other scholars who write stale, dull footnotes like the stories brought inevitably to the minds of after-dinner speakers. There are scholars who write weasel footnotes, footnotes that alter the assertions in their texts. There are scholars who write feckless, irrelevant footnotes that leave their readers dumbstruck with confusion…The footnote is an awkward tool, inelegant, all thumbs, but it has the breath of life to it.
Mary-Claire van Leunen, A Handbook for Scholars, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 91.

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