The stories that appear on Midwest Mayhem's website were written by students at Miami University, who enrolled in a seminar held jointly between two classes: James Tobin’s “Stories of the Past” (JRN 350) and Andrew Offenburger’s “History as a Story” (HST 450/550). After discussing several historical page-turners, and researching and writing their own pieces of narrative nonfiction, a select number of participants then took an intensive writing workshop convened in January 2023 as a “Humanities Lab,” supported by the Miami University Humanities Center.
The Midwest is often understood as a place of unchanging culture—the “nation’s heartland.” Yet recent scholarship reveals a much more dynamic Midwest, characterized by shifting populations, growing urban centers, and increasing diversity. This lab aims to tell the story of a rapidly changing Midwest that has been overlooked in the popular imagination and much contemporary reporting.
The lab seeks students interested in developing and using storytelling methods to reveal how the Midwest is changing. Lab members will learn how to combine the hard-earned insight of the research historian with the narrative skill of the literary journalist. By connecting the worlds of historical research and journalism, the lab will challenge its members to present historical research in the form of compelling narratives—prioritizing storytelling, backed by in-depth historical research.
The lab will operate as a winter-term workshop, convened synchronously over Zoom. Students will carry their projects toward publication through an intensive writing workshop. Lab faculty will work with students closely and give their drafts the time and attention necessary to develop their first drafts into polished final pieces.
To enter the lab, students should be enrolled in History 450/550 or Journalism 350 or have experience in history or journalism courses requiring writing and conveying an understanding of historical narration and research methods.