Instructor: V. Wolcott
The graduate core is a survey of U.S. historiography covering the period from Reconstruction to the recent past. We will read recent monographs that introduce major topics and fields historians have investigated and explore the research methods and analytical perspectives they have used. The goal is not primarily to increase factual knowledge of U.S. history, but to get a sense of the changing approaches used by historians over time. What kinds of questions do historians ask of the past? How do they go about answering them? What evidence do they look at and how do they interpret it? How do historians build on and/or challenge each other’s work and interpretations? If history only happened once, why does history as written by historians change over time? What are some of the most active and exciting subjects and approaches in U.S. history today?
This seminar thus also wants to assist those of you who are planning to teach history at the high school or college level.You are required to write several papers and feature a film, as part of a group work, in this seminar.
Instructor: Y. Liu
This seminar seeks to explore the rich cultural history of the body by reading monographs in the fields of history, anthropology, literature, philosophy, and political science, which encompass both theoretical analyses and empirical studies of the body in varied contexts. The course focuses on, but is not limited to, the history of medicine, and scrutinizes issues of sick bodies, dissected bodies, gendered bodies, disabled bodies, and dead bodies, among others. In addition, the course discusses extensively the history of the body beyond the Western world, and explores how the body is differently understood and practiced in Asia and in Africa. In the end, by reading the body literature across disciplines, this seminar aims to not just inspect the body in various times and places, but also illuminate the understanding of our own bodies today.
Instructor: L. Vardi
This course will examine films that have an historical content and ask what role fiction films can serve in our understanding of the past, how they can bring to life a period with which we have lost direct contact. Historians have been using paintings and photographs to illustrate events and to penetrate cultures of the past, and the question is how moving pictures add to that repertoire. In this class, we will not focus on film aesthetics but rather on the approaches that historicize film, that seek to understand the context in which films were produced and the historical context that films seek to recreate. Since none of us are Film Studies experts, we will read about the history of film, the development of film techniques, and what kinds of film enrich our knowledge of the past. There are (at least) two ways to approach historical films. The first is to take a film and situate it within the context of its time, whether it deals with an historical subject or not. An example might be the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night. The second is to analyse a film that addresses an historical event, for example the Civil Rights Movement, the Holocaust, or the Suffragette Movement, and assess its accuracy. A film, being different from an academic study, offers its own version of verisimilitude. It might depict the "spirit of the times" well, while taking liberties with chronology or characters. How far one can stray from the "facts" has become a far more urgent question than it was several years ago. We are living through a period when the very notion of truth is being questioned, not in a philosophical sense, but as a challenge to visual and oral evidence. We will therefore delve into the question of what duty fiction owes the past.
Instructor: T. Thornton
Historians have often examined the development of thought and culture as a series of disembodied ideas and cultural productions. An alternative approach has been to place ideas into a broader context, to explore for example, not just the philosophy of Transcendentalism, abstractly considered, but how the dramatic social, economic, cultural, and political transformation of antebellum Boston shaped Emerson’s thinking.
There is yet another approach to intellectual history, one that looks at the meaning, function, and structure of intellectual activity in America. It asks what sorts of people participated in intellectual activity at any particular time—clergymen or laity, amateurs or experts, men or women, the few or the many. It asks in what medium intellectual work was cast—print, script, speech—what particular forms it assumed—the novel or the sermon, statistics or orations—and in the context of what, if any, kinds of intellectual and cultural institutions. It examines why intellectual authority was accorded to or assumed by these particular types of people, activities, and institutions in the first place. It considers the relationship of intellectual life to social structure and to the profit-driven market. And it considers what obstacles, practical and ideological, intellectual life in America faced. This approach, the one that forms the basis for this seminar, seeks to evaluate the historical circumstances that have shaped intellectual life and intellectual authority in America. As defined by this class, intellectual life encompasses a wide variety of pursuits, including science and the arts.
Instructor: M. Rembis
This course explores the social history of madness (also called insanity or mental illness) from the 18th century to the present, focusing on patient, inmate, consumer, and psych-survivor perspectives of madness; on the establishment and growth of the mental health professions--most notably psychiatry; on practices of institutionalization; and on the global psycho-pharmaceutical industry. Course content emphasizes the US context but also includes Western Europe and colonial contexts. Topics for consideration include: histories of treatment; history of institutionalization and confinement; role of DSM & the pharmaceutical industry in shifting definition of mental disorders; madness and art/literature; the relationship between madness and sense; and the anti-psychiatry and psych-survivor movements. The course examines madness or mental illness as historically variable phenomena, asking how this perspective changes our understanding not only of madness but of history and even knowledge itself.
Instructor: J. Barclay
This course is a graduate research seminar focusing on the topic of race broadly considered. The course objectives are two-fold. First, it will introduce students to some of the recent literature on how race is conceptualized and how historians/scholars organize studies of it. Second, the course will provide students with guidance in developing their own historical research projects, including how to identify and frame an historical question, how to find and analyze primary sources, how to build a bibliography of secondary sources, and how to evaluate and cite those sources. These smaller assignments will culminate in final research proposal that may serve as the basis for a future original research essay, master’s thesis, or dissertation chapter.