Fall 2022 HIST 398 Undergraduate Seminars
History majors are required to take an Undergraduate Seminar in History/ HIST 398. Fall registration is therefore restricted to History Majors only through the first two weeks of registration before opening to all students on Monday, April 11.
HIST 398.001: Seeing the Past
Days & Times: TTh 2:00PM – 3:15PM
Instructor: Marcus Bull
The value that we attach to seeing something for ourselves, and then being able to describe what we have seen to others, is central to our culture. Seeing is the privileged form of sensory perception and consequently a common metaphor for understanding itself: “I see what you mean,” we say, or “My view on this has changed.” In the criminal legal process, great weight is attached to eyewitness testimony, whereas convictions based only on hearsay are rightly considered unsound. Eyewitness is also a key criterion for how historians evaluate their primary sources and arrange them in hierarchies of importance: in the history books and articles that you have read, you will doubtless have come across numerous comments to the effect that such-and-such a source is reliable because its author was present at the events recorded in it, while another source is of lesser significance because it is second hand. This course seeks to unpick the idea of eyewitnessing in order, ultimately, to think about how historians go about their research, and how they evaluate their sources. What is an eyewitness? What is an eyewitness source? And what exactly is an eyewitness source a source for? The examination of key theoretical issues will be complemented by the in-depth study of a number of primary texts that have an eyewitness or autobiographical component. These texts cover a diverse chronological and geographical range, from the central medieval period to the early twentieth century, and from Europe, Asia and America. These in-class set texts have been chosen as illustrative samples of the many more “ego texts,” as they are sometimes called, that are available to you for further study. They provide opportunities for practicing skills of close reading and the framing of questions that can then be transferred to other sources. There are no chronological or geographical limitations to students’ choice of the ego text or texts on which they should base their research project.
HIST 398.002: Nazi Germany
Days & Times: T 3:30PM – 6:00PM
Instructor: Konrad Jarausch
This undergraduate seminar explores Nazi Germany with the help of original documents, compiled by the German Historical Institute in Washington DC. Students will be free to choose their own research topics, ranging from Hitler’s rise to power all the way until the post-war trials of Nazi perpetrators. Some of the key issues the seminar will deal with are the Nazi dictatorship, the Second World War and the Holocaust. The approach focuses on the selection and interpretation of primary documents which will help debunk some of the many myths surrounding the Third Reich. Assignments involve a document presentation and a research paper.
HIST 398.004: Muhammad Ali and His Times
Days & Times: M 3:35 PM – 6:05 PM
Instructor: Matthew Andrews
In this seminar students will explore the life of Muhammad Ali and the political and cultural contexts in which he lived. Special attention will be paid to Ali as figure of Black Nationalism and his role in the Revolt of the Black Athlete. Students will write a 20-25 page original research paper exploring some aspect of Ali’s life or boxing career, or a story involving sport and political protest from his era.
HIST 398.005: Leisure-time and Making of Modern America
Days & Times: T 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Instructor: Jerma Jackson
Today Americans are deeply invested in leisure. It assumes an almost sacred significance in our personal lives and is widely acknowledged as an indicator of the economic health of the nation itself. Yet leisure has not always enjoyed such widespread consensus. In this course we will turn our attention to a moment when rancor about leisure permeated American communities, homes and especially the pages of newspapers and magazines.
This is a research seminar that uses leisure to explore American life between 1880 and 1945. It was precisely in this moment that working Americans began to enjoy increasing amounts of spare time. Leisure itself changed, too, in this period. Commercial forces overhauled the kinds of leisure activities that were available. By the early twentieth century new kinds of amusements such as movie theaters and dance halls enjoyed increasing appeal in towns and cities throughout the country. These spaces nurtured a set of outlooks, identities and modes of social interaction we have come to associate with modern life.
We will use the array of activities and entertainments Americans pursued beyond the workplace to explore the social, cultural and economic dimensions of leisure. With this focus, we will consider how leisure-time fostered modern outlooks and habits. Our engagement will grow out of historical research and analysis that you will hone with guidance from me. Each of you will write a 20-25-page research paper on some aspect of leisure. You will have an opportunity to choose your topic and conduct original research using primary and secondary sources. We will spend a good deal of time throughout the semester learning how to research, write and revise a paper of this length.
HIST 398.007: North American Slavery
Days & Times: W 12:20 PM – 2:50PM
HIST 398.008: Resistance in World History
Days & Times: M 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Instructor: Donald Reid
What is resistance? At the beginning of the semester, the class will develop a concept of resistance that enables students in the seminar to analyze individuals and social, cultural and political movements in the past. Drawing on students’ work on their individual research projects, the class will refine its understanding of resistance and ways to use it over the course of the semester.
The subjects that students choose for their research papers can include self-identified resistance movements like those in Occupied France, in the opposition to the draft during the Vietnam War and to the Trump presidency in 2017, or in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. However, most research projects that students develop in this class will use the concept of resistance to explore and interpret individual and collective historical actors who did not define themselves in terms of
resistance. Perusal of the titles of recent articles and books in a wide diversity of historical fields shows that contemporary historians use the term “resistance” much more often than did the people they study. Students in the class will also identify and examine resistance in a wide variety of historical situations in which historical actors did not use the term themselves or, when they did, did not ask themselves what resistance meant and what its use revealed. Students in the seminar will employ the concept of resistance more self-consciously than many historians today, asking how it can be used as a tool to analyze actors and actions in the past, not simply to describe or to valorize them. Students’ individual research projects can be about resistance in any time or place. [For history majors, the subject of the paper will determine the area of concentration within the major, i.e., Gender and women, Global, Modern European, United States, etc.]