Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Writing of History

So one of the classes I've been asked to teach this fall is called "Historians and the Writing of History." The class description is ridiculously vague, and other than being told that they hope this class prepares history majors for their upper-level classes and that it should be part methodology and part historiography, everything else is at my discretion.

I've struggled for two months to make sense of this class. I've found three previous syllabi from various professors, and they are so different that they weren't very helpful. I ended up deciding to base my schedule broadly on the syllabus the head of the department created.

I'm still uncertain about readings, which is problematic, since classes begin in 30 days! Right now I'm thinking of using History: A Very Short Introduction by Arnold (part of the Oxford introduction series), and Benjamin's A Student's Guide to Writing History as basic texts for the methodology section. For the historiography... hm. I don't know yet.

My basic plan is this:
Methodology: Aug 30-Oct 14
*What is history?
*What are sources?
*Exercises: Reading secondary sources and primary sources critically
*Exercise: Using sources to help solve a problem
*Developing a research question
*Library day - work with librarians to show students how to utilize the library's resources to work on their term paper, as well as broader tools they might need as historians
*Research methods
*Reading material evidence
*Reading artistic evidence
*The importance of language in writing
*Styles of history

Historiography: Oct 19-Dec 9
*Ancient history and development of the field
*Enlightenment and "History as it really was"
*Marxism and the Dialectic
*The Annales school and the longuee duree
*Postmodernism and post-structuralism
*Exercise: language, knowledge, and power
*Post-colonialism and non-European history
*Race, class, and gender
*Exercise: Reading for race, class, and gender
*Growing fields: Environmental history
*Growing fields: Collective memory

Plus a writing day for their term paper where they must meet with me and two days to do a film analysis.

Right now, I have no idea what I want to use for readings for each day, other than the two books and an article a friend sent me on "doing history." I feel seriously stressed about figuring out the rest ASAP...

As of right now, I have basically one writing assignment per week, though many of them will be only one-page assignments:
*Secondary source reading: Find the argument!
*Judging objectivity in a secondary source
*Primary source: What does it reveal about the author?
*Primary source: judging biases
*Term paper proposal
*Primary source: reading material evidence
*Primary source: reading artistic evidence
*Secondary source: evaluating their evidence
*Secondary source: complete reviews of two sources
*Annotated bibliography for term paper
*Term paper outline
*Primary source: complete review of two primary sources for term paper
*Term paper rough draft (minimum 4 pages)
*Film analysis
*Term paper (5-8 pages)

I know it's a lot, but, again, most of these I will put a maximum page length of a page or two. It's mainly the readings that are stressing me out so far... I really need to figure this out soon! I just hope it works. :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catching up and Going Nuts

Wow. So I haven't been on here in months. SO much has happened. To make very long stories short(er)...

1. Mom - still not very active, though getting up and down remain at the improved level I saw back in April. Most days, she doesn't leave the bed, though sometimes Dad manages to get her out so she can get some fresh air at least. She hasn't had any tests to check the progress of her cancer since March, and won't until mid-October. She has good days, bad days, and in-between days. I'm nervous about what's happening with the cancer, since the medicine she's been on typically stops working after about a year, and the TN oncologist seems to care only about whether she has any propensity for bone fractures. So we're taking things day by day and thanking God for every day she has with us.

2. Dissertation - pretty much totally stalled. My advisor expects a chapter this month (ha!), but I honestly don't know how to do it. It's not that I haven't tried. But there is so much that I don't know, and I can't find a way to put the pieces all together. I have tried many times to talk to people about this - my advisor, another committee member, my boss this past spring, and other grad students - and everyone either dismisses my concerns as "oh, everyone feels that way, you're fine," or they think I'm just being modest in some twisted way. I have almost nothing that I can say with any sort of definite understanding. There are just too many gaps. And since I've been rejected for every grant I've applied for the last 2 years, it seems like no one else thinks my dissertation is important, either. So with no way to get to Spain to do research, and no real way to produce chapters right now, I feel like I'm at a total stand-still.

3. Job - After LOTS of soul-searching in March, April, and May, I sent in resumes to some community colleges, started looking seriously at some of the mission opportunities that were showing themselves, and then, on a whim, submitted my CV and sample syllabi (with cover letter, of course) after a notice came across our listserv that [another state U] was looking for people willing to teach online for their adjunct pool. I didn't think much of it, but then about 3 weeks later I got an email from them asking if I'd be willing to take a one year, half-time lectureship to teach 2 classes each term. The money isn't great, though it's better than anything I've ever earned in the past, but it's a great opportunity for me career-wise, especially if I can't finish the dissertation. So despite the fact that it requires me to move to the other end of the state, I said yes. So I think by the end of the week I'll officially have an apartment to move into next month, about a week before I report for work.

Oh yeah...since the end of March I've been in a relationship with an absolutely wonderful man. He's a junior-high English teacher, loves the Lord, and made me laugh for the first time in months. We went on a crazy road trip, driving from here to his folks' house in IL, then to DC to spend time with his brother & family, then to my parents' house, then to a friend's wedding in Philadelphia, then back to IL, and finally back here. Thankfully, it was an amazing trip, I love his family, and the only regret I had was that I had to be away from my church here for so long.

So that's pretty much the main things that have happened since I last wrote. *phew* My brain is addled now, so I'm signing off.