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. :-)

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