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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robin C Stacey
HIST 388
Seattle Campus

Colloquium: Introduction to History

Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.

Class description

"Into the Greenwood: Between History and Myth in Medieval Europe"

This course will constitute an introduction to the discipline of history and to the craft of engaging in historical research. It is designed to introduce students both to basic sources in the field and to the methods historians use in thinking and writing about those sources. It takes for its focus five historical/mythical "characters" who pose particular problems for historians because of the nature or scarcity of the evidence about them: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, and William Shakespeare/Anne Hathaway. Two of these characters, King Arthur and Robin Hood, exist largely in and as myth, but may also have been historical figures. The others, Joan of Arc and Shakespeare/Anne Hathaway, were unquestionably historical figures but are represented in the documentary record in ways that make it difficult to write with confidence about them. In this course, we will look first at the primary sources for each figure, trying to deduce what we can about them on our own. We will then turn to what contemporary scholars have to say about them, assessing the persuasiveness of their readings with reference to our own impressions and conclusions.

By the end of this course, students will have a thorough knowledge of several important primary texts They will also have learned and practiced research and narrative techniques necessary for doing serious work in the field. Through a series of micro-essays, they will experience all of the components of the historical writer's craft, including summary, analysis, outlining, organization, drafting, word choice and prose style, and introductions/conclusions. Because this course is premised on the idea that people learn best by doing rather than by hearing how things ought to be done, students will write four micro-essays (1-2 pages each) in which they practice skills such as the construction of introductory paragraphs, the phrasing of thesis statements, and the articulation and substantiation of historical arguments. A very important component of this course is peer review. Every student enrolled in the course will receive class feedback on at least one of his or her micro-essays as well as on the rough draft of the final written assignment for the course, a research prospectus on a topic of the student's choosing (c. 8-10 pages).

Student learning goals

Familiarity with many of the most important primary sources and major interpretative questions pertaining to the characters who are the focus for our weekly discussions.

Introduction to basic techniques of research and analysis in the historical discipline.

Practice in summarizing and responding to arguments made by others, and in outlining and crafting your own historical arguments.

Preparation of a research prospectus on a topic of the student's choosing.

The opportunity to engage the writing of others in the form of a writers' workshop--and to have your own work commented on in workshop format as well.

Practice in integrating primary and secondary sources into your own argument, and in presenting your interpretation in a clear and concise manner.

General method of instruction

All readings are comprehensible on their own. On the other hand, a general outline knowledge of the narrative of medieval history is preferred for this course (such as one would acquire in History 112, for example, or HSTAM 331, 332, 333, or 340). Students without this background, or whose medieval courses were taken quite a while ago, may wish to do some background reading in a general medieval textbook before the class begins.

Recommended preparation

One introductory survey course in European medieval history (e.g. HIST 112--the medieval component of Western Civilization)or the equivalent would be very helpful, but is not absolutely required. Students who have taken HSTAM 235 ("Medieval Myths and Mysteries") may experience some degree of thematic overlap between the two courses. However, HIST 388 covers issues and personalities not addressed in 235; moreover, as a junior seminar, it requires considerably more reading, especially in secondary historical accounts. In short, while 235 would be helpful preparation for this 388, it would not duplicate it.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly readings and discussions in primary and secondary sources.

Four micro-essays (1-2 pages each) on various aspects of the reading.

One 8-10 page research prospectus on a topic of the student's choosing.

Written and oral comments on the micro-essays and research prospectuses of classmates.

Required books (NOTE: these books are TENTATIVE and subject to change): Wilhelm, The Romance of Arthur Gidlow, The Reign of Arthur Higham, King Arthur, Myth-Making and History Robin Hood texts and outlaw tales (online or in Ohlgren, Medieval Outlaws) Robin Hood articles (online, electronic reserve) Taylor, Joan of Arc, La Pucelle Wheeler and Wood, Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc Greenblatt, Will in the World Greer, Shakespeare's Wife

30% for class participation, including participation in the writers' workshops 40% (total) for the micro-essays (e.g. 10% each) 30% for the research prospectus


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Robin C Stacey
Date: 05/02/2013