Uta G. Poiger
Exploration of new historical and scholarly techniques employed in historical research. Use of social science methodology and literary theory in the evaluation and interpretation of historical sources. Use of feminist theory, deconstruction, critical theory, and orality/literacy studies. Student research paper is based upon a chosen theoretical approach.
In this course we will examine how shifting theoretical frameworks and political challenges have (re)shaped the writing of history over the last fifty years. How have different scholars imagined the position of the author, the historian? How have they understood and employed such concepts as ideology, agency, structure, discourse, identity, and experience? In thinking about the intersections of history and theory, we will look at interventions made through Marxism, Frankfurt School critical theory, poststructuralism, and feminist and postcolonial theories. We will discuss theoretical works and studies by historians (broadly defined) that have responded to theorists. In the process, we will investigate a number of “turns:” the linguistic or cultural turn, the visual turn, and the (more recent) material turn. We consider the difficulties and rewards of applying categories (such as sexuality, class, race, or human rights) across a broad range of contexts, and ask how scholars negotiate tensions between appeals to universal values or standards and the need to present, explain, and evaluate the particular.
We will pay close attention to arguments developed, sources investigated and narrative styles deployed. We will read texts intended primarily for consideration by specialists along with volumes that have become bestsellers. The course will operate in a workshop format with five meetings (Tuesdays 1:30-5:20) on the following subjects and dates: I. Concepts of Culture and Social History (9/30) II. Histories of Sexuality (10/14) III. Culture and Economics (10/28) IV. Media and Vision (11/18) V. Human Rights and Human Bodies in History (12/2)
Student learning goals
The course has three goals: to create a community of learners characterized by intellectual rigor and mutual respect who will debate a diverse set of readings; to hone oral presentation skills; and to compose original essays based on texts by theorists and historians.
General method of instruction
Because of the workshop nature of the course we will have a full first meeting on 9/30. For more information and readings, please download the syllabus from the course website at
Class assignments and grading
Assignments will include seminar discussions, posting of three discussion questions for each session through the course website (due by 6 am on meeting days); two short papers (5 pages) based on common readings (choose Session 2, 3, 4, or 5), and one 3-minute oral presentation (based on weekly readings, chose a session for which you are not submitting a paper). Related to their thematic research interests, and with view of a larger project such as a research paper or a thesis, students will also write a historiographical essay. This essay will be produced in stages, including submission of a preliminary topic with annotated bibliography, a draft for peer review, and a final paper of 15 to 17 pages. (For details on assignments, see the end of the syllabus.)
Participation 30%; Short Papers 30%; Oral Presentation 10%; Historiographical Essay 30%.