Instructor: Professor J. Opp

Course Description

Unlike most history courses, the subject matter for History 3810 is not a time period or a geographical region, but history itself.  We will reflect on a wide range of theoretical questions regarding the nature of history, the representation/presentation of history, and the construction of historical narratives.

The course begins with the emergence of history as a “modern” academic subject and engages with a variety of approaches and concerns that face historians today.  We will trace the rise of “professional” history in the late-nineteenth century and explore the late-twentieth and twenty-first century questions raised by postmodernism, gender theory, postcolonialism, digital abundance/obsolescence, and other epistemological challenges to how we work as historians.

The course is structured to offer students both an introduction to abstract, theoretical issues facing the writing of modern history, and concrete examples of historians trying to work through these issues in practice. The goal is not to get stuck in theorizing, but to demonstrate how our understanding of history has shifted over time and to show the practical effects of changing historical assumptions in the research and writing of history itself.

It is, of course, impossible to cover every debate in the field, nor will the choice of topics mesh perfectly with everyone’s exact interests.  However, a broad grounding in these issues will give all history majors an important historiographical context that will allow you to situate other “histories” in relation to the “big” picture of the discipline. This is the kind of course everyone thinks they will hate, and then gradually (sometimes right away, sometimes years after) they realize that having an opportunity to reflect and think about their own discipline might just be useful in the long run.

This course is built around a 2-hour lecture plus weekly 1-hour discussion groups.  There is a strong emphasis on participation in discussion groups.  Details on assignments will be finalized in the course syllabus.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor.