Introductory Seminar in Modern European History
History as Knowledge and as Sensibility.
This seminar is intended for first- and second-year students who have some interest in history. I welcome both prospective majors and people who may never take another history class again. The course focuses on how we think about history. It will introduce you to an interesting set of books and articles that will help us to explore this subject. There are also three films that you will watch on your own or in company with your classmates that directly connect with the course topic, and with three of the books.
We shall focus on two aspects of how we try to grasp history. One aspect is its cognitive aspect—history’s production of true knowledge about the past. The other aspect is its production of “feeling” or “sensibility” concerning the past. In recent decades, this aspect of history has become especially visible in the attempts of historians and others to deal with traumatic events or situations in the past. Earlier, concern with sensibility emerged in the work of some historians of art and culture.
The books to be read, in whole or in large part, are: Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (ISBN 0674766911); Jan T. Gross, Neighbors (ISBN 9780142002407); Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (multiple editions); Alon Confino, Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust in Historical Understanding (ISBN 0521736323); Berber Bevernage, History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence: Time and Justice (ISBN 041582298X); and Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (any edition of 1970 or after). We shall start with the books by Davis and by Gross.
These required books will be in Clemons Reserve. Parts of some of them will be available in COLLAB Resources. Most are available used, online, cheaply. We shall also read some articles, and the more complex ones should probably be printed out for attentive reading.
Class Procedure, Requirements, Evaluation:
The course combines reading, writing, and discussion. There is no final exam. Almost every week there will be a reading assignment for you to grapple with. Most weeks, you will produce a very short “response paper” dealing with some aspect of the reading (a mini-paper), to be submitted electronically before the class meeting (and most likely to be revised later).
Over the course of the semester you will produce a portfolio of writing (which normally allows this course to count as satisfying the Second Writing Requirement). The basis of the portfolio will be your mini-papers, but you will also produce two slightly longer “think papers” (which may in part be built on the basis of a mini-paper). There will be intensive editing of and feedback on your writing, serving as an introduction to the norms of academic writing.
By early November, I shall post a Detailed Syllabus on my academia.edu site: https://virginia.academia.edu/AllanMegill/Teaching-Documents