Loeffler, James

Approaches to Historical Study

HIST
7001
Graduate
Fall
2016

This course is designed as an introductory seminar for graduate students in all fields and periods of history. It is required of all first-year doctoral students in the History Department. Our primary goal is to develop critical perspectives on the art and science of historical writing. We will pursue this objective through close reading of a number of carefully chosen monographs, all of which represent first books written by a wide range of professional historians. In the process, we will discuss various disciplinary methods, theoretical issues, narrative techniques, empirical questions, and thematic topoi. In our class discussions, we will explore these books as models of historical inquiry, professional scholarship, and nonfiction writing. Our conversations will open outwards into larger reflections on the process of choosing research topics and structuring long-form historical writing.

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Jewish History I: The Premodern Experience

HIEU
2101
Undergraduate
Spring
2016
Jewish civilization is one of the oldest and most influential components of world religion and history. Yet unlike other world civilizations, the Jewish people never possessed a large empire or even a large population. On the contrary, Jews always and everywhere constituted a tiny minority, even in ancient times. In this course, we will seek explanations for this unique history through surveying the narrative of Jewish civilization from biblical antiquity through the ancient and medieval worlds to the edge of the modern period (ca. 1550).
 
Through lectures, readings, in-class and online discussions, and writing assignments, we will examine the political and religious dimensions of pre-modern Jewish civilization. In the process, we will also explore questions about world history, religion and empire in the medieval Mediterranean and beyond, and the very idea of Western civilization. Special topics will include Israelite origins in the Ancient Near East, Jewish life under Greek and Roman imperial rule, the collapse of the independent Jewish state after 70CE, the growth of the global Jewish Diaspora, the emergence of rabbinic Judaism and Christianity, Jewish minority life under medieval Islam and Christianity, medieval Jewish philosophy and mysticism, and anti-Jewish violence in the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.
 
This is an introductory course that assumes no prior knowledge of Judaism or Jewish history. We will read and critically analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources, including religious and legal writings, archeological and artistic images, and modern scholarly interpretations. Our goal is to introduce you not only to the study of Jewish history, but the related academic fields of Jewish Studies, European history, and world history. Evaluation will be based on short papers, class participation, and take-home midterm and final exams.
 
For history majors, HIEU 2101 satisfies the pre-1700 Europe (HIEU) requirement. The course also feels a core requirement for Jewish Studies majors.
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Antisemitism: The Limits of History

HIEU
1501
Undergraduate
Spring
2016
Antisemitism has been called both an eternal religious hatred and an ultra-modern racial ideology. Scholars often cite its origins in the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church, yet its appearance predates Christianity by centuries. In modern times, antisemitism has thrived in Muslim societies in which no actual Jews live. These puzzles continue today: We live in a world suffused with antisemitism—yet no one can agree on a satisfactory definition of it. In this first-year seminar, we will explore this complex topic as an introduction to the contemporary study of history.
 
In the opening unit of the course, we will examine some classic theories of the history of antisemitism. Then in the second unit we will proceed to discuss key modern variations such as economic, cultural, and political antisemitism using a combination of primary and secondary sources. We will look at key thinkers (Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Vladimir Lenin, and Adolf Hitler, among others). In the third unit, we will use a case study of post-Holocaust antisemitism in the global 1960s to pursue an experimental multidisciplinary approach to contextual mapping of the spread of antisemitism. Each student will take one country and pursue an extended research assignment with related writing assignments keyed to the history of antisemitism in that country. This research assignment will include compiling data for an online digital mapping project that we will pursue together.
 
Readings will include David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013) and Walter Laqueur’s The Changing Face of Antisemitism (2006). Requirements will include active participation in class discussions, three short reaction papers (500-750 words), a bibliography essay assignment (500-750 words), and an independent research project culminating in a written research report (1500 words). This course satisfies the second writing requirement.
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Seminar in Post-1700 European History

"Violence and Empire in Modern Eastern Europe"
HIEU
4502
Undergraduate
Fall
2015

Today modern Eastern Europe is awash in ethnic conflict. Russians and Ukrainians are locked in a brutal war. Ultra-nationalist politics threaten the stability of fragile post-Communist states like Hungary and Poland. Behind these present-day challenges lie the ghosts of empire, both in the twentieth-century Soviet Union and the imperial monarchies that preceded it. In this colloquium, we will read and research the history of nationalism and politics in this key region of Europe. Our goal will be to survey political relations between various nationalities, especially Jews, Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians, from the late eighteenth century through the era of world wars and up through the demise of Communism after 1989. We will focus our discussion around one key question that historians debate today: Did the political system of empire in Eastern Europe generate political stability among diverse nations and states? Or did it cause the unprecedented violence and genocide we associate with the region?

The first half of this course will be spent in specialized readings, focusing on themes of comparative nationalism, antisemitism, and violence. During that time, students will also begin to develop their own research proposals. In the second half of the term, we will shift from in-class reading discussions to independent work on research proposals and detailed rough drafts with instructor guidance and workshop format. The goal is for each student to complete a fine capstone essay on a topic of their choosing. Evaluation will be based on the following breakdown: class participation (30%); Written proposal (10%); Rough Draft (20%); and  Final paper (40%).

Readings for this course will likely include the following books: Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin and The Reconstruction of Nations; Jan Gross, Neighbors; Omer Bartov, The Voice Of Your Brother’s Blood. Buczacz, Biography Of A Town; Norman Naimark, Stalin’s Genocides; and Brian Porter-Szucs, Poland in the Modern Era: Beyond Martyrdom.

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Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

  

Contact:
(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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