Megill, Allan

Marx

HIEU
3812
Undergraduate
Spring
2018

Marx (I am tempted to say “the unknown Marx”) remains one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century and of the modern world more generally. He is one of a small group of modern philosophers whose work repays sustained and detailed attention, although he is almost never studied in philosophy departments. He is also, arguably, the most rigorous and consistent social thinker who ever lived. It is worth devoting an entire semester to his thought, not least because doing so will give you some insight into how to think. Finally, in some important respects Marx was right about capitalism (and in other respects wrong).

This course carefully surveys Marx's social and economic thought, with special attention to its philosophical underpinnings. Accordingly, we shall devote a bit more than half the semester to his highly interesting early writings, those he wrote up to late 1844 (the year he turned 26). In the final third of the semester we look selectively at Capital, vol. 1.

The main emphasis is on seeing what Marx’s theory was and on how and why he arrived at it. Marx vehemently denied that he was a Marxist, and students in the class will be surprised to find how far so-called “Marxism” is from Marx’s own thinking. By the end of the semester you will be able to say that you actually know what Marx’s theory was. Many people who claim to know what Marx held actually don’t. This includes many academics.

The course presupposes no prior knowledge of the subject, but it does require the ability to read and think carefully, as well as commitment to keeping up with the reading. There is no specific prerequisite, although it may help to have already taken a basic course in political theory or philosophy. But chemistry or engineering would do just as well, at least if you are not too uncomfortable with reading and writing.

Requirements: do the reading ON TIME; 9-10 short "think questions," to be done ON TIME; midterm test; synthesizing term paper (based on the course reading only, to be handed in ON TIME); final exam.

Books: Marx, Early Writings (Penguin or Vintage [introduction by Lucio Colletti]); Marx and Engels, Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (Norton); Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (Penguin or Vintage [introduction by Ernest Mandel]); Megill, Karl Marx: The Burden of Reason (Rowman & Littlefield). These specific books are required. Often they can be obtained on-line, second-hand, at lower cost. Do not try to substitute other books for these, and do not rely on Kindle or other non-paper editions.

There is also a small amount of in-copyright material to be downloaded from COLLAB and printed off by students for their individual use.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
60
Course Type: 

Introductory Seminar in Post-1700 European History

History Narration Argument
HIEU
1502
Undergraduate
Spring
2018

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. The course focuses on how we think about history. It will introduce you to an interesting set of books, and some articles that will help you explore this subject.

 

The course will 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 is its production of “feeling” or “sensibility” concerning the past. In recent decades, this latter aspect of history has become newly visible in the attempts of historians and others to deal with traumatic events or situations in the past. This aspect has also become visible in the growing interest, since the late 1970s, in “historical memory.” Earlier, concern with sensibility emerged in the work of some historians of art and culture.

 

As of October 18, 2017, the book list is not yet definitive. So far, the books include: Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (ISBN 0674766911); Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (multiple editions); possibly Alon Confino, Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust in Historical Understanding (ISBN 0521736323); Berber Bevernage, History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence: Time and Justice(ISBN 041582298X);F. Ivietzsche, Use and Disadvantage of History for Life(edition to be determined) and Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (any edition of 1970 or after).

 

The books by Davis, Arendt, and Kuhn are classics in their genres. Davis's book ought to be known to every history major, and Arendt's and Kuhn's books to every educated person.

 

I shall add one or two other books (possibilities include books by Friedrich Nietzsche, Carlo Ginzburg, John Pickstone, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hayden White, and W. G. Sebald). The addition of more than two of these books would force the omission of Confino from the above list, but you can attend Confino's classes and not Pickstone's, Nietzsche's, White's, Ginzburg's,  or Sebald's.

 

The definitive textbook list will await my rethinking, between now and June 21, of the 2017 version of this course.

 

All “textbooks” 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 you will need to print them out for attentive reading (not possible on-screen).

 

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). You must complete and submit these mini-essays at the required times—this is a participatory class, and participation includes submitting your work and getting feedback and correction in the following week.

 

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). I shall provide intensive editing of and feedback on your writing. The course thus provides an introduction to the norms of literate writing, with an emphasis on the norms governing good academic writing.

 

Periodically I shall update the information for this course on my academia.edu site: https://virginia.academia.edu/AllanMegill/Teaching-Documents.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
18
Course Type: 

Origins of Contemporary Thought

HIEU
3802
Undergraduate
Fall
2017

This course examines the work of four thinkers who have been massively important in modern thought: Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Martin Heidegger. The span is from Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) to Heidegger’s philosophically path-breaking Being and Time (1927), but issues of contemporary relevance will be kept firmly in mind, and these thinkers will all be connected to the wider intellectual and cultural contexts that they reflected and in part also created.

There is heavy emphasis in the course on students’ own reading of the material. After students attempt to grasp the reading (which is sometimes fairly difficult), the instructor explicates it in class. By the end of the semester, students will have a quite good idea what the central views articulated by Darwin et al. actually were. They will also be more skilled at reading complex texts.

Goals (in brief)(i) to model skill at reading theoretical texts and at thinking conceptually; (ii) to impart knowledge of some theories, and the assumptions underlying them, advanced by Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger; these theories are of continuing relevance and, in some cases, use; and (iii) to impart knowledge of the place of these theories, concepts, and assumptions in modern and contemporary thought.  

Requirements (in brief): The crucial requirement is to do the reading alertly and on time. More specifically, students will (i) answer ca. 8-10 short “think questions,” on time; (ii) take a 50-minute midterm; (iii) write a term paper of six single-spaced pages, based on assigned class reading (not additional outside reading); (iv) write the final exam (2½ hrs.); and (v) complete online evaluations of the class and sections. Items (iii) and (iv) count highest in the grade: they each generate close to half the final grade. The other exercises can move the grade slightly up or down. In short, the term paper and the final exam are very important.

BOOK LIST: We read crucial parts, and sometimes all, of the following: Darwin, The Origin of Species; Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of TragedyGenealogy of Morality, Portable Nietzsche; Freud,  Interpretation of Dreams and Civilization and Its Discontents; and Heidegger, Being and Time. A secondary reading is Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida. There is also a course packet, from N. K. Print and Design (7 Elliewood Ave.), which costs around $12. 

By early April, I shall update this document on my academia.edu site, providing information about book editions and prices, midterm date, term paper deadline, and final exam date. See https://virginia.academia.edu/AllanMegill/Teaching-Documents

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
60
Course Type: 

Introductory Seminar in Post-1700 European History

History Knowledge Sensibility
HIEU
1502
Undergraduate
Fall
2017

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. The course focuses on how we think about history. It will introduce you to an interesting set of books, and some articles, that will help you explore this subject.

 

The course will 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 is its production of “feeling” or “sensibility” concerning the past. In recent decades, this latter aspect of history has become newly visible in the attempts of historians and others to deal with traumatic events or situations in the past. This aspect has also become visible in the growing interest, since the late 1970s, in “historical memory.” Earlier, concern with sensibility emerged in the work of some historians of art and culture.

 

As of March 9, 2017, the book list is not yet definitive. So far, the books include: Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (ISBN 0674766911); Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (multiple editions); possibly 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).

 

The books by Davis, Arendt, and Kuhn are classics in their genres. Davis's book ought to be known to every history major, and Arendt's and Kuhn's books to every educated person.

 

I shall add one or two other books (possibilities include books by Friedrich Nietzsche, Carlo Ginzburg, John Pickstone, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hayden White, and W. G. Sebald). The addition of more than two of these books would force the omission of Confino from the above list, but you can attend Confino's classes and not Pickstone's, Nietzsche's, White's, Ginzburg's,  or Sebald's.

 

The definitive textbook list will await my rethinking, between now and June 21, of the 2017 version of this course.

 

All “textbooks” 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 you will need to print them out for attentive reading (not possible on-screen).

 

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). You must complete and submit these mini-essays at the required times—this is a participatory class, and participation includes submitting your work and getting feedback and correction in the following week.

 

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). I shall provide intensive editing of and feedback on your writing. The course thus provides an introduction to the norms of literate writing, with an emphasis on the norms governing good academic writing.

 

Periodically I shall update the information for this course on my academia.edu site: https://virginia.academia.edu/AllanMegill/Teaching-Documents.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
18
Course Type: 

Philosophy and Theory of History

HIEU
5062
Graduate
Spring
2017

This class is intended both for qualified third- and fourth-year undergraduates and for graduate students. In addition, it has often been attended by visiting scholars (graduate students and faculty) from other countries, and this presence has often added much to the course.

 

The class offers an introduction to the currently vibrant field of theory of history. The emphasis will be less on surveying this field than on drawing resources from it to help us think about current problems in the apprehension of “history.” Many philosophers, social scientists, and historians have contributed to this field. A few names: Arthur C. Danto, Hayden White, Frank Ankersmit, Berber Bevernage, Dominick LaCapra, Reinhart Koselleck, Paul Ricoeur, R. G. Collingwood, Benedetto Croce, Maurice Halbwachs, Heinrich Rickert, Wilhelm Windelband, G. W. F. Hegel. Except for Hegel these are not “household names,” but each has something to offer.

 

If you are an undergraduate, it is desirable that you should already have had a minimum of two history classes, ideally from two different instructors. Theory of history will be somewhat opaque unless you have some experience with its object, “history.” Central to the class is the writing of a term paper of somewhat larger dimensions than is possible in most undergraduate classes. The range of possible topics is wide. If you are thinking about the class, you should contact me ahead of time (after Nov. 17), and we can discuss possibilities.

 

If you are a graduate student: Over the years I have learned from the presence of graduate students from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, politics, religious studies, East Asian studies, art history, and law, as well as from history. A preliminary conversation with me (after Nov. 17) would be helpful.

 

The work you do in this class should contribute to your work within your program.  It is important to craft a paper topic that promises to cast light on—or directly stimulate—writing aimed toward your production of a required program paper, MA thesis, or PhD dissertation.

 

Course Requirements in Brief: 1. Do the assigned reading before class. 2. On occasion, write up a brief [500-word] mini-paper and/or write up a discussion summary (“Protokoll”) (I anticipate a maximum of five such exercises from each student over the course of the semester). 3.Contribute to discussion, sometimes by “introducing” part of the week’s reading. 4. Write a 20–25 double-spaced pages paper on a topic mutually agreed upon by student and instructor.

 

Likely Class Books (asterisked items are absolutely definite; all items will be on reserve, and some have alternative availabilities):

 

*Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984 [1983]). *Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, trans. Peter Preuss, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980) NOTE: There are some really bad translations of this work in existence. Preuss’s translation is reasonably good, although nothing can substitute for Nietzsche’s cunningly ambiguous German. *Berber Bevernage, History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence: Time and Justice (New York: Routledge, 2013 [2012]). *Allan Megill, Historical Knowledge, Historical Error (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). (I am quite attentive to issues of price.)

 

Possible books: Hayden White, The Practical Past; Jan T. Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland; Alon Confino, Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding, and Jouni-Matte Kuukkanen, Postnarrativist Philosophy of Historiography (dramatically expensive).

 

We shall also read a selection of crucial articles (e.g., Danto 1962, White, 1980, etc.).

 

Syllabus: In a small class such as this, which draws a diversity of students as well as some visiting scholars from abroad, it is difficult to set up an absolutely definitive syllabus in advance. In past teachings of this course the second half of the semester has often been re-invented in response to people’s specific interests and expertise. Also, I characteristically devote the last few sessions to discussion of student presentations of summaries of their draft papers. Further, I expect to be giving the Robert D. Cross Memorial Lecture on Wednesday April 5, most likely starting at 3:30 p.m., and this will substitute for my class of that day (the lecture can be recorded for people with conflicting commitments).

 

I expect to upload a week-by-week syllabus to my academia.edu site by December 10. The syllabus will try to accommodate some alternative possibilities, a bit like the “pick a path” books that some of you may have encountered in childhood.

 

FIRST CLASS SESSION: We meet on the first day of classes, Wed., January 18, 2017. If at all possible, read this short item beforehand: Marcin Moskalewicz et al., “The old Nietzschean Question Raised Again: How much past do we need for having a healthy life?,” Rethinking History 18:4 (2014), 556-568, DOI: 10.1080/13642529.2014.893666, and write up and submit to me a few hours before class a well-considered 300 words responding to MM’s piece.

 

SECOND and possibly THIRD CLASS SESSIONS (Jan. 25, Feb. 1): We shall address Natalie Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre and the debate about the book that ensued between Davis and Robert Finlay in the Am Hist Rev, in the light of some theoretical literature that we shall also read.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
15
Course Type: 

Marx

HIEU
3812
Undergraduate
Spring
2017

Marx (I am tempted to say “the unknown Marx”) remains one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century and of the modern world more generally. He is one of a small group of modern philosophers whose work repays sustained and detailed attention, although he is almost never studied in philosophy departments. He is also, arguably, the most rigorous and consistent social thinker who ever lived. It is worth devoting an entire semester to his thought, not least because doing so will give you some insight into how to think. Finally, in some important respects Marx was right about capitalism (and in other respects wrong).

This course carefully surveys Marx's social and economic thought, with special attention to its philosophical underpinnings. Accordingly, we shall devote a bit more than half the semester to his highly interesting early writings, those he wrote up to late 1844 (the year he turned 26). In the final third of the semester we look selectively at Capital, vol. 1.

The main emphasis is on seeing what Marx’s theory was and on how and why he arrived at it. Marx vehemently denied that he was a Marxist, and students in the class will be surprised to find how far so-called “Marxism” is from Marx’s own thinking. By the end of the semester you will be able to say that you actually know what Marx’s theory was. Many people who claim to know what Marx held actually don’t. This includes many academics.

The course presupposes no prior knowledge of the subject, but it does require the ability to read and think carefully, as well as commitment to keeping up with the reading. There is no specific prerequisite, although it may help to have already taken a basic course in political theory or philosophy. But chemistry or engineering would do just as well, at least if you are not too uncomfortable with reading and writing.

Requirements: do the reading ON TIME; 9-10 short "think questions," to be done ON TIME; midterm test; synthesizing term paper (based on the course reading only, to be handed in ON TIME); final exam.

Books: Marx, Early Writings (Penguin or Vintage [introduction by Lucio Colletti]); Marx and Engels, Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (Norton); Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (Penguin or Vintage [introduction by Ernest Mandel]); Megill, Karl Marx: The Burden of Reason (Rowman & Littlefield). These specific books are required. Often they can be obtained on-line, second-hand, at lower cost. Do not try to substitute other books for these, and do not rely on Kindle or other non-paper editions.

There is also a small amount of in-copyright material to be downloaded from COLLAB and printed off by students for their individual use.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
65
Course Type: 

Origins of Contemporary Thought

HIEU
3802
Undergraduate
Spring
2016
This course examines the work of four thinkers who have been massively important in modern thought: Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Martin Heidegger. The span is from Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) to Heidegger’s philosophically path-breaking Being and Time (1927), but issues of contemporary relevance will be kept firmly in mind, and these thinkers will all be connected to the wider intellectual and cultural contexts that they reflected and in part also created.
 
There is heavy emphasis in the course on students’ own reading of the material. After students attempt to grasp the reading (which is sometimes fairly difficult), the instructor explicates it in class. By the end of the semester, students will have a quite good idea what the central views articulated by Darwin et al. actually were. They will also be more skilled at reading complex texts.
Goals (in brief): (i) to model skill at reading theoretical texts and at thinking conceptually; (ii) to impart knowledge of some theories, and the assumptions underlying them, advanced by Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and Heidegger; these theories are of continuing relevance and, in some cases, use; and (iii) to impart knowledge of the place of these theories, concepts, and assumptions in modern and contemporary thought.  
 
Requirements (in brief): The crucial requirement is to do the reading alertly and on time. More specifically, students will (i) answer ca. 8-10 short “think questions,” on time; (ii) take a 50-minute midterm; (iii) write a term paper of six single-spaced pages, based on assigned class reading (not additional outside reading); (iv) write the final exam (2½ hrs.); and (v) complete online evaluations of the class and sections. Items (iii) and (iv) count highest in the grade: they each generate close to half the final grade. The other exercises can move the grade slightly up or down. In short, the term paper and the final exam are very important.
 
BOOK LIST: We read crucial parts, and sometimes all, of the following: Darwin, The Origin of Species; Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Genealogy of Morality,Portable Nietzsche; Freud,  Interpretation of Dreams and civilization and Its Discontents; and Heidegger, Being and Time. A secondary reading is Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida. There is also a course packet, from N. K. Print and Design (7 Elliewood Ave.), which costs around $12. Eventually I shall put up information about book editions on my academia.edu Website; if you don’t see the information there, e-mail me at megill@virginia.edu
Course Instructor: 

Introductory Seminar in Modern European History

History as Knowledge and as Sensibility.
HIEU
1502
Undergraduate
Spring
2016
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
Course Instructor: 

Origins of Modern Thought: Montaigne to Beauvoir

HIEU
3782
Undergraduate
Fall
2015

In this course I present an overview of Western philosophical, scientific, socio-political, and cultural thinking from roughly 1580 to the late twentieth century. The course offers what few students these days can get anywhere else, namely, a basic introduction to Western thinking from the cusp of the so-called “scientific revolution” onward. It is my most basic 3000-level course.

By “Western thought” or “Western thinking” I mean, in this context, the articulate ideas or worldviews put forward by, and exemplified in the work of, philosophers, natural scientists, social scientists, historians, literary writers, and artists. Most of this material has been systematically excluded from the curricula of middle and secondary schools and is absent from the educational experience of most college students. Some of the material is taught at UVa and other colleges, but not in such a way that the typical college student majoring in history, English, economics, politics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, computer science, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, and so on is ever going to confront it, let alone confront it in context.

I draw almost all the course reading from figures you need to know about in order to function as an educated person. These thinkers are important because they laid the groundwork for the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts as they developed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and as they exist today. We will devote some sustained attention to Montaigne, Descartes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, J. S. Mill, and to a selection of “existentialists.” Via a course packet and PDFs, we will touch on many other thinkers, such as Francis Bacon (the 17th-century philosopher, not the 20th-century painter), Grotius, Pascal, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, La Mettrie, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Bentham, Hegel, Comte, and Weber.

To impart some order to the course, I propose that we regard these thinkers as articulating a sequence of world views, or "epistemes" (M. Foucault) leading from what I call "unified ordering" through "balanced tension" to "embedded progress," and finally to the collapse of any unified conception. We shall focus on four thematic concerns in our reading of the material: "being" or "world," nature, method, and humanity.

The course does not presuppose any prior specialized knowledge. It does require you to be able to listen, and above all to read, carefully, paying attention to each word on the page. It also requires you to follow instructions carefully. However, I know that by virtue of having been admitted to UVa you have the capacity to do these things.

HIEU 3782 Origins of Modern Thought is more analytic than are most courses in history. It is not a course in philosophy, but much of the content is, in a broad sense, philosophical. By “philosophy,” I mean an orientation toward dealing as precisely and as clearly as possible with fundamental issues of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Requirements: There will be 8-9 short-answer “think questions” (TQs), graded P/F; a 50-minute midterm that will have a marginal effect on the final grade; a term paper that asks you to synthesize much of the reading; and a final exam. The term paper and the final exam each counts for about 50% of the final grade. The TQ’s and the midterm can move things up or down a bit.

A Side Benefit: All the written work you submit will be read by me (however, some of it may initially be rank-ordered by a graduate-student grader). Recently I have become increasingly attentive to the presence of bullshit in student writing. I refer to the bullshit that the typical UVa student produces (or produced in the past) to “snow” overworked and inattentive high-school teachers or TAs. Bullshit plays an important role in American society: for example, our entire political system runs on it, as does most “marketing.” Hence the ability to produce bullshit is a great talent to have. However, some students report that their intellectual capacities improve after they have taken a class from me, because they become aware that they are producing bullshit. They thus acquire the skill of being able to switch into non-bullshit mode when they run up against intelligent and well-informed people who are actually paying attention.

Reading to Buy): All books will be available at the UVA Bookstore. But do consider ordering your books second-hand on amazon.com or bookfinder.com or similar sites, where prices may be lower. I note the list prices on amazon.com for a new book (Mar. 1, 2015). Do not buy books in Kindle or e-book formats, unless you are willing to print out the books in question.

Montaigne, Essays, trans. John M. Cohen. $14.31. Penguin 014017897X, used price as low as $3.42 plus mailing.

There will be a required course packet at N. K. Print & Design, 7 Elliewood Avenue, 434-296-9669. The price will likely be a bit above $35.00 (based on previous prices). For your convenience, a copy of the course packet will also be on reserve in Clemons. Relevant pages needed by second week.

Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Donald Cress. $9.89. Hackett 0872204200, used price as low as $0.01 plus mailing (the latest edition isn’t needed). Needed by second week; you could use another edition, such as a copy borrowed from the library.

Montesquieu, The Persian Letters, trans. C. J. Betts. $10.37. Penguin.  0140442812, used price as low as .11 plus mailing. Needed by early October.

Rousseau, On the Social Contract, trans. Donald A. Cress. $9.00. Hackett. 087220068X, used price as low as .011 cent, plus mailing. Needed by mid-October.

Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. John Gray. $9.95. Oxford University Press. 019282208X, used price as low as $3.68, plus mailing. Needed by early November.

Marino, Gordon, Basic Writings of Existentialism. $14.05. Modern Library, Random House 0375759891, used price as low as $3.79, plus mailing. Needed by mid-November.

Course Instructor: 

Philosophy and Theory of History

HIEU
5062
Undergraduate
Graduate
Fall
2015

Purpose of Class: (a) To explore some theoretical and methodological issues relevant to historical and social scientific investigation; (b) To give students the opportunity to write a paper of ca. 20-25 double-spaced pages that has something to do with issues of history in the modern world (or in the ancient or medieval worlds, as long as current theoretical issues [e.g., relating to memory, to narrative in its relation to historical argument, to academic authority, to making claims under conditions of bad evidence, and so on] are raised).

Personnel: This class is open to qualified undergraduate students as well as to graduate students. In the fall 2014 version it had a total official enrollment of eleven, of whom nine were third- or fourth-year undergraduates and two were graduate students.  In addition, the class was attended by a visiting graduate student in anthropology from Brazil and three visiting professors, one from a university in Hong Kong and two from universities in mainland China.

I continue to welcome qualified third- and fourth-year undergraduates. Do you have the need or desire to write a term paper, or part of a senior thesis, on a topic that has some relation to history or to theory of history? The course might be a possibility for you, then.

A “qualified undergraduate” is, first of all, an actual third- or fourth-year student as of fall 2015. You must have a declared major in the humanities or social sciences (not necessarily in history). In addition, you should have taken at least one empirically-oriented course at the 2000 level or, preferably, above in history or in any humanities or social science discipline, and you should also have taken at least one serious course at the 2000 level or, preferably, above that focuses on theory (such courses can be found in philosophy, sociology, politics, history, anthropology, religious studies, and English—not all will be suitable, but courses taught by a number of my colleagues in other departments certainly are suitable).

I welcome graduate students not only from history but also from other departments and from the law school. I anticipate that there will also be two or three visitors in the class, most likely visiting scholars from China.

What the Class Covers:  In part, the purpose of the course is to give students an overview of the longstanding tradition of “philosophy of history” (ca. 1860—1960s) and of the more recent genre of “theory of history” (late 1960s/70s—present). We shall cover the philosophy of history tradition rather quickly, with more time devoted to recent works. Not all of the latter works will be oriented specifically to historical theory.

The recent works are important for the treatment they give of such topics as the relations between history and memory, the problems of historical trauma and of justice, the role of narrative in historical writing and in social research more generally, and modes of objectivity. The earlier works are important for their laying of the groundwork for the scientific discipline of history (which was also, it turned out, a political discipline).

In fall 2014, we unexpectedly read some very recent works that turned out to be relevant to class interests, notably Peter van der Veer, The Modern Spirit of Asia, and Rolf Torstendahl, The Rise and Propagation of Historical Professionalism.

Course Requirements: The basic requirements are two:

(1) To participate actively in the class (doing the reading, contributing to discussion, occasionally writing up the course “protocol” or a short report, and so on);

(2) to write a fairly substantial paper, of 20-25 double-spaced pages length, that has something to do, as noted above, with issues of history in the modern world (or in the ancient or medieval worlds, as long as current theoretical issues [e.g., relating to memory or to objectivity] are raised).

Undergraduates should think about how the paper might carry forward your own aims by allowing you to explore an issue relevant to your major or to law school, grad school, and so on. With the permission of the instructor, work done in this class could potentially become part of a a distinguished majors thesis or other major-related paper.

The key is to define a topic, or some part of a topic, that will be sufficiently circumscribed that you can easily do it in a semester (a semester necessarily laden, of course, with many other things that need to be done).  Such a paper might be a research paper focused on some specific instance or issue that raises theoretical problems, an intelligent survey of one small part of the literature relevant to theory and history, a theoretically-informed account of a particular historical issue or event, and so on. There is to be substantial discussion with the instructor about the paper topic.

Graduate Students: Graduate students (including law students) should craft a paper topic that will lead them forward in own programs. I should note that n the past, law students in the joint MA/JD program have taken this class as one of their history courses.

Every year that I teach this course I introduce some of my own current research-and-writing concerns into the mix of things considered in this class.

Course Instructor: 

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Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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Charlottesville, VA 22904

  

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