Intellectual History

HIST 13200  History of Western Civilization II  (K. Weintraub)  Available as a three-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter-Spring) or as a two-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter or Winter-Spring). This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. The purpose of this sequence is threefold: (1) to introduce students to the principles of historical thought, (2) to acquaint them with some of the more important epochs in the development of Western civilization since the sixth century BC, and (3) to assist them in discovering connections between the various epochs. The purpose of the course is not to present a general survey of Western history. Instruction consists of intensive investigation of a selection of original documents bearing on a number of separate topics, usually two or three a quarter, occasionally supplemented by the work of a modern historian. The treatment of the selected topics varies from section to section. This sequence is currently offered twice a year. The amount of material covered is the same whether the student enrolls in the Autumn-Winter-Spring sequence or the Summer sequence.

HIST 14000  Introduction to Russian Civilization II  This two-quarter sequence, which meets the general education requirement in civilization studies, provides an interdisciplinary introduction to Russian civilization. The first quarter covers the ninth century to the 1870s; the second quarter continues on through the post-Soviet period. Working closely with a variety of primary sources—from oral legends to film and music, from political treatises to literary masterpieces—we will track the evolution of Russian civilization over the centuries and through radically different political regimes. Topics to be discussed include the influence of Byzantine, Mongol-Tataric, and Western culture in Russian civilization; forces of change and continuity in political, intellectual and cultural life; the relationship between center and periphery; systems of social and political legitimization; and symbols and practices of collective identity.

HIST 20803  Aristophanes's Athens (J. Hall)  The comedies of Aristophanes are as uproarious, biting, and ribald today as they were more than 2,400 years ago. But they also offer a unique window onto the societal norms, expectations, and concerns as well as the more mundane experiences of Athenians in the fifth century BCE. This course will examine closely all eleven of Aristophanes's extant plays (in translation) in order to address topics such as the performative, ritual, and political contexts of Attic comedy, the constituency of audiences, the relationship of comedy to satire, the use of dramatic stereotypes, freedom of speech, and the limits of dissent. Please note that this course is rated Mature for adult themes and language.

HIST 23516  Problems in the Study of Gender and Sexuality: Medieval Masculinity  (J. Lyon)  This course will introduce students to concepts of masculinity in the Middle Ages, especially in the period between approximately 1000 and 1500 CE. Special attention will be paid to medieval notions of honor and to the roles that knighthood, chivalry, and monasticism played in promoting (often contradictory) masculine ideals. The course has two main goals. First, to assess and discuss recent scholarly debates and arguments about medieval masculinity. Second, to read closely a variety of medieval sources—including Arthurian literature, chronicles of the Crusades, biographical texts, and monastic histories—in order to develop new perspectives on masculinity during the Middle Ages.

HIST 25110  Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation  (R. Richards)  This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events.  Among the authors discussed are Edward Gibbon, Immanuel Kant, R. G. Collingwood, Leopold von Ranke, Lord Acton, Fernand Braudel, Carl Gustav Hempel, Arthur Danto, and Hayden White.

HIST 25216  The History of Alchemy (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow)  This course will examine the history of alchemy in the Greco-Egyptian Mediterranean, the Arab Middle East, the Latin Middle Ages, and the early modern era. Topics will include alchemy's development as a chemical science for understanding physical change in nature, its major goals (e.g., gold making and the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone), the application of its theories in medicine and pharmacology, religious admonitions and defenses of its practices, its relationship with other contemporary esoteric fields such as natural magic and secrecy, its potential effects on political economy, its intellectual place in the history of the scientific revolution, reasons for its “decline” in the early eighteenth century, and its revival in the spiritualism of Victorian Britain and twentieth-century Jungian psychology. Readings will include major primary source writings in translation by Zosimus, Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, George Ripley, Paracelsus, George Starkey, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, as well as modern histories on the topic. This course may include the examination of manuscripts at Regenstein Special Collections and in-class chemical demonstrations of some simple alchemical experiments.

HIST 25300  American Revolution, 1763–1789  (E. Cook Jr.)  This lecture and discussion course explores the background of the American Revolution and the problem of organizing a new nation. The first half of the course uses the theory of revolutionary stages to organize a framework for the events of the 1760s and 1770s, and the second half of the course examines the period of constitution making (1776–1789) for evidence on the ways in which the Revolution was truly revolutionary.

HIST 27509  A New Order for the Ages? An Intellectual History of the Early American Republic  (A. Rowe, Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences)  This course examines the conflicting political ideas that Americans built into the new republic and how the heirs to the revolution transformed the resulting ambiguities and contradictions into a new national creed, at once fragile and extraordinarily powerful. Americans in the early republic were almost pathologically deferential to the founders, and especially to the constitution. Yet, the rigid constitutionalism that held the nation together disguised an explosion of political innovation at the local level. A cultural federalism, more potent than its institutional counterpart, fragmented the legacy of the revolution without diminishing the reverence it inspired. We will explore the different concepts Americans used to define their political system: as the outgrowth of one or another colonial history, as the singular achievement of heroic ancestors, and as an ongoing experiment with universal significance for the cause of human freedom. We will see how these concepts evolved as Americans argued over them. We will conclude by examining how these intellectual currents culminated in the Civil War.

HIST 29528  Property and the Public Interest  (J. Levy)  In this colloquium, drawing from law, history, philosophy, and social science, we examine the conflicted relationship between property and the public interest.  Topics include the basis and evolution of private property rights, reasons for the state, and the relationship between property rights and the public interest. Assignments: Two short essays and a final paper.

HIST 29803  Historiography  (P. O'Donnell)  The course provides a systematic introduction to historical methodology and approaches (e.g., political, intellectual, social, cultural, economic, gender, environmental history), as well as research techniques. Students will gain analytical, research, and writing tools that will assist them in their research colloquia and their BA theses. Historiography is required for all majors beginning with the class of 2021, but open to all students.