History of Material Culture

HIST 16603  Rome: The Eternal City  (M. Andrews)  The city of Rome was central to European culture in terms both of its material reality and the models of political and sacred authority that it provided. Students in this course will receive an introduction to the archaeology and history of the city from the Iron Age to the early medieval period (ca. 850 BCE–850 CE) and an overview of the range of different intellectual and scientific approaches by which scholars have engaged with the city and its legacy. Students will encounter a broad range of sources, both textual and material, from each period that show how the city physically developed and transformed within shifting historical and cultural contexts. We will consider how various social and power dynamics contributed to the formation and use of Rome's urban space, including how neighborhoods and residential space developed beyond the city's more famous monumental areas. Our main theme will be how Rome in any period was, and still is, a product of both its present and past and how its human and material legacies were constantly shaping and reshaping the city's use and space in later periods.

HIST 22611  Paris from Les Misérables to the Liberation, c. 1830–1950  (Colin Jones, Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London)  Starting with the grim and dysfunctional city described in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the course will examine the history of Paris over the period in which it became viewed as the city par excellence of urban modernity through to the testing times of Nazi occupation and then liberation (c. 1830–1950). As well as focussing on architecture and the built environment, we will examine the political, social, and especially cultural history of the city. A particular feature of the course will be representations of the city—literary (Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Zola, etc.) and artistic (impressionism and postimpressionism, cubism, surrealism). We will also examine the city's own view of itself through the prism of successive world fairs (expositions universelles).

HIST 29421  Politics of Commemoration  (L. Auslander)  Most of the time we pass in front of the statues, commemorative museums, monuments, and flags that inhabit our cities without noticing them. In recent years, however, they (along with pre-college history curricula) have become controversial across the globe. This course addresses those controversies primarily in Europe and the United States, but also in Latin America, West Africa, and South Africa. Through a series of case studies we will analyze the conditions of the creation of statues, monuments, and museums. Who conceptualized them and lobbied for their creation? Who paid for them? For whom were they originally intended? What message did they convey? What happened over time? How did their message change? Did they provoke controversy at the moment of their planning or inauguration or later and, if so, from whom? Equal attention will be paid to scholars' efforts to address the question of what these commemorative works actually do. If they really become unnoticeable, then why does the threat of their removal so often spark such intense controversy? Assignments: Active participation in class, one secondary text analysis, one analysis of a controversy, and one proposal for a monument, museum, or school curriculum.

HIST 29425  Ships, Trains, and Planes: A Global History of Vessels and Voyagers, 18th Century to the Present  (C. Fawell, Von Holst Prize Lecturer)  From La Amistad to the airplanes of September 11, vessels make history. And yet, we often take for granted the fact that they also contain history. Investigating the sociocultural pasts of vessels and the politics of mobility, this course poses two overarching questions. How have ships, trains, and airplanes shaped the behavior and outlooks of modern humans, and how has the experience of being in transit evolved over the past three centuries? Beginning with sailing ships of the eighteenth century and winding its way to the airplane via steamships and railways, the course explores how vehicles and transit have inspired and coerced humans into unique forms of subjectivity. Through case studies and primary sources from across world history, vessels in transit will be analyzed as engines of modernity and sites of emancipation, but also as tools of terror and laboratories of power.

HIST 29656  Urban Histories: Experiencing, Using, and Representing the City  (L. Auslander)  This course will provide an analysis of the changing forms, meanings, and representations of urban life in Europe from the medieval period to the present. To that end, each session will pair secondary readings with a wide range of primary sources, including maps, municipal and legal records, newspapers, novels, prints, songs, paintings, films, planning treatises, tourist guides, memoirs, architectural drawings, photographs, and advertisements. We will address the histories of building, zoning, transportation, planning, ghettoization, segregation, and gentrification. We will consider cities as destinations for migrants, refugees, pilgrims, and tourists, as well as sites of political, social and cultural experimentation, unrest and upheaval. At the end of the term, you will have learned how cities have been shaped by their role as centers of economic, political, and cultural life, as well as how those who inhabit them have sometimes been able to use urban space to their own ends. This will be a small discussion-based course in which each student will write a fifteen-page research paper. Our work with primary sources will provide the tools you need to pursue your research project, while our close readings of both classic and experimental historiography will assure that your final paper contributes to an ongoing scholarly conversation. The material will be drawn from (imperial) Europe, but students interested in urbanism in all parts of the world are very welcome.