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History

The Tricks We Play on the Dead: Making History in the 21st Century
History 101/207 Yanoshak
3 credits
Can one person “change the course of history,” or are we all merely characters in a grand historical script authored by forces beyond our control? What is more important to learn about the past: The ways that people made love, or the ways that they fought wars? What might future historians conclude about America from this modern day newspaper headline: “Wall Street buoyed by increased rate of jobless­ness” (The Berkshire Eagle, 6/3/00)? Voltaire’s irreverent definition of history as “the tricks we play on the dead” calls attention to the ways that we, not people in the past, make history, writing their stories to suit our current needs. Our task, then, is to produce a history that informs our under­standing of the present while doing justice to the lives of our forebears. This course begins with a brief outline of human experiences from the Paleolithic era to the early 21st century, which is then questioned and elaborated through consideration of a series of issues important for the study of world history on a macro and micro level (e.g., gender rela­tions and sexuality, industrialization, peaceful and hostile cross-cultural encounters, etc.). Students weigh evidence, enter into debates with scholars, and write several pieces of original historical analysis. In their study of specific problems, students also consider the “big questions” that historical investigation can illuminate: Does human nature change over time? How can human action effect change? How can we appreciate rather than fear the differing ways humans cope with the challenges of their day? Where do we turn for practical knowledge and ethical grounding in our own era when it seems that rapid obsolescence is the only sure thing? No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once a year.
Russia from Medieval Times to the Eve of Revolution
History 203 CP Yanoshak
3 credits
Russia was born at the margins of the Western world and has been a site of conflict between Europe and Asia for more than 1,000 years. Christianized by Byzantium, conquered by the Mongols, and forcibly Westernized by Peter the Great, it evolved a unique civilization viewed both as an exotic, primitive cousin of the West, and as its most threatening enemy. Nevertheless, Russia’s rise to great power status, the stunning flowering of its secular culture, and the resis­tance of its peoples to a crushing autocratic state compel respect and admiration. This course explores Russia’s complex historical development and rich cultural heritage from their 9th-century beginnings to the early 20th century, when an anachronistic imperial state stood on the eve of the revolutions that would destroy it. Course materials raise questions about our understandings of individual, sexual, and social liberation, the limits of political power, and the prospects for cross-cultural understanding. As is evidenced in the agonized interrogation of Russia’s “historical mis­sion” by her Westernized elite, Russia’s placement at the point where the boundary between “East” and “West” has been most permeable provides ample ground for reflec­tion on the nature of both. Among the texts analyzed are writings by cultural and political figures such as Bakunin, Dostoevsky, and Gogol; works of popular culture; and classic Soviet cinematic representations of the Russian past, such as Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible and Andre Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S10
Russia in the 20th Century and Beyond
History 204 CP Yanoshak
3 credits
How did the “Workers’ Paradise” promised by Bolsheviks in the 1920s metamorphose into the “Evil Empire” demonized by President Reagan in the 1980s? Do Marxist revolutions inevitably fail? Did Russia’s authoritarian political culture assure that her history would take the murderous turn it did under Stalin? What can the utopian experiments of dissident Russian cultural radicals teach us about gender equality and individual identity? Does President Putin’s November, 2004, announcement of the development of a new generation of nuclear weaponry signal the resumption of the arms race? This course searches 20th- and early 21st-century Russian history for answers to these questions, as we seek to understand a world where apprehension about a putative “international communist conspiracy” has been replaced by fears of an international terrorism that seems to threaten all of the former antagonists of the Cold War. Readings include contrasting scholarly interpretations of controversial events, and primary sources such as tracts by Bolshevik revolutionaries; Zamiatin’s dystopian novel We; Bulgakov’s anti-Stalinist fable The Master and Margarita; and E. Ginzburg’s memoir about her life in the Gulag. Also analyzed will be classic films such as Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, and Kuleshov’s good-natured satire of American stereotypes of Russia, The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S08.
Women in Western Civilization: Halos, Harlots, and Heroines
History 205 CP Yanoshak
3 credits
If there are goddesses in the Heavens, are women goddesses on earth? How did medieval queens with power in their own right turn into mere wives of the king by the 19th century? What was the fate of Benedetta Carlini, “the lesbian nun” of Renaissance Italy? How did scientists overlook the ovum when exploring the mysteries of conception during the Scientific Revolution? Why was nobody shouting “Liberty, Equality, and Sorority” during the French Revolution? How did “feminism” lose its connotation of “effeminate” and become the descriptor for the varied political movements which seek to liberate women? What ideology offers more to females: Liberalism or socialism? This course does not promise definitive answers to these questions, but it does offer an exploration of the fortunes of women in European and American history from the medieval period to our current “postfeminist” era that affirms the centrality of their contributions and enriches our understanding of the experiences of both genders in the past and present. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once a year.
Manifesting Destinies I: The United States of America to 1877
History 227 Alvarez
3 credits
This course examines how men and women of Indigenous, European, African, and Asian origin encountered the emer­gence and formation of the United States as a nation-state. Temporally, the course begins with Indigenous Americans engaging European colonization and proceeds through post-Civil War Reconstruction. Topics include but are not limited to pre-U.S. Indigenous histories, settler colonialism, the American Revolution, gender and class politics, the imple­mentation of racialized slavery, Westward Expansion and “Manifest Destiny,” abolition, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the roots of American Capitalism. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once a year.
Manifesting Destinies II: The United States of America 1877–present
History 228 Alvarez
3 credits
This course builds on themes outlined in History 227 by further examining how men and women of Indigenous, European, African, and Asian origin experienced the consolidation of the United States of America as a nation state. Temporally, the course begins with a brief review of Reconstruction and the rise of the Industrial Revolution and continues through the late 20th century. Topics include but are not limited to the following: American empire, immigration, labor activism, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the cold war era, the civil rights movement, social justice activism of the 1960s and 70s, and concludes with the rise of Conservatism, globalization and Neoliberalism. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once a year.
History Tutorial
History 300/400 Yanoshak
4 credits
Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. Examples of tutorials include, but are not limited to, Early Modern Europe (1500–1713), European History (1713–1848), and European History (1848–1950). A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester. Prerequisite: Sophomore Seminar.