January
10th 2009
And the envelopes, please…

Posted under: American history, European history, jobs, women's history

Last week, in the midst of a discussion about “coverage” and its many abuses in faculty life and history curricula in general, I suggested that we draw dates from a hat and design a curriculum out of randomly generated start and end datesIn the ensuing post, I proposed a series of dates spanning 5,500 years of human history, and said that I’d pick the best ones and highlight them in a post this weekend.  So, here are the winners of this very special history curriculum challenge–thanks to all who participated!   

Course #1:  687-1855

The nominees:  Squadratomagico, “From ‘The Continuator of Fredegar’ to the Demise of Soren Kierkegaard!”  This was the only entry, so by default the award goes to Squadratomagico!

Course #2:  788-1786

The nominees:

  1. K.N., “The Age of Monarchy”
  2. Janice, “The French Monarchy from Charlemagne to Louis XVI”
  3. Tom, “Survey of British Literature, part I”  He explains:  “I subscribe to an 8th-century date for Beowulf–-788 is close enough, and certainly plausible for Offa’s Mercia, but many others do not agree on that date.”

The winner:  Janice, for originality and ambition–900 years, and she’s not even a French historian!  She explains:  “Even though I’m not a specialist in French history, I’d have a lot of fun putting in themes of sacral kingship, the royal household, regionalism versus central authority and so on. And I’d spend a class or two making fun of François I just because I can!”

Course #3:  3470 B.C.E.-1751

Unsurprisingly, this time span didn’t attract a lot of entries.  So by default, the award goes to Profane for “Gilgamesh to Georgia.”  He doesn’t explain what Gilgamesh and Georgia have to do with each other, or provide more details (I’d love to see that reading list and syllabus)–but hey, the point of my original post against “coverage” is that survey classes as they’re currently defined don’t make much more sense than “Gilgamesh to Georgia,” so why not?  (By the way, I’m pretty sure Profane means Ray Charles’s Georgia, not Russia’s punching bag on the Black Sea Georgia, but he might not.  The colony of Georgia was founded in 1732, and made a royal colony in 1751.)

Course #4:  1917-1940

There were no entries for this class, since there are hundreds of versions of courses on the U.S. and Europe between the World Wars.  (Sorry, even the random course generator picks a traditional course now and then!) 

Course #5:  1536-1915

Many historians pointed out that this course was similar to the “second half” of a traditional Western Civilization course, minus most of the twentieth century.  (Don’t worry, folks:  within the remainder of my career, I’m sure that the “first half” of Western Civ. and World Civ. will encompass everything from Catal Huyukthrough World War I, given the privileged place of the twentieth century in most North American curricula already.)  The nominees were:

  1. Eduardo, “1536-1915: From Henry VIII to Zeppelins: The Destruction of English Churches from the Reformation to World War One”
  2. Ignatz, a literature course called “Writing Angst”
  3. James Stripes, “The Protestant Hegemony, 1536-1915″
  4. K.N., “People as Things: From African Slavery through Child Labor”
  5. Nicole, “From Anne Boleyn to Carrie Chapman Catt- Women, Power and the ‘Public Eye’ in Western Civilization

And the winner is:  really hard to choose in this category!  All of the entries are so creative–but I’m going to call this a tie and give the award to K.N. and Nicole for their especially imaginative interpretation of a survey course (timewise) with fascinating topical foci.  I love K.N.’s focus on labor and exploitation and his evocative title, and Nicole’s interesting focus on “how the ‘public eye’ has served as both a tool and a roadblock for women in various ways.”

Courses #6 and #7:  1824-1964 and 1964-1970

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these very modern dates also received a number of nominations.  However, since I stipulated that these courses were a sequence that needed to flow from one to the next, with presumably a similarity of topic or focus, I disqualified suggestions that addressed only one timespan or the other.

  1. Eduardo, a U.S. political history survey, “1824-1964, The American System to the Great Society: Creation of the American Welfare State, and “1964-1970: Goldwater, Reagan, Nixon, and Agnew: The Collapse of the American Welfare State.” 
  2. liz2, a South African survey:  “1824-1964: From Shaka to Sharpeville – The Rise of the Afrikaner state in South Africa,” and “1964-1970: Rivonia and the decline of the ANC: The consolidation of the Apartheid State in South Africa.”
  3. liz2, an African history survey, “Africa: From resistance to independence – 1824 to 1964,” and “Africa: From Independence to Military rule – 1964 to 1970.”
  4. Judith, riffing perhaps on JJO’s suggestion for a 1964-1970 course on The Beatles, suggested this sequence:  “You Say You Want a Revolution: Trends in Social History That Made the Late Sixties Possible, 1824-1964,” and “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?: An Explosion of Peace, Love, and Equality (Or At Least That Was the Plan), 1964-1970.”

And the winner is:  I was incredibly impressed with Eduardo’s and Judith’s refashioning of U.S. political and cultural history surveys, but I have to go with liz2, for her pan-African history survey.  She writes, “1824 marked the date of successful resistance by the Asante against the British – they were not fully conquered (physically that is) until the early 20th century. And 1964 marked the almost complete independence of western, central and eastern Africa.”  Congratulations, liz2!

I also want to bestow two honorable mentions, on Eduardo and on Fratguy.  Eduardo made several suggestions that were creative and really interesting, but his entries were always up against very stiff competition.  I liked Fratguy‘s suggestion of a Generation X class–maybe he could work it up into the second half of a literature survey sequence somehow with Ignatz’s “Writing Angst?”  Because you have to admit it, Gen Xers (born 1961-1981), we are the angstiest little faux-nihilists that ever were.  (Or, as a certain website which shall not be named put it, “My angst gets in the way of my ennui.”  Of course you knew it would be Gen Xers who invented that site–the Boomers are too earnest, and Gen Y isn’t jaded enough yet.  They get a lot of hate mail because Gen X is outnumbered and ignored, once again.)  Whatever.  Nevermind.

16 Comments »

16 Responses to “And the envelopes, please…”

  1. Janice on 10 Jan 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    An award? Whee!

    I’m really intrigued by some of the other suggestions people made for course material. I love Nicole’s course suggestion and Judith’s also fills me with glee.

    Next year, when I teach the old Western Civ up to the French Revolution course again, I just might be swiping a few ideas that others here have shared to liven it up even more. But I won’t neglect ol’ François I, either!

  2. Indyanna on 10 Jan 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    So are we officially tearing four years out of the Boomer pie here? I know this was discoursed sometime back in some connection with the new president, but just because Bill ate up half-the-whole-pie doesn’t mean that the pig going through the python (not my favorite metaphor but it’ll do) should be put on a demographic diet just yet. Not that taking our definitions from Eisenhower era Commerce Department demographers is all that laudable.

    Sorry that I slacked on this assignment, Historiann. But syllabi loomed, the homework ate my dog, everybody around here is talking about the Iggles (to distinguish the local eleven from a certain Boomer band) anyway, and I’m driving back to Bituminosia tomorrow. Coverage begins on Monday; film at 11!

  3. squadratomagico on 10 Jan 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    Oh, yay, the Default Award! (*blushing*)

    I consciously was trying to make mine bizarre, but on second thought it might actually have worked as a Scandinavian history class titled, “From Vikings to Kierkegaard.” Can I change my title? Please?

  4. Judith on 10 Jan 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    How exciting! These are all so interesting, and I’m impressed by liz2′s exact date-managing as well. I don’t know much about African history but that’s one area I’ve been trying to delve into a little more for my own enjoyment. Oh, and JJO, sorry, I didn’t mean to copycat! I didn’t think to read the comments, I just went rolling off on my own tangent as soon as the dates were posted ;-)

    Thanks, Historiann, for getting my history brain cranking again.

  5. sm on 10 Jan 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Course #4: 1917-1940

    How about “Race and the American Armed Forces”?

  6. prof bw on 10 Jan 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    I really did not think you were serious when you proposed this task but I love both you and your readers for taking being so creative. :D (and also really grateful that when I teach our history course, the title, and subsequently the time period, is so darn generic, I can do anything.

  7. Ethan V. on 10 Jan 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    This may a little bit off topic (and perhaps thread jacking), but I could not think of a better forum to ask. I’ve been a long time lurker of your website and first time commenter. I read you for your wonderful insights but also because as a grad school oriented person, I like to understand how my professors think because I revere them and one day hope to work under them or similar people in my field.

    At the same time, the site which must not be named has gotten me a bit paranoid of seeking help or further attention from my professors. I go to BIG STATE U by the coast and am seeking to participate in undergraduate research study (projects that I have created myself and only need a faculty mentor to guide me upon). I now ahve to ask one of these professors for guidance.

    Last quarter I had quite terrible medical/family problems. I went to see said professors about it. Never asked for more time on anything, just wanted to let them know that I might not be able to attend class as much and that if I could come in for help that would be great. I worked my ass off and got high A’s on papers and midterms and finals.

    Still, I wonder now about asking my professors for help with my research. The site which isn’t named has got me thinking professors despise anyone that seeks a chunk out of their time. I’ve scoured the site on what is considered ‘snowflakism’ but found no definition. I worry that I may have accidentally committed it with my actions last quarter.

    This is a weird letter I know…but I have to specific questions:

    Do professors despise people who have family situations like I do and was that snowflakism by RYS’s definition?

    and

    Do professors hate undergrad students asking them for help on a research (outside class) project?

    Sorry again for the threadjacking….

  8. Historiann on 10 Jan 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    Well, this is very off topic Ethan, but I would say this: 1) pay no attention to RYS–it’s mostly just for venting, the way that Rate My Professor is, and I don’t know anyone who takes it seriously. 2) Go talk to your profs, especially those who work in the field/s you’re most interested in, and share your concerns with them and ask them if they’d be interested in assisting you with your research. I don’t know of any professors who would dismiss out of hand a highly successful student who shows serious interest in a given field.

    It’s impossible to generalize about all professors, but I’d say that you need to talk to 2, 3 or 4 professors in particular, share your grad school dreams with them, and talk about areas of mutual interest.

    And now, back to our awards show…

  9. Historiann on 10 Jan 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    Prof bw–I wasn’t really serious, but I thought my readers would be up to the task! It’s interesting how most of the courses that were pitched were courses that wouldn’t raise eyebrows at all in most course catalogs. (Even the destruction of English churches could work, if taught by an architectural historian! I think given “the spatial turn” that’s all the rage these days that it could be seen as ahead of its time, even! (Kudos to Eduardo!)

    sm–thanks for contributing your suggestion. I’m all for it. And Judith–I’m glad to have provided a diversion. (Law exams? Sheesh!)

    Indyanna–no apologies needed. (Although you could probably have delivered a provisional verdict on colonial Georgia for us!)

  10. thefrogprincess on 10 Jan 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    To the above (Ethan V.), even if it’s off topic: I’m not a professor, only a graduate student, but I had similar issues when I was in college. There’d been a traumatic death in my immediate family before I went to college and the fallout from it cast a shadow over my entire education. Still does, in fact. My experience is that professors value students who work hard, are extremely interested in the material, and have their own research interests, regardless of personal problems. They also see potential, even if you can’t. You’d also be amazed just how many students have similar struggles; college can be a rough time and good professors understand that. These professors surely must be impressed with the work you did during a time when your focus was understandably on other matters.

    I had two or three professors that became mentors to me, even after I finished taking their classes. They knew the vague outlines of my problems, which did sometimes get in the way of my work, but I never got the sense they wanted me to back off. When it came time for grad school applications, they helped me refine my research interests and figure out what kinds of programs might be a good fit; most importantly they vouched for me, even though parts of my transcript were shaky because I’d been too depressed at times to do good work. I’m still in contact with them and they’ve become valued colleagues, friends, and mentors. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would not be in graduate school if I hadn’t sought them out. All of that is to say that you should certainly contact your professors, set up a few meetings with them or visit them during office hours, and see how it goes. You’ll probably sense if they’re interested in helping you or if they view you as a burden. Move on from those you get a bad vibe from and keep searching out those who will help. You should cast your net wide; even those who don’t work on your immediate area of interest might be helpful.

    You should also probably stop reading RYS.

  11. Profane on 10 Jan 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    Yes Historiann, you read me correctly. At the risk of beating everyone over the head with the obvious point, a ‘Gilgamesh to Georgia’ course makes as much (or as little) sense as the ‘Plato to Nato’ courses which Europeanists have been teaching for the last two generations.

    And hey, if Western Civ. courses had existed in the 1760s, who is to say that that would not have been the label? 8-P

  12. Liz2 on 10 Jan 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    I’m so excited to win an award! I haven’t been this excited since I got the Fulbright to do field research.

    Seriously, I think it was an interesting exercise and it made me realize how much I base my courses on political history – because that was the first thing I thought of when trying to match the dates. So my survey this semester is going to veer away from the constant political and get into religion, gender, labor and a little Bongo Flava among other things.

    Thanks again Historiann!

  13. Eduardo on 11 Jan 2009 at 5:54 am #

    I was robbed!

    You don’t like me, you really don’t like me.

  14. nicolec on 11 Jan 2009 at 8:45 am #

    I’d like to thank the Association for giving me the opportunity to express my creative genius…
    Wow, I’m touched- thanks historiann!
    This was fun- and I too was very impressed with your readers’ responses! I’d like to take some of these classes- when can I sign up?

  15. K.N. on 11 Jan 2009 at 10:23 am #

    This is sooooo going on my C.V.—thanks for the honor!

  16. Historiann on 11 Jan 2009 at 10:43 am #

    Now, K.N., you have to teach the class in order to put it on your CV! (Or at least work up a syllabus and discuss it on a job interview.)

    I’m so pleased you all had fun with this–except for Eduardo, who feels a little left out. Hey–that’s what the honorable mention was for, Eduardo!