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 dates. In 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
- K.N., “The Age of Monarchy”
- Janice, “The French Monarchy from Charlemagne to Louis XVI”
- 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:
- Eduardo, “1536-1915: From Henry VIII to Zeppelins: The Destruction of English Churches from the Reformation to World War One”
- Ignatz, a literature course called “Writing Angst”
- James Stripes, “The Protestant Hegemony, 1536-1915″
- K.N., “People as Things: From African Slavery through Child Labor”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- liz2, an African history survey, “Africa: From resistance to independence – 1824 to 1964,” and “Africa: From Independence to Military rule – 1964 to 1970.”
- 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.