Honors | Our "Original" Culture Wars (HON)
H204 | 21692 | Steve Conrad


TuTh 1:00-2:15pm

In our current “Culture Wars” there is much disputing about
professed “values”–- especially so-called “fundamental values.” This
course offers historical perspectives on such matters. It focuses on
debates during the American “Founding”–- roughly, from
1765 to 1830–- over the meaning of such terms as democracy, liberty,
capitalism, Christianity, and family. These terms, and other similar
keywords of public discourse at the Founding, signified values the
meanings of which were then much disputed-- politically, legally,
and constitutionally. Each week the course will focus on such a
keyword and how it was disputed. The readings will vary as to the
political and scholarly strategies of the respective authors.  But
in their various ways, all the authors use history to make arguments
about Americanism, “then and now.” As Bendetto Croce said, “All
history is current history.” Accordingly, the course will also
include routine short reading assignments drawn from current
newspapers or magazines, about disputes over our course keywords
today. The course aims to offer students ways of thinking
about “our” Culture Wars, ways of thinking that advert to history
for perspective and that make use of history for political, legal,
and constitutional argumentation. After all, we can see our
journalists, our politicians, and even our United Sates Supreme
Court discussing and using history all the time-- not least, the
history of the so-called “Founding” era. (And remember: the
instructor, although first and foremost an historian, is also a law
professor.)

The course is designed as a colloquium, to facilitate and require
classroom discussion.  The weekly history readings will tend to be
rather short, variously demanding, and often provocative.  There
will be routine short writing assignments, to help structure
homework, focus discussion, and improve writing skills. There will
be no final exam; but there will be a special midterm writing
assignment, to help everyone take stock of how her or his work in
the course is going.  Half of each student’s final course grade
will be based on classroom contributions, the other half on written
work.