History | H524 2859 Issues/Contmp Historiography 4:00-6:00P R BH011 Wahrman
H524 | 2859 | Wahrman

Topic: Introduction to Cultural History

What is cultural history? It is defined through particular kinds of
subject matter, through a distinctive
methodology, through new historical sensibilities, or through a different
hermeneutics of suspicion in
historical analysis? This course critically evaluates this exciting field
as it has developed over the last
generation. It introduces debates that are currently at the center of
cultural-historical practice, as well as
works that are considered "classics", in the sense that they have become
indispensable reference points for
all practitioners the field, shaping historical practice irreversibly and
far beyond the boundaries of their
specific subject matter. While obviously reading key theoretical
manifestos which "new" cultural
historians repeatedly invoke as their sources of inspiration, the course
is primarily based on works of
actual historical research (and historicist research in neighboring
disciplines), drawn from a number of
different periods (primarily early-modern to modern), places and
problematics. Although the historical
topics and contexts raised by those books are of obvious importance,
students are expected to make the
methodological, theoretical and conceptual breakthroughs they represent
the center of their attention.
Typical topics that will be discussed in this course include the history
of class and the "linguistic turn", the
move from history of women to history of gender (and sex); different
methodological approaches to cross-
cultural encounters (and understandings of "race"); the history, and
validity of the distinction between fact
and fiction; the uses and abuses of "narrative"; the origins of historical
meta-narratives (e.g. "modernity")
and the stakes in their de-naturalization; the dangers of cultural
constructionism and the potential comeback
of "neo-essentialism". Of particular interest is the breaking of
disciplinary boundaries entailed by cultural
history - both within the study of history and its cognate neighbors (in
particular literary criticism and
history of art), thus expanding the purview of cultural-historical
interest (to novels, art, drama, etc).
Students are expected to bring the historical and historiographical
questions raised in this course to bear on
the planning and conceptualization of their own historical research.