History | Colloquium in Cultural History
H680 | 3032 | Dierks

Above section open to all graduate students

What is cultural history? Is it 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 in the field,
shaping historical practice irreversibly and far beyond the
boundaries of their specific subject matter. While 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 neighbouring 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
focus their attention on the methodological, theoretical and
conceptual breakthroughs they represent; issues which they can then
bring to bear on the planning and conceptualization of their own
historical research.

Typical topics that come under the purview of 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 itself, and between history and its cognate
neighbours (in particular literary criticism and history of art),
thus expanding the scope of cultural-historical interest (to novels,
art, drama, etc).